Get OUT of the Publishing Traffic Jam

traffic jamIn the early days of publishing the road to riches was a small highway littered with rejected manuscripts and abandoned dreams. Few who started out on the journey actually made it to the finish line. Many more either crashed and burned, or simply abandoned the trip altogether.

For the financially independent, there was the alternate toll-road. Self-publishing and subsidized publishing (also, unfortunately called “vanity” publishing) was a path less traveled by, but one which many authors hoped would lead to riches, or at least lead to enough wealth to cover the cost of the toll.

Until the latter part of the twentieth century, those were the only two courses for an author to embark on if they wanted to be published. No longer. Computer technology, high speed printers and the Internet has changed the entire highway system. The rocky road of agent to publisher to bookstore to reader has been replaced by the manuscript to hard drive to reader highway of the Cyberspace Transit System. In today’s high tech market, ebooks are downloaded in a fraction of the time it would take to print a book. Print-On-Demand publishers produce a hard print copy in a few days, with no huge stacks of inventory piling up in warehouses, or author’s garages. Seemingly overnight, anyone with a computer and a modem became a “published” author and the “road to riches” has become twenty-four hour traffic jam.

With thousands of authors worldwide driving their new found published work on the same road at the same time, it’s getting harder to see the finish line, let alone reach it. With hundreds of new titles going on-line daily, and hundreds of new authors adding to the massive list on Amazon.com, the problem is no longer getting your book in print. The problem now is getting your book noticed, purchased and read.

Those who have already made it need not worry. Established authors will continue to attract an audience, whether they publish in paper or in cyberspace. The rest of us are only hoping we won’t run out of gas while we’re stuck in traffic. The goal may still be the same, but the length of time it takes to reach that goal just became a whole lot longer. The influx of POD and Ebook publishers has more than doubled since 1999 when Writers Club first announced their new print on demand program. iUniverse entered the scene in October of that same year, followed by Xlibris, 1stBooks, and a number of others. Ebook publishers began paving their own roads early on, and now there are more than fifty, with more than a hundred titles each!

At a meeting of the National Writers Union, Literary Agent Sandra Dykstra commented that iUniverse’s goal to publish 30,000 titles was admirable, but how were they going to find 30,000 readers? Wouldn’t it be better to stay on the well paved road, built by traditional publishing houses that have a more select list and sell 30,000 copies of one title? She had a point. To a point. With so many authors publishing so many titles, how does one avoid the traffic jam on the road to riches? The solution is not to u-turn to the old ways. The solution is to get off at the next exit, find an alternate route, or build your own road!

The old ways worked in the old days, but the 21st Century put an end to the “old” ways and there’s no turning back. While technology has made it easier than ever to publish a book, it has also made it that much harder for newly published authors to break away from the pack and find an audience. The Internet has given authors the golden opportunity to reach an international readership. It’s up to the authors to use this technology to construct their very own road to riches.

Web sites devoted to the promotion of new books are begin created almost daily. The key is in knowing where these sites are and the best way to use them. Any search engine will help you begin the search, but don’t stop there. There are many Egroups listed in Yahoo specifically designed for new authors. These are an excellent source for promotion ideas, plus you can attend any of these ‘round the clock in all kinds of weather without ever having to leave your desk. Members exchange information, support and motivation for each other in cyberspace. Some sites run weekly or monthly live “chats” with a variety of industry guests. DO NOT BE SHY about self-promotion. Lean on that horn long and loud. Post your reviews on all on-line bookstores. If someone gives your book a decent review, copy it and post it everywhere you can. Build your own resource list for your specific genre and promote yourself at least once a day someplace on your list. If you write romance, don’t try to be the “next” Danielle Steele. If you write horror, don’t try to be the “next” Stephen King. Whatever you write, be the very first YOU.

It takes time, hard work and effort, but if you keep your eye one the road ahead and hold tight to that wheel as you speed down your own highway, your own road to riches will leave everyone else far behind eating your dust.

Good luck and good writing!

What Writers Need to Do When We Run Out of Gas

out of gasThere have been numerous articles written about writer’s block- that horrific time in our lives when our “Muse” takes a vacation and all creativity comes to a screeching halt. Web sites abound on the subject, with many experts giving their opinions on the causes and solutions, most of which we’ve all heard before. But the topic of this article is not about this well known malady, but a more serious affliction: writer’s stall. What happens when we run out of gas on the “Road To Riches”?

