Romance: Tropes, tropes, and more Tropes

jean-honore_fragonard_-_the_stolen_kissBefore we get into the popular tropes in romance, I guess I should define a trope.

From Merriam Webster:  Full Definition of trope. 1a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché <the usual horror movie tropes> 2 : a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages.

I think, for our purposes, though, the Urban Dictionary comes closest:  “Despite the erroneous definitions already published here, TROPE on the interwebs really refers to an often overused plot device. It can also be described as another variation on the same theme.”

I do like what Tahra Seplowin says in her article at So You Think You Can Write. “Tropes are time-tested scenarios or plot devices that appear again and again, while hooks are any element of the story that might draw the reader in. You may have heard “trope” and “hook” used interchangeably, and there are often similarities and overlaps. One fundamental difference is that tropes are always tried-and-true devices, while hooks can be either well-known or brand new.”

If the theme of the romance genre is “love wins in the end” - then tropes are the subcategories of the theme, the overarching plot within the romance.

This is the list of tropes from the Romance Writers of America website:

Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine

I’m not entirely sure that #6 and #10 are tropes.  And it seems to me there are some fairly common tropes left out of this list.

Secret baby - though not one of my favorites - doesn’t show up on the list. It’s the one where the hero left town, leaving heroine pregnant and now he’s back and shocked to find that he has a child.

547008052_1280x720Forbidden love - heck this one goes back to Romeo and Juliet, doesn’t it - though R&J wasn’t a romance, was it.  This is the one where hero and heroine aren’t allowed to fall in love - maybe he’s her commanding officer - or from True Honor, she’s his lawyer.

Is “older man, younger woman” (or vice versa) a trope?  I have used that one.

I really like the friends to lovers one because the hero and heroine enjoy each others company for a while before the physical longings show up.  This one can work nicely with the love triangle too.  Am I wrong in saying that Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak (Arrow) had a friends to lovers story?  Or maybe that was a different trope - loving him from the moment she saw him but from afar.  Maybe Oliver and Felicity had a “girl next door” story - or more like “office downstairs.”

Good grief!  RWA might want to add some to the list.

As I was exploring this topic, I found an article that listed - wait for it -  64 tropes.  Yes I counted them.  So, if you don’t like the secret babies trope, you don’t have to use it.

But honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever given tropes that much thought when crafting a story.  Maybe that’s because I’ve read enough romance that love stories seep out of my heart.

Tropes might be a handy tool to use as a romance writer.  The list of 64 tropes might be a great idea generator.  But now you know about them.  My work for the month is done.

Remember, the only way to get books written is to WRITE.  So BIC-HOK - butt in chair, hands on keyboard. See you next month.

A Year In The Life Of IPAL

In October, 2015, I attended my first IPAL meeting at the Gold Conference. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was delighted to find that there were a healthy number of my fellow writers, all of whom had amazing ideas on how to further IPthumbnail_gkbk2lisaeditAL to work for us both as a group within RMFW, and individually. I made some great friends that day.

What also happened was that Sean Curley, our first IPAL Chair, said that after starting up IPAL he thought it was time for someone new to take over. I immediately raised my hand. Sometimes, my immediate joiner response is not a good thing, but in this case, it was.

And like that, I was the IPAL Chair. Like anyone taking over a position within a group they love, I have my own thoughts on the vision for our group. But the most important idea of what I wanted for IPAL came from the 2015 Conference.

I was all excited to be a part of IPAL, and I was meeting people in person, and talking and sharing ideas with those I’d only met online before, and I happened to be chatting with another attendee. She was an indie author, and we were talking about RMFW and how it helped us. I asked her if she was in IPAL. (I’m also an enthusiastic member – if I join something, it’s like #forlife with me in regards to that organization.)

The other woman looked at me, and asked, “What could I ever get out of IPAL?”

As a new member, I didn’t know.

*****

That question has stuck with me. Why would she want to join IPAL if she couldn’t see an iota of benefit from it? So with that attendee in mind, here is what IPAL has done over the past year.

