Monthly Archives

July 2014


A Writer’s Word of Mouth

Ever wondered how to advertise your book with no budget?  Recently, I attended an Author’s Book Fair at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Hudson, Ohio.  I had the privilege of meeting some very talented Ohio Authors and one of the most interesting insights they shared with me was that Word of Mouth had been the most instrumental tool in promoting their work.

Although “word of mouth” certainly doesn’t have the fleeting viral impact of a successful internet campaign, I agree with these authors in terms of it not underestimating it’s power.  In order for it to work, however, I believe when you’re discussing you’re book with someone there must be passion and conviction in your voice.  These qualities must be genuine or your discussion will not radiate.  Remember what Maya Angelou said:  “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Being the book’s author, you are definitely the SME (Subject Matter Expert) of its contents.  However, are you prepared to summarize your book during an on the spot discussion with a stranger?  A good way to equip yourself for this more finite discussion is by composing an elevator speech.  This is a quick synopsis used to communicate some of the key highlights of your book.  I have heard some incredibly impactful elevator speeches as well as some real doozies.  For example, a smart elevator speech could simply be a paraphrased version of the summary that’s printed on the back or inside jacket of your book.  It might also include a snapshot of what inspired you to tell the story.  Make it clear, concise and most importantly, interesting.  You want your elevator speech to beg more questions of the listener.


1. ‘Practice Makes Perfect’

2. Allow yourself to be flexible.  The first elevator speech you create doesn’t have to remain set in stone.  As you use it throughout your encounters with people, if something doesn’t feel right our sounds awkward, revisit it and revise.  The more fluently-sounding your speech becomes will enhance the passion and conviction in your voice.  This will make people feel excited to read your book and it’s that feeling that will be their biggest take away – NOT the words you’ve chosen.

3. Have fun!  This also ties directly into how you will make your listener feel.  If the tone of your voice and the words you’ve chosen are dry and unexciting, you will elicit zero intrigue to run out and buy your book.

In closing today’s blog, I want to give credit to the three particular authors who clued me into this piece of advice:

Jody Casella:  Author of ‘Thin Space

Mindy McGinnis: Author of ‘Not a Drop to Drink‘ (soon to be a movie)

Natalie D Richards:  ‘Author of ‘Six Months Later

These books, along with my first novel Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves, can be found online at Barnes & Noble and

Enjoy and PLEASE share your feedback on Goodreads and their individual Amazon page.  Authors really need the review support from readers like you.


How To Connect When You Have Nothing in Common

Ever been with a group of people that all of a sudden they all disperse and you’re left standing or sitting there with someone you don’t know or know that you share nothing in common?  Awkward isn’t it?   Often times we’re not quick on our feet or crafty at striking up an interesting enough conversation to squash the uncomfortable silence.  The solution to this problem lies in the first half of my Mission Statement which is “To Connect and Inspire.”  A good rule of thumb is to be more interested than interesting.  Move in quickly (the sooner the better) with a good question to find out more about the person.  Ask about their interests, listen, respond to show that you are listening and then proceed with another question that’s pertinent to how they answered the first question.  Hopefully, even though you may know nothing about what interests them, it’s something that you’re able to be genuinely interested in or else you’re going to be bored to tears (which may, in fact, be the lesser of the two evils versus the previous awkward silence).

Remember: People love to hear themselves talk and they love talking about themselves.  So be the proactive one and ask them a compelling question.  Over time you’ll develop this skill and be able to ask questions that will guide the conversation into a topic that interests you as well.   A key driver of this skill is imagination.  A compelling imagination will help you ask a more interesting question that leads to a more interesting conversation.

Writers are gifted with a vast imagination.  So, whether they know it or not, they would be very good at coming up with compelling questions.  Actors too.  Think about it, a writer often writes about or an actor may have to play a character with whom they have nothing in common.  So how do they do this so well?  You have to be willing to learn new things.  If the person you’re standing there alone with is talking about things that don’t interest you all it takes is an open mind to be able to connect with them.   Being open-minded comes with some great benefits!  The more open-minded you are the more people you will connect with and who knows where one of those connections will take you one day.  For example, it might just skyrocket your career.

NBC ran series of public service announcement entitled “The More You Know” encouraging parents to be more involved in their children’s education.  This trains young people to be more open-minded.  Research shows that communities that support multicultural studies have a significant reduction acts of prejudice and racial injustice.  These topics are themes in my Extra Inning trilogy with a particular focus during the baseball game in the first book ‘The Diamond Thieves.’

Considering the time period (Cold War) and location (Deep South) of the Extra Innings series, I felt it was critical to include these topics in the story.  I’m a white male, so I’ve never personally faced what a black has faced in terms of unfair or unjust treatment because of the color of his skin.  I’ve always had a very diverse pool of friends and enjoyed engaging in conversations that some may find uncomfortable.  These connections have educated me on the topic of discrimination and social injustice.  I am very interested in this topic.

For some, making these sort of connections may not come easy but, again, it’s all about keeping an open mind.  In the end, you’ll be amazed with the new and cherished relationships you’ll establish by keeping an open mind and showing a sincere interest in what’s important in that individual’s life.


A Pen Mightier Than Any Sword

Have you ever signed a document or form and the pen smeared?

How did that make you feel? Frustrated … irritated … or just plain pissed off? Well, imagine being a writer and hosting your a book signing for your latest (or very first) book? How embarrassing!! I recently attended an Author’s Book Fair at the Hudson Library & Historical Society last Saturday (July 19th) in Hudson, Ohio. I had the privilege of meeting some very talented authors which I will blog more about in the near future. My main takeaway was that all 50-some authors were signing books with a black Sharpie. I don’t know why this felt like a mind-blowing revelation to me but I was like wow!  Genius!  I am so glad I picked up on this because I just had my first book signing last night at The Nervous Dog Coffee Shop in Akron, Ohio and I was just planning on using a nice blue that I found laying around our house. Yikes! That would have been a horrible lasting impression if that pen had smeared. ‘The Diamond Thieves‘ is the title of my first book in a young adult historical fiction trilogy entitled Extra Innings.

I’m sure most writers agree that quality is a top priority in their writing. Many writers, like me, are very private about their work and not willing to share it with the general public or even friends and family until it’s just right.  Well, I believe this Attention to Detail should also be applied to any and all interactions with anyone in conjunction with your writing.  Details go a long way.  Imagine the impression your customer who brings their signed book home only to discover that the author’s signature or personalized message has been smeared and indecipherable.  That’s major negative points against your overall quality reputation.  So here’s just a quick and very simple (BUT IMPORTANT) tip for all you writers out there:

Use a Sharpie when signing one of your books. Sign on one of the inside blank pages and NOT immediately inside the cover in case the Sharpie bleeds through. Remember, Attention to Detail is one of the ‘3 Key Qualities to a Successful Writer/Blogger’ (see my previous blogs).  Oh … and one more small suggestion:  I think black just looks the most professional when signing a book.


Fiction Hits the History Books

Writing a book is hard work, regardless of the genre.  It takes patience, focus, perseverance and passion.  Historical fiction, in particular, requires a bit of extra OOMPH.  Why?  Research … You gotta hit the history books and internet to get your facts straight. Dig Deep and take your time for a thorough research. And Be Advised: You Can’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet or everything you’re told in interviews. Are you aware that anyone can edit a Wikipedia page?  Knowing that, be careful what you document in your book based on your internet findings.  In addition, you should always cross-check information you obtain during a personal interview.

Most historical fiction works involve a fictional character who is interacting with something that actually took place in history.  Markus Zusak is the author of The Book Thief.  His main character is a nine-year-old girl named Liesel Meminger living in Nazi Germany in the year 1939.  The town she lives in is also Zusak’s creation; it’s called Molching.  Zusak has done a brilliant job of balancing the freedom of creation with the restraints of historical preservation.  I highly recommend that you read this novel.

In my book, Extra Innings: The Diamond  Thieves, my goal was to paint nostalgic accuracy around the innocence of youth in the old American South.  It was important to thicken the plot in order to straddle the age gaps between older readers who would enjoy reminiscing over some of the specific throwbacks I’ve peppered throughout the story and younger reader who may enjoy discovering what the old south was like prior to our laws protecting equal rights among races.

Research for the Extra Innings trilogy was both fun and exhausting.  I had the blessed fortune of meeting multiple sets of twins who provided me some fascinating perspectives into their unique environment.  This was by far the fun part.  The exhausting part was getting all the facts correct that I wanted to include in this book.  Peppering in accurate historical facts are what help to bring a historical fiction novel to life as well as keep the critics at rest.

