Archive for September, 2006
September 24, 2006
Hotclue Battles Beth Anderson Over Kinky Friedman and The Texas Governor’s Mansion
Okay, Hotclue here. I saw Kinky on The Imus Show the other morning. In fact, since I knew he was going to be on, I set my internal clock to be up, have a cup of coffee ready, and be sitting in front of the television at five a.m. so I wouldn’t miss a single word. Not that I thought Kinky would actually be there that early, but as they used to say, the early bird gets the worm. Not that I think Kinky is a worm, or has one, at least not….oh, you know what I mean. Anyhow, I was there when they first showed him sitting on the stairs waiting for his turn and when I saw that I knew it was true love, because that’s exactly what I would have done. Sat on the stairs. Just like everyday common folks, right? Well, I was waiting, watching his adorable, handsome, cute, sexy self on those stairs…
Everything was going just fine and then Beth came in and the War started.
Beth: Why are you sitting on the floor, Hots?
Me: If it’s good enough for Kinky, it’s good enough for me.
Beth: Don’t tell me, let me guess. Kinky Friedman’s on Imus again.
Me: Yes. Sigh…
Beth: And I suppose you’re going to blog about him again?
Me: Yes. Sigh….
Beth: You know you’re going to piss off Count Babalallapaloozo again, don’t you?
Me: Yes. Sigh… Move over, there he is, sitting on the stairs! Isn’t he totally faboo?
Beth: Uh…that’s not exactly a word I’d choose to describe him, Hots.
Me: You’re just jealous because he’s going to be my next husband.
Beth: In that case, idiot, he’ll have to be mine too. Or have you forgotten that little point?
Me: Then you get to help me decorate the mansion after he’s elected.
Beth: *eyebrows raising* Oh, there’s an honor and a half. Thanks loads.
Me: Well look, I was thinking, how about a huge bearskin rug right in front of the sunken fireplace in the living room?
Beth: No way. You’ll alienate half of his constituency, Hots. At least the Animal Rights people. And probably him, too. He loves animals, you know.
Me: I know, isn’t he wonderful! Wait–I’ll what half of his what? I can’t have bearskin?
Beth: Nope. No leopardskin either. No animal skins at all, anywhere. Ever.
Me: *pouting* Not even in our private bedroom?
Beth: Have you forgotten, Hots, the man is going full bore into politics. There is no such thing as privacy, even in the bedroom. Trust me.
Me: Okay, okay, it’s still worth it. I’ve got it all figured out. I think all white ceilings–
Beth: Wait, wait, slow down. What about his cigars?
Me: Whatta ya mean?
Beth: Think, Hots. White ceilings. Cigar smoke.
Me: Oh. Well, we could have those fans installed in all the ceilings, you know, those ones like they have on The Emeril Show? He just claps, they open up, the smoke goes out the ceiling. See, I have it all worked out. I know what I’m doing.
Beth: I hope you know how to clap hard and fast. I can’t imagine him doing it. Hots, the guy’s a Texan, he’s a macho man. He’s not going to stand around clapping so the ceiling will open up.
Me: WELL, he’s a macho man who wants to build casinos so the schools can have more money, don’t forget.
Beth: I hope he doesn’t let Texas do it like Illinois did it.
Me: What’d Illinois do?
Beth: Built casinos so the schools would have more money. The minute the tax money started to come in, they redirected the same amount out of the school system into other funds. The schools wound up with the exact same budget they had before. Nobody really knows where all the casino money went, actually. It all seems to have dissolved into the same black hole a lot of the Katrina money went into.
Beth: Yep. Sorry.
Me: Well, I’ll just tell Kinky not to let that happen. After all, he’s going to be Governor!
Beth: I can see you haven’t been around politics much, Hots. You have to jump through a lot of hoops when you’re in politics. You don’t always get your way.
Me: Oh, he will. He’s going to reform politics in Texas. And besides that, he’s cute.
Beth: Hots. Forget the cute stuff. Kinky is never going to give you a second look.
Me: That’s what you think, maybe!
Beth: Hots. The man is going to be governor of our biggest state.
Me: Well, at least you admit that.
