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Adventures in Book Promotion Day 8-ish: Innocent Villainy

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

kiddo

Day 8… ish. I was off work for a week, so… yeah.

Anyway, HI! I have good news — thanks to my wonderful friend Molly, I have the ability to write at home again! W00T! Thank you Molly for letting me borrow your iPad; I will return it as soon as I am able to buy a laptop for myself. Does this mean I will be blogging more? I certainly hope so, but knowing my scatterbrainedness (and the fact that I kinda have a book to write) let’s just wait and see, shall we?

As for today’s subject, I want to talk a little bit about villains. Namely, making them 3-D in children’s books. The norm for giving villains depth in most stories is to give them a great backstory. A hard and fast — and even sympathetic — reason for doing what they do. Who are they? Why do they do bad things? What makes them really TICK, deep down inside? But for parents, who want their children to learn that it’s NEVER okay to be a villain no matter what the reason, and for kids, who see the world in black and white, just how do you keep your villain from being a parody, a shadow, or a mask?

This is a question I have run up against many times in my writing career. I am not afraid to say that 99.9% of my bad guys have been… bland and boring. Tropey. Exactly what you’d expect a villain to be.

Blech.

But I’m not alone in this. Think about the kids’ books you have loved. From Alice in Wonderland to Coraline, from The Wizard of Oz to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, villains in kidlit tend to just be evil for the sake of being evil. The Queen of Hearts just is a bully. No reason given. Other Mother is demonic and therefore naturally bad. The Wicked Witch*… well… need I say more? As for Count Olaf, I like to say he’s like The Joker with fewer reasons to be nuts. And I won’t even get started on any of Roald Dahl’s monstrous inventions!

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this. After all, a large part of what makes kidlit fun is the simple good vs. evil aesthetic often inherent in it. And every single example I have given is from a story (or stories) I adore. That said, can we give our young readers more in their bad guys?

As it turns out, the answer to that is a resounding YES! At least according to some contemporary authors who are doing just that.

One great example is, of course, J.K. Rowling. Is Voldemort evil? Yes. Does he do bad things? Ohhh yeah. But Rowling also delves into his past, weaving a tragic story of a boy who struggled with loss and defeat at a very young age. Does she use this to excuse his actions? Not at all! But it does show the reader that he is more than a scary mask floating on the wind. And this is even more prevalent in her “lesser” villains, especially in young Draco Malfoy, whose character development is a work of art akin to Michelangelo’s, in my humble opinion.

But I digress.

*Fangirls*

*Ahem*

Another example can be found in the “Percy Jackson” books, though to be fair Rick Riordan kind of cheated on that end, using myths and legends who already embody the rich depth that only comes from centuries of storytelling. But I digress. His villains still count.

Still, these examples are as few and far between as the list of fantasy and sci-fi children’s books on Amazon. (Hint: it’s small.) Maybe I’m just not seeing it. Maybe I’m reading young readers wrong. Or maybe — just maybe — we need more depth, more magic, more wonder, in kidlit overall. Not just in its villains, but in… everything?

I’m in danger of getting off-topic here though. Let me return to villains. (Though I’m seeing another blog topic in the near future…)

Rowling and Riordan (and maybe others I missed; add them in comments!) have shown us that yes, kidlit villains can be 3-dimensional, if we choose to focus just a little more on them. In fact, keeping with the “marketing” aspect of this blog series, making a children’s literary world deeper and richer overall has proven to be extremely successful and popular among young readers. So why don’t we do that more often? That’s the question I’ve asked myself lately, and why I plan on doing the same with my villain in “Guts and Glory.” At the moment Dr. Fixit is little more than a shadow. I’ll be changing that in book 3.

It’s time to make Nil real.

MUAAAHAHAHAAA!

 

*(I hope it goes without saying that I’m talking about the ORIGINAL CHILDREN’S book by L Frank Baum.) 

 

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Adventures in Book Promotion Day 6: WRITING!

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

You know what I am not?

A promoter.

You know what I AM?

A WRITER.

And yet, I haven’t had a chance to really write one word of the glorious third book of the trilogy that’s in the CENTER of this whole thing!

*Headbash*

So… I’ve decided to give my promotional needs up to those who know how to work them properly, and focus on what I do best — writing the freaking BOOK already. I’ll keep writing my blog of course, and post when and where I need to on social media, but all the crazy details will be taken care of by JKS Communications. After some pretty extensive research, I found them to be at the top of my choices, as they are professional, have KILLER reviews, and (and this is crucial) I can afford them. At this time I have sent in my proposal and am waiting with baited breath on their reply.

For now, it’s time to finally WRITE!

*Runs off cackling like a manwoman*

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 5: Social Media Madness

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Hello all, and I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

I’m back at work now, and therefore back writing to you. Today I’m thinking about social media marketing, this blog, and ways to use them all in-tandem to their best advantage for getting the word out there about “Guts and Glory”.  Things I’ve thought about so far are…

  • Some kind of “ad” campaign where Books’ inventions are being promoted in apocalypse punk style (But I don’t know how interesting that would be to people, especially my young readers.)
  • A”recruitment” campaign into the Dark Crows
  • A “call to adventure” style campaign where readers have to sort clues and such to find their way into Nil
  • A Nil-related contest of some kind
  • A quiz or quizzes related to Nil and its characters

Hmm… What do you think? What would get the kids excited to see Book 3’s debut? What would get the young readers interested in Nil and its denizens? If you have any other ideas or just brainstorming, please leave them in the comments.

Whatever the campaign ends up being, for the full Social Media gauntlet I’m looking at linking:

  • This blog
  • My Facebook fan page
  • My Twitter feed
  • Goodreads
  • YouTube (Especially for book trailers!)
  • Patreon (Gotta do some more research into how to utilize it for kidlit in particular.)

Still thinking! Gotta find a way to get a computer at home, too. I can’t do everything I need to do by February on my work breaks alone… Hmm…

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 4: Pushing Through

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

I want to write.

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m at work. I don’t mind that at all, especially since I’m off at 3:30 and don’t work tomorrow. Plus, it allows me to write to you. Unfortunately unlike this blog, I can’t write my book at work. The zone is too powerful; I’d forget my responsibilities here and that could be catastrophic to my financial stability. I can make notes, which is nice, but when I’m ready to write the book itself… I don’t know how I will do it without a computer at home. (If only my hands weren’t aging faster than the rest of me, I could handwrite it…)

Sorry. Kinda melancholy today. Being tired will do that to you, I suppose.

There are so many steps to this plan, but many of them I can’t do until I have the capitol to do them, and others aren’t doable until the book is finished. Other steps, such as research and planning, I have been doing a lot of lately, but the biggest, the hardest, and the one that takes the longest… is writing the third book itself.

That one is VITAL. And I can’t do it.

I WANT to write, too. I do. But my Muse has been fickle lately and I don’t know how long she’ll stick around. I’m going to be honest here: today, I am afraid. Afraid I will never write this book. Afraid I will never actually make this plan — this DREAM — happen. Afraid and frustrated.

It is a hard day. A low day. But these, too, must be documented, so that I can look back and see that I pushed through them. So that others can see that as well.

Today, I am tired and afraid and frustrated. But today, I am still a writer nonetheless.

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 3 (Part II): Which Ends in Vetting Indie Kidlit

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Well, that was fun.

It looks like I may have to make a new pen name under the same profile on Amazon, though I don’t know if that will remove the old name or if I even can. Trying to research it is kind of a nightmare too. Nothing comes up about it at all that I can find.

In the end, I just emailed them. It’ll probably be answered after Christmas.

For now, I updated my RSS feed from here (so this should show up there now too — hi Amazon!) and will be doing little tweaks here and there. One thing I DO know is, I’m glad I’m doing this now instead of right before the third book is finished!

Speaking of doing things ahead of time, after emailing Amazon my spaz brain kicked in again and I started looking into reviews.

Ahhh! Another big knot!

There are so many review sites out there, and so many reviews OF the reviews that my brain is spinning just trying to untie it all. Kirkus seems safe, but I still need to look into just how much good they do indie authors, as I’ve seen many differing views on it, plus it’s expensive at between $425 and $575 a pop.   There’s also my whole “kidlit author” thing, which makes it more complicated as many reviewers don’t review children’s books at all, and often those that do only review trade published titles. I have gotten a great review of “Dr. Fixit” from Erik at This Kid Reviews Books and I would love to get more specifically for kidlit that actually take indie books.

One issue I keep running into time and time again is the fact that children’s books are SERIOUSLY hard to get accepted by libraries, bookstores, schools, and, as you see, even review sites. Now, I understand. I do. Everyone wants to make sure the books children read are vetted to be safe for them. I get it, and I wholeheartedly agree. That said, there’s got to be a better vetting system than trade publication. There are literally hundreds of thousands of books that are great for kids, that would help them learn, grow, and see the world in a billion better ways, that never get trade published simply because the big houses (and even the small presses) don’t have enough time and resources to devote to them, so they have to reject them. What if a group of teachers, scholars, and established children’s writers and editors got together to create a solid, dependable vetting system for indie kidlit, to keep parents happy AND let kidlit authors reach our readers?

