What do you need to sell a novel?

I don’t usually write about “authoring” because there are many more well-known authors who do this. However, the other day I went to an author book fair and I was complimented on my table. I thought I’d share what I did to get the flattery.

Here’s a photo of the table complete with a reader:IMG_3976

You can see that I kept it simple. No banners or anything hard to carry.–just the books, business cards, and some giveaways. The purpose of the giveaways is to get my name out there, inspire people to buy the ebook,  and maybe bring people to this blog.

Here are the giveaways–one modern and one historical. Both were carried off with equal success.  The idea to put a Qr code on the modern giveaway–a science notepad, came from author Em Shotwell. You can get a Qr code generator and reader many different places.IMG_3940

One thing I learned is not to attract children. My books are adult only and we all know that human children are difficult to manage and need many alloparents to watch them. 

So, I didn’t have food or candy at my table, as I have in done in the past. I’ll never forget last year in Pella and those kids running all over a library with my GoldRush Gum giveaway while their mom ignored them. That being said, the fair last month was not well attended and I sold less than ten books. Since it cost $50 to register, there wasn’t much profit in the day. However, the best way to sell books is still word of mouth.

Along the lines of authoring, getting started isn’t cheap. You really have to have a patron or be rich yourself to be able to do it full-time. I am neither but still plug along. I have set up some marketing surveys designed as giveaways, If you are interested in what genres attract the most attention, take a look here and here.

I’m also interested these questions about content.

And for this survey, it’s interesting that so few people even care that a book is about equality. 

I have to admit, I write to a niche market when I write about female scientists but since the books are humor, there are readers out there ready to laugh. Now, on to the next one.

 

 

 

 

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An Interview with The Hexagon of Alpha Chi Sigma

Alpha Chi Sigma is a professional society for chemists. One thing that I like about them is that they honor chemistry’s alchemical roots. They even have a cool coat of arms.

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Do I consider myself part alchemist? Of course I do! Alchemists developed many of the “wet” chemistry techniques we use today including precipitation, sublimation, and distillation. Yes they added prayers and chants to their formulas but I’m sure many students today do likewise. Possible the chants might include curse words. The truth about chemistry is that it is a discipline that requires some seasoning, some experiences, some sort of unmeasurable history with the techniques. Chemistry honors the ancients. The more time you spend with it, the easier it becomes.

I was recently interviewed for the AXE magazine, The Hexagon. I appreciated the opportunity to share my experiences as a scientist and an author. In fact, I thank everyone who has read my writing, everyone who has encouraged me, and all who have left positive reviews.

Here’s a transcript:

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(1) Describe your projects. I have two novels published by small presses. Natural Attraction came out in 2015. It’s a comedy about Clementine, who longs to be a scientist in 1871. She drinks a tonic which helps her partially transform into a man and takes part in a prospecting expedition as a naturalist. Mixed In—a comic dystopia– just came out this month. It features Catrina, a chemist in the agricultural industry, who gets mixed up with a man on the wrong side of the law.

(2) Describe your motivations. Besides wanting to entertain people, I’m responding to a lack of interesting scientific characters in fiction. Must scientists always be anti-social side characters obsessed only with their work? Can’t the female scientist be adventurous, flawed, and get the guy now and then?

(3) Why do you think these topics are important? Science has enriched our lives and yet people have this fear of it and even a disregard of scientists, seeing them as walking brains and not as real people with normal wants and needs. I admit that my characters are quirky and maybe even nerdy at times but they have the same desires and the same problems at work as many people along with loads of passion and curiosity. They even have friends and care about humanity.

(4) What sort of distinctive twist do you bring to the discourse? I don’t shy away from having my protagonists deeply involved in plausible science. I also bring in social issues that scientists and women in particular face as they struggle to balance all of their desires. I must admit that the novels are also a little naughty. They’re not erotic but they are aimed at an adult audience. To add to the mix, I’ve made them comedies because science plus tragedy was done well-enough in 1816 with Frankenstein. Of course things go wrong in my novels but I’m hoping to demystify science, not make it dreadful.

(5) Any connections to your AXE experiences? In Natural Attraction Clementine gets her tonic from and later becomes close friends with chemist Theophrastus. Yes, there is a chemical basis for all that happens with that tonic but maybe a little romantic alchemy was involved as well.

(6) Other reflections on AXE to share. One of the first things I ever published was a monologue called I the Great Paracelsus based on the writings of Paracelsus. It was even performed at a conclave. I am a lot richer as a chemist due to my understanding of chemical history and I still have connections with Alpha Theta. My publishers are small and I’m not on the New York Times best seller list but if any brothers want more information on fiction writing or publishing I’d be happy to offer my advice. They can contact me at hausteinc@gmail.com or through my blog at catherinehaustein.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Women in Science: crafting an honest character

 

Not sharing information: a big scientific no-no.
Not sharing information: a big scientific no-no.

If you ask readers what they require from a fictional scientist they’ll say she should first of all be a problem solver, bursting with intelligence and curiosity. Beyond this, there aren’t many expectations. Of course, one-dimensional characters are no fun and when an author builds a whole new world, it’s nice if the people who live in it are believable. What does it take to craft a multidimensional, realistic female scientist?

I surveyed female scientists about their defining traits and two rose to the top: passion and curiosity. And the scientists had other suggestions. I’ve combined their responses into the following twelve tips to help authors create an authentic female scientist:

 

  1. Passion runs more deeply than just for science. Because of the high correlation between a scientific personality and curiosity and openness, it’s unlikely for a scientist to be buttoned up and cautious when it comes to romance, no matter what the stereotypes might be. Some readers may expect the scientist to not be sexy but it’s just not true! (Although she’ll be skeptical and won’t jeopardize her safety.)
  2. She’ll be multidimensional. The scientist will most likely be passionate about life in general so give her a side interest. Many scientists like the arts, enjoy working with their hands, and find similarities between the lab and the studio. Others enjoy sports and fitness. She likes to defy expectations.
  3. Readers these days are so over Frankenstein and Dr. Evil. They don’t anticipate their scientists to be driven into madness by their creations, nor do they relate to evil intentions. Scientists combine passion and compassion. They see science as being a not just fascinating but a benefit to society.  
  4. Balancing career and family is an important aspect of a female scientist’s life. Scientists would love to see more fictional characters who have kidsand to an extent, so would readers. Don’t be afraid to make her life way more complicated by adding family to the mix. Studies have shown that motherhood enhances problem solving ability.
  5. Readers are correct–problem solving is essential to scientists, but keep in mind that a scientist today will be highly specialized. She won’t know everything. She’s more likely to work as part of a team, too. The idea of one lonely genius working in solitude is outdated. In fact, working alone in lab is a violation of lab safety rules.
  6. She’s overcome a lot to get where she is. Prejudice, harassment, exclusion— these women are tenacious and they do overcome, often by cultivating a healthy sense of humor.
  7. Yes, she was a good student. Intelligence is a common trait among scientists. But it takes more than smarts to be a scientist. She probably had something driving her–the need to please a parent, to prove herself, or to overcome poverty or prejudice. Like many high achievers, reaching a goal brings pleasure, so much so that she could let relationships fall into disrepair if not careful.
  8. She might have her favorite jargon and readers expect it. Scientists have their words. It’s part of being in the club. But there’s an even better reason for science speak—it’s precise. Why say carbohydrate when you can say maltodextrin?
  9. MacGyver anyone? Yes, it’s true. Scientists fix things with duct tape and paper clips or a twist of copper wire. Scientists don’t mind improvising. And they like their scientific equipment.
  10. Power suit? It’s a lab coat. Studies have shown that those white coats make people perform better and make fewer errors.
  11. Under scrutiny. Peer review means that her work is critiqued by other scientists—a humbling experience and one that will keep her honest.
  12. Yes, she will be curious and find wonder in the natural world. Isaac Newton said that being a scientist is like picking up pebbles and shells on a beach beside the “vast ocean of truth.” Your scientist should be always questioning, always curious, with one foot in the future, her eyes on the stars or peeking through a microscope, and her passionate heart here on earth.

 

Yes, for the most part, reader expectations meet reality. However, realistic details can strengthen your story and gain female scientists as readers.

 

 

Catherine Haustein is the author of Natural Attraction, a Victorian Scifi Romance and Mixed In, a futuristic dystopia.

Ogle vs bogle

A new study confirms the obvious–men size women up by how they are built. Women even do it to each other. We’ve all caved in to this notion that a woman’s value is in her body. But read the article further. What kind of women embrace this objectification? Those with low self-worth. It’s a destructive pattern–look good or be worthless, get insecure about your worth as you age. You’re not going to win. As a young woman, my high school guidance councilor discouraged me from getting a degree in science. Women don’t have the brains for it, he said. I’m glad I didn’t listen. In science, your data is what people look at. In fact, scientists who look too slick bring out my suspicions. Yes, books are judged by their cover elsewhere. I’ve even heard people in business laugh about not hiring someone because of their shoes. This makes me happy to have gotten that chemistry degree. I know when my data is good and I can get good data even on a bad hair day. There’s something freeing about putting on those safety goggles and saying “Screw you world, for the next few hours, I’m not even trying to impress you with my looks. I’m going to boggle you with what I discover.”

The Unbearable Lightness of Romance

There’s plenty of lighthearted science in Natural Attraction. As I wrote it, I had a hard time deciding if it should become scifi or romance. Both include passion, mystery, discovery. I went with romance because the romance industry is a nice place. As Emma Teitel points out, in romance the female always wins. And the man always wins. What’s not to love?  Have you read about all the fighting over the scifi Hugo Awards? I’m glad to have made the decision to go with a happy genre where women support each other. Romance can be clever, fun, and funny. The first romance novel I ever read was The Changeling Bride by Lisa Cach. It was creative, informative, sexy, and it made me laugh–and think. Almost like the ideal partner. Almost like science itself. And as someone who was once part of a Shakespeare festival, I can tell you that those romantic happy endings are a lot more challenging than the sad ones.  As Malia Wollan points out, romance springs from “a desire to see goodness in the world.” Glad to be a part of the romance industry! There can’t be too much love in the world.

A poll about the 70s

I wanted to set Natural Attraction in 1871 because it was a time of great social change. Not only was slavery just abolished, evolution was shaking up world views. The discovery of sperm and egg cells was ushering in sexual equality. If I set a novel in the 1960s or 70s, what science comes to your mind?