Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is getting an agent as easy as attending a conference?

by John Feldman 

Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
Imagine you’re trying to find true love through a dating site. You’ve been on ninety-nine dates so far and have had no success—this site stinks, it can’t find me anyone. And tonight is your one-hundredth date. It’s the last one you’re going to try. After this, you’re done. You’ve got your Cancel Membership page already up on your computer at home, ready to go back and get a drink from your fridge, click the Cancel button—then subsequently the Are Your Sure? button—and try your very best to look forward to a long life of being single.
Now imagine taking that mindset into a writer’s conference. You’ve been to a few before and they were all letdowns, and you’re assuming this weekend will be—while fun—the same as the others. You’ll meet people—network, so they say—and you’ll follow each other on social networks, but then those connections will die out. You’ll write nothing of significance, nothing that sells, and then those folks will forget all about you.
Am I being the most depressing person ever? I feel like I am. And I shouldn’t be, because I’m only building up to what turns out to be something the opposite.
Let me change the tone here.
A few weeks ago I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference of 2016 in New York City. For my fellow writers and those in the industry, we all know these things are a six- to eight-hour event followed by drinks—sometimes even with drinks in the middle; we’re writers, after all. But what I found in between was some amazing insight.
For me, the most amazing sessions to attend were those related to the area of self-promotion and building a name for yourself. And also the ones geared toward giving the novice—oh, it hurts my fragile little ego to hear that term—writer the ins and outs of the publishing business.
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I’ll list some of my favorites below, but I cannot give out great detail, simply because Writer’s Digest is—I’m fairly certain—going to be posting these sessions for sale online. But please take my word for it, these classes are extremely valuable. Not that the others weren’t—you can only attend one of the five during each time slot so you can see how I might be leaving out some other greats—but the ones I’ll list truly were helpful.
Publishing 101: Understanding Deals and Contract Terms with Literary Agent Marisa A. Corvisiero
This session alone would have been a selling point for me. I never even thought of the notion of knowing the contract; I just assumed my agent would know. Which was my first reason for coming here: I need an agent. But Marisa, being not only an agent, but a lawyer, is someone I’d listen to very carefully. And listen to her carefully I did. A fear of every new writer’s is to not get screwed over, and I feel much better knowing that I’m knowledgeable on a fair contract.
This was the very first class I attended. Do you see where this is headed? I told you I’d take you on a positive turn.
Pitch Perfect with Chuck Sambuchino
We all know Chuck Sambuchino. If you’re a writer—especially an agentless writer—who doesn’t know him…well, you’d better get on the Internet and start doing homework.
Chuck is the Dalai Lama of the amateur writer. The expert. The go-to-guy. Why am I putting him up on this pedestal and marking him with a halo above his head? No, he isn’t my friend, and no, I wasn’t paid to do so. (I did see him at the conference and he asked me how I was—just saying.) But I only place this spotlight on him because for as long as I’ve been looking for an agent—only three years, though it seems to be pathetically longer—his information has been the most reliable and the most current.
Chuck Sambuchino spoke to us for an hour about how to pitch your book. Need I say more?

View John Feldman's Interview

How to be Your Own Best Publicist with author-and-then-some Emily Liebert
Emily has written several novels, among many other things, and has quite possibly gotten her face around more places than Stephen King. How did she do it before becoming a well-known author? Well, I can’t spoil anything for the webinar that you’ll most likely be able to see when Writer’s Digest releases it, but she was able to give us notes for an entire hour of How to be Your Own Best Publicist. Amazing notes.
Maximizing Your Business as an Author on Amazon with Jason Kuykendall
Jason’s current title: Senior Business Development Manager, Kindle Author/Agent Relations at Amazon.com. Seems like a guy you can trust to lead you in the right direction, doesn’t he? And he was.
There were so many great things about this conference, but for the sake of keeping this post to a reasonable length I’ll just list them below:
Keynote Speakers: Kwame Alexander, David Baldacci, and Emily St. John Mandel
Dirty Little Secrets: Learn How the Publishing Industry Really Works in Order to Become a More Successful Authorwith Phil Sexton
Panel: Secrets to Succeeding as a Mystery Writer with Libby Cudmore, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jane K. Cleland, Evan Marshall and Paula Munier
The list goes on, and these don’t even include the Pitch Slam, which was a one-hour session with fifty-plus agents and editors in a room hearing your three-minute pitches. Or the social hour (hour and a half, wink-wink) with a bar and close to one thousand people ranging from writers of all levels, agents, editors, publishers, and any other people you can think of who love putting pen to paper.
 
I walked away from this conference with eight business cards from literary agents from major houses, and that’s after speaking with only those eight. The light shines down bright on this young man…who’s getting kind of older. I’ve been let down before by the harsh mindset that is Optimism, but after the Writer’s Digest Conference 2016, I’m feeling more optimistic than ever.

John Feldman is author of Bridgevine, a time travel novel with a twist.  To learn more about John and his novel, click on this link.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can You Use Grassroots Methods to Kickstart Your Writing Career?

by Dana Gore

Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I hate to break it to you, but if you're an author, writer, or blogger, you're in the company of millions of people who want the same things you do. You want people to read and benefit from what you have to say. You want others to share your work. You want to be fairly compensated for your efforts.  Last but not least, you want to  leave a positive impact in the world by helping people.

In this all too wired world, this is no simple task.  Unless you are a celebrity, it isn't easy to gain a following. That's the bad news.  The good news is that things are changing.  There is a movement across the country where people are realizing they can't rely on the big companies to support their efforts.  Major publishing houses decide if your work is worth marketing. If they don't, they won't take you on as a client.  I'm sure they base their decisions on market trends and sales. I understand that. Big companies own everything.  They own the online publishing sites.  They own the bit search engines.  What they don't own is you.

