‘Maggie’—A Poignant Family Drama

[Maggie Poster]
Photo Courtesy of IMDb
Maggie’ (2015)
Directed by Henry Hobson
Screenplay by John Scott 3
Drama | Horror | Thriller
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
LionsGate
Rated PG-13
Log Line: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

You see, the thing about zombies is, they’re incredible boring. I’m pretty sure that’s why George Romero always chose to marry the “ghouls” in his stories with political commentary. I had to learn this lesson myself with my own horror-thriller trilogy. You cannot expect readers to embrace three novels—nearly three hundred thousand words—if all they have to look forward to is a bunch of drooling braineaters on the loose.

Forget Zombies
‘Maggie’ is not a zombie movie—not in the normal sense. Yes, there are zombies in it—in particular, the title character, played by Abigail Breslin. But these are not the undead we are used to. They are victims of a plague that has swept the planet and has made ordinary people sick—slowly. They may no longer eat, but they can still talk and think and love. They don’t shuffle, and neither do they move ultra-fast as in World War Z.’ They are simply people who are dying.

Against this backdrop you have a father, played beautifully and with quiet strength by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is determined to keep his daughter not only alive, but safe for as long as possible. In doing so, he drives away his wife and their two small children, manages to earn the scorn of the police and quite possibly risks his own life. Because when the day comes that Maggie “turns”—and that day will come—he will be forced to either take her to a quarantine facility, where they will end her life with a death cocktail, or deal with her in his own way at home.

Family Is What Matters
If there’s one lesson that ‘Maggie’ teaches us, it’s that family and friends matter—especially in times of crisis. This movie didn’t have to be about zombies. Wade and his daughter could have ended up exactly in the same situation as a result of worldwide famine, cataclysmic climate change or End Times. It doesn’t matter. For me, the poignancy is most present in those quiet moments when Wade and his daughter are sharing a memory or a laugh. It’s when he desperately tries to get her to eat something to keep up her strength. And it’s when she’s starting to turn and he exhorts her to fight and stay human.

Box Office Fiasco
‘Maggie’ bombed at the box office. As of this writing, it has earned only $187,112 domestic, according to BoxOfficeMojo. And that’s a shame. I think perhaps LionsGate may not have known how best to market this film. I sympathize, though. As soon as you say “zombie” and Arnold Schwarzenegger, audiences are going to have certain expectations. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were thinking guns, brains, and lots and lots of blood. Too bad. This movie is not that.

I’m really hoping ‘Maggie’ does well on video. It deserves an audience—the right audience.

A Writer’s Life—Makin’ da Pizza

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Mouratidis via Creative Commons
[Hand-tossed Pizza]Almost a year ago I posted some musings on writers and the marketing side of the business. And, yes, this is a business. Speaking of which, I’ve been blessed to be able to make a living for many years, doing something that has nothing to do with writing fiction. This feeds my family and keeps my wife from panicking every time the price of groceries goes up. And though I’ve been writing in one way or another since I was fifteen, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to approach writing fiction in a much more professional way by taking advantage of indie publishing platforms like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others. And the advent of these new alternatives to traditional publishing is both a blessing and a curse. I’ll get to that shortly.

Why We Write
It isn’t unusual to hear from writers who claim they do nothing but put pen to paper because the alternative is to go crazy. Stories are bursting out of them—stories that must be told. And to a large extent I agree with that. But, having had the benefit of writing and holding down a job at the same time, I can say in all candor that, at least from my own experience, writers write because the idea of actually working for a living is horrifying. I’m thinking of Charles Bukowski, who worked in a post office for a time. Don’t you think he would have rather been writing? I mean, at least Ernest Hemingway started out as a journalist. Look, all I’m saying is, if everyone had the choice of slaving away in a soul-killing office or holing up in a clean well-lighted place, which would they choose? Fine, salespeople would probably still prefer to sell because it’s in their blood. That and the fact that they are evil. Kidding! No, really, they’re evil.

Writing is a Blessing
Okay, enough about that. Writers write because blah blah blah. Now, if you are spending your time writing, good for you. You are probably a person with tons of imagination who likes creating stories and sharing them with the world at large. And, as a bonus, you’d like to get paid, right? Of course you would. Otherwise you’re Bukowski at the post office.

For me, sitting in my basement creating characters who often find themselves in dangerous situations is fun. Want to know what’s more fun? Hearing from readers who tell me they liked seeing characters in situations in which there’s a very good chance they might wind up dead. It’s a real high.

But for indie writers, it’s not just about creating the story.

