Category Archives: Professional Behavior


1636-The-Devils-Opera-smallMost of us are not so egocentric that we write strictly for our own pleasure. We want our work to connect to readers. We want to know that we are touching someone; that our work creates a resonance in at least one reader who feels what we are trying to create in the stories that only we can tell because of who we are.

So first, writers write. That’s the core truth of our craft and art. All of the writing rules boil down to: tell a good story; finish what you start; and edit/revise/polish enough to make it right. If that doesn’t happen, nothing else matters.

Second, we have to connect with readers. You’ve been reading a number of articles this month on ways to accomplish that. I was asked to write about my own experience, because it’s a bit different.

I broke into publishing through Eric Flint’s unique alternate history shared writing universe that is based on his bestselling novel entitled 1632. (Details and background here.)

I believe this is the most successful shared universe ever. It’s approaching seven million words in print, with fifteen novels in print as of next month, eleven anthologies of shorter fiction, and approaching sixty issues of the Grantville Gazette e-magazine (called GG by the regulars). The novels and anthologies, both paper and e-book, are published by Baen Books; GG is published by Eric Flint, but is strongly associated with Baen Books. So this experience is, for all intents and purposes, one in the traditional publishing channels.

I wasn’t part of the core group of fans who started writing what amounted to fanfic and posting it to Baen’s website after 1632 was published. (See details and background link above.) I didn’t enter the picture until after the second issue of GG was published in 2003.

I’d been trying to write a novel for years; had absolutely no experience at short fiction. But I got hit with a story idea after reading the first two issues of GG. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s been eleven years since I submitted my first story. As of now, I’ve published close to 300,000 words of short fiction with GG, most of which have been included in subsequent anthologies or my e-book 1635: Music and Murder, published by Baen in 2013.

The thing is, in this venue, I have no control over production, scheduling, or marketing. That’s all in the hands of Baen Books personnel for the books or Eric Flint and the editor (Paula Goodlett) for GG. Nonetheless, I do contribute.

1632 is a group brand, and my contribution is to be professional in the ways I plug into the brand’s operations. First, part of the uniqueness of the GG submission process is that prospective stories are submitted to a forum on Baen’s Bar where they are peer-reviewed for mechanics and story universe continuity and quality of story. Even at this stage of my career I have to do this. Likewise, I am expected to participate in this exercise from the other side of the table; to read submissions and provide critiques. Both the submitting and the critiquing calls for utmost professionalism as I grow both as a writer and as a member of the community.

Second, when the editor(s) call for changes or modifications to the story, accommodate them without complaint or argument—within reason.

Third, contribute to the community:

One way is to share links and information about the 17th century with the rest of the 1632 community. You never can tell what will be helpful to another writer. I had a story jump-started by a list of lute-players at the court of Gustavus Adolphus that another writer had found and linked to the forum.

Another way: Eric schedules annual 1632 “mini-cons” partnered with other conventions around the country. They move around every year.  This year’s mini-con will be held at LibertyCon in Chattanooga. Several of us make an effort to be there every year to support the group brand, to interact with fans, and to be a part of central planning and discussion with Eric about where the series is headed.

Yet another way is to attend other cons, spreading flyers, bookmarks, and other swag, and keeping the 1632 brand in view at other venues. (I have a 1632 Ring of Fire t-shirt I frequently wear.)

Most of the overt marketing is done by Baen Books or by Eric Flint. But I and the other GG authors contribute to supporting the group brand. And in so doing, I help to support my individual brand as well.

The GG enterprise has to date published over 130 authors, most of them first-timers. A significant number of those authors qualified for SFWA membership based on their GG resumes alone. Over the years, Eric has been watching the list of GG authors, and every once in a while he will reach out and tap someone and say “Let’s write something together.” I was the third one he tapped, and the result was my first published novel, 1636: The Devil’s Opera. I was the first GG author he tapped, though, to work on a project outside of 1632. The result was the third novel in his Jao Empire series, entitled The Span of Empire, tentatively slated to be published by Baen in September 2016.

Writing a good story, and being diligent and professional in everything else, those are the keys. Everything else is details.

