Your book may sit on a shelf in a book store or be presented to the world in print or electronic media. You may be face to face with potential readers who require some convincing to buy it. Either way, you have from seconds to a few short minutes to make an impression.
What if your book is about more than just “one thing?” The book cover can suggest only so much. The back-cover copy, and comments of praise just inside, says more, but this assumes the potential customer spends the time for a thoughtful examination.
Even the infamous and so-called “elevator pitch,” the brief, face to face, three-minute opportunity to convince the skeptical, still relies on that first sentence to convince the listener that you have something to say.
I’ve made it difficult for myself by writing a book that is a complex mix of people and stories. The cover screams basketball and sports betting, and it is about that. But it’s more. It’s a deep dive into the lives of diverse characters who struggle with the consequences—and the meaning—of winning and losing.
Make it even more complicated by featuring complex women as some of the lead characters. Can a man actually write convincingly about women? (I did grow up with three sisters who all still speak to me. And I’ve had three wives, the last of whom appears to be keeping me.)
Finally, the book has no sex or romance, and virtually no violence. How can that work?
I am undeterred. Connect virtually with me tomorrow, December 12th at 3PM. Here’s the link https://www.crowdcast.io/e/billion-dollar-bracket/register
It’s time to step up the marketing of my book, Billion Dollar Bracket, out December 1st. I’ve slowly become aware that my marketing efforts—when added to the offerings of a gazillion other books and authors—must seem like a firehose of choices going out to potential readers.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was a child, I went to the school library find a good book. During school it was not so bad, but in summer the school doors were locked. The county library was the better part of a day trip to travel there, although the Bookmobile did come around.
By high school, when I realized I was an “English major” heart and soul, I had the dream of reading every good book available in the world. There was even a collection called “The Great Books,” the accepted canon of what should be read.
I’m not sure when the number of books I felt compelled to read started feeling like drinking from a firehose of great works. The flow comes from family and friends saying “you just got to read this book!” It comes from the multiple online and print recommendations for creative and exciting books that I actually signed up to get.
Even though I once owned a bookstore, I still feel a little overwhelmed and intimidated when I walk through one. And now I’m pushing my book into the flood that will engulf potential readers.
One place I feel at peace is in my book club. A small group of us collectively review options and make our choice. Some of the books we choose I would never have given a second look, on the shelf or in an e-ad. But every selection is rewarding in its own way, probably because it is shared. At the end of the firehose is an oasis of dry ground.
Still thirsty for a sip from the firehose? Click this link: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/billion-dollar-bracket/register
This blog is a review of an article about audiobooks, plus my own modest experience with the concepts presented.
The article, “So, You Want to Narrate Audiobooks,” was written by Kate Murphy and appeared in the Wall Street Journal on November 2nd, 2020. Murphy documents the growing popularity of audiobooks and describes what it takes in terms of talent and equipment to become a professional reader of books for this expanding audience.
Even before COVID, people were finding audiobooks a rewarding multitasking endeavor, coupled with working out, gardening, or other activity that allows split attention. In the last decade new titles have increased tenfold. Some believe more time at home bodes well for the industry.
And it is an industry. Audiobook narration is a “distinct art form that requires some natural ability but also determination, dedication, and practice.” It helps to be born with what Murphy calls a “radio voice.”
I understand about the voice. In addition to writing, I have dipped my toe into the world of “spoken-word art.” That’s a fancy phrase for “storytelling.” There is such a thing as a “storyteller’s voice.” It’s a little hard to define, but you know it when you hear it.
Murphy also says audiobook producers look for people with acting experience. I understand that, too. If you’ve even seen and heard a master storyteller “in the moment” with a captivating story, it’s clear that acting is part of the mix.
Then there is the financial investment. You can’t do this at the kitchen table with kids running around, phones ringing and dogs barking. You need a space, a “studio” actually and equipment beyond a smart phone. Murphy says you could spend the lion’s share of $10K for an optimal setup.
