The Search for Free Publicity

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It may be a noble pursuit to seek out free publicity for your self-published book. After all, great work deserves to be shared and talked about, right? The problem is, there is a tremendous amount of great work that doesn’t get promoted by media outlets merely because the work exists. Sadly, great work’s existence means little to the world without some sort of relevance or meaning to specific “influentials” who can share your voice, who likely believe that your work may help a sector of the world look at itself differently, understand itself, or be thoroughly entertained. It’s up to us as writers to find these reasons in our work, share them, and get our work in the hands of those someones who can champion it.

When I wrote The Silent Partner, I was conscious of my professional standing working in advertising here in San Diego, and utilized relationships for part of the promotion of my first novel in getting a little bit of local press. (For this, I was very fortunate.) Of course, I used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube (for the book trailer), my blog, and my website to promote my work . . . and still do. But to expand beyond my own little ecosystem of what I hope others don’t consider self-importance, I continue to aspire to connect with other writers’ blogs and book-reading communities. A GREAT place to start, with readers hungry for material they want to love.

By contrast, I’ve twice paid a publicist to also assist with press releases, and have gotten interest in my novel’s subject matter more than a few times by media outlets. Publicists’ work is not underrated, either. It’s not cheap . . . that is for sure. But in the end, once you’re on track to become a master of your type of work, and you’ve promoted yourself beyond what you can by yourself, I very much recommend getting a publicist. Even a 4-week campaign can be a shot of adrenaline into the marketing of your book. You’ll get it into hands of people you otherwise would not have. And then, whether something “big” happens with your book or not, you’ll experience growth as a marketer of yourself, you’ll become smoother at your presentation of yourself and your work, you’ll make some new contacts, make new friends, sell a few books, and you can spend more of your energy starting your next project.

Finding Your Voice as a Writer

Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of great material out there detailing how to find your writer’s voice. That distinguishable and authentic thing that makes your writing you. In cases of superb writing, a distinguishable voice can likely catapult or sink a writer. A material’s genre (especially in fiction), structure, quality, and appeal matter immensely, and some may even argue that these factors are more important than the “stamp” of a writer’s voice in finding writing success (which is defined differently by virtually all writers). Writing, though, is an art, not just a business of selling. The marketability of a piece of work is one thing; the uniqueness and individuality of that work is what helps it stand out among its peers. In many cases, a writer’s voice is what builds fans or followers.

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A. Alvarez’s book The Writer’s Voice has some great little gems in it, illustrating how voice can help writers–and authors–find and define their audience. He breaks out the difference between “voice” and “style,” helping the reader–and writer–understand the differences with clarity. I also stumbled upon a great blog by Cori Padgett, where she talks a little about the purpose of writing and pointing out the importance of utilizing your quirks as a writer.

Here are some simple things that worked for me while writing my first novel, The Silent Partner. I’m sure that I’ll continue to refine my voice through future work. If you have tactics that have worked for you, please share!

  • Write and therefore rewrite. Find out what works for you, in style and substance. Challenge yourself, but if you write often about something you love, you’ll develop a unique presence on the page.
  • Structure your story before you write it, so you can clear your head of concerns of structure as you plow forward. (There are many theories on story structure. In a previous blog, I spoke of my favorite, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story.) In this way, your individuality can come through without any “rules” binding you down.
  • Be your interesting self. Write about what matters to you. If something pivotal is missing, it will come up with rewrites and editing. And editors! When you can dig into yourself and find those moments that mattered to you or someone else, and you can channel them into a character or story (the writer version of what actors do, I suppose), great moments can happen on the page. And those moments are all you. (Great time to cue The Greatest Love of All.)

If you’ve found other ways to enhance your writing voice, please let me know about them! And good luck, my friends.

Um . . . You’re the Crazy Ones

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God bless my friends and family who’ve said I should proud of the accomplishment of completing and publishing The Silent PartnerTragically, they have no idea what they’re talking about.

