Sunday, June 29, 2014

Read, Write, and Promote

It's frustrating when your novel hits the market, records decent initial sales, and then withers to nothing as the months go by.

Unless you're Stephen King, Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling -- OK, you get the idea -- you need to learn that sometimes it takes time for a book to find it's footing and audience. 

I'm sure many authors know the audience for their books, but the key is making those wonderful readers know that your personal masterpiece is out there for them to relish and enjoy.

Novelist Ernest Gaines said, "The Six Golden Rules of Writing: Read, read, read, and write, write, write."

After all the reading and writing to create that book, I would add: Promote, promote, promote.

No doubt many of you use social media to get the word out -- over and over -- as well as have websites, blogs and such. 

But you can do more to keep your book in the public's eye. 

I have a friend who does very well selling his books via speaking engagements to various groups. Another author does quite well making visits to classrooms during the school year. Another author I know produces semi-regular newsletters about her books. Another friend just recently returned from a West Coast book tour with several other authors, compliments of their publishing house.

You can send out postcards to librarians, letting them know your book is out there and you're available to speak to their groups. You should send out news releases to media, especially local newspapers, TV and radio. Even the superstars send out news releases and advanced reading copies (OK, it's their publishers' promotional staffs who handle that as well as with the authors in setting up various interviews).

Authors can join and participate in various book sites such as Goodreads and Book Town. It's important to interact with others on these sites. Another way to promote is with book trailers, which you can make and distribute in many ways.

And, if you don't have the time or desire to do these things on your own, there are plenty of book promotion agencies that will do it for a fee. 

I agree with Henry Miller's comment:  "Writing is its own reward."

But if you want to have a degree of financial success, you need to write the best book you can and promote it as best you can. And it may take time. 

Until the next time...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Story Songs: Goin' Out of My Head

One of my favorite bittersweet love songs is "Goin' Out of My Head,"  recorded by Little Anthony and the Imperials in 1964.

The song, written by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein, expresses feelings about falling for someone who apparently thinks you're invisible.

It opens with:

"Well, I think I'm goin' out of my head
Yes, I think I'm goin' out of my head
Over you, over you
I want you to want me, I need you so badly
I can't think of anything but you"

Alas, that person looks straight past you when you meet:

"I see you each morning
But you just walk past me
You don't even know that I exist"

And it appears that the narrator is simply too bashful to make a positive impression:

"I must think of a way into your heart
There's no reason why
My being shy should keep us apart
And I think I'm goin' out of my head"

I'm sure a lot of folks have had crushes on someone who barely acknowledged them or maybe wouldn't give them the time of day. We all know it can hurt. 

"Little Anthony" Gourdine captures the heartfelt plea of the song with his silky smooth falsetto voice. The song reach No. 6 on the Billboard chart.

The song has been covered numerous times, from Petula Clark to Queen Latifah to the Classics IV to Frank Sinatra. I recently heard an outstanding cover by Under the Streetlamp. That's what prompted me to write this post, because while listening I thought, "Wow, what a great song" (or something like that).

But the best and definitive version, in my opinion, is by Little Anthony and the Imperials. 

By the way, Little Anthony and the Imperials, who had numerous hits in the 1950s and '60s, were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. And the group is still active and performs at various venues across the country.  

"Goin' Out of My Head" lyrics

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spotlight on The Guess Who

The Guess Who put Canadian rock music firmly on the map from the late 1960s to the mid '70s with a few ballads, some psychedelia, and a mix of light and heavy rockers.
The Guess Who in 1970 

With keyboardist/vocalist Burton Cummings, guitarist supreme Randy Bachman as well as bassist Jim Kale and drummer Gary Peterson, and later guitarists Kurt Winter and Gary Leskiw (among others), The Guess Who placed 11 songs in the U.S. Top 40.

They first cracked the Top 10 at No. 6 in 1969 with the ballad, "These Eyes." That was followed by No. 10 "Laughing," and No. 5 "No Time," also in '69, before hitting No. 1 with double-sided recording"American Woman/No Sugar Tonight," in '70.

Other Top 20 hits for the Canadian rockers were No. 10 "Share the Land," No. 19 "Rain Dance," and No. 6 "Clap for the Wolfman."

A few of my favorites include "Undun," "Bus Rider," "Hang On to Your Life," "Star Baby," and "Friends of Mine."

I like The Guess Who because they could rock with the best groups and they could be socially conscious on songs such as "American Woman" "Hand Me Down World," and "Share the Land." And I believe their music still holds up very well after more than 40 years.

As in my previous "Spotlight on ..." posts, I'm curious as to why The Guess Who aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite being eligible since 1990. Furthermore, they've never been nominated for rock's highest honor.

They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.

A variation of The Guess Who (with Kale and Peterson) still tours. I saw them about 15 years ago with Carl Dixon, formerly of April Wine, handling the lead vocals. They put on a good, solid show.

I also recommend the DVD, "The Guess Who: Roaming Back Thru Canada," to get a sense about great the original group was in concert.

Cummings had a good solo career ("Stand Tall") while Bachman formed the power group Bachman-Turner Overdrive ("You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," "Takin' Care of Business," "Let It Ride" and more).

