Welcome to SCRAWL SPACE, Greg’s blog. Here he waxes eloquent on all things relating to writing and the writing life. In other words, it’s where he loves to waste his time and that of his readers. He’s very happy you’ve stopped by. You, too, Dad.
I’m very fortunate to have amazingly loyal and dedicated readers. (I’d mention them all by name, but both requested anonymity.) Whenever I come out with a new novel, these are the folks who not only buy it and actually read it, but also let me know how much they enjoyed it even if they didn’t. This is an author’s dream.
Some of my readers have gone so far as to contact me and tell me they believe I’m going to hit the big-time. A few have even asked me what they can do to help make that happen. This is an author’s sex dream.
If there’s an author you really would like to see succeed – such as one whose blog you’re currently reading – there are a number of ways you can support them. Don’t worry, when I say “support,” I’m not talking about offering them free room and board and a monthly stipend. Everyone knows that’s the job of an author’s parents or significant other.
Below are just a few of the things you can do (aside from just buying their book) to back an author whose work you feel deserves a larger readership:
Spread the word via social media. Sure, you can tell people about an author in person or via phone, text or email, but such personalized and thoughtful communication is dumb. Much more efficient and effective is to blast everybody you know or almost know all at once via an exuberant public shout-out to the author on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Give the author’s book(s) as gifts. I don’t know them, but your friends and family members are skeptical and cheap. Your online raving may draw their attention to your new favorite author and perhaps result in a handful of book sales, but many of your peeps will need you to pay them to read. Or at least pay for them to read. Maybe both. So whenever their birthday or Christmas or Hanukkah or Groundhog’s Day rolls around, give them a copy of one of my… er, I mean the author you support’s books.
Rate and review the author’s book(s) on Amazon (and other sites). This is perhaps the best way to help out an author, aside from putting them in your will. A four- or five-star rating and a rave (yet honest) review on Amazon not only compels like-minded readers to buy a book, it begets additional positive reviews, which can lead to the book being included in “Recommended for You” emails Amazon sends out to countless other like-minded readers, which, in turn leads to more sales and more reviews and more recommendations, which… okay, you get the idea. (Note: As powerful as Amazon is, don’t limit your reviews to just there; it takes little effort to copy and paste your Amazon review to other sites where voracious readers hang out, such as Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and lonelycatladies.com.)
Ask your local bookstore to carry the author’s book(s). If the author you’re eager to support is of the “indie” variety, chances are the one bookstore left standing in your town doesn’t carry their book(s). But the store very well might if you ask them to, especially if you make the clerk feel unqualified and stupid. “WHAT? How’s it possible you’ve never heard of [insert name of your author]? How’d you even GET this job – is your grandfather’s surname Barnes or Noble?” Once the clerk caves and the books arrive at the store a few days later, sit and read a copy in a high-traffic area of the store. Be sure to make lots of noises and gestures that express how enthralling and entertaining and moving the book is. Don’t be afraid to spray water out of your mouth or snot out of your nose while laughing or crying uncontrollably. To help draw even more attention to you and what you’re perusing, consider reading the book while naked.
Get a tattoo of one (or more) of the author’s book covers. There are few better ways to get lots of eyes on a book you love than to have its cover image needled into your skin – provided said image appears on a highly visible part of your body. So shoot for your arm, lower leg, neck or face, unless you dance at a strip club, work as a porn star, or are Mark Wahlberg, in which case anywhere the cover image will fit with minimal risk of infection is fine.
Commit a newsworthy crime and say the author’s novel compelled you to do it. I’ve saved the most obvious method for last. Everybody knows there’s no faster way to catapult an author to international stardom than to commit a highly visible Class-A felony and blame your actions on the author’s mesmerizing prose. As a novelist, what I wouldn’t give to have one of my two fans kidnap a movie star and scream out the title of one of my books on CNN just before getting shot by a SWAT team member. Now you know what I wish for every birthday as I blow out the candles.
What are some of the interesting ways you support the authors you like? More importantly, where are you thinking of putting a tattoo of one of my book covers?
It being the holiday season, I wanted to write a piece that captured the joyous spirit of giving that awakens in everyone this time of year. And I figured what better way to do that than to talk about my favorite serial killer.