With every two steps forward we take as writers, it seems we get pushed back three. It’s hard not to get discouraged and harder still to continue writing when the odds are being stacked higher and higher against us.

In this day of electronic publishing, it only takes a small investment to become a “published” author. iUniverse, Xlibris and a host of other print-on-demand publishers opened the door to hundreds of hopeful writers eager to see their years of hard work finally appear on bookstore shelves. But the door was quickly slammed shut as store after store refused entry to these “vanity press” titles.

E-books were a hot idea when they were first proposed and a number of writers flocked to these publishers in hopes that readers would enjoy the convenience of reading their work on-line, or through the use of the new technology of the “Rocket E-Book Reader”. But the cost of the device was out of reach for most people. Given the choice of “paper or plastic”, fans of the printed word still preferred the traditional pulp novel over the futuristic metallic device.

Organizations such as the National Writers Union and the Authors Guild have been fighting the legal battle over reproduction rights for years, taking our case all the way to the Supreme Court. Yes, we won the battle, but now it appears we may have lost the war as magazines now demand we give up all rights, including electronic ones, or they won’t buy our submissions.

And it’s not any easier on authors. Once that first book is in your hands, the hard work of promotion and marketing is left almost totally up to you. Unless you’re a Stephen King, Anne Rice or another “name” author, getting your book into stores or attracting public attention is an exhausting effort, with most of the effort returning zero results. It’s become a viscous cycle of frustration. In order to make it onto the bookstore shelves, you need to be a “name”, but you can’t make a name for yourself unless you’re on the bookstore shelves!

Once your book is published the road becomes laden with even more detours and obstacles. You send your novel to fifteen reviewers and no one responds. You hold book signing events and only three people attend, two of whom are your family and the other one wants information on finding an agent for their novel. You receive excellent newspaper, radio and cable television coverage, but sales are still under 100 for the month. And as you stare at a blank screen and an obnoxious blinking cursor at three in the morning, you begin to ask yourself: is it all worth it?

Bookstores are covered with titles from authors who have written ten, twenty or more novels and you can’t even begin the first sentence of the first chapter of your second one. The plot is in your head, the characters, the story, every detail mapped out perfectly. Yet it remains trapped for months while distractions always seem to get in the way, and you begin to wonder if you will ever be able to free it onto the written page. And if you do, will it be as good as the last one or will anyone read it, or will it too be stuck in the traffic jam on the “Road To Riches”?

Then you read about some infamous political figure who just signed a multi-million-dollar book contract and you’re thinking “I’m sleeping with the wrong Bill.” (Providing your partner’s name is Bill!) And you start having doubts that your writing is any good. Was it just a case of temporary insanity that caused you to sit at the computer for hours writing and re-writing page after page of a story no one may ever read?

Self-doubt begins to creep in, as the money begins to drain out. Hours spent working on a web site hundreds of people read, but no one hits the “donate $1.00 per story” to help sustain. Cyber pats on the back and accolades from around the world feel good, but they don’t pay the monthly access fee. So, the column slips by another month. You miss the deadline on the short story contest you were going to enter and all you have to show for your next novel is the title. Your engine is stalled, your gas tank is empty and there you sit. Stranded. Alone on a deserted highway on a very lonely road without a cell phone or an emergency flare, you start to question why you began this journey in the first place.

Then a minor miracle happens. A voice in distant cyber space “yells” at you to get off your butt and send three chapters of your novel by Thursday or else. After helping your teenager with an essay, she calls from college to tell you you’re not a good writer, you’re a great writer. Your daughter locks you in your office and won’t let you out until you’ve finished the column. The local university calls to tell you five people signed up for your class. Your e-box is filled with mail from readers saying how much they enjoyed your latest contribution to their Association newsletter. A magazine editor you highly respect asks you to interview a very “interesting” author who spends an hour and a half reminding you why you started on this journey. Not for the fame, not for the riches, but for the sheer joy of the ride.

