Saturday, July 26, 2014

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS AND THE INDEPENDENT AUTHOR

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS AND THE INDEPENDENT AUTHOR




Do independent authors need to be concerned about being politically correct in their writing? Or does anything go if they’re writing fiction?
The short answer is that you can’t be too careful. In fiction, it may be realistic to have a character who spouts politically incorrect statements. But do it too much and you could be offending some of your readers. In description, stay away from anything the least bit offensive.
I do understand that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the latest terminology. Be aware that is easy to inadvertently say the wrong thing. In researching my second book, I discovered that it’s no longer correct to say a person is an albino: That person has albinism. Do your homework when in doubt.
It’s safest to avoid getting involved in anything political or possibly offensive to minority groups while you’re on social networks. Fiction authors work hard to build an audience. It’s a daunting task, sometimes taking years; you can’t afford to put anyone off.

Tips to stay out of trouble with your readers.

1.                    Limit any politically incorrect commentary to character dialogue, and only if it’s necessary to the story. Limit it to one character, one who is unsympathetic.
2.                    In any descriptive passages, remain neutral.
3.                    When uncertain, do your research.
4.                    Keep your social networking social—avoid anything political.
5.                    When in doubt, leave it out.


Dear Readers,
None of us wants to offend a reader, even with a well-intended comment. I’ve had the advantage of being in a critique group with a person who was very politically correct. I was called to the carpet on things I thought were just factual, but could have been interpreted the wrong way. I learned to rewrite it or leave it out without any problem in the storyline.
I hope all of you are finding time to enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve been having here in the Midwest.
Marla



Friday, July 11, 2014

At Least We Met Joe Konrath

At Least We Met Joe Konrath

How successful were our Muskyfest book sales?





Myself and six other authors (Me, above with Dave Tindell and Rob Bignell, a rose between two thorns.) rented enough space for three tents at a local craft fair in Hayward,Wisconsin called Muskyfest.
            It became apparent early the first day of the two-day event that our book sales weren’t going to be what we’d hoped. Discouraged, we comforted ourselves with cashew turtles, home made ice cream, ham and cheese paninis, Famous Dave’s ribs, and deep-fried cheese curds.
            On the afternoon of the first day, I heard a man’s voice coming from Donna Glaser and Marjorie Doering’s tent. He was talking about self-publishing and from where I sat, sounded like a know it all.
            Lesson learned? Never make hasty judgments. Joe Konrath, one of today's most successful independent authors, happened to be in the area, and once I met him, I couldn’t have been more impressed. He took the time to speak with each of us authors and even whipped out his phone and ordered every one of our books right on the spot.
            After he left, we all decided (especially Donna, who’s never one to be too contained when excited, and danced with glee) that if nothing else, we enjoyed a lot of good food and got to meet Joe Konrath.
It’s only fitting, while on the subject of Konrath, to pass on some of his advice to independent authors. If you have already heard it—read it again—it’s worth a reminder.
1.     Butt in Chair Time spent not writing is wasted. The best way to     promote your work is having a lot of it out there.
2.    Make your work entertaining.  Cut anything that is nonessential to the story.
3.    Write before editing. Tell your internal editor to shut up until you’ve written the last page.
4.    Keep writing. Refer back to number one.
5.    Write what you like to read Good authors are readers.

To see all forty-two of Konrath’s tips for writers, take time to read Marelisa
 Fabrega’s interview. daringtolivefully.com/writing-tips-from-j-a-konrath

            Konrath’s blog: jakonrath.blogspot.com


Dear readers,

Looking at Konrath’s tips reminded me that the most important thing for writers is to write. It’s so easy to get caught up in online marketing and book promotion events. The other sad reminder was all the time and money I spent in the event in Hayward. Konrath said he gave up all such things a long time ago and feels they do little to actually promote sales. I’d better get butt in chair and go back to my wrting.
Till next time, take care,


Marla

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Character Lists

A thing of the past, or the latest trend?






