It was a packed house last night at Newtonville Books in Newton Center, just outside of Boston. You couldn’t fit another body in the bookstore with a shoehorn as there was an abundance of excitement and anticipation for author Rachel Kadish to debut her latest novel, The Weight of Ink published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Rachel took to the podium shortly after 7PM, allowing store employees to set up extra chairs for the continual flow of fans. She read from chapter one—the first time she’d read from her book publicly, and delivered a wonderful reading which was sure to entice spectators into diving into their own copies as soon as possible. I know that I will be. During her Q and A, Kadish responded to questions in an engaging and informative fashion. She spoke to everything from the writing process of “Weight,” the historical research involved, her detail to accuracy and her refusal to outline her writing projects ahead of time. After which she signed copies of her novel to a lengthy line of fans. Thank you, Newtonville Books, for hosting yet another terrific event.
Many writers that I encounter and speak with have said that they don’t enjoy using Twitter. They’d created an account, used it for a while but left because they didn’t connect with many people. They said it was easier to return to Facebook where they already had a built-in audience. If that built-in audience is your friends and family, other writers—the same writers again and again, then you definitely need to step away from the comforts of Facebook and give Twitter another shot. Based upon my interactions with fellow writers who’ve voiced their dissatisfaction with Twitter, it had become clear that they all had the same issues in common; they simply didn’t understand the full workings of the social network. I’m going to list a few things that writers (or anyone with something to promote) should be doing on Twitter to get the most out of their experience.
1 – Learn which hashtags are most effective in your posts and use them sparingly. The following hashtags are most popular among the writing community and they tend to draw more of an audience when you post your tweets.
#IndiePub (or #IndiePublishing)
Visit AuthorMedia.com for a full list of useful hashtags. Don’t overuse them in your posts. Use no more than 2-3 per post.
2 – Create Lists. The Twitter list is the most underused gem of the entire social network. It allows you to create your own personal news feed based on your interests. Let’s say you enjoy reading news articles in the morning. When you create a “News” list, you’ll have access to all the media outlets that you’ve added to a particular list. Do you like keeping up with your local restaurant and nightlife scene? Create a list of twitter profiles specifically geared towards that topic. If you’re a writer, you can create a list of fellow writers you enjoy, publishers, editors, cover designers, anyone and everyone—all on one list. Here’s how to add someone to a list:
First, create a few lists of topics you wish to have in your list section. Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’ve made a list name called Writers, Artists & Such, just as I have above. Click the gearshift in the profile you wish to add to a list, then select the Add/Remove (as I illustrate using children’s author, Susan Saunders’ profile) from list tab. Your list categories will appear and you simply check the category in which you wish to add to. By the way, if you wish to remove someone from your lists, simply follow the same steps, but uncheck the profile and it will be removed.
Let’s say you want to view the lists that someone has on their profile. This is particularly good when you are searching for like-minded individuals or businesses. If you’re an interior designer and you want to discover fellow designers and architects, you can view other people’s lists (provided they aren’t private) by simply doing the following:
As you can see above, you simply tap the gearshift by the desired profile, hit the View Lists tab when it appears and you’ll have access to that profile’s public lists. Above is a handful of lists that I keep. So what do the list feeds look like when you select one of your lists, you ask?
As you can see, the feed from profiles (that I’ve selected) come up and I get to view tweets from profiles that I tend to follow the most. If you have specific profiles that you gravitate toward, this is the best way to keep up with them without getting lost in the sea of endless tweets on the main news feed.
3 – Create an informative and eye-catching Twitter Header and Bio. Be sure to include facts that you want to be most known for; Your latest book release, accolades, your business, your interests…anything that grabs attention. This will help you connect with like-minded Twitter users more easily and you’ll tend to build up your network much quicker. Have a look at voice actor, Jill Cofsky or attorney and writer, Karen Kettner‘s heading. Their bios leave no room for guessing; it’s direct and informative.
While there are several other tips to explore in the Twitter-verse, these three are what I consider to be the most vital in getting the most out of your Twitter experience. I myself find it to be a better alternative to Facebook. I’ve made more connections with people in my industry—and outside, which is terrific because that’s what growing your network is all about.
Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, The FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing by Michele R. McPhee
Let me start off by saying that true-crime author and investigative reporter, Michele McPhee, deserves a great deal of credit for the tremendous amount of work put into writing the book, Maximum Harm. The exhaustive research along with the tedious process of fact-checking, conducting interviews, tracking down evidence reports, victim’s testimonies, medical reports, arrest records, so-on-and-so-forth—the leg work that she’s put into this book project is immeasurable and should not be overlooked. Why do I give praise to this fact so early on in my review? Frankly, as a life-long resident of Boston, I’m angered to this day over what had happened during Marathon Monday on April 15th, 2013. And like many, many residents who live in the Boston area (many whom’ve been directly affected by the bombing attacks), we’ve always been left with more questions than answers. Sure, the media reported the basics—they’d deliver information in dribs and drabs, but ultimately the deeper and darker story behind the story was somehow always shrouded in mystery. Maximum Harm finally delivers the facts in a very informative and eye-opening manner.
