Toot Your Own Horn

Someone once said, “Toot your own horn because no one else is going to do it for you.”

Writers understand that. You can write a great book and have it published, but the writer must still be involved in the promotion of the book. Unless of course you are a celebrity or political figure, then it seems that you are on the best seller list before the book even gets printed. That’s the way it works sometimes. Publishers pre-sell a book in such large numbers that it becomes a “Best Seller” (imagine me doing finger quotes) before it appears on the shelves.

If you are already famous or a known writer, you’ll get plenty of offers to appear on talk shows and requests for interviews. For the rest of us, promotion and public relations falls on our shoulders. I’m going to use myself as an example because it’s all I’ve got.

I wrote a book –A Spirit in the Heart. It’s available on Amazon.com and I think I’ve made a whopping twenty or so dollars off it. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to get rich on my books, but, hey, twenty dollars is twenty more than I had before, and a few people are reading my writing, so I’m thrilled.

Back to promotion. I vacationed in the city (Bemidji, Minnesota) where my romance novel was set. Bemidji is a town of about 14,000 people in the northern part of the state. It’s a beautiful town that attracts tourists all year around, even in the winter when they rename it Brrrrrmidji.

It’s also a town with a strong arts community. I made the rounds of the gift shops and found one that spotlights local artists and promotes most things related to the city. That’s the one that agreed to take a few of my books and offer them for sale.

When I returned home, I sent the Bemidji newspaper a press release saying what the book was about and where it could be purchased. I haven’t heard from them, yet.

Then I sent a press release to a couple of local newspapers where I live and I got a response. A reporter contacted me and asked if I would be willing to do an interview for the paper. Gosh, let me think about this….of course!

One more thing I did was to contact my local library and put in a request that they place the book on their shelves. I was told they would submit the request. I’m still waiting to hear if that happened, but I’d love to walk into the library and see my book up there with all those best-selling authors.

Everyone wants to feel good about themselves and what they do. Even a little recognition goes a long way in stroking a writer’s ego. All in all, I’m happy to say that it’s been a good week for me.

Bragging Rights

I’m going to do a little bragging here.

In a previous blog I wrote about changing things up now and then. Try something new. I did just that with good results.

When I work on my current novel, I sometimes get stuck. And I mean stuck! It’s like I hit a wall. When that happened earlier this year, I put it away and decided to try something different.

In the back of my mind, for many months actually, was an idea for a poem, or a song, or an essay. I decided on a poem. I then entered it in a local competition sponsored by the extension office of our state university. I then forgot about it. It was, for me, simply a writing exercise.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a phone call telling me I had won first place in the state for my entry. First place! Wow!

Okay, so this is not going to make me the state’s poet laureate, and there’s not even a cash prize; just a plaque and the opportunity to read it for an audience at a banquet, but I’m quite proud of it.

Because I’m proud of it, and I feel as though I have earned some bragging rights (in lieu of money, national recognition, etc., etc.), I’m sharing it here.

Miracles in the Sky

Look up and see
The sun that rises in the morn,
The moon that takes its place each night
Among the many stars.

Galaxies of light
Amid the darkness of the sky,
Shed tracings of a shooting star
Flashing through the blackness.

Then comes the rain
With clouds that glide and drift along,
Lightening splits the sky and leaves
The magic of a rainbow.

Birds in brilliant feather
Fill the summer morn with color,
And fireflies flit among the trees
On a clear, warm summer’s eve.

The snow that falls
Spreads its beauty on the earth,
Dressing the trees like nature’s brides,
Waiting for the spring.

Look up and see
The gifts and beauty from above,
And marvel at the bounty of
Miracles in the sky.

No Critique for me, thanks.

My local library recently started a writers’ workshop that meets once a month. When I first heard of it, I was excited, and I attended the first two meetings.

I’m not going back, and the reason is that I don’t like critique groups, and that’s where this group is headed.

Don’t get me wrong, having someone critique a piece of your writing can be valuable. In my earlier writing years, I may have asked others to read my work. An important point to consider here is that I searched out those who were established, qualified writers or editors in the same genre or area of interest as I; people who could be objective and honest, even if I wouldn’t want to hear what they said. I trusted them.

It’s easy to tell someone how good something is if that is what you honestly believe. It’s not so easy to tell someone their subject is boring: their spelling is atrocious; you don’t like their style; or that they should just go back to English 101 and start over.

I have critiqued the work of others, but I don’t like doing it because each individual has his or her own special style of writing, and it’s not like mine. The only way to find out if a piece of writing is good enough for publication is to refine it as best you can and send it to the people who matter — editors and agents who can champion your work.

Not everyone likes what I write, or the way I write. I don’t like every writer I’ve read, and that applies to some well-known authors that others rave about. Sometimes I’ll start a book by a best-selling author only to find out that I really don’t like the way he/she puts words together, or I don’t like the subject or the way its handled. Would I critique it and say it’s not worth reading? Of course not, because I’m only one reader, and what do I know?

To those who want to be in a writers’ group, don’t make it only about reading each other’s work and commenting on it. Real value in these groups comes from sharing tips on writing that others can use; learning how to write query letters; understanding how to move a story along; learning how to research the market and find the right publisher; sharing relevant information on publishing; bringing in guest speakers who have some expertise with writing; generally supporting and encouraging fellow writers; and above all, learning to use the research resources of your library.

Special note: never ask your best friend, loving spouse, or anyone who is really close to you, “What do you think of my story?” Trust me on this one.