Category Archives: Marketing your Project

The Nostalgia of Time Travel

The Nostalgia of Time Travel

Man superimposed with galaxies and cycloneThis post is unashamedly about my latest novelette, The Nostalgia of Time Travel. The novelette represents a new departure from my usual writing, although I’ve tried to keep external events that are at the core of every genre-driven tale a strong feature of this story.

The novelette is part of my ongoing attempt to bring a more authentic, literary approach to my stories while still managing to retain a strong outer journey—something I began exploring in my previous novel, The Land Below.

Here’s a short description of The Nostalgia of Time Travel:

After the accidental death of his wife, Miranda, Benjamin Vlahos, an American theoretical physicist relocates to a remote resort town in Northern Queensland to work on a set of equations to prove that time travel to the past is possible. As he struggles with the math, a deadly cyclone approaches, dragging with it ghosts from an unresolved past.

As always, I’ve worked with nuggets mined from different genres in an attempt to keep the story fresh and unpredictable, but I’ve taken extra care to keep the emotional and psychological dimensions authentic.

Here’s an early indication from the first Amazon.com review. I’d love to hear from others whether you think I’ve succeeded.

It’s a book for people who enjoy exploring the complexities of human nature By hannah on August 8, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

A thought provoking novel, that excels at creating a rich, layered world for his characters, with lines you want to read out loud, just to hear them. It’s more of a book for people who enjoy exploring the complexities of human nature, rather then just a waiting for the next plot point.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the bottom right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.

How Good is Your Story’s Title?

A film titling kit

Choosing Titles

In today’s competitive market a writer, especially an indie writer, needs to keep her eye on at least two balls – writing skills and marketing.

It isn’t enough that you’ve written a great first novel or screenplay. You need to generate interest in it.

The belief that a good writer will be recognised in time may be overly optimistic. For every writer that succeeds many others don’t. The truth is that wide-spread recognition, if it comes at all, has to be actively pursued, coaxed, massaged, grown.

Entering competitions, doing readings of your work, building a large online presence, giving guest lectures at book clubs and colleges, can help. But what you really need to do to get your new novel or screenplay noticed is grab the reader’s attention with a great title followed by a captivating logline or blurb.

I have discussed loglines and blurbs elsewhere on my blog. Today I want to look at the importance of a story’s title. Not only is the title a hint of what your story is about, it is an indispensable marketing tool, too.

I asked a friend of mine, an avid reviewer of kindle books, how she picks which story to read first amongst the many others she receives each day. She told me she lets the title and book cover do that for her.

When I worked for Elmo de Witt Films, one of my tasks was to look out for promising screenplays. There were always dozens of them in a pile on my desk waiting to be read. The ones that caught my eye first were always screenplays with great titles.

A great title ticks one or more of the following boxes:

It points to a genre.
It hints at the story behind it.
It has emotional content.
It is not the name of a character.
It sets up a question, hints at a puzzle, intrigues one in some way.

Titles such as, Rich and Famous, Gladiator, The Madness of King George, and Alien leave us in no doubt as to what the story is about. Others, such as Blade Runner, sound so cool and compelling they make us want to know more.

But titles such as K-Pax, The Island, August Rush?

Not so good.

Emma may have worked for Jane Austen way back then, but names of (unknown) people don’t generally make for good titles.

I typically come up with twenty or more titles for a new book or screenplay and ask family, friends, and students to pick their favourite from the list, before making my final choice. I consider it time well spent.

Summary

Choosing a compelling, eyes-catching title for your story is the first small step in getting your novel or screenplay noticed.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the bottom right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.

image: Davidd
license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Penned: Tell Your Story

PennedApp

Penned:

AN INDIE writer’s path to success is difficult one. The journey not only demands writing excellence, but marketing acumen as well. In this post I want to highlight a free and useful utility for indie writers working on iPhones and iPads that may make the marketing part of the journey a little easier. I have it on good authority the app is about to be released on android, too. Its name is Penned.

Penned allows you to create a profile and upload sample chapter(s) of your book in a genre of your choosing. I found the interface to be intuitive and easy to use, although it did crash a couple of times on my iPad.

The app allowed me to upload chapters from three of my novels: Scarab, Scarab II, and The Level for display. Like Wattpad, the programme links writers with readers and other writers, encouraging comments and debate on the work presented. Anyone liking what they read on Penned can go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever their work is sold, and buy a copy there. I’ve received several comments already, and have even seen a slight bump up in sales on my Amazon page, which, for an indie writer, is all to the good.

Of course, there are many other forums for this sort of discussion, exhibition, and discovery of work to occur, but what is especially cool for an indie writer about a relatively new app is the terrain has not yet become crowded. Needless to say the situation may change as the programme gains exposure and popularity.

Any effort to increase the number of places where indie writers can discover, exhibit, and discuss work has to get a thumbs-up, and Penned certainly gets mine.

Why don’t you give it a try? The space provided by this app may be just the place where you make your next big breakthrough!

Summary

Penned is a great free app for writers and readers that allows you to upload and share sample chapters of your work. It’s a great new way to discover new talent, as well as to introduce yourself to others.

How to Nail your Amazon Logline

Hammer and small robots

Nailing Your Logline:

So, you’ve written your literary masterpiece and posted it up on Amazon with a book cover and description, which, in your opinion, is darned perfect.

But if your book is so great and your description so spot-on, why isn’t anyone buying it? You’ve promoted it, so you know readers know its there, but where are the sales?

There is a good chance that your logline – that short description at the top of your Amazon product page meant to set up your story in an intriguing and succinct way intended to persuade readers to buy your book by – falls short. It may even suck altogether.

In a logline containing a couple dozen or so words, each word weighs a ton. There is a limit to how much tonnage you can load up on the scale. You’ve got to ensure that each word is there because it makes an invaluable contribution to the overall sentence. Superfluous and ill-chosen words make for superfluous and ill-chosen loglines. If a word doesn’t contribute to tone or meaning, strike it from the sentence.

Brevity and precision aside, ask yourself whether your logline paints a picture of what your story is about and poses an intriguing question the reader is dying to have answered. If your logline fails to hook the reader immediately she will drift over to another page in search of something better to read.

But there is another crucial thing a logline must do. It must play fair with the reader. Your book cover and logline are the promise you make your readers: Buy my book and you’ll get the sort of story I describe. Fail to do so, or change the genre halfway through the book, and you may disappoint or even anger them, with devastating results when they come to reviewing your book.

Don’t get me wrong. I love surprises. I hate predictability. I love to cook with morsels from different genres in order to create new and surprising flavours. But if you promise your readers a drama, don’t give them a satire. They’ll punish you for it.

Upon first publishing my new scifi/technothriller, The Level, on Amazon, I offered the following description:

A man, suffering from amnesia wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is a prisoner in an abandoned, labyrinthine asylum hunted by shadowy figures out to kill him. An enchanting woman dressed in a black burka appears out of the darkness and offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is. But the truth is more terrifying than anything anyone could have ever imagined.

The book did well, jumping to number 22 on the Amazon top 100 Bestseller list in its category. But a chat with a fellow writer drew my attention to the possibility that my description was missing a vital ingredient: the scifi/technothriller element. In fact, as it stood, the cover and logline screamed: Horror genre! And while there are strong thriller/horror elements in the story, I realised I wasn’t playing fair with my readers.

So, I reworked my logline and came up with the following:

A man with no memory hunted down the twisted corridors of a derelict asylum by murderous figures…

A computer programmer desperate to eliminate a flaw in her code before the software is released to an unsuspecting public…

Two lives bound together by a terrifying secret.

This logline has the elements of the previous one, but adds technology to the broth — a huge part of the story. It plays fair with the reader.

Will it do better at selling the book than the previous logline? Only time and the numbers will tell. In the meantime, perhaps you could write in and tell me your preference.

Summary

Using precise, economic language, posing an intriguing question, and playing fair with the reader in terms of genre are some of the most important elements in crafting an effective logline.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the bottom right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.

Image: kodomut
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Many Lives, Many Levels, Which One is Yours?

Chair

The Level:

This short post, is, unashamedly, about the release of my new novella, The Level. I started writing it in Brisbane, Australia a couple of years ago, before pausing to complete Scarab II: Reawakening – the follow-up to my successful first novel, Scarab.

Scarab’s amazing popularity on Amazon (it reached the #1 spot both in the US and the UK in the science fiction/high tech category), persuaded me on this course of action. Mission accomplished, I returned to The Level with gusto. Whether this new novella will reach the heights achieved by Scarab, we will just have to wait and see.

Below, is a short press release of The Level, as it appears on my amazon page.

The Level

A man, suffering from amnesia, wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is being held captive in a derelict insane asylum haunted by inmates who are determined to kill him. Help comes in the form of a beautiful, mysterious woman dressed in a black burka who offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is.

If you enjoy your science fiction spiked with mystery, suspense and thrilling twists…

If you’re fascinated with the pervasive nature of love, consciousness and the limits of personal freedom…

Then scroll to the top of the page and grab this brand new novella, now!

There you have it. Effective? You be the judge of that. Perhaps you can write in and give me your opinion. I’d greatly appreciate it!

Better still, you could grab your own copy of the book and write a short review on amazon!

Summary

The Level is a novella in the science Fiction/Psychological/Thriller category, which explores the nature of love, consciousness, and personal freedom in the setting of an abandoned insane asylum.

Why a Poster and Book Cover is like a Movie Tagline

Electric Chair

The Level

I am not much of a traditionalist when it comes to teaching creativity, being, as I am, a great believer in using an interdisciplinary methodology to help solve persistent creative problems. A frontal assault is not always the best way to break down barriers. One often needs to tackle the problem laterally.

I recently had the privilege of delivering a course on how to create effective film loglines and taglines. Towards the end of the course I had the idea of warping things up by introducing a different approach to logline and tagline creation.

A logline, we are reminded, is the summation of the story, sans the ending, that introduces the main conflict, the protagonist and antagonist, and identifies that which must be learnt or acquired in order to fulfill the goal. A tagline, by contrast, is a phrase or sentence that captures some essential aspect of the story—in Apollo 13, the tagline is: Huston, we have a problem.

The exercise I set my students during class, was to have them envisage the essence of a story, not through the logline and tagline, as per usual, but by designing a poster or book cover instead. I emphasised that it didn’t matter whether they were skilled artists or not. What was important was to capture the spirit of the story as a graphic. They could “paint” a word portrait and use stick and block drawings to fill in the gaps, if need be.

The exercise was a wonderful success and threw up many interesting renditions of the story. It also proved the point that the creative process works best when using a multidisciplinary approach.

In much the same way, the book cover of my new novella, The Level, which is being released on Amazon in early June, captures an essential aspect of the story, and this, without giving too much away.

The book cover features a quintessential object from the story in a dark but intriguing way, and encourages the reader to ask the question: What is the role of the chair in the tale?

The tagline, which also draws heavily from the title, might well be: Many Lives. Many Levels. Which Level Are You?

True to form, the cover was designed before the tagline was developed and helped inspire some of The Level’s many twists and turns.

Summary

Using an offbeat multidisciplinary approach in tackling creative problems promotes inspiration and encourages insight.

Marketing Your Work

Marketing chart

Marketing Your Project:

Indies, primarily independent authors, filmmakers, artists, and photographers, wear more than one hat. We create and market our work, too. This is hard work. The up side is that we get to keep the earnings we generate.

Becoming expert marketers is not a task creative people take to easily, especially in the constantly changing landscape of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon. The “shop fronts” are growing by the month.

Let’s face it, we’d rather be sipping cappuccinos or tea while typing out our 1000-2000 words for the day, than figuring out the best marketing angle for our new film or book. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice. No marketing, no sales.

Imagine having sixty thousand followers, as some do. Tweeting about the release date of your new book or film has the potential of reaching a great many people. Factor in that your tweet may, in turn, be retweeted by some of your sixty thousand followers, and you can see how the word can spread.

Following people randomly, however, is time consuming. Only 10% to 20% of people you follow, follow you back. The trick is to follow a high volume of people daily until your number of followers grows to a respectable size.

In this article I want to highlight a method for acquiring Twitter followers more easily—through a site such as blastfollow: http://brianmcarey.com/blastfollow/. This is a free website that allows you to follow by hashtag. You type in a word relevant to your blog, book, or film, do an automatic search, then do an auto-follow. If you follow about 1000 people per day you’ll get at least 100-200 followers back. Maybe more.

Here’s the sort of hashtags I use to identify potential followers who can benefit from my blog on writing:

#AskAgent
#AskAuthor
#AskEditor
#BookMarket
#BookMarketing
#GetPublished
#IAN1 (Independent Author Network)
#IndiePub
#PromoTip
#Publishing
#SelfPublishing
#WriteTip
#WritingTip

I’ve acquired an extra 2000 followers in a few days so far, using this method.

You can too.

Summary

Acquiring a large twitter following is one way to spread the word about your work. Using a site such as blastfollow can help you achieve this.

Image: Kivi Leroux Miller
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

How Marketable is Your Film Genre?

Dancing couple

Is the Musical Dead?

Understanding the importance of the genre of your screenplay is essential in determining whether your story gets sold. The popularity of certain film genres is in a constant state of flux with regards to Hollywood studios. According to screenwriting guru, Michael Hauge, some genres are currently hard to sell. If your story concept falls within one of those, your effort to acquire seed money from a major studio, will be that much harder.

Here, then, in increasing order of acceptability, are some of the genres in question:

Musicals in the mold of Oklahoma are almost impossible to sell. Feature-Length, MTV-inspired, Flashdance type movies, however, are not.

Westerns are currently a difficult sell, unless a big name director gets behind the project, as are period films, meaning anything pre-1970s, followed by biographies, and science fiction—due to the high budgets associated with this latter genre. Here, again, the attachment of a specific director to the project can make all the difference—as The Terminator, Aliens and Avatar directed by James Cameron, have clearly proven.

Perhaps the most acceptable of these financially-jittery genres is the horror film, especially if independent financing is sought.

Of course, in stating the above, I do not mean to say that films belonging to these genres never get made; only that they are not favoured by the big studios, off the bat.