 

  • Established a Facebook group that is an active place for discussion.
  • Held a winter signing event in December 2015 at Book Bar for 12 authors
  • Held quarterly Facebook Takeover events online to promote bringing together readers with IPAL authors – we’ve had 4 of them so far.
  • Scheduled two more Takeovers before the end of 2016.
  • Established a Facebook Takeover group to better facilitate the Takeover events
  • Held a meeting in May 2016 to discuss plans for the rest of the year.
  • Held the NovelRama writing event in July/August. 37 people participated. Even those who didn’t meet the 25k in 4 Days goal stated that it helped them to break personal barriers with writing and the response was favorable.
  • Held IWOTY nominations and nominated three amazing finalists for the first ever IWOTY Award.
  • Awarded our first IWOTY.
  • Held a Summer Signing in July at the Fiction Beer Company for 12 authors
  • Met in the Annual Meeting at Conference.
  • Made plans for marketing IPAL members for 2017
  • Committed to at least quarterly Takeover events online with one member dedicated to the management of the events.
  • Began planning for two NovelRama events for 2017 so that there is more time for advertising and spreading the word to members. This is based on the IPAL participation and enthusiasm for a weekend of writing.
  • Decided that we wanted to open rmfw.net to non-members for the NovelRama events – kind of like our Monthly Programs.
  • Are instituting some online classes via FB for the members of IPAL to answer marketing and craft questions.
  • Have begun building a How-To library of files in the Facebook group.
  • Have grown the membership from 48 in October 2015 to 72 in October 2016. (I have added more members since then, but this was based on a calendar year – from October 2015 to October 2016.
  • Worked with the PAL Chair to bring IPAL authors into the RMFW event for the Mountains and Plains booksellers’ event earlier this week.
  • Secured a table for RMFW IPAL for Denver Comic Con 2017

 

This is only a part of what the members of IPAL have been up to this year. If, like the woman I met last year, you’re wondering what it might do for you to be a member, get in touch with me. ipal@rmfw.org. It’s a great group of people. Are we going to solve all your authoring woes?

  1. Let me say that again – NO.

But we will be a supportive group that you can turn to with questions, and we are always looking for ways to improve our craft, our marketing, and all the other things that go into being an author.

The greatest thing about the author community, in my opinion, is other authors. I love working with my fellow members of IPAL. I hope that this post gives you an idea of the sort of things we do, and where we’re headed.

Most of all, I hope it answers that question of “What could I ever get out of IPAL?”

 

 

thumbnail_lisaheadshot2016rszdLisa Manifold is a Colorado based author living outside of Denver with her husband, two children, two dogs, and one offended cat. When not writing, she loves to hunt for “treasures” at local thrift stores, ski, and costume within her favorite fandoms.

Lisa is the author of the Sisters Of The Curse series, Three Wishes, and The Realm Trilogy. The second book in The Realm Trilogy, To Wed The Goblin King, released November 5, 2016. She is humbled and honored to be the 2016 Independent Writer Of The Year.

You can reach her at www.lisamanifold.com

The RMFW Spotlight is on Terri Benson, Education Chair and Western Slope Liaison

Our monthly feature, The RMFW Spotlight, is intended to provide members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with more information about our board members as well as featured volunteers. This month we're pleased to present Terri Benson. You can also connect with Terri at her website.

2016_terri-benson1. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the Education Chair and the Western Slope Liaison, and the western slope events take place where I work so I get the room ready and put together the press releases, etc. I initially stumbled into RMFW from a newspaper ad about a workshop and was so excited to find that there were actually people like me out in the world. I have gotten so much from the group, both in terms of camaraderie and education that I felt I needed to do whatever I could to give back.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I am currently working on a new series. It’s a female amateur sleuth who is also a classic car restorer. I’m having fun with the story, but finding I need to be a sneakier person to get enough “mystery” in there to qualify. I have one book out (paperback and ebook), an historical romance, titled An Unsinkable Love which is set half on the Titanic, and half in the New England garment factories.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

I want to travel the world for research – SEE the history that I love to write about. My bucket list would have that at the top, but then several hundred “sub-items” because there are so many places I want to go.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

I get so involved with my characters that sometimes I lose track of what it is they’re actually supposed to be doing, as in the case of the Bad Carma character – solving a mystery instead of having fun restoring all those cool cars. And research. Lots and lots of interesting research often sidetracks me from putting words on paper.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I can be anyone and do anything I want. I have no limitations on what I can write (that’s not to say anyone will want to read some of it). It is so much fun to decide what I want to know about, and what I have to do to “become” it and how I can make a story from it.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Read more. Turn off the TV or go somewhere no one can find me and write (and hope my husband doesn’t divorce me).

