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

 

Writing Good Dialogs

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Be sure to enter to win a signed copy of Savvy Stories HERE

 

 



 

 

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

I’m told I write good dialogs. (That wasn’t always the case. I used to have baskets full of dialog tags – even flowery ones. I was told those would make baby Jesus cry, so I tried hard to stop – but it was a hard habit to break.)

scared%20mom Yeah, we don’t want that.

It’s easy to write good dialogs, but it takes some practice.

First, I have the conversation. I write down what two people would say, and I write it as fast as I can. It’s half jibberish, too, because I’m a lousy typist.

eevn rough drafts aer hard wrk eevn rough drafts aer hard wrk

Then, I go back and add in the “beats” – the little actions and other stuff that people do during conversations. Because if I try to do it all at the same time, I usually miss something. Like the timing of a conversation, which is most important. In real…

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4 VITAL Things To Know As An Indie Author (The Emotional Rollercoaster, part 2)

Well, maybe that last one...
You ROCK!

 

If you wrote a book and published it, congratulations! You’re a small business owner, and entrepreneur. A budding capitalist.

 

You write your product. That’s cool!

 

Then, you sell your product.

 

So… you’re a salesperson.

 

Ugh.

scared%20mom
Salesperson??? Nooooo!

Most of you NEVER wanted to be salespeople.

 

Your book/books are your business, and you have a small staff of employees. Probably just you. That means you are the boss, but also the manufacturer, the salesperson, the marketer, the accountant… the janitor… Since without sales there really isn’t any business, the most important thing is selling the product (after you have a product).

 

Whether it is a hobby or a part-time job or full-time job, that just means the amount of JOY or PAIN & SUFFERING you go through are magnified. Whether you are selling 1 book a week, 1 book an hour, or 1 book a minute, you probably want that number to go up.

 

Pick a good number of sales for a day, a week, or a month, or a year, and manage your expectations to trends, not little blips. Doesn’t matter what number you pick; some of you are new and some of you have been doing this a while. When I published my first book, it didn’t sell squat for a long time. A loooooooooooooong time.

 

Back then, if I sold a book a day, I was on FIRE! I was king of the world, a marketing genius! Things were going my way! Oprah was sure to call. I started rehearsing my Oprah interview questions and answers. Honest!

 

sk-well
Your writing self image when sales suck.

I don’t care where you are on the sales volume ladder, if you go a few days without making a sale, you will be convinced that you are suddenly a dog. Worthless. Unfit to walk the earth. Nothing is coming your way except more empty Amazon sales reports.

 

By picking a time frame of a week and setting my new-author-self’s expectations to sales over a week, I wasn’t disappointed if I didn’t sell a book that day. I kept doing things every day to sell books, knowing they’d come in. That’s hard when they don’t come in, which is why you track efforts and results, but you want to give yourself enough time to produce a result before stopping an activity.

 

  1. UNDERSTAND: You are the same author on a good sales day as you were on a bad sales day. Your book is still just as good. (This is easy to say but hard to make yourself believe on a bad sales day.)

 

Welcome to the emotional roller coaster that is sales! It will mess with you!

 

Give yourself time to develop that thick skin for this. It’s not easy. I have had a book flying off the shelves. THOUSANDS of copies over a few short days. I was a guru. Talk to me three months later when I hadn’t sold for three days. I was an idiot. Except, I wasn’t. I was just as good as when I was selling big.

 

drunk
Sometimes the brain doesn’t get it, either.

Your brain understands this. Your gut does not.

 

At first, you will question everything when sales dip. Or when your second book doesn’t launch better than your first. Or when book three is a blockbuster and book four sells in piddles.

 

Guess what? Even if every book does better than the prior book, you’ll wonder why they didn’t do even better!

 

You’re a tough boss!

 

When you started, you were planting lots and lots of seeds, not knowing which activities might result in sales. Most seeds come to harvest later on, maybe after you stopped doing the activity.

