Category Archive: advice

Jan 28 2015

Most Important Advice for Fiction Writers

ink pen

After writing a short story and handing it over to my seventh grade Literature teacher for grading, she returned it with one sentence of advice written over the black text in big cursive red ink:
Make your reader like your characters before killing them!

 

This piece of advice stuck with me through all my fifteen-plus years of writing fiction. In other words, I needed to make my readers care about my characters enough to worry about their wellbeing.

That’s the stuff of fiction, isn’t it?

If readers don’t like your characters, can’t relate to or empathize with them, or refuse to find justification in their motives, traits, or behaviors, the reader wouldn’t care what happens to them.

And the common denominator in great fiction is great characters. Yes, even the unlikable antagonist can be a great character. The trick is to make your main characters three-dimensional, believable, and have a plausible motive.

  • Three-dimensional: Develop their background, a list of fears, wishes, flaws, and successes. Determine why they are the way they are by asking what special event in their life influenced them.
  • Believable: Build their character and have them stay true to it. When changes occur to their character, which they should over time, those changes should make sense and be influenced by the complications they encounter throughout the story.
  • Plausible motive: Give them a good reason for doing what they do, even if what they do is bad. Even the bad guy has “good” intentions.

 

If the reader does not care about your characters, they will not continue the story. If you lose your reader’s interest, you run the risk of losing that reader for good.

I admit, it’s hard to remember almost anything from my seventh grade Math class, but my Literature teacher’s valuable advice about good storytelling will forever stay with me.

What’s the most important piece of writing advice you received as a fiction writer? Tell me in the comments.


[Image credit: Dinuraj K]

Feb 01 2014

How to Improve Your Writing by Reading Your Book’s Reviews

fivestar

There are three things you can do when it comes to reviews of your book. The popular advice is that you should not read them. This saves you from getting discouraged if readers bash your work. You can also read the great reviews only, which requires you to have a friend willing to look up reviews and send you the links to only the four and five-star reviews. Or you can read the reviews (the positive and negative) and learn from them. Here’s how I analyze reviews to allow it to improve my writing, and how you can do it too. But first things first…

Must do:

  • Read reviews when you are feeling your best. There’s nothing like reading a hate-filled review when you’re already having a bad day.
  • Go into it with an analytical eye and a blank doc (or pen). Think of it like an important assignment, you’ll want to take notes.
  • Focus on the common praises and complaints among several reviews. What’s the popular topic readers are commenting on? This is what you’ll have to address most importantly in your future works.
  • Focus on the things you CAN improve. No need to stress over the character’s names when you can’t change them in the next book of the series.
  • Be prepared to do the work. If it’s too easy, you’re not doing it right. A motto you’d want to pick up if you haven’t already (can be applied to anything too).
  • Remember reviews are highly subjective. Know a reader may love the very thing another reader hates. So take caution when making changes, and modify what feels right to you and your vision.
  • Understand this technique may not work for every author. Sometimes success requires a bit of luck. Still, don’t give up yet.

 

Must NOT do:

  • Respond to reviews, especially the negative ones. Don’t invite confrontation or bullies by publicly “defending” your work. Also, some readers are afraid to be honest when they know the author is watching.
  • Try to explain your intentions or correct the reviewer. Each person will take something different from your story that you may not have intended. Remember, that’s the beauty of books, it inspires discussion.
  • Don’t take it personal. Sure some reviewers attack the author. However, they do not know you personally and their words are just assumptions and accusations. Remember that.
  • Don’t focus on things you can not change. Your voice and writing style is unique to you. Don’t change what’s natural to you and what makes you stand out.

 

How to use book reviews to your advantage

When reading reviews ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the majority of the reviewers like? Discover what you’re doing right and continue to do it.
  • What does the majority of reviewers NOT like? Find what you’re doing not-so-good and stop doing it.
  • What specifically did the reviewers comment on? What topic dominated the review? See what readers think of your characters, plot, dialogue, etc., and improve it in your next project.
  • Were the reviewer’s expectations met? What did readers expect from your story or writing, and how did you deliver or drop the ball. Then correct it in your next project.
  • What do readers hope to read in your future books? How can I deliver? Do they mention they want to see more of a certain character, etc.?
  • What do readers want to read less of in future books? How can I axe it? Do they mention what they can do without?

 

 

How reading reviews worked for my series

 

The First Book

In 2012, the first book of my Refuge Inc. series was released. And the very first review was a two-star review from a reader declaring she wouldn’t be following the series. Okay. That was just one reader, right? I mean, the betas loved it. But as time passed and more reviews came in, I realized that although most reviewers liked the story, it wasn’t what they had expected.

