All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Writer. Artisan Jeweler.

Cream of the Crap by Jeffery J Micheals

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The following is an expression of opinions based on observations regarding the writing trade. They may be crappy opinions. They are my opinions and frankly, I may not even believe them completely myself. I try not to force my opinions on anyone.

There is a generally held belief that, in writing, or any creative endeavor, the cream of the crop rises to the top. It doesn’t matter that there is a plethora of content available to the buying public. It is commonly believed that things that are crap will sink.

As aspiring or even published authors, many creatives take comfort in this concept and work hard to perfect their craft, seeking to become known for their genius level skill set and integrity to the high road of ART. Many aspiring or even published authors are also working a day job whilst their less than artistically pure colleagues seem to be succeeding in spite of producing derivative garbage.

Surely the public wants higher forms of ART and they are merely unaware of your BRILLIANCE.

Perhaps not.

As a creative, you may have an entirely different, specific set of parameters by which you measure yourself. Different from whom? The paying public of course. And here is where we creatives get challenged in our perceptions. We think ART, but others think entertainment. The successful ones think, “Business savvy” and we keepers of the flame of integrity are sometimes left in the literary society dust.

In the writing game, the important thing to remember is that your perspective is not the one that matters. The masses chose the definition of “cream.” For example, Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, Sharknado, and Snakes on a Plane rose to the top. Arguably crap in terms of artistic merit, but in terms of the more valuable entertainment rating, they rock the world of the masses, those with disposable income. Perhaps those starving artist souls reading this might feel “flushable income” is the better term. But I bet most of you have read one of those books or seen at least one of those movies. You do not have to admit it out loud. I’ll join you in not admitting.

Understand that at the time of this writing Sharknado FIVE is released, for better or worse. Why? Money, of course.

Another way of describing this “cream of the crop” belief is to say, “If you build it, they will come.” Crap. If you believe this then the fickle public will certainly tread all over you in the rush to get access to whatever the newest highly promoted trend is that week. Now, I want to point out that this is one of those cynical moments where I make a statement that is harsh and dogmatic and later on try to retract or modify.

The fact is that sometimes, SOMETIMES, there is a moment when against all odds something gains momentum all of its own accord and proves to be an amazing artistic triumph that advances the causes of social liberty and human rights, motivating millions to take a new and unique action in their lives and adjust the world’s global karma. However, more often than not, it is something on the level of Angry Birds or Pokemon that attracts the audience.

In the not too distant past an author would sell their manuscript, receive a contract and soon an ad campaign director and a publisher would place a budget on a project, employ artists and copywriters to create a unique image or series of images to place in newspapers, magazines, on the side of buses, and often even billboards, alerting the public to the importance of your book. Well placed editorials and strategic marketing plans would create a place on Bestseller Lists or in “trending author” articles and you, the more-famous-by-the-moment-author and recipient of such attention, would get booked on PBS talking head shows, or perhaps if you were photogenic enough a spot on daytime talk shows like Dinah Shore or Merv Griffin. If you were witty and personable, Johnny Carson might even bring you on the Tonight Show (Yes, I am that old).

These days success is called Going Viral and relies heavily on algorithms called Bubble Sort and other interesting sounding titles (but really they are just counting hits) and placement of your brand and platform on the internet. It is all done by YOU unless you have a fair amount of money you wish to throw at this effort and can hire someone to do the work for you, results NOT guaranteed. It can all be exhausting. It can detract, discourage, and debilitate you into the status of permanent writer’s block. You can become sidetracked into this morass of externals and somehow never actually finish your books.

I know of at least two writer friends who excel at marketing. They have shiny websites that have won awards. They produce excellent blogs followed by thousands and display excellently reviewed sample chapters from their soon-to-come books. They garner rave comments from those who visit their website and read their blogs…but in over five years neither of them have moved a new word into their manuscript. Have they lost interest or just lost their creative way? Yet they have the appearance of success. They are keynote speakers at conferences, presenting their skills at marketing, social media, internet savviness, viralishness, and platform awareness stuff. They look real good, but there is no substance. At least to my perception.

