Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Friday, January 28, 2011

How to get a book out of your head

The Preparation of the Novel, we get a glimpse of the rituals and self-created environments of some of the world's most prolific, successful writers. 

The Preparation of the Novel includes the notes of lectures delivered by the late Roland Barthes at the Collège de France in the 1970's. According to Columbia University Press, his American publisher, "Barthes's lectures move from the desire to write to the actual decision making, planning, and material act of producing a novel."

Barthes looks at the “maniacal” urge in the author’s body to write. That's not as crazy as it sounds. When I have an idea for an article or a book, I do my usual daydreaming and, yes, procrastinating. It gets to a point where my physical body can't contain the ideas any more and I MUST write. In an explosion, the words burst forth from the walls of my body. It's crazy, really exciting, and a relief. That's often how I get started. Sustaining the discipline is another story.

2. Where do you feel most motivated to write? J.K. Rowlings wrote the Harry Potter books at caf. In an interview she said, "You don't have to make your own coffee, you don't have to feel like you're in solitary confinement and if you have writers block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think."

I love to write when flying. My thinking is clear, and I feel a heightened creativity. I once wrote most of the first draft of a book on a flight home from Las Vegas.

3. When do you feel most motivated to write? Some writers like waking up at the crack of dawn, while others prefer the night time hours. There's something subversive about writing at night, like you're the only person awake in the world. Whenever you feel motivated and creative is what's important. Start honoring your most creative time of day by sitting at the computer and taking the plunge. 

Some other ideas not mentioned in the review but might be worth thinking about:
  • Does weather get you in the mood to write? For some strange reason, cloudy, overcast days make me feel "literary."
  • Do you like to write when you travel?
  • Have you ever tried writing in a library, bookstore, restaurant, or caf

Bottom line: you can listen to motivational speakers all day long, but only intrinsic motivation will make you productive. Becoming a prolific writer is just as much about the art and science of making yourself do something as stringing words and sentences together. 

So what can you do to enhance your writing space? Schedule the best writing time? How about setting the alarm on your cell phone? 

What are some rituals that will create a mood and inner motivation to write?

Donna Marie

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tiger moms, controversy, and book power

Amy Chua, author of the suddenly infamous Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has been doing a lot of media lately. In fact, she appeared on The Colbert Report last night. She didn't seem prepared to defend her position very well, but I imagine it must be difficult to go head to head with Colbert. She seemed really nervous, like when he asked her children, "Are you okay?"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Amy Chua
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Press reviews and online comments have condemned Chua's parenting skills as abusive and counterproductive. Mommy peer pressure being what it is globally, I'd say her harshest criticisms have come from other mothers. Chinese mothers have distanced themselves from her. They say they resonate more with the Western style of parenting than Chua's stereotypical Chinese style.

On the other hand, my sisters and I actually agree with much of Chua's approach. In varying degrees, we're tiger moms who were raised by a tiger mom. Chua believes that immigrants to this country tend to be tough on their kids because they want to prepare them to take advantage of opportunities. That was surely the case in our family (Jamaican mom).

We were never abused, and we don't abuse our children, but our expectations are extremely high. Some judgmental mommies might say we're "over the top." We depart company with Chua in that we allow our children their good friendships, sleepovers, and other fun activities. Eventually kids will rebel, but if you provide balance, hopefully the rebellion won't be too bad.

In our world, self-esteem is earned. Our girls have no choice; they have to practice their music, sometimes as long as 3 or 4 hours per day (longer if concerts and competitions are coming up). During summer music camp they practice and perform all day, everyday for 4-5 weeks straight. 

Academics is just as important. They have to study hard. If they do well, we praise. If they fail (which they do, no one's perfect), they hear the truth from us, and we don't sugarcoat. We don't consider that abusive.

As a result, 2 of our daughters placed 1st and 2nd in a Korean music competition this year. This is routine for them. They're like the Venus and Serena of strings. My daughter, the cellist, recently placed 2nd in a pageant and was noted by her college president in his blog. The 3 cousins were recently featured on a NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams segment for inspiring young children with their musical performances. 