Upon reading the opening chapters, we are given a harsh and descriptive look at the mayhem that ensued during the critical moments following the two blasts. The grim details (and they are in-fact grim) of the victims who’d lost limbs, spectators who had gotten separated from their families and loved ones, the E.M.T.s who rushed in to tend to the countless victims within minutes amid the chaos, the efforts of local law enforcement, the Boston Fire Department, random civilians who had rushed to help the bloodied victims; knowing full-well that more explosions could in-fact detonate in their vicinity, the marathon volunteers—this in-depth vantage point is all laid out for the reader to get a sense of just how dire and uninviting this tragedy was and how the timeline unfolded from that point forward.
As I had mentioned, there have been so many unanswered and poorly explained answers up until now and thankfully, McPhee does a remarkable and impressive job at piecing the puzzle together. So what prompted the foreign-born brothers, Tamerlan, (born in Siberia in 1986) and Dzhokhar (born in Kyrgyzstan in 1993) to attack their country—who’d seemingly rolled out the red carpet for them and their family members, in such a horrific and monstrous manner? You would need to trace their family beginnings back to their war-torn homeland of Chechnya, their fleeing from Russia to finally settle into Cambridge, Massachusetts (upon which they received free housing and a bevy of government handouts and benefits), enrolling the Tsarnaev brothers in Cambridge Rindge and Latin, one the the finest public schools in America, and ultimately enrolling younger brother Dzhokhar into UMass Dartmouth. If you’re saying to yourself, Gee, this doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster, then you’d normally be correct. Many factors along the way played into what would become Boston’s darkest days. A handful of those factors were:
- The Tsarnaev family had been granted political asylum. Younger brother, Dzhokhar had become an American citizen; this was something elder brother Tamerlan wanted so desperately, yet he was denied.
- The denial of U.S. citizenship resulted in Tamerlan being denied a place on the United States Olympic Team as a boxer, a sport in which he was passionate about and had trained incessantly over.
- The FBI, who had employed Tamerlan as an informant, apparently broke their promise to grant him citizenship if he cooperated with them.
- Tamerlan’s eventual radicalization and the influence he had on younger brother, Dzhokhar.
McPhee also sheds light on a number of questions, such as
- Without a valid passport and while being on TWO terror watch lists, how was Tamerlan free to travel to and from Russia and The United States without any red flags?
- Why did the FBI and CIA ignore repeated warnings about Tamerlan from the Russian Federal Security Service?
- Were Tamerlan and Dzhokhar directly involved in the triple homicide of Erik Weissman, Raphael Teken, and Brendan Mess on Sept 11th, 2011?
- How was it that Tamerlan could afford to drive a lavish vehicle and own expensive clothing without ever having worked a job?
- What is Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni’s connection to the CIA?
- Did the FBI know who the suspects were prior to their acknowledgment, and if so, would MIT Officer Sean Collier still be alive today?
- If the Feds hadn’t ignored these repeated red flags and warnings, might Krystie Campbell (aged 29), Lü Lingzi (aged 23) and Martin Richard (aged 8) still be alive today?
There is a lot of information to absorb from this book, but it flows at a consistent and rapid pace. Although this book may have more regional appeal to those living in and around the Massachusetts area, I would urge everyone to pick this up and give it a read. It’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes of law enforcement—be it shady dealings or beneficial practices, and it’s vital to ask questions (at least to yourself) about how these dubious affairs affect our daily lives and jeopardize our safety.
Pick up a copy of Maximum Harm available at Amazon.com
by Rob Watts
Last night I attended the 60th annual New England Book Show at Boston’s Symphony Hall and I’m thrilled to share that my 2016 release, Americana, took home an award. At the time of its release, Americana was produced in a limited run of 50 units. The packaging and design was rare and unique; the book’s cover contained music performed by me, and could be played on a turntable. These books sold out rather quickly and I soon moved on to my next project. More than a year after its release, I’m truly grateful for the recognition it has received via the voting panel of judges, as well as fans and readers of the book.
“A real novelty that extraordinarily combines a book and playable vinyl record, making it both eye-catching, and ear-catching.” Judges Comments
It was truly an honor to be in the company of such incredibly talented individuals in the publishing industry. I got to see first-hand some remarkable graphic design work. In addition to catching up with some friends in the field, I had the pleasure of meeting some new people whom I look forward to seeing at future networking events.
As a person who esteems his reputation as a professional, both in business and as a member of the writing community, I beg those who engage in less-than-admirable marketing practices to please tone it down and heed caution; you are in jeopardy of losing readers, fans and any semblance of credibility in the publishing world.
I’d like to share with you something that happened the other day; it’s not the first time that this has happened, it certainly won’t be the last, but nevertheless, it’s annoying, saddening and induces much head shaking on my part. As I was checking emails the other day, I noticed my personal website had received an email, so I read it, chuckled slightly, shook my head (aforementioned) and then within seconds, my amusement turned to annoyance as I wondered why authors (usually self-published) do this—ever worse, why do they think this is okay?
