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Reblog: Steph Post Writes About Writing and Her Busy Life

A Tree Born Crooked author Steph Post: Writing Under Fire

steph-post  A Tree Born Crooked

Steph Post is the author of the recently published novel A Tree Born Crooked. She lives, writes, and teaches writing in St. Petersburg, Florida. Connect with her at http://www.stephpostfiction.com. 

BOOK GIVEAWAY! To win a SIGNED COPY of A Tree Born Crooked, share the link to this post on Facebook or Twitter (by using the links at the bottom of this post) and leave a comment below with your Twitter handle or email so I can contact you if you win. The winner will be chosen randomly on Friday, November 7. You can also use this short link in your share/tweet: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-nH

Note: Click on this link for the original blog post for the links to enter contest:

A Tree Born Crooked author Steph Post: Writing Under Fire

For me, the dreaded question of “What’s your book about?” has always been paralyzing. Most people who ask are looking for about a ten-second synopsis, even shorter than an elevator pitch, and I find it challenging to sum up an entire novel, an entire year’s worth of work, in the amount of time it takes a person to unwrap and start chewing a stick of gum. Or check a text message. Or look over my shoulder at something more interesting. All of which that person is most likely doing while I’m trying to explain one of the most important things I’ve ever created in my entire life.

I’ll admit that I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve distilled my novel down into short, easy to manage, 21st century sound bites that hopefully catch a spark in the listener’s eyes, depending on what he or she is into. Southern. Literary. When the eyes start to drift, I ramp it up. Thriller. Crime. Guns. Then I narrow it down, hone in on what the reader is really looking for. I’m getting somewhere. Florida. Dirty Motels. Alcohol. Road Trips. Banana Moon Pies. I sold a book last week just because the woman had a huge crush on Timothy Olyphant (well, who wouldn’t?). She had no idea what my book was about, but she hauled out the cash as soon as she saw the word “Justified” on the cover.

So I thought I was nailing it with the sales pitch. I was feeling pretty good about it. And then I had a true deer-in-the-headlights moment the other day. The question was the same as always — “what’s your book about” — but I froze. “Um. Er. Stuff. And then some stuff happens. To these people. In this place. And then some more stuff. There’s all kinds of stuff in the book. Yep. That’s right. Lots of stuff.” I don’t have to tell you that I lost that sale…. But it wasn’t because I didn’t know how to pitch my novel. It’s because I suddenly couldn’t remember which novel I was talking about. And now an entirely new author challenge has been thrown my way: how to balance promoting a novel, shopping a second, and writing a third. All without losing my mind.

I have always thought of writing as a war. In addition to being an author and editor, I teach high school students how to write. When we get ready for the state writing test, my students have their battle faces on. During writing boot camp, we plot out sneak attacks, counterattacks, revision strategies, grammar arsenals, weapons of diction, hand-cramping survival tactics, and the ultimate ways to blow up the enemy (the state-appointed essay scorer) and win the war (be eligible to graduate). Some of my students look at me warily and edge away, some roll their eyes, but those who struggle with writing get it. Those who struggle and those who have the demon of a novice writer stirring deep inside of them.

Whenever I’m in the middle of writing a novel, I always feel like I’m deep in the trenches. I’m slogging away, looking out over no-man’s land, wondering if I’ll ever see daylight again. It’s messy and can be disheartening, though filled with explosions of brilliance and moments of adrenaline-fueled panic and triumph. I sit in front of my notebook or computer and imagine what people out in the “real world” are doing. Having fun. Going to parties. Interacting with other human beings. But I’m stuck in the trenches with gritted teeth, banging out chapters because the characters won’t let me sleep until I’m finished. Sounds like fun, right?

Now, I’d give anything to be back, safely ensconced in my trench, shutting the rest of the world out with only my notebooks and my keyboard, my music and my dogs for company. But there’s no going back. I’m running across the field now, grenades being lobbed in my direction from all angles, bullets whizzing past my head, the ground on fire. I thought writing was a battle. No. Writing is a walk in the park on a summer day. Being an author is a battle. Being an author is a fight to death.

Instead of being able to focus, with blissfully intense tunnel-vision, on one story, I have three jostling around in my head at all times. My debut novel, A Tree Born Crooked, was just published in September. I had moved on from the story and its characters in the year’s time from writing to publishing, but now the world of Crystal Springs and its bedraggled inhabitants are right back in the forefront again (and being packaged into ten-second pitch-bites). During this past year, I wrote another novel, so on top of promoting one book to readers, I’m promoting a second book to agents and editors. And then I’ve spent the last three months working hard on research for my third novel, which I hope to begin writing this month.

So when the unassuming reader asked me what my book was about and I provided the elegant response of “stuff,” what was really going through my head was a frantic moment of trying to remember which book they were asking about. The one with the crazy Pentecostal preacher or the one with the Alligator Mafia? Or the tattooed snake charmer? The one set in rural Florida or in a traveling carnival? Wait, is there mythology in this one or is that the one I’m working on now? Literary, noir, Southern Gothic? It must have all shown on my face, because the potential buyer of A Tree Born Crooked carefully set the copy down and backed away slowly.

Three books, one part-time job as an editor, one full-time job as a high school writing coach, occasional forays into book reviewing and short story writing. I’m not claiming to be a multi-tasking soccer mom, but I do have a lot of writing- and reading-related activity going on. I’m taking fire on all sides, so it’s time I created a new battle plan. Hunkering down in the trenches just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Reserve the weekends for working on the new novel. It’s the most important thing, and will always be the most important thing, because writing is, well, the point of being a writer. Period.
  • Do everything else (promoting, querying, blogging, tweeting, editing, reviewing, teaching, living) during the week.

Also:

  • Stop sleeping.
  • Forget about ever having a clean house.
  • Teach my five dogs how to take themselves for a walk.
  • Tell my husband that I’ll see him sometime. Maybe in the next year. Possibly.
  • Ditto to all my friends.
  • Hold off on having kids.
  • Pretend holidays don’t exist. (Plus side: save money to buy wine)
  • Sell the television.
  • Buy a wine cellar. Fully stocked.
  • Remind myself over and over that I’m an author not because I have to be, but because I want to be. I’m doing this because I love it. It’s frustrating and irritating and painful and heart-wrenching and has completely ruined my social life forever. But I love it.

And I’m open to suggestions. For now, I’m suiting up, checking my ammo, and heading into battle.

#StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #Promotion #Blogging #Publishing #Editing #Teaching

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It’s Going To Be A Good Day

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

It’s nice to wake up to a five-star review for Fried Windows In A Light White Sauces, especially come from Rose Montague, an author I respect and whose writing I enjoy. So, whatever today throws my way, it’s going to be a good day.

In case you missed the notice but have been thinking of reading Fried Windows, here’s your chance. There is a free sample promotion going on. Send me an email to my authors email at elgon.williams@pandamoonpublishing.com and you’ll receive the first six chapters for free. That’s over 15% of the book – more than you can sample at Amazon.com. Of course I think that once you start reading the book you’ll want to continue:

Leave your world behind and enter an adventure forever lost but never forgotten, where only magic is real, and anything is possible.

When Brent Woods, a middle-aged computer technician delivers a new system to Strawb, an eccentric lady who lives in a house with no windows, she offers to reconnect him with his childhood dreams and fantastic imagination. Alongside his best friend Lucy, Brent explores the seemingly infinite possibilities of the “Inworld” where she lives, a place where everything about anything can change with a thought. But in the process of remembering his past as Carlos, Lord of Bartoul, Brent exposes a dark potential that threatens his family, and his home.

After his youngest daughter is attacked in her dreams by the very forces that took away his kingdom, and Lucy’s, Brent seeks answers that lie somewhere in the truth of what happened in his past, and how he lost his connection to the Inter-Realm. He must find a way to correct his mistakes and solve the puzzle of his best friend’s life.

Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce) is an unforgettable journey into imagination. It is a feast of delightful characters whose perspective of their worlds will change the way you think about yours forever.

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#fivestars #friedwindows #reviews #freesample #promotion

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Fanning The Flames – Gaining Fans As An Author

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It’s very hard to find someone who believes in you like a fan. I guess the first step is to believe in yourself. After all, how are you going to attract fans if you don’t think you are good enough to have fans.

As an author I have found it particularly true that self confidence is required to promote and sell one’s work. But there is a continuing battle within between the writer and the author. Against that everyone who writes struggles. Let me explain.