Beth: Of course I admit it. That doesn’t mean you’d make the ideal governor’s wife.
Me: *getting huffy* And why wouldn’t I?
Beth: Hots. Look at yourself. I don’t know where you ever managed to find a tiger-striped bustier with pink feathers to match those God-awful spike heel slippers you bought a week or so ago, but I can’t imagine you running around the Governor’s Mansion like that.
Me: *flouncing out of the living room* I’ve got news for you, Big Mouth Beth. I’m never leaving the bedroom, so there!
Beth: *muttering* And I’ve got news for you, Hots. Kinky’s going to be moving into the Texas White House. But you’re not.
Me, back again. I’m so mad. Beth always, ALWAYS has the last word, even when I leave the room first. Kinkster, don’t worry, sweetie. Hotclue’s waiting for you! Kinky…oh KINK-YYY….
Don’t worry, folks. Kinky’s going to be elected and I’m going to decorate the Governor’s Mansion for him. I just decided. Black ceilings…disco lights…flashing Coca-Cola signs…juke box…
Won’t it be lovely?
Love y’all, you KNOW I do. Come back soon, ya hear me? Maybe next week I’ll let Beth write something rational here because I’ll be in Aspen with The Count, waiting for the snow so I can have my skiing lessons.
(But don’t worry, Kinky. My heart really belongs to you.)
Hotclue Herself *thumbing through the Victorias Secret catalog, planning her inauguration outfit*
September 16, 2006
Ya Gotta Have Hope…
…Musn’t sit around and mope,
When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win,
That’s when the grin should start…
Okay, so “start” doesn’t rhyme with “hope”. That’s because I borrowed the idea from the song Ya Gotta Have Heart. Which would have rhymed with “grin should start”. Well, too bad. I’m fresh out of miracles today. I have serious stuff on my mind.
What I’m thinking about today is, when you’re starting out or even if you’ve been working your buns off for five or six or eight years and haven’t made your first sale yet, you’ve gotta have hope that you will. BUT you’ve gotta have just a little more than that. You’ve got to be able to take a long, objective look at your book and understand whether it’s marketable or not. You have to have a clear understanding of “high-concept”.
I’ve been reading Miss Snark the past couple of weeks (okay, forever, if you want the truth) but in the past couple of weeks she had that Snarkometer thing going on, whereby she had people send in their query letters, which she often slices and dices and with very good reason, I might add. Some of them, with all the best intentions in the world, were truly awful. And still, some of the truly awful queries got an “okay, I’d take a look at this one” because she saw the first page and knew what she was seeing. And what she was seeing was money. No slam intended there, you just need to understand that the whole business is about $$$.
Here’s the deal. If you’re sending query after query and getting shot down every time, sooner or later you have to face it: Something’s wrong with your submission and you need to take a good long, hard look at the whole thing, not just the grammar although it might be that too, but we covered grammar in a prior blog. You also need to take a good, hard look at the market right now and see if you can figure out why they’re saying no. That is, if you’re sure your query letter has all the requisite components.
To refresh your mind: That would be about three pargraphs. One, a quick and dirty log line/paragraph about the thrust of your book. This is a one-paragraph overview that’s supposed to have them salivating and reaching for the phone so they can call you and demand you overnight your mss to them collect. Right? Well, yeah, that’d be nice. It’s not gonna happen, but it would be nice.
Next, a paragraph on what genre or type of book it is, how many words, is it finished. By what type it is, you don’t want to get all wound out with a six hundred line paragraph. Basically the agent or editor needs to know what genre the book is, what the protagonists’ problems are, what’s standing in their way. That’s about enough for one paragraph, I’d say.
Finally, one about you and how you’re qualified to write this book. This would not include the fact that you love to knit afghans for Tasmanian orphans and you’re really, really good at it, or that your grandmother who was an English teacher back in the 1950’s said she loves your book, or that you teach Yoga classes right now but you’re ready to move on into the ranks of bestsellerdom, or that you’re proud to announce you belong to a bowling league that meets every other Tuesday night for beer and pizza.
You don’t want to get friendly right away. I made this mistake myself early on. I’d had the presumably good fortune to make friends with the first editor I ever wooed. We traded letters back and forth for quite a few months before she moved on quite unexpectedly and so did I, at the request of her successor. The successor didn’t like it that I told her they’d had my manuscript for twenty-one months and I could have given birth to a baby elephant by that time. Even though I said it nicely. But see, I could joke with the first editor. I couldn’t with the second, drat the luck. That editor managed to clear off the prior editor’s desk pretty efficiently, I’d say, by mailing every manuscript in her new office back to the offending authors so she could nab her own victims. Them’s the breaks. It happens. It’s funny now. It wasn’t funny then. But dang it, the prior editor loved my sense of humor. This one didn’t. You just never know, so it’s better to be just a wee bit cautious and if you tend toward sarcasm like I do, train yourself to muzzle it at least a little while you’re wooing an editor or agent.
Back to the paragraphs. Finally, you want to say thank you and goodbye. You don’t have to tell her you’re hoping to hear from her soon because hell, she already knows that. You don’t have to tell her you’re enclosing SASE in that paragraph, which you are, because she can see it’s there as long as you stapled it to the query letter. Just kidding. A safety pin will do it. Just kidding again. Really, any paper clip, the same one you use to attach your business card, is fine. You DO have a business card, right? Then add a tiny line beneath your signature that says: Enclosed: SASE. See how easy that was? And you said it without begging, which may cause them to feel a twinge of guilt but not enough to request a book they don’t think they can sell.
Now one would think, wouldn’t one, that three paragraphs would be the easiest thing in the universe to crank out, but it’s those three paragraphs that strike lethal terror in the hearts of anyone who wants to submit their masterpiece, because while you’re telling, in a matter of fact way, what your book and you are about, you’re trying to at the same time wow her with your brilliance. In three short paragraphs.
But guess what. While you do have to present yourself and your book in those three paragraphs, and they do have to be eminently readable and punctuated correctly, and you do have to have the exact name and title of the person who’s presumably going to receive it, and you do have to succinctly describe your book to the best of your ability, and you do have to use good grammar because otherwise she’ll be onto the fact that you’re careless and can’t write Jack by the second line if you don’t, there are other things that enter into a rejection before they’ve even seen the mss, and this is what you need to understand. Plus, I think I just wrote the world’s longest run-on sentence. I should win a prize for that, right?
IF you tell them a bit about your book and they know there’s no market for it, even if you have hired the New Ashmolean Marching Society and Students’ Conservatory Band and they all walked on their hands while they played their bagpipes and delivered your query at the same time, it’s going to be rejected anyhow. Yes, even if the editor adores bagpipes.
That’s one thing you need to research ahead of time, and that’s the hardest thing in the world for an author to do, admit or even face the fact that their idea may not be marketable. Because we always, ALWAYS think our book is marketable. After all, our mothers and all of our friends said so, they all read a book just like it and that one was an award winning novel so ours is going to be an award winner too. Right?
Well, here’s something to think about: Nowadays everyone’s looking for a high-concept book. What does high-concept mean? Does it mean a 600-page spy novel with international repercussions? Not necessarily, unless your name is Norman Mailer or Nelson DeMille or Gayle Lynds, or any of fifty other fabulous spy fiction novelists.
It’s nothing as detailed as that. High-concept means, simply, a book the publishers and their marketing department absolutely believe will sell to hopefully millions of people. It means a novel with universal appeal.
The hard part is realizing your novel might not have universal appeal, in which case right now it might have a harder time making The List at a good publishing house unless you’re writing a genre novel, and even then, it had better be good. It has to be. HAS to.
But ya gotta have hope. No matter what the odds are against you , you have to believe your book is the best thing to ever hit New York or wherever you’re trying to send it. If you’ve done your market research and asked enough people in the business and read Publishers Marketplace religiously to find out what IS selling nowadays, if your book is anything like those books, you may have a shot at getting it read, at least. And then, if you’re lucky, if you reach the right agent or editor who sees the potential, and believe me when I tell you this, IF it HAS potential, they’re going to see it. Then, if all that jells at once, you have a shot.
