Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dig Up Those Old Stories

I don't know about you, but I find that I have a lot of old stories that I wrote as far back as high school that I have saved. These stories, though something I would never think of publishing in their current state, are just sitting around collecting dust.

There really is no reason why these old stories need to lay dormant. As an author, I know that I have the ability to breathe new life into them.

I have actually dug up some of these old stories (mainly some sci-fi stories I wrote in college that no one in their right mind would ever try and publish) and at first I was disgusted with them. I think that many writers have this exact same impulse when they first look at their writing that is more than a couple of years old. The reason is that we grow as writers. Our styles change and we actually get better at writing the more we write. These stories I am speaking of now, were riddled with grammatical errors (which I mistakenly thought at the time my editor would fix for me), sentence fragments and a slew of other mistakes that I don't care to mention. As I said, my first impulse was disgust, and my second was to close the file and never look at it again.

However, the story of this first writing I looked at was pretty good, and I thought I could do something with it. The plot of the story was actually pretty simple: a young boy witnesses the last stand of his race against an alien invasion. So, I decided that I was going to attempt giving this a try.

As I read through the story (trying my best to ignore the plethora of grammar errors and whatnot) I noticed too, that I had never put any meat into the story. I noticed that the characters I created were as simple as the plot. I never mention who the boy really was, other than the fact that his parents were on the front line. I never gave a hint as to the culture of these people (were they humans in the future, or were they another alien race on some distant planet?). I found that in rewriting the story, I would have to do a great deal of new writing.

And so I have.

I will admit that it is a challenge and I have essentially had to start near the beginning and build this story from the ground up, however, what I have come up with on this story so far, I am very satisfied with. I have begun to turn a story that a week ago repulsed me and have turned it into a story I can be proud of.

I suggest you do the same. Dig out those old stories. Rewrite them and make them into something you can be proud of and try to get them published somewhere. Even if you don't try to reconstruct the story from the ground up like I did, going through your old writings might spark something in your mind and you can create a whole new story. Don't just let these old stories sit dead in a drawer (or in most cases on an old CD) collecting dust never to see the light of day again. Dust them off and make them into something new.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Setting Up a Book Signing



Setting up a book signing is not an easy task by any means. Many larger bookstores won't waste their time on an author they've never heard of, and many of the smaller, independent bookstores are unwilling to risk buying books if they cannot guarantee sales from them. Some of these indy stores have even instituted a method to soften the blow of non-selling authors at book signings - and that's by charging authors to have a signing along with displaying their books.

There are ways to get yourself into these stores - even the big chains like Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million - without paying an arm and a leg for it. It will require an awful lot of legwork on your part though, and a good deal of networking.

1. Visit Local Bookstores as Often as Possible -
You want to visit as many bookstores in your area as possible. A good distance is any store you can drive to within an hour. This includes the small and large bookstores alike. Don't just go in and demand a book signing, however. An author needs to be much more subtle when dealing with things like these.

2. Get to Know the Manager -
You want to be seen in the store, let some of the staff get to know you. Introduce yourself to the manager, and give him your business card. Tell him or her that you have a book coming out soon, and say a little something about it. Again, do not ask for a book signing straight away. It will likely only serve to anger the manager and make it impossible to get yourself into his or her store.

3. Patience is a Virtue -
Instead, wait a couple of visits, remind the manager each time about your book. Build a relationship, although a weak one, with the manager. On your third or fourth visit, then make a mention of a book signing - but again, ask, do not demand. And bring it up as a matter of conversation instead of just blurting it out. If you're in Barnes and Noble, just ask the manager, "What might an author need to do in order to have a book signing here?"

4. Money is Key -
Once you've gotten it across that you'd like to have a signing, and the manager isn't totally turned off by the idea, you're halfway there. Remember though, all bookstores are open for one purpose and one purpose only: to make money. You need to assure the manager that by hosting your book signing, the store isn't going to lose money on it on the books it is going to buy. The biggest issue here is: what is the store going to do with the books you don't sell? Most managers would prefer not to have twenty copies of your book sitting on their shelves for two years, useless and doing nothing. So, explain that your publisher will buy back all books that haven't sold after three months (or whatever your publisher's policy is). If you are self-published or your publisher has no such policy, then offer to buy back the books yourself if they don't sell.

5. Keep in Contact -
Even though I have gotten some stores to agree to let me do a book signings, they will never happen if I simply disappear until my book comes out. The key is keeping the relationship alive. Visit the store every week, or every other week. Say hello to the manager, at this point, you shouldn't need to mention the book, he or she should remember who you are. Keep doing this up until you're ready for your book signing.

With it all mapped out, it can seem rather easy, and though it is, this is a time consuming task, but one that can reap many rewards. Do not underestimate the power of a face to face meeting, and remember that social networking is even more effective when done in person.