Self-Promotion Pitfalls

 

It’s been a couple of months since I went on the self-publishing venture, and I have to admit there is nothing more difficult than promoting one’s own work. I do take heart in knowing that I am not alone in this vast swirl of voices screaming to be heard. Twitter is packed with so many writers they’ve formed whole communities. But even considering oneself part of the #writerscommunity feels like shouting into a vacuum. There’s just so many of us!

By far the simplest social media platform to use is FaceBook. Hey, writers can even create a page to showcase accomplishments and update fans on next-project progress. However, FaceBook comes with drawbacks for the thousands of unknown or little-known writers of the world. Because, no matter how many posts or updates are written on said page, if the followers aren’t there, we may as well be pissing in the wind.
I do suppose FaceBook knows this and therefore has come up with a plan to help “Boost” our posts for more exposure and for a small fee—of course.

I found myself hovering over the “Boost” button several times but never clicking it; until finally, I did. I decided to take advantage of what this social platform was offering. Hey, I had just posted a new book trailer video of my debut novel, Deep Water, and figured, why not “Boost” it? I need more people to see it.

Right?

Not so fast!

Deep Water’s antagonist happens to be a serial killer, and yes, there is violence there, but the video isn’t graphic. It is dark and it does allude to murder while leaving the graphic material for the reader of the actual book.

Even so, FaceBook shot it down. The video couldn’t be “Boosted”. What? Yeah, that was a kick in the shorts. I do suppose that was FaceBook practicing the CYA philosophy. Yet, another road block in an avenue of promotion. I stated earlier that FaceBook was the simplest social platform to use; I never said it was the best.

Then, a few days ago, I decided to give DigitalBookGirl a shot. They had, after all, given me a free shout out back in August, and so, I committed to their six-months of promotion—for a fee, of course. But they have a bigger podium and larger crowd than I do. Not to mention their fees are reasonable with three, choice options.

To all my fellow writers and authors out there, the struggle to be heard is real. Do let us take advantage of any outlet we can find.

By the way, wanna watch a video?

 

 

When it’s Time to Take a Different Route

Yep, it’s been a while since I’ve updated my page and not to make excuses, but I think I’ve got a legitimate reason. Maybe you’ll agree. Maybe not, but here goes. Some months back my manuscript for Deep Water was accepted by a publisher, which shall not be named in this post because to name it would give it validity it doesn’t deserve. The whole thing has been a fiasco best summed up by referring to it as a bad experience.

There is an upside to the whole thing and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that by signing with said publisher I had to step up my social media presence, which I had not taken the time to do. I was baffled by idea of creating a brand when I had nothing to peddle really. Just a couple of months prior to having my novel accepted, I had a short story snapped up for an anthology, but that was it. I don’t want that to sound glib; I was over-the-top excited about that, but I still didn’t feel like it was enough to start branding myself over. With this (holds her nose)

publisher, I had to look at things a little differently. I realized that while writing is a solitary experience, keeping to myself had limited my connections to the whole writing communities on FaceBook and Twitter to name a couple. Using these platforms to lay the foundation of a brand, writers can simply put themselves out there, mingle, listen and respond to other writers. Over time you become a familiar name and personality within the community, without a single person ever shaking your hand.

I’m in it now and I enjoy “meeting” like-minded people. Twitter actually enabled me to find Triumph Covers, a cover designer who has done one hell of a job on a new cover for Deep Water’s second edition. What? Second edition? But, the first edition just came out in paperback in March 2019. I know, right? Here’s the skinny.

After months of waiting for Deep Water to become searchable via the ISBN and not receiving any feedback from the “publisher,” I contacted the printer who informed me that the ISBN was never made public. Well no wonder people couldn’t find it. By leaving the ISBN private, this funneled all orders to this particular “publisher,” and this would have been fine, except I learned people who regularly buy books stick to suppliers they’ve come to trust; namely Barnes & Nobles and Amazon. This particular “publisher” gave validity to people’s skittishness by not filling paperback orders it did receive, but it didn’t mind taking their money. Yeah, it was a little off-putting.

