Back to the Beginning

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What’s worse than starting at the beginning? Starting all over again.

Beginnings are hard, usually because they start at the ending of something else.

This year marks the beginning of my 30’s and the end of my 20’s. My original goal was to publish a book by the time I turned 30, but alas, I am only starting–or rather starting over yet again.

How could I not finish a book in a decade? Well, I did, actually. I completed a draft for book one and two. I spent hours outlining, researching, writing, re-writing, falling in and filling in plotholes.

So why is there not a completed MS?

I believe your twenties are for discovery and learning.

What I discovered: There were a lot of plot holes in my writing.

What I learned: This story was good but it could be better. I also discovered that my major supporting character should really be my main character. That changes everything.

So after starting all over on the outline, yet again, I finally began the first chapter for hopefully the last time.

So I didn’t accomplish my original goal. I thought I’d be finished by now, not starting over. I didn’t publish, but I did accomplish something. With diligent research and outlining and planning, I think I will be able to write the best book I possibly can by the time I’m 40.

 

Do dishes, go to the gym, pick up child from school, write the next best-selling fantasy novel: You know, just your typical to-do list.

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The life of a working adult is busy, and writers are no exception. If anything, we’re busier than the average adult.

My to-do list today literally looks like this:

  • buy drano
  • get gas
  • blog
  • wash dishes
  • fill out forms for summer camp
  • clean car
  • put clothes away
  • finish outlining book one
  • edit chapter 9-10 of sister’s fantasy parody
  • pick up child from school
  • go to gym

Yup, just your typical to-do list . . . if you’re a writer, anyway.

A non-writer’s list stops at put clothes away, freeing them to watch Netflix or pursue some other pleasure in their–what’s that word again? . . . oh yeah, free time.

A list certainly helps categorize, order, even prioritize chores that need done, but a calendar is so much better. Join me Tuesday for my next Tuesday Tip which will be all about making a writing/life calendar. Guaranteed to help you turn your to-do’s into already done.

What does your to-do list look like? How many writing vs non-writing items are on your list? How many can you check off in a day?

Ask An Author

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The first Friday this month happens to fall on the first. It just so happens to also be time for another Ask the Author, the feature that puts the author in authoritative.


phpXT7GODPMMay’s featured author is none other than Charles E. Yallowitz, author of the Legends of Windemere. He also happens to be one of the first authors I followed when I started my blog back in 2013.

Back then he had two books published in his fantasy series. Now he’s up to number seven in just over two years! He makes it seem easy, doesn’t he, but planning and writing a series is hard work. Have no fear, because Charles has plenty of advice about planning, writing, and marketing a series whether your series consist of three or twenty books.


Creating and Marketing a Series

may5The Legends of Windemere series is a fantasy adventure that currently has 7 books out and is planned for 15 overall. I believe this is where people groan or run away because long series seem to scare many readers and writers. Well, they are a big challenge and I’m here to give some advice on how to create and market a long series.  (Note: All advice is personal opinion and can be discarded as the ravings of a madman that needs to get out more.)

Planning a Series

First, I’m going to talk a little about planning. I use a lot of notes and outlines to keep my series going smoothly. For Legends of Windemere, I’ve had all 15 books outlined since I finished writing the third one. This helps me create foreshadowing and get a sense of where I want the long term storylines to go. A full outline isn’t even necessary if you want to dive into the writing immediately. Maybe you only need a page of notes about what you want to happen later on or a few future events that you’re heading for. To be honest, mine tend to get changed as I go and I have to rewrite the next outline after every book I write. Still the meat of the story is there and that’s what I use to help me guide my characters to their various destinations. The truth is that every author has his or her own system of organization. Detailed outlines and character bios work for me, but there are those who create great stories out of a trio of Post-It notes.

One of the biggest challenges for a series author is continuity. You need to make sure the rules and details remain the same throughout the adventure. This is where character bios and outlines can come in handy. Even if you don’t do a full outline, future installments can be helped by jotting down important information as you move along. Take a little time to review what you wrote every night and list whatever you think you won’t remember. For example, I kept forgetting character eye colors early on and one of my heroes abruptly changed from green to blue for some reason. I had to keep a note by my laptop for a few chapters to make sure I remembered. Eventually, it locked in and then I did the genius maneuver of having something change his eye color to brown. Worked for the story, but it was one of the spontaneous decisions that caused a few stumbles in the next book. A common question in regards to planning a series is the following:

How Long Should Your Series Be?

The answer is as long as it has to be. You might be scared of readers dropping out before the end, but that happens with trilogies too. Yes, the longer the series, the higher the chance of a reader walking away. So the author has to decide if they’re writing to tell the story they want to tell or the story that they think will sell better. These are not always the same thing. I can only speak from my personal experience and I will say that I couldn’t do Legends of Windemere in less than 15 books. It used to be 12 and then I realized that there were characters whose stories weren’t being told. I write using an ensemble cast, which means I want each hero and villain to get a story to shine in. Many of them can do this within the original stories, but I had those that needed something more to evolve. Do I regret doing a series this long, which nets me a few complaints? No. I’m happy with the adventures I’m telling and that should be one of the author’s main goals. If you’re enjoying what you write then it will come through your words and draw in the reader.

Marketing a Series

A brief mention of marketing since this is an area that many authors are concerned with. I’ve found that later books in a lengthy series will not have the same impact as the earlier ones. Not unless you have a massive support system and fan following. The reason for this is because you have people going in and out of the series all the time. A person drops out after Book 3 while another picks up Book 1, but you only see how there are fewer sales for Book 4. It took me some time to realize this and then I aimed more for continuous sales across the board instead of major sales of the most recent. So I do the big marketing things on either most recent book or the first one, Beginning of a Hero. I try to do a little for the middle books too, but you’re going to see a wide variety of sale numbers in there. It’s the nature of the series beast and all you can do is keep pushing on.

