Author Profile: Michael E. Dellert

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Your humble host

We were fortunate enough to spend a little time recently with Michael Dellert and managed to get him to open up a bit about his process and inner thoughts on writing.

Michael is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, as well as a writing coach. His publishing career spans 20 years. His blog is a resource for creative writers of all kinds, offering tips, tricks, and advice to aspiring writers seeking to improve their craft, plus insights into the current state of the publishing industry.

His recent guest post about character development was the most bookmarked of any post we’ve had here on the blog.

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DAN: What is the working title of your next book?

MICHAEL: The book I’m publishing next is called A Merchant’s Tale. It’s due in stores and online by early April.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

00 Dellert 3First, you have to understand that I’m a medieval literature nerd and a fantasy world-building geek.

So A Merchant’s Tale is an exploration and introduction of characters and settings that will continue to grow and develop and interrelate with one another through a much longer cycle of stories, similar to the cycles of medieval romances, such as the Matter of Britain or the Matter of France.

The specific idea for the story came out of my world-building exercises: I was developing a medieval economy in which my characters had to make a living for themselves, and it occurred to me that a traveling merchant would see a lot of opportunities for danger and adventure.

Which is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?

Writing drunk is certainly the more fun of the two options, but most important?

CJ Cherryh once said: “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” So I’d have to say “edit sober.” Well, semi-sober anyway. Wine doesn’t count, right?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took me about a month to write the first junk draft of A Merchant’s Tale. It took about three months to rewrite for publication.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The actors I envision often aren’t suitable for the role anymore. Hell, they’re not even suitable for the role now. For example, the character of the young acolyte in A Merchant’s Tale might be played by a young Matthew Broderick (as “Philipe Gastone” in Ladyhawke) or a young Christian Slater (as “Adso of Melk” in the adaptation of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose). By the time I even wrote the story, both actors were already far too old for the role.

Which living author or blogger would you buy drinks for?

You, Dan. Many drinks, and often. With little umbrellas in them.

What makes you so damn interesting anyway?

Me? Because I’m like the mushroom that walks into the bar that doesn’t serve his kind: “Why not? I’m a fungi!”

What is the best part about being an indie author for you?

00 Dellert 0It allows me to exercise both halves of myself: the half that spent thirty years trying to be a good writer, and the half that spent twenty years being a good publisher. As a writer, I get to develop and execute stories that actually mean something to me. As a publisher, I get to put my professional skills to use publishing something that actually means something to me. An occupational hazard of publishing is that the longer you’re in it, the less you actually have to do with books. It becomes an exercise in accounting.

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

That I’m actually a strange visitor from an alien planet, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. And an orbital death-ray. Commanded by my sock-monkey, Leroy.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

There’s something besides writing? I hike, I swim, I take the dog for walks, mostly just to get out of the house and give myself a clear, quiet space to think about writing. They also happen to be good exercise, which is an important way to keep oneself from not wasting away to nothing while gallivanting through one’s own imagination. I also enjoy cooking with wine (both in the food and otherwise) and listening to music. I try to get away from my desk as often as my schedule will allow (which is probably not as often as is strictly healthy). I go out to movies, readings, and arts exhibitions with friends. I’m told one has to keep up a regular interaction with society.

Why do some authors sell well and others don’t? (Indie or otherwise, but indie if possible)

Most indie authors fail to sell well because they fail to market well.

 A lot of writers have a sort of Field of Dreams approach to their work. They write it and just expect readers to magically show up. It doesn’t work that way.

Readers have to find their work. Writers can make that easy for their potential readers, by engaging in social media, getting out and doing readings and signing, or sending out free copies of their work to reviewers. Or they can make it very hard for their readers by just dropping their book into Smashwords and hoping for the best.

Also, too many writers think that marketing is “beneath” them. Sometimes, it’s not even the writers themselves who think this. I have an ongoing argument with one of my friends about this. She thinks I should only have to write, I shouldn’t have to market. I keep pointing out that even JK Rowling shows up for book-signings and movie premieres.

What’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a great story idea? Describe in detail. Inquiring minds want to know!

In bed. And that’s all the detail you get. A gentleman never tells.

What’s the oddest or most awkward or embarrassing research you’ve had to do?

The most awkward research I ever did was on the history of early Islam, from the socio-political context of the Prophet through the various successor dynasties of the early Caliphates and down to the Crusades. The next day, someone from Homeland Security asked to become a member of my LinkedIn network. Coincidence…? I think not.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

00 Dellert 2In many ways, the fantasy genre chose me. I grew up watching old Tarzan movies and Flash Gordon serials on TV, enjoying the Golden Age horror movies with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and reading about Greek and Roman mythology. I can’t remember a time when Fantasy and Science Fiction weren’t my favorite forms of entertainment. Even now, I get giddy as a school girl when I see the Batman vs. Superman trailers.

Can you wash light and dark clothes together? Have you ever turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer?

I can, I have, and so I don’t anymore. Experience is a harsh laundress.

What “person” do you like to write in? First Person, Third Person, etc. – and why?

I often do my early drafts in first person, to get a better sense of characterization. But I prefer to write in Third Person Limited. It allows for, in my opinion, the greatest flexibility in presenting the story and still exploring the broadest possible range of human experience within that story. It also allows the author to break up the story into multiple viewpoints and maintain energy and interest through the boggy middle part of the story. Stories that limit themselves to a single viewpoint run the risk of becoming self-indulgent whinge-fests for the main character, and of turning potentially powerful secondary characters into limited cardboard caricatures. I also struggle to capture the magic of what CJ Cherryh calls her “Third Person Intimate Internal” point of view. I’m not sure I’m there yet.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Yes, thanks! I do, in fact. I’m going to be running my first Goodreads giveaway. Starting 18 February, 2016, contestants can enter for a chance to win one of just 20 exclusively autographed copies of both Hedge King in Winter AND an advanced reading copy of the complete, 13-episode series of A Merchant’s Tale, before it finishes its serial run and before it’s available anywhere else! The contest closes on 5 March, 2016 and winners will be announced by 11 March, 2016. You can learn more here at Goodreads.