Writing as a Curse
Unless you are a successful author with a publisher who is waiting with baited breath—and a fat advance—for your next book, there’s a lot of other work you have to do. It’s almost as if you are having a shared experience with the guy in the soul-sucking office job. Here are just a few things you need to worry about …

A Decent Cover. This thing has to look good. And guess what—you’re going to have to spend money on it. I’ve seen too many Kindle books with covers that look like they were designed by an eighth-grade dropout with a new set of Sharpies.

Proper Editing. I include copyediting and proofing in this category. How many books have you downloaded lately that read like an instruction manual that has been translated into English? I mean, seriously. I get that you have a good idea and want to give it life. But if you are a lousy speller or have problems with tenses, get an editor.

eBook Formatting. That’s right. You can’t just upload your Word document and hope for the best. Well, actually you can, but that’s not the point. You want to ensure that your darling will display correctly on virtually every device. Unless of course you decide to kill your darling because, you know, Faulkner said it … Never mind.

Marketing. This one’s my favorite because it never ends. Why can’t these things sell themselves? I’ll tell you why—because there are literally millions of titles available on Amazon. How in the world is anyone going to find your book in that roiling sea of bright covers and pretty prose?

Which Brings Me to Me
Part of marketing is figuring out things like book titles, descriptions and SEO, which contribute to the all-important goal of being discoverable. Me? I’m in the process of rebranding my horror-thriller trilogy, the first two books of which are published. The third is coming out later this year, and I arrived at a place where I realized that I needed to tie the three books together better—for brand recognition. This is no easy task. Other authors much more famous and successful than I have taken different approaches to their series. I had to consider what I have going with my books and capitalize on that.

Though I haven’t figured it all out yet, I do know that I’ve had some pretty good success with the title of the first book, Tell Me When I’m Dead. That title rocks, in my opinion. The second book is entitled Dead Is All You Get. Not as good as the first title, but I still think it packs a punch. I was going to hold a contest to come up with the title of the third book, but my wife put the kibosh on that idea in short order. “You’re the writer,” she said. “Do your job.”

My wife’s not a sentimental person, and she likes to speak her mind. But you know what? She’s right.

So what to expect. The third book is almost finished. (I’m not as slow as George R.R. Martin—I swear!) Then I will design a cover and do a cover reveal. At that time you’ll see the new title, as well as the new branding for the trilogy. Finally, the book will be edited, formatted and published.

There’s a lot to being an indie writer—doing things that have nothing to do with the words. But as I said at the beginning, writing is a business. Once you understand that, you’ll have the time of your life. It’s like making pizza—really good pizza.

Authors and Goodreads

Photo Courtesy of Chris Dunn
[Cracked Matador]Sometimes, it’s hard being an author and a marketer. We want to spend all our time on our passion, which is writing. But in order to create awareness for the purpose of gaining more readers, we also need to market ourselves. Yikes! And we do this typically on two main platforms—Twitter and Facebook. But there’s another platform we seem to gravitate toward, and that’s Goodreads.

Goodreads started out as an independent platform devoted to readers—people who love good books and want to discuss them with folks who share their interests. Some time ago, Amazon took notice of the large membership and decided to purchase them. Now, as a destination, not much has changed. You can still add books that you have read or want to read to your shelves. You can create lists, and you can join lively discussion groups. To me, Goodreads is like a gigantic online book club. Except you don’t meet at peoples’ houses, and there are no Pepperidge Farm cookies.

Readers vs. Authors
Here’s where things get interesting, though. Goodreads also allows authors to join and, further, to identify themselves as authors, with their own profiles. My guess is, Goodreads did this primarily so they could entice authors to purchase advertising. I’m not sure how effective that is, and after having participated in Goodreads as an author for the past two years or so (you can check out my profile here), I’ve come to a startling conclusion.

Authors should stay the hell away from Goodreads.

Now, I realize that some of you will be upset with me. What does this idiot mean, stay away? Okay, so I didn’t want you to take me literally—I was trying to make a point. What I actually meant was, in my opinion authors should not attempt to promote themselves in Goodreads. At all. It would be like me showing up at your Wednesday night book club meeting, hawking my horror-thriller novels to your unsuspecting guests and tippling the Merlot when you weren’t looking. First of all, I wasn’t invited. Secondly, how did I get a key to your house?

The Well-behaved Author
Goodreads should be a place for readers, not writers. I think authors should have the ability to maintain author profiles there, but it should be purely for the purpose of interacting with fans who want to ask us questions. Goodreads features a wonderful section in the author profile called “Ask the Author.” Readers can post their questions, and authors can reply. I’ve done this myself, and I really enjoy it. You can check out my Q&As here. And if readers want to know more about the kinds of books I write, they should visit my website.

Well, what about reviews? Authors read too, you know. And if I really like a book, I want to tell the world—just like any other reader. I see nothing wrong with authors posting reviews on Goodreads. I’m not even sure my reviews carry any more weight than some of the best book bloggers out there.

