Book launches and marketing for first-time authors

Last weekend I had a fantastic time mentoring emerging writers at the Writers of the South Coast Writing Retreat. I love being surrounded by writers. With so much creativity and enthusiasm it’s impossible not to come away motivated and ready to take on the publishing world.

And that’s where today’s post comes in. Harry Connolly has kindly agreed to let me share his advice on his book marketing and promotional experiences, particularly in relation to launching a first book.

Thank you so much for your time Harry. Take it away!

Book launches

Headshot of Harry Connolly wearing a black t-shirt.

You’d generally want more than a few months to launch a book, but if it’s your first and you’re self-publishing it won’t matter as much.

According to figures I heard a long time ago, the number one reason readers buy a book is because they’ve read and enjoyed one of the author’s other books. Number two is the recommendation of a friend. All other reasons, from title to cover art to whatever, are in the single digits.

Since you can’t target an existing group of readers with a first book you’re going to have to aim for the second: good word of mouth.

To do that you should have three areas to focus on:

  • reviews
  • exposure for the book
  • exposure for the author.

First, reviews

Reviews are the best and the most difficult to get.

I would suggest you start first with Booklife, the self-pub review arm of Publishers Weekly. Getting a star from them was a great boost, and reviews from places with prestigious names make for great blurbs on your Amazon page.

Cover

Do you have a great cover yet? You’ll need one before you send the book for reviews. A great cover assures the reader that the book is professional and worth picking up.

You should also target other reviewers who handle self-published work. Make careful notes of the lead times for each reviewer and follow their guidelines explicitly. Make it easy for them to pick you over one of the dozen other authors who sent books that week.

Second, exposure of the book

You’ll want a pithy way to describe it, first as a one or two paragraph description of the setup, then as a log line.

Traditionally, log lines are thought of as “[Protagonist] much [goal] before [plot deadline] or else [consequence of failure]” but it doesn’t have to be. That’s just a place to start, and the real task is to highlight what you think is cool and unique about your story.

Book cover: The way into magic by Harry Connolly featuring a woman wearing a hat while using magicWhen I was Kickstarting The Great Way I described the books as “A sentient curse causes the collapse of an empire.” That worked, but I still got questions from people who thought a log line-style description was supposed to focus on the protagonist.

And yeah, that’s a good starting point. But it’s like The Hero’s Journey or other plot frameworks: It’s a proven and effective method, but if you know what you’re doing you can do what you like.

The biggest risk you face with a first book is obscurity, so you want an appealing cover and title.

You want to quickly describe the book in a way that catches interest, and you want other people – preferably people who are not family or friends – telling everyone they know that your book is awesome.

To do that you need to get people reading it and that means complementary copies given out with the understanding that they’ll write an honest review.

  • First rule is to never send a book to someone without their permission.
  • The second is to never react to a negative review. When you ask for an honest review you have to accept what you get.

As Jim Macdonald says, responding to reviews is the ABM (Author’s Big Mistake).

Social media

Do you know people with a large social media presence? Are you guys sort of friendly? Ask if they’d be willing to read your book for an honest review. Include the (excellent) cover and the intriguing description.

Next, skim through Goodreads and Amazon for books that are very like yours and find reader-reviewers who:

  • are open to reviewing self-published work (because they’ve reviewed it in the past)
  • read a lot of books (so they’re more likely to actually review your work)
  • get a lot of responses to their reviews (because they have a significant number of followers)
  • show enthusiasm for the genre
  • favorably review books similar to yours (in other words, don’t send grimdark to the reader who only gives 5 stars to Terry Pratchett),

You don’t want to give your book to someone who is famous for snark, either.

Research

Start compiling names and contact information. Some of the top Goodreads reviewers will get a lot of contacts, so target ones with smaller followings. Send them messages with the same offer as the other reviewers. Send them books only if they ask for them.

You’ll need to send the book to as many people as you can because the enemy here is obscurity, and of course it’s cheap to attach an ebook to an email.

But you don’t want to send copies to places that are unfriendly to the sort of book you’ve written since that wastes your time and ensures a negative review, even if the book is good. So, when you make your list of reviewers, include the ones who seem inappropriate, either because of tone or preference, but mark them as inappropriate somehow. Red text works for me. That way, if you see the same somewhat generic name more than once you won’t waste time researching them and ruling them out.

But don’t worry about lost sales. Keep in mind that while review sites will often expect their review to come out on or near a publication date, readers are less picky and you can often offer books weeks or months after it comes out.

If you’re getting five-star reviews that will help sell the book.

Third, self-promotion

Last is to promote yourself, which is the weakest promo method.

Do you have a platform that will impress people, like teaching medieval history in college or teaching longsword? Mention that.

Are you well-known in some other field, like film reviews, tech reviews, that sort of thing? See if there are ways to leverage that by including your book title in the bio line of your articles.

Offering books to your co-workers, I’ve found, is a waste of time. Unless a person reads a lot – and I mean, a lot – people place no value on things they get for free and they’ll never look at what you give them.

Besides, word of mouth from strangers is always stronger than word of mouth from friends and family. “Read this awesome book!” is great. “Read this awesome book that my cousin wrote” less so.

You can try blog tours and such. I’ve done it. I think they’re most useful for established authors to remind readers that they’re still around writing books.

Good marketing

A great title is good marketing. A memorable author name is good marketing.

George RR Martin doesn’t really have to middle names starting with “R”. In reality, he realized that “George Martin” doesn’t really stand out, and he added the initials to make himself easier to remember.

A man in armour holding a spear - book cover by Harry Connolly

But the best marketing of all is a great book. You could spend a year walking all over the country with a sandwich board sign telling people that your novel is exciting and fun, but it will never be as effective as the testimonial of a few complete strangers. And you only get one shot with those strangers, so it’s better to delay the release of your book if you can’t make reviewers’ deadlines or don’t have your cover sorted.

So offer free books on Twitter.

Put yourself out there as a writer with a message.

Do all the things that make lucky people lucky.

Try to get that word of mouth churning.

If you’ve written the right book and you have a bit of luck, you can start prepping for book 2. Good luck.

You can find Harry at his website or on Twitter: @byharryconnolly.

New post on CMS: Translating the Story in Your Head

Translating the Story in Your HeadHey all, I’ve put up an article on my Creative Manuscript Services website: Translating the Story in Your Head.

It’s about making the story on the page worthy of the one you’ve dreamt up.

“When working as a fiction editor I’m sometimes asked by my braver/more enthusiastic clients: Did you like it?

It’s a big question with a lot of emotional baggage.

Its also the only question that really matters to both a writer and a reader.

Being subjective, there’s only one satisfying answer…”

It’s well worth the look, I promise.

 

The Long and the Short of It

Angeline Trevena
Angeline Trevena

Today I’ve got Angeline Trevena over to talk about her struggles with writing longer works such as novels. Like myself and about half the writing community, Angeline discovers her stories as she writes them. This can be problematic for a whole bunch of reasons, as she’ll explain:

I have written loads of novels. Hundreds of them. Although, you can’t actually buy any of them. Because, well, I never finished them.

My hard drive is a monument to my career as an unsuccessful novelist.

Ever since I realised I wanted to write, I assumed novels would be the result.

That’s what writers do, isn’t it? It’s the obvious, the default. As we’ve already established, that didn’t exactly pan out.

You see, I don’t plot.

I walk straight into a story with little or no idea where I’m going. Which is fine, and fun, and there are many successful novelists that write this way.

But I have an incredibly poor sense of direction. And my characters are unruly, and far braver than me.

And I have tried.

One year as NaNoWriMo approached I decided I would be a plotter.

I watched videos, read books and blog posts, got first-hand advice. I was fully prepared.

I spent a month on my outline, and as October turned to November, I was ready to go. I had my map.

About 15k words in my characters took over again.

By 30k I was following them around like a puppy on a rope.

I concluded that I simply  wasn’t designed for plotting, and duly shelved the book. Another plaque for my monument.

But I still wanted to write. I couldn’t stop.

So I tried a different kind of writing. A kind that embraced the discovery writer, the spontaneous writer, the no-clue-where-this-is-headed writer.

Guest PostI wrote  short stories.

When my first one was published in 2011 I decided that this, clearly, was the kind of writer I was meant to be, and I’ve been a very happy short story writer ever since.

But those novels still nagged at me.

Cutting the Bloodline is my stepping stone.

Coming in at around 21k, it is the longest piece I’ve seen through to completion.

And this one had an outline.

I’d written it back in 2010 as a stage play, so my outline was a little unconventional, consisting of just dialogue and a few stage directions.

The story has changed notably, but this was an outline I could follow, and stick with, and a method I wouldn’t be against using again in the future. Because we all have to find our own way of doing things.

As writers, we’re bombarded with advice.

I spent years in a state of crippling guilt because I didn’t write for several hours every single day.

Because I wrote when I felt like it.

I was led to believe that I would never, ever make it as a writer, that no one would ever take me seriously.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t turn in detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines. Because I didn’t spend a year doing research, or create detailed character crib-sheets.

It held me back, and stopped me from doing the one thing I loved.

If only I’d known then that every writer’s path is different.

You can take advice, you can try out different things, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not right.

And I don’t care who said it, how many awards they’ve won, or if they’re your favourite author.

Their writing journey is not yours.

The Cover Image for Cutting the BloodlineSo beyond being my first solo project, Cutting the Bloodline has been a huge learning curve.

I’ve learnt to code an ebook, to promote it, to utilise my network.

Most importantly though, I’ve learnt that a short story writer with some kind of aversion to plotting can learn to write a novel.

And I’ve got no doubt that if I can do it, you can find your own path too.

Angeline Trevena was born and bred in a rural corner of Devon, but now lives among the breweries and canals of central England. She is a horror and fantasy writer, poet and journalist. Cutting the Bloodline is her debut novella, and she has several short stories published in various anthologies and magazines.
Amazon buy link for Cutting the Bloodline: http://authl.it/B00W3AP0VY
Angeline’s website: http://www.angelinetrevena.co.uk

Good things come to those who persevere

Today I’ve got Justin Woolley here with some great advice on an essential skill every writer should develop. Justin puts much of his success in writing and finding a publisher for his debut novel down to that skill.

Over to you Justin…

Head and shoulders shot of Justin Woolley‘Good things come to those who wait’ might be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

But ok, while you’re waiting for good things to happen I’ll be over here mashing the keyboard like an infinite number of monkeys.

You see, there’s much advice out there on the craft of writing, some of it good, some of it not, but all of it designed to help you master the nuts and bolts of various aspects of process.

This might be novel structure or showing and not telling or developing characters or building rising conflict while cutting adverbs and killing darlings.

While all that is obviously important, I think the single most important skill a new writer can develop is not related to the craft of writing at all, at least not directly, and that skill is perseverance.

I say that because the craft of writing will come if you work at it.

Take the advice you think works for you. Chuck out what doesn’t.

You’ll hone your skills. You’ll find your voice.

But all that will only happen if you’ve got the drive to persevere.

Writing a novel is hard. Damn hard.

You’ve got to turn up, day after day, and you’ve got to get the words down.

Sometimes the cogs spin like a dream and just like all those infinite monkeys you write yourself some Hamlet.

Other days it’s like hitting your face up and down on the keyboard until your eyes are black and your nose is bloody.

That’s where perseverance comes in.

