Facebook Launch Interview – Dr. Robert Snyder, author of “Why Did Daddy Have To Leave?”

About a week ago, I was fortunate to take part in Dr. Rober Snyder’s Book Launch event for Why Did Daddy Have To Leave? – a children’s book detailing the things a child may go through when his parent goes off to war. Dr. Snyder is an Iraqi war veteran and fellow author friend of mine, among other titles including educator and P90X instructor.

Below I’ve included a link to the full interview where I take Rob through his inspiration to write the book as well as what his time was like overseas.

Here’s that link: Click here

And P.S. – please excuse the slight lapse in sound with the video (I’ll go ahead and take the blame for the connection speed if need be, Rob).

The Book’s Out! Now About Those Expectations….

Sure, I’ve released books in the past. And yes, I’ve told people about it. And yes, I’ve worked hard to tell those people to tell even more people about my book. That’s all well and good. But, that doesn’t change what comes next – the expectations. I have expectations for my work just like anyone would. The only difference now is that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a little better prepared. For instance…

If you self-publish, don’t expect to quit your day job. Not right away anyway. It’s probably one of the biggest myths about self-publishing. Ask anyone in the publishing industry and they’ll tell you the same: don’t quit your day job. Not until you can financially provide for yourself. Or in my case, for a familOne Does Not Simplyy. A lot of folks get into publishing and think they’ll sell books like Stephen King. Well, you may be able to write great thrillers like Mr. King, but does anyone actually know you? Do you have a dedicated base of ready-and-waiting readers? These are questions you need to ask yourself before you hand in that two-week notice. Pay the bills first. Then, ride off into the sunset with book in hand.

Get the word out. I laugh when I think of how my first book release went down. My book went to the market and after it did, I think I checked my sales rank on Amazon about twice every 15-30 minutes. Up I’d go, then I’d be down again. Up, then down, up, then down… you get the picture. It was maddening. But then again, I was totally new to this publishing thing. And remarkably impatient. So there were some lessons to be learned before I could call myself a true “author.” Namely, I had to be more conscious of marketing myself. Do I have a Facebook page now? Yep. Twitter? That too. A blog to talk about this stuff? Self-explanatory. And lastly (and perhaps most important of all) was I reaching out beyond my own social circles? Or was I content getting a thumbs up from my aunts and uncles? Well, that’s another item I can check off these days. Guest blogging, for instance, is something I’ve been fortunate to do as of late (you can check’em out here and here for the latest). So I’m becoming less and less afraid of telling people about what I do. Because in the early going, the books just won’t sell themselves.

road-to-mars-cover-6x9-bleedThe Road to Mars is a fictional novel, not a non-fiction or a short story. My first two books were non-fiction works. And in addition to that, they were satirical in approach and delivery. That’s a stark contrast to what I’ve done recently. But in order to make that transition possible, I started a little project where I’d try to write a short story every month. I tentatively called it #12Months12Books and I did this for much of 2014 and 2015. It was probably one of the most difficult – and asinine – things I’ve ever taken upon myself to accomplish. Not only was I under the delusion that I could write a short story every month, I also thought I could polish, edit, and release said short story in a timely fashion (without staying up all night wondering if I’d done right). In hindsight, that was a really difficult undertaking. But, I got through it. Till about June. Which is where reality sank in and I had to stop. But as always, there’s something to learn from the experience. Namely, writing short stories are like writing miniature novels. They force a storyteller to break down the mechanics of storytelling as a whole. Character, plot, setting, motivations – the works. All of these elements have to be trimmed down so that when you’re ready for the “big leagues”, you can have something to work with.

Reviews, reviews…and hey, more reviews. If there’s one thing an artist appreciates, it’s feedback. Whether it’s showering praise or having tomatoes being flung (does anyone still do that?), the result is the same: it’s a response. A reaction. An opinion to what the author has put out there for the enjoyment – or disenchantment – of his audience. Which is why I am humbly asking any and all who read my book, to please review my book too. Five stars? Four stars? No stars? Well, I suppose that’s up to you to decide if it deserves a “zero” rating. In which case, I might offer an apology. Or cry for a while. I just won’t write about that part if it happens.

