Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reddit Fantasy Writer of the Day

I am hosting the Writer of the Day blog over at Reddit/Fantasy on Wednesday, June 1. The thread will run throughout the day and you can check out the discussion by clicking the link below.
It's a great opportunity to ASK QUESTIONS about my writing process or about The Buried Symbol and the two sequels that are in the works. Please consider participating because the more activity I have on the thread, the more people will check it out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Promoting a Book: Part 2

This is part two of my blog about my book promotion activities. If you haven't read part one yet, check it outhere for more info. 
Book Reviews
Reviews can do a lot to help garner interest in a book. Good reviews provide potential readers more confidence in your novel and makes the book more intriguing. Knowing that I needed reviews, I reached out to more than 160 book bloggers, offering a free copy of my book in exchange for a review. Sixteen bloggers accepted, pledging to get me a review within a few weeks or months. Less than half have come through thus far, more than a month after sending them my book. I also attempted to get reviews from Booktubers, but have gotten nowhere with that route at this point.
In addition to book bloggers, I provided my book to free and paid book review organizations, such as Midwest Book Review, Booklist, and Kirkus. Some of these routes take months before you get a review, which causes difficulties since librarians and booksellers rely on these review services to determine if they should order your book. Another means to get a book in front of librarians and reviewers is to pay for a listing with NetGalley and/or Edelweiss. Working through my publisher, I opted to do both.
Author Interviews
While interviews don’t have the power of a good review, they offer an easy way to create more awareness. If readers aren’t aware that your book exists, they won’t seek it out. Deciding that any exposure is helpful, interviews also enabled me to present my book and myself in a way that seems more personal. Creating this connection with potential readers may not lead to immediate sales, but it does help to garner their attention and may help in the long run.
I found that getting interviews posted with book bloggers tends to be much easier than getting them to review a book. Interviews provide bloggers with content for their website and require very little effort or time on their part, while doing a book review is a commitment of 4 to 10 hours. I was also able to get an interview in the May edition of Fountain Valley Living, a local publication of 25,000 subs.
Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and YA Books Central are book-focused sites that provide simple tools for authors to run book giveaways. Interested readers can enter to win a free print or digital (it’s up to you which format) copy of a book. I opted to run giveaways on all four sites, tracking them to measure interest generated. While I might lose money by sending out free copies of my book, it’s an investment for the awareness created. I find that these giveaways help to gain the attention of hundreds of readers that I may not have reached otherwise. I just hope that it will eventually lead to sales.
Book bloggers love to run giveaways on their own sites because it adds more perceived value to the readers who visit the website. Any blog site that frequently gives free books out is more likely to get repeat business than one that doesn’t have that service. The fact is that people love free stuff. The trick for any author is to decide how many copies you can afford to give out and when the giveaways begin to lose their value because you are not hitting enough new potential buyers.
I find that paid advertising is the most difficult aspect to gauge regarding book promotion. While there are many routes to advertising, deciding which routes are good investments is quite difficult. I believe that I will have to experiment with sites such as Facebook, Goodreads, and others in order to see what route works best. I have also been considering book blog tours, multi-media websites, and other potential marketing routes.
One promotion that I did decide to try was the social advertising route, getting multiple weeks-worth of constant tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media ads through a company that focuses on that type of promotion. Since that effort is currently active, I can’t gauge results other than increased product awareness.
Festivals and Conventions
The best marketing targets exactly the type of person who is most likely to purchase a product. My product is a fantasy book, so spending time and money on book festivals and geek conventions (like Comic-Con), is a wise investment. With more than a hundred thousand people in attendance, these events attract people who love to read and people who love magic and fantasy. Those are my readers. But I don't want to just be there passively, I am there in full force.
From a distance, you will see my banner inviting you to Discover a lost magic, buried and forgotten. Swing by my table and you will find it decked-out. We are wearing Academy cloaks and holding the lost book of magic. You can spin a wheel to determine your vocation rune and receive your temporary tattoo for your vocation. I'll give you a free bookmark, some candy, and am happy just to talk. Alternatively, you can buy signed copies of my books, with cash or credit. Regardless, I will make sure that the people I meet have fun and remember stopping by my booth.
As you can tell, book promotion is a multi-faceted venture that requires a lot of time, effort, and some level of financial investment. Thankfully, I have the help of my publicist to share in the workload, which is necessary because I work a full-time day job and am writing book and editing book 2. In the end, the time and money I spend now are seeds for the future, helping to grow a fan base that will eagerly consume the books I write. This effort is not only about The Buried Symbol, nor is it just about The Runes of Issalia trilogy. I am investing in myself as an author, hoping to connect with as many readers as possible for all of my future books.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Promoting a Book: Part One

  Jeffrey L Kohanek
When I finally decided to write a book and pursue getting it published, I had no idea what to expect. After 1,000s of hours of writing and editing, I found a publisher and then realized that I was going to have to put my marketing hat on and get serious. It turns out that successful authors put as much work into promoting their book as they do writing it. There is so much involved in book PR that I chose to split this blog into two parts.
I decided that the first step would be to create an author website. It is my home base and is the one location on the internet that I control fully. All messaging, images, contact info, events, author biography, blog thread, and more are intended to be part of a tight strategy. Any social media or bookseller links would send readers back to my website whenever possible, creating a hub to my online presence.
Social Media
In today’s world, I had to have a social media presence. It is a means to share information with my readers and to help create awareness of me as an author and of my books. I created a Facebook author page, opened a Twitter account, jumped onto Google+, created a Tumblr page, and added Instagram to my toolkit.
Book-Focused Websites
I need to be wherever people who like books might go. Accordingly, I now have a book and/or an author page on the largest online booksellers’ pages. In addition, sites such as Goodreads, Library Thing, and YA Books Central are sites designed to help readers discover and review books for themselves. A list of my online links is shown below.
Online Presence: List of Links
Launch Events, Signings, and Guest Speaking
My book released on May 5, 2016. Accordingly, my publicist (thanks for all the help, Jodi) and I set up a number of author events to promote the book. With two launch parties, two author meet-n-greets, and a two-day book festival set within the first month, I will be busy. See the Launch Event Schedule below. If you can make it to any of these events, I would love to meet you and answer questions about the book or my writing process.
Event Date               Event Type and Location
Thurs May 19, 2016:   Book Launch Party @Lamppost Pizza, Fountain Valley, CA
Sat May 21, 2016:      Book Launch Party @Mama’s on 39 in Huntington Beach, CA
Tues May 24, 2016:    Author Event @Mangiamo Gelato CafĂ©, Huntington Beach, CA
Sat May 28, 2016       Author Event @Great American Yogurt, Huntington Beach, CA
Sat June 4, 2016:       Bay Area Bookfest, Berkeley, CA
Sun June 5, 2016:      Bay Area Bookfest, Berkeley, CA
Guest Speaking
I am offering a FREE 30-minute seminar to schools and libraries titled A Writer’s Journey: The Path to Publication, where I will share what I've learned from my experience in writing and getting published. I hope that this will help to encourage others who dream of writing a book while also helping them to avoid some of the pitfalls that I encountered on my journey. My first session is set at Fountain Valley High School on May 19I hope to do more sessions this school year and in the future.
This gives you an idea of what is involved in a book launch. Tune in next week for part two of this blog for more into and to see what else I have cooking.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Creating a Cinematic Exerience

While writing, I picture each chapter as if it were a movie playing within my head. The words on the paper paint the imagery and express the emotions as the story unfolds. However, an important component of films that is lacking is the music to set the mood. An outstanding soundtrack can elevate a good film to become an amazing cinematic experience.
With the launch of The Buried Symbol, I thought that it would be fun to offer readers this type of experience while reading the book. Below is the soundtrack that I would choose to enhance my story if it were a movie. If you decide to play along, follow the text below and listen to the music as directed. Enjoy.

My Best Theory by Jimmy Eat World
Start the song BEFORE you begin the book. Read the intro text below as My Best Theory plays, but be ready to pause the music at 1:11 mins in:  
The Moment BEFORE Chapter 1:
A solitary seabird soars through the night. Hundreds of feet below, the wavering reflection of starlight dances on the rippled surface of the ocean. The bird approaches the pale form of a low cloud bank, so thick that it appears tangible. Without slowing, the bird is engulfed by the wall of fog, the damp air slipping past as it flies blindly through the murk.
The bird dives lower until the tile rooftops of a city begin to take shape. Leveling to fly just above the rooftops, the bird passes over the empty streets of the sleeping city. With two flaps of its wings, the bird gains enough elevation to clear a wall that divides the city. Once over the wall, buildings far more grande than those behind it emerge from within the milky air.
Curling its wings in, the bird slows to land softly on the ridge of a tiled rooftop. With a twitch and a ruffle of its body, moisture flicks off the bird's feathers. Now upon a comfortable perch, the bird sticks its head beneath a wing as it begins to preen itself. The sudden movement of a shooing hand flicking nearby catches the bird's eye, causing it to squawk and take flight. The bird sails off into the mist as the flapping sound of its wings fades into the still night.
Pause song at 1:11 and read CHAPTER 1.
After CHAPTER 1 is finished, listen to the rest of the song as you begin reading CHAPTER 2. The music should finish before you reach any dialog.

Meant to live by Switchfoot
Play the song after CHAPTER 3. Listen to the first verse, thinking about Brock's emotional state. Once the first verse is complete, go ahead and begin reading CHAPTER 4 while the song finishes.

I'm already gone by A Day to Remember
Start the song just before the last paragraph of CHAPTER 10. Once it's over, begin CHAPTER 11.

