Posts Tagged ‘question for the audience

05
Nov
10

Polite self-promotion

First off (and fitting, considering the meat of this post), my second novel, The Spirit Rebellion is now officially launched. Hooray! I have a post up on my blog with some reviews and gory details about how the book came into being (spoiler: it almost didn’t), so check it out if you like that sort of thing! Book 3, The Spirit Eater, launches December 1, so if you’re waiting on the series, you won’t be waiting long. Orbit is generous like that :D. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can see all my books and read sample chapters here).

So, the Spirit Thief has been officially out for a little over a month now. Truth be told, it’s been a hard 30 days for me. I do realize how ungrateful I sound when say that, and please know the difficulty had nothing to do with the wonderful readers who’ve bought my book or the wonderful people who helped me get it out there. As always, my problems start and end only with me.

The month has been difficult because I’ve been struggling to overcome a fear I didn’t know I had: a fear of self promotion. If you had asked me (and several people did) a few months ago “are you looking forward to promoting your book?” I would have (and did) answered an enthusiastic “of course!”  After all, I wrote the damn thing. Of course I think it is wonderful and amazing and worthy of reading, else I wouldn’t have missed playing all that Warcraft to write it (and rewrite it and query it and rewrite it again). Why wouldn’t I want to shout to the world how awesome I think my book is? After all, I’ve never exactly been a shy, retiring flower.

And yet, for a forward, confident person, I’ve suddenly become tongue tied on the subject of my own work. For example, when The Spirit Thief launched, I went to the bookstore to see my book on the shelf. It wasn’t there, so I asked the stock guy and, after checking the computers, he said it was in the back. He offered to go get me one, but I declined (I didn’t want to take one away from my home store where I’d told people it was going to be) and then… I left. I left without saying anything, and the whole time I’m screaming at myself,  “Rachel, tell them you’re the author, ask to see the manager, see if you can set up a signing, PROMOTE YOUR BOOK.”  But I just couldn’t, and I didn’t know why.

This rocked my world on a pretty fundamental level. I’d just failed at the most basic new author task, and I couldn’t tell you why. But then, after lots of emo-face thinking, I figured it out. In some ways, I’m a very southern girl. I was raised to think that bragging was the height of all rudeness (and, hence, evil). That a truly worthy deed will gain notice on its own. Self promotion is, in a sense, a little like bragging. You’re telling people about your accomplishments. And there lay the problem. If I’d told that book seller “hey, I’m the author, want to get together and do something promotional?”  I don’t think I would have been out of line, but I would have been calling attention to the fact that I’ve written a bo0k and asking for special treatment because of that, which set off all kinds of deeply rooted warning bells.

So I find myself in a dilemma. If I promote my book, I feel like I’m being rude. If I don’t promote my book, I increase my chances of sinking into oblivion and ruining my career. That can not happen, and so it’s time to get over myself. Gotta put on my big girl panties and put myself out there. But, you know, politely.

So here’s my question for you: what kind of book promotions caught your eye? What did you most enjoy? Web ads? Blog posts? Contests? Let me know in the comments (if you don’t mind, that is).

11
May
10

supporting your writers!

So this post is way late and not at all what I meant to write about, but it keeps coming up, so I thought I’d put it here!

So my first book, The Spirit Thief, comes out in October. So far away! But considering I’ve been a published author for nigh on 2 years now, that’s relatively quite close! Now that this whole publishing gig is worming its way towards reality, people keep asking me how they can support my blinking, blind, newborn career.

Now, I have lovely friends and family and am honored and flattered beyond all telling that they would want to stick their necks and hard earned dollars out for me. But I don’t want them to waste their time or their money, so when they ask me “Rachel, what can I do to support your novel?”, this is how I answer, condensed in useful list form!

