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Name that tune … the one that captures the essence of your book

If there were one song… For Day 18 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, we add music to the publishing mix. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 18 writing prompt:

If there were one song that captured the meaning, spirit, message, energy, and or substance of your book, what would it be? How can you use that song or piece of music to market your book or enhance your readers’ experience with your book?

book song

So the idea for this prompt came as I was scratching my head to think of an icebreaker for a networking-only meeting of the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup. A novel (ha – pun intended?!) way to introduce their books that would help others remember them. It was a fun exchange that actually resulted in an earlier post right here on the Marcie Brock blog. Click the link to see some of the books and songs members of our group introduced that night.

My song choice to introduce Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World was the rather on-the-nose “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Perhaps more famously played by Peter Paul and Mary, it was John Denver who wrote the song, and the artist I think about when I hear – or look for – it.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

songs - leaving on a jet plane

However, in giving the topic slightly more thought for this blog post, I came up with several other songs that also speak to, hint at, or generally describe the reasons, feelings, and decisions Stan makes throughout his travels. There are dozens of lists of travel songs out there – this one is mine.

When I think of this song, I’m reminded of my musician husband’s recent off-the-cuff quip: “Have you noticed that no one really writes songs about rambling anymore?” Of course, this quintessential Zeppelin song is hardly your average ballad, now is it?

Ramble on and now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song
I’m going around the world, I got to find my girl, on my way
I’ve been this way ten years to the day ramble on
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams

songs - ramble on

Of course, it’s the postcards, message, and I Nine’s clear, beautiful voice that captured my attention with “Same in Any Language.”

Those postcards I sent to Birmingham,
All the way from those windows of Amsterdam,
I copped a gram from Dappersan
Just to fall at her man in another jam,
Oh yeah,
Oh oh yeah.

It’s the same in any language,
A brother is a brother if there’s one thing I know,
It’s the same in any language,
Wherever you go.

songs - same in any language

And regardless of the topic, I’d probably never, ever make a song list (or an MP3 playlist, for that matter) that didn’t include a U2 song. Fortunately, “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a perfect fit for this list.

I want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name

songs - where the streets have no name

Coincidentally perhaps, as I was driving East, leaving the quiet desert of Tucson for the bright lights of NYC and the Tri-State area, Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway” was getting near-constant airplay. Today, I prefer the Rascal Flatts’ version…

Through all these cities and all these towns
It’s in my blood and it’s all around
I love you now like I loved you then
This is the road and these are the hands
From Mozambique to those Memphis nights
The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights

Knock me down get back up again
You’re in my blood
I’m not a lonely man

songs - life is a highway

And although Stan’s travels would hardly be described as a mere vacation, as a child of the 80s, I’d be utterly remiss if I neglected to include The Go-Go’s on this list, now wouldn’t I?

A week without you
Thought I’d forget
Two weeks without you and I
Still haven’t gotten over you yet

songs - vacation

Travel songs. None of these is mentioned in the book – and a number of songs do make it into the story at various places. But songs that bring to mind the theme of the book. Traveling, rambling, learning, growing, grieving, relating…

What song(s) would you use to promote your book or enhance your book signing? Tell us in the Comments section below!

Please be check in again tomorrow, when I’ll be sharing an interview with one of my favorite readers in the whole world…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to wonderful writing surprises!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Badly reviewed book? Write another one!

I typically avoid movie and concert reviews before I go to see a show. If I like a band or a movie trailer looks interesting, I decide to go – and I want to make up my own mind about the show, without the influence of others clouding things up ahead of time. I typically pay more attention to book reviews, perhaps because of the time investment required to read a book. Nevertheless, a reading recommendation from someone I know carries a lot more weight than a review from a stranger, regardless of the source.

U2 ie tourLast night was one of those nights I was really glad not to have read the reviews ahead of time. We saw the first of two sold-out shows on U2’s Innocence and Experience world tour – and it was the most disappointing concert ever. This morning, as I looked through some of the reviews of other legs of this tour, the worst I saw described them as “good, not great.” The thing is, I believe they played really well last night. Bono almost certainly sang as well as he ever has, and The Edge’s iconic guitar was probably amazing.

It was the sound system that ruined things. When they were here in 2011, U2 played the football stadium. Last night, they played the basketball arena, but it seemed as though the sound was still set for the MUCH larger venue. I have no fear of loud – but this was so loud that the sound was completely distorted. Even when Bono was just speaking to the crowd, you could barely make out what he was saying.

I love this band – and I really, really wanted to enjoy this show. I just couldn’t do it. The visual elements were spectacular – but I don’t typically attend a concert for the visuals. I go for the music. Especially this band’s music. Clearly, the sound issue did not affect every concertgoer’s experience. One guy wrote on Twitter wrote that it was the best concert he ever saw. In fact, the whole arena cheered and held up their cell phone lights (21st century lighters) as the band played themselves off the stage with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” But I wasn’t the only one who had a problem with the terrible sound. My husband and I overheard several conversations as we walked to the train about how bad it was. So where were the sound engineers? Why did some of us hate the sound quality, while others seemed not to even notice?

Here’s the thing. No artist, film director, sports team – or author – is going to hit it out of the park every time. Am I wickedly disappointed that U2’s bad show was here? Of course. Do I still love the band? Of course. And am I still glad I went last night? Of course.

I think our most important job as authors is to make the best books we can. But the more we write, the more we open ourselves up to criticism, and the more likely we are to eventually write a book that flops. For whatever reason, it misses the mark. What’s a book’s equivalent of a bad sound system? Some of our loyal readers will love us, no matter what. But others will notice – and perhaps comment on – the disappointing book. Remember, you didn’t set out to write a disappointing book – it happened in spite of your best efforts.

The question is, what will you do next? Will you close up shop, never to write another word? Of course not. You’ll take a day or two to lick your wounds. Analyze what you might have done differently. And then you’ll sit down at the computer (or pull out your yellow pad) and start your next book. Those loyal readers will still be there, anticipating your next release. And the readers you disappointed last time? Well, if they’re like this U2 fan, they will no doubt give you another chance because they know that one less-than-stellar book is the outlier. Your next one will again be outstanding.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Book marketing ideas from A to Z for Arizona’s centennial (Part 1)

Twelve or 15 years ago, I was watching a craft show on Home & Garden Television (HGTV). The host of the show was working on an Arizona-themed quilt at Disneyland or Disneyworld, and she stated quite matter-of-factly that Arizona became a state on February 14, 1910. Now I grew up in Phoenix, and one thing I remember through my years of Arizona history is our statehood day: February 14, 1912. That and the 5 Cs: cattle, citrus, climate, copper, and cotton. But I heard this woman – speaking from a Disney location – and immediately doubted myself. Funny how we can undermine our own knowledge when faced with the “authority” of a talking head on the TV machine, the booming voice of a radio personality, or the witty words of any hack with a newspaper column.

Well, it’s February 14, 2012, and Arizona turns 100. In recent years, we’ve seen our share of crazy political scandals, a burgeoning population, and the bottom fall out of our housing market. We’ve also got gorgeous winters, the Grand Canyon, and franchises of all four major league sports. Life in the desert certainly is interesting. Unfortunately, I tend to take my slow-paced Arizona life for granted until my East Coast friends and family visit and remind me.

With a state capitol that ranks as the sixth largest city in the nation, Arizona has her own Book Publishers’ and Authors’ associations – and self-publishing is a common phenomenon here. I’m going to stretch a bit with these next couple of posts to offer some book marketing ideas inspired by life in Arizona. They may or may not deal specifically with books about the 48th state.

A is for astronomy. As long as you’re outside the metro areas, Arizona offers some of the clearest night skies in the world, making it a dream location for astronomers. Home to Lowell Observatory (Flagstaff), Kit Peak National Observatory, and Mt. Graham International Observatory (both near Tucson), Arizona makes a great backdrop for astronomy books. And nearby gift shops would make a great place to sell them!

B is for bolo ties. Making a claim to be the world’s largest bolo tie store, The Old West Gallery is located in Phoenix and sells all manner of Western wear. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if they’d carry your book on Western wear – or at the very least host a book signing. Visit tech-inc.com for instructions on making your own bolo tie.

C is for Colorado River. Approximately 1,450 miles long, the Colorado River runs through seven U.S. states and two Mexican states, perhaps its most famous location being its route through the Grand Canyon. Tom Martin has a new book about the river due out in May 2012: Big Water, Little Boats: Moulty Fulmer and the First Grand Canyon Dory on the Last of the Wild Colorado. With no fewer than 60 events a year taking place along the Colorado River – many of which are a big tourist draw – if I were Tom, I’d be pitching my tent and setting up shop at as many as possible.

D is for Daylight Saving Time. Arizona is unique in that we don’t recognize Daylight Saving Time. There’s no “springing forward” or “falling back” in any Arizona household. You’d think that would make things easier – but, in fact, the opposite is true, because the second we need to connect with someone outside the state, we have to keep track of not only their time zone, but whether DST is in effect or not. When I worked in New York, my friends thought I was nuts to ask what the time difference was to the West Coast right now. “It’s always 3 hours!” they’d insist. Ah, yes, but not for Arizona. I’ve long thought we should just split the difference on the half-hour and end this infernal clock-changing nonsense altogether. David Prerau has written a book about DST called Seize the Daylight. I’ hoping he schedules big events for the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November.

E is for Echo Canyon. The Echo Canyon Trail and Recreation Area are located on Camelback Mountain, right in the center of Phoenix. A challenging hike, this 3.3 mile trail takes you through a lush, riparian canyon with a small creek crossing. The only – yet reverberating – complaint about this hiking trail is the paucity of parking. No matter what your book topic or where in the country you hold your signings, make sure your venue has enough accessible parking for all. You’d hate “I couldn’t find a place to park” to be the reason people didn’t attend.

F is for Four Corners. Four Corners Monument is the only place in the United States where four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) meet at one point. Did you know the Frommer’s travel guide company has moved into eBooks? According to their website, “Frommer’s ShortCuts give you exactly what you need for your trip to The Four Corners Region, Arizona – and no more.” And look, ma, no Amazon!

G is for golf. Desert … golf mecca. It’s not a logical leap, so you might be surprised to know that the Phoenix area alone boasts more than 100 golf courses, several dozen of them located that sunny vacation destination known as Scottsdale. While a number of books deal specifically with Arizona golfing (like Arizona’s Greatest Golf Courses by Bill Huffman and Golf in Scottsdale by Joan Fudala), more than 300 mention it at least in passing. If you’ve got a golf book and you’re not holding signings and events at golf clubs around Arizona, you’re missing a HUGE market.

H is for haboob. A haboob is a giant wall of dust that results from a microburst. Images of the things resemble scenes from a horror movie, and they are NO fun to drive in.

The word “haboob” derives from the Arabic word habb, meaning “wind.” These walls of dust that can reach 5,000 feet high might look like an incredibly rare occurrence, but in this desert environment, the phenomenon is not all that uncommon. Stellar reviewer Cathy, of the Kittling: Books blog, worked the 2011 haboob into her weekly links roundup for July 8, 2011. Are you working current events into your blog?

I is for Intel. If you’ve worked on a computer in the last 30 years, chances are good that you’ve used an Intel product. The company builds semiconductor chips and the processors used in most personal computers. Intel’s Chandler, Ariz. site is its second largest in the world, and the 11th largest employer in Arizona. Intel has its own publishing company, Intel Press, complete with articles about various technical topics. Its website is worth a look, if only to see the kinds of books a big company puts its name on and to check out its categorization and structure.

J is for Joshua Forest Parkway. My favorite album of all time, U2’s The Joshua Tree, was named for this native Arizona plant. In 1992, the Arizona Department of Transportation designated Route 93 the Joshua Forest Parkway, which runs for 53.5 miles, from just north of Arizona State Route 71 to the tiny town of Wikieup.

According to an Arizona Highways article, Joshua trees are “reminiscent of the baobab trees made famous in [Antoine de] Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, and if your imagination is active, you might see a little blond boy emerge from the trees with a dog and a well-protected flower in hand.” If you ever find yourself needing inspiration, this is a wonderful place to visit.

K is for Ks – as in strikeouts in the Cactus League. With more than 150 baseball books published in 2011, America’s pastime is a topic for innumerable authors. Arizona’s Cactus League is the spring training home to half the MLB teams. Any baseball author – whether a Casey Award winner or not – should certainly set a goal for signings and events in bookstores near the spring training facilities, both in Arizona and in Florida.

L is for Local First Arizona. Local First Arizona is a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen local communities and economies by supporting, maintaining, and celebrating locally owned businesses throughout Arizona. Bookstore and publishing-related members of Local First Arizona include:

Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore It’s more than a bookstore; it’s an experience.

Bookworms Bookstore LDS Books and Supplies

Changing Hands Bookstore A community gathering place with a neighborhood bakery & cafe.

Revolutionary Grounds Books and Coffee Coffee, books, revolution!

Books and Blessings Bookstore and spiritual boutique

Bards Books  For booklovers, by booklovers!

Five Star Publications, Inc. A resource for every author and publisher since 1985.

Student Book Center We go to great lengths to ensure students are getting the lowest price.

Antigone Books Tucson’s solar-powered bookstore.

Mostly Books Your local independent bookstore.

Whether your state has a “Local First” kind of program or not, you might want to do everything you can to establish good relationships with your local book proprietors. They need you – and you need them.

M is for Mining. Gold, silver, and other ores have been mined in Arizona for more than a century, but the state’s real claim to fame is copper. As recently as 2007, more than 60 percent of all copper mined in the United States came from Arizona. I don’t know anything about their policies, but if I’d written a recent book about mining, one of my first calls would be to the Arizona Mining Association’s PR liaison – as well as the same for all other states with mining associations.

Look for Part 2 of this post on Tuesday, February 14 – our actual statehood day!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Self-publishing author? You don’t have to go it alone!

from U2’s song, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”

OK, so it’s not really a song about a self-publishing author.  As I understand it, Bono had a difficult relationship with his father, and this song was dedicated to him. Nevertheless, these words came to mind when I started thinking about drafting this post.

Earlier this week, I posted an article on my Facebook page about Hazel Edwards, an Australian authorpreneur. As the caption on the photo indicates, the gist of the article was how many new skills authors must learn to juggle in the digital age. “Marketing, publicity, technology, legal skills … to succeed in a digital world, authors need to master more than the keyboard, writes Linda Morris.”

Then today I saw an article from the Harvard Business Review titled “Are You Learning as Fast as the World Is Changing?” about the changing requirements for leadership in our fast-moving (largely digital) world. The last point in this article struck me in stark contrast to the story of Hazel Edwards: Successful learners work hard not to be loners.

And that’s the point I’m focusing on here. It’s quite common for a new author to take that precipitous dive into self-publishing only to realize, even after a fair amount of research, that there’s a LOT involved. And it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. I think a good part of the overwhelm comes from the erroneous belief that you’ve got to “go it alone.” It’s not much of a stretch to make the analogy between a self-publishing author and a general contractor, if, as careers.stateuniverity.com explains, a general contractor’s job is to “coordinate and supervise the work at construction sites from early development to final product.”

As a self-publishing author, it’s your responsibility to perform the jobs below, or hire/enlist others to help you. Either way, you are supervising the work of building your book, from early development to final product, even if that final product is an eBook.

Book side:

Author
Editor
Book designer
Typesetter
Proofreader
Printer
Distributor
Agent
Publisher

Marketing side:

Web designer
Copywriter
Graphic designer
SEO specialist
Publicist/booking agent
Printer
Social media expert

Well, if there are so many people involved, how can you possibly be going it alone? Ask any leader who feels that it truly is lonely at the top. Hiring people – or contracting for their services – doesn’t mean you necessarily view these individuals as members of your team, and that’s a key component to not going it alone. Sure you’re in charge – but are the folks tasked with components of your book making and marketing simply people you’re paying, or are they members of your team who are equally invested in your success?

Besides the sheer complexity of knowing all the steps that go into making a successful book is the crucial detail of finding the right people. Don’t know how to find a good book designer? OK – you could head to Google and punch in “book designer + your city” and roll the dice. Or you could do what you’d do when hiring a mechanic or a real estate agent or a dentist: ask others who they use.

Connect with other aspiring authors: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Meetup are excellent resources. Join one of the dozens of available groups, make a friend or two, and ask who they use and recommend for their book projects. (One caveat: Not every group will be for you, so do your research and don’t feel pressured to join or remain a member if it doesn’t feel right.)

You’ve already taken a great step toward getting educated and garnering support by subscribing to this blog and/or reading this post. Other ideas:

  • Get yourself one of the 30,000+ books available on the subject of self-publishing.
  • Find a coach, consultant, or accountability partner to guide, support, and motivate you.
  • Attend a book fair, writing seminar, or self-publishing conference – even if you have to invest some money in it and … travel to get there. Sure, there are loads of online options, but there’s something invaluable about meeting other living, breathing authors and would-be authors who are in the same position, or who’ve already come out on the other side and are willing to share the secrets to their success.

Writing may be an isolated activity. Getting your book published shouldn’t be.

Happy team-building!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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The Art of Captivation: What makes us LOVE that book, movie, song…?

You probably have one of your own. That CD or MP3 you’ve listened to 1,000 times. For me, it’s the first 3 songs from U2’s Joshua Tree (Side A for you old-school vinyl enthusiasts). I’m not sure what it is about The Edge’s primal guitar beat that is so captivating, but it is as intoxicating to me as any drink. I hear the intro to “The Streets Have No Name” and I want to climb inside the music. Add an open car window on the freeway at midnight, and I’m in heaven.

Right now, you might be relating, or thinking I have terrible taste in that overblown Irish quartet. The point isn’t that you agree with my taste, but that you can relate to the concept of music you absolutely love.

 

These passionate responses are not exclusive to music. What about that movie you’ve watched dozens of times? The painting that mesmerizes you? The book that’s falling apart, you’ve read it so many times?

What makes them so special? Although there are general success indicators, the answer to that question is personal to each of us.

For example, the music industry has distilled the prediction of hit records (primarily from new artists) down to a science. Ever wondered why so many hits have such a similar sound? It might be related to the fact that music researchers in labs hook up test subjects to electrodes and measure their responses to numbers of beats, rhythms, and tones. The studios then generally take risks only on those artists whose music meets the standards predicted by the research.

Similarly, a guy decided to research what makes an Academy Award-winning movie. He got copies of 25 years’ worth of Oscar winners, watched them, and dissected and recorded the similarities between them. Then, he turned his research into a screenwriting class for which he charges thousands of dollars. Not surprisingly, many of his students sell their scripts and see them made into films.

Even with these behind-the-scenes “manipulations,” not every song the studios release becomes a hit, nor does every screenplay from this man’s class become a movie. They are indicators, though.

One thing I’ve observed about most popular art forms is that they’re usually of decent quality. Of course, every now and then a lousy book or movie finds a cult following, but more often than not, the things we like as a culture are pretty good. However, even the most popular books, movies, and music will never appeal to everyone.

As a personal example, it’s just in the last 15 years that I’ve begun to like the Beatles. And to this day, I’m still not a fan of one of the most popular bands of all time, The Rolling Stones. Both inarguably quality artists, but one appeals to me much more than the other, and even that one took some time to grow on me.

What does all of this have to do with you and marketing your book? A few quick reminders:

  • If you want to sell books, make the best book you can.
  • There are success formulas; one of them may work for you.
  • When it comes right down to it, taste is individual. Some readers will resonate with you; those are the ones you want to find and cultivate.
  • Even if you hit a home run with your book, there will be some people who don’t like it.

Study the movies, music, and books you love; pay attention to what about them captivates you. Are there hints you can glean about developing and capturing a similar passion in your readers?

Laura

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