You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

So many people probably have three and a half chapters of a manuscript saved somewhere in the dingy back-waters of an old hard-drive living in a garbage can and barking indecipherable nonsense at passing files.

Unfortunately unfinished work can’t be edited (and writing is rewriting after all) and unfinished work can’t be published.

Finishing the first-draft of a novel is a significant achievement, it’s the first step toward a completed novel and ask anyone who’s done it, it took perseverance.

So, that’s all well and good you say, but how do I help myself persevere?

Well I’ve found one of the most beneficial things you can do is set yourself a daily word count goal.

Start with 500 or 1000 words, whatever you think you can accomplish in the time you have factoring in however much punishment your face can withstand.

Be realistic but don’t make it too easy either.

You want to ensure you can meet it every day but also setting a goal of six words is cheating.

Consider this little fact brought to you by the magic mathematics: if you write 500 words a day, in 180 days (six months) you will have written 90,000 words.You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

That dear friends, is a book.

Don’t underestimate the small chunks of time you can find during the day to write either.

Maybe it’s on the train to work or waiting for an appointment.

Perhaps you can only squeeze out 100 words, maybe 50, maybe only 20, but the fact that you spent that time on your writing and not staring at your phone matching coloured pieces of candy is exactly the discipline needed to persevere.

The other key reason you’re going to need perseverance is that once you’ve got that book written (and then rewritten and probably rewritten again a few times) and you finally get it out into the world you’re going to get hit with the sledgehammer of rejection, probably numerous times.

This is where you get to flex those perseverance muscles you’ve built up.

When the rejection hammer smashes your teeth in for the tenth time you head back to the dentist, get patched up and put that book out there again.

This sucks. I get that. I’ve been there.

When you’re hunting for your big break, when you’re desperate to catch that first novel sale, when you’re thinking about giving up or just slapping that sucker up on Amazon yourself, you’ve got to dig deep, take feedback on board and maybe rewrite again.

Ultimately you need to know that persevering here makes you a better writer.

This writing game is a marathon not a sprint.

For some of you my harping on about perseverance may sound a bit preachy, or you be thinking it’s not really a skill, but let me just say this, I had to learn to persevere with writing.

I really do consider it a learned skill and sure, while I obviously developed my craft, I think perseverance is what finally got me my first novel sale.

Perseverance will make your writing output higher, it will make your writing better; it will make your chances of success greater.

At the end of the day perseverance is the trait that turns aspiring authors into published authors.

Justin Woolley has been writing stories since he could first scrawl with a crayon. When he was six years old he wrote his first book, a 300-word pirate epic in unreadable handwriting called ‘The Ghost Ship’. He promptly declared that he was now an author and didn’t need to go to school. Despite being informed that this was, in fact, not the case, he continued to make things up and write them down. 

A Town Called Dust: Justin’s debut novel will be published November 13th, 2014 by Momentum Books.

In his other life Justin has been an engineer, a teacher and at one stage even a magician. His handwriting has not improved. 

You can find Justin’s website at http://www.justinwoolley.net/ or on Twitter: @Woollz.

A Town Called Dust

A Town Called DustStranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.

Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.

When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers – the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.

Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.

The Dreaded Show vs. Tell – Guest post by CJ Davis

Today I’ve got CJ Davis here to talk about his Show vs Tell learning curve. Although it’s a simple concept, it takes a long time to get your head around it.

CJ Davis profile shotOne of my favorite movies of all time is the Matrix.

With the perfect combination of sci-fi, originality and action, the movie stands head and shoulders above most.

Like Neo, the main character from the Matrix who discovers he’s plugged into a virtual reality simulator, I recently had a similar awakening.

No, this awakening was not nearly as dramatic as finding out your whole life is a lie, and you are in fact facing an almost certain death by an evil robot army.

My awakening was more of the subtle kind, but for those who have gone through a similar enlightenment can attest it’s no small matter.

My editor opened my eyes to the dreaded show vs. tell rule, and my reading and writing experience has not been the same since.

The year was 2013 and the excitement of turning in my first novel to my editor had me giddy.

In my naivety, I was certain she was only going to reply with a few grammatical fixes.

Unfortunately, the email I finally received from her was foretelling of all the hard work I had in front of me.

The main focus of her critique was around the show vs. tell rule.

What the heck is show vs. tell I remember thinking.

I looked it up online, and immediately realized I had an enormous amount of work to do.

What is Show vs. Tell?

“Show, don’t tell is a technique often employed in various kinds of texts to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description. The goal is not to drown the reader in heavy-handed adjectives, but rather to allow readers to interpret significant details in the text.” – Wikipedia

The show vs. tell rule is a very simple concept to understand, but difficult to do.

The most painful part of developing my craft as an author was learning how to write a scene as a “show.”

It took weeks of going back and forth with my editor on how to effectively do this.

At one point, in the early stages, she even suggested that perhaps I should get a ghost writer.

That was a low point for me.

What was very helpful for me on perfecting my show vs. tell writing abilities was working through exercises.

My editor would send me several “tell” phrases, and I would turn them into “shows”.

A couple examples of this include:

He was coming in, and she did not want him to know she’d been smoking.

She quickly grabbed the magazine, which ironically had a cigarette ad with a tough looking cowboy on the back cover, and desperately fanned the smoke out the window.

He didn’t like the coffee, but drank it to not hurt her feelings.

To avoid any ill will, he resisted the urge to make a bitter face after swallowing the mystery liquid she’d given him. It was supposed to be coffee, but he was sure the pool of water collecting on the street on the way in tasted more like coffee than what he just ingested.

After many hard months, and great coaching from my editor, the show vs. tells in my books had improved dramatically.

There is no question; the scenes are more compelling and engaging.  Here is an example from my novel, Blue Courage:

Before (Tell):

Continuing to dangle upside down from the Allosaurus’s clutching jaws; Rajiv didn’t give up. He continued to aggressively swing his blade trying to get the beast to drop him.  Every swing jostled his body and brought an almost unbearable pain to his ankle. The dinosaur appeared to be patiently waiting for his pesky prey to tire before he finished him off. Rajiv was running out of time, as he increasingly lost a lot of blood.

After (Show):

Rajiv grimaced as he felt the bones in his foot crack. Somewhere beyond the pain, he managed to pull his blade free of its sheath and tried to pierce the soft skin near the mouth of the beast. Blood poured from his wounds into his eyes. With a final shake from the beast, Rajiv’s sword flew from his hand and clattered to the ground.

Practice Makes Perfect

Much like Neo when he returns to the matrix, I see the world differently now.

When I’m reading, I see “tells” everywhere, and it always annoys me.

When I’m writing, I can spend twenty minutes on one paragraph, trying to create the perfect “show.”

Shows are inherently harder to pull off, but a necessary craft to master if you want to be a great writer.

Like almost everything in life, practice makes perfect.  Good luck.

CJ Davis is an American writer who lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and two little girls. By day he is a marketing executive for a software company, and by night he writes novels. His artistic influences include: J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, George Romero, George Lucas, Billy Corgan, Max Brooks, and of course Tolkien, Koontz and King.

 

If you got something out of CJ’s advice on ‘Show vs. Tell’, please check out his book: Blue Courage.

Battle for the Afterlife book coverDeath is just the beginning for Navy SEAL Reese Hawthorne.

After an unlikely encounter with the girl of his dreams during a rescue mission in the drug cartel filled jungles of Mexico, Reese awakens in a futuristic city in the Afterlife.

A formidable, massive wall is the only thing protecting the city from countless ferocious prehistoric beasts, and hoards of ghoulish creatures, known as Lost Souls.

On the eve of a perilous cross-country race across the Afterlife realm between the forces of good and evil, war hangs in the balance on the heals of a loose treaty created hundreds of years ago.

Armed with deadly weapons and their enhanced physical abilities, like strength, vision and quickness–the most gifted warriors, are pitted against each other.

The first side to either destroy their opponents, or reach a distant ancient temple far outside the safety of the city walls, will win an unimaginable power, and change the outcome of humanity.

Reese must do everything he can to stop the forces of evil from winning the race and enslaving every free soul in the Universe.

You can see the trailer at CJ Davis’s Amazon Author Profile (bottom right).

If you like CJ’s advice on Show vs. Tell, you might like Amanda Bridgeman’s advice: How to write a thousand words (or maybe more). 

What’s your Show vs. Tell war story? Let us know in the comment.

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 5, Gratitude – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Today I have the privilege of presenting the final part of Amanda Bridgeman’s guest post on being a successful writer.

I can honestly say it’s wonderful to have Amanda here – her advice on writing is always encouraging, and her understanding of the publishing business is both insightful and grounded in experience.

Gratitude

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairIn my eighteen months of being published, I have met quite a lot of people in the industry and I’m happy to say that most of these people have been awesome.

I’m the kind of person who remembers when someone has done right by me (and there have been a lot), and I also remember when they have done wrong.

I was raised to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, so it’s ingrained into me and in everything I do.

When people support me by retweeting or sharing my posts, I always make sure I say thank you and try to reciprocate with their next promo tweet/post.

I also try to pay it forward and support other authors I may not know.

One trend I’m seeing, particularly on Twitter, is that less and less people are saying thank you, and less and less people are reciprocating when you retweet/repost something of theirs.

Now, I obviously don’t expect a big-name author to say thank you or retweet something, as they tend to have thousands/millions of fans, and that is just not feasible.

BUT, when I see ‘small’ authors who are still trying to climb their way up, who don’t say thank-you or offer support in-kind, well I’m a little disappointed to be honest.

I normally give them a few chances before I decide that my time is best used in supporting someone else who will appreciate it.

So, I guess what I’m saying here is: Don’t ever take anything for granted.

The publishing industry is a small one, so don’t be rude, don’t be selfish, don’t think that you don’t need anyone else’s help.

I guarantee you that being kind and generous, being supportive, and being thankful will get you more places, faster.

If someone is taking the time to retweet/share your book news, they are helping you promote and potentially sell your book, so for god’s sake show your appreciation and say thank you!

And that doesn’t just go for supporting other authors, it applies to everyone in the industry and your readers too. Especially your readers.

Catch the rest of Amanda’s series on the five key elements of being a successful writer:

Aurora Series of covers

Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda was raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. She studied film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University. Her debut novel Aurora:Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013; the sequel Aurora: Pegasus was published in December 2013; and Aurora: Meridian will be released on 11 September 2014.

 Where you can find Amanda:

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 4, Understanding – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Today Amanda Bridgeman is back with part 4 of her guest blog series on being a successful writer – understanding!

Understanding 

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairReading a ‘bad’ review of your work can gut you.

All that hard work, all that heart and soul you poured into your story, dismissed within a few strokes of an angry reader’s keyboard.

But you must never respond to these reviews (even if the things they claim in the review are incorrect).

Just stop and think about the last time you read a book and thought ‘that was crap’ or ‘that was boring’ or ‘that wasn’t my cup-of-tea’.

Or what about the latest film you saw? Did you come out of the cinema and post on Twitter/Facebook ‘That ending was rubbish’.

Or did you post while watching a TV show about how unrealistic that car chase scene was? We all do it.

We all spew forth our criticisms about everything in life and generally it’s an easy thing to do because we don’t personally know the people behind what we’re criticising.

When you become a published author and are placed in the public eye, your thoughts on this will change dramatically.

