Putting Your Pen in the Contest Ring: Writers Saying, “Why Not?”

Startup Stock Photos

image via Startup Stock Photos

There’s a lot to be said for saying “no.” As hard as it can be to put up the stop sign, “no” can save you from taking on projects for which you are ill-suited, going to events that don’t enlarge your life, or drinking that fourth Brandy Alexander when you know that Alexander himself stops at two.

The writing life can be a harried one, particularly if you have a day job, and the only time you have to plot out your nine-book saga on intergalactic love between a sentient vaping pen and a 19-legged Venusian dog is your lunch hour (and for the 30 minutes after dinner before you do the dishes).

But there are some writing opportunities for which saying “Why not?” can deliver an unusual sense of gratification, and sometimes some exotic rewards. I’m talking about writing contests. I’ve written about contests before, but because I’ve had some recent success with a few, I want to write about them again. Getting recognition from a contest—no matter if you are the first-place winner or receive an honorable mention—can give give you some sweet cream of satisfaction. That juice is qualitatively different from that gained from crafting a zingy sentence for your last chapter, or having your beta readers say that your Venusian dog puts them in mind of Cary Grant in his prime.

Contests Give You Warm Gravy
Here’s the kind of thing that placing well in a writing contest can do for you:

  • Validation – Most contests are judged by credible writers. Them saying you are a hot tamale can do wonders for the tender egos of most writers.
  • Exposure – Many publications publish the winning works, and sometimes they have a big print circulation and/or online traffic, so your work can get attention. Publication at many contest venues will include links to your site or other work.
  • Swag – I’ve won all kinds of things from writing contests, including poker chips (nice ones), licorice, and luggage tags. Oh, and money. Sometimes a pretty good chunk. Or the equivalent of money. For instance, last month I was at the Catamaran Writer’s Conference in pretty Pebble Beach, which offered me four days of good writerly cheer and good advice on a work in progress of mine. I won a $750 fellowship to the conference by submitting a short story I’d written a while ago. I didn’t think I’d win anything, but I already had the story: why not?

Have Pen, Will Travel
MarketingProfs had this essay contest going last month, and I won a first-runner-up award, which lets me get into all the conference sessions free and gives me some other goodies, to the tune of $1,800. I don’t know if I can make it out there, because flights and lodging are expensive (and the evil first-place winner took those). But writing a 500-word essay—easy. What was my essay about? How pizza is actually marketing. Yes, being a goofball can pay.

And my latest serving of confectionery, a roundabout way of “winning” a contest: a couple of years ago I entered an unsold travel piece I had languishing on my computer to Dave’s Travel Corner, a popular travel site. I won second place in that contest, which awarded a hundred bucks, some travel books and some other oddities. But it won me some attention from Dave, who later invited me to be a writer for his site for some press trips, one though the Florida Keys and one at a luxury hotel in Vegas.

These trips are all-expenses paid, where the writers get treated to all kinds of amazing scenic/historic/crazy venues, gobble foods at places most couldn’t afford to gobble, and be out and about, goggled-eyed, in this wondrous country of ours. Or in other countries: the latest one I was invited on leaves late this coming Thursday for 9 days in Myanmar. Myanmar! That ain’t the Long Beach, CA suburb I was raised in.

Contesting the Contests
Yes, writing contests often have entry fees, but they often are reasonable: $10–$15 dollars that might win you $500-$1,000, plus some of the perks mentioned above. And you might find contests for which you already have the story or essay written, but never found a home for it. I won $1,000 for paying $15 to enter a National Steinbeck Center fiction contest a long ways back, for a story I’d written in college. I didn’t think I had a prayer to win that contest, but I said “why not?” and entered. That was a good feeling.

Subscribe to Hope Clark’s free (or paid, for more entry opps) newsletter that has lots of good contests. So does Moira’s Allen’s Writing World newsletter. And Poets and Writers magazine has a searchable list of writing contests that you can filter for fees and genres.

Say “why not” to contests. Why not? And if you happen to be in Mandalay in the coming two weeks, let me know.

Guest Posting? Wipe Your Feet at Your Host’s Door Before Entering

You're a Guest: Behave—But Be Interesting!

You’re a Guest: Behave—But Be Interesting!

Guest posting on well-trafficked sites can be an effective way for freelancers to drive awareness of their blog, their services or a product that the freelancer is hoping to give potential clients/customers a peek at. Many site owners are happy to host a relevant post from an outside writer because it can give the site’s writer a break from their posting routines, expand on topics that are still relevant to the site’s audience, but that might be out of the purview of the site owner, and can spark renewed engagement for the site.

Guest posters can also bring a portion of their existing audience to the host site, which also holds some appeal for the site owner. There are some obvious basics you need to pay attention to when you solicit a site owner for a guest post, prominent among them whether your post serves that site’s audience, whether it’s written in the site’s style, format and tone, and whether it expands or breaks new ground with the site’s mission and message.

Take a look at this Why You Suck at Guest Blogging (and What The Pros Do Differently) post on Jon Morrow’s helpful Boost Blog Traffic site. The post goes over what makes a lousy and what makes a lively guest post, and also supplies a link list, vetted by topic, of sites that accept guest posts, those links going to site guidelines. This BBT post is over a year old, so not all of the linked sites may still be accepting guest posts, but a good many of them will still be active. Morrow’s site has a rich vein of info on guest blogging, which ties in well to his guest blogging courses.

Wither Guest Posting?
And why, you slyly ask, am I blithering on about guest posting? Oh, with motives so ulterior: I recently published my book on finding and cultivating your writing voice, Think Like a Writer: How to Write the Stories You See. Before I published, I contacted the owners of a number of sites about posting some adapted material from my book as a guest post. Most of the site owners were people I have had favorable contact with in the past, which at least gets your post in the door in the first place.

Some of the hosts were from sites I’d tweeted about regularly, because they offered great material for freelancers, or were people I’d written to directly about topics in their post or newsletters, or were from sites where I’d commented regularly, and was known to the host. It’s always great to have some personal connection with the site host to be considered for a post, though of course you still need to provide them with good material, and to follow the guidelines.

I did sent pitches out to several sites I was moderately familiar with, but at which I hadn’t developed the personal relationship described above. Those pitches were reviewed and graciously declined, for various reasons. And some of my closer contacts declined as well, again for various reasons, all of them legitimate. And two of my posts won’t go live for a while, because of the host site’s guest backlog.

Posting for the Long Tail
All that is no problem for me: I want to keep incrementally putting out word about my book, and guest posting is a helpful method, especially when I was able to use (with occasional modification) the direct material of my book. Below is the list of posts that are now active at various sites. The list includes places like LinkedIn and Medium, where I posted under my own accounts; obviously they aren’t vetted by a site host, but you shouldn’t post there either if you material isn’t up to snuff.

Check any of these out if the feeling strikes. There’s useful writing info in all, and it’s even amusing at times. As you might have guessed, I got the most sales from the highly trafficked Writer’s Digest post (seen in my Kindle Direct reports the day of and day after the post), but also some fair attention from the others, and increased traffic to my site in general. The Make a Living Writing post just went live, so we’ll see what happens there.

Try some guest posting where you might find a receptive audience—it’s a good exercise to stretch your writing, and could get you useful attention.

Making Some Rounds on the Web

Writer’s Digest

Don’t Muzzle (or Muffle) Your Writing Voice

Make a Living Writing

Why Super-Short Articles Can Build a Big Writing Career

Writing World

Pedal Your Bike to Pedal Your Mind

Writer Unboxed

A Writer’s Eyes Are Always Open

Medium

Here’s to the Oddballs
When the Writing Grind Seems to Shave the Soul

LinkedIn

How to Write After Midnight
Stick in Your Readers’ Heads: Use Words That Work
Typing with Another Writer’s Hands

Unmasking a Member of the Story Cartel

FloweringCover450

The biz part of the book biz ain’t easy for authors, with publishing going every which way, from hybrid, to agency-assisted, to indie to traditional. However, many counter arguments can be compellingly made that it’s the greatest time ever for authors to take control of their writing careers, with self-publishing and its variants giving writers much more control (and responsibility) over how and when their work is published and marketed.

