For critique -- the bio to go with my press materials

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by Teresa Edgerton, Oct 10, 2011.

  1.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    This is the biographical information that I plan to attach to my press materials for Goblin Moon. I'll be sending it out to blogs and websites I the hope that they'll either want to interview me or review GM. Is it too long? Would it bore you — or make you eager to do an interview with me?


    I believe I began telling stories as soon as I learned to talk.

    As a child, I was a voracious reader with interests that were always changing as one book or series after another would catch my imagination. But I was happiest reading tales of the fantastic and marvelous: the Oz books, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland; the classic fairy tales like “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” or “The Seven Swans,” literary fairy tales like “The Light Princess” or “Beauty and the Beast.” Then and afterwards these were the stories that influenced my writing. However, it wasn’t until I was a teenager and discovered the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis that my true love affair with fantasy began. The Lord of the Rings was a mind-altering experience from which I have never recovered

    Six years later, my decision to be a stay-at-home mother left me ... if not with much time on my hands ... at least in easy reach of a typewriter. This, and a particular interest in alchemy, the old fairy tales, and Celtic mythology, inspired me to begin writing The Green Lion Trilogy. I never imagined it would take me almost ten years to write. Ignorance can be a blessing.

    After the Green Lion books, came the proto-steampunk/fantasy-of-manners Goblin Moon. It had a modest success at the time, and gained an enthusiastic following over the next two decades. If the world was not quite ready for Goblin Moon when it first appeared, the world eventually learned its mistake — to the benefit of the used-book stores if not to myself. Meanwhile, I was writing other novels, as well as a handful of short stories. In 2004, I returned to epic fantasy with the first book in a new series, The Rune of Unmaking, published under the pseudonym Madeline Howard.

    Growing tired of the pressure of deadlines, and of the struggle to maintain my creative integrity while still meeting the expectations of my publishers (they had already paid me to write the books, and one can hardly blame them if they wanted me to do so), I decided that traditional publishing no longer suited me. As a result, I’m now engaged in self-publishing my backlist, with plans to eventually release new books and new stories in the same way. This new phase of my career begins with the re-release of Goblin Moon.

    Thanks to the collapsing economy, my husband and I now share our home with three of our adult children, a son-in-law, twin grandsons, and the obligatory pets — for what fantasy writer doesn’t have pets? The house is full but we all seem to get along with each other surprisingly well ... though the books are beginning to feel crowded and are muttering threats of rebellion.


    And after that I'll add my bibliography. Now that I've padded it with the articles I posted on the front page here, it looks pretty impressive.

    Description of GM will come after. But you've already seen all that — unless you've been very determined and clever at avoiding it, in which case why spoil a perfect record now?

    Here's the photograph of me that goes with it. I'm not sure whether to put that at the beginning, or somewhere part way through the bio. Click the thumbnail and you'll get a better idea of it's size.

    Attached Files:

  2.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    Hi Teresa,

    I'm not very sure about bio materials. It all seems great to me -- although I did slightly wonder about how Goblin Moon developed out of your earlier writing (but I haven't yet read Goblin Moon, so I'm only working on the descriptions I've read of it).

    I got a bit stuck on this sentence:

    But I was happiest reading tales of the fantastic and marvelous: the Oz books, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland; the classic fairy tales like “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” or “The Seven Swans,”(*) literary fairy tales like “The Light Princess” or “Beauty and the Beast.”

    I think I got confused around (*) -- it might just be the American/ English thing about punctuation inside and outside inverted commas and not a problem for others, but I needed to read it a couple of times before I understood. Once I'd re-read it and worked it out, it seemed obvious and I felt a bit thick for not getting it at once. I thought it might be useful to mention.

    For me your "story" really began with the paragraph starting "Six years later..." (or perhaps that was just where it began to resonate especially for me). That was when I really thought - ah ha! I want to read more! This isn't the normal thing one reads from authors. Having said that, I suspect I'm not remotely typical of bloggers etc.
  3.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I was concerned about that area with the asterisk, too. I felt there should be a semicolon there, but I was afraid it would look odd either inside or outside the quotation marks. If I put in an "and" to solve that problem, then all those ands in the same sentence looked (and sounded) wrong.

    I'm hoping someone will either have a solution or tell me it's all right as it is.

    Actually, there is a very important fairy tale connection in GM, but, yes, you wouldn't know that from the descriptions you'll have read.
  4.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I think as a piece on a blog or a website this would be OK, but I'd suggest it ought to be a lot more grabby for a press release. I share Hex's apparent concern that it started a little too slowly -- if people come to your blog etc, they are by definition interested in you and the minutiae of what you read and when; the reviewers need to be made interested.** And as influential on your writing as TLotR may have been, it's pretty much a given, so I'd suggest you focus on something a little more esoteric (but not so left field no one has ever heard of it).

    My feeling is that you ought to start with Goblin Moon itself and then backtrack eg something like:

    Goblin Moon is the 4th book I wrote, after the success of The Green Lion Trilogy. I actually began writing stories as a child, when I was inspired by stories such as [name only two -- people get bored quickly] but it was only when I decided to be a stay-at-home mother that...

    I have to say the "Growing tired..." paragraph to me reads a little like an excuse one might hear at a job interview when the applicant has been sacked but doesn't want to admit it. I'm not sure you need to explain in a press release why you are no longer with your publisher, but if you feel it's necessary, I think keep it short. I'd also delete the words "Thanks to the collapsing economy" -- to my ears it again sounds a little defensive, as if you're having to justify why you're living like that, or even aggrieved that you have to live cheek by jowl with your family.

    I'd like a bit more about you in here, too. Don't I recall you used to read tarots? That to me is greatly more intriguing than the books you read as a child -- and is the kind of interesting fact people latch onto. How many other authors do you think have earned a living like that?! If I were interviewing you, that would be right up there as a "How did that come about?"/"How did that affect your story-telling?" Get a few of those more off-beat facts in there!



    ** when I was doing a lot of criminal work, it was seen as good publicity to get your name in the paper as in "Miss X, defending, said..." as the other ne'er-do-wells in the town would note your expertise and yell for you when the police next felt their collars. Alas, the local papers were resistant to my charms unless I came up with something quoteworthy -- a friend suggested that I should begin my pleas in mitigation with "My client is a pervert." I never went that far, but...
  5.  
    Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    I'll state here and now that I have absolutely no idea what blogs and websites you're targeting will require/desire, so I'm naturally assuming that you do... Are they most interested in your writing, or most interested in you? ie do they 'sell' the books or the person? Since you've asked if it would make me eager to do an interview of you, then I'm assuming the latter.

    The problem (as I see it - what do I know?) is that there's almost too much information here. There's a lot of bio and a lot about the books and quite a bit about publishing, but is the important thing that you're self-publishing your backlist, and will release further books that way? If so, then it needs to be highlighted more, because it's lost in a lot of text, and all that text doesn't do a very dramatic job of highlighting anything.

    I'll be honest, I skipped the early childhood bio - I've read so many they just don't interest me, because they're all a bit samey, and let's face it, it's almost impossible to be original and fresh in this section. (Unless you were locked in a cellar by wicked step-parents, and discovered a hoard of old books in one corner, and they became your only companions until you were let out years later... that kind of thing) A great first question by an interviewer: "So, what were your influences?" and you can wax lyrical about it. You've kinda deprived the interviewer of a good intro and some excellent background to Teresa Edgerton; there's too much here, I fear.

    Since this is (I hope) a first draft, can I make a few suggestions that might inject some originality/that set-apart detail that hooks first? Then you can add things to it that you know will be wanted. Here's what I'd say:(And I know a lot of it isn't true, but what the heck? Insert your own stories if you want the truth, just make 'em interesting...)

    Okay, quite a radical shift away from what you put, but a blog/interviewer is going to look at it and say: "Ooh, she had publishers and she's CHOOSING to self-publish??? This I want to hear about! Get her on the phone!"

    That's what I think, anyway. It just gives enough of the info, particularly since your bibliography will follow, and they can see for themselves that here is a serious writer, who's achieved a great deal, and the human interest story should generate more interest. Send it to all the radio and TV stations. If you're considering Kindle etc, then put it in - it's the buzz thing at the moment, and you're going the reverse route - we all want to know why, it should generate a lot of publicity. Fingers crossed!

    Ignore it if you don't like it. BTW, using third person, it looks as though you're not doing it to say: "This is my story and I want to talk about it." Someone is saying;"This is her story, talk to her about it."

    Good luck with it all, you deserve it. (All the bits I left out will be amusing anecdotes in the interviews - Oprah, here we come!)

    ps: The Judge posted when I was composing - but we agree on some things!
    pps: your website will be highlighted at the top and bottom of this letter, naturally.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  6.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Yes, I thought about using my lurid past in the biography, but, honestly, the Tarot reading had no influence on my writing at all.

    It's not actually a press release. The book cover and description of the book are the press release. This is what comes with it. I could put the part about the book first -- or put it back into a separate PDF as I had it in the beginning.

    But I really was hoping that you, Ms Grammar Maven, would help me out with the whole semicolon thing.

