Monday, June 25, 2012

My Zombie Heritage

Beginning in 1971 (with my birth) and until I moved to New Jersey in 1994, I lived in an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh known as Monroeville, Pennsylvania.  An endless array of fugly strip malls and fast food grease buckets straddle a commercial highway like any typical suburb.  But my hometown differs from all the rest of America’s sprawl in one significant way:  Zombies.

George Romero attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chose western Pennsylvania as the setting for most of his movie making for decades thereafter.  Many credit him as the grandfather of the zombie flick, beginning with “Night of the Living Dead” filmed in Evans City near Butler, PA.  In 1978, Romero’s next installment, “Dawn of the Dead” was shot on location inside Monroeville Mall.  My parents would not let me watch the film at seven years old even though “Dawn of the Dead” was one of the most critically acclaimed films that year.  They were always so unreasonable.  I vaguely remember the mall shutting down during the holiday season that year so Romero and his crew could film through the night before the real zombies, er shoppers, would show up the next morning. 

Monroeville Mall is one of the few commercial establishments in the country to carry such cultural significance.  There is an unofficial zombie museum in the mall’s arcade complete with t-shirts and souvenirs.  Zombie walkers and tourists alike continue to roam the promenade with a camera in hand, especially while on the central escalator in the middle of the mall.  Kevin Smith shot much of 2008’s, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” in Monroeville and the amateur hockey team in the film is the “Monroeville Zombies”, a respectful and quirky nod to Romero’s cinematic relevance.  Seth Rogen has no connection to Monroeville.  Or zombies.  He is, however, Canadian.

I spent countless nights as a teenager in the 1980’s stumbling through Monroeville Mall (like the undead but with worse acne) towards the Cup-A-Go-Go or a pack of big-haired Madonna wannabees.  When it comes to zombies or brain delicacies, I know what I’m talking about.  I was raised in a town where the most influential zombie film maker of all time made a masterpiece.  That gives me zombie heritage.  I have a certain pedigree, as they like to say. You can decide what its worth.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are you dragging your book down?

A few weeks back, author Tammie Clarke Gibbs asked me to contribute to her new book which is a really practical guide to self-publishing in this day and age.  If you are considering getting into the business, I’d recommend grabbing Tammie’s book.  She is my guest today and I’m grateful that she was able to stop by.


You’ve written an amazing book, dressed it up right with a thorough edit and relatively smart looking cover.  It’s ready to scale the Amazon and Barnes and Noble charts, and you’re ready to see it find its place and make literary history.

You wait and wait some more.  You notice that inferior books are taking major online retailers by storm and leaving your masterpiece in a sorry state buried beneath hundreds of thousands of titles.

You’re baffled, and a little miffed that your impression of the publishing world is merely an old wives tale and that no one shared with you that there was more to success than simply writing a book and publishing it.  There are no throngs of readers lined up to purchase your book.  It’s disappointing to say the least, but then perhaps you’re not as good as you thought and all those people who encouraged you to publish were only humoring you.  Self-doubt creeps in like a thick fog and threatens to strangle the muse right out of your once optimistic being.

Maybe, you’re selling a few copies, but the number is disappointing, and you feel like you are spending an insane amount of time online to do it. You’ve read every how to on the market and have determined that they all say the same thing, and you still don’t understand why you would use Twitter or Facebook.  Overall you’re disappointed in your publishing experience so far, but you can’t give up because every other day you hear of another author who made enough to buy a used car in thirty days.

I hear authors relay similar stories every day on groups I belong to.  Once and for all, let me dispel the notion that to be successful all you have to do is write a good book.  It’s just not true.

In the world of traditional publishing there have always been bestsellers and then there have been mid list books.  What makes one book edited by the same company different than another? We’d like to say it’s the author and how well they write, but if the varying opinions on Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series are any indication that’s simply not true.  What does make a difference is marketing.  Unfortunately, for many authors who now choose to self-publish their book ‘marketing is a dirty word’.  They hate the word ‘marketing’.  I believe this is because they just don’t know anything about how to go about ‘marketing’ their books.  The very thought of being responsible for such an important part of a book’s success that you’ve spent months and possibly year's polishing is enough to send most off the edge.

There are usually two reactions to these scenarios.  “I hate therefore, I won’t do because I really don’t think it will do any good anyway” and “I’m going to do everything. Watch me.”

To clarify you cannot do nothing and expect to see the results you want, and if you don’t get the results you want what does that say for the investment that you have already made in your book?  Personally, I cannot believe that an author will spend literally years in some cases, hundreds of hours of work and then not be willing to put a little cash into making it a book that could actually provide a return on their investment.

If it takes you six months to write a book, and you devote just two hours a day to writing it do you have any idea what the monetary conversion is for those hours in lost wages?  6 x 30 x 2 x $7.50 = $2700  (That’s at a minimum wage) How can you afford NOT to spend a couple hundred dollars if necessary and a few more hours of time to make sure your book has a chance to recoup and turn a profit. Why was it so much easier to give up your time than it is to give up a little of your treasure?

If you’ve been marketing yourself to death, you are missing the mark.  Good marketing is like hunting. You get better results when you use the rifle approach than when you use a shotgun.  Targeting in on what you need to do through sitting down for a couple of hours and determining the priority of necessary tasks is much more effective than doing every little thing you read about in your marketing tips group.  There are tasks that should be done first, and if they are they will increase the odds that other tasks can do their job better.

I understand your frustration. Authors are sick of having to spend several hours a day to market their book only to feel that none of their efforts are providing them with the results they desire.

Often authors are caught up in the flashy promotions which do offer short-term gains, but if you do these promotions and don’t have the foundation to run them off of, they will never provide the consistency of sales necessary to take you where you want to go. You have to check the tires and have the car serviced BEFORE you head off on vacation.

There are different types of advertising regardless of your product.  For instance, you don’t buy a billboard to advertise a sale that is going to last a week, but a billboard can accomplish several objectives nonetheless. It creates exposure that will help when you run those short term promotions.

Learning how to prioritize your marketing by establishing a solid foundation will give you long-term results long after the tasks are complete.

If you’re interested in how to lay a solid foundation and regain precious time to write you may be interested in the first book in the 8 Hour Series.  8 HOURS TO JUMP START YOUR CAREER:  A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS was designed to be different. It is broken down into hours instead of chapters and includes actionable tasks that every author should do to assure long-term results and establish a solid foundation from which to build their author brand and give their books the best possible opportunity to succeed.

Tammie Clarke Gibbs is the Kindle Bestselling Author of these books:
ISLAND OF SECRETS, a Time-Travel Gothic Romance
COUNTERFEIT KISSES, a Historical Romantic Suspense
8 Hours to Jump Start Your Career: A Step-By-Step Guide for Self-Published Authors

See the complete list of her books by visiting her website at http://www.tammieclarkegibbs.com/
@tammiegibbs
8 HOURS FACEBOOK PAGE
Have questions email Tammie at tammiecgibbs@yahoo.com

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ghost Protocol? Where are the ghosts?

I love Netflix because I love stories.  Film, print, song; I devour them in any medium.  I’ve always hated sitting in the dark watching a big screen with strangers yelling at it even before prolific iPhone texting masturbation.  Netflix brings unlimited movies to my door (their streaming selection is the equivalent of renting a VHS from the local drugstore without the option of a cough syrup cocktail).  In addition, it helps me avoid interactions with real people.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol came out in 2011 and I watched 3/4 of it last night.  I turned it off with the final 20 minutes remaining.  Stay with me on this.


On Rotten Tomatoes, the critics’ averaged 94% and the overall review average is 85%.  That’s a fine looking aggregate of goodness, if I must get analytical on your ass.  I’m a sucker for blow’em up, fast-paced Hollywood blockbuster movies.  So why did I turn it off before the end?  Drunk, you ask?  Fall asleep, maybe?  Neither.  I simply lost interest.  The production values are incredible and the international sets are stunning.  You’ve got Tom Cruise and sexy women, gun fights, aerial acrobatics, car chases; all of the stuff that is totally unbelievable, unrealistic, and highly entertaining.  But I knew that going in.  It’s a Mission: Impossible movie, not a government training video on firearms safety.  I should have loved this move, and yet, eh, I just couldn’t finish it.  I would never leave a negative review on something I didn’t finish, even if I was 75% through it.  If I did, my “review” of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope might look something like this:

"I only watched the first 15 or 20 minutes, but this story did nothing for me.  I mean, the bad guy in the first scene, wearing a black mask and hood?  Then we get introduced to the protagonist who is some whiny teenager on a boring double-sun planet.  I hate these annoying, one-dimensional characters.  Could have been so much more…"

Are the 94% of critics wrong?  Do the 85% of the folks on Rotten Tomatoes smoke crack while writing reviews?  Probably, but that’s beside the point.  A reviewer for The Akron Beacon Journal wrote, “…a strong cast fighting a silly plot.”  A plot?  You’re watching a Mission: Impossible movie for the plot?

Action movies are made to entertain.  They are not meant to educate.  They are not high-brow cinematic creations and are certainly NOT realistic.  Why would you slam a Mission: Impossible movie for its realism or plot?  Its kind of like watching the first 10 minutes of a gay porn flick and then leaving a negative review because you didn’t see any boobies (there it is, my promise made last week is fulfilled).

And where are the ghosts?  They probably appeared in the last 20 minutes of the film.

Monday, June 4, 2012

This is How Much You Mean to Us

Now that the Memorial Day barbeques have faded and the media is done with its token nod to our veterans (usually includes a cemetery shot and a camera pan across a parade of men in uniform), we can all go back to our lives and stop pretending we care about those that have served our country in war.

In the spring of 2008, Andrew Leonard posted an article on salon.com called “Overbuilt America”.  He writes:

“The key figure is 2.3 million — the total number of homes that are empty and for sale. That adds up to a vacancy rate of 2.9 percent…According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Second Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, released in March 2008, the total number of homeless persons reported on a single night in January 2006 was 759,101… that would mean there are 24 unoccupied homes for every homeless person in the United States.”

This information is from the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans:

“About one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans… the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) estimate that over 67,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.”

I know it’s not wise to blog religion or politics for a guy making music and writing books and it’s the main reason people unfollow on Facebook and Twitter.  Next week I promise to get back to writing about heavy metal or boobs.  Maybe both.