Tag Archives: authors

There’s a lot of discussion on the Interwebs about the utility of professional editing for indie and self-published authors. I don’t think anyone would argue that such editing is essential for turning out a top-quality novel that rivals the production standards of traditional publishing houses. The main issue for indie authors is the not-insignificant cost of editing. I’ve paid for two rounds of pro-editing so far with “American Terrorist”, my latest thriller novel, and I also have proof-readers standing by.

But what’s all this talk I’ve been hearing lately about BETA readers, and what is it exactly? Really, it’s the same as beta testing new software or web services. You sign up and check it out to see how and if it works for you. You note bugs and send feedback about how awesome or terrible it is. Then the creator fine-tunes the product and fixes the bugs and releases the finished product into the world.

I first learned of this concept from Guy Kawasaki in his APE book (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur). He released his beta book to thousands of beta readers and he says the feedback he received was invaluable.

I saw the concept expressed a bit differently by Joanna Penn in her ebook “How To Market A Book.” She advocates releasing a beta version of your book to a few hand-picked readers that you trust.

The result is the same. You get feedback and so you get a better book. Personally, I think it’s an incredibly helpful part of your editing strategy, but I agree with the pros who say only release your beta version in its near-finished state.

As it turns out, I happen to be releasing “American Terrorist”, my new thriller novel, TODAY to beta readers. So if you want to help a fellow author create a more perfect novel, sign up at this link for your free BETA copy: http://eepurl.com/AqAQ1

Find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

legacy_of_an_outlaw_hi-resAs an author of historical westerns it’s easy to get into debates about “what history was really like.” After all, it depends on what history books you read. What may be documented fact according to one source might be countered by the documented facts of another source.

Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve found that the trend is toward “revisionist history.” It seems that historians are setting out to debunk previously held historical truths, and they’re backing up their claims with, for example, census data from the era.

When I got my first hardcover western published by a major New York publisher (The Peacekeeper, 1997 – soon to be republished in ebook as “Legacy Of An Outlaw”), I had well known western authors tell me that my premise of a black outlaw-gunfighter was unrealistic in the American West. Now, however, revisionist historians report that as many as one in four cowboys was black. Some estimates go as high as one in three! These estimates are based on documented census data on file at the time.

This should not be surprising since after 1865 there were thousands upon thousands of newly freed and unemployed blacks moving westward. These folks scratched out a living doing the same things that everyone else did – Anglo, Hispanic, Native, Asian, etc. They wrangled cattle, sought gold, worked on farms or ranches or railroads, and they built towns. Some became outlaws and gunfighters.

Traditional historical assumptions derived from a narrow perspective and pre-1990 media reinforced what was commonly believed to be true. Readers nowadays, however, understand that revisionist history presents a new and more diverse set of possibilities, and I’m convinced that modern readers are looking for something just a little bit different from mainstream.

In my next posts I’m going to talk about women Pinkerton detectives, the politics of the frontier wars, the famous Ninth Cavalry, and a Native leader whose name the army thought no one would ever remember. So follow me below on your favorite media for more revisionist history.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Sign up to get an email notification of the FREE pre-release historical western ebook “Warriors” (coming early 2014) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

 

warriors_hi-resAs an author of Historical Westerns it’s easy for me to exploit my uniqueness. I know, a black guy who writes Westerns… crazy, huh? What can I say… my childhood hero was Clint Eastwood. I loved Westerns so that’s what I wrote.

I published a paperback, a hardcover, and two audiobooks. I actually have the distinction of being the only black author ever to have a Western published in hardcover by a major New York publisher with THE main character being black. But when I sent my books out to be reviewed and to get promo blurbs, I actually had “established” big-name Western authors tell me a book about a black outlaw cowboy was not realistic. They told me not to put my picture on the back cover because… well, you know. But that was 20 years ago.

Then a curious thing happened to me. I went to my first booksigning at a Western book expo. There we were, all 50 authors. 49 of them were guys in cowboy boots and hats. And then there was me.

The black guy who writes Westerns

I was an anomaly, a curiosity. Everybody came over to see who I was. And they all bought my book! The other authors sold maybe 10 books and I sold a TON. The same thing happened at almost every booksigning I went to. I was a rock star. I was different, and I discovered that readers want something different. Not VERY different, but kinda different. A little bit different.

My westerns are just like those of every other Western author. My thrillers are just like those of every other thriller author. My characters – heroes and villains and sidekicks alike – look just like all the other authors’ characters, except maybe just a tad more diverse.

What’s different about my books is ME and I’ve learned to use my uniqueness as a marketing tool. People remember me as the black guy who writes Westerns (and high-octane thrillers, too).

You, too, have something unique about you. Discover what that quality is and exploit it. Use it as your marketing angle so you’ll stand out among your author peers. Use it to find readers who want something just a little bit different from mainstream.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

American_TerroristThey said be active on social media, so I did that. They said share useful content, so I did that. They said “engage but don’t pitch” so I did that.

But then something spectacular happened that completely changed my writing and marketing efforts. There’s a ton of useful blog articles on writing and marketing and book promotion, and I realized that I was actually reposting articles that were helpful to ME. I figured if it was helpful for me, then it might be helpful for other writers or published authors, too.

But all that knowledge isn’t helpful to me right now. And it’s almost impossible to download stuff or take notes or visit websites and keep all that knowledge organized for whenever I might need it later.

Then I discovered that by simply posting a blog article or useful website to Google Plus or Twitter, that post will always be on my “stream.” But blog writers are notorious for using witty but often useless titles for their articles.

The trick, then, is to assign useful hashtags to each article I repost so I can find it later. This way I don’t have to remember who wrote the article or what the title was. I can simply search my posts by hashtag whenever I need a particular topic. For example, #amwritingfiction is great while I’m in the writing phase, but #bookpromotion is more appropriate when I enter the marketing and promotion phase, even if I don’t need that information right now.

Using appropriate hashtags is a great way to organize the information that YOU will need now or later, but there’s also a side benefit. People out in the social universe will begin to associate you with the hashtags they’re searching for, and as you continue to repost useful content your number of Followers will begin to explode.

If you agree with this… FOLLOW me 🙂

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

 

easy thrillersYears ago (when I was writing westerns) I learned that there is a “formula” for that genre, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that there is a similar formula or template for writing thrillers. If you ever wonder how the most popular authors in the genre continuously produce excellent thrillers, Rob Parnell [Google Plus: +Rob Parnell, Twitter: @robparnell] will tell you how in his latest reference, “The Easy Way To Write Thrillers That Sell.”

The thriller genre has changed over the last twenty years and Parnell discusses the how and the why of it, as well as the essential ingredients that must be in the modern thriller. Sure, you can deviate from the modern form and function, but you run the risk of alienating your readers. As Parnell points out, thriller readers are an astute bunch of folks and they have particular expectations.

“The Easy Way To Write Thrillers That Sell” is a short book and a quick read, but it’s stock full of useful tips and strategies for crafting a successful thriller. He didn’t invent this stuff. In fact, he gives plenty of examples of highly successful authors that write their thrillers this way.

For example, he covers everything from the essential combination of characters to how to create and maintain tension to the “right way” to do research to a nifty method of saving a lot of time and effort by plotting your thriller from the END to the BEGINNING. And he gives us a single continuous example as he creates a template for a thriller that follows the techniques he presents in the book.

Seriously, if you want to write quality thrillers the right way – that sell – this book is for you. Look, you can spend hundreds at conference workshops or you can get this ebook for less than $5US. It’s a must-read for thriller writers looking for success.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

People always ask: “How do you [write a book, find an agent, get published].” But they really want to know is, “How DID you…” People want a recipe that they can replicate. In 1991 I followed such a recipe (that still can work today) and I found an opportunity to get published quite literally by accident.

I grabbed a copy of “Writer’s Market” and made a list of 100 publishers and 100 agents that handled my genre of westerns. I know, a black man writing westerns… Crazy, huh? More on that in another blog post.

At the top of each of my lists were the big prestigious firms. Then came the mid-size publishers and agencies. Finally, small or boutique firms rounded out the rest of the “Top 100.”

I actually was accepted by Agent #33 on the list. He was an elder Jewish fellow who’s goal in life was to get a black author published. He said it was about the similarities between his ethnic history and mine. Well, he couldn’t find me a publisher so I went back to mailing queries to more agents and publishers. Then on a Wednesday morning Publisher #65 called me – and I remember the conversation clearly.

“Hey, Jeffrey,” Chris said. “I received your query letter this morning. I have an author who is going to miss his submission deadline on Friday. Can you FedEx your manuscript to me by tomorrow? If so, I can get your book in paperback.”

And… BLAM! Just like that I was a published author! But if you think this was crazy, wait till I’ll tell you how I got my second book published… by pitching to ONE publisher.

If you have a bizarre story on how you got published, send me 300 words and your byline and let’s tell aspiring writers there are many paths to the goal line.

hat n saddleIt has taken me 24 years to figure out why my first western wasn’t any good (I know, a black man who writes westerns… go figure… but more on that in a later post), but I got published that first time by pure blind luck, no two ways about it.

I just happened to send my query letter (this was in 1991 when we still mailed stuff) to an editor from a mid-size publisher in Los Angeles who had an author that was going to miss his delivery deadline. The editor called me Wednesday and asked me if I could overnight my manuscript to be prepped for his Friday deadline.

Well, I had just bought a cutting-edge new computer so I overnighted a high-tech 3.5″ floppy disk and… BLAM! I was published a month later in paperback.

Two things were missing, though: copy editing and proofreading. The editor was in such a hurry to make his deadline that he sent my manuscript into the publishing process without those key tasks.

Looking back over my 24-year writing career, every time I reread my first book I have to laugh at how amateurish it is. There were a few spelling errors that would have been picked up by even a cursory proofread, but there were glaring character and plot discrepancies that should have been corrected, too. In fact, a local newspaper had a well known western author review my book and, well, I was crushed… but I didn’t know why!

I read a lot of fiction from new authors, and I can always tell those that skipped professional copy editing and proofreading. If there are two things I recommend paying for, it is those (also a third would be a professional book cover). If you can’t afford these expenses, then either trade or barter or delay publishing your book. It’s hard to overcome a first impression in the media of producing slack work.