Category Archives: marketing

Stephen King — On Writing

Without electricity after Hurricane Irma, I read the two library books I had in two days. The library wasn’t open so I perused my shelves for books to read. I went through a few books I hadn’t read, some I’d bought from authors and some people had given to me. One that I read many years ago and remembered liking was Stephen King’s On Writing. I may have gotten more out of it this time around.

The book is a combination of memoir and advice about writing. The first section, “C.V.,” is a condensed life story as it relates to being a writer—an interesting story in itself. The second section, “On Writing,” is all about the art and craft. He starts by giving us the Great Commandment, “read a lot, write a lot.”

King lists four levels of writers—bad writers, competent writers, good writers, and geniuses—and believes there is no way to make a competent writer from a bad one or to turn a good writer into a great one, but a competent writer can become a good writer. This requires a toolbox: the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, and elements of style) and a second level (hard work, dedication, and timely help). He also emphasizes rewriting and editing. Two of his rules:  “Omit needless words” and “2nd draft = 1st Draft – 10%.”

You’ve probably heard of the two types of writers—“plotters” who plan their books in advance and “pantsters” who write by the seat of their pants. Stephen King is the later and so am I. He claims he never plots a book. I like King’s ideas about writing is that they coincide with my own. And what he produces is very good storytelling.

The third section of the book, “On Living,” is back to memoir. He talks about his accident (he was hit by a car), recovery, and return to writing. This is followed by “And Further More, Part I and Part II.” Part I is about editing and Part II is a book list. And I forgot to mention the three forwards in the beginning of the book.

I enjoyed the first reading and again the second time around.

On Writing and Selling Books.

I love to write a new story. I don’t even mind going back and editing a few times or formatting and designing covers for publishing. I even do that for other people. But I don’t like marketing. I like doing a website or two (another thing I do for other authors), sending out a few emails, doing book signings here and there, but I don’t like selling myself and my writing.

The book I just published in June, Mangrove Madness, has been hanging around for years waiting on an agent and a couple of publishers to make up their minds about publishing. It might have gone through if I was better at selling. But instead, I got tired of waiting for something to happen, took it back, and published it myself.

It’s a mystery to me what sells a book to a major publisher or what makes it into a bestselling novel. I just finished reading (or partially finished) a book by a New York Times bestselling author. Within the first few chapters I had figured out who committed the murder the female PI was investigating. Plus, I knew she was going to lose her boyfriend because she was being so stupid and not listening to what he was saying. I checked the end of the book to see that I was right then put the book aside. How and why does something like that sell?

I know people who write much better novels who are self-publishing and selling very little. But the business of writing and the business of marketing are two very separate things. Most of my friends who write are not expert marketers. A few can do both. I guess I need to learn marketing or hire someone who is good at it.

Wish me luck with marketing my new book.