Freaky Friday: Jeff Bridges the Mystery of the Burger King King

Fridays. The day we usually wind down from our busy work weeks and enjoy the weekend. It’s also the day that I usually need a creative jolt, to get in the mood for good times with friends and family and (of course) fun with words!

Boing Boing is always good for a laugh. If you’re curious about urban legends, I highly recommend Snopes, and of course the Unexplained Mysteries of the Paranormal site is great fodder for writing, because truth is stranger than fiction. Really.

King Jeff Bridges Then there’s the stuff your friends come up with. Andrew Shell is a huge fan of The Burger King. Occasionally, he’ll even break out the mask here at work which, as you can imagine, is quite disturbing/funny in an open office environment. He’s convinced that the Jeff Bridges is The Burger King, and I’m inclined to agree.

In my world The Burger King isn’t a character in a marketing campaign, he’s real, and he’s Jeff Bridges. — Andrew Shell

Go Jeff!

Novella Update: Into the Home Stretch

This week has had its ups and downs. Let’s just say that I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful people I work with, my readers, my SO, my friends, and my two cats Rimmon and Zak (aka Fuzzballs of Doom) for putting up with me.

Chocolate, bagels, coffee, and beer for everyone!

Words: 22,000
Time to Deadline: 3 Days
Number of Words to Go: ~8,000

I updated my fiction release pages to cover off a little bit about what the novella will entail. In terms of writing, this particular story had the most setting details available out of any project I’ve ever done. I literally had the eBook open and cross-referenced everything to be in line with the corebook.

The story is about two twins named Ralph and Edgar Whitman; their names were inspired by authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman. Ralph and Edgar share an ability called “Presque Vu,” but interpret its usefulness, the philosophy behind it, and what it means differently. Presque Vu is the ability to see if an event if part of the Grand Design, that flash you get when you know something is happening for a reason.

Once I get permission from the publisher, I’ll post a sample. It’s written in two parts, from each of the brothers’ points-of-view. The story is a mystery, delving into ghosts, crop circles, mysterious bad guys, cryptic writings and much more!

Now, off to the home stretch were I plan on getting to bed early. Hope everyone’s doing really well!

Market Your Books by Offering Free Samples

One of the marketing techniques I’ve been seeing more and more of lately are authors and publishing houses providing readers with free samples in multiple formats. Short stories, online spoilers and free books have been circulating through the web, conventions, and bookstores. Publishing giant Tor books offers both free downloads of books and free books that I’ve seen at conventions. If you sign up for Tor’s new site, Tor will give you access to free ebooks, too.

Individual authors have been following suit as well. Paul Kemp, a contributing author to the popular Forgotten Realm fantasy series, was able to post a preview of the upcoming book Shadowrealm. Other small press (and self-published) authors have done the same like David Talon, who handed out chapters of his book at OddCon. You may have noticed that I posted free samples of my fiction on this blog as well, to provide readers with a feel of my writing style. On the gaming front, there’s also been a slew of video game and tabletop publishers who have provided free mini-books of licensed fiction for collectors and people interested in setting.

Why Free Writing Samples Work

In my opinion, giving away free samples of your work is great marketing for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a great conversation starter. If you’re an unpublished author, it gives potential employers a feel for your professionalism and your style: two things readers can’t get from listening to you talk about how well you write. For established writers, it helps you circulate your work in front of your fan base and, in a sense, rewards their loyalty.

In addition to giving fans (and potential fans) something to read, the format you use can help generate interest by playing on an old marketing standby: the teaser. Ending on a cliffhanger, or providing readers with an intense mystery, action scene or thriller, will keep your readers coming back for more so they can find out what happens next. The caviat to this is: make sure you have the what happens next planned out. Truthfully, I didn’t do this for my ebook experiment because I had an unknown factor happen and I got slammed with deadlines. Please don’t follow my example here, it’s not good for you or your readers. (I can only hope mine will forgive me.)

Speaking of fan loyalty, what better way to reward your diehard fans with their ability to read some of your hard work before the publishing date? By giving them sneak previews or things to speculate about, you’ll build mystery and fandom faster than you can say “Hello Kitty!”

Remember, that writing for “free” isn’t the same thing as giving away free samples of your work. While related, these are really two, different concepts. When you write for free, you may or may not have a goal in mind. Writers who admittedly write for “free” sometimes get a bad reputation because they are labeled as inexperienced or worse–too idealistic to not want to “sell” their work. In this case, providing different webzines, blogs or conventions and bookstores with free samples may actually help you increase your book sales and might just get you a few new fans.

Happy marketing of your scribings! 😀

Change in Plans, Feedback on Ratings, and Wacky Word Count

I am extremely disappointed that I can’t see my friends, meet new people, and network at WisCon this weekend. Because of an unexpected change in the publishing schedule for my upcoming Aletheia novella, I’m doing everything I can to finish it earlier so I can chip in. We have a hard deadline of June 1st, which is also the reason why I haven’t been able to work on The Violet War that much the past, few weeks. I hope everyone is doing well and I hope to see you at another conference soon.

Just to give you a feel for my writing workload these next, few days here’s a glimpse:

( #####============ )
14,500 / 45,000 : 32.2%

In other news, I’ve promoted my recent blog post about the potential of a content ratings for books on some industry newsgroups and some forums. I’d still like to do a proper write-up, but I was surprised by the strength of the responses it received. The comments here on my blog don’t really reflect the range of feedback; some folk responded vehemently, citing censorship and the broken systems that are currently out there. Others agreed that it was a problem with marketing and recommended types of content ratings as an alternative. Either way, it appears to be a cause for concern and I hope that you’ve had the chance to offer your thoughts since this is definitely not a “new” or “fresh” topic for discussion.

The good news is that it just started pouring rain here, perfect for writing in the zone.

Should Books Come With Content Ratings?

Lately I’ve been hearing more and more about how valuable books are that can be considered “slipstream” or simply, books that can be marketed toward multiple markets and genres. On the one hand, this makes total sense to me but, on the other, it can create a lot of confusion.

[Edit for clarity] On average, we receive a few books a week to review and/or promote. Out of these books, the majority of them have misleading marketing (cover art, blurbs, and promotional letters from the editors) that makes it difficult to understand what audience the books are being marketed toward. The following titles are examples of what I’ve been encountering.[End Edit]

Take for example a post-apocalyptic series by author Faith Hunter; my review of Seraphs covered a little bit about my expectations. After reading the back cover and the editor’s letter, I did not expect “angel sex” to be an integral part of the plot but there it was in all its glory. Frankly, I don’t care whether or not an author chooses to write about sex, drugs, or adult themes, but what I do want is the ability to choose a book based on the understanding that that’s what the book contains. In this case, I felt that the sex literally overpowered the rest of the story so much so that I was let down – even though there were other unique setting elements that could have been explored further.

On the flip side a widely-overlooked book, in my opinion, is another book I had reviewed entitled Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert. I had expected to read a paranormal romance novel replete with witches and a victorianesque house—especially after reading the back cover—but this story was not about witchcraft. In fact, it was less of a romance and more of a mystery. (There was only one romantic scene.) Partially inspired by psychic experiments and a re-invention of Alchemy, the novel was fairly “tame” when it came to romance, even though it was integral to the plot and the tension between some of the characters.
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