Book Review: The Longest Con by Michaelbrent Collings

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Imagine living in a world where some of the most feral and bloodcurdling creatures dwell, in secrecy, among the human race. In The Longest Con, author Michaelbrent Collingsconjures up a cryptic tale of fantasy, mystery, and humor that will leave you spellbound.  Acting in a dual role as both the author and protagonist, Collings gives his readers a sagacious view into his life as an unassuming author to most but warden to the demonic creatures of the ‘other world’. Hired by a magical council, Collings’ job as a warden is to keep the supernatural bad guys in line. There’s just one problem.  Everybody wants him dead, perhaps even the ones that hired him.
Set amid the International Comic-Con, the story’s suspenseful and multidimensional plot follows Michaelbrent’s character as he spends what turns out to be the longest weekend of his life at Comic-Con trying to solve the mystery behind the death of a monster princess. The princess’s death leads him into the royal courts of two dangerous factions of evil creatures.  These two clans (vampires and werewolves) are on the verge of a peace treaty but the mysterious death threatens to bring about an all-out war among demons.  As warden, Michaelbrent has to keep these two clans at bay long enough to unravel the mystery but things become more complicated as he uncovers a  sadistic and twisted underworld that involves the humans he is supposed to protect.
If you are a fan of the supernatural, you will love this title.  A cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, The Longest Con can best be described as fantasy fiction on steroids.  Granted you will have to be prepared for the main character’s off-witted humor, that at times will leave you exhausted, but it is well worth the mental investment. Due to some of its contents, I would recommend this as an adult read.
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How to Market Your Self Published Books to Libraries!

If you are a self published author, your goal is to sell your work and  inevitably, see a return on your investment.  In order to do this, you must (wait for it…) market, market, market your product.   In an earlier post, I recommended that you mimic the big fish in order to be successful.  Well, how do big fish gain recognition and earn sales? They place their products everywhere?

Libraries are definitely good places to help you gain momentum as a self publishing superstar. As a professional librarian, I have had experience working in school, public, and academic libraries.  In the aforementioned role(s), I have had the tedious responsibility of maintaining library collections.  Although I love my career, maintaining a collection is a very cumbersome process.  For one, librarians are inundated by sales reps.  We have to select books that are appropriate for our respective libraries and that  requires a lot of reading.  We also have to balance our budgets.  We have to stay current on popular titles/trends.  And in order for libraries to stay relevant, we have to strategically plan innovative services to offer patrons with interesting/popular resources.    Due to all of the hidden intricacies attached to librarianship, libraries seize opportunities to stay current on good literature.  So if you have a good title, make it known to your local library. It is a good launching pad for helping you gain a presence in your community.  Libraries can help you showcase your work,  gain exposure, and potentially distribute books among a large population of readers.  If you’re lucky, all of this could translate into more sales.  I’ll explain the “if you’re lucky part” in another post.

Here are my tips to help you improve your chances of getting your title into a library. Keep in mind, that libraries differ from location to location so this advice is not a “catchall” solution.

School Libraries

School libraries can be rather challenging, depending on the school district you are targeting.  All districts have different policies. So you must first find out the school district’s policy on book ordering/purchasing through the district’s main office.  This is especially important if you are marketing to a large school district with many schools.  Such districts may require vendor approval before any purchases can be made by their schools.  If this is the case, you will need to try to obtain a vendor’s license via their process.  In my experience, districts that require vendor approval generally tend to control their purchases and prefer established distributors with whom they create accounts with.  Approval may be difficult for the lone author who is soliciting his/her work.  However, don’t dismay!  If you are able to get approval to sell your titles, you will still need to market your book to the individual schools in much the same fashion as the big vendors.  If you are not so lucky, you may want to employ a few of the following tricks:

Donate Your Book

Donating a book is a great way to get your product in the door.   Although you may not be able to garner sales directly from the library, it is a great way to make potential readers aware of your work.  This could later translate into sales elsewhere.  In order to donate your book, you would need to find out  the name of the librarian for a particular school or library.  You can accomplish this by simply calling or visiting their website. Once you identify the  librarian, plan to establish a relationship with that librarian and/or library.  Contrary to popular beliefs, libraries want to build relationships with organizations and people within their communities.  We are really nice people!

Introduce yourself to the librarian first via a short email or phone call.  Brevity here is important as librarians receive tons of solicitations.  Let the librarian know that you are an author and that you have a book that you would love to donate.  If you are interested in doing a presentation, you may want to mention it during your initial contact.  Often libraries like to host programs and having an author appear for a book talk is a good way to engage the community.   Next, ask the librarian if you could send them some information about your book or if you could schedule a time to visit them.  Some librarians may not agree to an in person visit.  If this is the case, ensure that you send them information that will get their attention!