To my way of thinking, if you wish to be called an author, you need to have written a book. All of the marketing gets to be important at some point, but…here is my opinion and it may be crap.

What you, as an author, need to focus on is creating the best product YOU can produce. Once you have that in hand, polished and finished, professionally edited and with a well-designed cover, then and only then is it time to focus upon making people aware of your best product. For the artistic individual, a person who is more than likely to be rather undisciplined or introverted, this gets tricky. You find yourself shifting from creativity to business acumen and often the two are polar opposites in terms of skill set.

The path to being a successful author is not one that can be completely defined and success can be a relative term. But there are two stages and it is important that creative souls face the reality early on that at some point they will find it necessary to get their work out there and sell their art. It is easier if the book, film, or any other creative endeavor fits an existing and recognizable-to-the-public genre. Selling a mystery series is easier than selling literary fiction, no matter how elegant your prose. People like mysteries (because good triumphs) and they like the same thing but different. Or maybe not so different. But they do like a well written, well-crafted mystery or romance or horror novel. And in that case, the cream really does rise to the top.

I sometimes think I am a snob when I look at the state of the creative business today. But at heart, I still recall the pure enjoyment of reading the old pulp novels from the thirties and forties (Reprints. I am not that old!). I admit, I have seen Sharknado (In my defense it was the Riff Trax version) and enjoyed the crude silliness of the dumb, stupid movie. But I have also seen My Dinner with Andre and Citizen Kane multiple times and even own the BluRay versions of each. I will watch those again and may even see another Sharknado film. I read higher quality these days than in my youth. Why? Am I such a better person for it? No. What I am is more experienced and less able to tolerate what is now, to me, predictable storylines. I want more from a book or movie. Most of the time anyway.

And when I write, I refuse to write downward.

I believe that a writer or creative of any kind can and should seek to show the audience the world in a better light or at least show that there is a path out of dark days of fear and the daily crap that occurs. And sometimes, at the end of the day, when the world is just heavy and the news is perpetually about confrontation and loss, I believe that a writer should entertain and brighten the audiences’ lives. A little well-written nonsense may be just the thing. And if you can make a buck or two while helping others rise out of the crap? Well, maybe I should just get off my high horse and keep my opinions to myself! I do have an idea for a funny zombie story…

jeffreyjmichaels4wendy2Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. He describes his book “A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions” as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements.

He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as “The Mystical Histories.” It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories.

In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant.
He does not like to talk about his award-winning horror story.

a-day-at-the-beach-book-cover“A Day At the Beach and Other Brief Diversions”

What if… …your perfect day never ended? …your life were to pass before your eyes, one person at a time? …the genie in the lamp had a wish? …you heard the perfect last words? Versatile author Jeffrey J. Michaels invites you to explore new ways of looking at your world and worlds beyond in this selection of metaphyictional short stories.

Author Interview: Angela Ashley

Author Angela Ashley writes to make sense of her world and to create one she can dwell in that is better than her own. Through her characters, she seeks to create people of depth, grace, and bravery, struggling like everyone to survive, and ultimately, to find love and meaning. She is also from my own home town of Lake Stevens, WA. It is a small world indeed! It is my pleasure to welcome Angela to No Wasted Ink.

