Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Writers' Dash: A Virtual Writers Group


I heard about this just today from Virtual Writers' World. I've never been, but it seems like a great idea!
The Writers’ Dash (#writersdash or #dailydash on Twitter) is a 15-minute free writing exercise held on Twitter, Facebook and Second Life® every weekday. At 5:30am & 5:30pm PDT we share the word prompt on our social media channels; the live event begins in Second Life® at 6am & 6pm PDT. Write whatever comes to you. Don’t fixate too heavily on what you are writing and disengage your inner editor – the key is for you to get the words on the page first; you can worry about editing later. If you are attending the live event in Second Life® there will be an opportunity for you to show your work to the other participants after the 15 minutes are up. If you are unable to attend the live event you can share your work on our blog. Just look out for the prompt post and leave your dash piece as a comment.
To read the entire article, click here: Writers’ Dash: Tuber

The writing prompt on June 28th was "tuber". Sounds fun. Quirky.

By the way, I'm out of the office today, but will be back tomorrow. I hope everyone has a terrific long weekend!

Google Drive: Who Owns Your Stories?


Writers are constantly on the look out for ways to make writing more convenient. We have all experienced the pain of having a great idea for the story we're working on but been unable to access it because our saga has been left left at home, or on the office computer, or ...

Dropbox is a great way to keep your story a click away no matter what device you happen to be toting around. Up until recently Dropbox was the solution that stood head and shoulders above the rest but now there is a new gunslinger in town by the name of Google Drive. * Cue cheesy western music *

Google Drive does everything Dropbox does, but costs less. Of course, since it's Google (or as I think of it nowadays: Benign Overload In Training), folks are going to have security concerns, but Nilay Patel of The Verge says that, this time at least, Google is shooting straight with users. (Sorry, I should kill that metaphor.) He writes: 
[A]ll web services should be subject to harsh scrutiny of their privacy policies — but a close and careful reading reveals that Google's terms are pretty much the same as anyone else's, and slightly better in some cases. Let's take a look.
. . . .
Here's the section from Google's terms of service that's causing all the controversy today, with my emphasis in bold:
Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.
When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.
That's a lot of rights to give Google, on the face of it — in fact, it's basically every right you can give to Google as a copyright holder. But think about how limited Google's services would be if it didn't have permission to use, host, store, modify, communicate, publish, or distribute your content — it couldn't move files around on its servers, cache your data, or make image thumbnails, since those would be unauthorized copies. It couldn't run Google Translate or Google Image Search. It would be illegal to play YouTube clips in public. In short, Google is giving itself all the permissions it could possibly need to run all of Google services, with the specific limitations that it doesn't own anything you upload and it can't use your data beyond running its services.
Google actually responded to Nilay Patel's request for comment and clarification. Gotta say, point for Benign Overlord Google. Not many huge corporations have the PR savvy to do something like that. Here is Google's response:
As our Terms of Service make clear, "what belongs to you stays yours." You own your files and control their sharing, plain and simple. Our Terms of Service enable us to give you the services you want — so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can.
To read more of N. Patel's article click here: Is Google Drive worse for privacy than iCloud, Skydrive, and Dropbox?

I've taken the plunge and installed Google Drive on my devices. If you're considering doing likewise--or even if you're not--here is a comparison chart of the different store-it-in-the-cloud solutions such as Dropbox and Google Drive:


This graphic is from the article, Google Drive vs. Dropbox, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and others: a cloud sync storage face-off. It was published April 24th 2012 so it's a wee bit dated now, for instance, Google Drive has an iOS app out, but the article is still a great resource for anyone researching the different cloud solutions for storing and sharing data.

By the way, for mobile device users, CloudOn is a great tool for editing the text documents you store in programs such as Dropbox or Google Drive. CloudOn allows you to open such documents up and edit them seamlessly.

Before I used CloudOn I would open up a Dropbox document, save it in Pages, do my edits, mail it back to myself, and then manually update the document in Dropbox. So, yes, the document was available wherever I was, but the experience wasn't what I would call seamless. With CloudOn I just open up my document, make whatever changes I want, and they are automatically saved back to the underlying document. Much less work.


Related articles:
- Why Dropbox Is A Writer's Best Friend
- Evernote: the everything app

Friday, June 29, 2012

Seth Godin: Resist Greed, Do Not Pander


Seth Godin has just posted an excellent article on pandering, or doing something simply for money. He writes:
Yes, you can pander, and if you're a public company and have promised an infinite growth curve, you may very well have to. But if you want to build a reputation that lasts, if you want to be the voice that some (not all!) in the market seek out, this is nothing but a trap, a test to see if you can resist short-term greed long enough to build something that matters.
Read the rest here: Do we have to pander?


I looked up "pander" in the dictionary and here's what I found:
verb: "Gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire, need, or habit or a person with such a desire, etc.)."

noun: A pimp.
It seems that it isn't so much the indulging that's distasteful, it's the desire, the want that is the reason for the indulgence. And so, because a certain desire is distastful the indulging of it is so as well.

I mention this because I think perhaps there's a difference between folks who do distasteful things because they want to have a place to live and food to eat--folks who are fighting just to get by--and folks who do it because ... well, you pick. Because they want more money than their neighbors, because they want to buy the neighborhood playground, pave it over, and turn it into a car park. Whatever.

Or is there a difference? Of course some ways of making money are beyond the pale, whatever the reason. Human trafficking for instance. But a person can work in a soul-killing job for years because they love their family and want to help provide for them. What should they do? Quit their job and put their family in jeopardy, trusting to the fates that something will intervene to avert disaster, or should they continue to chip away fragments of their soul in exchange for security?

What a cheery thought! I think I really do need my morning coffee now. 

Seth Godin has the best posts, they make me think, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Cheers.

Related reading:
- Writer Beware: Outskirts Press
- Kris Rusch: The Value of Imperfection

Photo credit: TED


Former Random House CEO Agrees With Amazon About Ebook Pricing


When asked what the price of an ebook should be, former Random House CEO Alberto Vitale (1989 - 2002) replied:
The price of the eBook should be $9.99 and down, I am convinced of that. Some publishers who have adopted the agency model are pricing them at $12.99 and $14.99 or more, and this is way too high. They might sell a lot of books at that price, but they would sell a hell of a lot more if they would price them at $9.99.
I agree! Read the rest of the interview here: Ex-RH CEO Alberto Vitale Still Has a Lot to Say About Publishing.

Related reading:
- Amazon To Acquire Dorchester Publishing
- Amazon Award-Winner Regina Sirois & The Problems Of Indie Distribution
- Amazon's KDP Select: Another Author Shares Her Experience


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Amazon To Acquire Dorchester Publishing


Amazon's planned acquisition of Dorchester Publishing is fantastic news for those writers who had books with the troubled company. It's not a done deal yet, though. The auction won't take place until August, but it seems a forgone conclusion that Amazon will be successful in their bid.

