Monday, January 27, 2014

A Rose by any other Initial?

I had wondered if I was unique in trying to figure out what name should appear on my books.  I wasn’t.  It seems many authors ponder over how to present themselves.   After you get through the decision of real vs. pen name, the next fork in the road is what, if any, initials to use.
There’s a list a mile long of authors who use two initials, J.K. Rowling being the best, current example.  Some authors don’t even stop with two initials.  Who among us can argue that it didn’t work for J.R.R. Tolkien?  But then, there are authors who cast aside their middle name and any initial that goes with it.  I’m not sure that John Grisham has a middle name, and if he does, I suggest he not use it out now.  
So, in the end, I decided on D.R. Shoultz.  My full name is Donn Randall Shoultz.  I had lived my early years being known as Randy.  When I went off to college, I became Donn, which is where I’ve stayed the past 40 years.  Having struggled through a multi-name life, I welcomed the opportunity to get rid of both names and go by D.R.   But now, having thought about it some more, I’ve been wondering about changing to D.R.R. Shoultz.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What's your social media persona?

What’s your social media persona?  I’m not sure what mine is.   I’m still trying to identify it.  Some days, I want to tell the world everything, using as many social media sites as possible: blogs, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, goodreads, LinkedIn, email, etc. Other days, I want to pull the plug on my social media accounts and focus only on writing my novels and short stories.
Based on my not-so-casual observations, it appears there are several approaches to take in establishing your social media presence.  I have assembled my observations below.  I don’t intend to imply one approach is any better than the next.  Whatever works for you is fine.  In fact, many of these describe me.  If you have others, please share.
The “Cut and Paster” - This person finds an Internet article or photo that supports their opinions, lifestyle, or business interests, they clip it out, add a line or two of their own thoughts, and then forwards it to the world. . .  I've done it a few times.  Maybe a few dozen times.
The “Mad Marketer” - Each day starts and ends by sending multiple tweets, emails, and posts to advertise their products or services. . . By the way, have you seen the reviews of my latest novel, MELTING SAND?
The “Phony Photog” – This person uses a picture of a cat, dog, female cleavage, male abs, Bugs Bunny, a 20-year-old snapshot, or whatever for their profile photo. I never know if they do this for anonymity or if this is the image they really want to portray. . .  I’m sorry, but that’s my real picture in the corner of my blog.  
The “Voyeur” - These people have Facebook pages with nothing posted and Twitter accounts but have never sent a tweet.  This is usually done by parents as a way to see what their kids are doing or by senior citizens just dipping their toe into social media. 
“Everyone’s Friend” There isn’t a page they won’t LIKE or a Follower they won’t follow back. . .  I have 8,000 Twitter followers and I’m following 7,600, so I guess this is me.
The “Vacationer” – This person only posts after returning from an exotic vacation or after attending a special event.  A beach, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, or Bon Jovi on stage is usually in the background. . .  You know who you are!   
The “Endless Salutationer” – They end every email, tweet, and post with:  You can find me on Facebook at…. goodreads at… my website at… Twitter at… Amazon at… my email at … and I’ll be at The Corner Bookstore signing my latest novel this Tuesday. . .  Every author does this, including me.
The “Know it All” – This person posts articles like this one, thinking they’re the only one capable of making these observations.  .  . Okay. I’m guilty.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Reviews - Why Not?

It’s frustrating not getting as many book reviews as you’d like. It’s probably the most vexing problem faced by writers.  I don’t know what percentage of readers actually post reviews, but I’d hope a minimum of 20% of those reading my novels would take the ten minutes to post a rating and review on Amazon or Goodreads.  Reviews for my three novels are running well below this percentage.  
But why?  
Here are my thoughts on why so few reviews.  I’d be interested in your views.

1.       Readers didn’t find the book compelling and prefer not to say anything.  I’m hoping that’s not the case, and given that more than 90% of my reviews are 4 and 5 star, I have no reason to expect this is the reason.

2.       It’s a chicken and egg phenomenon.  That is, you don’t get more reviews until you get more reviews.  It seems people are less inclined to review a book with few reviews.

3.       Readers don’t think their opinion matters.  I’ve talked with friends and family who haven’t posted reviews for my books that they’ve read, and they’ve told me, “You know I liked it.  What more could I tell you in a review?”  Or they say, “Sure. I’ll review it,” but they never do.  They don’t realize the impact to potential buyers their reviews could have.

