Saturday, August 31, 2013

Let's Not Be So Negative by Andrea Pearson

A while back, Smashwords interviewed Jonathan Maberry, a NYT Bestselling author. One of his responses, about being positive online, really stuck with me. And I know it's geared to writers and the writing field, but MAN is it applicable in every day life and conversation. Here's a quote from it (I've edited it for content (he swears a few times):

"Negativity does not sell, but a lot of writers seem to use it as a way of getting heard. Sure, you’re heard ... and then ignored. If you want to vent, do it over beers at the next Stoker banquet. We’ll all listen. But don’t put it online.

(He then uses Twilight as an example, where a lot of authors/writers talked online about how stupid and awful it was. Then he said agents and editors pay attention to these sorts of things, that they know that Twilight brought a lot of money into the industry and will avoid you for slamming it and other crappy (but potentially successful) books.)

"So, what do you put out there? Think about a party. If there’s someone who is whining and moaning and someone else who’s getting folks to laugh and loosen up, which way do you drift? If a kid in a playground is constantly whining about the quality of the toys, and another kid has turned a cardboard box into a sideshow funhouse, who’s getting more attention? Who’s going to be remembered in a positive way?

"And, even if you are a naturally cranky, snarky, sour-tempered pain in the butt, for goodness’ sake share that with your therapist or priest. When you go online to promote yourself and therefore your products, try not to actually scare people off your lawn."

I loved this quote. And like I said, I know it's geared to writers and the writing field, but it is definitely applicable to anyone. Every time we post something online, we're "promoting" ourselves. And don't we want people to remember us in a positive instead of negative light?

People who complain and whine all the time about how horrible and hard life is, and how other people who don't deserve success are getting it, tend to be ignored - except by other people who whine and complain a lot. Whereas people who are uplifting, complimentary, and positive are cheered on, then supported when they need support. They put a positive spin on everything, which is so much more attractive than a negative spin. Let's be "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation" (1 Tim 4:12), by seeking (and writing/posting) things that are "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy" (13th AofF).

This applies not only to people who are wanting to be traditionally published, but those of us who are indie authors. None of us can afford to lose readers (agents/editors) because of one temper-tantrum article we post.

To read the rest of the interview, including the parts I cut out of the above quote, go here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Class Notes - Finding Time to Write

At our recent IndieAuthorHub conference, Rachel Ann Nunes taught a class on finding time to write. Here are some notes on that class, as provided by Roseanne Wilkins.


Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us are writing for money. If we were writing for pleasure, we wouldn't be attending classes and finishing our books.

In order to achieve success, we need to treat our writing like a business. We have to set aside time every day for writing, just like a job. And like a job, we need to be able to tell friends and family that there are some hours of the day that are just ours - for writing.

With that said, we all also have lives. It's important to stop if the moment requires it. Children are especially important, and there are some moments when we just have to stop and share some time with our kids because our moments are finite and they will be grown before we know it.

We need to prioritize and accept that we can't do everything. We don't need to fix gourmet meals. We need to delegate to those around us as much as possible. We need to say "no" to activities when we feel pressure to say "yes." Remember that when we're saying "no" to one thing it's so we can say "yes" to another. 

You don't have to spend every moment writing. You can take time for other things you enjoy. It's a matter of priorities and not doing things others might put pressure on you to do. 

If you have someone who isn't valuing your time, you need to make your time valuable. Turn off the phone. Don't answer the door. Be strict about your writing time. And have writing time every weekday, like a job. Any words you write can be edited, but if there's nothing to edit, you won't get anything finished. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Author Interview - Maria Hoagland

Today we are excited to chat with Maria Hoagland, the Membership Director for Indie Author Hub. You can learn more about her here.

Q. Maria, many of the Indie authors in this group published traditionally first and then began to self-publish. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to self-publish first, or the circumstances that led to that.

A. I published indie from the start. I didn't start my publishing journey with that in mind, of course, because when starting out, all I knew was traditionally published, so that's what was in my mind. So I did the write, edit, submit, reject, lock-in-a-drawer-and-forget-it-for-a-year-or-two, repeat cycle twice, before I really got serious about publishing. That was about the same time I started attending a certain writers' conference and learned more about the industry. Because my novel was written for an LDS audience, I started pitching to publishers in that market who liked the idea, but told me that women's fiction doesn't sell well. I submitted to a few more smaller presses and got some helpful feedback, but at the same time, I was getting frustrated at the time it took to hear back from publishers (because I thought I had to do them one at a time). The best part about having to wait while the manuscript was being assessed was that I took the time to research all my options and decided I liked the independent publishing route. By the time I finished my second novel, I didn't even submit it to publishers because I was satisfied that indie pubbing was the path I wanted for my career. I might find I make that decision each time I'm finishing a new book, or I might just stick with indie. I love that we're looking at ways to help each other and that, I think, will only bring success.

