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Publishing

What the Heck is Favorable Attention?

“What the heck is favorable attention?” a friend asked me today.  My respond was simply:  “It’s a conversational game-changer.”

Of course, this begged more question, so I commenced with a more in depth explanation along with some examples.  Favorable Attention is all about appealing to your listener’s pride.  So what does appeal to pride mean?  Look for something that is of importance to your listener and compliment them on it.  For example, did a positive change recently occur in the life of the person you’re talking with?  This could be a new job, promotion, engagement, new home, recent vacation, accomplishment of a goal, new car, etc.  Or is there a known quality about that person that you admire?  If any of these exist, acknowledge and compliment them on it.  One of the best examples of this is actually given in my book “The Diamond Thieves” of the Extra Innings trilogy when the character Pastor Cook is trying to get the attention of the adults who are in an uproar over T.J. playing in the 4th of July baseball game because T.J. is black and their sons are white.  (Remember this trilogy takes place during the late 1940’s to early 50’s in the Deep South and encompasses the theme of social injustice.  Cook compliments the feuding men by calling them “intelligent men” and goes a step further by acknowledging that “everyone here knows that about you.”

Imagine the opposite.  What would happen if you’re initiating your conversations with an insult?   Immediately, your listener would become defensive.  For example, if a manager or supervisor was trying to counsel an unproductive or insubordinate employee and starts off the conversation with:  “I don’t know what’s come over you?  You use to be our top producer and lately you’re sales are worse than some of our newbies.”  Versus if the boss starts the counseling like this:  “You have more integrity than most anyone I’ve ever worked with and historically, I can always rely on you for outstanding results.  Help me to understand what’s been getting in the way of your performance lately and let’s see if we can work together to get you back on track.”   You’ve appealed to the listener’s pride by complimenting them on their integrity and past reliability to perform.  There is nothing about this sentence that would trigger the listener to become defensive.  This allows them to continue the coaching session with an open mind and without the distraction of a defensive wall.

My father, Wes Gibson is who taught me about Favorable Attention.  He was a VP with Goodyear and is a master at this skill.  He learned it from his father, my grandfather, Charles Gibson who had a successful career with the Singer Sewing Company.  This skill, like most, is not developed overnight.  It takes continuous practice.  When mastered, it will take your conversation skills to a whole new level and allow you to leverage any conversation to ensure that your listener receives a clear message from you with fewer distractions.  It also allows the listener to walk away feeling good about the conversation.  Remember the Maya Angelou quote from my last blog “A Writer’s Worth of Mouth.”  Maya said: “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  So why not say something that makes them feel good about themselves.  This will also keep you in a positive light in their mind and allow for a better connection between you and them.  Appeal to their pride with a compliment and this will gain you the Favorable Attention you need to make a more positive lasting impression and get your message across without any major roadblocks.

Publishing

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.”

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/49608

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.

Thoughts?

 

Publishing

Why Twins?

Identical twins have always fascinated me.  It was purely a selfish reason to have the main characters of Extra Innings be identical twins because it gave me a purposeful excuse to research the topic.  As the original storyboards were being developed and my excitement grew I realized that this topic gave the story very unique opportunities.   After all there are very few fictional novels on the market about identical twins.  I think the trilogy would make for a fun movie.

I was fortunate enough to encounter a handful of identical twins throughout my research.  One question in particular, I will not disclose in this blog as it will give away too much information. Readers will just have to complete the trilogy to find out.

One of the first and very apparent concepts I learned was that the general stereotype of identical twins acting identical is grossly mistaken.  Learning this really helped me to develop the characters of Jimmy and Billy McGee.  I wanted them to be almost polar opposites so I was pleased to learn this concept is widely justified.  At the same time, this is where the pieces throughout the story become intellectualized WITHOUT becoming ponderous.

The correct term for identical twins is monozygotic.  This is where two embryos are formed from a single (mono) fertilized egg.  Because the two embryos are formed from a single egg/sperm fertilization, the twins have the same genetic origins and, therefore, the identical DNA.  However, despite this shared gene set, they have clearly individual personalities.  Studies are done as to whether parents should encourage this individualization more by not permitting the twins to share the same bedroom growing up or not to dress them alike, etc.  Right from Chapter 1 of the Diamond Thieves the reader learns that Jimmy and Billy both share the attic as their bedroom  I touch a little bit on their infancy and the whole concept of “twin ESP” and “twin talk” but mostly the story focuses on how the cavern of their individuality expands as their teenage years move along.  Still, what I find fascinating is how despite their differences they both often find the same platform with which to express themselves.  My favorite example of this is in Book 3 (A Hero Among Thieves) when both twins are experiencing stress they both express it through writing.  Jimmy, the more deliberate and intellectual of the two, completely emerges himself in a research paper at Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) while Billy, the more free-spirited and creative type begins to write songs and poems about his experiences in Korea (during the Korean Conflict).  It’s also interesting that Jimmy naturally begins to develop a rigid routine to his mornings at college while Billy is forced into a rigid routine with the United States Air Force.

In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) the reader is immediately told that Jimmy and Billy McGee are “clearly individuals.”  Behaviors, actions, expressions and thoughts help to illustrate this.  However, this book constellates more around the battle over their baseball diamond and how to handle the prejudice of their enemies “the mob” with respects to their good friend T.J. who is black.  With respect to this topic, both Jimmy and Billy have the same feelings although Jimmy (like his character describes him) is more in tune and responsive to T.J.’s emotions.

Book 2 (Race of the Gemini) lives up to his title by digging deep into the progression of these boys growing more different.  The story describes a lot of how one twin (Billy) feels like a living shadow of the other (Jimmy).  This was an interesting idea that I picked up in many of my interviews with twins.  They felt that the other was more of a favorite of one or both parents.  Some felt the jealousy of one twin being more popular in school or better at sports or a natural at socializing.  As I asked more questions I was very intrigued by the pressure and jealousy that was felt around this topic.  Often times these feelings sparred a sense of competition between then, hence the title “Race of the Gemini.”  The trick with writing about this was trying not to intentionally downplay one twin over the other.  If the readers found themselves having a favorite among the two brothers, I wanted that to be their choice and not triggered by some intentional or subliminal seed I planted.

In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) both twins love baseball, however, Jimmy is a team’s all-star batter while Billy has the Ace pitching skills.  Also, Jimmy has a closer relationship with Skip, who is more mature and logical while Billy was closer friends with Whitey – the wild and fun one in the group.

Lastly, I wanted to play around with the whole concept of “switching places” or “trading places” as this was asked of each set of twins I interviewed.  I was surprised to find that this was not just a childhood experience but also performed on more of a strategic level as teenagers.  This was executed for various reasons allowing one of the twins to practically be in two places at once.  For the McGee twins, Billy insisted on Jimmy covering for him multiple times so he could sneak out of the house and be with his girlfriend or go drinking with his friends.  Jimmy, not being a big fan of drinking became almost the victim here so Billy, who was grounded, could still go out and party.

Overall, I had as much fun writing Extra Innings as I did doing all the pre-writing research.  I hope its readers fall in love with the McGee twins and all their friends as much as I have.  #extrainnings

Publishing

Why Baseball?

Now that my first book is out, I’m getting a lot of folks asking: “why did you choose baseball?”

Well, as most people know my goal was to write a fictional book that required a vast amount of research, however, I did feel the need to incorporate some theme with which I was familiar. Considering the age of the characters I tried to think of what might interest them during this period in American history and baseball felt the most appropriate to capture the essence of this era. I grew up playing ball with my friends either during recess or during the summers in the town I grew up in a small town (named Wentzville) just outside St. Louis, Missouri. Other than building forts and trails in the woods that surrounded my house, I spent countless hours playing baseball. I also have some great memories of going to Busch Stadium to see the Cards (Cardinals) play. Speaking of major league teams, my dad was definitely more of a following fan. I didn’t watch sports at all growing up but I do recalling overhearing games my dad watched on t.v. or listening to on the radio. Again, these were great memories all positively influencing my current love for baseball. Now, I am a proud Boston Red Sox fan. I love listening to the games on our MLB app and posting fan messages on my Facebook page.