By contrast, genres representing action adventure, suspense thriller, love story, comedy, drama or any combination thereof, tends to be viewed as a strong commodity by Hollywood. If your script belongs to any of those last genres, its marketability quotient is high.

Summary

Certain genres are easier to market to studios, and independent producers, than others. Choosing a poplar genre maximises the chance of a first-time writer achieving success.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.

Image by gnuckx
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

The Future of Writing

Shades pic

Bright Future

There has never been a better time to be a writer. After years of concern that reading might be on the wane, especially for our attention-challenged teenagers forever bent over their smart phones and computer keyboards, reading is once again becoming cool, supported by the gadget revolution and the e-readers that it has spawned—Kindle, Nook, Kobo and the like.

Additionally, the virtual side of stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble have provided a shopfront where authors can sell their work directly to the public and let it decide on its merit.

No longer need we plaster our walls with rejection slips from reluctant publishers, nor struggle to find reputable agents willing to take us on. Had that been my only option, I’d probably have fallen by the wayside, never having had the stomach to pursue that route in the first place. My first novel, Scarab, completed some 14 years ago, shelved and quietly forgotten about, might never have reached the No. 1 spot in the science fiction/hard-tech category on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, nor would its follow up, Scarab II: Reawakening, have seen the light of day.

Luckily, I entered the market at a time when Amazon had already provided an alternative to the traditional publishing route through their kindle reader. For me it was a no-brainer. The reading public is, after all, our ultimate judge: It is the public we have to please if we are to succeed as authors—in an economic sense, at least. Of course, now that one’s work rides the best seller lists, traditional publishers no longer seem as reluctant.

Another factor fueling the writing resurgence is the number of new authors the changed landscape had allowed to emerge. People who would never considered trying their hand at writing are now doing so. Although an exponential increase in the democracy of writing has allowed the birth of material that seems below par, it has also allowed amazing new talent to be discovered. Hugh Howey, whose series, Wool has put him on the map, has admitted in a recent interview, that the traditional route would never had garnered him the success his indie status has.

Last, but not least, as indie writing grows into a giant industry, a number of services are springing up to support it. The number of how-to-write and market-yourself books, websites, and story doctors is growing by the day. Editors married to traditional publishing houses are realising that their services have coin with indie writers too—perhaps even more so. Inevitably, this will impact the quality of indie writing, driving it ever upward. Not only will this benefit the reading public, it will also affect the quality of movies that are increasingly drawing from this pool of new talent.

So, my fellow indie writers, put on your shades, for, whichever way we look, the future of writing seems bright indeed.

Summary

The positive outlook for reading and writing seems set to continue, supported by a growing number of hardware innovations and trends.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.

Photo: M Vegas. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Review or Bust

Review or Bust

This post, requested by one of this blog’s subscribers, fellow author Joy Sikorski, deals with the task of finding reviewers for one’s books on Amazon—an often daunting task. Readers often don’t realise the crucial importance of reviews to the life of a book. Without a sufficient number of these, books languish and die.

One approach aimed at alleviating the problem is to ask readers for reviews, either at the beginning, or end of your book, and provide a link to the specific spot on Amazon. This can work, but it requires that a sufficient number of people read your work first. When your book first appears, however, especially if you are a new author, it tends to get lost amongst the millions of others on Amazon. It’s easy to miss. Few readers, few reviews. It’s catch-22 all over again.

Joining some of the various book clubs and establishing a dedicated Facebook of your novel may, and, does, help. Yet, there are many who promise reviews on such pages, but never get around to writing them—though we live in hope! One does occasionally strike it lucky through such channels, though.

Yet another method is to run a blog such as this. If you are offering a free service that people find helpful, some conscientious souls may be inclined to reward you by buying your books and offering honest but fair reviews of them. This method, for example, has yielded some success for me.

One surer way is to join a professional site such as the Author’s Marketing Club.

http://www.authormarketingclub.com/

I have subscribed to this site and have found it extremely helpful in a variety of ways. The site provides loads information and insight on how best to market your book. It develops and offers many tools that make marketing your novel(s) easier. The site offers a specific tool (reviewer-grabber tool) that identifies reviewers on Amazon in your genre and lists their email addresses for you. It even offers a template letter showing the ideal way to word your request. It is then up to you to email these reviewers, offer to send them your book as a gift, and request they review it. Because these reviewers have an established track record (which you can check with the tool), the chances are that you will receive a number of positive responses through this method. You do have to be a paid-up member of the club to benefit from this, though.

I’ve have discovered that the benefits offered through this club, more than make up for the joining fee.

These then are some of the methods that independent authors, such as myself, use to encourage reviews of their books. Taken together, they form a core strategy, which yields results.

Summary

Reviews are the lifeblood of your book on Amazon. Few reviews = few sales. This post offers methods to address the situation.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.