Thursday, December 10, 2015

Genre versus Story – Finding a Novel’s True Voice

As readers, we often find ourselves drawn to genre first and story second- not that this is a bad thing, per se, but it surely limits our interaction with other voices in print. We may have a taste for fantasy, a penchant for romance, or a titillating desire to be immersed in the far flung adventures found in science fiction.

Then there is literary fiction.

Not a genre exactly, but a way of interpreting the quality of the story and the message behind it. And there must be a message, a quiet little reminder deep between the lines that surrenders itself only upon close reading.
Traditionally, these messages are found amongst the writings of Steinbeck and Hemmingway, within the pages of Harper Lee and Thomas Hardy, and part and parcel of Fitzgerald and O’Conner.

Without argument, each of these is a writer of serious thoughts and deep philosophical content, pinnacles of the high literary arts.

But literary fiction does not reside solely within the tales of reality-based fiction. There are others who have completed the meld of social consciousness and somber message that live themselves in genres away from the stoic and reflective. These voices rise from the ranks of fantasy, with the work of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and in Ursula LaGuinn’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omalas. The voice of these works rise above genre to smack the reader on the head with a 2x4… be careful, they warn. Do the right thing.

The heavy message lies also in the works of Bradbury’s science fiction, and within the romances of DeFoe’s Moll Flanders and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

The point is, a novel’s true voice is dictated by the message shared with the reader, that little lesson or series of lectures within the pages that share a greater depth of meaning beyond the tale. Genre by itself doesn’t do that.

We need only to look toward Disney for formulaic examples- how Beauty and the Beast shares the lesson of finding love behind the fa├žade and accepting the person within. Or of Finding Nemo, with the timeless lesson of how family will always find you no matter how far you run.

In your own work, look to share the message and meaning with your readers to give them their money’s worth. They are investing time with your tale, and they should be rewarded with a kernel of learning, a deeper meaning garnered from deeper meaning.

Say for example your protagonist is taking a journey from their childhood home to the big city. This trip may easily be rendered literarily by mirroring the choices they make to bring about personal growth, even if they aren’t aware of it themselves.  Now, does it matter the genre? Of course not- Luke finds himself while discovering the force. Dekker embraces his true self while hunting rogue androids, Frodo struggling toward Mount Doom with Sam by his side yet forever alone, or Peter as he subjugates Narnia.  

Start every sentence with a thought- what does this mean beyond the face value of the words. Bring your characters to places that change them. Enjoy sharing your message with those who care to dig a little to find it.

Let your novel’s true voice come forward without being tied to traditional genre writing.

It will most certainly be worth your time.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Centering Productivity through Conscientious Quiet Time

meditationThere can be an aversion to being alone with thoughts. Where the silence takes over and the world skips away, like a seven-year-old self revisiting the knee scrapes and bullying of elementary school. Some who cross into the quiet confront demons, or at the very least, expect they will. It is a shame, and a product of their upbringing – taught not to deal head on with conflict and doubts, but instead to put them aside as if they never existed. But these demons continue to exist, and even shelved in the chaotic closets of the mind, exert an influence upon the waking, experiential world.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
The demon’s main weapons are doubt and distraction- questioning creative endeavor, capability, and even those concepts thought rock solid- talent. Excuses become common, where work and output are halted due to time constraints and blockage. Meditation as a vernacular becomes a hurdle- I don’t know how to meditate. There are formulas, procedures- holy men spend a lifetime learning how. Excuses all.
meditationThere is no learning how – there is simply just doing.
Finding quiet is simply seeking a place where the distractions are non-existent, and the demons- if they still exist – have a chance to be faced head on.
Quiet allows the mind to ‘dump’ as it were, shutting down conscientiously the clatter and noise of every day and coming to grips with the task of clearing a pathway to creative thought. With the worries confronted, and the affirmations of creativity revisited, entirely new means of expression become possible.
One thing to be aware of is confusing 'drive time' or 'tv time' as quiet time. Both of these seemingly centering activities fill the brain with detritus - a need to be aware of other drivers, the constant barrage of media messages designed to slip through the most passive of watchers. These activities only add to the stress of an overly active mind, filling it with more and more distractions without allowing it to rest and regenerate.
meditationFind solace in a chaotic world.
A place of true centering is within a space devoid of external distractions. Low light, an absence of sound, a temperature close to the human body's own internal temperature. The more controlled an environment is in regards to limiting external influences, the more productive the reflective nature of quiet time will be.
While seeking the solace of absolute silence, a practitioner should be focused on emptiness. Locating the core of nothing is the goal - not 'pre-setting' the meditative state to focus on any one issue. With mindful quiet comes inspiration, not plans of conquest.
Through all of this, there are positive benefits of meditation and quiet time.
Even if done in a half-focused manner, regular connections with the quiet within extend life. Significantly, in fact. Removing stress from what makes us run lowers blood pressure, increases brain cell regeneration, a strengthened immune system, better sleep, and improved digestion for removing toxins from the body.  
meditationFor the creative mind, a reconnection with quiet clears away the milieu of doubt and frozen productivity. Pathways become clear with positive goals materializing in the process. By focusing attention on absolutely nothing at all, the mind is given the freedom to utilize the environmental inputs it has been collecting over a lifetime to draw out the purest forms of expression - from painting to writing, to innovation and invention.
All it takes is a dedication to find that quiet spot, to shut out the world for a period of time and reconnect with the voice within that simply needs your attention.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Why You Need a Publicist