Amazon says that any contracts not picked up will be terminated and all rights will revert to the author. Here's how Publisher's Weekly put it:
Moving forward, Dorchester authors will, Amazon said, be offered the choice about how they want their titles published. An Amazon spokesperson explained: "We want all authors to be happy being a part of the Amazon Publishing family going forward and we have structured our bid so that we will only take on authors who want to join us. As part of this philosophy, if we win the bid, Dorchester has committed to revert all titles that are not assigned to us."
Read the rest here: Amazon Bids on Dorchester Assets.

If you'd like to read more about Amazon's planned acquisition of Dorchester Publishing, here are a few articles you might be interested in:

- Amazon Plans to Acquire the Assets of Dorchester Publishing (GalleyCat)
- Amazon Bids on Dorchester Assets (Publishers Weekly)
- Amazon to Acquire Dorchester (Unless You Are Ready To Outbid Them) (Digital Book World) Digital Book World also includes a copy of the full press release.

Cheers!

Kris Rusch: The Value of Imperfection


Kris writes:
At every craft workshop I teach, I make at least one writer cry. ...

How do I bring writers to tears? Usually by saying this:

I loved this story. It’s wonderful. Mail it.
I found this very touching. As Kris says, professional writers "are workshop-hardened folk, people who have been eviscerated by the best of them ...".

It is so true, and one reason why I am leery of workshops. I think every writer--priofessional or otherwise--has had the experience of being told that, in some way or other, their writing didn't measure up.

Since we pour who we are, our souls, into our prose, when our work is dismissed it can be a soul-crushing experience.

Kris' point is that no story is perfect. She quotes Tina Fey in the movie Bossy Pants: "The show doesn’t go on when it’s finished; it goes on because it’s 11:30". So very true. Kris writes:
Exactly. At some point, you must simply let go of that book or story or play and move to the next.

If our workshopping friend Bill Shakespeare strove for perfection, we would never have heard of him. We wouldn’t have gotten all of that marvelous writing, all of those wonderful—flawed—plays. (You don’t think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the only one riddled with possible workshop-identifiable errors, do you? Think of Romeo and Juliet. Why didn’t those crazy lovesick kids just move to another town????)
So many times in Kris' post I felt like jumping up, pumping my first in the air and yelling, "Yes!". I couldn't, though, because, first, it would have destroyed my reputation as being quietly introspective and, second, it would have disturbed the cat who had chosen to sleep on me.

There's one more thing I want to share with you:
When I became an editor, I learned just how important taste is. The difference between the short stories in Analog and Asimov’s, two of the science fiction digest magazines (that now have e-book editions each month if you haven’t seen them before), isn’t that there is such thing as an Analog story or an Asimov’s story that I as a long-time reader can tell you about. The difference is in the taste of their editors. Stanley A. Schmidt of Analog likes different kinds of stories than Sheila Williams of Asimov’s does. Occasionally their tastes overlap. Most often, they do not.

If there were such a thing as a perfect sf story, then both editors would always buy the same stories, and you couldn’t tell the magazines apart.

As readers, you all know this. As writers, you forget it.

And when you forget it, you make the weirdest decisions.

You give control of your product to the wrong people. You submit romance novels to science fiction markets (and wonder why the editor didn’t read your manuscript—was it the passive sentence on page 32?). You try to revise to please everyone in your peer-level writing group.

You self-publish your novel, make sure it’s edited and copyedited, add a fantastic cover, and then revise to address concerns posted by reviewers who gave your book one star. That’s complete and utter idiocy. Seriously.

Some nutty brand new writer, with one or two novels to her name, posted a blog on Digital Book World espousing just that. She says writers should always address their critics’ concerns.

I read that and nearly snorted my tea all over my iPad. If I even tried to address all the nasty reviews I’ve gotten over the years, I’d never write anything new. If I tried to address all the somewhat valid criticisms I’ve gotten on my books, I’d still spend forever revising.

Only a writer with one or two publications to her credit would have time to even think such a thing is viable.

Her blog post has gone viral, and I’ve seen new writers everywhere wring their hands over the fact that they now have to pay attention to their one-star reviews and constantly revise.

I’m here to tell you this: If you want a career as a writer, ignore your critics.

When the book is finished, when the book is published for heaven’s sake, then it’s done. Irrevocably done. Mistakes and all.

And there will be mistakes. Lots of them.
This makes so much sense! I really needed to hear this. Again.

I would encourage your to read Kris' post in full, as my mother used to say, "It's a keeper". This one is being indexed in Evernote under the heading, "When you feel like a crappy writer, READ THIS!!!". Here's the link: The Business Rusch: Perfection.

Remember, keep writing!

Related reading:
Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments
- Write Or Die: The App
- Tips For Writers From Richard Nash, Previously Of Soft Skull Press

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments


I love learning from the greats how they worked, how they thought of their art/craft, this thing we call writing (such a drab name for an act so often fraught with terror and yet having the power to create ecstasy).

Courtesy of Brain Pickings, here are Henry Miller's 11 Commandments:
  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

I find (1) and (10) the hardest. It seems as soon as I begin work on one book I can think of at least 2 others I want to write more than the one I happen to be working on.

My favorite is (5), "When you can't create you can work." I wonder if Henry Miller ever woke up  up feeling like cotton batting had replaced his brains and he just wasn't up to stringing two coherent words together. It's strangely comforting to think he may have.

But that's not all! Here is Henry Miller's daily schedule:

MORNINGS:
- If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.
- If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:
- Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

EVENINGS:
- See friends. Read in cafés.
- Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.
- Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.
- Paint if empty or tired.
- Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.
I think that's a great schedule. As always, the trick is sticking to it, as Mr. Miller did. I think there's a lot of truth to the saying, "Success is 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration".

I hope Henry Miller's schedule/work ethic inspired you to write, it has me!

Cheers, and keep writing.

Other articles you might like:
- Stephen King: 15 tips on how to become a better writer - Penelope Trunk Discusses Time Management
- Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story

Writer Beware: Outskirts Press

outskirts press, hollywood scam
Writer Beware

Writer Lee Goldberg (Monk, The Dead Man series) spoke up a few days ago about a scam that Outskirts Press is running.

Here is a snippet from the press release put out by Outskirts Press:
These services solve a real problem for many authors who dream of making it big in Hollywood. In fact, just getting Hollywood's attention is nearly impossible, but with the Book Your Trip to Hollywood suite of services from Outskirts Press, authors receive turn-key, full-service assistance with the push of a button. And with each option, authors receive the feedback and/or participation of a real Hollywood producer and production company; the final results are added to a Hollywood database that is perused by industry professionals for new projects; and exclusive efforts to option the author's book are immediately set into motion. The author doesn't have to lift a finger.
As Lee writes, "Except to pull out his or her credit card."

