Welcome to the new home for From the Writer’s Desk.
I’m an independent author and publisher who’s been there and done that, and I created this blog to pass on the lessons I’ve learned about this crazy book business to other writers and authors. So please, pull up a chair, and make yourselves comfortable at the new home for From the Writer’s Desk.
The other day one of my Facebook friends wrote a post about her disappointment with a novel she was reading. It had gotten off to a great start, but she lost her interest in the middle, and she wasn’t sure if she should continue reading it or not. Keeping readers engaged can be a challenge, and, as her post proved, the best hook is useless if your novel becomes slow and boring.
Pacing is an important part of good storytelling, but excessive back stories, boring or redundant dialog, or trivial details can slow your pace to a crawl and bore the reader. So, how do you keep the middle of your story interesting? Here are a few suggestions that may help.
Backstories should only be revealed on a need to know basis. I only include backstory which is relevant and necessary to move the story forward, and I’ll typically reveal it through dialog. However, most of my backstory remains in my notes.
If it’s been said once it usually won’t need to be repeated. Your character has told another character that his mother died in a car crash. He doesn’t need to repeat himself. Should circumstances warrant it to come up again, try to say it in the narrative. An example might be, “as she rounded the corner and hit the accelerator, he reminded her of what had happened to his mother.” In this instance, a fast-paced narrative would have been ruined if redundant dialog had been inserted. Should it be necessary for him to tell his story to a different character, consider adding a spin. Maybe his mother was driving drunk, but he hasn’t revealed that detail until now. Otherwise try to paraphrase it in the narrative, and consider adding some emotion. “His heart wrenched as he once again described his mother’s death.”
Fine details aren’t always useful information. Readers usually won’t care if your character is wearing a blue dress or a green dress, so unless that dress gets caught on something as she’s trying to escape you don’t need to spend time describing it. Detailed descriptions are only necessary when they enhance the story. For example, “She soon spotted the perfect dress. Royal blue with lace trim to show off the diamond pendant Jake had given her.” Boom. That’s all the reader needs to know. Leave the rest of the details to their imagination, and move on.
I think of each chapter as an episode to move the plot forward. It should reveal a character’s motives, or emotions, or something new about the character(s) that we didn’t know before. And if a chapter, or even a scene, doesn’t enhance the overall story I’ll delete it. Each chapter should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, then it’s just filler material which will bore the reader, and he or she may end up tossing your book aside without finishing it.
Recently I was one of several people in a Facebook conversation with someone who said that while he understood copyright law, he nonetheless believed that intellectual property should never be copyrighted. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing whatsoever wrong with pirating copyrighted work.
No matter how many times we tried to explain to this, “gentleman,” and I’m using the term loosely here, that pirating an artist’s work is actually stealing from the artist, he just didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, books, movies, and other creative works were merely ideas, and it was simply wrong to put a copyright on a idea.
Facebook seriously needs a bitch slap button as well.
So, while I’m not an attorney, and while my intention clearly isn’t to give anyone legal advice, I’m going to explain, in general terms, what pirating, and plagiarism really are, as the man was also unable to distinguish between the two.
Simply put, pirating means you are obtaining a copy of someone else’s creative work, such as a book, movie, or software program, in such a manner as to circumvent having to pay for it. Pirating isn’t limited to illegally downloading a book or a song off the Internet. Making hard copies of someone else’s creative work without their permission is also illegal. A good example might be a church photocopying songs from a single songbook so that each member of the choir has a copy, instead of purchasing enough books for the entire choir. Regardless of how the work is pirated, the end result is the artist who created the work it isn’t paid by the person using it. Would you expect your plumber, your doctor, or your dentist to work for free? Then why should an artist be expected to work for free?
Plagiarism, is another form of stealing. It means you are taking another artist’s work, putting your name on it, and then claiming the work as your own. This oftentimes applies to nonfiction, which is why most, if not all, scholarly works include footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also why our teachers and professors could give us a failing grade on a term paper if they determined that we did not properly credit the sources we used. There have also been some cases of plagiarism in music, when a riff used in a song may have sounded too much like a riff used in another published song.
Again, I’m speaking in generalities. For more specific information on copyrights, and fair use, you should consult a copyright attorney. The point is books, music, movies, photographs and other creative works must be either be purchased from the artist who created it, or from an authorized seller, such as Amazon or iTunes. Otherwise you risk paying a hefty fine, or even serving jail time if you get caught, and yes, people really do get caught. Pirating is stealing. Period.
At the time I started my publishing business, Good Oak Press, print books were still king, and it was a good fit. I’d been an award-winning graphic designer before I became an author, and I was designing books that looked like they came from a major publisher. I was happy, and my authors were happy.