            Many books in the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres have dozens of characters. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy comes to mind anytime this topic comes up; it’s myriad characters nearly had me taking notes. My own suspense novels have been criticized as having too many for the reader to keep up with. A reader told me she actually did take character notes when reading She’s Not There, my first novel.
            A friend who also writes suspense is adding a character list to her latest novel and I’m thinking of following suit. These lists will be added to the end of the book for those readers who care to use them.

Some things to think about when adding a list:

1.     Only list a character that will be appearing more than once in the book or the list will get too long.
2.     Include the entire name, title, and nickname of each character if one is used.
3.     Add the list to the end of the book for the benefit of the person reading the digital version. It won’t clutter the opening pages, and will be easy to refer to at the end.
4.     Be sure to include it in the contents as you would a chapter so the reader knows it’s there and where to find it.
5.     Make each character description brief, but be sure it explains their purpose and also their relationship to the main character.

  
Dear Readers,
Please let us know, if, as a reader of books, you would appreciate having a character list for reference, and also, if you are aware of other authors using this tool.
            Character lists were common in books during the forties and the fifties, but seem to have lost their popularity ever since. As an avid reader myself, I’d love to see them make a comeback!
            Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are all finding time to enjoy the beautiful early-summer weather.


Marla

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NYPD RED 2 - Entertainment sells books!

Entertainment Sells Books!

   


NYPD RED 2


James Patterson’s books are a prime example that the entertainment factor sells books. Say what you will about his methods—they work. Patterson’s books entertain the reader. How?
            Patterson leaves out the fat. His books use a bare minimum of things like character and setting description, narrative, and back-story. At the same time, they always have an action-packed plot!
Readers can’t get enough; Patterson has a new book on the top ten NYT list at least once a month.
            NYPD RED 2 begins when police in NY find the body of a woman (dressed in a hazmat suit!) on the carousel in Central Park.  Turns out, she’s the fourth in a series of similar crimes. Detectives Zack Jordan and Kylie MacDonald search for the killer amid things like public pressure, and political and personal secrets. The story is a great suspense read.
            Is NYPD RED 2 a literary masterpiece? Of course not. But it’s definitely five-star entertainment.

What writers can learn from Patterson’s style.
1.     Scarcity of description, both of characters and scenes, make for an easy read. Many readers (myself included, I’m afraid) will skim right over any that are more than a few sentences.
2.     Short chapters, while they don’t guarantee a successful book, make it easy for a reader to set the book aside when necessary. Few readers have the luxury of reading a book nonstop for a long period of time. Personally, I find short chapters addictive. Often breaking off in the middle of the action, I have to see what happens next.
3.     Series books  Readers love series books, and Patterson has at least nine different series, each one with a new story at least once a year.
4.    Multi-genre offerings Writing in more than one genre opens your writing up to a greater number of readers.
5.    An occasional flop Patterson does, now and then, publish a book that disappoints his fans. Granted, taking a risk isn’t nearly as chancy when you’re cranking out as many books as he is, but the lesson to be learned is: we can’t be afraid to publish an occasional book that might not be everything our readers want. We need to learn from it and move on.

Dear Readers,

     I know I’ve written about Patterson before, but there is so much to be learned from his writing. Patterson is in the business of writing, and his goal is book sales, a goal many of us share. His work is worth checking out for those of us struggling to get readers’ attention.  Sure, there are some authors out there whose goal is literary perfection rather than sales. But in my last post I talked about the need for books to be entertaining and no other author exemplifies that point better than James Patterson.
     Hope you’re all writing productively and also finding time to enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having.
 Marla

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What authors can learn from American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and the Voice.


What authors can learn from American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and the Voice.

What’s talent got to do with it?


  


Does the best singer win American Idol or the Voice? Is the most accomplished dancer the winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy on Dancing With the stars?
            Anyone who is a regular viewer of talent reality shows knows this uncontestable fact: the most talented doesn’t always win. In fact, the most well executed dance or song, seldom wins. 
            What does win?
            The winner is the performer who is most popular, the one who captures the hearts of the viewers with both performance and personality.
            How does this relate to our writing?

            It’s all about entertainment!!!


A few ways to keep your work entertaining:

1.    Know your genre. Read, read, read. To entertain requires originality. If you’re afraid your plot is hackneyed, be sure to have a new twist on it. If you don’t keep in touch with others’ work, you’ll have no idea what readers are tiring of.
2.    Make your characters original. We’ve all met the perfect protagonist, the one with the super face, toned and buffed body, and excellent skills. Readers want characters that they can identify with—make then real.
3.    Make the first chapter exciting. I’ve deleted dozens of books I’ve downloaded because the beginning failed to be interesting. Make your first chapters pull the reader into your book and want to read the entire thing.
4.    Series books - Take time to learn how to make each book worthy of standing alone. Check for either too much or not enough back story.
5.    Be accessible to your readers. Have a presence on popular networking sites, broadcast your blog, and have a mailing list. Answer every personal message you get.
6.    Read reviews of books in your genre. Reviews will put you on the fast track to discovering what entertains your readers.

Dear readers,

I have to admit I watch American Idol. And Dancing With the Stars. Haven’t watched all the others regularly. It’s easy to grumble about the winners the public selects, so I gave some thought to what I could learn from the popularity factor. That is what inspired today’s blog. If you have any other ideas, please share them. I’m sure there are many more.
Thank you for following this blog.

Marla

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pitfalls for the Older Writer

Pitfalls for the Older Writer

           How to survive writing after fifty

                                               



           Older writers do have advantages: more life experience to draw from, more free time, no 9 to 5 schedule competing with writing, and, writing for most older authors, is not something we expect to support us.
            The older writer faces a few problems that tend to be less challenging for his/her younger counterparts.



1.     Sit-itis – Sit-itis is a chronic disease, which, left untreated, will wreak havoc with things like overweight, arthritis, diabetes and circulation. Take time at least every half-hour to move. Finish a chore, mail a letter, anything that gets you moving for at least five minutes. Set an alarm if necessary.
2.     Techno-impairment – Unlike people who grew up in the last thirty years, we older writers didn’t touch a computer until we were in our forties, and then approached the experience as we would a trip to the dentist. If you don’t enjoy trial and error, take a class. Or enlist a younger relative to help out. Most senior centers have computer classes. Take advantage! Don’t let the cyber world pass you by or drive you to distraction. Exercise your brain a little, it’ll improve your memory.
3.     Peer dumping – Most friends will be supportive and encouraging of your writing career, but sometimes even the most well-meaning will give you a bad case of the ‘I shoulds.’ I should be out golfing, babysitting grandkids, traveling in a motor home, learning to knit, or playing cards at the senior center. Don’t let the ‘I shoulds’ get you down. Make time for the things you love to do, but don’t forget you also love your newborn writing career. Balance is the key!

Dear Readers,
It wasn’t until I retired from my full-time job that I began my writing career. An avid reader since I first learned to read, writing my own book is something I’ve always wanted to do. The things I mention here are those I struggle with. Let me know if I missed some that you find challenging.
I think the ‘peer dumping’ advice is good, writer or  not. We have many friends here whose life styles consist mainly of traveling, babysitting and social events. For me, that isn’t enough. I need to have a goal in life, something to be working toward. Once I accepted that, I was able to ignore the ‘shoulds’ and be happy doing my own thing.
Have a great week and don’t ‘should’ on yourself,
Marla

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What's Luck Got To Do With It?

SELLING eBOOKS

What's Luck Got To Do With It?




