James Bond, Low-Tech Hero

November 26th, 2012 No comments

NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. DON’T READ UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE.

If ever there was a hero who relied on technology, James Bond was it. He was a super-agent always equipped with super weapons. Q was his trusty wingman, outfitting him with backpack rockets, exploding pens, exploding gum, an invisible car, a jacket that could turn into a huge cushion, etc…

The dynamic changed rather dramatically in the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall (though I believe technology has played a much lesser role in the James Bond franchise since the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig), where technology is used very heavily by the enemy while James Bond relies only on basic weaponry and even rudimentary tools to fight back.

I very much think this change has been influenced by the role technology plays in our lives. In the latter half of the 20th century, technology held great promise. Things like the person computer, the VCR, the microwave, and CDs made life more convenient and exciting. Technology was mostly a benign friend that was not overly scary.

It’s no surprise that audiences loved to see James Bond utilizing far-fetched gizmos to help him in his missions. The things he used didn’t seem real.

Our relationship with technology is changing. Technology is beginning to swallow us. We can pull up maps to anywhere on our phone, spy on the babysitter with a hidden teddy bear camera, even get parts of our DNA sequenced for less than $100.

Suddenly, the old tricks James Bond used are available to the masses. There’s probably an app for half of what Q has invented for him.

Technology has taken a decidedly darker turn as well. The hacking of data is now routine. So are cyber attacks. We’ve already witnessed government-sponsored cyber warfare. I think we’re all consciously or unconsciously aware that Google and Facebook probably know more about us than our closest friends.

In other words, technology is no longer a benign friend. Somewhere along the way it has morphed into something much more complex, both an amazing asset and a potential threat (not to mention a complete time suck).

Is it surprising then that the latest movie in the James Bond franchise powers down their hero in order to make him seem more heroic? The fear and ambivalence we feel about technology is borne out in how Silva uses it as an all-encompassing weapon to blow up the MI6 building, reveal the identities of MI6 agents, and hack into the MI6 network in order to release himself from captivity.

Suddenly we watch as 007, the hero who was defined by gizmos, fight against a technologically-emboldened villain in a decidedly low-tech way, as demonstrated in the final action scenes of the movie where Bond and his band of two booby trap an old house to fight a much technologically-superior force (who arrive in a fully-equipped helicopter).

The movie has a very nostalgic air. James receives only two basic tools from Q, a palm print gun and a tracker called a “radio”.

There is a very telling scene in the movie that seems to embody the overarching conflict of the movie, which is the old (James & M) vs. the new (our current world). James is set to meet Q at a museum. He sits down on a bench next to a lanky young man (with great hair) who looks to be a college sophomore. The kid pulls a reluctant Bond into conversation, explaining how the painting they are viewing makes him sad. The picture depicts an old warship being pulled to a scrapyard.

The symbolism may be a little overdone, but it does a good job of underlining the theme of the movie, as does the conversation between the kid and James when it is revealed that the sophomore is actually the newest rendition of Q – a geeky, wired brainac who sees James as that old warship that needs to get scraped. Of course when his own network gets hacked, he perhaps appreciates 007’s unique skill set. In the end, the two work together to try and track down Silva. However, it is James, with his booby-trapped mansion and the knife he throws into Silva’s back, that saves the day.

I think this is comforting notion for audiences. What Skyfall shows us is that when technology has saturated everything and threatens to destroy us all, our hero doesn’t rely on an exploding pen or a tracker (which are now cheaply available on Amazon); he fights the old-fashioned way, with his wits and his fists and the occasional martini, shaken not stirred.

Categories: Essay Tags: , , ,

Does Facebook Advertising Work For Authors?

October 15th, 2012 No comments

 The Epic Journey of $250 and a Grumpy Vampire

 

Nathaniel is not exactly a tech-savvy vampire. He still fervently listens to his gramophone, staunchly insists that the nineteenth amendment is just a trend, and believes the computer is a portal of damned souls.

Nathaniel

Despite his severe anachronistic nature, I’ve decided to launch Nathaniel to the Internet masses in a big way. And by “big way”, I mean a very small and limited-budget sort of way.

Background

At the beginning of this month, I launched the third short story in my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series, which stars Nathaniel, his long-suffering housekeeper Deidre, and a host of other amusing characters dead and otherwise.

The series is – in my oh-so-humble opinion – pretty damn good (And Funny!), and I’d like more people to give it try. Not such an easy task as many fellow writers know all too well.

So how to make Nathaniel stand out?

I’ve made sure that he’s always in his best cape for each story, has got his suspenders in place, and that his cravat appropriately fluffed. I’ve even priced each of his stories at just $0.99 so the barrier to entry is as low as Amazon and Barnes & Noble will allow.

As the approach of Halloween grows nigh, I’ve realized the time has come to do something so big, so bold, and so brash with my short story series that even the dead will crack open an eye and take notice.