2016_terri-benson-office7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

The room my desk is in is also the “Christmas present” room, so right now it’s full of bags and boxes of shopping. When it’s usable, I have 4 bookcases full of (mostly read) books, binders of WIP and/or finished manuscripts and research, and a big wall calendar that was supposed to keep me on task and on schedule (but since I’m not in there writing….). I don’t keep much on my desk. I’m not a knick-knacky kind of person – I prefer to have my space pretty utilitarian.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I’m in the middle of a post-death Sidney Sheldon (written by another author) that a friend gave me, as well as a cozy mystery on my I-pad. I’m really terrible about book names and authors (unless I know the writer). I generally don’t worry so much about who wrote it, if it was a best seller, or that it had all 4 star reviews – it’s usually because the blurb sounds interesting, it’s a genre I like, or a writer I know or have met or who was recommended by someone at Gold/in RMFW. I like finding someone with a style I enjoy – I have a ton of Dick Francis novels because I really like the way he writes.

Thank you, Terri. One of the many services Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers performs for its members (and non-members as well) is education. Thank you for filling that important role of Education Chair and coordinating programs for the Western Slope.

Rocky Mountain Writer #63

cover-conanSusan Mackay Smith & Conan The Grammarian

On this episode, it's Conan the Grammarian, in person.

For a couple of decades now you have read Conan’s column in the monthly newsletter from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and now Conan is out with a book titled Conan the Grammarian – Practical Guidelines on Grammar and Craft for Fiction Writers.

The writer behind Conan is Susan Mackay Smith, former RMFW president. Yes, in case you did not know, Conan is a she.

On the podcast, Susan talks about the nuns and their rulers who helped her develop her interest in grammar and she talks about the importance of knowing the basics, especially when it comes time to submit writing to contests, agents and editors.

This episode also includes a brief reading from Conan the Grammarian as Susan reads the entire chapter “In Defense of Fiction.”

Susan Mackay Smith is a past president of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and a frequent judge of the Colorado Book Awards. Traditionally published in fantasy under the nom de plume, Mackay Wood, she is a second-generation Colorado native with a degree in history and (more important to her) a BHSAI (British Horse Society Associate Instructor) from the Porlock Vale Riding School in Somerset, England. She lives in Boulder with the most wonderful man in the world.

Conan The Grammarian

Mackay Wood

Intro music by Moby Gratis
Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Why Bother

At a recent get-together with several writer friends, we got to discussing some of the gloomier aspects of the business: the sheer number of books available, the pain of rejection letters, the struggle to find ways to promote that actually work. The one individual in the group who is still trying to get published traditionally finally threw up her hands and said, “Why do we do it? Why should we even bother writing when everything seems be against us?”

It’s a good question, and one that I—and most writers I know—have struggled with at various times. We joke that we could make more money per hour working in a fast food restaurant. Shake our heads in disbelief at the writers who somehow crank out a half dozen books a year, while we agonize to produce one. Stifle our envy of those who are lucky enough to write the right book at the right time and end up with a bestseller. We long for the good old days, before all the major publishers became corporate entities with little interest in books in themselves, who today only see publishing as a way to make money.

Everywhere you look there are reasons to become discouraged and give up writing. Some of us do. I’ve had several friends who’ve quit writing because of their disgust with the industry. Having had their hearts broken by the system, they are still licking their wounds rather than writing. I understand their pain and their desire to be free of it. I wonder sometimes if I was starting out now, if I would have the resolve to persevere and keep fighting for years for that first contract offer.

And yet, I know I would keep writing. Because I was hooked from that first moment, somewhere in chapter three of my first book, when my characters came to life and shared their story with me while I frantically tried to write it down. There is a writer’s high, just as there is that thrilling state for athletes when they enter the zone, and everything is magic.

There’s a perfectly logical explanation for that mystical state of bliss. Scientists have studied the brains of people as they exercise and clearly tracked the release of endorphins in the brain, those incredibly addictive chemicals that give us a feeling of well-being and even euphoria. I don’t know that they’ve ever studied writers for the same phenomenon, but as far as I’m concerned, they don’t have to. I have no doubt that writing fiction does something to my brain, flooding it with feel-good chemicals. It doesn’t always happen. I’ve had weeks and even months go by when writing was more of a slow plod rather than an enticing high. But having experienced writing nirvana, I always know it’s out there. And the tantalizing memory of that lovely altered state keeps me going.