The point I’m making is, you’ve gotta have hope or it’s almost impossible to keep on keeping on because keeping on year after year is so hard. But at the same time, you’ve got to have open eyes and an open mind if you’re going after that mainstream market.
Look around you at the books being reviewed nationally. See what kind they are, see who’s writing them, who’s buying them. Buy one or two yourself to see how your book compares–advice given to me, by the way, by a great agent. And then, if you still feel your book is on a par with those books, if you’re right, the agent or editor you’re querying is going to know it, and you’ll have a shot at The Big Gold Superbowl Ring.
I wish you all the luck in the world if that’s what you’re after. Always remember this: When you go into a bookstore and see all those books, realize deep in your heart that once upon a time every one of those authors was exactly where you are right now, this minute. And if they could do it, so can you. It takes work. It takes patience. But you CAN, with the right book, do it.
Gotta go, the private Learjet’s waiting out on the tarmac. I’m heading out to Paris with Count Babalallapaloozo. Ah, Paris in the fall…chestnuts in blossom–no, wait, OMIGOD, that’s SPRINGTIME! Dammit! I packed for springtime! SCREEEEEM!
HOLD THE PLANE!
Love y’all, you KNOW I do! Come back soon, ya hear me? We’ll talk again next week.
Hugs and More Hugs,
September 9, 2006
BSP. Authors’ Blatant Self Promotion. Does It Work?
Okay, I promised y’all a blog on writing this week, although I’ll tell you I’d rather be writing a Maureen-Dowd type column for the New York Times simply because you get to make fun of the president. Oh, wait! I did that already. BUT I’m not Maureen and I’m not likely to be and I’m a little distracted anyhow because I’m packing right now for a cruise sorta kinda around or on the Australian Coastline with Count Babbalallapaloozo, someplace like that anyway, and I’m in a frenzy over what to take along this time. (My new rhinestone snorkling mask? The faux snakeskin fitted-to-THERE capris?) Ah, why not? Yes to both. Definitely. 😉
Anyhow, since I promised, I thought I’d take a few minutes to chat with you about author promotion. Although understand, I’m not the expert here, Beth is, but she’s busy sweeping cobwebs out of the corners now that she’s finished with her manuscript revision, so I guess you’ll have to put up with me today. Oh, wait! I forgot. You ALWAYS have to put up with me on this blog. Well, them’s the breaks, kid. (Did Bogart say that?)
Back to business. (OMIGOD, I just remembered, I can’t wear spike heels on board, don’t let me forget that! Last time I showed up for a cruise with nothing but spike heels, EVEN my favorite pink and leopardskin sling heels, which The Count loves me in, he made me go barefoot the whole time until we reached Italy where he did, at least, buy me a dozen pairs of gorgeous Italian handmade low, soft heeled shoes. I only hope I can find them.)
Anyhow. What were we talking about? Oh. Promotion. Okay, what works? What doesn’t?
Here’s the deal. I read an awful lot of author newsletters and lists and this discussion goes on and on all the time. I see people asking, “What about handing out pens and bookmarks and postcards and buttons with my cover on them to everyone I see? Does that work? Will that make them want to buy my book?”
Well, from what I’ve seen in answers on lists like that, the answer seems to be no, it won’t MAKE them want to buy your book. Most people, when questioned, will tell you they rarely buy a book because they received a bookmark or a postcard or a pen. Some might. Most, no.
BUT what it might do, and I emphasize MIGHT, is cause them to remember, in the deep, dark recesses of their minds, where they also keep their grocery lists, your name when they walk through a bookstore. Usually only if the book is right there in front of them, though. They might not remember WHERE they saw the name, but they MIGHT think, I’ve seen that name before and that MIGHT make them open the book and take a look. The rest depends on what they’re looking for, as well as your book. Either they want that one or they don’t. It’s just a fact.
There’s another side to that, however. When one of our (way) earlier books, ALL THAT GLITTERS, came out, Beth had 6,000 gold (the gold was my idea) and black bookmarks made. She bundled them up in little rubber bands about 5 or 6 to a bundle and sent them to Katherine Falk (Romantic Times Book Club). Katherine, for a basically minor amount of money (compared to the co$t of the bookmark$), sent them out to bookstores and libraries all over the country AND Canada and maybe other places, I don’t know for sure where all they went.
I do know they went to Canada because shortly after that, we were in Vegas at a large publishing convention and when I (y’all remember it’s always me at these things, don’t you, because Beth’s VERY shy?) was sitting at a table having breakfast with about a dozen nice ladies, and told them our name and our book title, two librarians from Canada remembered our name because of the bookmarks. So name identification did happen there. I have no idea what happened to the other 5,998 bookmarks, other than I’m sure they were sent out by Ms Falk. She did her job. I did mine by going to the conference. I don’t know what Beth did, other than write the book.
The point I’m making there is, if you’re going to do bookmarks, postcards, pens, all those small things, do something intelligent with them. Make SURE they go to your target audience. There’s no point in handing them to anybody and everybody because by and large, you’re going to have very little return for your money. Try to target your goodies where they’ll do the MOST good.
Another example: Sloane Taylor, who was one of my earlier blog interviews, has a four-book series set in Germany. She sent a slew of pens to a conference being held IN Germany. THAT’S targeting your audience, very smart of her.
How about going to writers’ conferences every other month or so? Will that work?
It’ll work as far as making yourself known to conference-goers and you might sell some books. I say some. Probably not a lot. Even Joe Konrath will tell you that. You’ll make friends, you may create a buzz within the writing community, you will almost certainly get your name out there a little more than it would have normally. BUT there’s a whole world out there of people who never go to those conferences. In fact, most of the world doesn’t even know about them. In the meantime, you’re spending a whole lot of money for very little return–AT the moment.
BUT. It does help people in the industry know your name and what you write, and you never can tell what that may lead to. Case in point: a long while back, our Harlequin Superromance, COUNT ON ME, was sold fairly quickly after I attended an RWA conference because I met Harlequin’s head editor at the time there and I was agreeable to Beth’s making some revisions on that book, which was sitting on THAT editor’s desk that very day.
My point is, you never know what wonderful thing will happen because you went to a writers’ conference, so if you can afford it, go. This doesn’t count as promotion though, unless you have a book already out and you’re going to be presenting a workshop.
THAT will almost always sell some books, the simple act of getting up there and presenting a workshop to an audience. Do a good job, don’t drool or pick your nose while you’re up on the podium, try not to faint, be very nice, be friendly, convince them that you know what you’re talking about, and chances are, quite a few WILL buy your book.
BUT. Remember this. If it costs you $1,500 to attend a conference, including airfare and hotel, etc. and you only sell a few books, it may not be cost effective at that moment IF you’re mainly thinking about selling books. If you can afford to spend the money by betting on your future, by all means do so. If you can’t, think about it first before you hock your house. There are pros and cons to every step you take, so pick your pros wisely. I would also add that in my opinion–and it’s an educated, experienced one–to a brand new writer of any kind of womens’ fiction, not only romances, RWA national (and/or local) is one of the best conference opportunities in the universe because of what you’ll learn there. If you’re writing mystery or suspense, there are tons of wonderful conferences out there for you.
AND there’s something else, while I’m talking about the value of presenting workshops at conferences:
The BEST way, again in my opinion, to actually sell books is personal contact. Whether it’s hand-writing the postcards you send out, or dropping into a bookstore or library and introducing yourself and your book, EVEN if it’s going out to where the jobbers (those are the guys who deliver and place your books in the bookstores) load their trucks, taking them brownies and introducing yourself, it’s the personal contact that makes the biggest difference. Later on in this diatribe you’ll find a brilliant example of exactly that.
One of the best ways I know of to really promote your books is for you to make sure you target libraries and bookstores. Not only the big ones, but the smaller independents too. If I had a large amount of money to spend on promotion, I would make sure I sent an ARC or the book, plus a promo folder, to every single independent book seller and library in the United States. My reason?
THEY DEAL EVERY DAY WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. They know what sells and if they like your book, which, if you send it to them as a gift, chances are they’ll at least read it, and if they like it they’ll order more for their customers and they’ll hand-sell it. That’s no small thing, so don’t forget your local independent bookstores.