Unfortunately, my writing marketing budget isn’t exactly ready for big, bold, and brash, so what I’m going to do instead is drag Nathaniel’s coffin over to Facebook and see if anyone will say hello.

I’m writing this blog post publicly detailing my mini-marketing campaign, because I don’t think I’m the only one in this little boat called “Hey, Check Out My Writing. No, Seriously, It’s Good”.

So here’s what I’m going to do:

The Power of Free

The first big step I’m taking in this marketing campaign is to price the first short story in the series, Employment Interview With A Vampire, for FREE.

What’s better than FREE?  (Answer: lots of money, but FREE is still pretty awesome)

Employment Interview With A Vampire offers big laughs, not one iota of fright, and a very tragic lesson for Mormons that not every huge, creepy, spider web-infested house is ready to embrace The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . I know that readers are bombarded with choices and that they all already have a big list of favorite authors that they’re loyal to, but I’m hoping FREE is a big enough enticement to get some of them to give Nathaniel a chance to strut his cape and suspenders.

Unfortunately, FREE isn’t as easy as you’d think.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble don’t allow authors to price their works for free unless they sign up for special programs that allows them to price their works for free for a very limited time in exchange for exclusively placing the work with Amazon or Barnes & Noble of a specific length of time (90 days for Amazon).

Since I don’t think it’s a good deal to get five days of FREE in exchange for publishing exclusively on Amazon for 90 days, I’m trying FREE a different way. Specifically, I went to an online publisher which lets its authors price their works however they want, including FREE.

Thanks Smashwords.

So now Employment Interview With A Vampire is FREE, but I still need to find a way to tell readers about it.

Nathaniel Takes On Facebook

In Nathaniel’s time, a dollar could go a pretty freaking long way. Not so much today. Can’t exactly buy a billboard or a national television campaign with a few nickels. Luckily for us non-wealthy persons (aka all writers everywhere), the Internet came along, and advertising became relatively cheap again.

 

In my case, I’m going to bet $250 on Facebook that I can get Nathaniel and Deidre some publicity. This isn’t chump change for me, so it’ll be interesting to see if I can accomplish two important goals:

  • Increase the following on my Facebook page (which currently stands at a paltry 54)
  • Convince people to visit Smashwords or my website to give my FREE Nathaniel story a try

Facebook gives advertisers a pretty big bang for their buck. Facebook users gleefully tell Facebook every single thing about themselves, including their hobbies, favorite movies, where all their tattoos are, etc…, and then Facebook gleefully takes all that information and hands it right over to advertisers who are pretty dang gleeful about it themselves. All of this data lets advertisers focus their campaigns to an extreme level so that they can advertise to those who have already self-selected themselves as the most likely customers.

For my campaign, I’ve developed three different Facebook ads that I’m going to show to two very specific audiences: readers who like humor, and readers who like vampires.

One of the coolest things about Facebook advertising is that I can get immediate feedback on the campaign every time I log into my account. That means that I can tell what’s working and what’s not and make changes in response to what’s actually happening on the ground.

The Campaign

Employment Interview With A Vampire is already FREE on Smashwords and on my website. The Facebook campaign launched on 10/14 and will run through Oct. 31st. I’m committed to recording the results on this blog so that other authors can learn from my experiment. Sometimes I feel like marketing for authors is one big crapshoot, especially for those of us on a tight budget. It helps when we share our experiences, even those that fail spectacularly.

 

If you want to know how it all turns out, come back to this blog for a visit in early November, and I’ll post everything, even if I don’t get a single download for my free short story or a single new Facebook “Like”. Also, feel free to share this and my follow-up post with your writing community and contacts so we can all learn from each other.

Let me know if you have any questions/suggestions about the Facebook campaign, and I’ll try to answer the best that I can. It’s been a bit of a struggle to try and figure out how to do everything. I think I’m starting to understand why Nathaniel is such a big fan of his gramophone and telegraph.

An Early Halloween Treat – New Short Story By J Bennett

October 7th, 2012 No comments

Nathaniel and Deidre are Back in Duel With The Werefrog

Blog Update: Duel with the Werefrog has been bundled into a three-part novella, Employment Interview with a Vampire, available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com.

 

It’s all fun and games until someone starts a werefrog rampage

Now that we’ve officially entered the spookiest month of the year, I’m really excited to announce the launch of a new short story in my satirical vampire series, The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles.

 

Duel With The Werefrog – Summary

When salacious 70-year-old gold digger Silvia starts batting her astigmatic eyes and flashing her pearly dentures at Nathanial over bingo, Deidre knows she needs to convince her smitten boss that Silvia is nothing but trouble.

 

When Nathaniel accidentally espies Silvia laying her charms on a neighboring obese werefrog named Henrick, Nathaniel vows vengeance. There’s only one way to uphold Silvia’s honor. Nathanial challenges the werefrog to a duel.

 

Join Deidre in another adventure as she burns dinner, ducks bullets and tries to protect her vampire boss’s undead heart even as her own might be in jeopardy courtesy of Henrick’s handsome nephew who has secrets of his own….

 

Another hilarious addition to The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series by J Bennett. (Approx 8,300 words)

 

Thanks for your support of the world’s grumpiest, most crotchety vampire!

I Got A New Website And It’s Awesome!

October 5th, 2012 No comments

What’s the next best thing to winning the lottery, curing the obesity epidemic, or stopping Kia from ever showing another terrifying dancing hamster commercial*?

That’s right, getting a brand new website.

So you’ll forgive me if I throw myself a little awesomeness party (if you can’t come, just send your gift by mail. Checks and Visa gift cards also accepted) for the launch of my new website, www.JBennettWrites.com.

J Bennett Writes Home Page Screenshot

Ain’t She Purdy?

It’s not 100% done yet (my fault), but the bones are all there.

When I published my first novel,Falling – Girl With Broken Wings, I had my talented friend Marcella Smith design a website for the series. Then I started writing a couple of short stories about a grouchy vampire named Nathaniel and his very put-upon housekeeper, Deidre.

I realized that – hey, who knows where my brain will go? I certainly don’t. So, I decided that I needed a website for me, J Bennett the author (and my wandering brain).

www.JBennettWrites.com features both my Girl With Broken Wings series and my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series. I hope in the future to add even more pages as me and my brain write up some new adventures.

The site was designed by Marcella Smith of Paradigm Graphic Design. She’s amazing, by the way. If you need any graphic work done, she’s your gal.

I should just state for the record that if you notice any clunky page layouts or any graphics that look like a drunken monkey created them, that’s not Marcie. That’s me messing up Marcie’s design after she handed the site over to me (just turn away Marcie, turn away).

With that in mind, take a tour of the site if you have the time or inclination. For fans of the Girl With Broken Wings series, I plan on adding a few extras on the right menu of the GWBW pages. Stay tuned. They’ll be populated soon, I promise.

Thanks, as always, for all your support!

*Why aren’t more people taking the threat of giant mutant hamsters who have apparently learned to drive more seriously?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Announcing Coping – New Novella in the Girl With Broken Wings Series Now Available

June 26th, 2012 No comments
cover of Coping, a novella in the Girl with Broken Wings series

Cover of Coping

Let’s make this short and sweet. I’m really excited to announce the publication of Coping, a novella in the Girl with Broken Wings series, which continues the story of Falling. Maya is back and determined to join her brothers in their fight against the powerful and malevolent angels. There’s still that little hunger issue of hers…but I’m sure that won’t be a problem!

 

Tarren and Gabe return as well, filled with scowls and doubt (Tarren) and Chuck Norris jokes (Gabe).

 

I’m really happy with how this novella came out. It’s fun and fast and centers on a big new mission that takes Maya and her brothers across the country from Michigan all the way to Poughkeepsie, New York, where they make a grisly discovery and Maya meets someone from her past.

 

At approximately 23,000 words, the novella flies by (Pun – broken wings, get is?) If you liked Falling , then I know you’ll enjoy Coping.  You can find the full description below, along with links to where the novella is available as an ebook for only $0.99. Can’t beat that price. Okay, it could be free, or, like, a penny, but come on, you know what I mean. It’s a good deal. If you do pick it up and like it, please take a few minutes and write and post a review. Good reviews make a big difference.

 

Thanks everyone for your support, and stay tuned for Landing,  Book Two in the Girl With Broken Wings series, which is slated for Jan., 2013. There also might be a little more grumpy Nathaniel (The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles) rising up later this year.

 

Description of Coping

This exciting follow-up to Falling (Book one of the Girl With Broken Wings series) finds Maya intent on joining her half-brothers in their secret war against the genetically-enhanced killers that call themselves angels. Still trying to cope with her new abilities and the hunger that threatens to overwhelm her, Maya may be more of a hindrance than a help to her brothers as they take on a new mission and make a grisly discovery.

 

Coping is a fast-paced novella that brings readers back into Maya’s darkly-humorous world where angels are not the good guys, the heroes don’t wear tights, and getting in over your head just means it’s Tuesday. Join Maya, Gabe and Tarren for more blood, bullets, and Chuck Norris jokes in Coping. (Approx. 23,000 words.)

 

The One Year Self-Employment Survivalist

May 20th, 2012 No comments

A year ago this month, I set out on one of the biggest and scariest endeavors of my life – following my dream to work for myself fulltime.

It’s no coincidence that the name of my copywriting business is “Endeavor Writing”. Even as I endeavor to help small business owners achieve marketing success through content management, I’m also following my own endeavor to live by and on my words – literally.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, shy people and risk don’t mix well. Taking this leap was difficult for me, especially because I left a secure job with full benefits and a steady paycheck.

I think here is the point where I’m supposed to say something glib and uplifting, like “…and I’ve never looked back!”

