Monday, January 31, 2011

The Business of Writing! The Art of Selling!

"A young up and coming writer sits at a cafe in Paris. Judging from the restless way he's sitting, he's dying to get back to his work! can you name a single one of the other writers and artists he's sitting with?"

Back in 1922 a young writer who decided to move to Paris in order to pursue his muse was shocked to learn that many of the writers and artists who lived inside the famous city weren't really writers and artists at all. They were simply posseurs. Or posers.
People who sat about the cafes and pontificated upon the world of the arts, what was wrong with it, how they were going to somehow make a difference and turn everything that existed up until that moment onto its head. They would smoke and drink and drink and smoke, and talk and dress all in black and grow goatees and mustaches and they most certainly looked like writers and artists, but in the end they were a bunch of do nothing nobodies. Yet it was these same posseurs who came to hate the new eager young writer. In him they recognized something they lacked. He possessed drive. He possessed energy. He possessed ambition. And most of all, he possessed a talent that would only come to fruition from both hard work inside his writing studio and hard work selling himself as an adventurer and fearless sportsman to the general public. He was the real deal and for a long time, arguably "the most interesting man in the world." That young writer's name was Ernest Hemingway.

Just recently I attended a party hosted by a quote-"Artist"--unquote. Many artists were in attendance. Since I'm not an entirely anonymous writer and thriller author living in Albany, New York, I found myself the brunt of some backhanded jokes about my promotional "postings" for my recent bestsellers on the social networks. It was all supposed to be in good fun and I smiled and sucked it up. Ha Ha! The artists I'm referring too dress like artists. Long unwashed hair, chin beards, Salvation Army clothing. Some do yoga; some work in academia. One or two are extremely talented. A few others are talentless. They don't do gluten, and never, ever, do they utter a single non-PC word or phrase, unless of course, it's directed at someone not accepted inside their tight circle or someone they don't really like, such as a writer who not only spends his days writing but actively promoting his published work as though it were not an art necessarily, but a business.

But the truth is, writing is a business. Successfully selling your writing is an art.

My dad is going on 60 years in the commercial construction business. He is tremendously successful. He didn't get wealthy because he sat around talking about building. He didn't pretend to be a successful businessman by hanging around conferences, and country clubs, and ritzy bars buying expensive cocktails for pretty girls. He achieved success by working day and night, seven days a week. Often, he was scorned by other extended family members as being "all about his work." He was called "selfish" and "self-centered" by some of the very same people he put through school and later on, took care of financially. He wasn't so selfish then was he? I might not have followed in my dad's precise footsteps but I have learned an awful lot from him about running a business. His golden rule above all others? Work for yourself. Be your own boss, even if it means returning bottles and cans for the five cent refund for a while.

It's true, writing and the business of writing takes up a lot of time. Most of our time, that is if you are to pursue it to the best of your ability. And in my case, it can cost you dearly. I've been married twice and divorced twice. I still have difficulty maintaining a lasting relationship. I live in an apartment since I simply cannot keep up with a house. I travel often on assignment or out of pure wanderlust, because to sit in one place for too long is death for a writer. In a word, I am always working.

But the work is paying off in book sales that have quadrupled over the past year, and promise to quadruple again over the next six months. I am now lecturing to International Journalism students at the state university and in 2011 alone I will finish two new novels and write a good draft of another. I can't tell you how many articles, blogs, and digital shorts I will write but it will be a lot.

In the end, it's the work ethic that pays off. The follow-through, and finishing what you start. Just ask Ernest Hemingway. He is probably the best known of the Paris "Lost Generation." he is still a bestseller, nearly fifty years after his death. The posseurs who frequented the cafes and showed scorn for a "sell out" like Papa are long forgotten. They remain nobody. My dad, continues to run his business and works a 70 hours week at 75 years old. he is wealthy but he doesn't act like it. I also work everyday, whether I'm traveling or not. In the new era of writers having to promote themselves through social media, blogs, virtual tours, appearances, book trailers, and more, there is no end to what has to be done. Plus you have to carve out precious time to write and read. Tough to maintain a family life at the same time, yet my kids aren't complaining. They too want to be writers.

Oh, and as for those artists I mentioned before...They need to work day jobs in order to support themselves. I don't have day job. A real one, that is. I work for myself. I'm a writer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Godchild Reviewed!

"Cool cover huh?"

The first of what we hope to many reviews of the newly re-released GODCHILD by StoneGate Ink: CMASH LOVES TO READ!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Competing with the Living and the Dead

"In this corner we've got the No. 6 Hot New Hard-Boiled Bestseller, Dash Hemmett with The Thin Man...In the other corner we've got No. 7..."

That title is misleading since in the world of E-Books, there's infinite room for everyone, right? Nothing gets remaindered due to lack of shelf space, nothing goes out of print because the publisher is either board with promoting your work or not enough pennies are coming in to support the support of your published novel. No book ever goes away. Nothing ever dies. Your spot in the E-Book store is just as prominent as a major A-list writer like James Patterson.

Or is it?

Lately I've noticed something funny happening. As the E-Book versions of my novels like the special edition "Sweet Dreams"/"The Remains" enter into the Amazon bestseller lists and/or the Amazon Hot New Bestselling Release lists, that a competition of a sort truly does exist. Real competition. And not just with other bestselling independent and established authors. I find myself competing with a whole bunch of dead guys.

Listen, I mean no disrespect. A lot of these dead guys I speak of are heros. But what's happening is that despite big publishing still proclaiming paper to be their primary means of survival, what they also realize is that Kindle has been crowned the new King. Which also means they can now reintroduce a whole bunch of books to a whole new generation of readers who love their Kindles. Which is fine by me, but as an author, how strange does it feel being book-ended by Dash Hammett and Ross MacDonald? How even stranger does it feel to be competing (yes competing!) for that coveted number one spot with a dead dude!

To better stress my point, this past summer, my publisher StoneGate Ink published a new digital short of mine. Actually, there wasn't anything new about it. True Stories is one of my most anthologized short stories and since it has a True Crime as well as a literary flair to it, they decided to put it back out, only this time on the digital market. Not only did it hit the True Crime bestselling Kindle list but it hit Drama as well, right smack behind a very dead but somehow still alive Mr. William Shakespeare.

Welcome to a future in which no one dies. Not really anyway.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vincent Zandri, Sponsored by Budweiser Beer!

"This Bud's for you Dear Reader!"

Lately there's been talk amongst publishers, agents, and authors alike that E-Books might one day be offered to the public for free (ok, I know this is happening now, but I mean ALL E-Books). Instead of the reader paying the author/publisher, sponsors will pay in exchange for product placement inside the text. Since the books are read via electronic reader, readers will be able to link to specific product websites, and even to that author's own books should the opportunity present itself.

I wondered if a scenerio of sponsorship is realistic or if I even unintentionally mention the name of popular products and services inside the text of my books and more importantly, if I did so organically. In other words, do these products become included in the story because they belong there or because I might want them there in order to collect a payment?

Here's a small chapter of a new novel I'm working on, Moonlight Rises (the sequel to Moonlight Falls). Let's see how many instances of product placement there are without me forcing them into the text (I'm not gonna link to all of them because I'm a writer more than a blogger and I've got a lot of work to do...but you get the point!).

Darkness fills the bedroom.

How long had I been asleep. An hour? Three? It had to be at least three. I looked at my fifteen dollar Target special wrist watch. Fifteen past seven. I’d slept for over five hours. I slid off the bed, more than a bit groggy. There was some blood smeared on the bed sheet from where I rolled over onto my side. I touched my shirt and found that it was wet. I turned on the lamp, pulled off the shirt and the old dressing, checked the wound in the mirror above the dresser. The stitches were still intact. I put on a fresh dressing and a clean shirt. I’d slept long enough. Time to get to work. Find out if Paul Czeck was who he says he was, and if he was in fact looking for a man whom he swore he was his biological father.

I had the Dell laptop open on the kitchen counter, a Bud tall boy open beside it. Thank God for Verizon wireless internet. Allowed me to multi-task. I switched onto Google and typed in the name “Paul Czeck” in the search engine. Not a damn thing came up. Nothing about him belonging to a professional society of engineers, nothing regarding high school or college alumni. No Facebook page, or Twitter account. As far as the internet and social media was concerned, Czeck was anonymous. And considering he worked for a facility that dealt on a daily basis with classified nuclear information, maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be.

I sat back, took a sip of beer.

The pain in my side was getting worse. I tapped the wound gently with my fingers. It sent a small shockwave of sting up and down my side. The Lidocane had officially worn off. I got up, found the Advils in the cabinet above the sink, poured four into my hand. Sitting back down at the table, I swallowed all four with a swig of beer.

Next search. I got the website for The New York State Society for CPA’s. Now there was some excitement. I typed in the name, Howard Roth. I got a single business address that was located downtown, Broadway. Not far from where those three thugs beat the snot out of me. I wrote the address down on a Post-a-Note, stuffed it into my wallet. Tomorrow I’d go pay a visit to Mr. Roth’s office, see if he did in fact look like the man in Czeck’s black and white photo, only thirty-plus years older.

Next item. Maybe there was nothing noteworthy about Czeck on the web, but I could bet the mortgage he was located in the White Pages. And that’s the way it turned out. He lived in a North Albany suburb called Loudonville. Four Orchard Grove. It’s exactly where I would be heading that evening, soon as Georgie got here.

So there you have it. You count the instances of product placement. And I'll admit, I forced a couple in there, like the Target wrist watch one. But I did that to make a point: if as authors we wanted to cash in a on product placement, you see how easy it would be.

However, I was shocked to learn that popular products and services do appear more than I thought in my work. I wonder if they appear often enough for these companies to pay the author for their appearance much like film production companies collect a hefty payment for product placement in their popular movies? Only the future knows.

For now, I have to get back to work on the novel, and the all important climax which just happens to be taking place at McDonalds which this week is featuring oatmeal for breakfast and a return of the all beef, double.....