Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 30, 2010

Day 76 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Characters’ back stories
  • Marketing Topic – What’s a Word Worth? Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Writing topic – Characters’ back stories

Okay, so the five of you that regularly follow this blog probably didn’t do your homework and create epic back stories for you’re the characters in your next novel. That’s okay. I understand you are probably adults and you either have demanding jobs, demanding families, or both and you either spend you evenings doing something akin to TPS reports or telling your four-year-old for the 87th time not to jump up and down with a rusty straight razor in one hand and an open cup of Kool Aid fruit punch in the other on the new Haverty’s couch that won’t be paid off until June 2014. So, let’s all go out into the virtual academic quad where it’s always a crisp 72 degrees and sit underneath the white aspen trees in a circle on the soft blanket of Kentucky bluegrass and just do one together shall we?

Brandon Styles – the name just evokes a yuppie punk, doesn’t it? Now our tale is set in the 1980s, but in a rural Texas town, so young Brandon, who is just a smidge under 16 and looking forward to Daddy buying him a brand new Ford pick-up for his birthday, shouldn’t conjur images of James Spader in Pretty in Pink or even Jake What’s his Face from Sixteen Candles. No, think James Dean from Giant meets Judd Nelson’s character from the Breakfast Club…a guy with a stoner’s laissez-faire attitude but wouldn’t dare put smoke inside his hallowed temple of a body, a delish dessert of a young man where the swagger of frosting hides the angst hidden in the dense cake underneath.  Although he is the younger of two brothers, his lanky, 6 foot 3 inch frame has never had to deal with hand me down clothes, and he wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than ostrich skin Lucchese boots, or brand new Michael “Air” Jordan basketball sneakers. He does however, have to deal with the legacy of his older brother Clayton, who still holds the record for most touchdown receptions in the history of the high school. Brandon is trying yet again to break that record, but this is his last season to do it and time is against him. Because of that, it becoming harder and harder to hide his nasty temper. 

The Styles family comes from old money. Brandon’s great-great-great-great granddaddy was one of the founders of the town and “acquired” several thousand acres as a reward for his service in Mexican-American War. Now that it’s okay to talk about it, people are beginning to talk about how the land was stolen from the Native Americans. There’s even a lawsuit from the Caddo tribe against the Styles family for the remaining tracts of land that they still own. I say remaining tracks because they sold a lot to the state of Texas to put through I-45 and another piece was sold to build the state penitentiary on it. On the other parts they drilled for oil and natural gas and found both, lots of both.

Brandon will never have to work a day in his life. He knows this and so does everyone around him. Therefore, he has a less than perfect attendance record – I think he’s attended maybe 12 days of pre-calculus the entire fall semester. Mr. Weems, the pre-calc teacher, made a stink about Brandon’s attendance mid-semester, and the last we heard is teaching kindergarten down in Brownsville to a bunch of illegal alien children. I mean, what was he thinking? You just don’t cross a Styles in this town, and Weems should have known that. I mean, for Christ’s sake, Weems had to go by their every day on his way to work as he trudged past the Harris Style Auditorium, the high school auditorium named after Brandon’s grandfather.

As you would expect, both Clayton and Brandon have dated the prom queens, but they both have done it since they were freshmen. That’s right. Even as a freshman, Brandon bagged senior ass. Since they’re four years apart, that means a Styles has had high school royalty as arm candy for eight years. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Stacy Sutton is this year’s queen and has been lucky enough to be going out with Brandon since the end of last school year. There was some friction over the summer, and they’ve broken up a few times. But Stacy Sutton, who looks like a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and is in the running for class valedictorian, is something even Brandon knows you don’t throw away.

So there you go. A little description, a little drama, and a little motivation to describe a character that will be an integral part of the story. There’s even a hint of unrest about a powerful family that isn’t used to getting messed with. Now this is a murder mystery, so would someone in that family be willing to kill to maintain the status quo? Families have done exactly that in the past.

What’s your verdict? Like him? Hate him? Dated someone like him in high school? To the keyboards!

Marketing Topic – What’s a Word Worth? Google AdWords Keyword Tool

I wish I had a tenth of the smarts that the average Google employee has. Every time I delve deeper into the powerful tools Google offers, for FREE mind you, I ma blown away. Case in point tonight, Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool (GAKT). You can go onto GAKT, enter a keyword that you think people would use to find your website, and see how many actual global and local searches there are for that keyword or phrase. For example, my latest book, The Brink, is about a sinister secret society planning global financial Armageddon. So, I typed in ‘financial Armageddon’ into the GAKT search engine and found that that phrase got 2,400 global monthly searches and 1,900 local. I scroll down to see related keywords and notice that ‘economic crisis explained’ and ‘surviving financial crisis’ have 201,000 and 49.500 and 368,000 and 90,500 respectively. Guess what keywords I’m adding to my site tonight? Guess where you should go right now to check your keywords?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…