Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Mid Week Discussion

Howdy on Wednesday.

We had some interesting comments/questions from yesterday—enough to warrant taking another break from our NES to talk about ’em.

First, as to the pretending-to-be-a-corpse-in-hot-water thing, I am left with little to say. Except that, yes, novelists are indeed strange creatures. Not quite sure why Darcie had to try out being the dead body. Also wondering very much what others around her had to say. Did they ask you, Darcie, what you were doing? Did it even occur to you to tell them the truth? And what is this "Roundtable" thing? Are you chatting at some Camelot place and blaming this all on me?

I will admit that I had some trouble writing on the plane yesterday. I’m a visual writer, and I gotta see everything in my head so I can explain exactly how the action plays out. The scene I was writing had to do with HTC (hot tub corpse) being wrapped in a thick chain, and I really needed to at least do some hand motions to figure out the sequence of movements. You know, where the chain would go, what the body would do. However, I wasn’t sure the prim woman sitting next to me with glimmer sandals and perfectly painted toe nails would understand. Especially if I explained what I was doing.

So I squinched my eyes shut and tried to play it all out in my head.

HTC has been thoroughly wrapped and dispatched, by the way. Opening sequence now completed. (Applause would be appropriate here.)

Okay. Questions. One had to do with agents. That’s a big enough topic that I shall defer it until after NES. Although I suppose that’s rather an oxymoron of a promise.

Question two. Is the Internet better or worse for authors? Especially novelists who shouldeth be workingeth on their novels instead of bloggingeth and e-mailingeth. Well, I’ve seen both sides—having and have-not-ing the Internet, and I’ll take the having. I do think if I’d had such contact with other writers and ability for instruction, I would have learned some of the basic techniques of fiction faster. For example, like most new authors, when I first starting writing a novel, I had no idea of POV. I head-hopped all over the place because that’s the easier way to write. I literally learned about POV from reading fine authors who stuck with one per scene. I learned how to portray another character’s thoughts without jumping into his head. I marked up scenes in books as I learned this. Looking back, that seems so silly. All I needed was someone to explain the concept to me, or give me the name of a good book on writing that dealt with POV. But I had no one to tell me, so I floundered around until I figured it out myself.

I do understand the con side of the Internet—too many distractions with blogs and e-mails and Web sites. Man. These are some of the greatest procrastination tools ever created. I know how to use ’em to the nth degree. But in the end it comes down to discipline—doing what you gotta do, which is writing. I give myself a limit of time in the morning. By a certain hour I must have all my e-mails, marketing stuff, whatever-else-somebody-needs-from-me stuff out of the way. Then I must write.

Question three. What’s the deal with marketing your own books versus the publisher doing it? Pretty big topic, but here are some basics.

One of the biggest things that sells books is pull-out placement in stores. Ever go into Barnes & Noble and see the huge display right as you enter? Those books aren’t there because the staff loves ’em. They’re there because the publisher paid big money to put 'em in your face.

Magazine ads are great to see, but they may not end up doing that much for sales. Brochures and bookmarks and other mailing/leave-behind kinds of doodads all have their place. But again, the best thing a publisher can do for a book is to place it where a customer has to look at it. In CBA the major chains all have newspaper- or magazine-like flyers that are sent to local customers. When a publisher buys an ad in one of these flyers, part of the package is pull-out placement in the store. For example, I think in the month of May (or maybe June) my new novel, Dead of Night, will have ads in flyers of the four largest chains of Christian bookstores, such as Family Christian and Lifeway. That means that, in addition to all the readers of that flyer seeing the ad, the book will have special placement in every Lifeway, etc. store across the country. These ads are expensive, but they really do affect sales

In addition Zondervan features me in their Premier Fiction magazine, on the fiction page of their Web site, gives me a two-page spread in their catalogue—that sort of thing. Still the store placement is at the top as far as effectiveness.

Many times a book is simply published with a very small marketing budget. No ads in store flyers, no special placement in stores, no nothing really. It’s just placed on shelves in hopes that readers will find it. If it’s written by a new author, or even a fairly new author, who’s going to know to look for it? The author can do marketing of his/her own, which I do. I have a newsletter, a blog, I send out mailings to some targeted folks, etc. But that kind of thing isn’t going to make up for a publisher who does nothing.

Bottom line, marketing is a partnership. The publisher has its role, and the author has his/her role. I know quite a few authors who just can’t handle marketing. They hate it. I, on the other hand, have a background in it, and am very comfortable with it. As a result I end up doing more of it than many authors might. Other authors I know are absolutely whizzes at marketing—at their sales show it.

So. Questions, comments? See y’all tomorrow.


Tracey said...

Hey Brandilyn. This has nothing to do with what you've been talking about. However, I figured you could give me some advice.

A family friend found out that she has lyme disease about a week ago. It was transmitted through a tick. What is some good advice that I could give her to help her through it? I don't know that much about it and was just wondering if you had any words of wisdom to pass along. Thanks!! -Tracey

Lynette Sowell said...

I am definitely pro-Internet for writers. It is my lifeline. But you have to know when to say when. You don't catch fish just by talking about fishing or hanging out a fishing equipment shows.

Anyway, about marketing. My husband has had his own business for 9 years, and the best thing for us has been word of mouth. You get people talking about what you do--positively!--and word gets around. At first we had to advertise in the newspaper, but our best referrals have come word of mouth. "A friend recommended you to us..." Now we have a waiting list!

One day I hope to translate that kind of marketing to the book world... but, back to my day job I go~~~~

Cheryl Russell said...

Maybe you could make marketing a topic after agents? For those of us who haven't got a clue. Or at the very best, a vague idea of what marketing a book entails?