That being said, if you have something unique to express and if you want to share your ideas with the world, you are going to have to walk the road less traveled.  What I mean by that is that you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and use a little guerilla marketing.  Maybe you don't have a following yet. That's ok. You've gotta start somewhere.

But if you want people to take a chance on you, then it's up to you to put your work out there and make sure people can see you.  You're going to have to make your own noise.  So given all of this, it's become clear to me that we'll have to band together and create a "people supporting people" movement.  Grassroots movements have always been one of the best ways to buck the system.  What I propose is that you use the same techniques that were used to save the whales to help kickstart your writing career.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so to do grassroots movements.  So to get you started, I will give you
3 tools every author, writer, and blogger should know, use and like.

Whether you've written a book, do freelance writing or run a blog (or perhaps all three), there are tools that will help to make your life easier while building a network of comrades and followers.
This isn't about becoming a high-powered public figure or guru. It's simply about making connections that will help you grow an audience.

People need to support one another. It would serve us well to lift one another up from a place of co-operation. Instead of hoping and praying that life rewards our efforts with some sort of "big break", you need to start creating your own luck.  That being said, I want to mention a few organizations I've met recently that i are making a difference in how we connect with one another. Regardless of your literary ambitions, these individuals are not only wonderful to network with, but they also teach, coach, and inspire writers and authors to do theirr best work.

Free Promotion

GoodBooks.Online
If you're an author - or are thinking about writing writing a book, you'll want to check these guys out.
Carl Weiss & Hector Cisneros, themselves published authors, have created an online portal for authors.  Having been down the self-publishing path themselves, they were inspired to build a platform that help authors promote their books and network with one another.

If you've written a book, or are in the process of doing so, Carl and Hector can provide you with the tools, guidance and support you'll need to get the ball rolling.  While their company does offer paid publishing and marketing services, what's even better is that they also offer a number of FREE services.

At no cost, they build you a splash page on their website that features your book.  This webpage includes a few sample chapters, a blurb and bio, as well as your Amazon link.  They will also provide you with an opportunity to guest blog on their Good Books Blog.  Last but not least, they will interview you on their online radio show and YouTube channel. If you're looking for a little exposure that doesn't bust the bank, it doesn't get any better than this.  It's such a cool way to reach people.

Everything they offer adds to your portfolio and creates new material to share with people.
I had shared one of the videos about my exercise safety book in my post about how your workout can hurt you. However, they were also filming a discussion about why blogs are an author's best friend.
Carl did a great job during the 15-minute interview. He was easy to talk to, enthusiastic about the topic(s) and a fantastic listener.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6uJUcVyYGY (My GBO interview.)

Carl's company also provides a killer blogging production and distribution system that can help you break out of the herd in a hurry, as well as putting more money in your pocket if you are already a professional blogger.  Check out the website dedicated to this program at http://blog-blast.com/ .

Seriously folks, if you're serious about becoming an author, or if you have a book already out there, check them out.

Freelance Writer Websites

If you're a freelance writer, you're probably always looking to step up your game and learn new things.  Especially if you're a beginner.

As with anything, it's always useful to have a guide to follow. Learning from others who've been in your shoes helps. It's also comforting to read their stories and see how they were able to create something for themselves that led to success.  There are a couple of resources that come to mind that I'd love to introduce you to if you're new to freelance writing, or just looking to step up your game.

BrentJonesOnline.com
Brent's website offers a wealth of information for freelancers in general.  He helps writerslaunch their own service-based business from home. Writing is one of the many topics he covers. Brent conducts interviews with some of the most successful freelancers out there today. Whether they're talking about a specific company they use to find clients or they have a method or tool to talk about, you're likely to find something that will help you with your business.

A few months ago, he recruited a large number of us to share our tips about what has worked for us regarding our own freelancing success. If you're even thinking about becoming a freelance writer, you need to visit his website and peruse the content.

Brent didn't start out knowing he was going to be a freelancer. He had a successful career and did quite well. However, what he didn't have was the freedom to live his life completely on his terms. Being independent meant something to him, so he took the risk and went out on his own.
Having had NO previous experience regarding working for himself, he created his freelancing business based on something I can only describe as courage.

Now he uses his resources, knowledge, and connections to help writers find their unique place in the freelancing arena. On his website you will find a number of video interviews. They're all about 7-8 minutes in length. Just long enough to deliver a ton of valuable information, along with inspiring stories.  He also offerss plenty of articles and guest posts to help enlighten you about what it takes to become a kick ass freelancer. I had the pleasure of contributing one article a couple of weeks ago titled "Without These Three Things, You Will Fail as a Freelancer."

Lastly, Brent created a report to help new freelancers gain insight on how to find new business and how to charge for their work. To date he has  close to 70 people that have shared their stories about what has worked for them.

If you're thinking of becoming a freelancer, you owe it to yourself to check out Brent's website.

ElnaCain.com
Elna Cain has created a successful business for herself as a freelance writer.  As a Mom of twin
toddlers, she decided she wanted to stay home to be around as often as possible. She started a freelance writing business and eventually did so well that she started coaching people on how to do the same.

Elna communicates in such a friendly and non-intimidating manner simply because she knows what it's like to start something new. If you're even thinking about becoming a writer, you'll want to find out more about her.  When you visit her blog, you'll not only have access to her insights about how to become a freelance writer, but she'll also provide you with resources to find writing opportunities. You'll also have someone that will help you discover your unique writing voice.

While Elna site represents a wealth of information when it comes to freelance writing, I find her inspiring. She's gone on to develop twinsmommy.com to help stay at home moms become "mompreneurs." I don't have kids of my own, but if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd want to find a way to earn a living from home.

Check out Elna's websites. She really is the go-to gal for learning how to become a successful freelance writer.

Blogging Coaches/ Designers

I'm going to be completely honest here.  Building a blog isn't easy. Sure, there are plenty of available platforms that'll help you build a blog from scratch. If you're in a hurry to get your site up as quickly as possible, you can certainly do this because luckily, you no longer have to be a techie to create a website.  But if you want to create something that truly represents you and your brand, it helps to hire a pro.

Not everyone has it in their budget to hire someone to build and design a blog, and this is why I'm excited to tell you about a couple of my friends. I built my blog from scratch, but it was a huge endeavor. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I yelled profanity out loud (my husband will attest to this) because the process was frustrating.  Then I met  Cori Ramos and Brenda Pace through the blogging community and I'm not exaggerating when I say these two women have been Godsends.
They have mad skills when it comes to blogging and design.

It turns out these two amazing women have been at this for years.  Corina Ramos from notnowmomsbusy.com  Cori, who started her work from home blog titled "Not Now Mom's Busy" has become a well-respected (and loved) force in the blogosphere.  She left her job in the corporate world five years ago after working crazy hours and never getting to spend time with her family. She'd decided it was time to create something she could do from home.  I'm sure many of you can relate and probably want the same thing.

Her blog, filled with home business ideas, job listings and everything else related to working from home took off and gained a large following. Along the way, she dedicated her time to learning the ins and outs of blogging in general, tech stuff while studying the habits of successful bloggers. She learned how to become what I would call a badass blogger.

If you're thinking of starting a blog, you'll want someone to help walk you through the process. There's more to blogging than design.  Building authentic relationships, formatting posts, understanding how search engine optimization works (SEO), and even commenting all play important roles when it comes to blogging. Cori understands what it's like to start a new business venture from scratch, so she's made it her business to create a way to help bloggers succeed through her affordable coaching program.

Working with a coach has numerous benefits, regardless of what you're looking to achieve. And since Cori is just so likable, I have no doubt you'll love her as much as I do (and I really do!)
She just published her book titled "How to Become an Expert Blogger and Blog Like a Boss In No Time". In it, you'll discover a variety of topics that'll help you become a successful blogger in a friendly, easy to read format.

She helps people to set up their blog and has a wide variety of blogging how-to tips on her website.
Pay her a visit, reach out and say hi. I know she'd love to hear from you.

BrendaPace.net
Now while you may not need someone build your blog in order to get it up and running, it sure helps
when you're working with a pro who has an amazing eye for design and detail.  That's where my friend Bren comes in.  Brenda Pace from brendapace.net is one of the most talented, quirky and friendliest people I've met.  But besides all of that, she's a fantastic designer!

You can get a blog up and running with both free and premium themes and do this yourself. But I'll tell you from first-hand experience, there's a lot more to it than that.  In order to customize certain things on your blog, it helps to know code. You'll need to know how to get into your theme's style sheet and make alterations. If you know what you're doing, great. If not, though, you're screwed - and you may end up creating permanent changes in your blog's theme that you won't know how to undo.
But to be honest, even some of the easier customizations can make you want to pull your hair out sometimes. Plus, it's just nice to have someone who has natural talent and skills on your side to help give you an experienced and objective perspective.

Brenda has helped me on numerous occasions when it came to making changes on my own blog. Had it not been for her, I don't know what I would have done in certain situations because I don't know how to do anything outside of the default theme options.  Brenda, however, is a pro. It's as effortless for her as wax on wax off was for Mr. Miyagi.  Once you've decided on what type of blog you're looking to build, consider having Brenda design it for you.

Her testimonials speak for themselves. So does her portfolio.  Her rates are reasonable as well. She also makes it a point to teach you how to work with your blog once it's up and running so you can start doing things on your own. I've met plenty of website owners who were at the mercy of their designers to make small changes. Sometimes it would cost a lot of money to do this. Other times they'd have to wait a while until it was done.

In addition to blogs, Brenda also designs headers and images. These are some of the important personal touches that help your blog become your unique expression of YOU.  Brenda may be a professional blog designer and virtual assistant, but she's also just a girl with a beautiful sense of humor.  In addition to her business blog, she also created a community for women to network with one another and just talk about life, being a girl and some of the (not so) fun things about aging.
She started galspushin50.com as a hobby blog just to vent about the frustrations of normal day to day life. We all need a place to let it all out, so I encourage you to visit. I'm sure you'll relate to plenty of the topics discussed over there.

How This Info Will Benefit You

If you're an aspiring author, writer or blogger, it helps to have tools and to know terrific people who can help you turn your dream into a reality. The ones I've included in this post are just like you and me. These folks started from the ground up and made it a point to create their businesses on their terms, even when there was no physical evidence that their efforts would pay off.  Now they're here to help you to do the same.  And of course, I can help you too.

I'm a freelance writer and wellness coach. I've created everything from scratch. Healthy living goes hand in hand with success. To live authentically, you have to make well-being a priority. Everyone I've included here are also freelance writers. Whether you need someone to help steer you in the right direction regarding your own work, or if you need to hire someone to produce quality content for you, I, along with these fabulous people can help.

Don't let doubt prevent you fromsucceeding.  It may not be an easy ride, but it'll be well worth it in the end - as long as you don't give up. Especially if you use the grassroots methods I showed you to build alliances and an audience.  Now I'd love to hear from you. Do you write? Have you thought about becoming an author or starting a blog? If so, what's stopped you?

About Dana Gore

Creator of iammyimagination.com and author of the book "A Simple Guide to Exercise Safety - (What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You)", Dana Gore completed the curriculum at Fitness Institute International, Inc. as an outstanding graduate in 2009.  Dana aims to bring guidance to the public about how to achieve optimal health in a safe and structured manner. She believes the body follows the guidance and instruction of the mind and spirit and inspires her readers to seek inner-peace as a means to well-being in all areas of life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Silly Is as Silly Does - An Author’s Take on the Writing Process

by Ken Dixon
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I used to be really silly.  And, to be honest, I still am.
That's why I gravitate toward humor writing.
At the advanced age of (muffled sound), I think I should be far more serious.  Apparently, I have managed somehow not to grow up.
You can't just skate through life finding "funny" wherever you look, can you?  You need to "knuckle down", right?  I was supposed to do that in order to "get anywhere".  Well, here I am.  I ended up somewhere, in spite of myself.  But that other place might have been more interesting and and quite a bit more lucrative.  I'll never know, because it's too late now - and that's as good an excuse as any to keep doing what I'm doing (whatever that is).
My first effort as an author taught me something.  I always thought I could never write fiction.  Creating plots and characters just isn't something I'm inclined to do.  It brings to mind organization and planning - laying things out, making notes and getting prepared.  I suppose I could learn to work that way.  But there are so many others who do it so well.  Why should I even try?  There's no danger of us running out of stories.  And, of course, now that films are all remakes of what made money last time, there's even less demand.  So what was the point of going at it haphazardly, as if by some miracle something worthwhile would come together?
Well, that's exactly what I did.  And, much to my surprise, it worked.
How does a neophyte writer sit at a keyboard, start with a blank page and no concept of the finished story and end up a few weeks later with a book?  Six chapters in, I had to make a list of names to keep track of who these strange individuals were and what they had done so far.  During the process, whatever I wrote each day was a total surprise.  And I was making myself laugh. When it was time to publish the manuscript, I was more comfortable using a pseudonym because I felt as though I didn't own it.  The story had come so easily to me that it was like accepting a delivery for a neighbor.
Then, I wrote another one.
The second effort was a comedic look at the forming of a church.  It's a subject about which I knew next to nothing.  But out came the narrative anyway, complete with people who had been fully-formed in my imagination.
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
Self-analytical to a fault, I've never been able to understand how a person who "can't" write fiction and is even disinclined to learn the right way to do so can produce a couple of books that are clearly fiction by anyone's definition.  I'll readily admit that my mind is easily boggled, but this makes no sense at all.  And it calls into question many long-held assumptions.
Are there other fields into which I can step with confidence, knowing I can just "wing it" and be successful?  Probably not.  And don't worry; I'm not going to try.  But maybe I should have had more confidence and attempted those things I was sure I couldn't do instead of waiting so long and finding out by accident.
One of my flaws (and, in the interest of time, I shall not list them all) has been my unwillingness to persevere at anything I don't do well.  The average dedicated writer, I believe, will learn from his or her early mistakes and failures and go on to produce competent - and possibly great - work.  I, by contrast, will have long ago moved on to some other pursuit for which I hope I have some innate ability.
If the word "lazy" comes to mind, I plead guilty.  It's hardly a formula for success, but I have arrived at this point with a skewed philosophy one associates with slackers and ne'er-do-wells.  I'm not proud of that fact, but there you are.
Practice makes perfect.  Half-hearted practice or none at all makes "good enough".  It's lucky for the world at large that I am in charge of nothing and can do no damage whatsoever.
Oh, I'll keep writing.  But if it didn't come easily to me, I doubt that we'd be having this discussion.  I would be doing something entirely different - and probably not very well.
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I see writing as both an art and a craft.  For reasons I don't understand, I'm able to use written language effectively in all sorts of situations and meet the requirements presented to me.  At the same time, I've produced a couple of books from whole cloth in a genre of which I have no working knowledge.  The latter is what I define as art:  talent outside the realm of study and training.  It's not something for which one can take credit.
Despite the silliness, the lackadaisical attitude and an aversion to working hard, artistic ability comes to this author by taking over and creating in spite of him.  That's the real story here.
Sometimes we can be mere conduits for tales that need to be told.  It's not necessary for us to fathom the process.  We just need to get out of the way.  Quiet the "I can't" voices, and you may find they were the only thing stopping you.
I'm no expert.  This is just one of the all-too-many things about which I know very little.  But sometimes life just smacks me upside the head and I manage to learn a lesson.

Now, I know that if I were moved to do so I could open a new file on my computer and wait for inspiration.  An idea would come, and I would be off and running with no clue as to where I'm going or how I will get there.  That's not "how it's done", but it's how I do it - and that's okay.  The result may be quite silly, or it may have some merit.  Either way, it works for me.

Ken's books Back to Woolstock and From this Seed can be found on amazon.com

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sit Back, Relax, & Enjoy the Apocalypse!

By Jay Mouton

My recent novel, Apocalypse Awakening, is first and foremost a work of fiction.  It is a story.  It is one of those what if this happened adventures!  It’s important to remember such aspects of fiction when one is reading fiction.  Yeah, I know I’m pointing out the obvious.  Still, many forget the simple fact that fiction is fictional.  Yep, a no brainer—right?

Not so much.

I spent over a decade of my life teaching college literature courses, and we covered a great deal of fiction.  For the most part, it was fun to delve into various stories with well over a couple of thousand students over the years.  It was also a learning experience, as time after time I got the chance to re-experience so many stories with so many people.  We got the chance to live inside fiction: made up stuff.  And I never let my students forget this “made up stuff” aspect of fiction.

Imabe from en.wikipedia.org
Fiction isn’t real life.  Fiction isn’t the record of things that have happened.  Fiction isn’t what is, was, or what will be.  Fiction is what could be, and that, for me is where all those adventures begin.

Apocalypse Awakening was written in late summer of 2014.  I wrote this novel for two primary reasons: I’d written four other novels in my life, with the last having been written in 1993—I wanted to see if I still “had another novel in me”.  My second reason for writing Apocalypse Awakening was this little voice in the back of my mind that kept asking, what would happen if we were expecting to wake up on the morning of November 9th, 2016 with a brand spanking new president and instead woke up to a country under nuclear attack?

