Monday, January 31, 2011

New Media and New Marketing VI

Here's an interesting story on the new world of self publishing. It shows well what authors face just getting their work into print. For myself, I learned long ago that the only way to get a trade publisher's attention is to know someone (rant coming on "Eragon") or to have an established name that will guarantee sales. Next time you're in a bookstore check out the number of book covers on which the author's name is in bigger type than the title. And you can't really fault publishers for this, because traditional publishing has extremely small profit margins, and publishers do have to stay in business.

Here's an apocryphal tale about Eric Metaxis' recent biography about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His original publishing deal was with Harper Collins, but once they saw the manuscript they decided it could make money at only half that length, presumably simply because of production costs. So Metaxis took it to Thomas Nelson, who published it untruncated, and it has become a best-seller. So there you have it. But it does illustrate the pressures and worries of the traditional publishing world.

So what's the point? Really it is that the article mentions marketing issues, but doesn't offer any ideas that a self-published author can use to market his book. As I've said here before, my approach is to have only enough hard copies to have a token existence of "The Job," and to send them out to reviewers and contests. Also, hit internet networking as hard as possible. Beyond that, what else can an author do? I was hoping for some other ideas from the article, but there were none.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Media and New Marketing V

Here's a new review, posted by Joanne Bayles at Figuring Out The Small Stuff. Joanne won her copy from the giveaway at Kathy Habel's I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. I'm still waiting on a review from her.

Which begs the question, why this blog? Don't I know that nobody blogs anymore? Well, yes, I do know that, except that book reviewers seem to be an exception. People who like to read all fancy themselves reviewers, even if they can't get the traditional media to pay them, so blogging is an effective outlet for this. Also, as with all reviewers, if a consumer of books finds someone with the same tastes as him, it makes sense to follow that reviewer and check out books that he (or more likely she) likes. Blogs fill this point of contact nicely.

Still, why this blog? Well, I was reading this other blog (he didn't get the memo either), and that blogger is promoting a book online. His advice was to sign up on as many web directories as possible, using meta words and tags that would make your book rank high in Google searches. I had to ask around about what a web directory was, so archaic is that idea, and I'm not sure it's worth it to pursue that strategy. But he also said to blog a lot, getting those links and meta words out there in cyberspace, so here I am.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Media and New Marketing IV

Here's a link to the latest review of "The Job", from Literary R&R. It is the most in-depth review so far, quite thoughtful, but still obviously falls short of fully understanding the book. A friend pointed out to me the letters of C.S. Lewis, in which he goes through a long list of reviews of "Out of the Silent Planet." The reviews were all glowing, but none of them understood the theological underpinnings of the story. I was prepared for this with "The Job"; in fact, it's somewhat gratifying to me that the story can be appreciated on several levels even by those who don't get it. I'm still awaiting that meaty review with real insight, though.

This all brings to a head the requirement that arts offer the consumer room for discovery. If an author (or painter, composer, etc.) makes his point so heavy-handedly that the consumer can't bring anything of himself into the work, then the artist has failed. The artist must be willing to allow the consumer to interpret the work either rightly or wrongly. I think I know what Dostoyevsky was getting at in "The Brothers Karamazov," but short of talking to him about it I'll never really know. But if I'm right, the man was a blinking genius. If an artist can leave an audience thinking that, whether they get it or not, then he's done pretty well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

So, what is Christian humor? Does such a thing exist, or should it? Shouldn't we all be morose repenters and worshipers all the time? Nah. Don't even want to talk about it. But I did wonder what forms "Christian" humor takes and how it serves the body of Christ. My first supposition is that to many, "Christian" means anything "clean," that is, the opposite of what are universally considered "dirty" jokes. My second supposition is that a large part of "Christian" humor consists of embarrassing typos or misstatements, which almost by definition implies unintended innuendo, which contradicts supposition #1. My third supposition is a lot of Christian "humor" is the pseudo-inspirational angel/little kid/cute animal theme epitomized by "Family Circus" and "Precious Moments," done over and over again and designed only for warm and fuzzies, not humor. So I proposed to check out these suppositions; in lieu of doing actual research, I did a Google search.

After a superficial amount of thought, I found that while the suppositions are pretty solid, they're too broad. For instance, within supposition #3 there's also a strain of jokes with the theme of smugly putting unbelievers in their place. But there's also a broader statement that can be made: "Christian humor" is generally lame (although here's a link to a website that contains some actually clever Christian humor). I guess this fact would also fall under supposition #3, but it takes in the first two as well. I mean, how often can you read bulletin bloopers before you begin to know exactly what to expect?

So what's the point, anyway? When taking up "The Job," I wanted to use humor in the same way the world uses it, not only simply for entertainment value but also for its therapeutic value. It's well-known that, at least in the Western world, people use humor to help us get over traumas, and certainly the story behind "The Job" would tap into that. But I knew that what is typically considered Christian humor would shut the book off from the general reading public, so I sought mainstream uses of what is considered funny (by me, anyway.) I wanted the humor to be sharp and insightful, bringing out points that showed where Joe B.'s mind and emotions were going. I also didn't want it to be lame.

More on all this later.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Media and New Marketing III

So I'm a publisher -- ha! I print and bind books in my office. This is not publishing. But the paperback version of "The Job" exists just enough to be available on Amazon, to be sent to reviewers and contests, and to be left at random locations (keep your eyes open). This is the current leg of my marketing strategy, since no agent nor trade publisher thought they could make money off me. I've taken the position that I can prove to them there is a market for this book. My theory is that with exposure from online reviews and contests, a demand for the book could arise among readers, creating pressure on book stores, which would necessitate mass production through an actual printing/binding company. It might also cause notice from mainstream media. From there buzz might arise that I can eventually use to once again pitch the book to trade publishers. It's a longshot, but what else do I have going on?

Here are links to the reviews that have been posted so far: Midwest Book Review, MotherLode and Tribute Books Mama. It is fascinating to see the different extents to which the reviewers "got" the book. It's also worth noting that at Tribute Books Mama the reviewer enjoyed "The Job" without having a clue what it was about. I should eventually end up with around 20 reviews, which I will link to as they are posted, and I've entered "The Job" in three contests and plan to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, so I'll let you know how they come out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And now for something completely different ...

I am fascinated by photographs from the early to mid 1800s. The people then didn't know what they were supposed to look like. Exact imagery hadn't been around long enough (and Hollywood hadn't been invented yet) for a mass media to inform the general population what beauty was supposed to look like. So the people just looked like what they looked like. The faces you see are incredible, often weathered into caricature by life and sorrow. The current (Winter 2011) edition of American Heritage includes a collection of photos of survivors from the Revolutionary period. It's not online yet, but presumably it will be eventually.

Not long ago I started a project of rendering portraits of Old Testament personages in watercolor, such as this picture of Jonah. I didn't get very far. The point at hand is, Jonah's face is based on U.S. vice president and senator John C. Calhoun. You can just see this guy railing at God as if he had something to say. Even if I don't pursue the project again at some time, photos from the 1800s are a great resource for the way real people looked in a time when life was a lot more real than we can remember now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Living in a Fallen World

This weekend seems to be as good a launching point as any to consider life in a fallen creation. A congresswoman is gunned down in a public forum in Arizona, and a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others are randomly slain just for being there. At this point the shooter appears to have been motivated only by mental illness, but many with an agenda immediately tried to score political points off this personal tragedy. From beginning to end these are demonstrations of the corrupt, fallen nature of the world and the people who dwell upon it. Only one question can express a rational reaction to this: How can God allow this to happen?

The violence in Arizona is only a microcosm of what has gone on in the world throughout recorded history. It is a tiny example of the distortion humanity is capable of, and many worse incidents have happened since then that the American media is unaware of. These events are shocking only when they happen in our backyards, or happen to people we know or think we ought to know (like elected officials). So how can God allow these things? A better question is, why does God remain patient with humanity and not wipe out everyone?

Central to our situation is that the Fall was a foregone conclusion. God has set up a stage for a great battle that rages in the Heavenlies, a conflict that led directly to and revolves around the Cross. For more on this thesis, check out this essay. "Man is born to suffer as the sparks fly upward" -- these are words from the oldest writing in Scripture, Job. They have rung true since the Fall, and will remain so until Christ returns. This then can be our only real comfort in times like these, that we believe and pray urgently that the demonstration to God's enemies will be complete, that Christ will return again, He will claim His bride, He will claim His kingdom, and He will set things right again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Media and New Marketing II

Another way to gain attention in the cacophony (yes, that's what I said) of the new media is going viral with a video. Producing a video is easy enough with today's technology -- heck, everything you buy today comes with a camera built in. But how do you go viral with it? That's the real question, isn't it? If you can't work a kitten into a video, then you're just left with your wits.

Here's the video that goes with "The Job." I used stop-motion animation to make my reading a little more bearable, and purposefully made it less-than-slick. I was hoping to invoke the old Rankin-Bass, or perhaps even "Davey and Goliath", charm. But, it may be that it's just cheesy. You make the call, because here's the link right here! "The Job" animated excerpt And for those of you who don't understand my references, here's this and this. Anyway, as of this writing, my video has scored about 145 views, several of which are me, so that's not exactly viral. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Media and New Marketing

As everyone knows, there was a time when music, books, movies, &c., could be had only on some kind of physical platform. This also made it imperative to have a record label, publisher, studio, &c., to get an artist's work out to the public. As everyone knows, that's changed dramatically with electronic media. The problem now is quite the opposite: Everyone can get their work out to the public, but there is so much noise in the marketplace, it's almost impossible to get noticed.

I'm obviously pursuing e-publishing with The Job, plus a couple other novels that I'm not marketing particularly aggressively. So far my efforts have mostly been limited to social media, namely Facebook and Twitter, but success tied to those websites seems to depend on the enthusiasm and cooperation of "friends" and "followers" (respectively). If friends don't spread the word about your fan page, and followers to retweet your posts, not much of a network can build. Same for blogging; if nobody reads, the word won't spread. I'll be pondering more such issues as time goes on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Suffering and Spiritual Warfare

This from my talk with the local newspaper:

"In my Scripture study a number of years ago, I was struck by Eph. 3:10 - "... so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the powers and principalities in the heavenlies." I thought this said a lot about suffering in the world and the spiritual warfare, which we can't even see, that goes on around the Church. Then I saw how the verse applies to Job, who literally was the subject of a wager between God and Satan, and whose unwavering belief through incredible suffering served to humiliate Satan, though Job never did learn what was behind it all. It seemed to me that Job was every man, and the suffering of believers in particular serves the same purpose as his did. ... And telling the story with humor would be totally unexpected."

This is my hope with The Job, that the reader will come away with an insight into what goes on around us in the spiritual world, the battle believers are central to even though we can't see it. To read the rest of the Q&A, follow this link.

The Problem of Suffering

Joe B. enjoys the sweet life as a vice president at a huge conglomerate, Universal Whirligig. But along with the Big Boss’ favor, he has also gained the notice of a bitter human resources manager, Luci Fernandez. Hateful of any success but her own, Luci manages to get him demoted to the mailroom! A rollicking comedy of errors follows as Joe B. tries to figure out what's happened to him, and attempts to get a meeting with the Big Boss.

Joe B.'s great expectations have taken an all-over twist. His family is forced to make a series of hard adjustments, and he gets only lame comforts from a string of the worst friends anyone could have. Will he finally track down the cause of his frustrations? Or will he only learn a lesson about what it is to be the boss, and that what is apparent is often only a shadow of a greater ongoing good?  The Job: Based on a True Story (I mean, this is bound to have happened somewhere) is a modern parable, a comic tragedy of ancient troubles and truths.

The Job is available in paperback and for Kindle from Amazon and can be had in other e-book formats from