The 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Another day off, yet here it is..another post. I couldn’t help this one, as it’s more a rant that focuses on the plot from my latest thriller, The Brink, and less about being an authorpreneur. Shamless self promotion, yes. But these are the last days that I’m part of the B&N Special Collection, so please cut me a little slack for trying to keep myself TOM (Top Of Mind). 

Most folks don’t know what the Federal Reserve is, and yet it has perhaps the most influence in our daily lives more than any other piece of the federal government. Did you catch that? The Federal Reserve isn’t even part of our government (another common misconception), it’s a private entity. But chances are, the fact that you’re living in the house you have because of the low mortgage rate, or the fact that you didn’t get that loan you needed to start a new business because the interest rate was a killer, all came about because of something this private bank did. You are permitted to cojure pictures of a giant Monopoly banker growing tentacles and wrapping them around the Capital building here if you want.

And even if you followed former Alan Greenspan, and could decipher his famous “Greenspeak” speeches to corner the market in your day trading days, or you tweet or blog about current Chairman Bernanke’s press releases and senate hearings, chances are you don’t know the following names: Fisher, Plosser, Evans and  Kocherlakota. But, as voting members of the Fed’s Board of Governors, it is these 4 men who hold the power to sway those key Fed actions that will impact you and your financial future for years, or perhaps even decades, to come.

A recent NYT article sets up their decision making power like the engine behind a conspiratorial plot of a  suspense novel: “The four men are presidents of regional Fed banks, and under an arcane system that dates to the Depression, they will become voting members in 2011 on the Federal Open Market Committee, which gathers eight times a year around a 27-foot mahogany table to influence the supply of credit in the economy.”

It is this kind of behind-the-scenes activity that makes us question our government, not trust it. While it provides inspiration for fiction writers to churn out stories that hopefully education while they entertain, casting these men as shadowy characters in the self-mockumentary that is our present day political system powers the politics of dangerous and ignorant extremes that now soaks up hours and hours of TV and Internet programming. 

So, what to do? Insert op/ed for educating the little ones  here – Maybe we should teach the kiddos a little more about how organizations like The Fed really work, and just how much influence they have over mommy’s and daddy’s life. Maybe instead of learning their state capitals, they should know the names of the men and women who will wield pens as mighty swords over their financial futures. If nothing else, we should teach the children about credit scores and not how to f*** their’s up. Now that’s something that will affect EVERYTHING they do in their financial life. Plus, it’s a pretty easy start to get a handle on what people can do to control their financial life rather than trying to figure out what goes on after hours around one of those 27-foot mahogany tables. I just hope the cleaning lady uses plenty of Pledge the next morning.

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 Mark Fadden’s latest thriller, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

Making the most of your chamber membership

I know I said I wouldn’t post again until after Jan 1, but I couldn’t help myself. Plus, the kids are home from school and I’m hiding in my office, so forgive the typos as I’m typing in the dark.

As an “authorpreneur” you should think about joining your local chamber of commerce. Not only does it give you a chance to meet people who read and might buy signed books as business gifts, it’s important to support your local community. Because pumping money back into your nieghborhood is about the best kind of “being green” there is.

So, being a newly minted chamber member, I wanted to make the most out of my chamber membership. Having no storefront to stand akwardly in front of as I use the giant scissors to cut my chamber ribbon, I decided to incorporate my chamber ribbon cutting event into a book signing event at our local Borders book store. It was a great success as I sold out of books. At any rate, the press release about it is below. I even sent the press release to the US Chamber of Commerce magazine folks to see if it will cut the mustard and be added to their “Business Profiles” section. Because being a good authorpreneur is not just about supporting the local economy, its also about seeing an opportunity to spread the good word about your books across the land.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!   

No storefront? No problem

The ribbon cutting event is a rite of passage for new members joining a chamber of commerce. But what to do when you don’t have a storefront? Simple. You improvise.

“Because I work out of my house, I didn’t think I could do a ribbon cutting,” said Colleyville, Texas author Mark Fadden, who has been out promoting his latest novel, The Brink, for the past several months at book signings, book club meetings and civic group presentations. “But then I thought with a little creativity, it would be unique opportunity to try something different.” Fadden, who recently became a member of the Colleyville Area Chamber of Commerce, contacted Lori Lortscher of the Colleyville Borders bookstore and pitched an idea to have his ribbon cutting in their store, combining it with a book signing event. Being a local author, and the fact that Fadden had already had a very successful signing in the store when The Brink first came out this past June, Lortscher was eager to have him back again. “Mark’s appearance at our store was definitely a hit,” said Lortscher. “He drew in a good size crowd of loyal followers. He interacted with everyone and sold many copies of his book.”

This isn’t the first time that the Colleyville Chamber has done a ribbon cutting at a unique venue. “The Colleyville Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates many ribbon cuttings in the community for businesses or individuals who do not have a storefront. Ribbon cuttings may be held at the member’s home, at a favorite restaurant, at a friend’s business or even at the chamber office,” said Director of Membership Lauren Duke. “Local artists like Ann Hardy and Lamberto Alvarez, photographers like Vera Crosby and Walt Mills, and great writers like Mark Fadden add diversity and culture to our area. Creative professionals like these benefit from their involvement in a chamber of commerce by exposing their abilities and passion to their very own community. Members and residents alike can get to know these talented individuals on a deeper level and learn firsthand what motivates their craft.”

An award-winning suspense thriller, The Brink uses the current financial crisis to tell the story of a fugitive Texas Ranger who helps a woman running for her life, only to get sucked into a secret society’s plot for global financial Armageddon. The book, which was written in 2006, has been seen as somewhat prophetic in that several of its events, including the global economic meltdown, the ensuing currency wars and even the recent Washington D.C. Metro bomb scare, have actually come true. Readers can get more information about Fadden and his books, including previewing The Brink, at www.markfadden.com.      

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 The Brink was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

2011 Writing Resolutions – Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Author Website

“That’s a great website!” Not exactly the best four words a writer can hear. “Here’s your book deal,” “Random House wants you,” “Please meet Mr. Patterson,” are all four word phrases that rank much higher in the writer’s scale of awesome-ness. (I’m a huge James Patterson fan and would love to sit and chat with him about the craft and, more importantly, the promotion of writing.) But having a website that people like spending time on, can interact with, and, most importantly, FIND, is key to turning yourself into a Brand (see yesterday’s post on Branding), building your author platform, and selling books. We all need to improve our websites. No matter if your website has won the Al Gore “I Invented the Internet so I Deem This Website Perfect” Award, your website needs to be updated constantly to remain something that provides fresh content and keeps people coming back. Therefore, as we continue the 2011 writing resolutions, I give you the Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Author Website: (By the way, these go in order from easiest to most difficult in terms of time and money.) 

5. Tag Your Site Properly. Let’s say little Tommy wants to get his parents a book as a last minute Christmas gift. He has no idea what authors his parents like, but he knows they like suspense thrillers. He whips out his iPhone, taps the Google app and says, “Thriller author” into the voice search. Ideally, we’d like our name to pop up first. But how to make sure that happens? By tagging our site with the right keywords. On my home page, my tags are “thriller, author, suspense, Mark Fadden, The Brink, writer, fiction, book.” My home page gets around 300 hits a week. Not bad, but when someone types in “thriller author” my website isn’t in the Google Top 10 results. I need to do better in 2011.

4. Have relevant content. It’s all about search engine optimization these days. What is SEO? Wikipedia defines it as, “is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.” I attended several talks this past year on SEO at my local community college and, as I understand it, the more often there is mention of the search term on your site, the more likely it will be toward the top of an organic search results page. Why? Because the search engines basically count how many times they see it on your page or site. Oh, and they also take into account how “fresh” your site is, so update often. Let’s take the “thriller author” term as an example. If that’s a key search term for you, then the words “thriller author” needs to be all over your site.  

3. Balance the words and pics. Back to the advice I got from an SEO presentation – your site should be pleasant to look at. As writers, we like words. But, we also need to have pictures and videos on the site. When was the last time you spent any time on a site that looked like a page from the dictionary? Sorry, your grandfather’s dictionary. No one has an actual dictionary in their house any longer.

2. Keep up to date on the latest SEO tips and tricks – Designing websites for SEO is always changing. As the technology gets better, so do the applications, tools, and techniques used to support that new technology. I get email updates from Search Engine Land. If you want to know about what’s going on in the world of SEO, this site has it.  