Shameless plug: Grantville Gazette is always looking for new writers. If you think you might be interested in writing in one of the most interesting alternate history universes around, check out the links mentioned above. If you can tell good character based stories, give it a try. They pay professional rates; currently six cents a word, if I remember correctly.

David CarricoDavid Carrico Bio:
David Carrico has been an avid science-fiction and fantasy reader since January 1963, when he encountered a copy of Andre Norton’s novel Catseye.  He started writing (mumbledy) years ago, but has been selling professionally since 2004.  Most of his work is alternate history.  His first book, an e-book entitled 1635: Music and Murder, was published by Baen Books in September, 2013.  It’s a collection of two different groups of stories which collectively provide the backstory for his second book, 1636: The Devil’s Opera, a novel published by Baen Books in October, 2013, in both paper and e-book formats.  Both books are laid in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire alternate history universe, and the novel was co-written with Eric.
David is married, has three kids, five grandkids, two great-grandkids, and usually has at least a couple of Basset hounds lazing around the house somewhere.

How to Get Noticed on Kobo

A guest post by Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

kobo_logoYou’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again. Maybe this time you’ll remove yourself from the attachment you have with your beautifully bouncing “baby” of a book and listen.

Getting noticed starts with a good cover. And not just a good cover, but an excellent cover. And not just an excellent cover, but an excellent professional cover. And not just an excellent professional cover but one that appeals to your target audience – respectful of the genre you’re targeting.

Let me be brutally honest here – and it’s not easy to say, but it’s something I’ve seen time and again. I have authors who, on Kindle, are selling reasonably well, some of them selling exceptionally well, who approach me and ask why they’re not selling much or at all on Kobo. Then I look at their books and the first thing I see is a cover that makes me cringe and start trying to come up with ways to avoid telling them I think the cover is horrible.

It’s difficult to tell someone their baby is ugly – but it’s even more difficult to present a less than professional looking book on any of our featured spotlights or main pages.

Why am I harping on about something I’m sure you’ve read a thousand times? Because it’s true. Kobo’s website is far more merchandised than a site like Amazon – and as such, getting a human’s attention and holding it long enough to get them to read the synopsis and then check out the price all starts with a great cover.

And that’s one of the main ways that titles get selected for various features on Kobo’s website.

The metadata that you enter is another way to stand out as professional. It can also help you with helping us convert readers of one book in your series to the rest of that series. Entering consistent series title data plus the volume number in that series can lead to this. There is a great article posted here that outlines some of the benefits.  (Selling More of Your Series Books on Kobo)

Here’s an example of how a series title is displayed, helping customers see that this book is connected to others.

Fiction River

Kobo is using this data not just for enhancing the merchandising, but also sending reminder emails to customers who are currently reading or have recently completed reading a book that’s identified as part of a series.

Below is a sample email derived automatically from a reader’s catalog of titles.

Kobo_Next in series

There are plenty of other feature spots that we are highlighting indie author published titles within.

One of them is the permanent FREE EBOOKS landing page – conversion here works best with series books; offering the first one for free (which you can do through Kobo Writing Life for as long as you want) and enticing customers into the next books in that series.

Kobo_free ebooksKobo_sci-fi fantasy

Other merchandising spots are KOBO NEXT and KOBO NEXT GREAT DEALS (typically $4.99 and under)

Kobo also runs monthly discount “publisher sponsored” features in which authors allow us to discount their titles to customers using a coupon code. In them, the publisher then gets paid 70% off the discounted price. Here’s an example of one that ran in mid June 15, 2015.


But what I’m most excited to share is that we are building in the opportunity for authors to be considered for various promotions like these directly within Kobo Writing Life. An easy way to think about it perhaps is as a “BookBub Built Right into Kobo Writing Life” – meaning that when promotional opportunity comes available, if your book already has the right price point, is in the right category and available in the right territory, you’d see if it was eligible for a forthcoming promo and, within just a few clicks, submit the title for consideration. We’re pretty excited at how this will open up the ability for authors to be included in various promos that we continually run throughout the year.

To take full advantage of this promotion, you’ll need to be signed up for Kobo Writing Life – your directly published titles will be the ones eligible for the various promotions that we are already starting to schedule as much as 2 or more months in advance.

