Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Dog with a Mona Lisa Look

The cover for "The Dog That Couldn't Come Home" is an oil painting done by Ginger Kinnaird Hanes of Arizona. She knew my dog Balsam, and captured her essence in this portrait. It was the perfect cover for the short story.  While I am partial to the painting, I wondered what emotion other people saw in the dog's face that induced them to read the story.

I used Facebook for some market research. I posted the cover, and asked the question, "What words describe the expression on her face?"

I had more responses than I have ever had to a Facebook posting. People had fun with it and there was definitely no consensus, which is why I am calling it a Mona Lisa face.

Here are the responses:

dejected and hopeless
longing, yearning,
woebegone
getting to know you?
please help me
sad, anxious
intelligent, wary, hopeful
sad and anxious
classic fear look with whites of eyes showing
watchful, tentative, weary
pleading
puzzled
cautious
pleading, frightened
heavyhearted, unsure


More interpretations than a Rorschach inkblot exercise! Which leads me to conclude the best cover of a book may be one that allows the potential reader to put their own interpretation on it.




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Inside Scoop from Book Marketing Pros

There is a fantasy that every author has from "50 Shades of Grey"… that is, to have the sales volume of that title.

sigh…

Not happening. Hoping to ignite sales of my stories, I attended "The Inside Scoop from Book Marketing Pros" at the Tucson Festival of Books 2015.

A panel of three high powered marketers shared their insights.
  • Lisa Dietlin (www.lmdietlin.com)
  • Krista Soukup (www.bluecottageagency.com)
  • David Henry Sterry (www.thebookdoctors.com)

Their messages had some common themes:
  • there has never been a better time to be an author
  • Amazon has changed the game 
  • whether you self-publish or go with a publishing house, you will have to be your own publicist
Some interesting trivia. Those lists of bestselling books - where do they get their rankings? 
They call 100 book vendors—it is a secret list—and ask "What is the buzz in your store?" Not scientific, but powerful promotion for those that get on the list. 

If you want numbers: go to Amazon and look at the rankings of books.  It gives a comparative position relative to other books in that genre. And of course, it can only count books sold through Amazon


Friday, March 13, 2015

Stories at Their Natural Length

One of my friends at the dog park is a writer.

"How's it going," I ask her which is code for, "How is the book coming along?"

She shrugs and replies, "About 20,000 words in the last month."

Stunning. That would be my lifetime production—though if I counted all my rewrites—I could get there easily.

Amazon has saved me from the land of never-never publish. Their concept of 'short reads'— writings of 20 to 100 pages—has given me a legitimate and marketable format.

Amazon describes them as 'stories told at their natural length.'

I pray the authors of 250-page books that are actually 70 pages fluffed-up will hear about this concept.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blocked by Brilliance.

A sure fire way to bring on a lethal attack of writer's block is to contemplate crafting a brilliant opening sentence. The thought of attaining brilliance—even getting to outstanding— in the first line ensures that I will not get beyond the first line. Whatever I write pales in comparison to the last brilliant example I reviewed. 

To wit, Ted Kerasote's opener in Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

"He came out of the night, appearing suddenly in my headlights, a big, golden dog, panting, his front paws tapping the ground in an anxious little dance."

Hah! Energy, excitement, imagery. It's all there. I can't stop reading.  How do you learn to write like this? Get a grip girl—this is Ted Kerasote. 

Then I torture myself with Melinda Roth, co-author with Jay Kopelman in From Baghdad With Love: A Marine, The War, and a Dog Named Lava.  Their opener:

"In an abandoned house in the northeast section of Fallujah, members of the First Battalion, Third Marines—known as the Lava Dogs—froze when they heard a series of clicks coming from the one remaining room of the compound." 

Sharp in-breath!  The authors are diabolical; the entire first chapter click-click-clicks before a puppy emerges, tapping his puppy toenails. So close to being obliterated, but puppy lives and now I can exhale. 

At one time, I had a fantasy that if I read and absorbed the best, I would write like they do. It's not happening.