Gage Adder – the terminally ill main character in my novel Sick to Death – is likely to be remembered for all the people he assaults and poisons in the book. And that’s a shame because when he’s not busy maiming or killing, he’s somewhat of a saint, carrying out the types of random acts of kindness and generosity this world could use much more of. Take away the vengeful cane beatings and the cyanide, and Gage is pretty much Santa Claus.
The point is, you can learn a lot about kindness from a murderer. Following are a few excerpts from Sick to Death that scream “Christmas Spirit!”
Then it dawned on him. There were ways to be thoughtful and giving without actually having to interact with others. Gage was fully prepared to give niceness a shot, but he wasn’t yet ready to let go of Sartre’s infamous notion that hell is other people. Thus, he spent the remainder of the day being anonymously altruistic.
He used his debit card to add time to six expired parking meters.
He sent an arrangement of roses, hyacinth and ranunculus to Charlene – the receptionist at his office whose husband had recently left her.
He sent two dozen donuts to the staff at FutureBright – a local charity dedicated to empowering at-risk youth – and he donated three hundred dollars to the organization via their website.
He picked up the tab for not one but two tables at the diner where he had lunch, asking the waitress to be discreet about his actions and leaving the establishment before the patrons – five in all – were informed their meals had been paid for. He left the waitress a fifty-percent tip on the total of his and the other two bills.
And for his closing act, he called the pediatric cancer unit at Carrington Medical Center, asked a nurse how many children were currently inpatients, and then ordered forty-three stuffed animals to be delivered to the unit the following day.
Two broken ribs for the guy kicking the homeless man in a back alley and bombarding him with racial epithets.
A thousand dollars in a blank envelope for the neighbors whose five-year old daughter’s body was found in a river two states over.
A cracked cranium for the coke-addled brat who plowed his Beemer into six people on a sidewalk but walked due to daddy’s legendary lawyer.
A boatload of books, games and DVDs for everyone in the Pediatric Burn Unit at Pearson Medical Center.
Brutes and creeps kept showing up bleeding and battered at hospitals and urgent care clinics. Needy individuals, families and organizations continued getting pleasant surprises from an anonymous stranger.
When Gage wasn’t knocking a white supremacist’s nose to the side of his face with a cane, he was handing azaleas to an elderly woman in the park. It was as if he had some strange new kind of bipolar disorder, one that caused him to rapid-cycle between breaking bones and bestowing gifts.
His most notable act occurred the morning of the tenth day, when he saw a woman sobbing as she walked out of a veterinary clinic holding a dog leash. The look on her face – like her entire family had just been sent to a gas chamber.
Holding the door open for the woman as she exited was an employee of the clinic, a teenage girl who looked almost as despondent as the woman herself.
“Don’t worry about the bill right now, Miss Morris,” said the girl. “Take all the time you need.”
Gage and the girl watched as the woman staggered down the sidewalk, clutching the leash. After the girl closed the door and returned to work, Gage approached the woman. He gently rested his hand on her shoulder.
“Please,” he said, “allow me to get you a taxi, Miss.”
She gave Gage a confused look. “I drove here,” she said, continuing to cry.
“It’s okay. You’re in no condition to drive. I’d like to pay for your taxi home, and I’ll also give you money to get a taxi back to your car later.”
“Who are you?” asked the woman.
“Nobody you know, just somebody who’d like to help,” said Gage. “Is it okay if I hail you a cab now?”
“I live a good fifteen minutes away,” said the woman. “A taxi will cost about twenty-five or thirty dollars. I can’t let you pay all that.”
“Please, it’s no problem,” said Gage, who fished his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans and took out three tens and two twenties. “This should cover your ride home and back,” he said as he presented the cash to her.
“You’re very kind, but I couldn’t possibly—”
“Yes, you could. You can.”
The woman smiled through the sobbing and gave Gage a hug.
“Now let’s get you a taxi,” said Gage. He guided the woman toward the curb by her elbow and raised his free hand high. When a taxi pulled up and stopped in front of them about ten seconds later, Gage opened the rear passenger side door for the woman and helped her into the yellow sedan.
“Please make sure this woman gets home safely,” Gage said to the driver. “She’ll tell you the address.” Before Gage closed the door, the woman grabbed the sleeve of his jacket.
“Thank you,” she said as she wiped her eyes. “Thank you so much.”
“You take care of yourself, Miss,” said Gage. “I’m sorry about your dog.”
Gage shut the door and waved to the sobbing woman as the taxi drove off. He then turned around and walked into the veterinary clinic.
“Good morning,” said the girl behind the front desk. It was the same girl who’d held the door for the woman earlier. “How can I help you?”
“That woman who left here crying a few minutes ago, I’m assuming her dog didn’t make it?”
“I’m sorry,” said the girl, “but who are you? A relative or friend of hers?”
“No, no,” said Gage. “I just saw how sad she was and would like to help in some way.”
“Well, there’s not much you can do,” the girl replied. “Her Golden Retriever is being euthanized as we speak.”
“That’s what I figured,” said Gage. “I overheard you say something about her bill before. I would like to pay it.”
This holiday season (and beyond), let’s each try to be a little more like Gage – minus all the, you know, homicide and stuff.
You’ve written a brilliant novel. It’s original and moving and thoroughly entertaining.
And nobody really cares.
And the reason nobody really cares is nobody really knows about it.
“But I’ve tweeted about it and blogged about it and told all my friends about it on Facebook.”
Good for you. You’ve done exactly what the 30,000 other authors who launched a book the same week as you did with their book. And most of them have more followers and friends than you do. And their book isn’t selling either.
It’s no longer enough to write a standout novel to have your novel stand out. These days, it’s how you market a book that matters – and the more original (read: outlandish) your marketing tactics, the better. The book itself is secondary.
I agree. But do you want to sell books or bitch and moan? True, both activities are satisfying, but you have to pick one. And if you pick the former, I may be able to help.
Below are five totally outside-the-box marketing tactics I (cannot) guarantee will dramatically boost your exposure and book sales, and earn you the level of recognition I feel only I deserve. (NOTE: You’ll need to employ these tactics soon, before all the other authors turn them into totally inside-the-box ideas. That said, there’s no need to rush TOO much; few people actually read my blog.)
1) Be your book. Convert your book cover into a wearable sandwich board and wear it out in public. All the time. Even at your job. Don’t worry if your coworkers ridicule you and your boss writes you up repeatedly for dress-code violations. You’ll be quitting that job in no time due to the almost guaranteed success of this brilliant book marketing approach. (Please keep in mind that, for some jobs, such as underwater welder and funeral director, wearing a sandwich board may not be feasible or practical.)
2) Video-bomb breaking news with your book in hand. You know how there’s always some idiot in the background waving at the camera while a TV reporter is covering a big breaking news story? Be that idiot. Only smarter. Waving your hand at tens or hundreds of thousands of captivated viewers watching news breaking is moronic. Waving your book at them is genius, assuming the book’s not upside down and you’re not waving it so vigorously the people can’t read the title. Otherwise you’re back to just being an idiot. The challenge with this tactic is being in the right place at the right time. You’ll need to hang out at or around places where horrible things happen on a regular basis, like an active fault line, a public school or a Walmart. It’ll take some patience and resolve, but the payoff is worth it. The only way to get more free exposure for your book is to murder a celebrity during your launch, and I simply can’t with good conscience recommend that.
3) Use racist, misogynistic, homophobic, uber-nationalistic language in your marketing. If this tactic can earn a bombastic orange man the presidency, surely it can generate some buzz around your book. Granted, many of the folks your vitriolic hate-speech will attract are likely to be illiterate, but they’ll still buy your book – you merely need to express how, if they do not, it must mean they are a sissy-girl terrorist who hates freedom.
4) Post a photo of a page of your book revealing a coffee stain that looks like Jesus. Nearly a third of the world’s population is wild about Jesus and will buy anything that contains an image that even remotely resembles him. This explains why Willie Nelson’s albums have sold so well all these years. Even if your book is about an S & M dominatrix who worships the devil, if a likeness of J.C. has been reported to appear somewhere inside even just a single copy of it, all your literary sins will be forgiven and you will soon be able to buy a mansion next to that of Stephen King.
5) Murder a celebrity during your launch. I know, I know, above in #2 I said I couldn’t with good conscience recommend this tactic, but we’re talking about marketing here and thus good conscience is moot. Still and all, this tactic should be considered only as a last resort – unless you have easy access to any reality TV stars, in which case you should bump this up to #1 on this list.
DISCLAIMER: I’m off my meds and refuse to be held responsible for any sage advice I may have provided in this post.
Oh, and by the way, my bestselling dark comedy ‘The Exit Man’ is currently available for just 99 cents on Amazon (as well as on most other major ebook retailer sites) for a limited time. To purchase it at this obscenely low price, choose your link below. (Note: The Amazon link is for US customers, but the discounted price is good across all Amazon sites.)
Fiction writers are weird. You needn’t read novels to figure that out. Just sneak into an author’s house and listen in. Or, if you’re not comfortable with breaking and entering, hire a private investigator to bug the place. Yes, I realize reading a book might seem easier than all that, but who has time to read these days? Besides, you could use a little more excitement in your life.
Following are just a few of the things you’re likely to overhear in a fiction writer’s home that you aren’t likely to hear anywhere else – on this or any other planet.
1) “Coming to bed in a moment, dear. First I have to hide a body.”
2) “I have some horrible news. It’s my protagonist – he’s refusing to talk to me.”
3) “I got paid today – let’s go split a beer!
4) “Fine, I’ll Google it. I just thought you might know what gets blood and brains out of cashmere.”
5) “How can all of you just sit there so calmly and watch TV when I just told you I’m having trouble with chapter seven!”
6) “Go ahead and eat without me. I need another hour to figure out the best poisoning method.”
7) “A reader just informed me of a typo on page 147 of my new novel. I’m going out for razorblades. Don’t wait up.”
8) “You invited THEM over for dinner? They haven’t even bought my book yet.”
9) “I am NOT growing more distant. I just find you harder to talk to than my characters.”
10) “When I find out who gave me that two-star review on Amazon, I’m putting them in my next novel.”
11) “Can’t you get your mother to rush you to the hospital? I’m really in the groove right now.”
12) “Honey, have you seen my pajamas? You know I can’t go to work tomorrow without them.”
13) “Sorry for giggling. It’s just one of my main characters said the funniest thing today.”
14) “What do you MEAN we won an all expenses-paid vacation to Hawaii? Damn it! I’ll NEVER finish this book!"
15) "A divorce? Fine. But you get the kids; I get the printer and all the ink cartridges."
If you are a writer, what kinds of crazy sh*t might be overheard in your home? If you LIVE with a writer, contact my wife to commiserate.
War. Terrorism. Mass shootings. Economic collapse. Natural disasters. Political idiocy. Pokémon Go.
Welcome to hell on earth.
The good news is, things are terrible everywhere, thus we humans can enjoy a sense of global unity. The bad news is, that sense of unity is growing stronger everyday.
In other words, shit’s getting ridiculous. That said, we have to try to make the most of the world crumbling. Personally, I use it to punish my teenage daughter. Whenever she misbehaves or blows off her homework, I no longer ground her; I just make her listen to the news.
Another thing I do to make the most of a crumbling world is write.
And so should you.
Writing – particularly writing fiction – is one of the best ways to raise a middle finger to reality, to rail against the chaos, to control the uncontrollable. To flip the script. To remain sane inside the loony bin.
Not happy about all the horrible things happening in the world around you? Create your OWN world. Use your imagination to rip a whole through apathy, angst and hopelessness. Or, if you aren’t up for creating new worlds, then just write about how you feel about planet Earth going to hell in a hand-basket. This can be very freeing.
“But Greg, I’m not a very good writer.”
That doesn’t matter! Most writers aren’t very good writers. Just write. You needn’t pen (or type) perfect prose or poetry. Simply take what’s burning you up inside, what’s tearing you limb from limb, and kick its ass with whatever words come to you. Forget about who might read it; in fact, don’t even worry about showing it to another living soul. After all, I’m not talking about you trying to land a multi-book deal with Harper Collins or Penguin Random House. (If you DO land such a deal, please put in a good word for me.) I’m simply talking about expressing yourself via the very liberating and powerful written word. Hell, you can even use emojis if you must. No judgment.
There are a lot of terrifying things to be frightened of. Writing should NOT be one of them. We cannot let all of the daily horrors destroy our spirit or send us into panic mode.
There’s no need to run for your life. WRITE for it instead.
Want to see how I use fiction to channel my fury and stay out of prison? Check out my latest novel, Sick to Death.