Monday, May 30, 2011

The Writer's Law of Attachment

Writer's Law of Attachment
By Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion and other thrillers

If you follow The Writing Bomb, you know that I’ve just recently completed a 45-day blog tour followed by a trip to Washington D.C and New York City. Both events were exciting but absolutely wore me out. The kids had a chance to see the nations Capital and much of NYC and I had a chance to rest my brain. 

I resumed writing this past week and man do I miss it! I wrote a little during the blog tour, but not enough. And now, after being away from my latest work for over a month, I’ve had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with my characters, those good friends that I’ve learned to love. In doing so, I’ve been thinking about what it means to become attached to a character, those figments of my imagination. I’ve been wondering if it’s okay to befriend them or if I should keep a healthy emotional distance. If you have any thoughts on this subject I’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, what I’ve found is that the more I dive into the lives of my characters, the more real they become. And the more real they become, the more I want to know and understand who they are and where they’ve been. This isn’t a concept that I dwell upon. I’m crashing into this idea because I’m working on a third draft and I’m filling in details and backstory and critical thoughts that are rounding my make-believe friends.

Ernest Hemingway
You see, it’s my character's strengths that get them through the story. But it’s their weaknesses that draw me to them. Ernest Hemingway once said, "When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters." Adding personality glitches is what makes them real. Flaws are what make us people rather than characters. I should know, I have plenty of glitches, plenty of defects and I’m real. I find it quite ironic that as much as I hate my faults, I love the faults of my characters, the people in my stories. Sick, I know, but I think that’s the magic of literature. There’s something very intimate about learning about the faults of others. That’s the difference between a stranger and a friend. A stranger doesn’t know jack about me, but a true friend knows everything. As an author, I feel like it’s my responsibility to share the truth about my characters so my readers can be their friends. 

The question is, is it wrong to grow attached to these people in the process? And that’s where I’m stuck. I write stories about people that don’t exist. They’re not real. They’re fictional but they’re meant to come alive. And if they’re meant to seem real to a reader than I think it’s okay for me to get emotionally attached. It’s what gets me into the story. In my opinion, attachment is what makes the author capable of transmitting an idea into something palpable. Attachment is what allows me to enter the mind of a protagonist and think and live on his or her behalf. I call it the Law of Attachment: A reader will relate to the people in a story to the degree that the author has grown attached to those people.

If you’re a writer, you understand that experience. It’s almost spiritual in nature and I think this experience is what keeps me writing. This strange relationship between author and character is the high I often refer to, the shot in the arm that causes writers to become literary junkies. Makes me wonder if author adrenalin can be measured and used as a tool to discover ones predisposition to writing. Hey! You never know. Science has proven some pretty incredible things.

Anyway, if you’re a reader, none of this really matters except the fact that the process might interest you. In the end, all that matters is that the book draws you in and that you can engage with the characters as they make their way through the journey. But know this, the folks inside those pages are friends of mine; they’re friends of King and their friends of Koontz and Konrath and Nicholson. And one day, if all goes as planned, they'll be your friend too. BOOM!

What do you think? Leave comments and please, share this with your Facebook & Twitter pals.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Analysis of a Guest Blogging Specimen

       What a ride! 
                    What a thrill! 
                                     What a Blog Tour!

Welcome to The Writing Bomb where our special guest, Dr. Diik Von Carelittle, will discuss the findings from his research regarding indie author guest blogging and the affects that blog tours can have on the human psyche and announce the winners of the Reunion Kindle Giveaway!

Jeff: Welcome, Doctor Diik. All of us at The Writing Bomb are very pleased to have you as our guest. Tell us what you've discovered in your studies.

Dr. Diik: Thank you. I'd be glad to. I'll begin by drawing your attention to exhibit A - Before and After photographs of our subject.

Do you see the pictures to the right?  This is what happens when you go on a 45-day blog tour to promote your new book.  Your head spins until green fluid comes out of your ears, your eyes ooze like melting cheese and you start loosing your hair as fast as Donald Trump loses credibility in the presidential race. Notice the wrinkled forehead. Do you see the confusion in the subjects demeanor? Do you see the bags under his eyes and the facial deformations? These are all telltale signs that a writer has completed a 45-day blog tour.

This was a fine specimen for my research because he was in perfect condition beforehand. And now? Blaaaach!  He gives me the heebie geebies! Apparently, a blog tour that lasts more than 30 days can transform a normal author into someone quite problematic. This specimen is now edgy, deformed, indignant, paranoid and is showing signs of dementia.

Of course, he will heal in time. He's in our 10-step blogger recovery program! With a little time and TLC, he'll be back to his writerly self; you'll see.

Now about our specimen's blog tour...his 45-day, writing more than ever, meeting countless reviewers, exposing himself ( a good way), ginormous undertaking blog tour. Now that's a run on sentence if I've ever seen one. But who cares? If you can blog for 45-days straight you can have the keys to the city if you ask me.

Will he recover from the trauma? Well, that's up to him. You get what you put into the ten-step program, so we'll see how dedicated he is to healing.

Anyway, while studying this author who has asked to remain anonymous, we have found that there were several positive outcomes from his endeavor. There were also a few negatives. But overall, the subject managed to stay alive and as far as our research team is concerned that's all that really matters. Quality of life post blog tour is not our objective. We simply want to see results and log those findings into our data base. Subject need not be conscious for proper analysis of this information.

Here are a few of the benefits that we were able to extrapolate from our research:

  • Exposure: Blog Tours are a great way for new/indie authors to get exposure and build a platform from the ground up. Several months ago, our subject didn't even have a twitter account. He had zero platform. He now has dozens of book bloggers waiting for his next book (Act of Vengeance, coming in late 2011). Furthermore, the authors book was exposed to tens of thousands of blog followers.
  • Connections: The process of contacting book bloggers is a great way to make connections in the world of books. Book bloggers will refer you and your book to bloggers that they follow. To find similar bloggers in your genre simply investigate the blogs they follow.
  • Personalize: A blog tour is a great way for you to share the message and story behind your book. Readers enjoy learning about the authors that they read through guest posts and interviews. It enhances the reading experience.
  • Grow: Guest blogging is also a great way to show blog readers that you are creative and friendly. As a result, you might find that your blog will grow as your new audience looks into your blog or website. Our patient shown above gained about 50 blog followers over the course of 45 days.
  • New Fans: Blog tours sell books and continue the selling momentum after you've exhausted your personal fan base (family and friends). This can propel you into a whole new readership. Many of our subject's most dedicated blog-tour followers were new fans that found him on the tour. When a fan likes your book, he or she will talk about it and recommend it to their reader friends.
  • Reviews: Book bloggers write book reviews and good reviews sell books. A good review wins the trust of someone considering a new author. We can not emphasize the importance of getting reviews...NOT after your book goes on sale...but before!!!! This way when you launch your book, your family, friends and new fans can be confident that your book is a good one. Our specimen began his blog tour 15 days before the book launch. He began querying reviewers over 30 days before the tour began. The reviewers at the beginning of the tour were the first to post reviews, the others followed. Note: He had zero contacts when he began approaching book bloggers. 
  • SEO: Many book bloggers have a lot of followers. These followers will take note of your book, add it to their "to-read list" and then refer back to the blog when they want to find you. Which brings up the concept of SEO (search engine optimization). Leaving your book links and buy links and blog address at all of these sights will take your searchability to new levels. After reading this article, do a Google search of Jeff Bennington for example (although he had nothing to do with this experiment) and keep in mind that he, like many of the writing bomb followers, is new to publishing and has only begun to build a platform for his work in the last year or so. You will notice that the Google search brings up countless guest posts, reviews and other mentions about his work. That's how SEO works!