Tweets, blogging, guest posts, interviews, various chat platforms, and helping to promote other authors are where you will find most of your marketing power. (Note on that last one: Reciprocation is a great thing. I’m a big believer of helping those who help me.)

All of what I said might seem like an overview and oddly brief considering a big series is a major undertaking. Well, you would be right because all another author needs in terms of advice here are the basics. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that every author, actually artist, has his or her own methods. My series is long because I focus a lot on character development, but it would be shorter if I was more concerned with the main plot. That’s just my way and it took quite a few years for me to realize that along with my specific style. So I give advice and add that this is my personal experience.

Now, is writing a long series a thing for everyone? No because it’s a lot of work and dedication with a high risk of writing yourself into a corner. Still I say follow the story and your gut. If it says a 10 book series then go along with it until you finish or find that it might work better as 5. You can always rewrite the outline.


51WkCW8ZDoL__UY250_To connect with Charles and to learn more about the world of Windemere, check out his author website and blog.

You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Check out his Amazon author page here to purchase his current novels as well as learn about future projects.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

Tuesday Tip

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You finished your first draft; now you’re done, right? WRONG. Not even close. Theoretically, you’re at the beginning yet again. After all, a great book isn’t written–it’s rewritten.

I’ve heard people say they don’t revise or rewrite. Shame on you. A good book, I mean one worth paying money for, has three things.

  • A well-constructed plot
  • Fully-developed characters
  • Smooth prose

Trust me, you can’t achieve those three things in one draft.

Writing requires imagination, creativity, and long hours of time. Rewriting requires less imagination and a whole lot more courage. It’s not for the weak or timid. You’ll be making big decisions. Most of us struggle to make small ones like what to order in drive-thru.

You have to decide if your protagonist is the best voice for your story; if entire scenes should be revised, removed, or added; whether characters be removed or added: whether or not your beginning works; or if the end provides any payoff.

These are the choices you have to make before you even decide does this sentence sound good?

What is rewriting?

There’s a big misconception about what rewriting is. It’s not perfecting a sentence here or there, or correcting typos, it’s gutting, hacking, and dismembering your first draft.

This might sound daunting. You’re playing doctor–God even! I’m talking total reconstructive surgery, not a botox injection.

Difference between revising and rewriting

Some people use the two terms interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing although you’ll probably do a combination of both.

To summarize: Revision is adding and deleting a few words or adding more character motivation or adding or removing description. Rewriting is deleting or adding whole scenes, deleting characters, or changing a POV.

For some straightforward and hilarious examples, see here.

How many rewrites?

There isn’t a certain number. It depends on the MS. My current MS is on rewrite number two. Planning helps cut down on rewrites.

So what’s the first step?

Back away from the manuscript and nobody gets hurt. It might be easier to make objective opinions once you’ve separated yourself from your writing. When you come back to it (say in a week or month or so), that glittering sentence might not shine anymore, or you might unearth some hidden gems.

Look at the big picture

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Ask yourself with an objective eye: What does my protagonist want? Is it clear?

What is the plot? The theme? The conflict?

Did you select the best character to be your protagonist?

Could some characters be cut or blended? Do multiple characters serve the same purpose?

Is your plot well structured? Do any side plots deviate from the main plot?

Be objective or find an objective eye

Looking at the big picture can be challenging when you’re nearsighted, and all authors are–we’re way too close to our WIP to see it clearly. This doesn’t mean we can’t try to be objective. I usually read through and make an often very long list of questions that arise, changes I want to make, plot holes (often gaping and cavernous), side plots or character arcs that are unfulfilled, and other areas of concern.

If you know something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it, consider enlisting help.

Step two: outline

Did you outline before you wrote? Even if you did, once isn’t enough. Rewrite your outline before you rewrite your MS.

You’re not mistaken. Not only am I telling you to rewrite your novel, I’m telling you to rewrite your outline. That’s a lot of rewriting–but the more prepared you are, the less you’ll have to rewrite. Planning can make the difference between two and ten rewrites.

I look back at my first outline and realize I either deviated from it for better or for worse, or I decided to change it. Don’t work off of an old outline. An outline can be your typical diagram or a detailed description of each scene and chapter. If you don’t know how to create an outline, check out this prior Tuesday Tip.

Example of a detailed outline:

Chapter one: Introduce main character, best trait, fatal flaw, ordinary world, goal, and conflict.

Scene one: Start with attention grabbing sentence. Main character is doing this . . . then this happens . . . and so on.

I’m shy about sharing my work but to give you an example of how much my beginning has changed since I started rewriting, this is how my WIP used to start.

Character (side character) discovers that a city has been destroyed and all the inhabitants killed after a very long inner monologue. Next scene takes place years later and introduces main character with major supporting side character.

Notes that I made before revision:

  • No clear main character
  • POV character doesn’t appear again for a couple of chapters
  • Info dump: Might be more interesting to slowly reveal the back story leading up to current events
  • Might be better to start with the destruction of the city from the POV of main character
  • Next scene is too jarring. Too much relies on understanding the characters and their relationship, culture, etc that can’t be summarized in a paragraph

Revised Outline: This is how it starts now (still in progress).

Main character is introduced. Reader is introduced to his world and culture. Exposition is interwoven throughout text instead of being dumped. Character goes to city and destroys it. Conflict is introduced with inciting incident and call to action. Character refuses the call. Character then answers the call to action.

It’s still in the works but what I like is that the main character starts the story. You see how the events that the other character stumbles upon unfold. You see how the main protagonist and main supporting character meet. You get to know him and his goals before the action starts.

What’s still needed. I still need a clearer definition of my character’s goals. I have a basic idea of what he wants, but I need to make sure his goals are strong enough to always be his driving force.

Step three: should it stay or should it go

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Get rid of the clutter and your manuscript is going to be fabulous

I love those home remodeling shows where they make the homeowner choose what to keep, toss, or sell from their clutter. I adopted a similar strategy for revising my MS. I read through from beginning to end, highlighting every word and sentence I want to keep. In a different color I highlight what I want to delete. In a third color what I want to keep for a different project. After I do this I can delete this version so I don’t end up with five or seven word files.

Try this. Chances are, even if an entire scene has to go, you might find a good snippet of dialogue or a wonderful description. If you can still use it, don’t lose it.

Step four: Rewrite or revise

If the scene is good, you may only need to revise: correct syntax, cut and add sentences, etc. But if you are making major changes, you might just want to rewrite. I usually rewrite the entire scene without looking at the old version, or else you just end up with a version that is only slightly different. Then combine the elements that you are keeping from the previous written scene.

Essentially how you rewrite or revise will depend on what kind of writer you are. Do you overwrite? underwrite? Based on that, you may need to cut scenes or write new ones to fill in the gaps. Do you go into too much description or need to add? Do your characters talk too much or not enough?

This is my method. There are others out there. Find the one that works for you. What are some methods that work for you? What are some tricks or tips that you use to make the process easier. Please share.

Ask An Author

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It’s the first Friday of February (alliteration not intended), which means it’s time for another Ask an Author: the guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.


whit-mcclendon-95-1410798997This month’s author is Whit McClendon, author of “Mage’s Burden,” owner and instructor of a martial arts school, writer, husband, and father.

I first learned about Whit from a blog. I then found him on Facebook where I learned he is a multifaceted man whose interests include training, teaching, lacrosse, running, and reading in addition to writing. Between family, writing, and a martial arts career, Whit has to keep a lot of plates spinning at once. So I asked him to share some advice about the nefarious balancing act: writing and life. Here’s what he had to say.


Balancing Writing with the Rest of Your Life

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I own and run my own martial arts school, so I have a very tight and busy schedule. I get up at 6 a.m. to feed my son and drop him off at school; then I head to my own school. I generally get home around 8:45 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I have classes off and on all day, so I generally have less time to write while Tuesdays and Thursdays are easier since my classes don’t start until the evening.


Balancing Writing with Work

Running a martial arts school involves not only personally teaching up to 7 classes a day, but there are also a thousand little daily administrative tasks that are always screaming for attention. I also need to squeeze in my own training time, so time is a precious commodity. No matter what day it is, I seem to write more effectively when I can block out an hour at least with little distraction. Sometimes, I may only get an hour in a week, but other weeks I manage far more than that. I occasionally get some impromptu writing time at odd moments when the opportunity presents itself, and it seems that I often get into a decent groove only moments before one of my classes is supposed to start. This is frustrating because I have to suddenly stop writing (something I thoroughly enjoy) to teach (which I also thoroughly enjoy)!

 Balancing Writing with Family

 My family has been extremely supportive of my writing. I have pretty long work hours during the week, so I don’t often write at home because I prefer to be more present when I’m there. With a wife, son, and two pugs, there’s generally something going on, and I like to be in on it, whatever it is. I occasionally dig into my writing on the weekends, when things are more relaxed.
Whether at work or at home, I block off as much time as I can, when I can, even if it’s a small amount. It’s hard to be consistent on a daily basis, but at the end of the week, I’ve usually found a few opportunities to write, and that works for me.

Tips and Techniques for the Time Challenged

I really disappear into my writing when I get going, so I do my best to avoid distractions. When I’m at my school, I occasionally put on some quiet Celtic/New Age music to set the mood.  I have a basic outline of the overall story on which I’m currently working, though my characters often run off into unforeseen adventures.
One of my favorite editing tools is to simply read everything aloud at some point to see if it flows properly. Dennis L. McKiernan (favorite fantasy author) suggested that technique to me many years ago, and I’ve used it to what I hope is good effect.
I occasionally write my chapters out of order, depending on what I ‘see.’  I may write up to a point in one chapter and then something from another chapter occurs to me, so I switch over to work on that for a bit. I often write notes directly on my document in red, green, or blue as I need to, then delete them when I integrate those elements into the story. My approach may seem a bit scattered, but it makes perfect sense to me.

915iXUbRrsL__SL1500_No matter how busy Whit gets, he always has time to connect with readers, fans, and fellow writers.

Join him on Facebook

or Twitter @whitmcc or @whitmccauthor

Check out his blog here.

You can find his book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
And don’t forget to be on the lookout for the sequel, “Gart’s Road” projected for release this May.

Self-Published Writers: Should We Be Afraid?

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The end of this month is the end of a very long journey for my sister. After years and years and years (one more for good measure), her debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other” is being released this Friday.

Can I get a Woop, Woop!

Can I get a Woop, Woop!

Of all the emotions we are experiencing right now, I’d say the predominant one is fear. That’s right FEAR.

Writers,

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And why shouldn’t we be? Most of what you read or hear about sales numbers and the success of marketing is pretty dismal. There isn’t a lot of good news out there for us in the DIY publishing world. And it’s only going to get harder they say.

Here’s the hearsay:

  • the e-pub market is over saturated
  • the novelty of e-books has worn off
  • advertising does not increase sales
  • a social media presence does not increase sales
  • price promotions have become ineffective
  • consumers are overwhelmed with the number of existing e-books on their e-readers, and will be slowing their purchases
  • increased competition from traditional publishers will hurt sales

When the future of e-publishing looks bleak, how can writers not worry about our own future?

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When we worry about the future, we lose sight of the present and forget to celebrate the journey. My sister and I have swallowed our fear with a big piece of cake and a shot of Captain. From here on out, we’re going to focus on being positive. After all, there’s plenty of things to feel good about.

  • a box of brand-spanking new books arriving in the mail
  • the launch party at Cook McDoogles
  • the fact that she is a published author
  • being able to find her book on Amazon
  • all positive reviews
  • having her own book on her bookshelf
  • other people have read and will read her writing

All of those items are successes, and that’s not even including sales.

Speaking of sales, there can be financial success for those who sell quality work and work hard. By quality work, I mean a damn good book.The days of writing decent books with good covers and making money is over they say. The key is to write an awesome book that will sell itself, edit it professionally, design a quality cover, and build your platform.

With that said, should we be afraid?

of failure

of not making money

or wasting our time

of negatives reviews

of fear

We can’t even worry about those things until we finish a book, which reminds me of my greatest fear:

never finishing a book

Seriously writers, never NOT be afraid, but don’t let the fear paralyze you. Fear stops us from doing the things we love. You just have to keep writing. As we speak, I’m editing my sister’s second novel and finishing the draft of my first book.

Take heart, take a bite of comfort food, and get back to writing. Never NOT write!

 

How to REALLY Sell using Social Media

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I posted a poll last Friday to get some feedback on whether or not social media sells. I want to thank all of you who took the time to answer the poll and supply comments. You’ve really helped my little study.

The Results are In

After gathering, calculating, weighing, studying, and cross-examining the data and other scientific mumbo jumbo, I’ve found the following to be possible truths.

  • Social media has and can be used to make direct sales
  • People do purchase books directly from social media
  • Based on the poll, most books were purchased because of a blog post (whether an author’s own blog, guest blog, re-blog, or author interview)
  • Most sales made via Twitter were made from re-tweets or tweets made by those other than the author
  • Goodreads and Facebook ranked lowest on the poll
  • Readers are more likely to purchase a book if they know the author
  • Readers are more likely to purchase a book if it is referred to them in some way

What I’ve Concluded from this Study:

If authors need social media, but social media does not sell, perhaps the problem is not social media, but who we are trying to sell too and how we are trying to sell. Make sense? All I’m saying is the problem doesn’t seem to be the platform, but how we are using it. There are countless articles online that suggest social media is not a tool nor can it be used to make sales. This may or may not be true. Based on the information I’ve gathered, here’s my plan to increase sales using social media.

  • Gain a good following (quality over quantity)
  • Advertise wisely
  • Use news, not ads to promote books
  • Increase “word of mouth”
  • Make connections

 Gain a Good Following

How many followers should you have?

How many followers should you have?

What’s the ideal number of followers you should have? There really isn’t a magic number. It’s about how engaged you are with what you have. There really isn’t one strategy for gaining followers. Some authors follow everyone who follows them to increase their followers. Their logic is: the more followers they have the more books they will sell.

More people=more sales, right?

What I don’t like about this plan is that the emphasis is on numbers. We should be focused on who is following us, not how many. If people follow you to gain a follower, they aren’t likely to buy your book.

Why Numbers Don’t Matter

The person with 10,000 followers may only have 1,000 followers who are interested in them and their books.

Likewise, the person with 5,000 may have 3,000.

See what I’m saying?

Before you sell, make sure you are selling to the right people.

Look at your followers. Who are they?

  • friends
  • family
  • coworkers

How many are writers?

The problem with selling to writers is that they may be too busy #amwriting and not #amreading.

Now this is just an idea. I have no real proof, but writers may not be the best followers to make sales.

  • Many identify themselves as–even brag about being–nonreaders
  • They are too busy writing
  • They write a different genre than you (If they don’t write it, they probably won’t read it)
  • They have no money (sorry, it’s true in most cases)
  • They don’t use social media to connect, but to promote (it’s all about them)
  • They use auto tweets (if they aren’t tweeting, they aren’t reading tweets)
  • Your tweets get buried in their feed because they have thousands of followers to gain a following

Does this sound like your followers? Does this sound like you?

You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times: Target your market.

You might ask, aren’t some writers your market?

My thought is yes. Before you start unfollowing everyone who identifies themselves as a writer, my advice is that you should follow them anyway–not just for sales. I follow other authors for advice, to follow trends in my genre and market, and because frankly I love connecting with other writers.

If you want to follow other writers, here’s my advice: follow writers of the same genre. For instance, I used to follow writers of romance, suspense, mystery, YA, etc. Now I mainly follow other fantasy writers.

Not only do I enjoy learning about them and their books, I also purchase their books. My logic is that this should work in the reverse order. Since they write fantasy, they may buy my books as well. Will the mystery writer buy your book if you’re a fantasy writer? Probably not. It has nothing to do with your advertising campaign, they just aren’t your market.

How to Gain Followers in Your Market

Easier said than done. This is why I like Twitter. You can use the search field to type in hashtags and keywords to find tweets and tweeps related to the topic. For instance, my sister writes fantasy parody. Ideally these are the words she should use to find potential readers.

  • fantasy
  • parody
  • comedy
  • Monty Python
  • Gerald Morris
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Hobbit
  • Harry Potter

Why these search terms? Because people who like those things will like her book.

Try this out right now. See how many people you find.

Ok, you’ve found the illusive reader. Do not go all crocodile hunter on them. This is no time to poke and get in their faces. Don’t start messaging them to BUY YOUR BOOK. Follow them and see if they follow you back. If they do, great. If they don’t, it’s not over. Whether they follow you or not, the next step is the same. Be interactive.

  • comment,
  • like
  • share their tweets
  • thank them for following, retweeting, sharing, etc

They will appreciate the interaction and possibly follow you back and/or check out your profile where they will see information about your books. This could potentially result in sales. TA-DA!

I made this sound easy, didn’t I? It’s not. It takes time, but it takes less time if you put your best foot forward. What do I mean by that?

People will make an instant and usually permanent decision whether to follow you or not. Your profile is a landing page. You don’t want to turn them away at base one.

  • Have a flattering, professional, and updated profile picture and header image
  • Use your real name
  • Have a detailed bio that includes professional, social, and recreational info (writer, teacher, reader, nerd, music lover, coffee junkie)
  • Create real and interesting tweets
  • Include a URL to your website or blog

 

Advertise Wise

Everyone tells you that you must advertise or no one will know you wrote a book. They also tell you advertising is bad and turns readers off. I’m so over the contradictory advice. So let’s end this conundrum once and for all.

You MUST advertise, but you have to advertise WISE.

When you must advertise–and you must–make your ads stand out. No, this does not mean typing in all bold in screaming font. Be creative. Check out my sister’s ads on Twitter.

Example: The Knight’s Who say Ni no longer desire a shrubbery. That was my idea. Hope you like it.

Use photos, phrases, and key words to entice your followers. You want to catch their eye, make them read it, click the link, and buy.

Why Aren’t Your Ads Selling?

  • Too vague (sometimes I don’t know what the title is, what it’s about, or what genre its in)
  • Boring (I see hundreds of ads that look alike every hour. Get creative. Draw my attention)
  • No photos
  • Inconstant (You shouldn’t post BUY MY BOOK all day long, but you need to more than once a day)
  • You repeat the same ad over and over

 

Think News not Ads

To be honest, advertising is a lazy way to promote your book. We’re writers, we’re supposed to be creative. Think outside of ads to entice people to buy your book.

Let’s break it down. What makes someone want to read your books?

Information: Genre, plot, characters, ratings, author info.

Tweet about your books, not just where you can buy them, but why they should buy. Tell them snippets about your plot, the writing process, your characters, and upcoming projects. Think NEWS not ADS. Do you have a cover reveal? A book launch? Plans for a sequel? A really good review? A sale? These are all ways to gain exposure for your books without using direct advertising.

So in theory: Indirect ads result in direct sales.

This is one of the reasons why blogs ranked so high in the poll. Readers get to learn about the author and the book, enticing them to learn more. They also give you a sample of the author’s writing style. Tweets and Facebook post don’t give you the wordcount to really delve into detail about how awesome you and your book are.


 

Word of Mouth

 

People always tell you social media doesn’t sell, word of mouth does. Social media is in its own right word of mouth. A book review, author interview, or a tweet are just digital ways of saying “Check out this awesome author or this awesome book.”

So why is word of mouth so important. Because word of mouth is an indirect ad. Remember how I said indirect ads result in direct sales?

In comments, many of you expressed how advertisements or promotional material from the authors themselves turned you off or didn’t result in you buying the book. It’s viewed as being “pushy” or “unreliable.” Of course the author is going to tell you they wrote a great book. They won’t tell you it sucks.

If I told you to  buy my awesome fantasy novel, would you buy it?

Do you trust me?

tumblr_n3f9kaVKGi1s5tknvo1_500

What if I told you to buy a book by someone else. I bet I gain credibility. I also bet they gain a sale.

People are more likely to buy a book, it seems, if someone else tells them about, so how can you get others to talk about your books?

  • Ask them too
  • Offer a copy of your book for an honest review: encourage them to share their review on multiple platforms
  • Pay it forward. Don’t actually pay. You should never have to pay for promotion like that. If you support others, they are likely to support you back. Check out my advice about reciprocation from an earlier post.
  • Share your reviews. Don’t tell your readers what you think about your book. Tell them what someone else does.

So tell me, which tweet would you trust?

imagesCAAXXWA3twitter-birds


Make Connections

So many of you expressed how important it is for you to know the author. While I don’t believe you should always have to or do have to know the author to buy their book (Sometimes a good cover or blurb will do it for me), this is a great way to increase sales.

How connections increase sales:

  • They like you: They hope they will like your book
  • They like you: They will buy it to support you
  • They like you: Whether they bought it or not, they will tell others to buy your book
  • They like you: They will interview you on their blog which will increase your exposure
  • They like you: They will share your tweets, post, promotions, etc

How do you make connections?

This isn’t hard, people. Simply say, Hello. You will probably have to be the instigator. Going back to how to gain followers. You want quality connections. These will be people who get to know you, support you, follow you, and tell others about you. You have to earn connections.

  • Reply to tweets and post (likes are great but comments are better)
  • Send real instead of automated messages to them
  • Share their content
  • Start a conversation
  • Join conversations in progress

 

We’ve all heard it said. You can’t make sales using social media. You can make sales, you just haven’t discovered the secret. You can, you’re just doing something wrong. Ignore the noise.

Why trust what others say?

This is my theory. I’m not guaranteeing I’m right or that my plan will work. I’m simply forming a plan based on all of your wonderful feedback. You never know unless you try. So I’m going to put my plan into practice now during the release of my sister’s debut novel. I hope it works for her. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Thanks again for all of your comments and for sharing my post. Speaking of sharing, don’t forget to share information about your favorite authors. Studies seem to show your support helps.

Tuesday Tip

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Finally, after more than a month, we’ve come to the last item on the editing checklist (for substantive editing anyway) before we move on to mechanics and grammar–everyone’s favorite topic.

Today we’re talking about talking–more commonly known in the literary world as dialogue.

Dialogue hasn’t always been–and still isn’t–one of my strong areas, but it has improved significantly with study and practice. Here’s some of the most useful tips I’ve learned.

How to Edit Dialogue

You won’t find all of the flaws reading your words silently in your head. Read your dialogue out loud to see if it flows. You can even role play with someone else. If you’re old school, you can use a tape recorder so you can record and listen to your words out loud. I use the recorder on my phone. This has helped a lot. Of course, I look really crazy when I do it because I tend to gesture and make weird faces while I do it.

While you read through your book, highlight the dialogue that you want to fix whether it’s a word or the entire sentence. If it sounds off, it probably is. Now that you know it sounds bad, you need to figure out why it’s bad.

