Monday, May 23, 2011

Before & After: Ty Drago (Part One: Before)

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I'm a twice (soon to be THRICE) published novelist who makes his home in Southern New Jersey with my beloved wife and son. I also have a beautiful daughter, but she makes her home elsewhere these days (sniff!).

My short fiction has appeared in SPACE AND TIME MAGAZINE, HAUNTS, AFTER HOURS, PANDORA, MIDNIGHT ZOO, PLANET MAGAZINE and AMAZON SHORTS. Another story snapped up the Grand Masters spot in a Fortress Publishing anthology titled "Yesterday, I will." I've also published articles on the craft and business of writing, in such venues as WRITERS DIGEST. [Read more at tydrago.com]

Missy's Note: This is Part One of Ty's Before & After post, which is the BEFORE part. The AFTER, aka Part Two, will follow shortly after. I did this because Ty wrote a lot. I'm not complaining, actually complimenting! But, I want you guys to fully appreciate every single thing that he has to say for each section because he has included a lot of valuable information that I think any reader should consider themselves lucky to have access to. So, enjoy!

My name's Ty Drago and I'm the author of THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES, the first book in the middle grade UNDERTAKERS series. The novel hits the shelves on April 1st, just a few days away, with the official launch occurring on Saturday, April 9th at Children's Book World in Haverford, Pennsylvania - just outside of Philadelphia - at 1:00 pm. If you happen to be in the area, I sincerely invite you to stop by. But more on that in a little bit.

THE UNDERTAKERS chronicles the adventures of twelve-year-old Will Ritter, the son of a murdered Philadelphia police detective. Will steps out his front door one October morning to discover, much to his horror, that his neighbor, his math teacher and his assistant principal have somehow become the walking dead. Worse, none of the other kids or grown-ups seem to notice that anything's wrong! And worse still, these aren't your typical mindless George Romero zombies. These rotting cadavers are somehow intelligent, organized, and always on the hunt for people who can see them for what they really are.

When they find one, they kill them - and sometimes their entire family - to eliminate the threat.

So Will has to run.

Leaving behind his mother and sister, he flees to Center City Philadelphia, where he falls in with a ragtag army of resistance fighters. Calling themselves the Undertakers, this group has bravely put itself in the "Corpses'" path, determined to fight a war that only they know about. That's the good news. The bad news is the only people ever to get the Sight, the ability to penetrate the Corpses' illusion of normalcy, are kids.

Nobody knows where these invaders come from, but there are more of them everyday. They're slowly infiltrating the schools, the police department, even city government - with conquest on their worm-riddled minds.

And only the Undertakers are standing in their way. But Will and his new friends are out-numbered, out-gunned, and totally alone - and the oldest of them is only seventeen!

***

Writing a book is one thing. Getting it published it another. And promoting it once it ispublished still another. These days, a writer's job doesn't end when the book sees print; it only begins. It's a very competitive market out there, and so it's vital that an author, especially a relatively unknown one (like me), be ready, willing and able to put himself out there. The problem is that the Internet is a big place and getting noticed isn't easy.

Basically, your job becomes waving your virtual arms and yelling "Look at me! Look at me!" at the top of your lungs.

In the last year, I've had something of a crash course on Internet book promotion. I've learned that there are a number of different methods and techniques, and which ones are best largely depends on who you talk to. So, for whatever it might before worth, I'd like to share what I did.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not my approach will prove effective. Guess I'll be back to report on that in a month or so!


Step One: Increase Your Online Presence

As it happens, I had the advantage of already enjoying a degree of Internet notoriety, largely due to my online fiction magazine, ALLEGORY (www.allegoryezine.com). I've been editing this e-zine for going on thirteen years, and have published hundreds of science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories by authors from more than a dozen countries. In 2010, the website recorded almost 300,000 hits.

The problem is that ALLEGORY is about ALLEGORY, not about me. So I recognized early on that my own online footprint had to be more personal, and more writingcentric (did I just coin a word?)

So, hello Facebook. I created an account and started harvesting friends. I'm up to nearly five thousand now, which is Facebook's limit. I also have a separate Facebook Fan page with close to 700 "likes". I also registered on Twitter, but that one hasn't gone quite as well, and I'm working on luring in more followers.

I also created a blog site called www.tydrago.com. Here is where I record the ups-and-downs of the whole publication experience. I also include some promotional material about the book and a calendar of upcoming personal appearances.


Step Two: Introduce Your Book to the World

This effort started with a website, which I dubbed www.jointheundertakers.com. Here I provide the background and flavor of the story, including character bios, a plot synopsis, and even the first chapter. I keep this site updated with each new Undertaker-related event or bit of news. This is pretty much the cornerstone of my entire promotional blitz. All roads lead to www.jointheundertakers.com, as we'll see.

