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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe... appreciate the words...

btw, I used to have that same fear of needles, had it terribly, and I signed up for a medical study that required giving blood every half hour for a week...

Like you, I got over that particular fear pretty damn fast after that.

I'm very glad I faced this, too, and thank you for the opportunity, I really appreciate it.

Todd Travis

Jude Hardin said...

The best advertisement for your writing is your writing.


Anonymous said...

Jude is right, the best advertising for your writing is your writing, but there are a lot of fantastic writers out there that never get noticed, either because they have shitty covers, poor distribution, or just plain old bad luck.

I solicited book reviewers to launch my fiction career and I had very good results. Here are some good resources that are free:

I got about 7-10 reviews on my books and the sales slowly started to go up. The rest is history. Good luck!

Anonymous said...


I notice createspace will (for a price, of course) get one's book reviewed by Kirkus and another place...

Anyone experimented with that, is it worth it (provided it's a positive review, of course).

Todd Travis

No Signature said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy said...

Anyone experimented with that, is it worth it (provided it's a positive review, of course).

I used Kirkus several years ago for a review of one of my books. For the $300+ dollars they charged me, I could have sent out literally at least 100 paperback review copies. I got a positive review (4 stars) but it was not worth it. I would not do it again.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks, Christy. I hope the entire writing community reads that and follows your advice.

Joe Flynn said...

Hemingway said, "Courage is grace under pressure." Meaning that fear cannot only be conquered but done so with style. Sounds like Todd is on his way to doing just that.

Mike Dennis said...

Face the fear. That's the way it's done, Todd. Also, I snagged a copy of CREATURES OF APPETITE. Fantastic cover!

Anonymous said...

the cover is by Bosa at

I like her work a lot, and she's a sweetheart, too...

Anonymous said...

The previous anon comment was by me ... forgot to sign it.

And thanks, Christy, for the testimony about Kirkus... it's what I suspected but it's good to hear from someone who's been there.

Todd Travis...

Unknown said...

You are not alone Todd. The first time I pushed the button on my book "Star Hunter", I cried, really, really cried. I was sweating like I loaded a boxcar full of pig iron by myself. I have 4 self published books now, and the button mashing gets a little easier. but there is still the fear factor, oh yeah.
You should have heard me when someone in Japan bought my book. I could not believe it. I printed it out and sent the report to all my relatives. Especially those who think I'm a little nutsy for having to write. Here is the ad: Star Hunter,Ms. Got Rocks,Fabulous and Forty,Bangles and Bright Lights.I will keep writing and so will you. Beat you to the publish button. Jackie

Jill James said...

Facing your fears is a great blog post, thanks Todd.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I've found in the realm of writing, feeling fear is a good sign, as long as you don't let it beat you. Fear means you're taking a risk, revealing a part of yourself you'd rather keep hidden, being honest. All good things, unless you happen to write press releases, advertising, or political speeches.

Thanks for your honesty, Todd. Keep up the good work.

Marcos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcos said...

The one thing I sort of miss about the traditional publishing process is that when your work does get accepted, that acceptance carries with it the implication of some sort of approval. When you self-publish, you're on your own. And so for me, self-publishing has been an exercise in agonizing self-doubt. It's made all the worse by the fact that potentially millions of people can read your stuff once you put it up on Kindle--as opposed to the old small magazine model, where chances are only a few thousand copies of the issue with your work would be printed. I've been squirming a bit, recently, worrying that someone I know would pick up a copy of some of my work, see my intimate thoughts, condemn me as some disgusting little monster, and I won't be able defend myself with the excuse that "I didn't publish it, the editor did. She's the one that thinks it's worth publishing."

Jude Hardin said...

For those of you still thinking about making a donation to Tess Gerritsen's fundraiser for Alzheimer's research, but don't want to do it online for one reason or another, you can send a check to:

Elliot Wolf
Philanthropy Officer
The Scripps Research Institute
10550 N. Torrey Pines Rd., TPC2
La Jolla, CA 92037

Add the note "Tess's War on Alzheimers" to let them know which fund it goes to.

It's what I'm doing.

Eric Daugherty said...

congrats Todd, I see your book is currently #6 on the Amazon top 100 thrillers freebie list. With any luck that will translate into some book sales.

Marta Szemik said...

Great post Todd! You're not the only one and you're much braver than I am. I'm still debating on my post for Joe. I have a new release coming out mid-July under another pen name so I'm hoping to write about my experience on that (otherwise known as procrastination).
So kudos to you for facing your fear, but then again, you have a pair and I don't (that's called an excuse). Seriously, you just gave me the courage to actually write my post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just a question, but are there any reviews, beyond reader reviews, that are worth pursuing?

Todd Travis

Lois Lavrisa said...

Joe, I am "in line" to guest blog,and as you initially requested, I have already sent you a copy of my donation receipt. Do you chose the blog date for me? Or do I send you date suggestions? And when do I need to have my blog post sent to you? Do you need them by a certain date? Can I wait until fall, or winter or even Spring 2014 since there are over 200 hundred of us guest bloggers?

Jude Hardin said...

Just a question, but are there any reviews, beyond reader reviews, that are worth pursuing?

I've had some luck with my local newspaper, regional review sites, and genre-specific blogs. You just have to do some research and make some inquiries. You're not going to see any huge sales spikes from those kinds of things, but every little bit of publicity helps.

Unknown said...

The one thing I sort of miss about the traditional publishing process is that when your work does get accepted, that acceptance carries with it the implication of some sort of approval.

The only sort of approval I need is seeing money put into my account. :-)

Unknown said...

Darned Blogger! Signed me in as Unknown. That was me with the last comment.

Nancy Beck said...

Dammit! Wrong account.

But the only validation I need at this point in my life is that people are buying my books - and the money is being put into my account.

JA Konrath said...

Congrats on being the #1 free book on Amazon!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe,

I'm humbled and awed by it all, thus far I've had 48,000 books downloaded with two and a half days to go in the promo... I never thought I'd hit number one in all genres, it's astounding to me, I was hoping for top ten in thrillers... so, for this, wow...

For the record, I utilized all the great info and tips you've written and shared over the years (I've been reading your blog since you went out your 500 bookstore tour across the country) about promoting your books...

Every single post you've written, I've examined it like it was biblical script...

I will email you after it's over to give you a full report, but for now, I'm just simply grateful for everything...

Todd Travis

A. J. Abbiati said...

Congrats, Todd!

I also find it very weird promoting my own material. I try to take the "make them aware of it" approach, rather than "tell them it's gonna be a great read" approach. Work the plug into something else they ARE interested in (reading a quest blog post, for instance).

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Hi Joe!
First, thank again for sharing your advice and experience. And, I DO download your books and not just the freebies. My way of saying thank you.
Regarding the publicity fears:

In think we all picture a scenario in the back of our minds that goes something like this: we bring news of our new book, our baby, to someone. And, instead of an enthusiastic response, the person we brought the information to turns into an eight-foot tall, three-headed, monster who yells at us at the top of their lungs,"How dare you bring crap like this to me! Who do you think you are?"

I find it helpful to remind myself that I am not responsible for their reaction. I have no control over that. It is my responsibility to make people aware of my work.

Anonymous said...

thank's for your information ^___^