4.       People have downloaded my novels, but haven’t read them.  Hundreds of ebook copies were downloaded when I ran a one-day special on my first novel.  It’s possible these are sitting on Kindles and e-readers in a long queue of titles.  My ebooks normally sell for $2.99, so I would think anyone spending three bucks would take the time to read it—but maybe not.
I don’t spend a lot of time soliciting reviews.  I will occasionally exchange reviews with other new Indie authors, but I don’t have time to do very many.  I’ll also gift a Kindle copy of my books in exchange for an honest review, but these also are few and far between.   
I guess the net of this is it takes success to breed more success. In the meantime, I’ll continue to focus on writing.   

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Year to Focus

What the hell am I doing?
As I exited 2013, I found myself trying to maintain a productive presence on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and my blog.  My blog alone involves writing and posting short stories, author interviews, book reviews, and regular blog updates (like this one).  And by the way, I was (and still am) in the middle of writing my next novel in the Miles Stevens Series and publishing a collection of my short stories.
What the hell am I doing?  Oh, I already asked that.  But really, what’s this all about?   The other day I spent nearly two hours updating the banners on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  I don’t think my banners were keeping me off the best seller list.  Although, I do think my profile photo may be impacting sales. 
Let’s face it, aspiring Indie authors have to do a lot of things to establish a presence and a following.  We just do.  But I’m beginning to think that doing a few things well is better than trying to be everywhere on the social media scene.
I want to focus my time on writing.  So, as I enter 2014, I’m looking for things NOT to do.  I cancelled my LinkedIn membership the other day.  It felt good.  I need to cut more things.  If you have ideas, I’d be interested in hearing them.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Next Great Memoir

Shortly before Christmas, my wife Claudia was reading through the stack of magazines that gradually accumulate by the sofa in our den.  She stopped to rip an article from the latest AARP magazine and handed it to me.  It was titled “Write the Next Great Memoir.”
The contest was sponsored by AARP and the Huffington Post.  They were looking for entrants to submit the first 5,000 words and a synopsis before February 15.   If selected, you would be asked to submit your completed memoir of 20,000 to 50,000 words. The winner gets prize money and his or her work published by Simon & Schuster with excerpts printed in the AARP magazine and the Huffington Post.  
Intrigued, I stared at the article for several seconds.  I’d entered writing contests in the past, but they had all been fiction, either short stories or the first chapters of my books. I’d recently won a short story contest, and I’m sure that’s what prompted Claudia to share the article.  But this was a much larger stage than the prior contests I’d entered.  
I’ve always written fiction for a reason—actually for several reasons.  It freed me from facts.  It let my imagination wander, and it let me hide within the story.  This would be different—much different.  I started listing in my mind what there was about me that might interest readers of AARP and the Huffington Post.  When I think of memoirs, I think of war heroes, presidents, accomplished musicians, actors, mountain climbers, and astronauts.  I was none of those.  Still, the thought of writing my memoir fascinated me.  I set the roughly torn article on my desk. Christmas was coming, and we were headed out of town to visit family.  I’d think about it later.
On the flight back to our home in Charlotte, I jotted down thoughts on my laptop—mainly highlights and lowlights of my life.  Could I share these events with others?  Would they be of any interest?  Should I make my memoir light-hearted and airy, or serious, filled with my life’s lessons?
With the exception of my wife, I’ve never written about my family in my short stories, in my novels, or even in my blog. My kids have been off limits and would stay that way. My memoir would have to be strictly about me, my work, my ups and downs, my friends, and my acquaintances. Even then, there are considerations to be made before including people from my past.  How would they view the way I’ve portrayed them?  Does it violate what they’d consider private?  
I studied the list of events I’d composed.  There was some good stuff on the list—some funny, some sad, some inspiring.  I was a product of the 60s, a baby boomer.  Maybe this would interest AARP readers. I began to think it possible, and closed the laptop.
At 2,000 words into my story, I’ve already found this the most difficult writing I’ve ever done.  I parse my thoughts and my choice of words much more thoroughly.  The character I’m developing for my readers is me.  I know me.  It should be easier, but it isn’t.  
My wife is my editor.  She’s a trained professional and very good at polishing my writing, but this project may need an additional set of eyes to review and suggest changes, someone not so close to the story. I will reassess my work before submitting the first 5,000 words to the judges. I may get cold feet before then.  This may end up being a project just for me, or it may end up being published by Simon & Schuster.