Lamar Giles
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California here I come…

I will be in LA for the rest of the week attending the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 40th Anniversary Summer Conference. It’s my first trip to the West Coast and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ll be posting pictures throughout the weekend to my Facebook Fan Page. “Like” me and tell your friends to “Like” me, too. You can see what sort of silliness I get into over the next few days.

Also, follow me on Twitter (@LRGiles) and keep an eye on the official conference hashtag for a lot of cool stuff from the numerous writers in attendance: #LA11SCBWI

I may blog a bit while I’m there, otherwise I’ll catch you when I’m back in my timezone…


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Type A Lamar and the Business Card Debacle…

It’s rare that a post can be random and relevant, but that’s kind of what this is. The relevant part involves the trip I’ll be taking later this week to attend the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 40th Anniversary conference in Los Angeles. I’ll get to rub elbows with some industry folks and attend cool and informative workshops, which is always a plus. But, more importantly, I’ll get to meet my very good writer friend Jennifer Bosworth and my Super Agent Jamie Weiss Chilton in person for the very first time (this alone is worth the price of the plane ticket).

Confession: I rarely get excited. It’s like my brain secrets Prozac, I’m so even keel. However, this trip excites me. It’ll be my first time on the west coast, and I can’t wait to see LA for myself. I’m from Virginia and the farthest west I’ve been is Texas…all I know about LA comes from ENTOURAGE and KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS. My only regret is that my wife can’t make this trip with me, but she’s demanded that I bring her back something “decidedly LA”. I’m thinking a jar of smog.

That was your dose for relevant, time for the random…

I’m a Type A all the way, an obsessive PLANNER. So, uncharacteristically, I made a misstep in my conference prep. See, it’s good protocol to have business cards with you when you attend these things because you meet so many people there’s no way to keep everyone straight in your head. And I have A METRIC TON of business cards already. The problem: the cards are specific to my Indie Pubbed adult paranormal novel LIVE AGAIN, which maybe doesn’t matter too much, but it’s not the impression I necessarily want to make at conference centered around books for children and young adults. This didn’t occur to me until Thursday night, exactly 1 week before I get on a westbound plane.

The Type A in me panicked. While all of my relevant contact info was on the LIVE AGAIN business cards, I’d simply be MORTIFIED to hand those out at SCBWI…it’d be like, I don’t know, wearing white after Labor Day. I needed something representative of my young adult work. Since graphic design is a hobby I’ve dabbled in for the last two years, I got the bright idea that I would DESIGN A NEW BUSINESS CARD IN ONE HOUR, so I could make a rush order with Vista Print and get new cards before I leave.

If you’re a planner, too, you probably already see what’s wrong here…

It was close to midnight when I started my ambitious design project. I’d been up since 5 AM. I discovered SLEEP-DEPRIVED DESIGNING is kind of like DRUNK DIALING YOUR EX…you wake up the next day with one thing and one thing only on your mind, “What the hell did I do?”

I completed my design, all with a snazzy, unique color palette (not the problem), and this cool little ink-in-water accent along the bottom left to highlight all my social media logos (not the problem). I even added a custom logo (problem).

The logo I’d been working on was meant to represent a character I’d created for a YA project. It’s essentially the silhouette of a guy wearing these big ’80’s style headphones because the character was really into music. I got the basic logo from istockphoto and planned to tweak it (which I never got around to) so I could throw it on some promotional stuff. Really, there’s nothing wrong with the idea on paper. The problem comes in when you consider the following (something my sleep addled mind was not able to do…at the time it seemed like the best idea ever, freaking award-worthy):

1) The character changed, and music isn’t as big a part of his makeup as it used to be. The headphones are insignificant now.

2) I can’t say too much about this project yet. And I can’t say WHY I can’t say much about this project yet.

3) Since the character changed, and I’m not supposed to discuss him too much, the logo is meaningless. It’s like painting a Pepsi logo on a prehistoric rock for the dinosaurs to stare out.

4) This is the worst part – It’s a kid wearing BIG ASS HEADPHONES. That doesn’t exactly scream WRITER. It screams DJ!!!!!

And I paid fifty bucks to get my new DJ business cards in time for my WRITER’S conference. <Insert Joke Here>.

So if you happen to be at SCBWI next week and you’re looking for me, I’ll be the guy saying, “Hi, I’m Lamar. I’m a writer…but I also do weddings.”


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My eVolution

Been awhile, folks. Happy New Year (he says, three weeks late).

As always, I apologize for the M.I.A act, but I’ve been gone for a good reason…well, I hope you think it’s a good reason.

Of course I’ve been writing, and also been prepping for the next (immediate) step in my writing career. Indie Publishing.

