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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writing and Dating Should Be All This and More

First, it is all about effective communication.

Second, it should be based on the internal guidance system within us, not our outward beauty, money, position in life, career, clothes, car, etc.

Third, we should be having fun--without intentionally hurting someone else--while engaged in both.

Communication.  We communicate with so much more than our words.  Our accent can tell where we were born perhaps.  Our clothes tell whether we are the staid, serious type or more flamboyant.  Whether we are blue collar or white collar--Duh!  Our body language may contradict our words.  Our actions may contradict our words.  Yet both opposing factors tell their own story.  We haven't even gotten into the underlying implications surrounding wordplay, tone, pitch, overall delivery.

Successful writing depends on the author effectively communicating with the reader.  Successful dating depending on the parties effectively communicating with each other.

Values.  As for the outward versus inward qualities that we all possess, the rules we live by (the internal compass) can cause so many divorces from marriages based on good looks, or money, or whatever gets ranked in magazines (the external container and circumstances).  Like the man who thinks it is okay to cheat on his wife, yet hides it from her.  If it were truly alright with wifey, why not be upfront?  Even if I were married to the Most Beautiful Person of 2011 or the Sexiest Person Alive, it would be over the nanosecond after I heard of any adultery.

These attitudes deliver a punch within our writing too.  Instead of finding that audience based on age or income, find them based on mutual mores.  Fidelity, honesty, hard-working, loving, sharing.  Or if you write about the world of drugs and human trafficking, obviously justice, the law, maybe even revenge are the shared values.  Work them to find the audience craving these stories.

Joy.  And finally, yes, we should all be having more fun (but not at the expense of others).  Our days should be filled with more joy.

So don't be so hard and critical of yourself and your writing.  I am a FLYLady subscriber (see www.FLYLady.net and sign up for her daily digest of inspirational messages and instructions) which is a free website devoted deep down to self-confidence, self-respect.  It also will help you get your house clean and organized in baby steps.  One thing she advocates is to work in fifteen-minute spurts:  kitchen, bathroom, office, for example.  The final fifteen minutes is for you.  What a great idea!

If you are of the puritan work ethic I was raised in, the thought But I can't play until the work is done still shouts at me in my brain.  It is getting weaker though, and I'm learning to ignore it more.  After all, with my workaholic tendencies and drive to accomplish and succeed, there is always more work to be done.  However, I take time to play more now.  My career change allowed that in grand part.  My new attitude encourages it in a smaller fashion.  Together:  I definitely have more joy and happiness in my days.

So should you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Target Audience / Reader Demographic

As a follow-up to my previous post regarding how my age does not determine what I read, I would like to further discuss the anomalies of “target audience” and “reader demographic.”  I happen to enjoy teen paranormal books/movies, and I am neither teen nor paranormal (much).  Yet if my age and human status are limiting factors, then booksellers would never realize they have a market in fifty-something females of the non-vampire, non-werewolf variety.

Anyway, I don’t believe the old writer’s adage to “write to your audience” as if only people of the same approximate age of my main characters will read that book.  My personal reading habits alone defy that model.  It is too much like "write what you know."  Which sounds logical, until you apply it to the fantasy writers out there, or the SciFi genre or the paranormal crowd.

I recently read in the Kindle Direct Publishing newsletter about the top twenty most well-read cities in America.  It’s an interesting collection of not only cities, but what was the bestselling genre sold for some of them (nonfiction, cooking, children’s books, etc.).  Now this is information an author can use.

To begin with, you could choose a city you know and love from that list of topmost-book-reading devotees and make that place a central theme to your next book, a character of its own.  Think of Tara Plantation in Gone with the Wind.  Or for a more timely example, Lisa Turner’s Memphis in A Little Death in Dixie.

Follow your genre and market heavily (local newspaper articles, TV station spots, radio ads, billboards) in those cities which devour your kind of books.  Amazon’s Author Center states “Nielsen BookScan does not aggregate sales data for Kindle or ebooks, or for books available only through third party sellers.”  HOWEVER, Amazon compiled these figures and included Kindle e-book sales.

I predict Nielsen BookScan and the like will incorporate e-books sales.  Just like Bestseller Lists will incorporate e-books.  And contests will allow e-book submissions.  All that will have to change to accommodate the jinormous elephant in the room.  Because e-books are big sellers.  

In the meantime, write what moves you. 