At least, mine did.

When you experience first-hand public criticism, you tend to shift and adapt your own responses to things with this in mind.

I am more mindful now about ‘shooting from the hip’. I try to think about what I’m going to say publicly on Facebook, twitter, etc, before I say it.

Because I know now what it feels like to be on the receiving end, and I also know that once you say something on social media, etc, it is out there forever.

So when you have a reader/reviewer talking about your book and ‘shooting from the hip’, try to be understanding.

They don’t know you personally, they just, very honestly, didn’t like your book. And again, that’s the life of a writer.

Not everyone will like your book, just the same way that you won’t like everything that you read.

Aurora Meridian cover artIt is fundamental that you understand and accept this.

It is also fundamental that you don’t focus on the negative too much. You must focus your efforts on those that DO love your work.

After all, these are the people you write for, and these are the people who will champion your book.

You need to understand your market, you need to understand the industry, and most importantly you need to understand that not everyone will like your book.

Some authors don’t read any of their reviews – good or bad, but most, just like me, can’t help themselves.

We like to see what people loved about our books, and yes, if you’re serious about being a writer, you will also be interested to see what people didn’t like about your books, as it can be a useful tool in improving your writing.

I read an article on Stephen King once where he said (talking about beta readers), if one person says they don’t like something about your book, then that’s just their opinion.

But if five people say the same thing – you need to fix it. What your beta readers may have missed, the general public might not, and that may just help you with your next book.

Join Amanda tomorrow for the last part in her series: Gratitude.

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 3, Discipline– Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman graces us again today with the third instalment of her five key elements to being a successful writer. Today she talks about discipline.

Discipline

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairBooks don’t write themselves.

They take a hell of a lot of time (and blood, sweat and tears), so stop procrastinating and get to it!

The best analogy here is with athletes.

The most successful athletes are those that are incredibly disciplined and spend every waking moment doing everything they can to make themselves a better athlete (they train for hours, they watch what they eat, they ensure they get enough sleep, etc, etc).

You must be disciplined and set time aside to write, or to promote, or to learn.

If you don’t then you will never achieve your goals.

Aurora Meridian cover artPersistence pays when it comes to writing, and the only way to get something done is to get something done!

So set yourself a deadline and stick to it.

The most successful writers out there (aside from having a mass of talent), are hard workers.

They are disciplined, they are dedicated, and they dare to dream.

Part 4 tomorrow: Understanding.

Catch up on Amanda’s very first guest blog post here: How to write a thousand words (or maybe more).

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 2, Willingness – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman is back with some more fantastic advice on the key elements of being a successful writer, and today (as usual) she’s spot-on. It all comes back to the fact that you’ve got to be open and eager to achieve things. Here’s how Amanda puts it:

Willingness

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairBe eager to learn and continue to learn.

Be willing to listen to the advice of your editor, your publisher, your marketing people.

Be willing to attend conferences and talks and listen to what the ‘pros’ have to say, and also what the ‘fans’ have to say.

Be willing to take classes to hone your skills.

Be willing to read across genres and read often.

Be willing to spend time keeping your finger on the pulse of popular culture (Film, TV, music, etc).

Be willing to keep your eye on what is happening in the real world.

Assume that you know nothing (Jon Snow) and strive to learn more.

You must always be willing to improve yourself and your writing, and every step of the way you must be professional while you do it.

Part 3 tomorrow – Discipline

Aurora Series of covers

Miss yesterday’s post? Find out about what Amanda has to say about having Patience.

Five Key Elements of a Successful Writer, Part 1, Patience – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairWhen I saw a tweet from Amanda (pure luck with the timing as I’m rarely on Twitter) asking if people would be happy to host her on a blog tour, I jumped at the chance. Amanda’s a fantastic writer with some great insights into the publishing industry (not to mention a lovely person), so I was keen to host her here.

I asked her to  share some of her experience into her writing career, and randomly picked ‘the darkest hour’ as a topic.

Well, she knocked the topic out of the arena, across three States and into a pretty neat little Territory called the ACT, almost punching it into orbit on the way.

This is part one, on the subject of… [drum roll]… needing patience as a writer!

When I asked Chris what he would like me to write about for this blog, he suggested discussing my darkest hour.

I thought about this, and decided to discuss the ways in which you can help avoid experiencing that darkest hour.

Aurora Meridian cover artThe one thing I have learnt about being a published writer is that it is a constant roller coaster of a ride and it will continue that way until you decide to pull the plug.

I’ve never been much of a roller coaster fan, but I’m slowly getting used to it.

You will have your awesome ‘up’ days, and you will have your depressing ‘down’ days.

But that’s the life of a writer – you either accept it or you don’t.

There are ways to minimise the impact, though, by preparing yourself and managing your expectations.

So here is the first of five aspects I think every writer must strive to embrace in order to ward off your darkest days.

Patience

If you want to be published, you must realise and accept that it takes time.

A lot of time.

Firstly you must write that book, then you must whip that book into shape, then you need to ship it around to all the different players, then you need to wait for responses, then you need to negotiate contacts, then you need to go through several rounds of editing, then you need to market and sell your book.

All of this can take years. And even then, when you finally release your book, it is highly unlikely that it will be an overnight sensation – rocketing up the charts.

You need patience to bring your book to publication, then you need patience while you build up your readership.

There is a phenomenal amount of books out there, so it can take time to reach readers. So be realistic with your expectations. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Serious writers are in this for the long haul, and patience is their most prized possession. Don’t believe me? Check out these blogs by Peter M Ball:

Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda hails from fishing and farming stock. The youngest of four children, her three brothers raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. She studied film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University (BA Communication Studies) in Perth, Western Australia, which has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen month stint in London (England). Her debut novel Aurora:Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013; the sequel Aurora: Pegasus was published in December 2013; and Aurora: Meridian will be released on 11 September 2014.

