Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post by Todd Travis

Joe sez: With almost two hundred guest posts promised, I'm going to be blogging more frequently. I don't have a choice, because if I leave each post up for two or three days, it'll take 3 years to fit everyone in.

As a compromise, I'm going to link to the last seven guest posts at the start of each new guest post, so everyone's visibility is maximized.

You can read Marcus Sakey talking about cover art here:

You can read Dakota Madison talking about finding success as a romance writer here:

You can read CG Cooper talking about his Rule of Three here:

And remember, if you want to do a guest post for this blog:

1. Email me with the heading TESS GUEST BLOG 7/15 (or any date you want)
2. Attach the blog post in MS Word with all hyperlinks already embedded.
3. Attach the cover art to your book as a jpg.
4. Remind me the day before you want the post to go live by sending all of the above to me a second time.

And now here's Todd Travis:

Todd: First I’d like to thank Joe for all he’s written on this blog, I mean freakin’ every word ever writ here, also for highlighting TessGerritson’s War on Alzheimers and, lastly, for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts with you all. Thanks, dude.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to talk to you about fear.

I’m the author of the self-published novel CREATURES OF APPETITE, a serial killer thriller about a demented madman and the emotionally fractured federal agents pursuing him. And while I’m at it, I should probably mention that it is now FREE on Amazon for the next five days (June 24-28th).

I've loved to read since I was a wee lad. While a dedicated fan of many different authors, by far my biggest influences are Stephen King and Thomas Harris. I always wanted to write about the kinds of things that really scare me. This book, published in February and just updated with a new edition last month, was my first stab in that direction. 

I hope that you can check it out.

Whew… okay… I said that. Now.  Here’s my deep dark secret confession.

Are you ready?

Out of all the scary things I've written, nothing was more personally frightening to me than what I wrote in the three paragraphs following the words “I’d like to talk to you about fear.”

Telling you about my book and ask you to read it scares the bejeezus out of me. Seriously, I very nearly canceled this Guest Post. That was not something I'd anticipated when I decided to self-publish. I mean, I write about serial killers, mass murderers, ghosts and Bigfoot, why would just writing about what I've written scare me? I used to get into fistfights in dark alleys in my younger years and yet this gives me so much anxiety that I want to rip my own arm off? WTF?!

Not that I regret self-publishing, oh hell no. It's been one of the most satisfying creative experiences I've had and I'm going to keep on doing it, it's like getting a tattoo, once you start, you can't do just one. It's awesome. You get an idea, write it and, when it’s ready, it can be published with a push of a button.

And therein lies the rub. Through Amazon, we get to be our own bosses, we choose the covers, we control the content and the copy. It's completely and totally cool. But with the butter comes the bitter … as SP authors, we are in charge of everything. We are the President of the company, the Treasurer and the Sales & Marketing Director. As your own publisher, it's all on you to get the word out there.  

And the tricky, scary part for me has been … how the hell do I do that? 

It's easy for me tell you about the great books written by other writers (and I'd note that while King’s book ON WRITING is justly famous for its awesomeness), I can rattle off a long list of books I love by other authors.

But it's easy to be a fan when there's no skin in the game. The challenge for me is doing it for my own work … how to accomplish that without sounding like, well, an egotistical dick? Of course the number one thing a writer should do is to focus on writing the best books one can.  But we're not just writers any longer, we are now also publishers. It's on us to spread the word on our work.

Which scares the holy hell out of me for some unknown reason. Fear is a helluva thing. 
Fear keeps one from finishing the novel you always wanted to write, from sending that manuscript you actually did finish to a publisher, fear keeps you from putting all your creative chips in the pot by publishing a book on Amazon for fear that readers will hate it, that they’ll laugh and ridicule you …

But fear can also be a powerful motivator. Fear is why I wrote a book, after all, afraid I’d get hit by a car and never even try to realize my dream of being an author, that the stories I had bouncing around in my head would never see the light of day, fear of failure makes me work harder, fear forces me to face my mistakes and fear makes me bust my freaking butt to do the best I can.

There's a great free ebook called THE FLINCH, which is all about leaning into the pain, grabbing your fear and holding it tight. Facing it. Making fear your friend, not your enemy. So I'm doing that with you now.

Whereas some folks are afraid of heights, some are scared of zombies and others of lawyers and hip-hop music, me, marketing my own work, that kinda shit scares me. Other than facing it, I don't know what the best answer is in terms of cracking that riddle. But I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks on the subject. I'm also a little afraid, too. Maybe it’s just me, after all. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I’ll end by humbly sharing with you my newest self-published book, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, a collection of horror stories that I hope you'll enjoy.

Now excuse me while I go chew my arm off … 

Joe sez: One of the greatest journeys in life is learning to conquer fear and truly not give a shit. 

I had 500 rejections and wrote 1,000,000 words before I made a dime. Every time the mailman came I was a wreck, because I knew he was bringing more rejections. And he did.

But that gave me a terrific opportunity to conquer my fear. After the first hundred rejections, it got easier. After 500, I was immune to the emotional effects of rejection.

When I was a child (4 or 5) the nurse sneezed while giving me a booster shot, and she jabbed me with the needle three times in a line, like a sewing machine. Needles freaked me out after that, and did until high school, where I decided I would keep giving blood until I overcame the fear.

If you're afraid of promoting, I wrote a long blog post about it called What Works: Promo for Ebooks. Since then, I've changed my mind about ads (I use BookBub and EbookBooster), but my other advice still stands. 

As writers, we're expected to be our own promotional advocates. But it isn't about what we sell. It's about what we're offering people who like the kind of thing we write. 

Being brave doesn't mean being unafraid. It means being able to act when you are afraid. Not easy to do, but nothing worthwhile is easy.

I think I'm a pretty good writer. I have empirical evidence to back that up in the form of thousands of reviews and critiques by professionals I respects and admire. That doesn't make me an egomaniac. It makes me self-aware. Because once upon a time, I wrote shit (some may say I still do). 

But one doesn't need to brag about their books in order to sell them. Once just needs to make others aware of them, in a humble, informative way. Here's a blog about how I used to do it, with some modest success.

So pick up Todd's books, and if you have any advice on book promotion or overcoming fear of publicity, leave it in the comments.