The Calm Before the Storm

Hey all!

I wanted to log in and drop you all a quick note. I haven’t forgotten about you, don’t worry. Far from it, in fact. I’ve got a TON of awesome posts planned, most of them revolving around this writer’s conference I’m hitting up.

I leave on Tuesday for it. The thought literally blows my mind. Just two terrifying plane rides, and I’ll be in the greatest city in the world.

Oh yeah. I don’t fly well. I get it, I’ve read the statistics like you have. Planes ARE still the safest way to travel. It’s just unnatural, is all. If humans were meant to fly, they would have wings.

But I’m not going to let that stop me! NEW YORK, BAYBAY!

It’s New York that’s been keeping me from posting lately. Getting ready for this conference has been taxing my time and my attention. I’ve been getting home from eight hours of work, just to pull out the laptop and work another three or four.

It’s all in service of making my book even stronger, but all work and no play makes Mikey something something

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Don’t mind if I do!

 

I put the finishing touches on Fade to Black, then I combed over it with a fine-toothed comb. Now it’s out to my primary beta-readers. I’m way too close to it to say subjectively, but I’m pretty sure it’s a good one.

The other things I needed to do for the conference were:

  1. Research potential agents
  2. Craft my pitch

Now, out of the fifty-odd agents who are going to attend the conference, there are twenty-two who are looking for the NEXT GREAT THRILLER

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Hee Hee

It’s a matter of doing a bit more research, and coming up with a short-list of the five MUST VISIT agents, so I have a bit of direction when I get to the Pitch Slam session.

The other thing is the pitch. I’d like to share it with you all now – I welcome your feedback! Feel free to sound off in the comments. What did you like about it? What would you change if you were me? Is this a sellable story to you?

Without further adieu, here it is:

Hello, my name is Michael, and I write under the name M. James Murray. I published my first novel in 2018 and I also wrote an article in Sports Life Magazine.

I’m here today to pitch FADE TO BLACK, a speculative thriller which is complete at 76 500 words.

What happens in a love story once the love is gone?

A place does not need to be haunted to have ghosts. John Roque works for the Chicago Police Department as a consultant. His secret Talent allows him to do things considered impossible by the regular person – he can influence your actions, hear your thoughts and move objects using nothing more than the power of his mind.

When he is called to a crime scene where he finds his ex wife brutally murdered, John is devastated. He is desperate to forget her memory, and yet he would do anything to get her back. He sees the threads that no-one else can see – the killer has Talent, too. John needs to avenge her, but his Talent – something as natural to him as breathing – has disappeared.

Honestly, folks, I am so excited. Looking forward to seeing Manhattan and eating at a whole bunch of super tasty restaurants. And the Empire State Building!

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The plan is to see a Broadway show on Tuesday, a Mets game on Wednesday and a whole bunch of attractions in between.

I can’t WAIT to share all the stories with you.

What did we learn this week?

  1. I’m 25% more charismatic when I communicate solely in GIFs. I won’t look too deep into THAT
  2. I’m pretty effin’ excited for this trip
  3. You can always find that next level when you’re working towards something that you’re truly passionate about
  4. Softball playoffs are this weekend. I’m pretty sure the Inglorious Batters are going to win the “C” division crown.
  5. When you’re thirty, you probably shouldn’t wait until the sole of your shoe is exposed before you decide to buy another pair.

Later days,

M

This Post is Sponsored by Boxed Wine

I’ve been thinking a lot about my first book lately. The sales are still coming in, but not nearly at the pace which they were at the release.

I’m currently sitting around the 250 mark or so. Copies sold, that is.  I’m considering this impressive since I have no marketing presence of which to speak of besides some 4000 odd followers on the good ol’ Twitter machine.

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You know I’m serious because I’m wearing my writer’s sweater. ALSO big body, little head

I think, though, that it’s my fault that I’m sitting at 250. I’ve been remiss lately at selling the book that I wrote. When Far from Ordinary first came out I swear I would make one or two posts a week for the purpose of advertising that the book was out and for sale.

Now… I haven’t done one of those in a while. Somewhere, I know, my good friend and Media Director Carl is scowling at me.

Yes, I’ve made you my Media Director BC. Congratulations! I hear the benefits are fantastic!*

*Benefits will be fantastic in 8-10 years of solid sales growth.

*M. James Murray takes no liability in the supposed offering of a competitive benefits plan.

So why did I stop?

Honestly, the easier answer is that I didn’t want to annoy people. I’ve seen those posts before – hell, I’ve been annoyed by those posts before.

“Hey, I haven’t seen you in over ten years, but you should totally buy this subscription to BeachBod from me! It’s, like, SO good to catch up!”

So by nature, I’m reluctant to do it. Not that mine has to sound like the pretty godawful example I quoted above, but I worry that they would to some people. And yet it’s an important part of the sales process.

I taught sales, once upon a time, and it’s good for me to remember that every once in a while.

Nobody is going to buy your product if they don’t know what it is, or if they don’t trust you.

So how in the hell is anyone going to bother spending ten dollars and fifty cents on Amazon for Far from Ordinary if I don’t talk about it?

There comes a point in every young author’s life where he (or she) gets frustrated with some of the offerings on the store at bookshelves. The other day I went to Chapters and pulled out a few, read a few chapters.

I am telling you, with no shade of ego, that I am writing better today – as an independent author – than these folks are. And yet they are sitting on the bookshelf at Chapters and I am not.

It’s a humbling moment, to be sure, but it’s also important for a few reasons:

  1. I need to keep pushing. The only difference between a signed author and an unsigned author is that the signed author didn’t give up

You see these examples from time to time. I got frustrated with the querying process after about three or four months. Some people stick with it for years. Years! You’ve got to either be incredibly self-assured about the strength of your work or incredibly stubborn to keep in the query trenches for that long.

But then I see their persistence pay off, sometimes. Maybe the lesson here is that “you mustn’t lose that spark of madness”

2. I’m not as good as I think I could be.

Note that I didn’t say “as I think I am” here. I know that there’s still a TON of room for me to grow in my craft and I hope that I’ll always think that. After all, the moment you stop thinking that is the moment in which you lose your edge.

Don’t get me wrong, any author who finishes a book deserves a pat on the back (and probably a shot of expensive whiskey). I’m not saying they’re bad, I’m saying that I think I’m just as good.

So regardless of how I feel about the state of their craft, I’m still on the outside looking in.

Now, this becomes important later on because a large of the young author’s journey (maybe every author’s journey, no matter the tenure) is the validation which they need.

I always get a kick out of running into people who have read my book. The conversation usually goes like this:

“I actually liked it!” As though they were expecting to not, and they were pleasantly surprised that it was not half bad. I love that they go out of their way to mention that. It really does make me feel all warm and bubbly inside.

So to those who have reached out, THANK YOU! You have no idea how much that means to me.

It’s just one part of the picture, though. Those people who I tend to run into who have bought my book know me. That means that they’re biased – for good or for bad – by their previous interactions with me.

I think that it’s a completely different kind of compliment when a stranger – someone who doesn’t care if you take it well or badly – compliments that.

I always talk about the 3 to 11 ratio when I’m in class. It’s a people theory that talks about how people LOVE to talk about the negative. The 3 is referring to the 3 people that an average person talks to when they come across something AWESOME. The 11 refers to the people you talk to when something irks you the wrong way.

People are almost 4X more likely to talk about the bad than the good. That number has always made me shake my head.

So when I get a great review on Amazon from someone who I’ve never met I appreciate it on a deeper level.

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Thank you Leo! 

Reviews are, after all, the best way to support me after you purchase my novels. They help me get recognized in Amazon’s algorithm so that more people who have never heard of this upstart author M. James Murray can buy a book or two or twelve.

Long story short?

If you haven’t already, please look at buying Far from Ordinary. I love you all for the support you’ve shown and continue to show.

Leave a review!

You guys are the best.

So what did I learn this week?

  1. I will probably regret making BC my Media Director. He tends to keep me honest. So for those of you who enjoy these weekly posts, that’s probably a good thing. For me, that’s probably going to be *ahem* less than ideal
  2. I am truly fortunate to be with somebody who is perfectly okay with me ignoring her for three to four hours on average a night so that I can write. The struggles of dating an author
  3. The MAVERICK trailer dropped this week. It literally gave me goosebumps. Check it out.
  4. Why the hell do car dealerships close so early? I don’t want to take a personal day to drive that Subaru, Karen!
  5. New York is less than a month away! When did THAT happen? I’m going to a writer’s conference in NYC. How cool is THAT!

Later days,

M

New York, New York Do you ever feel like the universe is pulling you to a specific place? On one level it’s absolutely absurd. There are almost 8 billion people … Continue reading

Bum Knees and Writer Conferences

I came to a pretty frustrating conclusion this week. Over the past month and a half I’ve been training for a half marathon on Father’s Day.

It started out pretty good – we’d do 3 miles here and there, and I was starting to get into a rhythm.

Maybe I trained too hard. Maybe I should have started out earlier. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Hell, I used to show up and run without any training.

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Back when I was SUPER-PUMPED to get going

But, as has happened so much more frequently over the past few years, the knee pain started to creep in. It started as a dull ache right in the joint, annoying but manageable.

Over the weeks it began to get worse. At thirty years old I was limping in the mornings, having trouble sleeping because of the pain.

So, something had to give.

I think the biggest turning point for me was examining why I was running in the first place. Was I the fastest? Definitely not. Even at my fastest, there were still a bunch of people finishing the race a solid half an hour before me.

Do I get a runner’s high? I don’t think so. I mean, there is usually a time in the run when I don’t feel quite as shitty, but it’s not like I feel good.

So… Fitness, I guess?

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Yeah… there’s got to be a better way to do that.

Writer’s Conferences

I’ve been working on ways to make myself more appealing to agents lately. I’ve always wanted to get signed, though I realize that this is a bit of a conflicting subject for many writers.

Nowadays more writers are choosing to self-publish their work. That’s what I did as well, for reasons that I’ll get to shortly. So why do we do this?

Creative control.

When you sign with an agent they will do whatever it takes to get that book picked up by a publishing house. Oftentimes what that means is that the writer will need to change parts of their novel.

Some of us are a little put off by this since our novels are a bit like our children. I remember the first time I held my book in my hands. The feel of the spine in my hands, the smell of the pages – all these little details just seemed so surreal. Like how could these be my words? My words.

So yeah, I get that. But at the same time, I’d bet dollars to donuts that whoever is suggesting an edit to me knows a bit more about the market, and probably literature in general.

More royalties

This one is a bit of a catch 22. Yes, if you self-publish you get more royalties. I get about 70% of the proceeds of an ebook and 60% of a paperback, minus the printing cost. This comes out to about $1.50- $2.00 per book on the (fairly reasonable) price which I’m currently selling at.

With traditional publishing, prices can fluctuate but you generally earn less per book. But you also have the opportunity to sell a lot more books, too. It’s not just me on an Instagram account or a Facebook page, there are bookstores and publicity events and all the stuff that indie authors just can’t afford.

So I’ve weighed both options and I’ve decided that I want my next book to be published traditionally. The reaction to Far from Ordinary has been fantastic – I’ve sold more copies than I ever expected and I’m SO grateful for that.

But, looking at the demographic reports that Amazon makes for me, the majority of my sales are concentrated in Winnipeg and Calgary. Two cities where I’ve got strong connections.

Imagine how awesome it would be for my writing career if I were able to branch out into the U.S. market, or Europe.

I want to walk into a bookstore in Houston and see an M. James Murray on the shelf.

So there’s that. But also, I think that traditional publishing has always been the goal for me. So that’s what brings me back to what I was originally talking about. Full circle. It’s tough to get picked up by an agent. It involves a lot of skill and even more luck.

But I think it also involves doing something differently. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

So I’ve published an article. I wrote a book and published it. What else can I do to set myself apart from the other tens of thousands of aspiring writers out there?

The next step for me is getting myself to a writing conference. If I can get myself in front of an agent and talk about my upcoming book, Fade to Black, I think that I stand a pretty good chance of getting picked up. At the very least I’m going to become a lot more visible in the writing community.

Now, they’re not cheap – most range in the $500 USD range for a couple of days, not including hotel and food and all that minor stuff. But I don’t really care about the cost all that much. Ten years from now I won’t be talking about how expensive that trip to New York was, I’ll be talking about how I wish I had done it sooner.

That’s what really matters.

What did we learn this week?

  1. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to be a long distance runner
  2. I have bad knees. Who’d have known?! Definitely not my surgeon, although he probably figured it out when I came back in for the fourth time
  3. I’m a Hank Moody looking for my Charlie Runkle
  4. Yes I wrote that last one for you, Col
  5. It’s much easier to write these blog posts sitting outside with a cold beer. Even if I get distracted easily

Next week it’s the RETURN OF THE KHAJIT! That’s right – my sister’s cat has a plan to kill me. And it’s now one step closer to fruition. She’s 11 pounds of stealth and death. I’m worried.

STAY TUNED.

Later days,

M