Can you help me? My virtual book tour conundrum

Let’s put it out there. Brick-and-mortar book tours for indie authors (without a massive grassroots following) can be a waste of time. Say you can carry an event crowd-wise. Most stores want around 55% of your retail price. They ring the register, keep your money, and cut you a 45% check 30 days later. Unless it’s Borders, in which case it might as well be the Heart of the Ocean from Titanic. 

Yeah, it happened to me.

Going “virtual” means finding an agency (shout out to Tywebbin Creations) to arrange for reviews. Or, you DIY and send advanced copies of your book to bloggers around the country hoping you’ll become the next Amanda Hocking. Will they review it? Maybe, maybe not. There are no guarantees. 

Which brings me to a dilemma for my next book, Sophomore Freak. I DIY-ed it with The Anarchists and Reject High to mixed results and went traditional with The Lost Testament and The Revelation Gatealso to varied outcomes. What would you do?

 

Let love in or shut it out? You decide.

How do you move beyond the pain to start a fresh relationship?

I’m knee-deep in Isoke: a character I’ve known for about a year. Isoke’s background is littered with issues. Her mother, Hawa, left the family to pursue a calling greater than the responsibility of a family. When Hawa was present, she berated Isoke, who had an incurable blood disease. Constant sickness isolated her from everyone, including her husband and adopted children.

Through a miracle, Isoke conceives a son, whom she has to give up to destiny. Alone once more, she combats feelings of resentment and the urge to strike out. Now, the opportunity for love arises, and she has no idea how to accept it or whether or not she should even try.

What do you think she should do?

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also the author of acclaimed Christian fiction thrillers The Lost TestamentThe Revelation Gate and the upcoming 2012 release, The Anarchists. 

The world of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder victim

The book I am currently writing follows a group of people picking up the pieces after a bloody war. One of those people suffers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of experiences she won’t (or can’t) talk about.

Instead of relying on antiseptic details and descriptions of PTSD (you can do that here), I like to interview people who can color in the spaces for me. My father did a tour in Vietnam during the late sixties. A friend of mine, who we’ll call “John,” was sexually assaulted. Another friend, “Andrew,” was molested by a family member.

Three different people, with different lives and traumas, but united by a common thread.

For my dad, both his physical and mental health have been affected. He spoke with regret about his personal relationships, and the damage his condition might have caused to them without his knowledge.

John talked about living in limbo, wanting to move on in one way, but tethered to the past for its comforts in another. He described his attack with detail. But it left him with a dependence on medication for temporary peace. No one understands, he says, even as he tries his hardest to relate it. That frustrates him.

Andrew and the relative who assaulted him cannot be in the same room together without Andrew feeling discomfort. His parents feel regret for exposing him to this person and not being able to protect him. His relationships are scattered, and the one girl who helped him feel normal left him for another guy. Still single, he has catatonic episodes and moments where he cannot cope.

The stories gave a new depth to my character, but gave me a greater understanding and compassion for victims of this disorder. It’s a real problem, particularly for war veterans. It cannot be medicated away, cured, or erased. John said he does not want it to be erased, but merely hopes for resolution, whatever that may be.

I know they don’t speak for all trauma victims, but each of them said this: you cannot cure PTSD. After your diagnosis, it’s about managing your life and decisions in a way that makes life worth living again. I understand that now. Hopefully, you do too.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of acclaimed Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Happy endings and loose ends in fiction

Last week, I wrapped up writing my 2012 release, The Anarchists. It’s the story about the impact of choice, and how four people decide the fate of the planet in the year 2050.

What I’m doing with it now is what I liken to post-production work on a film — adding in “effects,” and tying up loose ends.

Most of them, at least.

Fans of my book, The Lost Testament, usually mention one thing to me. I left a BIG plot thread dangling. Conversely, the end of my second book, The Revelation Gate, ties up pretty much everything.

My philosophy is this: life isn’t nice and neatly-packaged. You don’t always get “closure,” nor should you. My wife argues the same counterpoint: because people don’t always get closure in life, they want it in entertainment.

Do you want to be the “happily ever after” guy, or the “not everything gets resolved” guy?

Loose ends, or lack thereof, boil down to your characters. Mine are living, breathing organisms. They are selfish, loving, immature, brave, impulsive, and passive aggressive. Some of them are dynamic (they change); others are static (they don’t). You know both types — those who make the same destructive life choices no matter what and others impacted enough by the same choices and changed on a dime.

Do your characters deserve a gift-wrapped ending? Depends on their arc. What’s the point? If they seek redemption, maybe they deserve a happy ending, or at least the promise of one. On the other hand, descents into destruction are supposed to turn out badly. Let it make sense within the overall scope of your novel and never discount the value of a good surprise.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, andThe Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Ignore E-books, trade paperbacks at your own risk

E-book sales are dramatically up and trade paperbacks are WAY down. If you didn‘t know that, look here.

Cereal companies play up the cholesterol in eggs because they want to sell more cereal! Egg companies downplay those figures because high cholesterol is dependent on many factors outside of diet.

For us, it’s about perspective. To them, it’s how to spin it to alter your perspective. Same thing with e-books and trade paperbacks.

Some people will never read an e-book. They enjoy the novelty of a paperback and point to this: 80 percent of people still read books that way.

Others swear sole allegiance to the almighty e-reader, and point to 2010 figures that cite e-book sales going up almost 200 percent.

Trade paperbacks do have an upside: the experience. You can walk into a bookstore, drink coffee and freely thumb through the pages of the newest summer beach read. There’s human contact and you don’t have to sift through a ton of self-published stuff.

But e-book shopping is simpler, quicker, and more convenient. Make your own coffee and buy your beach read at home for a fraction of the paperback cost. And, instead of being stuck with only authors pushed by legacy houses, you can select one whose marketing dollars don’t match up with that of the Big 6. The virtual shelves are endless!

Honestly, authors who ignore either market are cutting off a major stream of income. E-books cost nothing to produce, store, or ship, so ignore them at your own risk.

And life without a trade paperback? No trade shows or book signings. At speaking engagements, if you totally captivate the audience, people will want to buy your book. Your only response can be: “look me up, and you can download it there.” It’s too much work, and if your audience is confused or overworked, they won’t buy.

My advice? Eat eggs and cereal 🙂

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Write compelling fiction with hooking, tension, and nukes

As an author, you want to write a page-turner: fiction so compelling that the reader ignores sleep, eating, etc. to read what you have to say.

How do you do that?

It starts with hooking your reader in 1,500 words or less, or about the first five pages. You must get the reader to quickly buy into what you’re selling. There are no hard-and-fast methods, but here are three I have found to be effective.

1. Up the “oh crap!” factor. Increase the trouble for the protagonist. For example, at the beginning of The Lost Testament, Darrion James is divorced, broke, and about to be evicted. He can’t get a job because of his ruined reputation. Then, he falls asleep on a train and gets robbed of what little he has, and finds himself stranded. See what I mean?

2. End each chapter on a high note. I read Left Behind in two days. Almost every chapter ended on a high note, a cliffhanger, or mystery I felt needed to be resolved before I put it down. If you can master that, your reader will put it down. . .after they finish it.

3. Delete the unnecessary. Authors are word merchants, but we often fall victim to using too many words.

How do you tell what’s unnecessary? Push the action, reveal character, or delete it. Adjectives and adverbs are like whipped cream on cheesecake — you can do more with less. Or, the “nuclear” option: do a word count and cut 30 percent of it. You can’t cut that much? Start deleting and see where you end up. Be a surgeon and not a serial killer.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Setting up a speaking platform

Microphone

According to Phisco Marketing President Kemya Scott, marketing via self-publishing companies are “smoke-and-mirrors” techniques. In other words, as an author, you should have a speaking platform if you want to sell books.

Postcards, business cards, and bookmarks do not sell books. Even if they did, they are methods you can’t track, and if you can’t track it, it might as well not exist. How do you tell if it’s working? How do you tell if it’s not?

While non-fiction authors have a built-in audience, fiction writers like me have to pluck a topic from our books on which to build our expertise. For example, my novel The Revelation Gate, has to do with aspects of African culture and war. Couldn’t I speak to a group about African culture? Or, what about the types of weapons and military strategy available in the early-A.D. period? At the end, I don’t hard sales pitch my book, but I’ve talked enough about it to build audience interest.

Go back to your book and find one topic that particularly speaks to you. Write a speech and/or complete a PowerPoint on it, and pitch it to someone who’s honest enough to tell you the truth. When you’re finished, take it to the streets! Be blessed.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

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