Bookwork with Jean Rabe

I want to thank Jean Rabe for guesting my spot today! She has a new book out, The Bone Shroud, and it’s amazing!

Typing “the end” isn’t enough

I occasionally mentor writers through a university program. One of my recent students wrote a seriously-good fantasy novel, which required little fixing. I asked him where he was going to shop it, and I contacted a NY editor on his behalf. He said hadn’t thought about marketing yet, and neither had he considered looking for a literary agent to shop it for him. He said he was thinking just about writing. He had the next volume outlined and would be starting on that soon.

What about a webpage? I asked.

I don’t have one.

Facebook?

Haven’t checked it out yet.

 Or Twitter.

The author had no social platform, though he said he intended to get around to that after he sold the first book.

It doesn’t work that way anymore. In fact, it hasn’t worked that way for years and years. I hope there are some universities out there that teach writing students what they need to do beyond finishing a manuscript. Publishers and agents ask about your social media presence. Some small press publishers have forms to fill out when you submit a novel, and these require you to list all of your social media links. One form I saw stated that if you didn’t have enough of a social media presence, your novel would not be considered.

When I started writing fantasy novels “back in the day,” the publisher did all the work—the advertising, promotion, setting up book signings. It’d be nice if it still happened just like that. It probably does for the A-listers. But the internet and self-publishing and the increase in small press publishers played a big role in changing that for most authors.

More than one million novels are released a year. Your book has to compete with that. Writing the novel isn’t enough.

An author has to promote, through newsletters, Facebook posts, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Advertising is essential, and you have to be willing to invest in yourself. Low-cost ads are available, Kindle offers ad coupons at up to a 50% discount, Twitter blast services can be as cheap as $5 for fourteen days.

Writing “the end” and calling your bookwork done is a fairytale. The real world is the above paragraph … and more. I’ve attended writer conventions where a dozen seminars offer ideas for book promotion. Book publicists put stacks of business cards on the freebie tables. Agents lecture about cross-promoting with other authors, joining writing groups online, blogging to build up an audience.

With The Bone Shroud I’ve booked a few Kindle ads, took out an ad in Suspense Magazine, cross-promoted, Twittered, posted on Facebook … checked all those promotional boxes I could think of … and embarked on this wonderful blog tour.

So many mystery and fantasy authors were kind enough to host me, to let me take a turn at reaching out to their audiences. I am grateful for their kindness and hope I can return the favor sometime.

I continue to learn new methods for promoting books and reaching readers … new ways to compete with the more than one million releases expected this year. I make it a point to tell my writing students about promoting and networking. And I will attend more of those seminars on social media.

Because I don’t think you can type “the end” anymore.

Here’s an excerpt from The Bone Shroud:

*****

Irem was surprised to see car headlights and traffic signals holding off the night. Time had melted in the tunnels.

It had rained recently, adding a thin layer of freshness to the air that was otherwise heavy with the big city smells of car exhaust and too many people. Business lights reflected in wide, shallow puddles, the mirror image of a nearby fluorescent sign looking like wiggling pink and green snakes that extended from her feet.

Her legs ached from the climb, and she resolved to enroll at a gym when she returned to Chicago … pursuing something other than hapkido, which held acrimonious memories. But, for now, she’d exercise her ever-present curiosity.

“Benito, what did Santiago mean ‘if we don’t all end up dead’? I didn’t want to ask him when he’d said it.” But I should have. It had niggled at her brain for hours. Irem had plenty more questions—those all relating to the Roman underground, the bone tapestry and why it couldn’t be used as a map any longer, who’d been buried in it. She intended to answer at least some of those on her own later with a thorough Google search on her iPhone. “Is Santiago worried the underground is going to cave in? Or is it the tapestry? Does he think it’s cursed? Does he think pursuing—”

Neinte.” Benito shook his head.

“Then what is he worried about?”

“The bone shroud is not cursed, Irem. That’s the stuff of fantasy fiction. The deaths of the restorer and her husband were unfortunate to be certain, the museum intern to drugs and alcohol. Sfortunato. Unfortunate.”

Intern? A third death? Levent hadn’t mentioned that.

“No curse. I am not superstitious, and neither are the Garcias. If Santiago is worried about the tunnels giving way, he would not be digging with me. He has the fears of a young archaeologist new to the dark parts of this field. That is all.”

Benito stopped and stared at the sidewalk, let out a long breath.

“Dark parts.” Irem wasn’t willing to let the question drop. Her curiosity pushed her to pursue it. “Dark parts? Of archaeology?”

Mi scusi,” a man said, brushing by them and wrapping his long rain slicker in close. “Sono di fretta.” He said something else, softer, lost in the giggle of a sequined woman passing by.

Non è un problema,” Benito called after him.

The sequined woman giggled again and blew a kiss to an elderly man leaning against a post, then pointed a finger at Benito and winked. Irem guessed she was a hooker.

“So what did Santiago mean—”

“Archaeology is—” Benito ground the ball of his foot against the pavement. “Brutale. Cutthroat, Irem. I had to think of the English word. Cutthroat is a good word. In some circles the competition for finds is not unlike divers racing to discover a sunken ship full of treasure. I think that is an apt analogy.” Benito directed her south and around a white-haired woman with a walker, a man with a cane following. “Santiago worries that if someone discovers what we do, who we work to uncover, they will try to steal our find. His concern is not unfounded.”

Jean Rabe is the author of three dozen novels and more than a hundred short stories. When she’s not writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her dogs, indulges in fantasy football leagues, and fuses glass jewelry in her basement.

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