Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year, New Life

Today is Leap Day. I'm not sure the significance of it, other than it has something to do with a glitch in our calender and it only happens once every four years so that someone born on this day technically experiences one-fourth of the birthdays the rest of us not born on this day enjoy. Assuming you enjoy your birthday, that is.

If nothing else, Leap Day (Leap Year?), because of it's Halley's Comet-like infrequency but reliability, is one of those stop and reflect things that I like to pontificate upon now and again. Which begs the question, where was I four years ago? How was my life different from the life I am leading now? If you have a couple of hours to spare, I might lay the answer out for you detail for detail. That said, I'll do up some bullets instead:

Leap Year 2008

-I'm 43, single, living in a small apartment with my two sons.
-I'm writing full-time, but barely making a living as a freelance writer and journalist.
-I have no new book contracts either big or small.
-I have no money for travel.
-Random House has not released the rights to my two novels, The Innocent or Godchild.
-I have an agent, but she's not about to hang in there much longer without the writer bringing in
     some cash.
-I possess only the vaguest conception of e-books, Kindles, Nooks, e-rights, indie publishing, etc.
-I dream about one day having another book signing, no matter how humble.
-I have no idea what a virtual tour is, nor social media and its vast marketing potential.
-Amazon is an online store where I occasionally buy a book if I can't make it out to the Borders or
-What's a blog?
-Whats a video book trailer?
-I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account.
-I have way more debt than cash.

Leap Year 2012

-I'm 47, living in a penthouse apartment while my sons, now out of school, have
     taken over my old apartment.
-I'm writing full-time, but no longer have to rely on freelancing or journalism alone to pay the bills,
    while royalties and advances from my books provided a much more steady and more lucrative
-I have at least ten books currently in print or on its way.
-Random House has released the rights to The Innocent and Godchild.
-I have a great new agent by the name of Chip MacGregor, one of the hottest lit agents in the
     business right now.
-Not only have I been informed about the e-book, it is a primary source of income for me, my novel
     The Innocent alone having sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
-I've signed a major "very nice" 7-book deal with Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's new publishing
     powerhouse. They are the only big-boy publisher with the power and marketing capabilities to
     catapult your books to the number one spot on the Amazon bestseller lists--the only lists that
     count since they reflect real sales, not just projections.  
-Borders is dead.
-B&N brick and mortar stores are dying.
-Amazon is opening brick and mortar stores.
-I no longer dream of book signings.
-I have a Facebook account, a Facebook fan page, a Facebook page for my blog The Vincent Zandri
-I have a Twitter Account
-I have a Myspace account, a Linked-In account, a Four-Square Account, a Google profile, a Yahoo
     profile, a Goodreads account, and the list goes on...Suffice to say, if the platform exists in
     Cyberspace, I'm standing on it.
-I travel all the time now and spend extended periods in Italy in order to write and re-write.
-I've participated in at least a half dozen virtual tours.
-I have several video book trailers and they rock.
-I have way more cash than debt.

...Who isn't a sucker for bullets?
Anyway, I could go on and on. What's important about these two lists is not how strikingly different they are, but that I only began making many of the improvements and changes reflected in the second list less than two years ago. 22 months ago to be precise. This leads me to believe that Leap Year 2016 will reflect even greater things, that is I pay strict attention to what works in this business above all else (more bullets):
 -Writing the best novels you can (and lots of them).
-Offering the reader a great product description.
-A great cover.
-A fair and affordable price.

I'm going to leap back into my new Moonlight novel in a few minutes after I take in a a three mile run. Today is not just Leap Day. It's the first day of the rest of my life. Time to get started on the new life.  

Catch THE INNOCENT, the No. 1 Suspense, Mystery, and Hard-Boiled Thriller. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Signings Bow Down to "Generosity Marketing"

"Free love is groovy again..."

Used to be that one of most effective ways to sell books was to hop in the car (or on a train, or a plane) and travel from one bookstore to the next, peddling your latest opus to whoever might take a chance on you and buy it. You began in your hometown, selling mostly to friends and family, and then you branched out to the surrounding communities and eventually the big cities.