Over all, the Carelittle Research Group found the 45-day Blog Tour to be a very effective method for an author to launch a new book. However, there is also a dark side. Like most things, there's good and bad.

Here are a few of the negatives:

  • Time: The number one negative is the amount of TIME it takes for an author to cold call, schedule, and then follow through with guest posts, writing, interviews and responding to comments. Our patient spent between 40-50 hours in the initial contact and scheduling stage. He then used at least 90 hours writing posts, contacting the bloggers and responding to comments over the duration of the tour. That's right, you can't just write a guest post and walk away. You should respond to any comments on the day that the article is posted at the very least. You can save time by paying someone to schedule a tour for you, but those can cost you around $300 and if you sell your ebook for .99¢, you'll have to sell 857 books to pay for it.
  • Material: The second negative is that if you write guest posts, you'll have to come up with A LOT of original material. I know, you're a writer, that's no problem. Well it is if you're blogging about your book or the book's subject. Wasn't it hard enough to write the back blurb? Try communicating the essence of your book 45 different ways! You could use a blanket article and post it at every blog stop, but who wants to follow the same post day after day? No one, that's who. 
  • Energy: Our subject found that the amount of energy he had to dedicate to the blog tour drained him of the will to continue working on his next project. His usual  4-5 hours dedicated to writing dwindled to less than one hour on average. When life happens, and it will, the time you set aside to write the next guest post or interview can easily be stolen by more demanding issues such as family, work or car accidents! Besides, have you seen our victim...I mean specimen? He looks like crap. Good thing he's going on a vacation with his family very soon. He deserves it. 

Jeff: Thank you, Doctor Carelittle. We so appreciate your insight into the benefits and repercussions of blog touring. We thank you for your time and dedication to the cause and to the betterment of writers everywhere.

Now I'd like to open the floor to our audience for questions? Also...I'll post a short video later today and announce the winners of The Reunion Kindle Giveaway!!!!! I'll post it later in the afternoon because I need to catch a few zzzz's (I work nights). I hope you understand. Look for it after 5:00 p.m. EST.

I'll close this post with a BIG thank you to all of the book bloggers and book reviewers who took a chance on Reunion. You should know that I didn't know what I was getting into before I contacted you. And I didn't have any idea what you would think of my book. You took it on and enjoyed it and that is extremely gratifying to me. Thank you for the nice reviews and for all of your support throughout the Reunion book launch. I can't wait to find out which one of you will win a Kindle.

To those of you who faithfully followed the blog tour, I send you gobs of gratitude. Your comments and encouragement and kind words along the way kept me going, giving me energy to continue. One of you will win a Kindle today! BOOM!

Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion and other thrillers

If you haven't read Reunion yet, you can get it in print, kindle, nook, iPad, and at smashwords.

And now...let's pick the winners of the Kindle giveaway!

Links to the participating Book Blogs can be found here!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lessons Learned on the Publishing Trail.

Welcome to The Writing Bomb, where authors of every kind are appreciated and cared for like a calf at the teat!

As part of The REUNION Blog Tour, I’d like to share just a few things that I’ve learned about writing, my expectations and the lies that we writers often tell ourselves. If you’re a newer author, an indie author, or considering taking the plunge for the first time into the winding river of the digital publishing age, you’ll want to hang around and soak up some of my thoughts.

To begin with, you need to know that I published my first book, Killing the Giants, with Outskirts Press in 2009. Other than selling a couple hundred print copies, mostly to family and friends, I had a pretty miserable book launch experience. I had less control than I thought I would, I sold fewer books than I anticipated and I knew nothing about ebooks and platforms and blog tours. Yes, I was a literary virgin and I bled miserably.

Two Years Later...

