Monday, February 19, 2024

The elevator pitch, an open book blog hop post

  


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you have an elevator pitch (a brief 30 second or so introduction) for your books?

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The idea of an elevator pitch, I believe, came about from publishing, where an author steps into the same elevator as a muckety-muck and might have the space between two or three floors to catch the interest of a potential publisher and get them to want to read the whole thing. 

I'd never do that. Talking to someone I don't already know? In an elevator and under high pressure to sell them something? Now *that's* a horror story! No thank you.

That said, I do have to pitch my work from time to time, to convey to potential readers what it's all about and why they might want to read it. 

The Menopausal Superhero series is pretty easy to pitch. When I'm doing events, often I don't have to do much more than say the name of the series. Sometimes I don't even have to say it at all, since it's right there on the covers. The concept often makes people smile and they pick one up to read the back cover, and then the sales game is on! (or they make a face like they smell something bad and back away from me--some people can be put off by the mere word "menopause")

The Menopausal Superhero series

Easy pitching is great news for me, because I'm an introvert, so I'm not at all comfortable with the "carnival barker" method of getting readers to stop and talk with me. I rely on good displays and looking approachable. After all, folks who are attending a book fair or science fiction and fantasy convention don't need a hard sell--they came specifically to look at this kind of thing. 

Me at Bookmarks Festival of Books in Winston-Salem, NC

If someone stops and talks with me a bit, I usually first try to see if they're more likely to be interested in my hero or horror stories, usually just by introducing myself: Hi! I'm Samantha and these are my books. I write the Menopausal Superhero series and short form horror, which ones depends on whether I want to save the world today, or watch it burn." 

If they lean horror, I talk a little about the range of types of stories I've written, and wait to see what book they're eye-balling, then mention what my story in that anthology is about. 

"Stories We Tell After Midnight? That's a great collection! It's been described as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for grown-ups. My story in there is called 'The Cleaning Lady.' That might not sound like horror, but it's all in who you work for, isn't it?"

or 

"Crone Girls Press is one of my favorite publishers to work with. They're a feminist horror press and I love the types of stories Rachel finds for their anthologies!" 

If they lean superhero, I drop in tidbits like, "My menopausal superhero series is dram-edy in tone, intermixing superhero action with comedy about aging, with themes of female friendship." 

Or, 

"This is my more optimistic work, where heroines who are not 'spring chickens' save the day." 

I'm not a hard sell person. I hate it when people press me too hard, so I don't do that to others. I'd rather have a conversation, even if it doesn't end in a sale. 

If someone seems at least a little interested, I'll try one last push, giving them a bookmark with the link to my Amazon page on it and encouraging them to go check out the reviews and the "look inside" to see if my work is for them. 

I always thank people for stopping to talk with me, and I mean it, too. I'm grateful each time someone expresses interest in my work. 

Plus, you never know, even if you don't sell to that person in that moment, you may have put a ripple in the stream that will come back to you later. Your table guest might invite you to an event, or tell a friend about you. 

After nearly a decade of attending events and selling my books, I'm more comfortable with pitching my work, but I'm never going to accost some poor soul in an elevator. Let's all just get to the lobby in peace, please. 

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Still writing, after all these years, an open book blog hop post

  


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you ever ask yourself if you are still a writer?

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Though I have plenty of moments of doubt in the pursuit of my creative life, my identity as a writer is never in question. I have always written (since I first learned how!), and will always write. 

Writing is how I process the world, my feelings, events…all of it. Like the quote from EM Forster: "How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?"

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Publishing is another kettle of fish though. It can really feel like there's no return-on-investment in seeking publication and audience for your work. If you let your identity as a writer get tied to your financial or critical success in publishing, losing heart is almost inevitable. 

There's going to be rejection. There are going to be poor reviews and unkindness and judgmental behavior. It's a risk you take, when you put your art out there, hoping for connection, hoping to find someone who "gets" what you're doing. 

Not everyone will. 

When it's been a long time since I've seen anything into print, I can have some doubts about my publishing career, start to feel that imposter syndrome pulling down on my soul. 