If your book sales were growing steadily while you were "on tour" and if some pretty good (or even bad) reviews were being published at the same time, you might find yourself in the enviable position of having ten or twelve potential readers attending each of your signings on average. More often than not however, you might find yourself standing in an empty store to a befuddled bookstore owner who would swear, "Jeeze, I advertised in all the major papers. I can't imagine what happened." Then he or she will cut into your soul with a laser beamed gaze of disappointment so profound, it will leave you breathless and having to bend over in order to assume the full, hard, beefy responsibility of the no show.

"It's you fault no one showed, Chief. Your books suck!"

Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little here. But we all know how much I love book sigings. Not!
Well, I might like them if they were a cost effective way of selling a lot of books to my target audience. But then, you can't expect my target audience to gather in a single spot on a single day.

Or can you?

I just spent the past couple of weekends not with a half dozen potential Vincent Zandri readers, but tens of thousands of them. We all gathered in the same place, on the same days, at the same times, not in a gigantic bookstore, but in an online setting. As opposed to asking these peeps to buy my books as I would during a traditional book signing, my publisher decided to give them away for free. In what is now being coined as "generosity marketing," I was able to reach out to thousands of would-be fans, and in turn, perhaps they will read my work and be willing to spend some money on a few of my books that are not free, but reasonably priced.

The strategy worked. Unlike the traditional book signing in which you might be lucky to connect with a few people, I was able to connect with people from around the globe in a single online setting. When the freebie special was over, my novel, The Innocent, made it's third rise into the top 800 for overall Amazon Kindles in a year and a half (in March/April 2011 it occupied the Top 10 for 16 weeks). It's currently somewhere around the 800 range at four bucks. No book signing on earth could have produced those results.

The world of publishing and book selling is changing. Writers are in the business of producing great books. Publishers are in the business of getting those books out to readers as efficiently as possible. In today's digitally based marketplace, peddling your books from store to store is not only unnecessary, it can be construed as an expensive exercise in futility. Instead, offer up a freebie special. You can do it right from your own bedroom, or from cafe in Paris. You don't have to worry about no shows. The whole world will show up to join you. And what's amazing is that there's plenty of room for everyone.

Click here to grab a copy of the No. 1 Bestselling Mystery: THE INNOCENT


Sunday, February 19, 2012

REVIEW: Dying Memories by Dave Zeltserman

Dying Memories is coming alive for noir great, Zeltserman

Boston writer Dave Zeltserman might be considered one of the best noir authors to have emerged on the scene in the past twenty years, but only recently has this Shamus award winning author begun achieving bestselling status through such novels as Bad Memories and Outsourced. He’s even got not just one movie based upon his books heading into production, but two.  Yup, that’s right two. How many writers out there, even the perpetually bestselling ones, can boast that achievement? And not to get all Hollywood Reporter-like on you guys, but word up is that a major movie star is in line to direct one of these sure to be screen gems.

Mr. Z’s newest offering, Dying Memories, might also be worthy of the big screen. It will certainly be a bestseller. It’s a story that has appeal not to just noir and crime fans, but also to thriller fans the world over.  “Thriller” being the key common, there’s-something-here-for-everyone,  denominator here. The novel is about a young Boston newspaper reporter by the name Bill Conway who has, by no fault of his own making, gotten himself into a heap of trouble. The worst kind of trouble possible. He’s been accused of murdering an ex-girlfriend and her fiancĂ©. But not only does he retain no recollection of the event, he swears he’s become embroiled in a conspiracy that involves a major drug company, the police, and maybe even the U.S. government. And the crime reporter has the proof and the front-page cover story to prove it.

Sound like a plot worthy of The X-Files?
Maybe, but this book is a whole lot more than pile-driving plot. It is a study in fear and paranoia. It also bears a strikingly literary form and tone. 

I’ve read Dave Zeltserman’s “man out of prison” series and since then have become hooked on a writer whom I believe is a contemporary master of the noir genre. I don’t give that accolade out lightly since I’m still learning the craft myself. In fact, I give the title “master” only to the likes of a few: Charlie Huston, Boston Terran, Michael Connelly, Don Winslow and a maybe a handful of others among them. But I’ll say it again, the Boston native’s new offering  is more than just noir. It’s psychological suspense thriller in its purist paranoid Hitchcockian form. Another rave I’m not passing on lightly.   

The novel, which begins with a cold blooded murder that occurs in plain daylight in a popular Boston common, seems to innocently (if you’ll excuse the pun) start off as a police procedural, a form I most definitely would expect Zeltserman to attack with his usual skills. But quickly enough it becomes apparent that this novel is more than that as memory flashbacks to Conway’s troubled and abusive childhood become mixed with new memories created in real-time. Memories that might in fact be manufactured by some evil goons, one of whom in particular has pink skin and beady little eyes. The goons wear black, wield hypodermic needles and transport themselves in a white unmarked van.  In pure noir tradition, there’s also a beautiful woman involved who manages to attract the newspaper man into her life and bed. And you-guessed-it, he’s only just met her.

Dying Memories is so tight and tension-filled it just might qualify as “The-Book-to-Keep-You-Up-All-Night of the Week.” One thing is for sure, it will keep you guessing until the very end. Just as importantly (and this is where all Zeltserman fans luck out), it also represents a new thriller-based path the noir novelist is taking with his writing. No doubt my next review will be singing the praises of Dave Zeltserman, master of the psychological suspense thriller.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Friend Dave

I like to have a couple of beers at the local after a long day of writing. It's a an easy way to unwind and more importantly, a great way to solve what the great American novelist Jim Harrison calls the problem of "re-entry." That is, leaving the solitary fictional world for the real one waiting for you outside your writing studio.

Two days ago I was sipping my first cold beer, still feeling the bumps and bruises of the five back-to-back rewrites I'd just completed for my new publisher, when my friend Dave walked in. We always light up when we see one another because we are both musicians. And pretty good musicians at that, the two of having been playing out in some pretty hot bands for more than thirty years. Often when I see the stocky, pleasant-faced Dave, he settles himself on the stool beside me, orders a glass of red and we start in on a conversation about music which almost always leads to women and/or our present love interest. Yes, like me, Dave is a bachelor with kids.

But this time, we didn't talk music or women.

This time Dave asked me what I did this past weekend. I told him that I had to work both days in order to meet my Tuesday deadline. It made me feel good to admit that I gave up the weekend to work. Unselfish even. I expected Dave to tell me he'd gone out with friends or maybe on a date and that it was all a lot of fun. But he didn't tell me that. Instead he told me that he'd helped a friend of his move. He told me his friend was a cook at a local diner that Dave often frequents. The cook not only lost everything he owns right down to his wallet in a tragic house fire, but that he only survives on about $400 per week. Four hundred bucks and the cook, who is a single parent, supports four kids who live with him full-time.

As is too often the case with a man in the cook's situation, he had no where to go. But despite being a man of meager means, the cook spends much of his free time volunteering to help out underprivileged inner-city kids. So much time that he caught the attention of the mayor who not too long ago, offered to help the cook should he ever find himself in need of anything. All the cook would have to do is ask.

This past weekend the cook took the mayor up on his offer. In turn, the mayor offered up an multi-bedroom apartment inside an empty battered women's shelter. The cook could take the place for he and his kids for as long as he needed, free of charge, until a time when he got back on his feet. The mayor came through for a man who might not have a whole lot of money, but who unselfishly sacrifices his time to help others. And from what I hear, he can cook up a mean plate of eggs and bacon.

You might think that's the end to a heart-warming story. But as Dave sipped his wine, he shook his head and sighed. He told me that Social Services got word of the cook living inside the shelter. That regardless of the mayor's offer, the cook will be forced to hand over his children to "the system" should he not find his own proper housing and the financial means to support his children within thirty days. Social Services feels it's doing the cook a favor here. It's their job to take children away from their parents when they feel the parents aren't properly supporting the youth's needs.

Dave and I sat in silence for a while as I regretted having told him about my having worked all weekend. It made me realize how lucky I am to have such good fortune and how selfish I can be sometimes when I give up an entire weekend to work on my writing. I asked Dave if there was anything  that could be done for the cook. He mentioned that he'd played a gig on Saturday night to benefit the cook. That he was able to raise hundreds of dollars. "Hey," Dave said, "the guy cooks my food. It was the least I could do."

I can learn a lesson from Dave. I can also learn a lesson from the cook. It doesn't matter what's happening in your life, good or bad. Sometimes it's just better to drop everything you're doing to help out another soul in need. It's what we do because we have to, and it's what we do in order to earn the right to call ourselves human beings.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Corrosions: Franzen on E(vil)-Books

"Franzen, trying to conjure up a plot against the E-Book."

Ok, I never post twice in one week since I have so much writing to do. But I came upon the article in the Guardian about Jonathan Franzen shitting all over e-Books, calling them corrosive to our moral values or some such high-brow, professorial, MFA (and I have one) inspired, totally out of fucking touch with reality commentary. Can you imagine how positively rooted in the past this guy is?

Hey Jonathan: it's not how we read the book, it's the book itself that counts. The story. Words on a page. Doesn't matter if the page is a cave wall or papyrus or paper or some digital screen. It's a fucking book. A book written by a writer who had a story to tell. 

Maybe I shouldn't be so shocked with JF's ignorance. After all, how many people never accepted the automobile into their lives? Or the radio? The Beatles? The television? The home computer that Mr. F writes his rather, well, snoozy novels on? Perhaps he should simply get out of the e-Book market if that's the way he feels. Currently, his e-Books are selling better than his paper. It would be up to him.

Franzen claims he doesn't connect at all to the Internet when he writes and that writers who do so are hurting themselves. Thanks for that. I'll remember to shut mine off. But you know what? The Internet comes in awfully handy when my work requires a bit of quick research. You just have to maintain a little discipline and not be tempted to check your email or look at porn for that matter.

Anyway, old JF (who is about my age) has made himself out to be a real wholesome, old fashioned guy with great hair and awesome values. God, what a swell guy. With his serious convictions against the modern technology devil, he comes off sounding like Joe McCarthy, or worse, my mother. Ok, I'll catch shit for that. But I say it because millions upon millions of e-Readers have been sold in the recent months and years. And for the first time in ages, people are really reading, both children and the elderly who could not read the fine print in traditional paper books. Reading is cool again, saving trees is cool, and lots of people would rather turn on their Kindle Fire than watch another rerun of Friends.

Also, a whole lot of writers are experiencing a golden age of readers who are discovering their work and loving it. If not for the e-reader, a lot of writers would not be making ends meet. I used to be one of them. I wonder if JF owns a cell phone? I wonder if he has cable television? I know he has a computer and the Internet, or else he wouldn't be tempted to turn it off when he writes. Maybe it's not the Internet or e-Books that he needs to do without. Maybe he needs some Ritalin or whatever to cure ADHD. Maybe that's the root of his problem. But then, he probably wouldn't trust the drug. Because mark my word, Ritalin, along with e-Books will cause the downfall of man.

Get more Zandri Books: WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Monday, February 6, 2012

How To Win The Superbowl and Sell More Books

"The first ever, Tushdown! Or, the touchdown that wasn't supposed to happen."

If you're like me you like football. Good old, hard-hitting, American football. And if that's the case you probably caught the Superbowl last night. I'm a New Yorker so my favorite home team was playing in the game. The New York Football Giants. Having spent the weekend in New York with my new sig other and our daughter, I was particularly pumped up to catch the last big game of the season. With the New England Patriots and the dangerous quaterbacking of Tom Brady being our opponent, the game promised to be a high scoring scorcher.

It turned out to be anything but that.

Instead the game seemed at times, to be a like a carefully choreographed dance fueled more by what could happen than what would happen. Instead of the Giants utilizing their signature rough and tumble defense to maul Brady, they more or less stood back and allowed him to play his short game while at the same time, preventing him from making any big plays. Kind of the same strategy boxers use when they stand back against the ropes and allow their opponents to hit their arms and foreheads, but not give them the chance to land anything big.

The Patriots played the same kind of game. They allowed the Giants to complete short passes and runs, but prevented any real high scoring. It was a weird game in which the Giant's running back was told not to score. Huh? Time had run down to nearly the last minute and the Giant coaches, who no doubt consulted with their computers, decided that their odds of winning would be greater of they decided not to score a touchdown than if they scored and allowed Tom Brady to march back down the field with one minute on the clock. Instead, the odds would be better for the Giants if they stayed out of the end zone, allowed the clock to wind down to just a few seconds, then took their chances on a game winning field goal.

The Patriots were aware of this strategy also, and in turn ordered their defense to allow the Giants to score a touchdown...In the Superbowl...With one minute to go. What resulted was a Giant running back who bolted to the end-zone only to realize at the very last second that the Patriot defense wasn't trying to tackle him. He tried to pull back, but momentum forced him past the goal, tushy first.

It all turned out OK for the Giants, so I guess the Big Blue coaches, or their computers anyway, were right. But not right for the Patriots. Well, whether you're following me here or not, the whole thing just feels strange to me. It's not just football that's changing. Times are changing, and life as we knew it even five years ago is changing. Never before in my life have things seemed so different. I mean, sure, I wake up and write everyday like always, but it's the way I now conduct my life, my business, my relationships and my thoughts that seems so bassackwards, if you'll allow me to coin a phrase.

For instance: this past weekend, one of my indie publishers, StoneGate Ink, decided to run a promo of the special uncut edition of Moonlight Falls. In terms of changing times, this novel epitomizes the type of thing readers will see in the future in that's its a novel that features additional never before seen chapters and points of view than its originally published form. It's really quite the reading experience. But here's the thing, instead of lowering the price for consumers, they have offered it up for FREE for a limited time only. In turn, the book has shot to the No. 1 spot for Hardboiled Thrillers in the Free category and hit the top ten overall. It's moved something like 13000 copies in 24 hours. That's awesome, I guess. But as writers, aren't we supposed to want to sell our books for profit?

I guess the reasoning behind it all is that if readers enjoy the free copies of my work, they will then be willing to spend a little on the other books. That's what the computer program indicates anyway. I'll check my Amazon rankings for my other books like The Innocent and The Remains and see how they're doing today. Maybe my pub's strategy has paid off and the sales of those former Kindle bestsellers will be on the increase. Maybe not. Computers have been known to be wrong too, you know. Just ask the Patriots.

My newest major publisher is also far different from the publishing houses I knew only ten years ago. They're not even really a publishing house so much as a store. In fact, their computer-generated matrix marketing program virtually assures stellar sales via the Internet. And get this: as authors, we aren't discouraged from doing traditional book signings, but we aren't encouraged to do them either. With sales being fueled by the digital marketplace and the dominant form of reading being the e-Book, book signings are about to become an old fashioned method of selling your books. Book sales today are more about tagging, algirithms, social media pushes, limited-time freebies, blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, and just generally having little or no contact with real people. You just need a computer or a handheld Droid.

In a few weeks I'll speak to some young student writers enrolled in an International Journalism class at the state university. I'll talk a little about how to go about filing stories the traditional way to news agencies around the world while living or spending an extended length of time in a foreign land. But I'll rely heavily on the online opportunities and even then, I'll suggest that they not rely on getting "paid" work, but instead start their own blog in order to post their own stories in their own digital format. They can then monetize the blog while attracting a base of followers who will come to rely on them for newsworthy material, videos and photos. If they are good enough, they might get the stories out far quicker than the major media. If they are really savvy, they can Tweet their stories and U-Tube them with their Smart Phones as they happen. So you see, I'll be talking about becoming a foreign correspondent for a traditional news service, but then, this job really doesn't exist anymore. Because times are changing. The fact that you are reading this blog proves it.

Like I said at the beginning of this piece, I spent the weekend in New York with my new sig other and our daughter. Did you catch that one? "Our  daughter?" My new sig other is my old sig other, or my ex-wife. We are giving things a second chance because we still have strong feelings for one another, and hey, this is the modern world. There are numerous websites dedicated to rekindling things with the ex, and how to go about it so the odds are stacked in your favor. In short, you learn to allow your partner to play their short game so that you don't give up the big play. Or, said in another way, if you want your relationship to work this time, you no longer sweat the small things in order that you preserve the long-term goal. That is, being in love forever.

And the computer is right. We're doing fine and discovering new and great things about one another while we laugh about those small things that would have annoyed us even five years ago. Life is weird. Used to be, the more things change, the more they stay the same. But that notion doesn't exactly hold true anymore. Now I believe that the more things change, the the more things change.  

Get more Zandri novels: WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM



Friday, February 3, 2012