The Obligation of Words (and the Symbolism of Typewriters)

So often I feel like writing is a waste of time for me. I do it every day, sometimes very late at night when I can’t sleep or early in the morning when everyone is still in bed. Most days when I sit to write, it feels like an obligation, like something I am required to do—like homework when I was in school. To who am I obligated? To the readers? To the fictional voices in my head who love my work? To the characters, themselves, who wish to have their stories told? To myself?

Maybe it is none of those things. Maybe I am obligated to the words, or to nothing at all. Still, writing often feels like an obligation for me. And I don’t know why.

392550_412747505422764_855367895_nWith that obligation comes the feeling that I am an ancient typewriter, one that is missing all the vowel keys, and with every word I type, I have to go in and hand write in all the missing A’s, E’s, I’s, O’s, and U’s (and sometimes Y’s—let’s not forget the Y’s). The feeling is the keys are sticking and each time the type bar goes up, it does so slower than it should and it strikes the platen weakly, leaving only a faint gray letter on the paper.

It is during those times that writing can be a struggle. The words don’t come out right. The sentences sound off or awkward or just plain weird. That is when the same word gets used over and over and when an hour can pass with only 32 words having been written—do the math, that is one word for almost every two minutes. Though it is a struggle, I continue to write on. After all, bad writing is better than no writing (because, you know, at least I’m writing).

Yes, that is the obligation speaking. Any writing is better than no writing, even if the words I pen are mere shadows of stories I’ve written in the past.

Still, I don’t know what the obligation is or where it came from or why I feel so strongly about it.

Here is a truth as I know it: If I’m not writing, I feel like I am wasting my time. It is a damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation. Again, that obligation to put words to paper or on the screen comes heavily into play. It’s a constant battle of what I should be doing other than writing, and what I should be writing. Here is an example to illustrate things a little better:

I have several books written, but they need to be edited. Editing is not writing. It is part of the process of putting a book out, but it is not the actual act of writing. It needs to be done, but when I am editing, the voices in my head are yelling at me, YOU SHOULD BE WRITING! Unfortunately for me, when the voices start bickering, I can’t cover my ears and walk away. It’s impossible to get away from yourself and what is in your head.

But then when I am writing, some of the other voices (and in many cases, the same ones who bickered at me for not writing) yell, YOU SHOULD BE EDITING THIS STORY! IT’S NOT GOING TO EDIT ITSELF!

AHHHHHHHH!!!!

You see, I can’t win at this, but there is this obligation, this overwhelming feeling that I need to write. And maybe that is the problem. The need to write is so strong, it is almost an obsession. Or maybe it is an obsession.

I’m ripe with things to say. 

The words rot and fall away.

—Blink 182

Stay Together for the Kids

rusty-typewriterThose are powerful lyrics to a powerful song. Those lyrics, quite often, are how I feel when I wake in the morning or before I go to bed. I have all these words spinning around up in my head. They are alive and hungry and waiting for me to send them out through my fingertips. If I don’t write them down they will die and decay and be lost to me forever. It’s like losing thousands of friends a day. Most of them might not be all that close and might just be acquaintances, but some of them … some of them are like extensions of my family, parts of me that I love and cherish and … dammit, I don’t want to lose them all!

At this point it is easy to say, ‘hey, you’re losing it, bro.’ Maybe so. It’s also easy to say, ‘you are your obligation.’ Again, maybe so. Probably so.

I honestly think the obligation is tied to fear. Fear is a horrible feeling. Fear of losing a loved one, a job or getting hurt by someone or killed or whatever. Maybe your fear is of picking up kitty cats. Hey, it could be a real thing. Don’t judge! The fear is something so simple, so easy to see and dismiss, but so real: what if I take a break from writing—a week, two tops—and when I return to it, I won’t be able to write?

Sounds crazy, I know, but I think that is the problem I have when it comes to writing. I have tried to take breaks from time to time. The longest such break in the last couple of years has been four days. At the end of that four days, I had the hardest time sitting down and putting two words together, much less two hundred or two thousand. My fingers itched to put anything on the screen. When that didn’t work, I pulled out a notepad and pen and dated the top of the page (as I always do), but nothing came out. Nothing came out.

I forced myself to write on a story I knew I would never finish, but I still wrote some words—all of about three hundred of them. They sucked. We’re talking being stuck in a sewage drain up to your chest and you just dropped your phone and you need to retrieve it in order to save yourself suckage. It took another three days before I felt really comfortable with the words I wrote. That was after just four days of not writing.

I thought my head would explode from the frustration. Obligation fueled by fear.

But there is another fear that goes with it. It is something I was concerned with when I stopped putting The Brown Bags out in print form: if readers don’t see my words, they lose interest in me. If I don’t market, readers lose interest in me. If I am not constantly out there, readers lose interest in me. It’s just reality. Out of sight, out of mind. Obligation is still there.

Then there is this happy little contradiction: sometimes my mind screams in all of its many voices, WHAT ARE YOU WRITING FOR WHEN NO ONE IS READING YOUR WORDS? 

Okay, I may be able to count on both hands and maybe one of someone else’s hands, how many fans I really have out there, but there are still folks reading my words. It is hard to know who the fans are or if folks are reading your work. I can honestly say that these (non-writer) folks follow my work regularly: Joan Macleod and Mary Cooper and Frank Knox and Greg Crump. I didn’t count my wife in there, but with her and possibly my brother-in-law, Stephen, that puts my straight up, legit fan base at six people. (If you are a straight up, legit fan and I am not aware of this, drop me a note in the comments, just don’t throw a brick at my head. The brick will break and I will not get the hint.)

But what if I never had work published? Would I still feel this way? Would I still feel the obligation to write. I think so, but maybe it would be directed somewhere else. When I was a kid I had a need to constantly play or practice at basketball. As I got older, I began to draw and I had the need to constantly put a pencil to paper. But that was different. I didn’t feel I absolutely had to do those things. I didn’t feel that if I didn’t shoot five hundred free throws in a day I would forget how to do it, or if I didn’t draw a picture every day I would forget how to. I didn’t feel obligated to do it. And when I thought about quitting those things, they didn’t scare me.

With the exception of the last paragraph, I feel a lot of writers—probably far more than will admit—have the same issues. They have that obligation.  They have that need to write, that fear of not only not being able to write, but of failure, driving them to do so every day. They have a desire to be read, to know they are being read, and to know that  what they are writing is reaching people. They stress over writing time and having enough work out there. They stress over editing and marketing and putting themselves out there. Many of them also feel it is a waste of time, and quite a few of those folks quit all together.