How to Support Your Favorite Novelist Without Spending More Than 15 Minutes or the Price of the Book You Were Hopefully Going to Buy Anyway

  1. Wait until 2 weeks before the book’s launch before doing anything – This is the most vital time for support. Any sooner and people might forget, any later and you miss those vital initial numbers that mean so much to publishers. You can of course talk it up earlier, but save anything big, and the actual purchase, until this crucial time.
  2. Preorder the book – Since you were (hopefully!) going to buy the book anyway, this is the best way to do it. Preorders boost an otherwise unknown book up the Amazon or B&N or whatever seller you prefer’s list. Strong preorder numbers lead to more and bigger book orders from retailers, which make your author look really good!
  3. Leave an honest, informative review – Of course, we all love good reviews, but honesty is the most important. A page full of glowing reviews that ultimately say nothing won’t draw readers, but even a 3 star review highlighting the book’s pros and cons can lead sometimes lead to sales. After all, one person’s gripe can be another person’s love. Hopefully, your author has written a book that earns your giddy fandom, but even if you didn’t like it as much as you’d hoped, write about it.
  4. Mention the book on your social media – Twitter shoutouts, facebook links, blog posts, they all help to raise a book’s profile. Even if the only people who follow you are your family and that guy from high school who kind of creeped you out but you don’t want to unfriend because you don’t want to be rude. You don’t have to spam or be particularly verbose, you even copy/paste the review you wrote for the book’s sales page, just say something and get the title out there. Every little bit helps.

As Cory Doctorow says, an SF writer’s biggest problem is obscurity. Anything you do, even if it’s just one post, can be a big help thanks to the ripple effect of the internet, and your author will love you forever.

(Also, when I was typing the above I misspelled Cory Doctorow’s name and Google’s (I use Chrome) spellcheck corrected me. Folks, that is fame right there, when your name is in Google’s spellcheck. )

Anyway, that’s my list. You tell me, did I leave anything out? Mess anything up? Let me know!

31
Jan
10

MacMillan vs. Amazon

So I was going to write about the editorial muck I’m neck deep in, then Nora brought this to my attention and everything else got derailed.

So here’s what happened. Publishing giant Macmillan, parent company of SciFi/Fantasy giant Tor, decided it wanted its ebooks to cost around $15. Amazon, primary retailer for ebooks, didn’t like this at all, and, to show their strong displeasure, have pulled all Macmillan books, print and electronic, from Amazon.com. (Though Macmillan imprints like Tor  seem to be fine).

This is certainly only temporary, but it is a pretty powerful statement from Amazon about who really controls the price of ebooks. However, while they battle it out, the real victims (as it always is in wars) are the civilians, in this case, the authors.  These are people whose books have just vanished from Amazon through no fault of their own, and that sucks. Now, of course there are other retailers, but come on. This is Amazon.com, the online book behemoth. This isn’t small change, especially for scifi/fantasy with our tech savvy audience.

This is also a first shot in the coming greater conflict between retailers and publishers as ebooks move from a fringe format to a real money maker. Who really controls the price? What will that price be? It’s a very interesting conflict to watch for signs of what the future holds for ebooks. Meanwhile, however, it really sucks to be a Macmillan author.

What do you think? Would you buy an ebook for $15? Who’s in the wrong here, Amazon or Macmillan?

ETA: Macmillan’s explanation via Publisher’s Lunch (thanks to Nora for the link, she finds everything!)

UPDATE! Amazon has relented! They will be selling Macmillan books again. Their explanation is a bit backhanded, but that’s to be expected from someone who’s been pushed to do something they don’t want.

01
Jan
10

welcome to the future!

Well… technically it’s not the future until the end of 2010, what with that being the official end of the decade, but screw it. 2010 SOUNDS like the future! And while I am still somewhat miffed at the lack of flying cars and jet packs, I’m feeling pretty bright about the future. So bright, in fact, I’m making plans!

Rachel’s Plans for 2010:

1) Be an actual mom. This includes getting my baby home from the hospital and with me all the time, rather than just an hour a day in the NICU. This should happen very soon, he’s doing really well. I’m very excited!

2) Finish all books under contract. This should also happen very soon, in the next few months. Once I get all my books turned in, I will take a month off, for serious. It will be awesome. Then I’ll start in whole hog on promotion activities. For those keeping score, my books, The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and the Spirit Eater, should be out October, November, December 2010 from Orbit (they have an awesome website, by the way. Go check it out if you haven’t already. Our own Nora has a post up at the moment)!

3) Start a NEW SERIES! I’ve been working on Eli and company for 3 years now, and while I love them all dearly, variety is the spice of life. I’ve got 2 more books planned for the series, but we’ll have to see how the first three sell before those get underway. So, in the months of waiting between finishing all the manuscripts and the books actually hitting the shelves, I’m going to be pitching some new ideas to my agent to see if anything sticks. I probably won’t end up as busy as Diana (I think you suffer from a overflowing of blessing there, Diana), but it never hurts to have some extra casseroles in the oven. And I could certainly use a change of scenery.

So those are my big 3 plans, the ones around which everything else revolves. If I can pull those off, 2010 is going to be great.

So, what are you big plans for next year? Any big projects? Goals? Inquiring minds want to know!

05
Dec
09

Question for the audience

So it is gift giving time again and I am stuck with an interesting conundrum. I have 2 teenage boys and 1 eleven year old boy on my list, and I’d like to get them books for Christmas. Trouble is, I don’t read a lot of YA or know what’s cool (nor am I seen as being particularly cool). One of the teenagers and the eleven year old both read well above their level, I don’t know about the other teenager (other than he likes XBox and BMX racing).

SO, if you, lovely, well read readers, can suggest books boys would like and not just shove under their beds, I would be ecstatic.  I’d really love some good SciFi, since all 3 like that sort of thing, but I’ll take whatever recommendations you think up! Thank you in advance for helping me save Christmas!

10
Oct
09

eavesdropping

So it’s that time of year again. I speak partially of National Novel Writing Month, but not really. The part of NaNoWriMo I love is actually October, the month before the legion scribblers begin to scribble, when they reset and reopen the forums. Friends, there is no greater, or more interesting, window into the aspiring writer’s soul.

Continue reading ‘eavesdropping’