Once baseball was the decided theme for the beginning of the book (remember that the Extra Innings trilogy was originally plotted to be one single book) I began to create storyboards detailing the plot. Obviously, since the baseball portion of this story took place in 1947 and I wasn’t born until 1975, I did have to do some research. This mostly came in the with the help of Google. I had fun digging into the baseball archives for player and team information as well as specifics on rules and regulations of the game which have since changed. This was important because I could not always rely on my current knowledge of how the game is played. Certain illegal moves now were legal back then or had just been outlawed a few years prior to the year of this story.

For example, spitballs were originally outlawed in 1920.  The example of a balk mentioned in Book 1 is when the pitcher makes a motion associated with his pitch but does not complete the delivery.  The balk rule was first introduced 50 years prior to this story taking place but it was mentioned to help reinforce how the opposing team (“the mob”) had to be watched closely for cheating.

I want to specifically talk about Chapter 2. There is a scene between two friends (Fist and Boston) who are trading baseball cards. Researching this was tricky, because I really wanted to feature the more popular players at the time with a particular focus on rookie cards (like Brooklyn Dodger’s Pee Wee Reese’s rookie card from 1941) as those leverage the highest bargaining ability during a card trade.  But at the same time, I didn’t want to select too famous of a player because I believed that might appear too far-fetched to the reader. After all, avid baseball fans would know any and all current players (current being mid 1940’s) and not just the major celebrity players with now legendary status.  One interesting fact to note was that some major league players didn’t get issued an actual “rookie” card until a few years after they were playing.  One example was outfielder Ralph Kiner who began playing for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1946 but wasn’t issued a rookie card until 1948.

Another interesting point to mention is that major league baseball was shut down during WWII as the men were away fighting the Nazi’s. This is when the AAGSL (All-American Girls Softball League) came about (later to become the All-American Girls Baseball League in 1943. (Remember the movie A League of Their Own with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna).  This era of baseball is not mentioned in the Extra Innings trilogy at all. Based on the nature and personalities of these characters (and their relationship with one character in particular), it would be contradictory for them to speak of this league unless it was negative.

I do feel it’s important to mention that the story of the twins goes beyond the topic of baseball. Only in Book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) is this even a focus. Chapters 10 and 11 give solid closure to the baseball-themed plot and I believe that Chapter 12 does a good job communicating that the reader can expect for Book 2 to incorporate a completely different theme. For the purpose of peaking a prospective reader’s interest to buy my book, I am going to refrain from explaining what that theme is in this blog.  Speaking of Chapter 12, I hope everyone who reads the book really enjoys Chapter 12 as this is absolutely my favorite chapter in the entire book.  Readers have already reported to me that they are (pleasingly) shocked by this chapter.  I love it!  #extrainnings

Publishing

Extra Innings Press Release

I thought for this blog I would share my press release.  This will be sent to three different northeast Ohio newspapers:  The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, The Akron Beacon Journal and the Canton Repository.  The goal is for them to print an article in a Sunday edition to help advertise the release of my first novel Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves.  Shown below is what I wrote for the press release.  Anyone who has field experience in writing these I would love to hear some feedback.

Local Author Releases His Debut Novel

Every teenager will face a life-altering crossroads when they struggle to do what’s right in the face of steep pressure to do wrong.  For Author Brian Gibson of Akron, Ohio, this becomes a personal message in his debut novel Extra Innings, The Diamond Thieves.

Diamond Thieves is the first of three fictional books in his Extra Innings trilogy that chronicles the teenage lives of identical twin brothers Jimmy and Billy McGee. The twins who, along with an entertaining cast of friends, are being challenged by their arch enemies for exclusive domain over their neighborhood baseball diamond.

Set in the late 1940’s Deep South, the boys must deal with a very adult ethical dilemma that intensifies the conflict: in the face of opposition from the town and their rivals, should they allow their best friend and team spark plug, who is black, to play in the deciding game?

‘My goal with this story was to connect with all individuals and inspire them in a way that improves their life and way of thinking’, said Gibson who goes by the pen name B.W. Gibson. ‘I feel like I have accomplished that.’

The Diamond Thieves conveys a strong unfiltered message about life during a period in history when racism was still a way of life in small-town southern communities.

Gibson displays a writing style that will transport you back to the sights, sounds and even smells of this Cold War period in U.S. history.

Please find enclosed a review copy for your consideration. For more information visit Brian Gibson’s website www.bwgibson.net.