Category Archives: Millennium Media Masters

Meet Your Greatest Book Promoters: Part 2

TO RECAP: At the final day of a wonderful, lively Southern California Writers Conference steeped with equal parts of “polish your work to the finest shine” and “learn everything you can about promoting yourself and your books,” I had the distinct pleasure of sitting on the “e-NDEPENDENCE” panel with “Wine Lovers Mysteries” series author Michele Scott, BackMyBook.com co-founder GK Parish-Philip, author Gayle Carline (Freezer Burn), e-publishing expert Linton Robinson and memoirist Hyla Molander, who has helped popularize Scribd.com with her personal success (33,000 reads) using it as a promotional tool for her forthcoming memoir, Drop Dead Life: A Pregnant Widow’s Heartfelt and Often Comic Journey about Death, Birth and Rebirth. Internet strategist Jeremy Lee James of AuthorsEdge.com and WriteClickHosting.com was our moderator.)

During the e-NDEPENDENCE panel, we took turns discussing the subjects of the day in the publishing world — and what should be subjects of every day for authors in 2011. We also fielded very good questions from the audience. A few more subjects that were discussed — all of them important for writers and readers alike:

PROMOTE YOURSELF WITH RECKLESS ABANDON: Get used to it, readers and media — you’re going to hear a lot more from authors directly. Some may have publicists, and others not, but the name of the game today is PLATFORM: creating an angle, showing your face, gaining exposure, tying your book’s themes and subject matter into relevant current events, and promoting tirelessly.

Some panelists suggested hiring publicists to help with this, and I agree, with one condition: that you, the writer, learn how to do this yourself so that you can promote every day. That’s what it takes. Learn how to write captivating blogs, press releases, converse with bookstores, libraries, museums and art galleries (GREAT places for readings), and generate article writing campaigns (subject of a future blog). Take a class in public speaking or find a coach. Know all the online media sources inside and out pertaining to your subject. Push yourself forward as the expert and voice of your subject, or the live narrator of your novel or memoir … because, you are. And do something to promote your book for a minimum of 1 to 2 hours every day.

WHEN A PUBLICIST CAN HELP: This was a lively topic on the panel — and it went both ways. Some authors spend thousands on publicists, only to receive little more than press releases and empty promises. Others spend nothing, and wish they had. Still others hire publicists as consultants, fill in their plan with specific strategies and contacts provided by the publicist, consider it the best $1,000 to $2,000 they ever spent. Even on our panel, one panelist, author Michelle Scott, had a negative experience with a publicist — so she learned to do it herself, and very well. Another, Hyla Molander, will recommend her publicist-friend to anyone who asks. Her work was that good.

Let’s solve this dilemma. Assuming my former place as a public relations agency owner for a second, here are the three critical considerations (besides money) for getting a publicist involved — and I suggest face-to-face interview or, at the very least, Skype:

1) Does the publicist know how to publicize books and authors? The PR world is full of great event and corporate publicists who don’t know the first thing about book promotion — nor do they have the right media list to get you there. This alone is a a dealmaker or deal-breaker.

2) Is the publicist passionate about your work — and putting you in print and in front of cameras? She or he must love your book, your story and how the two mesh. And share the love with reviewers and interviewers. Simple as that.

3) Are you one of many — or the main feature? Make sure your publicist considers you and your work vitally important, enough to make you a prime client.

For this final reason, I suggest starting with a consulting relationship. You’ll know whether or not you need to go further. Take notes, listen, participate in your own publicity campaigns, and learn how to act on your plan. This skill is not an option any longer if you want to make it as an author in the 21st century. It’s a survival skill.

4) SELLING BOOK RIGHTS FOR PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED MATERIALS. More and more, publishers and editors read blog material, or postings on magazine websites, Scribd.com or other open forums, and see the potential for books. Or, they read serialized chapters posted by authors and want to buy the full product. How to deal with this? My experience is that, if a publisher wants something badly enough, they’ll buy the rights — even if it’s previously published. When they buy the rights, you may have to take down whatever you posted, unless you can convince the publisher that keeping it up helps promote the book. If you’re selling the work — say, a serialized e-book chapter by downloadable chapter — then you’ll almost certainly be asked to take the material off the market. I know several people who went from being bloggers to authors in the past two years alone by pre-posting material, or originally writing on the subject on assignment for online magazines, websites or blogs.

This is a wide open frontier, and as I tell everyone in every workshop I teach, you never know who’s reading. If you get an online assignment or invitation to post on someone’s blog, offer one-time rights only. That keeps all your options intact in case a publisher comes knocking — or in case you choose to publish a book on your own.

Oops … I just checked the word count. Looks like we’re going to have a Part 3 to this series.

(NEXT: I will discuss how to negotiate e-rights, making social media ROCK for you, and the world of the 21st century writer-entrepreneur.)

If you’d like more specific information or assistance with promotional planning to help with your book or project, BOB YEHLING can be reached at bob@wordjourneys.com.

 

 

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“Calculate Less”: Keynoter Derek Haas’ Message of Writing Success

You may not know much about Derek Haas as a person, but if you like westerns or action thrillers, then you know some  films he’s screenwritten: 2 Fast 2 Furious, 3:10 to Yuma, and most recently, Wanted. On the reading side, you might also know Columbus, the “protagonist” of his bestselling action thriller novel, The Silver Bear, and its two sequels.

Derek keynoted the Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego in an unusual but refreshing way: after spending 20 minutes tracing his ever-growing career, he took questions from the audience of nearly 300.  Leave it to Southern California Writers Conference directors Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers to march off the beaten track (after all, the tongue-in-cheek motto of this particular conference series, at which I love to teach, is “We’re going to help you suck less”) and find yet another writer who never forgets what it took to succeed — and the pearls of wisdom he gathered along the way.

A humble man, Derek possesses a genuinely caring nature for his fellow writers. Even after spending years dealing with the buzzsaw that is Hollywood filmmaking. “Most screenwriters won’t give any credit to the uncredited writers who help out on a film,” he said. “But a film is a collaborative process, and I’m happy to give credit and tell you how good any writer is who collaborates on a film I’ve been involved with.”

The writing bug first bit Derek when he was 12, and the story is as cute as full of generational clash at it gets. “When I was 12, I took a Stephen King book off my dad’s nightstand. I turned on the closet light in my bedroom — my parents thought I was asleep — and I read until I was finished. That’s when I knew that I had to do this. For my next birthday, I got a typewriter. Then, when I was 17, my dad looked at my love of writing, and my talking about writing as a career, and he said, ‘Do you want to eat hamburgers or steak?’ Look into business school.”

Derek’s career reads like most success curves of author/screenwriters. He and his screenwriting partner, Michael Brandt, met while in graduate school at Baylor and found they “liked similar things and laughed at the same jokes.” They caught a break early on, when one of their screenplays was handed to Brad Pitt and he decided to star in the movie. However, that ended when Brad joined Julia Roberts on another picture. He then co-wrote 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second of the now four-movie car action thriller franchise, followed by 3:10 to Yuma, based on a short story by his personal idol (and mine, too), Elmore Leonard. “I really liked the 1957 movie with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin,” Derek told the audience, “but when I received the screenplay to look at a remake, I realized it didn’t have a true second act.” So Derek and Brandt, along with others, refashioned the movie into a tight western with modern sub-themes that starred Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.

After 3:10 to Yuma, when filming The Double (to be released later in 2011) in Detroit, Derek received a call — from Elmore Leonard. He thought at first it was a joke, but then accepted Elmore’s invitation to a barbecue. Derek had just started the popular website Popcorn Fiction, his attempt to bring back the glory years of short and pulp fiction — one of Derek’s two major nostalgia trips. (The other is radio westerns from the 1930s through 1950s, like Gunsmoke). Popcorn Fiction features short fiction from screenwriters. After getting through a little star-struck spell at the master craftsman’s house, Derek worked up his nerve. “I asked him if he had anything he could contribute. He gave me 15 unseen, unpublished stories, dating back to 1953. One was not good, one was OK, and 13 were gems. We’re working through his agent on getting them published.”

Also, unbeknownst to any of his Hollywood colleagues, Derek was working on a book. It became the bestselling The Silver Bear, featuring a contract killer lead character, Columbus — who appears in a pair of sequels, the latest of which comes out later in 2011. The Silver Bear opens with, “I don’t want you to like me.” Derek explained this by offering some of the best advice I’ve heard in awhile on characterization: “To me, the key to good characters is leaving a little gray. If you have an antagonist, make him do something good to bring the readers in. If you have a protagonist, make him do something that pushes the reader away a little bit.”

Besides answering questions about his movies, Derek received a few specific craft- or mission-based questions about the writing process. One particular exchange, which should be printed in every magazine and every blog, concerned an author’s question about keeping an eye on trends and readers’ concerns as you write your story.

“Calculate less,” Derek said. “That should be a motto for writers.”

He then elaborated. “I can’t tell you where Hollywood is going with trends. Look at 3:10 to Yuma. I thought it was a pretty good film, a great story, with great actors, including Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. It only made $60M in the U.S. and practically nothing — $16M — overseas. So they said westerns are dead … and along comes True Grit that makes $170M. They were saying the same thing twenty years ago, and then you had Dances With Wolves. You can’t write to what’s hot or not hot in Hollywood or in the bookstore.

“Write what’s in your heart. What’s in your heart doesn’t have to be a memoir. It can be an action thriller, or a romantic person, or a contract killer. Write the story that comes from your heart.”

The major craft point he gave is something that is life-or-death to screenwriters and playwrights — and novelists, for that matter: knowing when to begin and end scenes. “My screenwriting partner likes to call it the ‘cup of coffee’ syndrome,” Derek said. “Bad writing is having two people come into the cafe, look around, describe the setting, grab menus, find a waitress, be seated, look over the menu, order two cups of coffee, stir the coffee, take a sip and then start a conversation. Good writing starts with the conversation. It’s really important to not start your scene too early or end it too late.”

Finally, he talked about the polishing process. All weekend long, as we worked with authors’ manuscripts, the mantra of the faculty was the same: “polish until you can’t perfect it any more — then have someone go over it. Then send it.” So many times, unrefined manuscripts are sent to agents and publishers. So many times, writers have just lost their best opportunity. “My partner and I have one rule between us,” Derek said. “Make it better.”

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The Depths of Writing: A Conference Preview

In the ten years I’ve been teaching and presenting at writer’s conferences, a few features have always separated the best writers conference from the also-rans for me:

1) The hopes and enthusiasm of participants, who are looking for vital guidance and information to fulfill the life dreams and aspirations of publishing their books and stories;

2) The giving nature of presenters, who dig into their personal wells of hard-earned wisdom and trade secrets — sometimes, including material that gives them their competitive advantage in business — to empower and enrich the participants, to make the journey to the bookshelves perhaps a little easier than their own;

3) The sheer variety of the workshops, critique sessions, keynotes and presentations;

4) The amazing speed at which the publishing world turns, and changes; and

5) The quality and ability of participating agents, editors and publishers to do three things with authors: a) Be honest without being rude — or vague; b) Come to conferences looking for hot new voices (because you’ll find them); and c) Give quality advice and treat every writer with the respect they deserve for having the guts and dedication to write a book — NOT an easy thing to do.

Over the years, one of the best and most admired conferences for delivering on all of these areas is the Southern California Writers Conference, which takes place this weekend at Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego. From directors Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers to their staff and cast of presenters (authors, editors, agents, publishers, script agents and more), the SCWC team puts away their egos for three days and gives it up for the participants. Big-time. In a tireless way that motivates everyone who attends for weeks and months afterwards. And I mean tireless — sometimes, the late-night rogue read & critique sessions last until daybreak. Then, by 8 a.m., the next morning’s sessions are underway.