As of yesterday, you can purchase two of my novels for your Kindle, Nook, or other compatible eReader device.

For the record, this isn’t an ad for either book. If you care to download a free sample or purchase either book, you can utilize this link, or any of the links in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

This is more like the first journal entry in a year long experiment. You see, I don’t know how to market things, and I don’t know if people will like what I’m offering, but I gotta start somewhere. I expect there to be a lot of trial and error as I attempt to strike a balance between my natural inclination to not annoy folks with the necessary assertiveness it takes to make people aware that I have a product they may want to take a look at.

As always, I’m an open book (no pun intended). I’ll post about my efforts, the results, and any hurdles I hit along the way. So far I’ve sold 3 books total. Not bad for the first couple of days. I’ve heard of much slower starts. Time will tell if this first 3 was the start of a movement or the peak.

More to come folks…

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The Difference: Writing Stuff vs Writing-Part 2

True story: An Accomplished Writer who has sold and published nearly a dozen novels attends a conference. While having a drink, a New Writer takes the bar stool next to her and strikes up a conversation. They chat about the industry, how the conference has been, what they’ve read lately. Finally, they get to the subject of self-promotion.

The Accomplished Writer is impressed with the New Writer’s use of social networking, web radio, conference hopping and mail campaigns to promote their project. The Newbie is way ahead of where the Accomplished Writer was at a similar point in her career. The New Writer even has a fancy t-shirt featuring their new book’s cover.

Totally willing to support this New Writer, the accomplished writer asks, “Do you have any copies of your book on you? I’d like to buy one.”

To which the New Writer responds, “Oh, I haven’t written it yet.”

Don’t be THAT guy…

In my previous post we talked a bit about “Writing Stuff”, or the activities that writers engage in to reach more people. It involves everything that relates to your writing but isn’t your writing. Now, I want to talk about the writing itself.

Believe it or not, your craft should be your top priority, though it’s easy to see how it can fall into the 2, 3, or 4 spot behind all the other stuff that’s a part of the 21st Century Writer’s life. Put it in perspective, let’s say you’re a great marketer. You Tweet like nobody’s business. You’ve got 5,000 friends on Facebook. Everyone who knows you knows your book is coming. They’re excited. Then, they get the book…

…and it sucks.

Or, it’s never finished.

Or, it’s never even started (though having t-shirts printed does show initiative).

Never forget that writers write. No matter what.

Writing is Writing

Not having enough time is NOT an excuse.

I’ve often heard that writers should write everyday. I guess that’s a good thing, but it’s not something I’ve been able to stick to. I do write at least 5 out of every 7 days, and I focus on one project until it’s completed (unless someone pays me to do something else).

This is one of those areas where you have to keep the schedule that works for you. My schedule works for me (I’ve sold work, have a great agent, one of my novels is going on submission in 2 weeks) and I’m still able to hit the gym. However it breaks down, you have time to write. You may currently call it Desperate Housewives time, or Madden 2010 time, but you can easily re-allocate that time to your writing.

If you’re not willing to manage your time in a way that incorporates your writing, you don’t really want the job.

Oh, and just to clarify, writing means putting new words on the page. AdviceToWriters.Com has an interesting quote from E.L. Doctorow that sums it up nicely, “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”

Quality Control

Steven Barnes says, “Perfectionism Is Procrastination Masquerading As Quality Control”

That means you can’t revise forever. Yes, writing means re-writing. And if you’re just writing for yourself with no further aspirations, feel free to tweak and tinker to your heart’s content. But if you’re serious and want the job, here’s where I give you a hard and fast rule to follow.

1 Draft -> 1 Revision -> Get quality feedback from someone (other than yourself) -> repeat as necessary

If you know anything about Quality Control, then you know the QC Evaluation is never conducted by the product’s creator. There’s only so much you can do given the emotional investment you have in your manuscript. And stalling the revision is just a way to avoid taking your lumps.

Guess what, after all that solo revising, it’s still going to suck.

Boom! We just got that out of the way, so there’s no need to be scared. It can’t get worse than that. Just know every time you get some new, crucial piece of feedback your manuscript will suck less and less until it’s just unsucky enough to get you where you want to go.

It can’t do anything for you sitting on your hard drive while you swap out commas.

On to the Next One

Congrats!! You’ve completed your project. You’ve done what writers do despite the Writing Stuff and everything else life throws in your way.

Now do it again.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your queries and proposals together. If you get a few rejections then go back, tweak some things and try again (that’s what landed me my agent).

Keep writing, keep putting new words on the page. Sound daunting? Think about this, if you get the job you say you want, you’re going to have to come up with new stuff all the time. Might as well get some practice in now.