             During March, the month of four-leaf-clovers and little green leprechauns, we celebrate the luck of the Irish. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day and we can all have that luck! The word luck, beaten and bastardized, gets tossed around like a day-old doughnut whenever Indie authors discuss success (or lack thereof) in selling our books.
            The first time I took advantage of KDP’s Select promotion and placed my suspense eBook, She’s Not There, free on Amazon, I only had 8,202 downloads at the end of the two days, compared to a friend’s 26,000 downloads using the same promotion. She told me, for her, there had been a lot of luck involved, and it was due to the fact that a popular eBook site noticed her promotion and highlighted it for their readers. I know firsthand her success is not all due to luck. She’s a devoted marketer, and spends every available moment working to maintain her book’s sales momentum. Me, I’m addicted to things like golfing, playing bridge and watching The Young and the Restless; my marketing ethic is not nearly as fierce!
Luck is more likely to happen to those who go after it.
How to get lucky:
1. Expect the Best
Lucky people believe they will be successful. Research shows that if you believe you’ll succeed, your odds of hitting a lucky streak go up. There’s no magic involved—expectancy is a real driver of behavior. Expecting something as opposed to wanting or hoping for it, will affect your decision-making and you’ll put in more of an effort than you may normally have.
 Writers—find ways to stay positive and expect success—it works!
2.    Notice What Others Miss
Lucky people are more open to random opportunities. They notice chance situations and act on them. Lucky people are flexible in their thinking, and it’s that relaxed, open attitude that allows them to see what other don’t.
         Keep your eyes open for opportunities—they’re out there!
3.    Say “Yes”
 Lucky people do not remain passive. Instead, they seize opportunities as they come without endless second-guessing.
   When chance encounters occur, don’t over-think them, act on them.
4.    Switch Things Up
Lucky people increase their chances of getting opportunities by meeting new people and trying new things. Luck won’t come looking for you or knock at your door.
      The more you put yourself out there, the more likely it is you will find luck.
5.    Practice Bouncing Back
Lucky people don’t let one failure sidetrack their road to success. When you let a bad break get you down, you close the door on new situations that could lead to a lucky break. Closely linked to the first trait, expecting the best, bouncing back means you will have a greater chance of success with each failure, because you’ll be trying more often.
     Regard every bad break as an opportunity to find the right course for you!
           
Dear readers,
So many of us, myself included, wait for the magical “break,” that will mean success for our novels. You know what magical thinking does—it delays success. Practice the habits of lucky people; they work!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
Marla
Note: I seldom repeat a blog, but with St. Patrick’s Day only days away, and the luck of the Irish on our minds, I thought this one would be an excellent repeat! Hope you enjoyed it!


Monday, February 24, 2014

6 Ways to Entice Readers

How Much of an eBook is Read Before It’s Tossed Aside?

            Entire books have been written on the best way to grab a reader’s attention in the beginning of a book. The first sentence, the opening paragraph, and the first chapter have all been touted as the one thing of utmost importance.
What we need to keep in mind as Indie authors, however, is not what  hooks agents or publishers. We need to examine the reading habits of people who buy eBooks.

Things to consider before publishing an eBook:
1.     Amazon, the Indie author’s biggest marketplace, allows people to read a generous percentage of a novel. But most readers only read a page, if that, when deciding whether to purchase or download a book.
Make that first page a grabber and be sure it is mistake-free and well formatted.
2.     The opening sentence is not quite as important for eBooks as it is for books on a shelf, but the opening paragraph is!
Don’t waste it on things like description or back-story.
3.     Be sure your blurb is captivating! Run it by other authors or ask advice on your favorite writing site. A poorly written or boring blurb will not entice a reader to buy your book.
4.     Design the fist page to reflect the blurb!
5.     Early chapters must pull the reader into the story. It is a simple process to delete eBooks from a device! I’ve downloaded many eBooks (series seem to be the worst offenders) that have what can only be described as a boring beginning. I delete them.
Today’s reader is impatient to get to the heart of things. If you doubt this, James Patterson’s book sales should convince you that a fast-paced storyline works!
6.     Don’t perfect your first chapter at the expense of the rest of the book! Check your flow. Read your book out loud or better yet, have a friend do it for you.  Reviewers can be merciless in pointing out when a first chapter is not followed by more with the same level of excellence.