Clearly, it’s no secret that even authors with traditional industry contracts are expected to do most of their own—if not all—marketing these days. Which brings me to my own keyboard conniption: it’s hard for individual, unknown authors to get any traction with the reading public, particularly by the moldy (and expensive) advertising approaches of yore, now easily ignored. For my short story collection, I’ve done some extended rounds with things like press releases, Goodreads giveaways, Amazon KDP Select promotions, offering the book to a long list of reviewers, wrestling rabid wombats in sports bars and much more, and haven’t made much of a sales blip.

Words, Free for the Taking

Few sales result in few reviews, and Amazon reviews, despite some justified vilification (see below), can be an influential social proof to induce book purchases. That’s why I’ve engaged Story Cartel to pimp, er, promote free downloads of my book (.mobi, .epub and PDF) for a limited time. The site lets prospective readers get free copies of books, and requests that the readers supply a review. There’s no obligation on the part of the readers to review the book; if they do review, readers are requested to provide an honest review, and to reveal that they downloaded the book as a free promotion, so that there’s no taint of sock-puppetry in the review process.

So, for the next 18 days or so, the story collection is there for a free download. Check it out if you’re into it, and if the mood strikes, write a review, even if you want to report that the stories stunk up the joint. (Do so, and I promise not to sell your email addresses to any blackhat coders in Uzbekistan, though I won’t name my favorite baseball glove after you.)

Readers, dear things. Can’t get enough of ’em.

Bonus Travel Traipsings

I had a few travel pieces published in the last little while:

Here’s one on the glories of Pinnacles National Park
Here’s one on the glories of the Florida Keys
Here’s one on the glories of narcotic drinks on Micronesian islands

Psychobilly Cadillacs and Sweaty Island Tales

Psychobilly Cadillac

photo by Wikipedia

Hope I don’t seem like a stealthy weasel by luring you to this solemn site for a blog post only to send you away willy-nilly on the wings of links, but I had a couple of fun pieces published on other sites that may tickle whatever you might have that’s worth tickling.

The first, The Johnny Cash Approach to Novel Writing, uses the Man in Black’s crazed “I built a backyard Caddy out of pilfered parts” song as a frame for building the consciousness of your fictional characters (and vivid renderings of places where stories unfold), by gathering both the lunatic and the prosaic blossoms of incident and observation that happen to you over time. Really, the hot bricks of storybuilding are everywhere, so bring your wheelbarrow. This piece just appeared on Writer Unboxed.

The other is a literal stream-of-consciousness piece: streaming because it’s all about the almost hallucinatory effects of living in a tropical climate, endless perspiration prominent among them. You might feel you need to apply deodorant after reading this, but really it’s more amusing than odorous. The article in question, I Sweat, Therefore I Am (Sweaty) can be found on the congenial confines of Dave’s Travel Corner.

 

Writing Contests: Yea, Nay, or Meh?

 

 

Steinbeck award copy

No, I didn’t get a pawnbroker to re-etch my name over the real winner’s

It’s great to get published. I’ve had the good fortune to be published in lots of magazines and newspapers, and I’m grateful for the editors who have given me the opportunity, particularly when I first started out, and had nary a clip to my name. But there’s a special—and sometimes odd—kick that comes from doing well in a writing contest.

There’s some ego investment there for sure. But I think the ego vector comes less from “Wow, did I kick Shakespeare’s old booty all over the place in that haiku contest!” than Sally Field’s famous, “… this time I feel it—and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

Writers can be inward sorts, languishing a league or two below the surface in their writing caves, so validation of any sort is manna precious.

The reason I bring up writing contests right now is that I recently won second place in a travel-writing contest over at Dave’s Travel Corner. Dave had solicited contest prizes from some of his travel industry connections, so in addition to $100 cash, I received two travel books, a certificate for a private tasting for six ($180 value) at a fancy-schmancy Napa winery, a Vegas.com promotional kit (my article is set in Vegas) that included a deck of cards, nice poker chips, coasters and more, and last but not least chewy: two big packs of licorice vines. Now them’s some winnin’s.

Paying to Play

Dave had the generous spirit not to charge for entry into his contest, but many contests do require entry fees. I’ve seen novel writing contests where the fees went upward of $125, but of course, reviewing novels for contest entries could take up a great deal of reading time. Many contests I’ve entered were free, but a good number of them required entry fees between $10 and $25. Some years I’ve probably spent between $100 for contests, others maybe half that much. But I’ve had fair luck with my entries.

Right now I’m enjoying the tail end of a free year of Carol Tice’s Freelance Writing Den (normally $25 a month), and have found the Den a deep well of excellent writing resources, as well as a congenial place for writers to congregate. I won that free year just by writing—no fee—a blog post. Here’s my doffed cap to Carol and Linda Formichelli for choosing me.

I’ve won tickets to a Broadway play; admission, lodging and meals at a good writer’s conference; a few cash prizes of $100 or more, and long ago, that lovely glass plaque that adorns this post. That plaque is one of my prized possessions: being named on anything with John Steinbeck’s name is good gravy. The fact that it came with $1,000 cash and that Leon Panetta presented it to me (in lieu of an ill Thomas Steinbeck, John’s son) made that gravy all the warmer.

Contests (With Caveats), Si!

So, to answer the question that this post poses: I have to say Yea! Contests can give you good exposure. They can also stretch your writing: you will often be given a theme or a prompt to follow, and it can be a helpful challenge to push your words into places they wouldn’t go otherwise. And sometimes you might be able to enter an article or a story with a piece that you’d written some time ago and hadn’t found a home for. Don’t forget that Sally Field thrill. Not to mention, there’s the potential for licorice.

Make sure the contest is credible, make sure to follow the contest guidelines to the letter, and of course, don’t spend money that you can’t afford. (I’ve lost WAY more contests than I’ve won.) I was going to list a lot of writing contest resources, but the smart fellow at The Competitive Writer has already done that.

He provides links to writing contest advice and resources, like Hope Clark’s great Funds for Writers newsletter and Moira Allen’s Writing World, two newsletters I always look forward to receiving. He also lists contest databases, care of fine publications like Poets and Writers. One other source not on his list is the yearly Writer’s Market, which can be obtained in print or online or both. That publication has a Contests and Awards section that lists contest specs, fees, deadlines and prizes.

Oh, but don’t enter any of the ones I intend to. I’m sensitive, you know.

Not Clint Eastwood’s Chair (But Needs Filling)

My moviemaking skills are crude indeed, but sometimes it’s a stimulating creative change to move your mediums around. I’d seen on Derek Halpern’s blog that he was soliciting videos from his audience on the subject of their business needs. Derek’s focus has some overlap with Dan Pink’s and perhaps Dan Areily’s work in motivation and behavior. But Derek’s work—combining research in motivational psychology directed toward growing an online audience and growing sales of your products—is interesting on its own. And his half-manic personality probably helps win converts to his causes.

Derek’s video contest guidelines were to reveal in 60 seconds what the creator might hope to gain from his expertise. He’s going to choose a few winners to join him at a two-day workshop in Seattle (with CreativeLIVE) using tools to expand online business. I thought the metaphor of the empty chair was a good one to suggest that I wanted to use an improved online presence to drive more clients, and seeking counsel on how that presence could be shaped to a more focused audience.

I doubt if my purple plea will notch me a win, but I had jolly fun in quickly putting together the idea and the video. The satisfying part is to play—here in working with video and voice—somewhat far afield of my normal comforts. I want to push those kind of far-field buttons (though with more deliberation than my effort here) in the future, and see if I can trigger any high-voltage sparks.

Chocolate Kills (But What a Way to Go)

Chocolate

I love to write travel pieces, from tales based on exotic sojourns to tiny islands far, far away, to “wow, look what’s right in my backyard” articles. One of the travel article forms is the service piece, which is distinguished from the storytelling article by having a “news you can use” angle, often specifying a destination’s particular sights to be seen, restaurants, lodging prices and hours and locales for all.

Such a piece is my “Five Places for Getting to the Soul of Whiskey” article, published in the San Francisco Chronicle. (One does like good service when it comes to whiskey.) I’m mentioning the Chronicle article in this lineup because the Chronicle travel section presents another angle of article-writing math: they only accept pieces on spec. That means that they don’t assign articles as a result of your crafted query: they take a look at completed pieces, and then say yea or nay.

Which is my long-winded way of saying that I recently wrote another travel piece on spec for the Chronicle: “Five Bay Area Places to Get Killer Chocolate.” Even though I’d seen they’d done a chocolate roundup early last year, I thought mine was distinctive enough to re-whet the editor’s chocolate appetite. My mistake: writing on spec is always chancy (way more time involved than writing a query), and chancier still in this venue, because the Chronicle’s “Five Places” structure doesn’t easily lend itself to rewrite for another publication’s slant. So when the Chron editor said, “thanks but no thanks,” I pondered this article’s fate.

It’s often worth it to pursue rewriting or re-purposing articles—I’ve had articles reprinted in whole, or their rewritten variants published a number of times—but I decided to let this one go. But I had to give it some kind of a home, so let’s allow its velvety chocolate soul to rest here.

Five Bay Area Places to Get Killer Chocolate

Chocolate has morphed from a bitter beverage in Mayan shamanic circles to a sweeter infusion that delighted Europe’s elite to a connoisseur’s candy laced with chipotle and cognac. And it recently broke through the anti-fat, anti-sugar, anti-pleasure nutritional naysayers to now be thought of as a stroke suppressant, cholesterol cutter, diabetes deterrent and all-around good soul. Not a bad resume for a humble bean.
Whatever form the confection takes, there’s a simple reason that enthusiasts can’t seem to get enough: the stuff’s good—really good. Whether you like to slurp, gobble or even flip your chocolate with a spatula, the Bay Area has some choice offerings for the chocoholic.

Big Sur Bakery, Big Sur
The chocolate cake here is deep as a mystery, a buttery, luscious darkness that will have you tonguing the plate and longing for more. Pair it with the bracing espresso and swoon. (And it’s not always available—scarcity sharpens desire.)
47540 Highway 1, (831) 667-0520

Richard Donnelly Chocolates, Santa Cruz
When I lived on a tiny Micronesian island, I cried in pain because the Chinese and Japanese chocolate there was so bad. When a friend sent Richard Donnelly’s Brownie Mix, I wept for joy. These brownies are the chewy, dense, essential core of chocolate. Music for the mouth, with a lingering finish.
1509 Mission Street, (888) 685-1871

Vosges Chocolate, Bay Area Locations
I know, I know—bacon is the new black. We see it in cocktails, mayonnaise, even toothpaste. But Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix—delicious! Buttermilk pancake mix studded with hickory-smoked bacon enshrouded in sea-salted milk chocolate. You’ll flip the cakes and flip your lid.
Andronico’s, various Bay Area locations

Bittersweet Cafe, Oakland
A place that calls itself “The Chocolate Cafe” better deliver the goods. They have over 150 bars from all over the world and great coffee too, but what really sets them apart are their “drinking chocolates,” which come in three deadly and deep flavors. Whether you go for them hot or cold, these slurpables will coat your mouth in chocolate heaven.
5427 College Avenue, (510) 654-7159

