Category Archives: Movies/TV and other fun stuff

10 Reasons Why Writers Should Watch TV; Part II

Same Bat channel.  I covered the first five last week. Now the last five.6


6.  You’ll have a hard time writing your way to a surprise if you know what it is. A group of TV writers will separate things so that one can add the twist to someone else’s thread–but one writer will always leave a trail of crumbs to that point. So, one person can write a twist but then they have to go back and unwrite how they got there. In Chasing the Lost, I thought I had a great ending. Then I talked it out after the first draft was done with my wife because something didn’t feel right and she said: What if? And the ending blew me away. Two movies come to mind: Best Offer, which is flying under the radar but Geoffrey Rush deserves at least an Oscar nomination. M. Night Shamalyn admits the draft of 6th Sense had Bruce Willis alive. Then someone read it and asked . . .

7.  There’s no difference in hooking a reader as hooking a watcher. Watch the opening credits—they’ll point you to what’s key. Focus on the first couple of scenes. How is everything set up? Always reread or rewatch the opening of a story immediately after finishing and you’ll be stunned what you missed the first time around

8.  Putting normal characters in abnormal situations such as Weeds or Orange is the New Black only works because the characters were only pretending to be normal in the first place, ditto for Walter White. Pretending is OK–inconsistent character development is not.  Manhattan works because fictional people in a factual setting are interesting when allowed to grow naturally within the story and you take the time to present them in many different situations but again keep them consistent. The scientist who ditches the guy’s letter from Oak Ridge also ditches the man who could have loved her in the way she wanted to be loved. She doesn’t treat herself any better than she treats others. Writing consistent characters who do things an observer (often the writer) knows is stupid is difficult but it makes the characters real.

9.  You can learn about our own process—what we shy away from: What made us stop watching something? Why? What can we learn from that? It’s as important to focus on what doesn’t work as what does.

10.  We need to study the television business because it reflects what will and is happening in the publishing business. Two big changes in TV: people are binge watching. Netflix and On Demand lead the way in that. Look what Netflix did with House of Cards. Do readers want to wait a year between books in a series? And direct streaming is the future; bypassing even the cable provider. That does not portend well for publishers.

The wealth of storytelling on TV has taught watchers a level of sophistication about story that they’ve never had before. Watching stories has changed the way readers are capable of reading stories. Watching TV has never been as important as it is today.

We will always need content providers—the rest? Eh?

It’s the best time ever to be a writer because the distance between you and the reader is the internet.

Nothing but good times ahead.


Still FREE today:  Duty, Honor, Country: West Point to Mexico

Book Tasting: The Art of the Book Sampler

King, Queen, BishopBob’s post, So You Want to Make a Living Writing? 13 Harsh Truths struck some nerves with a lot of writers. There were many comments and reblogs and as #13 reminds us “Content is King.” That said, in comes little old me with the “Promotion is Queen and together they rule the publishing world.” We really should adjust that. Maybe add the notion of (keeping with the chess analogy) “SEO and all things Algorithmic is the Bishop.” These three things play a huge role in any author business. Point is, you can have great content, but if no one knows it exists, well does it exist?

Bob and I will go back and forth and back and forth for hours in email about various different aspects of these chess pieces. We recently tried taking out on-line ads with a company that places the ads in related content. I was actually surfing blogs one day and found one of our ads. Pretty cool. We tried it for a month and currently we don’t have plans to renew, not because it wasn’t effective, because it was. I have all that lovely data about click ins and click outs and time spent on each page of our website and what they did from there, but I didn’t see a direct correlation in sales on the sites that count, like Amazon. If Cool Gus were still an ecommerce site, selling our own books, this might have been much more valuable, but we’re not and anyone selling on-line knows that there is a huge cost in customer acquisition. You don’t just slap a website up on the internet and expect to have massive sales. And lets face it, everyone sells on Amazon. Heck, I bought my last MacBook Pro on Amazon. You can buy underwear on Amazon. My sister-in-law works for a company that sells tech products through Amazon.

Bob constantly calls himself a publishing whore (he’s not allowed to call me that), but essentially you must be willing to try all sorts of things both in your writing and in the business aspect of your career. The key is to remember that not everything you do will lead to sales, but much of it will have a positive impact. Also, what works for one, might not work for the other. We’ve seen people chase trends in writing as well as in business. If someone is doing XYZ, then everyone is doing XYZ. Nature of the beast. Not saying you shouldn’t, but we are saying, try something different. New. Be adventurous.

The Bob Mayer SamplerThat’s my big Segway to Book Tasting. That’s what I decided to call The Bob Mayer Sampler – a taste of 42 books. And its FREE. You can download a copy from our website, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play and coming soon to iTunes. We’ve actually done these before. We had the Science Fiction Sampler and the Thriller Sampler. The feedback we have gotten so far on The Bob Mayer Sampler has been very positive. It’s given his fans one place where they can see the order of each series. But its more than that. Bob also talks about his ideas, where they came, how he researched them and some other interesting facts. Did you know that the idea for Psychic Warrior came from when he was a Green Beret and a real, then restricted training program? Interesting stuff. Gives the reader a look at the man behind the books. A connection.

