I’m Not That Important

If you’re a writer, I want you to say something for me. You may not want to say it, but I want you to. Okay? Will you say it? I’m trusting you to do this for me. It is important.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Okay, say this:

“I am not important.”

How many of you saw that line and refused to say it? How many of you said, “I’m important” instead of those four words I asked you to say? 

So, let’s try this again.

Are you ready?

Go:

“I am not important.”

Come on. Really? There is a point to this. It’s not to make you feel lesser as a person. It’s about ego. 

I am a writer. I am a damn good writer. But I’m not important in the grand scheme of writing. 

You see, writing is only part of the equation. Being the writer, you are the vessel for words. You are the creator of sentences. You are the artist whose vision is the story. But you are not important. 

“If I’m not important, then who or what is?”

What’s important? Well, that’s simple. The story. 

Let me explain before everyone gets all bent out of shape with me.

47772c5da4e7eb8cd5204da5ae580bccYou can be the best writer in the history of writing, but if you can’t tell a good story, being a good writer means nothing. As a writer, you should take pride in penning a great story, but you have to be careful of making the story secondary to you. Yes, you wrote it. Yes, it’s great, but put that ego aside when talking about it. Because, well, it’s not about the writer, it’s about the story. But we make it about us, us, us. It’s like we’re all a bunch of Daffy Ducks running around going, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

“I wrote this book. I had this idea. I created these characters. I connected this dot to that one and this is the result. I am great. This book is mine, mine, mine! Buy my book.”

Many writers have massive egos and they make everything about themselves, not about the stories they write. Sure, we need them to write their stories, because without them, we don’t have those stories. But hearing an author talk about how great he or she is, is a major turnoff for me. 

You penned the next great novel, but while you were penning it, did you know it was the next great novel? Did you know it would sell so well it shot up the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller Lists? Did you have any clue someone might read it and want to turn it into a movie? Sure, you might have hoped for these things, but did you know the story was destined for greatness? I doubt it. 

Great writers don’t always write great stories. However, a great story can make a writer great overnight, even if that writer never puts out another story. A writer doesn’t make a story great, but a story sure can make a writer popular. 

I feel like, as authors, we get in the way far too often, and we make this business about us, about all the great words we have written. What we fail to do so often is talk about the actual story. No, I don’t mean we don’t talk about the book. We do that in every promotional meme or flyer or social media post we put out there. It’s a buy, buy, buy my book world and we talk about that—about buying the book—more than we ever talk about the actual story that is the book.

There is a difference between promoting your book and talking about the story. 

Promoting a book usually talks a little about the book in a manner to entice you to buy it. Counting The Days Summer VacationOn social media, it usually involves a meme of an image that is directly related to the story and usually a quote from the book or the synopsis from it. The image here is a promotional for My Summer Vacation by Jimmy Lambert. It comes complete with an image, a blurb from the book, the title and who it is by and a coming soon tag. It’s purely promotional and is not meant to be about the actual book, but about selling the book. It’s about catching your eye in hopes of you finding it appealing enough to, at least, make you think about the book, because if you’re thinking about it, the chance of you buying it increases. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will buy the book right away, but it is there, in your mind, even if deep within the recesses of it.  

Now, let me tell you about this story. I love the storyline that follows Jimmy Lambert from young kid with his entire summer in front of him, to a beaten and battered and broken child who survives a horrifying series of events. So many bad things happen to Jimmy, and I wasn’t really sure how he would bounce back from them. I mean, was it too much? Did these events do irreparable harm to him, both mentally and physically. I cringed in Chapter 18 when something happened out of desperation—something I don’t think I could ever do. This story, it has a touch of so many realistic elements, from bullying, to friendship, to the horrors of being wrongly accused of something, to being placed in a criminal youth facility, to revenge, to sorrow and guilt, to a touch of love and hope. It’s heart wrenching at points. 

When you consider Jimmy is twelve in this story, he’s not very big and he’s kind of a wimp, all the things that happen from beginning to end, I could only shake my head and think, ‘how is he going to survive this? Is he going to survive this?’

That’s talking about your story. It’s not selling it. It’s talking about it with a passion for people to know the story is emotionally charged. It’s not saying, hey, buy my book. It’s saying, hey, this is a great story, a story I love. The book is just how it is presented. And that’s really what a book is, isn’t it? A presentation in words. Kind of like a movie is a presentation in moving pictures, and a song is a presentation of music and words.