In the past year, the SCWC has become the launching pad for each semi-annual issue of the literary anthology I edit, The Hummingbird Review. We’re launching the third issue this weekend, and as publisher Charlie Redner wrote in a nice little fallout insert, “Remove socks before reading as they will be knocked off without notice.” Wait until you see this issue — from the great Gary Snyder and Michael Blake to some of the finest poets in California and the nation, we’ve got a spectacular collection of prose and poetry. Better yet, don’t wait — go to amazon.com, openbookspress.com or thehummingbirdreview.com right now and order a copy. (I might add, we’ve published several poets and authors whom we discovered at the SCWC — Jacob Pruett, Claudia Whitsitt, Marla Sink Druzgal, Alwyn Pinnow, E. Scott Menter and Jesse Lomeli among them)

For my part, I love to arrive at conferences with different twists on writing, marketing, editing or promoting. Seems like the schedule has caught up with me this time, but what a weekend celebration of the written word it’s going to be for everyone who participates in the workshops that I’m leading. Here, I’ll borrow an idea from fellow presenter/author/blogger Marla Miller and preview my presentations:

Healing: In Your Own Words: This is my favorite workshop to present, because there is no more purposeful, honest or spiritual form of writing than finding and expressing the words to help trigger healing within yourself, a friend or family member, a client/patient, or the reading audience at large. Cathartic moments always happen in this workshop, and the level of openness among participants is truly inspiring.

Multi-Genre Writing: Since my teen years, I’ve written in several different genres — poetry, journalism, fiction, lyric/songwriting, journaling, narrative non-fiction, essays and memoir. In recent years, I’ve put several of them together in the same works, a particularly enriching technique for readers. And one that’s more and more popular in both the print and online worlds. So in this workshop, we’re going to practice writing in genres other than our native form, and then blending the material into one piece. I’m getting ready to write a book on this with literary agent/author Verna Dreisbach, so this will be a very lively workshop. Get ready to have your writing muscles stretched — and your narrative reach increased.

The Celebrated Image: Creating and Polishing Poems: Now we get down to my deepest love, poetry. This is the first of four sessions in PoetryCram 2011, a daylong workshop for participants who want to write new poems or put their poems into publishable chapbook form. I’ll be joined by Hummingbird Review publisher Charlie Redner, poetry teacher and poet Ed Decker, and online publishing expert Lin Robinson. In the opening workshop, we’re going to turn images into poems, expand and polish those poems, and make those tough decisions on structural form, and decide on an order for an eventual collection or chapbook. The inner and outer world is the sandbox, the words and experiences are the toys, and we’re going to play!

In addition, I will be meeting one-on-one with several authors to discuss their works-in-progress, and possibly putting something together last-minute to help authors build their all-important promotional platforms. Not sure yet. But stay tuned. One of the other great things about SCWC is that you have to keep checking the website during the week leading to the conference — and then check the board once you arrive. There are always changes … a true reflection of the fluid writer’s mind.

I’ll blog from the conference, and also share more on the various topics in the coming weeks. If you’re a writer in Southern California and not doing anything this weekend, come on down for either the full conference (Friday night through Sunday night) or the weekend sessions. You don’t have to sign up for workshops in advance (except for the PoetryCram and NovelCram) … just walk in, open up your pad, journal, iPad or laptop, and prepare to fully expand your horizons as a writer — and learn what it takes to get published.

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A Creative Extravaganza: Living the Writing Life

This past week’s writing and creative activities have certainly felt in the spirit of the season —  a series of outstanding Christmas stocking stuffers. All of them remind me of why it is so wonderful to be a writer, an editor, and blessed with a lifestyle in which we get to meet and work with some of the most fascinating people in the world.

Without further adieu …

Workshop and Conference Teaching Schedule Announced in January

Next month, we’ll announce most of the 2011 Word Journeys conference and workshop teaching schedule. We’re going to expand from 2010, with confirmed appearances at February’s Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego, March’s Tucson Festival of Books, and a May workshop at New York’s Open Center preceding the Book Expo America convention. We’re also planning workshop series in North San Diego County, Tucson and more. Stay tuned!

Memories with PT

The other day, I met with old friend Peter Townend, professional surfing’s first world champion and co-star of the epic surf films Free Ride and Big Wednesday. He had just come from lunch with Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton and others involved with the Legends project that features a group of great sports champions. We sat down to talk about a series of books on which we’ll be working together, including Memories in Pink, a memoir presented in a much different format than usual. During our meeting, PT pulled out a notebook of old typewritten manuscripts dating back to 1974. (While winning the world title in 1976, when pro surfing had no money, he made his living as a surf journalist, working for Rupert Murdoch’s Sydney Daily Mirror and United Press International, among others.) In the notebook was the manuscript of an article on Surf City USA, Huntington Beach, that I assigned him 30 years ago while I was the original editor of Breakout Magazine. In a moment of shared history, he handed me the manuscript and I looked down at my handwritten edit marks … that was cool. Much more coming from PT through the company I co-own, Millennium Media Masters, as we move into 2011 and beyond.