So as the reviews continued to pour in. I began to take note.

What was the majority of readers saying? Well, one common interest most of them shared was their fondness of the four-legged companion in my story. One common criticism was my characters being intimate too soon.

So even though I had an outline for the entire series and knew where the story was headed, I knew I had to listen to the readers and alter a few things.

The Second Book

One of the major changes I made in book two was to axe the sex and up the action. And reader’s appreciated the changes. In a lot of cases they actually missed the intimacy! Since the dog was well liked, the dog became the characters’ chief motivation of book two.

As we speak, book two of the series is highly favored (estimated from current reviews and ratings).

The Third Book

So I repeated my actions for book three, which was released late 2013, taking notes from reviews of the previous books. In most cases, readers enjoy it equally or more than book two! (I got this data by comparing reviews of the three books by the same reviewer. In most cases, the reviewer enjoy each book more than the previous.)

To balance the “two much intimacy” in book one, with the “lack of intimacy” in book two, I added one intimate scene in book three. And so far, what I’m getting from reviewers is that it was just right.

Conclusion

I owe a big chunk of the series development to the readers, especially those who reviewed the series or publicly stated their opinions. If they liked the series or not, in a lot of ways, they helped me write it. From the mention of the character’s behavior, to the demands of an epilogue. I listened.

I constantly remind myself that reviews are just opinions, and the fate of the series can change drastically in the future, but (as of today) those opinions helped me write a series that the fans enjoy. And that was my mission.

I still get giddy when a reader says, “I’m disappointed that Adam and Elliot’s story has come to an end.” Only because it feels like I accomplished what I set out to do … create a world and characters most readers would enjoy.

 

 

 

Image credit [Emily Conwell]

Nov 26 2013

Getting Started: Cover Art for Self-Publishers

Blank white book(Updated 1/26/14 with more cover artists below)

In an article by Terri Giuliano Long on IndieReader.com, founder of Smashwords, Mark Coker, says, “Our brains are wired to process images faster than words. When we see an image, it makes us feel something.” A great cover can “help the reader instantly recognize that this book is for them.”

We all know how important good cover art is for a published book. It’s even more important for self-published authors when competing with traditionally published books on the market.

The perfect book cover does three things:
  1. Grabs attention
  2. Gathers further interest
  3. Gets the sale

Getting the sale usually depends on other factors such as: genre, price, back cover description, interior quality, etc. However, a great book cover should get you one step closer to a sale.

 

Where to Start

Start with writing down your book cover goals and ideas. Depending on your book’s genre and audience, you should have specific goals in mind when planning your perfect book cover.

Erotica: Do you want to portray a specific scene from the story? Do you want sexy cover models? Do you want the mysterious bookstore-appropriate cover like the Fifty Shade books?

Romance: Do you want the hero and heroine to attract your readers? Want silhouetted images or specific body parts so not to throw off your readers and their interpretations of your characters? Would a pretty rose or other object better signify your book’s message? What about colors, does red match the personality, theme or mood of your book?

After you have an idea of what you want to portray, you start looking for a professional cover artist.

Professional Cover Artist

Sure, you probably can whip up a book cover over the weekend using GIMP or some other free graphic manipulating software. But unless you are a skilled graphic designer or a pro with Photoshop you should probably look to someone who creates book covers for a living to assist you.

Cover artists are professional not only because they know how to manipulate images and graphics, they also understand book covers and the genres they create them for. They have specific ideas about the right kind of feel for the genre, the perfect placement of text, fonts and images, they use the highest resolution of the perfect stock photos, and more. Some may even design promo material for you (bookmarks, Facebook headers, etc.) which will come in handy when marketing your book.

Are you still in control?

Of course, you are in control of your book cover. You provide very detailed descriptions and examples of what you desire for your book cover to the cover artist, and they try their best to deliver, usually not stopping until you are absolutely satisfied with the cover. Some cover artists have limits to the amount of revisions you can make, which is understandable if you consider they have other clients and projects to tend to as well.

Will you own the cover rights?

Yes. If you are a self-published author, you are paying for the full rights to use the book cover in any way you please, provided the cover artist acquired the necessary stock photo rights. Still, I would advise you to clarify this with the designer ahead of time.

Aren’t the pros expensive?