The Road to Mars is out and only available on Amazon so by all means, check it out if you haven’t already! Have a great weekend, folks.

 

 

 

Okay, It’s Here! #TheRoadToMars

Enough with the hype already! My book is available. And you can check it out here. Or by clicking on the picture. road-to-mars-cover-6x9-bleed

First off, what a process this has been! Lots of learning and lots of time I didn’t foresee having to work through, but hey, I won’t bore anybody with those details. That’s probably best served for another day. Or maybe never. Either way, the wait is finally over.

And as a special bonus – yes, a bonus – I have included the first few pages of the sequel, The Shadow of Mars, at the end. So, if you’re like me and love to spoil the endings of things, you may feel free to skip ahead. And thus, spoil some of The Road to Mars. But hey, that’s your call!

Happy reading, folks. And don’t forget to comment and leave me notes telling me how much you love (or hate) the story. I appreciate it!

And another big thank you to my friend, Immanuel Mullen, for designing the cover and back. Thanks again!

 

 

#12Months12Books: March – “Report 439B”

March will be the debut of my fourth book, Report 439B, in this ongoing #12Months12Books challenge (if I’m counting December’s The Scientist’s Dilemma and yes, I intend to). The title itself should be at least semi-intriguing to some, if not alluring. I’m excited about this one and granted, I’m excited about any story I have forthcoming, but this one is really a break from the norm. Whereas my last three titles have been fiction/fantasy with a definitive story arc, this one doesn’t necessarily follow the same set of rules. Here’s why:

Report 439B is a collection of journal entries, presented to the reader as an alien visitor’s assessment of Earth. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of a six-month excursion. One culminating with the traveler’s final report on the planet’s inhabitants: should we (them) engage? Should we leave them (us) alone? And what are their (our) long-term effects on the rest of the universe? These are some of the questions the “alien” will be asking and trying to answer. It’s a break from the standard fiction for me, but I fell in love with the concept and away I went.

As a disclaimer, I put the word alien in quotations for a reason. ‘Alien’ is a term used for more than just cosmic travelers. It’s also used to describe a non-citizen. I know some readers will imagine a tiny being with black eyes and a huge, bald head at the first mention of ‘alien’. And hey, that’s fine. But, I want to encourage those same folks to read this story with a different perspective. What else do we view as otherworldly? Or perhaps as supernatural?

My story’s journeyman clearly comes from a place that’s like Earth, but is also not like Earth. He draws up several comparisons throughout, trying to portray the differences as much as the similarities. Even his interactions among the “Children” are hopefully some strong indicators of what’s at work in this story. I imagine those who read Report 439B will have their own interpretations, but I trust you enjoy taking the journey together.

It’s been fun writing it, if not grueling at times, but certainly worth the struggle. With every new story, I learn plenty about myself. But, more importantly, I learn what other people might be searching for too. Sometimes it’s just a new adventure; a primary goal of any story worth telling.

 

#12Months12Books

I’ve started a personal campaign to write and publish 12 books in 12 months this year. Yikes, right? I would invite anyone else to join me, if they wish. Or take it as a challenge too. Much of this decision had to do with a desire to share my work more. And do so on a consistent basis. The rest came during some reflections over the past year.

In 2014, I did a lot of writing behind closed doors. Rather, I did a lot of experimenting. I started about 20 short stories, finished nearly half of them, and by year’s end, I published one of those of short stories. By the numbers, that’s not incredibly bad. But, if I were to continue this way – following through once every 20 times I began – it wouldn’t bode well for me in the long run. I’ve recognized I need greater discipline, specifically in bringing things to completion. This challenge will help me become better in that arena, I feel.

Or cause me to have a nervous breakdown by August.

No matter – I’ve started off 2015 on the right track. As I’m typing this, my January story is done and released –  The Color of Soul – and February’s title, A Dinner with Titans, is on its way to a final edit. Here’s my hope and prayer to stay the course as I head into March, April, and beyond.

Good to luck to those who are facing their own challenges this year. #12Months12Books, here we go.

Oh Agent, where art thou?

As the hunt for agent representation continues, I find myself on the short end of the stick. There’s plenty more growing pains to be had and this past week and a half was no exception. For starters, I decided to open my field of agents to include not only narrative, but pop culture, humor, young adult and essay. All of this within the confines of non-fiction. Why? Well, my manuscript covers each of those topics. And the amount of rejection letters I’ve been receiving haven’t exactly lifted my spirits. So why not broaden the scope and see what I find, right?

The first order of business was taking my inquires to agentquery.com. It’s the premier site for searching literary agents. Think of it as the Match.com for aspiring writers. You can scroll through hundreds of agent profiles, sorted by specialization, and as a bonus, you don’t have to look at some creepy picture that may or may not be the person in the profile (I would assume that any other Internet daters can relate).

So away I went. Searching, spelunking, looking, etc.

By expanding my criteria, I discovered several potentials who were interested in all 4 or 5 of my aforementioned list. So I wrote their names down, jotted some notes about their agency, and went to the agency website.

From there, it was a crapshoot. Let me explain: You are essentially trying to impress someone you’ve never met before; that’s first and foremost and can seem to be a little daunting. I’ve already gotten my feet so I feel less intimidated by the notion or the rejection that may follow but still, it’s tough trying to visualize just what you want to say via an email or a snail mail message. Do I boast about my writing prowess? How great the idea is? Or do I write a very formal, stuffy letter? Much of my research on the topic tells me to do two things:
1) Write with your personality and style that the book presents
2) Don’t get too casual (in other words, no “hey, what’s up?”)

Agents are professionals, after all. This is important to remember but easy to forget. Yes, you want to form a partnership that can assist you with your book idea, but you aren’t exchanging pleasantries at a house party either.

As I journeyed on, I found another interesting truth – not every agent is where he says he is. As it were, people can change jobs and positions rather regularly in this world, so be sure to follow through and check that the agent is still with the agency before you start crafting a letter. The yellow pages may say they’re with Super Great Literary Agents R Us, but if you try to contact them via their website, you discover that the agent has left the nest. Or found another place to land. And what’s more, if they’ve moved, then they may have changed their focus altogether too; no longer working on fantasy or fiction, but self-help books instead. Weird, right? Why yes, this was quite frustrating. The agent world is looking as fickle as a teenage girl, I thought.

Thankfully, not all agents were like this. I can’t speak for them all, of course. But wouldn’t you know it – there were plenty that fit the bill.

When this happened, I got discourage but I stuck to the original formula: find an agent by topic and then do the background check. When I found a few that were legit, I decided to dig even further. If there were indeed still at the same agency and still had the same interests as what I sought them out for, I decided to look at their past clients. This would seem like a very logical and natural thing to do next, but I can assure you that it was not. For after searching for a good hour, sifting through the muck, it’s rather easy to pass up this crucial step. Who have they represented in the past? What’s their track record look like? Are they established or not very established? And ultimately, which are you looking for? It might be a good idea to try and strike rapport with an agent who has less clients so you can have more hands-on attention. Once again, there’s no perfect candidate but it’s crucial to call upon these questions once you begin engaging a potential agent to represent you.

Additionally, I read interviews and blog posts that the agents wrote. One such agent, who will remain anonymous, gave a very engaging interview that was eye opening and insightful. He talked of the ebb and flow of the business, the need to be reactive to the market (what’s trending) and how to recognize a good idea when it comes to his table. A delicate thing to discern, but that’s what this is all about. Taking some chances, right? But still managing to not get caught up in those who may only have 15 minutes of success.

Reading what the agent writes is beneficial in that it allows you, the writer, to get a personal peek at what the agent is looking for. What’s their style? How are they communicating? And do they sound like someone you may want to pursue a relationship with? Tough to do, yes, but it’s one step closer to potentially building a partnership. And it’s one step closer than where you’d be if all you were doing was sending out generic letters with no sense of personalization.