For example Book 1 includes an extensive baseball trading card debate that required layers upon layers of research.  It was important to me touring the tastes, sights and sounds of the old south to life in all three books.  This information was gathered both through interviews and internet.  The chocolate cream pie mentioned in Book 1 was actually one of my Grama’s famed contributions to dinners when my dad was growing up.  I plan to share this recipe (with photos – finally) in a future blog.  The story gives considerable references to popular music of its time – particularly “the blues.”  Authors should be careful not to use any defaming terms when mentioning real people who actually existed.  Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker are all referenced in Book 1.  Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey are mentioned in Book 2.  Since I am NOT writing for the purpose of documenting their specific lives, it’s wise to either mention them in a positive or indifferent light.  The books also mentions numerous products like Palmolive, Gay Furlough cologne and Camel cigarettes. Two points I want to make here:

These names are trademarks of their respective owners. Their owners would have to claim for infringement if I was using them for promotional purposes.  Which I am not, so again, as long as I am not disparaging the product, then I most likely will not encounter an issue.

Double and triple check that the products you are mentioning not only existed during the time in which your book is set but also that they were used.  For example. I was planning to mention a specific furniture dusting product in Book 1 to illustrate how the twins’ mother, Ellen, kept the house clean and smelling fresh.  However, I learned through my extensive research that it was far more common, especially for a middle-class family, to use a vinegar and water solution to clean furniture.  Only one in a while was a special product like Pledge or Old English used.

I want to thank all the folks at Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi), especially Langston Rogers, who provided me specific details to campus life and the Rebels baseball team that I could have never dissevered online.  For example, Langston was able to inform me of the dining hall most on-campus residents used along with where the pay phones were that students used, since today’s handy-dandy little cell phones & iPhones hadn’t even been conceived back then.

Part of Book 3 takes place in Lackland Air Force Base and in Korea.  Over this 10 year period of writing this trilogy, I med some wonderful guys who were directly involved in the Korean Conflict (the more accurate title for the otherwise popular Korean War).  I actually even got to hold and load an M1 Garand rifle (which is the specific gun illustrated by Adam Lichi on the book’s cover).   I heard some great stories from these guys and will be paying my respects and thanks to them in the printing of Book 2 (A Hero Among Thieves).

Compiling all of these facts were key building blogs to capture the authentic feel I was going for in the Extra Innings trilogy.  However, a tip for historical fiction writers is to look out for overkill.  Don’t inundate your readers with so many facts that your story becomes a snooze fest.  Remember that it’s also fiction.  So don’t feel too constrained by feeling like your High School history teacher is standing over your shoulder or that they’re going to grade your book like it’s a term paper.  HAVE FUN!  It’s okay to paint a place or time in history with a more color if it lends to the direction your book needs to take.  One tip to increase your flexibility is to create your own immediate setting.  Just like what Zusak did in The Book Thief, the town is fictional although we all know Nazi Germany (sadly) existed.  If you need the setting to be an actual place that exists like New York City or San Francisco, for example, perhaps have the building where the main character lives be your complete creation or where they work or go to school.  This just helps ease the workload required in researching as well as keeps you clear of any defamation complaints in case there is an negative or risqué incident that takes place in the specific location that the building’s landlord or business owner feels might be a possible threat.  Perception is reality so it would be horrible if one of your characters lives in a specific building that actually exists somewhere and they are attacked or raped in your story and that building’s landlord gets word of this and perceives it as a threat to future tenants being afraid to rent there.  Make sense?

I would love to hear some comments from other historical writers?  And definitely your feedback on the first book in the Extra Innings trilogy (The Diamond Thieves) which is AVAILABLE NOW.  Keep in touch!


Niche Rhymes with …

Completing this sentence: “Niche Rhymes with …”  all depends on how you pronounce the word “niche.”  Some pronounce it “neesh” but I’ve always pronounced it “NITCH.”

Today’s blog title is referring to niche (‘nitch’) marketing and I’ve’ phrased it this way to suggest that this particular type of marketing CAN be a real pain in the @$$.  Allow me to explain myself  …

The goal of offering a new product or service is sales and customer satisfaction.  In order to optimize this effort you must have a clever marketing campaign which communicates the value of your product or service to potential customers.  Your niche is whatever category or area you specialize in.   And within the entire marketplace there is a subset  interested in your niche.  The trick is effectively reaching these folks with the right target marketing.  Some writers and bloggers may have a niche that makes it more difficult to reach their specific subset and when you’re a novice like me, it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.

Let’s start with bloggers.  One of the most popular blog sites on the internet today is called bloglovin.  Bloglovin makes it easy for blog enthusiasts to “follow their favorite blog as well as discover new ones.”  Bloglovin features the most popularly searched blog categories on the internet.  These niche categories include: Art, Beauty, Design, DIY & Crafts, Music, Books, Film, Fitness, Family and Travel to name a few.  Nowhere among this list the most commonly blogged about categories do I see “Marketing” or “Target Marketing” or “Historical Fiction.”  There’s not even a category for Writers & Poets.  There is a category for “Books” but it’s is more for book reviews.  I’m not blogging about book reviews.  Since my blogs do not match one or any of those “most popular” categories I am, therefore, climbing a much steeper hill towards gaining followers.  (My goal is to gain at least 2,000 followers by the end of this year).   So see what I mean by the title I’ve chosen for this particular blog?  If you’re not marketing within a popular niche it can become a struggle.  I’ve been researching dozens of credible bloggers to help enhance my knowledge to write a good blog that will hopefully help or inspire new and emerging authors, however, my topics are not in a category that produces a large volume of followers.

For example, Celebrity updates and gossip is a very popular niche market.  Just look at American Blogger Perez Hilton and the fame he’s self-generated.  He’s stepped into the real of television personalities based on his blogs which generated hundreds of thousands of followers because he blogged about what people want to hear: Celebrity Gossip.  Unfortunately, for me, identical twins Jimmy and Billy McGee of my books from the Extra Innings trilogy are not celebrities – although they do have some very interesting drama between them (especially in Books 2 and sadly Book 3).

Now let’s talk about writers.  Marketing Expert in Small Business Success Kim T. Gordon recently wrote a great blog titled “3 Rules of Niche Marketing.”

The first rule she talks about is “Meeting Unique Needs.”  I’ve read this article numerous times and I believe I am doing this with my blogs and especially my book.  I spend a lot of times in Barnes & Noble perusing the historical fiction and young adult fiction aisles to study my competition.  I feel this is a critical task for a new authors.  These are some of the questions a new author should be asking themselves while they are researching their competition:  Does your story provide something that is new and compelling?  Are you speaking in the language of your niche market?  Are you matched up to the key selling points, pricing and distribution method that your niche market requires?  If not, you have some revamping to do.

I feel my books are well-tailored to the young adult readers who enjoy historical fiction, are family-oriented and concerned with racial injustice and social issues.  Of course, it does help that the relationship between the 2 main characters, Jimmy and Billy, sparks some pretty juicy drama.

The difficulty I am having is communicating this to potential readers.  Primarily because Book 1 focuses on a different theme than Books 2 & 3 which are more about young adult issues.  What readers mostly perceive when they see the cover of Book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) is that it’s a baseball book.  This is the primary theme of Book 1 but it’s wrapped around a much deeper and more controversial context.  The boys are trying to secure usage of the school’s baseball diamond but their best friend, T.J., is black.  Being that the Extra Innings trilogy is set in the Deep South circa the late 1940’s, T.J. becomes a main focal point with respects to the enemies (known as “the mob”) who are trying to take over the diamond from the twins and their friends.  Much of our nation’s current morale foundation has been shaped by our past struggles with racial injustice.  I wanted to show this town as a beacon of hope during a time of extreme intolerance.  I like that the character who steps forward as the principle hero around this topic is not who the reader is expecting.  It’s very endearing.  This is actually one of the best parts of the story (aside form Chapter 12 which I have mentioned in past blogs is one of my favorite chapters out of every book I’ve ever read).  The trick is, at face value, the book screams baseball.  So I am missing a more important subset of the market.  Baseball fans are not particularly going to get a re-invention of “The Sandlot” – if that’s what they’re looking for.  So when targeting my niche marketing efforts I need to find a clever way to reach the young adult subset that would be interested in a story pertaining to social injustice in America without confusing them by the book’s title.  I’ve been considering blogging more about topics followed by young adults.  Although this would not help provide advice to new and emerging authors, which is my goal, it would help attract more followers from the subset of the market which is more likely to read Extra Innings.