It depends on who you work with, your exact needs, and your budget. Sure, a full cover wrap is more expensive than an e-book cover, because you only need a front cover for an e-book as opposed to the front cover, back cover, and spine for a POD paperback. Custom book cover designs cost more than a pre-made cover design. Higher resolution photos cost more for the cover artist, so in turn, they’ll cost more for you. It all depends on your needs.

You said, “Pre-made book covers?”

Yep. You can get pre-made book covers for as low as $25 through some cover artists. The best book cover designers have an online portfolio where you can browse covers through genres or themes. But remember, it’s on a first comes, first served basis. In other words, once a particular book cover is sold, it is gone forever. And although they are pre-made, the artist will still customize the cover with your author name, book title, series title, tagline, etc. For authors with a low budget or debuting, using a pre-made cover can be your best bet.

Finding Professional Cover artists

Finding a professional book cover designer is as easy as Google. Below is a list of a few I’ve either worked with or checked out myself.

Variety of genres.

Art by Karri | http://artbykarri.com/ | Prices starting at $45
RomCom Pre-Made Book Covers | http://www.romcon.com/pre-made-book-covers | Prices starting at $125
Farah Evers Designs | http://www.farahevers.com/ | Prices starting at $50
Mina Carter Designshttp://art.mina-carter.com/ | Prices starting at $40
Cover Art Collective | http://www.coverartcollective.com/ | Prices starting at $30 (This link also lists 10 other book cover designers)
Amazon.com KDP Cover Creator | https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin | When publishing on the KDP platform you now have an option to create your book cover complete with images and templates | currently priced at FREE
Selfpubbookcovers.com | http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php | prices at $69
Mallory Rock (Graphic Artist & Interior Formattor) | http://www.malloryrock.com/ | prices (must query)

 

Suggested by blog readers & visitors:

 

Scarlet Tie Designs Pre-made Book Covers | http://scarlettiedesigns.weebly.com/ | Prices starting at $30
Meredith Orioli – Graphic Designer |  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meredith-Orioli-Freelance-Graphic-Designer/1430358920512362?ref=hl | Prices (must query)

 

You know some great and affordable book cover artists? Let us know about them in the comments.

 

When it comes to cover art, this post will help you get started. Now you know what to expect, where to look, and what to budget for your book cover design. Is there anything you would like to know more about? Let me know in the comments.

 

[Image credit: Oh, Chrys!]

Oct 19 2013

Pluck Great Advice from Abundant Information by Experimenting

overabundant

There is so much information out there. This expert says do this. That guru says do that. How do you find great advice among the plethora of tips, tricks, and tactics? One word: Experiment.

 

I’m skeptical of the one size fits all approach, and you should be too. There’s no formula to effective blogging, marketing, writing, or selling. If there was, that would mean blogging, and the rest, were easy to accomplish. You know, the one-two step of instance success. We know that’s not true. If it were that easy, why is so much advice given on these topics?

Simply because one approach does not work for all.

To figure out what works or what doesn’t work for you, you have to try it out. Apply the tactics, and use the tricks and tips you learn.

There is no one method for success.

Another way to see what advice suits you is to be open to new information.

I held onto a piece of advice I’d been given, and wouldn’t let go even years after it became outdated.

That’s a big no-no. Learn, grow, and adapt. It’s okay to change. Change your mind, change your beliefs, change your tactics, and see if a new voice can help you reach your goals.

Here are some common reactions some people have when presented with new advice:

  1. Accept it. Apply it.
  2. Question it. Reject it.
  3. Use what’s helpful. Discard the rest.

These are all normal reactions to the guidance we receive. I’m a number 3 type of girl, by the way. Even so, I’ll go ahead and add a BUT. No matter how you choose to take the information given to you, always keep an open mind.

Remember: Some might find particular advice helpful. Others might find that same advice useless. Test it to see which it is for you. Impractical or beneficial?

For example, one type of advice we hear a lot is: write engaging headlines.

A simple trick used to reel in readers. Write a witty, shocking, or controversial headline. Sure, this works for many, but some won’t bite because they see the hook and the line. My advice? Title your article for what it is (i.e. Do This to Get More Followers on Twitter). If your audience wants to know how to get more followers on Twitter, how effective would a headline like ‘Following is as Simple as Tweet is to Spell’? For sanity’s sake, just tell them what the darn article is promising to deliver, and deliver.

See? It’s all about what info works for you. Creative headlines do not always work for me.

Another example of advice regularly given. Write how you speak. It’s more personal.