And you discover there’s just enough gas left in the tank to start the engine. Just enough to begin the journey again, no matter where it leads. In spite of the hazards, in spite of the road blocks and in spite of the occasional stall on the “Road to Riches”, there isn’t any other road you’d rather be on, because writing isn’t what we do, it’s who we are. And we love it!

Know Your Rights Before You’re Left Out

When publishing was only a matter of paper and ink, and reading material was produced by hand, author’s “rights” were pretty simple. There were none. Whatever the author wrote, the author sold and the author kept the money. With the invention of the printing press, came a new industry, Publishing. The good news for authors was that their works could be reproduced in large quantities. The bad news was that authors and writers now needed protection from these same publishers in order to receive fair compensation for each reproduction of their work sold. In order to insure the author would receive this compensation, more than a handshake was needed. Thus began the first written agreement between the publisher and the author; the contract, and a new terminology was created around the phrase author’s “rights”.

The first contracts were a simple agreement between the publisher and author. Publisher agrees to pay author a percentage of each book sold. For awhile things were going along quite well and everybody was happy. Then, one day, the owner of a local theater read a novel and decided it would make an interesting play. A new contract had to be drawn up between the author of the original work, the publisher of that work and the theater owner (renamed “Producer”) who wanted to use the work of the talented author for their own profit, Thus the term “Dramatic” rights was added to the vocabulary and things started to get a little complicated. Authors and writers needed help in the ever growing “rights” industry and a new profession was born: the Literary Agent. (Not to be, but often is, confused with another profession held in equally high esteem, the Lawyer.)

In the early days of horse and buggy when books were delivered only to a small area, local rights were all one needed. But with the onset of trains, planes and automobiles, “international”rights became part of the contracts. Along with the birth of the motion picture industry, came the added line “film rights” which begat television rights, which begat video tape and audio books rights as well.

The relationship between all parties was going along quite well for most of the 20th century. Authors were writing, agents were rejecting author’s writing, author’s kept writing, agents sent manuscripts to publishers, publishers rejected manuscripts, agents got lucky, agents got 10%, publishers got rich, agents got richer, authors got burned out. Then, during the latter part of the 1990’s, the entire industry took a dramatic turn with the creation of a brand new publishing medium: The Internet, and it begat a brand new term never before heard of in the history of the published world: “Electronic” rights.

As recently as 1995, the Writers Market didn’t even show a listing for ebook rights. For the writing novice, all they listed was the usual explanation of First Serial Rights – or North American Rights, Second serial (reprint) Rights, Subsidiary Rights, and Dramatic, Television, and Motion Picture Rights, which are usually purchased on a one-year option, generally for 10% of the total price by an interested party, usually a producer, who then tries to sell the idea to other people. (Remember our friendly little “theater owner”?)

Electronic rights can cover a lot of territory. Take this article for example. It’s being read on your computer screen, but you can also download it to your hard drive, make a print copy, or several print copies, and send it out across the world in an instant. And the author, me, wouldn’t receive one dime for any of it. However, before you hit that button, check the top of this page, and you’ll see a little © symbol. Hey, it’s “copyrighted”! Which means if I catch you making money off my work, I’ll see you in court. It also means that anything I write cannot be reproduced in any form without my express, written permission. (So, just go ahead and ask first!) But the ebook rights go much further than simply the reproduction of articles. It includes full length books, and is now a very important part of any legitimate book contract. It’s also something that every author and writer should be totally knowledgeable about before signing any contract. If you have an agent, there is a good possibility they aren’t up on all the legalities of this new industry. But, I’m assuming that since you’re reading this on an electronic device, most of you are more knowledgeable than most on the wonders of ebook and epublishing.

The writing and publishing profession is changing almost daily. Print-On-Demand companies are giving traditional publishing houses a run for their money. Ebook publishers, such as Smashwords.com and many others are making huge strides in the electronic market which is growing at a furious pace. Literary agents and traditional publishers who aren’t totally aware of this new industry or thought that this is only a “temporary phase” are finding themselves out of a job.

You only need to follow the recent law suit brought by the Author Guild against GOOGLE to see where the future is going, and it’s not a good one for writers.

Authors who are not fully knowledgeable of their rights in this new electronic age, are going to find themselves losing vast sums of money to them that do. The bottom line is, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS before you sign on that same bottom line. Your reputation as well as your bank account demands no less.