Writers rarely reach superstar celebrity status like rock stars or movie stars do. Sure, we have Stephen King and James Patterson and J.K. Rowling, but the majority of writers (and I’m talking a fictional percentage such as 98%) don’t ever reach half of that climb to the top of Mt. Success.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if writers were treated like rock stars when it comes to our fan base? We could release a single (short story) and then another later on, and by George, if you like them, go get the entire collection at your favorite brick and mortar store or online. You could tell your friends how awesome the writer is that you are reading. I find this interesting: we listen to songs over and over, trying to learn all the lyrics (including those pesky background lyrics that are so hard to decipher sometimes) and we try to learn how to sing them and even play them, again, over and over. But when it comes to a story, we read it once and put it down. ‘I know how the story is going to end now.’ Yes, this is true, but don’t we know how the song is going to end, too?

I apologize for going slightly off the beaten path here. The point to that last part is writers don’t often reach very high heights. That can be frustrating, as well.

Musicwriter June 5 2014 031Still, there is obligation. As real or in our heads as it may be, writers, authors, storytellers, struggle with this obligation. Whether it is to the readers or themselves or some other weird issue, it is there. It is immense pressure, especially when the writers don’t know anyone is reading their words, when they feel like a rundown typewriter in a field, the letters of each type bar fading, fading, faded.

I know only a handful of people will read this, and I’m okay with that. But for you handful, this is what you can do: turn your favorite authors into rock stars. Talk about them the way you would your favorite television show or actor/actress or band. Buy their books, but don’t stop there. Actually read them. Still, don’t stop there. Leave a book review on Amazon or on a blog or Goodreads (or all of them). Look them up, contact them and say, ‘hey, you did good.’ Find them on social media and follow them (but not in that stalkerish kind of way). Tell your friends about them with the same enthusiasm you have about Grey’s Anatomy, The Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones. And, no, that is not an obligation you have.

Now, to close this longer than usual post. For me, the obligation comes, not only from fear, but from chasing a dream. I’ve been chasing the rabbit down the hole of words for a lot longer than I realized until recently (I started writing in 1993). That’s a long time to see only a tiny bit of that dream become reality. Still, I’m obligated, and that rabbit hole seems to be getting smaller while the obligation seems to be getting larger.

Do you want to know why the typewriter is so beat up now? The typewriter is really symbolic. It is our hearts and our souls and our struggles. It is our doubts and confidence, our dreams and our reality, and they aren’t meant to go through rabbit holes.

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

Ball Four and Marketing

We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that. Reverse it. —Roald Dahl

So often on this blog, and really all of my social media, I forget to do one very important thing. Well, okay, maybe a couple of very important things, like update this blog more regularly. Bad A.J.. Bad. That’s not it, though. The one thing I forget to do on a regular basis is promote my own work (I’ll prove it in a minute).

Go ahead and nod in agreement.

I can blame it on not having enough time if I want to, but that would be a lie, or at least a partial one.

I have never been all that savvy at marketing. I don’t enjoy doing it. I tend to want to write and write and write. But there is so much more to this business than writing. That is something else I tend to forget: publishing is a business. If you have ever had your own business or worked at any job then you have been somewhere that has needed to market themselves in order to get more clients. Without marketing, there are no clients, and without clients, there is no business.

For writers, we want readers. You, Faithful Reader, the person with your eyes on these words as you, well, read them, you are our client. Without you, then every time we put out a book, it will languish in obscurity. Now for the proof:

INTERACTIVE QUESTION #1: How many of you have heard of Ball Four? This is a small collection of dark baseball stories. (Please, if you don’t mind, leave a comment below. I would love to know if you have heard of the collection.)

I don’t think many folks have heard of Ball Four. It has sold one book since its release on August 20th of 2016. One sale in almost four and a half months. Why is this? Simple: I haven’t marketed it. Sure, I’ve posted a few things on Facebook about it, but beyond that, nothing. So, why (or how) would you have heard about Ball Four? You wouldn’t have unless you have gone to my Amazon author page on a regular basis. The proof is in the pudding.

To go with having a more interactive blog, one of my goals this year is to promote my work more. As I stated earlier, I haven’t been all that great about it.

So, would you like to hear more about Ball Four? Sure you would:

ball-four-front-image-onlyThere’s nothing like the sound of a little league ball park. From the dugout chants to the ping of the bat on ball or the heavy smack of a glove making a catch, nothing quite compares to kids playing America’s pastime. It’s the true innocence of the game on display, it’s the real effort to win as a team. Its kids being kids.

Though America’s game is at its best in the Little Leagues, it is also at its most tragic. There’s nothing like losing when your heart is all in. There’s nothing like failure when the game is on the line. But what if winning and losing didn’t matter?

What if it’s a bully getting what he deserves? What if it’s an old ballpark where dreams were once lived out, but now no one plays on? What if it’s a bad pitch or a base not stolen? Or what if it’s just a run short of glory? What if it’s the memory of a game many years in the past? 

What if it’s lost innocence?

***

I truly believe baseball, at its core, is the most innocent of games for little kids. It was the one I fell in love with first as a child. It’s also the one that seems the most tragic to me. The stories (and poems—yes, I said poems) in Ball Four look at, not just the innocence of the game, but also the tragedy.

For the one book that was purchased there was a review left behind:

If you love baseball, little league or softball. The clink of a bat or the sound of cleats in the brick dirt then this is the book for you. Imagine if you will sitting in the bleachers, hearing the cheer of the crowd and the smell of popcorn in the air. The sound of the crack of a bat as a batter hits a home run. The excitement in the stands. If all of that makes your heart beat faster then you must read this book. The stories are amazing and so well told. This author knows what he is doing and does it well. I have loved baseball since I was little and when I got this book I read Dreams of a Poor Child first. It touched me so that I read it to my father who sat in my living room and bawled. We were both crying by the time I finished the story. Not because it was sad but because it brought back childhood memories for both of us. AJ Brown is a fantastic story teller. I can’t stress enough that you want to read this book and that you will absolutely love it and the rest of the books that Mr. Brown has written. Simply put….AWESOME!

***

Do I have your attention? I hope so. If you would like to purchase the digital version of Ball Four, head on over to Amazon and grab you a copy. If you would like the print version, you can contact me and I’ll get a copy to you. And please, leave a review—they do help.

But wait, I’m not going to leave you here with just the blurb and a review, but also a glimpse at one of the stories. I called this one The Boys of Yesteryear and this is the very beginning of it:

Gravel cracked and crumbled beneath the tires of the old beat up Chevy. The head lamps cut two beams through the darkness, shining bright on the red clay field in front of it. The car came to a shuddering stop, the engine skipping as it idled hard. Harvey shut the car off and opened the door. A cane touched ground, followed by a brown slippered foot. Harvey pushed himself out of the car, holding onto the door for leverage. He closed it. The sound of metal on metal was loud in the quiet night. He hobbled to the front of the vehicle

Even though he wore a belt, his jeans hung loose on his thin hips; his shoulders were like a hanger his shirt was draped over. Harvey slid a white cap out of his back pocket and placed it on his head, the “B” logo faded but still stitched in place. He took a deep breath—something that was hard for him to do these days—and let the crisp fall air fill his lungs.