Sounds good. This is great advice, BUT what if you’re are a normally a formal speaker. Are you too boring for your message to get across? What if your personality sucks? What if readers don’t like snarky or aren’t fond of curse words in every other paragraph? Run the risk of never getting blog visitors again because you want to display your character? My advice? Deliver your message the way that feels natural for you and your audience.

You don’t have to be conversational to get blog hits. Sometimes readers don’t want personality. Maybe they want specifics. So give them what they came for. My post, Proofreading Tips: Kindle and Microsoft Word’s Text-to-Speech, is one of my most popular posts on my blog. And guess what? It’s as straightforward as it gets. Honest headline and content that delivers what’s promised. Done.

My point?

The most basic advice and presentation still has value. So don’t reject it. Use what’s helpful.

 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Never let a surplus of information scare you away. You can find something beneficial in all advice.

 

  • Don’t take everything at face value. Just because something worked for others doesn’t mean it’ll work for you too.

 

  • Learn when to let go of a method, a source, or a piece of advice. It’s okay to change.

 

Although I am skeptical of the one size fits all approach to giving and taking instruction, I am fairly confident that the only way you will make the abundance of advice, or any shared information, work for you (including this very post) is to try it on yourself. Look at it from all angles before deciding how best to use it.

Do you agree? Please, share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

 

[image credit: daniel_iversen]

 

Sep 26 2013

My Top 5 Most Helpful Blog Posts for Writers: Part 2

fiveI’ve been all over the Internet, dropping off tidbits of advice here and there that may help your freelance writing, book writing, blogging, and marketing efforts.

Below are descriptions and links to 5 of my own blog posts (published on this site and others) that I believe are the most helpful for writers.

Part 1 is here: My Top 5 Most Helpful Blog Posts for Writers.

 

1. The Elementary Marketing Tactic You Don’t Know You’re Missing

Trying to make a name for yourself?

Yep, most of us are. That’s why we roam the Internet, visiting blog after blog, signing up to mailing lists, for webinars, tutorials, and otherwise investing in our freelancing careers.

We ask ourselves questions like: How can I reach a wider audience? How can I prove that I’m the expert my client needs? How can I become a recognizable face in my field?

2. How Your Past Mistakes Can Make You a Go-To Blogger

We all make mistakes.

Most people learn from their own mistakes. Some learn from other people’s mistakes.

Why is this important?

This is one way you become an authority, a go-to person, an expert.

According to my Encarta dictionary, an expert is “someone who is skilled or knowledgeable about a particular subject, skill, training, or who is experienced in a particular field or activity”. We’re all experts of something, be it parenting, football, writing, or Twitter.

3. 8 Ways to Generate Blogging Ideas

Having a hard time coming up with new and interesting blog post ideas?

Looking for a new slant on an existing topic, or even something more original to blog about?

Been there. Maybe we all have.

Here are 8 ways to generate some fresh blogging ideas no matter what field you’re in. They’ve helped me. I’m sure they will help you too.

4. How to Earn Recognition as a Writer

When asked the question, “What can a writer do to get noticed?” Some people may simply answer . . . write. They believe that all a writer must do for a little recognition is to write and write a lot and eventually you would have so many books or articles that someone is bound to recognize you.

Yes, writing is important as a writer and definitely one of the first things you should do, but you also must write well. Many newbies forget this rule. It is one thing to be known as “that woman who writes stories that pulls you in,” verses “that chick who uses the word agenda too much.”

5. Simple Solutions to Ten Common Writing Roadblocks

Writers are as different as the stories they tell or the expert information they provide. Even so, many things we share are the problems that plaque us as creative individuals.

Here are ten of the most common challenges writers face at one point in their career. But, fear no more. I’ve got the solution to all ten of your writer issues.

 

 

And there you have it. Part two to My Top 5 Most Helpful Posts for Writers. Feel free to share your very own helpful blog post or two for writers in the comments section below.  I’d love to check ’em out! (I’ve installed CommentLuv to make sharing your posts easier.)

 

 

Image credit: Andreas Cappell

May 07 2013

Readers Hate Realism in Fiction

pagesOne thing I’ve learned after writing over a dozen stories is … readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how life really is. Yet, they want to feel like everything that happens in a story is true to life. A contradiction? Not necessarily.

Readers like to suspend disbelief in certain situations and genres like in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Paranormal fiction. I mean, we all know were-creatures and fairies don’t exist. But if the writer has done her job and created rules for her world, as long as her characters follow the rules, the readers have no issues.

It’s with things like characters, their motives, their desires, struggles and actual characteristics that need to feel … real.

 

Likable Characters, Redeemable Characteristics

Readers think they want realistic, but what they really want is happily ever afters, scorching hot men, talented and successful characters, nice guys or bad boys with redeemable qualities, and characters that do not possess any unfavorable qualities … in other words, people who don’t really exist.

It irks readers when you give them whinny, lying, foul-mouthed, bitchy, odd, arrogant, lazy, two-faced, characters because the point in reading, for many, is to escape those kinds of people and situations.

But if you want to truly be realistic, these are the types of people we live with, work with, associate with, and encounter every day, even when we look in the mirror. No wonder we don’t want to deal with them in Fiction Land.

True realistic characters in fiction, the characters we deal with on a day-to-day basis, can warrant the author unfavorable reviews, can cost the author potential readers, and result in low sales. Read reviews. Almost every reviewer mentions what they felt about the characters. It’s that big a deal.

I’ve read that a character should reflect the reader. I disagree. Readers want to be the character in a sense of relating to the character and their struggles and then experiencing that happy ending. Readers do not want the character to be a reflection of themselves and their unflattering traits. That’s too realistic for comfort in most cases. Those are the characters we don’t relate to, the ones we don’t like, the ones who are forgettable, etc.

 

Fairytales and Happily Ever Afters

Essentially, we like fairytales. The princess always gets the prince at the end. No main character dies or suffers too long or too much, not without finally getting what they were striving for throughout their entire journey. Bad people get what they deserve. Good people get what they deserve. By the end of the book, life is grand!

This is apparently what helps makes good fiction. It’s very formulaic, believe it or not. We authors are all telling the exact same story just with different characters, situations and delivery.

 

The Fiction Formula and what it says about Human Beings

Every genre has a set of rules that the writer must adhere to. In the Romance genre, some of the rules are:

  1. Happily ever after or happily for now. This is an absolute must! This is what readers expect out of the genre.
  2. A physically, mentally or emotionally attractive main character. Yes, they can have issues and physical flaws (have a limp, a scar, swear too much, etc.), but they have to possess a trait that makes them very attractive, unique or engaging as well.
  3. They have to have good intentions. No matter what, deep inside they are good people.

Readers aren’t interested in characters who wakes up to have it all, unless they lose it all and prove that they deserved it in the first place, or if they sacrifice it all for a greater good. Characters have to struggle, otherwise their tale is boring. They can’t just get everything they want, they have to work for it. They just can’t have anyone they want either, they have to work for that too. Everyone gets their just desserts by the end.

This is the rule of fiction.

Says a lot about how we feel about ourselves and others, right? Haven’t you noticed that we tend to be envious of those who seem to have it all and acquire it without much effort? We feel that way because we compare ourselves to them. We tend to despise people who seem not to work as hard, or suffer as much as we do, but seem to have more than us and are happier. We hate these types of characters too. That’s why a great character in fiction has to suffer like no other, inside and out before they can have their happy ending.

When the characters don’t suffer enough, you leave readers unsatisfied.

 

How Fiction Differs from Real Life

Well, in the real world:

  1. Good people often have crappy things happen to them.
  2. Bad people don’t always get punished.
  3. And most of the time, we never have all our wishes come true or …
  4. End up with the dangerously scorching hot hunk at the end of our suffering.
  5. Many times, there is no end to our sufferings.
  6. We don’t have perfect relationships. We don’t have funny, selfless and spunky friends, neighbors, relatives, pets, bosses, etc.
  7. We don’t have great jobs.
  8. We’re weak, fat, miserable, and insecure.
  9. Sometimes, life just sucks!

So it’s not that readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how life really is. It’s that, readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how “sucky” life really is.

Keep that in mind when creating fictional characters.

 

What did you think of this post? Speak your mind in the comments below.

Mar 28 2013

Writing Scenes, Settings & Descriptions Using the Film Director Method

director2I like to invent crazy methods for writing, and the film director method of writing descriptions is one of them. I’m assuming no one has claimed this method before, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had. Anyway, it’s easy to apply a method for crafting, especially if it works. Methods are an easy way to remember how to do something and do it well.

So, what is the film director method of writing scenes, settings and overall descriptions? And how can it help you write great descriptions?

What is the Film Director Method?

 

First, it is exactly how it sounds. We all dreamt of seeing our book played out on a movie screen, and this method involves doing exactly that.

According to Wikipedia, a film director is the person who “visualizes” the script while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision. In this case the “actors” are your characters and the “crew” is your writing skills. So in other words, a film director sees the film played out in their heads or on storyboards, etc., before they align actors (characters) and crew (writing skill) in order to portray that visual onscreen. This is exactly what you should do when writing your story so readers can visualize your scenes in their minds. A lot of the time, writers tend to see the story played out in their heads but fail to portray that vision onto paper. We tend to forget that the reader needs a lot of information, given in the right way in order to stimulate their senses and make them feel like they’re a part of the story. I’m going to show you how the “author” becomes the “director” with this method.

 

How to implement the method (the right way to stimulate senses):

 

When writing descriptions of settings, scenery, or even character description:

  1. Remember which character’s point of view (POV) you’re writing in and use their own words to describe what they see. This way it would feel true to life and true to that character.
  2. Use descriptive wording or verbs that match the tone and mood of the story. For example, the metaphor, “the boulder dropped out of nowhere like an anvil from a Looney Tune’s episode,” may be considered too cartoonish for a post-disaster tale.
  3. Use all of your senses. Putting the reader in the story is not just about describing what the characters see but also what they hear, smell, feel, and taste. This way you create an experience for the reader and not just telling a story.

Use the 5 senses: Showing vs. Telling. The film director method

 

If you’re wondering the difference between showing or telling, imagine “showing” is similar to using a camera to show the moment onscreen like a director, and imagine “telling” as the actual script telling how the moment should be portrayed onscreen. Readers want to “see the film” not “read the script.”

Show = Camera. Tell = Script. With that in mind, here’s how to use the five senses to describe settings, scenes and characters in your story.

  • What do you see? Not just a concrete floor or a small room. Show your readers by thinking like a film director. Imagine holding the camera yourself as you capture the scene. What color is the concrete floor? Does it look smooth or rough? What makes it look smooth or rough? The cracks and chips flaking off the surface? The way the character’s feet slide effortlessly across as she walks? Show what the camera is picking up. Is it zooming in on a particular spot of the floor? Where and why? The floor in the corner of the room stole your character’s attention because of the puddle of water that has collected there.
  • What do you smell? Is the water leaking from sewer pipes that give off a foul stench? Is it stagnant water from the previous evening’s rain? Or by the smell of it, is it something else entirely, gasoline, urine, oil?
  • What do you feel? Heat? Cold? Moisture? Static or tension in the atmosphere? A breeze? Motionless air?
  • What do you hear? Trickles of water, paint chips from the walls as they fall to the concrete floor, an uneasy silence?
  • What do you taste? Can you taste the bitterness in the air from the smoke coming from the burning pile of hay outside the barn?

Remember, everything that happens in the story including the things the characters sense must be important to the story. Even if the purpose is to show how dirty a place and its residence are, or poorly a place has been taken care of, or how maintained, etc. Everything in fiction happens for a reason and have to make sense in the overall scheme of things.

Using all the senses in description is how to get comments from readers about how they were immersed in the story and felt like they were in the book right alongside your characters. By simply envisioning yourself in the director chair and by writing down the words which describes exactly how you see your story unfolding on a big screen is how to get one step closer to providing that immersion experience for your readers.

Do you have a method you want to share? What do you think of my method?

Mar 07 2013

Basic Facts about Self-Publishing Every Author Needs to Know

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Recently, I’ve come to realize some authors are simply confused about the self-publishing business. Many are holding onto some of the popular misconceptions, while others have the whole business of self-publishing completely wrong, thinking of self-publishing as a last resort, or for books that can’t sale. I think there are plenty of authors out there who are missing out on this option of book publishing because of the longstanding misconceptions about it.

Misconceptions:

  1. You have to pay to self-publish
  2. You self-publish when you can’t sell the manuscript to “real” publishers
  3. Self-published books are poor quality
  4. Self-publishing costs too much money
  5. Self-published books don’t sell
  6. Self-publishing means no physical books
  7. Self-publishing is a hobby and is not a business

The Facts:

  1. Self-publishing is FREE. If you pay to get your book published that is called Vanity Publishing or Subsidy Publishing. From my experience, this form of publishing is just another way for people to take advantage of novice writers. Yes, I fell into that trap at the beginning of my career. However, I learned from that. You should not have to pay to be published.
  2. Self-publishing is not a last resort for many. You self-publish when you decide you want to make more money on your sales, make your own creative decisions, and become your own boss (because as soon as you sell your first book you are legally considered self-employed).
  3. Self-published books are comparable to traditionally published books when it comes to quality. Not ALL self-published books are poor quality and full of errors, though a lot are. Only because it’s become so easy to self-publish that more people are exploring this option and they’re doing it more often (faster). So pretty much anyone could do it, which means some writers who don’t develop their skill or don’t see a need to purchase great cover art or editing services click “publish” much sooner than they should have. However, we shouldn’t assume all self-published books are crap, just like we shouldn’t assume all traditionally published books are perfect.
  4. You could self-publish at no cost. However, self-publishing does require financial investment if you want to sell your book, but the return could be much greater if you know what you’re doing. You are responsible for cover art, formatting, editing, marketing, and marketing materials (i.e., website hosting, bookmarks, business cards, etc.), however, in most cases you earn a higher percentage of royalties (i.e., up to 80% on Kobo, 70% on Amazon DTP, 60% on Smashwords, 60% on ARe and Omnilit, and 40% on Barnes and Noble’s PubIts!). Which means more money back in your pocket. Also, keep in mind, being traditionally published requires an investment too as you are now required to market your book.

    publishingChart

    *up to or varies

  5. Self-published books sale very well. Sometimes you have no idea if the book you just purchased was traditionally published or self-published. Sometimes just browsing Amazon a book jumps out at you and holds your interest. In fact, a lot of the books sold on Amazon and on other online bookstores are self-published books. This is the case because of the increasing amount of authors who are turning to this option.
  6. You can acquire physical copies of your self-published book. With print on demand (POD) services available to indie authors, it is now easier and faster than ever to get your book into print and to print out as many or as few physical copies of your book as you want whenever you want. Amazon’s Createspace is a popular and free POD platform as is Lulu. They just deduct a percentage from each sale.
  7. Self-publishing is most definitely a business … if you choose. Sure, some people self-publish their family’s cooking recipes into a cookbook just for family members and close friends, some self-publish their book of poetry just to have a personal memento to pass down generation after generation. Yes, for some, self-publishing is a hobby and nothing more. But for many others, it is definitely a business. And for a handful of authors, it’s their livelihood, their means to make a living, for such indie authors as; J.A. Konrath (thriller writer), Amanda Hocking (YA, paranormal author), and Hugh Howey (science fiction author).

What Self-Publishing is NOT:

Just like traditional or e-publishing, self-publishing is not:

  • A get-rich-quick scheme. You cannot publish a book and become a bestseller within a short amount of time without working hard on promotion, platform, and investing money on marketing and materials.
  • A fast path to superstardom. You will not become famous and be interviewed by Oprah within a short amount of time without working on your craft, learning the business, and putting in hard work.
  • A means to quit your day job. Because of the reasons above. Don’t quit your day job until you are making a steady amount of money to cover your living expenses and you are consistent for more than a few months. In fact, I personally, would not rely solely on writing as a single source of income because it is so inconsistent. One month you can make 5000 sales the next only 1000. The success of a book varies and sales are unpredictable.

What Self-Publishing Requires:

You will not become rich and famous overnight. Self-publishing, like any business, requires:

  • Hard work (blood, sweat and tears)
  • Skill (knowledge, education, know-how)
  • Investment (time and money)
  • Concentration (focus, planning, strategy)
  • Willpower (determination, mental strength and perseverance)

Some Benefits:

  1. You make ALL the creative decisions. From cover art design, to the font of the interior text, to the release date. It’s all you.
  2. You control the sales price. You can set a price and change it at will. You can even set the price to free (with some distributers).
  3. You earn more money. You make a higher percentage back on royalties.
  4. You keep ALL rights. The rights to your book including digital, film, audio, etc., are yours forever.
  5. You take all the credit. If you do become a bestseller and sell your film rights to a major movie company, you can bask in the joy of doing it all yourself.

Some Drawbacks:

  1. You are responsible for everything. You have to correctly format your book, upload your book, proof it, set prices, manage prices, market it, promote it, and the list goes on. Remember, it’s all you.
  2. You must invest. You pay for cover art and editing (and sometimes formatting if you choose). With traditional publishing and e-publishing, the publisher pays for cover art and provides editing free of charge. “Free” unless you take into account that they’re getting 50-90% off of your sales. *You are “technically” paying for these services including; marketing, distribution, formatting, etc.
  3. You market solely. Sure, you must market your book if you are traditionally published or self-published, but self-publishing means you are doing it all on your own. That means, you must balance out marketing your book, working the day job, raising the family, writing your next book, managing an online social profile, branding, etc., with little or no help unless you pay for marketing services out of pocket.
  4. You take all the blame. If something goes wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I can go on and on about self-publishing, and I will touch on it again in forthcoming posts. What about self-publishing interests you or horrifies you? What questions do you have about self-publishing? I’ll do my best to answer in a future post.

