Saturday, February 21, 2015

Show Your Class at an Author Showcase

Today I attended a Local Author Showcase put on by a local book club. The event was well organized and well run, with only some nasty weather offering a bit of a challenge. Most of my fellow authors maintained a warm positive attitude but a few disappointed me. It seems there should be a class in how writers who are invited to a book fair event should behave. Allow me to offer a few tips.
First, remember that you are a guest at an event that someone has worked hard to put together.  So show your hosts some respect. If for some reason you can’t make it, at least call or send an email saying so, so the organizers don’t try to save your table. And if you paid to attend and can’t, don’t ask for a refund on the day of the event. Your organizers have already paid for the space and sometimes a meal for a count that included you. They are not responsible if you choose not to show up.
If you do attend, please be on time. Getting set up in a narrow hall (or worse, at a street fair) only gets harder if you don’t stick to the organizer’s set up schedule.
If there are other rules, respect them. Every little rule established by the show hosts has a reason. If you have questions, ask them respectfully. You are much more likely to get what you need, and you won’t put them in a bad mood that could affect the rest of us.
You should also remember that you are there as part of a community of writers, not a crowd of competitors. So don’t pitch to the other authors. I’m not there to talk about your book; I’m there to talk about mine. 
Don’t ask for trades - It is not my intent to leave the book fair with the same number of books I arrived with, and if I say yes to you I’d feel funny saying no to others. Besides, if I wanted your book I’d offer you money like everyone else.

Don’t steal buyers! If someone is already talking to me it is rude to start talking to them about your book. Odds are they don’t want to offend anyone and so they’ll leave with neither book.

Similarly, don’t stand in front of my table or booth. You have a space assigned to you. When people wander into that area, speak to them. Not before, and absolutely not after. So don’t chase people down. If she was interested in your book she wouldn’t have walked away. If you make her angry she’ll think we’re all like that and will be afraid to speak to anyone.

For goodness sake don’t whine. If you don’t think the organizers advertised enough, or if you don’t like the weather, the venue, the patrons or the rules, keep it to yourself. The rest of us are trying to remain cheerful and positive, because that’s what attracts potential book buyers.

Focus on your book - No one wants to hear about your heart transplant, unless perhaps your book is about surviving a heart transplant. Likewise no one cares that you’re a war hero - unless you wrote a war book.

Finally, be willing to share - your ideas, your thoughts, your lemonade and most of all your enthusiasm. Positive mental attitude is contagious and if you help create a cheerful and pleasant atmosphere, we may even recommend your book to the lady who doesn’t like ours.
If you follow these simple tips you will always be welcome at a future Author Showcase.  And you’ll sign more books.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Panning for Gold

While I should be tackling the final rewrite of the next Hannibal Jones mystery I am instead focused on my publisher duties, reading through an avalanche of submissions, sifting the sand in search of 16 nuggets of gold worthy of publication.
Intrigue Publishing is taking submissions for a Young Adult anthology entitled Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers. We want stories of action, adventure and, yes, intrigue, featuring a teenage protagonist. We welcome spy thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, paranormal or fantasy stories. Dragons and magic are fine. Straight adventure stories are also welcome and they could be set in any time period. We’d love to see a good western or pirate story. The subtitle, “Tales of teens saving the day in the past, the present, the future & on other worlds” is an indication of the level of diversity we’re looking for. But I’ve already encountered a surprising amount of what we DON’T want.
For example, our submission guidelines clearly state that “The manuscript must be double-spaced, 12-point type, (Times New Roman or Arial.)” And yet, so far I have received stories in 11 point, one single spaced, another in a font called Calibri and one in a format called “.pages” which I can’t open with any software on my computer. If these people can’t get something as simple as font or format right how much detail do we think they pay to their prose? And if these simple instructions are too much for them, how will they respond to an editor’s input?  
The submission guidelines also included this direction: “The important requirements are that the protagonist be a courageous teenage boy or girl, that the story be gripping with a real sense of risk or danger, and that the protagonist survives or saves the day through his or her own intelligence, skill and ingenuity.”
And yet, I’ve read three stories so far in which the teen protagonist is little more than an observer or the person in jeopardy who gets rescued by an adult.
So what’s my point? It’s tedious enough reading weak and poorly written hunting for the ones the rare one worthy to be in an Intrigue Publishing anthology. If a writer doesn’t bother to adhere to our submission guidelines they are telling me that they don’t really care if we buy their story or not.  If you DO want someone to pay for your story, or novel, you dramatically increase your chances when you give them what they ask for.

And now, back to the search.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Writing, Publishing... and Life

Here’s the problem: being a publisher requires a lot of focus. I’m also a professional communicator for the Defense Department. And then I am at heart a writer. People often ask me how I can ever get any writing done with all my other responsibilities.

But I’m not alone, am I? All writers are multitasking. Even if you don’t have a job to do, I’ll bet you have a family, a dog to walk or a cat to feed, friends who need you or just want to hang out, a room that needs painting or a car you should be washing. So, what do we do when this thing called life gets in the way of our passion – writing.

Well, like any addict, step one is admitting that you have a problem. The problem is that there are only so many hours in a day. It’s easy to focus on something else today. Then tomorrow something else grabs you. And the next thing you know, a month has passed without any writing getting done. Admit to yourself that your novel or short stories will never appear if you only write when you have the time.

Step two is to take a good hard look at your life. Figure out what your priorities are and you should actually list them. You should admit to yourself that there are things more important than your writing, but also determine those time eaters that are less important.

Step three is the hard part. Commitment. How much time will you give your passion? Two hours a week? Ten hours? There’s no wrong answer. You’ll write as much as you need to, but accept that you won’t be doing something else. Maybe that means you’ll miss Friday night at the club with your pals. Maybe you won’t keep up with Downton Abbey. But whatever the choice, you need to make a firm commitment to an amount of time your writing deserves and stick to it.

Then take a close look at yourself as a writer. What time of day are you creative thoughts flowing? Does your muse visit early in the morning, late at night, or mid-day during your lunch hour? Once you know that you can make a schedule. That’s right, you should pick up your calendar and block out your writing time. It should be someplace you can see it every day.

Once you’ve figured out how to keep life from getting in the way of your writing, stick to it! You’ll find that if you sit down to create every day at the same time your mind will quickly become conditioned to the schedule. When you sit down to write, the ideas will already be there, raring to go. And your writing won’t let your life get in the way.