The field still had the wood fence around it, though many of the slats had fallen away or rotted out through the years. Weeds grew in the grass of the outfield, some of it encroaching on the infield that still looked like a rough diamond. The two dugouts were mostly gone—a wooden wall still stood along one of them but not the other.

Harvey made his way to the trunk and opened it. Inside sat a bat, ball and glove, all aged and well used. He picked the baseball up and stared at it for a long while, taking in each name scrawled in black pen along its surface, some overlapping, some faded to near illegible. He set it in the glove and then lifted both out, followed by the bat, a wooden model, not one of those aluminum atrocities the kids used these days. Harvey placed the items in a bag and put it over one shoulder, just as he had done so many times as a kid. No, it wasn’t a baseball gear bag like they have today, but a bag his dad had made out of an old rifle sheathing. The brown leather was worn and cracked in some places and the stitching that held it together was frayed throughout. The zipper was broke, leaving the bag permanently open. The strap dad had attached to it had been fixed twice. Harvey thought he should have probably had it restitched before…

Leaving the trunk open, he walked back to the front of the car and reached into the passenger’s side window.

“Come on,” he said as he lifted the old glass milk jug from the car, the cork still in place. He held it close to him as he shuffled toward the field, his cane going out in front of him with each pained step. Prickles of fire ran up his left leg from ankle to hip. He winced, gritted his teeth and continued toward the dugout he had shared with eight others all those years ago …

***

Enticed yet? I hope so.

One more thing: my good friend, Justin Dunne, asked me one time what music should he listen to while reading a story of mine. I had to think about it for a moment or eight—I had never been asked that question before. Since then I have taken to hearing the music the stories should be read to. With that in mind I’m going to go with a couple of songs: Centerfield by John Fogerty and There Used To Be A Ballpark, by Frank Sinatra. Enjoy the stories. Enjoy the songs.

I leave you for now, Faithful Reader, and I hope you have a wonderful day. Please like, share and comment if you have a moment or two. Thank you, as always for reading.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

You can find me at these awesome places:

A.J. Brown Facebook Fan Club

A.J. Brown Facebook Author Page

A.J. Brown Amazon Author Page

A.J. Brown Storyteller Website

@ajbrown36 on Twitter

Wattpad

Email: ajbrown36@bellsouth.net

 

 

L is for Lazy…

This blog is brought to you by the letter L. Rebel LDoes that take you back? If you know the reference then you, sir or ma’am, might be awesome.

Sesame Street was one of my favorite shows when I was growing up. That and The Price Is Right could keep me entertained all morning. If you have seen the show, then you know that many of the skits on it had to do with that letter (or whatever the number of the day was). In this case we’ll make the number of the day 1. Why, because this is the first blog in a series.

Let me go ahead and apologize right now. Some folks might get upset with some of what I am going to say. If so, well…yeah, it is what it is. Here is something that is a truth about writers: we don’t tend to speak our minds completely when writing our blogs or tweeting or Facebooking. Some of us don’t want to offend readers or other writers, and others of us just don’t care who we offend and sitting in front of a monitor or mobile device makes it easy to be who we are not. Then there are those that have that happy medium, in which they can speak the truth in a manner so eloquent that even if it is offensive it doesn’t come across that way. This is a hard place to get to. Those are the ones who can balance out being real and honest, yet not offend people. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

So, let’s get to this.

L is for Lazy. There. It’s out there. Lazy is defined (as an adjective) as unwilling to work or use energy.

Lazy is often used for someone who just won’t do anything, even if it will benefit that person. Here is another truth: a lot of writers fall into this category. I did not say all, and I did not say a majority of writers. I said a lot of writers fall into this category. If you aren’t one of them, then none of this applies to you. However, if you are one of them, maybe you should listen up.

First, let me clarify something. I am not a well-known writer. I have my fans and I have my roadies and I have folks who may or may not like my work. They may be few (or they may be many, I don’t know), but they are loyal. Since I am not a King or a Koontz or a Patterson you may not want to listen to me. You may not think that what I have to say matters since I am not of the ranks of the masters. If that is the case, just go ahead and click the X in the upper right hand corner. I’ll wait.

Now that everyone is done clicking the X, I hope there are some of you still out there willing to hear me out.

So, you are a writer. Great. So, you have a computer hard drive full of stories. Great. So, you want people to read them. Great. Where are you getting the readers from? The reading pool is dwindling, so where are you getting them? More importantly, how are you getting them?

For the sake of argument, let’s say you get a book published by a publisher. In order to get to that stage, you’ve done a little bit of work already. You’ve written a story. Hopefully, you cleaned it up. You researched the market for a publisher. You submitted it. Then you waited (and that is hard to do). Your story got accepted (Yay You!). Edits were done. I hope you approved or disapproved (some, if warranted) them. Then you approved the cover art, right?

Screeeeek

Stop. Before the book was published did you promote it at all? Did your publisher promote it? Did you tell your friends and family? Did you contact the local newspaper and see if they would do a piece on it? Did you post it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and…and…and…all of the other social media platforms you could find? Did you try things like Thunderclap? Did you have an online book release party? Did you generate buzz for the book?

You didn’t? Okay. Well, that’s unfortunate, but hey, you can still salvage your sells.

Your book has been published now. How are you promoting it? One post on social media a week? Well, that’s a start. What about blogging? What about a website? What about Facebook groups and author take overs? What about trying to get on podcasts or have interviews done on local radio shows? How about trying the local paper again? What about the library? Many libraries like local authors. How about book conventions or festivals?

Have you done any of these? If not, you’re killing your book, your publisher and your career.

‘But it’s the publisher’s job.’

Well…yes and no. Yes, the publisher should promote and market your book. That is part of how they do business. They should have a marketing plan that goes beyond Facebook. They should also work with you, the author, on this marketing plan so that it fits both parties’ needs. So, yes, it is the publisher’s job.

It is your job as well. Here is why: it is your book and your book will only be as successful as you make it. First you have to write a good book, have it edited (not by yourself), and get it published. But then the work really begins. Promoting your own work is vital to the success of your book, and in turn, you. If you want to leave it up to the publisher to do all of the marketing, go right ahead. Unless your publisher has some big bucks there is a good chance the publisher can only reach so many.

This is where you come in. This is where you cannot be lazy. You have social media. Use it. Don’t spam people, but use social media to post pictures of the cover, links so people can purchase the book, write blogs, not just for you, but for other writers’ blogs. If you just do one thing a day it will help get your name out there and get the book out there.