As a writer, you should want to tell people about your story. You know that story better than anyone else. You know the characters and the settings and all the events that take place within it better than anyone else. Why not talk about the story? By talking about the story, we show potential readers how passionate we are about the story. 

It’s not about selling. It’s about that passion the story brings us. It’s all about the story. Not the book. Not the writer. The story is what matters. The story is important. The writer may be important in one way, but in the end, it is always about the story. Always.

Now, can you say it with me?

“I’m not that important.”

Now add this: “But the story is.”

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

 

Don’t be a Word Whore, Just Don’t Do It

[[I am going to preface this post with this: The snark has been strong all day today. If you take offense to anything in here, well…I’m not going to apologize for it.]]

What’s a word whore you ask?

I need to give you a little back story. Not too long ago, three writers were discussing the written word, because sometimes that’s what writers do. In this case one of the writers, we will call her M, mentions how one of her stories was compared to another writer’s work.

I originally wrote the entire back story to this, but that would just bore you to drinking. What you need to know is this: M did not get upset that she was compared to another writer. Sometimes when that happens, the comparison is to a great writer and that can be a confidence booster. It can also swell the head like a balloon that needs popping. Get your needles out, folks. What she was upset about is who she was compared to. His name is not important, but I will call him Swane MacDrivelwriter.

Swane MacDrivelwriter is a word whore, and no one who wants to tell a good story wants to be a word whore.

That brings me back to your question, what is a word whore? It is someone who slaps words together with the sole intent of making a buck. They dress the words up to look pretty, but they mean nothing, and when you are done reading them, they will light up a cigarette and take your money. They don’t care about the reader (though they will wax poetic about how much they do). They care about the dollar they can make off of them. Word whores put out a ton of work, but very rarely do they edit or actually tell a story. They don’t look at themselves as story tellers, but authors who put out books that all readers should love (according to them). There is an inherent cockiness and entitlement to these people. They are the very bane of existence to anyone who actually tries to tell a good story. Word whores also brag, brag, brag about how many words they’ve pimped out, while swearing they need no help with anything. When they do get help from someone else, they don’t give credit to that person. Shame on you, Swane…

Before continuing on, let me state I have no problems with folks talking about their word counts. I talk about my word counts from time to time. It is a measurement of progress, and so often the very thing that keeps writers going. When I reach the ten thousand mark on any story, it just kind of takes off. What I don’t care much for are those folks who do the one up thing:

“I did three thousand words today?”

“Oh yeah? I did six thousand words just this morning.” Oh, Swane…

And good old Swane MacDrivelwriter is a master at selling his words for whatever buck he can make. That’s what makes it worse. He’s a word whore and a used word salesman. He is the reason why so many small presses and independent (or self published) writers have no chance in this business. Some readers are forgiving of his type, and even whisper that sympathetic southern term, ‘Bless his heart,’ after reading the slop he put out. Others are not so forgiving. They just spent money on his work. They just spent time reading it, and they feel like both were wasted. You know what happens then? They say, ‘I’m done with the small presses and the indie writers—they all suck.’

 

Oh the black eye you give us.

Don’t be a word whore. Don’t be a Swane MacDrivelwriter. The best thing you can do for you, your work and the readers is to actually stop and think about the words you use. Does this word work here or is it just here to complete the sentence? Does this sentence convey the point I want to make or am I just padding my word count with tissues in bras or socks in pants? Am I actually telling a story or am I just putting words one after the other in a relentless assault on the readers to try and make a dollar? Am I doing the very best that I can or am I putting out the same thing time and time again, kind of like how certain pop singers’ songs all sound the same, but have different titles to fool you into believing it is a new tune.

Are you doing what everyone else is doing because the formula sells books (even if they are bad books)? Are you just writing so you can say you wrote something?

Stop. Be original. Write words that matter. Write words that mean something. Write words that not only the reader can feel, but that you can feel. Write words with emotions and don’t just write to write.

Don’t be in a hurry to get that next book out. Try your hardest to make it your best. Don’t be a Swane MacDrivelwriter. Don’t be a word whore and just write for money. Sure, you might make a buck, but there’s no integrity in that. Yes, I used the word integrity. As a writer, if you are not striving to put out your best work each and every time, but just putting out for the dollar, well, there isn’t much integrity in what you’re doing. Take pride in the stories you tell. Take the time to tell them and to use the right words; words that have meaning and heart and impact. And keep your words off the street corners. Nothing good comes out of that.

Until we meet again, my friends…just don’t be a word whore…

C Is For Competition

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter C as in C is for Competition.

