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How to do a Signing: The Checklist

comic-con-booth

Welcome back to the blog.  This week, I’d like to reach out to follow authors working to put their books out into the world.  As I’m currently preparing for my first major convention appearance, I thought about all the preparations that go into getting ready for any kind of appearance for an author.  So today, I’d like to present a check-list for any author making their first major appearance, from a local signing to a full con appearance.

  • Books- let’s start with the most obvious part of a con- the actual product.  You need to make sure you’ve got a good amount of books.  The worst feeling of an appearance is to run short early and miss potential opportunity.  However, you also don’t want to over-order, and be left with a huge number of books.  The best thing to do is to plan for your appearance and decide how much to bring based on just where you’re going and how many people will likely be there.
  • Money-Box- besides books, the most important thing you need at an appearance is money.  You need to have loose cash to give change to people that pay in cash.  You may also want to invest in a credit card reader, which are often small enough to work with a smart phone and will make it easier for people to pay.  Regardless, you must always have a cash-box, a small, lockable container that holds your change and your profit.  This is one of the two most important things to bring to any appearance.
  • Props- another important part of any event.  You always want to appear professional and to attract attention.  Some simple props can easily accomplish this; a poster of your book or even of yourself can help steer people in your direction and get the first initial interest.  As with the book number, this should be adjusted for your appearance.  You don’t want to overcrowd a library or undersell a crowded convention.
  • The Right Attitude- no one wants to go to a signing for a grumpy author.  Be prepared for the event you’re going to- if it requires you to speak, be polite, informative, and most of all, approachable about your work and as a person.  If you’re going to be in a group, be inviting, but without seeming like a carnival pitchman for your book.  Above all, be prepared to be in one location for a long time, friendly to the people that approach, and above all, grateful for people that purchase your book.
  • Preparations- this seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.  Whatever event you are going to, know the details.  Know when you need to get there, make sure your give yourself time to set up, know the setup, and make sure all your materials are ready.
  • Help- something many authors don’t think of.  Appearances are built around the author, but they can require more then one person.  Don’t be unafraid to ask for help in setting up appearances, especially at cons.  The larger the event, the more pressure is on to get customers, so don’t be afraid to have someone else there to help you out.
  • Research- we end with the most important step of appearances, finding one.  While your publisher may aid you in finding events, you will likely need to do some work on your own.  Some events are easier to schedule- local signings, events at libraries, are usually happy to host you.  Events like cons however, will take more work and require your efforts to find them.  So get on your computer and find them, it’s the only way to be able to get your book out there.

Hopefully, this checklist will make it easier for new authors to navigate the difficult waters of their first major event.  And don’t forget about my appearance at the Big Apple Con in a few weeks, on Mar. 7th, at NYC’s Penn Pavilion from 10-6 pm.

The Rules of a Crossover

MarvelvsDC

Welcome back.  First, I must apologize for being absent for so long, but I’ve been busy editing the new book, getting artwork approved, and trying to promote my crossover petition.  And in that sprit, I wanted to talk about something that is rare in popular writing, but does happen on occasion- the crossover.

What is It?

In the simplest terms, a crossover is combining characters from two or more existing worlds or franchise in a single story.  In general, these are rare occurrences, due to both creative and corporate reasons.  Creators themselves can be wary of combining their stories, and with the vastness of property ownership, being able to get through all the legal issues involved can doom a project from the start.  However, they still have happened in the past, in films, TV, and comics alike.  Sometimes it can combining two franchises under one corporate umbrella (the horror classics of Universal’s Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, and New Line’s Freddy vs. Jason) or two companies making a mutually profitable venture ( the DC Comics vs. Marvel miniseries).  But regardless of the origins, writes of these stories must obey the fundamental rules in order to make it work.

The Rules

#1.  It Has to Make Sense- while this rule seems obvious, it is one that needs to be remembered.  While certain characters are believable together, there needs to be a legitimate reasoning behind why they are working together.  The set up is all important, or else it’s mindless fanservice.  For example, in the DC/Marvel series mentioned above, the “God’ figures of the Marvel and DC universe are going to war, and the two sets of characters are set to battle to determine superiority, as a battle with the two godheads would wipe out all existence.  It gives the heroes a good reason to fight despite their moral misgivings, gives us clean one on one battles, and a big enough force to bring two universes together.