Bottom line, to achieve like an Olympian, you've got to train like an Olympian. Why is it that parents of elite athletes are revered as martyrs, but Chua is soundly denounced for basically raising her girls the same way? If you talked to parents of Olympic athletes you'd be shocked at the grueling schedules and tough parenting styles.

Book power
Chua's book has created a new national dialogue about parenting and the global competitiveness of our children academically. This is why I LOVE books and pray they never go the way of Fahrenheit 451. When I checked (1/26/11, 11:30 CST), Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was #4 on Amazon because of the raging controversy.

Books still have the power to change society, to foment revolutions. Your book can have that same power. As you write your books, keep courage as your constant companion. Write with truth and integrity. 

What if your book catapulted you into the harsh glare of the national spotlight. What if you were being attacked from every side for your ideas. Could you handle it?

Amy Chua probably had no idea that her book would cause such a ruckus, and if she had known she might have written another book. I think she should be applauded for putting her story out there. 

Donna Marie

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Video book trailer of "O" by Anonymous: your critique

Remember the novel and movie, Primary Colors, the scandalous fictionalized account of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign? Almost as interesting as the story's connection to President Clinton was the book's author, the infamous "Anonymous," who, as it turned out, was journalist Joe Klein. 

Well now another anonymously written roman à clef has been published, this one based on the imagined reelection campaign of President Barack Obama. Titled O: A Presidential Novel, the guessing game around the book's authorship has been going on for weeks before publication. 

That's some brilliant marketing strategy there. Titillate and tease. Self-publishers, keep this in mind when you're about to launch your own publicity campaigns.

In addition to the tease, Simon & Schuster produced this video trailer for the book: 

What do you think? Do you give this trailer a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Is it funny or a fail, provocative or boring? Most importantly, does it make you want to buy the book? At least think about buying it? Or will you wait for the movie?

Compare the O video trailer to others featured on this site.

I chose this particular video for review because it seems pretty cheap to produce, which is all-important to self-publishers. All you need is a desk, some scenery, a little music, and a guy (as long as you don't hire a former MAD TV comic, that is).

The purpose of this exercise is to discover the elements of a good video book trailer so that you can incorporate them into your own. You should feel confident about the possibilities: even on a tiny budget, you can generate pre-publication excitement for your self-published projects. 

Donna Marie

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So you want to write a novel: a reality check

I love this line: "Do you want to be a ghostwriter for me? I will cut you in for 10%."

Someone's been peeking into my life.

Donna Marie

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jumpstart Monday // write with CONVICTION

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968
I was only a girl when John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were slain, but I can clearly remember the shock and grief of my parents, the angry gun shots thundering in the neighborhood, and the ghostly, empty playground at my school. 

These are the impressions I have of that time, but today, on Dr. King's birthday, should we be enraged and filled with sorrow, or would these men want us to use our memories and imaginations in ways that improve our society?

In my opinion, there is no greater issue facing writers and self-publishers today. In a way, Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," written in longhand on April 16, 1963, to critical Alabama clergymen was a self-published manifesto declaring his vision of nonviolence and social justice. 

Thus it is fitting, on this the commemoration of Dr. King's birthday, to serve up his own words to inspire, motivate, and stimulate you to write and publish with your full heart and complete conviction for the betterment of humankind.

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence." 

"Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better." 

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."  

Happy birthday, Dr. King!

Donna Marie

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A simple book trailer designed to blow the mind

The trailer for Jeffrey J. Kripal's book and documentary, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred, really grabbed my attention. 

Kripal is a religious historian, but he's definitely not status quo. He says,
I read, translate, and interpret mystical literature, that is, texts from around the world that express and enact “the secrets” (Greek: ta mystika) of humanity’s fundamental unity, even identity, with divinity.  Put bluntly, I study how human beings come to realize that they are gods—or superheroes—in disguise. Source

Not only is Kripal's trailer provocative, it just goes to show that you don't have to spend a lot to promote your book. Moving text, clouds in the background, and dramatic music are enough to make the viewer visit Amazon.com to investigate. I know I did.