I’m all for competition. I am very competitive, to say the least. I hate losing at anything. You won’t see me let anyone win at something—if I lose, then my opponent beat me. It wasn’t given to him or her. They won. That is important for people to understand. I am not going to let you win.

Having said that, I want you to understand something: if you are a writer, you are not my competition. Let me repeat it just in case you missed it: If you are a writer, you are NOT my competition. If you think I am your competition, then just know your opponent isn’t playing.

Let me explain as briefly as I can: The reader pool is dwindling every day. I actually had someone come to the library where a convention was taking place and say, “I don’t read much.” Seriously? At an author meet and greet. Okay, that is the first problem writers face. The second one is that if a reader doesn’t read in your genre, then that pool shrinks even more. A lot of times this makes writers a little antsy. Why? It’s hard to get readers in a world where there are fewer and fewer of them.

Now, for the third problem: I have noticed over the last few years that some writers view other writers as their competition. It’s as if they say, “If that guy or gal has a nice following, what can I do to get that same following, and if I can’t get that following, how can I take some of it?” They see the dwindling reader pool and think I need to get every one of the readers and no one else can have any. And if they can’t get the reader? Well, they start playing mean.

I’ve seen writers become friends with other writers and then stab them in the back to get ahead, or use a well placed and intentionally misleading sentence on social media and then leave it for everyone else to get outraged over. Then come the flame wars where arguments escalate to personal attacks and downright childish behavior. I’ve seen writers get in good with groups, get what they need or want from them and then disappear from the group. I’ve seen people outright steal from others; their ideas, their titles, their actual words (and those folks, above all else, should be ashamed of themselves). I’ve seen memes directly attacking authors by name (and a good many of those memes are vile in their content).

The mindset is if I can make it look like I am the victim, then the readers will like me and not them. Or worse, if I can make it look like I am the victim, then the other writers will side with me and we can shame him or her out of the business. The less writers there are the better chance I have of getting more readers. That is a bad way to look at things.

It’s also called playing dirty. For a lack of a better term, it’s cheating. But sometimes you just need to cheat, right? Wrong. I’ve always found more satisfaction in doing things the right way, than by cheating your way into something. I have quit teams in sports over their willingness to cheat. I’m a firm believer in if you have to cheat to win, then you were never good enough to compete to start with.

Listen to me. I am not competing for anything in this business. I’m not competing with or against other writers. Period. I’m not competing for readers or for publishers. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus or try to screw anyone over. To me, it is not worth it. Like I said, I am competitive, but if I have to do something wrong to someone to get ahead, I would rather not get ahead. I’m also not going to glad hand people to get ahead. I want publishers to want my work because my work stands on its own, not because they are friends with me. With that said, I’m not in a competition with you. I will let my writing speak for itself.

I want readers. You do, as well. Why compete against each other? Instead, why not help each other? Why not share each other’s work on social media and with friends? Why not get to know the writers you are trying to compete against? You might be surprised; you might actually like your ‘competition.’

The bottom line is we all want the same thing: readers. Here’s something else you need to understand: readers can enjoy more than one person’s work. It’s true. A reader can like your work and mine. And guess what? If your work is better than mine, then the reader may like your work more, and that’s not about competition. That is about writing a good story. So why not let your work and your ethics speak for themselves instead of trying to one up or cheat someone who probably doesn’t know they are competing with you?

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

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.

 

 

 

The Privileged Writer

I read something recently that I’ve done a lot of thinking about. No, it wasn’t a story or anything in the newspaper. It was someone declaring that readers should feel privileged to read his work.

Hmmm…

I think he got it wrong. I think it’s the other way around. He should feel privileged that readers would want to read his work.

As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

This man made a comment that is so much like a lot of salespeople these days. [SIDE NOTE: Not all salespeople have the mentality I am about to speak of, but many do. END SIDE NOTE] There is a mentality with salespeople to, well, sale things. That’s what they do. I think we can all agree on that, right? Here’s where some of them are good and some of them are maybe not as good: Most sales people only care about the customer through the end of the sale. Once the sale is done, the customer is pretty much just a dollar sign. It’s business. Onto the next customer. Or better yet, onto the next dollar sign.

But wait, what if the customer has contracted the services of the salesperson for a period of time? Instead of an item, the salesperson provides a service and this service comes with a contract, thus a continual flow of money. However, what do most salespeople do when they have a contractual sale? They try to sale more than the customer needs. When a salesperson tries to sale the customer something they don’t need then it comes off as pushy or disrespectful. But some salespeople feel the customer should be happy to deal with them. Or, as the writer put it, the customer should feel privileged to be buying something from the salesperson.