But I have looked back. Loving what I do hasn’t made me immune to worry or doubt. It hasn’t swept away my anxiety over whether I made the right decision, if I’m moving in the correct direction, going too fast or too slow, etc…

Big decisions aren’t supposed to be comfortable, and I think only a fool plunges into something new without at least a little discomfort.

Even so, my first year of total self-employment has gone exceedingly well. Perhaps a little too well, if you’ll permit me my usual suspicion in the face of positive outcomes. My client list has grown. I’ve raised my prices and my confidence.  I’ve expanded my product offerings, learned to work with many different personalities and have seen my profits increase little by little each month.

Certainly, self-employment is not an easy road. I miss the steady paychecks and the benefits. I’ve had to make cuts to my lifestyle and keep an eagle eye on my finances. Also, when your income becomes tied to billable hours, it changes your perspective, making you question every drop of time you use on something that isn’t work.

It can be hard to shut off, hard to relax – and I wasn’t that good at relaxing even before.

Still, I’ll trade the steady paychecks for the ability to take a nap after lunch each day, the walks I can take anytime to clear my head, and the thrill of pitching a new client or sending out my hard-earned invoices at the end of the month.  Oh, and all my awesome clients.

WARNING: here’s the part where I get all sappy about how much my clients mean to me.

I truly value all of my clients. Their respect for my talent is both intimidating and motivating, which is a perfect mix. The intimidation keeps me humble, the motivation keeps me hungry and eager to give my clients the best words that I own. Through my clients I gain confidence in my skill. Through them I learn what I am capable of. Through them, I believe even more strongly in the power and value of content to make connections and build relationships.

So yeah, my clients rule.

Now for the wrap-up – I’m happy with where I am. Endeavor Writing continues to be a fascinating and rewarding endeavor for me. Each day is an adventure. I love that I get to learn a little about so many different topics, that I get to formulate articles and blogs and press releases and even ebooks. Every day is a beckoning challenging, and I am ready to meet it today, tomorrow and into the future.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me on this journey. You have no idea what your confidence means to me.

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Public Relations – The Worst Job A Shy Person Can Ever Have And Why I’m Glad I Did it

April 29th, 2012 1 comment

Okay, public relations probably isn’t the worst job an overly shy person can have – but it’s pretty damn close.

Public relations is all about trying to persuade strangers in the media to take interest in your client’s product and write about it. This usually involves hassling them by all means necessary – email, phone, in person – repeatedly until they give in or invest in a restraining order. Public relations also involves high concentrations of flirting and schmoozing, which are both effectively Kryptonite to shy people.

People + Social Setting = Shy Person Kryptonite

So what the hell was I doing in Los Angeles as a public relations coordinator?

That Cliff’s Notes are that I wanted to get to California, public relations fit my college degree, and I somehow convinced myself that doing something that I would likely be terrible at was a great way to overcome my shyness.

The company I worked for specialized in promoting video games. My vast video game resume included playing Mario Brothers and King Kong on my Nintendo when I was seven. Luckily, the company’s hiring policy was “take the first person who walks through the door and is breathing.” After demonstrating my impressive breathing skills, I was golden.

 

Over the next couple of months, it became more and more apparent that public relations was the exact opposite of everything that I was good at. For instance, I am great at not talking to people and not going to parties and not impressing crowds with my wit and candor.

The worst part was the phone.

Da dun...

It would always happen the same way. Our client would make some sort of announcement, maybe new screenshots or a game trailer. We’d send out an email to our vast list of media sources asking them to write about it. 99.9% of all these emails were ignored, and so we would turn to our next weapon of choice: phone.

Da Dun...Da Dun

I would print the list of contacts out, sometimes hundreds of names, and call them one by one, pitching them the story and using all of my non-existent charm, wiles. It took me all of one day to develop a deeply-seeded complex about the phone. I loathed it. I woke up in the morning and felt the weight of all the calls I’d have to make that day pressing crushing me.

Da Dun...Da Dun... DA DUN, DA DUN-DA DUN-DA-DUN!

In other words, it sucked royally. I should just add here that I hardly ever actually played the video games that I was pitching and did not, in fact, own a single gaming system – not even a Game Boy.

Each day of work became harder. I started taking the stairs instead of the elevator just to forestall the inevitable calling for a few extra precious seconds.

 

And then there were the events my company threw on behalf of our clients. We were not only expected to attend but also to come off as mildly interesting. My memories are a blur of crowded bars filled with fashionably dressed strangers. For the most part, people were very nice, but I had a lot of trouble with the “at least be mildly interesting” instructions I was given.

 

My coping mechanisms at these events included fiddling with a drink, wandering aimlessly from one side of the bar to the other and texting my sister to call me so I could step outside and regroup for a couple of minutes.

Sound like a nightmare? It was.

I was a terrible fit for the position and left after less than a year. Yet, for all that stress – all those dreaded climbs up the stairs to a list of names I needed to call – I’m glad for my public relations experience.

Why?

Simple – I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a bright, blossoming social butterfly.