The writer is a person that wakes up early each morning and composes something, whether or not the author ever decides to do something with it. The author is more focused on the dissemination of work to readers, whether of not something is actually sold. Yeah, I know that usually people make the distinction between a writer and an author in terms of being published. But with the advent and popularity of digital self-publishing, there are many more authors. I think a true author is an artist and therefore he or she focuses more on the art of writing and sharing it for the appreciation of the craft rather than the more crass, business aspects of publishing.

Having said all that, for a writer to continue writing there must be income whether from a side job or the fruits of one’s literary labors. So the business aspects of being an author are necessary to consider if one intends to make writing a career.

I am fortunate in many ways. Though many in my family would tell you of my personal and financial struggles over the past few years as I pursued writing as a career, I gained a lot of business insight about publishing through my associations and failures. Also, my business background in sales and marketing have lent insights without which I would not hold a position that straddles both the creative and promotional aspects of the publishing business.

My publisher believes in my crazy stories, my art. That has helped bolster my confidence in my work. But my associations with other authors have benefitted me at least as much in understanding there are no magical secrets to succeeding in this craft. What works is as basic and simple as it gets. At some point, a writer has to want to do whatever is necessary to find readers. You cannot wait for someone else to do that for you or expect that the quality of your writing will automatically gain attention. Somehow, in some way, you must present your work in an attractive manner that gains the public’s attention. And in order to sustain your writing career, those people need to buy your work, recommend it to others and grow your fan base into loyal supporters. That’s the hard part.

Many new authors don’t realize how to gain fans. No amount of advertising or self-promotion on social media will substitute for the personal touch. An author must connect one-on-one with each reader. However that is accomplished it is essential to building a fan base. Responding to comments on blog posts, making personal appearances like book signings, exchanging emails, chatting whether through messaging or in chat rooms, all are ways for an author to connect personally with a reader. Without that one-to-one intimacy it is very difficult to persuade readers to attempt reading a book from an unknown author.IMG_0233

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The Roles of Marketing and Publicity in Publishing

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As a publicist for authors I frequently confront confusion about the role of marketing in the publishing business. It comes from the general association of marketing with sales, which is erroneous. Anyone who has worked in marketing knows that when you apply for a marketing position with many firms the entry level job is in sales. Sure, a little front line experience in the trenches is good for rounding out a marketing professional’s understanding of how the complete picture of a business culminates in an actual transaction. But marketing is a strategic exercise while sales is completely tactical execution

With regard to books, marketing is a strategic phase of promoting a book through many different channels. As a publicist I am involved in some planning in the development of a marketing plan. Publicity is definitely a part of the larger picture of getting the word out about a book. Some of that involves pitching events and scheduling interviews. But most publicists are involved in finding wrinkles in the promotional landscape that can be exploited to gain singular attention for the author he or she represents. Often that involves thinking outside of the box and going well beyond what is usually considered in a marketing plan.

You see, most marketing people receive the same kind of training whether at college or in the field. Strategic decisions about promotion, presentation, packaging and pricing are the major part of that. Promotion includes advertising and public relations aspects of communication with and through the media. In the publishing world these days there are millions of new authors vying for attention in exactly he same way through the exact same channels. To the press it must seem like everyone on Earth has just written a new novel. The publicists task in all that is finding some way to make noise of present his or her author in a way that draws maximum attention.

Sometimes authors gain attention for the wrong reasons and publicists get involved in spinning the event in some way to minimize the damage or, in a few cases, turning it into an benefit. For example, if an author makes a controversial statement or gets involved in some newsworthy event in a negative way. But for the most part authors don’t seem to gather much attention or focus without some assistance.

In order to gain the attention of electronic and print media a publicist much find some way to present his or her author in a way attractive for making a story. Some question to consider are:

What is it about a particular author that stands out?
What are his or her personal interests or hobbies?
What causes does he or she support?
Besides writing, is he or she an expert in any other field?

More directly, what else does he or she do besides writing?

A publicist may work for a publisher on behalf of an author or he or she may be contracted directly by the author. In either case a publicist creates opportunities for the author to promote his or her author’s brand. The actual sale depends on a culmination of all marketing strategies int he final transition, selling the book – which is completely an interaction that is in some way always part of the connection established directly between the author and the reader.

 

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