Oh, please…

Here’s the problem: When a customer is nothing more than a dollar sign, the salesperson doesn’t care about them.

Keep that in mind.

I believe that everyone who provides a service to someone provides it to a customer. It doesn’t matter what the service is. If you are a mechanic, your customer is someone who needs his or her car fixed. If you are a banker, then your customer is someone who wants to take out a loan or open up a savings or checking account. If you are an attorney, your clients are your customers.

Here’s the thing about customers: if they are not happy there is a good chance they will move on to someone or something that will make them happy.

Let’s take this a step further. I have a different approach than most people do when it comes to work. If one of my co-workers comes up to me and says, ‘hey, can you help me with this?’ do you know what they become when I say ‘yes’? They become my customer. The moment I agree to do something for them, they become my customer. Yeah, that’s right. I treat my co-workers as my customers. Why not? In order for them to want to work with me—willingly, at that—I have to treat them with the same respect and courteousness I would a customer. Why? Because if they are happy with the service I provide them, then there is a better chance they will be willing to help me in the future.

You think I’m wrong? Think about it. At your job, who do you like to work with the most? Is it someone who helps you when they can or is it someone who treats you like dirt and acts like he or she is better than you? Come on. If you are honest, you want to work with people who are easy to work with and who will, in return, help you at some point.

Let’s flip this over.

Do you know what you are as a writer? You are a salesperson. You are trying to sale your work to the readers, who are your customers. But wait. There is more than just selling your work to the reader. You have to make sure the product is good to make them satisfied customers. Still, there is more. Once a reader has purchases your book, what do you do? Well, you make money, yeah. But, you also want to make sure that the book is an experience they won’t forget, that their interaction with you was a good experience. You want to give them a reason for coming back.

Wait, there is still more.

Once you get someone reading your work, how do you view them? Are they dollar signs? Do you say, ‘hey, I’m good and I’m going to raise my prices?’ Do you charge them for your autograph? Do you charge them to get in at book signings? Do you charge them for taking a photo with you?

The problem with some salespeople and some writers as well is simple: when the customer is just a dollar sign, you no longer care about them. How do you see your readers? Are they privileged to read your work, or are you privileged to have them? Do you care about them? If so, what do you do to show them that you care?

Furthermore, what do you do to get them in the first place? It’s like wooing a woman. You do all of these things to get her to notice you, but then once you have her, well those things slack off, and in many cases, they just stop all together. Then how do you show her that you care?

That’s the way it is with writers. We woo the reader into checking us out and sometimes we gain a fan or ten or a hundred (sadly, I don’t think I’ve reached that 100 mark yet). Then we don’t do much after that to keep them. Many writers don’t interact with their readers. And sometimes the ones that do, completely miss the mark.

What’s the mark, you ask?

It’s not about you, the writer, but them, the readers. The question is how much do you care about them and what do you do to show them that you care? Are you privileged to have them as readers or do you think it should be the other way around?

Just my thoughts, folks. Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…

 

 

 

 

 

Time… Please, Don’t Waste It

Recently I had to take my daughter to the doctor. The creeping crud got hold of her and it was time for her to either get the antibiotics (again) or the liquid gold, aka, the shot. While there, a parent of two children sat beside me in the lab waiting room. She made a comment that reminded me of a story I heard a couple years ago.

The comment: “I love this place. They are so fast and never keep you waiting. I wish doctors for adults were that way.”

Don’t we all?

This reminded me of the story of an attorney who went to see the doctor. He arrived on time, signed in and took a seat. And he waited. The time for his scheduled appointment came and went and kept on going. The office wasn’t particularly busy on that day, but still the attorney waited almost an hour before his name was called and he was taken back to the examination room, where he waited for another half an hour before the doctor came in to see him.

The attorney was not happy. Since he was at the doctor’s office in what was supposed to be a routine check-up, he was not at his office working for his clients, which meant he could not bill them. He lost an hour and a half worth of his time that he could have been making money.

The rest of the story is fairly simplistic. The attorney informed the doctor about his dissatisfaction, and then billed him for the hour and a half he sat in the waiting and exam rooms. The fact was clear in the attorney’s mind: his time was valuable and the doctor didn’t respect it.

Not that it matters for the story, but the doctor ended up paying the bill.

Let’s take a step back, zoom in with our motion picture hands to our faces.

