Saturday, January 31, 2015

Call for Open Submissions: Women in Practical Armor

With the ever-increasing scrutiny the fantasy and gaming genres are receiving regarding gendered roles and its treatment of women, the time is right for a series of anthologies that celebrates the empowered woman in the fantasy universe. She is no longer just the love interest, just the damsel in distress, or just the prize. She is strong, independent, and she knows that the armor depicted in video games wouldn’t stop anything but traffic.

It’s true that the kind of female warrior who would be on the front lines in practical armor, without hiding or apologizing for her gender, has little historical precedent in the medieval societies on which much fantasy is based, but fantasy doesn’t need to have its basis in real world European history.

Evil Girlfriend Media is committed to breaking stereotypes and pushing the boundaries of speculative fiction. We encourage you to use this opportunity to do just that. Your secondary world can be based on some other culture or created out of whole cloth. It can be your proprietary universe in which you have set other works. We ask only that the protagonist be a female character who is already empowered. There are plenty of works out there about women who are struggling for acceptance or to build their self-identity. In this anthology, we would like to focus on the kinds of challenges that empowered, powerful, seasoned warriors would face.

The anthology is open to all writers regardless of gender, this is not an exclusively female-author anthology.

We are accepting new works for consideration, and reprints if the rights are currently unencumbered. We are able to offer an advance of 6 cents per word up to 5,000 words for original fiction, and 1 cent per word for reprints, along with one author’s copy (of each available format) per contributor and an author discount on additional copies. Advances will be payable upon publication. Due to budget constraints, we will not be able to offer additional compensation for original stories that check in above 5,000 words. 2,000-5,000 is our ideal range.

Before submitting, please be aware the anthology is contingent on funding from a Kickstarter project. The first month of publication all royalties will be donated to a PTSD charity of Evil Girlfriend Media’s choice that focuses on providing services for all individuals regardless of sex, gender, race, age, sexual preference, or disability.

For more info and the specific guidelines, visit

Friday, January 30, 2015

Top Shelf Products -- Congressman John Lewis Recruits Another Generation to MARCH with New Graphic Novel

The much-anticipated MARCH: BOOK TWO is now in stores!

“With March, Congressman John Lewis takes us behind the scenes of some of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. In graphic novel form, his first-hand account makes these historic events both accessible and relevant to an entire new generation of Americans.” — LEVAR BURTON

"Essential reading... March is a moving and important achievement." — USA Today

"Riveting." — O, The Oprah Magazine

An astonishingly accomplished graphic memoir." — NPR

"Visually stunning… This insider’s view of the civil rights movement should be required reading for young and old; not to be missed."— School Library Journal (starred review)

John Lewis has been many things in his career: a civil rights activist, a featured speaker at the March on Washington, a leader of the "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma, a respected member of Congress, a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, and a worldwide symbol of the power of nonviolent protest.

With his latest project, he's added "#1 bestselling author," as his multi-part graphic novel autobiography, March, has become a smash success. Today, the long-awaited March Book Two reaches store shelves, poised to be even bigger than its predecessor — and perhaps even more relevant to this day and age. With March: Book Two, Congressman Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell give us a first-hand experience of milestone events that transformed the nation, including the 1961 Freedom Rides and the 1963 March on Washington.

At a time when, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the majority of states earn a D or F grade in teaching the Civil Rights Movement to their young people, March has quickly become a key resource for schools, libraries, activists, and the general reader. It’s been adopted in classrooms nationwide, spent 40 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, and even become the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. What's more, three major universities have planned their freshman orientations around March, compelling 15,000 students nationwide to read and discuss it in a single month.

Why a graphic novel? Because John Lewis remembers the impact that a 1957 comic book "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story" had on him and his whole generation, inspiring them to take up nonviolence and join the civil rights movement. Now he's having the same impact on young people today.

As America continues to grapple with issues of race and the legacy of the civil rights movement, March offers an unforgettable success story and a way forward — one that's already been embraced by countless readers who are looking for hope today.

Congressman John Lewis is an international icon, and his story is now more essential than ever. See why this project has become such a phenomenon — join the March!
Top Shelf Products    

Your friend thru comics,

Chris Staros
Top Shelf Productions
PO Box 1282
Marietta GA 30061-1282

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My View, Your View, Their View, and Our View -- Writers on POV

This week we're going to talk about point of view. I've heard from several writers and publishers that they have very adamant views of POV in stories, and well, now let's just see how adamant those are. This promises to be fun.

In which, if any, point of view do you prefer to write? Why?

Walter Bosley: Third person. My stories aren't about "me", meaning I prefer to be an 'observer' of the characters' behavior and actions, prefer to let them act out their story.

Richard Lee Byers: I like first person because it comes easily to me, and that makes the writing more pleasant. I also like it because the way the viewpoint character tells the story does a great deal to enhance his characterization.

I.A. Watson: As a regular writer of Sherlock Holmes stories that are told in the first person by John Watson I'm accustomed to crafting some narratives from a single perspective.It is a challenging discipline.

For that reason I also appreciate the opportunity to rove about in other stories, focussing the literary equivalent of the camera inside different heads as different scenes allow it. Unless there's a good reason, I like to have at least two point of view characters in a long story, so provide some variety of interpretation.

Sometimes, and especially with freewheeling action/adventure stories, I like to use a neutral observer-mode as a baseline and then dip down into different characters as the action turns on them. It's the literary equivalent of the hand-held camera getting inside the fight scene.

Ron Fortier: Very few writers are really good at writing in 1st Person.  It requires play acting and being that characters throughout the story.  Doyle did well as he was Watson and Mickey Spillane could imagine himself being Mike Hammer.

I’ve written in both 1st and 3rd and much prefer 3rd, in which I can be the objective storyteller, allowing me to narrate what his happening all the time.

Robert Krog: I choose third person most of the time, largely because most of the great works I love to read are written in third person. I find third person limited to be best for short stories, and I have written mostly short stories. I have no trouble with first person and one my fastest written, tightest stories was in first. In my longer works, as yet unpublished, I have used third person omniscient and found it quite enjoyable In short fiction, I prefer, generally, to keep to limited.

Lisa Matthews Collins: I like to write in first person POV when I am doing a first draft. It puts me, personally, into what my character is experience and it helps me get the five senses into the prose.

Lee Houston Jr.: It depends on what I am working on. Hugh Monn, Private Detective is first person, while my superhero work, the Alpha series is in third. I do feel that first person gives the reader a greater sense of being "closer" to the story, but not everything works in that voice.

Rebekah McAuliffe: Frankly, it depends on what I'm writing. I prefer to write in first person, but if I need to write in third person, I will. Some genres are just better from a certain point of view.

Ellie Raine: 1st person POV is always the most fun for me. Not that the other POVs aren't fun, 1st just has that in-depth, close up look on not just what the character is thinking, but also on how they feel based on their own, unique dialect or inner voice, as well as their particular outlook on life.

3rd person sort of gets into that, but not as much as 1st. The only disadvantage a lot of people have with 1st is its limitation to one character. But I personally like the few books that swap POVs throughout the story. With me, it's always about a new perspective, and 1st person gives me that the most.

R.J. Sullivan: I prefer to write in first person but not every story lends itself to it. I like it because it seems to remove al barriers between yourself and the protagonist and lets you get under their skin.

H. David Blalock: I almost exclusively write in third person because of the genres in which I write. Horror and fantasy are more easily digested by the reader if there is a disconnect between them and the events in the story. It also gives the reader the chance to say "I wouldn't have done that" or "why don't they just..." and therefore they become more involved in the story itself.

