Want to learn the ropes of the writing/ publishing business? Want to work from home? Then you need this! Top Selling Mystery author Lauren Carr is going to be teaching all this and more in historic Harpers Ferry, outside Washington, D. C., in March 2015.
Here’s an excerpt from her e-mail!
BIG NEWS: I have just scheduled to conduct a SIX HOUR workshop in
March at the church called: AUTHORS IN BATHROBE. I am still working out the details, but this workshop will break book promotion down into an understandable format for writers. Even if your book is not out yet,
then this will include things that you can do now to get the ball
rolling for sales when you book is released.
Focused completely on using the internet to promote your book and your
writing career, the workshop will include no less than an hour on
Twitter and an hour Facebook. (My own sales drop 10-20 percent on days I don’t tweet!) It will discuss the importance of a website and how to set
one up without breaking your budget. What is a blog? What goes into a
blog post. Virtual book tours. It will even cover the basics of an
author bio and what makes a good profile pic.
It will be 9 to 4 on Saturday, March 21. Lunch will be included. Price
is still being determined.
You are the first to hear this, so spread the word.
Every executive will tell you that in order to grab their attention in a pitch or a script, you need to have a great original hook. Your hook is that special THING that defines what the new, original and commercial angle is on your concept. It’s the element of your story or storytelling that will make your script stand out and make the exec say, “I get it.”
Your hook can come from numerous places. It could be conceptual, it could be plot-based, it could be your location, your type of characters, your backdrop, your time period or setting or world, your theme, the characters’ goal, the consequences or stakes of the action in the story, etc. Truly elevated projects often combine two different hooks to make the story more dynamic or have a hook with an intellectual or emotional depth to it that takes the story to another level.
But these days, writers often get confused between a hook and a gimmick. And the two are not the same thing.
A hook is usually story-based. It is something ingrained and exploited in the plot and/or premise of your script. A gimmick is a cheap trick used as a selling tool to make an audience think there’s something different about the style or experience of the project but usually has very little to do with the substance of the story.
The hook of Twilight is that the teen love story was set against the backdrop of an ancient war between vampires and werewolves. The hook of Non-Stop is that it’s a mystery heist film and a hijacking action film set 35,000 feet up in the air. The hook of the Oscar-Winning Her is that it’s a love story between a man and his operating system set in the near future.
Creating the hook of a story is the screenwriter’s job. Creating or exploiting the story’s gimmick is usually the job of a marketing department. Very often a project’s gimmick may come from its hook but a great gimmick will NEVER mask or excuse a poor story.
The films that do the best these days within the studio system are ones that have a strong story and hook AND a strong connected gimmick that can be used to sell it to its target demographic.
Gravity did well based on the gimmick of how it was shot and how the technical aspects come across in gorgeous 3-D surround sound theaters but also how that gimmick was used to enhance the emotion and hook of the story – one woman, trapped alone in space, fighting to survive.
Pixar’s Wall-E had a wonderful hook of a lowly love struck robot that must save his crush and the world. But the gimmick of Wall-E, and what many were talking about, was how half the film had no dialogue and was also a message movie about consumerism and a cautionary environmental tale.
The 1985 cult classic Clue had a great story gimmick in that its whole third act is 3 different alternate endings with different possible killers confessing until the truth is revealed. Tonally, it worked great with the rest of the story and added more twists and turns to the climax of the film.
But when the story is poor, gimmicks usually don’t work and often backfire.
Perhaps the best example of this is Movie 43, one of the worst abortions to ever happen on screen which currently sits at 4% on rotten tomatoes and won big at this year’s Razzies. It was a series of disturbing short films directed by big names and starring even bigger names that were connected by an insanely flimsy set up. The gimmick was basically – look at all these huge name stars we got together, it MUST be good, right? But alas, it was not.
From Justin to Kelly (I’m sorry Kelly, I still love you) was a project born out of gimmick rather than story. The studio wanted to capitalize on the popularity and possible real-life romantic relationship between its two biggest reality stars at the time and Kelly’s growing musical following. I’m guessing the writers spent exactly 4 days on the script.
Battlefield Earth had a not-so-secret gimmick in that it was obviously connected to Scientology and it put this gimmick above story. And any time you put gimmick above story in the concept and development stage, your movie is doomed.
Bad Grandpa used the proven gimmick of the Jackass-style gags and physical pranks to lure people to the theater thinking that’s all it was, but it was actually an attempt at a narrative feature that just happened to have a half dozen of those hilarious pranks in it. But the gimmick was stronger than the story and was the only thing promoted in the trailers. Did it do really well at the box office? Yes, it did. I’m not saying a gimmick CAN’T work – only that it usually doesn’t if the story isn’t equally strong if not stronger.
