Category Archives: Marketing

RPLA win raises visibility of little people in mainstream society

One of the more gratifying aspects of winning 2nd place in the Royal Palm Literary Competition was that the it happened in October. This month is Dwarfism Awareness Month, and as readers of St. Nic, Inc. know, little people–dwarves–play an important role in the story and plot. I think my fictional characters mirror the roles real dwarves play more generally in our society, even though they are not always recognized or acknowledged. I am pleased that the RPLA award have given greater public visibility to this novel and, by extension, little people.StNicInc,COVER

Someone recently observed that all my novels address a social justice issue of some sort. In the Pirate of Panther Bay series, the stories focus on interpersonal violence and human dignity. In Renegade and A Warrior’s Soul (the Path of the Warrior series), the issue is bullying and sexual assault. In St. Nic, Inc., prejudice and discrimination are critical elements of the plot and storyline. In fact, I can honestly say. without giving too much away, little people are an indispensable element to the story–the story just wouldn’t be the same, and not nearly as interesting, without them. Dwarves are full-fledged, multi-dimensional characters with their own ambitions, courage, fears, skills, and competencies, and their choices as individuals determine the outcome of the story. In no way are they tokens.

Just who are some of these central characters?

  • Rowdy, the software engineer turned businessman, who company’s revenues power the North Pole to achieve its social mission;
  • Ron Cutler, the seasoned corporate attorney turned civil rights lawyer
  • Lisa Patten, the chief of surgery at the North Pole hospital
  • Fred, a professional nurse who befriends one of a lead average-sized characters

Several other characters play smaller but important cameo roles.

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeImportantly, St. Nic, Inc. is not a story about little people. Rather, it’s a story about the North Pole, and what it might look like if it really exists. Little people make up about 25% of the North Pole population. Average-sized people play prominent roles as lead characters, but, like all societies, this is an ensemble story with different characters on different paths and arcs.

So, why do little people exist at all? Good question. St. Nic, Inc. was written in part with an eye on broaching a broader discussion about prejudice in mainstream society from a different perspective. I have a lot on my website discussing these issues, and the role of little people in the development of the story as well as their role in the novel, including:

So, thank you RPLA for helping me bring this discussion to a broader audience!

For more information on Dwarfism Awareness month, click here. Support Little People of America by either joining (here) or buying St. Nic, Inc. through the LPA’s web site (under the section “Fiction with dwarf characters”).

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Five expected and unexpected benefits from winning a literary award

By SR Staley

St. Nic, Inc. was awarded second place in the 2015 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and the win was a real confidence booster for me personally. This isn’t the first time I’ve won a book award–Renegade (Wheatmark) took home second place in the Seven Hills Literary Contest and Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Books) earned 1st place in the Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Prize–but the RPLA award has elevated my fiction writing to a new level of respect among my fellow authors.

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeWith a few more years of experience under my belt, however, I can reflect on the impact of the award and its meaning, personally and professionally. So I put together these thoughts on the expected and unexpected benefits of winning the award.

