You Have To Decide

If you want to be a successful writer, you’ll have to decide to act on your story ideas. When you have a great story idea, you need to take the next step, whether it’s creating an outline, or writing the first paragraph. It does’t matter whether the end product is a short story, play, novel or screenplay, you just have to start.

You have to decide if you’re going to be a creator. Everyone is a consumer; reading books, watching movies, playing video games, but not everyone is a creator. Writers are creators, we take the ideas in our minds, and create novels that people read, screenplays that directors use to make movies, and plays that actors bring to life on stage.

When you have some spare time, you’ll have to decide whether to binge watch your favourite television series, or write. Time is a limited resource; how you use it will determine whether you’ll have the first draft of a novel at the end of the year, or you’ve just spent countless hours being amused.

You’ll have to decide if you’re prepared to have your writing criticised. Whether it’s someone in your writing group critiquing your short story, or an editor you’ve submitted a manuscript to, feedback is necessary for you to improve your craft.

The most important decision, however, is whether you’re prepared to actually write. You can read blogs about writing, attend writing conferences, read writing magazines, and watch interviews with authors, without ever making a serious effort to write.

So, what are you going to do right now? Do you have a good story idea? Are you prepared to invest time improving your craft? Are you willing to try, and learn from your mistakes? Everyone is a consumer, but you are a creator, and now is the time to start writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Marketing Ideas For Self-Published eBooks

Traditionally when we think of alumni organisations, universities come to mind, but that isn’t accurate; elementary schools, high schools, and community colleges also have alumni groups. Although they might not call themselves alumni, former employees of companies also form groups to keep in touch. You can promote your eBooks by making announcements on their websites or through their magazines and newsletters. You could reach thousands of potential readers, and you already have something in common with all of them.

Another option is to write an article or essay related to the subject of your eBook, or about the experience of writing it, and post the article or essay on Linked-In. If you don’t feel it’s appropriate to mention the title of the eBook in the article or essay, you can always include a link to the eBook or your website at the end. You might attract the attention of people who are too busy to browse websites, in search of new books to read.

Do you have a Youtube channel, where you can promote your writing? This step requires swallowing your pride, because your first videos will probably be cringe-worthy. That doesn’t matter, because over time your videos will improve, what’s important is that you’re reaching more potential readers.

A labour- intensive approach that I tried with my self-published eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper, was sending e-mails to libraries. I managed to convince several Canadian and American, and one Australian library to buy copies, but it required contacting hundreds of libraries. It was worth the effort, because many people discover new writers through searching library catalogues.

Self-published eBooks are flooding the marketplace like a biblical plague of locusts, and it’s getting more difficult to stand out in the crowd. I hope you find these ideas useful.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

How I Learned About the Entertainment Industry, Without Moving to Hollywood

My first foray into the entertainment industry began with Writer’s Block. I was writing a novel, but no matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t make it work. At about the same time I read two screenplays; Matrix Reloaded and The Piano. Since I had a general idea of how the format worked, I tried writing the story as a screenplay and it worked!

I had always enjoyed movies, but now I was hooked; I wanted real experience working in the industry. Fortunately, my first opportunity arrived a couple of years later while a stay-at-home parent for several months. Since my schedule was reasonably flexible, I was able to work as a Background Performer/Movie Extra for television series and made-for-television movies. That’s how I learned about Set Etiquette; as a Background Performer I was allowed to ask questions of the Production Assistants and Assistant Director, but I wasn’t allowed to speak to the Director. Observing how much was involved in shooting a single, ten minute scene, I began to understand why it’s so costly to make movies.

My next opportunity came, unexpectedly, through church. After moving to a large city, I spent several years as a Volunteer Video Camera Operator. It was a huge church (by Canadian standards) with three jumbo screens at the front of the auditorium and four Camera Operators for each service. It was a professional operation; when you arrived at the scheduled call time, you went to a production meeting, where the order of service was discussed. Once you were live, you followed the instructions of the Video Director, telling you who to focus on. With worship teams consisting of as many as six musicians, it could become quite demanding; panning, zooming, and focusing, on keyboards, guitars, drums, bass and singers.

Three books that I’ve found helpful in learning about the entertainment industry are; What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman, On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette by Paul J. Salamoff, and Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James A. Miller. I’ve also read over fifty screenplays. Although it’s tedious, if you really want to understand what’s involved in making movies, read a movie budget line by line.

I remain involved in the entertainment industry, as you do, by writing. After all, whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, playwright, or screenwriter, you’re a storyteller. And that’s really what the entertainment industry is all about; storytelling.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Three Great Resources

Most of the writers I’ve met don’t have large marketing budgets for their self-published books. Writers who have their books printed by traditional publishers, find they have to take greater responsibility for the promotion of their writing. We’re artists, but we need to think like entrepreneurs.

A book by one of the stars of Shark Tank offers great advice and encouragement for anyone who is starting with few resources. One of the main themes of The Power of Broke (2016) by Daymond John is that if you start with little financial support, it forces you to be creative, searching for unique solutions to challenges, rather than just throwing money at problems. His life is an example of how focus, determination, and perseverance, can lead to unbelievable success. Daymond John offers readers a glimpse of the challenges he faced building a company from the ground up, while encouraging them to follow their dreams.

Another great book that encourages anyone striving to follow their dreams was written by the Producer of Shark Tank. Dare to Succeed (2001) by Mark Burnett, stresses how essential it is to take chances and be prepared to expect the unexpected. Today you know him as a very successful television producer, but after serving in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, his first job in the United States was as a live-in-nanny. If you had just left one of the world’s elite military units, would you expect to find yourself taking care of children? His goal was to establish a life in the United States, and he was willing to do whatever it took.

I found it interesting that John Daymond sold clothing out of an old van in New York and Mark Burnett sold T-shirts on a beach in California. They both had direct sales experience early in their careers. What every writer can learn from the lives of entrepreneurs, is how essential it is to develop pitching skills. Daymond John had to convince musicians to wear the clothing he was designing in their videos. Mark Burnett had to convince companies to sponsor Eco Challenge. Likewise, writers are constantly pitching ideas to editors, trying to get them to publish our books, short fiction, articles, and essays. If you write screenplays, you have to persuade film companies to read them.

As well as reading these two books, I would highly recommend that you takes a look at Evan Carmichael‘s videos on Youtube, especially the Top 10 Rules series. Here you can find countless videos describing the principles used to achieve success by authors, business leaders, motivational speakers, actors, musicians and pastors.

Keep Striving. Keep Learning. Keep Writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper