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Category Archives: Day Jobs

A Viral Video Fairytale (or why I haven’t blogged in over a year)

To explain why I haven’t blogged in over a year, it is necessary to mention the video. And to do justice to the story of the video, I need to tell the story of how my adventures in book marketing began. And that means going back. I’ll try not to make this one of those “I got screwed by the man” stories, because that’s not what happened. I feel very lucky to have found a publisher for my book–and a good one at that–so there are no sour grapes on my end. The people involved in this adventure are all good smart folk with noble intentions, as most people in the book industry are. But they are struggling, as the whole industry is struggling, to understand how to generate awareness for their products when the media landscape they once knew has been turned upside down. In this environment, the old William Goldman axiom about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything,” is certainly appropriate. I’ll save deeper analysis for others. My goal here is just to tell my story.

I’ll start in 2008. Or, no, it was 2007. Late August. That’s it. I was in New York to meet with the marketing team of my publisher William Morrow for the first time. My editor and agent had told me to come prepared. These days, authors are being asked to carry more and more of the marketing load for their own books. Arriving in New York with a telegenic smile and a head full of ideas could go a long way toward generating momentum and enthusiasm in the marketing department. So, I prepared. I walked into the meeting ready to impress, armed with ideas for catchy taglines and web marketing campaigns centered around strategically placed teaser ads. Perhaps I was naive to think that the book of a first time author in a notoriously risky genre was going to get much of a marketing budget, but so what? I was green and hopeful. I told them my ideas–most of them low cost ideas–all of which they listened to politely.

Then, it was their turn. It was pretty exciting for me to think that these people I’d never met before had been having meetings and making plans all because of something I wrote. I felt like a celebrity. And I was curious. What did these marketing professionals have planned for me? Well … they told me they were very excited. A novel like The Scandal Plan gives them much more to work with (particularly in an election year) than your average book does. And even though the budget for my book would be small, they were confident we could do a lot with what we had. Great!

Our conversation would cover many topics including the creation of a web presence, interacting with social media, and the one thing the team seemed to agree was their ace in the hole. It was a brilliant strategy that had the potential to create mass awareness for my book. In one word:


Wait. Wrong word. And, actually, it was two words. Are you ready for them? Here goes:

Viral video.

We were going to make one or more funny “viral videos” to spread awareness across the internet. Sounds very sexy, no? We make a brilliantly funny short video, put it on YouTube, and it gets gets passed around to 3 million people. Nice!

Now, tell me, gentle reader, do you see the flaw in this brilliant plan yet? I saw it right away. There are over 200 million videos on YouTube, few of which get seen by more than a handful of people. The problem with making a so called “viral video” is that millions of other people across the world are also trying to make “viral videos,” and everybody is competing for attention. Making a successful viral video is like capturing lightning in a bottle. Still, it was the new sexy wave of the future, so that’s why everyone in the book business was trying to do it. Every book that is published these days, now must have what they call a “book trailer.”

Never heard of a book trailer? You’re not alone. Here’s the big secret that nobody in the publishing industry wants to admit: nobody watches book trailers. Nobody, that is, except for other people in the publishing industry. Want to know why nobody watches book trailers? Because almost all of them suck. Don’t believe me? Google book trailers and see what comes up. Better yet, go to a book trailer site like this one and start watching. The problem is that even when a book trailer does not suck outright, it is rarely worth forwarding. Usually, this is because the trailer is either unremarkable, unfunny, or feels too much like advertising. “Old Spice” commercials aside, we generally don’t like to send videos to our friends if we feel those videos are trying to sell us something. We want our viral videos to feel as if they exist solely to entertain us; we don’t like ulterior motives. In conclusion, while it is not impossible to make a book trailer that goes viral, it is damn hard, and in order to do it, you need . . .

A brilliant idea.


ME: So what’s the idea for this video?

MARKETING PERSON: Oh, you’re a filmmaker. I’m sure you’ll think of something great.

ME: (trying to sound upbeat) Okay. I can give it a shot. My only concern is that it sounds like your brilliant idea is that I need to come up with a brilliant idea.

(awkward laughter)

And dammit, I tried. Read More »

How Would Jesus Celebrate?