  1. Professional validation. Perhaps now more than at any other time, authors wonder if their writing is “good enough.” In part, this is due to the tremendous change in the publishing industry. As traditional legacy publishers with integrated national distribution networks consolidate, and smaller presses focus on niches, authors are finding the only practical pathway to publication is often through self-publishing or some form of subsidy publishing. While many excellent books are published through these sources–in fact, Renegade was published through Wheatmark, a very professional hybrid publisher–authors are often left wondering whether their writing is good enough to compete. Winning an award tells us that yes, we can write and we can achieve excellence, at least as measured by our peers.StNicInc,COVER
  2. Reader validation. I didn’t really think about this until I pondered the self-centered nature of a one-star review I received on amazon for, ironically, St. Nic, Inc. The reviewer trashed St. Nic, Inc.–and I mean trashed it–despite a slew of four- and five-star reviews that proceeded it. When our books win a literary contest, we validate our readers and all those who enjoyed our stories and characters. No one who left a good review on amazon.com will ever have to justify their positive review, and, just perhaps, we hold the book snobs and narcissists accountable for their bad behavior.
  3. Raising awareness. Winning an award, or even making it to the semifinals or finals, raises awareness about our work, giving us a needed boost to our marketing efforts. Sometimes, publishers and authors get caught in a cycle of simply generating content and posts on social media just to keep our name visible. But winning a literary award provides real content and is a win-win: Authors benefit because the quality of our work is validated through an external, third-party source and the book awards benefit by marketing their contest, raising the competitiveness and improving the validity of the contest in future years.
  4. Rekindling the joy of writing. Writing is a long, arduous process. As creative as the it can be, we face many periods of slogging through stages we would prefer off load to someone else. I remember when my first book was published–Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities–its actual publication seemed anti-climatic. So much time had been spent finalizing the manuscript, monitoring the book through the production process, developing the marketing plan, and navigating dozens of other smaller administrative decision points that that joy and wonder of writing seemed completely displaced. Winning the Fisher Award goosed my creative energies (as have the Seven Hills and RPLA wins).Renegade,cover
  5. Validating my publisher(s). With nine published books under my belt, I think authors tend to forget the importance these wins have for our publishers. I have become more keenly aware of this since my venture with Wheatmark, a subsidy publisher (but not a true self-publishing company because they don’t take every project), I am more keenly aware of the time, effort, money and resources needed to bring a quality book to press. My publishers–subsidy, self, or traditional–deserve my best efforts to market and sell books for them. Otherwise, they go out of business and our careers stall. In years past, self-publishing was a dead-end for a career. Now, the game is completely different, and publisher like Wheatmark and my current (traditional) publisher, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, are partners. Winning book awards validates their investment in me as an author.

Many authors are rightly proud of our work when we win an award. But I think the benefits are far broader than we often appreciate. So, this award is not just for me; it’s important for everyone who supports and invests in my career as an author.

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St. Nic, Inc. Takes Silver at Royal Palm Literary Awards

SR Staley

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeSt. Nic, Inc., my reality-based re-imagination of the Santa Claus myth, won 2nd place in the 2015 Royal Palm Literary Awards held in Orlando during the annual conference of the Florida Writers Association on October 17, 2015!

St. Nic, Inc. earned its award in the competitive Published Mainstream/Literary Fiction category. First place went to The Clock Strikes Midnight by Joan C. Curtis, and third place went to Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby.

SamplusAwardThe FWA uses a rigorous, anonymous review process to select their winners. Each entry is given a numerical score based on a rubric designed by the committee supervising the RPLA. This provides analytical consistency in what is inevitably a subjective evaluation of the quality of writing. (I have personally used similar rubrics for more than 20 years to discipline my own grading of papers assigned in my classes at the college level.) In order to progress to each successive stage–semi-finalist, finalist, and winner–written works have to achieve minimum scores using the rubric. Thus, in theory, no award can be given in a category because none of the submitted works earn sufficiently high scores. In fact, this has happened. This year was the first time an award was given in every category, although several categories awarded just first or second places (e.g., published romance, unpublished romance, published science fiction).

This year, 378 manuscripts were entered into the RPLAs in 30 different categories and evaluated by 125 anonymous judges. Categories include a wide range of subjects and genres, including published and unpublished books; adult, young adult, and middle-grade fiction; poetry and flash fiction; thriller/suspense and women’s fiction, and several nonfiction categories and others. About 25% of the authors submitting manuscripts made it into the final round this year, and 18% (68% of finalists) won an award–either first, second, or third place in their category. (Six entrants by my count won awards in multiple categories). A full list can be found here.

I also want to give a shout to my fellow Tallahassee Writers Association author Darryl Bollinger, author of the medical thriller The Care Card, for winning second place in the Published Thriller/Suspense category!

Read the reviews of St. Nic, Inc. here.

Watch the trailer here.

Buy the book at amazon here!

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Tortuga Bay launch set for Barnacle Bill’s restaurant

BarnacleBillsmenuMy newest novel, Tortuga Bay, will experience it’s official launch at Barnacle Bill’s seafood restaurant in Tallahassee on September 19th from 1 to 3 pm. Tortuga Bay is already receiving great reviews:

  • “Isabella sizzles in this swashbuckling sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay.  Her sword slices through oppressors from the first page to the last in an adventure that puts her daring and decisive stand against slavery at the center of a story that shimmers like its Caribbean setting.” Donna Meredith, award-winning author of Wet Work, The Color of Lies, and The Glass Madonna.
  • “In SR Staley’s sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay, Isabella once again shows she is made of as much grit as any male pirate captain.  The action starts on page one and never lets up.“ M.R. Street, award-winning author of The Werewolf’s Daughter, Hunter’s Moon, and Blue Rock Rescue.
  • “If you pick up Tortuga Bay you better strap on your seat belt…. He has done a remarkable job of mixing pirates, Royal political intrigue and Haitian voodoo into an entertaining tale.” Col. Michael Whitehead (ret.), author of The Lion of Babylon and Messages from Babylon.
  • “Tortuga Bay is an exceptionally well-developed story that gives a genuine touch to the theme and puts a fresh spin on the way pirate stories are told. Lovers of the genre will find the Pirate of Panther Bay series a worthy read.” Faridah Nassozi, 5-star review, Reader’s Favorite.

Anyone in Tallahassee or passing through is welcome!

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Seven cool and fun things I experienced at this year’s Decatur Book Festival

I attended the 2015 Decatur Book Festival with my publisher, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing on September 5-6th. It was a blast, and much more fun than last year. (Check out a gallery of festival photos from the Atlanta Journal Constitution here, including one of our crew here.) I’m a big fan of attending festivals and marketplaces as an author because I learn so much from about marketing and what resonates with readers by talking to fellow authors, book lovers, readers, and buyers. (Oh, yeah, I also like to sell books.)

So, I’ve compiled a quick list of the more fun and exciting things I experienced this year at Decatur, both as a writer fine-tuning my craft and a participant who just enjoys engaging with people and having fun.

  1. Guerrilla Haiku

IMG_1394I’ve always been a bit anxious about poetry, even though I know a lot of people that write it, and I enjoy reading it. On our first day, however, we were challenged by a group of students using Haiku (#haikuDBF) to “promote” discussion and dialogue among strangers. We embraced the challenge, and wrote the following Haiku–three lines, 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables–with sidewalk chalk:

 

Isabella IS

An awesome pirate lady

who trumps Jack Sparrow

This turned out to do exactly what these teens thought it would do: promote discussion! Many people simply noticed the Haiku, linked it to the sign, and then to the book. In addition to pulling me out of my comfort zone as a budding Haiku poet, it turned out (unintentionally) to be a great marketing tool.

2. Fine tuning my log lines

After talking to several readers and buyers, I realized that Tortuga Bay was more than just a sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay. The plot and story reflects a powerful new character arc for Isabella, the lead character, and I began to articulate it much more lucidly. The Pirate of Panther Bay is about Isabella’s search and discovery of her own identity, reforged after her escape from the sugar plantation and taking over as captain of her own pirate ship. Tortuga Bay is about Isabella finding her place in the world. As a friend of mine says, she is a “woman beast”!

3. Signing sneakers

IMG_1431Two other young readers were walking around Decatur getting other kids to sign their sneakers. They wondered if authors would sign them, and I’m proud to say that the Southern Yellow Pine Publishing authors were the first on the canvas! (Thank you Ellie and Hannah for providing some inspiration and joy at DBF this year.)

4. Spontaneous video interviews with kids

This year’s festival seemed to attract a lot of families–kids, teens, and young adults. This was great for me because my books are strong cross overs enjoyed by readers firmly within the adult and YA action/adventure categories. (Thank you M.R. Street for making sure I don’t lose my inner teen.)

We also found a lot of kids willing to engage with us and ask us questions. So, we pulled out the smart phone and asked them to pose any question they wanted on camera. I’ve posted them to my (SR Staley) youtube channel (with parental permission, of course) under the play list “Kids on the Street”. This was a great way to engage young readers in our profession. I hope to continue this at other book signings and at Downtown Marketplace in Tallahassee.

  • Jo Jo’s interview with me can be found here.
  • Brodie’s interview with me can be found here.
  • Gunnar’s interview with William Mark and can be found here.