If a writer falls for Outskirts Press' song and dance, how much could he get taken for? The following is from Writer Beware writer Victoria Strauss:
[T]he total bill for your Hollywood pipe dream comes to $15,239. Outskirts can even claim that this is a bargain: the very similar services offered by Author Solutions will set you back over $18,000. 
 At the end of his article Lee Goldberg advises, "Give your $15,000 to the first homeless person you see instead... not only would it be a better use of your money, you would also have exactly the same chance of making a movie sale as you would giving it to Outskirts". That seems like a fair assessment.

I encourage you to read Victoria Strauss' article: More Money-Wasting "Opportunities" For Writers

Lee Goldberg's equally valuable article is here: Outing Outskirts Press


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jack Kerouac: FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS


I couldn't resist sharing this quotation from Jack Kerouac with you:
And be sure of this, I spent my entire youth writing slowly with revisions and endless rehashing speculation and deleting and got so I was writing one sentence a day and the sentence had no FEELING. Goddamn it, FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS ....
I thought of Dean Wesley Smith when I read that! If you're curious, here's what Dean has to say about rewriting:

Rewriting, Part One
Rewriting, Part Two

In any case, it's an excellent interview, I'd encourage you to read it: Jack Kerouac, The Art of Fiction No. 41.

Photo credit: The Eye Of Faith

Is 99 Cents Too Low For An Indie Ebook?


I used to think 99 cents was a good price for indie books. Sure, they're worth more than 99 cents but if you want to sell a lot of books then it seemed reasonable to price them affordably, and at 99 cents a lot of folks don't think twice before clicking the "download" button.

Things have changed.

Two things happened. First, Amazon changed its ranking algorithm to favor higher priced books and therefore 99 cent books no longer have the competitive edge they once did. Second, I think the novelty of being able to buy a book for 99 cents has worn off and consumers don't download 99 cent books as readily.

For years Dean Wesley Smith said an author should never price her novel at 99 cents. I now agree with him. Yesterday he posted a comment one of his readers had submitted and I've reproduced a small part of that, below. I think this is a fantastic analogy.
He [an pricing professional] would look at all the short stories and say ‘It takes 15 minutes to read? And it was fun? Okay. charge 5 bucks.” And when writers squawked in horror, he would say “Starbucks sells fancy coffees for $5 that take 15 minutes to drink. They sell millions every day. Did you enjoy the story as much as the coffee? Yes? Well, no problem.”

And the writers would come back with “but there was actual substance in the coffee… cream and coffee beans and sugar…” and the he would respond with “yeah, and if I really like the story, I can read it again. I can’t drink the coffee again. I can lend the story to my friends. I can’t say to my friends, ‘gee you should taste this coffee, it was really good, you can try it when I’m done with it.’

He would tell you that it is not good practice to set anything, no matter how ‘small’, at regular price at the very bottom of the price structure.

The bottom price should be reserved for sales exclusively, and used only in an integrated, strategic way to give you more sales traction and build your brand.

If people said “oh, well I’m new, and I don’t have name recognition so I have to sell cheap to make sales” he’d say, no. Set the price you want to regularly sell at. From that price have sales, or other promotions that give an incentive to the consumer to try your new stuff. You’re telling the consumer that you know they are taking a bit of a risk on a new, unknown quantity, so a price break makes it more appealing. Once they’ve tried your stuff, then they know if the regular price is worth it to them.

You are always educating the consumer as to what your product is worth. The regular price will come to be perceived as its true value. You don’t want to set that too low. You steal from the consumer the thrill of getting a deal, you steal from yourself the flexibility to build and expand your brand appropriately.
Read the rest over at Dean's blog: The New World of Publishing: Book Pricing from Another Perspective.

Related reading:
-The Vandal's 10 Ways To Promote Your Book
- 7 Tips On How To Launch A Book Without Losing Your Mind
- 5 Book Review Blogs


Monday, June 25, 2012

How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website


It's time for another series! This time I'm going to discuss how a writer can build a platform, what a platform is and why she/he would want to build one. We're going to start off small, though, so today I'm going to write about why I think every writer needs a website.

How To Build A Platform, Part 1: Why Every Writer Needs A Website

The question of whether a writer needs a website is close to my heart because it's one I struggled with. I now believe that the answer is a resounding "Heck ya!".  And this is coming from someone who went the other way and started off with a blog and no website.

Why did I go with a blog first and plan to develop my website later? Honestly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, it's because I have a background in website development and was tired of building sites--I'd put that life behind me--so I decided, this time, I'd let Blogger.com do all the work.

For the record I love my blog. I mean that. I love it, but it's just not enough. I realize now that I need a website too. (That said, my blog isn't going anywhere, it will always be here at blog.karenwoodward.org, but my website will be site.karenwoodward.org and run off a hosting service. But enough about me.)

a. Why writers need a website and not just a blog
When I first started writing in earnest I began a blog on Blogger. This blog. And, as I said, I love my blog.

Blogger has been very good to me. It has automatically added certain tracking features that, when I took out my free Google Analytics account, showed up and gave me helpful information.

Since I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning--I hadn't even heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)--Blogger helped save me from myself, got me indexed with Google and Bing and whatever other search engines are out there. Also, Blogger gave me a great dashboard and made available many articles about how to make the best use of its features and it pointed me toward a great, free, book on SEO that Google had put out.

In other words, blogger held my hand and helped me get up to speed. And I'm saying that, even so, you will eventually need a website.


b. The difference between a website and a blog
A blog is something that gets updated frequently while a website (which may or may not contain a blog) is more about establishing a permanent presence on the web.

It's your website's domain name (for instance, www.mysite.com) you'll list on your business cards and your website is where you'll do things like:

- keep information about each of your books,
- have links to where folks can buy your work,
- host a series of articles,
- have a tab for your current promotion or
- host a page that has information about your next book.

Could you do all these things on Blogger? Theoretically, yes. But you wouldn't have the kind of control a content management system like WordPress can give you.

In another post we'll discuss content management systems as well as the pros and cons of using WordPress. Stay tuned!

Update: For more articles on how to build a platform, click here: Building A Writer's Platform

Cheers.

Other articles you might like:
- How To Start A Blog
- How To Format A Word Document For Amazon's KDP Publishing Program
- 7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted

Photo credit: "NY" by Missi under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

"How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

How To Become A Full Time Indie Author

How To Become A Full Time Indie Author
I can't believe I've never heard of Lindsay Buroker before. Even now I don't know much about her, but I do know three things:

1) She's an indie author
2) She sells enough books as an indie that she's able to write full time
3) She gives awesome advice about how to become a full time indie author

I'd go so far as to say that anyone who follows the advice Lindsay has given is guaranteed to sell more books. Of course, milage will vary. You might not be able to quit your day-job, but her advice to indie authors is along the lines of, "look both ways before you cross the street". You could ignore it, but I wouldn't advise it.