    You don't think that people would sympathize with the link between the economy and the boomerang kid thing? It's happening to a lot of people now. Obviously not to people who don't have children. I guess I need to find a way to phrase it that will automatically cause those in like circumstances to feel a bond of sympathy, while not making the rest of you feel like I'm complaining.

    In fact, I made the decision to self-publish before HC dumped me. Of course I intended to fulfill the contract first. I could be hurt that they dumped me before I could do it to them, but I was actually quite relieved.

    For what it is worth, I'll be sending this to sites that specialize in indie and self-publishing (since I am bringing the book out myself) and I thought that bit about the tension between creativity and the deadlines imposed by big publishing houses might go over well with that crowd. Especially because it's true. I couldn't quite make myself make the publishers themselves the villains, because they haven't been, at all. It's just the system, which has been bad for me, and good for others. So, any ideas about how I can appear to be taking a brave stance in the name of creative freedom.

    I am quite aware of the element of risk, knowing, as I do, what many self-published writers don't know going in, which is that it could be a total failure, and I could spend more on promoting the book than I earn. So I guess that does make me a little brave to try it. Brave or stupid.

    But taking a principled stand against the system is probably the way to go for the indie press. I'm quite open to suggestions on how I can do that without sounding like a martyr.
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    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  7.  
    Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    Although it's not an actual press release, it's doing the same job - trying to interest others, so they'll publicise you and your books. You could always add a bit about how Alchemy and nappies have caught up with you again, as the collapsing economy brings the boomerang kids. But mostly, you want to talk about you and your books, those are the bits they'll be most interested in, and you can expand all you want in the interviews. I'm really not sure you need sympathy, you're incredibly interesting a) as a writer of good books and b) someone who is brave enough to stand up for her art with justifiable self-belief. That's where the story lies.
  8.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Even if it's not the main press release, I think it still needs to draw people in and get their attention. So it's lurid past for me, every time!

    Hmmm. I see where you're coming from with regard to the publishing bit now. How about something like:

    "Despite achieving success with traditional publishing, I found the struggle to reconcile creative integrity with the demands of my publishers too difficult, and the pressure of publisher-imposed deadlines became an intolerable burden. Accordingly, I made a decision to turn to self-publishing. This new phase of my career begins with Goblin Moon to be followed by Hobgoblin Thingummy [sorry -- forgot the title!] and the rest of my backlist in 2012, and plans are well advanced for new work to follow -- both complete novels and shorter stories."

    I think people may well sympathise with the boomerang children -- as do I, childless though I be (the thought of anyone else in the house for more than a week fills me with horror) -- but would they review your book or grant you an interview out of sympathy? If not, does it justify its place when you're limited for time/room to get the reviewers/readers interested?

    If you think it is helpful, though, it is possible to make it a little jokey? You know, you and your husband had just settled down to do all the stuff you couldn't do when the children were around, when, thanks to the economy, they all came flooding back again, and your plans for naked bungee-jumping from the attic came to an abrupt end. A line like "As is happening to so many..." also might help, perhaps.

    As for grammar mavening, I would actually side-step the semi-colon conundrum entirely, either by:
    or by using italics for all the titles, and not trying to differentiate between books and tales, which means the quotation marks don't cause a problem with the punctuation. Always avoid a problem, is my motto!


    EDIT: Boneman beat me this time -- and he actually used an idea which I had in my original draft about coming full circle with the nappies and young children all over the place.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  9.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    I will say (however unfairly and unreasonably -- blame it on the nappies) that the phrase 'creative integrity' made me shudder slightly. I don't know why.

    An advantage of the nappy approach is that the press release could maybe go to mummy bloggers as well (they seem to be in all the UK newspapers just now).
  10.  
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

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    Hi Teresa,

    I think it's pretty good, but it needs a bit more welly. The trick is to find what marketing twonks call your USP (unique selling point). That might relate to your work - a particularly unique twist on the genre or a very specific narrative voice - or it might relate to you as a person. It's about identifying the thing that makes people either want to read your work or which makes them relate to you or admire you to such an extent that they are happy to take a chance on your work.

    By way of an example, a pal of mine writes fantasy. His USP is that he is a genuine expert on the oral storytelling tradition and is academically recognised as an authority on pixies. As a result, what he writes overlaps with - and is deeply immersed within - his area of professional interest. Tolkien was the same. Just as he could give his work unparalleled depth because of his knowledge of early English poetry and Dark Age linguistics, so my pal can achieve depth through his specialist knowledge of the development of boggart tales in East Anglia. So, if you have something similar which seeps into your work - tell us.