Now listen to a few of the great tunes by The Guess Who:

Until the next time...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Common Courtesy

This has been on my mind for a few months so I thought I would go ahead and vent. 

There are times when I'm asked to donate a book for a fundraiser or some other event. I generally put a signed copy of one of my books in a mailer, drive to the post office, purchase the postage and hand the package to the postal clerk.

I don't ask anything in return but it would be nice once in a while to at least receive a "thank you" from the recipient. I know some folks believe that authors have unlimited resources, but like in society, that's probably the top 1 percent. 

So a "thank you" or at least an acknowledgement of receiving the book would be nice. A simple common courtesy. 

Another pet peeve is to be invited to speak to a group, school classroom, or some other event -- even to the point of setting a date and time -- and not be notified that it has been cancelled.

That's happened to me. I don't get angry, but I am a bit disappointed that the person didn't have the common courtesy to let me know. I suppose they don't realize that authors have calendars and they have to make plans for speaking engagements.

Or sometimes even dealing with other writers. I'll be queried about writing, editing, publishing or something similar, and take the time to respond, but they don't have the common courtesy of saying, "thanks."

Before closing, let me say "thank you" for reading my rant.

Until the next time... 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keeping the Writing Fun

While perusing some blogs I found an item I thought was pertinent to my life as a writer, and perhaps you may feel it as well.

Beth Fantaskey, an author of four young adult novels, wrote that her mantra for writing is that it has to be fun. She has to enjoy the creative process.

"These days, I write where my heart takes me, and if it ever starts to not be fun again, that’s the day I’ll walk away, knowing I've done my best and proud of the books on my shelf that bear my name," she wrote as a guest blogger in Adventures in YA Publishing (which, by the way, is one of my favorite websites for writers).

Unless you enjoy believing the weight of the world is on your shoulders as you painfully create your masterpiece to share with millions of readers, then maybe it's time to move on to something that you truly enjoy. Life is too short to dwell on pursuits that aren't satisfying or make us unhappy.

Being a writer can be unpleasant because it often involves solitude during the creative process, finding the time to write, and dealing with criticism and rejection. I'm sure we could come with a sizable list of things to add to the writer's woes.

And "fun" for a writer probably isn't something most folks would consider a barrel of laughs, such as finding just the right words to express a thought, making dialogue ring true, vividly describe settings, creating characters that come to life, and in the end, putting all the pieces (and much more) together to make a story.

I still enjoy doing those "fun" things. It's my creative escape from the everyday world that can be mundane, stifling, and oppressive.

Like Beth Fantaskey, I'll move on to other things when writing stops being fun.

Until the next time...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing Words of Wisdom

While reading a few blogs today I came across some words of wisdom from bestselling author Jennifer McMahon "Everyone’s got advice and theories; people want to pigeonhole you, put you in a genre with its own rules and conventions. I think the work comes out better when we leave all that behind; when the only thing to be true to is the writing."

Her comment came in a guest blog on the Writer's Digest website on "How to Write a Novel: 7 Tips Everyone Can Use." 

Samantha Kira HardingHer other words of advice are excellent, but the last one on "the only thing to be true to is the writing" is something we all must remember. For me, it's being true to myself, and letting my words emerge in the story. Being original.

That's not to mean they're aren't rules to follow when writing, such as point of view, but to let it be your story and not trying -- or pretending -- to be someone else. I can only be me, not Angelou, Hemingway, Faulkner, Grisham, King, Updike, McMahon or anyone else. 

No doubt when I am reading a novel that I'm being influenced to some extent by the words and message, but when I sit down to write, it should be true words that flow through me than artificially from trying to imitate another writer.

Until the next time... 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Story Songs: The Best Things in Life

Recently I rediscovered Mike Pinder, the former keyboardist extraordinaire (especially with the mellotron) for The Moody Blues

I downloaded "The Promise/Among the Stars," recordings from the mid-1970s ("The Promise") and "Among the Stars" (mid-'90s).

Pinder penned Moodies' classics such as "Melancholy Man," "(Thinking is) the Best Way (to Travel)," "Lost in a Lost World," and "A Simple Game." 

One of my favorites from the recent download is the upbeat "The Best Things in Life," a wonderful feel-good tune about the the joys in life that money can't buy.

It opens:

"Each time you see your baby smile
Each time you hear that someone is a mother to be
The best things in life are free.

"Each time you hear a waterfall
Each time you see the sunset or the fruit on a tree
The best things in life are free"

And then he sings about the special person in his life:

"The world turns around and around
The moon moves the sea
I'm thinking of you in my life
Getting closer to me"

And it closes:

"Next time you take a breath of air
Remember people everywhere will agree
The best things in life are free"

I believe most of us would agree with Pinder that the best things don't carry a price tag. 

Mike Pinder 
Pinder, who is now 72, left the Moody Blues in 1978 after their "Octave" release. The download also includes two songs by The Pinder Brothers (Michael Lee and Matt), Mike's two sons, accompanied by retired Moody co-founder Ray Thomas on the flute. 

You'll also find some ballads, uptempo songs, and three instrumentals on this two-album release that rekindles some sounds from the "core seven" Moodies' releases while showcasing Pinder's distinctive voice, musicianship, and songwriting.

And a bonus by The Pinder Brothers (Dear Diane):

Until the next time...