Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's here!

Ladies and gents, APRIL YULE has just gone Live on Amazon:

http://tinyurl.com/c8hscph

Though it's not a horror novel, it puts to good use what I learned as Kelley Wilde in that genre. Better still, it fuses that with what I've learned as Reb MacRath.

This one's for you. And you were firmly in my mind with every page I wrote. I hoped to do five things at once: thrill, delight, astonish, move and inspire you.

Readers often ask: Which book of yours should I read first? I'm proud of them all, but from here on I'll answer without hesitation:

'No decision. April Yule.'

Enjoy!


Monday, March 25, 2013

New 5-star review for Southern Scotch

Diane Rapp just posted a terrific 5-star review for the first Boss MacTavin novel, Southern Scotch, on Amazon and Goodreads. I hope you'll take a look at it because this and the other Boss thriller, The Alcatraz Correction, needed time to find their legs and connect with readers. But now the buzz seems to be building.
I'm pleased--and, frankly, grateful because this is how it should be. The reviews come slowly, one by one. And readers lose their reluctance to try something this wildly different.

Enough said--by me at least. Read Rapp's review...then one or two more if you like. Then, if you're in a daring mood, give Big Bad Boss a try.

http://tinyurl.com/adrarem



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Perception, Perception, Perception: Part 4

Back to the drawing board again...because the learning curve's as rough as it is thrilly-dilly.

I'd been satisfied with my new Amazon Author Central bio...until I read one by a colleague, Mark Chisnell, that showed me how it's done. Mine had been in the third-person--which I now saw was a major mistake. So was my persistence in keeping my bio as terse as I could. Compared to my laconic third-person 15 lines, Mark went on for 57 lines in the warm and open first-person. He came across as a living room guest, one who answered honestly the questions he knew I must have. Not just where he came from or where he went to school--what sort of person is he, what were his major life experiences, who influenced his writing, why the devil should we read his books, etc. I liked the way he took the time to show me who he was. And I liked his way with the language.

Two results:
1) I downloaded a book by Mark Chisnell because I liked what I'd just read.
2) I spent an afternoon reworking my own pitiful bio. I beefed it up to 49 lines, answering in my own way the same questions that Mark had addressed.

Correction: three results! And here is the third: today, in the same spirit, I spent several hours reworking the product descriptions on Amazon for Nobility and The Vanishing Magic of Snow. In each case, I tripled the length of the copy. I took the extra space to chat with potential readers about the brevity of the two novels--and why these are novels, not stories...exactly what I mean when I call them Anytime Yuletide Chillers and why readers can read them in April...'Trivia' about the novels that should be of interest-e.g., in Nobility, each of the four books opens and ends with a color...leading us from black to the rainbow at the end.

Furthermore, in the description, I was careful to include ALL of the keywords...more than once, when possible.

Back to work tomorrow: new product descriptions for SOUTHERN SCOTCH and THE ALCATRAZ CORRECTION.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Perception, Perception, Perception: Part 3

The time seemed right to start taking some bold if basic steps.

I began with my profile on Twitter, which you can find there if you search for @rebmacrath

I continued with my profile in Amazon Author Central: www.amazon.com/author/rebmacrath (Please copy and paste the link. I've been unable to post it live for a direct connection.)

In the week to come, I'll begin revising my book descriptions, incorporating the selected key words into the descriptions--as advised by one Amazon guru. I'll also follow his advice in giving potential buyers a little more to go on instead of the short and snappy copy I learned in my days as an ad man. Why buy any book by me? Why this book in particular?

I should know if the new approach works in a month. For after a year in the jungle I've given away thousands of books while selling next to none. Time to learn new footwork! As always, I'll keep you posted.

