On Feb. 13, Western Fictioneers, Doris McGaw, published an author interview in association with the Feb. 17, release of Founding Sheriff. I am working on uploading it in a permanent, suitable format. Until then, please click here
On Feb. 13, Western Fictioneers, Doris McGaw, published an author interview in association with the Feb. 17, release of Founding Sheriff. I am working on uploading it in a permanent, suitable format. Until then, please click here
The publisher, Five Star, deferred all 2020 publication dates from May, 2020, for six months. August became February. And now we’re here. Zoom is our new partner. Book Readings and Book Clubs will be the format through May, with great hopes that face to face events can start in June.
Book readings will contain four short readings (five minutes) followed by rousing discussion (ten minutes.) You do not have to buy the book to attend or to enjoy the readings.
Book clubs will assume reading the book and the study guide before the book club meeting. There’s no requirement to read the book or the study guide beforehand. The sheriff won’t be at the door to check up on you, but you’ll have a lot more fun if you do.
In about two weeks, I will post the schedule of book clubs (with study guide) and readings through the end of May. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the date you want. A week before the event, your reminder will be a Zoom invitation and link. Simple. To those who asked, yes. You may sign up for both. Use the Book Reading to get a preview or a leg up on the Book Club discussion.
While my novel, Founding Sheriff, languishes in covid lockdown until February 21, 2021, Western Fictioneers has accepted my favorite short story of all I have ever written, “Cybil.” Notwithstanding it is my favorite, it has seen a dozen rejections in the past seven years, so I am particularly happy. As a matter of interest, all authors listed devote their share of sales proceeds to Western Fictioneers to pay for keeping it fee free for its members. The stories, like Cybil, are great, and all are 2,500 – 5,000 words, so, bite-size. It is a perfect gift for the coming holiday season and is available on Amazon both Kindle and trade paperback.
Five Star, publisher of Fugitive Sheriff, told me last week they had deferred their entire remaining 2020 publication schedule for six months. May became November, June – December, and alas, Founding Sheriff‘s August became February 2021.
While I agree with their observation that scheduling publication date events has become impossible (I subscribed to Zoom and started learning in hopes of creating virtual book events), it doesn’t work perfectly to set everyone back six months. Perhaps it is impossible for the publisher to publish six months’ worth of good novels in the eight weeks from Halloween to Christmas, but the loss of Christmas sales is the loss of 60% of all sales.
I know, there’s always next year, but there is another book next year, too. So, I am trying to finish Forever Sheriff, and I pray it will be published in November 2021. From disappointment comes hope, and I hope to sell twice as many books next Christmas.
Since the two-week lockdown from mid-March, I have been convinced the country, meaning our national government, has been on the wrong course. The disastrous because it was wrong decision to extend this ill-considered course for 30 days on April 1 sickened me. My wife encouraged me to write to our Senator, but that struck me as a waste of the time even to compose it. The pressure increased in me like a pressure cooker, until I did finally write what I thought and searched the internet to discover that Fox News has a site that accepts efforts to communicate with their shows. I wrote my thoughts, sent them with the request to forward to Tucker Carlson Tonight, and received an acknowledgment with no promises on Sunday April 5.
I am reasonably sure that the many people between me and Tucker Carlson view their role as keeping me from him when my view of business would suggest their role is to bring me to him. Nevertheless, I did not and do not expect to hear from him. The disastrous direction continued and nobody was discussing the right course of action. Then I remembered, I have a website (that I have attended poorly to these past five years) and I have my own blog. So even with no expectation of anyone who might read what I write, I realized I could articulate my concerns and policy proposals and I didn’t need to wait for anyone.
What follows is the note I sent to Tucker Carlson on Sunday, April 5th. As with anything done in realtime, facts I have subsequently learned would have brought a slightly different treatment of certain points, but I will write about those facts in subsequent posts. It is perilously close to Monday Morning quarterbacking to publish this post, I am not going to change it to incorporate subsequent facts learned.
Dear Tucker (I know I should call you Mr. Carlson, but you are the age of one of my sons),
First, I am one of those people you, so correctly, scoff at: Yale, Harvard, McKinsey. I am not, however, in charge of the world. I am simply a seventy-eight-year-old man who writes novels. Given the country’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic, I should be in charge of the world. Hence, I write you.