 

  1. Good salespeople prospect all the time, and try different things. So do good authors. That may be different things for different authors, but consider an “all of the above” strategy until you have the sales volume you want.

 

My friend Jason Matthews constantly re-tweaks his SEO keywords in his books, among other things.

 

Another friend, Kelly Abell, does lots of events and signings and lectures. As in, talks to groups of people who came just to hear her speak.

 

Another friend doesn’t do jack, he just keeps writing books. (He’s the one the rest of us hate.)

 

th
Like on a spread sheet? Ugh.

What you want to do is keep track of what you’re doing so that later on you can have an idea of what worked. That will help. Track results any way you can, so you don’t spend time or money on things that don’t work.

 

  1. Sometimes things fluctuate. Now, if your sales go to zero and stay there for six months, you really need to think about what you’re doing, but if you have an occasional blip, you need to let your emotional side know that it’s going to happen. Look for trends. Don’t freak out over any one little thing.

 

  1. Very rarely do two books sell the same. No two kids are alike, and your books are a lot your kids. They will sell in their own unique way.

 

Don’t get discouraged. Even Stephen King puts out a dud once in a while, but since his marking is so good you would never know it. Maybe if you had the insights on his sales numbers you would see certain books sell a lot better than others. He’s still a great writer.

 

Same with Steven Spielberg movies. Some are great; some are not. He’s still a great talent.

 

And in both cases, certain ones that didn’t do at the box office or with critics, you may have thought were terrific.

 

Don’t let your emotions run thing. Put your emotions in your books but try to keep them out of your book business.

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Dan's pic
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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.

 

DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!! The 6 Things You Need To Do To Be A Successful Author

 

 

If you look at some author groups on Facebook, you hear a lot of complaints: no sales, no reviews, no royalties, marketing is hard…

 

anti_no_crap_yard_signApparently, life sucks for authors.

 

 

DO NOT BUY INTO THIS CRAP!

 

Complaining about book sales is a bitchfest designed to… do what, exactly?

 

COMPLAINER: Is anyone selling books? I hear authors selling one or two every now and then but no one I know is making a killing, or has a best seller!

 

REPLY 1: Not selling as many these days as 2010-2011. I definitely know authors who are doing well. It usually requires writing great books and several of them and sticking with it for years.

 

REPLY 2: No one is going to sell much as long as they continue with Kindle Unlimited.

 

COMPLAINER: My friends say they sell, but what they don’t say, is they buy the books, & give them away. “I say, that’s no sell.” As they don’t make no money, nor royalties on their books.

 

REPLY 3: I have made no money on anything I’ve written or published at all in any format

 

REPLY 4: I published for the first time in January this year and things were going okay until around July when it nose dived. It picked up a bit until this month and now I barely sell one or two a day. I’m hoping that if I self publish my next, which I hope to do early next year, it will kick start sales of my current book.

 

REPLY 5: I have done well but need to put out new books.

 

REPLY 6: My sales have collapsed. The only sales these past few weeks were 6 in Germany, (Amazon de) and as I have to reach 100 Euros before I get paid, I will almost certainly never be paid for those. I assume just too many books out there.

 

REPLY 7: I sold a few here and there until ‘BOOK NAME’ was released in early October. It stood at #1 in SPORTS VENUE best sellers during October and remained in the top 10 so far throughout November, so sales have been brisker.

 

COMPLAINER: A few are selling books, but those authors are going out of their way, to pay promoting companies. Plus traveling to different cities to book signings, & talking about their books to everyone that will listen. Having a box of books in their car, in case someone wants to buy.

 

REPLY 8: marketing has to be done regardless – even if it means door knocking your locl district then moving furture afield. yes cart books in cars – in your handbag what ever where ever, -I used to sell many years back and travelled a long way

 

REPLY 9: Well, I have to admit that I do almost nothing to promote my books. (rueful face)

 

REPLY 10: So very true. It’s a consistent process to build an audience and a following, and requires all of that, and more.

 

REPLY 11: I agree sales have plummeted…wonder what’s happening? Too many books, or too many poor books?

 

REPLY 12: Right now I’m selling more Audio books than ebooks. I’m lucky I have two good narrators and I’m moving all of my books to audio.

 

REPLY 13: I think that audio books are the way to go!

 

REPLY 14: Would you mind sharing names of your narrators please. I would look at all

 

th
I am completely inspired now.

I skipped two replies, because they offered success stories and the other people didn’t seem to read them.

  • One said they had sold 10,000 copies this year so far and was doing well on KOLL, and
  • the other said her friend was doing really well.

 

curious-woman
Why would they do that?

Why did the responders skip the success stories?

 

Because it’s easier to blame other people than to look in the mirror and say “I need to do more.”

 

If life sucks as an author, go do something else. PLENTY of people make money selling books. Two of my friends just got signed with publishers last week. TWO IN THE SAME WEEK. One of my friends is doing so well she just quit her job to write full time. A few of my friends have bestselling books.

 

I don’t know a million people, so what’s happening? Why do I know the success stories and so many other authors don’t?

 

I was a sales manager for Fortune 500 companies for many years, folks, so I know a little about the attitudes of salespeople. What does that have to do with being an author? You’re selling books aren’t you?

 

Well, no, not according to those comments…

 

IF your sales are weak, you have two choices: it’s me, or the stupid buying public.

 

Which means 99.99% of the time, it’s you. Luckily, you can fix what’s wrong!

 

stressed-woman-with-blonde-hair-with-hands-on-head-near-computer
They were just… awful.

I have read LOTS of people’s books. People who WANT to be published. It is a twenty to one ratio of bad to good. And that doesn’t count the 2 or 3 times as many I skip because the opening line sucks or the topic doesn’t appeal to me in some way.

 

I can afford to be fussy! So should you! The buying public is!

 

Look, that doesn’t mean MY opening lines are always amazing, or that every one of my books is a page turner.

 

But they SHOULD BE.

 

You must, must, MUST have a good cover. We’ve talked about this. It’s a mini billboard ad for your book. It MUST make people want to look further – as in, read the blurb.

 

The blurb is not a mini story, it is AD COPY, a small advertisement for your product, the story.

 

The opening lines needs to be interesting. So does the opening paragraph. So does the opening chapter, but an opening chapter has to do a lot of other things, too. Like set up what the book is about.

 

Look, it’s simple if you address it properly. Did you see Schindler’s List or Titanic? We KNOW what happens in BOTH of those stories BEFORE we ever watch ten seconds of film. Titanic sinks. Jews get killed in WWII. There’s your plots.

 

But the stories that get told are amazing, and both became blockbusters.

 

And everybody already knew the stories.

 

Spielberg starts with a candle and a Jewish prayer but quickly gets into watching this wealthy guy get dressed and then go charm a bunch of Nazi officials at dinner. It’s like watching a con artist ply his trade. What’s going on? Who is this guy? LOOK HOW SMART HE IS! He’s conning everybody! I wish I was as charming as that.

 

There’s a whole story going on along with the one we know, but it starts right away and does so in an intriguing manner.

 

What is the ONE piece of advice I’d give any new writer about their story? Take the most interesting thing in the chapter and say it first, in the opening paragraph if possible and in the opening line if you can. Grab my attention somehow.

 

After that, write a good story, keep the story moving, get a decent cover and learn how to write a blurb.

 

THEN you can start to MARKET your book.

 

TO RECAP:6

  1. start with the most interesting thing
  2. write a good story
  3. keep the story moving
  4. good book cover = eye catching
  5. good blurb = makes you wanna click to buy or read more
  6. marketing

 

 

That’s a whopping SIX things you need to do to be successful. I’d be willing to bet that NONE of the complainers are doing all six.

 

Know how I know?

 

I was a sales manager for a long time. I had to work with people I’d trained, but after I trained them on what to do, many didn’t do it.

