Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Bucket List

A person very close to me was told that she didn’t have much longer here on earth.  After the emotional breakdown, she collected herself and calmly said, “I guess I have to make my bucket list, don’t I?”

Her bucket list included travel to far away exotic places.  I supported her.  There was no way I could crush her spirit by pointing out she was too weak to accomplish anything on her bucket list.  She eventually figured that out herself.

Like many of us, this person put off all the things she wanted to do, to accomplish the things she had to do.  There was college, a career, and bills.  When she was not working, she did not have the money.  When she was, she did not have the time.

That is the same with the majority of us.  We let money, time, family, and careers get in the way of the things we are most passionate about.  We want to wait till we retire to get take that cruise; wait until we have more time to write that book.  But the thing is we may never live to retirement.  Or we may be too old and feeble, or too poor to do the things we want to do when we retire.  The time to do them is now.

I recognized that 11 years ago when I had a brush with death due to complications in childbirth.  I had all these stories in my head but was waiting until I wrote my dissertation, got my career on the right path, got a good steady job, got more time, (you can insert your obstacles here) before I wrote those stories.  But after that near death experience, I realized that if I died, those stories in my head would die with me.  So when I recovered and went on maternity leave, I immediately set out to pen and publish the stories.  I went at it with a dedicated passion.  That was the number one item on my bucket list: to be a published author.  Six years later, I finally accomplished that. Oh yes, I do have more things on my bucket list, but they are things that if I don’t accomplish, I wouldn’t really care. 

As a kid, I always heard older people speak of what they could have been had they had the opportunity.  I made a promise to myself since I was a child, to never look back at my life when I’m older and regret that I didn’t do the things that I wanted.  And it’s driven me to accomplish a lot academically.   It was the impetus behind my desire to have a family at all cost.  But socially and recreationally, there is still a lot I want to do before I kick the bucket.

So for you guys procrastinating and putting obstacles to achieving the things you want to do in life, I say like the Nike commercial, “Just do it.” Don’t wait until you are told you have limited time to do the things on your bucket list.  Make your bucket list your “to do” list and do them now.

Monday, April 21, 2014

SEO insights

The Novel Spaces blog has been running since July 2009, and a look at the pageview stats is revealing. What terms are people searching? Which key words are most effective at garnering those clicks? Here, standing out from the more than 1060 or so posts of the last five years, are the top 10 as determined by pageviews to date:

10. 4 Literary Agents Looking for Novels by Marissa Monteilh: 751
9.  So, It's Your First Convention As A Guest? by Dayton Ward: 820
8.  Q & A With Susan Schulman, Literary Agent by Liane Spicer: 1026
7.  Comma Abuse by Jewel Amethyst: 1091
6.  When's the Best Time of Year to Release a Book? by Marissa Monteilh: 1202
5.  Spotlight on the Caribbean Adventure Series by Carol Mitchell-Ottley: 1259
4.  Giveaway: Free Sex With Angelina Jolie & Justin Timberlake by Liane Spicer: 1271
3.  Naked Came the Stranger by KeVin Killiany: 3203
2.  So, Sex Sells, Huh? by Marissa Monteilh: 3561
1.  Looking for Pre-made eBook Covers? by Eugenia O'Neal: 7416

Interesting stuff. Take the top post, for instance. It scored more than double the hits of the one that's next in line. Makes one wonder: exactly how many indie authors are there out there anyway? Then it seems that anything with 'naked' or 'sex' in the title gets lots of hits (surprise, surprise) but I doubt our writing blog is what these Googlers seek. Although some tell us the day of the literary agent is over, the evidence seems to suggest that hordes of people are still searching for them. Advice seems popular too, whether on punctuation, conventions or the timing of book releases. And Caribbean adventures still rock!

I'm not suggesting that we take this information to heart and tailor our posts around these topics and key words. After all, a pageview is just that; it brings the human to the page, but does not guarantee said human will remain long enough to read or comment. (The average time spent on a page, I've read somewhere, is all of 15 seconds.) But it cannot hurt for us to try to use search engine-friendly key words in our headings so that our demographic can find us.

Then again, we wouldn't want to snub the clientele of that Russian porn site (2081 clicks) who came here looking for naked strangers, would we...

Liane Spicer is a writer with a warped sense of humour. You can usually find her procrastinating on Facebook or staring at her blog stats in vague incomprehension.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

You're In It For The Money

Oh yes, you are! And that's nothing to be ashamed of even if it sounds crass to admit your intentions aloud.

I've been blacklisted on at least one artsy site and bad-mouthed on others for blatantly saying "I like to make money from my writing." I blame my attitude on my early years as a journalist. In those days I was paid to put words on paper and I grew to like having an income. It felt good to have people reading my articles, even when my precious words were tossed in the recycle bin after a day. Now there are few newspapers and my degree languishes, but I still like the notion that my words are worth a few dollars.