Dear Readers,
Personally, I only read about one out of ten eBooks that I download into my
Kindle. A common error for the Indie writer is eagerness to get his/her book published quickly, a lesson I learned the hard way. My first suspense book, She’d Not There, had to be re-edited and proofed three times after I published it!
I understand the importance of getting one’s work out there, but don’t rush to publish at the expense of turning out a fine product.
Hope you are all having a pleasant winter and staying warm,

Marla

Friday, January 24, 2014

KDP COUNTDOWN PROMOTIONS

KDP COUNTDOWN PROMOTIONS





  

Are KDP Countdown promotions doing for authors what KDP free days used to do?
            There have been some super success stories, but these were in the early days of Countdown and were aided by Amazon. How one gets AZ to give their book a push when promoting is a mystery to me, and, I believe, to most of my fellow authors.
            My recent Countdown promotion for my suspense novel, She’s Not There, was a success in that it paid for the ads I used to promote it and resulted in a modest profit for my efforts. 
            Another author I know, had no success with her promotion at all, but she attributes it to the fact that she did the Countdown with very little lead-time and did not do a lot of promotion.
Suggestions for using Countdown;
1.     When planning for a Countdown promo, schedule it on a week you’ll have time to promote it.
2.     If you’re a Twitter user, schedule tweets every day of the promotion, announcing the daily discount price.
3.     Be sure to promote your sale on every social media site you use.
4.     It pays to plan a Countdown at least a month in advance.
5.     Authors are beginning to price their eBooks higher. As it becomes less advantageous to run a free promo, a bargain price is much more attractive to readers if your book is priced higher to begin with. This conflicts with recent trend that $2.99 is THE price for an eBook.

What it comes down to is this: you get out of a Countdown promotion what you put into it. Don’t expect to reap benefits without effort and planning.

Some sites I used to promote my Countdown:
Book Goodies
eReader News Today
eReader Café,
Bargain ebook Hunter
Kindle Book Review (this one now has a Countdown feature)


Since many paid ads only run one day, I promoted most heavily on day one, when the book was at $0.99.  My usual price for my books is $4.99.



Dear readers,

I’ve been in somewhat of a writing slump. It’s really not a block, because days I do get into it, I’m able to write! Maybe it’s the extremely cold weather we’ve been having here in Wisconsin. Reading is much more enjoyable than writing, especially on a couch with a fur throw and a warm cat!
Stay warm and safe,

Marla

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

IS DUST COSTING CORNWELL READERS?


IS DUST COSTING CORNWELL READERS?


I used to eagerly await each new release by Patricia Cornwell. But her most recent books all seem to follow the same formula: Marino drives Scarpetta crazy although she is very dependent on him, her niece becomes more like a comic book heroine with every novel, Scarpetta loves Benton but their marriage is always competing with his job. And worst,  in Dust, like the last , the entire story takes place (with the exception of the last chapter) within a twenty-four hour time period. And also as usual, the killer and the main plot are tied to Lucy and to one of the other main characters.  
The formula is getting old. When will Cornwell come up with fresh material?
Points for the new writer:
1.     Beware of repetition. Only authors with immense followings can get away with a hackneyed formula book after book. If you’re writing a series built on one character, keep it fresh. Cornwell’s  current ratings reflect an unhappy following. Give your audience what it wants!
2.     Cornwell’s claim to fame is in the technical, forensic details. However, many of her readers feel like these details are now being overdone. Your readers will be aware of your expertise. Don’t drown them in too much of a good thing whether it is too much forensic detail, historic background, or setting descriptions.
3.     Many of Dust’s readers complained about Cornwell’s use of flashback scenes in order to educate new readers about her characters. This may work for new readers, but is a total turnoff to her ardent followers. Crafting your series’ characters to satisfy both new and loyal readers is a difficult job. Don’t get lazy and employ long flashback scenes; it may lose you loyal fans.

Dear Readers,
I keep threatening to quit reading Cornwell. Like many of her fans, I so loved her earlier books that I continue reading her new releases, hoping she’ll return to her former writing style.
Her overuse of technical detail reminds me of a common compliant by Simon Cowell on American Idol regarding contestants’ song choice. “Your choice was self-indulgent.”  Often contestants would sing something they enjoyed, or their mother loved, rather than a song they knew would appeal to their fans and it ended up costing them votes.
As in music, a writer needs to satisfy his audience. Attempting to make sure your readers know the extent of your vast knowledge or extensive research is not the way to do it.
Hope you had a wonderful holiday season! Stay warm,
Marla