Q. How many words do you typically write in a week?

A. Like my running, that varies way too much to have a "typical." I love having occasional challenges like Camp NaNoWriMo to get me motivated and bump up the word count, but I do find it easy to put writing off until after my "day job" (I work part-time as an ESL tutor) and my family duties. My goal this month is to set a better schedule and "Just Do It!"

Q. Are you an outliner or do you fly by the seat of your pants.?

A. I am definitely an outliner. I bless the day I heard about Scrivener because before that, I literally carried around index cards with scene ideas on them. Now I jot them on Post-It Notes, arrange them on my wall (as learned in Elana Johnson's "Cat" class), then transfer them all into Scrivener. I don't always follow the outline, but it sure makes it easier to just jump in wherever I am and write a scene.

Q. What television show would you consider your guilty pleasure (if you have one)?

A. Through the years, Northern Exposure and LOST have been my favorite TV series. If I had to choose one now, it would probably be Once Upon a Time or Elementary, but I'm looking for something more like the first two I mentioned, if anyone has any good suggestions for me... 

Q. How do you choose names for your characters?

A. You hit a nerve with that question. For my first book, even two, it was easy. I picked names I liked, checked to make sure the name fit the age (on social security records or baby name websites) and all was good. Until I realized I used some of the same names for both books without realizing it!! Big oops! My advice: keep track of the little names--the side characters you don't think matter. That's where I messed up! This time around, I'm having a lot more trouble choosing names with my WIP because I've been told I "can't" use the name for my MC that I really, really want. I'm told that name didn't exist circa 1970 but more like 1990. Which is true, but ... I don't want to stick with the top 100 names of that birth year if I don't have to. I want this character to be unique. What about the rest of you? What would you do in my situation?

Didn't mean to hit a nerve, but maybe we can help Maria out. What advice would you give her, readers?

Thank you for joining us, Maria, and thanks for all you do for our group!

Monday, August 19, 2013

We Need a Hero! by Marie Higgins

What is the purpose of writing a story?  Any story no matter what genre.  What exactly are the authors trying to get you as a reader to feel?

First off, authors will create true-to-life main characters.  What does this mean?  This means that our main characters (hero and/or heroine) will have faults.  Our heroes will not be the perfect Prince Charming we have seen on the Disney movies, but they will have blemishes (usually more than one) in their personalities.  Sometimes they’ll have tough problems that seem impossible to overcome.  They will make mistakes along the way.  They’ll start to improve on their faults, but then something happens and they’ll stumble.  But, being the hero of the story, the character will always pick himself up and forge onward, ready for whatever stands in his way.  He doesn’t need a red cape and tights … or a magic sword that fights fictitious dragons, but he’ll do the best he can, and in the end, he will prevail and overcome.  He'll save the day. 

I know you’re agreeing with me so far, aren’t you?  Well, did you know this?  Writers create their stories to take you as the reader out of your everyday problems into an imaginary world.  It’s our job as writers to make you think of nothing else but the story and what’s happening with the hero and heroine, and if the villain is about to attack, or if the train is going to be robbed, or if the killer is hiding in the shadows just waiting for the exact moment to pounce on the good guy as he walks by.  We as writers want you to hold your breath in fear—or anticipation—or exhale a relieved sigh when all is well … for now, anyway. 

No matter what kind of story you read, everyone needs a hero.  Everyone wants a story that takes their mind out of their own problems and lets them pretend—if even for a day or two—that they are someone else.  That they are invincible.  That they are the man all women swoon over, or they are the woman all men fall over themselves trying to meet. 

Romance writers especially want their readers to fall in love with the characters so that they can experience once again (or maybe for the first time) what it feels like to fall in love, or what it feels like to lose someone and have their heart broken—only to have it pieced back together a few chapters later.  Every reader needs a happy ending!  And in my opinion, if you have read a fiction novel and haven’t received the happy ending that makes you smile or sigh with happiness, you aren’t reading the right genre!  

