Saturday, March 26, 2016

Anatomy of a Headshot & Curly vs. Straight

Next time you watch TV or a movie, notice how many women have curly hair. Not that many. And what roles do they play? The quirky best friend or co-worker, the out there aunt or neighbor. Not a newscaster, executive or businessperson, spokesperson or business owner or doctor.

So with Chicago Justice coming to town and hoping to pursue more serious roles, I decided to get a headshot in a suit with straight hair. For me, that's not an easy decision...because the process of blow drying, flat-ironing and de-frizzing takes well over an hour and many products.

First I had to choose a photographer. I went with someone I know who rents a studio in what she calls the South Loop (but I think is past that).  A half hour session is $100, and you do you own hair and makeup.

I'm a morning person, so getting up early to start transforming my hair wasn't a problem. With my now-straight hair tucked beneath a silk scarf for de-frizzing, I was ready to apply light makeup. Wait. When did my eyebrows morph into an old man's, with random hairs sticking out hither and yon?

I'm glad I brought two suits, because the navy one I really wanted to wear, with what I think is flattering, small peplum on a zippered jacket, looked too dark on camera. I ended up in a traditional pinstripe, with a bright deep blue tee underneath for a pop of color. Pearl instead of hoop earrings. Some with glasses, some full length. Some smiling, some not.

Keeping your chin down while tilting your head and smizing as Tyra instructs can be a challenge. How will they turn out? Will my agents like them? Will casting directors/producers/directors?

How will I know if I've been submitted with straight or curly hair, so I know which to have if called in for an audition? Looking like your headshot is essential. Stay tuned....

A current, curlier and slightly shorter hair headshot:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pitching to agents & editors on Twitter

Back in the day, if you wanted to learn about literary agents and book editors so you could submit your book for representation or publication, you had to go to a library or buy a book listing such information, without knowing if the information was still current.

Then, as now, you could also attend conferences to hear them speak and/or meet them in person for up to the minute info, but that can be expensive and time-consuming.

Then came the Internet, where agency websites that often list agent bios and interests. Publishers have sites, too, but information about individual editors can be hard to find. And sites might not be updated frequently...despite a fast-changing market. For example, I just checked a publisher at random whose site still has Fall 2015 editor interests. Sites like QueryTracker can be great for agent info, assuming the profiles are up to date. But the onus is on you to search, and the genres are often quite broad, such as romance.

Then came Twitter, where authors could follow and interact with agents and editors. (For some reason, in my experience, Facebook didn't catch on for this purpose.) Even better, those industry professionals can let authors know exactly what they're looking for in real time.

Popular hashtags are #MSWL, manuscript wishlist, where editors and agents post in detail the projects they'd love to see and #PitMad, where author Brenda Drake holds quarterly events during which authors tweet pitches by following her rules. If an industry professional likes the tweet, the author can submit (usually by following instructions on the agent's site or given in a reply tweet).

There are other pitch parties, too. A recent event was #PitMatch, where Cupids matched tweets on #MSWL and #PitMad. I was fortunate that a dream agent favorited my tweet. I submitted 5 pages as her site instructed, and within a few days her assistant requested the first three chapters, then she herself requested the full. Fingers crossed!

I popped online to browse #MSWL, the other day, and came across an editor who wanted a romance set in Hell. Well, I just happen to have one. I replied to his tweet, he asked a follow up question...and requested.

Of course, as with any type of pitching, there's no guarantee of representation/a sale, or even going further than the initial submission. But Twitter pitches are a great way to connect quickly with agents and/or editors.

This approach saves authors significant time. If someone is interested, you'll know soon, maybe within minutes or hours. I've met many authors who are terrified to pitch in person, so Twitter bypasses that fear. Plus, your query/submission isn't unsolicited as it would be if you just queried as their websites instruct. The agent/editor is already aware of your project and asked to see it.

Happy pitching!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Self-taping vs. in-person vs. Skype

There's a trend for actors to self-tape or self-submit auditions. This means that instead of auditioning in person where someone will read with you and someone else is responsible for recording/technical stuff, you need a good partner to read other characters' lines, and record, edit and upload a quality video of your audition. 

On the one hand, I'm very grateful for recent opportunities to audition for a few high-profile out of town projects I might not have been considered for without self-taping. On the other hand, the pool of talent expands, so more actors may be submitted for each role.

More pros: You can do the scene as many times as you want (or your partner can stand). This eliminates the tendency some actors have to think they could've done better, or  fret, "If only I'd done THAT." 

You don't have to show up to an assigned audition appointment that may be inconvenient. 

You can record any time before the submission deadline. 

More cons: You're responsible for producing a video with a non-distracting background that matches the sound, lighting and video quality of an actor who may go to a professional studio. You can do that, too, but the cost could be prohibitive.  

You don't get any feedback from casting or production personnel. With indie features, short films and certain other projects, the director him/herself may be in the room and offer direction. Not only that, you get to meet some of the team and perhaps establish some rapport. 

You don't know if your video is ever watched. At least when you're in the room, someone sees the results of your preparation. 

Self-taping can take a long time, because of technical difficulties or mistakes. The last one I did took almost 4 hours because my extremely knowledgeable partner had trouble syncing sound and exporting the video.

In person, I'm often asked to do more than one take. I prefer the opportunity to make different choices. I don't recall any self-tapings I've done that wanted more than one take.

I'd like to see more Skype auditions. I've only done one. Skpye allows actors to get some feedback, start building relationships, and make the process a bit more personal...without distance and equipment/video skills being issues. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The power of FREE: At His Command on Amazon 3/1-5

AT HIS COMMAND is free on Amazon March 1 to 5!

I've read many posts about making a book free for a brief time or permafree. While it's hard to give away a product I spent countless hours producing, I'm hoping the benefits are worth it:

1) Readers may get to know an author and buy her other books. (Or will they wait to see if those are free, too?)

2) If the book is also in Kindle Unlimited, and subscribers read it, you get paid for those pages.

3) If you get enough downloads, the book climbs Amazon bestseller lists including Top Free Historical Romance, which leads to more visibility and perhaps more sales of other books.

4) You might get more reviews. The more reviews a book has on Amazon, the better the opportunities for Amazon promotion, such as "also bought" and "you might like."

But making "going free" work can require a significant investment of:

1) Time: to scour promotion sites, choose some, and apply for a listing by filling out their forms. Posting on Facebook groups and other social media. Spent away from writing/getting your next book out or other work. Checking and compiling results.

2) Money: for said promotions. I got my first BookBub for 3/2, quite an achievement. (I was denied for two books when I had .99 cent countdown deals.) Though it costs hundreds of dollars, the high number of downloads and visibility are said to be amazing. I hope so!

It's working! AHC is already #38 on Top Free Medievals.