A Poetry Read Worth Remembering

I’ve become thoroughly convinced that San Diego County is one of the most underrated parts of the country when it comes to poetry. San Francisco and New York get the ink, but every time I turn up for a reading in San Diego County, something or someone else blows me away. Which is good, because if you blow me away, you’re likely to get published in the literary journal I edit, The Hummingbird Review.

The other night, I attended the Magee Park Poets reading in Carlsbad — the third of three fantastic readings in the past six weeks. The others were our Hummingbird Review Poetry Revue and a group reading by students of Solana Beach master poetry teacher Harry Griswold. Poets read their works that were selected for the annual Magee Poets Anthology, and many were quite outstanding.

One poet, however, took my breath away: D.N. Sutton. She’s been in this blog before, three years ago. Now she’s 90, and this elegant Southern belle walked up to the stage and brought the house down with her meticulously read poem, “Question Mark (at age 90).” It’s about going into the twilight, but not before living her life to the fullest. You’ll see it in the next issue of The Hummingbird Review, which releases in mid-February.

Fascinating Interview with A Longtime Friend

Last week, I took my sister and brother-in-law to see Wild Child, the Doors tribute band, at the Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood. This was special because, despite my four-decade love affair with the Doors, I’d never been to the Whisky, where they broke on through in 1966. And Wild Child is easily the best tribute band. The show was fabulous — 2 1/2 hours during which they played side one of my favorite Doors album, Morrison Hotel. A few days later, my lifelong friend and former cross-country and track teammate at Carlsbad (CA) High School, the screenwriter, director, teacher and artist Randall Jahnson, was profiled in Examiner.com. It’s been almost 20 years since the movie Randall principally wrote, The Doors, was released. He’s done many more things since then — and his newest projects are awesome, as you’ll read in the interview — but just goes to show how long our books, films and other works can remain relevant if we work on our material until it can be improved no more. Check out this interview.

The Dandy Warhols Concert

Normally, I don’t mix music and writing. Well, yes I do — all the time. What a special treat to see one of my favorite bands, The Dandy Warhols, in top form the other night. It was one of the finest concerts I’ve ever seen. The Dandy Warhols have produced some of the most original music of the past 20 years — but for some strange reason, they are much more popular in Europe, Canada and Australia, even though they come from Portland, Ore. Maybe it’s because they weren’t on American Idol! Whenever rock critics and pundits give you five or six genre labels, well, you’re both multi-faceted and truly original. It was a treat to hear them play songs spanning all 17 years of their history, to hear their often poetic lyrics, and to see the truly artistic interplay between singer-guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor, guitarist Peter Holmstrom, drummer Brent de Boer and keyboardist-bassist Zia McCabe. It’s like watching rock music paint an intricate design. While at the concert, I ran into an old friend, Ken Leighton, who used to manage the early 1980s band that should have made it to the big time out of North San Diego County — Incognito. Ken had them in prime position, but the band self-destructed.

Check Out Millennium Media Masters

We’ve spent the past three months building the foundation for a true 21st century Knowledge Economy media and publishing powerhouse. Now, as 2011 arrives, we’ll be fully rolling out the combination of more than 100 years of writing, editing, publishing, marketing, photographic, graphic design and online media experience — Millennium Media Masters.

We’ve assembled an incredible team to serve authors, publishers, agents, entrepreneurs, business executives, content providers and online media aspirants with the highest quality work available in the market — in all genres. Besides myself, our core team consists of business partner John Josepho, who has 30 years of media, photography, marketing and business consulting experience; director of operations Lisa Maine, with 20 years of graphic design and writing background; web designer Laura Brown, one of the true up-and-coming forces in the yoga and health markets; web designer and social media expert Brian Wilkes, whose 40 years of experience covers all aspects of print, broadcast and online media; and our “young guns,” the graphic design and production team of Chitra Sudhakaran, Jamie Dawick and Anna Preston.

See what we’re up to by visiting our website.

 

 

 

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