21 May 2010

Aspiring Author Profile: John Sankovich

Name: John Sankovich

Location: Oregon

Age…ish?: 28

Genre(s) you write: Young Adult Fantasy, Paranormal

Books/Authors you love: Stephen King stuff. I liked the Harry Potter series as well. I also like some of the old stuff such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

How long have you been writing? Um... Been for a long time, I think I created my first Comic Book back in Kindergarten which was 12 parts. Seriously, probably about 12 years, first screenwriting and about 2 years ago started my first novel.

Do you have any professional/industry experience as a writer? I've done a little technical writing at my current job, but want to get into publishing/editing more, but my state doesn't have much in the way of that career.

Had anything published? Nope.

Agent status (please X all that apply)

[ ] Need one

[X] Want one. Desperately. Want. One.

[ ] Got one

[ ] We’re “talking”

[ ] I’m cyberstalking him/her, but so far they have yet to respond to my inappropriate sexual advances…. Erm, I mean, my query letter.

[ ] Agent? Who needs an agent?

Either/Or when you write:

Pen and paper, or computer screen? computer screen, but have written a few short stories with pen and paper.

Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? Pantser. I like that word.

Music on, or off? I like music, but can't always have it.

Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? Solitude when at home, but I also write while at work during work. shhh don't tell my boss.

Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later? I'm more of a screw grammar I'll fix it later kind of guy.

Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it?  I try to write 5 days a week if possible. Weekends are reserved for family. Some days, after an early morning due to kids its harder than other times, but usually I write Monday through Friday while at work, and on my lunch. If the mood hits me after work, but I think I get about 4 hours or writing in a day at work including an hour of it during lunch.

Do you have a certain place/time of day/writing implement/obsessive ritual/etc. that is crucial to your writing process? Nope.

Where do you get your inspiration? I first get a what if going, like what if my characters all had powers controlled by their mind. (Gifts.) What if twin sisters were also deadly assassins and one wanted to leave the life? (Silent Souls.) Then I start to develop the characters, first the main one and then they introduce me to the others as I write.

What one thing do you really love about your own writing? I think I do action scenes well, coming from a screenwriting background, I feel I'm best at describing the actions as opposed to the emotional aspects.

What one thing do you wish you could do better? Up the emotional aspects and inner feelings of the characters.

Anything else you want to say? I think that if you learn to listen to life, the writing will reflect that.

Anything for us to read? This is the first page or so of Gifts:

Rebecca hurried toward the front gates of the football stadium, tired of always missing the first half. A few stragglers had started filing in as the halftime show came to an end. Mr. Gerrard, dressed in Peakside purple and white, stopped her. “Come on Rebecca, you don’t want to miss the entire game, do you?”

Rebecca sighed. “Sorry Mr. Gerrard. I got caught up in my book again. How’s Alex doing?”

“He’s doing well,” he said. She flinched at the sight of a piece of popcorn stuck between his teeth.

She slipped past and continued toward the bleachers. Before she climbed the steps up into the stands, a scream stopped her in her tracks and she turned to where she thought the sound came from. She took a quick glance back at Mr. Gerrard, but he was busy counting the receipts for the game, oblivious to the scream. Curious, she headed toward the sound, hoping she imagined it. The gravel crunched underneath her feet, grating on her nerves, as she approached the back alley of the bleachers.

Mixing with the adrenaline, her gift flooded throughout her. She cherished the power as it seeped into her, giving her a soft electrical buzz and some much needed confidence.

Behind the bleachers, Gretchen and three of her friends pinned Cindy against the wall. A flash of light reflected off the class ring on Gretchen’s finger when she slapped Cindy. Her friends snickered like hyenas while holding the struggling Cindy. The pained expression on her face revealed that this incident had been going on for a while.

Rebecca’s power increased with her anger as she moved into the alley behind the bleachers, away from the roaring crowd. The crunch of gravel gave her away and they turned toward her.

A crooked smile crossed Gretchen’s lips. “Rebecca? You’re the last person I expected to show up.”

“Leave her alone.”


Gretchen’s friends released Cindy. Cindy rubbed her red cheek where a red palm print glowed on her cheek. After a moment to catch her breath, she shoved her way through Gretchen’s friends, and disappeared into the shadows. Hoping Cindy was okay,

Rebecca felt the energy tingle at her fingertips, but she didn’t want to let it out, so she clenched her jaw. Now that her power teetered on the edge, she struggled to keep it contained.
You can visit John's website here, or his blog here.  Thanks John!

16 May 2010

Pre-Marketing Your Book

I'm still a relative newbie when it comes to marketing and promotion, but it's an important part of being a writer these days. So today's post comes courtesy of a guest blogger,  Cheri Lasota, who is much wiser than I when it comes to.....

Pre-Marketing Your Book

Most writers are beginning to understand that writing is only a small part of the equation when it comes to publishing success. It is no longer enough to be a good writer. One must be a good marketer as well. However, marketing can be learned and practiced. The key is to start early, and use what techniques you know you can master based on your skill set. It is never to early to start forming a marketing plan for your writing career. You may be in the revision stages of draft three or four or already out there submitting your finished manuscript to agents. It doesn’t matter. Every day can be an opportunity to spend five to ten minutes on building a marketing plan. How do you go about it? Read on . . .

Start the wave

According to literary agent Lily Ghahremani, a publishing house will be happy to support and fuel a marketing wave you’ve already started. It is not all that rare for publishers to supply secondary funding pushes based on an author’s own efforts at increasing readership. If you already have a sizable network of possible readers, publishers do take notice, and in the negotiation phase, it can make a difference between signing on or receiving another rejection letter.

Begin with who you know

Buzz begins with a core market and expands. You know more people than you think you do. Take a pen and paper and write down a list of as many friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintences as you can think of. All done? Now think of all the authors, organizations, bookstores, libraries you hope to make contact with when you’ve published your book. Don’t forget to include local newspapers and magazines as well as online e-zines. Keep this list. You’ll need it when you go about marketing before and after publication.

For a few minutes each week, work on researching or recording contact information for these sources. These are the people and groups you will want to reach first when your first book comes out in stores. Easy enough, huh? This is something you can start doing today. As an addendum to this list, think through the major elements that make up your novel or nonfiction book. Does a mother in your novel have to deal with a child who suffers from autism? Then research autism groups on the Net. Here’s another example: my novel is set in the Azores Islands. I have and will continue to research all sites related to the Azores, whether they are travel sites or sites run by Azorean geneology enthusiasts, etc. These are possible avenues for selling books, interviews, and perhaps speaking engagements.

Target your readers

Describe your target reader to yourself, and be as specific as you can. Here is my target audience for my first novel: Women 18-35 who love romance, mythology, and history. Within that target, I will need to create a marketing plan that focuses on each element. Those who love mythology might frequent mythology sites on the Web. Could these be possible avenues for trading links or getting the word out about my novel? Do these groups have links to other groups that could be avenues to explore as well?

Identify competitors

Identify competition, but don’t fear it. Competition indicates there is already a market for you to sell your books to. Read books in the same genre or about the same topic: can you tap those readerships? How do those authors market their work? Read other author Web sites to gather ideas, then see if you can put a new twist on those ideas.

When working on your book marketing, specifically, brainstorm several differentiation statements. These statements are often used in query letters to compare an author’s book to another’s to aid the agent in placing your novel in the marketplace. For example, you could say your horror novel is in the vein of Stephen King’s “Carrie”, or that your mainstream novel is a cross between Michael Crichton and Michael Connelly.

One caveat: don’t make claims you can’t back up. Saying your book would outsell the “Harry Potter” series would merely illicit raised eyebrows and snickers from agents or editors. They’ve heard it all before, ad nauseam. Use the differentiation statement as a quick way to let the agent know what kind of book you are selling, not to make claims of greatness.

You can work on all the above ideas immediately, no matter what stage of writing you are in. Working on your marketing plan, may only take a few minutes of your day or week, but you won’t regret the invaluable lessons you’ll learn, nor the expertise you’ll have once your deep into selling your published book.
Cheri is a freelance editor specializing in fiction.  She is also an author, and has recently signed with literary agent Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker's Mark.  Her YA novel, Artemis Rising, is an excellent read and I can't wait until I can see it in print.  Visit Cheri's author website to read excerpts, learn more, and view her book trailer.

01 May 2010

Fake Pocket Syndrome

Continuing the theme of strange analogies from my last post, I’d like to talk about fake pockets and writing today.

Fake pockets are the bane of my fashionable existence. Nothing’s worse than going to stash my bank card or chapstick, only to encounter resistance. No pocket for you! It’s a disappointment, to say the least. Words can scarcely describe the letdown. In your writing, you should be aware of Fake Pocket Syndrome, to avoid irritating your readers and turning them off of your story.

Fake pockets promise, but don’t deliver. So your hero is a tough manly man who finds himself relying on the aid of a sultry vixen to accomplish his mission. The entire book is rife with sexual tension, but in the end the two shake hands and part ways like old drinking buddies. I call Fake Pocket Syndrome (FPS)! You can’t string a reader along like that, and not follow through. I’m not saying you have to write a torrid bedroom scene, but they had better at least kiss, or you need to at least allude to what we’re all expecting to happen. If your significant other spends an hour getting you worked up, then heads to the bedroom and….. goes to SLEEP, you’d be pretty pissed, wouldn’t you?

Fake pockets have no function. Even their aesthetic function is questionable. If you’re going to do horrible things to my bum by slapping a set of flap pockets back there, there had better be a good reason for it - like a place to put my credit card and ID when I don’t want to carry a purse. If your book starts with a character going on for two paragraphs about what she ate the day before, there should be a good reason for that. And sorry, but “I thought it was funny” is not good enough. For example, she’s a hypochondriac who woke up with a slight cough and is convinced that something she ate was tainted and has given her a horrible disease. Well now, that could be an interesting introduction to your character. But if her eating habits have nothing to do with anything, why are you boring the rest of us by detailing them? Also, just because a passage “sounds nice” doesn’t make it relevant. Sometimes you gotta kill your darlings. It’s up to you, though, and if you can really justify something, keep it.

Fake pockets take time and energy to create. No pocket at all would be quicker, easier, and more cost-effective. Save yourself and your editor some time and effort, and be aware of FPS from the beginning, and avoid it at all costs. The less junk you put in, the less you’ll have to cut out later on.

So take a long hard look at your manuscript. Are you a victim of FPS? Fear not, with a few snipped stitches here and there, you’ll have those pockets functional in no time.