 Dialogue needs to be two things: Purposeful and Natural

1. Purposeful

Dialogue, like your characters and events, has to move the plot forward. This doesn’t mean that  your characters have to talk about the conflict all the time, but it means there should be a reason they are talking.

  • reveals information for the reader
  • reveals information about the character
  • creates suspense, foreshadowing, or conflict
  • creates white space (White space is very appealing to the reader. Readers put down books with too many blocks of narrative)

Cut Unnecessary Dialogue

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

Do you characters ramble, chitty chat, banter, shoot the breeze?

If it can be described as one of the latter or anything synonymous, you should probably cut it.

Remove Greetings, Pleasantries, and Small Talk

Get to the point. Skip the “hellos” and “how do you dos” and go straight to the meat of the conversation. See my example of this from Tuesday Tip #20, where I explain how dialogue effects pace.

Remove Repetition

A typical example of repetition in dialogue is name dropping. Listen to yourself talk. How often do you use someone’s name? You know who you’re talking to, so does your character. If you created unique characters with their own traits, mannerisms, and verbiage, your reader will know who is talking without the name cue.

Another form of repetition is when dialogue repeats what a character just thought or did.

Example: Jack tossed his shoe.

“Why did you toss your shoe, Jack?” Anne asked.

Not only did Anne repeat Jack’s name, but she also repeated the action. The reader knows what Jack did. She could have just said, “Why did you do that?”


2. Natural

Dialogue should sound like real conversation–minus the frequent topic changes, the stuttering, and meandering, of course.

Dialogue often sounds unnatural or contrived when writers try to force a theme or information.

Exposition in Dialogue

To avoid info dumps in narrative, writers often use dialogue to give away information the reader needs to know; however, beware giving away too much exposition using dialogue. It sounds unnatural and forced.

Example: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (movie adaptation)

Arwen: Do you remember when we first met?
Aragorn: I thought I had wandered into a dream.
Arwen: Long years have passed. You did not have the cares you carry now. Do you remember what I told you?
Aragorn: You said you’d bind yourself to me, forsaking the immortal life of your people.
Arwen: And to that I hold. I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone. I choose a mortal life.
Aragorn: You cannot give me this.
Arwen: It is mine to give to whom I will. Like my heart.

This is an example of two characters giving away too much detail about a shared memory. This might make more sense if one of them had amnesia or something. Really, a simple yes, would have sufficed as an answer to these questions. They know how they met–they aren’t talking to each other; they’re talking to the viewer.

Stilted Dialogue

When you read your character’s words, do they just fall flat. Does it lack emotion? It might be the tone. If your dialogue is too formal, use contractions. There are still those who believe that contractions are not allowed in dialogue, even narrative. See my Tuesday Tip about contractions here.

Example of stilted dialogue that lacks emotion or flow. Re-read it with contractions and see how much better it sounds.

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Inappropriate

I don’t mean offensive. I mean the words don’t fit their age, education level, social background, etc. If your character is a teenager, make her sound like a teenager. If your character is a doctor, she probably shouldn’t sound like a teenager.


Editing Dialogue Tags

Sometimes it’s not what your characters say, it’s how they say it. Did they ask, whisper, grunt, shout, bark?

There’s a lot going around the internet about removing almost all dialogue tags. Really, I think some of this advice is going too far. Just stick to said and asked for the most part and use other tags sparingly. Use variances from time to time to spice up your writing, but make sure they make sense.

Example: “Quiet, you idiot,” Sam hissed.

Hissing is a sibilant sound. Do you see an “s” in the above example. Exactly.

Cut Overused or Silly dialogue Tags

  • panted
  • huffed
  • moaned, groaned, etc
  • growl, bark, or anything else that suggest your character is turning into a werewolf–unless they are
  • tags that are actions*

*Example: smirk and sneer

Wrong: “Yes,” Bob smirked. (smirked being used in place as said)

Instead: Yes,” Bob said, smirking.or “Yes.” Bob smirked. (difference in punctuation)


Cut Unnecessary Adverbs

Example: He said happily

If you chose the right words, the reader will know how he said it. Adverbs can make dialogue redundant and kill subtlety.

Example: “I need to go now!” Ellen said urgently.

The word need and now (and the exclamation mark) shows the urgency.


Use Gestures and Actions

Accompany dialogue with gestures and actions to help readers know who is talking as well as make the scene less static. Again don’t go too far with this either. Actions should be meaningful. Maybe an action is used to show a character feels something contradictory from what he says.

Example: “That’s fine,” Bob said, clenching his fist under the table.


Now that you’ve fixed your verbiage, you need to make sure it is formatted correctly. Once you’ve decided on your tags, it’s very important to put periods, commas, and capitals in the right places. Even though we haven’t gotten to grammar yet, here is a website that talks about dialogue punctuation.


Too Much or Not Enough

There is no set percentage or rule stating how much of a book should be dialogue.

Rule of Thumb: A good book has a balance of narrative, action, and dialogue.

Doc9_000Too much dialogue can give the same impact as two floating heads talking back and forth with no background, no setting, and no actions like those two people on PBS that spell words back and forth.

It’s important to strike a balance between narrative, action, and dialogue. You probably aren’t if:

  • Your character gives a long speech (too much dialogue)
  • Your pace is too slow (too little dialogue)
  • Your character is alone in their head too much (too little dialogue)
  • Your character divulges too much to other characters(too much dialogue)
  • You don’t know where your characters are or what they are doing (too much dialogue)

Dialogue is probably one of the biggest challenges for writers. I know it is for me. What do you think about dialogue. What are some tricks you’ve used?

Tuesday Tip

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Ever wonder if people are reading your post? And if they are, do they read the entire thing? Are they just skimming? If you read last Thursday’s post (check that out here), you already know what this Tuesday’s tip is about. For those of you who didn’t read it, or just skimmed it, I’m taking a break from the editing series this week so I can talk about how to make sure your post get read. They’re called readers for a reason. Let’s get them to READ!

