Don’t Be Dazzled By Numbers

As authors, we very quickly discover that we must also become marketers. Matter of fact, whether traditionally published or not, the vast majority of the marketing for our writing falls on us. That is the nature of the business. With an increased number of authors, especially Indie authors, there are also a multitude of book marketing services cropping up.

Like any industry, book marketing firms have fierce competition. There are a lot of them. Despite there being more authors than ever before, there is still a limited number of us that they can appeal to, so they do what they can to make their services as attractive as possible. After all, they’re in the marketing business, so they’re going to market their services to us. But remember, not all marketing services or firms are created equal. Below are some things to think about.

Big numbers look impressive. Any basic marketing class will tell you that. We measure pretty much everything in numbers. Here’s the problem. Contrary to popular belief, numbers don’t always tell the truth, or the whole truth for that matter (mathematicians will probably be upset about that). Question the numbers. When you are talking with someone who is trying to sell you services, it’s important to discover their success rate with said services (or if it is a newer service, whether or not you’re a guinea pig). Here are some examples:

Book Trailers: Something I’ve seen is book trailer services being offered as uploading the video to x number of sites (20, 30, 40, however many). The first question from you should be what sites they are. When marketing your book, you’re going to want to stick with your target market. A video site meant for humor is not going to be the place for a romance book trailer. Also, there are numerous video sites that don’t want any type of propaganda.

Check the rankings. No video site gets more traffic than YouTube. You can view the top 15 sites yourself: Top Video Websites. As you can see, YouTube gets 450,000,000 unique visitors per month (that’s not hits, that’s actual individuals). The second place site, Hulu, gets 40,000,000. It decreases from there. So then you can ask yourself if the extra expense for a service this firm is advertising to have a video uploaded to 50 different sites when YouTube really gets all the traffic for files like this.

In addition, forget the numbers, how are people going to see YOUR video in an ocean of millions, even billions of other videos? That’s going to fall on you to send out links, embed it in your website, etc. So, even better, you’re going to market your marketing!

A counter argument could be that the more sites your video is uploaded to, the more likely it is to be viewed. That is true. However, again, ask yourself about the theme of these sites. People go to certain sites looking for certain material. If you video is not amongst that, it’s spam and it will probably be ignored (it may even get removed). Also, even if it falls into the interest group, you may get the same handful of people getting the same video in the same searches on each site so you’re really not appealing to a bigger crowd.

Enough harping on videos as I already did that in another post. Another thing to look out for is the “exponential chances of success” angle. That’s when someone tells you that you are 2x more likely to do something or 3x more likely if you use this service. More likely than what? If you take .0001% and apply this formula, that means you have now changed it to .0002% or .0003%. Statements like this are unsubstantiated. They’re leaving a lot out.

Question when a marketing firm tells you how many clients they have or how many books they’ve done marketing for. Think about it. If a marketing firm makes the claim of having 3,000 authors as clients, then ask some serious questions. “How many of these authors have sold more than 1000 books as a result of your services?” “How many of these authors are New York Times Bestsellers or USA Today Bestsellers?” “How many repeat customers do you have?” This one is especially important. Just because someone signs up once does not mean they will sign up again. Firms interested in quick turnover money simply try to get as many people to pay their fee as possible, with no interest in return business (which means their service is probably crap). In that respect, ask “How many of these clients have indicated that they would recommend you to someone else?” There are plenty of people who sign up for marketing services, realize it’s a rip off, and walk away. They will probably lose their money but the firm depends on this client’s voice not being heard while subsequently trying to discover more hapless victims.

Question testimonials. Again, similar to the number of clients, who are these testimonials from? Are they known authors? What percentage of clients write testimonials? Are any of these clients successful as a result? In addition, since these are supposedly authors, look their names up on Amazon and see if you can find their writing and possibly their sales ranking, book reviews, etc. Names like “J. Smith” are suspect. It’s even better if they provide a link to the person’s book(s) and/or website (and some do).

Ask about guarantees. Marketers can make some bold statements but what about guarantees? You see it all the time in service agreements. “No guarantee that you will sell books.” Seriously? It’s a book marketing service that you’re raving about and you’re telling me that you don’t stand behind it? Now, this industry IS volatile, and not every specific technique alone sells books. You will need to use common sense. If you pay $1500 for a service that offers no type of guarantee, I would question whether or not you will actually sell anything as a result. That’s a lot of money to drop with no reasonable expectation of return. If you pay $20 to have your book cover image posted on the main page of a blog that has 1000 visitors a month, may actually be worth it. They have a decent amount of traffic, and depending on your royalties, you may only need to sell a few books to make that back. In the meantime, it’s one more spot that people are seeing your book.

No matter what anyone tells you, book marketing is a tough business. It’s easy to get swallowed up in all of these various offers and services. It gets overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there. Just take a step back and give your options serious thought. Shooting for that one thing that causes your book to go viral is like depending on winning the lottery to pay your bills. Not very likely. Dedication to your writing and constant vigilance is what will take you to the next level.

Free Books!!!

     I’ve never done this before, other than to a few friends and that was giving it to them via emails. I never thought it possible before being published, that I would ever BE published. And, I never thought that I would meet an amazing bunch of people who have supported all my endeavours.

But, I have.

So, I bring to you a product code for a free book. It’s a YA Paranormal Romance that I wrote back in 2009. Here is the back cover synopsis for this book.

Eighteen year old Riley Abbott is about to meet the man from her past life dreams.

Riley has been having some weird dreams lately. But, that’s nothing new. Riley already has some pretty weird traits—telekinesis, astral travel and mind-reading abilities, to name a few. But, her dreams are so real to her, that her hands ache in the morning from pushing the heavy fruit cart down the path to the marketplace in her dreams. She even feels the kisses of the man that’s in her dreams.

Riley discovers that the dreams she is experiencing are past life dreams. She begins to believe this when she goes to University, and she meets Michael, a guy that when she looks into his eyes, she sees the man from her dreams, and she knows they have to be together. As their young love blooms, her dreams reveal to her that Michael could be in danger.

When another mind-reader, Brenda, won’t leave him alone, and threatens the lives of both Riley and Michael, Riley vows to do anything to keep him alive.

This book is available at www.amazon.com and it’s also available at www.smashwords.com. Just type in my name or the name of the book at either site and the book will come up.

However, for a limited time, it will be available for free download at Smashwords. You’ll need the product coupon code which is: DZ23D

     Bestselling Author, Norma Beishir is also giving away a couple of books at Smashwords. Her books are amazing…and well, she’s a bestselling author! They should be amazing!

In the wake of her newest novel’s release, “Army Of Angel’s”, she is giving away the first book in the series called, “Chasing The Wind.” If you would like to get this book, it is also available at Amazon but is free at Smashwords. The product coupon code is: PP77S

    

     Norma is also graciously giving away a copy of one of my favourite books of hers called, “Final Hours.” The product coupon code is: AK29L

If you would like to see what these books are about and to download them for free, please visit

www.smashwords.com and use these promotional product coupon codes. They are well worth it!

Also, for all three books, if you do download them, could you please leave a review for each? The author’s would definitely appreciate that!


Reading Potato Books to Your Pink Flamingo

I hope this is okay to post here: It’s actually about reading more than writing, but I thought it qualified as being related, and I hope it’ll bring a few smiles.

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

I recently learned that September is a month dedicated to reading. I’m not sure why this is. You’d think reading months would be the dead of winter, when it’s too cold to do anything but curl up on the couch under a mound of blankets, pour hot chocolate over your head, and whimper about the weather. Or maybe that’s just me.

Or you could read, which seems a bit more constructive.

But they didn’t ask me, and in fact they didn’t even tell me who “they” is; so September has become both Adult Literacy Month and Read a New Book Month, which certainly do seem to go together. I don’t need to explain those, do I? If you don’t already know how to read, you’re probably not listening to me right now, anyway.

September is also, according to the mysterious Them, Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month. Also related. As it happens, I’m a writer (thus this writing), and so I approve of Their decision. Since my fictional works have now been officially bought by editors, I also approve of editors. Also, this column goes through an editor on the way to the bottom of your bird cage, and although she doesn’t usually mess with me even when I go off on tangents, she could; so it’s pretty much a given that I approve of her, too.

Anytime I get a little full of myself, I remember that this column was originally intended as a filler, for use if there wasn’t a lot of other stuff going on around Albion, Churubusco, and Huntertown. Honestly, I’m a little surprised I don’t get cut more often during high school sports season. For me, sports and getting cut go hand in hand.

Where was I? Oh, yeah: So September is a month in which adults should read a writer’s new edited book, which makes me proud.

We writers shouldn’t let this go to our heads: It’s also Pink Flamingo Month, National Potato Month, and Save the Tiger Month. So They say. Therefore, I’m going to start writing a new children’s book about a Tiger who gives up his Pink Flamingo diet and becomes a vegetarian devoted to potatoes. It’s working title: Potato Tiger Picks Pink Feathers From His Teeth.

