Marketing, Writing and Editing

8 Questions From A Book Launch

So, I held a “Book launch and reception” at my local public library last Thursday night. It was, by all relevant accounts, a success. More than twenty people attended, only one of whom is related to me. I read a passage from my new novel To Hemlock Run, gave away a gift certificate for our local bookstore, and answered several interesting questions from the audience.

Since I can’t share the homemade cookies, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting questions I was asked.

The passage you read (about sneaking through the night time woods on a deer trail) was so vivid and so realistic, how did you do that?

Well, I carefully chose specific sensory details—mainly of sound, temperature, and wetness—and used those to build the atmosphere. I then used specific incidents such as crossing a small stream and climbing over a fallen tree to add realism and give the reader the illusion of the passage of time.

Informing all of these choices were the memories I have of wandering around the neighborhood forests when I was a young teen. I still remember how those woods we knew as well as our own faces, became a different, alien, world when the sun went down. I tried to convey that faint sense of threat in the passage.

How do you plot out your novels? Do you know how they’re going to end before you start writing?

No. I almost never know how the story will end when I begin. It isn’t the most efficient means of writing a book-length work, but I generally start out with a character and put him (or her) into a problematic situation. Then I start asking questions. How will he react to this situation? Why has this situation occurred? What are the bad guys’ motivations? How do they conflict with the good guy’s intentions and go from there. I usually conceive of the final ending when I’m about three-quarters through the first draft.

Like I said, it isn’t the most efficient method of writing. Many writers work out the plot in an outline before they ever write a line of prose. I’ve never been comfortable with that. I want the first draft to be the first time I write the story. Besides, if a plot twist surprises me, it’s more likely to surprise the reader. Right?

How much do you read, on average?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve averaged fifty novels each year. But this year, I’m trying to slow myself down and read less, but better. I’m trying to alternate reading fun, genre-style novels with classic literature. So I read a Craig Johnson “Walt Longmire” detective novel (which I really enjoyed if you’re keeping track) and then read In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. Right now, I’ve just started Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woof.

Do you like the college prep reading lists?

I think there is a lot of great writing and great thinking in those lists. One could always gain something by read Plato, Dante and Shakespeare. But many of those titles can also be very challenging reads. You really have to work to read and understand James Joyce, Dante, or Chaucer. There’s a danger in making reading so difficult that it is now longer fun. Reading should always be fun. That’s why I’m trying to lighten my load by allowing myself to read some less challenging material.

What are you doing to promote your book?

I’m limited greatly by my budget, but I’m doing the reading tonight and will be at another reading next month. I have a Facebook page for the novel and another for myself and use those, as well as a handful of book-related groups. I am also listed on Goodreads.com and have two ads running, though they haven’t been very effective up to this point.

Next month, I hope to schedule a blog tour, which is the online version of the old book signing tour. For a fee (or a lot of work if you want to set it up yourself) you are set up with a number of book-related blogs. Depending on the blog, they will review the book (also posting the review to Amason and Goodreads), post an interview with the author, or feature a guest post by the author. Whichever they decide, it will increase the book’s visibility and introduce it to people I cannot otherwise reach.

Are you working on a sequel to this novel?

Not actively. Right now, I’m working on a serious of short stories I couldn’t work on over the past year because I was concentrating on writing the novel. But, that being said, I am working ideas about the next novel-length work.

I am also hesitant about diving too deep into a series with the same character. Most authors like series because they take away one of the toughest parts of the job: creating a whole new set of characters with individual tics, problems, and backstories. In a series, the main character (and many of the supporting characters) are already designed, ready to go.

The one problem with a series is, unless it is a murder/police/detective series set in a major city, it starts to stretch disbelief. They really have multiple murders every year in that quiet rural town in Nebraska? I want to avoid that.

How long have you been writing?

In one form or another, since I was in high school. I realized fairly early on that I was easily able to express myself through writing and initially intended to go into journalism as a career, doing my fiction on the side. I first went to University as a journalism student, but quickly realized there was way too much competition for the jobs available. So I turned to English literature and became completely unemployable.

But throughout it all, my long term goal has always been to write fiction: novels and short stories.

So how did you make a living in the mean time?

With whatever I could find. I worked construction for five years in Texas until the oil boom of the eighties crashed. I returned to Oregon and found myself working in restaurants, managing several fast food locations, before switching to full service restaurants, where I worked as a waiter, a cook, and manager.

In 2010, I was able to retire on disability because of deteriorating scoliosis in my back. Since then, I’ve writing as a full-time occupation.

At this point, we needed to wrap things up so the library staff could go home.

It was an interesting, engaging discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nearly as important, because of the flyers the library distributed around town and coverage in the local newspaper many people weren’t in the audience are now aware that I have written a new novel. Perhaps at some point, they will buy a copy.