In today’s world, there are so many obstacles to overcome … so much heartache in the world … so much sadness over losing someone we love.  Why not put all of that pain on the back burner while we indulge ourselves in a great story?

Come on, I dare you.  Let an author be your hero!



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Improve Your Health, Increase Your Success by Cami Checketts

As writers, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with our WIPs, Facebook likes, reviews, blog tours, or a hundred other things that can consume our time. Add to that list the real-life responsibilities of family, homes, and jobs, and you quickly realize you don’t even have time to brush your teeth, let alone establish and maintain healthy habits. But I’m here to tell you that making time for good health will pay off in the end (and I’m not just talking about the money saved in blood pressure medication). 

First of all, what is good health? It is not paying for the gym membership, tugging on the Spandex, and vowing never to eat anything unless it’s leafy and green for the rest of our lives—nobody wants to be caught chomping leaves in Spandex.

The basics of good health:

#1 – Adequate sleep: 7-9 hours per night. (Can be tough if you have little ones. Believe me, I haven’t slept well in over fourteen years.)

#2 – Healthy diet: Moderation in all things. I love the 80/20 rule. 80% of your diet should be comprised of healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. 20% can be those extras that you really, truly enjoy. My 20% is all chocolate (I’m eating ice cream with hot fudge as I write this). I love chocolate. It keeps me sane. I try to choose wisely my 20% of “unhealthy foods.” I’m not going to waste calories on pumpkin pie, but offer me chocolate and we’ll be friends for life.

#3 – Moderate amount of physical activity: Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. The activity should be something you enjoy and something you can make a part of your life. Go on a bike ride with your family, lift weights or use exercise bands while you watch Duck Dynasty (that show seriously cracks me up), use a walk as a way to clear your mind, park farther from the grocery store, play tennis on your Saturday night date, run down the stairs to talk with your children instead of yelling down them (yelling never works for me anyway—my boys have trained their ears not to hear my voice). The list could go on, but you basically want to find something that fits with your lifestyle and that isn’t drudgery.

So how can being healthy make us more successful and able to reach our goals?  
#1 – Increased productivity: Exercise makes you more alert by increasing blood flow to the brain and helping you to accomplish any task easier. Good nutrition and getting enough sleep also boost your energy levels, which helps when trying to accomplish a huge task.

#2 – Stress relief: Exercise releases serotonin, which stimulates mood and emotion and helps you handle stress better (maybe I just need more exercise to deal cheerfully with my 2yo).

#3 – Less illness: Being in good health will decrease not only your number of sick days, but minimize the chances of getting diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and dementia.

#4 - Optimizes your brain’s learning capacity: Being healthy really does make you smarter. I need all the help I can get on this one, as my boys tease me about what an airhead I am!

#5 – Improves your skin, hair, and posture. When you look and feel better, it helps you to succeed. 

#6 – Exercise makes you happy, improving mood and self-confidence.

#7 – No more fuzziness. When I eat crappy, I get fuzzy in the head (am I a weirdo like that?) but a good meal helps me think more clearly. Exercise also helps me have a clear mind. I love going on a walk or run and having all kinds of ideas come for dialogue or action scenes.

The bottom line is that being healthy really will make you feel better and increase the amount of work you can accomplish. I know it’s hard to carve out time to exercise, cook healthy food, or get enough sleep, but give it a try and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel. Take it a bit at a time. I recommend baby steps. Focus on one health improvement each month, just one little goal like drinking more water or using some exercise bands. The next month, make another goal, and so on until you’ve gradually made lifestyle changes that will add up to huge results in good health and the other benefits that will result. Good luck!

References:
“Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity.” Mayo Clinic, July 23, 2011, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676
“How does exercise improve work productivity?” by Julie Boehlke, April 17, 2011, http://livestrong.com


Friday, August 2, 2013

Writing Great Back Cover Copy by Julie Coulter Bellon

Lately, I've been helping authors write or revamp their back cover copy, and I even taught a class on it at an indie publishing conference.  It always amazes me how little time authors seem to spend on the second most important thing in selling and marketing their book - the back cover copy.  Besides the cover, the first interaction your reader will have with your book is the back cover copy, and it can make or break your book sales.

So, let's look at some tips for writing great back cover copy.

First of all, NEVER summarize your book.  The back copy is not where you do a synopsis at all.  The back cover is where you entice and intrigue your readers to pick up your book.

Now that the NEVER DO is out of the way, what do you do?

The Legwork

1.  Figure out the stakes.  Will someone die?  Will the world end?  Will she get the guy?  What are the stakes of the book?  This will play a big role in your back copy.