You think I’m nuts, don’t you? Well, look at it this way: say you want a job, so you go out and you put in an application at one place and then you wait for that one place to call you and say, ‘hey, you’ve got the job.’ Unless your resume is phenomenal and you are great in that field, chances are you’re going to be waiting around for a long while. You either don’t really want a job or you are very confident in yourself. Most of the time it’s the former of the two.

In order to get a job, you’re not just going to put in one application. You’ll put in several and then you will follow up with the jobs that you applied to. Eventually the people at a place of employment is going to say, ‘hey, this person keeps contacting us, maybe they really do want a job.’ By constantly saying, ‘her I am,’ the employers eventually notice you. If you don’t do that, most of them don’t notice you.

If you don’t market your own books, how do you expect readers to find you? If you don’t say, ‘here I am’ how do you expect people to know you have written a book?

Look at it this way: The readers are your employers. You wanCookie monster Lt to get a job with them as their author of choice. You have to put in the application (that would be the story, and getting it published is the resume). Then you have to let them know you are seriously interested in the job. This requires you to do something besides write. This requires you to not sit on the sidelines while the publisher does all of the marketing. Because here are two truths: 1: Some publishers do not market their writers. It’s counterproductive, but it happens more than we think. 2: If the publisher has ten books out, then that publisher is marketing and promoting ten books. If you do the simple math that would be ten percent of their marketing time and promotions goes to your book. If you market your own work, one hundred percent of your time and promotions can go to your book.

But wait, there is more. Don’t just market your work. Get to know the authors under the publisher’s umbrella. Talk to them. Then, once you know each other, promote their work as well. In return, hopefully, they will promote your work. This not only helps you, but it helps other authors and the publisher. The more you, as the author, promote your own work (and others) the better chance you have of getting further along in this business.

But…but…but…that’s a lot of work!

Well, yeah. And this is where L is for Lazy comes into play. You see, so many writers complain about why they aren’t doing well, why their books aren’t selling. What are the other folks doing that I am not? You know, things like that. If you rely solely on the publisher to market you, then you are not doing your share of the work. The publisher can only do so much. You, the writer, have to take control of your work. If you want it to go somewhere you have to grab the bull by the horns and make it go the way you want it to. That isn’t going to happen without saying, ‘hey, here I am. Come read my work.’

This is not a business for lazy folks. It’s a business for hard working people. The lazy need not apply. If you are lazy and you have the mindset of ‘I’m the author, let the publisher and everyone else promote me,’ then please, stop. You’re just hurting yourself and no one really wants to hear the complaining when things don’t go your way.

One more truth before I go: Do you like when someone waste your time? Do you like when you feel like you could have done something better with the time you lost because of someone else? It’s somewhat infuriating, isn’t it? Well, if someone believes in you enough to publish your book and market it, and you do nothing, then you are wasting their time. You are wasting their efforts. And no one likes their time and efforts to be wasted. No one. Not me. Not you. Not the publisher. Not the readers.

I, personally, do not like lazy people. It’s probably my biggest pet peeve. I can’t stomach it. At all. Part of that is because the lazy folks I know tend to blame everyone else for nothing going right for them, when all they had to do was help themselves and use a little bit of energy and things would have gone in a different way.

L is for Lazy. I beg you, if you are of the mindset that you are a writer and not a marketer, please, for your own sake, change that. If you don’t, you will find yourself wondering, ‘why is no one buying my book?’ And you might even blame someone else for this. It’s like being blind to something important—you just won’t see the truth.

I hope some of you stuck around until the end. And if so, I will say what I always say: until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

 

 

 

It Takes Teamwork

Almost every job I’ve ever had has ended in some sort of leadership role.  The role may not be a managerial type, but there is always some sort of leadership responsibility taken on.  This happens whether I want it to or not.  Most of the time this happens without much discussion.  It just happens.

Sometimes these roles require a bit of a ra ra ra mentality, and sometimes a bit of tough love, though I’m not sure it’s love being doled out.  Sometimes it requires a kid gloves type of mentality, where you just have to be gentle with someone (like it or not).  It’s easy to say, but it’s difficult to do.

Most of the times these leadership roles take on a form of team building, whether it’s actually finding the right people for the team, or building the people up that are already on it.  It’s this team building that I want to focus on today.

I have had some great teams, but one in particular makes me proud.  There were four members on this team, including myself.  Two of them were easy to train and easy to get on board when we came together.  The third one was a bit of work.  He had come into the team later than the others, but he came in with experience, having done this particular job for eight years somewhere else.  Minimal training was needed, or so I was told.

Before we go on, let’s give this team member a name.  I will call him Z from here on.

Z didn’t buy into our philosophy of teamwork and stepping up when other team members needed help.  He didn’t buy into our communications system.  He rarely asked for help.

Still, he was productive and did his job.  Minimal training, remember?

The first few months went well.  Then things began happening that Z didn’t tell me about.  Then I started hearing whispers from our customer base.  I investigated into this and found a few things I didn’t like.  But before I could say anything about what I had found out, the bosses called me in for a meeting.

‘We have a problem.’

This is not what you want to hear to start a meeting.

Turned out Z had some issues, and a few of them could have cost him his job.  I set out to keep that from happening and worked with Z, retraining him on things I thought he already knew and understood.  Minimal training?  There is no such thing.

Fortunately, Z kept his job and became a very reliable team member who learned to ask questions and ask for help when he didn’t understand something.

Writing is kind of the same.

Yeah, I knew I would get a few crinkled noses and confused expressions on that one.  Let me see if I can explain this the way I see it in my head.

Writing is all about world building, character building, plot and resolution.  There are so many ingredients that go into telling a good, readable story, that if one ingredient is off, then so is the entire story.  It’s kind of like one team member not doing his/her job.  Yeah, the whole team suffers.

To be a successful team at anything, you need all of the team members on board with the game plan.  If you have four team members and one of them isn’t on the same page as the other three, then it will be harder for the team as a whole to succeed.  For example:  In football if the quarterback and receiver aren’t on the same page as far as the play they are going to run, then the quarterback could end up throwing the ball to a spot the receiver isn’t at.  This could lead to an incompletion (not so bad) or an interception of the pass (very bad).  That means they didn’t communicate well enough to be on the same page, to know the same play and get the outcome they wanted.

Got that?

Good.  Now, let me relate this back to writing.

In order to be a good writer, you have to know, first of all, how to put a sentence together.  Let’s call that Sentence Structure.  Then you need to also have a sense of Grammar.  You need to know a lot of words.  We’ll call this Vocabulary.  These are three key team members to the act of writing.  If you don’t know these three things, writing a story that is readable is pretty much impossible.  These three team members have to work together to tell the story.  If one of them is off, then so is the story.

But, wait.  Vocabulary has its own team of members.  Synonyms, Pronouns, Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs, Adjectives, Antonyms, Conjunctions and so many others.  They are all members of the Vocabulary Team, and they don’t always get along.  Especially when choosing what type of word to use, such as Passive as opposed to Active words.  The use of the wrong team member when putting together a sentence will make the entire sentence (or team) weaker.

There’s other members you need on your team:

Descriptions

Dialogue

Character

Plot

Resolution

Emotions

Punctuation

Point of View

Tense

Conflict

Logic

Consistency

And a bunch of others.

You don’t need just any of these members.  You need the right ones for the right stories.  If you don’t have the right ones, then the story will suffer.  You see?  The wrong words at the wrong time is like running the wrong play and having the quarterback throw an interception.

This is where the writer has to do a little training.

I used to suck at dialogue.  I didn’t quite grasp the concept that dialogue needed to further a story along, not just be there.  Dialogue that is just ‘there’ is like a loiterer just standing around.  Neither one of them do much at all, and they are both kind of a hindrance.  Bad dialogue is the couch potato of writing.  It just sits there and eats up precious words and space while ruining the story it appears in.

One day someone told something quite profound, and I have held tight to it ever since.  I was told that dialogue is the oxygen of a story.  Without oxygen, you will die.  Bad dialogue is like carbon monoxide–it’s a killer.  However, good dialogue breathes life into the lungs of a story, allowing it to live and to have a purpose; to further along the story.

After hearing this I stopped writing stories for a while.  Instead, I wrote scenes using only dialogue.  I wanted to see if someone could tell what was going on by reading dialogue alone.  At first, I couldn’t even tell what was going on in the scenes I wrote.  Then, slowly, I began to see an improvement.  I began understanding that if a piece of dialogue doesn’t make sense to me, the writer, then it’s not going to make sense to you, the reader.

I taught myself how to write better dialogue by listening to people talk.  I essentially trained my Dialogue to be good.  I trained that particular team member to do his job, and do it well.  It was a lot of work, but it paid off.  Now, I write dialogue well.  Do I do it great every single time?  No.  Nobody does.  But when I go back and read what I’ve written, I can spot the bad Dialogue and fix it.

There are areas of writing I still struggle with.  Some words still throw me off and I have to stop and think about which word I really want to use.  Sometimes I struggle with a description or being too wordy or not wordy enough (yes, it is possible).  But when that happens, I stop and create a ‘lesson’ for myself.  I will write something in several different ways to see how each one sounds.  Sometimes that requires rewriting entire passages just to change one sentence.  It is often not easy, but when a breakthrough happens and I realize what I am doing wrong, it is always worth the extra time spent.

Writing is not always easy.  Many times it can kick your butt.  However, if you are writing and learning, then you are going to get better.  If you struggle with an area of writing, then don’t just brush it off.  It will affect every other area of writing that you may or may not be good at.  It’s like a slack team mate.  Address it, work on it, learn from it, and then move on to the next issue.

I’m currently working on an area of my writing that I have loathed ever since trying to make a name for myself in this business:  marketing.  Yes, marketing is an area of writing that we must deal with.  It may not have anything to do with the actual writing, but it has everything to do with people buying the work.  I hate doing it, and I am not good at it.  But I’m working on it.  I have been for the last year.  I’ve developed a little bit of a following, but I have a long way to go.  I’m still trying to get people interested in my writing.  This, probably more so than anything else, will probably take me the longest to learn and to incorporate into my team.  Right now Marketing is not such a good team mate, and it isn’t doing its job all that well.  But hopefully, I can train it (and myself) to do better, to think of all the other team mates who put in the time and energy to do their parts right, and it will hop on the bandwagon.

I know this blog is a little odd, but I hope you see the similarities I tried to make for you (and me).

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…

A Reality Check and A New Plan

Hmmm…

Writers. We get stars in our eyes from time to time. We see what others are doing and we think, ‘hey, why can’t I do that?’ or ‘hey, why can’t I have that type of success?’

I don’t think that applies only to writers, but people in general. However, for writers, this business is tough and it’s easy to believe that if someone else can do it, why can’t we? Sure, it has become easier to get published, with the Internet and E-books and Web-Zines. The process is so much simpler than what it was even ten years ago. We don’t need big publishers or editors to tell us whether we’re good enough or whether readers will like our work. We can do it ourselves with self publishing now.

Readers have access to all sorts of books, just by turning on their computer and browsing from the comforts of their own homes. If they have an e-reader, then they can browse pretty much anywhere there is a wireless connection. Readers don’t even have to read anymore. They can listen to audio books while driving or working out or just sitting on their couch with their eyes closed.

Yes, the world of publishing has changed. Those changes are good and bad, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

Just for the record, I’m in a relatively good mood. I’ve been listening to Third Day all morning and I’ve been developing a plan for a new e-book collection.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me back up.

Last night, I was a little down. I’m not going to lie. I was down because the sells of my e-book collection, Along the Splintered Path weren’t all that great for the first quarter. The free download period was great–1400 downloads in that five day period. The sells, not so great. The negative to this is the sells were, as I’ve mentioned twice and this will be the third time, not what I thought they would be. But there are at least 1400 people who now have Along the Splintered Path on their Kindle or computer. That’s a positive in my… err… book. No pun intended.

The way I see it (and believe me, I struggled yesterday seeing it this way) is that the e-book has the potential to garner at least 1400 new readers. And I’ve always said I want readers. Sells would be nice, but without readers, you don’t end up with sells.

It’s a pretty simple equation really: Book + Readers = Sells.

Before I go any further, I would like to thank those people who bought Along the Splintered Path. I would also like to thank those folks who downloaded it during the free promotional week. It’s not lost on me that over 1400 people thought enough of my book, to purchase or download it. Thank you. Sincerely, from the top of my heart.

[[Side Note: I’ve never understood the whole bottom of my heart thing. I would think the most gratitude and love would come from the top of the heart. What’s left over was at the bottom, kind of like backwash in a cup. Yeah, yucky. I know. End Side Note]]

Here’s the real problem: I’m relatively unknown. Very few folks know about me and if that’s the case, then the readers aren’t going to be there and if those readers aren’t there, then neither are the sells.

1 Book + 0 Readers = 0 Sells

So, being down a little, I talked to Tracie McBride (a wonderful writer and really nice gal). We chatted about the business and she stated something I had thought and even read a few times at various web sites and forums: If you have a book out and people like it, then they might look for other things you’ve put out. That’s not how she said it, but I can’t remember it word for word. What it boils down to is if you want to try and get your name out there, then one e-book isn’t going to necessarily do it for you. You have to have a slew of things out there, places where readers can find your work.

You know, she’s right.

When you’re a virtual unknown, even in today’s world of e-books, you have to make your mark and for genre writers, such as myself, you have to really put yourself out there.

So…

Today I have begun the process of putting out a new book.

What? For real and for true?

Absolutely.

But, A.J., your sells haven’t been all that great.