See me smiling by Yellowcard
Play the song before you begin reading CHAPTER 20.
Pause after the first verse (1:15) and read until the first mid-chapter break.
Play another verse (until 2:18) and pause again as you read until the next mid-chapter break.
Play the end of the song and then finish the chapter after its over.

The Kids in the Dark by All Time Low
Start the song with the fourth paragraph of CHAPTER 25.

Failure by Breaking Benjamin
Start the song after CHAPTER 29. Listen to it until the 2nd verse completes (2:16) and then begin reading CHAPTER 30 while it finishes.

Dare you to move by Switchfoot
I know, I know. Another Switchfoot song. What can I say? Their songs are intended to be inspirational. Play this song right after finishing CHAPTER 49. Let it finish before starting CHAPTER 50.

Starlit Sky by Workday Release
Play this song during or right after CHAPTER 59. Oh, no Brock. What is happening? Let it finish before you begin CHAPTER 60.

Two is better than one by Boys Like Girls
Play song between CHAPTER 72 and CHAPTER 73. Yes, this one is quite sappy. That's how love is sometimes.

My Hero by Foo Fighters
Listen to this after CHAPTER 79. Feel free to begin CHAPTER 80 whenever you wish.

Give me a sign by Breaking Benjamin
Yes, two songs by BB. I like the band and the song works.
Play the song at the mid-chapter break in CHAPTER 87 (page 334). Listen until 1:25 in and pause to read the rest of CHAPTER 87.
Play the song again until 2:52 in and then read CHAPTER 88 until you get to the mid-chapter break on page 338.
Play the end of the song as you read the rest of the chapter. Timing is VERY important on this one. You'll see why if it works out.

My Best Theory by Jimmy Eat World
Play the song at the end of CHAPTER 91. Pause at 1:11 and go on to read the EPILOGUE. After the EPILOGUE, finish the song, imagining final film credits with motion paused scenes similar to SHERLOCK HOLMES (starring Robert Downey Jr.).
That's my soundtrack. Try it out while you read the book. Let me know if you like the idea. Maybe I am starting a new trend for other authors to follow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Another World

A defining element of epic (or high) fantasy novels is journeying to another world, born of the writer’s imagination. This type of literary work offers the author numerous opportunities and a plethora of challenges. Before writing the first word of a new epic fantasy novel, the author should have a comprehensive strategy for the world-building that is about to take place. 

Crazy Concept

One approach is to dive deep and veer far from our reality. Taking this route can be daunting and difficult to properly execute. If the world is too different from our own, continuously introducing cryptic terms, inventive creatures, and exotic landscapes, it risks alienating the reader due to a complete lack of familiarity. When the world becomes extremely foreign, it requires very descriptive writing to translate the terms and concepts, which can detract from the overall reading experience. Developing a highly unique world is not necessarily a bad idea, and some readers actively seek this type of story. However, it demands careful planning on the author’s part and likely requires a lot of extra text to convey the imagery and intricacies involved.

Dungeons and Dragons

Another option is for the author to closely copy the world-building tropes that are common to the genre, not straying far from the world and race elements that Tolkien introduced so long ago. Intrigued by the fantastic humanoid races of elves and dwarves or by magical creatures such as dragons and unicorns, this approach has entertained eager fantasy lovers for decades. Since a plethora of fantasy novels have taken this world-building path, I fear that it has fed the perceived stereotypes of the genre and slowed its acceptance into mainstream reading.

A Bit of Magic

The third approach is to closely mirror a time-period from our own history and introduce specific elements that make the world within the novel special. This world-building approach is easier to execute and makes the book more approachable, perhaps even inviting new readers to the genre. Politics, social issues, races, creatures, landscapes, and magic systems are examples of elements on which the author can focus. The key is to ensure that the unique characteristics are critical to the plot or to the overall experience that the author wishes to convey. Translating foreign concepts requires additional effort for both the writer and the reader. If those elements are not important, the author is wasting their effort and the reader’s time, which will slow the pace of the story.
When I began writing The Buried Symbol, the first book of The Runes of Issalia trilogy, I opted to leverage renaissance Europe as my point of reference, embracing an era of discovery, art, and invention over the dark brutality that is typically found in the medieval era. I then applied specific unique elements that were critical to the story I wished to tell:
  • A controlling and oppressive theocracy governs the Issalian Empire, which defines the politics of the world and significantly impacts the social issues of its citizens.
  • In the reality of our Earth, words have power, but only if you comprehend the words. In the world I was creating, runes (words in the form of symbols) have an intrinsic power that is tied to very the laws of nature. This well-defined magic system has a profound effect on the people, creatures, and natural resources within the world. 
Wrapping these elements within a world shaped by a long and dark history, I hope to send readers on an enjoyable adventure while the story remains quite approachable.
If you enjoy epic fantasy, think back on the reading experiences that thrilled you the most. Did the author create a world using one of the three approaches listed above? If so, which approach did they take? What aspects of world-building do you enjoy as a reader?