Know Your Rights Before You’re Left Out!

copyrightWhen publishing was only a matter of paper and ink, and reading material was produced by hand, author’s “rights” were pretty simple. There were none. Whatever the author wrote, the author sold and the author kept the money. With the invention of the printing press, came a new industry, Publishing. The good news for authors was that their works could be reproduced in large quantities. The bad news was that authors and writers now needed protection from these same publishers in order to receive fair compensation for each reproduction of their work sold. In order to insure the author would receive this compensation, more than a handshake was needed. Thus began the first written agreement between the publisher and the author; the contract, and a new terminology was created around the phrase author’s “rights”.

The first contracts were a simple agreement between the publisher and author. Publisher agrees to pay author a percentage of each book sold. For awhile things were going along quite well and everybody was happy. Then, one day, the owner of a local theater read a novel and decided it would make an interesting play. A new contract had to be drawn up between the author of the original work, the publisher of that work and the theater owner (renamed “Producer”) who wanted to use the work of the talented author for their own profit, Thus the term “Dramatic” rights was added to the vocabulary and things started to get a little complicated. Authors and writers needed help in the ever growing “rights” industry and a new profession was born: the Literary Agent. (Not to be, but often is, confused with another profession held in equally high esteem, the Lawyer.)

In the early days of horse and buggy when books were delivered only to a small area, local rights were all one needed. But with the onset of trains, planes and automobiles, “international”rights became part of the contracts. Along with the birth of the motion picture industry, came the added line “film rights” which begat television rights, which begat video tape and audio books rights as well.

The relationship between all parties was going along quite well for most of the 20th century. Authors were writing, agents were rejecting author’s writing, author’s kept writing, agents sent manuscripts to publishers, publishers rejected manuscripts, agents got lucky, agents got 10%, publishers got rich, agents got richer, authors got burned out. Then, during the latter part of the 1990’s, the entire industry took a dramatic turn with the creation of a brand new publishing medium: The Internet, and it begat a brand new term never before heard of in the history of the published world: “Electronic” rights.

As recently as 1995, the Writers Market didn’t even show a listing for ebook rights. For the writing novice, all they listed was the usual explanation of First Serial Rights – or North American Rights, Second serial (reprint) Rights, Subsidiary Rights, and Dramatic, Television, and Motion Picture Rights, which are usually purchased on a one-year option, generally for 10% of the total price by an interested party, usually a producer, who then tries to sell the idea to other people. (Remember our friendly little “theater owner”?)

Electronic rights can cover a lot of territory. Take this article for example. It’s being read on your computer screen, but you can also download it to your hard drive, make a print copy, or several print copies, and send it out across the world in an instant. And the author, me, wouldn’t receive one dime for any of it. However, before you hit that button, check the top of this page, and you’ll see a little © symbol. Hey, it’s “copyrighted”! Which means if I catch you making money off my work, I’ll see you in court. It also means that anything I write cannot be reproduced in any form without my express, written permission. (So, just go ahead and ask first!) But the ebook rights go much further than simply the reproduction of articles. It includes full length books, and is now a very important part of any legitimate book contract. It’s also something that every author and writer should be totally knowledgeable about before signing any contract. If you have an agent, there is a good possibility they aren’t up on all the legalities of this new industry. But, I’m assuming that since you’re reading this on an electronic device, most of you are more knowledgeable than most on the wonders of ebook and epublishing.

The writing and publishing profession is changing almost daily. Print-On-Demand companies are giving traditional publishing houses a run for their money. Ebook publishers, such as Smashwords.com and many others are making huge strides in the electronic market which is growing at a furious pace. Literary agents and traditional publishers who aren’t totally aware of this new industry or thought that this is only a “temporary phase” are finding themselves out of a job.

You only need to follow the recent law suit brought by the Author Guild against GOOGLE to see where the future is going, and it’s not a good one for writers.

Authors  who are not fully knowledgeable of their rights in this new electronic age, are going to find themselves losing vast sums of money to them that do. The bottom line is, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS before you sign on that same bottom line. Your reputation as well as your bank account demands no less.

Chronicles of an Indie Book Publicist: 5 Things Self-Published Authors Need to Stop Immediately

Chronicles of an Indie Book Publicist: 5 Things Self-Published Authors Need to Stop Immediately.

History of a Published Novel

It started with a title, which became an idea, which became a story, which became a manuscript, then became a book.

Red Wine for Breakfast is the most published novel you’ve never heard of. The novel has had three agents, been optioned for a movie, has five publishers and was one of the very first print-on-demand titles to hit book store shelves.

Before M.J. Rose reached fame for her e-book on a disk, Red Wine For Breakfast was published by Book-On-Disc.Com (June 24, 1999). Before Dan Poynter made his fortune as the marketing guru in the Print-On-Demand industry, Red Wine for Breakfast was one of the first books published in that format by iUniverse (July 2, 1999).

To say the novel has been there, did that, is an understatement and the fact that with all it had going for it, sold a mere 5,000 copies is a mystery ever author has been trying to solve since the first time a pen and ink was put on paper.

But this isn’t a tale of what might have been, only what was and sharing it with all who have interest may entertain, or delight, or bore you to tears, but for better or worse, here it is;

The title was derived from a conversation I had in a bar with a good friend who mentioned that he enjoyed a glass of Beaujolais in the morning. I joked why would anyone have red wine for breakfast” and later that night wrote it in my diary that it sounded like a great title for a book.

That was 1972.

Two marriages, three daughters and 25 years later Red Wine for Breakfast did indeed become a novel. In 1996, for those of you who remember that long ago, the internet was in its infancy. Cell phones were a luxury and ebook readers were a device used by the crew of the Starship Enterprise. None of which I owned at the time. What I did own was a computer, HP laser jet printer and a WordPerfect program that would format a document in a book format.

What I also owned was a stationery store which was conveniently located next to a full service print store. The first printing of Red Wine for Breakfast was spiral bound with a red card-stock cover that cost me $10.00 per copy to print that I sold at my store for $14.95. Customers would buy the book, I’d sell out the five or so I printed, then walk over to the print store and print another five and sell them one at a time. You could say I was the original “Print-On-Demand” publisher long before the term, or the industry was every heard of.

I did sign with an agent in Los Angeles who sent the manuscript off to several mainstream publishers, most of which are no longer in business. With each rejection, I found something positive to spin, but when Doubleday rejected the manuscript after 9 months, my agent gave up and we parted ways.

Then came the movie producers. I won’t bore you with the details, you can read the nasty tale “A Hollywood Horror Story” on my website.

A few months later, AOL was forming a new club for aspiring writers who wanted to have their books published at very little cost. I was looking for a printer who would charge me less that $10.00 per book and also provide something called an ISBN number so my books could be sold in stores other than mine.

AOL Writer’s Club became the first publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast. As a published author, I began going to writer’s meeting and events. I met another author who had published her books in a CD format for people who wanted to read her books on their computer. I met her published, he liked my book, so Book-On-Disc.com became the third publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.

Shortly after the novel was on Amazon in CD format, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse from a new publisher who was in the process of buying out the Writer’s Club and wanted all the titles and a new contract with all their authors. The company was iUniverse. The forth publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.

Because they were buying out our contracts, there was no charge for any of the authors to had iUniverse publish our books. It didn’t take very long for that promise to go the way of the “Be a published author for only $99” deal. The Print-On-Demand revolution was fading quickly, “The Revolution Continues”. At that time another author who had also signed with the Writers Club decided to open his own publishing business and wanted me to join him as his premier author.

Lighthouse Press became publisher #5 in 2001. Red Wine for breakfast also received a new cover and a new author, Raven West. The book did farely well for a number of years, then another new publisher who was branching out Internationally contacted me with what was a too good to be true deal and Lighthouse and I parted ways in 2009. Chalet publishers were now #6 for about five weeks. Not unlike iUniverse way back the day, most of what they promised never materialized. I wasn’t that surprised to discover they went out of business in 2012.

Red Wine For Breakfast is now in the digital world of ebooks with Smashwords, publisher #7. I still own all the rights and occasionally when I have a few hours, will pick it up and re-read the story. As soon as I can reformat the cover, I’ll put it out again with Createspace, who will be publisher #8.

I always said that overnight success takes about 20 years. I have at least another 5 to go!

Is Originality Dead in Prime Time Television?

Either I’m watching way too much television, or there really is a severe lack of creativity and originality in the writing world.

In one week, there were not one, not two, but three prime time series which had the identical plot. Castle on ABC, Hawaii 5-0 on CBS and Psyche on USA Network all involved an antagonist taking hostages in order to prove their innocence of a murder.

The subsequent stories which followed the opening copy-cat scenarios did involve a somewhat interesting variety that revealed who was the actual killer was, their motive and the effect this all had on the major characters, but the basic premise was exactly the same. Three of them in one week!

I suppose with so many crime dramas currently being aired on so many channels, there are just not enough original stories left to write about. Of course the audience that watches Psych might not be the same as those who watch Castle, or Hawaii 5-0 so maybe the need for creativity or originality isn’t as important as it once was. I sure hope not.

 

You Are What You Drive – DRIVE Fast and Furious the sales of your book the only way YOU can!

A rather well known author once wrote; “What’s in a name?” If you paid $26,000 for a Chrysler mini-van, would it feel the same as driving a FireBird convertible? And what would have happened if Marion Morrison hadn’t changed his name to John Wayne?

For those of you who have been reading my column since I began writing for the Amazing Authors Showcase, you’ve noticed my name changed from “Robin Westmiller” to Raven West. (For those of you who haven’t noticed, you can skip ahead a few paragraphs.) I wanted to offer an explanation as to the circumstances which led me to create a new pen name and the subsequent results that decision has had on my professional and personal life.

Last May, I was visiting a friend of mine in Connecticut. We’ve known each other since Kindergarten and were reminiscing about an old 60’s television show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. I came up with an idea for my next novel about two lifelong friends who accidently become involved with an espionage plot during their 30th high school reunion, which happens to be next year. The two of us went though our old yearbook and began sketching out characters we knew who would play different roles, with different names, in the story. Her character’s name was going to be Kathleen, mine was going to be Raven.

The moment I wrote it out on the notebook, I felt a surge of energy. Instantly, I knew Raven wasn’t going to be the name of my fictional character, it was going to be my new pen name. I shortened my last name and Raven West was born. When I returned home, I immediately called my publisher and told him to re-do the covers of both First Class Male and the re-issue of Red Wine For Breakfast. I ditched my bangs, cut my hair, had a new photo taken wearing a black leather jacket, re-did my web page and re-printed all my promotional material.

Within two weeks of the transformation, I was invited to three book events, two radio interviews, three on-line interviews, a live chat, and the Barnes and Nobel World’s Largest Writers Workshop. I was also hired to teach a course at a local university, and two of my entries won first and second place at the Ventura County Fair.

But something else began to change along with the species of bird. The “Robin” persona of a small bird with a dull-red breast of “Rockin’ Robin” fame took on an entirely new attitude under the wings of the Raven, described as “A large bird with lustrous black feathers and a straight, sharp beak.” (thank you Webster’s) which I was more than adept at using, especially to sell my books.

And nowhere was that more evident then at the last book festival I attended. Any author who has ever attended these massive book fairs knows how much of their time is spent “schmoozing” with a number of looki-loos who are more interested in telling you their own story then buying yours. “Robin” spent about an hour listening and sharing and not selling a single book. Then, “Raven” took over, with her straight, sharp beak and one simple sentence coming from that beak. “Buy my book!”

Raven West did not rent a booth to stand in the hot sun for seven hours to chat. Raven West was not there to give advice, listen to other author’s woes or commensurate with unsuccessful writers. Raven West was there to sell books, and sell I did.

One man asked me what the story was about. I showed him the back cover, told him to read it and if he held it for more than ten seconds, he had to buy it. He wrote me a check. One woman started to chat about her writer’s organization, then said she never read fiction. I told her that was too bad and walked away. Another would-be author wanted information on marketing and promotion. I handed him a copy of my printed columns and told him the information would cost him $5.00. He handed me the cash. I sold ten copies of First Class Male, six of the old version of Red Wine For Breakfast and five marketing packets for a one day total of over $200.00.

When I took a break, I walked around to a number of other author’s displays, and not a single person asked me, or even suggested I buy their book. Everyone was so nice, almost apologetic. I, on the other hand practically threatened people. “Buy my book or get out of the way. Don’t waste my time talking about your book, or another author’s book. I’m not interested and I don’t care. I’m not asking you to buy them, I’m telling you to buy them because they’re THAT GOOD.”