Well… I just went off on a tangent, and I’m almost off work so I have to go. Just… think about it. If you know of any system in place, or you like / hate the idea, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 3 (Part I): Amazonian Knots

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Sooo… Amazon.

These days, it seems self-publishing is only really doable with the help of the online bookselling monolith. In some ways that’s great! Having their help with everything from sales presence to the creation of the actual, physical book is a BIG help! But in other ways… it can feel like a worse knot than Piper’s Rapunzel (self-promotion-within-self-promotion FTW!)

If you clicked the first link here, you saw that I have a little work to do cleaning up my profile before the big “Guts and Glory” push. My bio is a bit dated, for one, and my name is certainly outdated. The covers are the latest covers (which to be honest surprised me), but that will be changing soon as well (SQUEE!) Last I checked, which to be honest was far too long ago, there were three different versions of “Dr. Fixit” on Amazon. Now, there’s only the latest one on my author page (paperback vs. ebook notwithstanding), and when I do a search it’s the same (WHEW!) so that’s nice to see. Unfortunately now I have another version I’ll be updating onto the site, so I’m a bit worried about confusion there…

I have really two choices here, as far as I can see:

  • Begin a whole new profile on Createspace (Amazon’s self-publishing platform) under Jessica Crichton as opposed to Jessica Rising.
  • Rework my current Createspace profile to update everything.

There are pros and cons to both of these choices. For the former, obviously starting a whole new profile would make it clean and crisp from the gate, which is always nice. Plus, a quick Amazon search for “Jessica Crichton” turns up nothing except a link to Michael Crichton, which would be a great little bit of inner-site promotion even if his books are very different than mine. However, it would leave the Jessica Rising profile out there in stasis, including two different versions of “Dr. Fixit” and “Zombies” on the Amazon site, which could get really confusing really fast. Confusion is the LAST thing I want on my readers’ minds! The latter would take more work and probably frustration (Amazon isn’t known for being that user-friendly to indie writers) plus I’d worry I’d miss some bit of something and end up with a little mess leftover in the end, but it would bypass that whole doubling up thing, and I already have a years-long presence on Amazon there, including reviews I don’t want to lose. (Which, if you’re a writer, you know is seriously important!)

Hmmm… I think I’m going to try the latter and see how it goes. The reviews are certainly worth the extra work, though I still worry about missing loose ends.

Stay tuned: this particular post is going to have a Part II soon!

 

Adventures in Book Promotion Day (kindaSorta) 2: Budgets!

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Okay, so this isn’t the day after my last post. Remember what I said about not having a computer at home? These posts will not be daily until I do, sadly, but I will write one every day I am able!

So today I’m thinking about the budget for my big February push. I want to spend about $2500 on it altogether, and while that’s a big number for me, it’s pretty minuscule as far as promotion budgets go.  For that reason (and for the fact that my money tends to disappear without a trace whenever I get it), I have to be REALLY careful that everything I invest in will be effective in making my “Guts and Glory” trilogy a success.

That takes research.

  • I’ve already chosen my amazing artist, Jessica Douglas, for the covers. I won’t tell you the price we agreed on, but it’s definitely more than worth it!
  • I don’t know if I’ll be doing inside illustrations. I’d like to, but I’m still thinking on that one.
  • Business cards will be important, as I find myself talking about writing everywhere I go and having those babies to hand out would be gold.
  • I’m also spending some on Facebook promotion, despite the bad press it sometimes gets, because I have seen it in action when it works. (“Tipani” would have a lot fewer views on Wattpad if not for those!) I’m still researching the best way to go about that, and the amount of money to throw at it.
  • I’m also looking into promotion companies. These are the hardest to research, and will take the biggest chunk of my budget, so if you have any suggestions for those, I’d love to hear them! That will be a serious choice I really want to think about hard before I make it.

A few miscellaneous thoughts to add:

  • Can I do a boxed set? Should I? How would I go about that?
  • Can I release a limited edition hardback set? How would I go about that too?
  • Press releases and review copies: how do I do THAT as a self-published author of kidlit? Is it kosher for them to charge for these services? Who is real and who is a scammer? And which real ones will actually take self-published books?

Sooo many things to still think about that do! How do I prioritize? How do I make the most of my little budget? How do I not ROYALLY SCREW THIS UP?

*Deep, calming breaths.*

I CAN do this…

John M. Cusick

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