February 27, 2018
I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries and thrillers lately and am amazed at how much the authors have to know about what their characters do for work, what their characters do for hobbies, and how creative their characters are in solving problems, sustaining relationships, and bringing the book to a satisfying close. Why is so much required of today’s fiction writer? Readers are more sophisticated than ever.
I realize that today you enjoy a plethora of tools not easily accessed in previous decades, but it can still be a bit overwhelming to research and write your book, so I created these tips to help you.
- Allow yourself time to research and write. You might have to schedule the time. You might have to temporarily give up something to create the time. If you set aside 30 minutes every day, at the end of a week you’ve written for 3.5 hours, and at the end of a month (well, four weeks), you’ve spent 14 hours on your book.
- Understand the genre and reader you’re writing for. For example, mystery readers and romance readers read with very different expectations. Your job is to offer the reader a good read.
- Talk to experts. Fiction contains truth about jobs, about technology, about hobbies, about relationships, etc., so when you feel you need more information in a specific area in your book, talk to experts who can help you with what you need.
- Hold yourself accountable for originality. Yes, you do your research, but then you’re responsible for writing your own ideas and experiences triggered by your research.
- Organize your content in a way that makes the story flow. Consider organizing chronologically, by alternating character viewpoints or scenes, or by some other way. You might try sketching your book outline by chapter, and, if you do, give yourself permission to move things around so the story makes sense as it flows.
- Read today’s news and anything else that will help you understand your characters, their motivations, their jobs and hobbies, the world they live in, and their relationships better.
The acronym AUTHOR should help you remember these tips. Writing isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding. Happy writing!
February 9, 2018
Most of the time we’re drawn to a book or an article by the title. But it’s not always easy to come up with a title that catches a reader’s eye. Here are some tips to help you. By the way, I took my examples from the 2017 and 2018 best-seller lists on Barnes and Noble and Amazon websites.
- Use numbers: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Use a possessive: The Handmaid’s Tale.
- Use one word: Grant.
- Use an adjective: Lilac Girls.
- Use an article with your adjective: An American Marriage.
- Use two nouns: Milk and Honey.
- Use a prepositional phrase: Before We Were Yours.
- Use a verb: Live Fearless.
- Use an entire sentence: One of Us Is Lying.
Look at the titles in your own library. Unless you bought the book simply because you love the author, chances are the title caught your eye. It might be fun to see how many titles you own fit the tips above. Happy writing!
October 26, 2017
With 2018 fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about your writing/publishing plans for the new year. Technology has allowed so many changes in the book publishing industry that I thought it might be good to get back to basics.
Parent houses are the large entities that publish books. As many of the large houses gobbled up their competitors over the years, fewer and fewer large publishing houses remained, That meant there were fewer places authors and their agents could approach with book ideas.
A solution came when parent houses divided their various (and often unrelated) editorial segments into imprints. Imprints are part of the parent house, but many imprints have their own editorial staff (and most likely their own budgets) dedicated to the specific area that imprint publishes.
There are several reasons a parent house will have various imprints, but the most common are to keep the genres/subject areas separate from each other and the ability to focus its appeal toward each different demographic group. In other words, an imprint is much like a trade or brand name. Having different imprints allows the parent house to expand the types of books it offers under its corporate umbrella.
One important thing for you as an author to understand is the parent house will most likely not allow its imprints to compete with one another for buying your work. Why not? It’s not good business to allow two divisions of your company to bid against each other for the same item.
A new year is coming, so start thinking about how you’re going to make it your best year ever as an author/writer. Happy writing!
August 2, 2017
Adventure novel readers expect your protagonist is involved in action that’s risky with unseen danger or unexpected excitement. This action is connected to the antagonist, which may be human or not. As long as the antagonist is an adversary that provides conflict or puts your protagonist in such jeopardy that he/she has to take action, you’re headed the right way in your adventure novel.
Here are some tips to help you.
- Hold your reader’s interest by keeping things moving. Allow your reader to take a breath once in awhile, but stay mindful of the pace your novel keeps. You can’t have a fight or confrontation on every page, so consider changing the scene or having your character ponder a memory as tools to help slow things down when you need to.
- Create tension either between characters or within your main character. Think about why the protagonist and antagonist are on opposite sides or why the protagonist is fighting with his/her internal demons/doubts/issues, including ways the protagonist is like the antagonist and wants to change.
- Offer your reader some suspense. At some point your protagonist will face a threat or some type of jeopardy. If you’re writing a series, your reader fully expects your protagonist to survive, but doesn’t know how it will happen. You need to create suspense as you answer that survival question.
Keep these three ideas in mind as you write your adventure novel and you’ll have a good foundation for your book. There’s much more to it such as the scenes your action takes place in, the timeline of your story (hours versus weeks versus months versus years), and characters you develop, etc. Readers root for the protagonist, so plan your final scene carefully. Sometimes bad guys get away, sometimes they don’t. It’s up to you as author. Happy writing!
February 22, 2017
I’ve seen many local news shows interviewing authors in the past few weeks and thought offering some more book signing tips might be helpful.
Here are a few things to think about as you set up your own book signings in the future.
- Bring your own copies of your book with you. You’ll want to do this just in case the copies the store ordered for your signing don’t arrive on time.
- Offer value beyond your book and signature. Come with a small presentation or program that will draw people to your book. One author friend writes mysteries with a cooking theme so she comes dressed with a full apron and holds a drawing for a small food basket (this also gets her reader contact information).
- Invest in a small PA system. With so many bookstores also housing cafes, your book signing may end up close to the espresso machine. If you’re prepared with your own PA system, you can turn up the mic and still be heard when the machine goes off.
- Create the signing space that works best for you and your book. The purpose of a book signing is to meet your readers and to sell books. You know your book better than bookstore personnel do, so work with them to set up your signing space to achieve that purpose.
- Do your homework regarding the community in which your signing takes place. You’ll want to know if your signing is competing with church on Wednesday night, with high school football on Friday night, or even with the hottest new television show. There’s no sense in competing with any of these types of happenings.
- Determine your own promotion strategy. Social media, local media (radio, television, and even newspapers), flyers at related venues/events (libraries, book clubs, writing classes, community bulletin boards, etc.) are all possibilities. Don’t forget to email those already in your database, if you have one.
- Let your audience know you enjoy being with them. Smile, shake hands, listen to people, etc. Your job is to let your audience know you’re glad they took the time to come out to meet you.
Book signings can be rewarding or frustrating. Remember readers buy authors, not publishers, so be sure you create a book signing event that makes people glad they came. Happy writing!
February 10, 2017
People buy books based on the author, not on the publisher. Authors do book tours, personal appearances, etc., not publishers. My point? It doesn’t matter which publishing avenue you take, it’s still up to you as the author to get out there and sell your book(s).
Here are some tips for a successful book tour, including local television interviews, panel appearances, presentations, etc.
- Choose clothes you feel comfortable in. For television, be sure you avoid loud prints or stripes. Be aware also that bright reds and blues, whites and blacks can take the focus away from you. Granted, we’re seeing more variety in what people wear on news shows, etc., but why risk taking the focus off of you?
- Keep your eyes on the interviewer rather than looking into the camera (if there is one).
- Show your enthusiasm about your topic. I say topic because you don’t want to appear to just be selling your book. People will be interested in topics more than one specific book title. Yes, you’ll want your book title mentioned, but you don’t want that to be the only thing you talk about.
- Relate your answers to other people (audience, interviewer, viewer). Use phrases like “I think everybody has felt…,” “Have you ever done something that…”, or “Most people have…”
- Prepare for your appearance by having three to five important points. Repeat these same points in every interview, presentation, etc. While it may be repetitive to do so to you, keep in mind that each audience is new and hearing your points for the first time.
- Keep your answers succinct. Get your audience’s attention with phrases such as “The most important idea is…,” “The scariest thing is…,” or “The biggest joy can come from…”
- Avoid yes and no answers because they are boring and dead end. Use words like “Absolutely” or “Never” instead of yes or no.
- Understand that most interviewers or those who introduce you probably have not read your book. Be sure you have an “elevator speech” answer telling what your book is about prepared (that’s an answer you can give in 30 seconds or so).
- Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a solitary activity. Appearances are not. Since doing a book tour is about as opposite from writing as you can get, it’s important you practice so your discomfort doesn’t show. People buy the author, so it’s up to you to make them want to take a part of you (your book) home with them.
You wrote the book and got it published. Now it’s up to you to sell the book. There’s nothing like the feeling of someone willing to spend money to read your writing, so get out there and let the world see you. And don’t forget to keep working on your next book at the same time because once people like you, they’ll want to read more from you. Happy writing!
December 30, 2016
As I write this, the holidays are almost behind us and it’s time to look get going on a new year of writing projects. One idea you might consider is writing a book that can form the foundation for developing other ideas.
One author who was genius at this is Stephen Covey. Starting with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, readers still buy his books. His book titles are too massive to list here, but I’ll give you an idea. He wrote a personal workbook to go with his original 7 Habits book, a personal workbook for teens based on the 7 Habits, a 7 Habits book for families, a book on just Habit 2, and one on just Habit 8. Well, you get the idea.
Considering doing this yourself? Here are some tips to help you.
- Create new editions of the book that are changed, updated, or both, and do this approximately every three years so readers know your new edition contains fresh material rather than being a simple rewrite.
- Take an idea from the original book and develop that one idea further.
- Explore other closely related topics your readers will be interested in.
- Compile an anthology of what others write on your topic (articles, reports, etc.), and make sure you get permission to include them in your anthology before publishing.
- Expand your original book into step-by-step workbooks to give your reader the opportunity to actually apply your insights.
- Talk to people who have read your book about what other issues they want to deal with (each issue offers an opportunity for a new book).
The new year stretches out in front of you and offers you an excellent opportunity to expand your writing career. Happy writing!
November 15, 2016
The cliche about judging a book by its cover also points to judging a book by its title. As you think of a title for your book, consider using just one word to tempt your reader. For example, Stephen King’s books include Carrie, Firestarter, Cujo, Christine, Thinner, It, Misery, and Desperation–all one-word titles.
If you prefer nonfiction examples, you can look to Leadership by Tom Peters, Winning by Jack Welch, or Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.
Here are some reasons to consider using one-word titles. They
- Create visual impact on your book cover.
- Are easy to remember.
- Free you up to use a subtitle to describe your book.
- Help the reader associate a common word with your book.
- Can be easier to create than figuring out a multiple-word title that’s memorable and repeatable.
When searching for your one-word title, keep these tips in mind and decide which one fits your title’s purpose.
- Create a powerful image in readers’ minds.
- Encourage the reader to do something, to take action.
- Offer a double meaning.
- Describe a problem or controversy.
- Appeal to a broad audience rather than a specific segment.
Here are some tips to help you find your one-word title.
- Start with, “My book is about___________________.”
- Do a Google search on your topic and see what words come up.
- Test your one-word title with your writers group or any other group you trust to be honest with their feedback.
One-word titles are easy to remember and easy to repeat (which helps others in recommending your book). If you can write a book, you can find the right title for it. Happy writing!
October 31, 2016
When I taught the “Writing for Fun and Profit” college class series, I urged students to do a mental inventory of the bookstores they frequent. Then I asked them to offer a guess on what percentage of books in bookstores is fiction and what percentage is nonfiction. The reality is most books in bookstores are nonfiction.
Why is that? That’s what sells and bookstores are in the business of selling books.
That doesn’t mean fiction writers should sigh and give up. Look at how many successful fiction writers there are. My point is whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you need to get your book out of you if you want people to read it. In other words, you need to write, not just think or dream of writing.
Here are some tips to get (or keep) you writing.
- Figure out what you feel strongly about, are passionate about, and want to share with the world.
- Have some idea what you’ll include in your book–plot line, chapter titles, that sort of thing.
- Outline your book. You may want to use sticky notes that you can post to a wall or white board or poster board and can move around in case you change the order of things as you work on your book. The point is you’ll want to make your book visual so you see it every day.
- Create a schedule and start with the deadline you want your book finished. (You get to decide whether finished means submitted to an agent or means self-published and the book in your hands.)
- Work backwards from your deadline. You know nothing gets things done like a deadline. Look at Christmas shopping, Halloween costumes, school graduations, weddings, etc. Dates are set and people do whatever they have to do to achieve the goal by the date.
- Figure out what you have to do each day to meet your deadline (be sure you include research, allow for interruptions/emergencies/etc., determine how many pages you need to write daily).
- Start with the easiest part of your book (some mystery writers I know start at the end so they keep their writing focused on moving toward that end).
- Remember that even though writing is a solitary activity, getting your book out of you and to your readers is not. You need people to read your writing and offer honest feedback (a writers group or others who will be honest in what they tell you about your book). You need a content editor (to help you with clarity) and a copy editor (to help you with basics like grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.). If you self-publish, you need a book designer (not just a graphic designer). If your book is nonfiction, you need reviewer comments for the cover or inside pages.
The last step to getting your book out of you and to your reader is marketing, and you can find all sorts of ideas on that within in this blog and many others. Happy writing!
October 12, 2016
You’ve written your book. You’ve decided to pay to publish it. You’ve got boxes of books stacked in your closet or basement. Now what?
Authors have many publishing options today, yet one thing remains constant–people buy authors they know and like. Thus the author must take responsibility for the marketing of the book in order to get readers to recognize the author’s name.
Competition for the book dollar is as tough as it’s ever been. If you’re trying to recover the investment you made in paying to be published, consider these quick marketing tips.
- Never leave home without bringing copies of your book with you. You never know when you’ll get the opportunity to mention you’re an author and get questions about your book.
- Create your website, write a blog, use social media to get your name out there.
- Consider working with book distributors. Yes, they can take a huge percentage of sales, but they also have contacts you might not otherwise reach.
- Find creative ways to do book events like craft shows, expositions, charity fundraisers, club meetings, partnering with other authors for an event, etc.
- Sign every book you sell. You make a more personal connection with your readers when you do.
- Brainstorm marketing ideas with others and really consider the feasibility of what they offer before deciding for or against their suggestions.
Marketing your book won’t be easy, but neither was writing or publishing it. You need all three components in order to reach your readers. It takes time and determination, but you can do it. Happy writing!