Monday, June 15, 2015

Huzzah to the Renaissance!

Jousting in nasty weather. Yuck!
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to go to my very first Renaissance Faire. I've always wanted to go, but the timing was never right. Just last week, out of nowhere, a publisher who had connections with the operations of the Renaissance Faire that comes here every summer reached out to me and asked if I wanted to fill an open spot at their tent.

Without thinking, I just blurted, "Sure."

This was supposed to be the Saturday I was going to kick back and take it easy. I already regretted agreeing to go to this show. My audience won't be here. This isn't science fiction/fantasy! I don't write books about knights in armor or princesses and fairies.

When I got there, I was surprised that I was entering a forest once I walked over a bridge. I guess I expected a big open field, and indeed, there was one...but it was for the jousting.

I was walking into freaking Sherwood Forest. And all the vendors had these renaissance-ish wooden buildings and elaborate tents. I was totally floored. And I was not prepared, nor dressed for the occasion.

All the vendors were dressed in proper costume. Me? I was in a black t-shirt and khaki shorts. And I
She put ice cubes in her bosom as she spoke to me.
was sweating in the humid, nasty air despite the tall trees surrounding me. The other authors were great, and we worked together to figure out how to set up our table under a huge tent...a tent that had been invaded by about a billion long-legged daddy spiders.

After a couple of hours, I got comfortable with all the crazy sights and sounds all around, and I began working my magic. We were next to a stage, so crowds often walked right by me after a show. There was a pirate band act that was hilarious. Two very lovely ladies who did a comedy act that involved swordplay. And a guy that was a dead ringer for Captain Jack Sparrow (I've seen him at local cons before, and he's a bit of a local celebrity). He even had the voice down.

Even when the heavy rains came down and we scrambled to pile boxes of our books on top of a spare table, I still had a great time. In fact, I sold several of my books to people taking cover under the tent and waiting for the rain to die down.

At the end of the day, after packing up all my stuff and wringing out all the sweat from my shirt, I couldn't help but be surprised at how well I did at a Renaissance show. For one day, I did about as well as I do at a normal convention. I will always believe that the sci-fi/fantasy conventions are my sweet spot, but still...I have to admit that I need to keep my mind open to other avenues to promote my work.

You just never know.

Huzzah!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Heavy or Light?

I recently had a discussion with someone who read my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior. He's not a friend, but more of an acquaintance. So I appreciated his opinions and objectivity. His big hangup with my book is that it wasn't "heavy enough."

"Heavy?" I'm pretty sure I looked at him cross eyed. "It's 400 pages, so it weighs..."

He shook his head. "It lacked grittiness. Profoundness. Heaviness."

I thought about his criticism for a long time before I replied, "I don't write heavy books. Or profound ones. I write adventure books. My books are an avenue for escapism and imagination."

This reader knew of my English degree and background in classic literature, and it boggled his mind that I was more Indiana Jones than King Lear. And you know, that suits me just fine. I'm actually happy that this person thought my books were too light for his taste.

I have not had an easy life. In fact, I'm pretty sure none of us have. Many writers use their harsh experiences as fuel to their writing fire. Their passion gets put to paper, and they bare their souls through the written word. Me? Life is gritty enough. Heavy enough. Hard enough. The last thing I want is to read a book that is equally heavy. Or watch a movie or TV that pulls me deeper into the pit of our existence.

Not to say that I don't appreciate a profound and heavy book once in awhile. My most favorite books To Kill A Mockingbird is at the very top of my personal favorites list, and I consider it mandatory reading for everyone. (Seriously, if you haven't read it, go!). I go back to read it every two years and get something new out of Lee's book every time.
are the ones you could say are important to our society.

I write the kind of books that take me back to my childhood. Growing up, I got lost in books filled with adventure, mystery, heroes and villains, and conflict. I wanted to be taken to another world to forget about life for a little bit. Does that mean I'm an intellectual lightweight? Maybe to some people.

How about you? What are your most favorite "heavy books?" How about books you loved to read just for pure entertainment? 

Dragonfly Warrior, the first book in The Mechanica Wars, is still FREE! So download it NOW and spread the word! Thanks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

IWSG for June 2015

Before I get down to this month's IWSG post, I just wanted everyone to know that Dragonfly Warrior, the first book in my Asian-Steampunk series The Mechanica Wars, is FREE! So download it NOW and check it out.


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

So yeah, I've made my debut novel FREE. There are several legit reasons why this is a bad idea. Many say it's a terrible thing to do. Readers might download the heck out of your freebie, but there's not much incentive to actually read it. And if they do read it, they probably weren't necessarily your target audience and they will just trash you when they write a review...IF they even write a review.

Giving your book away for free just makes readers expect free stuff all the time. It hurts the entire industry, and it will probably cause climate change.