Here is Lindsay's advice:


1. Don't just write novel length stories, write shorter ones too


This allows you to publish more in the same amount of time, and the more you get your name out in front of readers, the better. Especially in the beginning. Lindsay writes:
... I’ve never been in the Amazon Top 100 (or in the Top 1000 for more than a couple of days), and I’m not particularly visible even in my sub-categories (epic fantasy/historical fantasy) in the Kindle Store. You don’t have to be an uber seller to make a living, though you have to, of course, have characters and/or plots that capture people’s imaginations and turn them into fans (not everyone has to like your books but enough people do so that you get good reviews and you word-of-mouth “advertising” from readers). If you have ten books priced at $4.99, and they sell 200 copies a month, you’re earning over $6,000 a month.

I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s easy to write ten books or sell 200 copies a month of a title (I would have rolled my eyes at such a comment 16 months ago), but, right now, the numbers tell us that making a living as an indie author is a lot more doable than making a living as a traditionally published author (where the per-book cut is a lot smaller). If you’re mid-list as an indie, and you have a stable of books that are doing moderately well, you’ve got it made in the short-term. If… you’re building your tribe along the way, you ought to have it made in the long-term too (more on that below).

 2. Use the power of free to promote your books


Lindsay writes:
I’ve tried a lot when it comes to online promotion, everything from guest posts to book blog tours to contests to paid advertising, and nothing compares with having a free ebook in the major stores. Not only will people simply find it on their own, but it’s so much easier to promote something that’s free. If you do buy advertising (and I do from time to time), it’ll be the difference between selling 25 copies and getting 5,000 downloads (i.e. 5,000 new people exposed to your work), because people live in hope that they’ll find something good amongst the free offerings.

I’ve heard authors argue that most people who download free ebooks just collect them, like shiny pebbles on the beach, and that they never even bother to check them out. I say B.S. to that. I’d bet money that most people try the books they download; it’s just that they find most of them don’t pique their interest. Maybe they’ll download 50 or 100 ebooks and only find one where they want to read the whole thing. That’s fine. That just means you have to make sure your story is entertaining enough to be The One.

3. Make your stories part of a series


I'm a sucker for a good series, and I know I'm not the only one. Even if one, or perhaps two, of the books in the series aren't great, chances are I'll stick with it if I have hope things will improve. In other words, series help develop dedicated fans, people who are going to be with you for the long haul. Lindsay writes:

I should mention here that, while giving away a free ebook can be huge, it’s key that the story be part of a series, or at least strongly related to the book(s) you’re trying to sell.

I just don’t see people having the same sorts of results when their free novel or short story isn’t related to the rest of their work. Oh, it might help a little, but not the way a Book 1 that ends on a cliffhanger will. (My first book admittedly doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it does have a teaser epilogue to let folks know that there’s a lot more to come.)

4. Form a tribe


You don't have to be everything to everyone, concentrate on forming close connections with a small group. Like ripples on a lake, your influence will spread.

Lindsay suggests cultivating 10,000 fans rather than 1,000 because if you write two books a year and sell each for $5.00 on Amazon then you'll make 70,000 dollars a year. That's gross income, so you'll have to pay tax and I'm sure you'll have many writing-related expenses (website, newsletter, advertising, etc.) but that's a decent wage. Lindsay writes:
Early on, I stumbled across Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans” article. If you’re an indie anything, it’s a great read.

The gist is that you don’t have to be a mega seller. You just need X number of true fans (people who love your stuff and will buy everything you put out), and you’re assured that you can make a living at your art, so long as you to continue to produce quality material.

Lindsay's tips for acquiring 10,000 true fans


a. Place links in the afterword to each of your books. 


Links to your:
- Twitter account
- Facebook account
- Blog
- Newletter

b. Use Facebook to interact with your readers. 


This is your place to be more personal; interact with your fans, post links to things like interviews, to scenes you liked but were cut from your book, to contests you're running, to discounts or giveaways.

Obviously that advice is working for Lindsay, but I've never gotten into the Facebook experience. I love Twitter. Really. It's simple to use and it allows me to connect with folks I never would have otherwise been able to. Also, I don't have to worry whether I've written too little or too much; the 140 character limit is genius!

That said, authors do need a place to let down there hair and be more personal, which is why I'm in the (painful!) process of setting up my own website.

c. If your fans do something like start a fan forum or website, plug it! 


Mention it in the occasional tweet, or when you're chattering on Facebook.

If my fans did something like this I'd do backflips and name my children after them. Just sayin'.

d. Go the extra step to help create a community. 


Lindsay gives the example of installing a plug-in that allows nested comments. (You might need to be running WordPress.)

Great idea! Anything to help foster a community. It's interesting, though, that Seth Godin, one of the folks who helped spread the idea of developing a community, a tribe, doesn't have comments on his blog. Of course Seth has a large and rabidly devoted community, so that choice has obviously worked out for him, but still. I thought it was interesting.

e. Do goofy things just to please your fans. 


For instance, Lindsay's latest contest asks fans to design funky hats. The winner will receive signed copies of her book and the hat will appear in the next book in that series.

Awesome idea! As Lindsay notes, not many writers do this, but I love it when writers have a contest of some sort where the prize is that the winner will have a character named after them in the next book.

Well, that's it! I hope something Lindsay said will help. I encourage everyone to read her article here: What Does It Take to Become a Full-Time Indie Author?

Photo credit: Empty Nest

Thanks to the Passive Voice Blog for posting a link to Lindsay's article.

Related reading:
- The Vandal's 10 Ways To Promote Your Book
- The Most Common Mistakes In Writing: A Series
- 10 Reasons Why Stories Get Rejected

Photo credit: "color bricks" by Luz Adriana Villa A. under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ursula K. Le Guin On Literature Versus Genre

ursula k le guin, literature vs genre
Ursula K. Le Guin

What is the difference between genre and literature? Here's what Ursula K. Le Guin has to say about it:
I keep telling myself that I’m done writing about Literature vs Genre, that that vampire is buried at the crossroads with a stake in its heart and garlic in its coffin. And then it pops up again, undead. Its latest revival is a cheery one in an entertaining article, “Easy Writers,” in the May 28 New Yorker by Arthur Krystal, who discusses the literature/genre divide and while seeming to make light of it does a pretty thorough job of perpetuating it.
 .  .  .  .
If we thought of all fictional genres as literature, we’d be done with the time-wasting, ill-natured diatribes and sneers against popular novelists who don’t write by the rules of realism, the banning of imaginative writing from MFA writing courses, the failure of so many English teachers to teach what people actually read, and the endless, silly apologising for actually reading it.

If critics and teachers gave up insisting that one kind of literature is the only one worth reading, it would free up a lot of time for them to think about the different things novels do and how they do it, and above all, to consider why certain individual books in every genre are, have been for centuries, and will continue to be more worth reading than most of the others.
You can read the rest of her excellent article here: Le Guin’s Hypothesis. Thanks to the Passive Voice Blog for bringing Ms. Le Guin's post to my attention.

This is completely off topic, but Ursula K. Le Guin was born in 1929 which, by my calculations, makes her 84 this year. She is one amazing lady. I think I need to re-read her book The Left Hand Of Darkness.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Jake Needham's Experience With Amazon's KDP Select Program


Jake Needham, author of The Ambassador's Wife and crime novelist, tweeted me in response to one of my articles about the changes in Amazon's ranking algorithm and what they could mean for writers in Amazon's KDP Select program. What he had to say stunned me. Before we get to that, though, let me give you a bit of background.

Amazon's KDP Select program demands it's authors sell exclusively through Amazon, but it provides authors with perks: your books are included in Amazon's prodigious lending library and you are allowed to offer your books free a maximum of 5 days every 3 months. Every time a book is borrowed and every time a book is downloaded--even when it's free--the book's rank goes up.

Or at least it used to.

It seems the recent changes to Amazon's ranking algorithm mean free downloads now count only a fraction of what they once did, and it's pretty much the same for borrows. Since the rule of thumb is that the higher ranked a book is the better it sells authors are wondering whether Amazon's KDP Select program is still worth the price of exclusivity.

Enter Jake Needham and his tweet. Here's what he wrote (I'm using this with his kind permission):
After a big free promotions (20,000+ copies), paid sales were far lower in June than after same number of free in April.
That agrees with what I've heard from a lot of other authors. So, if Jake's experience is representative, should authors abandon Amazon's KDP Select program?

It depends.

It depends on how many books an author would have sold through other retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and iBooks, etc.

Here's what Jake said:
I sell thousands of copies of my titles every month for Kindle. So far this month for the Nook? O-n-e. Seriously.
Let's put this in perspective. Here are the books Jake has for sale on Amazon (I'm only looking at books available as ebooks):

The Ambassador's Wife
Laundry Man
Killing Plato
The Big Mango
World of Trouble

And here are the books he has for sale in the Nook store:

Laundry Man
Killing Plato
The Big Mango
World of Trouble

So the only difference is that The Ambassador's Wife is sold exclusively on Amazon. And of the thousands of copies he's sold this month, only one, one, was sold through Barnes & Noble. Wow. That's amazing.

What should we conclude?

I suppose it depends. On the one hand selling thousands of books a month on Amazon is great. I'd be swinging from the rafters. I'm guessing that even with the drop in revenue after Amazon tinkered with it's ranking algorithm, Jake is doing just fine.

On the other hand, what if Amazon breaks the algorithm? I think that's the fear, that Amazon will, intentionally or otherwise, change their algorithm in such a way that it becomes hostile to independent authors, and if Amazon is the biggest and most lucrative market out there, then we could be in very real trouble.

For what it's worth, my take on this is that it's a good idea to continually be on the look out for other places to sell ebooks, places such as Kobo's Writing Life portal for self published writers, now in beta.

That said, Amazon has shown every sign of being friendly to independent/self published authors. I believe the changes they're making to the ranking algorithm have to do with maximizing book sales and aren't intended to discourage indie authors. On the contrary, they recently featured author Jessica Park and her recently self published book Flat-Out Love on the front page of Amazon.

While there may be turbulence ahead I don't think Amazon's plane is going to crash anytime soon.

Next week I'll be posting an interview I did with Jake Needham, so stay tuned and keep writing.

Cheers.


Related reading:
- Kobo's Self-Publishing Portal: Report From A Beta Tester
- Amazon's Ranking Algorithm Has Changed: what this means for indie authors
- Amazon's KDP Select: Another Author Shares Her Experience

"Jake Needham's Experience With Amazon's KDP Select Program," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.


Friday, June 22, 2012

The Vandal's 10 Ways To Promote Your Book

10 ways for writers to promote their book
10 Ways To Promote Your Book

Derek Haines' blog is one that I read regularly, it was one of his posts that convinced me to set up my own website, although that is still a work in progress. Here are the first 5 of his 10 ways to promote your books, the remaining 5 can be found on his website.
  1. Use a Facebook Page. I made the mistake of using my personal Facebook profile for too long before realising my error. Keep your personal life away from your book marketing and set up a Page. It’s more professional and much easier to manage.
  2. Always be positive. It doesn’t matter in what form your communication takes. Whether it be posting on Twitter, Facebook or another social platform, never be negative. Even if you are insulted, do not react. Ignore, and even block that user. Keep what you post friendly, informative, complimentary and of course also add news or interesting tit bits about your books.
  3. Use multiple Twitter accounts. This may have been frowned on earlier, but I believe it’s a necessity for effective promotion. It serves to keep your main account, that is the one using your own name, relatively free of direct promotional material. As it is the account you use to interact with friends and probably other writers, filling your own timeline with book promotion is not going to be received well. By setting up another account (or two), you can aim at different target groups to follow and build a new following. Of course you need to add content to these accounts, but there are many ways to almost automate the process. Think about posting interesting bloggers, related news stories or even selective retweeting. Then add your promotional content in between.
  4. Use Stumbleupon. This is a great way to get your books and blog posts discovered, and by a large audience. Stumbleupon is second only to Twitter for me in attracting new traffic to my blog.
  5. Write and publish under a pen name. This may sound off topic when talking about self promotion, but it’s a great way to experiment and try new writing ideas. Amazon allows publishing under a pen name on your own account, so it opens up a lot of possibilities. I have used it to experiment with writing short novellas in new genres. To do a little promotion and test the market, I use one of my secondary Twitter accounts. If it looks like it could work, you can then unpublish, change the cover and title as well as make any other changes you think would improve the book then republish under your own name. As you hold the rights under both names, there’s no problem in republishing the same book again under your own name.
To read the rest of Derek's article, click here: 10 Ideas To Promote Self Published Books
[Update (Oct 29, 2012): I just re-read the above direct quotation from Derek's blog and was shocked. I'm not sure if Derek Haines has changed his opinion about using multiple Twitter accounts to promote ones books, but doing this is NOT best practices.

Honesty is the best policy. Represent yourself as yourself. If you want multiple Twitter accounts, that's fine, just be sure to clearly identify yourself as the account holder of each one.]

I have a StumbleUpon account, but hadn't thought of using it to promote my own books. Great idea! This is one of the reasons why I love the wonderful community of indie bloggers, they're so marvelously helpful.

[Update (Oct 29, 2012): I never used my StumbleUpon account to promote my books or my blog, at least not in any way objectionable. And, as you can see if you look at the account, I clearly identified myself as Karen Woodward. I'm not passing judgement on anyone who used the sort of tactics Derek describes, I just want to make it clear I never followed suit and that I do not recommend the practice.]

Here's a tip of my own: Pinterest. I've been using it off and on for the past few weeks just because it's fun, but I think it could be a great way to share links with a new audience. In case you're interested, here's my Pinterest page.

Cheers!

Amazon Award-Winner Regina Sirois & The Problems Of Indie Distribution


I love success stories!
When author Regina Sirois decided to self-publish her young adult literary fiction, On Little Wings, she found the process satisfying but for one aspect: the gate to getting her book into bookstores was nearly impossible to open. While she was happy with her ebook and print sales online, it was the bookstore experience that was left out of the process.

“That is the one hurdle I couldn’t break,” said Sirois in an interview yesterday with GoodEReader. “I loved being a self-published author, but getting it in bookstores was the last gate I couldn’t get through.”

That will certainly change now that Sirois’ novel won the young adult category for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. The winner in each of the two categories will win a publishing contract with Penguin and a $15,000 advance, and Sirois will most definitely see her book gracing the shelves of her local bookstore.

“I said in my speech at ABNA that I am grateful for this opportunity but it wrecked my marriage,” Sirois laughed. “I wasn’t going to enter. My husband forced me to enter it in ABNA at the last second, right before the contest closed. I told him it sounded like a huge waste of time for me to even enter. He mentioned it to me several times and I told him no. He came back two days before it closed and said, ‘If you don’t enter it, I will enter it for you.’ It was about 11 o’clock at night and I was tired and more than a little irritated with him, but I did it. He’s right about everything now! I will not live this down.”
Read the rest of the article here: ABNA Winner Regina Sirois on Indie vs Traditional Publishing.

Distribution was something John Locke had trouble with as well, here are his comments from a recent interview with IndieReader:
Before entering into my distribution deal with Simon & Schuster, I knew that TV and print media was the exclusive domain of traditionally-published authors. I knew as an indie author it was unlikely I would ever be interviewed on TV, or have my paperback, Wish List, reviewed in print media. So I knew there was an exclusive club. But I thought my distribution deal made me a member, or at the very least, an honorary member. Boy, was I wrong! I hired a publicist and offered myself up…and quickly learned I was not part of the club! Not one media outlet would talk to me or review my book.  Even the little papers in the towns where I grew up and went to high school and college refused to do a story on me!
- John Locke on the Big Problem (Still) Facing Indies
Hopefully, one day, it will be possible for indie authors to strike distribution deals with bookstores. Who knows, perhaps one day Waterstones will carry certain indie books! Here's hoping.

The important thing is to keep writing. Cheers.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Most Common Mistakes In Writing: A Series

most common mistakes series, wordplay

I found this series thanks to Elizabeth S. Craig over at Mystery Writing is Murder and her fantastic Twitter feed. If you ever need inspiration or guidance, or you want to learn how to become a better writer (and we could all be better!), go to @elizabethscraig and read a few of the articles she links to.

One series I'm going to be working my way through is Wordplay's Most Common Mistakes Series.  There are 15 posts in all and growing. I've provided an index to them, below.

Most Common Mistakes Series:

1) Are Your Verbs Showing or Telling?

2) Are You Using “There” as a Crutch?

3) Are You Confusing Readers With Poor Cause and Effect?

4) Why Vague Writing Is Weak Writing

5) How Not to Use Speaker Tags and Action Beats

6) Is Your First-Person Narrator Overpowering Your Story?

7) Is Your Opening Line Lying to Your Readers?

8) 10 Stylistic Mistakes Sabotaging Your Story

9) Is Nothin’ Happening in Your Scene?

10) The Dangers of Character Overload

11) Do Readers See Your Characters the Way You Want Them To?

12) Are Your Flashbacks Flashy or Flabby?

13) Don’t Drown Your Reader in Explanations

14) The Case of the Vanishing Setting

15) How to Spot and Fix Non-Reactive and Over-Reactive Characters

Enjoy!

Mark Coker, Founder Of Smashwords, Talks About Indie Publishing

mark coker, smashwords
Mark Coker

Mark Coker gives great advice about indie publishing that the average person can understand. I highly recommend his Smashwords Style Guide and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

Below is a recent interview he did with Morgan Doremus over at RT Book Reviews.


Cheers, thanks for stopping by.

Thanks to the Passive Voice Blog for positing about Mark Coker's interview.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Reasons Why Stories Get Rejected

why stories get rejected

It's always nice to learn why a story was rejected and, although it hurts, the greater the detail the better. David Farland's latest article gives 10 reasons why he rejects stories. I'm just going to summarize them (well, that was my plan), so I recommend you read his article for the details.

1) The story is unintelligible.

2) The story is unbelievable.

3) Too many adverbs and adjectives.
I hadn't meant to comment on these, but I can't resist. The first time I heard someone say that, as a general rule, a writer should avoid using adverbs, especially those that ended in -ly, I thought they were daft. (And yes, I'm painfully aware of the -ly adverb I just used, but I think it adds something to the sentence that goes toward my point so I'm keeping it. Isn't irony grand?) It took reading Stephen King's book, On Writing, for me to see the wisdom in this.

If it helps, think of it this way: Instead of using -ly adverbs, use strong verbs. Rather than making a word more interesting, or more meaningful, by modifying it with another word, try making the word itself everything you need.

For instance, rather than writing,

a) "I won the lottery," she said happily.

write

b) Waving her lottery ticket above her head, she jumped up in the air and screamed, "I won the lottery!"

I think that the advice to steer clear of -ly adverbs goes hand-in-hand with the advice to show rather than tell. I don't think the above example is very good, but hopefully it is enough to give you the sense of what I mean. For the purposes of the example, I should have used one strong verb rather than the adverb ("happily"), but perhaps you can suggest something better in the comments.

Also, there is a change in tone between (a) and (b). I think that (b) hints at the speaker being an extravert and fond of screaming, especially at concerts.

In any case, moving along.

4)   Nothing happens.
Make something happen and make it happen earlier rather than later. Try to grab the reader with your first sentence and don't let them go until the last one. I'm sure there are many names for this quality of can't-put-it-down-edness but I think of it as narrative drive.

5) Don't confuse your readers.
You may know the story takes place on the 5th moon of Dovan, but your readers won't unless you tell them. After a while folks are going to stop guessing, get irritated, and find something else to do.

6) Remove the boring bits.
I can't remember who said this first, but it's true. If it doesn't absolutely have to be in your story toss it. Ask yourself: does this further the story? If yes, fine. If no, lose it.

As David Farland says, this also applies to writing sentences like, "They shook on it," rather than, "They shook hands on it." If it's clear from the context that what they're shaking are hands (rather than, say, flippers), then you don't have to include that information. If, on the other hand, the "they" in question are squid-like personages living on the dark side of our moon then you might want to specify which appendages they used.

7) Have a story and tell it.
If a piece of writing is, say, 2,500 words long and has a title that doesn't mean it's a story.

