Archive | January 2014

A bit on marketing and goalsetting.

So I’m deep in my promotional campaign and I find myself thinking heavily on marketing concepts from dusk till dawn. Part of the reason is because I’ve bent to demand and begun writing a new ebook on marketing.

Why? Because quite a few people have been talking to me about my marketing techniques and many of them see value in my insight. Right now, I’m going to share a secret that explains why my insights are so valuable to the small business owner and indie artist. I’m a guerrilla marketer. I know all sorts of tricks to making cheap, effective marketing campaigns. Cheap is the key word that makes everyone listen.

Here’s a bit of information for the marketing portion of the blog. This is coming straight from the book that I’m writing:

One of the first keys to effective marketing is belief in your product. I call it “Shameless Marketing.” You can’t promote something that you don’t think is worth buying. If you don’t think your book was formatted well enough or that your song was mixed properly or your new widget works correctly, you’ll feel a lot of apprehension marketing it. You have to believe that people want your product and will benefit from having it. If you feel any shame about them seeing it, hearing it or using it, it will show in your advertising. And people won’t care about what you have to offer.

So what if your feelings that your product isn’t ready for market are correct? Then don’t put it to market! Simple. Don’t polish a turd just to get something up for sale, either. Here’s why:

Only 8% of the market (people) care about you and your product. 4% will go for it right away and 4% need some convincing. BUT 92% of people don’t care and never will. That’s just a fact of commerce. So when you get some attention from that 8% who DO care, you don’t want to drop a steaming pile in front of them, right? No…you want to deliver something that will keep them coming back. If you start disappointing your 8%, your share is going to dwindle quickly.

Now, a quick note on goalsetting:
    I’m terrible at this. I’m absolutely awful at setting goals and sticking to them. Here’s the thing, though. When I do manage to set goals, I usually stick with them and they work for me. So my advice for the day is to set a writing goal. If you have something to market, set a promotion goal. Make these daily goals (I will write one short story a day; I will write 500 words a day, tweet five times and spend 1 hour tracking my web stats; etc.) Now stick to these goals.

PROMPT: Yeah, I’m finally sneaking one in.
Your character wakes up with a neurological affliction that causes them to hear colors (or smell them.) The very act of opening their eyes in the morning bombards them with sensory confusion. Write how they cope with it long enough to get to the hospital.
Are you bad at writing first-person narrative? Write it in first-person. You want the reader to smell the colors. What does the color red sound like? It’s your job to figure it out and explain it to me.

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Gimme three steps.

The last month has given me a bit of fresh insight into the self-publication process. I’ve noticed that the whole process can be broken down into three steps. Very independent, very unique steps. You go through these steps in order, and then (hopefully) recycle back to the step one. The reason why this is relevant is because your mindset as the author has to be completely different for each step…i.e. it would be hard/potentially foolish to try to combine steps. Observe the breakdown:

Step 1: Writing

This step is obvious. During this phase you are writing your content. This is where you write your novel/book of poems/self-help tome. This step will most likely contain some amount of peer review/group editing/etc. Matters of revising fit here.

Step 2: Finishing

This is where you take the content and prepare it for publication. You would be formatting it, making your .PDFs, creating/ordering a cover. This is also where you would be doing your last few editing passes, reads, beta-reads, and if you’re ordering print copies, then you would fit your proof review in here.

Step 3: Promoting

At this point, you should become a relentless, remorseless machine with only one goal: make people realize that you and your book exist. This step will be rough when you’re starting out because you will be creating all of your social media outlets, your website, your media kit, taking photos and writing all of your promo material. On top of that, you’ll be tweeting and following your ads for 16 hours a day. The good news is that after your first marketing push, the channels are all built. After that, launching a new title is as simple as uploaded some new pics and changing the topic of your tweets/facebook posts. Remember that his step is KEY to getting anyone to read your books. There are millions of authors…especially indie authors…and you need to stand out from that crowd. However, when you’re spending all of this time and energy promoting, you probably won’t have the time to be writing. That’s okay, because you should be in the mindset of “what I’ve already written is so damn good, and I worked so hard on it that I need a break anyway” while you’re promoting. (Don’t forget to write down your story ideas while you’re on this break though! Just because you’re not writing doesn’t mean that you can’t be brainstorming.)

Once you’ve promoted to a level that you feel is sufficient then you go back to step one and write your next book. (If you’re okay with the marketing bare minimum then you’d better make sure that everyone on your friends list/all of your followers have seen that you just published a book…and they need to see the message about 30 times before it sinks in.)

I see this cycle as being a pretty golden path. It allows you to change gears and refresh different parts of your mind as you go, and it keeps the “business machine” part of your writing endevours in motion. Now, of course, the steps do overlap occassionally. You’ll still promote your first book while you’re writing your second, but you won’t be spending hours a day doing it…and you may start writing another story while you’re finishing the first one, but once you’re in step two then the finishing of the first book needs to be your priority (lest it never get done.)

