Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Hey, have you read my book yet?"

I’m going to take a break from storytelling this week to concentrate on promotions. As I already have a children’s book published (Solar System Forecast), one novel published on Kindle (The Gathering Storm) with its sequel in the editing stage (Storm Damage), and another unrelated novel finished and ready for submission (Under a Different Sky), I need to take some time to brainstorm how to spread the word on my already-existing stories.

A website and blog are obvious choices for promotion, but then there’s the matter of how to drive traffic to your site, as well as not constantly bombarding people with your work and turning them off. I’ve announced my books on Facebook and Twitter, but after the initial sales, you can’t sell the same book to the same people.

When I meet new people, I try to work my books into conversation, which can be easy if someone simply asks me what my job is. I never force it; I let it come up organically. I suppose someone’s opening sentence could be, “Hey, have you read my book yet?” and there’s nothing wrong with being frank, but I’m not quite that aggressive. (This may also be the reason I’m mostly unknown.)

Another promotional idea came to me as I was browsing the internet. I saw the covers of classic books, such as The Great Gatsby, printed on t-shirts. I thought it would be a neat idea to get a shirt with one of my favorite books on it, but then I stopped and thought, why should I advertise a book everyone’s already heard of? So I went to a website that can print any photo onto totes, mugs, etc., and I had the cover of The Gathering Storm screen-printed onto a t-shirt. I haven’t worn it anywhere yet but I think at the very least it will make a good conversation piece.

I’ve spent way too much time on Pinterest lately, like the rest of the free world, and pinned my books onto a board of my favorite books. It was nice to see my books repined by others, but after pinning them once, there wasn’t much I could do unless I kept unpinning and repinning them and risk annoying everyone. Instead I thought it would be fun to make Pinterest pages for each of my books. While it may help generate interest, it’s also just a great way to visualize elements of my story, such as the characters and world they're living in. I’ve found amazing examples of tall, formal gardens with clipped hedges and blind pathways that Evelyn sneaks through as she hurries to her next illicit meeting with … well, you’ll have to read The Gathering Storm to see whom she meets.

 My friend gave me an additional idea that seems like it could be a lot of fun. I’m starting a Twitter account under my main character, Evelyn. Sometimes I’ll quote from the book and other times I’ll tweet from my character’s perspective.

I’m also considering a Twitter account for my unpublished novel, but instead of quoting from that book or tweeting my character’s thoughts and giving too much away, it might be fun to tweet from before the book starts. Sort of a prequel Twitter feed of the book. Not only will it help future readers get to know my characters before they start the book, but it will also help me explore my characters further.

If you have any unorthodox promotional ideas to share, tweet me or add them in the comments section below.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

5 Ways to Annoy an Astronomer

Astronomers. They’re a pretty friendly bunch. They like nothing more than to share the wonders of the universe and the beauty of the night sky with others. Whether it’s someone who studies astronomy for a living or someone who indulges as a hobby, they’re usually a pretty amiable lot.

But if you want to see them get perturbed and a bit red in the face, there are a few sure-fire ways to achieve this. Certainly if you asked each individual, they could probably come up with more than five, but these five seem to be universal. And now, in reverse order:

Number 5: Use lights at a star party. Arrive after it’s completely dark. Pull your car up to the group with their telescopes all set up and shine your bright headlights right into their faces until you can actually see their pupils lose dilation. After you get out of your car, walk onto the field with your deer-spotting hand lamp and shine it around until you find a good place to stand. Then when you’re all set up and don’t need your lights anymore to see the way, shoot off some fireworks to liven up the party a little bit.

Number 4: Buy a star. Contact one of the many “star registries” to purchase the pretend naming rights to a random star in the sky that is too faint to see. Then try to find your name on any official star map to show your astronomy friends. Or better yet, send me your fifty bucks and I’ll print out my own star chart with the real name of a star photo-shopped out and your name there instead, as official as any of the “professional” naming companies. Polaris? Not anymore. Now it’s the Jimbo Star.

Number 3: Claim the moon landing was faked. This one is really about the “debunker” and his or her discomfort with the advancement of science and technology. Which probably means they’re not all that comfortable around people who see back in time with their telescopes or who study the big bang genesis of the universe 13 billion years ago. Any easy way to slip in this pet peeve is anytime someone says, “If they can put a man on the moon...” interrupt them and say, “That never really happened.” This might also get you a job at Fox Television.

Number 2: Talk about aliens and UFOs. Discuss the strange lights you have seen in the sky: the blinking noisy craft that move overhead, the non-blinking tiny lights that soar smoothly from horizon to horizon, and the waving and shimmering bands of light you sometimes see invading the north. Ask to look through their telescope so you can find evidence of little green men on Mars. See if they’d like to hop the fence with you at Area 51 and “check things out.”

And Number 1: Confuse astrology and astronomy. Enough said.

 We landed here once. Really.