Twittering, the Crime Sistahs' Way
By Persia Walker
I call it being stylishly late to the party. Everyone knows that Twitters' been all the rage for some time now, but we CrimeSistahs took our sweet time getting there. No rush for us. Well, I'm happy to say that we are there now.
We. Have. Arrived.
I signed up for a personal Twitter account, oh, back in November, December? It was late last year. Then I did nothing, nada, nix. While the world partied, I kept thinking, what's so special about Twitter. I remember reading a New York Times article on something called ambient intimacy -- all about people connecting online. That article is what sent me to Twitter in the first place. The author of the article said that first he didn't "get it." It just seemed like a stream of meaningless jabber (which, quite honestly, it can be). But at some point, his mental lens focused, and out of this stream of nonsense formed information of import. He got it. A real ah-hah! moment.
Well, I had that moment a few weeks ago, and I've been working on tweeting ever since. No, I haven't totally changed my habits. I don't tweet as much as I should, but I try. I found a way to rapidly increase followers. Over the last few days I've gone from what, a couple of hundred to more than 700. I've been primarily trying to reach other writers and avid readers of mysteries. Yes, some other folks manage to get in -- but why not? If they love books and mysteries then I'm happy to tweet with them!
Someone likened tweeting to hanging out in your favorite neighborhood bar, some place to go where everyone knows your name. Twitter can certainly be like that. You have to carve out your little space. Get to know your folks and exchange silly jokes, advice, inspiration, and news.
News. Now that's important. Everyone I tweet with might one day become a reader, introduced to me and wyourork on the rather microscopic basis of my tweets. Some of them have already proven very helpful -- offering advice on optimizing my website, books to read, newspaper articles to catch, etc.
Back to promotion. I admit that my initial interest in Twitter had to do with promoting my work. But I've come to enjoy it for the moment to moment events, and that, oddly enough is why I believe that I'll be successful with it. I'm not trying to sell anything. I am, however, trying to build relationships -- small ties that don't bind, but do let folks know that I'm out here.
John Kremer, the guru of book promotion, has released a Twitter Manual for Writers and Booksellers. If you're an author and you're interested, then please download it. It's a good place to start. There's tons more to say about how to navigate Twitterdom, but his manual has more than enough to get you started. I can't find the original URL, but here's another one that's just as good (as it lists several sources from Kremer).
Best wishes for a happy Twitter Friday! :-)
Friday, May 29, 2009
Twittering, the Crime Sistahs' Way
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The Way Back: Blog #4, Re-package, They Call It!
by Gammy L. Singer
Finally got feedback from my agent regarding concerns shared with him about the fact that mystery writers are being dropped by publishers of African-American fiction.
Yes, the above was confirmed by conversations with the editors at Kensington and Grand Central and “some other editors.” (Not sure who the some others are, or if there even are “some others.” (I always had the feeling that my last manuscript was marketed solely to those two houses.) The exception to the trend seems to be Perseus and Clive Ford. Unidentified sources say: “In the past couple of years, that niche was not selling.”
However, I was told, non-African-American editors were solicited and if I “re-package” myself—i.e, write “white characters,” they might consider taking on my work under a pseudonym if I am a “proven writer.” Kiss mah grits. What about James @$&#*!! Patterson and his black protagonist? The mystery writing sisters, P.J. Parrish, who also have a black protagonist? At Kensington, I do believe. Under their mystery line. Oh-oh-oh, and let's not forget Alexander McCall and his loveable African sleuth! And I can't write an African-American protagonist--like the comics say--because I'm black!!
Sisters, does that mean the Crime Sistahs Blog is obsolete? That we are obsolete?
Let me go sit on the toilet and think.
What are your thoughts?
Labels: gammy singer
Monday, May 25, 2009
Listen to Yourself
By Patricia Sargeant
I'm sorry I disappeared the last two weeks. The Final Deadline Lap was rough. But I submitted my manuscript to my editor last Monday, and now I'm trying to get my life back into balance. Ha!
But I digress.
I learned several Very Important Lessons while writing Sweet Deception, my June 2009 contemporary romance. I'd like to get your input on one of them.
When I started writing Sweet Deception, I signed up for a hands-on plotting workshop. The instructor was a former creative writing teacher and a very well-known author who consistently lands on the New York Times Bestsellers list. I was excited to attend the workshop.
One of the first exercises was to write the high concept of our plot on a scrap of paper and pass the paper forward for the instructor to read a loud and provide feedback. The high concept for Sweet Deception is, "When a minister's daughter's secret life as an erotic romance author is revealed, she has to choose between duty and desire." Or something like that.
The instructor ripped the high concept to shreds. Thank goodness we submitted our ideas anonymously.
The workshop shook my confidence. Temporarily. I believe in the story. I like the characters. And I have a lot to say about the story's theme, which is identity. So I stuck with the story. I'm glad I did. I'm proud of my work. As I mentioned before, the reviews are coming in, and I'm pleased with them.
You've probably heard this a million times. Let's make it an uneven one million and one. There are only two people whose opinion of your work really matter: you and your editor. If you have an agent, then there are three people whose opinion matter. But First, Last and Always - at the end of the day - the only person whose opinion of your work truly matters is you.
Here's what I think. If you truly believe in your story, never give up on it no matter what others may say. Keep working on it until it's the best it could possibly be. Then work on it some more. Listen to yourself, and never give up.
That's what I think. What do you think?
Friday, May 22, 2009
On the Road
By Persia Walker
So last week this time, I was on my way to the airport to catch a plane to Houston for the National Black Book Fair. It was my first time taking part in such an event and my, my, my was it an eye-opener!
To put it in a nutshell, it was the first time I worked as a vendor, selling my own books, as opposed to serving on a panel or speaking at a bookstore. At the fair, I joined a hundred or so other authors in hawking our wares, so to speak.
What did I learn? Well, I've always had respect for booksellers, admiration, too. Now, let's just say I double it. Booksellers work hard, folks. We authors owe them a whole lot of support and gratitude. (Hint, hint: Shop at your local independent bookstores, folks!)
Most of the authors were quite experienced at this fair business and were generous with their wisdom and advice. First thing I learned was to compile a list of ready-to-go items:
- Signage (a poster for your titles)
- Table drape (not a table cloth. Often the fair provides this. A table drape, however, can help you stand out further.)
- Gift baskets
- Tickets to raffle off said gift baskets
- Candies and candy jars to lure readers who have an appetite for sweets (or just a quick need for some energizing sugar)
- A booklet, list or pad whereon one can have folks sign their names and email addresses to join your mailing list
- Promotional material (business cards, magnets, sample chapters, chapstick, scratch pads, etc.)
- A credit card machine
- A small marking board where you can write (and sometimes amend) your prices
- A SOLD OUT! sign
- Book holders (to display your books)
- Maybe bags to give your buyers to carry away goodies in
Whatever you decide, venues such as local or regional book fairs can be a lot of fun. They're hard work, but they can provide you with valuable new contacts among other authors and face time with new readers. You just have to count your numbers correctly.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Way Back: Blog # 3, What’s in a Name
By Gammy L. Singer
What is in a name? I’m not asking just to be Shakespeare-rhetorical, but I’m seriously thinking about how or who should submit the synopsis and three chapters I’m working on.
My chapter of Sisters in Crime and I had Linda Fairstein as a speaker at our May meeting, and I was quite intrigued by bits of what she said. First, it was notable that even she, a best-selling author, harbors trepidations about the “next book”—whether it will sell well, etc., but I also picked up on her use of the “branding” term and how she definitely relates it to her “product.” It is not just a buzzword thrown around like a frizzbee among marketing professionals, but it’s a very real consideration in bookselling and book-buying. So we authors should pay attention to branding. I should pay attention. You should pay attention.
What I've learned: Authors’ names are often their brand. Or their series may be their brand. But an author's name or series name should be short, memorable, and easy on the tongue. Hmm… but I wanted to call myself Annamaria George for my next submission. Works well with my numerology folderol. Is that too long? (It’s my given and middle names switched around. Georgeanna Maria.) And is it memorable? Ugh. Does it roll trippingly, off the tongue? (Channeling Shakespeare today—sorry, guys!)