Then came the Amazon Kindle. To call it a game changer would be an understatement. Instead of having to wait for books to be shipped, readers could instantly download them onto their tablets. And, at the same time, anyone could become an author. All you had to do was upload a file and your book was available on Kindle. After Kindle came CreateSpace, which allowed authors to typeset and create a cover for their printed books for little or no cost.
While this new technology has given authors more publishing options than ever before, it’s also made it increasingly difficult for small, indie publishers, like Good Oak Press, to remain competitive. So, after much thought, I’ve made the difficult decision to close shop. I’m currently in the process of going from an LLC back to a sole proprietor, as it’s simply more cost effective than trying to maintain it as an LLC. Not to worry though, as I’m still publishing my own titles, and I’ll still keep this blog running.
You all didn’t think you’d be getting rid of me that easily, did you?
I’ve been reading a few articles lately about a disturbing new trend, particularly in traditional publishing–using so-called, “sensitivity” readers.
Wow. When did we, as a society, become so thin skinned that we now need, “sensitivity” readers to ferret out so-called, “trigger” words in our manuscripts?
Here in the United States our constitution includes a wonderful thing called, the First Amendment. This amendment guarantees our right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. There are, of course, some exceptions, such as slander and libel, but those exceptions are few and far between. And while the First Amendment guarantees your right to free speech, it was never intended to protect you from being offended by someone else’s free speech.
Oftentimes what is and isn’t, “offensive,” is subjective. For example, a vegan may be offended by your photo of a hamburger, while a chef at a gourmet burger restaurant will not. But because the vegan took offense at your photo, should he or she then have the right to prohibit you from posting it on social media, or even publishing it on your website or blog? Even worse, should the vegan be allowed to force the gourmet burger restaurant to close just because he or she finds it offensive? I fully support that individual’s right to choose to be a vegan if he or she wishes, but I draw the line at that individual telling me what kind of photos I can take, or what restaurants I can patronize, just because he or she is, “offended.”
So-called, “sensitivity readers,” pose a real threat to a writer’s ability to express him or herself freely. I’m a woman who writes romance novels, therefore I have plenty of male characters in my books, even though I’ve never been a man. I also write in a third person narrative, which means some of my chapters will be written from a male character’s point of view. I’m simply trying to tell a good story, but to the so-called, “sensitivity” expert, I could be, “stereotyping” men. And because the “sensitivity expert” has determined that I’m stereotyping men I’m no longer allowed to write anything from the male viewpoint, because it could possibly “trigger” some reader. And by the way, the word, “trigger” is the new politically correct word for offend.
I guess maybe I’m just too old school. If I’m reading a book, and for some reason I find one of the characters offensive, I simply stop reading the book. I don’t go off on a tangent because I was, “offended.” I don’t demand the publisher pull the book because I was, “offended.” And I most certainly don’t go on a hate campaign campaign against the author, or demand the book be banned, just because I was, “offended.” As I said, I’ll simply toss the book aside and read something else. How’s that for a concept?
“Sensitivity” is the new, politically correct word for CENSORSHIP, and censorship goes against everything The First Amendment was created for.
Well, guess what? The “sensitivity thought police” can go straight to Hell. I’m protected by the First Amendment, therefore I will write what I wish to write. Period. If you don’t like my books then don’t buy them. How hard is that to understand? This is yet another reason why I choose to remain an indie author.
Hi everyone and Happy New Year. No, I didn’t fall off the planet, but I have been busy learning a new skill–video production. And while I don’t recommend everyone create their own videos in house, I will say that if you have a background in photography and have the right equipment you may want to give it a try. If not, I recommend working with an experienced videographer. Regardless of whether you produce your own book trailers, or hire a pro, content is king. You want viewers to take an interest in your books, but you don’t want to give them too much information either. This rule applies for stand alone books as well as a series.
If you’re promoting a series you have two options–do a trailer for each book, or do one trailer for the entire series. In my case, my series was three historical fiction novelettes written for young readers. The first thing I realized is working with child actors might be too problematic as I could be dealing with stage parents, uncooperative kids, child labor laws, and so forth.
Budget was another concern. Even though I’m doing the videos in house, there are still other expenses, such as costumes, location fees, talent fees, and so forth. My solution was to do one video, without actors, and focus on the series theme of two modern day kids going back in time to learn the history of the real American west.
My first book was set in Tombstone, only about an hour’s drive from where I live, so that made the location easy. Once I arrived I set up my tripod on the street and started shooting. It was a fun day, and while you’re shooting video you can strike up some interesting conversations with other people. (And, if you’re lucky, maybe you can get them to do some gunslinger footage for you.) Afterwards it was onto editing and recording the voice overs. I’d stumbled on the perfect voice actor a few weeks earlier at a book fair, and once the voice over was recorded I had a musician friend do the piano score. I also had a pro do the final sound mix. Remember, your audio is just as important as your video, and unless you have a background in sound engineering it’s best to have a pro do it, especially if you’re working with multiple sound tracks.
