Saturday, March 7, 2015

When the Whole World Knows

Scott D. Parker

This was THE week. This past week was when I announced to the world that WADING INTO WAR was available for purchase. I had timed the announcement via my new author website but wanted the far-ranging reach of Facebook to really get the message out. There was that moment, however, when I had the Facebook post cued and, with hand on mouse, I eased the cursor over to "Post."

And I hesitated. Only for a moment, but still, I hesitated. This was it. This was the moment of which I had dreamed and planned and prepared for running back to 2013. The moment that the world knew something that was wholly of my own creation was released into the world. There was no going back if I clicked that button. Did I really want to do it? Did I really want to put what I had created out into the world?

Years ago, when a friend and I wrote our first books, he expressed trepidation at the prospect of submitting his novel to an agent. "Then what the heck did you write it for?" I said.

Same question this past Tuesday for me. Did I really want WADING INTO WAR out in the public?

Heck yeah.

I clicked "Post" and the door was opened. I am a published author now. And boy is it a great feeling.

Now I just need to do it again.

For all you veteran authors out there, is this little bit of hesitation the authorial equivalent of stage fright? Does it get easier? Granted, it wasn't too difficult, honestly, aside from that moment. It's a complete thrill to know my book is out there. Moreover, I feel honored to have done something that Charles Dickens also did: publish a book independently.*

*Speaking of Dickens, have you read Edward Granger's (nee David Cranmer) essay on The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Oh, and he's got a nifty new story featuring Gideon Miles.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Time to vote

By Steve Weddle

Looks like it’s awards season for the crime fiction community? How do I know? I have a Facebook account. And an email account. And Twitter.

Turns out, 83 of my 96 online friends have books eligible for some sort of award. That's great. Heck, I've read a large number of those books and liked quite a few. And there are more awards and nominations coming.

The list goes on and on.

Seems as if everyone I know is nominated for an award named after one dead white man or another.

The presumption, of course, is that winning an award is useful to a writer's career. If you win the award, then you can add that to your bio. If you don't, you can hope again next year or swear the awards off as too political or a popularity contest, of course.

Having that award helps you stand out from folks who don't.

James Jimjam, Edgar-winning author of THE FUNAMBULIST'S DAUGHTER'S CONSPIRACY, will be reading tonight at the Booke Shoppe on Main Street.

Sometimes the problem with being a professional writer is less with the writing and more with the acting professionally.

A few years ago, I was somehow nominated for something and unsure how to, um, well, you know, get people to notice so they'd think I was cool? As Joel McHale would say, ANYWAY, someone suggested using the old "Congratulations to my fellow nominees" construction. Which is great. You draw attention to yourself, but it looks as if you're congratulating other people. Flawless.  Who could fault you for that? I didn't give it much more thought.

OK. Let me take a second before we go further to give some space to the usefulness of these awards. To me, the awards you don't have to explain are awesome. He won the Pulitzer. She won the Nobel. Then you have the other awards, the ones you have to explain. She won the William T. Nulon Award, given annually to outstanding work in the field of microbiotics. His novel was chosen for Oprah's Book Club. She spoke at the Roundhouse Colloquium, a group of philanthropists devoted to conserving soil in south Alabama.

Different awards carry different weight, I suppose, but each award is a way to separate yourself from other books (the losers) and a way for people who might not see your book to notice it.

You see, there are those lists that come out with the awards. Here are the six books that made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, they'll say. Some people may see a list like that and buy books based on it. Or they may track down a book simply because it won a prize. I don't, but some folks might.

Also, some awards come with money. You can have all the book cover stickers -- the circle ones with all the points -- that you want. Those are great. Hand me an award with a check.

Hang on. Before we get much further (GAWD, how much further is there?) I should say something about the folks who work their asses off getting these awards together, sorting and reading through everything. Thanks to them. They're the ones who have to run back and forth to the post office to pick up the books your publicists sent. They're the ones who have to collate a billion emails, who have to set up spreadsheets to keep vote tally straight. The people who run these awards work as hard getting this stuff done as we do writing the books. And there ain't an award given out to the people who do all the award work while we're sitting in our fancy clothes waiting on something glass to put on the shelf. So thanks tons to those folks.

Can winning award help your book's sales? I've heard some people saw a slight bump, while others saw nothing. You know what helps a book's sales? Being a good book sometimes helps, though not always. Having the movie based off your book win an Oscar? That helps a book's sales. There's the award you want, pal.

So, let's say you want an award for your book and you need to get nominated or voted on. What are you to do?

Well, sending out an email to everyone in your list probably isn't the most subtle way to go. A couple of years ago, there was a bit of a discussion about someone who emailed out a "Vote For My Book Because It Is The Best" blast to everyone, including other people who were nominated in the same category. That didn't go over too well, but I understand the idea of wanting people to know that they can vote on the thing and that you're eligible. I mean, we want good thing for our friends.

Here's what I've found, though. You're in danger of preaching to the choir with your tweets and status updates. And, if you're stuck doing the "I hate to mention this and I hate self-promotion, but" thing, then you're probably not going to get too much traction. Look, everyone hates self-promotion. Many countries have banned it. But if you're going to do it, I have a suggestion which you can take or leave.

1) Make a thing people can share
2) There's no 2.

You can make an image. A song. A flier. Whatever. If you post a status update on your Facebook wall, your friends will see it. Maybe they already voted for you. Or maybe they're voting for themselves. (Many of my friends are assholes like that.) So, you probably want to reach your friend's mother or proctologist or high school pal. Make a thing that can get shared. Show your book. A blurb. Say it's been nominated and how to vote for it. If you care enough, make an advertisement for your book and get people to share it.

See, the thing is, you want to reach outside your circle -- and you never know what's going to catch on.

The other day, The Atlantic posted a thing on Facebook about cats, so I made a throw-away joke. I tweeted it, which maybe two people who follow me retweeted. I think I mentioned on my own Facebook wall, which a few people probably saw. And I made a comment on the original post on The Atlantic's Facebook page.

More than 100 people I don't know liked my comment and some replied. If I engaged with those replies, I guess there's the chance the response would grow even more. Now, 100 likes isn't the point here. I'm saying that, in my experience, reaching outside your circle for new people is generally your better bet when you're looking to increase coverage.

Another thing to do would be to promote our fellow authors instead of ourselves. I mean, you can do what you want. You don't need me to be your conscience (seriously, I'm a jerk and you don't want that), but I'd be much more likely to vote for James Jimjam if Becca Mason told me why his novel was great, wouldn't you? I say we make an effort to do that. Now, for me that's easier than for some of you. I'm not nominated for squat, so I don't lose any self-promotion time by promoting others. The time you spend helping others is -- and always will be -- up to you.

Anyway, here's to the best books winning the best awards. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Let's Talk About Bosch

by Holly West

For several months now, my social media feeds have been filled with posts about Amazon's production of Michael Connelly's popular Harry Bosch series. It's always exciting when a beloved character is brought from the page to the big or little screen, although I think we can all agree that the results can often be disappointing.

Now, having finished the series on Amazon, my overall reaction is meh.

Full disclosure: I don't count myself as a Harry Bosch fan. I'm not not a fan, either--it's just that I've only read one of the books and I don't even remember which one it was. I liked it well enough, but for whatever reason it didn't compel me to rush out and read the rest of the books in the series. They do remain on my TBR list, however.

As a result, I didn't really have a strong image of Harry in my mind. Titus Welliver did a decent job portraying the character. He succeeded in making Harry appropriately intense without being overbearing, which is a hard balance to achieve, especially if the writing is weak.

So. Is the writing weak?

Yes and no. Overall, I think Bosch's writers did an okay job with it. But parts of it were just a bit too cliched and there were too many lines where I rolled my eyes at my husband and said "Really?" I've seen the TV series compared to the Wire and I just have to shake my head. The Bosch TV series just doesn't have the same depth, in my opinion.

One of the series' biggest strengths is the cinematography. It's filmed like a love letter to Los Angeles and having just moved out of the city, it made me long for the good, bad, and ugly of it; a bittersweet reminder of how much I love LA.

The Bosch TV series is watchable, even enjoyable. If they make a second season, I'll probably give it a try, time permitting. But I wouldn't classify this as "must-see" TV. It's solid if you like procedurals. I'm not sure how a true fan of the Bosch novels would find it. For me, it stands well enough alone, but just well enough.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Book Thing of Baltimore

A few months ago I saw an article on Buzzfeed called 17 Bookstores that Will Literally Change Your Life and I've got to admit that those listed were pretty cool. But that's what the list was, 17 Cool Bookstores. 

If you go into downtown Baltimore, past an old shuttered theater, past plywood crosses nailed to storefront churches, past the signs for the upcoming spaghetti disco, across the street from an old bottling plant is an unassuming building with a cramped parking lot and a simple sign.

You've arrived at The Book Thing of Baltimore. The only book store that will literally change your life (and no, it wasn't listed in the above linked piece).  Why is The Book Thing so life changing? Because it is a FREE book store. They accept donations in the bins outside of the building at all times. Then on Saturday and Sunday, they open the doors to the public, point you in the direction of the pile of empty boxes, and tell you to fill them.

Are they really free? Yes. Yes they are. I walked in the door this past Saturday and left with 100 books. A friend who went down at the same time brought home 356 books. All free. 

If you are in the area, or close enough to road trip it, it is worth the time.

Here's my haul.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Most Anticipated Books

By Kristi Belcamino

I cut my right ring finger at my writer's group last night and the huge bandage is making it very difficult to type so this week I'm going to post book covers of all the books I have pre-ordered in the past six months.

If you like an author and want to support him or her, one of the very best things you can do is pre-order her books.