Monday, May 30

Xtranormal: How to Write a Romance Novel

I discovered these videos a few months ago, so they're not new, but they are too good not to blog about. These videos are for anyone who has ever either a) wanted to write a romance novel or b) wants to know the basic structure of every romance novel ever written (or, okay, maybe just 99.98 percent of them ;).


So You Want to Write A Romance Novel: Chapters 1-3

So You Want to Write A Romance Novel: Chapters 4 - 10

So You Want to Write A Romance Novel: Chapters 11 - 15

So You Want to Write A Romance Novel: Chapters 16 - 20

Tuesday, May 24

How to Sell Ebooks in Bookstores

Problem: How can a brick and mortar bookstore sell an electronic book?
Answer: Put the book on a card!

One day, in addition to stores carrying racks of gift cards for iTunes, groceries, phone minutes, etc., there will be one for books. (This idea is from Dean Wesley Smith.)

Imagine walking into your local bookstore, buying a plastic book card, scratching the back of the card to reveal the code, going to Smashwords and entering the code to download a book.

Yes, granted, simply going to Smashwords (or or etc) and buying the book would be simpler, but using a book card would be one more way for readers to find authors and it would be a way for bookstores to sell ebooks.

The question of whether ebooks and Amazon are killing bookstores took on new life this last Monday when Amazon announced they were launching a fifth publishing imprint, Thomas and Mercer, and that this imprint would make its books available in "Kindle, print and audio formats at, as well as at national and independent booksellers. (emphasis mine)"

I'm not sure what Barnes and Noble's reaction was but many of the independent bookstores said, "Heck no! Amazon is our competitor, we're not selling anything they publish."

From the perspective of a bookstore, one part of the problem is Amazon's ability to sell print print books more cheaply than your average independent store and ship them to customers less expensively. The other part is that Amazon can sell ebooks and brick and mortar (or whatever they are made of these days!) stores can't. Sales of ebooks are gradually increasing and sales of print books are declining. It has come to the point that many brick and mortar bookstore owners are wondering if they will still be operating in five years.

That's where Dean Wesley Smith's idea of a-book-on-a-card comes in. It would be a way for physical bookstores to sell electronic books. I'm not sure if it would be enough to keep bookstores from going out of business, but it is something.

For details on how the process of selling and buying book cards would work, I urge you to read Dean Wesley Smith's blog post on the subject.

Sunday, May 22

Books Editors Want

For better or worse, this information comes from the blog of author and agent Mandy Hubbard.

Middle Grade is set to boom the way Young Adult did a few years ago. Editors want to see: Magical realism, humor, big books and distinctive voices.

Editors aren't buying as many dystopian Young Adult books as last year. Paranormal romance stories are still selling but the story must be fresh and original.

What hot right now in YA is ghost stories, particularly "gothic creepy ghost stories". I'd love to read something like that!

Also hot are psychological thriller/suspense/horror stories as well as books from "blended genres". What is a blended genre you ask? To give an example, a dystopian, science fiction thriller would be from a blended genre. Apparently these cross-genre books are easier to market.

These are a few of the highlights from Mandy Hubbard's article. I would encourage people who are interested to follow the link, her article is worth a read. (Incidentally, I came across Mandy Hubbard's blog post in a round-about way through Kim Aippersbach's blog.)

Friday, May 20

How to Kill Your Writing Career

There is only one way to kill a career: Stop writing.

That's from Dean Wesley Smith's latest blog post in his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series. If anyone is timid about letting go of their manuscript and sending it out into the world of editors and agents, I would recommend reading this article.

Dean continues:

... if you go into everything you do in publishing believing the myth that you can make a mistake and kill your career, you will make all your decisions from a position of fear. And you will make horrid decisions.

Wednesday, May 18

The Agency Model on Steroids

The French National Assembly has voted into law a bill that allows publishers in France to not only fix the pricing of books inside France but in other countries as well.

Unfortunately—or fortunately?—the cross-border clause "contravenes European law," according to

Monday, May 16

Michael Hauge and Write on Vancouver 2011

I've just come back from a weekend writing conference, Write on Vancouver, sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. This year their guest speaker was Michael Hauge. When I told my writing friends who our speaker was I was expecting their response to be along the lines of 'Oh my gosh, really, you got Michael Hauge!' but instead I received looks of bafflement. "Who is Michael Hauge?" they asked.

I was looking for a topic to blog about and thought, great! I've got my topic, but I'm finding that it isn't as easy to describe who Michael Hauge is as I thought it would be.

Michael Hauge is, among other things, a story coach. I think of him as being like an emergency surgeon for your screenplay or manuscript. He breaks up a story into six stages: Setup, New Situation, Progress, Complications and Higher Stakes, Final Push and Aftermath. Between each stage is a turning point. Stage One and Stage Two comprise Act One, Stages Three and Four comprise Act Two and Stage Five and Six make up Act Three.

Sometimes when I talk about plot structure someone will make the comment that it is formulaic. Eileen Cook mentioned that typically a face has two eyes a nose and a mouth but most of us manage to look different from one another. Just because a manuscript follows a structure doesn't mean it is going to be like every other manuscript that has followed that structure. (I love Eileen, she is witty. I don't know her personally, but if you ever get the chance to hear her speak I would encourage you to; her books are good too!)

Anyone who is interested in Michael Hauge and his ideas on story structure might like to visit his new website,

Friday, May 13

How to help make your book an Amazon bestseller: the Importance of Tags

Amazon uses tags to determine which books to recommend, as well as their placement in bestseller lists. As such, tags can help a book climb to bestseller status or condemn it to languish in obscurity.

Nick Daws, in his article How to Use Tags to Help Sell Books or E-Books on Amazon, gives the following advise on which tags to use:

1. Use your own name. This will make it easier for fans to find all your books.
2. Be specific. If you wrote about birds don't just use the tag "Birds," also use what type of birds, "Bluebird" and "Crow", for example.
3. Use the town/city where the novel took place as a tag.
4. "Use tags that have been applied to popular titles similar to yours." Looking at other books, especially popular ones similar to yours, is a good way to get ideas for tags.

I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about tagging on Amazon and its importance to sales to read Nick Daws's article.

Wednesday, May 11

Agents as Publishers: A Scam

At least, according to Dean Wesly Smith it is, and he should know. He writes:

[This scam] is designed to take a writer's work, control their work, and make more money off that work than the writer does.

What scam is this? How does it work?

Writers lose money, lots of money, by allowing an agent to publishing their manuscript through the agent's publishing company. Here's the math:

If you publish your book on Amazon and charge $5.00 for it you would receive 70% of this which comes to $3.50. That $3.50 is yours to keep and do with whatever you want.

If you publish your book through an agent scam the agent takes that $3.50 and splits it down the middle, half for you and half for him. What the author might not realize, though, is that his expenses come only out of your half! So while, in our example, the agent is receiving $1.75 of the $3.50 every pay period, this money doesn't count against his expenses and you, the author, get zilch until all of the agent's expenses are paid.

This is not a good deal for writers.

Tuesday, May 10

Writer's Write

This week Joe Konrath wrote a blog post in which he talks about what things increase ebook sales and what things don't. Highly recommended.

One of Joe's most surprising points was that, in his experience, advertising doesn't have any significant impact on ebook sales. Good to know.

His post reminded me of Asimov's first rule of writing: writer's write. I know, that is about writing, not sales, but it's something I try and remember every day.

Sunday, May 8

Authors Can Now Sign Ebooks!

In her article, Would You Sign My Kindle, Stephanie Rosenbloom shares how a digital autograph signing would work:

... a reader poses with the author for a photograph, which can be taken with an iPad camera or an external camera. The image immediately appears on the author’s iPad (if it’s shot with an external camera, it’s sent to the iPad via Bluetooth). Then the author uses a stylus to scrawl a digital message below the photo. When finished, the author taps a button on the iPad that sends the fan an e-mail with a link to the image, which can then be downloaded into the eBook.

Saturday, May 7

Smashwords to Release Books as Apps

Through Smashwords' partnership with ScrollMotion they will be able to "create, promote, merchandise and distribute Smashwords ebooks as mobile applications."

These apps will be sold in Apple's App Store, the Android Market and the HP App Catalog. Smashwords estimates that the "Revenue from customers buying and downloading apps to smartphones and tablets will reach $38 billion by 2015."

Further reading:
Smashwords Press Release
Smashwords Partners with ScrollMotion to Deliver Indie Ebooks to Major Mobile App Marketplaces

Friday, May 6

Writer Beware: Contracts

I consider myself relatively knowledgeable about the business of writing, which is why Kritine Kathryn Rusch's post this week shocked me. I used to think of an agent as a writer's advocate, someone who would, among other things, help the writer negotiate her contract with a publisher, someone who would have the writer's best interests at heart.

In Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my! Kristine writes that, for the most part, this is no longer true. For example:

I hadn’t realized until a few months ago that the adversarial relationship that sometimes existed between writer and publisher had moved into the agent/author relationship.

My first glimmer came when I looked at a former student’s agency agreement. Honestly, when the student contacted me to look over a contract clause, I thought the clause was in a publishing contract—at least that’s how it read in the e-mail. Then I saw the entire agreement and realized who had issued it.

The agreement called for the agent to have the right to represent the writer’s work in all forms for the duration of the copyright of the work, even if the relationship between the agent and the writer was terminated. I blinked, damn near swallowed my tongue, and told the writer not to sign the agreement. Even though the agency was a reputable one, this clause was horrible.

Too late, though. The writer had signed the agreement a year before I looked at it, and something had happened between writer and agent to call that clause into question.

I would urge anyone who is considering getting an agent to read Kristine's article. As I understand it, she isn't saying, "Don't get an agent," as much as she is saying that writers need to learn how to read contracts and then read them. She gives several examples of clauses to watch out for, as well as some rather nasty tricks that might fool even an experienced writer.