2.  Work up a thirty-second elevator pitch of your book.  If you can describe your book in thirty seconds, you've got a head start on your back copy.

Now you have somewhere to start. What's next?

1. Take your stakes and figure out a tagline, one sentence that encapsulates your stakes.  My new novel's tagline is "Are you ever really innocent until proven guilty?"  I just helped another author with her tagline and it ended up being, "On their world, being an elemental means you will be hunted for your skin."  So, you see a tagline is something that hints at the stakes in your book.  Make it catchy and memorable.  Don't bog it down.  Too many times I've seen, "This is a book about love and betrayal."  BORING.  Use your creativity.

2.  Use your thirty-second elevator pitch to pull out the important events in your book.  Most times, great back copy just covers the inciting incident in your book.  My new novel, Ashes Ashes, has back copy that is mainly centered around my hero's bad day at work, and since he's in hostage negotiation, that means someone usually dies.  He comes home, sees smoke coming out of his neighbor's house, and so he goes to help.  But the beautiful and mysterious house guest doesn't want his help  - because she's in trouble herself. Usually if you can use your inciting incident, you can hook your audience, hint at the big plot, and write some great back copy.

3.  Use compelling language with a splash of hyperbole.  It's okay to grab your readers with "unimaginable consequences," "a decision that will change mankind forever," or "can he trust anyone around him, including the woman at the center of it all."  Leave your reader feeling like this is a story they definitely have to read.

4. Great back cover copy is generally not over 200 words long.  You have to be concise and really sell the book without being verbose.  Cut out the fatty details - they only bog down your back cover copy.  Get to the meat of it and entice and intrigue your readers.  This is your chance to sell yourself, and you don't want to blow it.

5.  Research how other authors have done it.  If you are still at a loss, go look at the back cover copy of famous authors in your genre.  That can spark ideas and creativity for your own work and help you see the pattern of how to intrigue and entice your readers.

6.  Don't forget to proofread.  There's nothing that will make me pass on a book faster than seeing grammar and spelling errors in the back copy.  If the author can't spell it right there, chances are the book isn't that great either.  The back copy is the reader's first interaction with you.  Make it great!



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Which Stage Are You In? by Andrea Pearson

All right, authors and writers! I want you to go check out Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog post titled The Stages of an Indie Writer. This applies to all of you: traditionally published, aspiring, self-published. Then come back and tell me which stage you're in. :-)

Seriously: I can't stress this enough right now. Every single author I know who has signed with a publisher has become disenchanted after seeing how things actually go or are actually run. Some of those authors go on and sign with other publishers - usually Indie publishers where they're treated much better - but even then, I still hear frustrations.

Only a couple of my author friends are really happy where they are. The thing is, when we start thinking seriously about getting published - when it occurs to us that this could actually happen to us - we become in love with the dream of being traditionally published. And dang, those publishers make things look so good! 

But the truth is, traditional publishers aren't doing very well. Not only that, but the ones who ARE doing well still mess things up ALL the time by: assigning the wrong title to books, not ordering books on time for launches, sending books to the wrong bookstore for said launches, having to push back publication dates multiple times because the cover art wasn't finished on time or the book wasn't sent to the printer (oops! Sorry! they say), putting together covers that are really bad, messing up editing, and NOT MARKETING. That's the biggest complaint from pretty much every author I've met about their publisher. 

Publishers promise a lot of things and then don't fulfill those promises. And authors these days, after signing that freakin' fantastic contract, and finally feeling like they're actually "there," come to the bitter realization that publishers are humans, that they make mistakes, and that one of the biggest ones is how much work they'll put into your book to make it go big. If you aren't James Rollins, Patterson, or Stephen King (or any other huge author), you're going to be expected to market yourself. To put your own money into your book to get it out there. And if your book flops, it's on you, you don't get reprinted, and your book is pulled from shelves.

I'm not against traditionally publishing, actually. There are one or two publishers out there who are doing things right. But technically, they aren't even trad. publishers. They're Indie publishers.

Anyway. Regardless of which stage of becoming an Indie Author you're in, please make sure you know full well what you're getting into. Do your research! Read books about publishing.

And realize this: publishers are watching self-published authors. Self-publishing is the slush pile now. Those of you who are sending your manuscripts out into the ethernet might want to consider making some money while waiting for that dream to come true. :-)

Making money... Mmmm... I sure love doing that. :-)