Package Your Materials Well!

If you have been given an invite to submit your materials to the librarian, use it as your one and only opportunity to make a great impression.  Submit your book along with any information about the book that might be helpful to the librarian.  Librarians will decide whether or not to shelve your book based on its quality and usefulness.  Therefore, you may want to include a brief statement synopsis of the book and how it could be beneficial to the readers that the library serve.  If you have a children’s book, briefly discuss the skills young readers will learn.  If you have a non fiction title, discuss the importance of the information provided in your book.  Tell why it would be beneficial to the community or population served by the library.

Include Marketing Materials

I began this post by emphasizing the importance of  marketing your title.  It’s only appropriate that I expand on this element.  If your book is selected to become one of the titles added to the library’s catalog, you don’t want it to just become title number 65 out of 165,000 books.  No, you want that title to get noticed.  As a librarian, I love the opportunity to decorate the library with color and/or eye catching materials that will invite patrons to “read”.  If you send a collection of bookmarks to me, I am going to distribute them.  If you send other promotional items as well, I am likely to give it space in the library as long as it fits the purpose of library.  For instance, I am not keen on posting posters throughout the library advertising a personal business or sale of something.  However, if it is a promotional resource highlighting a book or novel- I will probably post it.  And, I don’t care if a website or business logo is inconspicuously embedded on the promotional item.  Functionality for the library is the only thing that matters.   Character “stand ups” are great promo items to give to the library. Places like  Party Stand Ups will allow you design your own life-sized cutouts.  You could also try a site like iPrint to customize your own bookmarks.  Although I can’t guarantee that a library will post or distribute your items, but it’s very likely especially if your work is tastefully done.

You may also want to consider sending a poster of the book along with the title.  Even if you donate the actual book, send promo materials any way.  Libraries like to decorate their spaces with colorful and interesting items  that may appeal to their readers.  Make sure your poster is inviting enough to make someone want to seek out your book.  If you are lucky, your book may have a moment to shine!

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Meet Joe Williams – Nelson

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“Lights, Camera, Take Action:  52 weeks to a better life, one movie at a time” is Joe Williams Nelson’s debut book.  This title is a self help book designed to help readers achieve their “best life now”.  The author is a premiere life coach and mogul who has dedicated her life to helping others achieve success in life.  Her book is a unique combination of good cinema review and excellent advice to help readers “direct” their best life yet.  This title is available on Amazon.  To purchase your copy of this book, click here.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing creatively since meeting my best friend in elementary school. Academics were not valued in my family. So it goes without saying that my exposure to language arts was limited to school. When I went to the library, I checked out cookbooks. After meeting Andrea Jamison, I learned that writing as an art form was a thing, and I was good at it. I’d memorized poems and passages for school, but I wrote my first poem when I was 13 and have never stopped. So the official answer is 30 years now.

What is your most recent literary/artistic project?

I am presently collecting the movies, action steps, and life lessons for the sequel to my book, Lights, Camera, Take Action. In it I teach my readers how to take their life from good to great, one movie at a time. That’s my thing, movie coaching. I fell in love with movies those first twelve years of my life and now I get to combine everything I love and am passionate about into written word for the masses. In order for my words to ring true for my readers they have to be truly integrated by me. So I literally and figuratively put blood, sweat, and/or tears into every lesson and therefore page. Now that is art.

What inspires you to write?

Sanity

Who’s your favorite author and why?

I have two. John Steinbeck makes me a better black woman. That may sound strange, but I am not black enough to identify with the struggles of the women of Morrison, Angelou, and Walker’s novels though I enjoyed reading them. When I read East of Eden for The Oprah’s Book Club, I was finally able to identify with a universal struggle that exists for us humans here on earth. Universal struggle is a big part of the work I do as a Spiritual Life Coach and now writer.

Erma Bombeck is my second favorite author. She has made me a better wife and mother through her humorous works. When I discovered her books, I was a woman struggling to get a handle on the huge responsibility that is motherhood. She helped me to know that things that were stressing me in the moment would be hilarious later. She helped me make it to later.

What advice can you give to other authors or writers?

The best advice I have is the gift Andrea gave me three decades ago which is to believe that your work has value. Everything will not be great, or good, or even marketable, but it still has value. As independent authors we have qualified ourselves and that takes moxie, but self-validation can also breed insecurity and self-doubt in our weaker moments. Remember that your writing is not meant to go with you to the grave. Writing is an art form. Art is meant to live more lifetimes than its creator. The job of art is to be living proof that we are ever connected to God. That is why art must exist beyond its creator to touch as many lives as possible. Write like life depends on it, because it does.

Where can readers go to find out more information about you or your work?

My website will be live soon if I get the domain names I like. Readers can find me there sharing more of my movie coaching, blogging, poems, and opinions. You can Google me and find me all over social media and the Internet. I am from the west side of Chicago. Though I consider myself a West Side Success Story, I am always up to thangs [sic].

Are you a self published author?  Would you like to have your book featured?  If so, send me an email: info@s-iai.org

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5 Essential Tips for Self Publishing Your Book!

Gone are the days of struggle for writers who long to see their work in print.  Modern technology affords budding authors the opportunity to go from pen to press in what seems like a matter of days.  Authors are no longer faced with the many limitations that once halted “self publishing” pioneers in their quest to actualize their work.  Publishing companies of today are catering their businesses to include the ventures of self publishing entrepreneurs willing to invest in their own ideas.  If you are willing to pay, you can realize your dream of authorship.  However, publishing a book and becoming a  renowned author are not synonymous.  You will have to employ a few more tricks in order to make strides in that area.  You can read more about my tips on marketing yourself as an author here.

If you are interested in becoming a self published author, here are a few suggestions to point you in the right direction.

1. Write something worth reading!

I know this sounds like a no brainer but it’s really a critical step in the publishing process.  Publishing a book is an accomplishment.  You want it to represent a certain quality.  Therefore, you should focus on writing something that is not only appealing to the audience you are trying to reach – but is also well written.  I am not implying that you have to be an English scholar, or that you have to produce the quality of work similar to Shakespeare or Oliver Wendell Holmes.  However, you should not want to put anything in print unless it is something that you want immortalized. If writing is an area that you struggle in, don’t dismay!  If you have a good story to tell, tell it.  You can use the services of a ghost writer to help you with the mechanics of putting it on paper.  There are plenty of freelance writers willing and ready to perform this service for you (at cost).  If writing is not a problem for you, then you still definitely want to consider hiring someone to proofread it and provide you with feedback.  Websites like ODESK and Write4me can provide you with the opportunity to hire the service of a freelance writer.

2.  Copyright your work.

I am still from the   “old school” when it comes to copyrighting the things that I have written.  I began my writing ventures during a time when it was completely acceptable to mail a copy of your writings back to yourself.  The idea behind this concept was to never open the copy.  The postmark would serve as proof of the approximate date of copyright if needed.  Of course, you could still accomplish this by simply sending an email copy of your work to yourself.  It is important however to send your work in the body of the email and not as an attachment.  You could then print this as evidence of when it was written, as it would have an email time stamp affixed to it.  The more practical way to accomplish this is to simply copyright your work through the Library of Congress.    Here, you would simply submit an application for copyright, pay a nominal fee, and submit a copy of your work.  For more information on the  process of having your work protected click here.  For information on the form you would use, click here.  It is perfectly acceptable to copyright your unpublished work.

3. Have your work edited. Have your work edited! [sic].

Editing your work is essential to ensuring that you are publishing high quality work. You could use one of the previously mentioned services like ODESK or you can opt to have editing done through the company that will ultimately press your work.  Either way, you definitely want to comparative shop and make sure that you are not being overcharged in this arena.  The EFA provides a list of suggested rates for editorial related services.

4. Purchase your own ISBNs and barcodes.

Purchasing your own ISBN is a good idea if you plan to publish more than one book.  An ISBN is a number that uniquely identifies your book, and facilitates the sale of your book to bookstores (physical and digital) and libraries. Although most companies providing services to self published authors will assist you with this for an additional charge, you  always have the option of purchasing them directly through RR Bowker.  You have the options of purchasing them individually or as a set.  You could also purchase a barcode for your book as well through the same company.

5.  Find a company to print your books.

There are tons of companies that will sell you a publishing package ranging anywhere from 200 to thousands of dollars.   Although these companies are eager to assist you with your publishing projects, it’s not necessarily because they  believe in your work.  These companies are in the business of making money.  Your book project increases their profit margins.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to do a little pre-publishing work (steps 1-4) before you get to this stage. I would also recommend using a company that offers flexible rates and different packages for indie authors like Outskirtspress and Dorrance Publishing.

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