I personally think the name Gammy L. Singer is more memorable, that's why I've used it professionally for all these years--(if you Google me, I pop up quite a bit)--but it seems I’ve trashed that name, put it in the toilet with low book sales. But, but, but hark ye--I’ve spent so many years building it up—do I have to let it go now? Hey, it took GE and Coca-Cola a lotta- lotta’ years—talk about branding!
Okay, supposing I compromise, maybe plug ahead with future mysteries under Gammy, if my new agent (whoever that's gonna be) concurs, and this new venture into Romance, Romantic-Suspense, Romantic-mystery (??!)--whatever--I use Annamaria George. Anna George? Scooby-Doo?
And how should I deliver the project I’m working on now? My current plan is: send it to the editor, bypass my agent, written by (new name) and submit. But how's the editor going to know who it's from? I have to let her know it's me. But that screws up the whole “New Identity” thing.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Shakespeare again.
Well, okay, if there’s a bite and an interest in publication, I’d contact an agent for representation (other than the one I have now, but with whom I'm not really happy) and we can go around the whole name thing at that time. Reasonable?
No, people, suffice to say, I have not ditched my current agent yet. Hedging, don’t want to do that until I’ve secured another. (I feel like Dick Cheney with all this skullduggery, but an author’s got to do what an author’s got to do, right? Should it be this hard though?)
What’s in a name? (hyperlink to Blog Branding et al.) Yikes. I guess I’ll find out.
(Does anybody say “yikes” anymore?) Did Shakespeare say it?
When I submitted sample chapters of my first book to BET Books back in July of 2003, I got a call about submitting the full manuscript six months later and had an offer of a book deal a few weeks after that. Seven months from submission to an offer is pretty typical. But it can be even longer. When I was looking for a new agent, I once had a request for my full manuscript from an agent who didn’t respond until two years later, after I had already sold the book myself. This particular agent had seen my book deal posted on Publishers Marketplace and remembered she still had my manuscript.
I now find myself in the same position once again. Patiently, or not so patiently—depending on my mood—waiting for an answer from the editors considering my latest manuscript. But things are different this time around because the revival of my writing career could hinge on this submission. It’s been about two and a half months since project X went on submission and I’m getting really antsy. My agent assures me that no news is good news. The longer it takes for a response, the better chance of getting a deal.
You see, for most editors acquiring manuscripts is a process. First an editor or assistant editor reads the manuscript. If they don’t like it, they pass on it. If they do like it, they pass it up the food chain for second and third reads from other folks at the publishing company. If the manuscript makes it through second and third reads, it gets discussed at an acquisitions meeting to see if it’s something the publisher would like to acquire. And this process can take months. Even if a manuscript gets that far, it can be rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing.
For example, if the publisher already has a similar book on its list that didn’t sell well, or the sales and marketing department can’t figure out how to market the book, or if the author doesn’t have that almighty author platform, then the answer can be a resounding no regardless of the fact that more than one person at the company may have loved it. Then there’s the current economy. Many publishers are tightening their belts and being more selective in what they are acquiring, or so they say. A quick peek at the daily book deals posted on Publishers Marketplace shows that publishers are indeed still buying books. In the past twelve months alone, there have been 200 book deals posted for debut authors alone. So books are still being acquired.
As for me, I’m still waiting and hoping that the sound of crickets I’m hearing is a good thing ; ).
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Way Back: Blog #2, Clearing a Path to Opportunity
By Gammy L. Singer
Today I took an inventory of how I spend the hours of my day. To keep body and soul together during these challenging times, I’ve been working part-time as a fill-in resident counselor in a temporary shelter for teens — approximately 15-20 hours a week. It pays next to nothing, but the positive — always look for the positive — is that it is triggering my desire to write YA and I do have a book in mind — in fact, several.