That title … it’s a work in progress.

The problem is that I learned this information late, and due to the lead time of deadlines (totally my editor’s fault) you might not read this until the end of September. I recommend re-celebrating Read An Edited Writer’s Adult Literacy Month in October. Why not? It’ll be colder then anyway, and for those who’ve already read one book, this will be your chance to read two.

I recommend my book. Still available. In fact, I constantly carry around a backpack full of Storm Chaser copies, going door to door like a literary Jehovah’s Witness, only without the snappy tie.

Oh, okay – read whatever book you like, but please read one. I don’t really get why I even have to ask people to read. I never have understood why people wouldn’t want to spend all their time reading, with the possible exception of Hugh Hefner. And let’s face it, reading is way cheaper than sex, especially when you factor in certain prescriptions for someone Hugh’s age. Not to mention alimony.

The irony is that I haven’t had much time in recent years to read; I’ve been too busy writing. I have stacks of books around the house towering over my head, ready to bury me in the most ironic death scene ever, and I’m not talking about just my own product. But by the time I’ve worked my full time and part time jobs and then my second full time job of trying to get a fiction writing career going, I run out of time for my favorite relaxation activity. (I’m talking about reading – get your mind out of the gutter.) Worse, several of my writer friends have reviewed Storm Chaser (Eight five star reviews on Amazon.com! Yay!), and I haven’t had a chance to return the favor with their works.

So I’ve dedicated myself, starting in October (September’s kind of shot) to reading one new book every month, in addition to catching up on my magazine reading. (No, not one of Hef’s magazines … mind. Out of gutter. Now.) Frankly, I need the relaxation, and I’m starting with a book my fiancée got for her literature class: Strong Poison, a 1930 mystery starring some guy named Lord Peter Wimsey.

Well, it’s new to me. And more to the point, it happened to be on the coffee table when I learned this was Read a New Potato Novel to a Pink Editor Month.

It’s shameful, really. I used to go to the Noble County Public Library and load up on the limit of books I could check out – every week – but that’s just another example of how grown up life gets us down. One book I can manage, these days. I challenge everyone else to do the same, and although I’d prefer it be mine, make it something you enjoy, something fun. Stay away from Moby Dick, unless you’re a fishing fan.

Read to your pink flamingo, or read while feeding a potato to your tiger, or your editor, or whatever – but read. Let’s make this world literate again, in the way it was back when reading was fun instead of a chore.

Oh, and be kind to the writers; maybe with a review, or a cup of hot chocolate. And be kind to editors, too … if they buy my stuff.

Viral and Fad Marketing

So if you’ve had any involvement with marketing in the publishing industry, you’ve probably seen times when an unknown book from an unknown author suddenly explodes in popularity. We’ve all seen it. A great example is Amanda Hocking’s self-published writing, which suddenly sold almost a million copies in two months after almost nothing. Well, believe it or not, this kind of thing happens in pretty much every industry. Think about it. Snuggies. It’s a bathrobe that someone just turned around. Snap bracelets back in the late 80’s. Beanie Babies. Pet Rocks (it’s a friggin’ rock for crying out loud). All sorts of things all over the place go from being unknown to a craze virtually overnight. Some of them are really simplistic, even stupid.

So here’s the fun part, especially in the publishing industry. Some marketing technique turns up that causes a book to skyrocket in sales, especially when the book is by a little or unknown author, thousands of other authors go ballistic over it, getting hyped up for that big break. Whether it’s a twitter feed, a book trailer, or whatever else, what works for one works for everyone, right? Actually, that’s an astounding no.

The sudden surge of popularity of an item is fad marketing. We all know what fads are. The kicker is they are unpredictable. Items become highly successful and go viral with poor marketing plans all the time. Actually, the dumbest, most ridiculous things become fads. The fact is, a fad is a marketing researcher’s worst nightmare because it defies marketing theory and practice. What that also means is that if you attempt to duplicate the marketing program of a fad market, you probably won’t see the success you were looking for.

The point is, do your research. Learn what marketing techniques actually work and understand that there is no magic bullet for success. Marketing plans must be multi-faceted and well thought out. Wishing for your work to go viral is great, but in reality, you will need to create a situation for that viral affect. This also means that some approaches you use will not yield immediate results, or will not yield direct results. When you combine these with other techniques over time, however, that’s when you begin to see results. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself fall into marketing traps.

sequel to “Storm Chaser” in planning stage

While Beth Hamlin seems to be the most popular secondary character from Storm Chaser, I have a
plot bunny that just won’t leave me alone, involving another secondary
character: Fran, the State Police Detective who befriends Allie and will appear
in two of the stories in Storm
Chaser Shorts
. After some thought, I’ve decided the sequel (working
title: Storm Damage)
will feature Fran, although Beth will also be there as a supporting character.
If my idea works out and the sequel is popular, the second book will lead into
a third book that Beth would headline.

The short story I’ve been working on introduces a new character, who will
become an important part of Storm
Damage
: Allie Craine’s brother, who’s mentioned only briefly in the
original story. Here’s what Allie has to say about him, when she interrupts an
argument between two other people:

“Oh,
bull. First of all, my brother’s an ingrate who wrote that book because he
can’t hold down a job, or keep his mouth shut. Second, if you two cared, you
wouldn’t be leaning over my bed spitting on me.”

Well, we’ll just have to see if he’s an ingrate, won’t we? The story will be
coming soon to my Facebook fan page.

As for Fran, recently I was reviewing Storm
Chaser Shorts,
when I realized that in one of the stories her name
is Fran Vargas, and in another it’s Fran Mendoza. Oops … I guess her name now
is Fran Vargas-Mendoza. Just goes to show, you can’t polish too much, or have
two many other eyes to look over your work. Guess I’ll go over that short story
a bit more.

Yes, the Storm Chaser Shorts manuscript has already been turned in to my publisher. *sigh*

 

Meanwhile, Storm Chaser remains available at www.markrhunter.com,
www.whiskeycreekpress.com, amazon.com, and fictionwise.com.

Book Trailers – Are They Worth It?

Book trailers . . . they seem to be a hot topic. Quite regularly I get promotional emails from marketing agencies pushing the importance of book trailers. Some of them are quite good, creating elaborate videos that are worthy of Hollywood. I’ve also seen price ranges for these beasts for as much at $1500 (and as little as $29, so there’s a HUGE discrepancy in price).

So what exactly is a book trailer? For those that have never heard of this before, it’s a video that serves to advertise your book. Set up with a similar purpose to a movie trailer, it’s a way to entice potential readers to purchase your book. I’ve seen them as short as 30 seconds or as long as 7 minutes. Like anything else, the quality of the book trailer varies wildly on what sound bites and stock images/footage a designer has access to, as well as their own skill in creating the trailer (remember, you can’t use images, video footage, sounds, or music that has copyrights on it unless you get permission but you can purchase “royalty free” resources).

Now these promotional messages that I’ve received for book trailers list numerous reasons to do it, but they mainly center around enticing a potential reader or SEO (search engine optimization). They are usually accompanied with sayings like “can increase sales”, “a great way to get the word out”, and other such vague claims.

So, as you may have guessed, I view book trailers with a bit of skepticism. I’ve created 3 book trailers, 2 for my first book and 1 as a teaser for the upcoming sequel. I made sure to get beta feedback before sending these videos “into the wild”. Did the first 2 have any effect on my sales? If they did, I never received any feedback on them. My sales didn’t kick up until months after the trailers were out there, and their view numbers had not increased in a long time which tells me they fell into obscurity after the first couple of weeks.

But this is my personal experience, so I looked a little further. I wanted to see if I could find anything substantial on the value of book trailers. Nothing. Almost everything I found was marketing for the service to create book trailers. Then I came across a poll on Goodreads asking users if book trailers affected their decision on whether or not to buy a book.

A good book trailer inspires me to buy the book immediately. 13% (511 votes)

Book trailers are cool, I’ll probably get the book. 22% (868 votes)

I’ll watch the trailer but probably won’t read the book. 6% (265 votes)

Is a book trailer like a movie trailer? Weird. 56% (2155 votes)

Disclaimer time. Goodreads is NOT a source of scientific research and I’m well aware of that. I will concede, however, that they have a wide and diverse audience of avid book readers, so I believe there to be some validity to the results of the poll. The poll results at the time I took it are above. At that point, a whopping 56% of respondents (over 2000) basically claim to disregard them. Matter of fact, only 13% had indicated it as a definite deciding factor. 13%, that’s it!