You spent endless hours writing your manuscript and fine-tuning your wording and character development. You’ve proofread it until you can’t see clearly any longer. You’re ready to give it wings and send it out into the world. But you’re not sure what next steps to take. Seek an agent? Query publishing houses? Self publish? The sea of published books available and the various ways to purchase them, print, e-book, audio book, all seem daunting.

bookSo… if you are reading this you may be wondering, why do I need a publicist?

If this is your first manuscript, we can offer copy-editing services from developmental line-by-line editing to overall polish up.  

If you need to assistance deciding which publishing path is best for your work, whether its self publishing, small print house or a top tier New York City print press we can help you weigh out the pros and cons of each and decide which is the best fit for your work.

Once you’ve made a decision you are confident in and have a direction, we will help to draft a course of action. Perfecting your pitch, writing letters to potential agents, helping craft the perfect cover art for your self published work, or pitching smaller presses are all items we can assist with.

publicistOur graphic designer can assist in creating a one of kind book cover for your self-published work and our photographer can capture your spark for your personal headshot to be used in promotion.

If a book trailer is desired our videographers will take care of all the details: casting, location, film and production. We will then upload it on your website and push it through all relevant media channels.
Pre-publication we can aid in designing a website that talks to your target audience, and is in line with the style of your book and who you are as artist. Simultaneously we can manage and launch your social media campaign Tweeting and posting on your behalf to make sure you are heard and that you build and keep the “buzz” about you as an artist and about your work.  

book publicistJust prior to your book launch we will book venues and help to design them so they are lively, entertaining and not just another signing. We will work with the bookstore, school or other location to make sure your event is promoted properly through all appropriate channels.  Authoring and distributing press releases, designing posters, postcards and other printed materials that are eye catching, and ensuring your event is well publicized are taken care of in a way that represents you well. We’ll even be on hand the evening of the event and introduce you, check AV equipment, whatever is needed to ensure all goes smoothly. If your tour takes you to numerous stops, we can build your itinerary around bookings. All you need to do is be you. We will take care of the rest.

Whatever your needs, we are able to assist. Call to schedule a complimentary consult and see how we Focus On Your Success.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Brand Yourself Across the Board

how to brandWithout a doubt, the first impression anyone has with your project is the most critical moment leading to either success or failure. Those primary milliseconds imprint opinion, image, and years of preconceived notions that then become the totality of what they are interacting with. Knowing how to brand is significant - as the first impression suggests, your newly found audience does not have the depth of comprehension with your project that you have, and this makes the mind uncomfortable. In order to fill in the gaps and make sense of the input, a listener, reader, or viewer- anyone interacting in that case, develops a sense of comprehension.

Without knowing how this instantaneous product branding works, and without professional guidance, it can be a crap shoot- your audience will associate either negative images to fill those gaps, or place vaguely rendered positive images in place that will soon be discredited and devalue the audience's experience.

To say it simply, your product branding is more than ordering a free set of business cards from VistaPrint.

Taking a step toward a professional brand means working with a dedicated team - and we at Spotlight Publicity can help.

mcdonald's floatYour personal branding should begin with a uniquely graphic and visual impact - hence, the label of 'brand.' Much like a cattle brand, the audience interacts instantaneously with a visual cue that identifies exactly what they are interacting with. There's information in that visual cue -

Think of the golden arches of McDonald's.

Think of the AA of American Airlines.

Think of the green sun image of BP Oil.