Today I turn 33 years old. It has been brought to my attention that this is the age Jesus was when he died.  I have not yet decided whether I will let this fact depress me or fill me with gratitude — but I must say, I’m trying my best not to do the compare/contrast thing:

What have you done with your 33 years, Bill?  Healed the lame and the sick?  Started the world’s largest religion?  Why not?  Too “busy?”  Didn’t want to wake up that early?  Had some TV shows you just had to watch?

Yeah, that’s a game you don’t win.  And I’m told it’s bad form to compare yourself to Jesus, even for the sake of self-deprecating musing, so I’ll stop that line of thought right here.  Anyhow, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.  I actually have a lot to be thankful for on this birthday. Between getting married and publishing my first novel, this has probably been the most eventful year of my life.  I will be hard-pressed to match this level of excitement and good fortune in my 34th year.

But then, I like to give myself lofty goals …

In the meantime, we have the day to day.  I’m still making ends meet by teaching at a wealthy private school on the west side of Los Angeles. I’ve been filling vacancies, hopping from one maternity leave to another, in an effort to avoid the complications of full-time employment such as report cards, take-home grading, and time-sucking extracurricular faculty pow-wows.  Does this allow me enough time to write?  There’s never enough time.  That said, it’s better than many other day jobs I’ve had and infinitely more fulfilling.

Up until recently, I’ve been spending my time in the kindergarten, which has been good for the soul if bad for the immune system (I was sick for the first month-and-a-half of 2009).  Now I am in the 6th grade, where I will stay for the remainder of the school year.  It’s a whole new, challenging, grade-conscious, puberty-ridden world, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it in future posts.

Speaking of future posts, I do plan on writing some.  I’m working on another book review, and I have a lot more things I plan on sharing once I get the time to do so.  Apologies for the continued blog neglect.  These next couple months should be busy ones.  I’m hoping to have this new screenplay squared away soon, which will mean starting my film agent search sometime in the next couple months.  Then, on June 2nd, the paperback version of The Scandal Plan will hit bookshelves near you.  More on these stories as they evolve.

For now, I’m 33.  Given the alternative, I’ll take it.  Jesus didn’t make it to 34.  God willing, I will. Thanks to all those who’ve sent me birthday wishes this week.  I feel the love.  It’s warm, and I dig it, and I dig all of you.

Much love,

Señor Story

Now that things have quieted down a bit on the book front, it becomes apparent to me that I still need to earn a living. At least until The Scandal Plan becomes a staple of the New York Times bestseller list. To that end, I’ve adopted a new identity and web address. You may say this is simply an excuse for me to draw a picture of myself as a sombrero-wearing superhero, and on that score, you may be right. So sue me.

Less than 24 hours to go…

I’ve been working as a kindergarten teacher this year to help pay the bills. It’s been a nice change of pace for me: fun, challenging, and far more rewarding than most of the crummy jobs that have kept me afloat in previous years. And every now and then, I get to take home some priceless quotes from the young ones. While it’s not really appropriate to share most of those in my blog, I thought I would mention today’s quote of the day.

I showed the children a copy of my book for Share (“show and tell”). I held the book up in front of them so they could see the cover and my picture, and I explained the title as best I could in a G-rated way (omitting the subtitle, of course). The children, who are learning to write themselves, seemed quite impressed and had a lot of questions for me.

“How long did it take you to write?”
“How many days did it take you to write?”
“How many hours did it take you?”
(there were a lot of time-related questions because they were most impressed by the sheer number of words I used to fill up so many pages)
“Why is the first letter of the chapter bigger?”
“Does it have any pictures?”
“Are those your shoes on the cover?”

and then, my favorite, referring to the sexy female legs on the cover:
“Is the woman in the red shoes your fiancée?”

Love it.

In other news, I was interviewed this morning by a charming woman from USA Today. Barring any celebrity suicides, I should be in the paper on Thursday as part of their New Voices feature.

One final note: Today I was inundated with wonderful congratulatory emails from friends in response to my mass emailing late last night. I’m too tired to even begin responding to them all, but please know (in case any of you are reading) that your good cheer found a happy recipient. And thank you.