Why don’t people read or finish reading blog post?

  1. They don’t have time
  2. They got bored
  3. They thought it was irrelevant
  4. They didn’t see it

1. Make Your Post Quick and Easy to Read

Quick and easy: Microwave meals have been banking on this concept for a long time. Make your post the Uncle Ben’s of blog post. I’m not saying it should take less than a minute to read, I’m just saying you should make it as quick and easy to read as possible. For instance, I timed this post. It took me 4 minutes to read from start to end.

You might be tempted to go through your post and just start cutting words, but believe it or not, it can take longer to read a 500 word article than a 1,500 word article. Here are some ways to decrease reading time regardless of word count.

Headings

I used to write my post without headings, only page breaks. Headings help important information stand out. Without them, there is no structural hierarchy, nothing to cue the reader that this section is important or even what it’s about.

Bulleted and Numbered List

List are another way to make important information stand out. They break down the content into pieces. No one crams an entire king sized Hershey bar into their mouth at once. They break it off one piece at a time. Do this for your readers. This shortens the time it takes to read the post.

Not only do list cut down information and eliminate unnecessary words, they also make information easier to read and remember.

Example 1: Your post should include four things: a title, introduction, body, and conclusion.

Example 2: Your post should include these four things:

  1. title
  2. introduction
  3. body
  4. conclusion

White Space

White space is not a waste of space; it helps readers comprehend what they read. The lack of white space has the same impact as a speaker who doesn’t pause for breath during a long-winded speech. The reader won’t remember what they read, and they won’t have a chance to process it. This was another mistake I made in earlier post. I wrote big, chunky paragraphs. Compare some of my new post with older ones and you’ll see white space between my sections–like a breath of fresh air.

Font Size and Color

When choosing font, consider fonts that are easy to read, not ones that are pretty. Choose a larger font in a color that contrast with your background. Don’t make your readers squint to read fancy pastel font.

Structure

Your blog and each post should be easy to navigate. Give your post structure by dividing your content into sections. This will keep you focused as you write as well as make your post easy to read.

I touched on structure in a prior Tuesday Tip. Check that out here. The structure should look something like this:

  1. title
  2. introduction
  3. heading one
    1. text
  4. heading two
    1. text
  5. heading three
    1. text
  6. conclusion

Declutter 

Even a well-structured post with appropriate headings and readable font can suffer from clutter. What is clutter? Anything that is distracting to the reader or that slows them down.

word count: There isn’t a magic number to increase readability. My rule of thumb is to keep it as short as your average reader’s attention span. Word count depends on the topic of your post. Is it informative? Are you selling a product? On average, keep your post between 200-2,000 words. These post are more likely to be read and shared.

Read your blog post objectively. Is there anything that can be cut: a word, a paragraph? Keeping your sentences concise helps them read the entire post without skimming or stopping.  Likewise, if you get off topic or ramble, your reader will lose focus and move on.

photos: Photos should entice the reader and give them a clear idea of what your post is about. They should also support your text. Remove all unnecessary images. Not only are they distracting, they can also make your page load slower. Remember that your readers will be using different devices, and some computers or devices have slower processing speeds. I’m a little guilty of this. I love GIFS, but I should cut down on using them because they might slow down my site. Some of my readers, my sister for instance, can’t view them in motion, which defeats the purpose. What you get instead is an image that loses its impact because it’s not moving.

2. Keep Your Reader’s Attention 

Sometimes readers quit reading because their just plain bored.

It could be your tone or your topic. Just because you’re writing about something that has been done, doesn’t mean you can’t write about it in a new or exciting way.

Title

This is the first place to gain or lose attention. Make sure you have an eye-catching title. You don’t have long, literally seconds, to gain your reader’s attention.

Your Title should do one of the following

  • ask a question the reader wants answered (they’ll lose sleep if they don’t know)
  • gives a sense of urgency (You need to know this)
  • appeal to them emotionally
  • pose a problem

I have several examples of this. One being last Thursday’s post titled “Are you Going to Read This?” Apparently many of you did, because my blog has never had so many views and comments in one day. So if I had to guess what it was about this post that made people check it out, I’d say it was the title.

My second example is an article my sister shared with me titled, “Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here–Here’s How to Succeed.”

Wow, what a title. It poses a problem, gives a sense of urgency, while suggesting a solution. If you’re curious about this article–and I’m sure you are–check it out here.

Introduction

Now that you’ve enticed your reader, don’t lose them with the introduction. This is where you’ll mention the topic. Make sure this is in your introduction and not buried in the body somewhere.

3. Stay Consistent 

One of my pet peeves, and I’m not the only one complaining about this, is when a blogger isn’t consistent.

Post Regularly and Predictably

Post on the same day if you can. If a certain day doesn’t work for you, at least try to churn out the same number of post each week. Don’t create long gaps between post. For instance, my sister publishes every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Obviously by the title of this post you know I post a tip every Tuesday. Other than that I am working on choosing another day to post. Think of television. A show airs on the same day, at the same time every week so viewers know when to tune in.

Post Quality Content

Quantity is not as important as quality. Quality is key. Don’t start posting redundant or lazy post after offering top-notch content. If anything, your post should get better over time, not worse.

Keep Content Consistent

If you blog about writing and kids, write about both. If you say you blog about writing, don’t blog about your kids. If you say you blog about parenting, don’t blog about writing.

Facebook is the platform for your vacation pictures, religious views, and family updates, not your blog. If someone is following you for great editing tips, don’t be surprised or offended if you get little response on your post about your ten-year wedding anniversary or your cake recipe.

4. Share it

Sometimes your post get ignored because no one saw it. Use your social media to promote your blog. Tweet your post. If you’re not sure if Twitter or Facebook are helping you, WordPress has a stats section that allows you to see how many people were referred to your site by various sources. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it’s worth a try.

