Michael Connelly: A Reader’s Guide is Nominated for a Pushcart Award!

Schatt Connelly Cover JPEGI was very surprised and pleased to discover that Anaphora Press has nominated my study of Michael Connelly for the Pushcart award. If you haven’t seen the book, it is the ONLY book available anywhere that takes a close look at Michael Connelly’s works as well as his life and his writing techniques.

What surprised me very much is that Connelly has sold over 40 million copies of his mysteries and won numerous awards, but no one seems to take him serious enough to write about him. His Harry Bosch character is one of the most well fleshed out characters in all of literature. Fans have been able to see the detective age in real time over more than twenty years. I really enjoy reading his novels, so I decided he was worth a serious examination.

The result is a book that traces both novelist and his novels and characters from the very beginning and even speculates where Connelly is going after Bosch is forced into mandatory retirement. Connelly has given hundreds of interviews over the years, so there’s a wealth of material to comb. I targeted the average mystery reader rather than any “scholars,” so I didn’t make this a book for graduate students. It’s written as a companion to help readers enjoy Connelly’s novels even more.



Egypt Rising Moving Closer to Publication

Eternal Press has been working with me to move Egypt Rising through the publishing cycle. Right now it looks like the book might be out in early August. I just viewed a first draft of the cover. Awesome job by the artist, but it’s always a shock to see someone else’s idea of how a character looks.

The editing cycle will be very intense, but I’m looking forward to a book that teens will love. One aspect of the book that I hope will really ring true is the way characters change their views of each other. Another aspect of the book that I spent a good deal of time working on is the authentic description of the events of January and February 2011 that led to the overthrow of the Mubarak government.

Finally, I’ve spent a lot of time researching daily life in Cairo. My wife and I were lucky enough to visit the city. So, I hope readers get a flavor of the exotic nature of the city. I’m also interested in the reaction of fans of Edgar Cayce. I have spent years studying the various legends of Atlantis as well as Cacye’s view of the relationship between refugees from Atlantis and early Egypt. I’ve included some of the ancient secrets supposedly lost over time, including the laying of hands.

I’ll keep everyone up-to-date as the book moves closer to being born.

Live Reading for Journey to a Different Dimension

Demian and I did a reading of our new book, Journey to a Different Dimension: An Adventure in the World of Minecraft. We want to thank Ms. Chavez and the third grade students at Laurel School in San Mateo, California for their hospitality.

What struck me is just how excited kids are about the game and the book. Normally kids fidget in class. These kids listened with rapt attention and then asked tons of good questions. Later, several of them told Demian that they also plan to write books. While I always thought of Minecraft as a game mostly played by boys, several girls told us they play the game.

Now Laurel School happens to be in Silicon Valley, so it might be atypical. Still, I was amazed how many kids had their own Kindles or iPads. I suspect most of them will purchase the paperback edition of the book, though.

One of the points we made during our discussion is that real characters have to be less than perfect. I’ve noticed some of the fan books on the web are filled with one-dimensional characters. Maybe he next step in the evolution of Minecraft books would be  a member of a mob who actually doesn’t like to kill people, kind of a Casper the friendly monster.

School is out for most kids now, but let me know in the Fall if you have any classes that would like a reading as well as a discussion on how to develop characters. Sales have been growing steadily. One of the challenges we face with this book is that traditional reviews don’t really reach the audience who actually would read this book. So, traditional book blogs aren’t much help. We just need readers who love the book to leave reviews on Amazon so people browsing for a Minecraft novel will see that other people have enjoyed it.

The Indie & Self-Published Book’s Food Chain Makes Speed Readers King

How did publishers traditionally get the word out about a new book? The answer is that people responsible for publicity worked closely with major newspapers to arrange book reviews; they schmoozed and managed to get people sympathetic to their books to do the reviewing. At the same time, marketing budgets paid for publisher-sponsored book tours. Media specialists arranged for the authors to be interviewed on radio and television. All in all, the writer did not have to do very much except appear when requested and act semi-intelligent since the interviewer usually had not read the book before the interview.