As you can see in the email above, this “author” took it upon themself to send me an email requesting (BEGGING) me to click their Amazon link and download their book. This individual doesn’t know me, I don’t know them, I don’t know why they believe that this is a legitimate marketing practice but let me tell you, it’s not. I would never reduce myself and engage in such dubious tactics. Whether or not you consider yourself a genuine professional within the publishing community, don’t do things like this—just don’t. You’ll rapidly lose respect and you’ll wind up looking desperate and contemptible.
While we’re on the topic of shabby self-promotional methods, here are a few more things to add to the list of tactics to avoid at all costs.
- Promoting your book(s) on a constant and daily basis on your Facebook profile. This is what a Facebook Page is for. A Facebook profile, our personal account, isn’t really the best venue to ad-bomb your books to everyone. The people we have on our profiles are people who (for the most part) are friends, family, co-workers, some people we’ve never met in real life, and so on. These people shouldn’t be made to feel as though they are only there to be your personal book buying audience. It’s a major turn off and you’ll find yourself falling victim to the unfollow button, or worse, the unfriend button. It’s fine to share your writing accomplishments and it’s certainly okay to share that you have a new book out that’s for sale—you don’t need to post daily reminders though. Don’t guilt your friends into buying your books and definitely don’t beg.
- If you work in a customer service-based business (retail, food, etc.. ), don’t—seriously, don’t promote yourself as an author with books for sale to customers in the workplace. Believe it or not, I have seen this and I know of one or two people who engage in this unprofessional behavior (and they think that this is perfectly fine to do), and all I can suggest to you is that you stop. Customers who are seeking help from a salesperson at a Best Buy about purchasing a Flatscreen TV don’t want to hear about your writing ventures and they aren’t looking to have your writing related business card thrown in their faces. Oh yeah, and this is the type of thing that gets you fired, so yeah, don’t do this.
- If you’re at an author event and you are exhibiting your books at a booth, don’t—DON’T invade another author’s booth space by forcing your book onto a potential customer of another author. Yes, I have seen this happen multiple times where an author will overhear (eavesdrop) a conversation between a potential customer and author about the type of stories and books that they like, and the stalking author will swoop in on them and suggest something such as “oh, if you enjoy Clive Barker’s books, then you’ll love my book.” This is wrong, immoral, unprofessional and it will put you in a situation where you’ll be unwelcomed at future events. Word travels at the speed of light within the writing community and you’ll be shunned so quickly that your head will spin. Behave yourself and don’t engage in this sort of behavior.
- DM (direct message) on Twitter. When I follow another writer, or follow them back on Twitter, oftentimes I get an automated reply (they set these auto messages via social media management apps) with long-winded messages such as “Thanks so much for following me….please click the link and buy my books, yada, yada, yada…” This gets you an automatic unfollow. Buh-bye! This is by far the biggest annoyance on Twitter. For all the good that Twitter can do for you, this is one of the biggest drawbacks. If you are one of those people who bomb people’s inbox with automated DMs, let me clue you in on something; you are annoying, your marketing skills are pathetic and I’d never waste my time reading your books if you’re the type of author who thinks this is a productive method of marketing. It’s not—not even close.
The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove is now available. Get your signed copy at My Website and it will get shipped right out to you. The first batch of pre-orders were mailed out yesterday so if you’ve already ordered yours, they are well on their way.
A big thank you to everyone who came out to Super Megafest this past weekend. It was great fun and terrific seeing some friends—old and new. I spent the weekend signing books at the Books & Boos Press booth with friend and author, Stacey Longo. Next to us sat the fun loving New England Horror Writers. Having friendly faces around you at a three day event really does take the edge off. I had a wonderful visit with my friend Marshall and his friend Andrea, and oh—hey, I met Barry Williams, AKA Greg Brady from The Brady Bunch! It was tough topping that experience but I’m always up to a challenge. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by the table. Hope to see you out there at an upcoming book signing!
As we edge closer to the release date for the paperback edition of The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove, I’m looking back at some material I have stored for the once-planned comic book that was to accompany the hardcover edition of my novel. The Crooked Roads, a multidisciplinary project which contained the hardcover novel, a soundtrack on CD—composed by yours truly, book trailers and a mini vinyl single, was to include a mini comic book, however, time was receding and the release date was firm. As this was a self-produced and self-financed effort, adding further production costs would have diminished any chance of recouping my investment. I like to keep costs low for the buying public and it had been decided that one more addition would prove to be too costly. In the end, the special edition sold out of its initial run of 200 copies since it was released in June of 2015. If you missed out and would like to order your copy of the paperback edition with a reimagined cover, you can do so right here.
The following are some images that were to be included in the comic book. They look pretty cool and it’s a shame this part of the project never came to fruition, but I’m happy to be able to share some of them here. Enjoy.