My reason for making Dragonfly Warrior free is pretty simple. I decided to do some kind of marketing, and this is the best I've got. Book Bub turned me down. As did E-Reader News Today (which is weird because they've promoted me in the past). So after last month's post about me being too burned out to promote the third book in my series, I decided to do SOMETHING that wouldn't take a whole lot of effort.

I figure if it doesn't work, I'll make it $2.99 again and figure something out. It never hurts to try.

In an ideal world, two positives will come out of this:

1) I will get more reviews (and hopefully several 4 and 3 star ones. Having all 5 stars kinda looks suspicious)

2) Readers will want to continue the series and pick up Shadow Warrior (Vol 2) and Iron Warrior (Vol 3)

But I've got my doubts. I look at my own Kindle, and I see a graveyard of free books I downloaded but haven't read. I've got tons! When I read, there's more incentive to read something I paid actually money for. I tell myself, "I'll get to those freebies later." Ha. Yeah right.

I have to be honest with myself. I'm fairly sure a majority of those downloading Dragonfly Warrior probably won't read it. But hey, if a few readers like it and want to continue reading the other books, I'll count that as a victory.

Have you made any of your books free? If so, how did it go? Or are you against giving away your work for nuthin'? You poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your masterpiece, and darnit, that's gotta be worth at least 99 cents! Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con St. Louis

Last weekend was St. Louis' biggest event, Wizard World Comic Con. I shared a table with fellow author, Eric Asher. This was supposed to be my largest event so far in my young writing career, and that might have been the case attendance-wise.

The con was a mixed bag. Here's my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly...

The Good:

1) It's always such a pleasure and privilege to get to meet and talk to my readers. Several of them have visited with me at other events, tried my first book out, and wanted to get the other two books in the series. One reader even created a steampunk costume for his son, and on the back of the power pack, he put a little red dragonfly on it just for me.

Wow. That's so cool. I put that up there with a fan who made a customized action figure for me.

Meeting people who enjoy your work never gets old. It's what fuels me, actually. No matter how tough this road gets.

2) Eric Asher is just a cool dude. We laughed our asses off. It's always great to hang out with someone who has a similar sense of humor. The guy sells more in one day than I do in six months, and he's always full of knowledge and experience I try to tap into.

3) The cosplayers. Whoa. The costumes many of the con-goers create never cease to amaze me. If you want to see just a small sampling of my favorite ones, check out my Instagram posts:
Mr. Freeze's helmet was fog-proof, I believe

Instagram

The Bad:

1) Don't get me wrong. I think Hayley Atwell (Captain America/Agent Carter), Rick Coswell (The Flash), Elvira, George Romero (Dawn of the Dead), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jason David Frank (The Green Ranger) are awesome. But lacking this year were the headliners who have come to WW Comic Con in the past like William Shatner, Nathan Fillion, Matt Smith, or Adam West/Burt Ward.

2) The crowd stuck to the periphery. Photo ops and autograph booths were all around the outer edge of the arena. Artists row was in the middle. People pretty much kept to the huge booths at the entrance to the arena and all along the perimeter. There was no natural traffic flow through artists' alley.

3) It's always disheartening to see steampunk people walk on by. I know steampunk is a lot of different things to different people. It's fashion, jewelry, cool brass guns, goggles, etc. But steampunk is more than asthetics. Steampunk began as a literary movement, and it makes me sad that a vast majority of steampunks don't even stop by my table despite the obvious steampunk-ness of my banner, book covers, etc.

The Ugly:

1) It was Memorial Day Weekend. Holiday weekends tend to be weak. Overall attendance was WAY down compared to previous years. When there was a celebrity panel going on, the arena became a ghost town. That was weird. Usually, this show has about 20,000 people come through. I'm sure it was well below that number this year.

2) With reduced attendance came reduced sales. Most of the artists all around me ended up losing money. The cost of just a table was $325. Add parking, meals, and lodging for many of us, and that spells RED. Luckily, I split the cost of my table, and I live in town, so I was able to reduce my risk and end up in the BLACK. But barely. After I pay sales tax, I might be even more depressed.

3) With many vendors having lost their shirts, there was a lot of negativity. It's easy being dragged down into despair when all that anger and frustration is around you. I tried to take a deep breath, and just be thankful for all the good stuff that I was able to experience.

So the show was a mixed bag, but in my mind, the positives outweigh the negatives. Even if I had lost money, I'd still be immensely happy that I got to meet some people who either love my work or are willing to give my strange Asian-Steampunk books a try.

I seem to do better at medium/smaller shows. The price of the table is a fraction of the cost, and there seems to be more readers at these less-than-huge venues. I probably won't go to Wizard World next year as an artist, although I wouldn't mind going as an attendee.

I've now been doing events and shows for one full year, and I'm still learning and trying to figure out where I belong.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wizard World Cosplay Pics!

To check out my Instagram Feed of all my favorite cosplayers at this year's Wizard World Comic Con here in St. Louis, go to my official author's website at www.jaynoelbooks.com