Although there are no rules for what makes a story a story--including the rule that says there are no rules--people who judge story contests generally appreciate it if there is a beginning and an end. You get bonus points if there are characters things happen to and if these events put your hero in danger of not reaching their goal. I've written a bit about story telling here.

8) Don't cheat
I'm not talking about plagiarism (but don't plagiarise), I'm talking about including something like violence or sex when it has nothing whatsoever to do with the story. To be clear, I'm not saying anything for or against using sex or violence in your stories, but everything in your story, everything, has to be there for a reason and if that reason is simply to shock or titillate then your story will be weaker for it.

8b) Understand your market
Let's say you're writing a paranormal romance. Including a scene in which a character has something done to them worthy of the movie Saw means you run the risk of alienating the editor who will make the decision whether to buy your work.

9) Non-formed stories.
See point 7, above: Have a story and tell it.

10) Don't irritate your readers
This is in the same vein as 5, above: Don't confuse your readers. For instance, although I don't believe there are hard-and-fast rules about how many points of view your story should be told from, if you have 5 in 2,500 words you'll confuse your readers.

Dave Farland gives the following example: "John raced out the door, after brushing his teeth." After I read this sentence I parsed it as, "After brushing his teeth, john raced out the door." If a story was filled with sentences like that I would become irritated.

To read the rest of David Farland's awesome article (alliteration can, occasionally, be tolerated ;) click here: Ten Reasons Why I'll Quickly Reject Your Story.

This ends the list of 10 things which will will send your story to the proverbial dust bin of obscurity, but of course (and unfortunately), there are far more than ten. But take heart, Mr. Farland has just published the next article in this series: Why Editors Reject Your Story. In that post he discusses what separates stories which receive honorable mention from stories that win.

Cheers!

Related reading:
- The Starburst Method: How to write a story, from one-liner to first draft
- Jim Butcher: How To Write A Story
- How to build a Villain, by Jim Butcher

Photo credit: A Writer's Journey


"10 Reasons Why Stories Get Rejected," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.


Excerpt From The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

raymond chandler
Raymond Chandler

I've been re-reading The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I had forgotten how much I love his writing. For instance:

The path took us along to the side of the greenhouse and the butler opened a door for me and stood aside. It opened into a sort of vestibule that was about as warm as a slow oven. He came in after me, shut the outer door, opened an inner door and we went through that. Then it was really hot. The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom. The glass walls and roof were heavily misted and big drops of moisture splashed down on the plants. The light had an unreal greenish color, like light filtered through an aquarium tank. The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men. They smelled as overpowering as boiling alcohol under a blanket.
"The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom." Larded, that word is evocative. I'm there in the greenhouse, the obscene sweetness of the flowers coating my tongue, my throat, making me want to gag. The scene is cast with a pall of sickness, of decay. I suppose it's a symbol for the decay that has infested the Sternwoods and come to fruition in Carmen.

In any case, I get inspired by great writing and wanted to share. :)

Keep writing!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jim Butcher: How To Write A Story


Jim Butcher is a writer I have a lot of respect for. Not only because I love his stories, but because time again he demonstrates a level of skill in his writing I can only aspire to. Thankfully, Mr. Butcher has been generous, penning many articles about the writing process and giving folks just starting out--or perhaps even well on their way!--many useful tips.

I'd like to talk a bit of about one of Mr. Butcher's articles, "Putting It All Together: How to get your story started," or "Organizing this frikin' mess."

Honestly, when I read this article I felt he was writing to me, this was just what I needed. So I thought I'd pass it along.

So, what are we waiting for? Let's write a story! Here's what we'll need:

1) A story question

2) A protagonist and antagonist

3) A turning point in the middle

4) A story climax

Sure, we need a lot of other things too, but this should help us get started.

1) The story question/The Story skeleton
 Jim Butcher writes:
The story skeleton (also called a story question) consists of a simple format:

*WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. But will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?

For instance, look at Storm Front. (Yes, I'll use my own books as examples, because I'm just that way. ;) Also, I'm more familiar with them than I am with almost any other writer.) Storm Front's story question:

****************************
When a series of grisly supernatural murders tears through Chicago, wizard Harry Dresden sets out to find the killer. But will he succeed when he finds himself pitted against a dark wizard, a Warden of the White Council, a vicious gang war, and the Chicago Police Department?
****************************
Why does it seem so easy when he does it?

2) Protagonist and Antagonist
Jim Butcher writes:
Simply put, a story is a narrative description of a character (the protagonist/hero) struggling to attain an important goal. In general, the protagonist is opposed by another character (the antagonist/villain).

The protagonist sets out to achieve his goal and faces problems and opposition to his intentions along the way. His risk of loss increases as the narrative proceeds, and casts an element of doubt over whether or not the protagonist will attain his goal. Then, in a final confrontation of some sort (the climax), the protagonist either succeeds or fails, based upon his own choices and actions.
Jim Butcher gave an interview not long ago in which he spoke about how to build a villain, so I'm going to let you follow that link and not talk a whole lot about the antagonist. Kristen Lamb also has an excellent post about this: Spice Up Your Fiction–Simple Ways to Create Page-Turning Conflict.

3) The Great Swampy Middle: Turning point
Jim Butcher writes:
Here's the nutshell concept: Plan a great big freaking event for the end of the middle. You want it to be a big dramatic confrontation of whatever kind is appropriate to your genre. The fallout from your big bad Big Middle event should be what boots the book down the homestretch to reach the story's climax. Really lay out the fireworks. Hit the reader with everything you can. PLAN THE BIG MIDDLE EVENT. Then, as you work through the middle, WORK TO BUILD UP TO IT. Drop in the little hints, establish the proper props and motivations and such. Make sure that everything you do in the middle of the book is helping you build up to the BIG MIDDLE.

(I've used the Big Middle concept in EVERY book I've ever published. It works. It ain't broke. It ain't the only way to do the middle, either, but it's one way.)
I love Jim Butcher's name for the often amorphous middle part: The great swampy middle.

4) Story Climax
Jim Butcher writes:
A story climax is, in structure terms the ANSWER to the STORY QUESTION that we talked about earlier.

There, see how tidy that is? Simple! Again, not EASY, but simple!

For example, the overall Story Question of Lord of the Rings:

*************
When Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring of Power from his Uncle Bilbo, HE SETS OUT TO DESTROY IT before its evil can wreak havoc upon Middle Earth. BUT WILL HE SUCCEED when the Dark Lord Sauron and every scary evil thing on the planet set forth to take the ring and use it to turn the entire world into the bad parts of New Jersey?
*************

And the story climax of the Lord of the Rings:

******
Yep.
******

See? ANYBODY could have written Lord of the Rings!

.  .  .  .

