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Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirteen

Number Thirteen

Your Great New Title Is Already Taken

Titles are a problem for all authors. You want a title that will say something about the story and catch the potential buyer’s attention. Sometimes, that’s hard to do and most of us struggle as much with the title as we do with the story itself.

But it seems that when you come up with a great title, someone else has already used it. Usually a fast search on Google will confirm this for you.

But on the other hand, so what?

Titles can’t be copyrighted. You can use any title you want, and no one can legally do anything about it. Obviously, you really don’t want to use something that was used before recently. Having two relatively new books on the shelf with the same title could confuse the readers. By and large, the readers are already confused enough, so I try to avoid that.

But what if I wanted to use the title of, let’s say, The Old Man and the Sea for my new book? Odds are, no matter the bookstore, me and Hemingway are not going to be in the same place in the store. Papa’s books will be in the Classics section. Mine will be in the Romance section…maybe in the Smut section. There is little chance of confusion here.

But the rule is to check out the title. Has it been used before? If so, when? In what genre?

Finding that your first choice is taken might be a blessing in disguise. That forces you to brainstorm on a new title, and you may come up with something even better.

Don’t get discouraged…make it happen!

Often your agent or representative will make title suggestions. This a good thing since they will have a marketing point of view that may help sales.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 29 SEP 2020

The last Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for September is:

Is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with but haven’t been able to yet?

Keep Loving!

Casting Call for Love Excerpt

This is a short excerpt from Casting Call for Love available on my Free Reads page. WARNING: Adult language is used.

Roland swallowed. “Cut.” He remembered the microphone in his lap. He brought it to his lips. “Cut!”

Jim looked down from the camera. He took a deep breath. “You want a print?”

“I have no fucking idea.”

Valerie caught the towel someone tossed her and wiped the stage blood from her face. She offered her hand to Harry and he stood up beside her. The cast and crew applauded as she and Harry took a bow.

Roland swallowed again. “Someone get them some goddamn robes.”

A stage hand gave her a robe as she walked toward him. She wiped a little more of the dripping blood from her hair as she smiled. “Well?”

He couldn’t see her clearly through the red fog filling his vision. “What the fuck was that bit?”

“What bit?”

He waved wildly at the set. “You…you…” He closed his eyes. He couldn’t even think straight, let alone talk. “That bit!”

She laughed. “Improvisation. He forgot his lines, and we needed to get the scene moving.”

“Does the word ‘cut’ mean anything to you? How about ‘take two’?”

She frowned again. “Would you calm down?”

“Fuck!”

Jack and Ralph ran up to her. Jack gushed again. “My, God! That was great! RW, this is the way the scene should have been written!”

“You two get the fuck away from me. Now.”

They both frowned, but had enough sense to leave.

He sat fuming. At first, she didn’t want to do the nude scenes at all. Then she changed this one around to add touching. Now, she took off on her own to add a goddamned blowjob! He looked up at Jim’s position on the camera. “Trash that. We’ll re-shoot the scene next week.” He looked at Valerie. “The way it’s written.”

“No, Jim. Don’t trash that scene.” Roland could feel her gaze burn into him. “Roland, we need to talk. Now.”

Jim looked between them a time or two. “Tell you what. I’ll hang onto the film for now.”

“Thanks.” Her eyes still locked onto his.

Roland fumed. “Oh, we’ll talk all right. Come on. We’ll fucking talk!” They went to the production office. He slammed the door as he closed it.

Valerie took a deep breath. “That’s a good take of a good scene, and you know it.”

“It’s not going in the film.”

She sat down and crossed her legs, but her foot bounced nervously. “I think it should.”

“No.” He swallowed. He didn’t like where this conversation went. He liked it even less than he liked the scene. “And we’re going back to the original script.”

She sighed. “I know you don’t want me to do this. Believe it or not, I’m not crazy about doing it. But, if we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right.”

He needed to either scrap the film or fire her. He couldn’t see any other ways out of this. Roland knew the scene was better. He also knew everyone would think she just gave head on screen.

To someone other than him.

He paced in the small office. “No! That’s all there is to it. I’m the goddamned director, and I say this doesn’t go in the fucking film!”

She took a deep breath. “If it wasn’t me, would you keep the scene?”

He opened his mouth quickly to respond. He closed it even faster. This question had no right answer. If he said yes, she would turn it on him as preferential treatment. If he said no, she would want to know what she did wrong so she could do another take. The last thing he needed to do was even answer the question, but she stared up at him, waiting. Misdirection seemed the order of the day. He placed his hands on the table and leaned across it towards her. “I don’t think you understand how I feel about this.” His voice carried a sharp edge he didn’t want to use with her.