Over the last two years, I’ve learned so much about publishing, marketing, but more importantly, I’ve learned that I’ve had expectations of an industry that does not bend to my wishes. Without boring you with the usual “get edited and a good book cover” redundancy, I’d like to share 5-Fascinating Facts I’ve learned that might help you with your book launch, and prepare you for an industry that’s filled with vipers and wild stallions.
      A Crash is Coming! If you’re a new or newer author without a platform, be prepared for a sales crash soon after your release. No matter how hard you market your book before you let that baby fly, you will only be able to reach so many people. Think about your family, friends, twitterverse, and facebook cult members. You may have hundreds or even thousands of peeps cheering for you, but they will only take your sales so far. A couple hundred sales on day one are great, but they will not keep your sales rolling. The rest is up to you. The days or weeks after a book launch to a newer author can feel like you’re the Grand Marshall of a parade who walked ten miles into an uninhabited desert, only to discover that you’re waving and smiling at no one. 
I don’t mean to discourage or scare you away from publishing your work. I do, however, want to prepare you for the rocky road ahead. Just be tough, and wait. There are a few affordable and effective marketing tools that can propel your book into the next level and breaking through the plateau, but that’s another post all together. 

         Dig Deep. If you’re self-published (pay to publish), indie author or published with a small press, remember that you will be responsible for almost all of your marketing. There will be no paid book tours, no TV ads, and little to no Internet marketing other than your publishers web page, mostly viewed by other authors looking to publish their book.  Dig your heels in deep, and plan to work hard, filling every extra minute of your time doing something to promote your novel while simultaneously writing your next book.

      Grow Gator Skin. No matter what your expectations are, be prepared for a let down. Grrrr. I hate to say that, especially because I’m usually very positive, but I have to be honest about this. I can’t be sure, but I’d bet that most authors have dreams and fantasies about the sales of their book and how much everyone is going to love it. But when the reviews and sales trickle in slower and less enthusiastic than expected, we can hit a wall…a very hard and dark wall, bringing some to the point of depression.

My point is this: Adjust your expectations and remember that you’re one of thousands of authors who picked that special day to publish and you will be competing against all of them, like a single droplet of water floating amidst Niagara Falls. Don’t take it personal. That’s just the way it is. Most writers begin to grow a hardened layer of skin at this point, an undesirable yet necessary part of authorship.

 More is Merrier. Prepare for the long haul. As you may have read, J.A. Konrath, Scott Nicholson and other successful indie authors agree that the key to indie success is having a damn good book, and having lots of them. As a newer author you generally have two choices: market yourself into a bestseller (i.e. going broke on an ad campaign), or prepare for the long haul. Many of these bestselling indie authors did not enjoy their successes until they had several books out. This is the “Getting more shelf space” concept, which means the more books you have on the digital bookshelf, the more visible you will become. Again, that will take time. Plan on this when you begin publishing that first or second novel. It will save you a lot of pain and Prozac.

Build a Scaffold. Remember that your first book is an opportunity to build your platform, a scaffold to reach your dreams, not necessarily a shortcut to fortune and fame. Just because Joanna Penn wrote a top rated fiction on her first try, doesn’t mean you will, even if your book is head and shoulders better than Pentecost.

This won’t be the last time you hear me say this, but I think writing is one of the most demanding professions around.  Writing and publishing is tough and it will test your character. As I stated in an article I wrote for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, Many great books have risen to the top and then sank to the bottom of the literary ocean, rusting and watching the crabs walk over their pages.

All I’m saying is… it’s best to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of the publishing experience before you come buzzing into an empty circus arena. And it is a circus. There are wonderful people who will help you along your journey, but also a few mean spirited folks as well. So wrap yourself with a breathable coat of thick skin and get that book published! But don’t stop there; write the next one and the next one and the next one until publishing becomes more about your full line of books than your breakout novel.

Of course there’s always room for a literary anomaly, and I hope you are that author. For the rest of us, as in the hundreds of thousands of the rest of us, we must ride our books like wild stallions, not knowing which way they may go, but carefully plotting the course for the long ride ahead. BOOM!

-Jeff Bennington
Author of REUNION