Each time someone sees those images, they immediately internalize all of their experiences with that brand. Folks who see a Coke sign subconsciously regurgitate emotions of good times, Americanisms, and taste. For your project, or better yet for you yourself, a visual impact is an important and significant investment in your success. With popularity and an increasing audience, having a personalized brand is key to gaining a larger audience.

branding m&msMars Inc. has enjoyed an unprecedented insertion of branding through M&Ms, where each individual candy carries not only the imprinted and styled M, but also the uniquely shaped ufo-disc shape that relegates branding to touch as well. Their branding has moved into the kinetic.

Pure genius.

For the entrepreneur starting out by investigating their own branding, the sky is the limit- but there's is so much to consider. What should the logo be centered around? Where is the long term theme? Where can it go? On what will the message be delivered?

how to brand yourself
Many images have incorporated clever packaging techniques into their branding. Take for example Lifesavers... multi-colored imaging on the packaging, but also minimalized into that 'tube' for brand recognition as well as portability.

How to brand outside of the box, literally, is another significant consideration.

TicTacs rely on their patented flip-top box, beer companies design cardboard silhouettes for portable shelving, Cosmo Kramer designed a coffee table book about coffee tables to actually be a miniature coffee table.

Yes he did.

Product branding is a science, taking in multiple elements in order to account for and become incorporated with the many subtle aspects of consumer interaction. The ways in which this is done is innumerable, and utilizing a professional team is a short investment that will pay off in spades as the years progress and your brand becomes more ingrained with an ever growing audience.

But what is the indicator that a product has been successfully branded? It is an intrinsic ideal- it becomes something that a consumer wants - desires even - to pick up and touch. And in kinesthetic marketing, this is the pure gold of a product. Research shows that a consumer who picks up and item before buying is more likely to purchase it the longer they hold it.

Imagine shopping at Target, and you pick up a shirt. You check the fit, the style, and the size and decide to think about it. At first contact you may not have completely made up your mind, but after a time, you have shifted your purchasing decision to buying it- simply because you have created value with it. It is still in your shopping basket- therefore, you are buying it. Of course, you may occasionally put stuff back based on overriding factors such as removing a personal reward or budget, but think about it- how many items can you identify after a shopping trip as being impulse buys?

To gain first contact, branding relies on eye-shelf placement, color, style- it is something that triggers deep needs in your subconscious.

Clever, yes?

But this approach is applied to large sales- for reaching audiences that are uninitiated into your product. The realist- or perhaps the idealist - believes that consumers interact based on a true desire to do so. Many will... and on the same note, many, many, many will not. They will interact because they are programmed to do so by social psychology, and you have tapped into this by creating a professional brand for yourself.

From an entrepreneurial approach, where the project is presented one-on-one with a new audience such as during a small book store reading, you have a unique opportunity to present your branding with a prepared edge. You yourself can deliver the image's message. You have an ability to infuse the essence of what have to share on a personal level- this also is an aspect of branding.

At Spotlight Publicity, we can assist you with your personal branding. Whether it's an investigation into the messaging on eco friendly packaging, an auditory indicator unique to your project, or a visual element to create that instantaneous connection, we can help.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Creation Motivation and the Artist at Work

hand upOne rule I share with my writing students as a motivation to continue creating strong texts is to never start with a question- which of course leads to a slew of Well, what about here? What about there? How about in this case?

Ah, the artist at work.

Rules are in place to help learn the process, I reply. Once you know what the rules are, then you can break them.

But do they listen?


Well, most of them don't listen. They start with a question.

They preamble with quotes and lines of poetry.

They insist on dropping in exclamation points instead of writing strong scenes.

They neglect to craft manageable paragraphs, vomiting 30 page treatises that resemble Jamaica Kincaid's 'Girl' (a master story of only one paragraph) without ennui, skill, or indentations.

My poor eyes have been worn away by these students...

artist at work
And I love them for it. Rules are made to be broken, and though young wordsmiths will attack the status quo before understanding fully where to launch a spearhead, they take the leap and do it time and time again simply from self-driven motivation.

With conceivably no payoff.

Authors, musicians, painters, sculptors, entrepreneurs all have the pie in the sky daydream - perhaps not to be rich and famous, but to be critically recognized. Most will not- it's still a numbers game. Many manuscripts and projects, limited resources. There is only so much room on a bookstore shelf, and those spaces are reserved for books that might make money.

gutenbergOnce the commercial applications of the printing press were realized and refined by Gutenberg in the 15th century, publishers crafted a profitable business formula- the author writes the book, gives it to the publishing company, and money is made. Granted, most went into the pockets of the publisher. The writer received something, but not much. Writing isn't a process to earn a living for the vast majority of writers, so there must something else.

There's that recognition motivation again.

With technology, the drive to publish has become more attainable- all an artist at work needs to do is format their text a certain way, and upload it to Amazon.

BAM- a writer is now a published author.

And once Mom buys a copy, they have become a professional writer. Next comes a heavy handed, pleading self-driven campaign to please, please, please buy my book. Today it's only .99. But wait, if you wait until tomorrow, I have a limited time offer of FREE.

While some will gain satisfaction from this self publishing opportunity, many will not. They hold a prize in their sights much greater, that an actual commercial publishing house will find value in their book and publish it on the author's behalf.

For artists in the visual realm, it is much the same. Anyone can rent a space and host their own gallery show. But the gallery that asks to display, and then offer sales support... that's the true mark of making it for many creators.

muscian open mic
For musicians, there is always the open mic night. For those who wish to be considered professionals, it's a paid gig - and perhaps, just maybe, the designation of house band. And a publishing deal where an actual musical publishing house provides contracts, copyright protection, studio space, and tour support. It doesn't need to be Sony, or even K-Tel, just as long as it's a for-profit organization that can reproduce audio for mass consumption.

Long shots. An odds game. A return on investment so low in the basement that college loans might well be paid back before a query letter receives a response.

Yet artists at work continue to create.

We continue to seek that recognition, that rush of sharing an idea for the first time. For an audience, even if it is a virtual support group in an online chat room who says simply, I liked it. Great job. Did you read mine yet?

We create because we can, because at the very core of our existence we crave recognition- we crave contact and intimacy and joy and adrenaline. We crave companionship and brotherhood and sisterhood and family. We create to give credence to our 'being there' as proof of why we deserve to be there. Here. In society, in a culture.

artist at work
We create because we want someone to recognize that what we did was in fact done by us. By the artist we are. By the human being who has a need to be recognized. To be remembered after we have died.

We do it because we can, and because we gain something immortal for it.

We are each an artist at work and when we pass along this mortal coil, our voices will remain.

We are legendary.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Social Media Trends For the Savvy Author

donutsSocial media is without a doubt the single most effective tool a content originator has in their arsenal to spread the word about ongoing and future projects to build steam. Combining SEO tactics with targeted advertising and chat-group insertion, a message can be broadcast to millions with the click of the Share button- and the great thing is, it doesn't need to go viral to be effective.

Viral is nice, of course, but not necessary. As long as the project is reaching the targeted audience it is designed for, a worthy message will find traction. This relies on wording, imaging, and overall approach.

And, it goes without saying that it should be something your audience would like to interact with. To do this, here are a few tips on social media trends to get the ball rolling -

cell phone surfing
  1. Start a movement. A solid, creative angle will have your readers engaging before you know it- think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, or the recent Straight Outta - " from Dr. Dre. It can be silly, or contemplative, or just plain weird, but allowing your readers to engage in your message in creative ways will help move your project along faster than you can keep up. 
  2. Use genuine feedback from genuine readers/subscribers/fanatics. By letting your dedicated audience share your message in their words, either through video, text quotations, or imagery, you can spread the word that you're not just a flash in the pan, and that others have found value in your project. Fans love to share why they're fans, and try their darndest to convert new believers. Use your social media to help them reach their goal.
  3. Use video when ever possible, and even when there's no conceivable way to do so. Many folks are visual types- the message needs to be placed graphically in their face in order for them to interact with it. Ronald Reagan was a firm believer in this- he often had his briefings via video in order to connect more closely with them. Think of it- the Cold War in 3-D each morning with his jellybeans and coffee.
  4. Speak plainly when only speaking plainly will do. When converting new followers, understand that they may not have the experience or lexicon to fully comprehend your message. Limit the insider jokes and hoity-toity vocabulary and speak clearly. More potential followers can be lost to over-the-top dialogue than from slow loading speeds on a website.
  5. Think globally, act mobil-ly. Make sure your online content and social media platforms are optimized for mobile viewing. Most followers will engage during the work day, and using their company laptops is not the way they will connect. Instead, the personal device revolution is at hand, and if they can't read your message on their phones, then they simply won't.
  6. Lastly, be the first. Be active in your social media interactions by being a trendsetter when new applications come out. Most social media trends and apps will die by the wayside, but others may prove a boon. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram- all of these started small, and look at them now. Just imagine if you were one of the first users of Snap-chat or MySpace? You could be ruling the world by now...

social media

Share your experience below with social media platforms- we love to hear our readers stories!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Public Reading and the Voice of the Author Bookstore Speaker

For some writers, the voice of a story ends when it is placed on the page.

"There, I've done it. I've crafted the perfect sentence... Now, onto fame, a new contract, and the Pulitzer Prize!"

However, for the author who wishes to engage their readers on a more personal level and, well, engage with this little thing called sales, it's only the beginning. The written sentence must now evolve into a spoken line via a road trip through every bookstore and venue possible. Hence, the public speaking engagement.

Along the way, the sentence will mature as an audible element of your story - filled with inflection and nuanced glimmers that are craftily designed to speak to each member in the bookstore audience before the signings and sales commence. Each utterance will be crafted to be received on a personal level, for your listener's connection as well as your own.

"She wrote that chapter just for me! I just know it! sqweeeeeeee!"

That's how to sell a book. That, and a promise after the public reading to validate said fan-boy's obsession in order to prompt him to tell everyone he knows to buy your novel by signing the inside cover with the most meaningful, personalized, intimate tidbit of an autograph known to mankind.

Make it a run-on sentence.

Fan-boys like run-on sentences.

"So glad you liked it, [INSERT NAME], be sure to buy the bookmark and prequel and the t-shirt and the audiobook on your way out, great to meet you!"

Well, maybe not every public reading goes that way, but as an author of a marketable novel the bookstore appearance is a right of passage. And it all comes down to eye contact, inflection, voice, volume, and speed.

The elements of an introvert's nightmare.

To prepare for a public reading, even as a seasoned professional, the key is to use the tools at your disposal to practice well before the event.

It's how to get to Carnegie Hall, after all.

Begin by matching your reading selection with your audience- how familiar will they be with your subject? Would they perhaps enjoy a more exciting passage, or one with serious philosophical insights? Only you and your marketing agent can make these types of decisions...

Next, read your selection several times out loud while actively listening. How do your words come across? Look for flat sounds that could put a caffeine bean to sleep and focus on finding your strengths. Vary your speaking voice in volume, inflection, and stress... rise with the action, and fall with the, well, falling action.

Do it again, only this time with someone else to listen and provide feedback.

Then, before the public reading, do it again.

And, surprise, surprise... do it again. your material inside and out, without relying on the fact that you wrote it in the first place. At the bookstore, speak slowly, but firmly, with enough volume to reach the back, but not so much as to grab the attention of the barista at the coffee shop across the street. A good public speaker realizes that the voices in their head may sound amazing when kept inside, but when the words translate into a spoken tongue, they can become confusing, slurred, and muddled without practice.

Once you have your selection down pat, and after practicing it one more time, think of how your presence can influence sales.

As a public speaker, dress appropriately - if you write of Victorian nights and Chaucer-filled days, tweed with leather patches on your sleeves is a proven way to go.

If you write of romance on the high seas... how about wearing a pirate shirt to the bookstore?

Make eye contact with your audience- it calms them, and lets you telepathically suggest they buy four copies of your book. The hardcover one, not the paperback.

Eye contact does in fact draw in your audience, helping them to share your emotions and feelings found within the book. And once they've picked up on this, they won't want to put it down.

Never let them put it down.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

It Begins With an Idea

Your creation -

Maybe it was a recurring sensation that returned only when the lights were low, and the rustle of leaves could be heard from the old oak standing sentinel beside the window. Or perhaps it was a concept that replayed itself whenever a mild breeze wandered elusively from offshore, carrying the salty depths of an ocean to taste and smell and conjure images of adventure and betrayal.

Our ideas come from our environment, a swirl at times of thoughts that need time to settle and begin to form a tale.

A life's story is like that.

The original idea must not be forgotten. Instead, much like a newborn life, it should be nurtured. It must be taught in its own way how to bend along a plot line, how to fall away from the crescendo, and how best to engage with those who long to engage with it.

But it takes time and patience.

An idea does not simply appear fully conceptualized. It whimpers at first, mewing against plot holes and grammar errors and sour notes. It cringes in the creator's protective arms against the chills of syntax confusion and wildly shifting points of view. Nurtured in this way, adjusted and corrected, ideas can be realized as coherent and melodic stories, with happily proceeding trains of thought, responsible exposition, and individualized traits.

With attention, ideas become art.

The writer... the artist... gives birth to something magical. The story develops into a creation of beauty-

To this end, an artist's thoughts during creation should not be of literary marketing, or disseminating publishing sales data, or how best to approach a bookshop or venue for a book signing tour. A writer should not add the stress of online image management and SEO optimization onto the pyre of creative flame - this is where we come in.

We at Spotlight Publicity can take your creation- your heart and sweat - and help you find your audience.

We would like to thank those who we have worked with in the past, and thinking forward, those we will in the weeks and years ahead.

Sometimes, it takes a dedicated ally to realize the results you've worked so hard to achieve.

Let the team at Spotlight Publicity be yours.