Where to share?

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Giant Billboard

To wrap this up, look through your post and see how you can make them more readable. When your post doesn’t take long to read, readers will take the time to read it.

 

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1I’m not the only one offering free writing advice on the blogosphere, and I don’t pretend to be. There are thousands if not millions of people offering advice daily. Once you’ve read one tip, you’ve read them all, right? Wrong. Just because blogger A wrote a post about pronouns doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read blogger B’s post about the same topic. Thousands of people can write about the same thing, but none of them will write it the same. Even though they are all covering the same topic, they all have their own unique point of view.

Choosing the right point of view (POV) is as important to your writing as choosing the right protagonist. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read other authors’ tips on POV; you understand the difference between first, second, and third person, etc. That’s great, because that’s not what I’m going to talk about. See how everyone’s perspective on a topic is different? Some people focus on the writer’s voice. I’m focusing on the narrative voice: Who is telling the scene.

How many POVs should you have: the debate

You might tell the story from a singular perspective or from many–or too many, George R.R. Martin!

Nah, I’m just kidding. You know I like to pick on George. Sometimes he deserves it.

Going back to online advice, some of the earliest tips lies I learned was that you shouldn’t have multiple POVs. I didn’t see how this was possible. Most of the books I read had multiple perspectives, so I thought there couldn’t possibly be any truth to this.

I determined the question is not can you have multiple perspectives, but how many can you have? The long and short of it is you can have as many as you like as long as they benefit your story. What do I mean by benefit? Well let’s look at the pros and cons of multiple POVs, shall we?

Cons

  • multiple POVs confuse the reader
  • some POVs can distract from the main story
  • the reader can lose connection with the primary character
  • the reader can lose emotional investment

Pros

  • with a new POV, you can write scenes that don’t include the main protagonist
  • you can give information that would not be available to the main protagonist
  • you can intertwine two or more stories and watch them come together
  • you can answer questions that you can’t get from another POV

Example:Twilight 

I’m not a fan of this series, but think of how much trouble the author could have saved if she’d given Edward a POV. Fans were so interested/confused/obsessed as to why he chose an average, mediocre girl that they found a partial draft of the sequel online to find out. Again, I’m not a fan, but I am likewise interested: What was it about her anyway? She had the personality of a Lego brick.

Looking at the list, the pros and cons seem about evenly stacked. So what is a writer to do?

My advice (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t want my advice), you shouldn’t avoid writing multiple POVs because it’s challenging. Just learn to do it right. Easier said than done. The easy way to do it right? First, learn how others have done it wrong.

Usually multiple POVs fail because the writer was trying to give every character a POV instead of just the major characters. Or the author wanted to make sure all their POVs had an equal amount of scenes.

Easy fix

The main protagonist should always have a majority of the scenes.

Choose POVs that are focused on the main story. If they aren’t, cut them.

How many is too many

qv544423c9Again, you’re looking for an actual number aren’t you. Sorry, there are no black and white writing laws that dictate how many point of views you can have. Most writing laws are unwritten and meant to be broken when necessary anyway. The correct answer varies from book to book. In a nutshell, how many can your story support?

 

Rule of Thumb: You have too many POVs if . . .

One of your POVs is telling a different story. All POVs should be focused on the same story.

More than one story? You have more than one book. You’ll want to eliminate some POVs. It’s as simple as that.

Rule of Thumb to be Broken: I’ve heard it said that you can only have one POV per chapter. Again not a rule. Some chapters split into multiple scenes. You may need to switch to your antagonist or another character before the end of your chapter. Just make sure the transition is clear. I probably wouldn’t head hop mid-scene unless you can pull it off. Every rule is meant to be broken–if done well.

POVs need to be distinct and consistent

Think of your characters’ perspectives like smells. They should have a different scent. After all, no one smells the same, right? Even twins don’t smell alike. I’ll go sniff my sister to prove it.

Getting off topic . . .

Each character should have his or her own, unique tone, mood, beliefs, voice, outlook, and perception. If not, all of your characters will sound the same. This is one of the most common reasons multiple POVs fail.

Choose POVs that are different. I’m going to use my sister’s debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other” as an example.

Pig: optimistic, delusional, hopeful, idealistic

Kay: grumpy, stubborn, pessimistic, realistic

You can see how those POVs will contrast. No situation, scene, or event will be weighed, judged, or experienced the same for these two characters.

Just make sure readers will identify with all of your POVs. Even though Kay and Pig are so different, readers can relate, sympathize, and understand both points of view.

Choosing the Correct POV

imagesPOV needs to be considered in every scene. Look at the characters in your scene. List them if you have to. If you’re not sure which one to choose, write it from all of their perspectives and choose the best one. Remember that it’s not just your choice. Never write multiple POVs “just because.” That is a horrible reason. The same goes for reason number 2. I really like this character and I think it would be super fun to write a scene from their POV. Tempting, I know, but consider the purpose. POV will impact the reader’s perspective and attitude toward events. Consider the tone you want to set.

Example: You want your reader to see the beauty after a storm. Would you choose:

Character A. He is grumpy and pessimistic. Always sees the glass half empty. He wouldn’t notice the sun because of the puddles.

Character B. She is always optimistic. Nothing brings her down. She’s observant and sees the best in all situations. She keeps her chin up no matter what.

Hands down: you’d choose character B. She’d probably notice the beauty of a storm–she won’t have any trouble seeing the beauty after one. She always keeps her chin up too. She’ll notice a lot more than grumpy gus.

perspective

Which one is the best one?

The easy answer is not your favorite.

The more complicated answer is: which is the best for the reader.

  • reveals information you need the reader to know
  • conceals information you want to hide from the reader
  • most or least reliable (depending on which you want)
  • the character that has the most at stake in that scene

That’s just my point of view on point of view. Now I’d like your point of view. Please comment below.