Part 2… “Willingness”

Character Wants and Needs – my guest post on Nascent Novels

Guest PostI have a guest post over on Nascent Novels. A huge thanks to Orlando Sanchez for the invite. Orlando has finished his first novel and is currently working on three other projects!

Please take the time to check it out along with Orlando’s other posts: Character Needs and Wants.

How to write a thousand words (or maybe more) by Amanda Bridgeman

I first met Amanda at GenreCon 2012, and we struck up an immediate friendship. She’s very unassuming – and barely let on she had a publishing contract with Momentum for her first novel, Aurora: Darwin. Until I caught up with her at GenreCon 2013, I didn’t even know that Aurora: Darwin had hit the number one spot in the iTunes book charts. Today, I’ve managed to convince her to drop by and share some of the secrets of her success. Take it away Amanda…

Profile shot of Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a red chair.They say a picture tells a thousand words, but I disagree. I believe a picture can tell an infinite amount more.

You see, in my mind a picture is not just a flat image consisting of colours and shapes. Instead, it is a window behind which lies a 3D world just waiting to be explored.

If you let your mind delve into, that is…

I recall undertaking an exercise during my creative writing course at university, whereby we gathered images from a magazine, then constructed a story from them.

It was quite fascinating to see what each student came up with, and more fascinating still to see what each came up with when given the same image to work from.

Everyone sees things differently. Everyone has different levels of imagination. Everyone draws from different experiences.

A wooden door.
Prague (Czech Republic)

I’ve always loved photography (and art) because I don’t just see that one flat image they project.

I see the world of possibilities they contain and the many stories that can be garnered from them.

This is why I just love Pinterest and find myself scouring it for hours. The inspiration it can provide to writers is endless.

I can scroll through Pinterest, see a striking image, and have a story flood into my mind about the people or the objects they contain.

One single image has the power to do that for me, and I’m positive it can do that for you too.

So that is what I want to share with you today: a writing exercise to get the juices flowing.

Believe it or not, I want you to construct a story from the simple image of a lone doorway.

During my travels, I have always found myself fascinated by doorways (see some of my photographs on this page).

There are so many intriguing, intricate, and beautiful examples, with so much history behind them, that the mind can run wild with the possibilities of just what these doors would have seen had they eyes, and what secrets they might hold had they ears.

For a broader selection of images, check out my Pinterest Board – “Doorways to the Imagination”.

Find an image that strikes you, then begin your writing journey with the following prompts:

An old door with rivets and a lot of the red paint worn off.
Beijing (China)
  • Where would you find a door like this? What town, city, country, or planet could it come from?
  • How long has this doorway been there? Is it an ancient relic? Or is it relatively new, but styled in the way of the local people?
  • What is it made from? Is it constructed from local resources? Is it made from imported goods? If so, from where?
  • Is it a stock-standard door, or has it been specifically handcrafted? Is there magic sealing this door? Or some laser force-field? Can it only be opened by one particular key, or code, or password, or by one specific person only?
  • What is it a doorway to? Is it someone’s home, a hotel, a bar, a prison, a church, a graveyard, a hospital, a magician’s den, a castle, a dungeon, a palatial mansion?
  • What lies beyond the door? What room will be walked into? How is it furnished? Is it a hovel? Is it extravagant and beautiful? Is it a friendly place? Is it haunted? Is it a portal to another world?
  • Who is approaching this door? Is it the owner? Is it a visitor? Is it a stranger?
  • If it is the owner, are they glad to be home? Are they terrified of what they may find behind the door? Is there anyone waiting for them? Or are they alone? Do they have something they desperately need to do once inside? Where are they returning home from?
  • If it is a visitor, are they pleased to be visiting? Is this a friendly, warm place, filled with good memories? Or is this a place they would rather not visit? Do they have good news for the owner? Or is it bad news? Are they here to confront the owner? Or are they here to declare their undying love? Do they have something they desperately need to do on the other side of this door? Where have they just come from? What led them here today?
  • If it is a stranger, how did they happen upon this door? Was it by chance? Or have they followed some kind of directions or map to get there? Is the stranger seeking answers to something? Or are they just seeking a place to rest their weary head? Why have they come to this particular door? Does this stranger have something they desperately need to do on the other side of this door? Where have they just come from? What led them here today?
  • What will happen when the owner/visitor/stranger enters through this door? Is this simply the beginning of your story? Or is this the point of climax? Or is it simply part of the journey along the way?
  • What is so special about this door? What does it symbolise? A journey come to fruition? A journey about to commence? Will entering this door symbolise someone opening their heart to another? Will it symbolise them confronting a problem/nemesis/part of themselves? Will it symbolise a character opening their eyes to all that they have been blind to before? Does this door hold the answers? Or does it only raise more questions?
A wooden door set into the wall of an old building.
Stratford-upon-Avon (England)

The possibilities are truly endless if you let your imagination run wild. So go with it.

Give this exercise a try and find out just where this doorway may lead YOU.

And if doorways aren’t your thing, you can run a similar exercise with Windows to the Soul!

About Amanda: Born in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, and raised on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC by her three brothers, Amanda grew up somewhat of a tomboy, preferring action/sci-fi films over the standard rom-com, and liking her music rock hard.

That said, she can swoon with the best of them and is not a fan of bugs.

A writer and film buff, she loves most genres, but is particularly fond of Spec-Fic. She likes action, epic adventures, and strong characters that draw you in on their wild rollercoaster rides.

Her debut novel Aurora: Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013, and the sequel Aurora: Pegasus, will be released in December 2013 but is available for pre-ordered now.

Places where you can find Amanda:

Read another guest post about what Jen Christopherson’s learned about writing and publishing.