    If not, you may have to concentrate on your personal story. A family woman writing whilst domestic chaos ensues all around is always a good pitch - and is one which you know first hand. Readers like the homely (in the British, not the American sense of the word) - many of us can identify with it. You're one of us. We like that. Otherwise, we like the aspirational (rich or famous people writing about other rich or famous people) or the Gritty Back Story (writer writes despite battling abuse, illness, poverty, drug addiction etc).




    What say:-

    "the Oz books, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and all fairy tales - classics such as “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” and more literary works such as “The Light Princess” or “Beauty and the Beast

    Or just drop the second example of a classic - it reads much better without.

    Regards,

    Peter
  11.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    The diapers are out, because the grandsons are five now, and when they were wearing diapers I wasn't changing them. I want to be truthful.

    The poverty and illness have been there, and are again (different illness) to some extent, but is that any different from talking about the collapsing economy? It's a good angle, I know. I'll have to think about how I might work it in.

    I am writing several different versions with slightly different slants, to appeal to different blog sites.

    So, it might be possible to work a lot of these suggestions into different versions.

    It sounds like that's the solution. I am too old and set in my ways to use italics for short fiction.
  12.  
    Rooky

    Rooky MrsCTG

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  13.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Thank you very much for the offer! I may take you up on that.

    Oh, the quotes are there, in the section about the book, which I didn't want to add on here because I've already posted it two or three times around the site, and I don't want to be more obnoxious about that than I've already been.
  14.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    No one else has mentioned it, so it might just be me, but I tripped up on this:

    On first read I didn't carry the sentence across the first ellipsis. Instead, I thought you meant the decision had left you, i.e. departed, and I paused for a moment to wonder what exactly that might mean. Then of course my eye wandered on and it became obvious, but the disruption had occurred.

    Maybe it's just a different use of ellipses than I'm familiar with, but I would have thought it safer to replace them with commas or em-dashes.

    And that seems hardly worth posting, but I've written it now, so I might as well.
  15.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I considered the m-dashes. It might be time to consider them again.

    On another note, there are a lot of things I could use to work the sympathy angle. Self-educated after high school, raising four children and living just above the poverty line in a decaying neighborhood while I worked on the first book, whose publication provided just enough money to move to a larger house in a more salubrious location (I wouldn't put it into those words). It's actually more affecting than J. K. Rowling's tale of woe, but it doesn't end in quite the same way. I don't know whether I should blather on about that, for sites where people are most interested in things like your writing process and who was the greatest influence on your writing.

    And I could use the fact that I had a malignant tumor a little more than three years ago, but I don't like to talk about it, and anyway they removed it almost before I had a chance to entirely absorb the fact. It seems dishonest to exploit it under the circumstances, although I was plenty sick before they figured it out.

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    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  16.  
    slack

    slack within the depths

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    This kind of stuff makes you sound like a tool, like you genuinely believe you're ahead of your time, which is the height of arrogance and an instant turnoff (for this gentle reader, anyway).
  17.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I was ahead of my time, slack. And being self-effacing hasn't worked for me, while those who are arrogant tend to be taken at their own valuation.

    Of course the arrogance bit doesn't work nearly as well for women. And I am keeping that thought in mind and I have been considering whether to cut that line.
  18.  
    AnyaKimlin

    AnyaKimlin Active Member

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    I have to admit to only reading the bios on backs of books and internet sites, and watched romance writing ladies in a chatroom put theirs together. Based on that yes it is to long, and includes a lot of information that I personally think I don't need to know.

    *I think it was Boneman that suggested moving it into third person and that does seem to work better with the bios.

    *The information about the Green Lion Trilogy is very long winded and feels unnecessary to knowing about Goblin Moon. Actually it feels like you have devoted more to other people's works and the trilogy than yourself and Goblin Moon.

    Personally I'd keep the focus on you and Goblin Moon with a short bit about other works and keep it to 300-350 words.
  19.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    You remind me of advice an arrogant-male-academic once gave me -- he said: it's hard to boast about yourself because it feels like arrogance, but if you write it in the third person, it can be easier (he suggested switching it back to first person afterwards, but you don't need to).

    About the before-its-time thing -- I don't suppose there are any numbers to support that statement? I can't think how there would be, but I thought I'd ask.
  20.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Well, I'm as much use as a chocolate fire guard when it comes to critiquing but I can help in a small way.

    I have put a banner on my 2 business websites, here and here

    I will put an advert on some more the websites I control. Collectively they get 500 hits a day so you might get some sales. Free adverts for a fellow Chronite!

    As a well known supermarket says. "Every little helps."

    They are toward the bottom of the homepage. If you want the banner editing, let me know, I've already noticed your name needs to be more prominent. I will do tomorrow!
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011

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