An author withdraws

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Bestselling member M.L. Doyle explains what of today’s circumstances have convinced her to put down her pen.

I will not be writing fiction or much of anything else for the foreseeable future. 

I know withdrawing from writing fiction at this time won’t make much of a difference in the scheme of things. My readers haven’t read anything new from me for almost a year already. The last time I posted to this blog was in April. There are millions of fantastic books and short stories out there to keep everyone entertained forever. I have no illusions that anything new I might produce would be missed. 

I’m not boycotting the writing world as some kind of call to action, nor do I think declaring an end to my fiction writing will result in some kind of change that will impact how people think. Between the pandemic and the arguments over masks, the lives lost and the massive economic hardships millions are facing, my imaginary characters, their lives, their issues …  well, who gives a shit? Certainly not me. 

Every single day I’ve felt guilt and insecurities because I can’t do more than stare at the empty page. I wish I could fill it with my fear, frustration and the extreme anxiety that washes over me every time I consider what will happen to my country, to the world, if the same thing happens in November 2020 that happened in November 2016. If the politics aren’t enough, watching George Floyd die and the callous indifference on Chauvin’s face broke me. I didn’t think I could take one more story of police brutality and the wrongful deaths of innocents at the hands of people who simply didn’t care. Then there was Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain and Venessa Guillen, a sister in arms whose murder inexcusably went unsolved for so long even when the killer was the most obvious person imaginable. If her murder had been a novel, readers would have excoriated the author for making the solution to the puzzle so damn obvious.

Why is it so hard for Americans to wear a damn mask? How could parents support a president who demands they send their children into virus riddled infection chambers? How do we allow news organizations to spread propaganda against Black Lives Matter as if this civil rights group is some sort of terrorist organization? How is it okay for the party of POTUS to put a mentally ill rapper on the ballot in a scheme to draw votes from his opponent? How do we allow our neighbors or, more importantly, our employees to scream the N word and call the police on people simply for walking down the street? How does anyone make excuses for people who stand on their front lawn and point weapons at people exercising their first amendment rights? Did that cop really think it made things better to help a 16 year-old girl sit up, after he made her and her sisters lay face down on the ground and put handcuffs on them? And even after people from around the world have expressed their anger, shock and horror over our handling of this pandemic, and indeed, ban Americans from visiting most countries around the world because of it, how can the architect of this disaster claim we are the envy of the world? Worse, how can his followers think this is all okay? 

The horrific destruction left in the wake of the explosion in that Beirut warehouse seems almost representative of the collective pressure we are all facing. I’ve had enough. 

Every single day my frustration and feelings of helplessness have grown in the face of all of this madness.  At the same time my guilt over not being able to put words on a page multiplied exponentially. The horrific destruction left in the wake of the explosion in that Beirut warehouse seems almost representative of the collective pressure we are all facing. I’ve had enough.

I wish I could control the fear so many millions feel over their need for that extra $600 congress can’t come to an agreement on. I wish I could control the guilt some cops may be wrestling with as they start to understand the realities of the systematic racism they have unknowingly supported. I wish I could control the risk to health so many teachers will face. I wish I could control the gut-wrenching feelings low income, hardworking parents must be facing who know their children won’t get the homeschooling they need. I wish I could have control over how much further behind those low income kids will become. I wish I could control the hatred in the hearts of so many who become incensed, outraged and violent over a simple demand that no lives matter until Black, Brown and Native lives matter.     

I know that many people share my frustration and feelings of helplessness in the face of all of this. By saying I’m not going to write anymore, I’m finally taking control of the one stone of guilt I can lift off my shoulders. Unlike COVID or federal troops on the streets or those who refuse to wear masks or the lunatic in the White House and all of the evil monsters who support him, this one thing, the guilt I feel over my inability to write, I can control. So I will.

M.L. Doyle

has served in the U.S. Army at home and abroad for more than two decades as both a soldier and civilian.

Mary is the author of The Desert Goddess series, an urban fantasy romp consisting of The Bonding Spell and The Bonding Blade. She has also penned The Master Sergeant Harper mystery series which has earned numerous awards including an IPPY, a Lyra Award and the Carrie McCray Literary Award.

Mary is the co-author of two memoirs: A Promise Fulfilled: the story of a Wife and Mother, Soldier and General Officer (January 2011) and the memoir, I’m Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen—My Journey Home (Touchstone, 2010), which was nominated for an NAACP Image award.

Mary’s work has been published by The Goodman Project, The War Horse, The WWrite Blog and The Wrath-Bearing Tree, an online magazine for which she serves as a fiction editor.

A Minneapolis, Minnesota native, Mary current lives in Baltimore. You can reach her at her website at mldoyleauthor.com.

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Don’t Be The Sugar Man: Find Your Audience, by David Vinjamuri

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Casual Headshot dv

David Vinjamuri

In the winter of 1969, a young musician named Sixto Rodriguez was discovered singing in a Detroit bar by a pair of legendary Motown record producers.   He went on to record two albums for Sussex Records: “Cold Fact” in 1970 and “Coming From Reality” in 1971.   Critics hailed Rodriguez as a poet and a prophet.  His producers thought that he was a greater artist than Bob Dylan and that he’d be a bigger star.  But both albums failed, miserably.  Two weeks before Christmas in 1971, Rodriguez was dropped from the label.

Rodriguez quietly ended his professional music career and returned to a life of hard labor.  He demolished homes, worked in factories and did other low paying jobs.   For 27 years, Rodriguez assumed that his work had gone unappreciated.

Then in 1998, one of his daughters stumbled across a website called “The Great Rodriguez Hunt.”   It turns out that Rodriguez’s albums had made it to South Africa, and that he had become the voice of the anti-apartheid movement there.  Both of his albums went platinum in South Africa and he was a bigger name than Elvis or The Rolling Stones.  But the rumor in South Africa was that Rodriguez was dead, that he had set fire to himself on stage.  So nobody looked for him until 1998.  Then they found him alive, living in Detroit, nearing the end of a career doing backbreaking manual labor.

This story ends happily – Rodriguez did four tours in South Africa where his sold-out concerts were a huge hit.  He has lived to see his work appreciated.  If you want to see his story, watch the new film: Searching for Sugar Man.

Admire Rodriguez.  But Don’t Be Rodriguez!

You may admire Rodriguez, but do you want to be Rodriguez?  If you’ve written something great, something wonderful, do you want to wait your entire life to see it appreciated?  Probably not.

I came to writing as a professional consumer marketer.  It’s not a bad background to have because the moment we stop writing we must start marketing our books.  That means finding an audience.

As I’ve entered the self-publishing world, I’ve discovered something surprising: many Indie authors spend a lot of their time and effort marketing to other authors.  It’s understandable: writing is a solitary pursuit.  Connecting with other authors creates community and writers are often willing to help one another.

But unless your book is about writing, authors should not be the focus of your marketing efforts.  Why?  Because they already have more books than they can read.  Marketing to writers is like trying to sell SUV’s to car executives.

 

 

Finding Your Audience

Instead of marketing to everyone, try to think of a small audience of readers who will love your book.  Here are three things you need in an audience:

  1. Passion – They have to be the kind of people who will get excited and express it
  2. Expertise – This sounds strange, but they have to be credible readers of your book.  Can you market to people who have been through the same trials as your protagonist?  Vampire and werewolf people this is a little harder for you …
  3. Connection – The third important characteristic for an audience is that they need to be connected to each other.  That’s the way buzz works: when different people in the same group have a shared experience and start talking about it.  It’s much harder to achieve buzz without resonance.

Your audience could be connected by geography (could you try to become a bestseller in Des Moines or Bloomington?  Sure!) by affiliation (any organization from Parents Without Partners to the Boy Scouts might be a great place to seed your writing) or even by education (try your high school alumni group on Facebook – mineOperatro_6x9_BW_280 were enthusiastic early buyers and readers).

If you’ve found your audience, focus on how to cultivate their attention and get your writing to grow among them.  Are there a few influencers you could get the book to?  Could you hold a discussion group?  Should you champion a cause that is important to them?  Remember that influencers will more readily pay attention to you after you’ve helped them, so think about how you can do that.

Won’t A Small Audience Limit My Book Sales?

On the contrary.  Nike markets women’s running shoes to a very small audience of dedicated female athletes who run even when it’s raining or cold.  But their shoes are worn by millions of other women, some of whom don’t even run.  By finding the core of their audience they reach women who are experts, who have passion and who will spread the message about products they love.   The narrower the target for your marketing the more likely you will be successful.

Last Step: Prepare for Success

This sounds like an odd thing to do.  After all, isn’t failure much more likely?  Should you be prepared for that?  Perhaps emotionally, but in terms of marketing, success presents the bigger danger.  If you catch an updraft, make sure you understand who you’re writing for, what your core values are and who your audience is.  This shouldn’t change even if you have many, many more readers.  Brands that forget their core audience diminish and fade away.  So if you are successful, stay true to the folks who got you there.

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David Vinjamuri published his first detective story in a junior high school literary magazine at age twelve and has been writing ever since. After a brief stint as an intelligence analyst, David worked as a consumer marketer for Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola and other large companies. He writes the “Brand Truth” column for Forbes online and teaches at New York University.

 

Stop in Friday, February 8 for an original short story, “In His Boots” by C.R. Hiatt, bestselling author of Gone at Zero Hundred 00:00 and Fireworks on the 4th.

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