“You should reflect and be proud of yourself.” “It’s such an accomplishment, you should rest awhile.” “You should be so proud of that review!” “Bask in the glory and be proud.” Glory? . . . REST?? . . . Pride? . . . Are you friggin’ kidding me? I’m behind! I’ve got to promote the novel somehow while I conceive my next work! There are more rules to learn, more writers to meet, more stories to tell . . . all while the clock ticks and the publishing world continues to evolve into a new universe while the economy doesn’t get off its ass. It’s madness!

Of course, I’m surrounded by good intentions with spirits around me that are pragmatic, thoughtful, and grounded. In some cases, very loving. However I, like many artists, can be creative, emotionally charged, searching, and inspired. I try to manifest all the aforementioned characteristics, well, most of them . . . and while I don’t know how I’m always doing with this bombardment of conflicts, paradoxes, and mixed emotions, I know when I’m focused on something, it will happen.

I knew once I started the book, I’d finish it. I knew I’d publish it. No matter what. To me, this isn’t amazing at all. I said, “This is what I’m going to do,” and I did it.

You’re already working on your next book? What’s wrong with you?” Some people think that a writer who submerges his or herself into a writing project for YEARS has a serious problem with reality. I think skydiving or racing a car from zero to 60 in 5 seconds is crazy. Coming from a family with 4 siblings, having that many children is crazy.

I’m fortunate to have an amazing array of wonderful people in my life. They’re just the ones who’ve lost their minds. Clearly.

When Writing Must Go: Hello, World!

There’s no one right way to publish a book. Everyone I’ve talked to––including literary agents, editors, and writers––has shared different tactics for the aspiring writer seeking to get published. It can be tough for some writers to endure stories of great work being self-published into obscurity while mediocre work is often mass-published for the discriminating book shoppers at Walmarts and Targets. While the latter may incense book snobs and writers alike, the most important thing is that scribe talents get their work read, regardless of how it arrives into the world.

For The Silent Partner, I’ve chosen to self-publish review copies for bloggers and reviewers before I have formal representation or ever try to sell the book. After all, I didn’t start to write nor continue to for the money. This may be considered both honorable and ridiculous (or just naive) by some, but money was never the motivator. Additionally, the unpublished novel stands on its own free of the stressful shackles of commerce. (Who said there’s no silver lining without a book deal?) The next step is to allow the work leave its maker, so commerce has to come into play eventually. The final touches are currently being made to the interior and exterior of the book so the work is represented in its most polished state, in preparation for the somewhat-noble desire of sharing a story, followed by the optimistic, non-altruistic pursuit of capitalism.

The book must soon leave the isolated comfort of the laptop and fly into the world and be exposed to the world’s dangers of book reviewers and particular readers. It must leave the nest.

 

The Pursuit of Editing Perfection

“I write, therefore I re-write.” This is a common position among writers, as we know that whatever brilliance we think we may have at one time put upon the page, that, now, we can do better. For me, it’s like looking at myself in pictures from the 90s and thinking, How did I think stone-washed jeans looked cool then?  My fashion sense has vastly improved.

We may tinker and toy with our work ad nauseam. We can over-think it, and sometimes destroy inspired work in the pursuit of editing perfection, which–I’ve realized–is impossible. Not impossible in paragraphs or pages. Not impossible with character, witty dialogue, or story structure. But in totality, probably, yes. Like “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of the goal is preached, celebrated, and declared as all-important. Sadly, it’s not often achieved. Even the best writers and their agents or publishers employ editors, sometimes multiple ones, in an effort to improve the work beyond its absolute capacity for perfection. (A flawlessly edited book can still be a bore to read, too, which is a whole other Oprah.)

Facing perpetual editing is an awful burden. Relentless writers who seek perfection through editing, so to provide specific, intended impact to the reader, are tortured heroes. The editing process is an important one, where prose is sharpened, plot and character inconsistencies are remedied, and stories evolve for the better. Readers benefit greatly from it.

Eventually, though, there comes a time when the writer must be comfortable walking away from the work, so to let new juices emerge. It’s how we flourish as writers. I’m currently doing my last run-through edit of The Silent Partner–this time, approving changes by the publisher’s line-editing team, so it can be published and I can get started on the next project.

As long as The Silent Partner is perfectly edited, that is.

Fighting for Your Writing Focus

If your personal relationships and obligations aren’t obstacles to your storytelling mojo, and you’re still having problems focusing on your writing, it’s possible that extreme levels of media stimuli are the culprit. From experience, I’ve been the happy, intended victim of over-stimulation of all media–that is, music, film and TV, sporting events, news in any form, social media, books (Gasp! Yes, this can happen.), and advertising all around us–all of which can hamper the coveted discovery of fresh, purposeful prose. And, sans the advertising plate that has glared at me from the urinal (the front sports page is much more pleasurable), I’ve been content and accommodating in absorbing it all, as it got in my way.

No doubt, sometimes various media have contributed to or downright inspired compositions from many of us writers. A song ever inspire you? A news story? A bad movie? (“Oh, done right, this story could have rocked it!”) A great one? Social media helps us connect–and sometimes promote, the news informs, and other stories around us may provide us springboards for our inspiration to tell our own tales. So how do we turn it all off so we can focus? Aren’t reading books supposed to help us with our own writing? (Absolutely they do.) So with the bombardment of inspiration and distraction, how do you determine which media to embrace and which to turn off?

What’s worked for me: Simply, if there’s a story that demands to be told, and it needs you to tell it, and you’re on a roll, stick with reading books and news headlines, watch the relevant games only, and embrace the music that fuels your fire. Doing this for two years or more of a writing project is impossible for most of us, but for those days or weeks when you’re in the zone (when our best work emerges almost magically), managing your focus in storytelling is simply keeping new, emerging stories in your head from vying for your attention. Keep a clear head the best you can.

You can also avoid public restrooms. If appropriate.

Promoting a Book That Doesn’t Exist


Nowadays, aspiring novelists must contend with the promotion (and possible stigma) of an unpublished book. We may have other published works, sure, but a long-term writing project like a novel-in-progress can frustrate even the most patient storyteller and wordsmith. A working novel’s manuscript–unfortunately–isn’t a book until it looks like one, feels like one, is bound (usually), is available digitally (especially if it isn’t bound), and probably has an ISBN code so it can be sold. The opportunity to self-promote via the Internet means a number of us now are pre-promoting work prior to its release, which is exciting, educational, time-consuming, somewhat social (admittedly stretched rationalization) and–for me–rewarding. It’s self-induced pressure to the max . . . heralded only by those of us doing it, because we understand and appreciate it.

The pre-promotion of a forthcoming book for a first-time novelist is necessary. Growing readership of our work shouldn’t focus merely on agency representation or publication itself, but getting our work out there to an eager audience that’s waiting to discover it. The largest audience possible, yes, but we shouldn’t seek to merely get signed to a specific agent or publisher. Instead, we need to define what route makes most sense for us to protect our integrity as writers and get our work read by the most people possible . . . those searching for our kind of work. If a literary agency or publisher has faith in the commerce behind the art, we’ve hit gold. No doubt, readership can grow immensely with that support.

For those of us seeking such representation, a burgeoning fanbase clearly illustrates a writer’s marketability . . . and reduces the risk of anyone investing time and energy into them. This would go for any artist. Case and point: A couple days ago, a rock band I’ve followed for a couple years finally got signed to a label. I discovered Imagine Dragons performing in Las Vegas and have followed them since, have seen them here in San Diego, and–after a few years of recording, performing, and promoting–they’ve hit a grand slam by signing with Interscope Records. Dedication to their craft is not in question, nor is the magnitude of their growing fanbase. It took a couple years, though, of looming in on a targeted objective. Dan Reynolds, the frontman for the band, said to Las Vegas Weekly, “The goal of a band should never be to sign with a major label. It should be to make good music and get it out to as many people as possible.”

We need conviction in our work and dedication to cultivating our talent. And tireless self-promotion, so that our work does indeed exist . . . in the form of a book.