Help St. Jackie Bring It to Twitter

You'd be right as rain to wonder what a long-dead, bestselling trash writer could do for ebook writers anywhere. But, as I hope to show you in my usual terse way, the answer is: quite a bit. Let's start off with a handful of the basic facts:

Name: Jacqueline Susann.
When: 1918-1974.
What: Broke out with her world-wide bestseller, Valley of the Dolls, in 1966 at the age of 48 after stints as an actress and model. A born hustler, she married a man she didn't love but who adored her completely--and became her agent and tireless champion. She published four books in her lifetime:: Every Night, Josephine (about her life with her poodle)...VOD...The Love Machine...and Once is Not Enough. Her literary rivals despised her as fiercely as her readers loved her. Gore Vidal claimed "She doesn't write, she types." And Truman Capote claimed that she resembled "a truck driver in drag". But they ate their hearts out at her sales.
Why: Susann's importance to us lies far less in what she wrote than in how she hustled it. For that was her real genius. The specifics matter far less than the spirit Jackie brought to bear and the three key principles.
The Problem with the Specifics: The past is a locked door. The publishing industry has changed too much in the past 40 years for almost anyone to attempt to match Susann's world-wide tours for her books. Almost none of us can hope to appear, as she, did on talk shows. We lack her social and industry connections.
But now that we've got all that out of the way, let's tune into the beauty of Jackie Susann.

                                                SAINT JACKIE'S  MAGIC KEYS
1) Personalize!  Remember, Jackie died many years before the laptop or smart phone arrived. She relied on a Rolodex the size of a beachball. Others went on glitzy tours, yes. But Jackie stayed till every book was signed--and till she'd written down the name and address of each buyer. Why? Because she insisted on sending a personalized Thank You to each. And she was right in knowing that this set her apart from the pack and would richly pay her back.
2) Work the World, Not Just the Room: Other writers made a habit of schmoozing book store owners...while treating staff like dirt. Jackie always met the floor staff who would sell and shelve her books, getting invaluable face-out displays. Others licked reviewers' boots while trashing peeps who didn't count. Jackie waited outside stores with hot coffee and donuts for the truck drivers who delivered her books--wanting her boxes opened before the hundreds of others. For bookstore staff and drivers, she kept additional data: their birthdays and anniversaries, even the names of their kids.
 3) Never Appear to Be Working: This one is the trickiest. And it's a great key that cannot be faked. No one ever felt that they were being worked or played by her. When a card came from Jackie, it was the real deal. A coffee and donut were two precious gifts. She loved the business of her art...and loved the people she met.  Therein lay the difference.

                                                          APPLICATIONS
So here we are on Twitter or Facebook, wondering how to apply Jackie's keys. Whether we use a Rolodex, a DayTimer or smartphone, we need to find our way of personalizing our approach. When everyone's touting, we need to be cool. And when everyone is self-absorbed, we need to be open and warm. We need to keep track of anyone who's shown the slightest interest in our work--and to repay them sincerely with ReTweets or occasional check-ins to see how they're doing, best wishes for work in progress. In other words, if we turn from thoughts about Me-Me to genuine thoughts about You, most of the specifics will take care of themselves. And Saint Jackie's spirit will shine upon us.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coming Soon: Bringing Saint Jackie to Twitter

Don't miss the Wednesday post on former Trash Lit Queen, Jacqueline (Valley of the Dolls) Susann.

Say what you like about Jackie, she lived to write, loved her fans...and was one of the world's greatest masters of hype. She died long before Twitter or Facebook, it's true. But let's all have a short, close look at what it was she did so well--and how her marketing tactics might translate to ebook publishing.

You'll learn a few cool tricks that aren't really tricks. And, who knows, at least a few of you may call her Saint Jackie as I do. 

Till then!

Monday, March 11, 2013

THREE-ALARM ALERT!

Tomorrow, on Authors Electric @ http://authorselectric.blogspot.com be sure to check out "Oxford Rogue":  the shocking true story of how one quick-tempered, Fu-loving, potty-mouthed Yank studied the Classics at Oxford...and learned to talk real pretty.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Not So Little Nothing Sunday

This has not been a Happening Sunday in any traditional sense.. No romantic adventures or literary breakthroughs or even spats with family or friends. But the fact that I'm writing about this at all is a small sort of personal breakthrough.