Remember earlier, how we talked about ways to hook your readers and get them emotionally involved in the story? Well, if we've done that right, then when you reach story's end, they are INVESTED in its outcome. They want to SEE what happens, preferably as vividly as they possibly can. By the time you've reached the end of a story, a good writer has got their readers on the edge of their seats, at 3:30 in the morning, and the pages are tearing every time they turn because the reader is so excited.

You've made an implicit promise by getting your reader so bound up in the story. You've /got/ to deliver on it, or that reader is going to freaking /hate/ you for doing that to them. They are gonna go away from that ride all hot and bothered and frustrated as hell. That's what catharsis is: the release of all that tension and sympathetic emotion that the reader has built up because of the writer's skill at weaving the story. Done right, your readers will cheer and cry and laugh out loud and dance around their living room.

EVERYTHING YOU DID IN YOUR BOOK LEADS UP TO THIS. Deliver on the climax or die as a working writer. Simple as that.
Okay? Got it? Ready to write that story? Well then, what are you waiting for!

Oh, and if you want to read some of the best writing on writing--that just so happens to be free--head on over to Jim Butcher's livejournal. All the excerpts on this page are from http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tips For Writers From Richard Nash, Previously Of Soft Skull Press

tips for writers
Mexican Sugar Skull

Richard Eoin Nash writes about his time at Soft Skull Press:
The real work is in the day-to-day writing and connecting with people. So you're continuously putting out the poem, the short story, you're doing a reading in a series, you go to your writing group, you show up at a writers conference, you study with someone you admire, you go to workshop, you're blogging, you're critiquing, you're putting your ideas out there, that's the true work of writing. There's something profoundly wrong about the model of sitting in a room for three years writing a novel all by yourself. Successes that happened with that model happened in despite of the process, not because of it. That whole writer in the garret cliché came out the Industrial Revolution, and it created an absolutely alienated producer, the writer. I'm not saying all you should do is sit around and shmooze and not write your book. Not at all. I'm saying engage with others who are doing similar things, and if you do it right these people will advocate and be your ally in making better art that means something to you and your friends. And in fact, agents and publishers are more likely to find you if you are actively participating in your culture. If you do it for your own sake, it will make you a happier and more fulfilled writer.
 Amen!

Mr Nash talks about what he was looking for in both writing and writers when he was at the helm of Soft Skull Pres, so if you're thinking of submitting your work to a traditional publisher--and even if you're not!--it's worth a gander.

Read the interview here: How to Get Love From Independent Publishers and the Future of Books: Richard Nash & the Book Doctors

Here is Mr. Nash's impressive biography:
Richard Nash is an independent publishing entrepreneur -- VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, founder of Cursor, and Publisher of Red Lemonade. He ran the iconic indie Soft Skull Press and was awarded the AAP Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing. Books he edited and published landed on bestseller lists from the Boston Globe to the Singapore Straits-Times; the last book he edited there, Lydia Millet's Love in Infant Monkeys, was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Utne Reader named him one of Fifty Visionaries Changing Your World and Mashable.com picked him as the #1 Twitter User Changing the Shape of Publishing. Twitter: @R_Nash Website: http://www.rnash.com/

Cheers.

Photo credit: Tatooology

The End Comes For The Rock Bottom Remainders

rock bottom remainders
Rock Bottom Remainders

After raising 2 million dollars for charity, the Rock Bottom Remainders are going their separate ways.

I'm saddened by this news, especially since it follows the death of the group's founder, publicist and lead singer Kathi Goldmark. But there is good news, the Rock Bottom Remainders are playing at least once more.
The group's "Past Our Bedtime Tour" (because real musicians don't get up early like writers do) will include a public performance June 22 at LA's El Rey Theatre, followed by a private show the next day for the American Library Association's Anaheim convention.
To read about the Rock Bottom Remainders and their final tour, click here: Rock Bottom Remainders saying goodbye to lit-rock.

It's sad when something ends and I always thought it was cool that Stephen King was in a rock band. And, yes, I know Mr. King cherishes a special hatred for the word "cool," but it fits so I'm using it.

Keep writing!

Photo credit: RockBottomRemainders.com

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Audiobook Sales Up 33% From Last Year

net sales revenue from book publishing is up in 2012
Net Sales Revenue From Book Publishing Is Up

According to a recent article in gallycat, revenue from downloaded audiobooks has increased by a whopping 32.7% from last year (25 million vs 18.8 million). That's amazing, and excellent news for folks, such as myself, who love listening to stories.

Lately, I've been putting together a list of book bloggers who review self-published books, or who do author interviews with self published authors, and I've noticed a startling trend: increasing numbers of reviewers prefer submissions in audiobook format. Good news for authors who have made an audiobook version of their story and something that could give self published authors an edge.

But that isn't the only interesting statistic. Net sales revenue from ebook sales (283 M)  has surpassed that from adult hardcover sales (230 M)--although not from adult paperback sales (300 M), although adult paperback sales have gone down by 10.5 percent. But the largest decrease of all was in the category of sales revenue from mass market paperbacks; sales in this category have decreased by an amazing 20.8 percent.
ebook net sales revenue from book publishing is up

For your viewing convenience, I've included the table from the original article, above.

To read the original article, head over to galleycat.com and read eBook Revenues Top Hardcover.

Thanks to Passive Guy for writing about this (eBook Reviews Top Hardcover).

Amazon's KDP Select: Another Author Shares Her Experience


P.J. Sharon writes:
I’ve come to the end of my ninety days of exclusivity with Amazon’s KDP Select program. That means that I’m now able to upload and distribute SAVAGE CINDERELLA on other sales channels, such as B&N,  Smashwords, and coming soon, Kobo. I thought I would give you my final analysis on my experience.
PROS:

1)      All sales on one distribution channel. Easier accounting and focused marketing plan.

2)      Cross promotion opportunities with other KDP Select participants.

3)      Five days to offer the book FREE in an effort to gain exposure and readership.

4)      Participation in the Prime Lending program (approximately $2 per borrow).

CONS:

1)      Narrows your readership to Kindle owners, and may alienate Nook or I-pad owners.

2)      Contributes to Amazon’s attempt to monopolize the e-reader market.

3)      Unable to post excerpts for advertising purposes.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the outcome of my KDP Select experience. I’m not sure if I will do it again, only because I think it’s generally bad for the publishing industry for any one entity to have exclusive rights to our work, but I can’t deny the short term benefits are very enticing.
Read the rest here: The End of Select

Although it seems P.J. won't be re-enrolling in Amazon's KDP Select anytime soon, I'd say her experience makes the program seem attractive.

The problem is it's devilishly hard to decide if a book would have done better if it hadn't been placed in the KDP Select program. From what I've seen, when authors report their sales, generally over 60% come through Amazon.

Are Amazon's promotional efforts worth losing up to 40 percent of your sales? I don't know. I'm very interested to read what authors say about their sales (thanks P.J.!) after the changes Amazon made to its all-important ranking algorithm.

Stay tuned and keep writing!