Jilly Paddock: I prefer to work in first person, sometimes using short sections in third to frame the central narrative. I mostly stick to one character, but my forthcoming space opera has six first person POVs.

Percival Constantine: I prefer third-person omniscient because I'm lazy and it lets me jump around to different characters.

In which, if any, point of views to you prefer to avoid writing? Why?

Walter Bosley: I like to avoid first person for the reasons above. However, a first person narrative relating that character's third person POV on a story is something I'll be doing some time this year. But I essentially prefer third person because I think anything else can be distracting if overdone or done poorly. The reading experience is supposed to be about the reader, not the narrator. The reader should be the fly on the wall or the third person. I prefer to be invisible as a writer, my words should be a bigger presence than me.

Richard Lee Byers: I don’t remember ever turning in a story in second person. The plots I come up don’t require it, and when I’ve tried to use it, the story came across as awkward and gimmicky.

I also don’t use third person omniscient. I think it can distance the reader from the characters in a way that doesn’t make my stuff better, and I also think there’s the potential to confuse the reader as the viewpoint skips rapidly from head to head.

If I want to plug into the inner life of more than one character, I prefer third person limited multiple, where through the course of a novel the reader gets inside the heads of various people, but he’s only privy to the thoughts of one for the duration of a scene.

I.A. Watson: I don't avoid any particular point of view, but I am careful sometimes.

For mystery writing, I need to be clear when I'm being an omniscient neutral voice describing with infallible detail and interpretations, and when I'm offering one of the cast's perceptions. It's very important for play-fair whodunnits.

Consider the difference between, "Mike tugged at his collar nervously as Jack spoke" and "Mike seemed nervous. He tugged at his collar as Jack spoke." and "Mike tugged at his collar. As Jack spoke, he thought Mike seemed nervous." There's no right or wrong of it, each each version offers a different flavour. The first version is me, the author, telling you that Mike WAS nervous. The second is me telling you what you might have thought if you'd been there. Maybe Mike was nervous. Conversely, Mike might have been poisoned, about to drop dead in two pages' time. The third is me telling you what Jack thought he saw, which might have been absolutely wrong. Maybe Jack thought Mike was the killer, and was terrified of him? Maybe Mike is a paranoid. Maybe Jack really fancied Mike.

Ron Fortier: Okay, so I’ve stated what I prefer.  1st person limits you, as you can only tell the reader what one person is seeing.  If action is taking place some place where your narrator is not present, then he or she cannot relate that in the tale …unless they do so second hand from another character.  I find this terribly bothersome and often times annoying to have to listen to Character A sit down and listen to Character B go on and on and on about something they did.  In 3rd person I could have easily shown what they experienced in a lot fewer words.  Good writing is show ... don’t tell.

Robert Krog: I'm probably not at all unusual in that I prefer to avoid second person. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and "Which Way" books when I was young, because I did. However, second person is cumbersome in certain ways and feels forced.

I have written one story in second person, on request of a publisher, and it did get published in a little volume titled, You Don't Say: Stories in the Second Person. I didn't find the experience unrewarding, but I still prefer third.

Lisa Matthews Collins: An example of POV that I have to work really hard at, and therefore avoid is the Close Third Person like the Harry Potter series. Readers are not inside Harry’s head and can only see or hear the action within Harry’s proximity. It is a POV that you have to be really tight with but as with JK’s success you can see it can enchant readers if done correctly.

Lee Houston Jr.: What I try to avoid is the "omnipresent" narrator who knows absolutely everything and never gives the reader a chance to enjoy the tale.

Rebekah McAuliffe: SECOND PERSON. Not now. Not ever. Just... no. It reminds me too much of fanfiction. Not that there's anything wrong with fanfiction; I love it, and it's where I got my start as a writer. But there are some habits that just need to be shed when moving from fanfiction to other forms of writing, and second person is one of them. Unless it's a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of book; in that case go for it. Again, some genres are just better when written from a certain point of view.

R.J. Sullivan: Second person, which is fine, because of its limited commercial appeal anyway.

H. David Blalock: I never write in the second person because I fail to see how that can involve the reader effectively in the genre. It removes the feeling of suspense - will the character survive, stay sane, healthy? Of course they will, because the character is you.

Mark Bousquet: I continually try to change up the POV. If I've written a few stories in third, I'll switch over to first. I actually enjoy writing in first person the most even though I use third person more, because I like narrators with personality and it's easier for me to play with personalities in first person. I'll say this, though - all of my ongoing series are in 3rd person, and I use first person more in short stories, especially if I have a character with a deteriorating mental condition. I really enjoy putting "mistakes" into print with first person narration that ends up being revealed as important later on.

Van Allen Plexico: First person POV has advantages and limitations. The chief advantage is forcing the reader to become complicit in whatever the protagonist is up to. The main disadvantage is you can no longer switch to scenes of other characters without the protagonist being there-- no "now let's see what the villains are up to" moments.

Beyond that, there's the question of "what KIND of third person POV?" Limited? Omniscient? Jump around? Jump around when -- chapters? Sections? And so on.

Jilly Paddock: Second person is difficult to do, but I have read two novels that use it so well that I was several pages into the first before I really noticed - Halting State and Rule 34 by Charles Stross.

Percival Constantine: Second person. I tried it with my second book as an experiment and I will never do it again. It was really difficult to keep straight.

How do you choose the POV for a story? Does it happen organically, or is it something you put a lot of thought into before you begin? Or perhaps it's something assigned by your publisher?

Walter Bosley: I simply write in third person, no choice to make.

Richard Lee Byers: I know I can’t use first person if I want multiple points of view. Some plots require more than one, so in those cases, my decision is made for me.

If the plot doesn’t require multiple points of view, I generally have an intuitive sense of whether I want to go first or third. If I analyzed things, I would probably come up with the underlying reason for my choice.

If I’m working with one of my series characters, like my fencing master Selden, I automatically continue as I began. His first adventure was told in the first person, and so were all the ones that came after.

There’s no doubt that certain editors have preferences as to point of view. I’ve heard it from some of them directly. Certain genres lean one way or another, too. Reflecting its connection to the private eye novel, urban fantasy often uses first person. Reflecting the legacy of Tolkien, epic fantasy often relies on third person multiple.

I.A. Watson: When one is writing in the style of some other author, as with Sherlock Holmes tales, or with revivals of pulp characters like airman detective Richard Knight, occultist Semi-Dual, or African adventurer Armless O'Neil, the one feels obliged to follow the choices that they made.

Otherwise, the story dictates the viewpoint. "Discovery" type tales that introduce new casts or situations work well with a newcomer character who acts as the reader's avatar. Spectacular fight scenes can be helpfully grounded by showing them through the perceptions of a bystander. Emotional confrontations sometimes require getting into the head of one of the protagonists. Sometimes it's even appropriate to leap between two perspectives.

That said, much of the "plan" doesn't survive the first draft. It's art not science.

Ron Fortier: Again, I’ve done very little writing in 1st person.  On one occasion it was an editorial requirement, on the other, it actually ended up being the best way to tell the story.  A rare occurrence for me.  But in the end, I hopefully managed to pull it off.

Robert Krog: Point of view happens very naturally for me. Unless a publisher asks for a particular point of view, it simply develops along with the characters and conflict from which flow the plot. I don't think I have ever begun work on a story consciously asking myself the question, "In which point of view shall this story best be told?"

