What’s Up?

ImageI decided I needed to take a moment, show my blog some attention, and catch up after what was a hectic start of the year.

First off – Sport of Kings was released by Liquid Silver on January 1st.

Second – Volume Four of Memoirs of a Gigolo will be out on February 1st.

A few readers have asked me if there is something else on the horizon. First – thank you. I’d probably be doing this if you weren’t buying my books, but that you keep coming back for more tells me I’m doing something right.

A very very brief glimpse inside of what’s coming up. I have a romance coming out sometime later this spring through TWRP. I have a couple mainstream romances (which are pretty spicy but not erotica) I’m trying to get agented. I have something completely different which I’m working on that will appeal to readers who like mainstream contemporary fantasy. A YA dystopian in which I indulge my love of ancient cultures, mythologies and religions. Finally, after Memoirs I’ll be launching a new serial.

That’s it for the moment. Now I’m back to work for the next couple of days in advance of the launch of Volume Four of Memoirs of a Gigolo.

50 Shades of Marketing 101

What I know about marketing comes from watching Mad Men. I asked my BFF, The Marketing Maven, if there was something more to what she got a masters degree in, than tossing back the scotch, wearing fabulous vintage couture, and groping asses. Surprisingly, there is a lot more too it than chain smoking and having identity crises’. I asked The Marketing Maven five basic questions about marketing. Here’s what she had to say:

  • Livia the Clueless Writer:Who are you and why are you sitting in my living room dressed in a cowl and cape, drinking my booze?
  • The Marketing Maven:I am The Marketing Maven! Able to dazzle Madison Avenue in one clever catchphrase!
  • Livia the Clueless Writer:Seriously?
  • The Marketing Maven: Well, actually I’ve spent years branding commercial products and have a masters degree in marketing.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: What’s the deal with the cowl and the cape?
  • The Marketing Maven: Branding.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Cool. So… Five questions about marketing in exchange for my booze?
  • The Marketing Maven: Shoot.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: What’s the difference between marketing, advertizing and publicity?
  • The marketing Maven: Marketing is the strategy behind the advertising and publicity. The strategy is about how you want your product perceived and placed in the market- price, product itself, placement (where is it available for sale). Advertising is about how you show the consumer your strategy – who are you trying to reach, what do you want them to know and think about your product, price, etc. publicity or pr is about getting opinion leaders or celebrities to endorse, use or discuss your product. Marketing is the coordinating and overarching piece of it. What you are doing with reviews and interviews is a cross between publicity and advertising.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Do I need all three to sell a book?
  • The Marketing Maven: Yes. The key to selling anything is to have the end consumer familiar with your product. If they have never heard of you, they can’t buy your product. You need to know how to place your product, get people familiar with it and then get people to recommend it to their circle. To do that you need all 3 aspects working together.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Does advertising work?
  • The marketing Maven: Yes, advertising builds awareness and familiarity with your product. It gets your name known. It gets the trendsetters aware and possibly trying this something new. That is why we see advertising everywhere. Unfortunately my experience is not iBook marketing, so I’m not sure about the effectiveness in this industry. But generally, as you build awareness you build sales.
  • The marketing Maven: What we haven’t talked about is your strategy.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Uhhh…. Strategy? You mean like… What actually do you mean?
  • The Marketing Maven: Your strategy is all about who you want to reach and how you want to be perceived.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: I’m guessing I need a strategy?
  • The marketing Maven: I’m going to go with… YES!
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: If I have a strategy can I turn Memoirs of a Gigolo into the next 50 Shades of Gray.
  • The Marketing Maven: 50 Shades of Grey is honestly a freak. It is extremely rare for a new entry in a category to take off like that. I think it had a number of things working in its favor. One, it had a core buyer built in, by starting as Twilight fan fiction. Two, it started as an ebook,so people could read it anymously as a guilty pleasure. Three, it spread by word of mouth. It allowed traditional romance readers to delve into erotica, while still in a traditional romance format. It became all about the recommendations. Fourth, it profited from its own success. Once it became an in the know”” item, and was selling well, the publicity ran itself. It was picked up in the news, then came the paperback and the truly monster sales. Over all the quality of the writing didn’t matter. It was all about being in on the secret and enjoying a guilty pleasure.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Will you answer some questions from other clueless writers?
  • The Marketing Maven: Will the booze keep flowing?
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Do I secretly tell everyone that you never drink and that the booze is just our Mad Men joke?
  • The Marketing Maven: Why ruin the fun? Bring on the questions!

The Marketing Maven will be around answering your questions for a day or two – or more depending on how many questions there are. Post them in the comments and she’ll try to help us clueless writers unravel the mystery of marketing. 

Next week I will continue my exploration into what makes the next big thing in writing. Dr. Lulu will be around to talk about the psychology behind the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon.

Because We Were the Drama, Art, Poetry, and Glee Kids….

You know who you were back in high-school. I know who I was. I was the moody blond that tended to sulk a lot while I wrote abysmal poetry in my journals. I wore black and mourned my lost youth when I wasn’t in my tartan uniform skirt with rebellious Doc Martin loafers as my only means of personal expression. The nuns loved the shoes. They thought they were sensible. I was one of the arty kids that lived under the constant shadow of the more vocal and popular sporty kids.

I knew I wanted to be a writer. My friends were writers, poets, artists, musicians, and actors. Every year there was a dog fight over funding for the school play in the fall and the musical in the spring. Because we didn’t have jerseys that could accommodate branding of sponsors, we got the shaft. Maybe this is a good thing. Artists are forged from the heat of their struggles. It is no lie that there is a certain level of suffering that has to be endured before an artist has developed enough character to truly be interesting. That doesn’t change the fact that it breaks my heart when kids that want to put on a play, have to go scrounging for the funds to make it happen.

From today’s art, poetry, drama, and band kids the next generation of entertainers will be born. Somewhere the next George Lucas, Edward Norton, Adele, Wayne Thiebaud, and Jack Keroac are being formed. The simple truth is, these future contributors to society are learning early that, to quote Rodney Dangerfield, they don’t get no respect. If they want to put on a play, they need to work for it. The arts, unlike sports, do not get money hand over fist.

This is why I’m so pleased to have discovered Kickstarter. More specifically, I found a group of kids that want to put on a play. They need $350 for sheets to make togas, batteries for their microphones, and halogen lamps. They’re putting on A Midsummer Nights Dream – fortunately the fairies have all agreed to buy their own leotards. How sad is that? The fairies have to buy their own leotards because there really is that little funding for the arts in our schools. This pisses me off. I’ve been that kid that had to buy her own leotard so my acting group could put on the same play.

I’m mad that these kids have to do this. I’m grateful Kickstarter exists. I’ve given them $5. If I had the money, I’d back the project wholly. My first venture as a theater backer. I hope they make it. If they do, they’ll be able to put on their show and have the resulting rush. If they don’t, then they’re going to learn a lesson in wanting to be in the arts – it’s hard and heartbreaking.

The Two Scariest Words in Publishing – Synopsis and Outline

Emily Dickinson. She lived quietly. Wrote a few things between the beginning and the end.  Died. Had her brother and his lover publish her poems. Then became famous.  Personally I’d like to get published while I’m still alive. Fortune and glory isn’t really my goal. Telling a good story that people enjoy reading is. So, unlike Emily Dickinson, I’m putting what I have to offer out there.

I’m playing it safe and leaving no stone unturned. To that end I’ve self-published the first of a twelve part series –  Memoirs of a Gigolo, I’m signed with two small publishers – The Wild Rose Press and Liquid Silver Books, and I’m going to take a stab at once again trying to court an agent. This isn’t my first voyage of the damned – I’ve tried traveling this road before – I usually get hit by a couple of cars (big American made cars, not tiny little Japanese hybrids) then give up.

After a bit of email repartee with a friend that has not only an agent and a publisher, but also a couple of best sellers racked up on his score card and very little tolerance for my “incessant pissing and moaning” about the injustice of the publishing world when I refuse to “suck it up and play the game”, I’m going to try to tackle a synopsis and outline that might get me some airtime with an agent.

I’ve finished a manuscript that ticks every box for me. It’s topical. It’s well written. I’m passionate about the characters. It has commercial appeal. I love it. It’s YA dystopian with a Hunger Games meets 1984 vibe. I’m too paranoid to give up any details. I get like that when I really like something I’ve produced. I clutch my manuscript to my chest and start looking over my shoulder. I will say I’ve drawn extensively from my knowledge of ancient Persia and modern day Islamic nations, found a character that turns from a lump of coal into a diamond under pressure, and then added a healthy dose of the more things change the more they stay the same.  I think it’s worthy of publication. More than that. I think I have a break-out novel on my laptop. I’ve read what a lot of the publishers that deal strictly in YA have to offer and it stands up compared to other works.

So what next? I must confront the blank page and write a synopsis & outline. Then it’s time to open the proverbial kimono to the world to be told either yes, I have nice boobies or no, my bottom is flabby. Because that’s what it’s like.  As marvelous as I know my manuscript is, unfortunately I can’t walk into Simon & Schuster or Scholastic and hold a gun to the receptionists head until she calls an editor to disarm me. Even if she did call an editor and got them to come down to the lobby, I’d have to turn the gun on the editor and then I’d have to wait while they read my brilliant manuscript, my arm going numb from holding up the gun for so long… let’s just say it’s not done.

So I need to write a synopsis & outline. I really really really don’t want to. I never know what to write. How to condense 100k words into a couple of pages? It’s not like I haven’t tried. I even have a file filled with rejection letters from agents on my laptop. My famous writer friend that has no tolerance for my “whinging and f***ing moaning” doesn’t mind letting me know that he “sucked it up and f***ing did it”, so I have to too. He hated it. Everyone hates it. I have yet to find the writer, published or not, that finds either of these tasks less than daunting. But it has to be done. There is no way around it unless you’ve already proven yourself and the dynamic has shifted.

I’m no quitter, and I don’t really take rejection on the nose, but I’m not great at selling myself. If there was another way, I’d grab it. But I don’t think there is. So I’m off to write a synopsis and outline.

How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen

Dear Readers (can I write dear readers without sounding twee? I don’t think so, but anyhow…) –
Earlier this week I had a bit of a professional crisis wondering how the heck a little ant like me could make it to the top of the publishing heap when those who had made it were making a concerted effort to be jerks. My post about the skulduggery of R.J. Ellory reached more than a few people who were outraged, but also had been around enough to know that he is just one bad example in a world filled with people that truly to go out of their way to help others.
Anne R. Allen, author, blogger, speaker, and all around decent human being that would never write a spiteful review of anyone’s work, commented on my post, and added a link. The topic, one which I had been discussing at length with another writer that is struggling as much as I am, how to query a book review blogger. The very thing I’d been biting my lip and scrunching my nose trying to figure out. And voila – in the way that only these things can happen serendipitously, the answer was presented to me.
I have cut and paste Anne’s recommendations below. I do encourage you to have a look at the full post. We may have Anne around later, so please feel free to leave your thoughts, impressions, and questions.

How do you find interested book bloggers?

The best way is to check similar books in your genre—especially those that have been recently released. Do a search for those titles with the word “review” and read as many reviews as you can. Make a list of the reviewers you like and read the review policy.

Almost no blogger will take all types of books. Some only read traditionally-published paper books; others want only indie ebooks for Kindle. Some specialize in Nook. They almost always have specific genre requests, so read carefully, and always follow them. Even if the blogger agrees to do a review outside their genre, you won’t reach the right readers. People don’t go to a chick lit review site to discover the latest zombie gore-fest.

How do you approach them?

You should make initial contact with a query—the same way you approach other gatekeepers like literary agents and editors. This means you send a professional letter—not a Tweet or wall post on Facebook.

Here are some general rules for scoring a review:

  • Read the guidelines carefully.
  • Then, um, follow the guidelines carefully.
  • Never send an unsolicited book: query first.
  • Don’t query with books outside the prescribed genre. Personalize the query.
  • Keep queries short and intriguing.
  • Don’t take it personally if they turn you down. Reading takes a lot of time and most of them are swamped.
  • Understand the review is for the READER, not the writer, so negative reviews happen.
  • If you get a less than stellar review, mourn in private and move on. NEVER respond to a negative review.

Last November I interviewed popular childrens’ book blogger Danielle Smith of There’s a Book, and she gave some great advice on how to get your book reviewed by a blogger. She says the best way to approach a book blogger is to keep your query professional, but show some personality.

Reviewer Danielle Smith’s guidelines for authors:
  1.  Make sure you address the blogger by name
  2. Include a two to four sentence synopsis—no longer
  3. Keep personal information to a minimum. And don’t guilt-trip.
  4. Attach an image of the book cover
  5. Give the age range of the intended audience
  6. Include the page count (for print books)
  7. Provide the publication date and expected time frame of when you’d like to see the review posted for scheduling purposes.
  8. Don’t ask for a review outside the blogger’s genre
  9. Don’t query if you don’t have a website or a blog. (That screams “unprofessional” to a blogger.)

In other words, treat the book blogger like a professional and she will reciprocate.

If you want to know more about book bloggers and how to approach them, Danielle Smith is leading a panel at the Central Coast Writers’ Conference with several Book Bloggers, including Amy Riley of My Friend Amy, and Pam Van Hylckama Vleig aka Bookalicious Pam who is also an agent with San Francisco agency Larsen-Pomada.

And if you want to read some genuine, not-paid-for Amazon reviews, here are some hilarious ones for a set of Bic pens.

How about you, scriveners? Would you ever consider paying for reviews? Does this change your opinion of John Locke? Do you read book review blogs?

Thank You For the Skinny Latte

I have sold eighteen copies of my book Memoirs of a Gigolo since first releasing it last Thursday. In total, between sales on Amazon and Smashwords, I’ve made $8.76. I’ve never made any money from royalties on my writing before. I am deeply touched that eighteen people took a chance on me and my writing. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I sincerely hope you are not disappointed. Today, I went out and bought a skinny latte at Bewley’s on Grafton street with my royalty money. It was the best latte I’ve ever had. Thank you again. I’ll never forget that latte. Love – Livia

Leap of Faith: I’ve Self-Published

I never thought I’d self-publish. But I did. This week I stretched beyond my perceived technical limit, and figured it all out. My pet project has been rejected for the last time. I don’t know how many publishers I’ve submitted it to. They all love it. But they want it as a complete work and not in the twelve volumes I’ve divided it into. I don’t want it divided.I want it distributed in twelve different parts. Possibly more. Who knows? I love this story. I love the characters, how they develop, and the world they inhabit. By serializing it I have the ability to add as many volumes as I want. Especially now.

Each of my friends that has self-published promised me I wouldn’t regret it. Despite their encouragement, I did have a moments panic and a bit of hesitation as I worked at it this week. What am I most afraid of? That I’m too much of a perfectionist and there would be mistakes that I could only blame on myself. That no one would buy my book. That I’m really a rotten writer and there are a dozen people out there ready to give me one-star reviews. That I’ll have to put myself out there to market my book. It’s paralyzing the fear.

I own my lovely story. The only one that has any say is me. Talk about liberating.

So what do I do now? Please buy my book. It’s called Memoirs of a Gigolo. The story is about a young man that has come to the end of the party, he is on the edge of growing up, figuring out who he really is, and what truly matters to him.

Why I Love Jude Deveraux

I write romance for a few reasons. Mostly because I like watching two people fall in love before my eyes. I’m a bit of a voyeur in that way. I read my first romance back when I was about ten maybe eleven. It was discovered at the library where I spent a lot of my time. When I was too young to work, I went library after school for refuge. My love for books already existed. What I gained was an appreciation for quiet and the love of solitary pursuits. I read sci-fi, fantasy and romance.

During an on-line writing workshop I took a few years back, one of the participants jumped upon her ass-cheek-chaffing high horse when another participant asked her if her novel counted as romance. The shock! The outrage! The sycophantic falling over herself when I called her out, let her know I was (and quite proudly) a romance writer and that in fact it was a billion dollar business. Unbelievable. Coward was willing to trash the genre writer and her craft when she thought she was immune from criticism, but the second she’s asked to add a little of the proverbial shack to her yack, she’s got nuttin’.

People like to escape. Naughty pirates with billowing shirts help that along tremendously. Chances that you’re going to time-travel to the Scottish Highlands are probably zip. Thank god for the romance writers with enough imagination to help you get there courtesy a four-hundred-page novel. Lot’s of people read for intellectual persuit and entertainment value. They read Booker/Pulitzer/Noble worthy books. I read these books. They’re usually very good and not a little depressing. There is no reason to justify wanting to read for pleasure as there is no reason to justify wanting ot watch reality TV for pure entertainment.

My first romance novel was a Jude Deveraux and I absolutely fell in love with the Montgomery men. I had to have been ten at the time and I was absolutely in love. Probably the reason I’ve always liked the tall, dark and handsome types can be traced back to Jude Deveraux. If I ever get a chance to meet her I will make an ass out of myself. It will be my “I’m not worthy” moment.

Possibly the reason I enjoy writing series with interwoven elements is because of my hero Jude Deveraux. Each of my manuscripts contains extensive family trees and characters which tend to pop up in other peoples stories. I love this about Jude Deveraux’s work. I just love it. I like weaving a braid when writing a story. I love the subtle thread that appears here and then there. That moment when reading and the passing stranger is really that other character from another book.

I am unapologetic about loving writing romance. I love what I do.

Writing Really is a Hard Business, Isn’t It?

The problem with wanting to be a professional writer, is that the writer has to act like a professional. That the process becomes more than about the writing. Writing for pay, doesn’t take the pleasure out of the process, but it makes it a business. The writer becomes the self-employed business person. I’m not much of a business person. Not even a little. In fact, there are many many many people who know me well whom would gladly attest to the fact I am the most incapable business person they’ve ever met. Which is why I find the business of writing so incredibly hard.

If I wanted to write, purely for my love of writing, then I would have all of the joy and none of the grief. But I want to make a career out of this love of mine. I’m not going to say that I’m unemployable, I just spend a little bit too much time in my own head to be of much use to anyone outside of the food service or retail industries. On the plus side, I’m academically gifted and have fallen into that great bastion of unrealized potential; academia.

To make a career out of something means treating it like a business. I suspect there are some writers out there that have tripped into success and the accompanying buckets of money, but I have yet to slip on that particular banana peel. I sort of hoped I would, but it hasn’t happened. At this point, if I do find success, it will be because I’ve worked like a stevedore and clung to my dream like a dragon guarding it’s hoard of gold.

I’ve worked hard to bring the quality of my writing up to a professional level. What I haven’t done is devote even a fraction of the time I’ve spent on my writing career to the business end of the equation. I’m coming to that late. In a sort of vague and disjointed way, I knew there was more to the business of writing than just the writing. But it all just seemed so complicated and boring. Why would I want to get out and tap-dance while singing my praises (two things I lack both the talent and proper clothing to do) when I could be at home with my friend the laptop living vicariously through my characters? I might not have ever come to it if I hadn’t been asked to give an opinion on my life as a writer still trying to make it.

During the course of doing a favor for a friend, an established writer that wanted to know what it was like out there in the trenches, I really had look at my writing career and what I’d done to get published. What was the most eyeopening thing of all, was that I’d done very little to get published. Beyond sending out submission packages and trying to get the attention of agents, I hadn’t done much. I suspect there are a lot of writers out there that could relate to this. I’d done as much as I thought I needed to, but had never really thought about what else I could be doing.

Writing is really only a part of what I need to do. In addition to writing well, I need to write what people want to read, create a brand, and market myself. The writing is the trickiest part. I could write the best story ever written about a dystopian future in which the female main character becomes the leader of a revolution fighting against the tyranny of a male dominated totalitarian regime, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to want to read it, or, more importantly, that anyone is going to want to take the time to publish it (please do contact me if you’re interested in a story about a woman that takes up arms against the establishment – Everyone that’s read it thinks its brilliant). I should have gotten an MBA. Or, at the minimum, a degree in marketing.

To this end, I’m giving myself a crash course in marketing. I’m going to figure this business of writing out. I’m not certain if there is a secret knock, a whispered password, or I really do need to sleep with the right person (god help us both), but I will figure this out. I am neither a stupid nor an incompetent woman. Then maybe I’ll write a book about how to break into the publishing world.

Do I Want to Self-Publish?

Do I want to self-publish? When I first decided I wanted writing to be my career, I never thought I would consider self-publishing. But here I am a couple of years down the road and not nearly as established as I thought I would be. I one manuscript signed with a small e-publisher, but nothing else. I have about a dozen finished manuscripts. I have about a hundred rejection letters. I don’t think I’m getting rejected because of the quality of my work. I think I’m pretty good. Either my friends are trying to make me feel better, or I’m not what the publishers are looking for.

The publishers demand is significantly less than the pool of available work. There are a lot of writers out there trying to get noticed. Most of them are probably really good. I don’t know if I believe in luck, except for the lottery, but I do believe in hard work and working smart. This is how to generate results. I do understand the position of the publishers. Why take on someone that is unknown without an established following, when there are a lot of authors out there that already have a built in readership?

So I think I’m going to try to self-publish. I’m learning how to market myself. I have extracted promises from a couple of friends that know a thing or two about marketing. I truly do believe I have the ability to make a living out of my writing. I don’t expect to become the next Jude Deveraux or Danielle Steele, but it would be nice to pay the bills and afford my travel habit.

So, I’m going to self-publish. Please wish me luck.