So, what do you think? Should authors be active participants in Goodreads?

Note: This video is hilarious, but it’s NSFW.

Taking Your Books to the World, One Click at a Time

[Taylor Ripp]

By Taylor Ripp

Guys, I just started using GeoRiot, and I am finding it to be a huge help for my book-marketing efforts. I’m aware that there are a number of other services out there that can localize your Amazon links, but these guys stand out for me. So I wanted to give them a chance to talk to you about the value of acting as a global marketer.

As an author, you want your works of literary art to be available to as many readers as possible. Luckily, we live in the age where the indie author has the ability to market to a global audience thanks to a little something called the Internet. However, many authors with an international following don’t realize that online storefronts like Amazon and iBooks are actually country and region specific, which means if your global readers are clicking on links to either ecosystem in order to purchase from your website or social media pages, you may be losing out on sales.

Why, you ask? If you’re not sending your readers to their native storefronts, they may be unable to finish the purchase due to language, currency, and for physical products shipping costs. For example, if a reader in Germany clicks on a link from your website to purchase your book on Amazon.com, you will be sending them to the Amazon US storefront where they will find your book, but in a foreign language and currency, and in a store where they probably don’t have an account. Those potential new fans who were about to purchase your book have been steered away due to a poor user experience. By linking users to the wrong storefront, you’ve given them a bad experience, missed out a book sale, and lost a new reader.

Before we go any further, let’s talk briefly about the world of Affiliate Marketing. If you’re not already signed up for Affiliate Programs like Amazon Associates and the iTunes Affiliate Program (for iBooks), that’s something else we highly recommend. As an affiliate, these stores will pay you commissions for any purchases made after clicking on one of your affiliated links. The cool part is even if you send your readers to buy your newest novel, and they purchase a brand new TV in the same session, you get a percentage from that TV too! Please note, however, that the Amazon Associates program is actually country-specific as well, so you’ll need to sign up for the different country’s affiliate programs separately in order to earn those commissions from around the world.

Ok, back to the issue at hand. We at GeoRiot call the geographic barriers between your readers and the item you’re promoting “The Purchasing Gap,” and now that I have you sufficiently worried, let’s talk about how to bridge it.

There are link management platforms out there (such as GeoRiot) that allow you to build a single link that automatically determines what country your readers are clicking from, directs them to their local storefront, and adds your affiliate ID. This increases the likelihood of your readers being able to purchase your books, and when they do, you earn you a commission for the sale.

In addition to solving The Purchasing Gap, a good link management platform will give you other tools to help your books conquer the world. GeoRiot allows you to set up Genius Links that allow you to configure overrides like automatically sending all clicks coming from iOS devices to purchase your eBook from iBooks, or clicks from Kindle devices to Amazon. Some even have reporting tools that allow you to more specifically cater your marketing efforts by showing you where in the world and from what devices your readers are clicking. These platforms can also allow you to create “vanity” or “shortened” links such as http://geni.us/MyBook that look much better than the long Amazon links.

Obviously, we’re biased towards our service, but if you’re not using some type of link management platform for your global marketing efforts, you’re missing out on potential sales, fans, and affiliate commissions. Using a specialized service like GeoRiot will make you a better marketer, increase your book sales, and help your chances of turning into the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.

If you have any questions about The Purchasing Gap or just want to learn more about global marketing, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to help you become a better global marketer.

Macy’s or Wal-Mart—Which Are You?

By Khalid Muhammad

[Khalid Muhammad]In this second in an occasional series, Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office, talks about something as important as writing your book—marketing it. Brand is crucial to an author’s success, and so is how you price your book. So who do you want to be?

Macy’s or Wal-Mart—which are you?

There is a reason that marketers get paid the big bucks—we know how to position and market your product for the highest return. There is also a reason that 99% of us hate to compete based on price—because the next guy that comes along at 10 cents cheaper is going to steal our customer. That is capitalism at its finest. It doesn’t matter if the product is better or not, if the price fits, the consumer will buy.

Why do they buy? Because you haven’t given them a reason to stay with your product, in this case your book. And therein lies the rub …

When we spend months writing our book, detached from family, losing sleep, and inhaling more caffeine and nicotine than our bodies know what to do with, we are doing it because we have a story to tell. We want the readers to be absorbed, engaged and interwoven into the words that we put on the page. We want them to escape into the lands that we create, feel the emotions of our characters, and savor the experience until our next book comes to market. So why do we price our books so low that real readers don’t touch them?

For most authors, they never think of the marketing side because they are too busy working on writing the actual book, which is much more important, nor do they have the capital to go out and hire someone to do the marketing for them. So they take on the task and find themselves competing for the Wal-Mart customer rather than catering to the Macy’s loyalists. Let’s stop for a second and talk about what that means.

I am a big fan of Wal-Mart. It’s a great place to shop, and wonderful people work there, but we all need to be clear—we don’t shop there because of the great quality, we shop there for the price. Because Wal-Mart buys in indecent quantity, they are able to offer a significantly lower price to the consumer so they don’t need to worry about quality. They just need to keep the shelves full. Now, look at Macy’s. They don’t care about price. They focus on quality and the experience of the consumer. The Macy’s shopper doesn’t spend their time waiting for the flyer, they just go and buy. Price is not the decision point for them, it’s quality and experience. So, you have to ask yourself, which one are you? Are you a price point or do you give the reader a fantastic experience? That’s a tough question because it affects your entire marketing strategy, book positioning, and sadly, your book sales. So let’s ask the question.

As an author, do you deliver a fantastic experience to the reader? Do you want to have loyal readers that send you emails, post on your Facebook page and hound you on twitter wanting to know when your next book will be out? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you need to think about the experience and forget the price.

Now, I’m not saying that you should jump your price to over $8 an e-book like the traditionally published authors, because you don’t carry the same expenses nor do you have a publisher that is hungry to generate obscene revenue from your hard work. This is your baby. This is your money and only you know how best to price it, so price it that way.

I know there are a bunch of authors out there who believe the best way to sell their books is to drop to a .99 price. But can I ask you a question—what do you think when you walk into a dollar store? Are you there because you want the best quality or are you there because you want to get some inexpensive things? Yeah, I thought so. The same applies to when you give something away for free. You got something for nothing, so what is it really worth to you? I should be clear this does not apply to the books you give away for reviews because that is also a marketing activity and good reviews sell books. But if the reviewer sees that the price of the book is below the price of a McDonald’s meal, they don’t take it with much value.

So I leave you this week with this question—as an author, are you Wal-Mart or Macy’s?

[Agency Rules Cover]

eBook
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Enhanced by Zemanta

So You’re An Author

By Khalid Muhammad

[Khalid Muhammad]I am very pleased to welcome Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office. In this occasional series, Khalid discusses what it means to be an indie author, responsibilities you didn’t even know you had, and tips on creating a powerful marketing presence. In this first article, Khalid covers the basics of the author platform.

So you’ve written your masterpiece – 90,000 plus words, formatted and cover designed, and you’re just getting ready to publish it to the world’s hungry eyes … when all of the sudden fear grasps you and you start to wonder, How will people know? and What if they don’t buy? Yes, we’ve all been there, whether traditional or self-published—that moment that makes us turn ghost white wondering how people are going to find out about our book. That moment when we realize that no matter what the publisher does to promote it, we will have to brand ourselves and market our books. Oh, the horror!

About a decade ago, before the social media and the Internet became like food for everyone, marketing a book would mean buying advertising space, getting on popular radio shows and begging local and regional newspapers for reviews of your book. That all changed with the digital generation, where with the right tools, you can spend very little and get huge results. That’s if you know how to use the right tools.

This new series is designed to help authors of all shapes and experience understand how to select and use the right tools to build their brand and market their books to the largest possible audience.

The Author Platform
Let’s start with the basics. There are things that you must have as an author in today’s digital world, if you even hope to achieve a modicum of success. Those things are:

  • An author website
  • A Facebook page for either your book or yourself as an author
  • A Twitter account
  • A Goodreads author account

I know, not rocket science right? Actually, it is. The four things above are essential to any author, not having any weakens your efforts and limits the access that potential readers have to your work. This is what I call the proverbial “author platform.” Each piece of the platform caters to specific groups of readers and all work closely together to deliver what we call in the marketing world a strong user experience, but I’ll go into that later.

Remember, as an author, you need to create an inviting place for potential readers to come and get to know you. You also have to take into account that the attention span of some readers has slimmed down to 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and some will want to read more about your writing before they buy your book since you’re not a recognized name. And there are hundreds of other things you must take into account about the characteristics of your potential audience than you realize that you can’t do on any single platform alone, which is why there are four parts.

The one thing that you need to focus the most on is your author website. This is the central nervous system of your entire marketing efforts. If done wrong, you will not achieve the success that you could potentially have. If done right, you will have a fantastic platform that will feed all of your other tools with content that engages and encourages readers to want to buy your book.

We will be covering each of these points in detail over the course of this series. My objective is to help you build the pieces that will showcase your work and drive traffic to sell your book. If you have questions, please do reach out to me in the comments here or via any of my social media pages, which are listed below.

[Agency Rules Cover]

eBook
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Enhanced by Zemanta