Survey Says…

What’s in a title? That’s my question, well part of it, to you. How important is the title in selling the book? Or is a good book cover more important to generate sales? I’ve been asking myself these questions for some time now and have decided to ask you, my readers (all seven of you, ha ha), what you think. I’m contemplating changing the title of my current novel, Rescue on White Thunder. I’m also going to put it into paperback and have a new cover design. Does the title make you want to read the book? Or does it seem a bit ingenuous to you? I’d really like to hear what you have to say. I will remove the eBook from Amazon (too many issues, I won’t go into here) and move it over to Lulu Press, where I have my nonfiction nutrition book . A former classmate once told me she thought the title sounded like a Hardy Boys’ novel (ouch). Do you think that’s true?

So I’ve set up a survey to hear what you think about the title and whether I should change it. I would greatly appreciate your input, readers, to help me decide. I definitely will upgrade the cover work as the original, in my opinion, looks cheesy. That’s what I get for having a graphics student do it instead of a graphics professional. You get what you pay for, right?

I’ve also included three options for a tag line, one which I already use. Feel free to comment on which one you like, if any.

Thanks for helping me out.

 

Tag/Secondary Line (I like to use these):

A Novel Adventure (no change)

A Braddock Novel

A Braddock Adventure

Every Life Has a Story…

One of the ongoing contentious issues where I live is how to deal with the considerable number of homeless citizens. Our city has estimated that there are several thousand folks, at any given time, in this difficult and frightening situation. I frequently pass snacks from my car window to a homeless vet or other individual and have even purposely sought out hungry homeless (that’s redundant) people  in my area to pass along a leftover sandwich or drink. I often consider trying to talk to one of them, to find out what happened.

Police, politicians, and the community express a wide variety of opinions on how to handle this devastating situation (they’re not, actually, they just spend time arguing about resolutions that never materialize). The constant harassment by police, who then dispose of the camping equipment, blankets, and other personal items, is a sore spot for the community and especially the homeless. While many of these less fortunate people have addiction and/or mental health issues, it’s not the same story for each person. It was because of this controversy that this occurred to me: Every life has a story and every story has a life.

As writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, for journalism or some other purpose, it is our duty to share the stories that bind us together as a race (humanity), a community (your area), and as predecessors to a new generation of writers/storytellers. We are responsible for being honest in our characterizations,  even with the creation and convincing representation of fictitious characters.

Go forth and listen to what people have to say. Get their stories. Then tell those stories in a way that moves people (emotionally, to take action, etc.). Don’t be afraid to tell the tough stories about misunderstood people (real or imagined). Use these stories to color your fiction work, whether they be shades of gray or bright pastels,  and paint each life/story as important because it is.

A friend once told me each person that crosses your path knows something you don’t.

What have you learned today that can be a part of a story?

 

Armchair Experts and Me

More thoughts on conscious writing:

What can I say, I’m on a roll….

I’m on LinkedIn and so are a lot of other people. A LOT. Probably explains why the few groups I joined  seem to be brimming with what I call “armchair experts” (any more than that seems a waste of time and TMI for me). Don’t misunderstand, some (perhaps many, I haven’t taken a poll) are successful with their work. But many (or perhaps some, I still haven’t taken a poll) are not – but think they should be, based on their expertise. (And why haven’t I heard of these experts?)

One of the groups  – Book Marketing – sends me a weekly digest of (too many) topics being discussed. I’m amazed (and often overwhelmed) by the varying opinions (remember, we’re all experts on our opinions) on how to market one’s work, publish to the masses, find that secret to getting the world to recognize our work, etc. Sometimes the advice seems ridiculous, sometimes it helps. Mostly you have to “read and weed” through the junk to find the proverbial needle in the haystack that will help advance your writing/work. 

One of my top pet peeves is (and has always been) people who talk like they know when they don’t. I refer to them as “armchair experts (AE).” Here in the U.S., the number of AEs appears to have grown exponentially with the advent of social media sites. Or is it my overactive imagination, mixed with a pinch of cynicism and a dash of arrogance? With so many of these AEs online, it seems they have solutions to my problems – both personal and professional. In my (expert) opinion, there is a lot of preaching about what one “should do” but how many are asking “Do you want my advice?” in the first place?  I’m reminded of a poem of sorts I have stashed away somewhere in storage, on the definition of a friend, and this is one piece from it: a true friend is someone who does not give advice without your request.

That’s called preaching.

One definition of preaching (as a verb and in secular text) is “to do this in an obtrusive or tedious way.” So i looked up obtrusive (an adjective, for context): “having or showing a disposition to obtrude, as by imposing oneself or one’s opinions on others.” (I added all the italics.) How many people start their sentences (verbal or written) with some form of “you should…”? The moment I hear that sentence, the tone in the voice, and watch the body language, I think – uh, oh, here it comes. The preach. The “I-know-just-what-you-need-though-you-didn’t-ask-me” monologue. No faster way to get me to leave the table, the room, or the website/blog. If you haven’t taken the time to ask (then truly listen), then you don’t know what I need (or want). You can’t assume I want to hear what you have to say, no matter how wise or beneficial your words may be. Let me first ask.

It’s rather like a famous diet (yes, more conscious eating metaphors) – The Paleo Diet, The Virgin Diet, The South Beach Diet, and on, and on… As with these famous “diets,” some of us will succeed in following the diet, others will not. And some will find the courage to take our own roads with our writing and learn the accompanying lessons, since it’s about the journey, not the destination, after all.

Any thoughts? (Yes, I’m asking…hee hee)

Conscious Writing as Important as Conscious Eating

Conscious Writing – the must-have recipe for success

On the Fan page for my nutrition book, I posted a blog on conscious eating. In writing that blog, an idea formed in my mind that we, as writers, must also write consciously. Not that we’re sleeping while we write, mind you; it’s more about being present, relevant, and aware of our work in quality and quantity. We’re all so busy racing to Twitter, to post to Pinterest, Google+ and too many other online venues to get our work noticed that we each lose something along the way. Much of our vocabulary has changed to a texting-style spelling (you, too is now u2, and so on) to save time and in the process, some have lost the ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly. Hence the concept of ‘conscious writing.’

A food recipe lists the ingredients, the quantity of each ingredient, and how many people it will serve. Conscious writing is no different. Your main topic is the recipe and each point you make to support your topic is one of the ingredients. Once all the points are covered, you have a recipe for a complete article/book/blog. As for how many people it will serve, that will depend on your ability to market your writing – be it a blog, a book, etc. Also, the quality of the recipe/story needs to be relevant and interesting. Don’t forget about good grammar and spelling (as they too, have all but disappeared from many a blog/article) – use spell check and thesaurus religiously to weed out homonyms and incomplete or run-on sentences. (In other words, get out of the habit of writing as you speak.)

In a recent blog on Puttylike, a website for self-described “multipotentialites,” I read an article (several times already today) titled, “I saw it as the one defining principle of my life that kept me from achieving greatness.” It’s a must-read for anyone out there who’s not sure where they fit in the bigger scheme of things, especially in the world of writing.

That being said, I’d like to add my opinion (remember, I’m an expert on it) that the more varied a life we live, the more interesting our writing will be, since we have a wider range of subject matter from which to choose. Unlike all those so-called experts who spend their adult lives specializing in only ONE area of interest and are unable to see how their expertise is connected to many other areas, our recipes/stories are both unique and relevant.

And hopefully conscious.

Conscious Marketing

And it dawned on me that marketing, advertising and PR are a part of that recipe, the conscious writing process. How can I give my work to the world if I don’t know how to package it? What are the ingredients (a dash of marketing, a sprinkle of advertising, and two tablespoons of PR) that make up a good dish/story? It’s different for each of us. Every now and then, someone shares a few unique approaches/recipes for success. In her blog, Build Book Buzz, Sandra Beckwith shares with her readers a wonderful little success story about how one woman came up with some different ways to sell herself and her book. You can read about her unique approaches here.

I met with a friend on Tuesday to brainstorm and he told me about a friend of his who wanted to get her book into Barnes and Noble. So what did she do? Did she take the traditional route of hawking her wares to the book buyers? Not even close. She simply walked into a local B&N store and left a copy of her book on a shelf. Then, when someone went to buy the book, they couldn’t because it wasn’t in the system. The clerk had to add the book to the system and they had to buy copies, since there was a demand.

Talk about conscious marketing!

The Write Stuff

With the explosion of freelancing sites like Fiverr, Freelancer, ODesk and too many others to name here, writing for other people has become prolific, a phenomenon even. I (and I’m sure you, too) struggle to stand out among the gazillion freelance writers now available at our fingertips. The quality of said writing, however, has reduced drastically in the rush for people around the globe to become qualified, paid writers with access to the world. You can check a multitude of websites and you will find more grammatical errors  than you can shake a stick at, including articles on the venerated Associated Press site. Not to mention the poor English skills (reading, writing, and speaking), an issue not uncommon right here in the U.S.

My biggest pet peeve in this writing explosion is overuse of the word “thing.”In one AP article I read some years ago, I counted sixty-four uses of the word in ONE article. That’s discouraging, since AP is reputed to have excellent, intelligent journalists on staff. In a Constitutional Law class I took for my Criminal Justice program, our professor (then Democratic Speaker of the House or something like that) basically outlawed the use of this ubiquitous noun. He told us it represented an inability to properly express ourselves. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to use the word as little as possible. Instead, I opt to restructure my sentences with stronger noun-verb connections to better illuminate my messages.

So I ask again, how do I (you) make my (your) work stand out? For one, by sticking to my (your) principles. I refuse to dumb myself down to appease the masses. My fiction novel, Rescue on White Thunder, was once referred to as parochial (by a friend, if you can believe it). My immediate response to her was that since the literacy level in the U.S. is at the 6th grade level, my book had a wider target market. (snicker snicker)

I’m bombarded by LinkedIn discussions (via emails from my LinkedIn groups) by many so-called experts in book marketing/sales. Yet I’ve not heard of any of these people (not that I know many to begin with), and I certainly have not heard of any of their books. Everyone’s an expert these days (more like a marketing tool than an actual accomplishment, I believe). A professor in medical school (a different degree program) once jokingly told our class that he’s an expert – but only in his opinion. It was then I realized ALL experts are just that – someone who is accomplished in his/her field and publicly shares their interpretation of the information.  That’s it. You can pick any field, anywhere on the planet, and you won’t find a hoard of experts who will all agree to the same information. It’s all in the interpretation of data. Which takes me back to my original issue of being recognized for my work. At this point, all I can do is continue to write and publish my books and stick to my principles. That gets my name out there in various circles, since each book (so far) has been in a different genre. That’s the “write stuff” for me.