5. My (really big) sign

SR Staley Tortuga BayThe one big marketing take away for me this year was the importance and effectiveness of signage. We were able to put up a 6-foot sign advertising Tortuga Bay and the impact was obvious. Of course, we were working with a great cover crafted by SYPP’s Jim Hamer, and that helped a lot. Still, we could see people walking down the sidewalk, see the sign, look over at the book rack, and then step over and pick up the book. (We had similar signs for Robert Burton’s The Burgundy Briefcase and V.L. Brunskill’s Waving Backwards.) The cover design had a huge impact on drawing readers into the booth. Thank you Jim for crafting such a captivating cover!

6. Getting to know my fellow authors

I also really really enjoyed getting to know my fellow SYPP authors Scott Archer Jones (who flew in from New Mexico!) author of The Big Wheel, William Mark (Lost in the Darkness), Roberta Burton (The Burgundy Briefcase), and V.L. Brunskill (Waving Backwards).  These are great people and their books are getting excellent press (and winning awards). IMG_1386

7. Selling Books

Of course, I really enjoyed selling my books. Tortuga Bay and The Pirate of Panther Bay did well with the crowd this year, and having two books in the same series made a big difference. Several people bought both books (even though they are stand alone stories). I sold a few copies of St. Nic, Inc. but the Panther Bay Pirate series was the clear winner for the weekend. I doubt I would have been as successful if my books were each one-offs. Thus, this year’s experience is another example of the benefit of series and multi-book authors.

I can’t wait until next year!

 

 

 

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Isabella set to take Decatur Book Festival by storm!

I will be launching Tortuga Bay, the sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay, in Decatur, Georgia on Saturday, September 5th, and Sunday, September 6th, at the Decatur Book Festival. This is one of the largest book festivals in the nation!Saturday(805x1024)

I appeared with fellow SYPP authors Saundra Kelly, Brin Colenda, Scott Archer Jones, CD Mitchell, Ken Johnson, and Brian Smith last year, and it was a lot of fun. This year, because we are launching Tortuga Bay, our display will be even more prominent.

Check us out in Booth #520 on Ponce de Leon Street (Southern Yellow Pine Publishing) both days! I will be officially appearing at 10 am on Saturday and 11 am on Sunday, but I’ll be around both days.

Also, don’t forget that you can get $3 off Tortuga Bay and The Pirate of Panther Bay if you buy from the Southern Yellow Pine Publishing website before the book festival. Use the coupon code READNOW.

Don’t forget to also look for updates on the Panther Bay Pirate series at my website, www.srstaley.com.
Sunday(805x1024)

Hope to see you in Decatur if you are in town!

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Tortuga Bay Launches Isabella into Voodoo and Revolution

The official release date is set for Tortuga Bay, the sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay: September 5, 2015. We will be launching the book at the Decatur Book Festival (@DBookFestival) in Decatur, Georgia, September 5-6th. We will have a launch event in Tallahassee, as well, but the venue and date have not been confirmed yet. Take advantage of pre-release savings by pre-ordering Tortuga Bay and/or The Pirate of Panther Bay for $3 off the cover price! (Use coupon code READNOW.)

Tortuga-Bay-RGB-96-01I am very excited about Tortuga Bay. Isabella goes into very different and a very dark place as she grapples with voodoo and a nascent slave revolt on Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Lots of swashbuckling action takes place, but I enjoyed working some bigger issues into the plot and character arcs in this version.

It helps that I’m getting great early reviews! Here’s a sampling:

  • “Isabella sizzles in this swashbuckling sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay.  Her sword slices through oppressors from the first page to the last in an adventure that puts her daring and decisive stand against slavery at the center of a story that shimmers like its Caribbean setting. Unputdownable!” Donna Meredith, award-winning author of Wet Work, The Color of Lies, and The Glass Madonna
  • “In SR Staley’s sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay, Isabella once again shows she is made of as much grit as any male pirate captain.  The action starts on page one and never lets up.  Through exhilarating battles at sea and the start of a slave revolution on land, Isabella fights for the success of her ship, safety of her crew, and survival of her lover, who happens to be a captain in the Spanish Navy — a sworn enemy.  At the same time, she is searching for the meaning of the Prophecy given to her long ago by her now dead mother.  Staley’s familiarity with ships of war and the history of the region helps readers feel they are part of the action. “ M.R. Street, award-winning author of The Werewolfe’s Daughter, Hunter’s Moon, and Blue Rock Rescue.
  • “If you pick up Tortuga Bay you better strap on your seat belt because you will be transported back in time to an era of pirates and ships chased by the soldiers and sailors of Spain’s Most Royal Catholic Majesty. Isabella, continuing her role as The Pirate of Panther Bay from the previous book, is an intriguing character. By casting this young woman as a pirate captain Staley launches a frontal assault on all the female stereotypes so prevalent in literature, media and the entertainment world. He has done a remarkable job of mixing pirates, Royal political intrigue and Haitian voodoo into an entertaining tale.” Col. Michael Whitehead (ret.), author of The Lion of Babylon and Messages from Babylon.

Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to the release!

Also, keep track of my comings and goings on my website: http://www.srstaley.com

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Pirates, Aliens, and Cats, Oh My!

I will be signing copies of the Pirate of Panther Bay, St. Nic, Inc, A Warrior’s Soul, and Renegade at My Favorite Books in Tallahassee on Saturday, July 18, 2015, from 11 am to 1 pm. If you are in town, come out and join me as I talk about these books and others, including the forthcoming Tortuga Bay.June2015-signing

 

I will be joined by Bruce Ballister, the author of Dreamland Diaries and Orion’s Light. These popular sci-fi novels are great for young adults and adults, and Bruce’s stories are characterized as “science fiction with a southern accent.”

 

We will be joined by Chris Widdop, author of Velcro: The Ninja Kat and Velcro: The Green Lion. Check out Chris’s blog for insights into popular culture and media, including timely movie reviews. Need I say more?

I’ve not met Chris before, but he lists Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Interstellar among his top five movies for 2014. I think we’ll get along well.

Don’t forget to visit my updated website for the newest news!

See you on Saturday!

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Narcissism and the one-star amazon review

By SR Staley

I received my first one star review on amazon.com a couple of weeks ago, my first in 47 reviews of my fiction. While I know my books won’t appeal to all readers, a one star is quite deflating. But then I looked at the larger picture, and I realized how narcissistic and impulsive the person posting the one-star review must be. Let me explain.

“Big Bad John”–yes, that’s his on-line handle–posted his review with the title “Save Your Money!” and basically trashes my newest novel, St. Nic., Inc., in four sentences. (He also didn’t buy the book from amazon.) I have no doubt this is his honest opinion of the book. And he is entitled to his opinion and post it on amazon.com. I have no objection with that.

But here’s the context: Big Bad John’s review was the 17th review. The lowest review before his was a 3 star, and these unenthusiastic readers wrote that the book was a “good seasonal read” and “a nice way to pass the time.” St. Nic, Inc. has 10 five-star reviews, seven of which were “verified” purchases from amazon.com. All the four and three-star reviews were verified purchases from amazon.com or the kindle store. So, BBJ has to either ignore all the other reviews, or believe his lone opinion was so superior to the others that potential readers should put aside everyone else’s views except his. I think this pretty much defines narcissism in the world of book reviews.

My biggest disappointment, however, was not BBJ’s displeasure although I do care what readers think. In fact, I incorporate their feedback–positive and negative–in my writing all the time. Rather, it was BBJ’s complete lack of content in his criticism. He had an opportunity to be constructive, but chose simply to trash talk the book.

Fortunately, I doubt Big Bad John will have much effect on my book sales. My book is better than he thinks, and I know that because the vast majority of the reviews on amazon are by people I don’t know. I have also won awards for my fiction.

I guess BBJ doesn’t want to be put on my Christmas card list.

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“St. Nic, Inc.”, “Pirate of Panther Bay”, top amazon rankings

Southern Yellow Pine Publishing ran a special on the kindle e-book versions of St. Nic, Inc. and The Pirate of Panther Bay on September 11th and 12th, and the results were phenomenal! Both books climbed to the top of amazon’s kindle ebook rankings in their respective categories:

  • Both books reached overall rankings in the low and mid 30s for action adventure.
  • St. Nic, Increached #5 under “suspense” and #6 under “thriller/adventure” in the kindle ebook rankings.
  • The Pirate of Panther Bay reached #1 under “sword & sorcery” for children kindle ebook rankings and #5 for “action/adventure”.

Thank you to everyone who made this promotion so successful!

(Now, feel free to write a review at amazon.)

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