Yes, you are correct. However, as a writer, I have to develop a fan base, no matter how small or large it is. If one reader out there likes my work and wants more of it, then I am obligated to that one reader. I hope it’s more than one, but if it’s not, then I want to entertain that individual.

I’ve said before that I wish to put out a collection titled, Southern Bones, and starting today I will be perusing my stories, both published and unpublished to find between eight and ten pieces to put together in an e-book.

I’ve already talked to a very talented artist about creating the cover. Just watching the way his eyes seemed to dazzle when I told him what I wanted made the blood flow a little faster. It got me excited, the way a new book by my favorite author does. Or the upcoming Lord of the Rings LEGOs.

There are a couple of other things up my sleeve, which is funny, since I rarely ever where long sleeves. But I’ll save those for when Southern Bones is closer to being released.

For the record, the stories that have been previously published that end up in Southern Bones will be reworked and probably overhauled before appearing in the e-book. In some cases, that complete rewriting will lead to much better stories.

Stay tuned. More updates as I go through the process of selecting stories and putting the collection together.

For now, I’m going to remind folks about Along the Splintered Path. This three story e-collection was released in January by Dark Continents Publishing and can be found at Amazon here.

Pick up a copy, give it a read. If you have, please leave a review. It is much appreciated by me and all the voices in my head, including Herbie.

Right now there are no stars in my eyes. Only reality. There are things I want to accomplish in this business. In order to do so I have to think reasonably and I have to get more work out there. I’ve always told folks, the only way to get better at something is to work at it. The same goes with sells of anything. If you want it to do well, you have to put it out there.

That’s part of the plan, at least for now.

Until we meet again, my friends…

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The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions… Errr Okay…

We’ve all heard the phrase, The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I would like to refute that, or maybe add to it. Maybe it should read something like: The road to Hell is paved with the greatest of marketing intentions.

I’m no marketer (huh, that sounds like I should be holding a sword in my hand and wearing one of those funny little feathered caps and riding along two other people with swords and caps just like mine), but there have been some pretty cheesy ads out there and some even cheesier promo ideas from big companies that have blundered and bumbled their way out into the world. I’m not going into the various bad ones, but let me mention a few of the good ones:

Where’s the beef?

Mayhem

Any Doritos commercial

And the Darth Vader Volkswagon commercial

The last one of those is my favorite.

Those are good marketing ideas. People have talked about those ads or even emulated them in some way or other. I know whenI saw the VW ad with the kid as Darth Vader it immediately reminded me of my son, who believes he has the Force flowing through his veins.

But, how does that translate to the writing world? After all, us little guys don’t have a marketing team who is paid to think up all these neat little ads. It’s hard to promote your work if you are one of the small fish in the big ocean of the writing and publishing industry. There are millions of writers out there. No, that is not a validated number—just one I pulled out of thin air. However, if you are a writer then, yes, it feels like millions are trying to get the same slice of pie you want.

What are we to do? Short of purchasing ad space at various websites or in certain magazines, what is the fledgling writer to do (especially with no Big Six Marketing Machine backing them up)?

I know, we can shout it from the mountain tops and…

What? That won’t work?

Hmmm…

How about we go door to door and…

What? That won’t work either? They may think we’re religious zealots and shoot first and asks questions later?

Hmmm…

What about use various media platforms to posts our wares?

What’s that? You already do that? Oh, really?

I see.

But, how often do you do that?

A lot? What’s that, you say? Some folks don’t talk to you anymore because you pimped your book to them every chance you got?

Well, yeah, I understand that. Who wants a friend if all they are going to do is constantly asks you to buy something from them?

Chantel over at Word Blurb wrote about this very thing with her post, I’m no expert, but…

I agree, in part to what she says—a lot of writers spam various groups and forums about their publications, but they say very little, if anything else, outside of that. No, those aren’t necessarily Chantel’s words, but how I took them and the interpretation of what she wrote is up to each person who reads it.

When all you see is,

Hey, read my book.

Hey, can you purchase my book?

Hey, I have this book…

Hey, look at me. I have a book I want you to purchase.

Why would anyone wish to buy from you? Sure, readers find a lot of good books by seeing what folks are posting, but if that’s all they see from you, then you may as well be a robot to them. People want to know a little about the writer, not just about what they write.

There are people who know me that have said, ‘I can’t believe you could write something so… so… disturbing.’ Those people, for the most part, don’t know me very well. Either they haven’t taken the time to get to know me or I haven’t taken the time to let them get to know me. The onus is on both of us.

This isn’t really about getting to know me, though. This is about marketing and spamming—there is a fine line between one and the other.

Marketing is telling people you have a book out there and that you would appreciate them purchasing it.

But didn’t you just say that was spamming?

Let me finish.

Marketing is telling people you have a book out there and that you would appreciate them purchasing it and then talking to them about something else.

How are you doing today? How’s the weather where you live? Did you hear this cool song by Nine Inch Nails.

If you are using social media, especially Facebook, then you probably have something like this:

My book, Along the Splintered Path is out on Amazon. If you’re looking for a great read, then please pick it up. I greatly appreciate it.

Okay, that is marketing.

Now, follow it up with something else.

‘Today my daughter had five steals and two blocked shots in her basketball game. They won 58-14. Congratulations Chloe and GO MONARCHS!!’

But, wait, don’t just go ahead and throw something else up about your book. You want to avoid spamming, even on your own page—remember if the only thing your ‘friends’ see in your posts is look at me and buy my work, pretty soon they’re either going to ignore your posts, block you or do the dreaded ‘defriend’ you.

‘My son just ran into the wall on his skateboard—I now must patch up yet another hole.’

Keep going.

If you have a sports team and they are playing, consider posting something about them. “Come on Michigan, Beat Ohio State Today. GO BLUE!”

Post a video of one of your favorite bands. Or an entire play list worth of videos.

Share a few blogs you or others have written.

But. A.J., doesn’t that defeat the purpose of marketing?

My answer is simple: No. What it does is it makes you a real person to anyone within your social network (and quite possibly, some of those who don’t walk in the same circles).

I know the old adage for a marketer may be put yourself in every visible place possible—someone is bound to take notice. Saturate the markets and networks and people are going to buy what you’re selling. Eventually.

Can you picture me holding my head right now? Or maybe smacking it against the wall? You can saturate the social platforms all you want, but eventually people are going to stop paying attention if you are not saying something besides ‘buy me.’ They get sick of the spamming—kind of like with all the political ads we’re being forced to endure everywhere we look. It’s nauseating.

This doesn’t apply to the groups out there that are dedicated to writers posting information about their books. Those groups exist for a reason and without them a lot of writers (myself included) would have very few places to pimp their wares.

Chantel makes an interesting statement at the end of her blog:

If you want me to buy your book, try something other than the online barrage. Pique my interest, don’t drown it.

