Oh, Hey … Did I Mention I Was On the Radio?

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As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, I was scheduled to appear on Destinines: The Voice of Science Fiction, a fantastic weekly radio show out of Stony Brook, N.Y., on Aug 16.

Well, the interview happened and I really can’t stop saying great things about it. Dr. Howard Margolin was a stellar host and had a great selection of thoughtful, insightful and funny questions to ask about Immaculate Deception and the process of creating it. I also had the opportunity to do my first radio reading of an excerpt from the book, so there’s that, too.

It’s under the assumption that the host enjoyed the book that authors are invited on these types of shows, and Howard was very kind in his praise.

I invite you to listen to the entire interview here. If you’re the interactive type, use the comment field to let me know what you thought of the interview and whether you plan to go out and buy ID (assuming, of course, that you haven’t already).

As a follow up, my good friend and Codorus Press colleague Tom Joyce (I order you to follow him on Twitter at @TomJoyceAuthor, as well as on Facebook, and to buy his new novel, The Freak Foundation Operative’s Report) gave me a very kind shout out on his own website talking about how ID harkens back to some of the sci-fi novels of the 1960s, when authors were starting to realize they weren’t bound by many of the conventions of the genre that had been established from its emergence through the 1950s.

Thanks again to Howard from Destinies and for the continued support from Codorus Press and our fine stable of authors.

Tonight, I Invade Your Earholes (In the Most Pleasant of Ways)

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As I’ve written here before, I love being on the radio. It’s like TV, but without the need to actually be handsome or … you know, wear pants.

So when after enjoying an awesome family Disney World vacation this past spring, I returned home to find frantic e-mails from Codorus Press honcho Wayne Lockwood telling me a radio host was trying to get in touch with me … well, that was just the cherry on top of the Disney princess sundae.

Turns out it was Dr. Howard Margolin, who’s a host of the popular science fiction radio show Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction. Needless to say, I got back to him very quickly and we arranged for an on-air interview. You’ll be able to listen to that interview live tonight at 11:30 p.m. Eastern. If you’re in the New York City/Long Island area, you can tune into 90.1 WUSB, or click the Destinies link to listen to the live stream. The show will also be posted as a podcast for you day-dwellers to listen to at a more amenable hour.

Howard’s a great interviewer and in a few decades of doing this has talked to a lot of really big names in the genre for the program. I’m truly honored to be among them.captphil_online-destinies

Perhaps the best part about talking to Howard is he doesn’t just read the book’s back cover blurb and ask a bunch of general questions. He reads the whole book, then takes copious notes and asks some very specific and probing questions. Honestly, I’m prepared to have to answer some questions about Immaculate Deception that even I hadn’t considered, so be ready for a thoughtful and in-depth discussion of the book.

Howard was also kind enough to invite me to read an excerpt of the novel, which I recorded ahead of time and he was kind enough to tidy up a bit for broadcast. So there’s another little bonus for you, since the only other readings I’ve done have been live and – except for one instance – haven’t been documented for posterity.

So join me tonight on the radio for some fun. And if you’re lucky, I might even decide to wear pants.

 

Another Public Display

Tonight I have the pleasure of doing something a lot of writers don’t enjoy – talking to people in public.

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Yours truly at a Brandywine Valley Writers Group public reading in the fall of 2012. Unlike many writers, I like public speaking. Maybe too much. OK, I’ll shut up now.

The topic will be indie and self-publishing and I’ll be one of three writers on a panel made up of members of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group, a great bunch of professional, amateur and aspiring writers based in West Chester, Pa.

Joining me on the panel will be fellow authors Jim Breslin and Jorgen Flood, both of whom have gone about their own publishing adventures via independent or self-subsidized means.

Jim is an editor by day, writes short stories and has produced his own anthology titled Elephant, as well as shepherded the excellent Chester County Fiction anthology, featuring a number of friends and fellow BWVG members. Jim is also the founder of the West Chester Story Slam, a monthly storytelling competition that is now so popular he has to sell tickets and has since spread to other areas of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Jorgen, who hails from Norway (cool accent!), has three titles to his name, non-fiction and historical fiction among them.

One of the reasons I was invited was to discuss the unique structure of Codorus Press, the publishing collective I helped form along with my good friend and former newspaper colleague Wayne Lockwood.

But along with chatting up the many upsides (and occasional downsides) to publishing independently, one of the things I always stress when speaking to groups of writers is this: Whether you’re publishing through traditional means or independently, the fact remains that you can’t just write a book, put it out there, hide at home and hope it sells.

It’s incumbent on every author – no matter how his or her book is published – to get out there. Talk to people about your book. Make connections. Pick up a copy of your book and put it in someone else’s hands and tell them how good it is. Inspire other writers to do just what you have done. I’m constantly hammering away at the same point: Wayne and I are just a couple of guys who had an idea and a manuscript and decided to do something different, and there’s nothing stopping anyone from doing the same thing.

The fact is that being a writer can clearly be divided into two areas. First, there’s the artistic. If you’re a fiction writer, you’re creating something new entirely out of your own imagination. If you’re writing non-fiction, you are using your journalistic talents or your own experiences to convey to the reader a truth or your own observations and experiences.

Second (and this is the bit that lots of writers like to deny), there’s the commercial. Once the art has been rendered, you must now think of the resulting work as a product that has to be appropriately packaged, marketed and sold. And part of that is being willing to get out there and talk to people. Sure, social networking and PR services will help. Great reviews are wonderful. But I’m convinced that one of the most important parts of being a writer – or any kind of artist – is making that connection with the audience.

I will admit that I have a slight advantage in that I’m a naturally gregarious person who is comfortable speaking to groups. But not every public appearance you make needs to rank up there with other great moments in public speaking. The key is to make yourself available, be friendly, respectful and willing to engage. Most of all, be appreciative that anyone has shown up at all, and those who are there want to hear what you have to say.

 

Knights of the Roundtable

A few weeks ago the Codorus Press crew – represented by me, founder Wayne Lockwood and editor/forthcoming author/master of promotions Tom Joyce – traveled up into the Appalachians for the Western Maryland Indie Lit Festival, put on by Frostburg State University’s Center for Creative Writing.

It was a bit of a hike for us, as we do our best to keep our book festival trips within relatively close range to our homes in New York, southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, respectively.

But the lure to Frostburg was twofold: First, there was the appeal of an entire event dedicated to the pioneering spirit of the indie publisher. Second were the invitations Wayne and I received to participate in two roundtables each.

In a couple of years of doing book festivals around the mid-Atlantic, this was the first time we’d been asked to share what we’ve learned about writing and publishing with other aspiring writers and indie publishers, and we knew we had to jump on this opportunity. Boy, am I glad we did.

Splitting our time between selling and speaking made for a busy day, but getting the chance to talk about what we do on so many levels was an incredibly rewarding experience. The roundtables were intimate – no more than 15 people in each, including the panelists – which made for a great, salon-like feeling to the proceedings.

The participants were genuinely interested in what we had to say and all had great and insightful questions. They were also polite and patient with our (cough*my*cough) occasional tangents, which, of course, eventually led to their own insights (or at least that’s what I kept telling myself).

One of the nicest surprises about the entire event was that I got to sit as a panelist on the sci-fi/horror and fantasy panel with fellow University of South Carolina grad and Gamecock student newspaper alum Andy Duncan. Like me, Andy’s early work history took him through the world of southern newspaper journalism, and he eventually began to dip his toe into writing short fiction.

Since then, he’s been published in some of SF’s most storied magazines and a lot of fine anthologies, as well as come out with a few himself. Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, his first collection, won the World Fantasy Award – no mean feat – and his second, The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, came out earlier this year.

In a lot of ways (at least in my own mind), it was a bit like me, as a sometimes actor in community theater, being asked to talk about the craft alongside Robert DeNiro. Not to be too self-deprecating, I have a novel to my name and Andy has lots of truly fine stories. I knew when I saw that we’d be seated on the same roundtable I’d have the opportunity to learn some things from him.

What I learned was a lesson I really already knew – there’s little productive in being star-struck. If you meet someone in your field for whom you’ve got lots of respect, it’s rarely helpful to gush and fawn and always better to spend your time conversing with them not necessarily as equals, but at least as peers. True, I don’t have the awards and accolades Andy can boast, but we’re both writers in the same genre drawing from many of the same places in literature, geography and culture.

Truly, most of the other writers I’ve met who are far more successful and well known than I am have been modest, kind and generous folks who truly enjoy talking to other writers about writing. And I always remember that when I talk to other writers who are still working on their first books or stories and (heaven help them) look at me as an example of what they could be.

A Public Display

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I remain a frustrated radio guy trapped in a writer’s body. But despite the fact that I don’t get on the air that often, I do get the chance to speak in public every once in a while, and frequently it’s in support of some bit of writing I’ve done.

Recently I was fortunate to participate in a group reading with the Brandwine Valley Writers Group, where I’ve had the good fortune to be a member for the last six years or so. This was a special reading, because it was likely the last one to be hosted by our friends at Chester County Book & Music Co., one of the best indie book stores you could hope to find. The store recently got word that its lease for its current location won’t be renewed, so they’re in danger of shutting down forever. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Over the years been a favorite stop for author Christopher Moore, and has also become firmly entrenched in Codorus Press legend, as it has was scene of a good-natured ambush of Mr. Moore by Codorus founder Wayne Lockwood and me during which we forced on gifted him with a copy of my novel, Immaculate Deception.

For this particular reading, I figured I’d move on from ID for two reasons – one is the fact that I’ve been reading from it for a few years and figured the audience would prefer to hear something new. The second was that the novel does contain some – um, adult language and erotic situations, and the presence of the reading podium in the store’s children section has resulted in the BVWG’s establishment of the Scott Pruden Rule: Keep the naughty bits to a minimum … for the children!

So please enjoy this little sneak peek at my latest work in progress, the as yet untitled second novel and pseudo prequel to ID.

On the Hunt

We have lots of fun when the Codorus Press crew convenes in person to attend a regional book festival, genre convention or speaking engagement, as evidenced by team member Tom Joyce and his magical movie making machine. This is the second video to come out of our visit to the Gaithersburg (Md.) Book Festival back in May, this one featuring yours truly. Enjoy!

 

Do the Hustle

There are plenty of newbie or wannabe authors roaming around out there that are still under the mistaken impression that a big publishing house will do the work of marketing and promotions for every author it takes on. Every time I come up against this misconception (usually put forth by someone who has rejected independent publishing out of hand as something that “real authors” don’t do), I do my best to correct it.

This week the Philadelphia Inquirer went a long way towards doing that for me with this story on how all authors are now responsible for a good portion of their own marketing, and are forced to be darn creative about it, too. For instance, the author who wrote a book about the New Jersey Shore has done much of her marketing – especially now that summer is here – at the exceptionally busy resort towns along New Jersey’s coast. As a result she targets not only year-round locals, but the year-round residents of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware who flock their in droves as soon as Memorial Day arrives.

I have a colleague and fellow novelist, Bob Yearick, who wrote an excellent novel called Sawyer that is essentially a detective mystery set in the world of professional football, with one of the players serving as the de facto private eye. When we saw each other at a professional event not long ago, he tapped me for a little marketing advice and the first thing I suggested was that he start setting up tables to sell the novel in the dealer rooms at sports memorabelia events, trading card conventions or other sports-related gatherings. It doesn’t matter that you’re selling books and you therefore feel like all your appearances should be at libraries and book stores – the goal is to find where your readers will be and go to them.

That also means going beyond the physical world and deep into the virtual, targeting bloggers that can help spread the word for you in a much quicker, more efficient and, most important of all, less expensive (often free) way.

I’ve seen written a number of places that as much as “launch parties” can stroke an author’s ego, there’s really no payoff for the ordinary – and certainly not for the independently published – author. You’re announcing a party to a public who has no idea who you are and frankly doesn’t really care. Aside from giving friends and family a chance to congratulate you in person, such an event is really pretty useless as far as building the buzz needed for a book to succeed.

For me, the target market  for Immaculate Deception from the very beginning has been split between science fiction fans and folks interested in how we’ve gone about setting up Codorus Press. As side markets, there are the coastal areas of South Carolina, in which the novel is set. The only real “signing” I’ve done was in my home town, where I knew I had a ready base of buyers from my time spent there as a child and as a newspaper reporter during adulthood.

Otherwise, the press itself has done larger events like the Philadelphia Book Festival and other regional book events. This fall we’re shooting for, among other things, the Collingswood Book Festival and the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Book Festival, as well as PhilCon – the Philadelphia area’s huge science fiction convention.

We’ve also made shameless use of our former (and current) newspaper connections. Some of the best traditional press I’ve received so far has been from newspapers I used to work for. We’ve also used the editorial judgement we developed on the desks at a number of papers to craft better and more effective press releases. We know what editors see as a story, and we try to give it to them each time we send out a release.

So in marketing your work, make sure you explore all angles, both the most and least obvious. It’ll result in a better payoff for you all around.

The Love That is Linkage

I was just tipped off by Wayne Lockwood, the wise and mighty shaman of Codorus Press, that our great neighbors at the Philadelphia Book Festival gave us some link love via their blog Me Want Food.

Leigh Ellwood and Kat Lively had the booth next to us on that particular very rainy day. Leigh writes erotic lesbian fiction and Kat writes rock-themed mysteries. Both of them were very cool ladies and seemed to really appreciate some of our clever little bits of marketing (like the faux Church of the New Revelation religious tracts – specially designed to look cheap and cheesy, just like the real thing!). For our part, we really like their style and the whole vibe of their booth (which featured a sign declaring “Ass Kicking Fairies!”).

A funny story – I realized toward the end of our damp day that I had actually shared some time with their boothmates previously when I appeared at The York Emporium in York, Pa. (birthplace of Codorus Press) at this time last year for their Sci-Fi Saturday event. There’s video of my interview with Jim Lewin, owner of The York Emporium, from that appearance, as well as a reading. Check out the interview below and follow the link for more of the event (thanks to Codorus team member Tom Joyce for shooting).

Speaking of events, I’m looking forward to some other events later in the summer and into the fall, both focusing on ID and Codorus Press. As the marketing word gets out, we’re hoping to get more interest in presenting our indie publishing road-show, The Wandering Heretics Independent Publishing Tent Revival and Old Time Medicine Show, at book stores and other locations. We’re also planning for a couple of book-related events, including the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, N.J., and PhilCon, the annual convention of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.

We love interacting with fans of ID and anyone interested in indie publishing, so we hope to see you out at these and even more events throughout 2011 and into 2012.