Some other things you can do to assist with getting noticed on Kobo include:

  • Attending events and networking and liaising with other authors and industry folks. Even if you aren’t at an event that a Kobo person is at, you might end up making a connection of a connection – it’s a small industry and authors are fantastic at helping one another. There are easily dozens of authors that have been introduced to me through authors I already know.
  • Publish directly to Kobo Writing Life rather than coming in through a data aggregator. We are constantly sifting through new titles entered into our database, always looking for that next “hidden gem” that we can spotlight for our customers.

Pricing. Where 99 cent novels seem to be the way to go on Kindle, Kobo doesn’t use books as a “loss leader” – eBooks are the ONLY thing we sell, and our prime real estate needs to be dedicated to books that we can actually earn money on. Imagine that we have the choice to feature one of two great fantasy novels. One is 99 cents and the other is 9.99. Remembering that Kobo keeps 30%, which one do you think is a more sustainable title for us to spend time featuring?


Mark Leslie Lefebvre Bio:Kobo_Mark Leslie Lefebvre  Mark Leslie Lefebvre is the Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo. He was hired by Kobo in 2011 to make it easier for indie authors and small publishers to get their work published to Kobo’s global catalog (which is available in 190 countries). Mark and his team launched Kobo Writing Life in July of 2012 and it now represents between 10 and 18% of Kobo’s weekly unit sales, larger than any of the major publishers. Mark is also the author of speculative fiction and Twilight Zone styled horror under the name Mark Leslie. His latest books include Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries and I, Death.

Laugh! and Get Noticed!

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
Shakti Gawain

Writers are fun loving people with countless interests, who love a good joke, and truly are kids at heart. Yet, we can feel overwhelmed when we’re in the public eye at book launches and conventions, or when we approach and agent or publisher. Our effervescent, perfectionist selves, our I-wrote-an-awesome-book selves, crumble in a public spotlight. It’s not about our craft (we work hard at that), or our ability to complete a project, nor is it about putting our literary babies up for criticism (we’ve jumped that hurdle a few times to get the manuscript ready). It’s that we’re perfectionists and we all strive to write the next best seller.

Ah, yes. I had written the perfect pitch and had practiced the perfect delivery. With my perfect pitch in hand, I went to my first convention and encountered a publisher’s representative. What was my book about? he asked me. Well, I was prepared, wasn’t I? I had polished that pitch, memorized it and practiced it until I could recite it anywhere. And then….

… FAILURE! For so many reasons it escaped me (I wasn’t doing dishes, taking out the garbage, reciting it to a blank wall – who knows?).  I rolled my eyes back into my head in an effort to mentally read my perfect pitch and I was suddenly, totally mortified. I had blown the perfect opportunity! Solution? Run? Turn a deeper red? I looked him in the face and laughing, I said, “Now that that’s over, let me tell you what the book is really about.” And so I spoke from the heart all the while laughing inside over how silly I’d been.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
Eugene Delacroix

That encounter didn’t get me the sale but I got a great chortle from the publisher and I had a good conversation with him. But most importantly, I learned to laugh at myself and relax. Publishers, agents and book buyers don’t have it easy trying to find the perfect book either. So once you understand that they have as much at stake in the moment as you do, it takes the pressure off needing to be perfect. Besides, you just want an opportunity to submit the manuscript or for prospective readers at your sales table to buy the book to read later. How does laughing at yourself accomplish that?

          Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.
William Bridges

It’s about being true to yourself and sparking a relationship which in turn creates loyalty. Who are we the most loyal to? Those we are most comfortable around, not those who make us feel squeamish. Think of your best friends. You laugh, you discuss, even argue from time to time and you know what’s important or meaningful to them. So it should be with those we are trying to impress. Like with our friends, we need to listen, ask questions, converse and laugh at ourselves and with them. That’s what creates relationships and opportunities, not a perfectly recited pitch.

So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. View your encounters as if you’re developing a friendship. Ask them what’s important to them. Ask about their interests. Don’t forget to smile. Above all, laugh and relax. But what happens if they aren’t interested in what you’ve written?