Needless to say, I am no longer wasting my time with a middleman who doesn’t earn his/her keep. Like I mentioned though, there are take-aways from the whole ordeal. If I hadn’t gotten picked up by said publisher and gone through putting myself out there, I would have probably never considered indie publishing. But that’s where I’m at now. I decided to give it a go with Lulu and am in the wait mode for a proof copy. Unlike the first edition of Deep Water, the second edition will have page numbers. Yep, you read that correctly. Zero page numbers; thanks “publisher’ I won’t name.

Manuscripts and Leaf Mold

 

Someone posed a question on Twitter a few weeks ago asking about the next steps after finishing the first draft of a novel. Mainly, the question was should we jump right into editing the work or should we give those freshly-written words and our brains a break? My response came as a kneejerk reaction: wait; wait at least a month and longer before doing any editing.

Anyone who has written much has probably read the advice of putting away the manuscript and forgetting about it for a while. This gives our brains time to move on and conjure up other fictional worlds and people. By the time we pull that first draft out of the drawer we shoved it in months ago the newness has worn off. And those sentences written a half a year ago don’t sound so musical anymore because we’re looking at it with fresh eyes, and hopefully, a more mature brain. And while we’re going about our other daily chores, we might get struck with an idea that will improve our plot or characters.

Not long after I read the question on Twitter, I was in the yard tending to a huge pile of leaves that I collected and chopped up in the late fall. Damp leaves left alone will begin to grow mold and eventually the leaves will break down into one of the best natural fertilizers and mulches we can use in our gardens and flowerbeds. But the heap of leaves must be left alone—with the exception of being kept damp—before they become a useful product. The result is simply called leaf mold, and it takes at least a year for the process to work but sometimes longer depending on the kind of leaves used and whether or not they were chopped up or left whole.

It occurred to me that day as I drove my hand down into my heap of chopped leaves and tested the moisture content that editing a manuscript was just like making leaf mold. Now, looking at the two separately, manuscripts and leaves, they have nothing in common. However, if we think of both as a process, it makes more sense that they can be related to one another. Admittedly, I hope our fictional worlds don’t turn into mold, but something magical does happen when we ignore a first draft for a while. The matter has a chance to breathe for itself without our interference, and in reality, it’s not the words on our paper that’s changing; it’s our way of looking at it once we pull it out of the drawer or bring it up from a computer file that changes. Did we leave our leaves whole and chunky for a rough layer of mulch that will benefit from further breakdown or did we grind each character down to the bones and create an atmosphere for organic life to grow?

Once we can answer that question, we’ll know how much editing our manuscripts need.

 

 

Rethinking my Blog Strategy

For the past few weeks I have toyed with the idea of changing my blog up a little for two important reasons, both of which affect the survival of this blog. Reason number one: I believe maintaining this venture should be fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about characters of the south. Let’s face it, they’re fascinating. However, like everyone else on the planet, I have a list of things to do which cuts into my reading time. Long story short, it takes me longer to read a novel than it once did and it’s hard to choose one particular character from said novel to write about. This is especially true since southern fiction is loaded with gritty characters—so many choices. Choosing the right one can be daunting.

But, other things I allow to cut into my reading time are things I love to do. I garden and I make compost because compost and gardens go together like molasses and biscuits. I’m also a huge advocate of pollinators and other bugs that do so much to improve the natural cycle of life. It stands to reason I spend much of my spring, summer and fall outside designing and planting pollinator gardens. Because, well, they’re critters y’all and they have a purpose.

Ranking up there as a top contender for my time is writing. I write fiction, and have recently had a book, Deep Water, published through Kellan Publishing. As you can imagine, the story takes place in the south because that’s what I know and I’m familiar with a few gritty critters myself. So why not share!

Reason number two for revamping this blog: Perhaps not everyone is as bat shit crazy about gritty southerners as I am.

 

giphy

But, to be sure providing for the bees and butterflies will interest more than a handful and those readers might enjoy reading something about grit as opposed to gritty. Besides, now is the perfect time to let the slow changes in the seasons reflect in the changes of this blog because my daffodils are beginning to poke out of the ground just as Cormac McCarthy’s Lester Ballard periscopes from under the dirt in Child of God.

See what I did there?

Anywho, don’t hesitate to comment and tell me what you think about the changes. I’ll still pop out a piece that focuses on a certain character I’ve stumbled upon and have taken a liking to, but only every so often when the rest of the things I love doing allow me time to closely examine more characters.

A Rash of Grit

A southern writer I stumbled upon a few years back is Ron Rash. His debut novel, “One Foot in Eden,” published in 2002 stands as a perfect example of southern grit. Its characters possess an amount of hardihood that propels the story into a ‘let the chips fall’ kind of way and exposes perfect imperfections of human nature.

“One Foot in Eden” takes place in the 1950’s in Jocassee, a mountainous region of South Carolina not too far from the North Carolina border, and begins with a missing person, Holland Winchester. Holland’s mama is sure that a neighbor, Billy Holcombe, has killed her son and it’s up to the sheriff to find out what happened to Holland. Well, that’s the way a majority of stories would work out, but Rash lets each character fill in the gaps. Enlightening the reader like a jigsaw puzzle, one piece at a time until the whole story is complete.

The pieces of Rash’s puzzle consist of the High Sheriff, the wife, the husband, the son and the deputy. All five have a biting edge that adds to the atmosphere of the story. But as I pondered how best to mull over “One Foot in Eden” and still keep this short enough to be digested in a single setting, it occurred to me that I needed to choose one point of view to showcase how this work more than qualifies as southern-fried grit. As I re-read the husband’s section, I picked up on a line of dialogue spoken by Amy, the wife, and I had to pause. There was my answer.

Amy and Billy are married and trying to have a baby but find out that Billy is sterile. Amy wants to have a baby more than anything, so she goes to see Widow Glendower, an old woman who the locals believe to be a witch. After following the old woman’s advice and having Billy drink a tea made from roots Amy gets from the widow, the couple still doesn’t conceive. Finally, Widow Glendower informs Amy, “…the man who can give you that baby ain’t no farther from you than the next farm” (Rash 77). Despite being put off by Glendower’s suggestion, Amy realizes the old woman is right. With that suggestive nugget in her head, Amy sets out to make a baby with someone other than Billy. Bear in mind, she does not do this with malice; to prove this, I would suggest the reader notice that Amy never invites Holland into her home and the two never have sex in hers and Billy’s bed. At one point while she watches her husband sleep, she tells him, “Whatever I do is for the both of us, Billy” (Rash 81). Not once, in this whole novel does Rash ever let the reader believe that Amy doesn’t love her husband. But her want of a child overrides reason. At one point after having sex in the yard, Holland tells her he has forgotten her name. She informs him he doesn’t need to know her name. Now, that’s a blatant display of grit right there. She all but tells him she’s not interested in anything more from him.

Amy Holcombe is a tough character, but the line in the book that made me choose her as my pick for southern-fried grit came in her husband’s section of the book. Billy asks his wife if Holland knows she’s pregnant and she responds by admitting she doesn’t believe her state is any of Holland’s business. But then, mustering all the proud defiance of a true southern woman, she asks, “[s]o what you going to do, Billy?” (Rash 119). While reading this section, one can feel the tension of the scene, yet, there exists a calm silence even as the dialogue continues we hold our breath while reading each response.

Ron Rash does one hell of a job building layers in this novel. His characters are believable to the point of familiarity. I would like to add one more thought about this book that points out the complexities of Rash’s characters; in the beginning of “One Foot in Eden” Holland gets into a barroom brawl because he’s hurting; he starts a fight as a means to get rid of the pain. However, no other character in the novel sees Holland as worth anything. Let alone go looking for him when he turns up missing. And nearing the end of the book, this little tidbit of insight might be forgotten, but Holland has feelings.

Rash, Ron. One Foot in Eden. Picador, New York. 2002.

Southern-Fried Grit

Hello and welcome to my very first Southern-Fried Grit post. I don’t want it to be confused with the grits we eat here in the south or the acronym for girls raised in the south. While they’re both great and capable of getting you through the winter, the grit I want to focus on is the determination and strength of characters represented in southern fiction. Yeah, that kind of grit. Think, the Kid in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

Once upon a time I compared southern literature to wine because not all grapes are perfect; they’re bruised and damaged, some probably have bugs, but it’s okay because those blemishes make that wine taste sweet. The same is true for a work of fiction that puts on display the southern character forged out of hard-packed clay, pinesap and the belief in mythological creatures that came over with our ancestors. We truly are a conflated group here in the south and we got stories to prove it.

Feel free to comment and share some wisdom. If you’ve read a book or story that exposes some southern grit, let me know.