Today budgets are so constrained that indie presses are limiting the number of review copies they distribute. They request “Marketing Plans” before approving a submission. They fully expect their authors to carry most of the load and pay most of the cost of reaching the public. Self-published authors lack even the semblance of that publisher support since they have to hawk wares from their own websites.

To make matters even more interesting, the only viable way for indie and self-published novelists to reach the public besides hawking their novels from the back of trucks at county fairs is to find book bloggers willing to read their books and then write reviews.

How the mighty have fallen. Read the biographies of many of these bloggers. They usually have full-time jobs and read in the evenings. Yet, some say that they read 1-2 books per week in order to keep up with their reviews. Do the math. These bloggers make Evelyn Woods sound like she was lip reading when she claimed speeds of 2000 words per minute through her speed reading classes.

Virtually all the bloggers I have researched have huge backlogs of books to read. Authors have to make a compelling argument to make it on their reading lists. Yet, these bloggers have figured out the way to jump to the head of the Amazon food chain because the public usually does not buy books that don’t have a number of positive reviews. Amazon has strict rules against relatives reviewing books, so authors have to convince strangers to do this critical work.

I wonder how enjoyable it is to have so many books waiting to be read. Yet, many of these bloggers do plow through their books and then write coherent, intelligent reviews that they diligently post on several additional sites like Goodreads.com in order to help authors gain some visibility.

So, my hat goes off to these bloggers. I picture them watching TV in the evening while trying to also concentrate on a book. I imagine them cooking dinner while a book or Kindle is open. Finally, I can visualize them counting books, rather than sheep, as they try to fall asleep in order to have the energy to go to work in the morning.

The Brave New World of the Writer Inc.

There was a golden time many years ago when writers wrote and publishers published and marketed books. That’s not to say writers didn’t promote their works. They would visit the Tonight show, be interviewed for Parade Magazine, and appear at book readings, but they were not primarily responsible for their books’ marketing campaign. There were publicity people who wrote press releases, graphic designers to design sales sheets, and nice neat relationships with major magazines and newspapers with writers eager to review the works.

Where has all this gone? I spent much of yesterday searching for a good Microsoft Word template for a Sales Sheet. I found one after an extended search, but then I had to spend a good deal of time modifying it to fit my latest book. I spent part of today arranging for flyers to be printed on very heavy, good quality paper, and then wrote the press release.

Of course, all that effort is for naught if I don’t find hands eager to receive the material as well as a review copy of the book. I’ve been spending a good deal of time developing my own marketing campaign list of potential reviewers. I’ve combed the blogger community as well as other sites to discover reviewers who fit the profile of someone who likes to read this type of book. The fact that my newest book is not just a children’s book but also a book designed for children who love to play the game of Minecraft makes it more difficult. Many older reviewers aren’t even aware their children or grandchildren love this game.

I’ve developed my own bookmarks as well. Once again, doing it right takes time, effort, and some money. I’m very thankful that I’ve worn marketing hats before as well as a researcher hat, because starting from scratch would be very difficult. I haven’t even mentioned the need to keep up a blog and become active in other social media.

Writing becomes a relief, a fun-filled escape from the business office. So, in effect, a writer today is his or her own corporation, complete with several departments all run by one employee. I suppose I should be thankful that my drawing ability is so awful that I didn’t even consider designing my own cover. If I had an iota of ability, that would have been one additional area to serve as a time sink.

My advice for newcomers is not to be seduced by the parasites who hover over places like Amazon’s bulletin board. They brag about how they have sold thousands of copies of their books because of clever marketing tricks that only they know. They then offer to reveal everything for ONLY a few dollars. It seems so simple. What harm could an additional $2.99 for a Kindle version of the secret to success do? If you read some of the reviews, you discover that writers who fell for this trick, spent valuable time reading pablum that consisted of obvious advice (create a website, blog, tweet, etc.). Meanwhile, they wasted valuable time.

So, throw yourself into this new corporate adventure with an attitude that you’ll learn all kinds of new things. Also, you’ll have complete control; you won’t have to worry about someone else screwing up. You won’t have to take any money out of your profits to pay others. Finally, in this brave new digital world, writers produce novels much more quickly than in the old days. So, whatever you learn in promoting your current book will make the promotion of your next book even more successful. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.