Guest blogs and the Leibster Award

Guest Blogging

Lately I’ve been writing more guest blogs than I post here.

Guest blogging is a great idea if you’ve never tried it. Guests get their name out there among new people, and hosts get content they don’t have to produce themselves. Win/win.

So, here’s a shoutout to my most recent guest blog hosts. Please check them out and maybe dig around in the blogs, and leave a comment or two if you have the time.

Dyane Forde interviewed me on her wonderful blog, Dropped Pebbles. Fun and entertaining.

Vashti Quiroz-Vega hosted a post from me about the evolution of my epic fantasy novel.

JW Alden published my guest blog on the future of publishing.

Jen Christopherson asked me some great questions on her blog.

Leibster Blog Award

Liebster Award imageJen also nominated me for the Leibster Blog Award in which you answer eleven questions, state eleven facts about yourself and nominate eleven more people while linking back to the original post.

Jen’s questions for me:

  1. Do you want to be rich and famous?
    Rich? Yes. Famous? Not so much, but I’ll take it if it comes with the rich.
  2. If yes why and if no why?
    Why? I’d love to be able to give away the day job. I’m not so sure I’d want the hassles involved with being famous though.
  3. What is the most important day of the week for you?
    Monday – it’s my writing day.
  4. What is your favourite dessert?
    Ice cream. Vanilla.
  5. How long did it take you to feel good about writing?
    Tough question. I remember my primary school teacher (third grade) criticising my short story about a koala using a branch to save it’s child. Her reason was that they’re animals and not people, so it couldn’t have happened. It really smashed my creativity (it was a kids story, not a reality show). I didn’t write again until late high school. It felt pretty good when I got my first short story published.
  6. What is your favourite time of day?
    I like to write in the mornings.
  7. Who do you depend upon?
    Depends what for. In regards to writing, I depend on everyone who has anything to do with it up to the point of publication – critters, supporters, proof readers, friends and family.
  8. Has anyone ever let you down?
    Yes, but it’s not something I focus on. Best to move on and leave the disappointments behind.
  9. Where on Earth do you think is closest to heaven?
    A chocolate shop.
  10. What was the most valuable advice anyone ever gave you?
    “You can be anything you want to be.” My mother. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I do now.
  11. What is the most indulgent gift you ever received or gave?
    Personalised number plates.

Even random facts about me:

  1. My hair (though it’s rapidly disappearing) is very curly at the back but barely wavy on top.
  2. My beard is tinged with red. Or was. Lots of salt these days.
  3. I’m naturally shy and have to work hard to overcome it.
  4. The hospital I was born in got blown up and replaced with a museum.
  5. I’ve been to Disneyland. Twice. The first time was when my wife won a competition.
  6. I live within walking distance of a lake.
  7. I work at a government research organisation (sounds more ominous when I say it like that).
  8. I went to university as a mature-aged student.
  9. I’m a pretty good handyman.
  10. I always expect my lotto tickets to win.
  11. I can hear very high pitched sounds like dog whistles.

I’m not sure who I’ll nominate yet or what questions I’ll ask. Stay tuned.

If you want to be nominated, contact me or drop a comment.

What I’ve learned about writing and publishing – Jen Christopherson

Today I’ve got the amazing Jen Christopherson over for a chat on her writing process and experiences in the publishing game. Please make her feel welcome.

Photo of Jen Christopherson

Howdy!

Before we get started I would like to thank Chris and fandelyon.com for having me! I am very excited to be here!

I would like to say I am one of those writers that has a schedule and writes every day on a project, adding in communicating online on a regular basis (and in all fairness, I’ve tried!!), but I’m not one of those people.

I write and communicate as time permits. I try to keep in touch online at least five days a week, but sometimes… Well, sometimes life just happens!

When I’m writing, I write. I forget about everything else, including eating. My poor boyfriend! He has to remind me to do everything while I am writing!

Editing my work is easier because I have the inclination to “social edit”.

What I mean is that I share what I am working on with my boyfriend and we edit it together. Now, with my momma living with us, there will be three of us editing! LOL

Well, being a “pantser” (I like that term! I have always been a “seat of my pants” kind of gal!), I have a difficult time blogging! Oh! I missed my cover unveiling on Facebook, too! That was humiliating!!! LOL

Tior, by Jen ChristophersonWhen I wrote Tior, I wrote from start to finish. I wrote it in 30 days!

I wasn’t on the internet because I couldn’t afford it. I say that to let you know, I have been so poor I couldn’t afford the down payment on a free sandwich! LOL.

I had no idea about editing or having someone edit it for me. I wanted a second opinion on the book and asked a friend to read it. They liked it and wanted to help me get it published.

Well, I got wrapped up in the excitement of publishing and completely forgot to review the work to make sure it was publisher ready. Oh! I learned so much from that one little book! The story is good, I just want to “finish” it!

Warrior Crone by Jen ChristophersonWarrior Crone was different.

I kept being “visited” by Winaiva (Tar-Reesh’s favorite companion) and she was reading me Tar-Reesh’s journals. I know writers will understand, not sure others would though!

Anyway, I began writing it way back in 2008, but life had a way of putting a bunch of stuff in my way and I didn’t get it finished until now.

I’m thankful for the journey I have had writing it and look forward to what is to come!

My current project, Living Winter (working title), has begun by introducing characters and scenes. I will have to figure out where they all go and how it all works out! It’s an adventure fantasy.

I suppose that would be the “ultimate pantser”, right?

Three books and three different ways to start them! I do not feel that I am an author. I am more like a “ghost writer” who gets all the credit for the characters’ work, ya know?

Writing Tior taught me about writing, publishing and marketing (or the results of the lack of it!).