 

And they weren’t successful because they didn’t.

 

Many, many, many people made more money working for me than they ever did in their entire lives.  Many didn’t do what was necessary and quit or got let go.

 

  • Authors, you have to market. If you don’t, you won’t be successful.
  • You have to write a good book. If you don’t, you won’t be successful.
  • Each of the six building blocks requires the other five, so if one is weak the others can compensate a little but if one doesn’t exist, the entity fails. If one is super strong, that can carry the whole thing. That doesn’t happen often. As in, less than 1 in a million. So you better get good at all six.

 

When you aren’t, your book won’t sell. You can then join the ranks of the complainers who know everything else is at fault except their efforts.

 

But we know the truth.

 

I want you to be successful. Move away from the folks who can’t or won’t do it. The naysayers. The whiners and complainers. You can fail all on your own; you don’t need their input, and odds are they are wasting loads of your time, too.

 

Find the “can do” folks.

 

Thumbs Up

But in the end it’s YOU who has to do it. And we’ll help. Cos complainers have figured out this blog is not the place for them.

 

YOU can do this. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard, either. And it’s not luck.

 

If your writing sucks, join a critique group. Inside of 30 days you’ll see stuff you’re doing wrong, and inside of 90 days you’ll be a better writer. Stay in the critique group. A year later you’ll be amazed at how good you’ve become.

 

If your cover sucks, hire somebody to make one. They don’t have to cost $500. I know artists who have made covers for bestsellers that cost under $50. If you don’t have $50, there are cheaper places, too, and you can LEARN to do it yourself for free – as in, you probably can’t do it on day 1, that stuff will suck. It’ll look homemade. You’ll need to learn it.

 

If your marketing sucks, ask other people what worked. A lot of good marketing doesn’t cost anything, like your Amazon page and a Goodreads page, Twitter, Facebook, etc., but you’d be amazed at how many flailing writers don’t have an Amazon page set up!

 

If you’re a crappy storyteller, think about why you want to be a writer. Read good storytellers. Emulate them the way a kid playing baseball wants to emulate Babe Ruth. Listen to audiobooks. By the way, a LOT of stuff is free at the library so it doesn’t have to cost money. Practice your craft in flash fiction challenges and in critique groups.

 

Get the idea? It’s all fixable.

 

If you put in the effort.

 

And stay the hell away from people who are too lazy to do the necessary work and just want to have you end up down at their level to complain  with so they don’t feel bad about their own lack of effort.

 

You. Can. Do it.

 

I’ll help you.

 

6 Tips to Avoid BLOGGER BURNOUT – the dreaded affliction that kills you before you start AND after you’re a success!

Remember when blogging was fun?
Remember when blogging was fun?

We recently talked about these great blogs I’ve been reading that suddenly disappeared. (I was not directly linked to the disappearance of the bloggers in case you were wondering. No charges have been filed.)

We thought they might have burned out from too much success.

I know, I know: Burn out from too much success? I’m more like to burn out from wasting hours on a blog nobody reads!

Been there.

My blog sucked and I was kinda clueless. (See post: My Blog Sucks And I’m Kinda Clueless HERE)

The disappeared blogs were popular, had large followings – and then POOF, they were gone. We wondered why. After much extensive research, which means a quick internet search, I found out. And as promised, I am sharing my findings to keep you from the same fate.

First, whether you have 2 followers or 10,000, blogging takes time.

Is this you?
I think I’ve had enough

We understand pretty easily why people would quit doing an unsuccessful blog; it’s a little harder to understand why somebody would stop doing the thing that was achieving what they wanted! What’s up with that???

First, it could be money. I don’t know the numbers, but if I had 10,000 followers on a WordPress blog, and somebody said I could earn $1,000 a month if I could get half of them to switch over to a private domains where I could run ads, I’d probably do it. Because that’s $1,000 towards a car payment or the rent or the promotion of books, or whatever. But also I know from experience that $1,000 a month becomes $10,000 a month a heckuva lot easier than $0 becomes $1000.

Finding ways to monetize your writing mean you have taken a big step toward doing it full time, quitting your hated job, unshackling yourself from the life of quiet desperation…

FREEDOM!!!

Yeah. That.
Yeah. That.

Ahem.

Between a blog site that actually pays you to do it, book sales, and freelance writing gigs (remember, Stephen King wrote stuff for Stag magazine for a while there – getting paid to write is getting paid to write), you start to see the pieces of the puzzle coming together to pave your dream. So I am totally on board with that. Most of the people who go that route won’t make it, but that has more to do with business sense than quality of writing, and if they leap too quickly, they starve death before they figure the business side out. (I include a success story as well, so stay tuned.)

But Blogger Burnout was far and away the more likely culprit as to why these popular blogs went bye-bye!

Most bloggers got into blogging for the fun of it. Authors tend to do it as a platform builder, but quickly find that it’s not fun (it’s hard work and takes time away from writing) or it’s LOTS of fun (it’s NOT hard work and it takes time away from writing).

There are only so many hours in the day.

After spending a requisite number of hours building a following, the fun time blogger sees success! Now what?

I actually am loving this! REALLY!
I actually am loving this! REALLY!

They feel pressure to top their best post each week.

Last week I got 100 replies; this week only 30.

WHAT DID I DO WRONG???

They are adding followers by the boatload for a while and then they go a few days or weeks without adding any or, God forbid, they see a decrease.

Noooooo!!!

Ego is a tricky thing, friends.  Seeing the numbers go up, up, up every week for a year is very gratifying.

There are some simple reasons big bloggers walk away.

  1. They bring pressure on themselves to be funnier, wittier, livelier, flirtier, cuter, spunkier – whatever it was that worked – and to reply to each and every of their 150 replies per post with the same vigor and energy that they had when there were only ten replies.

And suddenly it’s not fun.

burned out womanThe ideas aren’t there.

They start dreading doing the thing…

  1. And while we all might be overworked at times at our jobs, a blog usually doesn’t pay its owner anything. It was fun, so when it stops being fun, it has stopped serving its purpose. Ditto if the blogger runs out of ideas.

At that point, if it were a job, we’d look to change jobs. All that means is quitting the non-paying hobby that isn’t fun anymore, or taking time off until it looks fun again.

Blogger Burnout.

I'm just going to lay down here on my keyboard for a minute...
I’m just going to lay down hereon my keyboard for a minute…

It’s the same as any other kind of burnout. When it happens we want time off. Before it happens – as in, before we have the success of 10,000 followers – we think, no, we KNOW –  we’ll manage it better than that unhappy soul who walks away at the top of their game.

BTW, tell that to the many blogs that went belly up in their first year after investing the time and not seeing it get off the ground. They spent the hours and it didn’t work. And if you don’t see a positive result, you become extra motivated to stop and move on to something that does work for you. Usually, the “unsuccessful” bloggers just quit too early in the process, before they figure things out.

  1. But the ones that figure it out and become successful may quit, too – when the negatives outweigh the positives.

06222014 BG 3And there’s one more thing. There’s a community feel to a small blog with a handful or regular followers. It’s fun and it’s a happy place and everybody gets to know each other. Others want to experience that feeling so they join. Next thing you know, your intimate get-together is a full-on rave-style block party and you don’t know any of the faces you’re looking around at. Your friends left hours ago and the cops can’t be far away. And somebody keeps putting cigarettes out on your floor. Who does that? Use an ashtray or an empty beer can, for pete’s sake

When you wake up with a headache – more from being tired than hung over, you know what you want to do. Or, what you don’t want to do.

  1. You miss the fun feel and you don’t like the new entity. You want it to stop.

BLOGGER BURNOUT IS A THING, so here are the tips to avoid it. I found several articles but the one I quote from is the best.

happy-woman-jumping-in-golden-wheat
Not a maxi pad commercial

Here are tips to make your small blog successful and your large blog not a burnout threat, while bringing quality of life thoughts to your overall author experience – which is something we advocate all the time here.

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Lindsey was an elementary teacher who blogged about cooking and one day she and her husband realized she made more money from blogging than she did from teaching, so she became a full time blogger.

“Building a blog is a gradual thing that takes TIME – it’s not an overnight thing and it doesn’t come without putting in many hours of focused work. If you enjoy it, it won’t feel like work and you’ll be able to do more and stick with it – which will eventually lead to growth.

 

“One more thing: try not to stress. Ambition and drive are virtuous in their own right, but so often those lead to comparison and perfectionism, which are joy-stealers (says the ambitious, comparing, perfectionist blogger). I can honestly say that some of my all-time most fun moments as a blogger happened in those first few years when fifty people visiting my site in a day was a big deal and making $20 from ads felt like winning the jackpot, so don’t wish those early days away. Enjoy the process of growth and have fun!” – Lindsey, Pinch Of Yum, “Frequently Asked Questions.” (emphasis added)

Yay, success!
Yay, success!

Yes, she’s the success story I mentioned earlier.

MOST readers will gloss over the part where she says she worked “15 hour days, 7 days a week.” Don’t. That’s important.

“…my constant over-working-ness over these last few years has kept me from really going deep with any of them, plus it has kept me feeling edgy and frazzled and rarely at peace. And I don’t want to live like that.” (LINK to quote)

I don’t list all 15 of her thoughts but I can select and summarize a few that are relevant to our discussion and turn the floor over to her for the rest of you who are interested. Lindsey’s quote are in italics.

  • CHANNEL COMPETITION AND JEALOUSY.

You want to be where other people are. That takes time. View it as a goal and don’t be angry you aren’t there yet. You will be.

  • SET STRICT RULES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMENTS.

“Why should I let a number of likes on something affect my real life happiness? For me, the solution was just to stop looking and checking compulsively.”

  • SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT YOUR BLOG.

A break is a good thing. Take them now and then.

  • SINGLES, NOT HOME RUNS.
Is THIS you, too?
Is THIS you, too?

“It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that every individual thing that you do as a blogger needs to be 200% awesome, absolutely incredible, a knock-it-out-of-the-park home run. And then when you work really hard on something and it’s not really like a home run as much as just, like, a regular post? It can start to feel blah. Depressing.

…it is not realistic to think that all of your creative works are going to be a home runs.

The people I see being successful… are the people who know that some of their work will be home runs and a lot of their work will be singles or doubles. Or maybe even, umm, strike outs.”

  • STICK TO AN ORGANIZATIONAL SYSTEM.

“I put events into the Google calendar as they come up, and… for each day, I define the three main things that I’m trying to get done.”

  • LOG OUT OF EVERYTHING. DO IT NOW.
This might be going a little too far.
This might be going a little too far.

“I would never get a blasted thing done if it weren’t for this little hack: I log out of everything. Like, fully log out erase any pre-saved passwords. I can’t tell you how many times every day I type in http://www.facebook.com only to be reminded that I need to log in in order to creep on my friends’ lives. DANG. But for whatever reason, that one little extra step of logging in is always enough to stop me.

“All bloggers will have to figure out what works for them with email, but I try to limit myself to checking email once a day, and when I check it, I clear it out all the way to the bottom of my inbox.”

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Allllllllmost there.
Alllmost there.

In other words, YOU be in control. I’ve discussed this before, about finding time to write (CLICK HERE), and also when you find time, actually write (CLICK HERE). Some of you respond immediately to every email or Facebook post, any time of day, because you’re always plugged in. I’m the opposite. I usually have that stuff shut down and there are very few apps on my phone so I CAN’T do it anytime anywhere – which makes me stick to my schedule, stay in control, and avoiding burnout.

What is YOUR system to avoid BURNOUT, in your blog or anywhere else? Share your tips!

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selected passages for this post were taken from:

15 WAYS TO AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT

Posted by Lindsey on “Pinch Of Yum” in November 2014 and in the “FAQ” and “About” sections of her site, just a few of the many terrific pages there. Check it out!

http://pinchofyum.com/15-ways-to-avoid-blogger-burnout

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Your humble host.
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.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE with a twist!

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

UPDATE 10/23/2015 at 4:00pm EST: HAIKUS DON’T HAVE TO RHYME.

Oh, this is gonna be GOOD.

And short. So the deadline is SHORTER

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

Haiku Edition

What is a haiku and why do we want to write one?

To stretch some new writer muscles of course! And because it’ll be fun. Probably. Or at least funny. And since we’re all gonna play, it should be a kick.

So first things first: what the heck is a haiku?

The Japanese invented it, according to Wiki, sometime before they got into the automotive and electronics business. It’s a “poem”  (apparently a non-rhyming one) done in a specific pattern of syllables. Don’t ask me why.

Wiki wouldn't lie, would it?
Wiki wouldn’t lie, would it?

17 total syllables in the haiku, done in three lines, 5-7-5 format:

  • five syllables in the first line
  • seven syllables in the second line
  • and five syllables again, in the last line.

Simple, right? And since it’s a poem, it needs to rhyme.

EXAMPLE 1: provided by my friend Allison, who used to teach poetry! I did not know that! She knocked this out in like ten seconds.

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Red wine in my glass

Shimmering under the lights

You get me wasted

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Is that cool or what? Ten seconds!

EXAMPLE 2:

(I gave her a random topic of shoes)

White and blue sneakers

Inappropriate for work

Wear them anyway

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EXAMPLE 3:

(To stump her, I gave her a word that’s hard to rhyme: oranges)

Juicy in segments

Tropical citrus delight

Burns my papercut

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Okay, they can’t all be winners.

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Now, what are we writing this haiku about? Aha, that’s the even more fun part. I don’t know.

You’ll use a random topic generator to decide what your haiku is about.

It should give us some very interesting stuff!

Only click it once!
Only click it once!

.

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CLICK HERE for your random topic.

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Here are THE RULES

  1. Go to the random topic generator, select it one time, and you HAVE to write a haiku about that. No cheating.
  2. Post your haiku on your blog.
  3. Tell your readers what your random topic was so they don’t think you’re having a stroke.
  4. Reference us on your blog, further clarifying to your readers that you are definitely not having a stroke.
  5. Post a link to your haiku in the comments section.
  6. Brag to friends at parties about how versatile a writer you are.
  7. You have 48 hours from when you read this! LIKE the post so I know you read it and that will start the clock, so to speak. There’s not really a clock. Or a deadline, Jenny.
  8. Extra points if you do it drunk

READY?

SET?

GET TO IT!

ARIGATO!

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Your humble host.
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.

What Did #1LineWed Do For Me?

A little while back we talked about social media and some of the hashtags you can use. Today was “one line Wednesday” (#1linewed)

(Okay, we talk about social  media a lot, like HERE, HERE, and HERE also HERE and HERE, and yes these are all different.)

There’s a theme each week and you do whatever the theme is. Today it was “last line of the chapter.” Easy enough. But by posting a dozen or so tweets with the last lines of chapters and tweeting with the #1linewed, you can generate traffic to your Twitter account, your blog, and maybe add a few followers.

That tall bar? That's today!
That tall bar? That’s today!

Here are my results

  • LOTS of Twitter traffic (see the above kickass bar chart)
  • added about 50 or so Twitter followers today
  • a better than average blog traffic day – but that can be because of the tweets or the topic, so several things go into that, below:

    Blog traffic - today is orange
    Blog traffic – today is orange
  • added 10 blog followers in the last 16 hours, so that’s about when I started tweeting (again, several things go into that)
  • a couple of people liked my Facebook author page

Not bad, and I wanted to let you know!