And if they don’t like you, so what? At least they’ll remember you and they’ll tell other people what a B—- you are and the next time they’re in a book store, guess whose name they’ll remember? The first rule of publicity is that there is no such thing as “bad” ink!

Many authors I know are almost shy about their work, but if you don’t believe you’ve written a best seller, why would anyone else? If you, the author, don’t “crow” hard and long and proud, you’ll never be heard over the noise of all the other author traffic on the highway. It’s not bragging, as my children constantly accuse me of. It’s promotion, marketing and getting noticed. It’s about selling your books!

How many of you who are reading this right now, truly believe it you’re a “Best Selling Author”? How many of you feel pride in what you’ve accomplished and not some kind of shame or guilt that you feel that way? Shout your accomplishments and do it proudly, because you deserve to be noticed in your own right. When someone tries to compare me to another author, I tell them right to their face that I’m not the next somebody else, I’m the first Raven West, and let others follow me. Then, they buy my book, because if I believe I’m a successful, best-selling author, so will they. And success is contagious.

Writing is about talent, creativity, hard work and a good story. Marketing, promotion and successful selling is about attitude, self-confidence and putting your foot down hard on the gas. It’s about getting out of the traffic jam of authors who have been driving on the same road the same way with stacks of unsold books in their trunk, gathering dust.

If you’re afraid of making a bad first impression, you won’t make any impression at all and then you’ll be just another small bird with a little chirp, instead of what a fellow author recently wrote to me when I told him I was changing my name: “Raven… a darkly beautiful shadow that flies through the hearts and souls of human drama. In the soft light of dusk ..she carries off a story, a tale, to bedazzle the readers of her books…”

Robin drives a mini-van. Raven West drives a red Firebird convertible and I’m passing everyone on the road to riches!

One more thing: Buy my books!

When the Universe Calls, You’d Better Pick Up the Phone

There are definitely times in a writer’s life when life itself interferes with the writing process. My first novel “Red Wine for Breakfast” was published in 1999, the second “First Class Male” in 2001, (Lighthouse Press) then nothing for the next ten years when I decided to go with Createspace for “Undercover Reunion”.  

Oh sure, I have tons of outlines, characters, plots and just as many excuses for not finishing the two 50,000 word novels that have been sitting in my lap top for more years than I want to think about. All those wonderful characters remain hidden in the dark, cold cyberspace screaming for me to free them into the real fictional world!   

Make enough noise, and the Universe will eventually hear you and relay your message loud and clear. And when the Universe yells at you, you’d better listen.

So, here it is, 2014. New Years Eve to be exact and my husband and I were going to a party at a hotel miles from where we used to live. A couple got into the elevator with us, the woman commented on how great I looked (true), then the guy looks at me and says “Hi, Robin”. I had no idea who he was, since I’ve been going by the name Raven West for a few decades, it wasn’t until he said his name was Gordon that I knew exactly who he was. The faux movie producer who had optioned “Red Wine For Breakfast” many years ago.   ( read Hollywood Horror Story which actually won Second Place in Literary Non-Fiction at the Ventura County Fair in 2001).

I don’t know what surprised me more; that someone I’d not seen for more than 20 years would suddenly appear in an obscure hotel in Ventura, or that he would have recognized me (25 pounds lighter and looking really HOT), or that he’d let his hair grow down to his shoulders with a beard to match and looked like an aging hippie who I would not have recognized in a million years.

The “blast from the past” encounter was brief, but strange nonetheless.  I mentioned I had a new book out with a back story to the old 60’s television show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., he said good luck with that and we parted ways. What I hadn’t realized at the time, that encounter was just the first call the Universe was sending.  There were many more to follow, louder and more persistent than I could have dreamed.

A few days later, I decided to check out a few of my social media sites and happened to read a message on my Linkedin account from Jacqueline Van de Poll, who was very excited to hear about my book “Undercover Reunion” and had purchased a few as gifts for their upcoming Arundel Affair 2014 – Celebrating 50 Years of U.N.C.L.E. convention… in ENGLAND and asked me to send a few signed stickers she could be in the book! I immediately checked Amazon.com.uk and saw my rating had soared to 123,000, which was about a million higher than the book rating in the U.S.  

I then did a search on all things U.N.C.L.E. and much to my elation, discovered that Warner Bros. had just finished filming the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. starring Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), set for release this year

A second ring from the Universe? Perhaps, but I still didn’t answer.

That gave me the idea to also search for the literary agent, Terrie Wolf who I had once contracted with on First Class Male and was thrilled to see that her agency was still going strong, but wasn’t taking on any new submissions. I called her anyway. Although we hadn’t been in contact since 2009 (for reasons that had nothing to do with our professional relationship), we connected as if no time had passed. We were on the phone for over an hour, catching up on all things publishing, a few personal (we had both become grandparents since last we talked) and, although she couldn’t promise anything, asked me to send her the manuscript, some bio information, media appearances, stats on sales and social media sites and she’d take a look.  

I began to compile the information by first doing a search for Author Raven West and was amazed at how many sites I was on. I’d totally forgotten about all the blog interviews, radio sites, author pages and book signings I’d been part of and, although not astronomical by any means, I did have an impressive amount of blog followers, tweeters, website visitors and Facebook “likes”.  

That damn persistent ringing from the Universe again? Maybe it was time to answer.

Then, last night I experienced the very best thing that any author could and I knew that I could no longer ignore the call. My husband received an invitation to an associate’s 60th birthday party in Redondo Beach, about a 2 hour drive. I didn’t know the man very well, but it was a party and a good excuse as any to get out of the house on a Saturday night. Once we arrived, there was only other guest I knew and she was taking to some people when I stopped by to say hi. The last time I’d seen her, she had come to our Halloween party where she bought a copy of First Class Male.

She immediately started raving about my book to anyone who would listen, which led to everyone within earshot asking me about where they could buy the books which led me to the trunk of my car where I always keep copies of all my books which led me to sell a total of FIVE! The most books I’ve sold in under an hour at full price in years, including a recent book fair.

Of course I signed each one to the delight of the guests! Suddenly all those feelings and memories of how much I loved being an author came flooding back! Talking to fans about the characters and the stories and hearing how much they loved my work and how excited they were to have me sign their copies (take THAT ebooks) reminded me why I was a writer in the first place.

It really isn’t about the money. It really isn’t about Amazon ratings. It really isn’t about vampires, zombies or teenage angst books-to-movie strategies. It’s about the creative process and the joy of putting words on a page that no one else can. It’s about the absolute joy when someone reads your work and wants to talk about the imaginary characters YOU created as if they were real people and shares their enthusiasm with others who also want to know who these people are and their story.

The Universe called and I finally answered. The message was loud and clear; “You are a writer. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are and you will never be happy doing anything else.”

Getting so caught up in the nuts and bolts of the publishing business, marketing and promotion and sales and spending countless wasted hours tweeting and #whatever and @whatever else, I’d forgotten what the Universe was screaming to remind me. I am a writer. It’s not a job, it’s a joy. It’s not a means to an end; it really is who I am. I just spent the last 2 hours writing this blog and I’ve never been happier.

And if all of my 149 followers to this blog buy a copy of “Undercover Reunion”, I’d even be happier!

           

 

           

           

           

           

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Movie will premier in 2014! Undercover Reunion is available NOW!

uncle-book

What could be better than a MOVIE premier that ties directly to your novel? “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” starring Henry Cavill is set to be released in 2014! What a PERFECT time to have a published novel that ties in to all things U.N.C.L.E.!

Undercover Reunion is a novel for everyone who ever dreamt about being an undercover spy, thwarting an evil criminal genius and winning the heart of a handsome U.N.C.L.E. agent in the process!

“Trapped in a concrete room beneath the headquarters of an international crime organization, four middle-aged high school classmates find themselves caught in a web of espionage and intrigue that threatens their lives and those of everyone they know.

When the undercover agents first approached Melanie Tyler and Kathleen O’Brian the night of their 30th high school reunion, the women could never have imagined that the innocent 60’s television spy show game they had played nearly four decades ago, would become a real life confrontation with one of the most insidious criminal minds of their generation.”

Undercover Reunion is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and climbed from  6 Million to 95,000 rating on  Amazon.co.uk. The UK are HUGE fans! U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!