I am a Trump supporter from the moment he took the escalator because our country needs someone who harks back to the Cincinnatus model. I continue to support him today when we simply have no alternative that measures up.
Nevertheless, he has not provided the kind of leadership that I expected from him and that we need in this crisis. To keep it short and minimize the political points of view, we need a Churchillian vision and devotion to mission that define his call to action and his action
President Trump should announce immediately that we are adopting a World-War II-style full-employment economy assault on the virus. While I would prefer that he announce he will have the policies, programs, and steps in place by April 15, if he insists on maintaining this ill-considered shutdown until April 30th, I can live with that so long as he announces immediately and definitively that leadership is taking charge of leading our nation. To those who persist in criticizing him for not having all the answers or all the magic wands, he should simply repeat: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
He should have one vision and one mission to ensure that we are all working to conquer this virus: Both the productive work of producing goods and services and the emotional work of pulling together and supporting the goal. Nothing in this mission ignores science, scientists, or current insufficiencies. What it does require is that they are all turned to achieving the goal, not describing nor decrying our predicament. Every single person who has ever actually worked has made a mistake. While we want to do better with each passing day, we will not dwell on mistakes but use them to foster improvement. To do this and deal with the fear of death, we will implement three core, programmatic thrusts:
First, every single person is responsible for their own health. The government will use its enormous resources to educate and encourage individuals to take care of themselves. Visualize Uncle Sam Wants You To Protect Yourself posters with the top ten self-protective steps itemized. Every single policy and program for individuals to protect their own health should be explored and put out to the public. If stay at home is the most powerful tool the CDC can recommend, individuals should be allowed to judge for themselves and decide.
Second, every single person is responsible not to harm the health of another: Again the government uses its resources to educate and encourage people not to take personal actions that harm or may harm others: Uncle Sam Says No to: itemize the top ten causes of spread. No one should go trivial on this point. This includes such concepts as no mass meetings (no Armistice parades in Philadelphia in 1918) right down to meetings of ten or even five.
Third, the government should use its powers to enforce and protect. State and Local government action that does not violate the Constitution should be encouraged and supported, but in this note my focus is on the national government. It has enormous police powers and it has enormous production and logistical powers. They should all be focused on supporting the work toward a full-employment CV-19 contained, and best, free day. Again, I go to the WWII model; we did not urge our citizens to flee inland because the enemy would tire trying to cross the oceans to invade our shores, AND we did not shirk from a goal of Total Victory. Unconditional Surrender may be the vaccine, but it took us forty-five months to achieve that goal during which time we waged total war and, yes, we sacrificed many lives.
The current approach is governed by two damning characteristics: first, an unabating commitment to 15-minutes of fame. There never should have been a discussion of we could have had 1.7 million deaths if we had done nothing because by the time that self-proclaiming declaration was put in the air, we already had taken numerous steps that mitigated against ever having that outcome. In turn, we should not be discussing 100,00 to 240,000 deaths based on our current models. The measure that is relevant is the increase in total deaths in society and the comparison that is relevant is that number with the current lockdown v. that number with a full-employment economy attack. If it is already 100,000 to 240,000 what if the full-employment attack were 105,000 – 250, 000. (I use those numbers for illustrative purposes because my suspicion is the true comparison of a full-employment attack would show fewer deaths, not more.). Second, I recognize this is a bit political, but note that the fear-mongers and policy influencers who are pushing this lockdown are all among the 10% who either have the wealth or the private sector job that protects them for life or the 30% employed by government. The 60% who are vulnerable have no voice.
I fully recognize that nothing in this note has the gravitas that a 10,000-word exploration of the available facts and models would have, but it provides the correct policy approach. With the resources available to your program, assuming you can find the objective and open-minded people of competence, you can prove it.
Edward (and I included my full mailing address and telephone number.)
My “First Monday of the Month Blog” for Western Fictioneers was published today. Here it is.
The irony of writing about the stresses and tensions brought on by the holidays — 1883 through 1887 — does not escape me. Last month’s blog, I tried to understand Christmas at that time. It was not my direct intention to follow that up with New Year’s at this blog, but, here I am.
You see, my Fugitive Sheriff ends up telling someone, “Getting caught isn’t my problem, at least not till New Year‘s Eve. I’ll have to work over in Park City on New Year’s Eve. Snow or no, you can bet the Federal Authorities will do their duty in Park City’s saloons on New Year’s Eve.”
So, I realized I pretty much had the problem of trying to know how people celebrated New Year’s in the 1880s. It turned out to be a lot bigger problem that I expected. Like with Christmas, I found few direct references to New Year’s in the West. With two exceptions. There are no end of opportunities to celebrate New Year’s in the West today, but that doesn’t tell you much about how it was celebrated then. And New Year’s Resolutions (about more below) are dutifully recorded in diaries and journals all over the West.
Without a doubt, the place to start is with champagne. The name has been around since the 1600s, although its protection as the sparkling wine from a certain region did not occur until 1891. Long before then, Dom Perignon added two features to the wine he pretty much invented, thicker glass and a rope snare to keep corks in place. The stage was set for shipping and a wine that began as a luxury with the Kings of France became industrially produced in the early 1800s and, yes, shipped to the West in the 1880s. While you did not have to be a King of France to buy it, you did have to find a way to make more money than you could working in the mines or poking cattle.
It might be noted that a quarter of the population of the west was British born (or about two-thirds of the non-American born emigrants) and whisky remained the favored New Year’s Eve drink in the UK until the 1980s. It would not be much of a stretch to guess it was so in the West in the 1880s.
It seems that before football games, there was another game: calling on ladies.
In the 1880s, New Year’s day, rather than New Year’s eve, was the time for gala entertaining and Open Houses, usually held from noon until six p.m. Tradition held that all the ladies of a family, and all boys under the age of ten, stayed at home to receive callers while the gentlemen went out to pay visits. Newspapers would even print lists of the homes that would be open and the hours they were receiving visitors. The only requirement for admission was a calling card.
“A general and cordial reception of gentlemen guests upon the first day of the year, by the ladies of almost every household, also by clergymen, and by gentlemen upon the first New-Year’s Day after marriage, was a Knickerbocker custom which prevailed in New York. It was once a day when all gentlemen offered congratulations to each of their lady acquaintances, and even employees of a gentleman were permitted to pay their respects, and to eat and drink with the ladies of the household. Hospitalities were then lavishly offered and as lavishly received.
“Many gentlemen, even among those who take wine ordinarily, refuse it upon this day, because they do not like to accept it at the hand of one lady and refuse it from that of another. Again, many ladies, from whose daily tables the glitter of wine-glasses is never absent, do not supply this drink to their guests upon this day, because it is dangerous for their acquaintances to partake of varied vintages, the more specially while passing in and out of over-heated drawing rooms.”
At these calling events, a New Year’s Dinner and New Year’s table was presented (as published in Minnesota in 1880):
New Year’s Dinners–Raw oysters; mock turtle soup; boiled turkey with oyster sauce; roast haunch of venison; currant jelly; deviled crabs; potato souffle, baked turnips, stuffed cabbage, beets, lima beans, dried corn, and canned peas; biscuit, French rolls, rye and Indian bread; chicken salad, cold sliced ham; celery, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters, pickled walnuts, variety pickles; sweet pickled cucumbers, peaches, and plums, spiced currants and gooseberries canned pears or strawberries; English plum pudding; chess pie, potato pie, mince pie; orange souffle, pyramid pound cake, black cake, Phil Sheridan cake; Bohemian cream; oranges, raisins, figs, nuts; tea, coffee, chocolate.
New Year’s Table–When receiving calls on New Years’ Day, the table should be handsomely arranged and decorated, and provided with rather substantial dishes, such as would suit the taste of gentlemen. Too great profusion, especially of cakes, confectionery, and ices, is out of taste. Selections may be made from the following: Escalloped oysters; cold tongue, turkey, chicken, and ham, pressed meats, boned turkey, jellied chicken; salads, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters; bottled pickles, French or Spanish pickles; jellies; charlotte-russe, ice-creams, ices; two large handsome cakes for decoration of table, and one or two baskets of minced cake, fruit, layer, and sponge cake predominating; fruits; nuts; coffee, chocolate with whipped cream, lemonade.
I also note that oysters made an appearance at a gathering of early Dakota Territory settlers on New Year’s Day in 1880. Not merely traced back to Ancient Greeks and Romans, American Indians on both coasts considered them a staple in their diet. Abraham Lincoln also served them to guests at parties at his Illinois home.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.: “There were oysters and honey and sauce [from] home dried fruit the Boasts had brought with them. We told stories and joked and had a happy New Year’s day.”
The mention of Chinese New Year’s occurs frequently and one notable reference even identified that the 1880 census listed more than 100 Chinese in Evanston. …. The Chinese staged lavish New Year’s celebrations at the end of winter on the traditional Chinese calendar, including a dragon parade through downtown and fireworks.
Perhaps the greatest way to bring in the new year occurred on New Year’s Eve of 1879. Edison gave a public demonstration of his new light bulb, lighting up his laboratory and a half mile of streets in Menlo Park before of thousands of spectators. By 1881, Edison’s Pearl Street station in New York was supplying about 400 outlets for eighty-five customers. Cities in the West first became lit with electricity in the 1880s.
The closest to us Western Fictioneers Google hit on search string “New Year’s Eve” came up on page 7, Meg Mims’s blog: “Toss these babies in the oven and save ’em for your New Year’s Eve party. Mmm! Very easy to make.”
It is said the ancient Babylonians were the first, but the Romans took it up and then the Christians. In fact, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. It turns out all over the West, people made resolutions. They not only made them, they wrote them down in their journals and diaries. Mostly, they resolved to make a better life for themselves and their families. They not only resolved, they made better lives for themselves and their families — Us.
Happy and Prolific New Year to All Western Fictioneers.
My “First Monday of the Month Blog” for Western Fictioneers was published today. Here it is.
I wrote about amnesties and pardons because my sheriff was concerned the governor would use his annual Christmas amnesty to pardon a murderer who faced the firing squad. Fugitive Sheriff lived through four years of Christmas. What was Christmas like in the West in the 1880s?
Whatever it was like, if anyone at the time wrote about it, their words have proved more elusive than my googling skills have retrieved. I found a lot of interesting stuff, including a remarkable number of places and persons named Christmas, but what follows is a triangulation, a guess at what might have and must have been the celebrations of Christmas, using the 1880s as the ending point for traditions by then begun and now taken for granted.
Right off the bat, I discovered a controversy I did not know existed. “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” was believed until 2000 (and until last week by me) to have been written in 1822 by Clement Clarke Moore for his two daughters and later published anonymously in Troy, New York on December 23, 1823. In 2000, Don Foster published a book, Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous, in which he demonstrated that Moore could not have been the author and concluded it must have been written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.
Already a well established tradition during the 1880s, many people certainly knew or read “Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas” (the poem’s subtitle) to their children in the West. (And now we Western Fictioneers know that for 177 years Clement Clarke Moore took credit for publishing something he didn’t write.)
Now on to tastier, though no less spicy, fare. Like most of our Christmas traditions, mince pies came to us from the UK, dating back to Stuart times. They were a status symbol. Having pies meant you were rich. You could afford both meat and the best and most expensive pastry cooks. With their main purpose to show off, they were originally made in various shapes like stars, crescents, hearts, and flowers, the most intricate constructed like jigsaw puzzles to fit together. Some sources report they were filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than the dried fruit mix of today. Both notions are anathema to me.
Our Western forebears never filled a mince pie with lamb when venison was available. For damn sure, mine went out and shot their deer and brought it back for the making of the mincemeat.
And I am certain of that still today. My wife makes mincemeat and she calls up her brother and he goes out and gets a deer and ships the venison to us. Her preference is neck meat, but any will do. Anne and her brother aren’t Westerners, they’re Mainers, of French descent, but I can personally vouch for the authenticity and richness of her mincemeat. So much so, that I share with you her recipe.
Though eating mince pie was a Christmas Eve tradition, I doubt anyone in the West of our interest asked why Christmas Day was celebrated on December 25.
The first record of Christmas celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (the first Christian Roman Emperor). Bringing his Christian army to conquer the Goths, he discovered a pagan rite at the beginning of Winter and took it for his own. He told the Goths they were celebrating Christmas, thereby conquering the Goths with spirit and spirits. Second only to the English, emigrants to the West were German.
A second tradition starts with the day Mary was told she would have a very special baby (the Annunciation), on March 25th. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! How many Western settlers celebrated the Annunciation showed up on no record I could find.
Finally, among early westerners were a smattering of wandering Jews. Hanukkah, starts on the 25th of Kislev, the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs about the same time as December. Hanukkah celebrates when the Jews were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion. There is ample evidence of Temples being dedicated in the West in the 1880s.
Not being Catholic, I did not know that the ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day). People had it at midnight!
Northern Europe gets credit for this with documented evidence of the first Christmas tree in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in 1510 and the emergence of Yule logs in Scandinavia soon after. Martin Luther was the first to take the Christmas tree into his home, in the 16th century. The Christmas tree basically came to America via Britain when the drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” (set up by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband,) was republished in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (without the Queen’s crown and Prince Albert’s moustache to make it look ‘American’!).
Christmas trees were prevalent in our west – and not too difficult (well, except for the work involved) to go out and cut down an evergreen.
Christmas cards began in Victorian England, as many of Christmas traditions do, in the early 1840s when Sir Henry Cole had the idea for sending his friends a greeting wishing them a Happy Christmas (printed by John Colcott Horsley.)
The idea took off in Europe but lagged in America, until the Civil War was over – and Christmas was declared a holiday in 1870. The transcontinental railroad completed in 1869 made faster mail service possible and the ground breaking printing capabilities of printer Louis Prang transformed the postcard-size European Christmas card to gifts of art sent through the mail.
Prang learned the art of chromolithography, a technology that allowed him to make duplicates of fine art to bring fine art to the masses inexpensively. In 1873 in Vienna he was presented with the idea of making an artful Christmas card. He liked the idea and by Christmas 1874 Prang’s designs started to catch on – not as Christmas cards, but as art. Costing as much as 25 dollars, the Prang holiday designs were sent by many as gifts.
Unique to Prang’s Christmas art was new verse written by well-known poets of the time, such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
During the 1880s Prang’s factories put out more than 5 million Christmas cards a year and were noted for offering stable, suitable employment especially for women, a real rarity of the times. By the 1890s, cheap knock-offs were imported and Prang’s popularity began to diminish, but the Christmas card was established.
Alabama was the first state to grant legal recognition to Christmas in 1836. By 1890 all states and territories had done so, including DC in 1870. Christmas is the only annual religious holiday to receive official religious and secular sanction. The following list of Western states and the year they recognized Christmas is taken from Having a Wonderful Christmas Time Film Guide by Terry Rowan. By end of 1887: California, 1851; Colorado, Nevada, 1861; Oregon, 1862; Idaho, North Dakota, 1863; Montana, 1865; Kansas,1868; New Mexico, 1876; South Dakota, 1877; Texas,1879; Arizona, 1881; Utah, 1882; Wyoming, 1886.
Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago — pagan songs, sung at the winter solstice as people danced round stone circles. (The word carol originally meant to dance to something.) So, what did today’s most famous source of Christmas carols do in the 1880s?
Named after the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is credited with being founded in 1847, although the Tabernacle was not completed until 1867, the first recorded choir conductor was not appointed until in 1869, and the choir held its first concert at the Tabernacle on July 4, 1873. I could not find any documented Christmas pageants during the 1880s. We all know they existed by the time of the first-ever recording on September 1, 1910. Given the tradition of music and theater, my bet is the Tabernacle Choir was performing, I simply could not find the evidence.
What I found most certainly did not come from the 1880s, but works for me as an ending to this blog. The Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2 told by John Rhys-Davies with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: http://mymerrychristmas.com/a-masterful-telling-of-luke-2/
Last year, to encourage reading, support bookstores, and buy books, I offered to send a second book for one dollar.
This year, I expected to have another book to offer you. Alas, Fugitive Sheriff has not yet surmounted all his trials and tribulations, but still Christmas and Holidays roll around. And again, I encourage you to give the gift of books. (My books, to be sure.) So this year, the price of a signed and mailed book goes down – and a second book still costs one dollar.
Order now and have the book(s) inscribed by the author. Enter the desired inscription in the field below. If you want the book(s) sent to a third party, enter that information when you get to the order summary page by clicking on “Add special instructions to the seller.”
Go to Amazon.com for twenty-three terrific reviews and, of course, if you prefer, buy the books on Kindle.
My monthly blog with Western Fictioneers was published last Monday. Here it is:
Cheryl Pierson kindly gave me a list of seven publishers who are in Western Fictioneers. I wrote each of them, asking one question: “If a writer could do nothing else, what is the one thing you would tell a writer to do to sell his or her books?”
So far, five have written back. If the others come in later, I will post them next month.
“Tough question and I’ll answer in general. For me and our authors at PbRJV, the one thing I advise is get on social media such as Facebook on a regular basis and be “sociable” while providing links to your website and books. It works.”
… was very generous and I have edited his response some…
“There is not any one answer on how to sell your books or some of us would have discovered it. … I have a professional web site. Anywhere I can I post that address for them to go look. I pay to have it up and it isn’t cheap but gets some results. I have a page on Amazon and I have to scream to get it kept up to date. People like a book you wrote they will go look for them at that site. I have books on the WWA button. …
I always write a letter to my readers in every book and give them my email. If you write me or email me you get a list of my books in return and a copy of our magazine www.saddlebagdispatches.com. … I try to get the book reviewed. I write blurbs for other authors to get my name out there. A western reader reads my blurb he may go look for my books. That is better than all the e business you can get into. I answer interviews like this to get my name out there. ….
I have a column in a tri-state farm magazine–no get rich deal but it brings me readers. I have column in StoryTeller magazine. She shows my books on back cover in trade. I have book signings at events, library, shows. In the right place I make several sales and new fans.
My first e-book/printed was with a small publisher. It had been out for five years. He gave it away one weekend . … We handed out 10,000 copies. Neither of us could not believe it. I had never gotten a 10 whatever for the IRS in income on it. In the next 18 months the total sales reached what a good New York book publisher paid out for a western. I plan to try that again on another project in the future.
I am disappointed in so many western books being published that no one edited and are a mess. They give us a bad name. ..”
Maybe the most important thing a writer can do today to sell books–whether they’re traditionally published, self-published, or come from a small press–is to maintain an active presence on social media. That can be overwhelming and too time-consuming, so it’s probably best to limit those activities to a few of the available platforms. I use my blog, Facebook, and Twitter for the most part, but a writer should do whatever feels comfortable. Just get your name and info about the books out there!
Other than writing good books to start with (always the first step), I think the key to selling is to keep writing. Each book’s sales builds on the last, and when you have enough work out there it’s easier to run special sales and promotions with the earlier titles. So when you finish a book, it’s fine to pat yourself on the back–but then start thinking about the next one!
When you submit your work, be sure you have had it professionally edited AT LEAST for grammar, tense agreement, and punctuation. Most editors have at least three different price lists, dependent upon how much editing is required or asked for. This would be the cheapest for some–mid-level for others on their pricing. When you send your work to a publisher with poor grammar or punctuation, the publisher sees that you really don’t know what you’re doing–or care. If you don’t care about your own work, why should a publisher, or a reader?
I had an exchange with Vonn McKee about my idea to use Westerns (and fiction in general) as a means to promote corporate goals (goods, values, and services.) She thinks it’s a tough sell and I share with you:
“I have some experience in commercial advertising and my sense is that corporations trying to promote an image by drawing on artistic works or examples prefer to use something their audience will recognize. If the western fiction quoted was by a well-known author or a quote from, say, a character like John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood, that known image or emotion would be communicated onto the firm’s brand. …but getting a firm to use just any character or literary excerpt from an unknown author would seem a hard sell. …the exception would be if you happened to have a killer slogan you could lift from your work and pitch…”
One final note on Sowing. I told you about Writer’s Relief. Well, I subscribed. True to their word 29 my initial queries are out doing their work for me. Well, 25 are still at work, I have already received four “unfortunately, this one doesn’t sound like it’s right for us.” I was pleased with their efficiency and helpfulness in the first cycle, so I am risking a second. I’ll keep you posted.
My regular monthly blog is up for Western Fictioneers. You may see it here or read it below:
The best marketing plan is to write. In my January blog I mentioned Hugh Howey because he makes this point far better than I, both on his website and in his podcast with James Altucher. It is no more profound than the observation that successful novelists we remember have all written many books, save Harper Lee and one or two others. Four to four hundred novels seems to be the range needed for success. Some Western Fictioneers can publish thirty books in three years, some can publish one. Not to despair, one book in three years means four in twelve and there you are, on the power curve. So, write two, three, four hours a day but even then you may need some ploughing in other fields.
Indeed, that very Harper Lee brought no less an institution than the Economist to opine on the great Schumpeter and the need for Authorpreneurship. In their February 14, 2015 print edition, with a column headlined “To succeed these days, authors must be more businesslike than ever” they said,
“…Standing out as a book writer today requires more than a bright idea and limpid prose. Authors need to become businesspeople as well, thinking strategically about their brand, and marketing themselves and their products…”
“…these days, writing a book is just a prologue to more work…Authors mostly used to rely on public-relations staff provided by the publishing house. Now, wise writers hire their own publicists…Authors must court an expanding variety of ‘influencers’—people whose opinions can determine a book’s success. Once…newspaper reviewers were…arbiters of literary taste. Now…a host of bloggers and social-media pundits fill the gap.”
The article devoted a lot of space to celebrities, Hollywood film deals and best seller lists, before it returned to some realistic observations.
“Authors, like other entrepreneurs, should not let failure get to them.”
“The open secret of publishing is that very few authors can live by books alone. Even some of the most successful ones make most of their money from public speaking, consulting or teaching, and use the publicity gained by their books to justify higher fees. …Things are more difficult for fiction writers: the organisers of conferences and other events pay good speaking fees to non-fiction writers with a bit of name recognition, but not to the average novelist.”
“Authors are becoming more like pop stars, who used to make most of their money selling albums but who now use their recordings as promotional tools, earning a living mainly from concerts. The trouble with many budding writers is that they are not cut out for this new world.”
Such an authoritative voice provides the perfect introduction to a breakfast roundtable I am hosting at the WWA Conference in the Overton Hotel, in Lubbock, Wednesday, June 24, at 8:00 am. I proposed a panel on: “The Western as a Business Education Format.” In short, marketing your novel by making it a vehicle for corporate messages, themes, and training programs. Candy
Moulton suggested we test the idea at the Wednesday roundtable breakfast, if I was willing. Absolutely. I asked her for permission to mention the Roundtable breakfast in this blog. Absolutely. She reminded me to mention that the convention is open to non-members of WWA as well as members and that registration materials are available on the website, www.westernwriters.org.
The idea started with my first novel, Telluride Promise. A venture capital colleague, who specializes in proprietary schools, suggested that it should be a format for teaching ethics in business schools. A subject much needed, hard to achieve.
With Every Soul Is Free, 100 hundred years of strong values, powerful and interrupted lessons between grandfather and grandson, and the conflict of choosing calling over family have led to discussions with a major private bank, an investment bank, a foundation, and a well known product based corporation on subjects of trust, career, and generational values.
Not to get ahead of myself, these are long sales’ cycles and major success still lies in the future. The concept is, so far, well-received and I am certain that fiction has a major role to play in the value systems of corporations. A breakfast, lunch, dinner, or evening reception allows the company to communicate a set of principles it holds dear to its stakeholders, without ever directly “selling” the company. No one needs to have read the book. Selected readings illustrate the principles and the discussion is on.
There are many topics supported by Western literature. The point of the roundtable breakfast is to encourage every author to think of how their Western novel demonstrates standards and values that businesses want to instill in their personnel or communicate to their clients.
With tables for 10 people, the point of this blog is to invite 9 writers to the breakfast. Come as a presenter and bring your book and one idea. State the theme. Read up to 3 sentences and launch the discussion. We’ll work for three minutes to talk about the principles involved and thoughts on how to market your novel to businesses. No prior success is necessary, this is exploratory. If you have no presentation to make, as I said, this is exploratory, please come and explore with us. With luck, we’ll digest breakfast and a few insights and views about what principles work and how to sell them.
If you’d like to post suggestions for topics in the comments below, or e-mail me, please do and maybe we can get a full agenda on hand before the 24th.
I am still looking to this blog to force me to work on my bio. I have not yet made it past the starting point. Telluride Promise gained the quarterfinals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Every Soul Is Free won the Gold Quill, Grand Prize for best novel published in 2014, from the League of Utah Writers. Edward’s third novel is finished. He is at work on his fourth. He and Anne live in Stamford, CT and look forward to a visit from any Western Fictioneers!