How do you decide on a title for your book?

You know those refrigerator poetry magnets, where you just mix up different words? I give them to my dogs to play with and record the results.

What do you do for cover art? Do you do it yourself, hire an artist (you can name names if you liked them), or purchase premade?

Fantasy is a very difficult genre for indies when it comes to cover art, particularly medieval fantasy. Stock photography of dragons is hard to come by

and you want to find something that makes the reader wonder what’s special about your book compared to the other 500 titles next to it on the shelf. If you’re not an artist yourself (and I am certainly not an artist), your options are to do something very abstract (which runs the risk of being incomprehensible), to purchase something premade (which therefore has no organic relationship to your book itself), or you have to commission custom artwork.

So I hire artists, depending on my budget. For my first novella, Hedge King in Winter, it was important to me that the cover didn’t scream “first time indie author,” so I broke open the bank and hired Victor Titov and his Grafit Studio to come up with an original design based on some ideas that I sent him. When the budget for my second title, A Merchant’s Tale, proved to be more modest, I used 99Designs to run a book cover design competition. This helped me keep costs down and gave me a few samples from various artists before I had to settle on one of them. That artist, Vacaru George-Florin, and I then worked together post-contest to further fine-tune the idea that became the final cover for A Merchant’s Tale. For my next title, Romance of Eowain, I’ve done the same thing with 99Designs, owing to scheduling conflicts with both Victor and George.

The challenge then becomes tying together books that are ostensibly part of a series, but have widely different styles of artwork on the covers. I have a single book designer who handles my cover and interior book design, tying together the various titles typographically, rather than by the artwork.

How has your experience with editors been (you can name names if you liked your editor)?

I recently engaged a copy-editor for A Merchant’s Tale before I sent it away to the typesetter, and she really helped me tighten up a number of places where the language clunked, but I had become tone-deaf to it.

she (my editor) really helped me tighten up a number of places where the language clunked, but I had become tone-deaf to it.

Her name is Erin Sandlin, and she’s also the author of the blog Being Southern Somewhere Else, and has several published books of her own, including No One Has Such A Dog, and No One Should: A Collection of Canine Essays and Petit Fours from the Pie Hole: It’s For Your Face Hole. Aside from her excellent editorial skills, she’s also a social activist, and she’s donating a portion of the proceeds from her collection of canine essays to a charity called Ahimsa House, which works to rescue abused women with animals from domestic violence situations. I have a lot of respect for Erin, both for her editorial work and her social causes.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

The greatest misconception is that indie authors are indies because their work lacks quality, that their work “wouldn’t make the cut” in a traditional publishing environment, and that they’re all in it for vanity’s sake. That is patently false. Many worthy indies are simply talented entrepreneurs who have recognized that they can take their work directly to the market (as in the readers) and let them decide on its worth, rather than waiting for the traditional market (as in publishers) to take a chance on a horse of a different color.

Many younger writers today won’t remember this, but it used to be that a writer was actively discouraged from engaging in what was called “simultaneous submissions,” the practice of sending the same work for consideration to several possible publishers at the same time. Each publisher wanted the opportunity to consider a work in their own leisurely time, and weren’t happy with the idea that they might finally, after months of deliberation, make an offer on a story only to discover that it had been snatched up by a competitor in the meantime. So there was actually collusion amongst publishers to discourage this practice. This meant that a new author might send the same manuscript around to only a dozen houses in half as many years.

Today, indie authors with an entrepreneurial spirit can publish half a dozen novels in the same year, and collect a heavier share of the profits off each book.

However, the problem of quality is going to continue to plague them for at least another five to ten years, not because they aren’t talented, but because they lack the resources that traditional publishers can afford to bring to bear. Cover art, professional production values, and good copy-editors all cost money, a resource that most indies have only in short supply.

Plotter? Or Pantser? And prepare to defend your position!

Plotter, but in a very hippie-dippie-doo pantser kind of way. I believe that plot is the series of damned things, one after another, that happen to the characters while they’re trying to resolve the theme. The theme is what ties the “series of unfortunate events” together and provides the narrative drive, and that can only be explored through the characters in a very creative fashion. So the plot might involve an argument with a colleague, bad customer service at Starbucks, and a running gun-battle, but the theme might be about finding love. The plot is easy. The theme is much more challenging and unpredictable.

What was your road to publication like?

Like the road of many emerging authors, I imagine: long, bumpy, uphill, dark and full of terrors, plagued by dead ends and switchbacks. The hardest thing to overcome is the notion that becoming a published author is really going to change very much in your life. The day I dropped Hedge King in Winter, my first commercially-published fiction work, I still had to go out and get the milk. It wasn’t like a limousine showed up at my door and divested a full media fanfare, clown-car-style, at my front door, along with millions of dollars in sales. It just doesn’t work like that. When I drop A Merchant’s Tale in April, I’m still going to have to figure out how to pay the rent. Becoming a published author creates at least as many problems, if not more, than it solves.

What advice can you give new authors?

If you’re serious about it,

don’t give up, and don’t think in terms of this book or that story. Think in terms of a career.

Don’t start building your platform after you’ve published your book, start building it while you’re writing your book. The contest doesn’t go to the strong, or the fast. It goes to the bull-headed and the stubborn.

And if you’re not serious about it, go learn a trade and do that instead. There are easier ways to earn a living, and those of us who are serious really don’t need the competition.

What’s a good writing secret or time management secret?

  • Show up. Set realistic daily goals, be ruthless about achieving them, and show up to get them done.
  • Keep track of your goals and your progress toward them.
  • Spend a few minutes at the end of each writing session making a notes about where you intend to go in the next writing session, so you don’t have to flail around “waiting for inspiration.”
  • And when you have a bad day and don’t meet your goals, be merciful. Give yourself credit for showing up, and for what you did accomplish. Then show up the next day and get back to work.