But I’m chucking the job in June. Starting a daycare in September, before and after school care. Yes, I am. No more looking for a 9-5. I did that for a year and look what it's got me! Nada.
I also spend about 20-25 hours a week performing duties as Youth Director at my church, Unity Church of New York in NYC; doing lesson plans for four groups of kids; assembling craft projects; shopping for the Sunday School; working with fourteen teachers, et al. It involves quite a bit, and practically all Sunday every Sunday is devoted to it. I leave at 7 a.m. and return home about 6:30 p.m. That includes travel time, of course. So, together with my part-time job, that’s a work week, isn’t it?
The church responsibility is off my shoulders during July and August. Time earned.
I live now near the Catskills. When auditions come up, I travel back down to the City, and time-wise, I unfortunately blow off a whole day. (However, I take my Alpha-Smart with me and I write — that is, if I don’t nap — 110 minutes on the train each way.)
Auditions taper off in the summer months until mid-August. More time.
I’m also president of Sisters in Crime, NY/Tri-State Chapter. Being dutiful at the job has stolen away writing hours. I’ve loved the experience, but two years is enough. (But I'm telling you, if you want to feel connected, there’s no better place than organizations such as Mystery Writers of America and/or Sisters in Crime. I also belong to the Harlem Writers Guild in NYC. Addendum: I received a “comeback” grant for $1000 from MWA. Did you know that Sisters in Crime also offers money to authors through stipends to bookstores for advertising and publicity for events at their stores — turns out to be a good deal for independent bookstores and a good deal for authors.)
My tenure as SinC president ends in June. Y-a-ay! Time.
Whassup in June besides it busting out all over, you ask? What’s the plan? What’s the attack?
Well, let me tell you what I've already done. I wrote an email to the executive editor of the house which published my previous novels. Put things in point-blank terms. It went something like this, abbreviated:
Me: What’s my status with the company? Should I submit?
Her: (Re: last book) Blah-blah —“…modest sales,” she says, “but we’ll take a look, and of course, if it’s really good, we’d accept it.”
Like the cartoons, I see question marks where my eyes are supposed to be. Is that response enough to “build a dream on?” A-a-argh. Well, nothing beats a failure but a try. What have I got to lose but time? When the going gets tough, the tough get going ... together with any other sayings or aphorisms necessary to whip myself up to do what I need to do. Besides, past advice from other writers who have been in my predicament say, in a nutshell, do something different, then submit, submit, submit.
Hmmm… So the first thing I’ll do on the comeback trail is to write something “really good.” Ha! Hey, I can do that. I do my homework. I really check out the line this time. Can I compete? A preponderance of romances. Okay, so what if …?
That’s it. By June 1, three chapters and a synopsis of a romance, Gammy-style. Can I even write a romance? I did the “Can I?” question writing my first book and also when I wrote my first short story barely two months ago. I just went ahead and did it. But hey, guys, I'm not cranking out an entire book on the slim promise of “we’ll take a look.” Anyway, this summer I’m birthing another book — and quietly amassing a list of agents I’d like to represent me, and other things I’m planning to do differently this time around. TBA, the mistakes I made.
In the meantime, y'all, keeping myself open to splendor and opportunity.
I can do it. Y-e-a-a-h! I’m disciplined, I’m tough, and I’m B-a-a-ddd!
(To be continued)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
1. Writers don't have to worry about being stick thin and gorgeous. We don't have to worry about not having the right "look". Unlike with this lady, no one is going to be shocked and surprised that a person who isn't beautiful has writing talent.
2. Writers can have a writing career no matter how old they are. I've heard of 90 year-old debut novelists but never a 90 year-old with a debut album out.
3. Writers can re-invent themselves by simply changing their names. If a singer's albums flop, they either disappear altogether or try acting. Successful comeback's, like Tina's Turner's, are possible but usually few and far between. Writers, however, can still write under a pen name and usually no one is the wiser. . .unless you get outed like this guy did.
Now, don't get me wrong. Being a writer has its own share of pitfalls and some of them mirror those of the record industry. Both publishers and record labels can be guilty of a lack of support for their own projects and dropping singers and authors with poor sales. Both industries are in big trouble and don't quite know how to handle digital content. On the plus side, Singers seem to have a bit more freedom to experiment with their music, while authors, unless they change their names, tend to get locked into writing the same kinds of books to please their fans. But from where I'm sitting, I still think I've got the better deal.
Friday, May 08, 2009
What's On My Desk
By Persia Walker
So, after having debated say, oh, fifty seconds about what to write about today, I decided to follow Gammy's lead and try a bit of sharing. She's picked a large subject. I'm going to stick with a smaller one: What's on my desk today?
Actually that's not accurate. What I really intend to write about is what's on my hard drive, writing-wise, that is.
At last count, I had at least five incomplete crime novels in various stages of gestation (ahem, progressive perfection). When I say novels, I do mean novels, not slightly lengthy short stories. We're talking manuscripts ranging from as "little" as 50,000 to 75,000 that are still not done yet.
Then there are indeed the short stories, some as short at one line -- heck, some consisting of no more than a mere title -- others, fairly well-developed, but far, far, exasperatingly far from being polished.
Last, but not least, are all my ideas. Oh, yes! Let's not forget them! At a party recently, an agent asked me, "So do you have any ideas for a new book?"
Duh. Yeah. Way too many of them. To write them all out, I'd have to sit at my desk twelve hours a day, seven days a week, week after week, month after month, year after year -- which by the way, some writers do. (They're the ones we call prolific.) Obviously, I'm not one of them.
Me, I'd be content to finish one book a year. So ... according to that schedule, I have about five years worth of work on my hard drive already. Do I think I'll ever write all those stories? Who knows? Have I stopped thinking of new ones? Uh, no. Do I feel guilty about sitting down to work on the "new" stories instead of finishing up/polishing up the "older" ones? Yeah. But am I going to change? No.
And do I think I'm that different from most writers? Nope. Am I worried about it? Nope.
So what about you? Do you have a stack of stories, both big and small, that you've yet to finish? Are they like friends who keep winking at you out of the corner of one eye? Do you work on more than one story at a time? Or do you stick with one story and battle it through, until it's done and you can lay it aside?
Labels: persia walker
Thursday, May 07, 2009
The Way Back: Blog #1, New Beginnings
By Gammy L. Singer
For over a year I’ve been piddling around, trying to find my way, after my last novel was rejected by my publisher. Not only that-- it was also rejected by my first and only real editor who jumped publishing houses after my first novel was released. I asked my agent to give me feedback regarding the rejection. Sales, he said. Sales.
There’s more to this story, including going through four editors in quick succession, and having an agent who seeks to market my stuff only to African-American lines, but I won’t bore you with all that. The point is, my last novel didn’t get published. The second point is, I’ve found out other mystery novelists writing for African-American lines have also been dropped. A trend?
So what to do? A nice advance, two novels published, and my short-lived career now over? That ain’t right, I tell myself—that just is not right! You know the feeling, don't you? Like those sexual encounters we’ve all had, those zip, bam, thank-you, ma’am whizzes—over before you even got to enjoy it, over before you were beginning to get the hang of things, over before you got to groove.
Well, after being in this muddle, what to do, what to write, who to write as, who to write for, get another agent !?!--I’m returning to blog on this site. Now, methinks, what can I really share with other writers on Crimesistahs Blog that might have some value to myself and to others? Certainly not “How to Write,” “How to Market,” How to Get Published” pieces. Seems hypocritical at this juncture. Besides, narratives work best for me.
So I said to myself, okay, how about I chronicle my efforts to become published once again, to get that next sell, and share with you in the meantime what I’m doing—my ups, my downs, what’s working, what’s not--and maybe you can similarly enlighten me and share? Besides, blogging about my efforts might keep me from rolling over and just laying there. Not doing anything. Playing dead.
Life is in the doing. And so I begin.
(Speaking of beginnings, here's something for fun, my daughter in Atlantic emailed me this. Her mom (me) in one of her first movies, Black Sister's Revenge (ha!), on Youtube, talking about beginnings! And if you're in Atlanta and love to scrapbook, check out my daughter Laetitia's shop!) Oh yes, in the video I'm the one with the beauty-shop-out-cha'-home business!
Scrap Chic Boutique
2774 E. College Ave.
Decatur, GA. 30030
Labels: gammy singer
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Jumping on the E-book Bandwagon
By Angela Henry
When I got my new ipod last week I went wild downloading all of the cool, free apps I could get my hot little hands on including Stanza, an e-book reader. I figured what the hell, it’s free and all of the hoopla surrounding other e-readers like the Kindle and Sony Reader made me curious. With this in mind I downloaded one of the many free e-books from Stanza’s online catalog, which by the way took less than thirty seconds, and started reading. Guess what? I loved it!
On my ipod screen the e-book looked just like a smaller version of a regular book. All I have to do to flip the page is touch the right side of the screen and it really looks like actual pages are flipping! I don’t have to worry about bookmarking the page I left off on because Stanza remembers it for me. I can even adjust the brightness. And when I was done, I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to put the book, losing it, or damaging it, I just turned off my ipod and put it in my purse.
Will e-books ever take the place of regular books for me? No. But in discovering e-books I feel like I’m enhancing my reading experience, and ensuring that one day I'll be able to see the top of my dresser, and that can only be a good thing ; ).
Monday, May 04, 2009
By Patricia Sargeant
What's your favorite part of the writing process?
Plotting: Do you prefer brainstorming your idea? Developing characters and situations. Researching locations that support - maybe even enhance - the story. Identifying plot points, twists, red herrings.
Writing: Do you most enjoy fleshing out the story? Developing scenes and sequels. Characters become three-dimensional. Maybe they follow your outline. Maybe they lead you to new discoveries that make the story even more exciting.
Revising: Do you like the editing process? Tightening scenes. Adding scenes. Deleting scenes. Moving scenes around. Adding layers - foreshadowing, motion, emotion.
Promoting: Do you get the biggest thrill from promoting your upcoming releases? Blogging. Guest blogging. Doing interviews. Requesting reviews. Sending press releases and/or press kits. Distributing promotional products (e.g., business cards, brochures, bookmarks).
My favorite part of the writing process is revising. I've gone through plotting and writing. I know I have a full, workable story. Revising allows me to further explore the characters and build on the layers of the story.
Which part of the writing process is your favorite? And why?
Friday, May 01, 2009
Play on Emmett Till Wins Edgar Award
By Persia Walker
Chicago playwright Ifa Bayeza won the prestigious Edgar Award during yesterday's ceremony in New York for her work The Ballad of Emmett Till.
Bayeza, already a prize-winning author, said she was "thrilled" at receiving the Edgar, which is awarded by the Mystery Writers of America.
Her play stems from the August 1955 murder of Till, a 14-year-old Chicago youth who was brutalized during a trip to Mississippi. He had whistled at a white woman at a grocery store where he and some friends had purchased sweets. His mother's decision to hold an open-casket funeral for her son drew international attention to the horrors of lynching in the South.
The men who were accused of having killed Till were found innocent in court. Feeling safe from further legal prosecution by virtue of double-jeopardy, they later admitted to the killing. They said they originally didn't intend to kill Till, but after beating and torturing him, finally shot him because he didn't show fear.
Unlike other writings that have focused on the barbarity of the boy's death, Bayeza's work is a celebration of his all-too-brief life. The website of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago describes The Ballad of Emmett Till as a "soaring work of music, brilliant poetry and theatricality."
It was wonderful to be in the audience at the Grand Hyatt and see Bayeza accept her Edgar. Her other stage works include Amistad Voices, Club Harlem and Homer G & the Rhapsodies. Bayeza is known for authoring works that inspire dialogue among a diverse audience. She collaborated with her sister Ntozake Shange on Shange's landmark production of for colored girls who considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, directed by Oz Scott, at New Federal Theater and The Public Theater. The two also collaborated on a new novel, Some Sing, Some Cry, to be published by St. Martin's Press.