“Fine!” She screamed at him. “Tell me so I have some fucking idea!”

He paused, trying to get his thoughts in order as best he could through the still rising fury in his mind. “Don’t you wonder why I didn’t cut that—” He waved his hands. “Fucking disaster? I couldn’t! I was too busy stopping myself from running up there, yanking you to your feet, and punching Harry’s goddamned lights out!”

“Harry didn’t do anything! If you’re going to be pissed off, at least be pissed off at the right person!”

He screamed at her. He hated that he did, but he couldn’t stop. His anger took total control of him now, and it all whipped from his mind and body at once. “Goddamn it, Valerie! That doesn’t fucking matter! I looked at the other camera, and I saw what you did! I know you faked everything, but from where I sat, it looked like the woman I love—” He stopped dead, his mouth frozen in the middle of his sentence.

She stared at him for several seconds. Valerie’s voice sounded soft, almost weak. “What did you say?”

Ready or not, the chance to turn back already passed. His anger didn’t fade away. It just vanished. “I’ve fallen in love with you.”

She blinked rapidly as she stared at him. “You have?”

He wondered if this would be the last time he would ever see her. She could get her paperwork from Shelia and never even come into his office to pick it up. “Yeah, I have. Maybe that’s wrong, maybe it’s just not a good idea, but it happened, and I’m not sorry about it.” He took a deep breath. He couldn’t see a lot of difference between drowning in six inches or six miles of water. “Valerie, I love you.”

As he watched, her face went through several gyrations. Her face sort of wiggled between frowning, a totally flat expression, and what he thought might be a small smile.

<<<<<>>>>>

Her heart tried to stop when he said he loved her. It did a little better now, but it went to the other extreme and raced out of control in her chest. Roland leaned across the conference table, his palms resting on the surface and his face close to hers. She could feel his breath on her face as he panted. A few drops of sweat fell from his chin to make wet splashes on the table. Sweat ran down the middle of her back as she watched him. The drops of moisture falling from her head to hit her shoulder where the robe slipped down her arm might be sweat, or just the remains of the stage blood. It didn’t matter.

Valerie managed to keep her breathing in check, but she would have to start panting soon. Her heart beat so fast she would run out of oxygen before too long.

Her brain dissociated from her body, and it split into two parts as it left. Her body just sat there like a lump of flesh. It didn’t seem too inclined to help her right now.

One part of her brain went manic. It ran around and screamed in her head. She couldn’t understand too much of what it said to her. She did make out something about kissing him.

The other part of her brain was the only thing working even close to right. It took a cold, analytical spin. It showed her the pro and con list. Well, it showed her a pro list since the cons went away. The analyst tried to show her more things to put on the list.

She tried to look at her feelings, but the analyst would have none of the emotional nonsense.

She decided to conduct a small poll. The analyst loved the idea of a poll, but offered no opinion. It didn’t have enough facts yet.

The maniac running amok in her head only screamed something about kissing Roland.

Her body didn’t even answer the phone.

She sat watching him as he leaned over the table at her. She must look like an idiot just sitting there, but she couldn’t do anything else. His face looked patient, like he could wait until doomsday for her to speak. It might take that long to get her two brains and body back together into a cohesive unit.

Suddenly, the little pink princess phone in her head rang. Her body called and said only one thing:

‘Think how good it feels when he holds you.’

Her two brains slammed together with a sound like a bank vault closing. They jumped together back into her body and took control again.

She smiled up at him. “I love you, too.”

His face went slack for a split second, and then a smile broke across his lips. He grabbed her around the neck and almost fell face first onto the table. “This isn’t going to work.” He released her and ran around the table to where she stood to meet him. His arms moved around her waist, and he hugged her to his chest. His lips pressed against hers, and it seemed somehow different.

The electric tingles his lips moving on hers created were still there. Maybe they were a little stronger, but that didn’t seem to make up the difference.

The flavor of his lips seemed somehow a little sweeter, but not too much. At least not enough to account for the flood of new feelings ranging through her now.

The scent of his cologne seemed the same. Maybe a few new spices are in the mix, and perhaps a little more sugar, but it didn’t seem too different.

She realized through the tide of emotions that Roland, not his cologne, smelled different.

His touch, his taste, his cologne, and all of the other things seemed about the same, but he smelled different now. Different from even earlier today when they made love before leaving for work. She would be hard pressed to say exactly how he smelled different, though. Maybe, she thought, he smelled stronger. She didn’t know what strong smelled like, so she couldn’t grab onto that. Maybe there’s a new scent of an ambrosial quality, like nutmeg, in the blend. She just didn’t know.