I’ll probably never have that kind of money to use for promotion (unless I can convince The Count to sell one of his yachts and hand the money over to me.) 😉 Meantime, my game plan is to at least start at the local and state level. Get the actual book or ARC out to them as early as you can. And then follow up with a phone call or personal visit.
Joe Konrath, author of the Jack Daniel mystery series, just this past summer did what most authors only dream of doing. He spent his entire summer driving, at his own expense, to every bookstore he could possibly get to across the country. I don’t know how many he visited, signing in some places, just talking to the owner and sales staff in others, but you think for one minute his next book isn’t going to outsell almost every other book out there? No way! He’s one of the smartest people I know of on book promotion. Go check him out at: http://www.joekonrath.com/ . You’ll find a LOT more promotional advice there. You don’t have to listen to me, but for sure you want to listen to Joe. He’s the smartest Book Promotion Guru you’ll ever meet.
Back to packing for my Australian cruise with Count Babbalallapaloozo now. Hmmm…I’m wondering…ya think he’d like the black spandex capris with the red feathered top, or should I pack the purple and turquoise and orange sequinned top? I can’t decide. I suppose I’d better take both…
Love y’all, and come back again soon, ya hear me?
September 3, 2006
Wake Up, Little Susie!
Wake up, little Susie, wake up!
Guess what, Sus. We want out of Iraq. Like soon. Our guys and women are doing a terrific job, they always have, always will, but looks like you and your cabinet have been letting them down bigtime all over the place. Don’t get me started. Oops, too late. I already am. You’re lucky I’m not raggin’ about New Orleans right about now.
Wake up, little Susie, wake up!
No, actually, not like soon, like now. Look around you. Do we care about You staying straight on Your personal Heavenly-inspired course when Our kids are dying because you don’t have sense enough back down when You’ve made a mistake?
We’ve both been sound asleep, wake up, little Susie, and weep
We’re all waking up and weeping.
The movie’s over, it’s four o’clock, and we’re in trouble deep
Yeah, it is too late, isn’t it, Sus, to get out of this. And for this, we’re all grounded.
Wake up little Susie, wake up little Susie…
Well…whatta we gonna tell your mama
She won’t hear you, she’s as out of touch as you are.
Whatta we gonna tell your pa
How about, Pa, you were right and I was wrong so how the hell do I get out of this mess I let my idiot cabinet talk me into? Hunh, Pa, hunh hunh?
Whatta we gonna tell our friends when they say “Ooh-La-La”?
Oh, hey, I got it, let’s just rename our French Fries to Freedom Fries. Make a Big Statement. Yay us. Oh, wait. We just renamed ’em back to French Fries again, right? Well, couldn’t have been a very important statement, could it. Shucks.
Wake up little Susie, wake up little Susie!
Well, I told your mama that you’d be home by ten…
No, you told our country we had to Shock & Awe…
Well, Susie baby looks like we goofed again.
Yeah, they didn’t exactly shower us with flowers did they, after they got over their shock & awe. Hell no, they were too busy looting their own museums and destroying their own stuff, weren’t they, and NOW look what they’re doing, they’re killing EACH OTHER! Doesn’t ANY of this tell you something? Hello? Sus?
Wake up little Susie, wake up little Susie,
And to top all of this off, Iraqi’s own new leaders are upset with US now. We’re in debt, we’ve lost how many of our troops, everybody in the world’s mad at us, and THEY’RE upset?
We gotta go home.
Need I say more.
Yanno (t/m Miss Snark) , some people ask me why, every once in a while, I blog on national or international events instead of sticking to nice, safe writing topics. Well, there are thousands upon thousands of author blogs on writing. Just, every once in a while I get fed up and want to speak up. So since this is still–although no guarantees–the USA, I thought I would. Speak up, that is.
I’ll try to do something safer next week. 😉 Unless I’m still ticked off, of course.
Love y’all, honest I do. Come back soon, ya hear me?
The Hotclue, wearing her camouflage battle helmet today.