And it gives me more opportunity to push the algorithmic button and play with keywords, make fun charts and spreadsheets. You should have seen one folder I put together about a year ago for one of business meetings (yes, we have them regularly). I had all these pie charts and statistical information compiled on all sorts of things we were doing at the time and Bob just looked at me like I had 5 heads and had beamed down from Planet Crazy or something. Bob is currently rolling his eyes because he looks at this very differently than I do. I see the behind the scenes opportunity in promotion and how readers will find Bob Mayer Books and increasing the chances of new customer acquisition (I just like that word) and repeat buyers. He sees a neat way to connect with his readers and introduce them to his Factual Fiction. I see another way to have the algorithms pick up his titles. And we’re going to be working with our authors to do this for them. I think it’s a good tool. Another look inside, except the reader gets to look inside every book in one place via a download.

I also look at this book tasting as another way to promote binge reading, which is like binge TV watching and that’s important because we as a whole have changed the way we watch TV, a lot and we are changing the way we read. Remember back in the day before VCR’s and DVR’s and if you missed a show, you just missed it. Granted, not as many shows to choose from, but still, you were tied to that time. And, because gremlins do exist and they eat VCR tapes, I missed the series premiere of Who Shot JR. OMG, it was terrible! Oh, and free book to the person who names that show first in the comment section. Bob got my DH and I hooked on The Good Wife. Any show we watch, its all Bob’s fault. Just saying. Anyway, on a rainy day when the poor DH couldn’t go play golf, we watched 9 episodes in one sitting. Yep. Got to love Amazon Fire TV!

So, carrying this idea over to books. We’ve always said the best promotion is a good book. The next best promotion? Another good book. And so it goes. A reader recently contacted Bob about the sampler and how much he appreciated it because he’d just found Nightstalkers and knew he’d read some of Area 51 but hadn’t read all 9. Anyway, he could figure out what he read, and hadn’t read, and go to town because what do readers do when they find a book/author they like? They go looking for more books. But again, that’s another thing that has changed. The way readers find us. And it is harder. How do readers find authors? A recommend from a friend. A review on Goodreads. A search on the internet for Area 51, Atlantis, Green Beret, Yellow Labs, whatever. Or maybe a Librarian or a book blogger. So, what is your favorite book or series?

Nothing but good times.

Teaching, Shark Tanks and Covers

I’m heading down to Easton PA where I’ll be presenting a 3 hour workshop on Self-Publishing: What Really are your Options to the Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers. A few years back I went to a mini-conference for this chapter where the speaker was the one and only Bob Mayer. He was presenting his full day workshop on craft (highly recommend). I still have the notes. Really. Bob talks so fast that I had to write fast and when that happens I write in mirror image. My DH says that I have a real talent with writing backward…he just doesn’t know what the talent could be used for.

Back in the day when I was a high school business teacher I found that writing backward on the chalk board was a great opening day icebreaker (even better when I was a substitute teacher). It got the classes attention and most of my students thought it pretty cool. Let me tell you, capturing the attention of a 30 students between the ages of 14-18 when the topic is Accounting is no easy task, trust me.

I still occasionally use this unique talent when I am teaching or presenting depending on the topic and situation. This weekend I will be discussing the writers publishing options, the basics of self-publishing and bit on marketing and branding. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve meet a few of the writers in this group and they are fantastic! Also, I really enjoy talking on the topic.

Branding is a topic I really enjoy speaking about and I also love working with authors regarding developing brand and making that unique connection with their readers. My favorite part is the creation story because it forces the author to really look at themselves. Who they are. How their personal journey has shaped them as writers. And how all that will translate into the ultimate consumer interaction: the reading of the book. Get your readers excited through your own person excitement.

I got hooked on Shark Tank. Its the one show that my DH and I watch pretty much all the time together. If we don’t watch it together we are constantly discussing it. One of the things I love about it is these inventors have to come into a room full of “sharks” or the investors. These people are experts in their fields and have helped many business achieve their ultimate dream. I kind of find similar to pitching, but a little more brutal. There are times the sharks down right hate the product and pretty much tell the inventors to take a hike. Other times there are harsh negotiations. But here is the key: the inventors have to know their business, their product and what they bring to the table and convince the sharks to invest their money into their product. Sound a little familiar? They once even had a publisher on the show who seeking an investment into his ghost writing business. It was very interesting.

When I watch Shark Tank I pay close attention to how the inventors package their product. Packaging is very important. It’s often the first thing your consumer will see. I’ve actually learned a lot about covers from watching Shark Tank, at least in theory. There was one episode where a couple was seeking investors in their sippy cup product. It was a great product, but the packaging was all wrong and the sharks agreed.

On the last post Bob showed some of the covers we’re considering for the Atlantis Series. We have a few minor adjustments and tweaks (thanks to everyone–the observations and suggestions are appreciated) to make and the new covers will be revealed next week. But I’ve also been revisiting other covers that through market research we have found are not performing well. One is Synbat. Let me know what you think of this cover.

Write It Forward!

The SDSU Writing Conference, FREE books, the self-publishing bubble & more Zombies

Yes, Zombies.  A writers’ conference.  How do the two go together?  How can they not?

I’ve presented at the San Diego State Writers’ Conference several times.  I know the running path along the San Diego River quite well.  I also got lost driving to the hotel I’d stayed at several times.  I’m not good at details. My wife wants to hide something from me in the fridge, she just puts it behind something.  I’ll never find it.

SDSU is a business heavy conference.  What I mean is that there are a lot of agents and editors there.  So if that’s what you want, circle the January 2013 conference.  It’s big.  It’s well run.  And you can buy CDs of all this year’s presentations at their web site.

I did five workshops, mostly on digital publishing, most of which were new for me.  So it was interesting to stare at Jen’s slides on formatting where she has in caps DON’T USE .HTM FROM WORD and say:  “I have no fracking clue why, but apparently you shouldn’t.”

I was a bit surprised not many people showed up for some of these presentations.  One would think given the current state of publishing there would have been more interest.  But it goes back to something I talk about in Write It Forward:  FEAR.  And, let’s be honest, VALIDATION.  Most people still want that traditional book deal and to see their book on the shelf in a bookstore.

I get it.  Did it.  Done.  Got the cap.  Literally.  The entire promotional budget from Random House for my million copy selling Area 51 series was a set of baseball caps with Area 51 on the front of them that they gave to some book reps a long time ago.  My dad still loves his.  A point I kept making over and over was that it didn’t matter if you go trad or indie:  as an author you’ve got to do the same things.  Promo and marketing is on you.

BTW– the cover to the left is the Spanish edition which is actually selling quite well here in the States and in Spain.  We’re working on getting the rest of the series translated.

Let’s interrupt to get to what really drew you here:  FREE.  Yes, free books. .  To check which ones are free at a particular time, stop by this blog each week.  Today, The Green Berets: Eternity Base (until Wednesday and cool cover, eh?) Black Ops: The Line (until tomorrow) and Black Ops: The Gate (today only!) are free. Please, download the free copy and if you love it please take the time to write a review on Amazon. Reviews really do help out authors.   If you don’t like it, send me an email and let me know what you didn’t like as we’re always trying to improve.

Mark Coker of Smashwords gave a keynote and a bunch of presentations, which I sat in on.  Some really good information.  He’s pretty up front.  The reality is for something like Smashwords, they like to sell a few titles for a lot of people.  That’s the way it works.  That’s good for them, but not so good for writers, although they certainly have some people who have done a great job and made tons—because they realized they had to do all the other work beyond just shoving something into a meat-grinder.

I recently read an article that the self-publishing “bubble” was going to burst.  First, I’m not sure there is a self-publishing bubble.  That would mean there’s a lot of people making money doing it and there simply isn’t.  There’s a lot of people doing it.  Big difference.  99.5% of those people won’t make much and will eventually quit.  To be replaced by someone else.

The bubble that will burst is those making money off all the self-publishers.  I saw so many companies at Digital Book World that provide the same services:  formatting, distribution, covers, yada, yada, some bisque.  They all can’t survive.

And zombies.  I was catching up on The Walking Dead.  Yeah, I get they represent the dark side of human nature.  Our rape of the world.  But geez, can these people shut up and stop whining?  Should the kid learn to shoot?  It’s dangerous.  So are Walking Dead!  Who is the father of the baby?  First, that chick is so skinny, well, okay let’s not get into that.  But who cares?  We’ve got Walking Dead.  I turned it off after 17 minutes, after seeing not a single zombie lumbering about and getting tired of the whining.  My wife gave me a recap.  She’s very good at that.

You want to watch a really, really good and funny movie?  Watch The Guard with Don Cheadle.  I loved Brendan Gleeson in that.  “Don’t mock me man,” says the psychopath killer as he’s dying.  “There’s so much I wanted to do.”  “What?  Like run with the bulls?”

I also love Don Cheadle in House of Lies.  We need to apply some of the smoke and mirrors he uses as a consultant there to publishing.  Actually, maybe that’s the problem with my consulting business.  I tell the truth, not what customers want to hear.  Ah well.  Another great morning in Airborne Country.

And to leave you inspired, here’s one of those famous saying from the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course:  You don’t get to be number one by aspiring to be number two!


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