Now, does this mean that book trailers are useless? Not necessarily although looking through them, I do believe that many of them are useless. First of all, no book trailer should be much longer than a minute. People browsing the web have a short attention span. You’ve got to get their attention and you have 7 seconds in which to do that (interestingly enough, people form first impressions in 7 seconds through interpersonal contact also). Then you have to peak their interest. Finally, you need to indicate what it is and how they can get it. They aren’t going to search high and low for it, nor will they wait 7 minutes to find out what it is and how to get it.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that some book trailers have advanced animation and look like a video game or movie trailer. That’s going too far. People are going to get confused as to what they are being presented with. You’re marketing a book. Make sure it’s obvious. Don’t try to target an audience that isn’t interested. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t work. You may pick up a few stragglers but you’re probably going to waste your time, energy, and money.

Are there uses for book trailers? Of course. As mentioned earlier, they ARE good for SEO. Uploading your videos to YouTube, then embedding them into your site will increase your site rankings, especialy in Google (and they own YouTube, which is also helpful). Google represents 70% of the search engine market (last I checked about a year ago, that could have changed but I doubt it’s that much different now). Also, for Indie Authors, people don’t always buy the first time they see or hear of the book. This is another way to get the image and the word out there. If people see it enough, and it’s interesting, they’ll buy it.

Just watch your budget of resources and decide how much you really have to put into this. Obviously, if your name is Dan Brown or John Grisham, your trailer will probably be viewed by hundreds of thousands, but that’s due to name. Since most of us don’t have a name like that (especially me), spending $1500 on a book trailer that looks like its advertising a movie is probably not worth it. Spending $29 may be, but also keep in mind, those tend to be quick works that are whipped up with generic clip art. Actually, I’ve often seen these trailers have very little to do with the book itself, other than waiving around the cover image in various patterns.

Again, just be smart with your resources. Marketing is the toughest part of being an author and it’s easy to get roped into things that promise “viral marketing”. Be realistic, there is no magic bullet for success. It takes time and dedication. Most top grossing authors went through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears before reaching the success they found.

Writers Of Mass Distraction Roundtable ~ How We All Got Started

We thought now that we’re getting things underway that it was time for us to do a roundtable, a discussion of sorts for all of us. Sort of a getting to know you thing. As such, the members of the group are answering some questions in this first roundtable, sort of fill in the blank questions, about writing and what brought us together….

1. What was it that got you started in writing? How long have you been writing for yourself?

Norma: Not fair, William! On the roundtable, we were supposed to deal with one question/issue at a time, not four!

What sparked my interest in writing? An overactive imagination. I was a shy kid and spent my early years on a farm. Not many kids around. How long have I been writing? For myself, since I was about nine or ten; professionally, twenty-five years now.

Beth: My friend Leanne let me read her copy of *gasp* Twilight and I got hooked on reading. Now I read, write and review all different kinds of books of all genres.

April: I’d had a lot of things I wanted to express in, of, and about life, love, sad and good happenings and situations in life that I’d been through and seen others go through.  But even drawing and painting just weren’t expressing, well enough, for me, then what I’d wanted to express.  So, I’d tried my hand at writing at the age of 13 or 14, and I’ve been writing, ever since.

Eve: I’ve answered this question a lot lately and it seems weird but I really was “attempting to write” before I could speak. Much later, the journals I kept and the poems I wrote helped develop a personal understanding of myself. I knew that “knowing myself” was something that would help me deal with things in the future. Which it did.  My English teachers created a monster by telling me that I was a naturally creative writer and I shouldn’t worry about commas and punctuation. “That’s what editors are for,” they kept saying over and over. I guess teaching is hard.

Mike: Writing is something I always had the intention of doing, ever since I was a teenager. It took a long time for me to feel I was ready enough to make the attempt. It’s definitely been an interesting ride

Donna:  Something drove me to write since the day I learned the alphabet, probably all the stories and poems in my head trying to get out.

Erin: My father was an unapologetic storyteller, my mother an avid reader. I was doomed from birth. I have been writing and making up stories from a very young age, but have only recently decided to focus on bringing my ideas and writing to the public. It’s an adventure and one I would never give up for the world!

Mark: My father was a comic book reader; my mother bought me L. Frank Baum’s Oz books; and they were both science fiction fans. I never stood a chance of not being a reader, but from the moment I dictated a story to my mother about my own trip to Oz, before I was old enough to write (my very first Mary Sue fanfic!), I knew I wanted to tell stories of my own. That means I’ve been a writer for about four decades, now.

Karla: Two years ago, as part of my mid-life crisis, I was on the verge of an emotional meltdown that would make Chernobyl look like a leaky faucet. I quit my job and started pouring all my fears and insecurities into writing. What came out the other end was humor. My writing helped to save my sanity, although there are some who would argue the point.