That’s the rundown for the day. What step are you on…and how can you prepare to slide into the next step?
Slainte!

Worldwide Web of Confusion

Fellow Indie author also writes about writing…it’s literary inception, basically.

Busted Keystrokes - Musings and Rants

I’ve been writing for a while, but only for the past few years have I actually started sharing my work and my ideas with others. Most of that was because of an innate fear of rejection – no one likes to get funny looks about something that makes them feel talented. So, like many, I signed up for memberships with online writing websites. These sites allowed me to post my work for many to read.

I was very thrilled when some of my stories began winning contests on these sites. It is invigorating to see my work judged as superior to others. But at the same time, it was also counterproductive. After all, if you win a contest, it can lull you into thinking that your story is perfect.

I like writing websites. They allow writers such as myself to dive into an infinite supply of other unpublished works and…

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Recommended reading.

Here’s a quick list of recommended reading for the writers and self-publishers. I’ll reference these books quite a bit and refer to them in this blog. I’m hard at work with my book launch still, so might as well assign these for homework! 😉

Writing 21st Century Fiction – as I’ve said, probably the most helpful book I’ve read on writing fiction.

Guerrilla Marketing – This book is a primer on marketing, advertising and promotion. If you’ve never had to sell something or develop a marketing strategy, you need to read this book. It’s gold for those of us who have to do our own marketing grunt work! Also, try Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. 

———

Here’s the link to the “Bad Kitty” children’s book that I was talking about on facebook! It teaches kids how to write a story and explains everything from plot to character development: Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble

Free signed book promotion!

As a special promotion to celebrate my first two books hitting the market, I’m giving Amazon.com readers a chance to download my eBook “Thoughtban” AND receive a SIGNED first-edition print copy of my novella “Sol Invictus” for FREE!

Here’s how you do it:

1) Download and read “Thoughtban Anthology” from Amazon.com. I’m running a promotion that’s making this eBook FREE on Jan 20-21 and Jan 24-27! (Or you can be a bro and buy it for $.99!) (Download “Thoughtban” Here!)
2) Go to my website and use the contact form to submit your feedback on “Thoughtban.” Give it a mini-review, a satisfied blurb or tell me you hated it passionately! Honest feedback is the best feedback! Use the subject line “Free Book’ and identify the Amazon username you used when downloading the book. (Go to my site!)
3) The first 10 people who submit feedback (good or bad) in the above manner will be contacted and asked for your mailing address. You’ll then be sent a SIGNED first-edition copy of “Sol Invictus” in the mail!

It’s that easy!

The fine print: I retain the right to use your comments or reviews to market the book and I may quote them in this blog. Please allow about 3 weeks for delivery of the signed copy, since we’re still in the proof finalization stage of printing!

Thanks and enjoy!

Let’s make a media kit.

It’s been a busy week. I managed to get my first two eBooks up for sale on Amazon, I got my website up and I have a whole bunch of promotions queued up and ready for the coming couple of weeks. Add to that the research I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve had to remake my cover and resubmit my print edition files twice (the printed proofs are on the way!) and it all amounts to one frustrating thing: I haven’t written much in two weeks.

The upside is that I really enjoy all of this promoting. I don’t care for sharing my personal life on the internet, but I really enjoy learning the intricate dance of social media marketing. Finally, I’m putting my facebook, twitter and Google+ to work. Fortunately for me, I’ve already had a lot of experience with these things from my attempts to market myself as an actor, and I also have about 15 years of experience with Photoshop and web design. I’m on a roll.

And there’s still much more to go.

When I was getting in shape a few years ago, I learned an interesting phrase:
“At any given minute, you’re either getting fitter or you’re getting fatter.”
This statement means one simple thing. Every minute counts, and all the little steps add up to make big changes. This phrase carries over to everything. For instance, every minute that you’re not promoting yourself is a minute that people are forgetting who you are. When you’re trying to make a name and build a brand image, or when you’re trying to create a presence and carve a piece of the readership pie out for yourself, this stands. Always be promoting. Always be putting your name out there.

When I’m sitting in the coffee shop writing, I talk to people. I get into a conversation and then casually mention that my books are for sale. It doesn’t mean they’ll buy them, but that was a minute that I didn’t let people forget who I am. Those minutes all add up.

Now, I’m going to tell you what my next step is. Besides writing the awesome novel that I’ve been sitting on for a month, that is. My next step is assembling a handy-dandy MEDIA KIT.
Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking of doing this until I was asked to be interviewed on a digital radio show next month. Once I was asked, I figured I needed one. Now that I’m making one, I’m thinking of dozens of ways to use them.