Lisa Matthews Collins: Most of my stories are character driven. Everything else in the story is there to showcase the person or the event the main protagonist is dealing with, so I lean toward First Person POV. I do write Third Person but usually it is something a publisher says is required.

Lee Houston Jr.: It's the needs of the story more than anything else. If you're working on somebody else's material, you can't go against what has already been established. Mysteries could go either way, but the "classic" voice for private detectives like Hugh is definitely first person. You follow the investigator around and solve the case with them, although it is tough sometimes having them do all the descriptive narration, and you have to remember to always keep the narrator in character. Novels like the Alpha series just wouldn't work in first person though, because there are other things going on at any given moment that you don't want the lead character(s) to know about at the time.

Rebekah McAuliffe: I choose the point of view right before I start writing. I would say that yeah, it is kind of organic. When I wrote Gears, I always knew I'd write it in first person. I'll have this idea in my head about where I should go, and if it looks good, I stick to it. If it doesn't, I come up with something new. But again, it all depends on what kind of writing I'm doing.

R.J. Sullivan: I give the story arc a lot of thought to decide if 1st or deep third are what's needed. If I have a lot of cutaways to other characters, then I go with deep third. If it seems like I can tell the entire story in one perspective, I go with first.

H. David Blalock: Choice of POV for me is easy. I write what the story requires, and I know that going in. First person POV is something I use sparingly and then only when there is no reasonable way to do it otherwise.

Logan Masterson: I pick the POV pretty carefully. I consider the tone and theme (as I understand them so far), as well as the characters and plot.

A lot of horror works well in first person. I prefer third for most fantasy.

Van Allen Plexico: For me, first person stories essentially become travelogues, where you follow one character from beginning to end along his or her journey. So I reserve that approach for larger than life characters such as Lucian, Baranak and Karilyne (some of my protagonists who are gods).

Percival Constantine: It just happens organically. With the exception of my first and second books, everything I've written since has been third person. That just feels the most comfortable for me.

Tamara Lowery: Currently I write 3rd person omniscient, although my editor tries her damnedest to make me stick to ONE character's POV per chapter/scene. I struggle with that horribly, because I HEAR what they're thinking. Instead I have to WATCH what they're doing and let that relay their underlying thoughts. My main exception/argument to the restriction is when characters communicate telepathically.

Mark Bousquet: Tamara brings up a great point about knowing your editor. When I write for Pro Se, I've learned what Tommy likes and doesn't like, so I dump all experimentation and go straight forward, simple, lean, and focused. I spend more time on the action scenes and less time on the dialogue (and my preference is the opposite of that). I even do my best to gut parentheticals because I know he feels they unnecessarily hinder the narrative flow. I've really learned to like that back and forth with editors.

Any advice for new or beginning writers who are struggling with POV?

Walter Bosley: All this talk about how I prefer third person and yet I've written two first person novels! My second gothic adventure novel is in first person as is my time travel novel. I recommend any aspiring author give it a go. It's an excellent exercise in learning about your storytelling voice. It can make it easier for a new writer to get through a novel, actually.

Also, don't struggle with POV. Just start telling your story however it feels most natural. When you're actually writing something that is meant to be written down, something that works, there will be no struggle. Not with POV or anything else. Let the story dictate to you what POV you write in. Learn to let yourself gravitate to the story that is telling itself without any difficulty and the POV will come naturally.

Writing requires ego. You are doing something that is spectacularly bold: committing to words and pages your creation that you have deemed worth reading in spite of the odds that possibly no one -- especially other writers -- is going to pay any mind to, least of all read, possibly. In spite of that, you still do it. If you can embrace that, POV isn't an issue.

Richard Lee Byers: Except for omniscient passages where the author has stepped away from all his characters to expound on this or that (not always a great idea, in my opinion), point of view means that, even if you aren’t using first person, the narrative at any given moment is filtered through a certain character’s perspective. Relate what he perceives and don’t relate what he doesn’t. In first person, narrate in his voice. Even in third person, consider tweaking the language to reflect the kind of person that he is.

I.A. Watson: Consider the following:

  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with an omniscient narrator. Sometimes that is just the best way to move things on.
  • Character points of view are filters, so the story gets interpreted as it is told. We're watching the character watching the story. So sometimes a "straight" narrative can be drafted first and then a second overlay adds the perspective.
  • Reading the work out loud is remarkably effective for identifying point of view issues. Don't be afraid to do the voices.
  • If one point of view isn't working it might be because you know deep down that it's the wrong choice. Try something else.

Ron Fortier: As an editor, I do prefer 3rd person submission. But I have accepted good quality work done in 1st person.  What I will NEVER accept or condone, is any writer who actually goes from 1st and 3rd person in the same story. There is no way such a mash up ever works and ultimately it simply confuses your readers. Stick to one or the other.

Lisa Matthews Collins: I define POV this way: The view from where the reader experiences the story.

Use scene breaks whenever you move from one person to another, or change the time or place of the action. Breaks allow your reader to mentally shift, expecting a variation in the story.  Without a break the reader will stumble and they will lose the illusion of the story.

Always establish the main point of view (POV) as early in the first paragraph of a chapter as possible.  This is done by various external/internal dialogue or action.  Usually the reader will assume that the first person that speaks in a paragraph of a new chapter is the main POV.

All of the words in your story/novel need to go through the POV test. If your POV character cannot see, hear, taste, touch, smell, or feel the action check your POV, because something is off.

If you are having trouble with the concept of POV try writing from the 1st person perspective. Put yourself in the action.  What do you see, hear, taste, touch, smell, or feel?  At each point that you add action to the scene can you, personally, be involved in the action?  If not then who has the POV?  Rewrite the scene until you keep the POV all to yourself.  Once you get the 1st person POV down you will more clearly see how to keep the POV clean in your 3rd person work.

Lee Houston Jr.: Overall, first person is easier, because it is one of your characters narrating instead of a neutral third party. While you need to be able to create/use both, your early works can be in first to make it a little easier getting a feel for both characterization and narration.

Rebekah McAuliffe: Stay consistent! Even if you're writing a story where the point of view shifts from character to character, stay consistent!

R.J. Sullivan: POV no matter what "person" is a tricky thing for new writers, I think first person is the best for a new writer because the traps are less obvious but the traps are everywhere. Find trusted beta readers tuned in to POV and be open to their advice.

H. David Blalock: If you as a writer are having trouble with the POV then you aren't using the right one. Try another. And above all remember that the third person and omniscient POVs are not the same. Learn the difference. It can impact the success of your writing and the satisfaction of the reader.

Logan Masterson: The most important thing is consistency. If you're going to change POV, you have to do it with care. Make sure all the transitions are handled the same way, or using similar indicators, even in Third Person Omniscient. If there are only a few changes, be obvious and pointed, make the transition part of the drama. This is probably even more important if there's only one major POV shift.

Van Allen Plexico: One important note about 1st person: try to spend as much time as possible describing the surroundings and the other characters, so you're not constantly saying "I did this; I did that."

And read Zelazny's AMBER novels. He showed how to do it right.

Percival Constantine: Read other books. Especially if you're used to writing in one style and are experimenting with a new one, then study books in that new style.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nuggets #36 -- Demanding Excellence

With the prices charged for both indie and best-seller trade 
paperbacks and e-books, readers demand excellence of us 
as writers, and we should live up to those demands.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Shaft"ed -- Getting to Know Scott McCullar

Scott McCullar (or Shaft to some of his closest friends) has been one of my best friends for years, even years before we launched Shooting Star Comics, LLC together with some other creative types. He's not only a great artist but an A+ story teller too.  And that's why you need to meet him.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I’ve been meticulously cleaning up all of my body of work that I produced a decade ago of my THRILL SEEKER COMICS series that was published by Shooting Star Comics. I’ve got just a few more final touches on putting together a 128-page archive edition to put out remastered in full color.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I touch on noir pulp fiction-like stories and push my characters onto the road to redemption and understanding.

What would be your dream project?

I used to say that it would be a long run writing GREEN ARROW for DC Comics. I’d still jump at that opportunity, but for now, I want to kickstart my own independent creator-own series and have it be sustainably published as an ongoing series of projects.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I would have liked to have done a few things differently in helping operate Shooting Star Comics, LLC to have kept it sustainable as a publishing company with my pals.

What inspires you to write?

The love of telling stories and entertaining… now while making income with writing and drawing.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

The writers that most influenced me in comics are comic book writers Denny O’Neil, Chuck Dixon, Mike Grell, Kazuo Koike, and James Robinson. I’ve also really enjoyed the storytelling of Matt Fraction. As for other writers, I’m a fan of Elmore Leonard and Ian Fleming. I’ve also enjoyed the classics from Wells, Dickens, Poe, Hammett, etc. I will also that film and the screen writing of Quentin Tarantino and Akira Kurosawa have also influenced me.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

A little of both.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I’m about to release THRILL SEEKER COMICS ARCHIVE COLLECTION – VOLUME ONE later this year. You can visit my website at for more info. In the meantime, I do have a SAMPLER available with three stories from the Archive available for sale on my website.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #310 -- Musing Holmes

Now that Sherlock Holmes is officially in the public domain, 
do you have any plans for using him in your work?

The short answer is no. As much as I enjoy the original stories and the new movie and TV projects based on revitalizing or modernizing Holmes and Watson, I just don't have it in me personally to add to the wealth of non-original material featuring them.

Could that change at some point? Of course.

In fact, somewhere, way in the back of my mind is a comic book concept that deals with Mycroft, and I wouldn't mind brief "Easter eggs" that connect some of my work to some of the peripheral characters in the Doyle stories.

But for the time being, I have no plans to do any original Holmes work myself. For me, Holmes stories work best in the voice of A.C. Doyle, and most of the contemporary work tends to fall short because of that single issue alone.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lady Action Spy Thriller Announced

Book to debut at San Diego Comic-Con

New York, N.Y. (January 19, 2015) - Airship 27 Productions, a premier publisher in the New Pulp movement, and Captain Action Enterprises, licensrs of the popular Captain Action line, have joined forces again to announce the first-ever Lady Action spy paperback, to be released July 2015.

This spy thriller features Lady Action in her first full-length prose adventure. The British Bombshell has previously appeared in Captain Action comics, her own comics and one short story. Recently, Lady Action thrilled fans with a collector’s doll from Tonner and a 1/6 scale action figure from Go Hero/Executive Replica.

Ron Fortier, a thirty-seven year veteran comics and fantasy writer and now New Pulp Fiction author and publisher, will be penning this adventure. “I’ve always enjoyed writing strong female characters from Dracula’s Daughter to my four leads in alternate world pulp thriller, The Boston Bombers.  Having the chance to tell the first Lady Action prose adventure was a marvelous opportunity too good to pass up.  I’m hoping fans of Emma Peel and the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. are going to feel right at home with what we have planned for Ms. Sinclair.”  Fortier also created the first female sidekick for the Green Hornet, Mishi Kato.

Captain Action is based on the action figure created in 1966, but Lady Action debuted in comics more recently as a heroine in her own right.  “Overwhelming fan response at comic conventions have encouraged us to develop the character further,” said Joe Ahearn of Captain Action Enterprises. “She’s also a big part of the upcoming animated series.”

Although a cover artist has yet to be selected, but Rob Davis will be designing the paperback. “Some of my greatest creative successes since I became a professional artist have involved female characters from SCIMIDAR with R.A. Jones, ROBYN OF SHERWOOD with Paul Storrie and DAUGHTER OF DRACULA with Ron Fortier. I’m proud to be able to add LADY ACTION to that list of characters and look forward excitedly to bringing the book to visual life. “

Airship 27 will be publishing this thriller, evoking the old spy paperbacks, with a scheduled debut at San Diego Comic-Con, comic shops, bookstores and online in July 2015.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

[Link] Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing

by Ginny Wiehardt

Even more than writing in other genres, mystery writing tends to follow standard rules. This is because readers of mysteries seek a particular experience: they want the intellectual challenge of solving the crime before the detective does, and the pleasure of knowing that everything will come together in the end. Of course, the best way of testing the mystery writing rules that follow is to read widely in the genre. See how others use them or how and when they get away with breaking them.

1.  In mystery writing, plot is everything.

Because readers are playing a kind of game when they read a detective novel, plot has to come first, above everything else. Make sure each plot point is plausible, and keep the action moving. Don't get bogged down in back story or go off on tangents.

Read the full article:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Something to Say -- Writers on Theme

You can't tell any kind of a story without having some kind of a theme, something to say between the lines. -- Robert Wise

Obviously we're talking about theme this week. So let's get to it.

Looking over your body of work, does a cohesive theme seem to be present in it? If so what is it?

Stephanie Osborn: I don't know that there is a cohesive theme in my work. I don't set out to put a message in, but to write a good story. There are some books/series that do have loose overarching themes, but in general I guess my thought is that "There is always more going on than meets the eye," or, said a different way, "Things always work out the way they're supposed to."

Rebekah McAuliffe: As I've been looking back at Gears, and even now while I'm writing ALPHA, there's always been this theme of acceptance and sticking up for "the least of these," no matter the cost. This issue is very close to my heart, not only as a woman of faith ("Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do for me"), but as someone who has witnessed poverty, and the hardships that many people go through, and the crap that they get from other groups of people.

Logan Masterson: I consider theme to be pretty damned important, and I pay it a lot of mind. Sometimes, when I begin a new story, I'm not sure quite what the theme will be. More often, it makes itself known early on in the process. My favorite themes are all very human. Justice, freedom, love, despair. And I do tend toward the darker side of things.

Percival Constantine: I don't think there's really a cohesive theme in my entire body of work. Redemption seems to occur a bit, though. So does escaping the past.

Bill Craig: Sometimes the stories determine the theme, sometimes the theme emerges with the writing of the story.

H. David Blalock: My last series (The Angelkiller Triad) appears to have been the most blatant example, although I can now see it through much of my past work as well. I have to admit, then, there is a great deal of truth in the adage that a writer puts him or herself in their work, whether by attitude or inference. I would like to think that stubbornness and courage my characters show in the face of adversity is a reflection of my own worldview even if I would doubt my own courage in their circumstances.

Rose Streif: The most obvious theme is that of being an outsider, often in a hostile world.  The outsider status is often bestowed by birth or by fate, and it is up to that character (or those characters) to survive when their very existence unnerves or even causes a violent reaction in those around them. It is also up to them to (somewhat paraphrasing Nietzsche) not become monsters themselves, however monstrous they may feel, or however monstrous the world perceives them to be.

Desmond Reddick: There are a few that crop up. Coping with legacy is a big one, and so is kicking against the pricks, usually apocalyptic circumstances in that aspect. 

Do you write with a theme in mind, or do you just have a worldview that writes itself into your work through you? Or do work hard to keep anything that "meta" out of your work? How so?

Stephanie Osborn: I'm a licensed Christian minister, so I do have a worldview that I try to ensure that the good guys don't violate, or at least realize as a mistake when they do. Bad guys by definition are gonna violate that, and I'm not going to pull punches in my writing to soft-pedal that. Drama is all about conflict, and the conflict between good and evil is about is dramatic as it gets. But the story always comes first.

Of all the books, I think my Displaced Detective series comes closest to "writing with a theme in mind," but that theme is one of parallelism. The books come from the concept of multiple universes, and if I am actively writing about these alternate realities, as I did in the first 4 books in the series, I keep in mind that concept of parallelism -- as for instance Skye Chadwick is her universe's Sherlock Holmes, etc.

Rebekah McAuliffe: Sometimes I may start with a theme, but then as I write the story, the theme will shift on its own. For instance, Gears of Golgotha was originally meant to be a commentary on the science vs. religion debate (get it? science (Chemists) and religion (Mages?)). That was even where the name came from: Gears for science, Golgotha for religion. But then as I kept writing, it evolved into something greater.

Logan Masterson: Themes can become too heavy, but I find that focusing on the characters and plot when actually laying down the words keeps me from getting preachy. I hope that's true, anyway.

Percival Constantine: I don't write with a theme in mind. I focus on the characters and the story and through that, a theme will kind of develop by the time I'm done with the first draft.

Bill Craig: I deal with certain themes in different series because I seem them as real world problems that need to be kept in front of the public eye, human trafficking being one. I dealt with it in the Jack Riley title the Child Stealers, dealt with it again in Decker P.I. A cold and Lonely Death, And in Marlow: Mango Run, and touched on it slightly in Chandler: Circle City Shakedown.
H. David Blalock: Looking back at my work over the years, there does seem to be something of a theme. I would call it "Resist the inevitable". Refuse to give in, no matter the odds. Stand up for yourself and others even when it seems futile. I can't say I've used this theme deliberately. It does seem, however, to be the driving force.

Rose Streif: I do write with themes in the back of my mind, and inevitably my worldview and interests are going to color what I write.  I try to blend them in as seamlessly as possible, and I try to be understanding when people just don't "get it".  Sometimes subtlety works against you, and you always run the risk of running into that person who is so wrapped up in their own worldview that they can't possibly see yours, even when they think they do.

John Morgan Neal: I don't have a conscious theme. Mostly my stuff is born from the stuff 12-year-old John Neal really liked and wanted to see more of. 

Desmond Reddick: No, absolutely not. The themes are common, but they spring up on their own. 

When writing, have you ever had so strong a sense of theme occur in the work that you felt it overpowered the story? How did you remedy that?

Stephanie Osborn: No, never have had that happen. Like I said, the Displaced Detective series has the strongest ongoing theme of any of my books, and I think the parallelism theme only makes the whole thing stronger, personally. I think that you have to be so involved with theme that you become fixated on it, for it to become overpowering of the story. And if that's the case, you need to back off and lay down the theme and gain some fresh perspective before you try to write on it again.

Rebekah McAuliffe: The original ending to Gears. I'll admit, that first ending was complete s**t. I edited it, and the new rereleased version will have the new and improved ending.

Logan L. Masterson: As an author of genre fiction, I never want theme to be the focus of the readers' experience. I want them wrapped up in thrilling events and captivating people. A good theme is like air, ephemeral and ubiquitous.

Percival Constantine: Yeah, but it wasn't when I was writing the story, it was after I had finished it. Years after, in fact, I felt that I was far too heavy-handed with the theme of my first book. After that, I decided I'd focus more on the story and the characters and worry less about the theme in future works.

Rose Streif: I maintain an awareness at all times, and I try not to let the theme take over the story, to preach and pander, because that yanks the reader out of the flow of things and puts them at the mercy of a person on a soapbox.  We get enough of that in real life.  In any case, if you want to get a point across, it's best to put the reader in the shoes of a sympathetic character and show them by example what it is to live that character's life.

Desmond Reddick: That's interesting. No. But I'm not sure how I would resolve that situation. If I felt it was getting "preachy" (ie: a lesson versus a theme) I'd have to change it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015




At the end of 2013, Pro Se Productions, an innovative publisher of Genre Fiction, debuted its Pro Se Single Shots line, stand alone digital only short story singles at an affordable price. Due to the success of the single self contained tales, Pro Se launched the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line in 2014. The Signature imprint still focuses on digital singles, but invited authors either write individual stand alone stories under a ‘From the Pen of…” title or a series of their own creation, either featuring connected stories or even ‘chapters’ or ‘episodes’ as well as still features single short stories or recurrent ‘chapters’ or ‘episodes’ written as short stories. The New Pulp Publisher debuts the next chapters in four of its inaugural Signature series today.

“The Pro Se Single Shot Signature line,” says Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Productions Partner and Editor in Chief, “is a project that, although it’s gotten off to a slow start, has in many ways altered how Pro Se sees publishing. We’ll continue with our traditional publishing of novels and anthologies, but the Signature imprint allows us to play with all sorts of possibilities of promotion, distribution, and accessing new readership on several levels. With schedules being sorted in the next week or two as well as multiple series and writer’s imprints debuing within the line over the next month or so, Pro Se is preparing to redefine Genre Fiction and New Pulp in 2015. And the four latest installments to the series that kicked off the Signatures are the best way to move forward.”

The four newest releases from the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line are available at Amazon and

FLY GIRL: THE ICE QUEEN by Russ Anderson

 Russ Anderson Jr’s Fly Girl returns, soaring into her second adventure in her Pro Se Single Shot Signature series as she faces The Ice Queen!

Still reeling from the events of the first story, 16 year old Caryn Clay struggles to understand her newfound abilities, her truly awesome connection with her Navajo heritage, and the attack of another strangely powered figure, known only as The Trickster. Before she can come to grips with any of that, though, a new foe presents herself. Can Caryn survive the chilling vengeance of a wronged girl? And are she and her mystical feather to blame for the destruction wrought by this frigid new enemy? Find out in The Ice Queen, Fly Girl Book Two by Russ Anderson, Jr., featuring exciting cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Anderson. Available on the Kindle at and for most other formats at for only 99 cents.

LUTHER CROSS: TIES THAT BIND by Percival Constantine

 Author Percival Constantine returns with another tale of Luther Cross—the only man clever enough to con Hell itself. In the second installment of Constantine's Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series, Cross finds himself embroiled in a missing persons case and becomes dangerously entangled in Ties That Bind.

A stop for breakfast in a small diner becomes a case of life and death...and more for Cross. Overhearing a distraught woman's plea for help to find her missing brother, Cross senses there is more than simply an absent sibling at work here. Finding themselves on their own deep in the woods, Cross and his new companion discover that small towns not only hide skeletons in the closet. There's something much worse they keep in the barn.

Ties That Bind, the second digital single short story in Constantine's Luther Cross Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series, features evocative cover art and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. The latest story in Cross’ saga is available for only 99 cents for Kindle at and at Smashwords for other formats at

MAGEE: TWO SOULS by David White

 The Angel Heaven and Hell hate to see coming discovers new truths in the third installment of author David White's Magee, a Pro Se Single Shot Series from Pro Se Productions.

Finding love in the arms of a witch, Magee seems to be finding his stride in the mortal world. That is, until a guitar wielding demon shows up, fully intent on playing Magee’s funeral song on his corpse. As the battle ensues, Magee finds himself face to face with unbelievable secrets now revealed as well as an evil older than God itself. An evil that offers Magee the world...or suffering beyond even his imagining.

David White’s Magee: Two Souls is the third digital single short story in this supernatural action Pro Se Single Signature Series and features striking art work and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. Get your copy for only 99 cents at Amazon for the Kindle at and for most other formats at Smashwords at


 Chuck Miller, the master of Psychedelic Pulp, returns with the second episode of the wildest, weirdest Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series yet. The Fabulous World of Zenith, a new and original series that will examine the world of the Black Centipede, Vionna Valis, Mary Kelly and Doctor Unknown Junior from a variety of strange and oblique angles continues on with The Journal of Bloody Mary Jane: My Florida Idyll- Part Two!

Finding herself trapped in the small Florida settlement of Cotton Mather and Ponce De Leon, Mary Jane Gallows continues on her odd mission for the now vampiric Professor Moriarty, as well as her own personal twisted journey. Strange creatures inhabit the dilapidated village surrounding the mysterious Fountain of Youth. Three men stumble their way into the crop of building and strangeness seeking a murderess, not knowing that Bloody Mary Jane is indeed among them. And Miss Gallows finds out much and yet nothing about the future, her destiny, and secrets that could mean her own demise or even better, the end of the world.

The Journal of Bloody Mary Jane: My Florida Idyll- Part Two features a fantastic cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. It is available for only 99 cents at Amazon for the Kindle at and at Smashwords for most other formats at

For more information on these titles, interviews with the authors, or digital copies for review, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nuggets #35 -- Becoming Real

I am finding more and more that the longer I write, 
the fictional people I know tend to become more real
to me than the flesh and blood people I know. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

[Link] 25 Things You Need To Know About Writing Mysteries

by Susan Spann

Mystery novels work a lot like any other genre, except that mystery writers murder their imaginary friends. To paraphrase the Hoover campaign promise, a mystery novel will deliver “a corpse in every pot.” (Mystery authors are twisted. We might as well get that straight from the outset.)

Mystery offers plenty of room for variation, too. Murder is universal—it can happen in any setting and any time. A sleuth can be a professional, an amateur, or a NINJA (though I’ve already done that last one), and your victim and method can vary just as widely. One warning, however: killing your imaginary friends is a lot like eating potato chips. Nobody I know can stop with one.

Sound like fun? Awesome. Let’s get going:


Occasionally, a mystery succeeds with a central crime other than murder, but generally speaking purloined papers, missing mutts, and the seizure of family jewels doesn’t get you very far in the mystery world. (However, properly handled, the family jewels have great potential in other genres.)

On the positive side, if your imaginary friends are at all like mine, they’re better off dead.


It’s easy to rush prematurely into the process of fitting imaginary friends for cement waders. When real killers rush the process, they end up in jail (or dead). The best way to keep your novel (and your career) off the writers’ version of death row? Plan it thoroughly. Plan it well. And plan to start with an interesting sleuth. Readers don’t turn the pages because they care about fictitious corpses. Readers want to help the cool kids solve a crime.


What’s better than an intriguing sleuth? A BROKEN ONE! Hooray! Is your detective emotionally damaged? Physically impaired? Addicted to Hostess Fruit Pies? Excellent: good times lie ahead.

If not, stop now and take a hammer to your sleuth’s emotional kneecaps. Bust those suckers good—and be creative. Divorces, tragic accidents, and dead relatives are dime-a-dozen. You can do better. Make your detective allergic to coffee, or phobic of houseplants. Squash her beloved iguana beneath a Zamboni and then force her to solve a murder at an ice rink.

You get the idea.

Read the full article:

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #309 -- Effective Story Openings

What makes an story opening effective? What makes you want to keep reading?

This one's an easy one. A story opening has to grab my attention by the throat and refuse to let go. It can do that in several ways, though.

1. It can begin with a highly visceral scene that shocks my senses (and better yet, senses other than my sight and sound).

2. It can create a paradox that my brain won't stop pondering. Such as my tale that begins: "The man who killed me wore a tattoo of Santa Claus across his chest."

3. It can have such a strong sense of character that I want to follow the protagonist. Hard-boiled stories are usually pretty strong at this method.

4. It can appeal to my dark side via greed, lust, etc.

5. It can hit me in the gut with the kind of surprise I never would have expected.

6. Or it can ignore all of these and simply captivate me with the moment. The opening of the movie Unbreakable, for example, does this, calmly showing everyday events leading up to a train ride that ends in a cataclysmic crash.

7. Or it can dazzle me with the gift of language, saying things in a way that captures my imagination and speaks to the poet in me. Zora Neale Huston is great at this.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Join the Taylorverse News Email List

Thank you for your interest in my writing career thus far and my work (including this blog) up to this point.

I am moving to an automated system with MailChimp. IIf you wish to continue to receive updates about my work (outside of this blog since I prefer not to spam the blog with "buy my book" posts and keep it focused on writing content instead, you will need to sign up at the following webpage:
All sign ups get a free e-copy of my collection, Gomer and Other Early Works.

There are lots of fun things in the pipeline, including some pretty big licensed properties I'll be writing for and the (finally) debut of my H.G. Wells-based comic sequel to Time Machine, War of the Worlds and Invisible Man.

Thanks for all your support in the past and for your continued support as I keep putting out work.

Want to join the blog's roundtable interviews?

Here's an open invitation to all writers, editors and publishers out there who'd like to take part in the roundtable interviews I conduct here on this blog.

I've created a new Facebook group called "Sean Taylor's Writer Roundtables" as a central place on the web to post the questions and responses for the interviews. That way I don't have to run all over various FB groups and YahooGroups, etc. to find everyone and track them down to let them know the questions are ready.

Feel free to recommend it to any other writers you know who would be interested. It's a completely open group for all writers, editors, and publishers who enjoying talking about writing.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Successful Book Marketing

Ready for our first roundtable of 2015? This one is for authors, publishers, and book marketing folks. Okay, let's kick off the new year right, shall we?

What has been your greatest success in book or ebook marketing?

J.H. Glaze: My greatest success in ebook marketing was a promo I did last year that generated 9,800 downloads in 24 hours. It resulted in residual sales of 450 ebooks over the next week. This was done through a promotion combining at least 10 of the eBook promo sites, some paid - some free, Facebook shares, Twitter Re-Tweets, and posting to groups.

My greatest success in Paperback marketing is definitely Horror Cons. Last year in October, I sold more than $1,400 worth of books over a 3 day weekend. The Conventions usually result in extended sales for about 6 weeks afterward. I have developed a specific strategy and technique for selling at cons, so you may not achieve the same results if you rush out and get a table for the first time. People who have had tables next to me will tell you, I’m a selling machine when I’m working the floor.

John Hartness: Marketing is raising general awareness of your brand or a specific product. It isn’t about sales, it’s about eyeballs and stickiness. The more eyeballs you get on your name, the more often, the stickier you become in people’s minds. Coke is a ubiquitous product, so much so that people will sit down in a restaurant and order a “Coke” when all they really mean is “brown carbonated sugary beverage.” Same with Kleenex and Xerox. Those brands have been marketed so well that they have their own definition. Stephen King is a good example of this – for forty years his name has been synonymous with horror fiction, regardless of his forays into other genres and styles.

Marketing is a long-tail process, and very little that you can once today will have a net effect on your overall branding in a positive light. The same cannot be said for negative branding, just look at people who make headlines for being idiots. Marketing is a cumulative process, and building a brand takes years, and lots of effort.

Promotion is a short-term, sales-focused “event.” A great example of this is the yearly “Toyotathon” that we see so many commercials about. They are trying to cram a quarter’s worth of sales into a month, because fourth quarter sucks for car buying. We try to do the same thing when we drop the price of a book to $.99 or free for a couple days. We try to cram a month’s worth of “buys” into a day. By far the most effective promotion I’ve participated in was when my book was selected as the Kindle Daily Deal. I moved several thousand copies in one day at a reduced price, and about a thousand copies over the rest of the week at full price. And I topped Stephen King on the horror bestseller list! Yes, I screen-capped that bad boy!

A marketing and promotion tool that I have found works very well is my email newsletter. A monthly newsletter has seen a 20% increase in subscribers since I re-launched it, which is a long-tail success, and when I have featured backlist titles in the newsletter, I have seen a corresponding increase in sales of that title for the month it is featured. So that’s a short-term promotional benefit.

Iscah: Direct sales events like at conventions, festivals, fairs, etc.

Mat Nastos: My first book, THE CESTUS CONCERN, was by and far my biggest success to date. With it (between sales across all platforms and my free giveaways), I've moved well over 100,000 copies to readers. Within the first 45 days I was already hitting that 1500 copies per month mark and it went up from there. The keys for it taking off were:

  • Finding the right genre to target (men's adventure, action & adventure, and cyberpunk to start...but I constantly tweaked things)
  • Having a professional cover that put out the message I wanted and worked for the audience I was targeting (this is a problem for a lot of indy and self-pubbed books)
  • Making sure my product pages and my sales blurbs were killer. 
  • Finally, adjusting your keywords/tags to help target what potential readers are actually searching to buy, and not getting caught up in focusing on what I wanted them to be. Readers and what they perceive your work to be is more important than my own perception when it comes to building an audience. Once you've got that audience in place you can start messing with their perception, but you need to catch them before you do that.

Frank Fradella: If you do a big con well — like, say, Dragon*Con — the ROI on that is fantastic. It not only sells books (which is great), but it introduces some 50,000 to your brand, which makes sales easier later. And by "do well," I don't mean sitting on your ass behind a six-foot table waiting for sales to come to you. I mean hustling. Do panels, network, schedule signings, host events at the show, launch a book, do giveaways, offer con exclusives. It's a higher price point that most online options, but the benefits outlast the con by several orders of magnitude.

Van Allen Plexico: I've been doing 6-7 cons a year for the last 20 years, and for the last ten I've been doing tons of panels and events, including usually 16-18 panels every Dragon*Con. I have worked my socks off promoting those books during those panels and events and have built something of a name brand/recognition that way. But it's still confined within a fairly small customer base; the trick is to break out of that and hit the more mainstream audience that doesn't really do many cons, etc.

Percival Constantine: Making the first book in a series free, even if it's only temporary, and including links in the back of each book for reviews, email sign-ups, and the next book in the series. But the most successful thing has been to have a clean, organized website with a mailing list.

Susan Burdorf: I have a book out in which I have two short stories - the publisher periodically posts the book with deals she promotes and she will often brag about its Amazon ranking to encourage a look see. Many of the authors I know have joined up to put a first book in a series of books into a boxed set and they have had great success with that because once folks read one book they feel the need to collect the rest of the books.

Mandi M. Lynch: Hard to say. But I have had best luck with Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. I think it was due to the support we got from the editors.

What marketing strategy taught you the most about what not to do and what did you learn?

J.H. Glaze: Paid advertising on blogs did not result in increased sales. No matter how many subscribers a blog has you are going to be seen by a very limited audience. The blogs with wide distribution sell ads through 3rd party vendors, but still, advertising is not a very cost effective way to get book sales in any medium.

Blog reviews get much better results and can often be obtained for the price of a free book, however most bloggers who do reviews have roomfuls of books they have received for reviewing. If somehow they find the time to review you, and especially if you get a good review from them, be sure to package a portion of your soul and mail it to them to show your gratitude.

John Hartness: Buying an expensive booth at huge conventions. I did New York Comicon in 2013, and I did the show fairly cheaply, couch-surfing at a friend’s house and splitting the cost of the booth three ways. Total expenses – around $1000-1,1000 counting meals, airfare, booth rental, cabs, subway fares and booth furnishings. Total revenue - $950. This doesn’t count the cost of the books, which was probably another $500.

Dragon Con – I spent $350 on a piece of a booth with 13 other authors, sold $1,100 or so, and still ended up spending $2,000 on hotel, food, gas, parking (!) and memberships. Books cost me about $700, because I didn’t sell everything I brought.

Long answer made short – I hand-sell books as well as anyone in the business, and if a convention will cost me more than $500 to attend, I know I will not, under any circumstances, turn a profit at that convention. So I do fewer conventions now, and I tend to only do the ones where I can stay at home, or the ones where I get a free table to sell my wares.

Iscah: Head knowledge and plans don't get you very far without action. I had some lovely marketing ideas that might have been very effective if I had done half of them. But on to something I did sort of well, which was offline selling...

To give you a tip for direct sales, "Smile and engage but keep it short". I'm an introvert who prefers to avoid crowds, so I sort have to put on a sales persona to make it through events. I'm not saying you should be fake, but be the friendliest version of yourself you can be. And try not to ramble. Once introverts get going, we like to have in depth conversations, which is great for building friendships, but lousy for crowded events. Let people who want to leave, leave, so there room for someone else to walk up.

Mat Nastos: Biggest lesson is to know what and how to promote to my various channels. To know that promoting a freebie sale to my social channels is not smart. Each channel you've got - web, social networks, email list, etc - has its own requirements and needs in terms of what/how you sell. Not knowing how to make use of those things will cost you sales. It's sort of like people on Twitter who retweet when someone does a #FF with their name...makes no sense -- you're asking people who already follow you to follow you...Same principal with marketing.

I spent the first month or so marketing the wrong message to the wrong channel.

The other thing I learned was the effectiveness of a proper roll out for my promotions. Learning how to do a build up before a promotion and then what to do to maintain traction once a promotion was over. Making sure I didn't shoot my wad by marketing everything all at once. You can waste a lot of time and resources that way, and miss out on sales.

Frank Fradella: Cyber Age Adventures — the online magazine I founded in 1999 that featured literate, thought-provoking prose stories in a shared superhero universe —taught me a lot about what not to do. While we put out an award-winning product, having a name that made no allusions whatsoever to our content was just plain stupid. And creating a product so groundbreaking that nobody even thought to look for it was the kiss of death. Even now, if you check Google for the number of people looking for "superhero magazines," you'll find that number dwarfed by the number of searches for "superhero novels." Which is why I now own the url Live and learn.

Van Allen Plexico: With LUCIAN, I made certain the ads referenced the similarities of Lucian to Loki from Thor/Avengers. I wrote the book in 2002-03 but am glad to take advantage of the fact that they are very similar characters in similar settings, to appeal to new Loki/Hiddleston fans. Apparently it worked.

Perry Constantine: This wasn't so much something I learned from a specific strategy, but more what I've learned from a combination of things. Have a purpose behind each promotion. If you want to get people hooked on a series, then don't start a free run before the second book is available. And when that second book is available, you'd better have a preview and a buy link of that second book at the end of the first. If your goal is to get reviews, make sure you include a note at the end of that book politely asking for reviews and providing a link where those reviews can be posted. Make sure your covers are branded appropriately so that they can be identified as being part of the same series. That can mean using the same cover artist for each book, making sure each book has the same style of cover, or even having a unifying series logo. And also, maintain productivity. Today's readers are really in love with series, but what they love even more is an active series. If they see a series being promoted with book one and book two and book two came out three years ago, they might be a bit more adverse to trying that series given that it appears dormant.

Susan Burdorf: Marketing strategies are so reliant on the author themselves and their fan base that it is hard to really suggest any one thing and point to it as a success or failure. I do know that Boxed Sets are the "thing" right now according to Mark Coker of Smashwords. But once that fad stops being popular I am sure someone else will come up with something else equally as successful. I think that some of the things that indie authors like to do as far as trying to work the numbers is to be part of someone else's book release as a guest author where they get to promote their book, play a game or two in the hour or half hour they are allowed to be spotlighted, and offer amazon or other gift cards to participants. That seems to work really well.

Mandi M. Lynch: Just dumping flyers on a flyer table does not work. Engaging people helps for a relationship and people show interest because of that.

Just how effective can a cheap or low-investment be in the long run? What kind of return on investment can one expect using cheap or free promotion services on the Web?

J.H. Glaze: Most of the cheap or free marketing services on the web have been overrun with self published authors. As a result, services which used to get great results for a low investment, have tripled their prices over the last 2 years and waiting lists are extremely long.

Here is an example: 18 months ago I could promote one of my horror novels through to about 600k people for about $45. Today, to reach the same number of folks costs $110 for a one day promo run, but here is the catch – that price is only if you are promoting a book that is on sale from full price to a free giveaway for a limited time. The price goes up it you have only discounted the book. Here is the link to their rate sheet:
Here are some things to remember when doing paid promos:

  • If you only have 1 book available, the only reason to do a paid promo for a free book is to try to get reviews. !0,000 downloads will result in 2 reviews if you are lucky.
  • If you have a series of two or more books, giving book 2 in the series as a free download will result in a boost in sales of book 1. I believe it is because people don’t like to start with book 2. I have had that proven time and again. If you give away book 1, sales of book 2 are minimal at best.
  • It takes money to make money, but you don’t want to throw your money away. Before you use a service, post in a forum and ask if anyone has used it before, and what kind of results to expect from it.
  • Sales results from promos can be genre specific. I am a horror author. Romance authors can expect to pay a lot more for their promo, because a larger percentage of the market tend to read romance.
  • Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing. If you can get people to read it, review it, comment on it on pages, and tell their friends about it you are good to go. The only way to do this is to write awesome fucking books!

John Hartness: Marketing yourself can be cheap and effective, but there is no magic bullet. There’s no “do this and you’ll sell a ton of books.” Most bestsellers have no idea what they did to catch lightning in the bottle. If editors knew which books would be huge hits, they’d only buy the books that would be huge hits. It’s all a gamble. But by using the cheap and free self-promotion tools like MailChimp, Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook and others, you can create an impact and get enough eyeballs on your work to make a difference.

Iscah: That's tricky. Some of my highest investment attempts this year yielded the fewest results, while one event that cost me only a bit of time and gasoline yielded my highest sales for a weekend. Budget is something to keep in mind, but targeting is more important. Know (or get to know) your audience, and make it as easy as possible for the potential buyer to get to where they can purchase your book.

Mat Nastos: Biggest lesson is to know what and how to promote to my various channels. To know that promoting a freebie sale to my social channels is not smart. Each channel you've got - web, social networks, email list, etc - has its own requirements and needs in terms of what/how you sell. Not knowing how to make use of those things will cost you sales. It's sort of like people on Twitter who retweet when someone does a #FF with their name...makes no sense -- you're asking people who already follow you to follow you...Same principal with marketing.

I spent the first month or so marketing the wrong message to the wrong channel.

The other thing I learned was the effectiveness of a proper roll out for my promotions. Learning how to do a build up before a promotion and then what to do to maintain traction once a promotion was over. Making sure I didn't shoot my wad by marketing everything all at once. You can waste a lot of time and resources that way, and miss out on sales.I like promotion like I like my women: cheap and easy. Free is even better. Everything I've done in terms of marketing (from way back in my days doing affiliate marketing until now) has focused on that free or cheap side of the scale. There are enough spots on the web, if planned out correctly, that you can make a pretty big impact using them. It's all about planning, timing, and implementation. Knowing when and how to roll out that free/cheap promotion is the biggest key to success.

The effectiveness comes down to planning. Set your goal and then put your plan together to meet that goal.

Frank Fradella: Check your watch and mark the date, because the advice you'll receive on this point will alter drastically from one year to the next. Right now? A good strategy (if you have a back catalogue of books in a single series) is to give away the first book as an ebook to drive sales to the rest of the series. But before you talk about how much money to spend (or not spend) on marketing, you absolutely must be able to identify your target market with pinpoint accuracy. You need to know their age, their gender, their average income, their spending habits... everything. If you can do that, you can get your product in front of them much more effectively.

Van Allen Plexico: A $19 Twitter ad got me 800 downloads of LUCIAN and 800 downloads of Sentinels: When Strikes the Warlord in a single day each.

Perry Constantine: It can be very effective, provided it's targeted at the right audience. And to veer slightly off the point of the question, this is why every writer needs an email list. It's the cheapest, most-effective marketing tool. Even when compared to more costly services it's still the most-effective tool in the long run. BookBub may get you several thousand downloads on a free book, but if you don't have an email list, you've basically put the cash you spent into a big pile and set fire to it. Those readers are not going to remember your name.

And yet, so many writers I know do not have an email list. Why? It's so simple to set up and most services allow you to start free (ReachMail is free for up to 5000 subscribers, MailChimp is free up to I believe 2500).

Beyond that, you need a web presence—and no, that does not mean Facebook and Twitter. You need a dedicated website, and no, that does not mean a or site. It means And yes, this costs money, but if you want to be serious about making a living as a writer, then you need to treat it like a business and not a hobby. And businesses require investment. And it's not like this is a massive expense. I have a site with Bluehost that costs me $140 for three years, plus $15 a year for a domain name. That's about $5 a month for a website. If you can't spare $5 a month, then you're clearly not taking this thing seriously. Get a website and if it's a Wordpress site, then install a free plugin called MyBookTable so you can list all your titles in your catalog easily.

A website and a mailing list are the two cheapest investments an indie author can make, and they are the two that will serve you best in the long run. Especially with rumors that Facebook is going to require all ads be paid in the future. So the days of posting links to your books in five dozen Facebook groups are not going to last (and if we're being honest, it was always the least effective marketing you could do). Invest in a website and get a mailing list.

Susan Burdorf: I think it depends on what your goal is. If you go cheap that does not mean you cannot make it classy. At book fairs or signings a lot of authors are just trying to collect emails with which they can create a fan base they can then send information on book releases, cover reveals, next book signings, etc and that is good. Some offer "gifts" to reward their fans (Paperwhites, Kindles, Nooks, large Amazon cards). You just have to make it fun for the folks. To encourage people to come to my tables at book signings I will offer a free "gift" which is usually something I hand make (I quilt, make jewelry, etc so for me I can do something that costs me almost nothing because I already have the supplies at home).

In conclusion my advice is this: whatever marketing strategy you employ just make sure it will not cause you to go bankrupt either financially or emotionally. And ALWAYS treat your readers and fans with respect. Even if they do not treat you the same way.

Mandi M. Lynch: It depends on the investment. A blog guest post with links is free and will hang around forever. $10 worth of cheap black and white flyers generates a lot of trash.