I recently had a client whose story was a pretty straightforward spy/comedy with some decent story twists but then the third act was basically a Choose Your Own Adventure gimmick where he thought audiences would be able (collectively) to choose which version of the ending they wanted to see. Obviously this gimmick wouldn’t work in theaters for 1000 logistic and financial reasons. But it didn’t work on the page either because it made the writer’s vision for the story unclear and unresolved. It made the whole resolution of the story confusing and unsatisfying.
I had another client who wrote the same script twice – once as a comedy, once as a drama – and thought that studios would make both versions for both audiences. The only major difference was that the comedy had about 10 more decently funny lines in it. There are concepts that could potentially work in two different genres, but you need to know which is stronger and which you feel more comfortable writing. The gimmick of having written two versions of the same plot was what he thought would entice agents instead of the story itself, which was incorrect.
A handful of years ago, I had a pitch session at a conference where the writer donned a large rubber butt as a hat and pitched the sales gimmick of his concept instead of the story. Even if the story and pitch were brilliant it wouldn’t have mattered cause all I was staring at was a large rubber anus like it was a third eye. I can guarantee that pitch would have gone better without the gimmick. In fact a general rule I always give new writers pitching is leave the gimmicks at home – they never help and usually make you look all the more amateurish. And I feel the same about writers who employ gimmicks on the page instead of really crafting a compelling story.
There is a difference between a marketing or production gimmick and a writing gimmick. The former is something the writer has very little say about. Studios will very often turn an otherwise perfectly fine 2-D film into a 3-D extravaganza because the ticket prices are higher and they think the 3-D gimmick brings people to the theaters. Dolby Digital 3-D Surround Sound, Smell-O-Vision, 4-D, not to mention Marvel and Disney’s gimmick of incorporating many of their Avengers characters into all their different films so that audiences think they need to see ALL of them in order to follow the stories. These would be more production and marketing gimmicks.
Brilliant marketing gimmicks included those created for Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, both of which used the angle that they may or may not be true stories and it used its gimmick of casting utter unknowns to play into that. Paranormal’s marketing campaign also included the creepy, grainy “night-goggle” footage of people reacting and screaming in fear while watching the film. Very effective. They took what was different about the hook and story and translated that into a masterful marketing gimmick. But the gimmick did not damage or derail the story.
Sometimes the gimmick of a project is in its casting and that’s also something the writer usually has no control over. The Expendables, Escape Plan, Righteous Kill, Grudge Match, Scream, and romantic comedies that reteam beloved duos like the upcoming Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film Blended are all films whose gimmick was the casting and not the story. In some of these cases, the story or action was strong enough to compliment the gimmick. In others, not so much.
But this is why it’s so important for writers to create a hook and story that can overcome bad casting or bad production or marketing gimmicks and sell on its own merit. You need to know what is special and sellable about your concept and hook, and the answer to that needs to lie organically within the pages of your story. If it doesn’t, then you’re not writing smart enough and you’re relying on others to figure out what is great about your script.
Why attend a writers’ conference?
- You will learn more than you thought possible about the publishing community.
- You will learn how to improve your writing.
- You will learn what is new in the industry.
- You will learn how to sell books.
- You will meet interesting people.
It is that last item that I want to emphasize. I met world class authors and could ask them questions directly about the field, about their experiences, both good and bad, and about what advice they could offer to me as a new author.
Moreover, I made professional contacts, leading to my being interviewed on video and on audio recording for a podcast, allowing me to promote my book to a new audience.
Finally, I made new friends who sent me the lovely messages below:
It was great meeting you at the C3 Conference. Thanks for doing the podcast. I’ll let you know when it’s up and send you the link.
Larry Matthews Author of The Dave Haggard Thrillers http://www.larrymatthews.net
Was soooo thrilled to meet you in person Fay–you are such a lovely person! XXXOOO
@MooreFay, you are such a delight, and I can’t wait to read your novel. Thanks for coming and enjoy the kindle.
Author Sandra Webster @BSwanginWebster
(Oh, yes! And I won a Kindle Fire at the Crime, Creatures & Creativity conference! So surprising things can happen, too!)
Anyway, for these reasons and more, I urge you to sign up for the October 5th From Writer to Published Author conference in Harpers Ferry, WV (a suburb of Washington, DC). The closing day to register is just a few days away—September 22. The link to register is below.
Date: Saturday, October 5, 2013
8:45 am-5:00 pm
Place: Oakland Church
70 Oakland Terrace Charles Town, WV
Cost: $60 (lunch included)
Panel Discussions on Writing, Publishing, Illustrating, Writing Children’s BooksSponsored by Acorn Book Services
The From Writers to Published Authors Conference offers writers the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of writing and publishing directly from those who have gone before them. At this first annual event, authors and publishers will gather together to spend the day helping new writers to reach their goal of not only publishing their books, but doing it right.
Attendees have a choice of panel discussions to attend based on where they are in their journey toward authorship. The forty-five minute panel discussions will cover writing tips (getting your books done/research), publishing (social media/cover design).