Listen: For many years my head was stuffed with the most useless nonsense: all great writers had to be two-fisted drunks, world-travelers and treacherous spouses. They owed it to Posterity and to their biographers to be bigger than life, 24x7, while they wrote the masterpieces that their lives eclipsed. Etc.  I had my adventures, some great ones. But the more we all learn about writing, the more wonderfully we grow aware that all that stuff is poppycock--more often than not, poor excuses to avoid the real adventure...the real test of soul and courage: sitting again by one's lonesome with a fresh day's naked pages defying us to fill them. There are Alps to be scaled here and deserts to cross, hair turns that take the breath away.

Even so, some days in the lives of professional writers are quieter than others. And this Little Nothing Sunday pleasantly surprised me by turning out to seem not so little after all. I began work at 6 a.m. at one of my two Starbucks 'offices'. For the first two hours, I worked on social media and proofing my next digital release, APRIL YULE. By 9, I'd crossed town to my second 'office', where: I finished my March post for Authors Electric, the collective UK blog...continued proofing AY...typed up more first draft pages of my fall thriller...and ended up with another, shorter social media session. On the way home I stopped at a new wi-fi McDonald's for a coffee while I typed this post for Southern Scotch.

 It's been a good day because it encompassed so much of the business of writing. Few of us have secretaries or even virtual assistants. Many of us do our own proofing as well as our own editing. Add in the writing--and some reading too--and you begin to see the need for redefining a 'good day'. The temperature's mild. It's still mid-afternoon. And, no, I did not chase bulls in Pamplona or cheat with the wife of a friend or start a brawl while dead drunk in a bar...Even so, I'm grateful for this quietly Happening Sunday.

Monday P.S.: The Sunday ended with a return to stretching and meditation--short sessions for each--after an absence of...I can't recall. I slept like a baby!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Give My Tootsie Role a Hug


Note: the following true tale of how I passed myself off as a woman in order to break into print first appeared on Authors Electric, the great collective book, February 12, 2013.  http://authorselectric.blogspot.com

I had a date with a model last night. I can’t talk about her, but I can tell you this: the road to hell is truly paved with the best dimensions. Then again, years ago, I found the road to heaven’s gate in a cross-country move.

Act 1
            Time: the middle-Eighties, when we still sent letters.
            I set out from San Francisco, where a strayed loin is the quickest way to get from Pant A to Pant B. Destination: New York City, the heart of the publishing action.  I arrived with fire in the belly—and more in need of a fresh start than any hundred writers. 
            Why? In the previous decade I’d sent out thousands of queries. Though I now had something wild and fresh, a query recognized as mine would call to mind yesterday’s cabbage.
            I had a chance in Gotham to change the way agents perceived me. And I hadn’t come unarmed: I’d arrived at a clear understanding that the query process was weighted in favor of agents. With hundreds of queries a week to tear through, they were looking for grounds to reject—not to read. And grounds for rejection included far more than grammatical howlers. NYC agents might guess my probable income from my Queens address.  My age, job and education could be turned against me too.
            So the playing field had to be leveled. 
First moves: I rented a mid-town mail drop and bribed the manager to allow me to call my box number a Suite. I kept my life out of my queries, declining any specifics. Education?  “A good school.” Age?  “Young, but not absurdly.” Employment?  ‘I live comfortably on an inheritance.’ And…
My nomme de guerre?  Kelly Wilde.

Act 2
            One year later. Same old bleep.  But how could this be happening?  I’d found my voice; my query rocked; I even had a Good Address.
            One night I recalled having read that about 80% of agents and editors were female.  What if I…Well, did I dare…
            I tried adding one more e to my pen name:  Kelley Wilde.  Talk about Yeah, Baby moments!  But I’d have to alter my handwriting, too, to keep my gender under wraps when I signed my letters.  And, like good ole Dustin in Tootsie, I began to think continuously of little touches and trademark phrases that belonged to Kelley-Welley.

Act 3
            One day I received the letter that all writers dream of:  The opening pages just blew me away…I’ve got to read your manuscript…I heard cash register ringing when I saw your name!
            Was Kelley-Welley happy?  Oooo, I could have danced all night—and did when X, the Pennsylvania-based agent, agreed to represent me.  She loved my book, The Suiting, and wanted to know allllll about me.  She asked me to call her, collect, any time.
            Well, here the comedy began: though X had never asked me, I knew that she thought I was female.  Obviously, I couldn’t call her. But I didn’t want to offend her, and so…Kelley-Welley was given Big Backstory Blues: a childhood tragedy had resulted in both shyness and a fear of phones.  One day when we met, though, we’d be like old friends and hug away like maniacs. This went on, absurdly.  A sort of race against the clock with hopes that X could land a sale before the jig was up.   
            One night Kelley-Welley possessed me while I was composing a letter to X. To my horror, I found myself typing:  “Oh, X, it isn’t fair!  Why did I have to be both smoking hot and shy?”  I tried to shred the letter.  Failed.  I tried to burn it.  Failed again.  The next morning I barely succeeded in passing the mailbox in order to trash my lunatic sex kitten outburst. I was getting far too deeply into character, I knew.  And naughty Kelley-Welley seemed to be stronger than I.
But before I slipped again an offer was made on The Suiting—the first novel from a total cipher who claimed to be frightened of phones.

Act 4
            The time had come to meet with X.  And I decided that sooner was better. So we arranged our date by post, fifteen years before I’d buy my first computer.  Then Kelley-Welley suited up, spruced his hair, shined his shoes, and bused to Pennsylvania. I recognized X at a glance by the hurt and confusion I saw in her eyes.
            We enjoyed a pleasant lunch and went over the plans for my next book, since Tor wanted a two-book contract.  At the end of lunch, I asked her:  Would she have represented me if she’d known that I wasn’t a woman?
            Before you pass judgment, consider her words:  “Honestly, I don’t know.  The book was so dark and unsettling…If I’d known you were a man…” X didn’t have to finish that. If I’d played by the rules, I’d have gone to my grave without ever selling a book.

Act 5
            The changes that followed were subtle and spaced over the course of a year.  X led me through the process, protecting and advising me, and for that I will always be grateful.  But after the first book was published, she began to grow more distant.  And one day my editor complained that X seldom came to the city and too often did not return calls.  I needed a good New York agent, she said.  
            I had my pick of several—and, wouldn’t you know it, I picked the wrong one.  But we all have our screw-ups and pipers to pay.  And once upon a time I played a cool, slick game of ball when the odds against me were 10,000 to 1.
            Let the trumpets sound in honor now of your own dazzling footwork on a playing field tilted to favor The House.

Coda
            Enough talk about publishing.  Kelley-Welley is long gone.  May I close on a note that is pure Reb MacRath?
            Change your opinions less often than your undies.  But let the same two rules apply: Keep them fresh.  And let your manner inspire the warmest of wishes for a more intimate look underneath.
            

Friday, March 1, 2013

March Update

Have nearly finished proofing my spring release, entitled APRIL YULE. But what that means to me is that I need to go through it once more, line by line and word by word. I want my name to stand for beautifully edited, beautifully proofed and beautifully written work.

I've decided to switch formatters, at least on a trial basis. We'll see how this goes. But if it works, the lower price will free me to do some advertising. Achieving visibility is still the big issue--with about 340,000 ebooks published in 2011. The new price will also empower me to get out 2-3 more books this year.

If the formatting goes well, I'll announce the release date within the next 2 weeks.

Fingers crossed. Stay posted!

Reb