There is another reason why I bother writing. Because writing is an excellent form of escape. Writing soothes me when I’m frustrated and irritated. I may not be able to control the people in my life, but I can (mostly) control my fictional characters. Writing also takes me away from things that stress me. The intense focus of the process distracts me from my problems and helps me put them in perspective. And finally, writing is antidote to the boring and bland. I get to experience the extreme highs of life all over again. Along with my characters, I fall in love for the first time, reach thrilling goals, conquer my fears and experience the satisfaction of great accomplishment. I get to travel to exotic locations and time travel to other eras. I actually get to be other people, and forget about my own reality.

I first discovered this enchanted aspect of fiction when I learned to read. I’m still in thrall to delights of a good book. Books have gotten me through a lot of tough times in my life. I firmly believe that as long as I am able escape into fictional worlds, I can survive almost anything.

Writing is a trickier means of escape than reading, and not always dependable. But when it works it is even more satisfying, resulting in the double pleasure of not only escaping stress, conflict and depression, but creating your own wonderful alternative reality at the same time.

Deep down, that is why a lot of us bother to write. Because we’re getting something in the process that is far more meaningful than publishing success. We’re finding happiness and fulfillment.

What is Story Bundling and How Does It Work? … by Jamie Ferguson

2016_Jamie FergusonWhat is a story bundle?

A story bundle is an electronic collection of stories that is available through a bundling website, usually for a limited period of time.

The bundle may be sold as a complete set of stories, or there may be one price for a subset of the titles and another for the whole shebang. There are other permutations as well, like an extra book might be thrown in if the customer chooses to pay a higher price. The customer often has the option to choose to donate a percentage of the purchase price to charity.

The main story bundling websites right now are BundleRabbit, StoryBundle, and Humble Bundle. There are a few differences between the sites – for example, BundleRabbit provides the option for a bundle to be made available on outside sales channels after the initial run on the bundle website.

How does it work?

The curator sets the theme of the bundle, decides how many titles will be included, and what lengths are allowed (novels or short stories only?). Depending on the requirements of the bundling website, the curator may also provide artwork.

Each participating author formats their own ebook files, and provides their own cover and product description. These files are then ‘bundled’ into a package and sold together.

A bundle is more like a boxed set than an anthology. Even if it’s a bundle of short stories, it’s the responsibility of the author to make sure their stories are edited and their files professionally packaged.

The bundling site will do some promotion, but the curator should do additional marketing, as well as encourage the authors to help out.

Curator

The curator chooses which authors to invite, and should consider how well each author’s work will fit the theme of the bundle. Suppose you know an author who is a fantastic horror writer - that person might not be a good fit if you’re putting together a romance bundle.

Some things to keep in mind when selecting authors:

  • The quality – and consistency – of an author’s writing.
  • Each author will need to provide a professional-looking cover as well as formatted ebook files, so make sure the people you’re inviting know how to do that, or else have resources they can rely on.
  • Will you include previously published stories, brand new stories, or a combination?
  • You can request that an author provide a specific title or send a general invitation. If you do the latter, you’re opening the door to whatever story the author provides (as long as it meets the parameters you’ve set).
  • Are you inviting authors who will actively help to promote the bundle? If not, are you inviting someone because their writing is so good it will be worthwhile, or because they have a name/following that will help draw in readers?

Plan out the promotion you’re going to do. Will you make a dedicated Facebook page for the bundle? Post profiles about the authors and their stories? Tweet when the bundle is part of a special sale? Make special marketing images to post?

You can – and probably will – do some of this on the fly, but thinking this through ahead of time definitely helps.

One of my most important suggestions is that you make a point to communicate well with the authors. If you’re planning to put the bundle on sale, let them know ahead of time. If the bundle was mentioned in an article, let them know. They’ll appreciate the consideration, and the more they know about what to expect, the more they’ll be able to assist with promotion.

Authors

Participating in a bundle seems easy. You get an invitation, you package up and submit your files, then shazam! You’ve been bundled!

But… What if the curator changes the price, bundle duration, etc. without telling you? What if the other authors provide ebooks riddled with typos, or covers that look completely unprofessional?

Make sure you’re comfortable with the curator. You want to work with someone who is professional, good at communication, and who you trust to manage and present the bundle in a way that makes you happy.

Why bundle?

How well a bundle performs sales-wise depends on how established the bundling website is, which authors are participating, and how well the marketing is done. If you’re primarily interested in sales, consider these factors when deciding whether or not to participate in a bundle.

Keep in mind that visibility is a big advantage of being in a bundle. If twenty authors participate in a bundle, that means your story will be seen by fans of the other nineteen authors.