And when you’re doing all that Writing Stuff, you’ll have plenty to talk about…

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The Difference: Writing Stuff vs Writing – Part 1

If you follow the publishing industry, particularly with aspirations of being a professional writer, you’ve likely heard things like “you have to own your career” and “writers can no longer take a passive role in promoting and selling their work”. Gone are the days of the full-time writer having a hermit-like existence, only surfacing to buy scotch and pipe tobacco while waiting for royalty checks. Heck, let some tell it, gone are the days of the full-time writer.

As with anything, there are exceptions. But, most likely, you (and me) aren’t.

Which means we’re going to have to balance the “writing stuff” in our careers with the actual “writing”.

What stuff?

This question may seem simple. You can probably tick off a good sized list of “writing stuff” you’ve done, are doing, or plan to do. In quick succession, it probably looks a little like this:

-Develop and maintain a web presence (site, blog, social networking, message boards)

-Make your work available on the cheap through Amazon or Smashwords

-Meet other writers with career aspirations similar to your own and nurture those friendships

All of the above are good efforts, or at least that’s what we’re told. However, without a clear vision, good planning, and the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts, all that stuff can easily become a time suck that takes away from the most important part of your career: writing.

Clear vision

I’ve met a lot of writers who are hesitant to say exactly what they want from their careers, as if stating the desire for  full-time income/notoriety based mostly on writing will jinx the possibility of it ever happening. Really, it’s quite the opposite. By not clearly quantifying and qualifying goals, your efforts will start to resemble those of a driver who is lost, but won’t ask for directions.

They’ll drive straight for awhile, but when they don’t like how the road’s looking they take a left. Then they’ll randomly decide that was wrong, and make another turn. And so on.

Compare this to the driver who knows where they’re going. It doesn’t matter if the road is narrow, under construction, or congested. They stick to it with their mind focused expressly on their destination.

Good planning

Once you know what  you want, you have to make a solid plan to get it. No one accomplishes goals accidentally.

How you go about this will vary person to person. Obviously, one of the goals you should be planning around will involve a certain amount of writing on a regular basis. But, we’ll discuss that in Part 2 of this topic.

In regard to “writing stuff” part of the planning will center around gaining an understanding of the industry as a whole, then specifically the area you want to work in. I can’t tell you exactly how to do that. Like I said, it varies. But, I can point you to some great conventional (and not so conventional) resources.

Trade Magazines: Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s Digest, The Writer

Writer/Promoter Blogs (emphasis on promoter): JA Konrath, Kiersten White

Books by Genuis Marketers: Crush It!, The 4-Hour Workweek

The value of the items above may or may not be apparent, but the key is to find what works for you, and that’s mostly going to come through trial and error. Thus the next point…

Evaluate effectiveness

You gotta be able to see what’s NOT going to work for you. Video blogging may not work for you if you’re camera shy. Building a Twitter following may not work for you if you only tweet once or twice a week. Selling your work on the cheap through digital platforms may not be your thing if you’re not a diligent online promoter.

There’s nothing wrong with trying any and everything, but in order to control your time (which you need to write), you’ll have to figure out which avenues are worth taking, and which ones justify a detour.

Next time

We’re going to leave the writing stuff alone and focus on what you can tweak in your writing to help you find that road to success a little faster. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to address, please leave them in the comments section.

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Gaining traction in ePublishing

This week, I’m debuting two of my novels, LIVE AGAIN and THE DARKNESS KEPT, in Amazon’s Kindle Store and on Anyone following the recent trends in the business know that ePublishing to digital platforms like Kindle, Nook, iPad, and so on are making many authors small fortunes while potentially redefining (or destroying, if you let some tell it) the traditional publishing model. I can’t say seeing some of that ‘small fortune’ money wouldn’t be nice, but I have other motivations in taking this route.

I’ve spent years trying to break into publishing with some minor to moderate success. Ultimately, I want to sell a novel (what writer doesn’t?) but have been met with the same heartaches and frustrations that most writers encounter. I’ve had numerous form rejections, as well as ‘rave rejections’ (meaning agents really liked what I was doing, thought I was fresh and original, but couldn’t commit due to a soft marketplace). I’ve spent years in front of my computer pecking out words only to amass a number of manuscripts that would never see the light of day…until now.

I’ll be the first to admit that everything I’ve written is not publishable. But, I’ve got some things I’m really proud of, and I’m kind of tired of waiting for a stranger in New York to shuffle through their slushpile and recognize that I’m more than a 1 page query letter. So, I’ll attempt this difficult task of self-publishing and promoting my older work while still producing new material to shop traditionally.

Does anyone out there feel the same way? Have you already taken the leap into ePublishing? If so, comment. Talk to me about what you’re doing. What works, and what doesn’t? I’ll be happy to keep you posted on my efforts as well.

Until next time…

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