Austin Camacho (publisher and mystery/thriller author) Beth Rowland (publisher) Tim Rowland (columnist/author) Cindy McDonald (author) Ed Steers (historian and author) Thomas L. Trumble (author/playwright) B.Swangin Webster (author) Michael T. (children’s author) Joe Santoro (illustrator) Malcolm Ater (young adult/middle school author) Penny Clover Petersen (author of children’s and adult books) H.L. Grandin (author) Mary-Ellen Low (author) Victor Nieves (author) Fay Moore (author) Daniel Claggett (illustrator) Debbie Brenneman (author) George Johnson (author) S.J. Brown (author/photographer) Todd Aune (cover designer) D.B. Corey (author)
This conference also includes two Super Panel discussions which are foremost on most writers and published authors’ minds: The Future of Books and Using Social Media for Book Promotion.
Three publishers are schedule to appear: Lauren Carr of Acorn Book Services, Austin Camacho of Intrigue Publishing, and Beth Rowland of Black Walnut Corner Book Production.
The fee for attendees is $60. Lunch is included. We encourage attendees to not be shy. We encourage writers to feel free to talk to authors and publishers about their projects and ask any questions they may have about completing their books and advice on publishing.
But Wait! There’s More! Intrigue Publishing will have a special presentation during lunch:
Working With a Small Press – A Reality Check.
Writers won’t want to miss this interactive presentation that will answer many questions about the differences between a big press, and also how a small press differs from self-publishing.
*Schedule Panel Topics *Topics may change due to author’s schedules before the conference
Get ’er Done: Committing to your book to complete it.
Let’s Get Personal: This panel is made up of authors who have successfully put pen to paper to tell their stories.
Research: Get it Right: Even in fiction, nothing can kill a book like having your facts wrong.
Laughing It Up: Writing humor.
Judging a Book By Its Cover: Cover Design.
Picture My Book: Working with Illustrators.
Who’s Going to Read It: As much as we like to think everyone will want to read our book, that is just not the case. This panel will discuss determining your readers so that you may focus your book and your marketing toward drawing them in.
How to Sell It: Different from the Social Media Super Panel, this panel discussion will focus on basic marketing techniques that every author should know.
Kiddie Lit I: Writing for Children. Writing for children is not as easy as it may appear. This panel will discuss the basics to know when it comes to writing a children’s book.
Kiddlie Lit II: Where’s the Line? Is your book appropriate for your age group? Does your middle school book have too much romance? Is it appropriate to have your grade-school-aged protagonist curse? This promises to be a hot discussion.
Space is limited for the From Writers to Published Authors Conference. So don’t delay. Sign up today!
My daughter is a sweetheart. She sent me a very helpful article from www.daringtodeliverfully.com. I am feeling overwhelmed and uncertain as I am finalizing the book for publication and starting the marketing process.
The article, called “What a Masked Vigilante Can Teach You about Goal Achievement–The Zorro Circle,” by Marelisa offers concrete steps to take in the midst of mental chaos to restore order and purposeful action.
The basic idea of “The Zorro Circle” is to set a large goal and then select a small area of that goal to conquer. Once you’ve conquered that small area, you expand the circle. As you conquer each successive “Zorro Circle”, you get closer and closer to achieving your goal. Here are the five basic ideas behind “The Zorro Circle”:
Research shows that when we feel that we’re in control of a situation, we’re happier and able to perform at a higher level.
When a task is very large, we lose the feeling of control and influence, we feel overwhelmed, our brains are hijacked by fear and stress, and our abilities plummet.
You take control of the situation by starting with small, manageable steps.
Once you’ve mastered one small area, you expand that mastery outward.
Keep expanding outward until you’ve achieved your goal.
This morning I applied the principles of “The Zorro Circle” to work on a marketing blurb for the book to be used at the Creatures, Crime & Creativity Conference this weekend. I am a panelist at the conference, and will be introducing my book.
All of this is new to me, and the novelty (combined with my own inexperience) paralyzed my thought processes. My daughter came to my rescue.
Consequently, I focused on writing the blurb that will go on the promo materials I am handing out at the conference and nothing else. I finished two versions and sent them out to my beta readers for feedback.
Later this morning, I will create and print the advertising pieces. It’s nice to be back on track.
Fay says, “Good primer for the newbie. You can NEVER know too much about the field of publishing and the art of marketing.”
Call me cheap, but I don’t want to pay for having an expensive head shot produced for my use in publicity materials. First, I am not Dean Koontz, with thousands of fans and followers. I am not Tom Clancy or Nora Roberts, a best-selling author. I am simply Fay Moore, a country girl with a big dream–to write murder mysteries that people will buy and enjoy reading.
In that vein, I picked a photograph that I think would make a good head shot when needed.
I think it looks kind of “writer-ly.” People will look at it and think, she’s friendly, approachable.
Maybe between a friendly face and an attractive cover, I can sell a book or two. What do you think?