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is a reaction, both are transformed.
C.G. Jung

A negative response doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good or whatever the awful thing the voice inside your head is sniping. It simply means it isn’t for them or that you’ve got a bit more work to do to answer their questions. You can choose to address the issue or not. You can choose to purse the relationship or not. But what you can always do is laugh and revel in the wonder of how although we are all the same, we are so different.

I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!
Louise Bogan.

If you’d like to read more great quotes and learn to overcome limiting beliefs and fears that inhibit the creative process (and keep you from laughing), I recommend you read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.

The Extroverted Introvert – Faking It Until It Becomes Real

All stories require at least two participants: the storyteller and the audience. While this is obvious in the performances of bards, campfire storytellers, and stage actors, I would argue that writers are also intrinsically performers. We simply project that experience across space and time. And yet, writers and non-writers alike seem fixated on the idea that authors must be introverts to be successful. This is only true to a point.

Writers must be comfortable spending hours at a time in solitude. We need the time free from distractions to produce and polish our fiction. For that sort of work, having an introverted personality is very helpful. However, we must also be able to interact with fans and fellow professionals at conventions, book signings, and via social media. We must be able to promote ourselves to our target audience, discuss craft in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, and interact as business people. As such, writers must also be extroverted. Or have spent the time stocking our social toolbox with the extrovert’s tricks and tools.

Though the idea of an extroverted introvert seems like a fundamental conflict in dichotomy, I disagree. It really depends on how you look at the whole situation. You see, much of the discussion on introversion/extroversion recently has treated the issue as a matter of extremes. The dialog has taught us to think of them as two separate things. Instead, I believe that the difference between introverts and extroverts is more of a matter of where the individual gets their psychological and social energy, rather than being a fundamental characteristic of personality and social skills.

I am an introvert. I am a writer and an engineer. I spend most working days at my bread job in my office running calculations, researching, and solving problems. I collaborate, sure, but I can always retreat to my office and close the door when I need to focus. On the other hand, parties are work for me. I often enjoy myself, but leave the gathering feeling mentally and emotionally drained. I have to expend effort to be social, and will often feel refreshed after a weekend spent alone working on writing, watching movies, bicycling, and reading.

In contrast, I have a friend who is an extrovert. Let’s call her Jane. Jane recently started a job as an ER nurse, and so she is constantly interacting with patients, doctors, and other people. When we met in college, Jane lived in her sorority’s house, a building which was packed full of her sisters. When I expressed that I couldn’t live that way, she smiled and wistfully told me that she loved the energy of the house. When Jane surrounds herself with people, she’s excited and energetic. By my definition, she’s a classic extrovert.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy being around people, because I do. My groups just tend to be smaller than Jane’s. The most important thing to note about Jane and I is that we are both capable of functioning alone and in groups of people. It just takes effort. Jane is much better with people and social interaction than I am because she enjoys doing so and has had more practice. She’s helped me catch up over the years and taught me tricks and behaviors that I can use as an introvert to appear to be extroverted.

Social skills can be learned, practiced and perfected. At first I was faking my extroversion, but over the years, I’ve crept away from one extreme and now rest happily closer to the middle. In fact, people now insist that I must be extroverted. In my time at conventions, I’ve seen writers flub fan interactions. They may try to brush their behavior aside with the excuse “but I’m an introvert,” but they still lost a fan. Bad news for a businessperson. If they had practiced their extroverted skills that wouldn’t have happened.

Okay Nathan, you’ve convinced me that extroversion is important, but where can I start? Good question! Here are my top 10 favorite tips for being an extroverted introvert.

