Review: The Black List script hosting service and coverage

The following is a reprint from a post published on August 29, 2014. 

Approximately one year ago, I paid $25 to use The Black List script hosting service for a month. Like Inktip, The Black List service allows writers to upload a script so that industry professionals can find it based upon whatever tags they choose. What distinguishes The Black List from Inktip, however, is that you (the writer), other users, and industry members can find and rate scripts. The ratings of the scripts can be made public or private based on what you decide, and the public ratings are only determined by industry members or paid readers. (That means your fellow writers can't be haters and bash your work to lower your score.) All scripts with a rating of 8 out of 10 or better from a script reader would be promoted through the company's email blasts.

The last bonus for The Black List site is that it partners with groups such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Warner Brothers, and Disney; and writers can submit to these partners' writing opportunities for free if their work is listed for at least a week. When I hosted my script, I submitted for one of these fellowships, and the submission process was easy.

When I used The Black List service a year ago, I paid for a one month listing and $50 coverage for my horror script THE LADDER. THE LADDER centered around a desperate young woman who moved  in with her sister's strange, sadistic family. My script was viewed fifteen times, but no one ended up contacting me. I concluded that my viewing rate was low for two reasons. 1) One month was not enough time to give my script time to be found, but I did not want to pay for multiple months because of the cost 2) My script received an average rating from only one user, the paid reader. No one else had read or reviewed my script, and my average score meant that it would not receive promotion on the site.  Fair enough.

If someone were to ask me if I recommend The Black List hosting service, I would tell them to be aware of the amount of time necessary to get noticed on a site (3 months to a year), and to calculate that with the overall cost when making a decision. However, the $25/month is worth it if you think of the $25 fee as an application fee for the The Black List partners' fellowships. It is noted that WGA writers are allowed to list log lines and information about their scripts for free.

Although I am neutral when it comes to the site's listing service for aspiring screenwriters, I do highly recommend its coverage. When it came to THE LADDER, I liked the script overall, especially its ending, but I sensed there were story problems. I was hitting a wall when it came to pinpointing what those problems were specifically, and my coverage from The Black List did a good job of outlining the good and bad parts of my story. Although my coverage was only one page, it was concise, and it put me on the right path to a rewrite. Even though a year has passed, I have not done any new work on that script, but maybe after a rewrite, I'll try to list my work again. We'll see what happens if my script actually achieved a score worthy of promotion.

Self-publishing help: Category choice and its impact on Amazon sales

A fellow writer sent me the following question about self-publishing, and I wanted to share it and my answer with my blog readers:

How much do you think category choice on Amazon has mattered in terms of book sales? 

When it comes to self-publishing, category matters. For instance, all three books of my series  The Red Lantern Scandals has been in the top 100 list of Asian-American literature, and they were also briefly in the top 100 list of erotica titles. The books' placement in these lists helped me in regards to sales because being in a top 100 list helps you get noticed, and when it comes to book sales, one of the main battles is having readers find you amidst all the thousands of other titles out there.

The Red Lantern Scandals focuses on the lives of four millennial Chinese-American women in Los Angeles. While there is graphic sexual scenes in the books, the series could have easily been categorized under Women's Literature or even under the Thriller category because of a mystery element that is a thru line of the series. However, if I had chosen to categorize my books in those broad categories, I would have had to compete with mainstream titles that sell 100,000 to a million copies. If I went niche, I could make it on a top 100 list by selling much less than that and not having to compete with as many titles. That's why I  made the marketing decision to categorize my books as Asian-American erotica, and I believe it was that niche category decision that gained the books and myself attention.

One thing I should add to all writers, though, is to not miscategorize their work. That's worse than competing with traditionally published titles. For instance, if your book is marketed as African-American Christian fiction, but it turns out your work is not intended for Christian audiences, you will anger your audience and get bad reviews. Thus, although you should always try to be strategic, being honest with what you are selling matters the most.

  
The following was a reprint of a post published on August 27, 2014.

Hollywood etiquette tips for new writers

The following is a reprint from an article published on The Daily T.Lo on August 24, 2014.

MC Foley, author of one of my favorite indie books, The Cure, has a new book out on Amazon called 10,000 Likes. It's a juicy portrayal of a wild life in West Hollywood, California; and it's a story told in a non-traditional way through social media posts. 10,000 Likes is available on Amazon.

MC gave a great interview almost a year ago for The Daily T.Lo, and she talked about blogging and breaking down the misconceptions of what it means to be a writer. For those who didn't read the interview, MC is not only an accomplished author but she is also the coordinator of the Writers Guild of America's Showrunner's Program (a major Hollywood TV writers program.) She's an expert at navigating the world or professional scriptwriting, and in the previous blog post "MC Foley wants you to get off the couch!" she provided some tips on how to make it in Hollywood. Here's a reprint of her tips from that interview:

HOW TO MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD, ETIQUETTE TIPS AND ADVICE FROM MC FOLEY:
  1. Do NOT ask people for favors or to give you things when you’ve just met them. That is about one of the worst things you could ever do, and yet I see it happen all the time. Why in the hell should this person tell you how to get an agent or read your script when you’ve just met them?? Do you realize how disrespectful that is? Disrespectful of this person’s time as well as this person’s life work. For them to be at the level they’re at they have definitely invested YEARS of SWEAT and hard, hard work. For you to just ask for things makes you look either ignorant, selfish, desperate, childish or just plain stupid. I’m ranting here because I’ve seen it happen SO OFTEN. It boggles my mind. You need to build relationships with people on a human level – and not in an insincere way. People are smart out here, they can sniff that bullshit out pretty quickly. 
  2. Talk less and listen more. 
  3. Write a lot of material. You need an arsenal. 
  4. Take critiques. You’re new. And even if you’re not new, there is always something to learn. If anyone gives you notes on your writing, just listen to the note and consider it later. Do NOT get defensive. Especially if the person read your shit for free. That’s arrogant and you just burned the fuck out of a bridge. 
  5. Be prepared to work your motherf^&*(ng ass off. 
  6. Be prepared to hammer away at this for years without a break through. 
  7. Considering that last point… pay attention to every tiny, positive thing and write it down. “Had a great conversation with so-and-so.” “Read a great script.” “Went to a cool screening Q&A.” “Learned more about post production today.” Be proud of your gradual, daily accomplishments because if you really stay focused and driven and humble and open, you will find that you are making progress each and every day.
You can connect with MC on Instagram or Facebook, and don't forget to check out her book, 10,000 Likes!