Kudos to those who write simply for the sake of their art. Perhaps satisfaction comes from pieces published in literary magazines for limited readership. Me--I want lots of people reading my stories and books. I want those hours (years) I put into my work to be rewarded. This is a business for me and the IRS concurs.

Not that it's ALL about money. I have no problem contributing to Novel Spaces because I'm investing in a site I respect and hope readers will possibly invest in me. I give books away when I'm on panels to pepper the pot for sales. I've donated my novels to the local Senior Center and VA Hospital. I've even gifted to people who were too broke to spend $12 on one of my books.

Does expecting money for my work make me a hack? Possibly. I know what readers want and I strive to give it to them. They want an entertaining story, interesting characters, a few cringe-worthy moments (I write mysteries) and a satisfactory ending. But, to keep my standards high, I also give them craft, personal insights, soul-searching questions and a bit of astrology. Yes, it's worth much more than the few dollars I'm asking in return.    

What I'm against are those people who make money off of the one segment that can't afford the cash--new authors. When starting out, it's hard to resist the carnival barkers promising quick routes to the bestseller list. They come in the form of costly conferences, webinars, PR people, paid reviewers and businesses that impersonally shovel titles to the Internet. All of this can be done for free--and should be. The info is readily available in your computer if you know where to look. Since we're close to Easter, I'll liken the process to hunting for those colored eggs. The search will take exploring websites, following leads and a bit of time.

Time is money. I realize that and I also understand the World Wide Web can be a very confusing place. My solution was to start a Posse. Several years ago I decided to share my own searches with others. Authors just send me their email addys and they're in. They get emails from me pointing them to articles on marketing, platform building, inside business info, places looking for guest bloggers and yes, my blogs.

There's no charge because the effort is minimal on my part. It's my way of paying it forward. Consider it a gift from one author to another. I hope others do the same with their future network. And, who knows? Perhaps I'm make a fan or a friend who will buy one of my Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. Because, as the L'oreal ads say, I'm worth it!  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Be the Enabler

Newton's laws of motion are the sort of laws that must have seemed like common sense once he came up them. The first one states that "Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it." So if you are moving you stay moving unless something stops you and if you are stationary you stay that way unless something moves you.

In life we are often in a position to be the external force either stopping progress or advancing it. I like to think of myself as an enabler in the positive sense of the word, pushing people to move towards completing their goals. I enjoy contributing to other people's success, even if I remain behind the curtains. I guess I am naive because I am always perplexed when I run into the doorstops, and I must say, there are a surprisingly large number of them in the literary world. That's one of the reasons that I enjoy being a part of NovelSpaces where authors share ideas and support one another.

Perhaps the comfortable relationship in this community helped to lull me into a position where I relaxed and stumbled into one of the largest doorstops I have ever encountered. I shouldn't really talk about this, lawyers may be involved, but as I sat to write this blog, I couldn't bring myself to write about anything else. A woman introduced herself into my life and where I saw opportunities for collaboration and promotion of our common goal in promoting literacy, she saw opportunities for some sort of misdirected revenge and self-aggrandizement. Sigh.

Anyway, here is my point. We aren't competing for a tiny pool of book sales, the market will accommodate a wide range of quality books. So stop, every now and then, be that external force in another writer's life. It will do you a world of good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

There's a boulder in the road

The Pusillanimous says, “There is a boulder in the road, I have to turn back.”  The stubborn says, “There is a boulder in the road, I’ll just plow on through.”  And he pushes and pushes while the boulder does not budge.  The wise says, “There is a boulder in the road, hmmm.”  She scratches her head and examines the boulder.  She says to herself, “I can climb over it, I can go around it, or I can blast through it.”  She looks around for the tools she has at her disposal, examines each way to see if she has enough energy to accomplish the task, and whether it requires assistance from others around her.  Then she makes her decision.
(Sorry guys, I had to make the wise one female.)

I see many of these categories in the world of writing and publishing.  There are the faint-of-hearts who work tenaciously on a manuscript only to give up after a few rejections from traditional publishers.  Then there are those who submit the same manuscript over and over to every traditional publisher without making changes because their stories are just “so great”.  And even after hundreds of rejection letters or worst yet, their lifelong work falls into the black abyss of unanswered queries, they still would not change a dot on their manuscripts.

And then there are those who encounter of the obstacle of the rejection by large publishing houses and determine to find a way to get their work out.  So they make changes and expand their net to include small presses.  They look into vanity.  They look into independent publishing.  They examine each method and determine which method is the best to get their work out there, and then they move forward.

Which kind of writer are you?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Indefinite Timelines


Four years into my journey through independent publishing, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.  Among them: 1) selling books is really hard; 2) a diversified platform consisting of webpages, blogs, twitter, blogging, Facebook, and more blogging might help some; 3) it’s always a good idea to use sunscreen; and 4) seriously, selling books is really hard.

Having worked with small and smaller publishers, and having published my own books, I’m a huge fan of independent publishing.  But I won’t lie - if one of the biggies waves a sack of euros in my face, I’ll sell out fast.  Until that happens, however, I’m going to extol the virtues of going it alone.  

Here’s why: I’m the boss.  I can publish when I want to publish.  No more waiting - I can design covers or pay someone to do that.  I can do my own layouts on InDesign, and I can upload my projects to LightingSource or CreateSpace myself.  And as long as I’m willing to ignore my children, I can do this pretty quickly.

But the biggest advantage to going it alone is that it allows for an infinite timeline.  My books are never going to go out of print, and I’m never going to stop talking about them.  I published my first mystery novel Grave Passage five years ago.  And I’m still pushing it and still getting reviews.

Furthermore, I control the promos.  The promos generate reviews and the reviews generate sales.  Without question, the single most effective marketing strategy I have come across is the Kindle KDP select promotional option that allows you to give away your book free for five days every few months.  I’ve had a lot of success with this, so I’m going to give it another try today.

One year ago this month I published my archaeological mystery - The Mummies of Blogspace9.  It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve done.  So I’m giving away free copies today.  So if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, please consider downloading copies for the whole family.  Don’t delay; supplies are limited!  Click this BUTTON.  Go ahead, click it.  You can click on any letter.  Just click.  You can even click on this word.


“None of us knew what was at stake. And that’s the thing about archaeology - you never know what you’ll find when you start digging into an ancient pyramid. Maybe some burials, mummies even. But surely not a five hundred year-old secret worth killing for. 

Had I known at the onset that seven weeks later most of my friends would be dead, I would have left Peru in a heartbeat. But of course I didn’t know that. 

I didn’t know that a demonically-possessed Spanish Grand Inquisitor would haunt the crap out of us, or that a pair of undead conquistador knights would help us find the secret to putting down walking mummies. 

And surely, I wouldn’t have just sat around had I known that something was watching from inside that pyramid, some malevolent force that could animate the dead. 

But it’s all true, as you’ll come to realize.

My name is Leon Samples.  I am twenty-eight years old, and I am damned.” 


The Mummies of Blogspace9 is a taut, high-stakes thriller about a team of archaeologists who inadvertently dig up more than they bargained for. Demons of antiquity are not easily amused, nor are those who’ve sold their souls to protect them. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Special guest Melodie Campbell: Books and the Art of Theft

Melodie got her start writing comedy. In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. She has over 200 publications including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and has won 9 awards for short fiction. Her fifth novel, a mob caper, is entitled The Goddaughter's Revenge (Orca Books). Melodie was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer, and both the 2012 and 2013 Arthur Ellis Awards. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. Catch Melodie's humour column for The Sage, Canada's magazine of satire and opinion.



Puzzled by the title?  It’s simple.

In high school, I had to read Lord of the Flies, The Chrysalids, On the Beach, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a whack of Shakespeare.

Yuck.  Way to kill the love of reading.  All sorts of preaching and moral crap in the first four.  (Which, as you will see by the end of this post, doesn’t suit me well.)

Torture, it was, having to read those dreary books, at a time when I was craving excitement.  Already, I had a slight rep for recklessness. (It was the admittedly questionable incident of burying the French class attendance sheet in the woods on Grouse Mountain, but I digress…)

And then we got to pick a ‘classic’ to read.  Groan.  Some savvy librarian took pity on me, and put a book in my hand.

Ivanhoe.

Magic

A writer was born that day.

This is what books could be like!  Swashbuckling adventure with swords and horses, and imminent danger to yourself and virtue, from which – sometimes – you could not escape (poor Rebecca.)

I was hooked, man.  And this book was written how long ago?  1820?

Occasionally, people will ask if a teacher had a special influence on me as a writer.  I say, sadly, no to that.

But a librarian did.  To this day, I won’t forget her, and that book, and what it caused me to do.

  1. Write the swashbuckling medieval time travel Land’s End series, starting with the Top 100 bestseller Rowena Through the Wall.  
  2. Steal a book.  Yes, this humble reader, unable to part with that beloved Ivanhoe, claimed to lose the book, and paid the fine.  Damn the guilt.  The book was mine.
  3. Write the Goddaughter series, which has nothing to do with swashbuckling medieval adventure, and everything to do with theft.  Which, of course, I had personally experienced due to a book called Ivanhoe.

The lust for something you just have to have.  The willingness to take all sorts of risks way out of proportion, to possess that one thing.

A book like my own Rowena and the Dark Lord made me a thief at the age of sixteen.  And the experience of being a thief enticed me to write The Goddaughter’s Revenge, over thirty years later.

My entire writing career (200 publications, 9 awards) is because of Sir Walter Scott and one sympathetic librarian.  Thanks to you both, wherever you are.

 
 

Melodie Campbell writes funny books. You can buy them at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.  She lurks at www.melodiecampbell.com.
The one that started it all: Rowena Through the Wall  
Follow Melodie’s comic blog at  www.melodiecampbell.com