CocoaBella, San Francisco
They dub themselves a “chocolate lifestyle shop,” and indeed the digs are nice. But they could be vending out of a broom closet and still have a steady customer stream, because they have the best chocolates selection around. All the good stuff from Belgium, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Canada and the United States. What’s really fun is to build your own custom box online. What’s more fun is when the box arrives.
2102 Union Street, (415) 931-6213

Oohh, Pretty Ribbon! (And Other Ways the Web Makes Us Woozy)

And these are just for ordering lunch

One morning this past week, I had a writing project open on my screen, while looking at a Twitter stream, and also listening (well, my ears took in noise) to a webinar, which was going to end on the hour, and be followed by another webinar. Oh, the humanity! Now the webinar material wasn’t just mindless prattle; it was sound information on building a bigger blogging audience, and the one that followed also offered insightful information on revising a novel. And I’d seen some great tweeted links to intriguing topical news and the amusing oddments of humanity in the tweeted flow.

But the whole of it, the tapestry of electronic screeching tires, colored balloons, half-cooked flotsam—I sensed that the inner nutrient levels were low. Trying to look more than two tweets ahead, I know this is unsustainable behavior, on a spiritual as well as logical level.

But just to add to the feeling of this cascade described above—the “is that a mouse running up my leg before I’m going to make an important speech while someone in the audience is having electroshock administered”—while I was webinaring and tweeting and reading and wobbling, I opened this email from Jonathan Fields. His post squints at this collected connectivity, and the accompanying potential of disconnect that can come from it.

The Sunday Picnic Basket of the Web

The Net indeed can seem like the largest Sunday picnic basket of all, with juicy treats shared among smiling friends and extended family, and perhaps I’m biting the keyboard that feeds me by saying “no mas, no mas,” but sheesh, I’m concerned that I’m turning into one of those mice that hits the lever to drop the cocaine, and the lever taps are happening more frequently.

There have been a few recently published studies that suggest (as Fields alludes to) that our heavy use of the Internet and its popcornings of this and now this, but this too! is reshaping our abilities to have deep, concentrated focus on a subject—indeed attenuating our abilities to focus at all.

Computer Narcosis, Internet Brain and Gosh, Where Did the Time Go?

As I commented on the Fields piece, I also fear potential neurological re-shapings, that perhaps will suppress the ability to absorb in any reflective way long-form information, in favor of the slot-machine, bells-lit flavor-packs of brain candy we can access all day long now. Undoubtedly some brains are more susceptible to this than others. Since I’ve peppered mine with enough bourbon so it has more divots than most public golf courses, I might have to be more wary than most. (And our War of Warcraft army recruits might be lost already, but we’ll need them to man the expanding air force of drones that will soon be used to both kill terrorists and to perhaps shoot the fingers off of people texting while driving.)

Me, after musing on the Fields post (at the very moment I was being buffeted by the cluster bombs of divided electronic attentions), I vowed to no longer do these data-crams. It might be the bourbon that’s trenched my memory, but it feels like I’m getting so little retained value anyway from all the podcasts, webinars, PDFs and tweets that concurrently flood my bloodshot eyeballs.

When I ask, does all this stuff, despite its twinkly appeal, make me any happier? Smarter? Better?

No.

The Net and its wonders have been an immeasurable boon to my work, but that horrible sucking sound of my soul draining away has to be listened to as well. Of course I’m still going to be there typing away, but not while opening the curtains on all sides to every passing circus. One thing at a time. Breathe. Balance. (And maybe just a bit more coffee.)

You Meet the Nicest Immortal Writing Gods in the Strangest Places

Margaret Atwood talking about Fanado on YouTube

Because I don’t waste enough time already searching for videos of cats quoting Milton on YouTube, I decided to mess around a bit more with Twitter the past couple of weeks. Under the rationalized pretext that it might open up some more channels for my copywriting business (and because I thought someone might tweet about a cat riding a unicycle on YouTube), I started tweeting more than the thin, desultory wing-flappings I’d shot out over the past year. You know, about important stuff, like the fact that you can now get an espresso machine in your car.

