Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Playing the Long Game in Self Publishing by Derek Haines

http://www.derekhaines.ch/justpublishing/playing-the-long-game-in-self-publishing/

Writing Advice and Major Mistakes by The Writing Life

http://thewritelife.com/11-ways-to-ask-for-writing-advice-and-10-major-mistakes-to-avoid/

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

To Offer it Free or Not – Marketing Your Work

Free BooksAs with everything to do with the art of writing, publishing and marketing books, there are different views on the worth of offering your books free.
Some will argue that you should not work for free.  And, in essence, that is what you are doing when you offer your books free.  You have spent countless hours writing, editing, perfecting, and polishing your writing.  You chose the perfect cover, formatted the book for eBook, and finally are rewarded with seeing your hard work available to the world.
Of course, you want some monetary gain from all that hard work.  Who wouldn’t?
But, unless you are already a well-known author, will the world even know you exist?  Will they (the readers) buy your book when you are an unknown quantity to them?  When there are so many badly written, badly edited, and just plain bad, stories out there, the reader needs to have a reason to want to invest their money in your book.
I see offering books free as a marketing tool.  Companies do it with other types of products all the time, offering try me samples in the hope you will love it enought to buy it.  The buy one-get one free offer.  Buy that and we’ll toss this in with it.  Get one month free.  Even the grocery stores get in on the action with their free sample days.  These are all teasers to encourage you to buy or try their product.
If there is one thing everyone loves, it is getting something for free.
How many books have you passed over buying because you didn’t know if you would like the author?  The write up on the back cover looks good, the cover art is enticing, but you just don’t know.  So you decide instead to buy that new book by the author you love.
This does not mean you have to give it away free forever.  Offer it free for a limited time. With so many companies marketing other products by this method, it must work.  Otherwise, they would invest that marketing money in other ways to market their products.  You can always offer it free again if it suits your needs.
You can also offer limited time coupon codes so that those who get the code can read it free while others have to purchase it.  Coupon codes can be used in a targeted marketing campaign.  For example, let’s say you are publishing a humor book suitable for grade school kids about survival while camping with scout groups.  Offer the coupon code to your local scout groups, giving the kids the eBook free.  If they read it and love it, they’ll tell their friends about it.  Target book clubs for your genre.  If your book is about gardening, offer the coupon code for free limited time download of your book to a few garden clubs.
Knowing they got something free that others have to pay for makes people feel special.  They feel like they got a prize, they feel superior, they feel a small sense of empowerment.  They feel like they matter just a little bit more.  They feel like someone cares.  Each feels special in a different way, depending on their personality.  It doesn’t matter how they feel special, you made them feel that way and they like you more for it.
The hardest part of selling books is getting readers to know it exists.If free offers help, then it is worth it.  The first job of selling your book is getting someone to read it.  If you did your job right in writing the book, then they will do your second job for you – getting them to talk about it.
People talk about books and share information on them for three reasons:
(1) They loved it,
(2) They found it controversial and it got their blood boiling,
(3) They hated it.
Nobody talks about the book that isn’t noteworthy.  They also won’t talk about it if they haven’t read it or even heard of it.  If they loved it, they will talk about it, and they also will want to read more.
I see offering books free as a marketing tool.  Companies do it with other types of products all the time, offering try me samples in the hope you will love it enought to buy it.  The buy one-get one free offer.  Buy that and we’ll toss this in with it.  Get one month free.  Even the grocery stores get in on the action with their free sample days.  These are all teasers to encourage you to buy or try their product.
Another way to get free samples of your work into your potential readers’ hands is short stories.  Offer short stories for free eBook download.  Blog them, Facebook them, share them.
Consider this:  work together with another author who writes similar stories in the same genre.  You both offer a free short story written by the other with the purchase of your book.  Both authors have a vested interest in promoting the books, one to earn the royalties and the other to get their reader audience to grow through the free short story.
Always remember to plug your other work.  Whether a book or a short story, free or for a price, always remember to include a plug for other published work that is available.
Every piece has to be your best.  Whether free or not, a 100 word flash fiction or 150,000 novel; every bit of writing you put out there needs to be good.  Advertising yourself with mediocre short stories will not increase your readership.
However you choose to market your work, the goal is the same – getting potential readers and buyers to notice you in a sea of possible authors.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Write a Beginning that Snaps

chatperoneThe beginning of your story is the most important part.  This applies no matter what you are writing; an epic trilogy, a novel, a short story, memoire, fiction or nonfiction.
Now that I said it, I will tell you that this is a statement I personally do not agree with.
Some writers, publishers, and agents will argue that if you don’t hook the reader in the first sentence then you failed.  I’ve heard variations of this same idea multiple times.
But what kind of a first sentence does it take to have that instant hook?  And, is it even possible?
Advice will run between keeping it short and simple to using a complex sentence including multiple ways to draw the reader in with those few first words.
Set stage and tone, time and place, conflict, theme, foreshadow, tell a truth, surprise the reader,  shock them, promise a reward, don’t start with a question, relate to the reader, do not start with dialogue, be funny or absurd, raise a question, start with an action, incite an emotional reaction, connect the reader with the main character, it must be vivid, offer a tease, introduce your main character, get them fascinated with the scene, sum up the novel.
This is only a sampling of the advice you might see on how to write the perfect first sentence.  None of it is either wrong or right.  It’s also probably impossible for you to pack all of that into a single sentence without making it incredibly long and unwieldy.
As with everything about writing and every other form of art what is good, or as seems to be demanded of us the perfect reader trap, is subjective to the individual’s taste.  And each individual’s tastes are determined by too many factors to count, including their personal tastes and preferences, culture, experiences, and so much more.
So who is to say what is the perfect opening sentence?
Best First Lines from Published Novels
Consider this list: “100 Best First Lines from Novels” by American Book Review.  How many of these lines made the list simply because of who the author is or because the book became a classic?  How many of these lines would even be considered for this list if they had been published today by a less famous author?
Given the single first sentence and no other reference, which first sentence from this list would you have been hooked on, driven to read on?  Of course, many of these lines are dated and were probably red hot in their day.  But it is also too easy to look back and say that first line must have been perfect because the book was a classic.  For me, more than a few of these invoke a response of “meh”.  So they are certainly someone’s perfect first line, but not mine.
So ask yourself this: if you take the top 100 current worldwide bestsellers and poll a group on a list of only that first sentence with no reference to the author or what book it was taken from, how many would be voted as perfect first lines?  How many would instantly hook the reader, driving him or her helplessly forward to read the rest of the book?
The publishing world is full of books of every type.  Those whose perfect first line went on to set the tone for a fantastic piece of writing, those that fall flat into abysmal blandness after a great opening line, those whose opening line was only the opening to something that draws you in and hooks you as you continue, those that flop on every level, and everything in between.
Let’s face it; it takes much more than an epic first line to make a story a success.  And there are very few readers who would stop at the first line and make a judgment without reading further.
The internet is full of advice on how to write that perfect first sentencethat Snaps, pops, and otherwise grabs your reader’s attention and refuses to let go.  Even WikiHow gets in on the action.  But as you research how to make that first line that promises to make your story and career soar to unimaginable heights, you will also quickly learn that this advice is neither absolute nor universal.
Here are just a few articles on writing the first line:
While some people tell you that first line is all important, others will argue that it is not the first sentence that is the most important; that the first sentence is not the do or die of your story and writing and publishing career.
Like this writer, Chuck Sambuchino, who says this of the often pushed list of alleged literary first line masterpieces, “So here’s the deal, or my theory of the deal:  These authors didn’t worry about the opening sentence; they just started telling their stories.  There has to be a beginning.  That beginning might indicate time and place, might introduce a character.  Might reveal a thought.  Present a fact.  Drop in on some event or action in the middle.  Whatever starts the telling makes the first sentence.  Just as whatever concludes the story will make the last.”
So, how do you write that perfect first sentence?
The best advice I can give you is to just jump in and write the first sentence.  Don’t even think of it as the first sentence.  Just sit down, think about where your story starts, and start writing.  But don’t stop there.  Keep going and write the next sentence and the next.  Keep the momentum going.  Do not let yourself get bogged down and lose the feeling of the narrative worrying over whether or not that first sentence snaps.  If you feel the flow, just keep going and worry about perfection later.
Now put it aside.   Let your mind take a break before you go back to it.
Read it and ask yourself, “Would I read this?”  Does the first sentence do justice to the rest of that first paragraph?  Does that first paragraph make you want to read the next?  Do you feel compelled to turn the page when you reach the bottom?  Do you yearn to learn what happens next when that chapter ends?  Do you feel bored or confused anywhere?
Your first sentence sets the stage for the paragraph.  And the first paragraph draws the reader into the chapter.  But it takes so much more than one person’s opinion of whether or not your first sentence is perfect.  It takes more than the opinions of your writer’s group, your mentor, or even your publisher.
Why?  Because the truth of it is that there is no such thing a perfect first sentence.  I would compare it to the search for the ever-elusive perfect man or the perfect woman.  Every individual’s needs and ideas for what makes that ‘perfect’ are different and ever changing.
From first sentences that invoke emotion to those that set place, time, and mood, the first sentence is only the beginning of something much deeper.  What makes it right depends on what your story needs it to be.  What makes it right is not obsessing over whether or not that first sentence is perfect enough, but rather how it works as a foundation for that first paragraph and the story as a whole.
What makes it perfect is making it feel perfectly natural.
Research what others recommend, take advice from different sources, and most importantly, know that every story is different and that means that what works for each story is different.  Every piece of advice is exactly that, it is that individual’s personal opinion, their recommendation and offered guidance.
Now go out there and write the first sentence that is perfect for your story.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Not to Get Noticed by Other Writers, Agents, Other Publishing Types, and Book Junkies

noticemeThis is my own personal 10 steps on how NOT to get noticed by other writers, agents, various other publishing types, and assorted book junkies.  These tips, of course, are in no particular order.  Failure to follow any one or more might risk exposing yourself to being (gulp) noticed.
Step 1 – Don’t be funny.  Seriously, humor brings smiles, which then bring good feelings.  Humor, smiles, and warm fuzzy feelings breed a sense of familiarity.  If someone in any way feels that familiarity towards you, you feel like a friend to them and you have been noticed.
Step 2 – Don’t follow blogs and other websites.  You never know when the author might peek to see who is following.
Step 3 – Don’t use a memorable picture.  We don’t all like the idea of pasting pictures of ourselves online for the whole world to see.  Sometimes we’d prefer a photo of something else, like your cat or an apple, or better yet that generic silhouette default picture a few billion other users are using.  Best to stick with the generic silhouette, everybody is sick to death of looking at the Grumpy Cat and all those other over-used images.  If you use a memorable picture of something interesting, you risk being noticed.  Worse, use a good picture of yourself and you might be recognized across more than one social media site.  Then you would feel like a real person to others instead one of the multitude of online semi-anonymous acquaintances.
Step 4 – Don’t bop around blogs leaving comments.  Sometimes those comments actually get read.  You never know when someone might decide to follow the link back to your own blog, and then, you got it, chances are you’ve been noticed, and maybe even a few more followers.
Step 5 – Don’t blog regularly about writing, being a writer, your hobbies and passions, family, cooking recipes, or the thousands on thousands of other things people blog on.  A regular blog gets followers.
Step 6 – Multi social media.  This is a definite ‘no’.  Sharing and posting your own blog posts, links to others’ blog posts and book reviews and reviews on their books, and general sharing across multiple social media sites is a recipe for disaster if you want to stay entirely anonymous.
Step 7 – Don’t follow other writers and publishing world peeps in sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, et al with wild abandon.  They have a tendency to follow back and even re-tweet/repost your posts to their own followers if you do the same for them.  That will only build your online presence, instead of keeping you in that obscurity it is so easy to hide behind.
Step 9 – Be selfish.  Don’t do favors for others without the expectation of a return on your investment of time.  Hosting other authors in the forms of interviews, guest blogs, and posting links to reviews on their books or reviewing their books for nothing more than the exchange of a free copy of their book, these are all recipes for disaster when you want no one to notice you.  Not only will those people share your posts with their own followers, they might even be grateful, appreciate your kindness, and even return the favor some time.
Step 10 – This one is maybe the most important.  Don’t keep writing and writing and writing. The more you write, stories, blogs, and anything else you publish for free download or for sale, the more likely it is that you will develop a fan base.
Now let’s get serious about why you really read this article.
When you feel rejected, dejected, and let down that no one seems to be noticing you … stop it.  This isn’t high school; it only feels like it is.  Everyone out there is trying so hard to get you and everyone else to notice them, that they might not even see you.  Yes Virginia, it is a popularity contest, and the winners are the ones with publishing contracts and large book sale counts.
We all want the same thing, to be writers; and not just that, but to be published writers and have someone love our books.  In order for that to happen, you have to be noticed.  People have to find your book and actually buy it, read it, and rave to their friends about it.  The hard part is getting your book noticed in the sea of books out there.
Don’t let yourself feel down about that when it doesn’t happen.  Even some of the most popular authors struggled in the beginning to be discovered by their fans.  We are all struggling for the same thing, so you are not alone.  Getting discovered has as much to do with luck and it does putting yourself out there and working hard.
And, as a final word, don’t assume that breaking any or all of the rules above will get you noticed.  Sometimes you just have to be at the right place at the right time, and sometimes you have to do something very noticeable to get noticed.  The World Wide Web is a vast dark and dusty weaving of emptiness filled with the intangible beyond your computer screen.  Sometimes, you just can’t get noticed sitting in a room by yourself no matter how hard you wave your arms.   And other times, you might hit on that one magic stroke of luck and you are made.

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