07
Aug
09

Dissecting the Devil

Dissecting the Devil
Today I’d like to talk about everyone’s favorite characters – villains. A good villain can make an otherwise normal story unforgettable. Silence of the Lambs would be nothing but a serial killer novel without Hannibal Lector. And I Claudius wouldn’t be much of anything except an historical drama without the incredible machinations of Livia. What’s Star Wars without force lightning? Villains are everything we love about fiction.
In my first novel, I didn’t worry too much about my villain, and while I think I still managed to pull it off, I didn’t want to ignore the villain in my next book. But what makes a truly memorable villain? I sat down to find out.
Your villain is your antagonist, so it seems reasonable that your reader should hate them as a by-product of cheering for your main characters. It isn’t hard to inspire hate in a reader, just have your villain do something awful. Burning down the main character’s village is classic, so is killing your swordsman’s beautiful and far too saintly wife, preferably on their wedding day. If you’re looking for something a little quicker, you can just have the bastard abuse a child, or better, a puppy, and you’ll have instant, rabid hatred.
But simple, hated villains rarely end up on top ten lists. There’s only so much evil cackling they can do before they start sounding like every other cackling villain. True, hated villains play their parts with great aplomb and push the story along admirably, but I can’t help feeling that simple hate isn’t enough. Pure evil is just as boring as pure good. For a villain to truly go down as an amazing character, they have to be a character, which means a mixed bag. A truly good villain must be someone readers love, or at least, love to hate, and to achieve this, you must capture the reader, trapping them into feeling empathy, admiration, or even simple watching-the-trainwreck fascination.
Empathy is perhaps the rarest and the trickiest. My favorite empathetic villain is Salieri from Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. Here is a composer who has dedicated his life to music, who did everything right, but who was unfortunate enough to be a competitor with Mozart, who, in the movie (and the play), is a horrible, irresponsible, dirty little man, but whose music transcends the best of what Salieri can produce. In one of the most moving scenes, Salieri, a devout Christain who had dedicated his life to making music for the glory of god, turns his back on his creator, saying:
“From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able.”
It is at this moment that Salieri becomes the villain, and the viewer can not help but empathize. Salieri has been the movie’s central character. He’s charming, genteel, and his love of Mozart’s music, even though he hates the man with a murderous passion, constantly redeems him. He can not hate such beauty, and neither can we. He represents the inadequacy and mediocrity we all feel, tapping into an extremely human feeling of jealousy combined with seemingly justified wrath. For all that he does horrible things, we as the audience can not help loving and empathizing with Salieri.
Admiration is its own kind of tricky. How do you make the audience hate and admire a villain at the same time? It’s all about character. One of most masterful portrayals of this I ever saw was Livia in I Claudius. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, I Claudius is a so-so book and a fantastic BBC mini-series about the family life of the early Roman Emperors, from Augustus to Nero, following the life of Claudius, later Emperor Claudius, the stuttering grandson of Augustus.
The first part of the series is undoubtedly my favorite because it features Augustus’s wife, Livia, as the primary villain. Livia is desperately ambitious that her son, Tiberius, become Emperor on Augustus’s death, never mind that there are quite a few other heirs before him, or that neither Augustus nor Tiberius himself is very keen on Tiberius being Emperor.
None of this stops Livia, and she removes every obstacle in her path with such precision, such cunning, such ruthless efficiency, you can’t help but admire her. Here is a woman so skilled at what she does, namely bumping off family members, I found myself almost cheering for her because it was so much fun to watch someone so clever get around seemingly impossible obstacles. Through it all, Livia is a constant character, and, other than her murderous streak, a very no-nonsense, entertaining lady who happens to be a sociopath. She is, in short, murderously charming, and you can’t help admiring her as much as you hate her.
The villain as can’t-look-away train wreck is a difficult beast. It’s so easy to go from captivating to cliché. The best example I’ve seen of this kind of villain is the Joker from Batman, particularly in the Dark Knight movie. Here is a true maniac who, through excellent writing and characterization, manages to be completely original. You simply can not look away, there’s always this wonder of what will he do next, and how can such an insane, reckless genius be stopped? The tension in Batman and Joker’s antagonism comes not from us hating the Joker, but of our desperation to see how on earth Batman can beat him.
The truth is that, if the movie was centered around the Joker, and not Batman, we’d be cheering for him with pure murderous glee, and that, that right there, is the truest hallmark of a good villain. If the viewpoints were switched, you would still cheer for the villain as the hero because you love the character for themselves. A good antagonist is exactly that, an equal opponent for the hero in strength, cleverness, and characterization. A true threat, not just through armies or super weapons or power, but a clever, ruthless competitor who can stand up on their own.
These three types are certainly not the only options for villainy, just the ones I’ve encountered that I happen to like the most. In everything I’ve written, villains have always been my greatest challenge, and I still don’t think I’ve gotten it quite right. So if you have any suggestions for villains I should get to know, please leave them in the comments. I’m always looking to learn a new twist on how to make a great antagonist.

Today I’d like to talk about everyone’s favorite characters – villains. A good villain can make an otherwise normal story unforgettable. Silence of the Lambs would be nothing but a serial killer novel without Hannibal Lector. And I Claudius wouldn’t be much of anything except an historical drama without the incredible machinations of Livia. What’s Star Wars without force lightning? Villains are everything we love about fiction.

In my first novel, I didn’t worry too much about my villain, and while I think I still managed to pull it off, I didn’t want to ignore the villain in my next book. But what makes a truly memorable villain? I sat down to find out.

Continue reading ‘Dissecting the Devil’