  1. BE GENUINE – Most people are very good at reading subtle body language cues and will know if you are faking interest in them. So, don’t try to fake it. Instead find common ground that you and the other person share as a passion. (Hint: This is what small talk is designed to do!) Then, you can be genuinely interested in the conversation. This also extends to insincere compliments. Just don’t do it.
  2. SMILE – People want to know you enjoy their company. One of the easiest ways to express this is through a simple smile. You don’t have to grin. In fact don’t as that is creepy. Even a small and genuine smile makes a big difference. Again, remember tip number 1. Try an experiment with me. For the next week, each time you approach someone make brief eye contact and smile at them. I promise that it’ll change how people interact with you.
  3. REMEMBER PEOPLE’S NAMES – I suck at remembering people’s names. It’s no excuse. Do whatever memory tool/covert glancing at badges it takes to address people by their first name. This will make them feel important and therefore more favorable towards you. One of the smartest businessmen I’ve ever known once told me that the key to success is remembering people’s names. Considering that he now runs a trucking empire that started with him driving a single pickup truck, I’d tend to believe him.
  4. BEING TIRED IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEING RUDE – For introverts, working a convention is hard. It exhausts us, makes our feet ache and puts us in a fowl mood. These are all personal problems. Our fans are at conventions to interact with us. When you are in any public space whatsoever you must have your game face on 100% of the time. Make sure each and every interaction is a positive one.
  5. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR EXHAUSTION – As a corollary to tip 4, never call attention to the fact that you are tired by apologizing for it. Chances are, if you are doing your job they didn’t notice. By apologizing, you’ve made the other person feel like they are imposing on you, which isn’t a positive experience. However, if you’ve accidentally been rude or dismissive, be sure to apologize for that and be genuine.
  6. LET THE OTHER PERSON DO THE TALKING – “People have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in their proper proportion.” ~ Jane. A benefit of this approach is that you get to conserve your social energies. All you have to do is listen, reword and repeat what they’ve said at appropriate intervals, and then ask them leading questions. Conventions are about your fans, their experiences and what they want out of you. Let them be selfish and hog the conversation. If they start apologizing for doing so, refuse their apology and insist that you are interested in what they say and ask them to go on. After an appropriate amount of time has passed, find a way to delicately remove yourself from the conversation.
  7. MASTER THE ART OF THE SOFT SELL – Nobody likes feeling pressured to spend money. Everyone you interact with on a convention floor is a person, not a mark. If you make selling to someone a difficult or unpleasant experience, people will start avoiding you. Instead, try to form a real bond with the person you are selling and if the opportunity comes up to talk about you or your work, be casual about it. Put the book in their hand and see if they buy. If it doesn’t come up, wish them a happy con and let them walk away. No social interaction is wasted time. Who knows, they may remember that nice author that took time to talk to them and look you up when they get home.
  8. IF SOMEONE IS RUDE OR HOSTILE TO YOU, KEEP YOUR COOL – You are a professional, and professionals don’t get into shouting matches on the convention floor. Especially if the other person deserves it. Stand up for yourself as necessary, walk away when you can, but always maintain your dignity and composure. The person who loses their cool first is the person who loses. Let them make an ass of themselves.
  9. TAKE RE-ENERGIZING BREAKS – I always have a set of ear buds on me when I’m at a convention. If I get flustered or need a moment, I find an uncrowded restroom, close myself in a stall, and listen to something loud and energetic for five minutes. I love music. It energizes me, helps me find my center, and lets me feel alone even when surrounded by people. It’s amazing how refreshing a small break is when you’ve been on the con floor all day. Experiment and find your re-energizing activity. Indulge for five minutes (set a timer if you have to) and then go back to work.
  10. NEVER EVER CRITICIZE ANYONE OR ANYTHING FOR ANY REASON, ESPECIALLY IF PROMPTED TO DO SO – Remember, fans attend cons for positive experiences. Not only is it tactless to criticize someone who can’t defend themselves, it makes you look bad. Remember the old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say, be noncommittal or change the subject. Would you rather so-and-so hear that you’ve been singing their praises or criticizing their work? Writers travel in small circles, so we hear about what others are saying about us.

Writers are semi-public figures, and so we must have the skills to appear to be extroverted especially if we are not. We don’t get stalked by paparazzi or stopped on the streets by adoring fans, but we still need to be able to function in large groups. We need to be able to have meaningful interactions with complete strangers in the time it takes to sign a book and hand it back. We need to be able to feel comfortable to conduct business for the entire duration of a weekend convention. Ten years ago, I would have found that daunting. I hadn’t practiced my extroverted skills, and so it took Jane’s advice, and one of her favorite books (Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People) to teach me the importance of those skills and how to use them for my own benefit. I might not be an extrovert, but I’ve faked it so long that it has become somewhat true. In the end, that’s what matters.


About the Author:NathanBarra_Web
Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” Visit him at his webpage or Facebook Author Page.