Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “transformational”

Locked Down

As mentioned previously, my weekend blog post relates to what is happening in either my own or the writing world in general.

I have already blogged about John Locke, congratulating him for becoming the first self-published author to sell one million ebooks. Now Locke has decided to share his business model in a new book – How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! – and it is a great read for anyone in the business.

Locke is an entrepreneur and has already made his money in other ways. He seemed to take as much satisfaction from proving his sales model as he did from writing his novels. In fact when someone commented that it was easier for him because he chose a popular genre (detective), Locke went and wrote two Western novels (considered the most difficult genre to sell) and applied his model to marketing these books.

John Locke

 

I’m not going to give everything away here as Locke deserves your $3 for sharing his ideas. But I do want to focus on one important aspect that is the basis for any measure of success – identifying your target audience.

Who are the people that buy your books? I mean the audience who will consistently purchase, enjoy and recommend your book at the water cooler the following day. In May, a colleague of mine, JoAnn Smith Ainsworth led a workshop on creating a business plan for authors. She also stressed the need to identify your target audience and it was surprising how, even after JoAnn explained why this is important, so many of the participants were resistant to the assumption that everyone wants to read their novels.

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth writes historical romance.

I am spending quite some time defining the characteristics of my target audience and it is not easy. Who are the people that get excited about social injustices in fictional form? What is the profile of the reader drawn to characters who go through a transformational process?

If you have a moment, please help me out here. Whether you are one of my target audience or not, please leave a profile of the sort of person I should be focusing my marketing efforts in the comments below.

On another note: Happy Birthday, Dad – 86 years old today and can still out-foxtrot most on the dance floor.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Transformational What?

A new member at our writer’s group asked me what genre I write.  I replied: “Transformational fiction.”

“What’s that?”

I was asking for it, since I have adopted a phrase I heard from the presenter of a workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

“I write about change – people who want to help change the world and in doing so experience a change in themselves.”

What followed was a meaningful conversation about my books. In A Gardener’s Tale, the protagonist helps a young outcast change to a central member of the community. In The Accidental Activist, my main character is not one of the activists sued by the oil company, but a self absorbed computer programmer who takes up the struggle against the multinational in order to get laid (well kind of), but discovers that he can harness his talents to help improve the world.

I have written three other manuscripts and, in each, the protagonist goes through a deep transformation. As I wrote my novels, I never realized that this was a common theme until The Accidental Activist was being critiqued.

The discussion at our writer’s group progressed into which social causes we each work for, and what organizations we are involved with. When we finished, I felt that he wanted to buy my book because of his newly formed connection with me. Best of all, I never felt as though I was trying to sell him anything. I was being me and, passionate as I am about social injustices, I was being genuine.

Brian Judd, a book marketing specialist, recalled in a recent CreateSpace webinar  a man who had written a children’s book about bananas. He would dress up as a banana, which naturally became a talking point.

I have tried to make my website fit that transformational flavor: the Richard Wright quote, the request to purchase my book at an independent bookstore and showcasing non profits and causes that I support.

This urge to advance a persona behind the book and author feels right. It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t genuine, but since I have been a political activist and community organizer (no I’m not announcing my candidacy for President) for most of my life, it fits.

And so I will go out into the world and introduce myself: Alon Shalev. I write transformational fiction. And maybe one day, the person I am being introduced to won’t respond: “Transformational fiction – what’s that?”

Maybe one day they will even say: “Alon Shalev? Yeah I read your novels.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

The Drive To Write – Transformational Fiction

Al Levenson, Past President of the Berkeley Branch of the California Writer’s Club, asked me a while ago to write why I wrote. I pondered the question for a couple of days and wrote nothing. Then it just all came gushing out:

I write, first and foremost, for myself. I love the rush I feel when the story flows, when I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the thought process, when the characters leave the computer and shadow me at work, in the gym, at home. I love it when I am transported into their world. For a short time I am someone else.

But I also write because I hope to help create change in the world. I strive through my writings to highlight social and political injustice, and to inspire personal activism. My novels all include characters who have transformed themselves, taken on multinational corporations, overcome great personal challenges, and in my next book –  stood up for the homeless and war veterans. At a writing workshop, I think it was at the excellent Santa Barbara’s Writer’s conference, I heard the facilitator try to launch the term – transformational fiction. It never caught on in the writing world, but it spoke to me.

So I want to promote the San Francisco Writing Conference for Change. It is being held on November 13-14, and is organized by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen , icons of the San Francisco literary community. I recently heard them speak, not for the first time, at the California Writer’s Club. These people have truly learned to fuse a passion with a business that is instilled with values.

Finally, if I’m truly honest, I write to stand out. I want people to see me as a person with something to say, to be enthusiastic about my stories, and for my sons to show their teachers and friends my books and say proudly: “My Dad’s an author.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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