Honestly, I understand the reasoning behind constantly telling folks about your work—I have done the very same thing. If you don’t tell people then no one will buy your books. I get it. I understand. But making every single posts about your book is going to begin to annoy folks. There has to be other ways, right? Blog tours? Free give aways (if you have something to actually give away)? Interviews? Giving the reader a glimpse of your work to see if they want to purchase it? Book trailers? Bookmarks? Flyers? Newspaper ads? Magazine ads? A gimmick maybe—something to get people talking about you or your work.

I’m sure there are plenty out there who feel differently about this subject. That’s fine. To each their own, but what about piquing the readers’ interests? What about giving the reader a reason to want to buy your work? It could be just me, but I think Chantel is on to something. I think, as a writer, I’m about to try a few things a little differently. I don’t know if they will work, but I hope to pique the readers’ interest.

Wish me luck…

Until we meet again, my friends…

Pimping the Prostistories… Or Maybe Doing Some Marketing

Let me see if I can formulate my thoughts into actual words today: Marketing sucks… No, not folks who work in marketing, but having to market one’s self sucks rotten, stinky ostrich eggs.

Sadly, this is where being intelligent would play a big role in making things happen…

Back in April, I lamented about a marketing plan and how many of my writer friends either shot it down, wanted to change it or just wasn’t willing to participate for one reason or other: Have Something To Say Why Don’t Yah

Simplicity is often more intimidating than the things that we make harder than what they really are. The plan was simple. Possibly too simple. But, I get it. I really do. We, as writers, only have so much time to give of ourselves and many things that seem simple may not be. We need to focus on our work, our marketing, on getting our names out there. If we don’t, who will? We have to write blogs and update websites and post at writer forums and update the Facebook page and post our tweets on Twitter and we have to get in good with other writers, hopefully in good with some influential people in the process. Oh, let’s not forget we have to write the stories we’re trying to pimp out.

There’s an image for you:

A writer decked out in his green bell bottoms and purple button up shirt that has the top five buttons undone showing off the chest hairs, or cleavage if she’s a gal (or a man, for that matter). The writer wears gold around the neck, on the fingers and wrists and even in the mouth. A wide brimmed hat sits atop the head and dark sunglasses cover the eyes to keep folks from being able to read the expression in them. The writer struts down the street, possibly in a seedy section of town, heels clacking on concrete or black top or cobblestone. He reaches a corner, looks around to see who’s watching. From a shiny briefcase, he pulls out a stack of papers, separates them with clips and sets them by a lamppost, a bench, the entrance to an alleyway. The writer gives a nod of the head.

“Y’all get to work. I’ll be back in a little while to collect what’s mine.”

Of course, the papers just sit there because they are stories and stories can’t sell themselves by themselves. Right? They can’t strut up and down the street with nylons and mini skirts talking to folks, “Hey, big boy. Want something good to read? Come pick me up, sugar cakes and I’ll take you on an adventure you’ll never forget.”

Nope, they can’t do that.

Poor prostistories…

You know what’s going to happen? After a dozen or so times out in the world without bringing back an acceptance letter, some cash or at least a few promising leads, Pimp Writer just isn’t going to be happy and, well, prostistories get replaced easy enough.

If you think about it, marketing your short stories and novels is nothing like pimping out a prostitute. One’s legal. The other is not. Okay, maybe in some ways it is. Especially with the self publish (or indie, as it is referred to) route. We spend hours on end making sure the story is perfect and dressed up (formatted) just right. We have to make sure there is a cover that is appealing (you know, since that is the ‘face’ of the book). There needs to be a hook in the cover blurb that entices the reader to want to read more (do I really need to elaborate on that comparison?). There has to be a payoff in the end and hopefully there is a satisfied customer that keeps coming back for more. And maybe even a smoke when all is said and done.

I think I need a shower now.

This is the wondrous thing about having a creative mind: when I sit to write, anything can come out, as it did just now with the prostistories thing. The drawback is I often lose my train of thought. This was supposed to be about marketing and how I’m apparently doing it wrong.

My friend, Michelle Garren Flye, who I think is one of the best writers I have ever read, posted a piece up at her blog, BREATHE. It is titled, Sometimes Magic Happens and in it she speaks of how, for some authors, things just happened for them. Not just because they wrote a good story, but because they wrote something that sucked the readers in, held them tight and didn’t let go. Their stories were magical. Those readers had to tell someone and it went from there.

Michelle then asks: So how do I get it? Meaning, how does she create that magic? She goes on to answer her question and, in turn, spark another one:

I’ve only come up with one answer. Keep plugging away. Keep writing, and write what I love to write. One of these days, maybe somebody will read one of my books and find themselves so lost in it they can’t stop talking about it. Maybe they’ll tell their friends and maybe across the nation, somebody else will do the same. Maybe a lot of somebodies will find it in themselves to take that leap of faith and pick up one of my books, become lost in my world for a while.

That last part… yeah, that last part is important. Readers take leaps of faith when they read someone for the first or second or fifteenth time. They trust that we, the writers, will take them for a journey with our words. We have to deliver those goods in order to keep them coming back.

And guess what? Readers are a little more leery of purchasing from unknowns than they are well knowns. With good reason: how many times have you picked up a book by someone you didn’t know about and didn’t care much for it? Or maybe the story wasn’t edited properly and it was hard to get into. Maybe everything was one dimensional and there was no personal investment into the characters and the storyline. Maybe it was a rough draft and tossed up on a self publish site without so much as another read over. Sadly, that happens a lot in this business now as e-books and e-publishing has become the popular route to go.

There are some great unknowns out there, just waiting to be discovered. This is where marketing becomes daunting. Why? Well, asks most unknown writers and even some of the better known ones, who do you market to? Many of them will say, uhh… other writers. Yes, other writers. We market to each other in our writer forums and Facebook pages and Twitter tweets and whatever else is out there as far as social media is concerned. Sure, that’s great within the writing community, but don’t we want to reach folks other than writers? Don’t we want to reach the everyday reader who might be able to spread the word to one of their friends and then that friend does the same and so on?

Michelle also posted a link to an interview where the answer to the last question was as accurate as any statement I’ve heard in a while. The interview was with Molly Gaudry at the Luna Park website. The question was: As an author and publicist, what do you make of the evolving landscape of publishing in the digital era? What advice can you give writers today?

Her answer? It has never been easier to publish that book you always said you’d write. The hard part is finding an audience for it. The good news is that a personal blog and a Facebook account might be all you really need to market your book to targeted audiences. If you’ve got the time and energy—and determination—to do it yourself, there’s really no reason not to. So get to it! And good luck!