My Age Should Not Determine My Reading Demographic

I am an author, a freelance copy editor, an Indie publisher of my own works with a never-want-to-be-cured-from addiction to movies and books.  I am also female and a Baby Boomer.  Yet I love James Bond stories (whether on film or on paper), the TV show Burn Notice, the Twilight saga, Jane Austen books and J.D. Robb’s In Death series.  I also never miss an episode of House, M.D. or Lie to Me.

To reiterate:

I am not a man or a spy regardless of the timeframe.

I am not a teenager or a vampire or a werewolf.

I am not a woman living in the early 1800s whose highest vocation is to marry.  And marry rich.

I am not a female detective living in the future world of the 2050s and beyond.

I am not a doctor, male or otherwise, with a crass bedside manner—if you can get him by your bedside.

I am not a human lie detector disguised as an adult male with an adorable teenaged daughter who is truly the parent.

What do all these things share? 


I like to escape when I read or watch movies.  I also like to learn something, whether from fiction, nonfiction or film.  I hope all my soon-to-published novels accomplish both for my readers.

Maybe that erroneous “reader demographic” model is why J.K. Rowland received her initial rejection letters for her Harry Potter books, supposedly written for boys aged nine to twelve (or that’s what I remember from a bio on her).

Therefore, all you authors out there, don’t worry that your “target audience” is small, say for boys aged nine to twelve.  If the story is universal, it will appeal to all age groups.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Have a Theory . . .

I am not an expert.  I am only speaking from my own experience and data gathered as a result of the inquisitive right hemisphere of my brain.  So keep that in mind as you read on.

First, I currently have three nonfiction How-To e-books on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The first two were uploaded March 27, 2011.  So none have been posted for three full months yet.  Still, I see some cause-and-effect events already.

Per my intuition, I need six books offered to increase sales as this number seems to perpetuate itself.  Granted, I am not yet living this theory to test it, but look at Joe Konrath for one example.  Check out his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/.  And of course there is Amanda Hocking.  A quick search of Amazon.com shows ten books by Ms. Hocking.

Alternatively, Lisa Turner’s debut novel A Little Death in Dixie remains at the #1 spot in Kindle e-books even with the $0.99 sale price now upped to $9.39.

But I’m comparing apples to oranges here, with those novels against my nonfiction.  With one novel gaining success as versus my theoretical six needed.  Still, I maintain most authors will do well with six. 

Somehow I think novels sell better than nonfiction but don’t ask me how I “know” this—my gut just tells me it is so.  Still I AM selling my nonfiction, even in this depressed economy.  However, I am anxious to launch one of my “finished” novels.  I just need a couple uninterrupted months’ time to give it the extreme polish of a final edit.  Don’t we all.

Okay.  So now to the nuances of e-publishing.

After eight sales, I noticed my rankings within my particular genre (self-help, entrepreneur, etc.) may have been lower—due to more e-books being uploaded daily for sale—but that my overall ranking with each purchase within the Kindle Paid Store made my rankings climb higher.  It seems that the eight-sales-mark graduates the author into the next tier, if you will. 

If you will check out Author Central on Amazon, it states there are over 750,000 books in the Kindle Store.  Some other articles I found via an internet search indicate there are over 950,000 books offered in the Kindle Store.  Regardless, making just eight sales seems to put my rankings in the top one-third of the lesser total of 750,000 books.  Not bad.

Then there is the 1,000-sales club offered within Amazon/Kindle that seems to cause its own promotion of your book within Amazon.  Great!  Any time Amazon wants to market my books for me, I am ecstatic.  I look forward to the day when I can report ALL my books have exceeded the 1,000 mark in sales.

The Amazon site does offer avenues for self-promoting with its Kindle Boards and other routes.  I’m focusing on my writing and excluding all but the bare basics of marketing at this point.  I call it the Grand Experiment.

So, what should you get from all this? 

First, becoming published is just a matter of YOU deciding.  You can upload your JPEG cover and your Word document within a few hours (allowing you time to preview your Kindle conversion and fix any bad page breaks or strange symbols found).  Yes, even your first one should be done, depending on the book’s length, within three to five hours.

Second, only eight sales pop you from the newest-addition-to-the-as-yet-to-be-sold Kindle books to the top thirty-three percent sold.

Third, as you get other books converted and available for purchase, you ARE self-promoting just by the sheer number of titles that carry your name.  More chance of you being found via a search engine outside of Amazon even.

Fourth, the more time you let pass, the earnings seem to creep up (at first).  From a few authors’ articles on Indie publishing, it seems around months six to nine is when they broke through to compounded sales—either via ramped-up marketing efforts or a drop in the price from $2.99 to $0.99. 