#2 Two Franchises, Two Rules- every story has a set of rules and regulations for it’s universe and characters.  Therefore, bringing them together means these rules have to be obeyed.  In Alan Moore’s League of Extradinary Gentlemen, arguably the greatest crossover ever, we have numerous literary characters joining forces.  One character is Captain Nemo, who was well established as disliking humanity for it’s sins.  Therefore, in the story, he demonstrates moral outrage at the vicious ‘punishment’ of the traitorous Invisible Man by Mr. Hyde (who is also acting in accordance to his rules, haven grown more evil due to spending more time as Mr. Hyde) and abandons the group when they are tricked into bringing a deadly virus into alien infested London.  Even the Invisible Man works according to his rules, becoming more and more untrustworthy as the story progresses.

#3 The Characters Have to Mesh (or not)- this is an expansion of the previous rule concerning sense-making.  When two characters are brought together, they need to have similar enough traits that they could function together; a good example is the multi-planet, peace promoting Federation of Star Trek, and the similar-minded Legion of Superheroes.  However, it can often be fun to bring together characters that are more opposite then alike, such as Batman and Spider-Man.  Both characters are thought of as tragic and angst ridden, but deal with their pain differently- Batman projects a grim exterior, while Spider-Man cracks jokes.  The interest them comes in watching the two characters find their similarities buried under their outward appearances.

#4 No One is Superior- This is the most important rule of any crossover, which is why I saved it for last.  The central idea of bringing two characters together is to show them working together as equals with mutual respect.  Therefore, neither character can be shown as superior to the other, as it shifts the balance to that character and makes them, and their universe, feel superior.  Some ways to avoid this are to highlight each character’s skills at different moments- Batman is more of a detective and is more intimating, but Superman has knowledge of alien devices and is more trusted by the public.  Another way is to have the characters fight each other, but end in ties, or have each one win a single fight to highlight how each approach can work.  But above all, you must do something to make sure your characters are on equal ground, or your crossover is doomed from the start.

On Magic

th

Greetings once again and welcome to the blog. Last week’s discussion of Discworld and all its fantastical nature caused me to reflect on another element of fantasy- magic. While not all fantasy stories have this directly, there is usually a hint of it or it is part of the reader’s suspension of disbelief. However, magic is often portrayed as the ‘answer’ to various questions in these novels. This is understandable since magic is undefined and can really do anything. However, stories that use magic do need to have rules that define it, or magic simply becomes another dues ex machina.

Magic in Books

Because magic is imaginary, it can be bent to serve many forms. Wizards and sorcerers generally can use magic for anything they desire, or there are specific types of magic (fire-magic, for example) that can do certain things but not solve all problems. It also serves a difficult balance of not always needing to be explained. For example, if Merlin the wizard casts a spell, we accept whatever he does because he is Merlin and an established wizard. But at the same time, if a character was somehow affected by, let’s say, a healing spell, and then developed the ability to stop time, then we are left wondering why a spell would have such a different reaction on this person. An example of this kind of magic comes from a parody from The Simpsons, in which actress Lucy Lawless responds to fan questions with “A wizard did it’. This causes issues because it makes magic a blanket answer that also means that it has no rules and can answer a question without establishing why.

Many books do establish severe rules for magic. In the Dragonlance Chronicles, it is explained that magic requires not only innate talent, but perfect recitation and writing of spells. The use of magic also drains the user, until he or she must rest and regain their strength. This explains why wizards do not take over the world with their power. There are also divisions in the ranks- three distinct orders that focus on good, neutrality, and evil. While they are different, all orders are bound to magic and its preservation, and will work together when the need arises. However, not all examples of magic are so heavily regulated. Many fairy tales use magic in simpler ways that do not require a lot of detail. We can all remember the witches of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast that could use magic. But since these characters are generally established to have power by designation alone and use it for evil, an in depth explanation is not required. However, this example proves that simply having magic is not enough.

This brings me to one of the reasons I chose to do this blog- a series of discussions I have had with a friend over Disney’s Frozen, which is based on the fairy tale of the Snow Queen. While I generally liked the film, I was disappointed that no explanation was given for the cryokinetic powers of Queen Elsa. When I brought up this point, my friend countered that this was clearly a magic land (as it had trolls that used magic) and that I was overthinking the matter. While that may be true, I still found this blanket answer an issue, as the trolls do not show the powers Elsa displays nor do her parents (nor do they have an encounter prior to Elsa’s birth that would explain it, as seen in the film’s predecessor Tangled). It paints magic as random and unpredictable and while it is conceivable that any of the reasons I mentioned might have happened, it is a blow to the film to not show them, especially as Tangled managed to do so in a two minute segment. Because while magic can do anything, it requires proper logic and rules behind to function, or it simply becomes the tool of a lazy writer to explain without actually explaining. And that is something no magic wand can wave away.

On a side note, I will be hosting a book signing at the Westfield NJ Town Bookstore this Saturday from 2-4. If you are in the area, stop by, meet me, and pick up a great book.