We’ve got the 2016 presidential election coming up very soon.  We all have our various beliefs, ideologies, friends, family, and the like.  As such, many of us believe that this presidential election is going to have tremendous and very long lasting effects on our nation.  That’s a given.  But what would happen if nefarious forces threw the ultimate of monkey wrenches into the works on election day?   What would be the repercussions if a nuclear bomb was detonated in a major metropolitan area?  While other US presidents had to contend with the specter of nuclear war, such as JFK did in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis, never has a president had to deal with the aftermath of an actual nuclear attack.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

That’s not to say that other national crisis have not shaken the pillars of society at large.  Nobody can forget the carnage and destruction that Hurricane Katrina wrought to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.  New Orleans was awash, homes, belongings and corpses floated down the streets.  The National Guard was activated, along with FEMA.  The Big Easy looked as though someone had indeed dropped the big one.

From en.wikipedia.org
I still remember the TV coverage from the Superdome, the NFL stadium that had been commandeered as a refuge for those unlucky enough to have stayed in New Orleans during the storm.  Outside was a seething mass of displaced people, young and old, streaming like refugees toward the only place big enough to house them, if only temporarily.  Inside, the situation was grim as everything from food and water, to sanitation was in short supply.  Tempers flared and crimes took place.  Looting occurred in New Orleans and the surrounding area where police were all but helpless to stop it.

Of course, the Big Easy was hardly the only city in the country forced to weather the storm of civil unrest after a natural disaster.  The New York City Blackout that occurred on July 13, 1977 was another prime example.  It all started on a sweltering July evening with thunderstorms that struck a power substation at 8:37 pm.  This caused an overload that took out two additional transmission lines.  This event and another lightning strike caused the power company dominos to fall until an hour later most of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx found itself in the dark. 
While an inconvenience, the event hardly ranked up there with other disasters.  Yet during the next 13 hours, as the power remained stubbornly out, things took a turn for the worse.  A quote from Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

Looting and vandalism were widespread, hitting 31 neighborhoods, including most poor neighborhoods in the city. Possibly the hardest hit were Crown Heights where 75 stores on a five-block stretch were looted, and Bushwick where arson was rampant with some 25 fires still burning the next morning. At one point two blocks of Broadway, which separates Bushwick from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, were on fire. Thirty-five blocks of Broadway were destroyed: 134 stores looted, 45 of them set ablaze. Thieves stole 50 new Pontiacs from a Bronx car dealership.[1] In Brooklyn, youths were seen backing up cars to targeted stores, tying ropes around the stores' grates, and using their cars to pull the grates away before looting the store.[1] While 550 police officers were injured in the mayhem, 4,500 looters were arrested.[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_blackout_of_1977

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
Unlike the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 that left 30 million in the dark and resulted in little loss of property, the 1977 blackout was a different story altogether.  Whether it was a combination of the heat, the economy or just a case of human beings devolving due to their inherent baser instincts, the rule of the mob is a lot closer to the surface than most people think.

So that leaves the question of what could happen were terrorists to set off a nuclear device in one or more US cities?  Imagine the breakdown in society that would occur if after a major disaster, the government was unable to promptly respond and the populace was left to its own devices.  One of the reasons that the US and the USSR held back the dogs of war during the Cold War wasn’t just due to the fact that they were terrified of unleashing global thermonuclear war.  They were even more terrified of the nuclear winter that scientists on both sides predicted was sure to follow.  As bad as mushroom clouds and fallout are, the resulting decimation of crops due to the millions of tons of soil that would be lofted into the stratosphere meant certain starvation in the aftermath of a nuclear war.  In essence, the only way to win was not to play.

Today, there are nine countries known to have the capability to produce atomic bombs, with at least two others, North Korea and Iran close to having the bomb.  So you have to ask yourself what the odds of a terrorist organization getting their hands on enough fissile material to make one or more bombs would be. 

Yep!  Apocalypse Awakening is Fiction—for now!

You can read sample chapters of Jay Mouton’s Apocalypse Awakening on GoodBooks.Online
*(Apocalypse Awakening 2016: Book II is scheduled to be available in early September, 2016)



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is the Traditional Book Publishing Route a 1-Way Street?

by Carl Weiss

Image courtesy of flickr.com
When it comes to writing books, authors will spend untold amounts of time and money polishing their prose.  When it comes to marketing their books however, many authors still harbor the notion that a literary agent is going to provide them with the ticket to fame and fortune.  But when you factor in the reality that there are a limited number of literary agents in the US and that in 2015 there were more than 300,000 books published in this country, then the odds of your landing representation is like hitting the lottery.

These Agents Have a License to Thrill

With an average of 5,000 query letters per agent per year, agents can choose to be picky.  Many are like doctors in that they specialize in specific genres.  Some are so swamped that they refuse to take on new clients. Others only accept author submissions that have been referred by other agents or well-established authors.  With that kind of literary firewall, is it any wonder that many fledgling authors throw in the towel after receiving nothing back from agents except rejection letters? Before you decide to deep six your writing career, let me clue you into a little secret: You don't need an agent to get published.

You heard me right.  There are a number of bestselling authors who decided to pursue a different route to publishing success after being rejected by traditional agents and publishers.  Some even went onto sell more than a million books.  While their marketing techniques are varied, all of them haved several things in common.


  1. They all paid to have their books professionally edited.  Nothing kills a book's chances of being sold faster than grammatical errors, typos and poor sentence structure.  If you want to make it to the big leagues you can't start off with amateur hour prose.  (Killer cover art doesn't hurt either.)
  2. They didn't have a Field of Dreams outlook.  This isn't a "build it and they will come" kind of world.  If you really want to make it as a self-published author, you need to be willing to either roll up your sleeves and start rolling out press releases, guest blogs, and social posts galore, or you need to hire somebody to do it for you.  When you realize the average number of books sold per author on amazon is around 250, expect to spend both time and money promoting every book you write.  (John Locke, the first self-published author to crack the million book sales figure on Amazon spent more than $25,000 before his eBooks achieved success.)
  3. They didn't overprice their books.  The real secret to publishing success is to build a loyal following that will buy every book you write.  To get started, you don't want to price your first book out of most people's reach.  If you think your novel is going to sell like hotcakes for $14.95, think again.  There are thousands of books out there for sale for a dollar or less.  John Locke's first 5 eBooks sold for 99 cents apiece.  But he sold more than a million copies in 5 short months.  Now his eBooks retail for $2.95, but he has a huge fan base and emailing list to back up his publishing efforts.
  4. They didn't make excuses. Barbara Freethy, the Kindle bestselling author of all time (4.5 million books sold) wasn't afraid to roll up her sleeves and work hard to build her audience. She began her writing career while working full-time and raising two children.  She also took the time to establish a substantial social media following.  
  5. They recognized that this was a marathon, not a sprint.  Once you initially release your book, you need to have a plan that not only has a chance of getting you to the top of the charts, you need to sustain the effort over the long haul.  That means continuing to generate reviews and interviews even after the bloom is off the rose.  Network, network, network.
  6. They all had a thick skin.  Bear in mind that not everyone who reads your book is going to sing your praises.  A quote from John Locke's book, "How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months" sums it up nicely, "I sent my Saving Rachel manuscript to a writer and an editor to get their take on it.  The author told me it might be the worst book ever written.  The editor said it would never sell.  I published it anyway.  In September, Saving Rachel sold 16 copies.  Since then it has sold more than 300,000,  It was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal and it made to the New York Times Best Seller list."
Available on Amazon.com
More importantly, John Locke and many other authors have a written marketing plan that they use to make sure their books don't get lost in the shuffle.  They also make sure that they offer incentives to their readers so that they will stay top of mind when it comes to buying subsequent books.  This means doing things like blogging and emailing newsletters to readers you register.  Nothing like building reader loyalty to help the bottom line.  You need to treat your books like a business if you hope to derive an income from it.  Those that do have a much higher probability of success.  

Speaking of success, in How I sold 1 Million eBooks, Mr. Locke also intimates how he was approached by a literary agent after his story had made the press.  John went onto explain that he turned them down since he didn't need to cut anybody in on his publishing endeavor, since it turned a nice profit.  He also didn't want to give up creative freedom.  In short, he didn't need a leg up in order to be a publishing success.  He was already there.

So my advice to those of you still trying to find your way down the long and winding road of publishing success is to point out that the worst way to drive is to head the wrong way down a 1-way street.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an online marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also publisher and host of GoodBooks.Online, an online portal and radio show for authors.  





Thursday, July 7, 2016

Reading Between the Lines: the Realities of Fiction

by RJ Jojola

On the Verge— Overcoming the Past

My dark fantasy novel, On the Verge, is very much a coming of age tale where adults in their 20s are forced to deal with and overcome their childhood traumas. As their trust in everything and everyone wanes, the character’s paths become intertwined. As they begin facing their pain and suffering head on, they discover that they are the last and final hope for their world. It is solely up to them to dispel the evil and chaos that had been unleashed by the adults who were supposed to have protected them. In essence, it shows the cyclical nature of not only the downfalls and mistakes that affect the history of a civilization, but individuals and their families as well. 

The Realities of Fiction— Turning Real Life into a Fantastical World

For me, On the Verge is a metaphor for my own childhood PTSD. But it is not only that. It is something many of us can relate to as human beings. As we grow into adults, many of us begin to realize that we are not prepared because whoever raised us, may have passed their demons (past negative experiences) on to us. For some people it may be something blatant like abuse, but for others it may be something not so cut and dry. I think this applies to so many childhood experiences that people have other than abuse and neglect. Maybe you were sheltered. Maybe you were given too much. Maybe you were not given enough. Maybe you were forced to grow up too fast. Or maybe you simply felt unprepared for the real world and how harsh it can be.

All of these things sculpt us into who we inevitably become. And many of times, they hold us back. We create self-fulfilling prophecies that dictate our lives. But we can overcome these things and create a better, or different life for ourselves. It is never easy, but it is worth it. On the Verge is a metaphor for my experiences and acted as a vehicle along a path to healing and overcoming my childhood trauma. This road to healing was incredibly difficult, and at times felt hopeless, but now I can say that I made it out of the darkness and learned not only from my own mistakes, but the mistakes of my elders.

How it Came to Me— The Power of the Subconscious Mind:

On the Verge was something that came to me during a very difficult time in my life.  Growing up, I lived with childhood PTSD from something that happened to me very early on in life. I never really knew exactly why I was the way I was, because I didn’t know what PTSD was and psychology has come a long way since then. But I had always struggled with anxiety, depression, focus issues, and was misdiagnosed with ADD. There were a lot of things my parents missed as well as the other adults in my life— other family members, teachers, doctors, therapists, etc.

The memories of my trauma did not resurface until around the age of twenty-six. I began having flashbacks and horrible episodes. This dark time led me down a path where I was using unhealthy means to escape it and put myself in situations I shouldn’t have been in. That was when I hit rock bottom. My therapist suggested that I go back to my roots and channel my pain into writing as I did when I was a child. That’s when Raelle’s valley came to me— my valley, my safe place. The place I had stored all my happy memories— my ignorant bliss. It was a protective cloud of denial; what I thought my life had been.

That place, Raelle’s Valley, it hid dark times of my childhood. The things that my subconscious mind did not feel I was ready to deal with. My mind was protecting itself. That valley had helped me to be somewhat “normal” until I was old enough and safe enough to face my past head on. And one day, during my student teaching, I was forced to leave that valley, venture out into my past, no matter how difficult. Being back inside a classroom and being around children triggered my memories and trauma in ways I never thought possible. I knew then that I had no choice but to either face my past, or allow it to consume me. And it almost did.

On the Verge is the story of having to leave the safety of your sheltered home, and venture out into a world that is full of pain, horror, bad people/spirits, and loss/death. Much like the real world, it’s difficult to know who to trust a lot of the time. Lerim shows our main characters the realities of growing up in a world where nothing is what it seems, much like our real world. But the dangers of Lerim are fantastical and epic. A true metaphor for anyone who has felt grief, loss, or simply unprepared for the sometimes brutal realities of human life and the human condition.

From the Mind to the Page— Recovery and Release

                A lot of times, after people read On the Verge, they say to me, “I can’t believe you wrote this. You seem so happy and upbeat. The pain of the characters feels so real…” And I tell them that it is because I wrote my demons into the book. I pulled them from the darkest corners of my mind and let them tell their story. In acknowledging them, I have released myself from their grasp. Writing the pain into the pages of my story and subconsciously speaking and expressing emotion through the vehicle of real and raw characters has allowed me to overcome my past. And although I know I will always struggle with the grief of things that have occurred in my life, I now have a means of coping that is not only constructive, but can be shared with others like me. Nothing worth having in this world is easy to attain, and happiness is definitely worth it.

You can read more information about author RJ Jojola, as well as reading sample chapters of On the Verge, by clicking on this link.


                 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Can You Still Work the Web to Win?

by Hector Cisneros & Carl Weiss

In the 20th Century, businesses used print, TV and Radio as the preferred marketing media to take their products and services to market. To flex your advertising muscles today, you also need to add the internet to the mix.  Unlike traditional forms of advertising, the internet easily crosses most borders and allows businesses “in the know” to Geo-target their ads to any regional or local level they desire.

Every business today is trying to take advantage of the leverage that the internet provides. This process is made more complicated because the internet is a multi-media platform. Not only can it provide a media-rich experience on every page, it can also provide access to many forms of marketing that even includes analogs of their traditional counterparts like TV, Radio and print. Better still, it also provides superior tracking and analytical feedback to make sure your marketing is actually working!

Birth of the Internet 

Before the 1990’s businesses were relegated to using only print, TV, radio, billboards, etc.… to advertise their wares. Then came the Internet in the latter half of the 90’s and suddenly businesses had a completely new vista of opportunities open up to them, along with a new set of skills to hone.
Courtesy of www.cnbc.com
 Because when it comes to promoting products and services online, there is no such thing as one size fits all.  Far from it. 

Before the turn of the century web advertising was a bit simpler, due to the fact that it all came down to two things: a website and a search engine.  Back then, there weren't any such things as blogs and social networks.  Video was something that was worse than useless, due to bandwidth considerations.  Web designers back then had to selectively choose images due to the slow loading speeds that dial-ups provided.  Too many images could cause a site to load like molasses, or even freeze the screen solid. 

Then Came Broadband 

Then came the development of broadband and suddenly it was a whole new ballgame.  With that ballgame came an entirely new set of rules.  Instead of relying almost exclusively on text, many sites began experimenting with podcasts and video.  With the advent of YouTube, where anyone can post and host videos galore, multimedia went from being an anomaly to being practically a requirement. 

Search engines as well began to capitalize on the multimedia nature of the Internet, with many of them adapting their search algorithms to take into considerations all the latest online offerings. Several, most notably Google, went one step further by developing their own brand of blog, social network and video portal.  This meant that website owners and optimizers had their hands full feeding all these additional mouths.  As a result, many sites that previously dominated the search engines were relegated to its backwaters.  It also meant that SEO was no longer SOP (standard operating procedure.)  Whether you choose to administer your web presence yourself or outsource the task, there are a number of factors you need to take into consideration if you hope to succeed. Here are none of the most important ones:

New Google AdWords Geo Targeting Interface
New Google AdWords Geo Targeting Interface (Photo credit: rustybrick)
1. Advertising via Geotargeting – One of the things that has changed in a big way is the ability to geographically target online ads. Unlike in the early days of the web where global advertising coverage was the norm, today's online ads can be directed to targeted regions, statewide or locally for both pay-per-click and organic search.

2. The State of SEO Today – When I hear people conversion about search engine optimization, I ask them to define the term SEO. Before the turn of the century everything a search engine needed to determine who ranked best resided exclusively on the website. Today, only twenty five percent of the criteria used for ranking purposes is contained on-site. The remainder consists of everything from blogs and social networks to videos and podcasts.

The other thing that has changed in a big way is the acumen of search engine spiders. Not only can the spiders read, they can understand how well your website, blogs and social posts are constructed. They are also programmed to look at how often you post as well as how much engagement this content generates. The only things they can’t understand are your images and videos. This is why it is so important to make sure your ALT tags are filled in and the text and tags used to wrap your videos is complete.

3. Blogging is a Must for Business – Blogs are without a doubt one of the least understood of all web assets. Most people treat them as a bastard stepchild of the web, not realizing that blogs can not only achieve search engine ranking on their own, but you can also sell products directly on your blog. Add to this the fact that a well-written blog post can be far more engaging than any websites since they change more often than websites. (The average website is updated quarterly, whereas the average blog is updated weekly.) I have known clients who literally generated more traffic and sales from their blog than they did on their site, even when their site had page-1 ranking on Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Social Media Landscape
Social Media Landscape (Photo credit: fredcavazza)
4. Social Media is your Business – There is a big difference between having a social presence and feeding your social presence. If you hope to turn Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other social networks into a way to promote your business you need to understand a couple of things. In the first place, social nets are all about telling as opposed to selling. This means that for every attempt to display ad copy on your nets you need to deploy at least twenty pieces of information that would be of interest to your followers. And by “information” I don’t mean ad copy. The second factor is that social nets are all about your followers, not you. If you provide them with useful information and prove that you are an authority in your area of expertise they will inevitably buy from you when they are ready. However, if you rarely feed your nets or if you bombard your followers with ad copy, then don’t complain that social networking doesn't work.

5. Get Your Own YouTube Channel – YouTube is another area that most businesses do not really get. Look at it this way; If your local TV station told you they were giving away space for free TV spots and that they were looking for programming to fill air time, you would probably bust a gut to provide them with as much video content as they would accept. Then why is it that the world’s largest Superstation is not on every business owner’s radar in a big way? Not only does YouTube stream more video than all the other TV stations on the planet combined (4 billion videos per day), but they provide free hosting and broadcast, plus they are owned by the world’s most popular search engine (Google).

YouTube is much more than just a video portal. It is a search engine, it is a social network and it is a free web TV station that can place your videos on page 1 of Google. How cool is that? Yet most businesses are not taking advantage of this free marketing powerhouse. By taking advantage of it, I don’t mean having one or two videos on YouTube. What I am talking about is having dozens or even hundreds of videos on YouTube. Better yet, why not start a channel that focuses on your business? Don’t think that’s practical? Think again. We have shown all kinds of businesses from chiropractors to plumbers how 2-minute micro casts can be used to generate a following and turn their owners into rock stars. Shooting 2-4 short videos each and every month isn't all that complicated or costly. All it takes is a little imagination to turn the world’s largest superstation into a business asset that’s hard to beat.

English: Reputation management graphic that br...
 Reputation management graphic that breaks down the elements of reputation management and how they fit together. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
6. Manage Your Reputation – In years past it was all too easy for companies that produced slipshod workmanship and poor customer service to remain below the radar to consumers. As a result, it was very difficult to judge a business’ reputation until after the fact, by which time it was too late. With the advent of online reputation management all that has changed. Today the emperor wears no clothes and it is simple for the public to find out how your customers perceive the quality of your company. Whether they use Google Local, Yahoo, Angie’s List or any of the hundreds of sites dedicated to broadcasting reviews good and bad about a business, this is generally the first place that consumers go to check out a company with whom they have never done business.

That being said, many businesses have no system of encouraging satisfied customers to post positive reviews. What this means is that for the vast majority of businesses, all there is to be found are negative reviews. I don’t care how capable and courteous you are, as they say you can’t please everyone all the time. So it’s a foregone conclusion that sooner or later you will rub someone the wrong way. That someone (or even a wily competitor) can sully your reputation at the click of a mouse if you aren't actively encouraging your best customers to submit positive reviews all the public will find are complaints.

One of the things we use to promote our business as well as those of our clients is to ask your best customers if they wouldn't mind telling the public what they think of your services on video. By shooting a 2-3 minute interview and then cutting this down to 60-90 seconds not only will you have a powerful endorsement of your business, but while they are there you can then have them submit a positive review on Google+ that will go a long way toward helping you prove once and for all that you are the man or woman for the job.

Image courtesy of PRWeb.com
7. This is Not Your Daddy's PR – Press Releases have been around for a long time. Today, internet press releases are much more effective at promoting your company via the World Wide Web. In the old days you would type up the press release and then mail or fax it to as many media locations that you had contacts for. Today however, there are many aggregation companies that specialize in digital press releases. They have access to hundreds, if not thousands of media outlet sites.

One click of a mouse and your press release can be sent to either highly targeted media companies or you can opt to do mass broadcast to as many outlets as you can afford. Press releases have also changed radically as well. Before, press releases could only included text information and maybe a picture or two. Today your press release can include slide shows, pictures, videos, podcast, social links and links to your website or eCommerce store. Press releases also provide ranking effects and show up in all search engines list as well.

8. Pay Per Click Can do the Trick – Pay Per Click or PPC as its sometimes referred to is one of the only quick ways a business can get onto page one of search. However, it's not as easy as it sounds. It's very easy to waste lots of money if you don’t know what you're doing. And letting Google manage your AdWords account in the long run will cost you more than if you hire a professional firm to set up and manage your auction purchases and paid ad campaigns. In short, it takes an entire skill set of its own to employ PPC successfully, there is no shortcut to online success.

9. Who Can You Trust to Call? - Obviously creating and distributing everything from daily social posts to weekly blogs and monthly videos takes time. And time is something of which no business owner or manager has enough. So outsourcing some or all of the above mentioned tasks is the path of least resistance for many businesses. That being said, you need to be very careful who you allow to promote your business online. While there are a number of legitimate digital marketing agencies, there are also thousands of shortcut artists that can do more harm than good.

Hector Cisneros & Carl Weiss literally wrote the book on Internet marketing.  Their current eBook,Working the Web to Win is available for $4.97 on Amazon.comIn our weekly blog we have written about Black Hat tactics that can put your website between a rock and a hard place. It isn't at all unusual for a search engine to de-list or even black ball anyone caught using black hat techniques. While it would take more than a blog to cover them all, the biggest red flag to watch out for is anyone who claims they can get your site listed organically with Google or any other major search engine within 30 days or less. Depending upon the competition involved with any keyword or phrase it can take anywhere from four to six months or more to produce enough compelling content to leverage page 1 on any of the major search engines. However, the results can be well worth the effort.  Because if you don't play the online marketing game for long term return, there's no way for you to win online.