And on top of all that, it can be really fun to be a part of a collection where you and the other authors are collaborating to help promote your stories together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2016_ferguson_bewitcheryJamie Ferguson focuses on getting into the minds and hearts of her characters, whether she’s writing about a man who discovers the barista he's in love with is a naiad, a mail-order bride in the American West, or a ghost who haunts the house she was killed in – even though that house no longer exists.

She’s curated two bundles through BundleRabbit: The Fantasy in the City Bundle and The Witches’ Brew Bundle. Her third, The Haunted Bundle, will launch in February. She has stories in two other bundles: The Out of This World Bundle, and the soon-to-be-released The Very Merry Christmas Bundle.

Her second novel, Entangled by Midsummer, is a contemporary fantasy about a man and a woman together by both enchantment and betrayal. It will be released this fall. Bewitchery, released in September 2016, is available as an ebook.

You can learn more about Jamie and her writing at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram.

This is NOT a Twitter How-To Blog

Copied verbatim from a recent email exchange:

How did you get so many followers on Twitter?

Well, it’s not that many—not really. I mean, it’s good to have followers but I see tons and tons of writers out there on Twitter with five times, ten times more than me. Tons!

But how did you get them?

Um, they followed me and I followed them back (if they were accounts I wanted to follow that is. Not spammy-jerky-salesy folks).

But isn’t Twitter just a big mess?

Not if you use lists.

What the hell are lists?

2016-10-27-twitter-pic-listsClick under your profile pic on Twitter and you’ll see the ‘lists’ option, then click on “Create New List.”  (It’s a button on the right-hand side of the page.) As Twitter says, “A list is a curated group of Twitter users and a great way to organize your interests.” If you’re ever out there reading tweets and it looks like someone has a cool feed, you can right-click on that little wheel next to their ‘Follow’ button and you’ll see the option to add or remove from a list…

So you, say, make a list of Twitter uses who write mysteries, say?

Exactly!

Or friends?

Yes!

Or good, high-quality, reliable tweeters?

But of course.

And you can subscribe to other people’s lists, too?

I love looking for other cool lists to subscribe to. These Twitter folks have already curated the Twitterverse down to something manageable. They’ve done the work for you.

2016-10-27-twitter-pic-subscribersYou can see other people’s lists?

Easy. And you can see who is subscribing to their lists.  These are Twitter users who have taken the time to ‘subscribe’ to a good source’s list. They are usually folks who produce good Twitter content (and who might follow you back. So, well, you might want to follow them.)

But how did you get so many followers?

I follow people back. I look at their accounts and if they have a pinned tweet, I re-tweet that as a “hello.” Not always, but sometimes.  A pinned tweet is something the account holder likes to have re-tweeted. Why else would they pin it? Or I re-tweet something they recently put out there that looks relevant or interesting. Oh, and make sure you check your followers regularly. Have I mentioned that it’s a good idea to ‘follow back?’ Don’t leave the good ones hanging.

Do you sell books on Twitter?

Yes, I’m sure I do. But I really have no idea. And I don’t care—not really. I don’t go to a party looking to sell books. It might happen, but that’s not why I go to the party. The heavy self-promoters are easy to spot.

What kinds of stuff do you tweet?

Anything relevant to me, as a person. To my community. I tweet topical stuff related to some of my clients—shared bicycling, ocean health, education, and some of the topics that my mysteries are engaged with. That list includes immigration, climate change, for-profit prisons, fracking, anything to do with Glenwood Springs or the Flat Tops Wilderness, etc.  I also tweet out things I write, like book reviews. And columns. I’ll probably tweet out this column when it’s posted on the RMFW blog. I’m sure I will.

But how did you get so many followers? Twitter won’t let me follow any more people.  

Yeah, Twitter has limits. You need to unfollow people who aren’t following you back. There are services out there that will help you figure out who isn’t following you back.  I use one called Manage Flitter. There are others. Don’t worry about unfollowing people—especially accounts that don’t tweet on a regular basis. They aren’t doing you any good. Unfollow.

And then?

And then follow more people. And say “hello.”

But isn’t it work? Don’t I have to do this every day? And how much time a day do you spend on Twitter?

Have to? If you think of it that way, it’s probably not your cup of social media tea. But Twitter is a great place to pick up on the news (WOW is it fast!) and also when a good topic gets rolling around about reading or writing or book prizes or anything along those lines, jump into the conversation and see what you can contribute. I know area bookstores love it when you tweet about events coming up or while you're there. You just never know. How much time? I don’t know. Some days more than others. A half-hour total?  Maybe three or four check-ins a day? I don’t know, it’s fun. At least, I think so. The #fridayreads hashtag alone will lead you to some good folks.