It has never been easier to publish a book or a short story collection. E-publishing has made sure of that. There is that audience thing again, that reader thing. It’s finding those readers that seems to be the difficult part. You can publish all the books or short stories you want, but if you don’t have anyone reading what you put out there, what good does it do? I guess that’s where the determination comes in. I guess that’s where pimping ones wares comes in. I guess that’s where I need to get better. That and a bunch of other stuff I haven’t figured out yet. Again, this is where intelligence would help. Damn my small brain.

I’m working on a new plan. I don’t know what it will be yet. I just know I’m a writer looking for readers. Maybe I should take an ad out in a bunch of newspapers. Married White Writer looking for Readers of All Ages to share adventures in words with. Short term readership welcome, long term readership preferred. Will write for readers…

Kind of cheesy, but I like it.

I need to go, but I’ll say this before I do: writing is the easy part. Marketing is where the real work is.
Let me go find those bell-bottoms. I have some prostistories that need pimping…

Have Something to Say, Why Don’t Yah…

Have something to say. Many ‘experts’ tell you that if you are going to write, have something to say.

They may have a point.

I always have something to say. I’m just never sure who to tell. My mind rarely slows down, much less stops so there are constant thoughts and musings and ideas popping up. The myriad of personalities inside my brain can’t always keep up. So, what do I do? I talk, make jokes about stuff and write. But, do I really say anything worth saying?

I must ponder…

Pondering…

Still pondering…

Yup… still pondering…

I even had to step away from the computer for a few minutes to ponder, finger on chin, squinting up at the ceiling. Sadly, I started counting the ceiling tiles in my office before I realized I’m supposed to be pondering if I really have anything worth saying.

I will say this: sometimes I have something worth saying. All four of you out there may actually hear it.

Okay, let’s stop for a second. Herbie, stop typing. I can’t think with all that tap tap tapping.

Let me explain something: I am notorious for being a thinker. Sometimes I fall too deep in the well and can’t get out without sorting through the BS roaming through the halls of that normally vacant part of my brain.

Recently, I thought of putting together a marketing group–which would essentially be a group of eight to ten committed individuals who would cross market each others’ works as they are published. I thought it was a good idea. I still do. However, a friend of mine brought up a good point: With all the cross marketing many folks would probably just get sick of it and avoid the individuals in question. He has a point. Though I’ve never thought of individuals putting out a lot of information for their wares as annoying, others might. It’s a drawback to a very simple marketing plan.

With this new kink thrown into the plan, I’ve been doing that thing I really need to stop doing: thinking. I don’t know about you, but that has really become a foul word in my dictionary.

Are you still with me? Wait. Hold on. I lost someone just now. We’re down to three folks reading this. I guess I’ve said a lot of nothing in the last four hundred words.

With all the ways to market your wares online I can see how an over-marketing campaign can both help and hurt your career. The problem is what is too much and what is too little? Maybe my plan was a little too much, even though it was very simple. On the flipside, how often do folks NOT say anything about their work and then wonder why no one is reading them?

Let me give you an example, one that I think speaks for itself:

I LOVE doing interviews, finding out about people I am interested in. No, not in a stalker sort of way, but in an ‘I hope this person is cool’ sort of way. When finding out they are indeed cool, I want to help them, want to let the world know about them, their books, short stories, art, music, whatever. Okay, that sounds stalkerish, but you get what I’m saying. I do the interview, post it up, spread the word on my Facebook page and a couple of places I frequent where I know it’s okay to post this sort of information.

However, some folks don’t repost it on their blogs, FB pages or websites, so sometimes the interviews don’t get read by that many people. For those that do repost links at various places, the reads are significantly higher. They help themselves by spreading the word about something they were involved in. In fact, the interviews that have the highest hits at Type AJ Negative are the ones that have reposted a link or information about the interview.

So, this makes me believe that if only two folks putting out the information generates more views than one person, how many views would be generated by six people? Or eight? I would think that it would be a win-win situation where all involved would get significant exposure in circles that they don’t frequent. This was the basis of my original plan.

Some sort of marketing has to happen in order to get someone–anyone–to view your work. To me, it makes sense. With the help of a handful of other folks, readers who wouldn’t normally see you will have the opportunity to read something you wrote. Simple.

To go with that, how much exposure is too much? I have friends that blog every single day, including on the weekends. This allows people to constantly go back to their blog/website and read fresh material on a daily basis. I think this is a good practice. Others do not. Sadly, I don’t have that many intelligent things to say, making me one of those who do not post regularly.

I presented my idea for the marketing group to some writer friends. Most of them had things to say, but none were willing to commit to it. A couple of them shot holes into the logic of the plan. Others who thought it would be a good idea wanted to change it, make it more elaborate, in turn, making it require more than a commitment from a small group. Interestingly enough, I am fine with that. I’m always willing to listen to the ideas, but in this case it’s not what I wanted. Selfish I know, but I didn’t want folks to be burdened by having to put a lot of effort into it, thus taking away from their own works and pursuits.

This made me think even more and I came to a conclusion. It’s the same thing I have often thought about folks with major addictions: if you’re not willing to help yourself, then no one else will help you either. If you’re not willing to market yourself, then why should anyone else do it for you?

Like so many other things in the writing/publishing business, the onus of everything has and will continue to fall back on the writer. We can control which way our careers go if we are willing participants in all facets of the game. That includes marketing ourselves, something I, admittedly, have a hard time doing. Not that it’s hard, but for me, it feels like bragging and I was raised NOT to brag about things. Is it really bragging, or is it trying to put your name out there? I think there is a difference.

I am a small fish in the rather large ocean that is the publishing world. I guess I can understand if others don’t really think my association with them is of any benefit to them. I could argue that all day long, but I won’t. I’ve figured out if I want to get anywhere, then I’m going to have to rely on the two brain cells I have and market the stories I put out there. I cringe at the thought of self promotion, but it is a must if I want to ever break out of my small world.

I will continue to help those who want to be helped. That includes doing interviews (if I approach someone for an interview, I honestly wish to know more about them, their process of writing and publishing. I’ve only turned one person down that has asked for an interview and I did that with good reason, which I won’t get into here).

At my former blog, The Odd Ramblings of AJ Brown, I posted little funny things that have happened with my kids or with life in general. Sometimes those posts would be serious. At the end of most of those posts I would put some bit of advertising for something of mine or of a friend. That formula seemed to work. When I created Type AJ Negative, I strayed from that and, for the most part, became a little too serious. I think I should go back to that tried and true formula, but ramp it up a bit; posts more often, which some would consider overkill. I’m not one of those people.

Let’s go back to that opening sentence. Have something to say. Do I have anything worth saying? Maybe I do after all. If I say too much, well, I apologize to those who feel that way. Like I said, I’m a little fish and I’m trying to keep from getting swallowed by the bigger ones. In order to do that, I have to open my mouth and shout from the hill tops–or at the very least, from the coral reef–in order to be heard. I encourage you to do the same…