Here is my final result. It came out quite well, and I’ve had some amazing feedback on it.
I recently read an interesting discussion in one of my online forums about book cover design, and some of the authors were talking about how easy and convenient it was to use stock photos for their book covers.
The biggest problem with using a stock photo is you don’t buy exclusive rights to it. This means other people can use it too, including other authors for their book covers.
Having been a professional graphic designer for many years, I can certainly attest that designing a good book cover requires a good eye and a certain amount of skill. It’s no easy task, and even I get stumped at times.
My advice to any author is don’t skimp on your cover. It doesn’t matter how well your book is written and edited, a poorly done cover will make readers pass it by.
I honestly can’t comment on cover design templates, such as those offered by Createspace, because as a professional designer I don’t use them. My best suggestion would be to hire a professional designer. However, if your budget won’t allow it, then consider hiring a graphic design student. Virtually every community college offers courses in graphic design, so you should be able to find someone who can create a book cover for a reasonable price.
I’ve posted a few of the covers I’ve created for some of my authors. Each includes original photos or illustrations.
It’s that time again. A presidential election is coming up, and people are expressing their opinions all over social media. Hey, I understand freedom of speech. It’s the American way. But our mothers also taught us that you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company, and our mothers were right.
Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform out there for driving traffic to our websites and blogs, and, with some hard work, perseverance, and a little luck, we can get people to buy our books. It also takes a huge amount of time to build a following, and by huge I mean months, or even years. That said, do you really want to risk alienating your fans and followers?
If you’re a political writer, then it’s a given that you should write about politics. But if you’re not a political writer, then my advice is this: DO NOT write political posts on social media.
I may not be a mathematician, but I think it’s a safe bet that roughly half of your fans and followers do not share your politics, and they do not like your candidate. So if you’re out there bashing the candidate you don’t like all over social media, then you’re going to make half of your fans and followers angry. And if you really tick them off they’ll unfriend or unfollow you on social media, and they may unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. And they even if they don’t ditch you on social media, chances are they’ll be less inclined to buy your next book. So, do you really want to lose your fans?
I’m sure there are some of you out there who are so passionate about your beliefs that you don’t want people who disagree with you buying your book in the first place. However, I think most of us really don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.
Over the past few weeks I’ve unfriended a number of people on Facebook for overloading my newsfeed with negative political posts, and no doubt I’ll be unfriending more before the election is over. Some have been people I’ve known for sometime, and it made me sad to unfriend them. However, I’m honestly burned out on all the candidate bashing, and it’s put me in a place where I’m reevaluating some of my friendships.
I guess I’m kind of old school. I subscribe to the belief that who I decide to vote for is for me to know, and the rest of you to wonder about.
When an expert sells their book, they are selling their expertise as well as the print volume in their hand, on the screen, across the billboard. A reputation serves as most of the author’s platform, which many consider an extreme advantage of nonfiction authors over fiction, those who choose to live in the land of make-believe.
But fiction authors are experts, too. Marketing and promotion isn’t natural for most writers, and for those steeped in fiction, the idea of stepping into the real world to sell books is akin to standing nude in traffic.
The mental gymnastics that go into prepping for a talk are similar to promotional posts, interviews, and advertising a novel. As author of The Shy Writer Reborn, I consider myself expert in evolving from a traumatized new writer to today’s confident speaker. I taught myself mental tricks to enable me to stand on stage. Let’s look at some of those angles:
You are the expert of whatever you wrote. Nobody was in your head as you created your world, characters, and plot. Nobody can negate your fiction and what you meant.
You are a three-dimensional person. You have your own personality, hobbies, genealogy, ethnicity, upbringing, humor, hair color, education, music preferences, reading likes, family, and address. Those are yours to use as you deem necessary.
You love what you do. Sitting at a screen for months on end to make a story work is not purgatory. We talk best about that which we adore.
You are a storyteller. So why not tell stories every chance you get? People love stories.
You have passion. Tap it when you speak, sell, and promote, not just in your writing.
So you have tools, talent, and passion. How can you use those in marketing your fiction? I’ve written two mystery series – Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries.
Appearing first with Lowcountry Bribe, Carolina Slade works for the government, in a rural setting, often assisting farmers and those affiliated with them. During my self-imposed book tour one summer, I focused on states that understood agriculture. I continue to have rabid followers in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. I own chickens, a spin-off from my interest in nature, so I post pictures of me enjoying them. I’ve posed about my garden, and expounded on how it relates to writing, or how I’ve used it to weather the self-doubt moments. Having worked for agriculture, I pull upon experiences, the funnier the better, because Slade has a wicked sense of humor.