What about self-publishing are you most interested in?
What would you like to know more of regarding self-publishing?

Jan 18 2013

How I Will Use My Talent and Desire to Change My World

Back in late 2009 when I was very active on Hubpages, writing posts about the craft of writing, I met a wonderful person who went by the name Scott Life. He would leave comments on almost every post with encouraging words like,

“See you could have charged 50 dollars just for that consult. You’re onto something here I’m telling you. You’re building a career…Is it obvious that I’ve been on my computer for three days straight?”

He knew my potential before I even knew!
And this very touching comment.


“You should know that most of my books success and structure I will attribute to you and your advice in these Hubs.”


Looking back to where I was then and seeing where I am now, it seems fit that I attribute my successes to Scott Life and the other Hubpages followers and commenters.

It really didn’t hit me that my articles were truly helping and inspiring others. After all, that was my goal, what I set out to do. However, I used to think that I had to “become somebody” before my advice mattered. I was wrong. In fact, I wassomebody then. I was the expert those readers were looking for way back then in 2009. Since then I’ve grown tenfold because of their support.

Scott Life and I were thisclose to working on a project together when I submitted a short essay for inclusion in one of his projects which unfortunately fell through. Still, I should’ve known then that our meeting was fate, letting me know I was on the right path just by the title and content of the essay (below).

I lost touch with Scott a couple years ago, but I appreciate all of his encouragement even more now than ever. Thank you to all who encourage me and believe in me! If you’d like to include how you will use your talent and desire to change your world you’re more than welcome to.

How I Will Use My Talent and Desire to Change My World

My world is full of people from both ends of the writing spectrum who are in need of some inspiration. At one end, there is the aspiring writer. On the other end is the successful established author. Even though I place myself somewhere along the middle of this spectrum, I believe my writing talents can offer that inspiration and motivation to writers on all levels of the spectrum. 

Story telling alone is enough to transform an individual. Exploring the fantastic worlds of fiction is a magical experience that often inspires one to create their own fictional world to explore, as it did for me. Story telling is one way my talents will change my world.

Sharing useful knowledge about writing and publishing is easy for me. Like most writers, I have had my difficulties regarding writing and publishing, and I continue to learn new and exciting things regularly that I enjoy sharing with aspiring writers. I am confident that my words will put that adrenaline rush of creativity into those who read them. In my world, everyone needs a little push in the right direction. This world, mostly filled with dreamers, is also flourishing with an abundance of dedicated writers in need of inspiration every now and then from a fellow dreamer. I am that dreamer.

Inspiring, motivating and enlightening dreamers to improve creatively are ways my writing talents will change my world.

Dec 26 2012

4 Insecurities Writers Need to Get Over


Insecure?
As writers we put a piece of ourselves in everything we write. Writing is a form of creativity, and our creativity stems from our very soul. A little piece of our experiences are scribbled into our writings along with our sweat, blood and tears. So it’s no wonder most of us are insecure. Here’s a list of some of the insecurities that plaque us and reasons why we need to get over them.

  1. What if I fail?

This is a common fear most people encounter when starting something new. The fear of failure. In a world full of uncertainty, we often settle for what we know or choose tasks with predictable outcomes instead of pushing ourselves to our greatest potential. But failing is okay. It’s not the end of the world. The sooner you put yourself out there, the sooner you’ll see that either way, failing or winning, there’s more to accomplish.

  1. People will hate my writing.

Yes. Some people will hate your writing. Simply put, we can’t please everyone. This is one of the many things we writers have to come to term with when developing a thick skin. Even some of the most established writers have haters. Focus on those who would love your work, and write to make them proud.

  1. I’ll never be published.

If you think this way, you’ve already given up. And what happens when you give up? You create a self-fulfilling prophecy and, in fact, you will never be published. Reevaluate why you wanted to be published in the first place. Maybe then it’ll be easier to keep pushing along. Remember, the difference between aspiring and being is the work you put in and the determination to see your dreams come true.

  1. I don’t have enough credentials.

I know this is a catch 22. I hear this a lot. “How are we supposed to build credible credentials if no one will give us a chance to build credible credentials?” My advice … take a chance. Don’t stop trying to be published, or never start, because you’re afraid a reader or editor will think you’re not experienced enough. You obviously know plenty about a subject to think you’re the perfect one to write about it. So take a chance instead of letting your fears hinder you. Besides, the information and experience you do have might just be enough to make you qualified.