What’s a media kit? Think of it as a big, easy-to-deliver envelope full of SELL. It’s going to be the thing you whip out of your messenger bag when someone of importance wants to know who you are and why they should care. It’s marketing gold.

I’m going to go into detail once my media kit is complete, but here’s a quick rundown of what you could put in the kit:
-A biography sheet with your best photo (professional photoshoot recommended)
-An “author Q&A” where you basically interview yourself
-A sample/samples of your work
-A sheet that details your latest book including a good shot of the cover

Remember that all of these items need to SELL you as an author and SELL your book as something that’s worth looking at. Strangely, the matter in your media kit needs to be some of your best writing. DO NOT put a biography in your media kit that’s unedited and rushed. Put time into it! Don’t use a crappy photo of you, either! You may be a independent author, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be a slob. You can be indie and still behave like a professional when the situation calls for it. If you don’t, you’ll put up a lot of walls.

You want homework? Find your best bio…whether it’s something from Amazon’s Author Central or your book jacket. Make it better. Make it compelling. Now find the best photo of you that exists. Does it look professional? Every photo that I use on my profiles and book jackets was professionally done. Trust me, the difference is noticable. I was lucky…my pictures were taken last year to promote my acting career, so I had them standing by. However, they’ve come in handy for numerous other projects. The headshots cost me about $150 from a big-name studio, but the pic that I used on this blog was free because I promised to plug the photographer. You don’t always have to spend big bucks…but at the very least, find a friend with a good camera and the desire to take good quality pictures and arrange a shoot.
Time to get back to work! Don’t waste time on youtube…go write something! 😉

What I learned on Amazon today.

So I’ve been doing a little field research on the eve of my first book launch. I’ve been going through Amazon’s assortment of independently authored/published books and reading the reviews. The point? To see what other people are doing wrong.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
1) The correlation between a crappy-looking cover and low expectations for the content was undeniable.
2) Most self-published books have editing errors that could have been easily fixed, but cost them stars. One example is an author who has several novels, all of which have reviews complaining about incorrect word usage, spelling or overuse of commas. Many people said that his stories were great…but the loss of stars from bad grammar and punctuation is probably killing his sales.

So here’s what I took away from my research: have a good cover. For the love of all things sacred, don’t make your own cover in MSPaint. Some of the covers that I saw were downright embarrassing. If you have a gorgeous wife, you don’t throw a filthy onion sack over her and take her out to dinner, right? Well, your book is your hot wife. Get it a designer bespoke dress from Italy and some pearls! (If you’re a woman, then get your hot husband/book an Armani suit and a Movado. You get the idea.)    
    
The second thing: edit your work. Have someone else edit it. Then edit it five more times before you publish it. You don’t want to lose stars over something as simple as the wrong use of “their/there/they’re.” It’s like going all the way to the Olympic high-dive and falling off the ladder on your way up.

Note: I’d be more than happy to help with book cover designs as long as I’m credited for the work. If you need a cover or you want to polish up your current one, contact me while I’m still taking a break from writing. You have about a week!

A pubic service message.

Many apologies for slacking on the blog. I’ve been working overtime on getting my website up and running, along with formatting and finishing Sol Invictus for publication.

I’d like to state that I’m now fully aware of the odd banner image on the mobile version of this blog. Due to the way that wordpress crops the photo, it’s essentially a picture of my crotch. I’m sure I’ll get around to fixing it.

It made me think of something, though. A little tidbit of Hollywood trivia that I learned while acting. There’s a move called a “Groucho” that’s used when a seated actor is being filmed in a close shot and must stand up to walk away while the camera stays focused on him. When you “do a Groucho,” you get up really slowly, walking in a crouch (like Groucho Marx) and gradually raising up until you’re standing. Why? If the actor stands up the way he would in real life, the camera wouldn’t be able to keep up and you’d get a crotch shot every time someone stands up in a show or movie. The Groucho, ladies and gentlemen.

Now you might be expecting me to draw some parallel between this and writing. It would make sense, but I was seriously just sharing some trivia. I can try to make it relevant…here: “the Groucho” teaches us an important message. It doesn’t matter how stupid you look doing something, as long as it looks right to the audience. And don’t needlessly show your groin.

We’ve come full circle.

Sneak peak: http://www.jpaulroe.com  – see it in development as I struggle through the “easy” web page designer’s labyrinth of poorly labeled buttons!

Two tips and a prompt.

Tip #1: Make friends and network. You never know what kind of people you can meet, and what kind of skills they may have. Just talking to people around me in Starbucks, I’ve made friends with a person who illustrated a published children’s book, a former editor for a modest sized house, a person who co-owns a radio station, other novelists, and many successful bloggers. I’ve also met a world champion Magic: The Gathering player, a traveling magician, and numerous people with conspiracy theories ranging from mundane to “I kind of hope no one is listening to us right now.” The point is that you might meet business contacts with resources to offer. You also might meet future characters for your next story.

Tip #2: Expose yourself. (to multiple forms of media.) I believe that the creative process is a matter of synthesis. You take things you’ve already seen or experienced and throw them in your mental blender. Then, you piece stuff together and come up with something new. The more raw material you have to work with (inspiration) the better. I typically read articles in The Smithsonian, Entertainment Weekly, and National Geographic every day. I keep a stack of the magazines handy…won’t say where…and I read articles about things I’m not really interested in. It might not be stimulating, but I’ve gotten tons of ideas from doing this. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone deepens the well from which you can draw ideas.

Prompt: What’s the one thing that your protagonist would refuse to do? He finds it vile, repulsive or it just goes against his strict code of honor. Make him do it. What circumstances did it take to push him over that line? What was the payoff? How did the entire world change for him after breaking his own rules? How does he see the issue differently from the other side? Make it happen and make it all clear. This is a huge growth step for a character. If it works, keep it in your story. If it doesn’t work, use what you’ve learned to better illustrate why your protagonist feels the way he does about the issue.

Write what you know.

The topic of this post is misleading. I’m definitely not a believer that you should only write about subjects, situations or characters that you’ve personally experienced. If that were the case, there would be very little fiction in the world.

When I say “write what you know,” I mean two things:

1) Take an active effort to incoroporate your experiences into your writing.
    I’m sure things have happened to you in your life that were worth remembering. Likewise, there are things that have happened to you that were worth telling other people about. Depending on your lifestyle and luck, these memorable experiences could range from having a comically bad waiter at a restaurant to seeing a police raid go down across the street. These experiences can yield gold as a writer, if you know how to mine them.
    When you hone that mining skill, you can use a very good portion of your everyday life to fuel your work. The key is to remember the experience as fully as you can, focusing heavily on the emotions that you felt and where that experience took your stream of thoughts. Ever see a beautiful sunset, unlike any you’ve ever seen? I just did the other day, and it’s going into one of my stories. Not as a sunset, mind you. The actual event is far less important than the feeling it evoked. It was surreal, almost fantastic, the shapes of the clouds and how the sun painted them red all across the sky in waves. When I saw it, it made me stop in my tracks just to take it all in.
    It was nothing but clouds and light and sky. The same stuff that’s overhead every single day. But that time, it made me feel something, experience something different.
    A story is nothing but letters on a page. The same stuff that’s spewed out by writers every single day. But you want your story to make the reader feel something, experience something different.
    See what I did there? Of course! I couldn’t tell you what the sky looked like on any other day in the last 30 years, but I can still see that sky on that day as clearly as if I were still standing under it. You want your reader to be absorbed in your story long after they put the book down. You want them dwelling on it, thinking about the characters, imagining what else is going on behind the scenes. You want the reader to care, because that is a prime sign of good storytelling.
     So you take the moments that stick with you, the moments you care about, and do your absolute best to adapt those feelings into your story.

2) If you’re writing about something that’s new to you, then you’d do well to learn about it real quick.
    
    This might be more along the lines of “know what you write” than “write what you know,” but the point stands. First of all, you don’t want someone who knows more about the subject matter dismissing your writing because of simple errors.
    Take a few basic mistakes in military writing that I’ve actually seen. The first time I see a character refer to a Marine as “soldier,” you’ve pissed me off. (Note: on Halo, they often call Master Chief “soldier,” which really bugs me. He’s basically a space Navy SEAL and his NAME is a Navy rank. He would be called “sailor.” Yes, this stuff is important!) When someone is told not to open fire on a target that’s 100 meters away because it’s “out of range” of his M4, it makes me want to throw something.
    Do your basic research. You don’t have to enlist to be qualified to write a war story…the information is out there.
    This goes for fantasy and sci-fi, too. Do you have an army of normal humans fighting an hour-long melee in “the field of battle?” Bullshit. Have you ever worn plate armor? Have you ever tried to hold a shield up while someone is beating on it with a sword? I have, and you get tired really fast. In fact, one reason why the Roman chariots gave them a huge advantage in battle is because they were used to ferry fresh troops to the front lines every few minutes so the tired ones could fall back and rest.
    If you want to write accurately about sword fights, go to an SCA (Society of Creative Anachronisms) combat training session. Watch them fight, note the moves. Note how tired they get after three minutes of single combat. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot about weapons, armor and fighting techniques from the members.
    If you’re thinking that you’re not writing for historical accuracy, so it doesn’t matter, think again. This knowledge still matters because it’s raw material for whatever you’re writing. Your human knights might be unstoppable killing machines that never need a rest, but you’ll be able to describe the brutality and motions of their attacks with greater detail after you’ve watched it in person.

So write what you know. Incorporate the emotions that you’ve experienced, and when you haven’t experienced them, educate yourself and do a little research before jumping in.