Becky said...

When you mentioned writing as a Lone Ranger, I thought right away about the number of books I've read because of someone else's recommendation. That right there has made the internet hugely valuable.

Thanks for the marketing info. I didn't realize that the ad purchase was tied to book placement, though I had recently heard that publishers buy the "in the window" display of their books (which in turn can equate to a place on the NYT bestseller list, as this person explained it).

I'm guessing that E of E didn't get the two-page spread in Z's catalogue or ads in all the major chain store flyers! ; ) And still it was on CBA best-selling list. Impressive!

You had me laughing as I visualized you working on an invisible body, wrapping it with phantom chains while Prim Woman in Glittering Sandals looked on. Hahah--good choice to hold off!

D. Gudger said...

Oh Brandilyn, I'm not gonna blame anything on you :) I was just inspired by the great murder scene possiblities around me. Hot Sulfur Springs, CO boasts a unique hot spring experience. They have 18 little pools dotting the hillside, overlooking the Rocky Mountains. Each pool is fairly private - perfect place for a murder! My hubby was the only witness to my antics. We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves so I took advantage of that! I did the dead-man in all the pools large enough to accomodate a corpse my size. I wanted to memorize how the body floated, what my hair did. Something to tuck away for future writing use and possible plot!

I understand the whole "hand-motion" thing. I judge colorguard competitions in the winter and when I'm trying to describe what I'm seeing on the dialogue tape, I wave my arms all over the place, manipulating invisible equipment :)

Hope you don't think I'm too weird for you all! CJ knows me ;)

D. Gudger said...

The Roundtable - Writer's Roundtable is a forum on put up by the Christian Writer's Guild of which I am a member/apprentice. I'm working through the two year course which is very challanging and oh, so worth it!

C.J. Darlington said...

Yes, I know Darcie. Trust me folks. She's only about half as crazy in real life as she is here. He he he. ;-)

The fact that you got any writing done at all, Brandilyn, while on the plane is a great example to me. I would have been tempted to play hookie and just read one of your novels!

Kathy Kovach said...

I tell people that even though I've written for years, God waited to bless my career until the computer was invented. I mostly meant the word processor, but Oh, how I've learned from other authors and the freebies they offer on their sites. Not to mention ACFW and the buckets of knowledge oozing into my inbox daily. Or the connection I now have with other authors via email. Kudos to you, Brandilyn, for plugging in there without that extra help.

I also wanted to give C.J. a good reason for reading on the plane and not think of it as "playing hookey". Think of it as research! Yeah, that's it. I read a genre I'm interested in writing to see how the experts have done it. Of course, if you're on a deadline, you probably have to write whenever you sit down, even on a plane. Don't know. Never had that problem yet. :-/

D. Gudger said...

I've had intentions of writing on a plane, but being stuck in the middle seat in sardine class with a large man on one side of me and a pretzle-like teen boy on the other made it difficult to whip out the old laptop! Their elbows even invaded my READING space making that hard to do.

I'm flying to OR in a few weeks - plan to try to write on the plane. If I can fit :)

C.J. Darlington said...

Yea, that's it, Kathy! Research!

Of course, I do think reading novels, as a fiction writer, IS important. Especially if you're analyzing as you read, which I can't help but doing anymore. In fact, after reading DEAD OF NIGHT and James Scott Bell's SINS OF THE FATHERS (I read them both close together) I was able to write an action scene in my story much more effectively. I'm learning it's oh so necessary to drag out the tension in action scenes. Brandilyn talks about this in her book, GETTING INTO CHARACTER, I believe.

So ... if you ever want to elaborate even more on writing action/fight scenes, Brandilyn, I'd be interested.

Ron Estrada said...

I hear ya about learning the craft. My wife kids me about the books. She says they'll ruin me. But it's like any other profession, you've got to keep sharpening and learning. The web advice is also great. But it can be distracting. There is SO MUCH information out there. So I selected Randy Ingermanson's site for some basic, and SHORT, how-to stuff. I've also ordered some of the writing books he's recommended. I've just started BC's character book.

BUT, the ACFW forum needs to be used sparingly. Chat rooms, for me, are off limits. Too much time for very little conversation. I must say that the ACFW group is the most professional I've run into. Then there's a certain author's blog. I find this useful because a succesful author turns out to be a real person. To think, you had trouble with POV! How can that be? So, I won't let it get me down when I use the same personal pronoun a few too many times in a paragraph.

Thanks for taking the time, BC.

Jen said...

Speaking of finding the Internet to be time consuming...that's why I've been underground for a few weeks. I mean really, it's much more fun to read your blog than edit my book! :) In fact, right now I am procrastinating. And yet, the Internet has a lot to offer.

First, I LOVE ACFW!!! The forums do take up some time, but the e-mail loop has been invaluable.

Second, I find things like your NES to be oh-so-very-helpful when I'm depressed about a rejection or even the terrifying possibility of sending my work out...again. It's great to know that you went through it, too! The encouragement that provides my writer's heart is worth the time it takes away from my writing!

As far as reading for research...AMEN! I took a break from reading fiction for a while and my imagination all but dried up. Reading primes me for writing.

Alas, my edits are calling and thankfully they don't involve dead bodies floating in pools! :)

Rich said...

Brandilyn, this is SO valuable. I feel like I'm attending another writing conference...but it's more entertaining! Good stuff.

I guess it shouldn't surprise us that writing is tough. To me it’s kind of like attending college again with a new major. But looking back just a year to the 2004 Mt. Hermon conference…WOW, have I ever come a long ways in what I know!