Oh, I also sold two copies of To Hemlock Run after the event and one copy of Deception Island, the first novel in the Jason Reynolds series. I might have sold more but most of the people at the event already had a copy. They were showing support, which is important.

So, I would say the book launch was a success.

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Marketing, Writing and Editing

A Writer’s Defense of Public Libraries

Next week (Thursday, to be exact) the library in my hometown will be hosting a book launch and reception for my new novel To Hemlock Run. Refreshments will be served, a door prize will be offered, and my books will be displayed enchantingly somewhere nearby. Of course I speak for a bit. Other than reading a sample passage from the novel, I really haven’t a clue what I might say. Probably some form of gratitude. Probably something about the forty years and counting struggle to become an overnight success.

I’ll figure it out over the next few days.

Now some of you might be wondering why I am holding the event at the library and not at our local (and very good) bookstore. After all, I’m in the business of selling my books, aren’t I? Libraries don’t sell books; they lend them. Right?

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first one is that the library approached me and offered to host it; the bookstore didn’t. And this is not surprising because bookstores are less and less willing to put on such events because—unless the author is a major national name—they don’t profit from them. In order to make the expense of labor, advertising, and general disruption worthwhile, they have to sell books. A lot of books.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, fewer people have been coming to these events and fewer of those who do come, actually buy books. The last one I did, a couple of years ago, lasted about an hour and was attended by about twenty people, most of them my friends and family. Unfortunately, most of my friends and family already had copies of the book. I probably sold five or six copies. So out of $90 dollars in gross sales, the bookstore netted $36, against $30 in labor costs and $60 in advertising.

The math just doesn’t work, so I fully understand why they are hesitant to host such events. It’s bad business.

Which leads into the second reason why I’m having this event at the local library: I am more than happy (and proud) to support my local library.

Libraries, particularly libraries in small, rural towns like mine are rapidly becoming the cultural and artistic centers of their communities, especially in modern times when local governments and school districts are too strapped for cash to sponsor such events. Where else, in a small town of 2000 souls can one attend—free of charge—a lecture on the efforts to save the endangered snowy plover; hear a demonstration of various musical instruments from exotic times and cultures; or meet and listen to the work of a published novelist?

Libraries are not just about lending books anymore.

They are also in danger. Libraries across the English-speaking world (I don’t know about other cultures but I assume they are facing the same forces) are being forced to shut down by calls for austerity. Taxpayers are disgruntled. They think they are paying too much and want the government to cut back and libraries are an easy target. More than half the adult population does not read for pleasure. To them the library is a waste of money. Others think everyone has access to everything through ebooks and the internet. To them the library is obsolete.

I think they are all terribly misguided. The library—any library—is neither a waste of money, nor obsolete. True, libraries have had to adapt to the new technology and demographics. Most now, in addition to books, allow you to check out DVD movies and television shows, as well as music CDs, audiobooks, and even ebooks. Some even allow you to check out a tablet.

Most also now have computers available for those who do not have their own at home, as well as wifi, and landline internet access. Many people, for economic reasons, would have no access to online media or services without the library. These same people, for the same reasons, would not read as much as they’d like to were it not for the library; they simply cannot afford to buy that many books.

Still, I hear someone whispering in the back, we’re in the business of selling books. The public library kind of defeats that, doesn’t it? After all, if you sell one book to the library and ten people check it out, that’s only one sale, versus ten. Right?

Right. But I think of it differently. I don’t think of it as nine lost sales. I think of it as ten readers I have recruited—especially if those readers actually like the book. Some of those ten readers can’t afford to buy my book and probably never will. If I was depending on them buying my book, I would never be able to count them as my readers.

Then some of them will be devoted readers who have never read my work before and have heard little about me. Realistically, probably the most challenging part of this writing gig is convincing someone who does not know you, your life, or your philosophy, to shell out $15.00 for your new novel. What if they don’t like it? What if it just isn’t their preferred genre? We’re asking them to take a chance here. We’re asking them to risk their money.

The way I allay their fears, is direct them to our library (which has all my novels) and have them check one out. It’s like the free cheese samples the grocers sometimes hands out. “Try it,” we say. “If you like it, buy the whole block.” The public library is the writer’s “free sample.” I’m not the sort who wants to sell my novel to everyone, whether they’ll like it, or not. I want to sell it to folk who will genuinely enjoy my stories and my style.

I do not write because it will make me rich. (And if that is your plan, I wish you the best of luck, but hope it is not your only motivation. The odds of becoming rich from your writing are approximately the same as winning the lottery. It happens, but not to people we know). I write to be read. And the library is one of the methods I use to do that.

Support your local library.

