ROUNDUP Magazine, published bi-monthly by Western Writers of America, has asked me to do a (second) review. Coming in 2015, you can read it here, now:
BRETT COGBURN. Two-Dollar Pistol Five Star. Hardcover. 322 pages, $25.95, cengage.com.
19 year-old self-created orphan Myra befriends 17 year-old sheriff’s son Claude who shoots bad man Mike before Mike shoots him. Myra’s stealthy hands move on to seduction and the two take off on a Bonnie and Clyde life in depression era Oklahoma and Texas.
Myra’s instinct for crime comes from her rotten family and Claude’s ability to keep them alive comes from being half-Indian and displaying the best qualities of both his mom and dad despite his outlaw ways.
Two or three violent and comical hold-ups lead to a giant shoot-out. Bonnie and Clyde did not survive theirs and I’ll leave the reader to discover whether Claude’s Indian Mother and Sheriff Father pulled them out in time to continue their life of crime in some future sequel.
I’m not sure why Five Star lists it as historical fiction, but it is a good depression era read.
I was asked to provide a blog to Western Fictioneers the first Monday of every month during 2015. Since I had never hit that regularity with my own blog and since I wanted to be a good WF member, I committed. It took until last Tuesday — yes, after three-months notice, but six days to do the work — before I knew my topic. Obviously, my biggest challenge should be my topic. What I wrote is shown below. The blog had some graphics from this website, so I do not repeat them here, but if you want to take a look here.
In preparation to take up the first Monday of every month blog, I read prior WF blogs. I have read every December blog and I have set the year-long intention to read all 257 blogs from 2014 and the current ones. December blogs averaged 879 words. Two-years worth will amount to some 520,000 words, 5 or 6 Western Fictioneers’ novels! A massive array of topics and approaches led to the question: what am I going to take up on my first Monday? To zip through the reasoning process, I am going to take up an Odyssey – my quest to market my books and build a brand. I am not all that sure I want to become a marketeer, I already have as much as I can handle in trying to become a good writer of novels. At the moment, between Scylla and Charybdis seems to be my only choice.
I count it lucky that the blog is the first Monday of every month. One of the principles to establish for myself and this blog is to use the first Monday of very month to review what we will do this month and this year to market our work and promote our brand. “Do” for our purposes means: create the marketing plan, implement the marketing plan, and reap the results. I invite you to watch over my shoulder, share your ideas and suggestions, and participate all along the way. As Tom Rizzo said in one of his blogs, consider this a participatory blog. In the Comments section below, leave your questions, recommendations, stories, and tips.
Create the Marketing Plan. It could be that a few may read this blog who have the same problem. I have no idea how many writers, particularly Western Fictioneers writers, know how to market the work, sell the books, and write the next one, keeping all tasks miraculously in balance. Probably many of you are out there. I have met at least one of you – well, one pair of you: Kat and L.J. Martin.
Anyway, a year has passed since I responded to Cheryl’s request for a Friday Five. I had no idea, then, how much would happen in the year. About that time, I had a manuscript out to two publishers – eerily similar to my current situation. A month later, Pen-L Publishing committed to publish Every Soul Is Free. Duke and Kimberly Pennell fulfilled their promise to get it published in time for my 50th Reunion last May. I created an ambitious marketing plan that touched all the bases.
Caveat before we go any further: It is more likely that I will be learning from you than vice versa. Along the way, I will try hard to pass along information that I have found helpful (like James Altucher’s podcast with Hugh Howey). My suspicion is that the most helpful information I will turn up will help authors who self-publish, publish with print-on-demand publishers or independent publishers. Since I despair at the prospect, I doubt anything I turn up will help my readers crack the agented and New York publishing house market.
As Charlie Steel so adroitly observed of us as a group, I am one of “us [who] are old.” You might have guessed that with the 50th Reunion reference. For the most part of my life, I did business things. Now that I am in the business of writing I am not at all opposed to author effort. In fact, I welcome it. What I find impossible is coming up with the marketing ideas, channel pursuits, and implementation as well as writing and doing the author effort. I realize that I have been given handbooks and suggestions that, somehow, did not take.
Implement the Marketing Plan: Seven post-publication months have, so far, rolled out from days measured by four hours of joyous writing, two hours of consulting work that pays the mortgage, and four hours of terror and torture that defines my afternoon and my efforts to market my book and build my brand. Six days a week! (Not on Tuesdays because of work to pay the mortgage and not on the weekend because Anne thinks the weekend should look different from the weekday, so only the morning hours of joyous writing go on Saturday and Sunday.)
After three months, I realized I could not do it myself. So, I tried my hand at hiring somebody who would do all the tasks and set up the opportunities for me to come in and make the sale, read the book, give the talk, or sing and dance, whatever it took. They couldn’t do it either.
Reap the results: Website (www.edwardmasseybooks.com); Social media (Facebook, twitter, linked-in accounts); Book store (Barnes and Noble, New Haven (1)); Marketing materials (Cards, postcards, bookmarks); Book club presentations (Connecticut (1)); Evening of reading and discussion (18 high school classmates in Utah (1)); Outreach (Proposals to County School Board re literature from local high school graduates); Award (League of Utah Writers’ Gold Quill for Best Novel Published in 2014; Talk (Providence Art Club: the “Nexus of History and Fiction”(1)); Interview (Emil Franzi on “Voices of the West”; Podcast (Entrepreneur on Fire.); Theme based marketing (Proposals to 3 organizations to promote their themes based on Every Soul Is Free); e-mails and Press Releases (3 blast-e-mails and signed up for PR Wire and BusWire); initiatives that led nowhere (innumerable characterized by no call back.)
This list is in this format because I could not manage the WF blog software, but it is here, at all, because it is the whole list of my marketing results.
That four hours of joyous writing did result in completing my third novel and I am very happy with it. It is not a Western; it would not qualify under the Peacemaker or the Spur Award rules, but it is set in the west and it deals with what I think the west is all about – a man’s values and how he balances career with commitment to family and community. A publisher has shown an interest. The way he expressed his interest was to tell me to submit the full manuscript along with my marketing plan. So, this blog has some real-life meaning.
What Charlie Steel further pointed out is how prolific some WF authors are with 60 to 600 books and a few 35s and even some 10s and 20s thrown in. I think the clear conclusion from Hugh Howey to Charlie Steel is that if you have to choose between marketing and writing. Write! So, although the goal of this year’s blog will be to lay out the program and focus on how to make it happen, the fallback position will always be – end the torture and write!
One learning I have already achieved (by reading all the WF blogs) is that the reason for doing a blog is to get to the end where you make a pitch for your books and your brand. Every single one of them did it. I am cheered.
One of the tasks this blog will force is work on my bio. Here is the starting point: Edward has published a novel, Telluride Promise, five short stories, and Every Soul Is Free. Telluride Promise gained the quarterfinals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. The League of Utah Writers named Every Soul Is Free the Grand Prize winner for best novel published in 2014, awarding Edward the Gold Quill. His third novel is finished and he is at work on his fourth.
All social media accounts set up but not really working. Implementing them will be part of this blog.
Encourage reading, support bookstores, buy books. That’s my theme for 2015. What I am doing for my part in encouraging you to encourage reading is to send you a second book for one dollar:
Order a book from this website and I will sign it and inscribe any message you want. 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.”
- Every Soul Is Free, $18.00, price includes mailing
- Telluride Promise, $12.00, price includes mailing
- Gift set, both books, $19.00, price includes mailing
Go to Amazon.com for twenty-one terrific reviews and, of course, if you prefer, buy both books on Kindle for even less than my one dollar special.
Happy, healthy reading in 2015.
Ann asked me to write an article about “my adventures as a published author, getting noticed, getting references and reviews, blogging, and interviews – in 350 words.” Here goes:
My path to publishing Telluride Promise included “a read and a conference” with a New York publisher. The publisher told me, “Nobody wants to read about a good banker.” By his tone, I couldn’t tell which he disapproved of most: ‘good’ or ‘banker’. That day he taught me something: to make sure my synopsis sells the book I want to sell. I believe mine did; he just didn’t want to buy, or read, my book. So, I self-published with CreateSpace.
With my book Every Soul Is Free I sold short stories as a step in marketing the book to publishers. Fifty or so submissions led to five stories accepted by online and print collections. This process led to my finding Western Writers of America (WWA). At the first convention I attended I suffered horrible rejection. A well-known agent informed me that a story set in 1948 was not about the Old West and couldn’t be sold. Two newly minted good friends, prominent members of WWA, propped me up enough that I left Las Vegas with three invitations to submit. One of those, Pen-L Publishing, led to publication.
I am still a novice at marketing my books. If you look around my website you’ll find a TV interview, book reviews, radio interviews, a podcast, book club nights, art club discussions, and blog posts. So far I’ve made two observations:
- First, something results from everything I do or try. It’s a production function: effort goes in the front end, book sales come out the back end. I’m still learning how to leverage and maximize my own production function.
- Second (which I trust as a truism): Keep trying. I write every day and my daily two to four hours leave me blissful and joyous. I used to find writing time as torturous as I now find book marketing time. My goal is to work through this until I love the marketing part of publication.
Editor’s Note: Edward has written more about his path to writing and publication on his website.
Of interest, in Ann’s editing of what I submitted, she added the word truism. I commented:
You are terrific and I appreciate your editing.
Just one small comment. I doubt my second observation is a truism.
(From a reference source on logic): A truism is a proposition that states nothing beyond what is implied by any of its terms.
I suspect (and need to do more thinking and reading about this) anything that you trust is not a truism.
Certainly, trusting the notion to keep trying goes far beyond what it implies by any of its terms. Trusting requires going into the unknown. To keep trying, to be sure, also goes into the unknown, but more than that, it is at the very heart of discouragement.
When most discouraged, try the most. That may have been a better statement, and, certainly, it would not be a truism.
John Dumas published his podcast interview with Edward today, December 1. He has a terrific podcast. This worked very well.
Also see John’s website, Entrepreneur on Fire. You will find a very professional and thorough website, a mirror image, by the way, to the preparation and process for his podcast interview. While we’re on the subject of entrepreneurs, John is a 34 year-old Mainer who has relocated to San Diego and ignited with this podcast. Talk about “On Fire,” the show achieved Best of iTunes in 2013 with 7.4 million downloads. Speaking of iTunes, this podcast is now permanently available here.
J.E.S. Hays asked me to write a blurb and by the end of the first vignette, I knew what would be my first word. Here it is:
Charmed by the end of the first chapter, Travelling Down the Owlhoot Trail with Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid provides thirteen sweet reads to set the mind to a cheerful night’s sleep.
Nicholas Wilton has been a friend of Anne’s, and now mine, for many years. He has many studios representing him and a thriving studio-based mentoring business. In all respects, he is the man who has conquered the problem of making a living from art. Lo, brings he this wonderful blog, When Your Art Doesn’t Sell, and without going into too much detail, it is a breath of life. Thanks, Nick.
The League of Utah Writers is organized into Chapters. Living as I do in Connecticut, I am fortunate that there is an at-large chapter, the Just Write Chapter. Indeed, it has a critique group, in which I have already participated, and it has a Newsletter. The President of the chapter, Ann Gordon, asked me to write a review of the recent League of Utah Writers Annual Conference held at the Davis Conference Center, in Layton, Utah.
Member Article: Edward Massey – The League Writing Conference, 2014
This was my first LUW conference. The Davis Conference Center, a gem under the HAFB flight path, felt familiar to me the first moment I got out of my car because I was raised under that flight path in Clearfield. At the registration desk I met a friendly fellow in a coat and tie who handed me a fistful of mini-chocolate bars. What a great beginning!
I found the LUW Conference to be 100% craft oriented. I picked “Writing Fight Scenes” as my first workshop. Christine Haggerty, the leader, stressed the following: Our character existed before the fight, our character shouldn’t do anything in the fight that’s inconsistent, the fight should be choreographed, and have an aftermath in injuries. Most attention was paid to physical injuries, but I believe emotional injuries are as important.
The World Building session was led by the man with the chocolate bars, Bruce Allred. His presentation was truly stimulating and I hope he has a copy he can send you if you ask.
Saturday – my primary goal was to find and meet Ann. Again no provision for meeting and schmoozing, neither breakfast nor coffee break. I guess LUW believes we are all independent, self-reliant sorts. I did finally track down Ann Gordon. And Tim Keller. Hooray!
11:00 Alexander Gordon Smith – Creating Characters Who Talk Back. A cheeky session title with a witty Englishman. For those who did not attend this one, you can guess the content and should keep it in mind. He explained how to make characters come alive.
Finally, 12:00 Lunch. Being vegan, I was prepared for the worst, but they were very solicitous and helpful. At my table everyone was lively, interesting, and fun – exactly what I wanted. I enjoyed Jill Vanderwood’s presentation on Public Speaking. I hope everyone took away the core message: that we can all help our writing careers by speaking.
In the afternoon I attended sessions devoted to personal development. I learned about marketing with Kathryn and Doug Jones; then how to overcome things that stop us from writing with Peggy Eddleman; and at 4:00 Shanna Beaman discussed Strategies and Goals. Shanna provided some good handouts; if you did not attend this presentation, perhaps you could write Shanna and ask for a copy of her handouts.
Finally, the big event at 5:00 – Dinner. My food was just fine, how was yours? And the Keynote Address by Johnny Worthen provided everything we had come to expect from him in a day and a half of exposure. His tour de force provided a catalogue of ways a writer is truly crazy. When the Awards Ceremony started I began to worry that this meeting would keep us up all night, but Nope. The economist, Bruce Allred, ran a taut, economical program, moving it right along, with humor and good cheer for the winners. Toward the end of the hundred plus awards I began to fear I had been shut out. But not at all. I had a wonderful surprise.
I want to thank everyone in the League of Utah Writers for the opportunity to join, to attend the conference, and to have Every Soul Is Free judged against all the fine writers in the League.
Editor’s Note: Edward flew in from the East Coast to attend the LUW conference. His latest novel, Every Soul is Free, won the prestigious Gold Quill Award from the League of Utah Writers this year. The Gold Quill is the Grand Prize for Best Novel.
An entrepreneur gets to be asked to write a review about an entrepreneur. What a delight! This review will appear in ROUNDUP Magazine, published bi-monthly by Western Writers of America. Coming in February, maybe April, 2015, you can read it here, now:
GORDON E. TOLTON. Healy’s West. Montana Press, Paperback. 287 pages, $20.00, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You had to be an entrepreneur to go West. From an Irish family brought to America in hardship and enlistment in the Army (perhaps born of shady dealings), John J. Healy took his entrepreneurial spirit to Fort Leavenworth in 1858.
There began 50 years of commercial ventures in the development of a huge area mapped as “John Healy’s Pacific Northwest.” Commended by the author for his trend setting vision and tenacity, Healy’s western tools were not those to which we have grown accustomed. His were buying, selling, mining, organizing, railroading (in both senses of the word) and maybe other slightly fast action. He achieved what so many entrepreneurs do: success and yet shut out.
Tolton’s scholarly work may not thrill to Healy’s heroic nature, but so complete an examination of a significant life all but forgotten is to be commended.
October’s mail brought the gratifying recognition, in the Rocky Mountain Writer, of the Gold Quill award given to Every Soul Is Free. The Rocky Mountain Writer is the monthly newsletter of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction