Friday, July 09, 2010

Taking a Path Less Traveled

Lisa Koosis writes in a lot of different genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mainstream. Her primary medium is short stories. She’s had stories published in a number of great speculative fiction magazines and anthologies like Abyss and Apex, Murky Depths, Meadowhawk Press’s Touched by Wonder anthology and recently, Blade Red Press’s Dark Pages anthology, among others.

Her first sale was via a contest. Her entry placed second in The Poughkeepsie Journal’s Talespinners short story contest and was published in a special supplement to the Journal. This year, she was the grand prize winner in Family Circle’s fiction contest. Now, Lisa is a finalist in Dorchester’s Fresh Blood contest.

The Fresh Blood Contest has a grueling judging process. First, Dorchester Publishing, ChiZine Publications and Rue Morgue Magazine choose the Top 10 submitted manuscripts. Then a panel of judges narrows it down to the top 5. Then it’s up to the top 5 authors to get votes. In other words, they have to learn to promote their work and get votes American Idol style. Each month, the author with the least votes is kicked off. Lisa is now in the final two.

All authors have to learn how to promote themselves and their books. Lisa is learning at top speed. She agreed to answer a couple of my questions:

Helen: How hard is it knowing that you could lose not because of the quality of your writing, but because of the number of friends you can get to vote for you?
Lisa Koosis: That’s been tough. Over the course of the contest I’ve had people say to me, “Wow, it looks like you’re the judges’ favorite. You’re a shoo-in,” which felt good to hear but also sometimes frustrating knowing that I could potentially be the judges’ favorite and still not win. Still, I understand and respect the promotional aspect of the contest because after all, it’s so vital these days for an author to be able to self-promote, to help sell their own books and I understand a publishing house wanting to see how well an author was capable of doing just that before signing on with them.
Helen: What have you tried? For example, could you get ten friends to start pushing you on Twitter and ten more on Facebook, etc.? See if the push could go viral.
Lisa Koosis: I’ve made sure to have a presence on most of the major social and professional networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, etcetera. I also started a blog at the inception of the contest and started putting feelers out into the blogging community. I also did rely heavily on my friends and their networks (and the whole “and they told two friends” philosophy). I was genuinely surprised at times to see people--people who didn’t even know me--posting about the contest on their own profiles.
I also found that each round I made it through would push me to explore more and more networking and promotional opportunities, even printing out flyers that family and friends could distribute.

Most of all, I tried to always remember to say thank you and not to take a single vote or word of encouragement for granted.
Lisa said that for a long time, she didn’t tell people that she was a writer. Now, she’s taking a crash course in self-promotion and networking. Win or lose – and she’s certainly hoping to win – she says she’s been astonished by the people who have been supporting and encouraging her.

Here’s a quick blurb for Heart of the City:
The Phoenix particle, created to burn out and replace damaged DNA, should have been the medical breakthrough of the century. Instead, it was the beginning of the end, its fires decimating person after person and city after city with a ferocity its creator could never have imagined. But cities don’t die so easily. The Phoenix particle was engineered to remember, and in the ashes, the particles remain, carrying within them the genetic blueprint from the billions fallen prey to the burning. And the Phoenix still has a mission, to pass on that information.

Eva Moline—immune to its devastation—is the perfect conduit for the Phoenix. She’s prepared to help put the world back together in any way she can, even when she feels the Phoenix at work inside of her, somehow sentient, somehow knowing. As the children of the Phoenix grow to term in Eva’s womb, so does the essence of each city become a part of her. And as Eva joins the creator of the Phoenix in a cross-country journey from city to ruined city, she must decide whether she’s recreating a world or giving birth to monsters.
If any of you would like to support her, you can read the first two chapters of Heart of the City. Once the page opens, scroll down to Heart of the City. If you like what you read, send a blank email to with “Fresh Blood Vote - Heart of the City” in the subject line.  It’s as easy as that. They’ll accept one vote per unique email address and voting closes on July 14th at midnight EST.

I’ve voted for her twice, each time using a different email box.


  1. First off, fantastic writing Lisa. Having entered a contest earlier this year where self promotion played a part, I get this, but struggle with it. On one side, writers are being required to do so much self-marketing these days, I worry that the talented writers who are not good at promoting themselves will fade into the woodwork. And yet, self marketing gives writers more control...they are less at the mercy of the whims of a marketing department when they take hold of the reigns themselves. Good luck Lisa.

  2. Excellent storyline, Lisa! Very fresh and intriguing (I'll be reading the sample a bit later today). I'm impressed with your blend of new technological based promotions as well as the old school fliers. I wish you much luck in this final round!

  3. I know the process mirrors reality as far as author popularity and book sales, but at its bare bones, it's a frightening thing.

  4. We have moved into the era of the author doing a huge amount of promotion for a book. This type of weight on the author is becoming the norm. And somehow they have to do it while still writing the next best-seller.

  5. Best of luck to Lisa! Sounds like a great story. :)

  6. Good luck to Lisa! I will go and read the sample. :)

  7. Hi Elizabeth and Marisa. Happy Friday!

  8. Wow, congrats on placing in this contest, with a chance to win. The good thing about the type of networking and marketing you're doing now is that hopefully it'll benefit you in the long run, really building that permanent audience. Best wishes with this final round!

  9. Liza... I know exactly what you mean. It's been a struggle for me, too, but the one thing I'm finding out is that self-promotion can be learned. I really never thought I could do it. I'm by nature introverted and having to put myself out there felt awkward at best and downright horrifying at worst, but I also knew--the world and budgets being what they are these days--that if I ever wanted to be a successful author, I would have to learn. And the great thing about it is the people you meet while you're out there promoting. Thank you so much for your support and good wishes!

    kimberlyloomis... Thank you so much for the kind words. It did feel a little strange bringing handouts to the neighbors, lol, but I figured what the heck, why not! :-)

    Alex... I couldn't agree more. It has been a VERY frightening thing. Thank you for stopping by!

    Helen... Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog. It's so true, too, authors are no longer just authors. They wear many hats.

    Elizabeth & Marissa... Thank you for the good wishes. That means a lot to me. :-)

    Joanne... Thank you much. What you say is so true. With the connections I've made, the feedback I've received, and what I've learned about promotion, I feel like I'm coming away a winner no matter what.

    Thank you to everyone for your great comments!

  10. I liked what I read and just voted. That's pretty clever, using multiple email addresses.

    Stephen Tremp

  11. Sounds like an interesting book. Definitely have to check out the two chapters. Good luck.

    Thoughts in Progress

  12. Lisa, if you haven't already, when this is over, you should write up a huge list of all that you've done and how you did it, then write a book on self-promotion.

  13. Good luck, Lisa! What a concept for a story.

  14. Great idea for the story - very intriguing!

  15. Good for Lisa on giving this her best shot. I'm one of those who really hates the direct BSP promo we have to do, so I probably wouldn't even enter a contest that required this kind of effort. It's hard, so I applaud those who do it well.

  16. Lisa, we're taught from an early age to be modest and that *bragging* wasn't a good thing. So promotion feels like we're tooting our own horn. Not always comfortable, is it?

    Like any artist, writers have to first believe in their talent. They have to be able to assess when something they is good or bad. If it's good, it's not bragging when we promote it. I always suggest to those uncomfortable with self promotion, take a look at music artists, actors, those that create works of art and take a leaf out of their book, so to speak.

    The truth of the matter is; we can promote ourselves with coming off as bragging know it alls. And in today publishing world, we have to promote ourselves to get the readers. No other way. It's now part of the job description.

    You're doing good, Lisa!

  17. Thank you so much, everyone, for your votes, your kind words, and your encouragement. This has been a long process and I'm truly blessed to have met so many wonderful, supportive people along the journey.

    Helen, I love the idea of putting together a book about self-promotion after this is over. I'd love to share what I've learned with others. And thank you again for having me on your blog today!

    Sia, what you say is so very true. I don't know that self-promotion will ever be a comfortable thing for me, but like you, I understand that it's now part of an author's job description and plan to embrace it.

    Thanks again, everyone!

  18. Thank you Lisa for the informative post and for stopping by!


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