Friday, February 24, 2012

Blogging for Readers?

Over the past year, I have not been blogging much, though I am vowing - again- to start back up. One thing I have been thinking about is the kind of audience I, eventually, want to cultivate. When I started blogging, it was to connect with the writing crowd, to follow others on their journey to getting published and to share my own. I am still on that journey, but hope eventually to be using social media for self promotion.

This spring, I will again be going to The Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston. This time, I will not be meeting with an agent. This was a tough decision. I am currently in a query and submission phase and, well, I am hoping by the time of the conference I won't be needing to meet another agent face to face about a query. I am hoping I will be thinking about how to use social media to advertise my book. Of course, that may not end up being the case, but then I can still meet agents. I will be having lunch with a few, plus an editor, plus an author and so I will have opportunity to schmooze. But what I am hoping to do at the conference is find out more about self promotion.

One needs a book published, and readers, of course, in order to blog about the book and the readings and the what-not. But what else can a writer blog about to appeal to readers once they have a book out there? Here are my thoughts (and I am really brainstorming here, and hoping for advice.)

Since my book is fiction, I don't have a specific platform to build on, though my book is very much about place and it is based on a real place. I was thinking maybe video blogs about some of the real spots featured in my novel might be interesting, of course with me talking about their relevance to me and the story.

Also, I think my novel portrays a pretty specific life style. I live in western, Massachusetts and I write about the life styles I see around me. We have a very earthy, organic type environment with a lot of farmer's markets, small farms, and salt of the earth type people. But, we aren't just hicks out here, contrary to what people in those big cities east and west of us might think. I live in the Pioneer Valley and it is actually quite an intellectual community, there being 5 colleges and universities in a thirty mile radius. The area is also steeped in history, some of which I feature in my book. So, back to the blog ideas, I could write posts featuring some of the area flavor and history, especially the elements that fit into my story, but are also a part of my life. For example, our local farmer's market where there is blue grass music and artistry, gorgeous foods and colorful people. I think people who like my book would find that world I take part in, and which provides the values found in my story interesting. Again, the video idea could work with this too, especially for the unique festivals and such.

Talking about writing process isn't probably so interesting to readers, but perhaps something more on the characters and their creation. Who they are beyond the words, where their inspiration came from. I don't know, that one sounds kind of lame.

I am really into the video idea and I think taking video at readings or book signings might be interesting. Maybe even interviewing people who liked the book. Maybe there would be legal issues with that, I don't know. Also of course, time. But I am sure my husband wouldn't mind being my assistant. ;)

My story also features ghosts and witches. Local stories and legends as well as information on those topics, I always find interesting, especially if it is tied to a book I love. I also love old houses, and this is a topic in my book, how could I work that into a blog?

What do you think, fellow writers and readers? What would be interesting to know about a book/author you have enjoyed? What do you like to see on the internet from them? Do you follow or "Like" them on Facebook? On Twitter? What makes for interesting posts and links? If you are a writer, how do you feel about your internet presence? Is it working? Do you make videos? If so, what kind of camera and software are you using?

Disclaimer: I realize I am putting the cart before the horse here, but being a writer, imagination is one of my best attributes and being a teacher, planning my work and working my plan is my motto. So why not think positive and think about the possibilities before I have to put them into action?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Advice for the concerned family and friends of an aspiring author

So, someone in your family, or maybe your best friend, is "writing a novel." At first it was an interesting novelty and you made what you thought was the appropriate comment: "Maybe you'll get on Oprah." Then your friend, or sister, or whatever, asked you to read the first draft of the ms, and honestly, it wasn't that great; it needed work. But you told her it was awesome, because what else could you say, right? And you asked the most pertinent question you could think of: "Have you chosen a publisher yet?" You figured the publisher would fix the book for her. To your surprise, as generous as you were being, the aspiring writer then laughed and explained:

"It doesn't work that way. First I have to get some honest feedback and then revise. Eventually, I will query agents. That means I will do a lot of research to find the ones who are interested in my kind of story, and I will send them a letter asking if they would like to look at my book. It's harder than it sounds, because the letter has to be pitch perfect. It has to grab the agent's attention and make him or her interested enough to want to read some of my pages."

Oh, you thought. Well, how hard can it really be? The next time you see your friend, a few months have gone by. She is excited because she got some requests for the ms. "Great, you say, so how much are they going to pay you?"

"No," she rolls her eyes. "Agents don't pay writers. And I have to get an agent before I can get a publisher and money is not really what it's about. Most writers don't even get paid very much. I haven't even heard back on the requests for the full manuscript, yet."

"Oh," you say, confused. If money isn't what it's about then why is she doing it at all? But you don't want to seem shallow, so you say instead: "What's taking them so long?"

"It takes a long time," your friend tells you. "Agents have to take care of their signed clients first. They read manuscripts on nights and weekends. It could take up to six months to get back to me. I am still querying though."

WTF? you think. Now I know she really is crazy. Who would wait that long for a rejection? Especially if there was no money in it?

More time goes by, and your friend declines to come to your most recent Pampered Chef Party. She has to work on her book, she says. "What do you mean? I thought it was done?" you say, but are informed that she recieved some really helpful feedback with her last rejection. So she has decided to  rewrite the second half, realizing now that the ending fell a little short. "God," you moan. "Why would you do that? They rejected it. Maybe you should write something new, or better yet, come to my party."

Your friend politely declines and is not heard from again for a while. In fact others are starting to get worried. How many times can she edit this book? She's started to make excuses for not coming to all sorts of gatherings. Let it go already, you are all thinking. But she won't listen to reason. "It's nice to have dreams," you tell her when she finally answers the phone, "but be reasonable. Maybe you should just self-publish."

Next time you hear from her, an agent has said that the book was really good, but needed some more revision. So, your friend, as crazy as she is, is revising the thing again. Of course, being a good friend, you tell her she is insane to change her book just because an agent asked her to. Your friend just smiles obscurely, finishes her tea, and goes home. Now you are really worried. Quickly, your friend has become a delusional recluse.  Something needs to be done.

And you are correct, dear family member or friend. Here is what you should do:

Be really proud of your writer for following through and working hard. She has slogged through the slush pile and taken her rejections in stride. She has worked hard to revise her book when flaws became apparent, she has worked to follow the rules and to get noticed. If she pulls it off, she will have fulfilled that dream you thought she should toss away because attaining it was too hard. And remember this is what it means to follow a dream. It means giving up other things and working a lot to get better and better until it's great.

If you really want it, you will find a way. If you don't, you will find an excuse. Writing is what she wants to do. It is not a hobby or a whim. It is a second job worth doing.

So smile and pat her on the back and tell her you are proud of her and ask her questions about her characters and her process, and listen, because writers write what they know and guess what, she knows you.