I'll never be a social butterfly

The more I struggle to force myself into the wrong mold, the more miserable I’ll be. When we concentrate on improving weaknesses, we may be able to reach a level of mediocrity if we’re lucky. If we concentrate on improving our strengths, we may just be able to become great.

When I started focusing on the things I was good at – mainly, writing – my confidence grew, and I noticed my shyness backing off. There’s no self-esteem booster like being good at something and knowing it.

Now, as a part of my copywriting and copyediting business, I’m on the phone almost every day. I also have to network and meet potential clients – sometimes complete strangers – to pitch them. In essence, I’m doing a lot of the same things that used to give me hives in my PR days, yet I don’t feel the same nearly-terminal level anxiety.

The reason’s pretty obvious. I’m not pitching video games I don’t care about, and I’m not thrown into a situation I have no control over. I’m pitching myself and my writing skills – two things I truly believe in. That makes all the difference.

The moral of this story is to do what you’re good at. Be proud of your skills and use that confidence to keep your shyness at bay. This may seem like a really simple lesson, but it took me nearly a year of hell to figure it out.

Did Tim Burton Just Steal My Idea?

April 15th, 2012 No comments

As some of you may know, not know, or know and not really care all that much, I recently released a satirical short story called, “Employment Interview With A Vampire”, featuring a severely anachronistic vampire named Nathaniel who struggles to adapt to the current century.

Cover of J Bennett's short story - Employment Interview With A Vampire

A while ago, I went to see The Hunger Games in theaters. There I was, eagerly anticipating some delightful child-on-child violence when I was accosted by a preview for Dark Shadows, a new Tim Burton film featuring, you guessed it, an anachronistic vampire struggling to adapt.

Coincidence?

Check out the trailer and then come back.

The trailer features a scene where Burton’s anachronistic vampire, Barnabas (played by Johnny Depp) sees a television for the first time and exclaims “what sorcery is this?”

Compare that to a specific line in “Employment Interview With A Vampire”:

“I demand tea each noon when I arise,” Nathaniel says, “and I expect you to learn the magics of the television so that you can bespell the TiVo to show Law & Order at my whim.”

A little too similar if you ask me.

There are certainly some differences between my story and Mr. Burton’s upcoming movie. The main characters have different names and Dark Shadows takes place in the 1970s, but couldn’t these variances also be the small tweaks someone might make who is attempting to cover their trail? Like a schoolchild copying his best friend’s essay and changing a couple of words here and there so the teacher doesn’t notice.

Now, I can already hear the naysayers (possibly in the pay of Tim Burton) who might suggest that Tim Burton is not the villain but the victim. According to Wikipedia, that bastion of truth, filming for Dark Shadows, began in May, 2011, a full ten months before “Employment Interview With A Vampire” was published in March of this year.

 Could it be that I stole Tim Burton’s idea and not the other way around? All I can say is that anything can be bought, or actually freely changed when it comes to Wikipedia.

Of course, even with the similarities between my story and Dark Shadows, would Tim Burton, an incredibly successful producer, director and writer stoop so low as to steal a story idea from an unknown writer? The very idea seems ridiculous, but nevertheless, I did some digging into Burton’s past. Accompanied by a peppy montage melody, I typed away at my computer, pulled books off the shelf at the local library, looked through old newsreels, scribbled notes, rubbed my eyes, tapped my pen against my lip as I struggled to make connections and…finally, gaped in shock as I revealed Burton’s dark and dirty secret.

woman studying

Accurate depiction of me in the midst of a hardcore research montage

What I discovered was this: Three of Burton’s past blockbuster movies, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow were all direct rip offs of little known books. In all three cases, Burton didn’t even bother changing the name of the title or the names of any of the main characters.

Like me, I’m sure you’re incredibly disgusted by this scandalous revelation. I just can’t imagine for the life of me why the whistle hasn’t been blown on Burton until now. My only theory is that Hollywood protects its own. Also, I’m pretty sure Johnny Depp is in on the whole thing.

So, did Tim Burton steal my brilliant anachronistic vampire idea? Perhaps we’ll never know. All I can say is that given Burton’s seedy past, nothing would surprise me.

And Mr. Burton, if you’re reading this, don’t think you can shut me up. Sending Johnny Depp over with flowers in chocolates probably won’t change my mind about speaking out against you…though maybe you should send Johnny over anyway just in case. Make sure he doesn’t forget the chocolates.

P.S. For all of those interested, Tim Burton did take the idea for Dark Shadows from someone else…just not me. According to Wikipedia, the film is based on a gothic soap opera from the 1960’s also called Dark Shadows, which Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have mentioned being huge fans of. The film rights for the property were lawfully acquired by Warner Brothers after which Tim Burton was brought onto the project. The movie opens in theaters May 11th.

How to Ask for Help Without Having a Panic Attack

April 5th, 2012 No comments

J Bennett Discovers that Book Review Bloggers are Incredibly Nice

                                                                                                                                                    

Asking for help ranks on my pleasurable scale somewhere between sticking my hand in a wood chipper and attending a baby shower.

The main reason is obvious. Asking for help makes you vulnerable. Someone could say ‘no’. To a shy person, the word ‘no’ never sounds like “no, sorry, I’m just busy. It has nothing to do with you.” Rather, ‘no’ sounds like “Ech, the fact that you even have mass offends me. Also your breath is horrible.”

Then there’s also the guilt factor. Asking for help means that you are trying to take something from somebody, whether it’s their time, their expertise, their money or their energy. You are imposing – little, inconsequential you who’s having a bad hair day, is secretly wearing mis-matched socks and is generally in no way worthy of receiving said requested help.

Even your mismatched socks are rooting against you

Did I mention my dryer eats my socks like it needs them as fuel to survive?

Anyway, you can see how a panic attack is a completely legitimate response to having to ask for help – at least for shy people.

The problem is, asking for help is kind of necessary. It means speaking to people other than your childhood teddy bear Mr. Buttons. But, while fluffy and adorable, Mr. Buttons can’t invest money in your business (he can invest his love though), drive you to the airport, lend you his car for a couple of days, critique your manuscript or show you how to finally set up your Facebook page.

Mr. Buttons is a shrewd bear of business

For that, you’ll need to ask for help.

I’ve recently had to ask for help a lot. It’s been an education. After I published my novel, Falling – Girl with Broken Wings, I realized that I had to do this whole marketing thing. Detailed marketing research indicated that marketing goes beyond finally telling your parents and roommate that, “oh, hey, I’ve been working on this novel thing for the past two years, and it’s done, so please buy 1,000 copies.”

I needed to get people to read and talk about my book. People other than my mother (oh wait, she hasn’t read it yet).

So, I put together a list of book bloggers. It was a very nice list. I added a colorful header and lots of different columns to record the dates I sent out a review request, if I got a response, when I sent in the files, when the review would post, etc… It was very pretty. I stared at it a lot and occasionally changed the color of the header.

Did I mention it was pretty?

Who’s a pretty little chart? Whhhhoooo’s a pretty wetty wittle chart?

The problem was sending out the request. Asking for help.

You see, book bloggers get lots of books. Piles of books. Mountains of books. Enough books to build a house of books along with a detached book garage and book guest house and maybe even a book swimming pool filled with books.

This is what a book blogger’s pool would look like if it was filled with water instead of books

So where did I, a measly first-time self-published author, get off asking these people to review my book? I guess the real questions is: How do you ask for help without taking a detour down Panic Attack Central? I’ve found that breathing is a good start. Feel free to use the assistance of a brown paper bag if necessary.

Possibly your new best friend

In all honesty, asking for help is best done with sincerity, politeness and a touch of humor. It’s like diving into a cold pool. That first leap is the hardest thing in the world to do, and the landing may be uncomfortable, but you’ll acclimate quickly.

Be prepared for rejection, or, more commonly, complete silence on the other end. Logic says that if you put good vibes out with your request and don’t overreach, people will respond positively. I know this sounds somewhat simplistic, but, in most cases, the worst you can receive is a no.

Most people aren’t mean. They don’t want to see you fail and laugh while you flounder.  If they do, then don’t feel afraid of them. Feel sorry.

Perspective is important. Also, it can’t hurt to keep Mr. Buttons within arm’s reach, you know, just in case you need a dose of adorableness to keep you strong.

 

As for the result of my book review campaign, I found out that book review bloggers are incredibly nice. Of course they are. They love books. That practically ensures that they’re good people.

I eventually put together a list of 60 book bloggers who read paranormal and who accepted self-published ebooks (or at least didn’t outright refuse them). After sending carefully tailored emails to each, I received positive responses from about 15. That’s a whopping 25% response rate.

In one month, just from this list of 60 book review bloggers, I’ve gotten four reviews, written five guests posts, and participated in three giveaways. Okay, so it’s not a knock out marketing launch, but it’s not bad for spending a couple hours of spare time each week.

Thanks Mr. Buttons

My point is that I’ve been amazed and delighted by how supportive and gracious the book review blogging community has been. Every book review blogger I’ve interfaced with has been extremely positive and nice. Even though many of them were extremely overwhelmed, they were still willing to take multiple hours out of their day to read my novel, write a review, put together a giveaway, or trust their readers in my hands when I sent in a guest post.

Book bloggers blog in full regalia

Sure, a majority of the people of my list never responded, but nobody tore off my arm and ate it in front of me.  So, I’d say the whole experience was both pleasant and encouraging.

No panic attacks necessary.

The lesson of this post is that the world is full of people who are willing to help others – who actually enjoy helping others. If you approach someone with respect, it’s amazing how often they will give you their time, effort and expertise while asking nothing in return.

Ask for help. Be sincere. Be respectful if you get a no. Be grateful when you get a yes. Utilize the help you receive and pay it forward.

I’d like to thank the book review bloggers who have given me their time and support. You gals are the best:

Behind the Scenes of Self-Publishing

March 11th, 2012 No comments

This post was originally written for and hosted on “Book Savvy Babe“, a fabulous book review blog written by Heather. 

Intro:

I thought it would interesting to write about the self-publishing revolution that’s going on in the writing world as we speak…er, as I type and you read. Specifically, I thought readers might be intrigued to learn about my self-publishing process. Unfortunately, what started out as a perfectly normal little blog post somehow got hit by some gamma rays and turned into a huge monster blog post. Hopefully it won’t terrorize the Japanese population or knock over any buildings.

 

This blog post

How Things Used To Be

Long long ago, (we’re talking about three years), the only realistic chance most authors had of getting any reader love was to go through a well-defined and traditional publishing process that involved sending out a flurry of query letters to literary agents, praying, sending out more query letters, praying even harder and rinsing and repeating.

A lucky author would get “The Call” from a literary agent who wanted to represent their novel and shop it around to publishing houses. If a publisher bit, the author was expected to drop their baby at the publisher’s doorstep and let the experts take over.

Bad publisher stereotype

Makeover big time. The publishers created the book’s cover, determined the book’s release date, suggested editorial changes and even developed the back cover copy. Sometimes the author got a say. Most of the time, not so much.

What’s not to love about that situation?

A New Day Rises

Now leap forward to the present day, and we’ve got a touch of anarchy going on in the publishing world. With the advent of the (amazing, wonderful, life-changing) Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other eReaders and tablets, authors suddenly have a half-decent way of getting their books out to readers without the whole querying, praying, rinsing and repeating process.

Authors have power. Life is good. Kinda.

This unruly mob of authors is drunk on power and will viciously beat down any innocent bystanders with heavy metaphors

That’s what this blog post is about. The publishing world is changing…a lot. We’re talking monumental shifts in how readers find and consume books and how authors get a shot at glory. We’ve practically got a revolution on our hands.

The whole eReaders part of the equation is pretty obvious (just scope out any airport longue), but I don’t think most readers have much of a sense about what’s going on in the author’s world. Well, it’s a’ spinning, baby. Big time.

Below is my self-publishing story. Readers take notice. I am not alone. You’re going to see more and more authors following this path and more and more books coming from the self-published crowd. If you’ve ever been interested to see how it’s done, then read on.

Step One: Holy Crap, Look What I Wrote!

So I had this idea about a girl named Maya who feeds off human auras. It’s an addiction, and she has to constantly struggle not to go all monster on crowds of innocent people. On the up side, she also has some pretty cool enhanced senses. Through intense, finely-writ circumstances, she gets caught up in an underground war with her two vigilante half-brothers who hunt and kill other creatures like herself. Only the angels her brothers kill don’t exactly have Maya’s guilt complex about killing innocents (yes, we’ve got some evil angels going on).

My book’s Amazon Page  [oops, how did that get in here?]

I wrote, and that was the easy part. Then I read what I had written, and, well, let’s just say I could have entered it into an ugly manuscript contest and probably won.

Complimentary matchbook included in"Ugliest Manuscript" prize package

I edited. And edited. And edited.

Around draft six, seven, or eight (I don’t even remember now), I started seeing hints that maybe there might be a diamond somewhere underneath all that rough.

It was time to bring in the heavy hitters.

Step Two: Wait, My Novel Isn’t Totally Awesome? I’m Confused

Heavy hitter number one was my sister. You may think that she would go easy on me because we share blood and have a pretty solid organ donation pact in place (we’re twins). Nope.

She thoroughly and a little too gleefully for my taste, eviscerated my novel.

Extremely accurate portrayal of my sister

Next up was my incredible critique partner, a fellow writer, who helped me iron out flow, character development and active dialogue. She was much, much nicer than my sister.

Guided by a Gypsy [Oh look, there’s a link to her Amazon novella. How do these keep sneaking in?]

There were others after that, each providing an important perspective that helped me keep polishing and polishing the rough away.

It was not a fast or easy process. It shouldn’t be, at least in my opinion.

What came out of it was Falling – Girl With Broken Wings, the first novel I’ve written that I think is actually worthy of outside viewing (there have been other novels, but we shall never speak of those). It was time to…well, that’s where things get interesting.

So far, the process of my “little novel that could” is identical to that of a traditionally published book. Next up is where the two paths diverge.

Step Three: 70% Royalty vs. 15% Royalty. So Hard To Choose

I did a lot of research, and learned all about the publishing revolution. Not that I wasn’t completely unaware of it, but I didn’t realize how revolutioney the revolution really was.

Super size my publishing revolution please.

Authors could now publish their books themselves on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other sites that get books into the hands of the readers. By “publish” I mean ebooks and soft covered books through print on demand (Amazon and many other online publishers offer POD services). The process was actually kind of easy (a little too easy some people think, but that’s a whole different blog post).

The traditional setback for most self-published authors was the difficulty in getting their novels into traditional bookstores. However, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s not that many bookstores left to get your books into anyway.

And those eReader thingeys and tablet thingeys? People are buying a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

There are some downsides to self-publishing. Self-published authors have to create their own cover, edit their own book, make sure they upload the files correctly to the publishing sites and do all their own marketing to get people to actually read their book. (Apparently readers don’t just magically find your book, buy a thousand copies each and gush about it to all their friends and family. You can’t know how disappointing this realization was to me)

However, there are many upsides to self-publishing. Firstly, authors get to create their own cover and book summary. This can be a very empowering process that allows the author to keep creative control of their baby.

The marketing thing is kind of rough (authors are not typically known for their outgoing personalities), but it’s a consolation to know that many traditionally-published authors get very little marketing support from their publishers. You’ll see traditionally published authors writing blogs, going to book signings, holding library talks and generally shilling with the rest of us.

There is one more compelling reason to self-publish, and it all comes down to money.

You’d think that traditionally-published authors would get a big percentage of each book sold. After all, they did sweat and bleed and cry tears of alternating joy, rage and agony (in that order) to get the words on the page.

You’d be wrong. Authors get around a measly 15% of the profits from each book sold (sometimes less), and that’s before their agent takes out their commission. If an author doesn’t sell enough books to cover the advance the publisher gave them, they may never see a penny of royalties.

Yet another shameless publisher stereotype

Compare this with the major online publishers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords which offer self-published authors royalty rates of 65% (B&N), 70% (Amazon) and even 85% (SW) if their books meet certain pricing standards. (As of this writing)

That’s a big, big, BIG difference (assuming you can actually sell books).

In other words, not exactly a hard decision. At least not for me, especially when I learned how extremely difficult it is to get agent representation.

So, I made the decision. Falling was going to be self-published. I wasn’t letting go of my baby, and whatever happened, I’d only have myself to blame.

Step Four: The Difference Between “To” And “Too” Is Just To Confusing

One of the nice things about getting traditionally published – at least in my opinion – would be having your manuscript copyedited. No writer is perfect. I’m not even close.

You think I kid...

After I decided to self-publish, I realized that, holy cow in a barn, I was actually responsible for this thing (I make up really lame curses when I get nervous). People would one day read it and judge me for it. That means I needed to put my best face forward, or my novel’s best face forward…I mean, it’s not like my novel has a face, but you know what I mean.

I ended up hiring a professional copyeditor to go through my manuscript, and it’s a good thing that I did (you did catch the error in this headline didn’t you). My English teachers would weep if they’d seen how much red came back.

Step Five: Doing Your Own Cover Is Just Plain Awesome

I actually feel kind of bad for traditionally published authors, because many of them get little or no say in what their cover looks like.

Covers are a big deal. They are the first thing most readers see related to your book, and we all know how important first impressions can be.

In many ways, books are defined by their covers. I would hate to lose that control over something I spent so much freaking effort on, even if I did have to pay for it.

Yes, I definitely paid someone to create my cover for me.

There is no way in the world that I would trust myself to create my own cover. Maybe one day if I write a book that takes place in a magical land full of stick people I might consider it…even then, probably not.

Can you say best seller?

So, I brought in an expert. Marcella Smith of Paradigm Design did the most amazing thing during our first meeting. She listened. I blabbed. She kept listening and nodding and not pointing toward to exit

I was lucky to have found her.

The cover came together rather quickly (Marcie may disagree), and it didn’t take a lot of editing. I think it was because of Marcie’s mad listening skills.

Ain't she purdy?

I can’t describe how amazing it was to see my cover come to life. There was my main character Maya, crouching front and center, and her two brothers looming behind her like shadows. (Are they protectors or enemies…you’ll have to read to find out).

In other words, the cover was perfect. It was Falling. Money well spent.

Step Six: Uh….Can I Just Say Cool Stuff Happens?

I kind of thought that I would like writing the book summary because I didn’t have to pay anyone to do it, and I did write the entire book and all. After writing and rewriting a 70,000-word manuscript over a dozen times, a 100-word blurb should be a piece of cake…right?

Writing a summary is SO SO SO hard! At least for me.

Would rather take a swim lesson with this guy than write my novel summary

How do you squeeze the essence of a book into a few measly paragraphs while capturing the adventure, the humor, the very soul of the prose?

Easy answer, I’m still working on it. I came up with something, but, yeah, it needs work. (Suggestions anyone?)

I guess that’s another great thing about self-publishing – we’re not chiseling into stone tablets here.

Descriptions can be updated. When I do write the best summary the world has ever known, I’ll just log into my various author accounts, paste in the new description, and my book page will be updated in a few days or less.

Step Seven: Moment Of Truth (Bolting Not Advised)

To read the final step in my self-publishing process, hop on over to the full post on Book Savvy Babe.