So, finish those books.  Decide you are not only an author but a publisher and upload to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Validate your writing by e-book sales.  Let them percolate along for a few months, cooking up a growing readership for you.

Then share with all of us how you did it! 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Intrinsic Value

Here's a short composition of mine from January 2009 which could not find a publishing home.  Enjoy!

* * *
I canceled cable to save money and yet gained TIME.

I exchanged one career to begin another, willingly giving up more than two-thirds of my highest earnings, and gained HAPPINESS.

I surround myself with happy motivated people that I want to be like in one or more ways and gained INSPIRATION.

I work at home, saving twelve to fifteen hours of weekly commute time, and gained MORE WORKABLE (hence payable) HOURS.

I freelance and gained FREEDOM.

I wake to a fuzzy paw of a hungry cat on my nose or cheek instead of a harsh buzzing interruption and gained PURE JOY.

I work outside, weather permitting, which gives me PLEASURE.

I rarely need to drive, which allows me to GO GREEN!

I joined writing groups and gained CONFIDENCE.

I read and gained both ENJOYMENT and KNOWLEDGE.

I act, ignoring any perceived fears or notions of failure, and gained COURAGE.

I ask and gained ANSWERS.

I pray and gained WISDOM.

I am thankful for everything in my life and gained AWE.

I learn daily and gained HUMILITY.

I have made it completely through trials, tests and tribulations and gained the SECURITY of knowing I could endure to the end again.

I have dared the devil and WON.

I am successful and SMILE.

I am living my dream and LAUGH.

I am blessed and SHARE.

I risk and have thus LIVED.

Denise Barker ©January 2009 -  All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Three Bullies: Worry, Self-Doubt and Fear



I used to worry a lot.  Thankfully, none of those imaginings morphed into my life.  Unlike poor Job in the Bible to which all his fretting was visited upon his house and lands and holdings.  What I don’t understand about that story, though, is why his verbally abusive wife was allowed to torment him with her words during this horrible time in his life.  But that is for someone wiser to explain.


It seems I have taken my active imagination and siphoned it off for more creative purposes:  writing.  As in this blog, my nonfiction works as well as my novels.


I remember from among my readings that we are taught to address the “worst case scenario” with solutions, in order to ease our worries.  You might not like the answers, but it should erase some of the angst.  Like if you were to (God forbid) lose your job, you may have to live with your parents, or in-laws.  Maybe not the best arrangement for both sides, but doable, for a short while.  You could get a minimum wage job and ride your bike to work if need be (hopefully work is close to home!).  Granted, both are not your dream life in action, but each could get you there.


Insulate your life by following the sage words found in The Good Book at Phil. 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (RSV).”


Although I am basically an optimist, I have perfected my outlook.  As we grow and age and gain perspective, I believe we let go of a lot of youth-oriented worry.  Worry, to me, is based on inexperience.  Worry is usually about what we do not yet know.  Like, Can I do that job they just offered me?  We may have been all bravado in the interview process but, now that we have won the fought-for position, our confidence can take a sharp dip.  Once you confront the monster (gain some hands-on knowledge), it usually leaves.  Like finally facing off that bully from the playground or school--or worse yet, the office or home.



Self-doubt is more insidious as we do it to ourselves, or allow others' beliefs to veto our own.  Self-doubt may remain hidden from us, too, and we all know it is impossible to fight an unknown assailant until we have more information.  This blog addresses self-respect, self-worth, self-awareness.  We must first know who we are, then I think our purpose becomes clear—or we are more confident to follow that innate yearning--and, with it, success follows.


I ran across this great quote that highlights my point in the foregoing paragraph.  Here it is from John Mason:  “You were born an original.  Don’t die a copy.”  Don’t follow the mainstream when making decisions about your life.  Instead, construct your life around your dreams.  That includes where you live, what you do to earn a living, who you marry, how you spend your time and your money.  You were meant to be different, unique, to offer the world what no one else can perform, produce or procreate. 



Fear is the worst in my opinion.  If we were to grade, somewhere between one and ten, the level of emotions attached to worry, self-doubt and fear, fear would top out the others.  It carries more dread with it, more weight.  Still, I am a firm believer that our dreams are wrapped in this formless (yet weak) fright element.  Tear through that wrapping, and you not only gain access to, but you also release, the desires of your heart.  WHAT they are, HOW to get them and eventually LIVING THEM.


To again quote from the RSV Bible, Ps. 23:6, I’ll close with this wonderful verse and blessing for us all:  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . . .”  


All rights reserved.  Copyright 2011 Denise Barker dba Living the Dream Publishing