Shelly: Hmm…The writing habit began for me when I was nine. No matter where I went, I brought a pad and pencil. I wrote poems. I wrote a ton of vampire stories but one day mom told me to find another career. She also told me I’d need to know someone to ever get published and only special people were privy to such things.

So I wrote in a closet for years but life got busy, crazy, and then went completely insane before I decided to write for real. A dream should always be persued no matter the odds.

Christina: I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to write since I was a toddler. I remember sitting down with a pencil and piece of paper at my mom’s coffee table and scribbling away then holding my papers up, repeatedly asking, “Does it say anything?” I’ve had stories in my head all my life that I wanted to put on paper. Throughout elementary school, whenever we had creative writing exercises, I seemed to be the only kid who loved writing. In high school I became a journalism geek and fell in love with nonfiction writing as well. In college, again I was the only English student who loved the writing exercises, and my teachers pushed me to pursue writing as a career.

Life threw me some curveballs and I ended up not finishing my journalism degree or getting my dream writing  job. I always had my heart set on writing novels as well. A little over a year ago, I reached the point where I had to start seriously writing, even if it doesn’t pay off like I hope it will. That’s when I met this crazy, wonderful bunch of writers.

William: I’ve been writing since I was twelve or thirteen, something like that. I got into it as a creative outlet. As a child I was pretty shy and awkward, a loner, and it gave me a way to express myself. Mind you, the stuff I wrote back then was fairly atrocious…

2. What’s your genre, or style of writing? How does it fit into your work?

Norma: That’s difficult to answer, since most of my books are hybrids: romance/thriller/supernatural with a splash of humor.

Beth: I’ve written Paranormal Romance, a Fantasy Romance, a Contemporary Romance and now, a Romantic Comedy. I guess I need a little romance in my life.

April: I mainly write poetry.  But, I am currently writing two books.  One book is a romance novel; the other book is an autobiography.

Eve: I like various types of writing and I realize that focusing on one type is usually better for success or business. Being a creative, poetic  person however, it is hard to keep me interested in one type of writing. Poetry is my outlet for pain and anger. Essay is my favorite for trying to convince. Reportorial or technical writing describes things in detail. I experiment with Haiku and I write short stories in different types of genres, even non-fiction. The novel I’m working on can be described as woman’s fiction or perhaps non-standard romance/fantasy. I just had a story published in a book called Fiction Noir and even I didn’t think I could write dark prose. Sorry for rambling, but I don’t like to be pigeon-holed or categorized. I should have just said my writing is called creative writing.

Mike: Thus far, I’ve only published one book and I’m about to publish the second of the trilogy, which is Science Fiction. Action/Adventure works into that too. I may try my hand at non-sci-fi eventually. Since I don’t have a romantic bone in my body, I probably won’t be writing a romance anytime soon.

Donna:  My stories are Womens Genre with a dash of spiritualism/new age.  My poetry tends towards spiritualism and positivity.

Erin: I lean toward romantic stories, with lots of explosions and action. I also dabble in the fantastical and strange. I demand strength from my characters and while they all have weaknesses they all have inner strength. I like to push their limits and throw them curveballs to see what they will do. Currently I have a romance time-travel suspense on the way and a short wild-west steampunk series in the works.

Mark: Oh, no one’s going to keep me down to one genre, no matter what it does to my career. As a kid I wrote science fiction and action adventure, and the first short stories I tried to sell were SF; for twenty years now I’ve been writing a weekly humor column, news stories and features for three small town Indiana newspapers. About fifteen years ago I wrote a column making fun of romance novels, and my then-wife challenged me to look into modern romances; I did, became hooked, and that’s how my first published novel Storm Chaser came to be a romantic comedy. I have two other completed romance manuscripts, an almost-completed YA comic mystery, plans for a novel series about a fictional fire department, and I’m just finishing up a non-fiction history of my own fire department. In addition to all that I want to get back to SF someday, and also write my own Oz book. This helps explain why my short story collection that comes out next May is a mish-mash of several genres.

Karla: I consider myself a humor writer primarily, so my first published book is a mystery. Go figure!

Shelly: At first, I thought I wrote YA/Crossover. My critters weren’t happy with my answer. So I re-evaluated my content. Okay. Women’s fiction/paranormal/horror with a splash of slapstick and humor.

No matter how serious or horrifying the content gets, humor jumps in. It makes me feel better when I’ve scared the pants off myself.

Christina: My favorite genre to read is fantasy, so naturally that is what I love to write the most. The novel I’m working on now is urban fantasy. I do love nonfiction too though. I know I shouldn’t tear myself in so many different directions but I love to write about food, fashion, travel, etc. I focus on the nonfiction with my blogs and magazine pitches. I absolutely love to cook and do food photography, so I will begin working on cookbooks next year if my cooking blog goes well.

William: I write in the espionage and counter-terrorism genre, which is a personal favourite. At the same time, I’ve got a twisted sense of humor, and that really reflects itself a lot in the kind of writing I do.

3. Tell our readers what brought you into the orbit of the group? Was it temporary insanity, or did you recognize kindred spirits?

Norma Beishir: That’s redundant. Kindred spirits for any of us would have to include some degree of insanity (and not necessarily of the temporary variety). The best thing about this group is our loyalty to each other.

Beth Muscat: I was at the WD forum asking questions about finding an agent, query letters and publishing when Norma and William asked me to join some of their groups. It was the best thing I ever did. They “found” me, seeing something in me that I didn’t see…and yeah, I think we’re all crazy kindred spirits…a family of sorts.

April Morone: Kinship/friendship with kind spirits brought me to this group.

Eve Gaal: I live in the desert where writing groups are rare.  Writers of Mass Distraction sounded like a group of experienced writers who had a sense of humor, as well as the desire to be supportive for those of us attempting something new. Writing a novel is probably not easy for anyone, and “supportive” is very important. The fact that the members are fun-loving and seriously talented only makes things better! If they feel I am a kindred spirit then I am honored.

Mike: Crazy is a societal term to restrict free thinking and creative action. I seek fellow crazy people. “Seek and ye shall find” is definitely true here. In addition to being crazy like me, they are a bright bunch of talented writers and I’m honored to be a part of the group.

Donna:  I felt a bond of kinship.  I just drew closer to certain people who turned out in the end to be this group.  Besides, Norma and William adopted me.  Who would say no to that?

Erin: I am still trying to figure this one out. I am keen to blame serendipity. Honestly, I was drawn to these people because of their kindness, support, and irreverence. They gave a sense of community to a world that is often quite lonely. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with such wonderful writers.

Mark: I seem to recall being in on the ground floor when this whole thing started to gel, but I might be wrong about that — sometimes my mind plays tricks on me once I’ve slept after an event. And I have slept, once or twice. Although I haven’t been all that active, this is the group of people I wish had been around during my formative years, when I sometimes thought I was the only fiction writer in existence … or at least, the only unpublished one.

Karla: I figured that if I could hang out with other writers, some of it might rub off on me. I fell in with this group quite by accident, and have found a level of mutual respect and support that I never could have imagined.

Shelly: I believe I knew almost everyone here in a past life.  It’s easy to be your writerly self around these peeps and say what’s on your mind. They’re pretty much like family.

Christina: Good grief! I’m getting teary-eyed reading over everyone else’s answers. I blame it on having kids! All those hormones. There, that proves my insanity. Well, when I decided to really start pursuing writing again, something kept pushing me to get back on Writer’s Digest. Then I started trying to find other people my age who might be encouraging or friendly. I was a bit intimidated by some of the “know-it-alls” on WD. Then I remember seeing William’s profile and thinking, “Well, he looks normal.” Come to find out he’s just as crazy as the rest of us. Then I noticed Norma’s profile everywhere that I was commenting and found that she was a successful published author. And I noticed how funny William was. I don’t know, I just gravitated towards them. Then Norma was afraid I might be an internet prowler, trying to hit on poor William. Lol. That only brought Norma and me closer. After she did a background check on me, I was invited to the Humorists group, and that is where I met everyone else. Oh, except for Eve. I remember meeting her in a blogging group. She was having technical difficulties, and me with my desperate need to help people, I pounced on her!

William: Like Erin says, serendipity. I think it’s that we were generally in the right place at the right time, and that’s what drew the lot of us together. We recognize fellow warped sensibilities when we see it.

Norma: Christina, did I ever apologize for that one? William is a nut magnet, so we spent a lot of time chasing them away….

4. It can be tempting for creative personalities to get carried away from time to time with their own success. What keeps you grounded? How do you keep your head on a level course? Has being published, or knowing you’re going to be published, had negative or positive effects?

Norma Beishir: Creative people are especially susceptible to believing their own publicity, so to speak. It’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.

When I sold my first novel, I fell victim to Demon Ego myself. I started out believing I would sell the manuscript,  but I was expecting at best a $2,500 advance and a midlist spot on the publisher’s schedule. What actually happened was beyond my wildest dreams: $25,000 advance, a lead title spot, second only to the likes of Robin Cook, a major promotional push–and two more books under contract for a six-figure advance before the first was even in the stores. I was treated like a star–and before long, I started acting like one. I was an unholy terror. It took a while for me to see the error of my ways, but fortunately, my eyes were opened.

I didn’t expect to see this kind of star mentality in self-published authors, but surprisingly, I have. I’ve seen it in newly-published authors who happened to have a degree of success right out of the gate, and I’ve seen it in new authors who are a star only in their own minds, with poorly-written books that aren’t exactly bestseller-bound. This sort of ego trip serves no one, especially the one with the overinflated ego.

Beth Muscat: I haven’t reached bestseller status, and maybe I never will. But, I’ve written my books to the best of my ability and I think I’ve improved with each one. I would hope that if I ever made bestseller status, that I would remain the same person that I am now.

April Morone: I feel a positive result, in that I am happy to be published and have my poems out there for the world to see everything as I have seen, felt, and thought about the world and events that I and others have gone through about which I’d written.

Eve Gaal: Walk into a library and you will immediately feel grounded. All that knowledge just waiting to be read. I could become the greatest novelist of all time and I would still know that there are millions of things I will never understand.  Fortunately, I make a distinction between the business side of life and the writing side. A true artist doesn’t mind rejection. I might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but since I’m creative I will try to find you something else to drink–and if you still don’t like it well that’s okay too.

Mike: Eve said it great. Walk into a library. Walk into a bookstore. Log on to Amazon. We’re swimming in an ocean that grows by the thousands every year. Very little will keep you more grounded than that. The thing is, I write because I like it, because it frees my mind. If I make money, great, if not, oh well. No matter what, I can at least have the knowledge that I did what I set out to do years ago.

Donna:  I believe this is a gift given to me by my Maker.  Becoming arrogant means I think I did it all myself; and none of us do.  I just say my gratitude every day for this talent.  It’s all been a positive journey so far.

Erin: I don’t know what you are talking about. I’m brilliant. <grin> I jest. The truth is, there is a fine line between confidence and delusion. You have to have a bit of over confidence to believe in the impossible. But, maintaining a sense of humble gratitude and understanding that learning is constant and there is always room to grow helps to keep the dangers of arrogance down.

Norma: We’re fortunate to have the kind of support we get from each other here at WMD. We keep each other grounded, we play cheerleaders for each other, and we know how to have fun!

Mark: I’ve never been a self-confident person, and probably never will be. It took me thirty years of steady writing before I could acknowledge to myself that I was actually a good writer, and now that I’m published, with each new step I see still more challenges ahead. I’ve set a goal of someday being able to make a living as a writer, but I have a feeling that even when that time comes, I’ll still never feel as though I’ve “arrived”.

Karla: It’s a little premature for me to start getting a big head, only a few weeks after my book has been released. I like to amuse myself by imagining the paparazzi are following me around. Nothing keeps you humble like knowing that someone is snapping your picture while you’re picking up dog poop from the backyard.

Shelly: The last time I looked in the mirror, my head didn’t look any more swollen than it did when I started my writing adventure. Right now, I’m in the throes of getting my first novel ready for publishing. But I plan on staying ME. I never want someone to get a bad taste in their mouth because I said or did something conceited. We’re all made out of the same stuff. Flesh and blood. And, a small amount of meaness really does hurt. In fact, I still remember all the mean kids from highschool on a first name basis.

Christina: Well, the fact that I am NOT successful keeps me grounded. Lol. Well, actually The Blog Entourage is starting to go pretty well. The better it gets, I simply feel thankful because there are so many other people out there trying to do the same thing. Hopefully if I ever have any success with my novels, I’ll feel the same exact way.

William: I think what’ll keep me grounded as time goes on is knowing what it feels like to be at a really bad place, personally. I think that kind of experience marks itself on you, and it’s handy every once in awhile to keep it in mind. I’m only really starting out, finishing my first novel (two, counting my collaborative effort). And while I’m thinking long term, I don’t see myself letting my ego get the best of me.

Norma: Karla, I’d pay to see a pic of you picking up dog poop!

And with that, we bring ourselves to the end of our first group round table. Yes, it can get a little silly here among the Writers of Mass Distraction. It turns out that we like it that way.