Angela Ashley 1My name is Angela Craig, and my pen name is Angela Ashley, which was my birth name. I’m a single woman, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. I loved reading books from a very young age. As a child, I loved books about animals, especially The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. After having seen Star Wars in the theater and reading The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, I fell in love with the science fiction and fantasy genres. When I attended Seattle Pacific University, I knew I should choose a major that would pay well, but I followed my heart instead, graduating with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Writing. I wanted to be a book editor but ended up being a home loan processor instead. I spend my free time reading, writing, and posting funny memes on Facebook when I’m not watching TV or movies with my boyfriend and my two cats.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve written poetry for years, but my job was so stressful that I found it drained most of my creativity away. And to be honest, I didn’t believe in myself enough to try my hand at writing more than poetry. But when the opportunity came to retire early, I knew what I wanted to do. I began to fill notebooks with my ideas that summer, and for months afterward. I fought through my fear and wrote my first chapter, and then another, and I surprised myself. A part of me had known I had this ability all along, but I’d pushed that voice down, until that moment. Now, I can’t imagine living without writing fiction. I’ve finally found who I am.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve considered myself a writer of poetry since my teen years, but the first time I realized I was a fiction writer was three years ago. As a perfectionist, I didn’t want to try and fail, or even try and just do okay. When I wrote that first chapter, my muse came out in full force, and I haven’t stopped dancing with her since.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I would describe it as Game of Thrones meets Dances With Wolves meets The Hunger Games meets Downton Abbey. The main character, Little Squirrel, is a native-American-esque teen who has come of age and must go on her Vision Quest. Her situation is unique because she’s of mixed heritage — her mother was First Daughter of House Mystalora in the Queensrealm, a woman-dominated society, while her father was a warrior of the People. While on her Quest, she is attacked and finds she has a very unusual ability. Her adopted brother and her best friend, both of whom are in love with her, find they do, as well. Meanwhile, in the Queensrealm, Kella is falling for Jaereth, a slave, even though their love is forbidden. They, too, realize they have strange abilities. Soon, they all find out they’re pawns in a game, pitted against each other and others, and that only one can survive. This game was created by unseen beings, seemingly for their amusement. But soon, it becomes clear that the real motive goes very deep, and the consequences of this ‘game’ will affect all of humanity.

What inspired you to write this book?

So many things. I’ve long been fascinated by native American culture and spirituality, and I wanted to pay homage to it and explore it with my writing. My grandma used to tell me we had native American blood, and it made me daydream about who they were and how they lived. I love the idea of shape-shifting, and I felt it would work well with the native American themes. But I found I couldn’t stop with that ability; they’re all so fun and provide so many opportunities for mischief. I also love strong female characters and a good dose of romance. But the number one inspiration was that I couldn’t find any more books that I wanted to read. They were all beginning to sound the same to me. So I decided to create my own world and the kind of characters I love, and just live in that world and let the characters inside me out.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I listen to my characters — who they are, what they want to say, and what is important to them. They are real people to me in that sense, and I respect their voices when I write. Oftentimes they surprise me by the directions they take, but I trust them. I know it sounds strange, but it’s the truth. They have a life of their own.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It came from one of the later chapters of the book. The villain, Malyse, talks about the reason why she began the game. She and seven others had been transformed in an accident and become almost like gods in some ways, and she explains that just as the gods play with human lives on their chess board of life, she intends to play with the lives of others, and “sometimes a gambit must be made, a sacrifice offered, in order to win a game between gods.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My characters talk a lot about love and whether it makes you stronger or weaker, and about whether people can truly be good or evil. I want my readers to draw their own conclusions on these subjects, of course, but I like these kinds of philosophical questions. I’m not one to just take concepts like good and evil for granted; I want to really look at what makes a person one or the other. In my book, several characters had tough childhoods, and one had a wonderful childhood — you would expect the former to be evil and the latter to be good, but it’s quite the opposite. We become good or evil depending on what’s inside of us, not because of what has happened to us.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

They are most definitely based on events in my own life. Writing this book was great therapy for me. Father Daven, the priest who mistreats young Wilde, is built from my alcoholic Stepdad, Dave, though the abuse Wilde experiences are much worse than the abuse I experienced. The five sisters locked in a closet came from the fact that my grandma and her four sisters used to get locked in the closet as children, and some of the names are the same. My experiences with narcissists created my villain, Malyse, and the fact that Little Squirrel comes from a broken family unit and feels like an outsider is a direct result of my own childhood, though I wish I had a father figure like Miklos, as she does.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The idea of being “Chosen” and having special abilities likely came from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Later in life, the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin fired my imagination, and I took the idea of each chapter title indicating which character perspective that chapter would be from, from that series. I loved the first person present perspective from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and enjoyed how real it made the action feel, so I borrowed that, too.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?

