Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Using Poetry to Improve Prose, Part 2


I'm Aline Soules, writer, singer, and librarian.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a I choose subjects that move me and I choose my genre according to my subject matter.  My latest chapbook, Evening Sun: A Widow's Journey, emerged from my many years of widowhood and I sought, through poetry, to honor my late husband and speak about the inner journey of widowhood.  I am also working on a novel and I write academic articles and reports as part of my work as a librarian.  Regardless of my writing genre, I benefit the principles of poetry to improve my end result and you can, too.  In part 2 of this blog post, I offer further ideas to polish your work in the areas of sound, time, and submitting.  Use this link to read my earlier blog post on general ideas and grammar, usage, and word play.
·         Listen to the sounds of your words and how those sounds fit together.  Hard? Soft? A mix?  What do you want?  Choose other words to achieve your desired effect.
·         If your work includes dialogue, how do the sounds change from character to character?  This applies not just to novels and stories, but quotations in non-fiction.  Do those quotes reflect the character of the person who gave you the quote?
·         Check rhythm.  Scan, if necessary.  Scansion of iambs, trochees, etc. will give you a sense of how the rhythm of your prose will come across to the reader.
·         Look at rhyme and "slant" rhyme.  Do you want those repetitive sounds or not?
·         Read out loud, read into your computer or tapes and play it back to yourself, ask a friend to read it to you.  Hearing your own work and where there are "stumbles" helps you to know where you need to improve.
·         Give your piece time and try the above check list of ideas again. 
·         Your recording can help with that, too.  Leave your recording for a week or two, then listen to the recording with the text printed in front of you.  Make notes as you listen. 
·         Set a goal to cut "x" number of words from your piece without losing the meaning.  This will tighten your work even further.
·         Have trouble with procrastination?  Write yourself some postcards with dates and deadlines and a stamp.  Then, add a post-it note with the date you want it mailed.  Ask a friend to drop it in the mail for you.  See what you feel when the postcard arrives.
·         Don't send something out until you're confident it's ready to go.
·         Use the "revolving door" trick.  Have a target list of places.  If you receive a rejection with no comment, send it off to the next place before you get depressed.  If you receive a rejection with a comment, be sure to see if that comment makes sense to you and edit your piece accordingly.  Then send it out again.  After a few rejections, go back and review the entire piece again before you send it out.
Aline Soules, Author

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Product Placement and Why It May Be Right For Your Book by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Product Placement and Why It May Be Right For Your Book
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor,
both in their second editions
About a year ago I was answering questions for an online interview to promote the Southern Utah Book Expo I would soon be presenting at. Because I am from Utah, my high school newspaper and yearbook became a topic of discussion and mentioned that getting sponsorship ads for those things was as vital to their being as the photos, writing, and layout of those parts of high school life we all value.
Authors do the same kind thing with their Web sites. Carefully vetted ads can add value to their contents. I am a sometime actor and occasionally I notice how carefully a director places a picture on a wall or a can of Coke on the table in the shot he's taking. That's placement advertising and we—as consumers of both the Coke and the ad itself—hardly notice. It's subliminal. It's natural to see them there. And besides, the US lauds capitalism and monetary independence. In fact, many metaphorically wave the flags of commerce in our politics (though some suddenly become shy about doing so for their own books! But more on that later!)
Just as I'm thinking about that, I ran across a related article in the business section of the LA Times. Of course! It's about product placement in videos and how it's growing. And how it's making some smart video companies and producers some really big dollars. Why am I not surprised? Here's why. The Love Boat, the TV series from several decades ago, was one giant product placement sitcom! This kind of marketing is not new—nor is it unacceptable. And I'm used to sponsorships (a soft word for advertisements) appearing in the front- and backmatter of fine literary journals.
Now, back to the idea of authors using the same techniques for upping the value of their content and for fattening their pocketbooks. I hope I've convinced you that if it's OK for everyone else, it's OK for those who write books.
For any author to sell product placement or advertising and make large quantities of money requires an audience (we authors call it a platform). But it can be done on a small scale—perhaps out of the goodness of your heart or perhaps in trade with other authors who are out there making videos and otherwise promoting and building their platforms like crazy.
The video entrepreneurs in that article remind others that audience is "more important than any brand deal." They say that if they love a product, it feels good to do something with it commercially. But it's even more than "love." The bigger question is, "Does this product benefit (elucidate) the work itself?" Another is, "Is the product something that might benefit the author's intended audience?"
If you've decided something like this is worth exploring, here are a few guidelines for you to consider:
  1. Don't interrupt the story (the arc or thread) with an "unrelated product message." I'd extend that and say at its best it should never feel like an interruption at all.
  2. A product or its logo might work best if it doesn't appear until half way through the video. If you should decide to use an actual ad, put it at the end of the video or book because if a person has hung in long enough to see that final frame--read that final page—they probably will be more receptive to a product than if it's flashed up front where it might discourage a person from watching at all.
  3. Try a title card. Entrepreneurs McLaughlin and Link Neal use product placement well into their cat video and then a brand name "title card" at the end. I'm thinking even the title card could add something more than just an ad. Perhaps it could look like a cross-stitched "Kitty Snoozing" sign hanging from a doorknob. It could be designed with Friskies colors, a logo, and little kitty-food-can tassels hanging from the corners. The question now is, what would the title card on your video look like—beyond just your bookcover image and a Web site address. In The Frugal Book Promoter, a couple of my ads offer a discount on products that writers can use by means of promo codes.
So what are the guidelines for success—whether it is a paid-for project, a bartered one, or the goodness of your heart?
  1. Passion
  2. Appropriateness
  3. Perceived Benefit
  4. A Promotion Partner so you can share both real expenses and the time it takes to promote it.
On that latter point, one of my subscribers, Reno Lovison, once made a slide-show video for me without even asking. He sent it to me as a gift with suggestions of how I might promote it. It was an interesting turn around because his own promotional materials and video business were the product placements within the ad he made for me. Talk about partnerships! His Web site is and if you look at the books on his Web site, you'll also see the cover of one of my retail books for which he made a more traditional sales video several years ago (and which I still use in multiple spots on my Web site).
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension's world-renown Writers' Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter published in 2003. Her The Frugal Editor, now in its second edition, won awards from USA Book News, Readers' Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community's Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly's list of "Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen" and was given her community's Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
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The Frugal Book Promoter
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