I also started following more people, other than the ones named things like IPostCatsTypingOnYouTube. I guess I don’t get out much, but it surprised me that there are prominent writers on Twitter, and some of them tweet their fool writerly heads off. Somewhere in the ether, I saw a tweet from Margaret Atwood, so I started following her (@margaretatwood). I knew that Margaret Atwood was hip to tech because I’d read about her LongPen work years ago. But I was amazed to see how much she tweets, and how casual and fun she can be in her stream.

I am talking about Margaret Atwood, author of Oryx and Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye—all works that I marveled at for the sureness and scope of the writing, the power of the imagination, the glint of the language. I think Atwood is one of the best fiction writers alive, a giant in the field, and to see her merrily tweeting—she sent many funny tweets from the recent Comic-Con—boggled my mind. I suppose I think the literary mandarins are levitating on silk pillows in a Patagonian opium den, not furiously pounding their iPhones. Who knew?

Seth, Let’s Do Lunch
I did have some inkling, when I emailed Seth Godin a while back, and he quickly replied, that many of the titans are actual human beings. I am a member of Seth’s Triiibes network, and indeed I had a Triiibes-related question, but that a guy like Seth, who undoubtedly gets emails by the bushels, takes the time to answer some nebbish’s question struck me. I’ve emailed other cybersphere celebrities, like Chris Brogan, and received back cordial replies as well. Atwood even retweeted a tweet of mine expressing interest in her Fanado project that interactively links artists, creators and fans. You might kick a buck in to that Indiegogo project of hers if you dig what she’s putting out there.

So, this obviously isn’t an invitation to go badger your writing idols on Twitter or by email. It’s more of a reminder that we live in interesting times. I’m going to check and see if Mark Twain has a Twitter account so I can get some cigar recommendations.

Margaret, Seth, know of any good cat videos?

Corrupt Author Bribes Readers with Gaudy Trinkets

Always Striving for a New Low

Always Striving for a New Low


What’s sadder than a writer sitting at a quiet cyberspace crossroads, squirming and gesticulating at the rare clicking visitor, in front of a sandwich sign that says “Will Pick Grubs Off Your Pet Monkey for Your Reading Attention?” Easy: one who tries to directlybuy his readers’ attentions with a transparent pandering offer. Thus, I invite you to don your favorite pantyhose mask, conceal your true identity, and blacken your conscience—and then read.

No, no, this isn’t about reading just any old thing, all those National Enquirers you’ve got piled up bedside and the latest issue of Zombie Sex Kitten Sits on Game of Thrones and Contemplates Twilight—no, this is about reading something of mine. That’s where the corruption comes in: if you download, for .99, my remarkably juicy (yet 100% organic) novel of hitchhiking madness and tingling love triangles, and are the first to write an Amazon review for the dang thing, I will send you, in an unmarked brown paper wrapper, a $25 iTunes gift card. (And this card hasn’t even been used yet.)

You ask, how desperate can a writer get? Well, I was actually going to come to your house and make you read the book straight through, without any beer on hand. But I thought this would leave a smaller carbon footprint. Anyway, if you cheat and don’t actually read the book, but just go post a review, I will identify to the world that you are one of Satan’s minions, and you will be cast into the Lake of Fire. (Sorry, but once a Catholic, always a Catholic.)

Thus, you must read, and you must act the Amazonian forthwith. And even I am not so corrupt that I’d ask you to give me a good review—tell it as you read it. And if you see that one of your dirty competitors has beat you to the Tunes, well, you could always post a review anyway. For the children. For those few brave souls who have already read and reviewed, you’re out of luck, but I will autograph your forearm next time we meet. Here’s the delicate little item at Amazon, and here it is for B&N’s Nook. For those who crave paper, this ain’t your baby.

And please don’t tell my mother.