I would have to choose Suzanne Collins. The immediacy and nitty-gritty realness and imperfection of her characters and the action, plus their bravery in the face of terrible odds, really changed the way I looked at and approached fantasy fiction.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My beautiful cover art was created by Loraine Van Tonder of Ryn Katryn, Digital Art in South Africa. I decided to search on Facebook for a true artist since I thought so many of the self-pub covers coming out nowadays were so one-dimensional and uninspired. Her artwork, in contrast, was so beautiful and nuanced. She was so easy to work with and friendly and had wonderful ideas that really took my cover to the next level. The colors immediately grab your attention and draw you in, and the character renderings make you want to know more about them. Seeing her cover art for the first time was one of the highlights of my life. She managed to capture the magic, somehow.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t listen to that little voice that says you can’t do this. You can. Fill a bunch of notebooks with ideas, then sit down and start writing. Just start. That’s the hardest part, and once you do it, keep going. Don’t stop, ever. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s so worth it, I promise you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Welcome to my world, and I hope you love it as much as I do. Thank you for believing in me, and please, tell others. I’d love to hear from you, so don’t be afraid to reach out on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter, though I don’t use Twitter much. I’m always looking for new friends.

Gambit of the Gods Book CoverAngela Ashley
Lake Stevens, WA

FACEBOOK
GOODREADS
TWITTER

Gambit of the Gods

Cover artist: Loraine Van Tonder of Ryn Katryn Digital Art

AMAZON

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Welcome back to another Monday full of writer’s links.  This week’s articles are sure to please you as they cover general writing tips, marketing, and competitions.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Character Motivation Entry: Entering a Competition and Winning It

How to create your Author “Pit Crew” Part 3: Author’s Assistant

5 Ways to Spot – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Author Blogs

How I Doubled My Newsletter Subscribers on Instafreebie

Advice to Writers Who Feel Like a Fraud (from a Writer Who Feels Like a Fraud)

10 Easy Edits to Improve Your Manuscript Right Now

Writing Fiction? 10 Common Writing Errors That Make You Look Like a Newbie

The Monster in Every Writer’s Closet

Genre is a Lot Simpler Than You Think

Running a Successful Facebook Novel Release Party

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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No Wasted Ink Monday’s are set aside for writing links.  This week I mainly have writing tips for you, but there are a couple of marketing articles in the mix if that is more your speed.  Pour yourself a cup of joe and sit back and relax.  There is some decent reading here for your pleasure.

How to create your Author “Pit Crew” Part 2: Editors

Beginnings, Endings, and Insecurities

Finding Your Voice Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Third Level Emotions

The Walking Englishman’s Walk Time Calculator

Indie authors – relish cross genre fiction

The Book He Wasn’t Supposed to Write

Instafreebie = Insta-Success

Indie author profiles: How often do they have to be updated?

What Are Book Cover Designers and Editors Earning? The Freelance Reality

Social Media Tips For Your Author Platform

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An active author platform can often be the difference between poor sales of your book and making a living with your writing. The main parts of your author platform are your writer’s blog, a newsletter, social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). You will want to write proposals, queries, and manuscripts, do interviews both online and in person, and go to conventions, book fairs and other writing events. All of these activities can be overwhelming to any author, no matter if you are an aspiring author or a pro with many novels on Amazon. It is a fact that maintaining your platform takes constant work.

There is a solution to taming the platform workload. It is called automation, scheduling and following a routine.

No Wasted Ink, as of this writing, has a blog following of around 1800 and a twitter following of 25 thousand. Each and every one of these followers was found one at a time and added organically to my lists over the course of five years. I am doing the same with my new quarterly newsletter and Instagram account. Both are small in subscribers since they are new, but in time both of these new legs to my platform will improve.

I’m often asked how I built my large number of followers. It is mainly by providing consistent and quality content to my readers. No Wasted Ink provides book reviews of classic science fiction and fantasy novels, interviews new up and coming authors, has a list of writer’s articles every Monday that I curate by hand, and original articles and poetry. It is all offered up for free to anyone who wishes to follow. In addition, I have links to my writing, both free stories that are published in online magazines, and content to purchase such as novels, novellas, and anthologies that I am a part of. I consider my writer’s blog to be the cornerstone of my author platform.

I am active on social media. Every post on No Wasted Ink creates a tweet on twitter to inform my followers that there is a new post to read. I also post a link on my Facebook Author Page. This is done automatically by WordPress for me. For key posts, I will often follow up with additional tweets, one a day to my feed for a time span of two weeks. I create these tweets on Hootsuite, a free service that I use to schedule tweets and Facebook posts ahead of time.

Another service that I use to supplement Twitter is a free service called Triberr. I have joined a number of “tribes” there and offer to promote other writer’s posts in exchange for their promoting my posts. By doing this cross promotion I gain two things. An easy way to queue additional posts to my twitter feed so it is not all about me. I select articles from fellow writers that I feel would be of interest to writers or readers of science fiction or fantasy. This fleshes out my twitter feed and makes it more interesting. I also gain access to other author networks for my own posts. On average, all my interviews and guest posts gain around 60 to 80 retweets from my various network connections.

An important thing to remember about Twitter is that you need to cull your follower list from time to time. I do a culling of people that do not follow me back or who have not tweeted anything in at least six months from my follower list a few times a month. I use various third party platforms to locate these tweeps and prune them. This allows me room to add new people that might be more inclined to read my tweets and respond to my messages. By doing this, although my list of followers is large, they are all very active.

Having a Facebook Author Page is important, but I don’t view it as a platform for sending messages to followers. I like being there because most people expect you to have a Facebook presence. It also is a great place to host an online book launch, post your upcoming live events, or do a Facebook Live video. For me, Facebook has been a great place to network with fellow authors, magazine editors, and publishers of anthologies. Most of the places that I publish my short stories and poetry to have been found by networking on Facebook.

I know that all of this can seem to be overwhelming. And sometimes it is! However, it doesn’t need to be. Scheduling your time is the key to handling the social media marketing. I schedule myself two ways. The main way I do my marketing is to do a short session in the morning and in the evening, each no more than 15 minutes. Yes, I sometimes set a timer. In these sessions I will do any of the following:

* Write a blog post
* Draft an email newsletter
* Research articles for my Monday link posts
* Write a Facebook status or Twitter update
* Take an Instagram picture and upload it
* Comment on a blog post on another author’s site
* Share another author’s book, on a social media platform
* Update my website or blog in some way
* Draft a query letter to a magazine on a subject related to your book
* Create an image on Canva with a reviewer’s blurb on it and Tweet it
* Create an image on Canva of a quote from your articles and Tweet it
* Write a thank-you note to a book reviewer, librarian or bookseller
* Load up future tweets to promote new blog posts
* Write up a call for new authors to interview

I also have one other social media work session. It happens once a year in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This is normally a “dead” week for business. All the Christmas shopping is done, people are home with their families and not all that much is going on retail wise. Yet, there is this full week of time available. I schedule this week to do my annual blog scheduling. During this week I will create all the holiday posts for my blog and schedule them for the following year. I find quotes to post on Facebook and schedule them to post for the next year. I finish setting up my editorial calendar for the next year and make sure that all my regular posts are scheduled in my Filofax with a check mark drawn in for when I complete and schedule the post. I tend to work in six to eight-hour shifts during this week, devoting most of my work time to marketing. At the end of the week, I toast the New Year and go back to my usual 15-minute sessions.

Now it’s your turn: share in the comments. What are your favorite—or most effective—quick marketing tasks in your author platform?