The article goes deeper and further than this short blog. You should be able to find it online. Murphy also nods to generous offerings of Facebook groups devoted to the topic.
When my daughter was born someone said “Enjoy her while you can. It won’t be long before the world takes her away from you.”
It happened slowly. First there were the doctors and their vaccines. Then came baby sitters, day care, preschool and eventually kindergarten and beyond. Those are good things, but not entirely comfortable ones. Not everybody sees her through your eyes and your heart.
Writing a book and giving it up to the world is a lot of the same. It begins with an idea that you nurture (mostly) alone. Somewhere along the way, if you are fortunate, you have other writers look at what you are doing and tactfully tell you that if you want a Pulitzer for this, it needs a little work.
Then if all goes well, you get a real editor to work on it. It’s not easy hearing “the opening is weak; it doesn’t grab the reader.” Or maybe “that whole section bogs the reader down, make it a scene with a lot of dialogue.” Back to the keyboard.
The real shocker comes if you decide to present your creation to the world in the form of an audio book. When I first heard the voices of my characters interpreted by someone else, all I could think was “Noooooo….that’s not what that person sounds like!”
I’m getting over myself. Even though these characters have lived in my brain for the better part of a decade, I can’t control everything. That’s a good thing.
Soon my book will be thrown out into the world. If it turns out as well as my daughter, it will be a best seller.
My son-in-law recently asked me what was the greatest change I had seen in my 73 years on the planet. I answered “the internet” but it’s not that simple. I should have referenced the larger global communication and media network, including the internet.
When I was a child, the family telephone was a “party line.” This means the line was shared by multiple users in the community. If you wanted to make a call you had to first make sure no one was using it. If you were stealthy enough you could listen in on others’ conversations.
One of the other contacts with the outside world came when the bookmobile drove up our rural dirt driveway bringing a panel truck load of books. The county library was the equivalent of a day trip away, roads and cars such as they were at the time. We got our first television when I was seven years old. I don’t remember when we got a camera.
Contrast that world with the one in which I am working with others to create the audio book version of my new novel, Billion Dollar Bracket. Ready to have your head spin a little?
Planning for the book began with email, text, and FaceTime conversations with my publisher’s representative who is located across an ocean in England. I needed to sign a consent, so I printed it out, signed it, took a picture of it with my smart phone, downloaded it to a computer file, then attached it to an email to her.
She then sent out a call for auditions, through a process I don’t quite understand, but since I requested an “American” accent, the call came back across the big pond. I understand there is a universe of applicants out there, maybe some are out of work actors. I now am listening to the auditions on an “application” called Dropbox on my smart phone. I will choose from what is expected to be fifty or so offerings.
What a world. I don’t understand it any more than I understood in 1954 how they broadcast Howdy Doody into our television, but I’m using these tools. It’s almost as much fun as secretly listening to people on the party line.
How and why does someone become an author?
As a child growing up in a southern family of modest means, we had a very small library of books. The ones that we did have were oft visited treasures. One of the first I remember was the Bible. I remember it not so much for the mostly incomprehensible text, but for the pictures.
My sister and I would marvel at the series of pictures that represented options for what Jesus might have looked like. Alternatives included a handsome long-haired Nordic looking Jesus with blond hair and blue eyes. At the other extreme was the brooding short haired, dark skinned middle eastern man with scant facial hair.
Other pictures illustrated stories including Jesus throwing the moneylenders out of the temple, the return of the prodigal son, and the remorseful Judas returning the pieces of silver he was paid for his betrayal. Mysterious words such as “virgin” and fantastic creatures such as talking snakes inspired me to read anything I could find. Most of my life metaphors are biblical, except for the ones that are from baseball.
The world opened further when Dad brought home a set of World Book Encyclopedias. We got the red ones, not the expensive leather-bound white ones. I spent most of my time looking at volume “B”, specifically the section on baseball, but a whole world of new information was fingertips away. A yearly update came in the mail as part of the purchase.