And if it helps, develop a personal tracking system. I’m all about trying to keep my head on straight so I devised a small chart to keep my things in order. You don’t want to be sending out the same letter to the same person three months later so keep tabs on who you’ve been in contact with. I would suggest the following table:

Name of Agent / Agency / Criteria / Sent? / Response

Simple and effective. The first two columns are easy to fill out and you can track sent and response dates with little trouble, but try to focus on what the agent wants in a cover letter or sample too. For example, many agents only want a cover letter. Some want snail mail while some only want email. Others desire a page of your work to accompany the letter. The list goes on, but be sure to see what’s required before you make grand plans about creating the perfect “agent snare” for your book idea. And if you’re viewing it as a snare then you should probably reevaluate your methods for contacting an agent and start at square one again. Just saying.

But that’s where I’m at. It’s been a little more than 2 weeks into this quest and I’ve learned my fair share already. Are there are other methods for bettering one’s agent search? Yes, I’m sure there are (outside of driving to the front step of a building, camping out and outright stalking your person of interest), but those are things I’m looking forward to uncovering. In the meantime, back to it.

The first rejection letter

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Nearly a month ago, I made a decision to leave my full-time job and really go after this writing thing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories. Not just hearing them, but telling them too. And now, I’m trying to make this passion of mine a reality.

Anyone who knows me personally, or follows this blog, or is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have picked up one of my recent works, understands that I’ve tried my hand at self-publishing. I’ve published two books in the last two years – all within the realm of self-publishing – and I’ve learned a great deal from the experience. Some good and some bad. But what it’s taught me is that you have to be serious about a dream. Sure, it comes from within, but you have to be disciplined with that inner feeling. Otherwise it’s wasted. Wasted time and wasted energy.

I can certainly say that I got absorbed in the hype of self-publishing. This is not to say that self-publishing is a bad thing. No, do not hear me wrong on this. There were so many great stories about writers who began their careers in self-publishing so naturally I wanted to do the same. The recent craze involving Hugh Howey’s new sci-fi series, Wool, makes me think that there is a place for self-publishing success. That someone can, and will, be successful at self-publishing if they are ambitious enough and know how to tackle the marketplace.

But that’s Hugh Howey’s story. Not mine. I have since resolved to try another route: to go beyond self-publishing and find representation from an agency. Though I may return to my roots someday, I feel like this is the road I’m headed on. And to my benefit, I will have the opportunity to republish and reprint my original works on a larger scale if I choose to do so. What’s more, I can further learn how the industry works and how it truly functions. That, I’m sure, will be an ongoing process. One that I’m looking forward to with much anticipation.

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In the spirit of that new road I’m on, I’ve decided to share my first rejection letter. What I’ve attached is the image of my first email query letter. To those who are unfamiliar, the query letter is intended as a means to gain interest for your work. If you’re a writer looking to get a book deal, you would address one to a writing agent or agency, all in the hopes that they will be interested enough to back you and your manuscript. You could call it an open solicitation to sell your book and yourself. Believe in it. Own it. Because if you don’t, then nobody else will either.

I removed the names of the parties involved, as well as their contact info, as I don’t want to be responsible for a lawsuit (that would be bad). I just want this to be a good reminder that all things take time. Not every hit will be a homerun, but I’ve seen homeruns hit before so I know they’re possible. I also want to make mention that by no means is this a “I’ll show you” moment to the agent. I would hope that anyone reading this will be encouraged to keep moving forward because I’m sure I’ll get more of these rejection letters in the future. I can only hope that they’ll be as cordial as this one was. Nobody likes being told their idea is crap. That could require some counseling. In some ways, it feels like I lost my prom date. Which is fine because there are plenty of fish in the sea. Interestingly enough, the book I’m soliciting is about being single (a larger dose of irony, if I do say so).

So to wrap up, this is the new journey I’m on; a road to representation and more publications. A friend of mine recently told me that every failed attempt is another step towards inevitable success. That’s a great way to survey the landscape of one’s own life. We usually hear about the success stories and momentary triumphs, but we easily forget how many missed shots there were in the lead up to that final breakthrough. This letter, marked up with my notes and my thoughts, is just one of those stories. From here, I’ll just need to keep stepping and see where it goes from there.