Ack, hashtags. We haven't even touched on hashtags. What do you use?

Again, depends on what you're into. Here's a list to start with. #NaNoWriMo is coming right up (write up) and that will be going strong no doubt. And don't forget the ever-popular #RMFWBlog. (You could focus just on @RMFWriters (4,200+ followers) by the way, and have ample fodder for following and re-tweeting, etc. And how many Colorado writer groups are there? It's endless out there, I tell you.)

Okay, then. Can I follow you?

Sure. @writerstevens

And while you’re at it, follow my good friend The Asphalt Warrior @Asphalt_Warrior

See you in the Twittersphere.

Top Things That Scare the Words Out of Writers

BooHappy Halloween or Oct 31st, depending on your preference for the spooky. In honor, I've created a list of the things that go bump in the night and often the day for my writer friends. Feel free to add your own in the comments:

  1. There is less than 20 hours until NaNoWriMo starts
  2. Editors who change deadlines from Jan 2 to Nov 1 (yes, this is my life)
  3. The editorial letter (which always seems like the longest email in the history of emails)
  4. Agents. In general.
  5. Non-compete clause in a contract
  6. Lifetime rights
  7. PW No Star Reviews
  8. Amazon's rating system. Who thought up the cruel 1-5 star ratings? Sadists, that's who.
  9. Roving Goodreads reviewers
  10. Typing THE END
  11. Typing the first word in a new work. Mine is usually a swear one.
  12. Failing
  13. Succeeding
  14. Pitching in an elevator, that then get's stuck between floors after the agent/editor says the idea sucks.
  15. Query letters
  16. Reader expectations
  17. Having 40k done on Nov 30
  18. Paying for college tuition for kids off what we make as writers

BOO! Your turn. What scares you?

Platform Building At MPIBA

Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writer’s Digest and current columnist for Publishers Weekly defines author platform in her wonderfully succinct way, as “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”

For many of us, the definition above may feel as if we’re in this platform building project all alone. Where have I had a story published? What credentials do I have in my area of interest? How big is my mailing list?

But sometimes, I believe that the groups we belong to build our platform more effectively than any individual effort can.  And RMFW is one of those groups.

Photo of Corinne O'Flynn and the table setup for the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association.
Corinne O'Flynn and the table setup for the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association.

Take, for example, the opportunity to go to the Mountains and Plains Fall Discovery Show, which took place October 6 through 8 at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver. A group of PAL and I-PAL members were invited to this collection of independent booksellers and publishers to represent our Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers group, and to promote our own books in the process.

Both a treat in promotion and a great learning process, the Mountains & Plains show had well over 200 booksellers from Texas to Canada and throughout the west congregating to talk shop, promote books, and meet authors.

It was a thrill to go to “Pick of the Lists” sessions to see how publisher sales reps promote our books. They have the job of “pitching” our books the way we do at conference, only they haven’t actually written the work. Talk about a challenge.  In approximately 10 minutes they have to entice booksellers to order up to 15 titles at a time.  One rep I saw held up children’s books in groups of titles to complete his task.  Another rep pushed a toddler’s train through the cardboard pages of the book she promoted.  Mostly, though, the reps had to “tell the story” of the book they represent and its author in less than 2 minutes. No wonder practicing our pitch sessions are so important.

In the exhibit hall, RMFW had two tables stretched along a prime spot to reach into the book buying community.  We displayed our books and reached out into the aisle to meet sellers, publishers, and others in the publishing community. Many had not heard of RMFW.  Some didn’t think they had, until they saw “It’s A Book,” and then they said, “Oh! I know you!”  Thank you Laura Reeve, editor and publisher of “It’s a Book.” Your many years of service remain a quiet treasure for RMFW, and a strong plank in all of our author platforms.

Thank you, too, to the RMFW authors (both indy and trad) who participated in this event.  Because of your efforts, the “It’s A Book” mailing list has grown by approximately 30 more booksellers. Through them, our opportunity to sell more books has grown tremendously.

If you’d like to know more about joining MPIBA (Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association), check out their website, where you might find, like Anne Holman of the King’s English Bookshop in Utah, that “Bookselling is a nice family to be in,” and that booksellers represent a wonderful platform building opportunity.