As a writer, that last is something I've suspected for a long time: 

What if... this world is a story... and we are all characters being written? And what if we could step out of this story... and author ourselves anew?

Writers, how does that resonate with you?
Donna Marie

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pay attention: your dreams are manifesting!

Writers, have you been wondering why your dreams are taking so long to manifest? You've set goals, taken action, visualized, prayed, affirmed, and had faith, but nothing seems to be happening. 

Well, we can't blame all our financial woes on the economy. About a month ago or so an epiphany smacked me upside my head. There are 3 big reasons why manifestations seem to be so elusive.

1. Not knowing your kickstart emotion. 
You've got to know your self. It's well and good to read what others say about manifesting your dreams, but the bottom line is that they're your dreams, and you've got to know how your own soul works. 

Many books say that love must lead the way, and it's true that love is all important. But here's what I know about myself: when I feel STRONG DETERMINATION, that's my clue that a manifestation is on the way. Who's to say that strong determination is not a form of love? It's commitment and desire all rolled into one powerful emotion. When I feel strong determination, I talk differently. Like I mean it. A friend once said, "I say what I mean, and I mean what I say." That's what I'm talking about. 

2. Not trusting your gut.
2010 was the year of the big reveal for me. Things that I suspected about a particular individual turned out to be true. The entire year I was checking off things that I knew that I knew that I knew. These experiences taught me that I can finally cease and desist with the self-doubt. I've got good gut instincts that I can trust. How can you manifest without confidence and faith? Not possible!

3. Not paying attention to the stepping stones of manifestation.
Seldom do we manifest a dream all at once. Even lottery winners bought tickets for months and years before winning the jackpot. There are stepping stones along the way to manifesting your dreams. These stepping stones let you know how to proceed. They also let you know that you're on the right path.

Your biggest hindrance to manifesting may be that you haven't been paying attention to the stepping stones when they pop up. When something out of the ordinary happens, do you barely take notice because it wasn't the ultimate thing you wanted?

When you begin to notice of all the anomalies and synchronicities that occur in your life, you'll see how they directly connect to the goals you have set for yourself. Now that's exciting!

How will you know that something important has just occurred (vs. a false flag)? My heart skips a beat, and I feel a sense of shock and awe. What a rush of pure joy!

Ever since I started taking notice of the stepping stones, I've been flabbergasted at the volume of good things that have been popping up in my life. Now whenever I notice a stepping stone, I stop and say, "Wow! Thanks!" This attitude of gratitude makes our personal atmospheres magnetic and receptive to all the good things in life.

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”
Eric Hoffer


Now you:

1. What's your kickstart emotion?
2. Do you trust your gut instincts?
3. Have you been paying attention as the stepping stones of your dreams are revealed in your life?

Donna Marie

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Petite model shares 5 big social media self-promotion tips for self-publishers

If you've never heard of author, model, and petite model advocate Isobella Jade, then you haven't been on the Internet in awhile. Thanks to her saavy and relentless self-promotion, this petite model (5' 4") has a big online presence. 

We talk about author branding a lot on The Celebrity Editor. Interestingly, Isobella's size dictates her brand. She refuses to see her small stature as a negative obstacle to be overcome in an industry that prefers tall models. Instead she says she took stock and put to use what she had. Isobella is proving that small is beautiful, too, and is just as capable of selling products as tall.

"I have been able to overcome the odds in a business where every inch counts," says Isobella. "But it hasn't happened from being born lucky.  Instead it has been through my own will and persistence and the result of just simply trying and chasing what I wanted to happen and making it happen."

She didn't even own a computer when she decided to write her first book, Almost 5' 4", but that didn't stop her. Determined, she wrote it at an Apple store in New York City.

After self-promoting her story, she proved that self-promotion can lead to great things – including modeling jobs with Marshalls, Victoria's Secret, Bath and Body Works, Bon Appetit, Time Magazine, TLC, Easy Spirit, Women's World, Macy's, and more.

