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Gargantuan Book Giveaway Week!

One of the greatest ways to get books into the hands of readers – you know, other than sneaking them into their messenger bags on the subway – is to offer them for free.

I’ve done this a couple of times with some degree of success, especially in the e-book market, where offers of free books are welcomed heartily by all those Kindle readers out there who think 99 cents is just TOO DAMN MUCH to pay for books.

Really, though – everyone loves a bargain, and if handing out books like they were bank teller lollypops is what it takes to get back in there with Uncle Kurt V. at the top of the Satire cart on Amazon, it’s what I’m willing to do. As I often tell people who are considering getting into any kind of publishing – indie or mainstream – giving away a certain amount of free product is a great way not only to get your work in front of more sets of eyeballs, but also to start building a rapport with readers who appreciate the fact that you’re willing to occasionally share your art with them for nothing.

Naturally, as an author I hope for a couple of things in doing this. One, that readers who take advantage of offers like this will return the favor with reviews of the novel. Notice I didn’t say “favorable” reviews – that would just be asking too much. I really want to know what a wide variety of readers thought, and I’m understanding of the fact that my novel isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of a good time. But the more people at the party the better, and I like to hear from everyone, even those who are honestly sharing what they didn’t think was fantastic.

So, if you’re a Kindle reader and have yet to download your copy of Immaculate Deception at the normal low, low price of $2.99, take the opportunity to get it through Aug. 22 for everyone’s favorite price, FREE! Just click the Kindle photo or here to go straight to the e-book site and enjoy.

The other giveaway running simultaneously with that for the Kindle is a hard-copy giveaway through Goodreads, a fantastic social networking site for people who love reading and love interacting with other people who love to read.

In this one, also running Aug. 20-22, five signed copies of the paperback edition of Immaculate Deception will be up for grabs, with the winners chosen by Goodreads’ mystical oracle of all knowing bookdom, then reported to me for final delivery of the books.

While I’d love to give out as many paperback editions as e-books, the economies of scale don’t really permit it (and the resulting marital discord it would cause wouldn’t be worth the hefty legal fees it would take to resolve things). Still, though, I like the Goodreads option because it again gets more eyeballs on the cover and synopsis, luring more potential readers to add the novel to their “want to read” lists, in the hope that someday they will in fact read.

So come join the party either way. Download or enter to win your free copy, have a beverage on me (in a virtual sort of way) and have a scuppernong grape from the table of cyber muchies. You’ll be glad you did.

More Video Goodness

One of my favorite new media tools for book promotion is the book trailer, which takes all the fun and splash of a motion picture trailer you might see on TV or in the theater and translates it to the world of literature. I recently pulled this one together for Immaculate Deception. Hope you dig it.

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!

 

Is it Hot in Here?

Full confession: I never set out to be a writer of erotica, but I’m seriously starting to consider it, if only to tap (heh) the obviously fertile (heh, heh) “horny housewife with an e-reader” market.

I already had a vague notion that this market existed when I started researching e-books in preparation for Immaculate Deception to enter the market in its Kindle version. What I found was a little startling. It seemed like every second title among the Top 100 Kindle books was some form of erotica aimed squarely at women. And not prissy little Harlequin Romance works, either. These tales  were hard-core in the traditional (meaning porno) sense.

If you see your wife or girlfriend reading this, rest assured it is not a book about fashion.

Lately, one cover I’ve repeatedly seen popping up in 50 Shades of Grey. The frequency of its appearance should have tipped me off to something, but it wasn’t until I read this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday that I realized what a phenomenon this book has become.

Headlined “Steaming up moms’ e-readers,” the story details the wave of readership for this naughty novel that details the relationship between a young woman and a significantly older man who’s into all sorts of rough play, known among the folks who haunt leather gear and sex toy shops by the acronym BDSM – that’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism to you poor, missionary-position, vanilla, whitebread folks out there who don’t think wrapping your mouth around a rubber ball gag in someone’s suburban basement “dungeon” is a great way to spend an evening.

The story got me thinking about eroticism in my own work, where it comes from and how people have responded to it.

Boris Vallejo is perhaps second only to Hugh Hefner in causing American moms to spend countless hours banging on bathroom doors asking, "Honey, are you OK in there?"

As I said, I never intended to write erotica per se, but I came to a realization a long time ago after reading Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett when I was a teenager. It’s about a Nazi spy who figures out what the Allies are up to with D-Day, but ends up trapped on an isolated island with a lonely Englishwoman who does her duty for king and country in a particularly hot scene that to this day still resonates with me.

That realization was this: The best books are made even better by a little booty.

When I sat down to write Immaculate Deception around 1989, my experiences with things carnal weren’t terribly in-depth. As a young lad, I got away with bringing nekkid pictures into the house thanks to two gentlemen, Msrs. Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta, both masters of the fantasy illustrating genre whose pictures of semi-nude and nude warrior women grace many an Edgar Rice Borroughs and Conan novel cover.

As the idea for the Church of the New Revelation developed, I realized that because it was a sex-and-drugs-based church, there would probably end up being some sexy-sexy in the novel itself.

That realization was solidified as the character of Veronica Whitaker shaped up. There was no way a woman of such surpassing hotness and carnal motivation could be represented in my novel without actually displaying how that shaped her behavior, particularly toward her husband, Lawrence, and the main character, Jon Templeton.

"I have talents you're not even remotely aware of."

So, what has resulted can be easily wrapped up like this: Chapters 28, 29 and 38, wherein Veronica reveals the true depth of her … um, passion in a variety of ways. Suffice it to say that if sexually abusing viticulture was a punishable offense, she would be in jail for a long, long time.

The reaction to these steamy scenes has been particularly puzzling. For instance, before reading the novel, my mom repeatedly told me that my next book needed to be sexy. I assured her that she should read this one before assuming it didn’t fit into that category. From her I have heard not a peep of admonition. However, from her sister, who holds a place in our family as the progressive, open-minded 1960s rabble-rouser, politely suggested that the scenes verged on the pornographic. So apparently I was indeed writing erotica all this time and didn’t even realize it.

What’s particularly amusing is reviews that warn readers of things like the “overwhelming amount of NC-17 content” in the novel. Really? Overwhelming? If the entire book was based on sheer sexual activity and character motivation and development (like, for example … um … 50 Shades of Grey), I could understand. However, the above chapters are really the only that contain any measurable explicit behavior. So why don’t reviews for any other books that have a few naughty bits carry big, scary warnings? Beats me.

I do, however, know that plenty of other people enjoyed those parts (just how much, I suppose we’ll never know, other than by the soft moans we hear from their rooms as they re-read those dog-eared pages). And that’s really what they’re there for. In working in literature as a medium, my end goal is always to provide entertainment. If it’s entertainment that informs, is thought-provoking or titillating, so much the better (especially if it’s all at once).

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Work That Mojo, Baby

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career as a journalist, it’s that you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there when it comes to people you don’t know.

In journalism school at the University of South Carolina, one of the first assignments we received during our senior “practicum” semester, was to go somewhere we would otherwise be completely uncomfortable. For instance, the prim and proper middle aged woman from England was sent to a truck stop.

I was sent to a gay bar. I don’t think it was because of an obvious homophobia on my part, but instead because I came off to others as so vigorously heterosexual. Suffice it to say that it was no big whoop (after you see your first guy in assless chaps, the rest don’t really make much of an impact), but it proved to me once again that people were people, even if what they’re up to at a given moment might seem a little out of the ordinary based on your own personal experience.

We weren’t assigned to actually interview anyone, but that would come later. The purpose of the exercise was to get us a little more comfortable with otherwise uncomfortable situations.

As a reporter, those would more often than not be hostile police departments, the offices of less-than-friendly politicians or situations where someone had died in an unpleasant fashion, and rather than just making it through a couple of drinks (and politely refused propositions), I was required to actually speak with those people and extract from them important information they were often reluctant to share.

Now, as I ply the waters of indie publishing, I’m finding those “putting myself out there” skills are coming in handy again. As ID has made its way into Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, we at Codorus Press have mounted a concerted effort to make sure that the other stores where it really should be have them on the shelves. Those include, most importantly, the New York City stores (where big-shot reviewers and tastemakers could stumble across it) and the Southern stores, where readers will recognize the places and characters in the novel most clearly.

That’s involved what most people dread – cold calling. Every day, Codorus shaman Wayne Lockwood and I are on the phone and paying visits to the folks who can make the decisions to get us in front of even more readers. We don’t know these people and they don’t know us. In addition, they’re wary that we are trying to sell them on a product that might somehow be inferior or unprofessional. Not only must we be bold about introducing ourselves, but confident enough in the product we’re pushing to make them take notice.

To paraphrase the Kinko’s guy from Jerry McGuire, sometimes you just have to hang ’em out there. And that’s essentially what aggressive marketing is – hanging them out there and hoping they don’t get cut off.

And speaking of mojo, I just couldn’t help including this. Enjoy.