Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Working the Web

I've been trying to get some buzz going for the imminent release of Russian Roulette and things are happening on line. You'll have to pardon my ego while I share my good fortune.

First, the Crime Critics website posted a very nice review of Russian Roulette, the very first advance review published. Crime Critics is one of the best mystery review sites on the net, and I'm flattered that they plugged my newbook so soon.

The same week I recorded a short promotional video for Russian Roulette, in which I personally explain my new novel. It's on You Tube and several other web sites.

Also, I was interviewed by mystery author Jean Henry Mead on her website, Mysterious People. She is an excellent interviewer who prompted me to reveal some new sides of my work.

And the lovely video trailer for Russian Roulette went live a couple days ago - it's down below this post. By now I'm sure you've found it on this page. Circle of Seven Productions does the BEST work!

Russian Roulette was not my only writing effort to turn up on line. A blog post on The Stiletto Gang highlighted the new journal called “The Writer's Journey.” This new manual for authors is a collection ofwriters' essays on the craft and business of writing fiction. It'salso obviously a journal with pages left for authors to write abouttheir own journey. Thirteen writers contributed to this manual,including yours truly. Aspiring authors can e-mail me at to learn how to get an autographed copy of the manual from me.

While monitoring the internet for my activity it is sometimes surprising what Google Alerts will turn up. I found out that you can order copies of The Troubleshooter in India. I had to do some research to figure out what Rs 1143 is in American money.

And finally, the trailer for Blood and Bone turned up on a web site for African American Scholarships. Maybe someone will use it for a fund raising event. Check the posting on African American Scholarships.

Will all this internet activity really translate into book sales? I'll let you know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Writers??

For the next couple of weeks, we'll try to respond to some of the most frequently asked questions, on the theory that if one new author asked, a dozen more want to know the same thing.

Here's another question that comes up:

"What do you think about ghost writing? I'm in need of a writer to tell my story because I really do not have the time to write it and really don't know how to get started."

This is really two different questions, depending on whether you are asking about fiction or nonfiction.

If you're talking about a fictional story you're probably out of luck. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a writer who would write a story you came up with when they could be writing their own. Such writers do exist, but they generally get assignments from publishers to add to a series of books that are written under a house name. When Lester Dent created Doc Savage in the 1930s he wrote under the "house name" of Kenneth Robeson. Other writers added to the collection using the same name. This practice continues today, but I won't out any of my friends by naming ghosts. I just know they don’t work for individuals.

Besides, if someone else writes your story, you're not a writer. Is that what you want?

Ghost writers more often write nonfiction for others – autobiographies, memoirs and the like. I know a few of these folks too. They do work with individuals from time to time to tell the other person's story. These writers don’t expect their work to sell well, and their names aren’t on the cover anyway, so they don’t work for royalties. This kind of writing is called fee-for-service work, meaning that these ghost writers generally get paid a flat fee for their work. A book length work might cost $25,000 or $30,000. So a good ghost writer can make a decent living, and if you want to hire someone to do this kind of writing, you can probably find them pretty easily through a local writers’ organization.

But why not tell your own story? Take the time to write it instead of taking the time to explain it all to another writer. Then hire an editor to help you shape and refine the story. That way, you’re still a writer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Meeting with Agents

Meeting with Agents

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll try to respond to some of the most frequently asked questions, on the theory that if one new author asked, a dozen more want to know the same thing.

Here's a question I hear often:

“I am attending a conference and I am meeting with three agents at the conference. Do you have any advice?”

Meeting with agents should be positive for you, assuming you have confidence in the quality and marketability of your writing. But before you sit down in front of an agent, make sure he or she handles your kind of work.

When you do meet with an agent you won’t have much time. Typical agent meetings at conferences last ten or fifteen minutes. So be prepared to cut to the chase. I recommend that you have a one sentence description of your book ready, and be prepared to go into more detail if asked. Bring the manuscript in case someone asks to see some pages. And be able to answer the most obvious questions.

What genre is your novel? To an agent, that means, where will Barnes and Noble shelve it?.

Who is the market (or audience) for your book? Don't say "everybody." Instead, pinpoint a book or an author whose readers would like your work too. Also, do a little research so you can tell them which publishers you think might buy it.

Have you had the manuscript professionally edited? Answer truthfully but if the answer is no, make it clear that you are open to editing. The agent wants to know if you’ll be easy to work with.

Stay on point. The conversation needs to be about you, the agent or your book. Anything else is a waste of precious time.

You should definitely tell them if you’ve submitted your manuscript to anyone and if you got any positive feedback, share it.

If the agent expresses interest in your book, be sure you know what he or she wants from you: a synopsis, an outline, sample chapters or the whole manuscript. There is no standard so don’t be disappointed or excited about what you are asked for. And exchange contact information, so you can reach the agent if you have any questions later.

Finally, when your time is up, be fair to the writer behind you and leave promptly. No agent wants to work with a selfish author.