She's so good at self-promotion that her story has been featured in tons of media: NY Daily News, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Allure.com, The New York Post, Ad Age, WSJ, Nylon, Glamour, Media Bistro, Luna Magazine (Milan), Bon Magazine (Sweden), GQ (Italy), Marie Claire UK, and several online sites.

How does she do it? She cross-promotes through her website and blog, her podcast show, more than 100 YouTube videos, and her Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace communities. 

Want to know how you can duplicate Isobella's success? I asked her to share her secrets on how to self-promote through social media. Graciously she consented, and in her own words here's what she had to say.

5 ways self-publishers should be using social media right now

1. Be accessible. The writing doesn’t end after the last chapter.
Finishing the book doesn’t mean the writing ends for the author. In this era of connectivity readers want to communicate, and communicating through social media means more writing for the author. Readers want to feel connected with the author these days. Readers want to communicate with the author more than ever. They want to send comments and questions, and they expect a reply from the author. Readers expect to be able to connect with authors through social media. 

So it is a good idea to be accessible to your readership. It helps build a following and loyal readers.  

Of course a website is a nice platform to start with, but also writing a blog is an easy way an author can communicate with readers. Having a blog that has the theme of the author’s book or is related to a topic within the author’s book is a good idea. Actually sometimes a reader will discover an author through her blog alone and the content in it while searching for topics that relate to the author and her books on Google

A free blog can be set up at www.blogger.com. On the blog you can promote your book, but also write about topics that would intrigue your readers. Perhaps the content in the book can relate to a recent news story. Titling your blog posts with headlines that are Google friendly and that relate to your book and readers is a good idea.  

The blog is an easy and quick way to lead your readers to your social media or main website. You can use the blog as a platform to share a video book trailer and the ability to connect through Twitter, Facebook, etc. Many authors hold contests and giveaways with their books. Some put up polls on their blog to find out more about their readers.

It is good to consider a subscription feature on your blog to allow visitors to subscribe to the blog. They will receive emails daily or weekly from posts on your blog which will keep readers in the loop about your events, new blog posts, and new books. 

What’s great is that connecting through web 2.0 doesn’t take a lot of money. Most of the outlets are free to use, but it does involving investing the time to update and keep up with the platforms you are using. 

2. Manage time with social media and your blog.
Deciding what to post and when is important for authors and self-publishers. For many authors and writers, social media writing is secondary to their main writing for their books. 

It is easy to become obsessive over social media, so it is best to delegate a certain time of the day to write and a certain amount of time each day to connect with your readers. Otherwise you can feel overwhelmed. Visitors to your blog appreciate to-date and updated posts. But of course some weeks can be very busy, but it is still a good idea to post frequently. You can schedule blog posts and prepare your content days or weeks ahead of time if you are unable to post on a certain day. Having a successful social media platform involves a lot of organization to be able to spend time in many different areas of the web 2.0 landscape (plus the focus it takes to be a writer and work on your next projects).

3. Decide what social media is best for your readership.
Depending on the demographics of your readership and who your book/s are targeted towards, you can decide what is best for your readership and where to spend the most time when it comes to communicating through the web. For example, your followers on Twitter might not be as active as your Facebook followers or vice versa. It can take time to build a loyal following; trial and error will let you know what is best for your readership. It is good to be a part of as much as you can, but keep in mind the ways your readership might like to best communicate with you. Some authors receive a lot of personal emails from readers, some have more readers contact them through commenting on their blog, their Facebook wall, or through Twitter. 

It is also important to remember “why” your readers want to connect with you through social media and why they are reading your posts and following your updates. Consider that your followers on Twitter might not care what you had for lunch. Be aware of why your followers are following you and reading your posts and blog and tweets. 

4. Podcasting. Can you hear me now?
I’ve hosted my own podcast radio show since 2007, and I think podcasting is a great element to add to the self-publishers’ social media platform. You can talk on the podcast about topics that relate to your book/s. Authors can conduct podcast readings, and publishers can feature authors and plug their upcoming books. Readers can listen in to live and archived podcast segments. Authors should be involved with podcast readings. An author can read a chapter from her book on the podcast. It is a great marketing tool to spread throughout your social media network.

5. Press Record! We’re using web video.
For authors that are experts in their field or those who have a niche topic within their books, it is all about branding (really for any author it is about branding!), and web video can be a great outlet for building a web following. An author that is comfortable in front of the camera can use web video to use their personality to sell books. Producing weekly or monthly videos to share tips and advice or interviews based on the book's content is a nice marketing element to add. You can bring your web videos to your blog and share them through other social media outlets: Twitter, Facebook, etc. Beyond just the book trailer, authors can use web video as a part of their own branding. 

Isobella Jade is a petite model and author based in NYC. She wrote her first book at the Apple store. She is the author of her modeling memoir called “Almost 5’4””, “Short Stuff: on the job with an x-small model,” and a graphic novel called “Model Life: The Journey of a Pint-Size Fashion Warrior.” Isobella is currently writing a YA novel.

Website: www.isobelladreams.com
Model Talk Radio: www.blogtalkradio.com/isobellajade
Petite Modeling Tips Blog: http://petitemodelingtips.com/
Personal Blog: http://isobellajade.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/IsobellaJade
YouTube Videos: www.youtube.com/isobellajade
Twitter: www.twitter.com/IsobellaJade
Myspace: www.myspace.com/isobellaspaz
The Beautiful Undead on Figment.com: http://figment.com/books/7928-The-Beautiful-Undead

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jumpstart Monday // UPGRADE your writing space

I asked my daughter if she made any resolutions for the new year. She said, "What for? No one keeps them anyway." 

She has a point. Every year I vow to lose the weight (read here) and end up gaining a couple more pounds instead. 

Why do we resolve to do better every year when our resolution track record from years past is nothing to write about?

Keeping hope alive?

Prepare for success
Maybe we don't do enough to prepare for success. There's something to be said for beginning a new diet with a clean sweep of the refrigerator, pantry, and kitchen cabinets.

We ought to do the same with our writing space. Whether at the office or at home, this space is the place where missions are accomplished and dreams are realized. It deserves to be functional, organized, and beautiful. 

If your goal is to actually complete your writing projects this year, then before writing your first words of 2011, give some time to upgrading your workspace.

As I write this, my first post of the new year, I'm noticing that my workspace is a total disaster. Not just things from 2010 but as far back as 2005 are creating clutter. 

I'm not even a hoarder. Nevertheless scraps of paper have settled in piles. Dust covered DVDs and books patiently wait to be viewed and read. (One is Leslie Sansone's Walk Slim: Fast Firming! DVD. I forgot I had bought it!)

Today I encourage you to take stock of your workspace. Organize. Clean up.

1. Update reference tools. Yes we can use dictionaries and other references on the Internet, but many writers like to keep physical copies on hand. Check the copyright dates. It might be time to get the latest editions. Conventions change over time, and you should stay current in your writing.

2. Clean up. This might be an all day project, but it's worth it. Throw out stuff you don't need.

3. Organize. No more trying to find stuff that's hiding under a pile of old papers. Everything in its place. I hate to file, so I have a big drawer that I throw important papers in. So far this method has worked for me.

4. Furnish. Don't spend on big money wants. Get only what you need. I have so many books that I've run out of bookshelf space. Solution? Buy another bookshelf. That will be my one investment in office furniture in 2011, and it will help keep my space tidy. What do you need? 

5. Beautify. We writers need inspiration from time to time. Beautify your workspace with flowers, symbolic knick knacks that have special meaning for you, artwork – anything that makes you feel good just by looking at it. Every year I invest in an art calendar, and I love going to thrift shops for original art, silk plants, baskets, etc. You don't have to spend a lot of money!

Need a little inspiration to get started? Check out these beautiful work spaces here and here.

A clean, organized, and functional workspace can motivate you to write. Lower blood pressure, fewer panic attacks, and smiles can be yours with an office space upgrade. It's a great thing to do for yourself.

By the way, have any of you bought office furniture from Craig's List or Ebay? Was it a good experience? What did you buy, and how much did you spend?

Best wishes for a successful, prosperous 2011!

Donna Marie