Our set of World Books was a perk for my dad’s efforts to sell them to other families. I went with him on several sales calls where he made the pitch that a child’s education depended on a set of these books in the home, the broadband access of the 1950s.
Later would come my membership in the Weekly Reader book club. For pennies begged from my mother, I received six books during one summer. My favorites were Dangerous Island and Mystery in Old Quebec. I raced along beside the bookmobile as it came up our dirt driveway.
Then there was the book about “the facts of life” that suddenly showed up in the living room. No one encouraged us to read it or talked to us about it. But I finally found out what virgin meant.
You can learn just about anything by reading, and if you do a lot of it you might end up thinking that being a writer is the highest form of life, or at least a worthy way to spend your time trying.
Is it possible to consider the origins of our political divide in a dispassionate and intellectual way in the year 2020? Here, is my best attempt.
When I was a child, I had an uncle who was the leader of the local Republican party. His slightly older brother was the head of the Democrats. A third uncle, the youngest boy in a family of ten siblings, took delight in baiting his brothers to fight with each other.
From time to time I wondered how two boys raised in the same family just a few years apart could inhabit opposite ends of the political spectrum.
The political terms “right” and “left” date back at least to revolutionary France when in 1789 the members of the National Assembly were separated based on whether they supported the monarchy, seated on the right, or the revolution, seated on the left.
Since then, much like the identities of named political parties, the meaning of right and left has evolved and changed. In general, left leanings refer to those who endorse diversity, question authority, work for change, would redistribute wealth from the rich to the needy, and value secular approaches to governance.
The political right values authority, often religious authority, sees unmanaged capitalism as the correct economic approach, and works to preserve the status quo.
Each side sees the other as dangerous “elites” and from time to time “populism” upsets any semblance of balance of power by surging to “throw the scoundrels out” regardless of political identity.
Much has been written about the psychological make-up of those who end up one side or the other, but some of the most interesting work has been done by considering the similarities of the extremist members of each side. Eric Hoffer (The True Believer: 1951) describes how low self-esteem and a sense of personal helplessness leads to a rigid and dogmatic endorsement of extremes, regardless of the side.
For the reader who would like to explore right and left in literary works, Atlas Shrugged: 1957, by Ayn Rand is the story of those who champion individualism and unfettered capitalism as a remedy for the failures of governments. On the left, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards:1888, is the rendering of a socialistic utopia.
Eleven-year-old Melinda reaches out to a Red Cross nurse for help in escaping a cult. Social Services takes her for evaluation to a health clinic run by John Rant. The clinic botches the evaluation; Melinda returns to the cult.
Fifteen years later, Melinda and John Randt again cross paths. But this time Melinda is not alone and she has a plan. With John’s death she can finally escape her cult-like life.
John at that time is overwhelmed by various crises and losses in his life. He is distracted and vulnerable. He must discover the true identity of Melinda, or someone will die.
Mathematician Sinclair Dane and a small group of social media marketers offer a contest to win a billion dollars if anyone can pick all the winners in the annual NCAA basketball tournament. They know that 70 million people in the US try their hand at picking all the winners by filling out a bracket, in office pools, at their gym and other places.
If a decent fraction of these 70 million pay a $2 entry fee to enter the contest, they will have a very nice payday. The fact that they don’t have a billion dollars to pay a winner does not worry them. The odds against perfection are 9.2 quintillion to one.
But disaster looms. With three games to go, someone has a perfect bracket. Will Sinclair go to jail for fraud? There will be winners and losers.
The Second Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played is a baseball story and a soldier-come-home-from-war story. It is my father’s story. Crafted from 100 letters he wrote from World War II, and my childhood memories, the book tells the story of what he did when, as one of the fortunate, he made it home safely from war. Then he organized a pickup baseball game for boys, aged 10-14, and the excitement from this game led to the founding of the local little league team. That game was the “second greatest baseball game ever played.”
What was the first? You’ll have to read the book.
I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.