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Marketing, Uncategorized

To Hemlock Run

THR promo 3

When reporter Jason Reynolds is asked to look into the disappearance/abduction of a young woman in rural Washington State, he agrees to do what he can. What he discovers is this is no ordinary case of domestic abuse. Instead, he’s stumbled upon something bigger and more dangerous.

What he’s found is the Barton family, the de facto rulers of Dunham County. Not only are they the wealthiest family and largest employer, but they have nearly total political control of the county’s legal system. Residents of Dunham County like to say: “You don’t cross the Bartons; bad things happen to people who cross the Bartons.”

And no one has ever crossed the Bartons like Jason Reynolds crossed them.

Soon he is dodging the Bartons’ Sheriff’s Department and trying to find a way to bring them to justice without sacrificing his life and the lives of his friends.

Read To Hemlock Run by James Boyle, out now.

 

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Marketing

A Moment of Shameless Self-Promotion

I would like to impose on everyone a bit to introduce my newest novel: To Hemlock Run. Here is the description:

Where do you find justice when the criminals are the law?

Jason Reynolds, investigative reporter out of Seattle, does not think he can do anything to help his ex-girlfriend’s friend, Helen. She is clearly involved in an abusive relationship with a Dunham County Sheriff’s Deputy named Travis Wilcox.

Then Helen goes missing and Jason and Danielle “Danny” Hayden go to Dunham County where they face an enemy more dangerous than they’ve ever faced. For Travis Wilcox is part of the Barton family and the Barton family controls Dunham County. They are the county’s largest employer and landlord. They are the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and a judge. They can do whatever they want without any consequences. And they do.

Jason and Danny will need all their wits and imagination to bring the Bartons and Travis Wilcox to justice without losing their own lives.

Here is a link to its Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hemlock-Run-James-Boyle/dp/0692830235/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484968542&sr=8-1

And here is a link to its Kindle page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hemlock-Run-James-Boyle-ebook/dp/B01MZ6UU93/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484968542&sr=8-1

And you can find a free sample of the opening scenes here:

http://jamesboyleauthor.com/to-hemlock-run/

Thank you in advance for your interest and support.

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Uncategorized

And…He’s Back

I know, I know, I’ve been neglecting you the past few months. There are reasons: getting my latest novel To Hemlock Run ready for publication (look for it in February/March 2017; a very contentious election here in the States (and behalf of all progressive Americans I apologize in advance to the rest of the world); and a scarcity of new ideas. I found I was beginning to repeat myself in my posts. Not a good idea. So I decided to take some time off to replenish the well, if you will.

Now, with the end of the year looming in the near future, it is time to look back on the accomplishments and defeats of the previous year.

I did finish the first draft of my new novel, an accomplishment all on its own. The first draft is probably the most important step of the writing process because it makes all the others possible. There are no edited or finished drafts without the first one.

I have also edited, revised, re-thought, and re-written To Hemlock Run and refined it to a state where I feel fairly comfortable releasing it into the world. I will be beginning the publication process next week.

Last year, I devised a reading program for myself, pledging to read forty-eight books over the year, with a particular emphasis on writers who were not white American men. I did not fully complete that plan. While I did read the forty-eight books (actually fifty-two as of today), I did not range as widely as I’d hoped. I only managed to read a couple of novels by black authors and a handful written by Native Americans. However, I did read several written by European authors, set in European countries, with all the cultural and accompanying differences. I did read many more works (most very, very good) by women writers. Again, just because of societal pressures, the world is approached somewhat differently by a woman, than a man.

There will be more about what I’ve learned from these authors in the coming weeks.

In the coming year, I hope to continue my reading. Reading, for a writer, is really a type of industrial espionage, combined with a tutorial session with an established master. I very seldom read anything of consequence without noting how the author accomplishes the effects she does. For a writer, reading is seldom simply an exercise in escapism or entertainment. A part of the mind is always paying attention to techniques and choices.

Have you ever played “first draft” with a novel you’re in the process of reading? At some point, about halfway through the work, stop at the end of a scene and close the book. Now ask yourself: if I were writing this, what scene would come next and what would it accomplish? If you want, write that scene, then compare it to the scene the author wrote. Did the author make a different decision than you? Why might that be?

My reading program for the next year will be an attempt to read quality, more than quantity. I’m only pledging to read twenty-four novels, but I intend for half of them to be classics. I have several works by authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Hugo, Dumas and Flaubert lined up and ready to go. Since many of these works are long and very dense, I expect to read fewer of them, but perhaps learn more with each. To lighten things up, I will still read works in my favorite genre, friend recommendations, and newer works that strike my fancy.

And, of course, I will begin to work on another novel at some point in the near future. Ideas are beginning to flit around my consciousness like moths around a campfire.

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