1. Hire a website designer. We’ve got to realize our limits. Chances are you have a day job, maybe a couple kids, and want to have some alone time every once in a while where you can spend some “me” time trying to finally get the blasted ship in the bottle! If you’ve got the scratch and you know a good designer, you may want to have some outside help in creating/updating your website to make it better and be SEO-ready. Just a tip here, make sure your designer builds it so you can update it whenever you like with your content and not screw up the entire design or break into some NSA computer by accident and launch missles at Russia. That would be a bad thing.

***REMINDER – ‘Beyond the Book’ will go dark from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. We’ll be back in 2011 with fresh ideas for all of us to be better ‘authorpreneurs’ in the new year. Happy Holidays to all!

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 My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

2011 Writing Resolutions Continued: Becoming a Brand

Wouldn’t you love to be the Lysol of the publishing world? Think of it…a person wanting a thriller goes into a book store. They find their helpful book store associate and instead of asking, “where’s the thriller section?” they ask, “where can I find Mark Fadden books?” It’s the same principle as going into your grocery store and trying to find the Lysol rather than the “disinfectant spray.” Why? Good old fashioned branding.

It’s the same thing with Kleenex, Coke, type of beer you like, etc, people are loyal to brands. Why? Because they know what to expect. People keep buying James Patterson novels for two reasons, 1 – he churns them out like they’re magazines, and 2 people know exactly what they’re getting when they buy his books – a fast paced thriller with short chapters and lots of suspense.

One of the bloggers I follow is Kristin Lamb. She covers all the writing bases from writing technique to social media. Her recent post also talked about branding and here’s a brief snippet:

Our blogs and our tags serve to define our brand. The content and tags associated with our name are important. What potential consumers, an agent and an editor see associated with our name is vital in how they mentally define us. Are they going to define us as Quiche Lorraine or Dear God! Who Let the Kids Cook?

As an example, here’s my list of tags:

Kristen Lamb—Kristen Lamb, writer, author, speaker, teacher, social media, publishing, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog, blogs, blogging, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, branding, marketing.

Notice all the tags were simple. These tags were all nouns that, if typed into a search bar, would serve to help someone else’s little codependent genie find me FIRST. Generally with writers I see one of two errors. Either they don’t use tags (or don’t use enough tags) OR they use tags that are so obscure they are ridiculous.

And yes, notice I put my name in the tags. Why? Because I want to become a brand name. I want that when people think/say, “social media for writers,” Kristen Lamb comes up first.

As people continue to use the Internet to search for All Things Important, we need to continue to work on our SEO (search engine optimization) to become the next great publishing brand. But that is a subject for yet another 2011 Writing Resolutions entry: Making sure our websites are working for us. Hint, Hint – it’s tomorrow’s topic.

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My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

2011 writing resolutions continued: A comment about comments

To comment or not to comment? That is the question that is at the very heart of social media. Because really, to comment is to participate. So it becomes, to participate or not participate. And if you’re gonna be involved in social media, then you gotta go all in. You can’t get a little bit pregnant by social media. Insert your own cliche about being a full participant here.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been a big commenter. But, one of my new year’s resolutions was to get more involved with social media. And I’ll be honest here, for after trying the other methods of marketing and promotion (direct mail, magazine ads, press releases) social media is still giving me my most bang for the buck by far. And the buck, by the way, is free in the world of social media, unless you count your time investment, which you shouldn’t. For if you do, you’ll find out that the 8 year olds in Malayasia making Louis Vitton knock-offs are making more money than you. Ignorance, in this case dear author, is bliss.

But, what to comment on? I recently left the following comment on an MSNBC story about the survival of Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores:

“I’ve read many of the comments and one POV that’s missing so far is from an author. As an author of suspense thrillers, being able to go into my local Borders and Barnes & Nobles stores to do signings and give presentations to writing groups and book clubs that meet there is a priceless way for me to connect with readers. Say what you will about the “evil big box bookstores” they typically have community relations managers who support authors and help us put on events that help us expand our fan base. As these big book retailers fall, there will be less and less ways for us to connect with our readers, which in turn will negatively affect our ability to make a living writing. If writers can’t make a living at writing, then that means we all suffer the same sad fate: a future with less and less books.”

There’s also a bevy of book review websites out there including Good Reads and Shelfari. Upon a cursory review of these two sites, and having singed up for their email alerts, many of the reviews I read is by authors touting their own books. To me, that’s not kosher, but, like I’ve resolved to do, I’ll spend more time on these two sites in 2011 to see what makes them really tick.

What about you? Do you comment on articles? Do you join in on Good Reads discussions? What’s your take on the apparent demise of Borders and Barnes & Noble?

To the Keyboards! 

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My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

Dude, where’s your storefront?

The Chamber Ribbon Cutting. A tried and true technique to welcome a new business member into the community. But, what about those of us that don’t have a storefront? How can a writer working from a home office have a ribbon cutting?

How about at the local bookstore? With a little sweet talking you could probably convince your local bookstore manager to hold your ribbon cutting / book signing event at their location. Because, hmmmm…. let’s see, they would hate to have an extra 20 or 40 people in their store that are there for your event. Yes, it’d be awful if they stayed over or showed up early and had to browse the aisles of the store to kill some time, or pick up a last minute Christmas gift for Aunt Linda who just said that she finally decided to make the drive up from Waco for Christmas.

As an authorpreneur, being a part of your chamber is a great way to network with other area entrepreneurs to not only sell books, but maybe get some ideas on innovative techniques to sell your books. Because what may work for the local plumber, may just work for you,  too.

Press Releases are useless. Except during the next two weeks.

Most likely, your press release will be DOA. In fact, it begins having heart palpitations before you hit the send button. A little known fact, a news station in a big news market like Dallas/Fort Worth (where I live) gets 2,500 press releases A DAY. But there is a way to skip to the front of the line and almost guarantee your press release will be read and turn into a few minutes in front of a camera (aka a FREE COMMERCIAL FOR YOUR BOOK) Interested in thousands of dollars in free advertising? Then please read on.

Before I gave my presentation to the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce yesterday, a guy by the name of Jeff Crilley, who happens to own his own PR firm here in Dallas, gave a presentation on how to get free publicity from local news stations. And, as a former local FOX news reporter for 25 years or so, Jeff knows a little something about the subject. In fact, he wrote a book entitled Free Publicity, and gave copies to those of us in attendance.

The book is chock full of useful tips on getting free publicity, but perhaps the greatest advice Jeff had is extremely timely (i.e. it has a very short expiration date) He said that news stations are STARVING  for news over the last two weeks in December. News that would normally be looked over in a matter of seconds on a normal news day at a normal time of year becomes gold to the desperate reporter who drew the short straw and is left stuck in the newsroom rubbing his Santa hat for luck.

Jeff’s advice was to basically do a little research and find out if who’s been covering stories on topics that are similar to the ones in your book. Your novel about ghosts? A local reporter probably has done a recent story about a haunted house/building/forest (you have to go back no further than Halloween time for something like that) Is your book about a historic district in town? News reporters are always doing stories about saving historical places in the face of Big Development and their menacing cranes. Now, here’s where Jeff gets very specific. CALL, do not email or write the reporter that’s been covering those stories. This is, after all, your sales pitch to run your story. You need to talk to a person, you need to make a connection. So call the reporter. Chat up the angle that you’ve seen their story on the historic building that was nearly torn down. You have just published a book on an entire historic district in town that has a history of not just one but several buildings being reduced to splinters. Maybe there’s a group that fights tooth and nail to save it every time someone wants to change it. Maybe something happened there around this time of year in the district’s heyday (making it timely). See where I’m going with this? 

Tell the reporter that you are emailing him your press release as you’re speaking to him. Tell him you are available at his convenience to do an interview. If you have a book signing coming up, it’d be great to have a camera crew come out. Make it as easy on the reporter as possible to cover the story. Chances are they’re up against a deadline. If they can do your story and still have time for lunch, they’ll be grateful.

So there you go. You get some free press that’s worth A LOT of greenbacks. They get some news to fill an otherwise giant hole that is the holiday news cycle. Win-win. No go start writing your release and your phone call script so on Monday you’re ready to punch those digits and sell your story! 

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Mark’s latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

Still looking for a unique Christmas gift? Mark will be signing copies of The Brink from 2pm to 4pm at the Colleyville, Texas Borders bookstore tomorrow (Saturday Dec 18)