What is the point to the story? Ah, that’s right, that everyone’s time is valuable to them.

Your time is important to you. How you spend your time is important to you. And for someone to waste your time—YOUR, being the operative word here—is disrespectful and rude and insensitive.

Wait. What’s that? I’m getting a little carried away? Am I? I don’t think so, and I’ll try and explain this the best I can.

Have you ever watched a movie or listened to a speaker or spent time with someone you really don’t like and came away thinking, ‘I’ll never get that time back.’ A show of hands, how many people have had that very thing happen? Wow, almost all of you.

Would you say in those instances that you could have been doing something better or more productive with your time? If you can, then that event or person to which you ‘will never get that time back’ from wasted your time. Pretty logical deduction, if you ask me.

A few years ago I went to a family reunion. No, it wasn’t my family. It was boring. The few folks I talked to were self-serving and self-centered. Yet, I spent three hours there—three hours I will never EVER get back. I wasn’t the only one who thought that, either.

My time was wasted.

Now, to get to the point.

Dear Writers (myself included),

You have an obligation to the readers. Make your work interesting. Make the readers fall in love or hate your characters. Give them something to hold onto. Don’t just write meaningless action or sex or gore just because you can, but make those things matter in the readers’ minds. Remember, just because it is in your head, it doesn’t mean the readers can see it. You have to help them visualize it. You have to help them feel it.

Remember, Dear Writers, that just because you ‘get it’ doesn’t mean the readers will. Make sure you’re not confusing. Make sure that your words make sense. Make sure your adjectives and verbs fit the situation. Make sure the dialogue is as realistic as in real life.

Enjoy the process and never get ahead of yourself. Remember, if you skim over your work when editing, the readers will skim over it when reading.

Confidence shows in the words you write, so believe in yourselves.

It is your job, not only write the stories that the readers will read, but to entertain them and to not waste their time. When that reader puts your book down or finishes your short story, then they need to feel as if it was time well spent. A reader should never come away saying, ‘that’s time I’ll never get back.’

Remember, their time is valuable and if you waste it with crappy words, then you may never get another minute of their time again.

Sincerely,

A writer and a reader all rolled up in one.

But wait. I’m not quite done.

Dear Readers,

Thank you for taking the time to pick up our books, to spend a little bit of your hard earned money for a little entertainment that may be unknown to you. For all you know, you are getting a Jack-In-the-Box with a demon clown’s head attached to the spring load. Thank you for your willingness to sit down in your favorite chair or in the coffee shop or tucked beneath the covers at home with one of our books. We, the writers, hope (and pray) that you enjoy our books and will be willing to purchase another on down the road.

If you enjoyed our books, then please, feel free to share that with your friends. A simple, ‘hey, you gotta read this’ will go a long way to helping us achieve our goals of getting our stories in front of every possible reader we can. If you enjoyed the books and have a blog or website or Amazon account (especially if you purchased it on Amazon), then would you consider leaving a review? That helps us as well. I know it will take a moment of your time, but it will be well spent time.

And, Dear Readers, if you did not enjoy our books, we are sorry. Truly, we are. If you didn’t enjoy them, then we failed you and wasted your time. For that, we apologize and hope you will give us another chance.

But also, Dear Readers, if you didn’t like our books, please be honest about it. Don’t be mean and hateful if you take the time to review the book. Be honest and insightful—that helps both the other readers and us writers. We learn from what you say.

You see, those folks who write the stories spend a lot of their time doing so. They work hard (well, most of them do) to create the stories that are put out for the masses to read, the masses that we have a hard time attracting. We worry over the characters and scenes and dialogue and plot (oh yes, there is always the plot). If it takes you a week to read a novel, you can guarantee it took a lot longer for the writer to pen it.

We understand if you don’t like a book, but be fair and honest, not vengeful.

Once again, Dear Readers, we thank you for your willingness to take a chance on those of us you may never have heard of. We hope we have not let you down.

Sincerely,

A reader and writer all rolled up in one.

Did you really think I was done already? Just another couple of minutes of your (very valuable) time and I’ll be done.

Time. It’s the one thing you can never get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. With that in mind, this writer who is a reader as well, ask that Writers, remember your readers’ time is important to them. Please, don’t waste it. And Readers, a writer’s time is important as well—respect their work and them. Honestly, if not for readers, writers wouldn’t have an audience, and if not for writers, readers would have nothing to read. We need each other—our time is valuable. To each of us, don’t disrespect each other by not respecting their time, and just how important it is.

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…