But, no, I never have to ask if I'm a writer. I write, therefore I am. Or, maybe I am, and therefore I write. Either way, it's not possible for me to give that up. 

Do you have to fight off doubting demons in your creative endeavors? How do you pull yourself out? I'd love to hear about in the comments! 

(the earworm from my title: 




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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Author website pet peeves

     


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, SE White, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!
February 7 question: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of the author's books? Constant mention of books? 
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I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to author websites and blogs. People in glass houses and all that.

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This site, for example, started out as a mommy blog back in the day (like, 2009), and has slowly morphed into a blog + pages for my author life as I started to build something you might call an actual author life.

It's a bit of a Frankenstein's monster now, made out of pieces of other things, put together by someone who's not particularly skilled at that. 

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I'm well aware of the flaws in my own site. 

I have great plans for migrating to another platform because Blogger has been falling apart for years, but there's a lot of decisions to make and tons of actual work to that, so it keeps getting bumped down the to-do list. That constant balance of time-energy-money. Migration takes a lot of resources…even just figuring out what to pack and take with you versus what to let go. 

So, I definitely bear all that in mind when I am tempted to pass judgment on what someone else has managed to do in this crazy endeavor we call building a writing life. 

So, with all that as caveat, here are my three main pet peeves on author websites:
  1. Pop-ups: Modals demanding that I subscribe to a newsletter or click over to the latest publication. Especially if those cover the thing I came there to read and are difficult to get back out of. If I like what I see, I'll seek out your newsletter--put the link at the side or in an obvious menu, but don't pop it up on me just because I scroll down or try to navigate away--that feels scammy and pushy and guarantees I will not subscribe. 
  2. No contact information: that's a basic on any website. People might want to reach out to you! Maybe invite you to be a part of an event. I've had it happen. I understand the desire for privacy, but it can cost you opportunities to be difficult to reach out to. You can use a form if you don't want to post an email address. 
  3. Flashing or moving displays that can't be turned off: I don't see this so much anymore, but for a little while, it was quite the fashion to have a video play, or a carousel display on a website and I hate it. An interactive element for a purpose has its place, but on an author's website? Nope. I came here for the words, read with my eyeballs, at the pace I choose. 
So there ya go, Samantha's two cents on author websites. How about you? What puts you off or pulls you in? What do you do for your own site, if you maintain one? I'd love to hear about in the comments! 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Naming my imaginary friends, an open book blog hop post

  


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

How do you choose your characters' names?

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For my main body of work, the Menopausal Superheroes series, I wanted an every-woman feel for my main characters. 

So, to pick the first names of Jessica, Patricia, Cindy, Linda, and Helen, I went to the internet and looked at census information for the birth year of each of them, and chose from the top ten most popular names that year. 

The Menopausal Superheroes as drawn by Charles C. Dowd. 

Their last names came about for a few different reasons. Jessica Roark AKA Flygirl took her last name from an old friend. Patricia O'Neill AKA The Lizard Woman borrowed her surname from my beloved dog. Cindy Liu, my mad scientist, took on her moniker after some research into common Chinese surnames that English speakers would find relatively easy to pronounce. Linda Álvarez, later Leonel, AKA Fuerte adopted their last name from one of my former students. Helen Braeburn's last name was a bit of a pun to entertain myself, based on her apple-shaped figure and her powers of fire wielding.

When it came time to name all the past lives of Cindy Liu's father, one of the villains of the series, I named them for actors from old horror movies, recombining names like Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, and Peter Lorre to make all his aliases. This was partly because of his story line--he literally has transferred his brain from body to body after killing the men whose body he wants to take over--and partly just because I love those old movies and the actors who starred in them. 

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Thoughout the series, minor characters have often been named after people in my life, just a little Easter egg to myself and them, a thank you for love and support. So all the members of my critique group have made appearances in their somewhere, with one or both of their names. So have several other folks from my broader writing community. One of my kids made an appearance as a child with a healing ability. 

In other pieces I've written, my naming practices have varied. 

Sometimes it's about researching the time frame, class, and ethnicity of my character to choose an appropriate name. Dienihatiri, the main character in "His Destroyer" published in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, lived in Egypt during the time of the ten plagues. I ran across the name of a real historical person in my research about the nature of what the lives of enslaved people were like, and kept it for my story.

The woman architect in one of my upcoming projects, a Gothic romance called The Architect and the Heir, came to me with her name already in place, Devon Brook. I loved it because it allowed for the gender misunderstanding I'd need for the plot, and played on her discomfort with water. 

So, I guess I don't have any one way that I get there, but I find the right name for my imaginary friends one way or another. Know any good stories about character names? Tell me about it in the comments! And don't forget to check out what my colleagues have to say about how they handle this in their work at the link below. 

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Monday, January 29, 2024

Pen Name or Not?

 


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you use or have you considered using different pen names for different genres of your writing?

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Pen names always seem like fun to me. Choosing a new version of yourself to go with your writing, so you have a tough guy name for that noir you're writing and something soft and flowery for the romance. Maybe my Gothic romance (when I finish it) could come from someone like Violet Nightshade, instead of the more mundane Samantha Bryant. It's a fun kind of branding. 

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But in this day and age, marketing means keeping up with social media for your work, and I find that overwhelming enough without managing several different version of myself. I can't imagine keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Bluesky, etc. for more than one of me. When would I actually write? 

I know some writers get around this by having their pen names be an open secret, like Gail Z. Martin writing as Morgan Brice or Ursula Vernon writing as T. Kingfisher (just to name couple from my circles), but I'm probably not a big enough fish for that, and I don't want to make it any harder for someone who enjoyed something I wrote to find the rest of it!

So, I've thought about it, but I think I'll stick to just being Samantha Bryant, regardless of what I'm writing. I'm plenty to handle. 

Do you use pen names in your work? Do you follow writers who do? 


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Monday, January 22, 2024

Every Novel is a Puzzle

 


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.
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Now this was fun! Are you a puzzle fan? Well, here's the first of the novels in the Menopausal Superhero series made into a jigsaw puzzle! (If you need some hints, the title is Going Through the Change, and my name is Samantha Bryant--those bits will get you a goodly portion of the puzzle). And like any jigsaw puzzle aficionado will tell you--establish the edges first. It helps. 


I enjoyed this quite a bit, and it's a nice analogy for writing as well. Writing a new book does feel like solving a puzzle. I get it in pieces and as I work the overall vision becomes clearer and hangs together better until: voilá! 

Hope you enjoy it! And be sure to check out the other puzzles in this week's blog hop at the link below. 

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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

BookBub or Bust, an IWSG post

    


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the January 3 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Olga Godim, Diedre Knight, and Natalie Aguirre!

January 3 question: Do you follow back your readers on BookBub or do you only follow back other authors?
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Happy New Year! Here's hoping that 2024 bring you joy, on and off the page. I like the feeling of fresh start that comes with a flip of the calendar. 

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Maybe this will be the year that I make proper use of BookBub as an author. Because up till now, it's stayed pretty low on my priority list.

It's not that I don't see the value; it's more that I struggle to find the time. I write alongside a demanding day job and maintaining a family and household. So, mostly, my entire writing life fits into about two hours a day. Sometimes less. A few times a year, more. 

So, writing new work, promoting previously published work, networking, blogging, and keeping up a presence in the ever-changing landscape of social media keep me pretty darn busy. 

I probably visit BookBub quarterly at best. When I do, I look to see who has followed me. Whether they are readers or authors doesn't make any difference to me so far as the likelihood that I'll follow back. I just click on their link and look at what they're up to and if I spot anything of interest, I'll give them a follow. 

Then I recommend a book or two and wander off for another three months. 

I do still appreciate the newsletter offerings as a reader, though, and I know that the BookBub feature that my ex-publisher got for me at the outset really gave a boost to my number of reviews, so it's a worthwhile venture. Just not one I've really made time for yet. 

How about you? Do you make use of BookBub as a reader or writer? If so, what do you like to do with it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.