As his tongue moved in her mouth and teased her desires for him, the fact hit her. While she didn’t know how he smelled different, she knew precisely why.

He belonged to her.

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twelve

Number Twelve

As Soon As A Book Is Released, You Will Find 100+ Editing Errors

Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

O’Toole’s Corollary: Murphy was an optimist.

Yes, Murphy is alive and well. He works in the publishing business.

Just a couple of my own experiences in this area…

I once released a (very) hard science fiction novel through one of the major print houses. It had been through not only the normal editing process that all authors are familiar with, but also through extensive editing and peer review by real professional scientists due to the extreme technical content. This included physicists, mathematicians, biologists, chemists, and other more esoteric disciplines of science as well as the peer review team at a well known physics journal. Finally, release day came. That was on Monday. By Wednesday afternoon, I had more than 1,000 emails from readers that one of the planets in the story was in an impossible orbit. Guess what? The readers were right. Me and all of the scientists had simply missed the fact that there was an error in the math, and that let the planet have an impossible orbit. Oops. We fixed that in the second edition.

I wrote a semi-historical novel once that was set in the 1490s, and I used a word that wasn’t in common usage until the late 1880s. Yeah, the editors and I both missed that one, but the readers didn’t. Oh…we never fixed that one, just added a disclaimer to the second edition in the forward that the story was not a strict historical work.

And this ignores the normal spelling and grammatical errors that have fallen through the cracks. At a guess, I would suspect the number is somewhere in excess of a million over the last 30 years.

This kind of stuff happens. Don’t worry about it. Readers do—by and large—understand that we and the editors are human. They will laugh it up for a while, maybe poke some fun at you, and then finish the book anyway.

There are two genres where you can really piss off the readers when you make mistakes, though…real, serious historical and hard science fiction. The readers in these genres are absolute fanatics about attention to detail. And they will shred you if you mess it up.

For the most part, this is all petty stuff.

And remember, don’t sweat the petty stuff.

Oh, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 22 SEP 2020

The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for today is:

What are the most important elements of good writing?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Eleven

Number Eleven

Most Promo Companies Only Promote Themselves

This is not aimed at all promotional companies…just most of them. It is also not aimed at any particular company or companies…just general observations and comments.

What is it that most of the promotional companies do? In a nutshell, they send out notices about your book…most of them just shotgun a message about your book to the many Yahoo (and Google) groups on a periodic basis. A few will post to the several social media systems like FaceBook and Twitter. The exact details vary, but not by much. This is basically all the services do, and they only do that for one particular book at a time from a client. Some offer package deals that cover several books.

There are a number of problems with this…

First of all, they do nothing that you, the author, can’t do. And you, the author, can do it better. We’ll be coming back to this.

Second, they focus only on one book. See Rule Number Seven. There is a ton of money just sitting there on your backlist.

And thirdly, all of the promo companies work on a fee-based system.

Now that we have the three main problems identified, let’s talk about them. Because the problems are all interrelated, I’m going to just move forward. As we go, you will see the problems crop up and how we can better deal with them.

I know you’ve seen the messages on Yahoo groups from the promo services. They are always from something like, “Billy Bob Promotions”. Yeah, everyone else sees that, too. The subject may be something like, “Read Mary’s New Book!” A brief survey of the members of two of the largest Romance/Erotica Romance Yahoo groups found that just over 85% of the readers have either email filters set up to move messages from the promo companies directly to the trash bin or they just delete these messages without reading them. In other words, of the people you want to see these messages, only about 15% of them even bother. The same thing applies on the social media networks…most readers don’t even bother to read the posts, let alone follow any links in them.

The real problem here is that the readers see the posts from the promo company as spam. I can understand that, because it is indeed spam. So, how do we get the readers to actually read the posts? Simple…the posts should come from the author of the book.

There are two ways to make this happen…

First, the author can send out the posts. Most all email programs will allow you to send an email at a later date and time you select, either built in or as an add-on helper application. The same thing applies for the social media networks…TweetDeck, HootSuite, and others allow you to schedule posts. The author picks a day and sets aside time on that day to write and schedule posts as appropriate. When the posts are sent, they are coming from the author, and readers tend to actually read those kinds of posts.

The other option is—in my opinion—better…the promo services should be posting as the author. This of course means that the promo company needs access to the author’s email and social media accounts. This entails a good deal of trust and some sort of assurance from the promotional service that the access will not be abused. This way of doing things lets the author focus on writing while the promo company does the promotion, just as things should be.

Next, the promo services should promote the author, not just one book. This is very similar to the idea of agents versus representatives as discussed in Rule Number Five. Just as you need a representative who will represent you as a whole, you need a promotional service who will promote you as a whole. Single title representation or promotion is a waste of time and money. By promoting the author, you make sales on the current title as well as on the backlist.

And now we come to the money shot…all of the promo companies work on a fee-based system. That is to say, you pay $x and they promote your book for a certain amount of time. The promo company has no skin in the game under this program and fee schedule. They get paid no matter what happens.

In the real world, advertising agencies are paid a combination of a flat fee plus a commission on sales. Why not in the world of publishing? Well, to be fair, that is the way it works in the print world, but the author is more or less out of that loop…the publishers will hire an advertising firm to do a campaign, and that deal will include a cut of sales to the ad agency. It doesn’t work that way in the E-Book arena, though. Why not?

Without a performance-based pay scale, the promotional company has no vested interest in making the ad campaign work. They are simply accountable to do the number of posts to the places they say they will make them to, and nothing more. There is no method in place to make sure that the campaign will actually work. This leads to cookie-cutter campaigns where they all look alike with only the names changed. There is no innovation or encouragement to make the campaign better.

What would fix this is a commission schedule. The promo company gets a flat fee for the up-front work of preparing the campaign, and then they get a percentage of the sales made during the campaign. This puts some of their skin in the game, and their income is now based on their performance.

Next, we need to talk about the difference between e-publishers and print publishers. Very few epubs do any promotion at all beyond generic advertising featuring all of their releases in a given time frame. A few go beyond that and will post group or social media messages for specific books, but not too many do that. On the other hand, print publishers often take out full-page ads in magazines and major newspapers to promote single titles. In general, epubs do almost no promotion while the print houses might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. (There are some exceptions…a few of the larger epubs are starting to take out some ads.)

Lastly, let’s tie this all back to Rule Number Five…

The real representatives out there provide not only the normal services of traditional agents, and the editing services to get a manuscript ready to pitch to a publisher, but they also provide promotional services. Some of these representatives offer this as part of their standard package and others offer it as an add-on at additional percentage points, but almost all do offer it.

Most of these representatives do this promotion acting as the author…that is they post from the author’s email and from the author’s social media accounts. They know that readers pay far more attention to the author “talking” than to some promotional company spamming. Also, since most of the representatives are working on a percentage of royalty commission, the better the ad campaign is, the more money they make. In other words, they have skin in the game.

With all of the above said, there is no doubt that most authors need someone to help them with promotion. An author’s time is better spent writing their books rather than running amok posting messages and updates to promote their books.

The thing is, where do you get the most bang for the buck?

Look at the promotional companies carefully and assess what they can do for you and if their services are actually going to help you.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 15 SEP 2020

Here’s today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:

Are there any teachers you particularly disliked in school?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Ten

Number Ten

Generally Speaking, Writing Experts Aren’t

I want you to think about something totally unrelated to writing for a minute…

How many people are there professing they are “experts” in social media or search engine optimization (SEO) or various other subjects related to online marketing? Millions? More?

Why are there so many? Because there is a created market for them with the explosive growth in social media and search engine use.

Now, back to writing…

How many people are there out on the Internet claiming to be “experts” at teaching you how to write? Hundreds of thousands? More? And many of these so-called experts are colleges and universities (some very well known) trying to cash in on the wave.

Why are there so many? Because there is a created market for them due to the explosive growth of self-publication from Amazon and other places.

Yeah…everyone thinks they are an author. Many (but by no means all) are just bad writers who self-publish because a real publisher won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole.

Most of the so-called writing experts are failed writers. Not only were they unable to get published, they couldn’t make a living being self-published. They are hacks at best and con-artists at worst.

Think about it…

If they know so much about writing and are so good at it and they can make so much money writing, why aren’t they writing?

Yeah…

You know the answer.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 08 SEP 2020

Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:

Do you have a day job as well?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Nine

Number Nine

Final Drafts Are Still Pretty Rough

OK, maybe they’re REALLY rough.

No matter how carefully you read your manuscript, there will be errors. Grammar, spelling, syntax, and all of the rest will creep in and entrench the errors so deep that you, as the writer, can’t even see them. Logic and flow errors are even worse.

The reason for this is very simple, and my great grandma summed it up nicely when she said, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

In other words, you are too close.

Get people to read your manuscript. For grammar, spelling, and other mechanical issues, anyone with a reasonable grasp of high school level English will do. Even family will work.

For logic and flow, for God’s sake do NOT use a family member or close friend! They will ignore problems because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, even if the problem is glaring. Find someone who will be totally honest with you, even if it hurts.

If you have a representative, they will have editors who will help you, and they will be brutally honest with you. Trust me, that’s gonna hurt. And it will leave a mark…a mark that you will remember and help you grow and become a better writer.

Keep Loving!