I did a book trailer. You see a lot of these, though most of them seem to be flash-generated slideshows, with some moody images mixed in with limited animation. I wanted to do something a bit more daring. So ... I bought myself an $80 night vision video camera from Amazon. I got my son's best friend, a professional actor, to play Will Ritter. And I managed, through a friend, to connect with a truly talented young make-up artist. The result was a "Blair Witch"-esque teaser that introduced the UNDERTAKERS concept in a way that I hope was both scary and engaging. But judge for yourselves!

To see the trailer: visit www.jointheundertakers.com.

Just for fun, I took some extra footage and loaded this up as a "What Do YOU See?" test. This little clip has garnered some attention in it's own right. You can check it out at www.jointheundertakers.com.

Then there's the Undead Art Contest. Sourcebooks and I put this together. It runs during the month of March, and invites artists aged 8-17 to submit their drawings of Corpses. The winner (or winners) will receive a signed advanced reading copy of THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES, as well have their winning entry prominently displayed on - you guessed it! - www.jointheundertakers.com.

For contest rules, check out - where else? - www.jointheundertakers.com.

See where I'm going with this?


Step Three: Stuff!

In the publishing biz, this is called "swag". It's the trinkets you hand out to everyone and anyone you can think of - just little tokens to help them remember you and, more importantly, your book. It's about branding, about name recognition, and I've been blessed with a publishing house that really knows how to make it work!

We started with a bookmark. This was the brainchild of the good folks at Sourcebooks. It's a colorful thing, taken right from the bookcover, with the branding on the front and the book's catchphrase "Do you see the living dead?" on the back. There's also a small bar code that, if read with a cell phone, links right back to the book trailer. And, of course, the bookmark offers the bearer the opportunity to "Join the resistance at www.jointheundertakers.com." Where else?

These have gone out to friends, relatives, acquaintances, passing strangers, etc. I started out with about 250 of them. Now that's piles down to about thirty. Fortunately, my publicist is already getting me more!

Next come the buttons, though they're still in the works. My plan is to have them ready in time for the launch on April 9th. So, if you do stop by, you'll likely come away one! Sourcebooks' design department is working on them right now but, in broad strokes, they'll come in two varieties. The first will have some kind of Undertaker symbol (a shovel maybe) with the words: "I'M AN UNDERTAKER" and "JOINTHEUNDERTAKERS.COM" written along the rim. The other will have the face of a Corpse with "I'M A CORPSE" and the same reference to the website.

I figure I'll offer these up to the folks who come to the launch and buy a book saying, "Which are you? A good guy or a bad guy?"


Step Four: Elicit Reviews and Blurbs

Do you recall me mentioned an advanced reading copy? These "ARCs" are pre-release editions of the book prior to the final round of editing. They're typically sent out to newspapers, magazines, review sites and blogs in an effort to win early attention. I'm guessing you know that, Missy - since you've got one! They're risky, of course, since one can only hope the reviewer in question will actually likewhat he or she reads. But I've been fortunate on that score. As of this writing, one pre-publication review of THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES has appeared online, and it's very flattering.

You can find it here: http://absoluteforestofwords.blogspot.com/2011/03/undertakers-rise-of-corpses-by-ty-drago.html

Sourcebooks and I also sent ARCs off to fellow authors in the hopes of earning ourselves a "blurb", or promotional quote for the book. I landed a nice one from Jonathan Maberry, the author of the YA zombie thriller ROT & RUIN. I've been a fan of his for many years, and so was thrilled with this little coup!


Step Five: Blog Tours and Interviews

There are a number of fantastic venues out there (this one definitely included!) that spotlight the writing world in general and up-and-coming writers in particular. I've had the good fortune to attract the attention of a few of these, and have jumped at the chance to respond to interview questions, or to provide a guest blog entry. Though a lot of effort, it's absolutely a labor of love, since I don't know a writer alive who doesn't like talking about his or her own work!

A blog tour is a series of such guest entries/interviews, designed to create as much buzz about the book as possible. I guess this is as good a place as any to say "Thank you Missy!" for giving me this opportunity!

***

These five steps are my personal approach to that virtual arm-waving "Look at me!" approach to self-promotion that I described earlier. I can't guarantee they'll work for everyone; heck, I can't even guarantee they'll work for me! But the effort has proven fun and very rewarding.

It's also been a lot of work, and it's only the beginning.

In a month or so, I look forward to telling you all about the launch, and about our plans for post-publication promoting!Link
Until then, THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES is available for pre-order pretty much everywhere. Why wait? :-)




Continue to Part Two: AFTER

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