Check out Michael Dellert’s Goodreads giveaway!00 Dellert Merchant's Tale - GoodReads

Where in the process do you create the story’s title? Do you start with it? Do you know it before you begin? Before you end? Elsewhere?

I have working titles planned out well in advance, before I start, just to keep track of project goals on the calendar. But the final title often evolves out of the final rewrite, once the theme and resolution are clear to me.

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?

Mornings. I like to get up, take the dog for a walk, then sit down with a cup of coffee and get started while I’m fresh, before the day has a chance to whisk me away with other things.

Coffee addict? Name your poison.

Gods, yes. The caffeinated kind, dark-roasted, fresh-ground, light and sweet.

What’s your favorite food?

Italian is my comfort cuisine. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, in Sopranos territory. Ay, oh, badda bing, badda boom. If it’s smothered in fresh, hand-made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, fuhgeddaboddit.

How do you develop characters?

Very carefully.

How much structure is in your story before you start writing it?

None. And all of it. There are basics to good story-telling structure that I try to live by. But how I’m going to use them in any particular story largely depends on which way the characters take me. There is no story without characters, and the characters will have unique needs that have to be addressed in each story, regardless of how it’s structured. I try not to let my initial idea of the story become confused with the actual story.

How many story ideas are in your “good ideas” file? What are some of them?

Too many to count, but some of them include: Is it possible to write a “traditional” (i.e., contemporary) romance novel with a male protagonist? What does a “heroine’s journey” look like? When the villain is the hero of his own story, what does that story look like? What happens when the “child of destiny” is an unlikeable little brat? What does “boarding school” for the unlikeable child of destiny look like in a medieval setting? How do the friends, family, mentors, and rivals of the “child of destiny” shape his fitness for his role long before that fate becomes apparent?

What is the single most important quality in a novel; what must an author do to win you over?

Character, I think. I’ve started more novels than I will ever finish, and those that fell by the wayside failed to engage me and draw me in early to the story. In almost every case, this was because of poor characterization.

If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not going to finish the book.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Drop dead of shock, more than likely. But after that, there’s some beach-front property in Fiji I’ve had my eye on…

Best book to movie you’ve seen?

Ohh, a tough one. Most adaptations are so awful. But I think the best adaptations have both been from the novel M*A*S*H. I think in both cases (movie and TV series), what made the adaptations great wasn’t their loyalty to the story per se, but to the characters and their absurd circumstances.

What are your three favorite books by other authors?

  • Gate of Ivrel by CJ Cherryh.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.
  • The Swan War Trilogy by Sean Russell.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was in seventh grade, so about twelve years old, before I finally had a label to put on the thing I’d been doing for as long as I could remember.

Do you hate cats?

Hate is a strong word. But I’m about as indifferent to cats as they are to me. I’m definitely a dog person. My dogs have always been so excited to see me when I come home: “Where you been, what you do, what it smell like, when you gonna take me theeeere?! I’m so glad you’re hoooooome!!!”

My cat, on the other hand, could care less. “Oh.” (Licks crotch.) “It’s you.” (Licks crotch.) “My litter box needs cleaning, by the way.” (Licks crotch.) You know you’re going to go blind doing that, you silly cat. She’s lucky I’m a big-hearted slob and rescued her from the rain one dark and stormy night.

In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader that we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?

In a medieval fantasy story, that’s something that has to be done on almost every page. But

ironically, it’s not usually the really fantastic stuff that is hardest to write.

In A Merchant’s Tale, there’s a scene involving a monstrous bear and a pack of otherworldly hounds. This actually wasn’t so hard to write: I grew up around dogs, and I grew up in a region where black bears are very common, so much so that I’ve several times encountered them by surprise and at close range, as my characters do in the story. I drew from those experiences to paint that scene. It was more challenging to describe a typical rural medieval scene in early springtime: the tools the farmers were using, and the difficulties they faced using them. I grew up in a rural community, but I’ve never been a farmer, and I’ve certainly never known anyone who had to use an ox-drawn ard-plough to furrow a half-frozen field. That took some research and some imagination.

Tell us about yourself. Who IS the real Michael Dellert? And not the typical boring bio stuff. The dirt. Like, when was the last time you did laundry?

I did laundry last weekend, same as every Saturday morning. I try to get most of my errands and housekeeping out of the way early on Saturdays, so that by afternoon, I can look forward to having the rest of the weekend free.

I take a guilty pleasure from superhero movies, despite how awful they often are.

And I’m a critical theory nerd: structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, post-colonialism, transnationalism, I eat all that theoretical stuff up with a spoon.

What’s a favorite quote of anyone besides you, and one from you?

Kurt Vonnegut: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in my mouth.” I love that line. It so perfectly describes the difficulty of wrestling words down onto paper in the form of a compelling story.

From me? “You can’t edit what ain’t writ.” My personal mantra every time I’m faced with writers’ block. I can’t make something better if I don’t start someplace.

Most writers are a bit shy. Is that how your friends would describe you (shy), or do you have your readers fooled?

I’m not sure I’d describe myself as shy. I was actually a member of a theatre troupe in both high school and college. My best friends, I don’t think they’d describe me as shy. But if I’m not on stage, I can be very reserved, particularly around people I don’t know well. One of my best friends likes to call me “Silent Bob,” as in the Kevin Smith character from Clerks. I don’t speak often, but when I do, apparently I’m terribly profound.

Did you ever have a job where they were strict about shined shoes and stuff?

Several of them in fact. I’ve worked a few jobs in corporate publishing where appearances were considered important. I even had one job where I was told that the car I was driving (a beat-up 2001 Jetta that’s been across the country four times) didn’t “represent me as well it might.” I was actually told that it would be a good idea “for my career” to get a new car. I left the job. I still have the car. I figure the car is more loyal and better company.

Is tea a big deal over in England like they make it seem in Downton Abbey? (My wife watches, not me.)

I’ve had the pleasure of doing a lot of business in England in my career. Yes, tea is a big deal, but not as important anymore as in the period of Downton Abbey, at least, not among those I’ve known. Beer, on the other hand… My lord… I’ve come home from some business trips sure that I’d need a liver transplant.

How playful are you? Is your REAL Facebook page much more revealing about sides of you that people won’t know from your blog posts or books? Is there a double life thing going on?

I’m very playful, though I doubt even my REAL Facebook page shows much of that side of me. My grandmother always said, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Sunday paper.” In the modern age, I figure that extends to social media. But in private and among friends? Hell, the kit gloves are off.

How hard was it to hit that “Publish” button the first time and send your book into the world? Looking back, what can you tell new authors about that experience?

There were more than a few moments of trepidation, I have to admit.

I think I needed two glasses of wine before I worked up the nerve (to hit the publish button).

But I had spent about six months ahead of that moment getting prepared: setting up my blog, talking about it on my blog, growing my Facebook and Twitter platforms and mentioning the book there a million times each. Hitting “Publish” was really the only thing I could do. However big a fool I might look if the book was awful, I would have looked more a fool if I’d built up all that hype and then backed down.

I would tell new authors, “Just do it.” If you’ve been working diligently at your craft, built a platform, announced to all and sundry that you’re going to be publishing a book, and you finally come face-to-face with that button, then it’s time. Yesterday’s not an option, and tomorrow is too late.

Just push the (publish) button. It’s really not going to change your life that much, where the world is concerned. But at the same time, it changes everything in your heart, where it really matters.

Doing something once and for the first time is always hardest. But doing it at all gives you the courage and confidence to do it again and again. So go ahead. Just do it.

Have you ever spent time with anyone famous? Was there any ransom involved?

I once attended a fund-raising party where I met Harry Belafonte Jr, his wife, and his daughter. They were very lovely and gracious people.

I’m also an irregular attendant at the Irish-American Writers and Artists Salon in New York City, which is headed up by Larry Kirwan (of the band Black 47) and Malachy McCourt (brother of Frank McCourt, of Angela’s Ashes fame), whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with from time to time. They’re both very kind and humble people, dedicated to the arts and the improvement of artists’ circumstances. It’s a privilege to know them both. And so far, the only ransom has involved shots of whiskey.

What was the most fun interview you’ve done and why?

Why, of course, this interview is the most fun I’ve ever had, ever, in the whole history of fun times. But it might have been because of the bologna in my shoes. The bologna just made me feel funny.

I think we have a new contender for most bookmarked post!

Here are Michael’s links:

Michael Dellert Learn more about Indie Publishing!

LinkedIn: Michael Dellert

Blog: MDellert-Dot-Com: Adventures in Indie Publishing

Twitter: @MDellertDotCom

Facebook: Michael Dellert, Writer, Editor, Publishing Consultant

 

YOU GUYYYYYS!!!!!!

Look at this! How did this happen???

You are no doubt reading along enjoying today’s post, “20 Questions With Author Barbara Tarn” – as well you should be –

1000 blog followers 994 as of 02022016
It looks like this.

and LOOK what’s also happening today

(more or less).

LOOK!

1000 blog followers 994 as of 02022016 b.jpg
Do you see it?

What, you don’t see?

Step closer to the glass, Clarice.

Closer, please.

Closer

1000 blog followers 994 as of 02022016 c

What?????

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat???

We are almost at 1,000 followers? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

You remember a few weeks ago I was talking about this and saying we might have a party at 1000 and we’d probably get there in March (I hoped; maybe by the end of March)? It’s freaking February second! And I honestly questioned whether we’d ever reach 1000 followers.

And, to be honest, I’m still pretty sure WordPress has made some huge error in calculating all this. The real number is probably around a hundred, but

scorecard, baby!

We will probably reach 1000 today! Or this week! 

Can you believe it?

I can’t. I mean, I can, but I can’t. It’s crazy.

I don’t know why this has me so excited. Except it does.

My little blog that just over a year ago had NO followers except a spambot and a confused but sympathetic friend, now has almost 1000.

I’m probably jinxing myself for posting this now, but after I saw 994 I was pretty sure I’d miss 1000 when it happened and as a result you’d all miss the party!

Well, party on, people!

I think if a lot of you guys re-blog this to your followers, we’ll hit 1000 today. That’s kind of how this stuff works. Otherwise it’ll happen in a few days and we’ll all miss it. That’s kinda like missing the ball drop on New Year’s and watching it on the news the next day, or not seeing you car’s odometer roll over to some big round number. Not nearly as exciting. Hell, I’d gone dark, remember? I wasn’t even paying attention.

Anyway, we have a little bit of time to plan a party. If you want to come over to the house, I’ll be home most of the day compiling The Navigators into one file. (I should probably let you guys see a few sample chapters of The Navigators, too. Hmm… and the cover. It has a cool cover. And a really fun story. Remind me about that later and I’ll do it.)

I can run out and get some champagne but otherwise we have plenty of wine. Do you wanna bring stuff? We only have either two or four beers, but we have LOTS of chips for some reason. And a little leftover hummus. It’s red pepper style. Do you like hummus? The red pepper is good. We just opened it Sunday, so I’m pretty sure it’s still okay to eat. Oh, and cheese. We have a lot of cheese. because we have a lot of wine. And because we like cheese. But bring whatever you like if we don’t have it. I think there are frozen meatballs in the fridge, too.

Anyway, what I’m saying is it’s a party!

And it’s be cause YOU amazing people have read and commented and reblogged and followed and subscribed. (And because of me a little, too.) But now I get to stand here looking smart as a result of all YOUR hard work getting word out there about this blog. (And mine, a little, too.)

Let’s face it, you guys make me look good. So you deserve the cheese and hummus. And a lot more

THANK YOU

(in advance, I guess, but still.)

You’re the best bunch of folks I’ve gotten to know on the internet. I love you guys.

Probably.

No, really, you’re the best.

You really are. I promised myself I wasn’t gonna cry.

Let’s Celebrate!

head shot
Your humble host with almost 1000 followers.

 

 

Thank you for being there. Remember, your blog can do this, too. And a lot more.

You guys rock. 

 

Christmas Flash Fiction Challenge!

00 Santa Dan
This is the last one of these with the hat.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

This is your present, from me to you!

It occurred to me that you will have some down time this week. Not today, necessarily, but in a few days. At which time you’ll check in and see we had a writing challenge that could brighten your writing day. And here it is.

For the NEW YEAR, the challenges will be a little challengey-er!

More challenging! More difficult! More fun! (For me, anyway.)

So we better get ready. This challenge will do that because very few people will participate, but those who do will have a big advantage in the new year. Just sayin’.

00cp
It’s kind of like a gift. (Read on. You’ll see.)

Ready? Here we go.

Take a topic from the Random Subject Generator below

http://writingexercises.co.uk/subjectgenerator.php

and that will be the theme of your story. (Mine was about betrayal – which is pretty good!)

You build your story around that.

Easy, right?

BUT!

00 gs
Remember, he was a good guy by the end of the story.

You ALSO build your story within a classic genre, DERIVED BY A RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR!!

 

Bwahahahahahahahaaaaaaa!

 

There are two reasons to do this. One, I’m evil. But you knew that. Two, those writer muscles need to be built where they haven’t been. You fantasy folks need a little romance in your stories (Star Wars was a fantasy but it definitely had a romance going on underneath, didn’t it?) You romance folks need a little action adventure in your stories (Dr. Zhivago had a revolution going on for pete’s sake!)

 

Build those neglected writer muscles!

It only hurts for a little while but you might find out you’re good at it.

TheNavigatorsDanAlatorre
No, you cannot buy it yet.
Poggi cover FINAL
Can’t buy this yet, either.

For example, I have often mentioned the kiss I had to write for The Navigators. That was really difficult for me at the time (eight rewrites for one kiss), but friends here helped me learn how to do it. (Yes, I had several grown women “teach” me how to kiss.) That helped a lot when I had to do romantic stuff in Poggibonsi (I stretched those muscles but I also now had a network of people to bounce the scenes off of before they were aired to my critique group – HUGE benefit), and THAT helped when I had to do two steamy sex scenes in The Water Castle – which had readers fanning themselves, they were so hot. (It was all implied stuff, too. Much more difficult, IMO. But they were honest, realistic, sexy and tasteful. Because I developed some new writer muscles. Most important, they were well received – as in, they were good writing.)

If I can, you can.

A great story usually contains elements from several genres. Adding these things enhances you stories, and practicing them here makes you a better writer.

Thaaaaat’s what you want!

Eating_through_lunch
I DO want that.

(Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.)

Genres: Use the Random Number Generator to get one of these:

  1. Romance
  2. Murder Mystery
  3. Action Adventure
  4. Thriller
  5. Sci Fi
  6. Fantasy (like dragons and knights in shining armor, not sexual fantasies)

Random Number Generator: https://www.random.org/

You know the drill:

  1. Use the Random Subject Generator to pick your THEME
  2. Use a Random Number Generator to select your GENRE
  3. Write a story up to 3000 words that is obviously written using both theme and genre.
  4. Post your story below in the comments with a link to your blog where
  5. You also post it on you blog
  6. And mention what the heck this is so people don’t think you’ve gone schizo
  7. Read and comment on OTHER people’s entries. That makes it fun. Allegedly.
  8. You have one week. Noon Friday a week from this posting date (EST – Tampa, Florida time in the U S and A) is plenty of time, slacker!
  9. IF you intend to play, post a comment below so I can give you crap when a week passes and you don’t post it, EMILY.
  10. Um… I think that’s it.

Get after it!

.

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Cracking The Mystery Of “Goodreads For Authors,” Part Two: READERS

CJ photo
Author CJ Andrews

A Timely guest blog post by my friend, critique partner and fellow author CJ Andrews – Dan.

Sunday afternoon Dan and I were chatting about his post on how authors can use Goodreads. As I rambled on about my thoughts on the topic, we (okay, Dan) realized that a lot of authors may struggle with this platform, because theyve never used it as a reader—there’s a disconnect.

(To read that post, click HERE)

In my mind, Goodreads is a more valuable place to have a strong presence as an author than any of the other social media sites. That’s just my opinion, but it comes from my experience as a reader who used Goodreads and appreciated the valuable resource it is.

 

I started writing about a year and a half ago. Before that, I was an avid reader devouring 75-100 books a year. Not even James Patterson writes fast enough to keep up with that appetite for books! I often found myself searching for new authors, or at least new-to-me authors, and my next good read.

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I love books!!!

I’m a fussy reader—I read mostly in one genre, but not exclusively. I want to be entertained by an interesting story and realistic characters, and I despise poorly written and poorly edited books.

I started out searching for something to read in the “recommended books” on sites like Amazon or B&N, but finding something that met my standards wasn’t always easy. I read a lot of duds—sometimes bailing after only a few awful pages—before encountering a book worth reading.

 

I eventually stumbled upon Goodreads, and some might say the discovery was like Christmas morning.

00cmastree
Imagine an inspiring  background chorus going “Ahhh”

From a reader’s perspective, Goodreads is an amazing resource.

  1. I simply check off what types of books I like to read, and
  2. they give me suggestions based on my selections.

 

Pretty cool.

But wait…there’s more!

As a reader, I have my very own bookshelf—a place to list the books I’ve read—where I can rate how much I enjoyed them . . . or didn’t enjoy them. Now when I ask Goodreads to recommend more books for me, they take this information into account, along with the check-list I created, to further refine their suggestions of books I might enjoy. The list even tells me which books on my shelf were used to determine each recommended title, so I know what to expect.

For a reader, this is awesome! But . . . it gets even better.

HappyChild_large

I can connect with other readers, similar to social media formats, and join groups. Now I can talk to readers who enjoy the same types of books as I do. I can see their bookshelves to know what they’ve read and how they’ve rated those books, and compare that to my own bookshelf and ratings.

I can also see when theyve given a review on a book I might be interested in reading. This isn’t just some random stranger’s review, one who might even be a friend of the author and gave a supportive but unwarranted five-star review. This is a review by someone Ive built a relationship witha friendand that carries a lot more weight. I already know this person likes the same books I do, so I can trust his/her opinion and recommendation.

When I started writing, I learned about the importance of building an author’s platform with a presence on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter. Of course I complied—I want to be successful, after all—and set up my profiles. I even created an author page in addition to my regular Facebook profile, despite the fact that I’m still writing my debut novel. And, of course, I set up an author website and blog. (cheap plug for the guest blogger: visit me at authorCJAndrews.com)

 

Transitioning to an author’s mindset, these are the places I go to learn about fellow authors and what they’re up to. So imagine my surprise when I discovered my non-writer friends are still going to Goodreads to look for authors and their new books.

 

Now I see the value of Goodreads from the other side of the page.

 

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What should I do?

But, as Dan’s post pointed out, figuring out how to make it work as a part of our author platform can be tricky. People on Goodreads don’t want to see ads by an author to buy their book. They go there looking for dependable referrals from other readers.

A wise mentor once pointed out to me that writers are readers too. So the key to being successful on Goodreads may lie in that premise. Establishing ourselves as readers among a highly active group of other readers is probably a better approach than playing the part of the pushy salesperson who gets ignored.

 

So, here’s my game plan.

  1. I’m working on filling up my new bookshelf and adding my ratings.
  2. After that, I’ll write some reviews of books I’ve enjoyed—this should help me gain some exposure and establish credibility.

 

When the time comes to put my own book out there, which is in the same genre as most of the tiles on my bookshelf, hopefully I’ll have built an audience eager to follow my recommendation and read it.

Gang, CJ’s tips here are invaluable if you are trying to figure out how to make Goodreads work for you as an author – and judging from Sunday’s post and comments, that’s most of us. Use these suggestions and follow CJ at her blog  http://authorcjandrews.com/ – Dan.

.

00 Santa DanREBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

BEST CHRISTMAS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE EVER

00 Santa Dan
Ho, ho, ho!

If you wanna get right to the challenge skip down to where it says “FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!”

 

It is Christmas time! And as most of you know, there are a lot of Christmas specials on TV.

And most of them suck.

 

Honestly, A Mom For Christmas? Look, I liked Olivia Newton John as much as anybody back in the day, but who needs to see that?

 

Nobody.

 

But throw in a few desperate B-list stars and some drunk, unemployed writers and BINGO, another “new” cookie cutter holiday story. Even if they’ve redone it a dozen times over the years.

 

Yawn.

 

This is YOUR chance to change all that!

 

It occurred to me that a bored person with a computer could probably do better than these TV executives! And, hey, WE have computers! And alcohol! Plus, doing this challenge is better for YOU than shopping/decorating the tree/spending time with the in-laws.

 

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

 

Did you see that coming? So here’s the deal. First of all you go to this website

http://www.kitt.net/php/title.php

 

And get six titles. Pick ONE to build your Christmas Themed Flash Fiction story around.

 

The definition of flash fiction is: whatever you want it to be. So sayeth Wiki:

“Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity.[1] There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category.”

 

 

Basically I’m looking for something around 1000 words. It can be less, it could be more. If you’re closing in on 3000 words and you haven’t really nailed it yet, think about some editing. Funny, romantic, erotic, mystery, drama, that’s your call. (Keep it PG if you post it below; if you go R or harder, just the link will do.)

 

THE RULES

 

  1. You write 1000 words more or less on the now-Christmassy topic
  2. Post it on your blog
  3. Reference us on your blog and this challenge so your regular readers don’t think you’ve gone batty.
  4. Post your link to your story here in the comments section.
  5. You have until Friday 12 noon EST, on 12/18/2015, that’s Tampa Florida US of A time, for those of you who live elsewhere.

 

Here’s a bonus for reading to the bottom. IF you participate in THIS challenge, you will get a few days’ advantage for the NEXT writing challenge! Yeah, that’s it. I can be Grinchy sometimes. Ask around.

 

READ the entries by everybody and let me know which ones you like. That could influence the judging. Just sayin’. We’re not giving prizes. The display of your amazing talent is its own reward.

 

GET AFTER IT!

.

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

 

 

MAILING LISTS: Why Authors Need Them, How To Build One (It’s Pretty Simple!)

2012 b2
Your humble host.

We all know there are dozens of things we’re supposed to be doing as authors in addition to writing. We talk about it here all the time.

One of the important items is building a mailing list. That way, YOU are the source for information on your books and not a website or online retailer or agent or anybody else. YOU let fans know when the next book is coming – or anything else you wanna share, and THEY become connected with you and your writing. That’s  a huge asset when it comes time to sell them another book.

Okay, that’s the why part. But how do you do it? And what do you mail to the subscribers?

Today, author and friend of the blog  Al Macy explains how he saw the light and what he did to gain a solid mailing list with an active readership – and shows how you can do it, too.

Here’s my chat with Al.

DAN: How did you come to conclude you needed a mailing list?

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Author Al Macy

AL MACY: Many of the authors on the Kboards forum have stressed the importance of having a mailing list. I wasn’t completely convinced, but I was willing to give it a try.

Right. That’s what I saw. Lots of people say you need a mailing list but they don’t say why – or what you’re supposed to do once you start getting emails. That was me; I accumulated about 500 emails but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do except announce the next book when it was ready. But let’s start at the beginning. How did you get yours started?

I realized that it wasn’t enough just to have something at the end of my book saying “If you liked this book, please sign up for my mailing list.” That may have worked in the past, when lists like this were novel, but now, you have to give the readers more of an incentive to sign up. By giving you their email, they realize they may be opening up the floodgates of ads for marital aids, so you have to make it worth their while.

At that point I only had one fiction book out, Contact Us. I considered giving away a chance to win an Amazon gift certificate or a Kindle as an incentive, but was told that if I did that, subscribers would simple unsubscribe once the contest was over.

Nobody wants that. So what did you do?

I wanted to give away a free book, but since I didn’t have one of my own available, I gave away another author’s book.

Brilliant. Who’s book did you use?

Jay Falconer gave me permission to give away one of his books as an incentive.

Why him? Is his writing similar to yours?

On the Kboards forum, I’d heard that he was looking for other authors to cross promote with. The book of his I chose, Glassford Girl (which was not free at the time) was more paranormal than sci-fi, but I read it and enjoyed it.

Note that I was warned by one Kboarder that offering someone else’s book was a bad idea. The argument was that I the readers might enjoy this other author’s writing more than mine. I figured the advantages of gaining subscribers would outweigh that risk.

By the way, if anyone wants to offer The Antiterrorist to their readers, just let me know!

What kind of contest did you run and who did you run it through?

I just gave everyone who subscribed to my mailing list the link to the free book. This worked well, and I gained an average of one new subscriber per day. Now, remember that I did that as a stop-gap measure. I wanted to offer my own book as a giveaway, and I dropped everything to start work on my short book, The Antiterrorist. I wrote it in two months, which is fast for me. It was 15,000 words, and its sole purpose in life was to be an incentive for newsletters signups.

That’s really a whole second step to the mailing list. Now for The Antiterrorist, you had a cover made or did you make it yourself, or what?

I did it myself. I’m a do-it-yourselfer and I’m frugal. All of NASA’s photos are free (we paid for them, after all), so I downloaded some shots of the International Space Station, the stars, and the earth and put together a simple cover. You can see it here:

 

 00 Al Macy 1 AT

 

 

I’ve recently decided that covers are so important, I should have them designed by experts. I had my cover for Contact Us done by Damonza.com, (and I’ve since revised the cover for Antiterrorist to match that look).

 00 al macy contact us.jpg

 

I’ve found that I although I like (okay, love) the covers I come up with, I can’t really trust my judgment. But that’s a whole other subject.

I suffer from a similar affliction. If I like a cover, it’s a dud. I have to rely on my fans. They’re never wrong.

00 d r rBack to the marketing and free book ideas, note that I also made my non-fiction book, Drive, Ride, Repeat, a permafree book. Everyone who downloaded that book, got an offer to sign up for the mailing list and get a free Antiterrorist.

So, in summary, I got exposure through my permafree book, so many readers would see the mailing list free-book offer.

Any other ideas on how to get more people to see your offer?

Yes. One thing I do, is I have my offer page at the start of the book. That way, any one who uses Amazon’s Look Inside feature or downloads the sample will see my offer. Readers may think they are sneaky and clever to get the offer without buying anything, but that’s fine with me.

So now you have two incentives working for you.

Once The Antiterrorist was complete, I put it up for pre-order on Amazon, with a lead time of ninety days. That way, I could say to my potential subscribers, “This book is not available anywhere, but you can get it for free for signing up.” In other words, don’t think of it as just saving 99 cents, think of it as the only place in the universe that you can get this book.

I take it that was a PDF they would get?

No, I offer it as a mobi (Kindle) file. Once they sign up, the reader gets an email with a link to the mobi and instructions on how to get it to their reader. Sometimes people ask for a PDF or ePub file, and I email it to them.

This shows how my mailing list grew:

 

00 Al Macy mail list growth

Eight months to go to 500 – not bad! Plus, I see a big jump from October to November. What caused that?

I participated in a promotion at FreeKindleGiveaway.com. I paid them $20 to be a sponsor of one of their giveaways. In return, they had a link to my book, and site visitors could enter their contest by signing up for my mailing list. It was a little more complicated than that, but I got 180 new subscribers that way, and they didn’t simply unsubscribe once the contest was over.

That’s an awesome gain for twenty bucks.

By the way, I learned a lot about this newsletter strategy from a book called Reader Magnets.

Awesome. After I got a bunch of emails, I didn’t send them anything. Like, almost never. That’s backwards, right? How often do you send out newsletters?

When I started, I was thinking, “I don’t want to bother these people with a lot of newsletters. I’ll just save the email addresses, and send something out when I have a new book available.” But I learned that would have been a big mistake.

That was totally my mindset. Why is that a mistake?

00 Al Macy 0 author pic srWell, as someone explained to me, if you don’t send out regular emails, your subscribers will forget who you are. Then, when you do send out something, they’ll think, “Oh, there’s some spam!” Click, they’ll delete it. Or worse, they’ll unsubscribe.

I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened to me. (Dammit!) Lesson learned. But you found additional reasons to stay in contact and develop a relationship with your subscribers. Stuff that proved extremely useful.

I hadn’t appreciated my subscribers until I sent an email to them asking for ten beta readers for my newest book, Yesterday’s Thief. The response was overwhelming. Literally! I was overwhelmed, and had to sit down and have a drink. I got over fifty responses.

More than that, their responses showed me that these were people who really enjoyed my books and wanted to read more.

That’s HUGE. That’s exactly what you want as an author.

I got so many responses explaining why I should pick them as a beta reader, that I had to give in and choose twenty-one readers.

The first reader finished the book in only three hours. I wish I could read that fast. One reader read the whole book twice! They all had great ideas and caught some plot holes.

00 Al Macy 0 author pic csThat alone may have been worth the effort of gaining followers. In the past I’ve had beta readers who aren’t that motivated. They might take a month to read my book and have few comments.

With this revelation, I decided I should work harder to come up with fun newsletters.

So, you aren’t like I was, sitting in my house trying to send mass emails. Who do you use to manages that for your newsletter?

Mailchimp. (Apparently there are two main options: Mailchimp and Aweber. I know nothing about the latter, but am very happy with Mailchimp.) As long as you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers it’s free.

We all like free!

Unfortunately, there’s no tech support for a free account, and there’s no support forum that I’ve found.

But it doesn’t take too long to get used to Mailchimp’s interface, and it can be fun to design your newsletters and other emails. I’ve even used Mailchimp to manage my Christmas videos.

I saw those. I was impressed. Nice job.

How would you say a newsletter compares with a blog or Twitter postings?

I’d say they’re variations on a theme. They are all ways to connect with your readers. I found that with my bike trip and my piano sight-reading blogs, I got similar engagement with readers. I have 5,000 followers on Twitter, but I must be missing something because I get almost zero engagement there.

So as my readers venture forth to create their all-important mailing lists, where should they start?

First, one good idea is to sign up for a bunch of newsletters from other authors. That way, you can get some ideas of what people send out.

Second, I have a feeling that newsletters are becoming less effective now that so many people are doing them. It’s rare to go to an author’s web site without being asked to sign up. Many of those requests come in the form of annoying popup windows. People hate those. Don’t use them, please.

I was actually going to have a popup on my blog to ask for an email address. Now I know not to.

Are there downsides to doing a newsletter?

00 Al Macy 0 author pic bIn a way it’s like getting lots of new friends. It takes time to interact with them, and that means less time for writing and other activities.

That’s fun, but it can become time consuming, too, so as always: balance.

So, you like your newsletter subscribers. What’s the most interesting email you’ve received from any of  them.

No contest. When I first got the following email, I thought it was some kind of scam from a non-English speaker.  But it wasn’t, and now it’s my favorite email:

Greetings, Mr. Beach

We here on Bubble One enjoyed reading your Amazon Kindle, but didn’t encounter her in the story, though she would have fit right in, we believe. Please consider adding her in your up-and-comings because she could provide love-interest competition and enhanced flavourableness to reading experiences of beings such as we, who are ideal market force for increased production volume and enhanced status size for you.

We have sent a copy of your excellent otherwise literature to our space-rovering neighbors, who also are lacking in excitement possibilities. We hope you will not be displeased by this undertaking of ours and we will sent you a percentage of saleable recuperations. Please advise in what format you want these. We offer many potentials.

Yours, most sincere beings, also likeable,

Prothus IV, for itself and others on craft which themselves are not advanced totally in Englishableness

.

That’s freaking awesome. Al, I can’t thank you enough for walking us through a difficult topic and making it simple.

To sum up the incentive steps:

  • Al created a giveaway using another author’s book.
  • He made a book of his own, Drive, Ride, Repeat, permafree, and
  • Gave downloaders of Drive, Ride, Repeat an offer to sign up for the mailing list and get a free copy of The Antiterrorist.
  • Told new potential email subscribers they could get The Antiterrorist free for subscribing (it would not be available for 90 days)
  • Participated in a sponsorship/promotion

00 Al Macy 0 author pic yt 

I’ll be working on Al’s suggestions during my down time this holiday season, and so should you! Get creative, like Al did. Don’t have a book of your own to offer? Ask another author if you can use theirs!

Here are Al’s links, and be sure to preorder his latest book, Yesterday’s Thief on Amazon!

Contact Us: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00V73HKOI

The Antiterrorist: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZS51IJE

Yesterday’s Thief: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018UOTOEA

Sign up for Al’s Newsletter  http://pages.suddenlink.net/almacystuff/signupantiterrorist.htm

Al’s Amazon Author page  http://www.amazon.com/Al-Macy/e/B00HS3BO2U

Al’s Facebook page Facebook.com/AlMacyAuthor

Al’s Twitter ID @AlMacyAuthor

Al’s author web site AlMacyAuthor.com

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00 Santa Dan
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Hey, check me out!

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Stop beating yourself up over low blog traffic!

I got featured on Indie Plot Twist! How cool is that?

There are lots of ways to find followers and get a little recognition. Indie Plot Twist is all over Twitter because they have an innovative way of incorporating your post with clickable tweets that send out the highlights of your message.

 

I found the site because one of my author friends posted on it. They mentioned it, so I checked it out and submitted. Now Indie Plot Twist is running my guest post and I’m mentioning it to you.

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There I am!

The site is good for many reasons but posting there couldn’t be easier. They have a button; you use it to contact them. Send your thoughts and they’ll let you know in a pretty fast manner. That’s it. If they like it, they schedule you and ask for some additional stuff, like links.

 

curious-woman
I do need to stay current.

Now, when you see your blog post on their site, you tell the world like I am. They get more readers, you get more readers. Everybody wins.

 

After you read a few posts on their site, you’ll see what they are looking for in content. Subscribe, and you’ll always have the latest tips.

 

It’s a good way to get your name out there, and guess what? There are lots of sites that will let you do a guest blog post.

 

Like this one.

 

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Me? A guest blogger? SURE!

For example, we will be featuring author interviews but we also have our friends of the blog post stuff we all need to know about. Al Macy is doing a few for us about building an email list (how to do it, why you need one) and using Kboards to get input on covers, blurbs, and titles. When his new book comes out in early 2016, we’ll be featuring him in a fun interview. Al gets a little exposure for his books and he becomes a trusted commodity by being a guest blogger here. You learn stuff you need from somebody who just did it. It’s a win-win.

 

That’s what you want, too.

 

So give Indie Plot Twists a shout, and send me an email (use the Contact Me button) to tell me what you’d like to guest post about.

 

Then, when it runs, you tell everybody – giving you an excuse to talk about yourself and your new book, drive traffic to your blog, or whatever!

 

It helps us; it helps you. And not every great idea has to come from me.

.

00 Santa DanREBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.