Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Super Bowl thoughts

There's some kind of football game this Sunday night--not sure I have the names of the teams right, but I know the Dallas Cowboys aren't playing. There's a lot of hype about the game. Then again, there was a lot of hype about the Pro Bowl, played a few days ago, but a month or two from now I daresay few if any football fans will be able to tell you who won, much less the score.

The Super Bowl has been played 50 times--number 51 takes place in Houston in a few days. I have to agree with Dwayne Thomas, who--when asked--said, "If it's the ultimate game, how come they're going to play it again next year?"

Some of you will be rooting for one team or the other. Others will tune in primarily hoping to see a particular coach or player lose. How about you? Will you watch the Super Bowl? And why?

Note: I'll be posting at the Suspense Sisters blog tomorrow. Click over there to see what I have to say about carrying on a writing tradition.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Writing: Post-Release Marketing

Every writer has them, certainly for the release of the first book, and often for every book that follows. They're the thoughts of "How will it sell?" Some writers are totally in it for the money, some want their work to be read by as many people as possible, but we all agree that the "reach" of the book is the final indicator by which we'll judge its success.

It's fairly well recognized now that one thing a publishing house will do for an author is to release and help market the book. After all, they're in business to make money, so they're interested in having a book purchased by the largest number. The "indie" writer has to do or arrange all these things himself/herself. But one thing that many readers don't think about is the post-release marketing.

I just saw several award-winning books advertised for a really low price. When these were released, the price was set (either by the publisher or the author) at a given level. But now, probably as a marketing tool or to introduce the authors to those unfamiliar with them, the novels (in this case--the same holds true of non-fiction) were offered for much less. Some books are offered at a lower price by the publisher, some by authors, and this is all a part of a continuing effort on their part to keep marketing the works.

Does it work? I'll confess that I've often bought some books after such a price reduction that I found to be too expensive initially. Have you? And as a result, have you found new authors? What do you think of this post-release marketing measure? Good idea? Much ado about nothing? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Social Media Is Like A Christmas Letter

Kay and I enjoy watching recorded episodes of Last Man Standing. I especially like the character Tim Allen plays, one with whom I often identify. In an episode we saw last week, he decided to make Christmas less hectic for his wife by farming out the associated chores to his family. The two daughters who were charged with writing the Christmas letter decided it was boring, so they spiced it up by saying the mother had joined a cult, the father was now a member of a biker gang... You get the picture. And the kicker was that people recognized that this was fictional, but enjoyed it.

My agent, Rachelle Gardner, posted last week about jealousy felt by authors. I have to agree with her, because social media posts by authors often read like a Christmas letter--accounts of triumphs and nice things. Few, if any, of them post the boring details of life: the everyday problems we all face, the humdrum situations we all find ourselves in. Why? Because they'd be like many of our Christmas letters, and no one would read them.

Do you find yourself skimming past posts made on social media because they're boring? Or do you sometimes catch yourself wishing you had the life of those who post only the good things they're going through? What's your opinion on social media--or, for that matter, Christmas letters? I'd like to hear.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Writing: Pen Name

One of the questions that comes up occasionally when writers get together (or correspond via a writers' loop) is the subject of using a pen name. You might think this is a rarity, but I discovered that a number of writers, at one time or another, use or have used a pen name. Think it's people you wouldn't recognize? Try J. K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, C. S. Lewis, Isaac Asimov, and Ed McBain.

Why would someone write under a name other than their own? There are a number of reasons. Perhaps what they're penning is different from what readers have come to expect from them. It's possible that the want to self-publish a book while maintaining their contract with their publishers to put out a different type of novel. Maybe they don't like their own name, so they choose one that's more easily remembered. (Remember, many actors do the same thing. For example, Robert Taylor was born Spangler Arlington Brugh).

Of course, sometimes this is a two-edged sword. There are a couple of authors of Christian fiction who have been writing under a nom de plume for so long that I have trouble recalling their real names. That leads to some embarrassing moments when I encounter them at a conference and don't know what to call them.

Do you look at authors' names when you browse the shelves of a bookstore? What if you found that Author A, whose work you look forward to, was the same as Author B, who produces novels for which you don't care? Do you think having a pen name is a good or bad thing? I'd like to hear.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

After The Game Is Over...

The Dallas Cowboys are out of the NFL Playoffs! There, I said it. Like so many other fans of so many other teams, I've looked forward to these Sunday afternoon games. But now that the Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers on what one columnist called a "Half Mary" (not quite a Hail Mary) pass by Aaron Rogers, a fantastic catch by the receiver, and a field goal that just sneaked past the left upright...I feel a bit of relief. I'll watch the final round of playoff games next Sunday with interest, but whichever team wins, I'll nod wisely and go on with my life. As we say in Texas, "I don't have a dog in that fight."

Let me also say that, so far as I know, no one hacked into the communication system between the Dallas coach and quarterback. I have no first-hand knowledge that there will be demonstrations or organized efforts to stop the Packers from playing their scheduled game next weekend. And I don't believe it's been necessary to declare a "safe place" to which Dallas fans can retreat after this loss. Maybe that's because it was just a game.  Of course, try to tell that to diehard Cowboys fans.

Now that's out of the way, I can get back to a regular blogging schedule. See you all Friday, when I talk about the writing life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Writing: Choosing Mode Of Publication

I wrote last week about my own experience with a publisher that encountered problems preventing their publishing my next novel. Then one comment that was left set me thinking. Apparently, some people don't realize that publishers choose to give authors book contracts, not the other way around. And getting a publisher isn't all that simple. How does one go about selecting the publishing houses they query about a novel? And the big question everyone seems to be asking nowadays: why not self-publish?

Selecting sites for querying can be done solo, but here's where I think an agent earns his/her money. They know the ins and outs of publishing, who wants what type of novel, which house isn't accepting queries right now... There are a lot of questions, and by and large agents know the answers. It won't be as simple as querying one house and getting an immediate answer. And even if the answer is "yes," it takes months for a deal memo and ultimately a contract to be hammered out. When it is, it takes about a year from turning in a manuscript to release of the book. (We've talked before about everything that goes into that year's work, and I can discuss that again sometime if you'd like).

What about self-publishing? The ranks of  writers doing "indie" (i.e., independent or self-publication) publishing are swelling. Part of this is a reaction to increasing numbers of books and authors (over 300,000 new titles per year, and those figures are old now). There are only so many publishers and slots for books from them, so not everyone gets a contract. As a result, some folks turn to this method.  It also is being driven by the disparity in royalties between contracted (i.e., "traditional") publishing and "indie" publication. In return for lower royalties, the contracted author relies on the publishing company for marketing, getting the book into retail channels, assistance entering contests, sending the book out for reviews, etc. Some individuals like the control indie publishing gives them, so they don't mind doing all this. Others prefer to leave the other stuff to their publisher and collect a smaller royalty in return.

That's a quick and admittedly superficial review of the processes and differences. What questions do you have? I'll try to answer them (or find someone who can do it). Let me know.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Snow Days

Here in Texas we're not totally unfamiliar with bad weather--rain, excessive heat, the occasional "blue norther"--but apparently snow isn't one of the things our citizens handle well.

The picture shown at left was taken when we had almost six inches of snow. People were calling it "Snowmageddon," and it brought the DFW Metroplex to its knees. But that's unusual. Most of the time we get anywhere from a light dusting to an inch or two, and it's often gone soon.

On Friday, we had what the weather forecasters were calling a "light dusting" of snow. I thought it was pretty for a while, but things didn't seem hazardous...at least, to me. Then the ten o'clock news started to show pile-ups and wrecks, there were reports of high numbers of calls for ambulances, and in general the word was "don't drive unless you have to."

This week, the forecasters are calling for a temperature in the 70s on Wednesday (which means golf may take place that day), but a dip to the 50s by next weekend, possibly with rain. Up and down, up and down. Welcome to Texas weather. And I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Got any comments about weather--yours or somewhere else? Feel free to leave them.

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Friday, January 06, 2017

Writing: Personal Reflections

I'm writing this on the last day of 2016 (because family obligations will keep me busy after that), and like so many others I thought a look back at the year just completed and a look ahead would be in order.

First, my hiatus from blogging. It was freeing. I'll admit that I didn't stop checking email, reading other blogs, staying up with Facebook friends and posting the occasional Twitter "tweet." But despite continuing all that, not writing a biweekly blog freed me to do a lot of writing and even get some personal stuff done.

What are my future blog plans? For now, I'll resume my pattern of Tuesday blogs about things in general, Friday posts about writing. I'll also be posting periodically at the Suspense Sisters blog. How long will that last? I have no idea. Probably until I run out of ideas or get too busy to post.

What happened to Cardiac Event and the release planned for February? I was full of optimism when I chose to accept the offer from Gilead Publishers, a new publishing company with experienced folks at the helm. Unfortunately--and this is the first time I've seen this happen in my years of writing--the financing lined up by the publisher hit a snag. Not to put too fine a point on it, the entity promising the finances backed out. After a prolonged delay, the  publisher graciously granted a reversion of the rights for Cardiac Event. Whether it and my future novels (some of which are already written) will be released by another publisher or self-published remains an open question. Stay tuned.

What about my future writing plans? In addition to what I've said above, I'm completing the final edits on a long novella (looks like about 40K words), Doctor's Dilemma, that I'm planning to self-publish. There's no definite release date yet, but I'm shooting for spring, so whatever else happens with my novels, you'll be able to read my stuff again soon.

What's my take on the state of Christian publishing? As all of us in the industry have said for years, although there are ups and downs, the future is hopeful. Some publishers flourish, others have closed down their fiction lines or shut down entirely, while new publishers spring up from time to time. Indie  (i.e., self-published) and hybrid (i.e., both indie and via conventional publisher) authors are increasing in numbers. Both e-books and print books are still around, despite dire predictions of the demise of one or the other. TV and gaming notwithstanding, I think there are still readers out there.

What do I plan to do? Keep on writing. My approach to Christian (or inspirational, as some call it) fiction differs from some others, but there's room for us all. As we say in Texas, "That's why they make both Fords and Chevrolets." I hope you keep on reading my work. And thanks for your support.

Do you have comments, suggestions, or questions? Leave them here. I'd love to hear from you.

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