Beginning with Murder on Edisto, the Edisto Island Mysteries have a great protagonist in Callie Jean Morgan, but I’ve garnered more mileage out of flaunting the setting – Edisto Island. I’m continually talking about my visits there, sharing pictures of surf, flora and fauna. I relay to readers about turtles, the environment, and how it’s known for its lack of commercialism. The soothing, getaway factor of the beach captures lots of attention, especially such an unusual beach set in the middle of nowhere.
With a husband and sons in law enforcement, and with my experiences in minor federal investigations, I try to talk the talk of crime. With a history in South Carolina, I talk the weather, culture, scenery, and food. Since I adore dachshunds, they appear in pictures or become the objects of lessons I teach. Sometimes I talk simply about being happy with life.
And last but not least, I am passionate about the stories I have managed to put together, and the methods I’ve used to bring them to print. So I teach, write, speak, and interview about writing. I’m currently under contract under a library grant to teach new writers.
Become known for being passionate most of all. The general public is starving for some sort of magic that makes their lives better, brighter, happier. As an author of a wonderful story, maybe even a series, you have the potential of helping them find that happy place. But you have to be excited about what you do for others to believe you.
Not long ago, after teaching a class on publishing, a lady around thirty came up to be and stated she wanted to be me. I’d never met her and she’d never read my books; however, I somehow conveyed to her that writing and publishing my stories was heaven on earth for me. “You’re living the dream,” she said. “You’re where I want to be.”
That’s how you build fans.
I can give you tools to use to market yourself as a fiction author (guest blogging, social media, speaking, signings, readings, podcasts, conferences), but the magic is in the pool of talent you’re drawing from, and how you use that magic to make someone else’s world better.
Take some time to define you just as you would in developing a character. Interview yourself. Create that bible of resources you would for a new character. Define your likes, dislikes, interests, history, friends, education, and so on. Note everybody you touch. Note your talents. Then imagine reaching out people. Step it up a notch and imagine the opportunity to share your passions with them, whether it’s in a ball room speaking, or on a postcard in the mail. You are empowered with enthusiasm. You’ve created a fictional world nobody else has. You cherish your characters and the lessons learned in the tale. You love your life and the chance to be a writer and share stories!
Just remember, however, it’s about making their lives happier, not yours. You are already happy. Your goal is to take all those connections in your world and strive to use what you know and who you are to entertain them. In other words, drop the screen you’re hiding behind. Let the world know who you are, what you love, and how you hope your writing makes their day brighter.
Hope Clark adores writing and reading mystery, loving the challenge of solving crime. She exudes that enthusiasm in both The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Her latest is Echoes of Edisto, the third Edisto book. Hope also is founder of FundsforWriters, a website and newsletter chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. And yes, she loves what she does. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com
It’s a dilemma all of us face, particularly authors and writers with limited budgets–how to get the best deal for the best price.
As a small business person, I use email marketing for my advertising. It’s a great tool, and it’s gotten me customers. However, not all email marketing platforms are the same. I had one I really liked. Classy, easy to use mobile friendly templates with social sharing, followed by nice, detailed campaign reports, and good telephone tech support. But my subscriber list was fairly small, and they were expensive. So, I tried another company.
The first thing I noticed was they had no templates. Themes yes, but they were just empty boxes. If I wanted something that looked classy, like I had before, I’d have to build it myself. Like I had the time. Then, once I was finally done, I discovered that only three of the names on my subscriber list had imported over. YIKES!
So, I had an ugly newsletter, that I could only send to three of my subscribers. Mind you, they’re three nice people, but where were the all the others?
I’m not sure, but I think, somewhere, my mother may have once said something to the effect of, “You get what you pay for.”
While we certainly want to get the best bang for the buck, the lowest bidder isn’t necessarily the best one to go with. So I’m back with my old email marketing company. And if you want to sign up for my newsletter, there’s a link on the side bar. Just saying.
Sensual romance and erotica are similar, and many people, including some authors, think they are one in the same, but they’re actually quite different. Sort of like the old cliche about apples and oranges.
I write sensual romance, and sensual romance does include a few steamy love scenes. Those love scenes, however, are included to enhance the overall plot as the characters consummate their relationship. Euphemisms, such as, “manhood,” or “sweet spot,” are used instead of describing actual body parts, and the scene typically includes descriptions of the characters’ feelings and emotions during the experience. In other words, the story is about the characters’ relationship to one another, with any and all “bedroom scenes” being but one component of the overall story.
Erotica is different. In erotica, the sex is the story. It’s all about the characters having sex, and a lot of it. The descriptions are more graphic, the language less polite, the characters’ relationship to one another is of less importance, and their emotions may or may not matter.
Both sensual and erotica are considered romance sub-genres, however there is little, if any, romance in erotica. It’s really the literary equivalent of hard porn. Or, to put it a different way, sensual romance would be like an “R” rated movie, where erotica would be rated triple X. And while there are, no doubt, readers who enjoy both, they are two entirely different writing styles, written for two different audiences.