You should check it to make sure it’s ready, if you don’t want to “read it again”, put it away for a while and come back to it. Make sure you are not excited about the next step when you read it, you’ll miss a lot! Research publishers on Editors and Predators website. You can learn from others before you get into a mess o’ trouble!

When you are writing a book is the best time to start marketing it. Bring others along for the ride! Let them get to know the real you and you will find the people who will enjoy your writing!

Warrior Crone could be two books. The story before Warrior Crone is what taught me a “life lesson”. I learned not to judge a religion based on the actions of the people of the faith. Someone summed it up best, “Church is the one place where people go and not one of them is fit to be there.” In other words, “Principles are the perfection we are seeking.”

Warrior Crone, the book part, has taught me to not only accept criticism, but to embrace it. Without criticism, I cannot grow as a writer and THAT is what life is about, growing. At least, for me it is.

I haven’t tried to put any morals or theme into my books, I generally find them after they are written.

I think, if I tried to put it in there, the book would suck. I would be too focused on the moral and forget about the story.

I have found I love communicating with people about my writing. I love sharing it and hearing what they think of it.

I had people in my life when Tior was published who would only say things like, “It’s ok,” or “It sucks.” When I asked for more they would say, “I dunno.”

Now, I have people who tell me things like, “That’s a terrible place to end it! What happens next?!?” I like those responses much better. I can work with those!

I have one last thing to say before I go. I’ve heard people say, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”

I thought, “Yeah, they ain’t never been where I am, if they think that.”

Well, I have begun to follow my dreams and I can testify that the journey has been the best part. If you don’t believe me, then start following your own dreams and see what happens! I dare ya! I double dog dare you to follow your dreams!!! When you do, be sure to drop by and let me know how it’s going. I don’t care what your dream is, let me know what you’re doing to follow it and what your experiences have been so far.

Alright, that’s all I have for now. Thank you for letting me ramble and rant. I hope ya’ll come on by and visit a spell.

Please leave Jen a comment below or find her at her blog – JC Publishing or on Google Plus.

Read more interviews with authors.

An interview with Maer Wilson – author of The Thulukan Chronicles

Today I have Maer Wilson over for a chat. She’s found publication with Crescent Moon Press for her new novel, Relics, the first book in The Thalukan Chronicles.

Q. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?Head and shoulders photo of Maer Wilson

Thank you so very much for having me on today, Chris.

This book actually grew out of the main characters, Thulu and La Fi.

I used to play World of Warcraft and made up the names Thulu and La Fi as nicknames for some friends whose names were similar.

Before I could tell them, the characters started clamouring in my head that these were their names.

I had a really good idea who they were pretty fast, so decided to see what came of it.

Q. Is this a stand-alone book or part of a series?

Relics is Book 1 of The Thulukan Chronicles.

Q. Can you talk about your experience of getting your book published?

I did the almost obligatory stint of trying to get an agent, but as I learned more about the publishing industry and saw how things were going, I quickly realised that traditional publishing wasn’t for me.

Years between contract and publication just wasn’t going to cut it.

So, I chose several small presses, with Crescent Moon Press being my first choice.

When I got that first email from them asking for my full manuscript, I was thrilled.

When the contract offer came in a few weeks later, I was over the moon.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m very lucky I found them.

Q. Did you have your own personal ’darkest hour’ in the process of getting your novels written and published (for example, a moment you thought it would never happen), and how did you get through it to achieve success?

Surprisingly enough, there was a time just a few weeks before my contract offer.

I’d become convinced my book was awful.

I’d already chosen my small presses and had been working on my rewriting my query again when this happened.

So, I sent several queries to my top picks all at once, figuring to get all my rejections over with quickly.

Within two hours I had the first request for the full manuscript in, which was from Crescent Moon.

A few days later I received my second request. I figured maybe my book didn’t suck after all. 🙂

Q. Which character other than your MC is your favourite? Why?

Hmmm…I vacillate between Jones and Reo because I adore them both.

So today, I’ll pick Jones.

I love how enigmatic he is and can’t wait to see what else he’s going to bring to the series.

He has so many layers that aren’t discovered yet in Relics, but I think he is my most fascinating.

He’s also my biggest challenge to write since he’s over 8000 years old.

Q. Who are your favourite authors?

George R. R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, to name only a very few.

Q. Can you share a bit about your next project?

I’m working on Book 2 of The Thulukan Chronicles, Portals.

I have one more read-through and revision to do before submission.

Q. What advice would you give to a budding writer about developing their craft, the business of writing, and the career of a writer?

Relics cover image of a sword before a vortex.To develop their craft, they need to read as much as they can, especially in their genre.

They also need to write as much as they can. The two go hand in hand, I think.

On the business of writing, they need to take their time and thoroughly polish the manuscript.

I think too often the excitement of actually finishing gets the better of some folks and they send off a manuscript that should have had more beta readers and more revising.

As for their career, once someone decides they are serious about writing they need to establish their presence online.

They should start a website or blog, build up their social media and join writing groups.

And they should always be polite and remember to keep their PR face on at all times.

That’s a lesson I brought with me from my years onstage, but I think it applies to authors as well.

Chris, thanks once again for having me over.

About Maer: After a successful career being other people, and later teaching others the many tricks of that trade, Maer Wilson has decided to be herself for a while. Turns out she’s a writer. She’s always loved stories, especially fantasy, mystery and sci fi. She has a dragon-themed room in her home, but sadly no dragons in the back yard. When she’s not writing, Maer plays online video games, teaches college and reads. She lives in the high desert of Southern Nevada with her two dogs, a chihuahua and a poodle. You can visit her website at maerwilson.com. You can find Relics on Amazon.

You might also like Maer’s previous guest post: Maer Wilson – Methods to My Madness.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: