Friday, July 27, 2012

Fabulously Fun Fridays: Writer Perception Meme

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fiction E-Books OutPace Hardcovers in 2011

This is about an article that appeared in Reuters on Wed July 18, 2012. I'm providing the link to the article HERE. The first paragraph of the article is below:

(ahem) We'd like to announce that...

"Electronic books more than doubled in popularity in 2011, with ebooks outselling hardcover books in adult fiction for the first time, according to a survey released on Wednesday!"

I'd like to point out a couple of things. First of all, this is old data. 2011? Really? We're nearly eight months into the new year, and now we're just getting the sales data. This makes me think that 2012 is going to be even better, perhaps with e-books outpacing paperback as well. Or, if not in 2012, then perhaps in the near future.

The second thing is: This is old news. No one who has been paying any attention to the tsunami that has swept over the publishing world can be remotely surprised by this. E-books are not only here to stay, they are swiftly becoming the preferred way for readers to feed their book habits. The reasons are quite simple:

1. Price. E-books (especially independent e-books) are usually more affordable - to the tune of several dollars - than print books. Mostly, this has to do with the cost of printing (not to mention the failure of e-book readers to factor in the price of their e-reader into the purchase of the books. No matter. I'm not complaining!), though many e-books are free!

2. Immediacy. E-books arrive as soon as you download them from the web. There's no spending gas to run to the book and mortar store, or days spent waiting for the USPS, FedEx or UPS truck to arrive with your package. An E-book is ready when you are.

3. Portability. E-readers are a library in your pocket. My daughter loves reading and is desperately saving her pennies for either a Nook or a Kindle (she hasn't decided yet). For my part, I am encouraging this every step of the way--if only because I don't like lugging around the bag o' books she likes to sign out of our library (she gets out upwards of twenty at a time!).

Selection isn't quite yet the fourth factor, but it probably will be in the near future. For some authors, especially the indepedents, e-books are all they do. At the very least, this means that there are some books available electronically that cannot be purchased any where else. The same can be said, for now, of print books (and probably to a far greater extent), but this is changing. As more and more publishers recognize the value of e-publishing versus p-publishing, this trend will only continue.

And while I don't know if this is a factor where readers are concerned, it certainly is one for writers, and that's access and bigger royalties. As an independent author, I can release my books when I want in whatever way I want. I get a larger share of the royalties, and I have far more control over the process than by going with a traditional publishing house. True, I've had to learn how to design book covers and develop the interior of a book to look pleasing to the eye, and I'm still having to learn how to market (though I must point out that I have to do this anyway with my traditionally published works), but overall, the success and control over my own creative works make e-publishing a very attractive alternative to the old way. Given that my overhead is far lower than that of a publishing house, I also don't need to sell nearly as many books to turn a profit, and many authors have gained greater financial independence than could ever have done so under the old system.

Change is good.
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Monday, July 23, 2012

From the Editor: Submissions

A few folks who know me also know that I'm a consulting content editor and a sometime-acquisitions editor for the Indie publisher, Port Yonder Press, and that I serve as an editorial assistant for a popular agent in the Christian publishing industry, Terry Burns with the Hartline Literary Agency. Both of these positions are aside from being a freelance editor and a copyeditor for the nascent ezine Scienda Quarterly. All this sounds loftier than it is, but these positions are giving me a unique view of the traditional publishing industry.

Through working with PYP and Terry, I get the opportunity to see the queries and manuscripts that are submitted to them, and after going through a rash of  them to help Terry catch up after a particularly hectic time, all I could do was shake my head. I couldn't believe how authors approached this professional. These aren't the giggle-worthy stories, the "God told me to write this"-type submission you can read about on some sites, but serious submissions that show the author didn't bother to do his research.

Which Agent/Publisher?

First thing an author has to do is to make sure the publisher or agent he submits to accepts and works with his genre. There is no point in pitching a Western to Harlequin unless that Western follows the formula for the traditional romance. There are lists online, but the most comprehensive lists of publishers and agents out there are found in market guides: 2012 Market Guide, by Robert Brewer, and 2012 Christian Market Guide, by Jerry B. Jenkins. These are best used in tandem with the web because the agent and publisher sites can be changed quicker than printed material.

The point isn't to run your finger down the list of Sci-Fi publishers and submit your one-size-fits-all query letter to each one. Find out who publishes what you write, who is actively taking submissions, who allows author-submissions, and what their requirements in a submission packet are, then tailor your query to fit.

Query Letter and Submission Packet

Every agent and publisher has a preferred way to be queried, and they all have the instructions on their websites. Sometimes it's nothing more than "we don't take unagented submissions," which means don't even try--get your agent to submit to us. Sometimes it's a detailed, step-by-step how-to of everything the agent or publisher expects to find, from market comparables to promotion plans and everything in between. Follow these instructions carefully. These people get tons of submissions per week, and one of the quickest ways to not even get your opening paragraph read is to illustrate in the query letter that you can't follow instructions. Why bother reading your submission when there are hundreds of other authors who do follow instructions?

The submission packet tells the recipient more than what your book is about, it tells him whether or not the book is a good fit with their company; tells him a bit about you, your professionalism, your experience; tells him whether your work will be competitive in a tough market. After looking over some of the more mundane things, the acquisitions editor or agent will tip-toe through the information about your manuscript. The dreaded tell-all synopsis is important because it indicates whether your work holds up all the way through and comes to a satisfactory conclusion. The opening scenes will tell whether you can write and whether you can hook your reader.

Submission How-To Guides

Although not all parts of a submission packet will be studied by all agents or editors, it's still important enough to polish and perfect. If you don't know how to do a good submission, there are several how-tos out there to help you. Terry Burns's A Writer's Survival Guide to Getting Published is one of them. Terry wrote this book with conference attendance in mind, to help those who have agent or editor appointments at conferences make the most of their fifteen minutes. But the elements of the submission packet are the same whether you're attending a conference or sitting in your pjs writing query letters.

Querying agents and editors is nerve-wracking because inherent in the action is the idea that you're preparing to send your baby out in the world to be scrutinized by professionals. Give that child a fair chance by presenting him professionally. Research the folks you're sending him to and make sure you're a good fit. Follow their instructions to a T with a polished, well-written letter and packet. Granted, doing this doesn't guarantee your work will be accepted, but it can help get you over the first hurdle, and if nothing else, it will mark you as someone who takes this business seriously.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Evil Overlord Instructional Video

I already know all about such things. Now you can, too. Have fun storming the castle...

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Michael Hauge on how to pitch your project

This 22-minute clip is part two of Michael Hauge's industry lecture held on 16 March 2011, discussing how to pitch your project; in this case a film. But the same principles apply to manuscripts. After all, a film is a visualization of a story, even if it's straight out of the author's head instead of adaptation of a book. Learn the 8 "R"s of preparation and presentation.

Eliciting emotion is the key factor to getting someone in a position to represent your work (agent, acquisitions editor). Presenting your work in a way that makes it impossible to ignore will often have good results.

MICHAEL HAUGE is a story and script consultant, author and lecturer who works with writers and filmmakers on their screenplays, novels, movies and television projects. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors. Michael is the best-selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read and of Writing Screenplays That Sell, a definitive reference book for the film and television industries, which is now in its 32nd printing for HarperCollins. His seminar with Chris Vogler, The Hero's 2 Journeys, has become one of the top-selling DVDs and CDs on story and screenwriting. 

For more tips and information:

I particularly recommend this article:

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Monday, July 16, 2012

What is Social Networking Anyway?

Janalyn Voigt, author and speaker

When the oriental man pushing a shopping cart full of books hailed me in the parking lot of a hardware store, I knew I was in trouble.

His forehead creased with concentration. “I…book…writer.”  

I smiled and nodded as I edged for my car, not feeling quite safe.

Perhaps emboldened by my response, he flashed a bright smile and waved a paperback in my face. “You…want…book?”


He placed the book in my hands. The cover wasn’t bad, I remember thinking, but if he could barely speak English, what would the inside be like?


I took myself in hand and, shaking my head, thrust his offering toward him. “I don’t want the book.”  My tone was a little abrupt, so I added a polite “thank you,” but he’d already turned away, possibly on the look-out for his next customer.

Sometimes I feel like that man.

As a debut author I’m out there pushing my shopping cart as I try to convince people to buy my book. I can get caught up in narrow-focus marketing efforts and forget there's a better way. I won't succeed if I go it alone. In the first throws of building a platform I gave little thought to how much help it actually takes to launch a novel and a career. I have never felt more needy than now, when I have something to offer. Yes, I have more traction than I did but a taller mountain to climb.

My launch of DawnSinger, the first novel in Tales of Faeraven, my epic fantasy series, was successful because a number of people I helped along the way pitched in for me in return. That’s the way social networking works. Wherever you are in your writing journey, it’s never too soon or too late to give your help to someone else. But you can’t give to get. People smell that motive immediately, and it stinks. Be sincere in all you do.

If I didn’t understand before, I know it now: Any pinnacle I reach will be because many hands carried me there. That will always be so. I am nothing without others.

And neither are you.

Have there been times when you helped another person and the only return you received was joy? Was it still worth it? 

The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.
Available in paperback and ebook form at and Barnes & Noble.
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Signs I've spent too much time writing . . .

Comics from my son:

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creating a Cover for your Self-Published Book

Since I just recently created a cover for my latest release and I also recently had a friend ask what she even needed to do to get started creating a cover, I thought I'd write a post for beginners on the steps you'll need to take for a cover if you are just launching out into self-publishing.

1. You will need a photo-editing software. Gimp is a good free one. Personally, I prefer Photoshop, but that's probably just because I'm used to how it operates.

2. You will need to either create a template with bleed lines for the final size of cover you'll need, or you will need to download one. Createspace has templates for all sizes of books so that's a great place to get one. Otherwise, most printers will offer free templates for your use. You'll open this template in your photo-editor and then create layers on it of your other cover images.

3. You will need to purchase your cover images from a Stock photo site. My two favorites are and Other good ones, but maybe a touch more expensive, are Istock,  Dreamstime, Shutterstock, and Getty Images.

4. You'll need basic knowledge of how to manipulate photos in your photo editor of choice, obviously. However, YouTube is a vast sea of knowledge and helpful videos on various techniques. So if there's something you'd like to do, but don't know how, simply search there and likely you'll find a tutorial.

5. A word on font choice. Choose a font that is going to be easily legible, especially keeping in mind that most people will only see your cover in thumbnail size on the distributors sites. (Amazon, B&N, etc.) It generally looks more professional if your name is in a different font than the title of the book - but keep your fonts down to 2 or 3 at the most. For more freedom in word placement, put each word or segment in its own layer. Then you can drag them to the exact position you want, or angle them etc.

6. If you choose to create a paperback, you'll also need to find an image for your back cover and spine. (Although neither really have to be an image - they could just be a solid color with text.)

7. When it comes to the size of images to buy, remember that your cover should be set to 300dpi. (Dots per inch, or pixels per inch.) That means if your cover is 5.5 x 8.5 you will need images to cover 1650 x 2550 pixels. If your image will only cover part of the cover, you can estimate the correct size of image you need to purchase based on its approximate pixel area coverage.

The cover to the right is the cover I just finished for my latest Christian historical romance, High Desert Haven. To give you a bit more of an idea of how this works... This cover has 3 images, plus a title-plate and text.  Image 1 is the map in the background. Image 2 is the woman. Image 3 is the cowboy and horses at the bottom. The links will take you to the original images for each of these 3 and if you click through you'll notice that this woman was actually a modern day bride. I lopped off her head and faded her in a bit. For the cowboy, I wanted him to be to the left for a nice balance, so I reversed the image. But that didn't get him far enough to the left of the cover for my liking, so I cut off one of the horses and put that horse on the other side of the image, which allowed me to push the cowboy further left. I could have also purchased a title plate from one of the stock sites, but I created this one with some brushes in Photoshop and a paper background.

Anyhow, that's a quick overview and hopefully sparks your inner muse to see the possibilities for your own covers. I'm sure there are readers of this blog who have infinitely more experience with this than I do. So what tips and tricks do you all have to share about cover creation? Feel free to share your latest cover creation in the comments.

To learn more about High Desert Haven click here.
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Monday, July 9, 2012

The Dark Dénouement

The dénouement, that place near the end of the novel where loose ends are tied, secrets are revealed, and all nontangential activities blend into the plot with head-smacking logic. Nothing new is introduced here. This is where the fog clears and every silver thread you've woven into your novel shines with clarity. This is the time of kudos and awards. The bad guys are punished, and the good guy prepares to ride off into the sunset with the girl.

The concept holds true even if the novel doesn't have a bright, sunny ending. Novels in general move toward something, the achievement of some goal, and dark novels are no different. Main characters still should have traveled through their story arc, loose ends need to be tied, a hint to the future must be evident, particularly if the novel is one in a series.

One of the darkest books I've ever read is The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. The characters in this masterfully written postapocalyptic book have only two goals during the entire story: staying alive and going south. The reader doesn't know where their travel will take them, what lays ahead in the magic land of "south," but we continue reading with the hopes they'll get there. Whether they'll find a place that hasn't been destroyed is doubtful. It's clear the two will live forever in a gray world.

Throughout the novel we watch the heart-wrenching change in one of the main characters, known only as "the boy." At the beginning, the boy is a typical child, full of hope and wonder and curiosity. He still has the need to play and be lighthearted. But he witnesses so many horrors as they drift southward, childish charm drains out of him. He no longer peppers his father with journalistic questions, no longer skips along the way, no longer shows signs of holding even a frayed thread of hope. The excruciatingly few good points on their journey are far too short for the little man to recapture his exuberance.

In the dénouement, which I can reveal without ruining the story, they arrive south. The reader still doesn't know where they are and the barren, ashen landscape hasn't changed, but judging from the people there, the boy will be safe. He may not be happier, he may still never see a bird or flower, he may still live a life that consists of scavenging for food, but he will be safe.

Defending Jacob, by William Landay, is a study in psychology, law, and family dynamics. This exquisitely written novel explores what happens when an assistant district attorney discovers his son is accused of a brutal murder. The effects on the family of the accusation and arrest, the wait for trial and the trial itself are presented entirely through the father's POV. Landay keeps the questions coming at the reader with rapid-fire precision, and they aren't limited to "did the boy do it," although that's a big one.

Anyone who knows anything about courtroom procedure has to wonder about one thread, one "writer's trick" Landay relies on in telling his story: the presentation of the father's grand jury testimony. As the novel progresses, this testimony becomes more and more bizarre--not because of its content, but because it's happening at all.

The novel is told "after the fact," and the boy's trial and the father's testimony have already occurred, but at different times, something the reader doesn't realize until it becomes apparent that the father's time in the witness seat couldn't possibly relate to the boy's trial. Grand juries are assembled before trial to see if the DA has enough evidence to indict the accused. As the novel goes along, the boy's trial comes to its fruition, but the grand jury testimony still continues. As the reader passes the three-quarter point in the novel, he has all sorts of ideas in his head as to why this is occurring. For me, I had several ideas, each of them feasible, and none of them matching what was revealed in the dénouement--which I can't share with you. Definitely a spoiler.

Whether the ending for Defending Jacob is dark depends on the reader's interpretation of one line written four pages from the end: "It was the last time I was ever in that courthouse." There could be several reasons the main character never entered again, and not all of them are good. But whichever reason the reader chooses, the MC's life is forever changed for the worse, so perhaps the best way to word this isn't whether the ending is dark--it is. The question left to the reader is "how dark?" The reader determines the shade of black.

The Lesson:

In both of these novels, there was one constant thread that led to the dénouement. In The Road, that thread is the trip south. The beginning of the end of the novel is marked by their arrival. Once they reach "south," any other question the author presents during their trek is answered. But reaching that goal doesn't promise "happily ever after" for the characters. The only hope is that the boy will finally be safe.

With Defending Jacob, the thread is the grand jury testimony. As the novel progresses, the testimony becomes more and more obviously out of place. In the dénouement, Landay reveals whom the state is seeking to indict and answers all the questions that arose from that one thread. The rest of the questions raised during the novel aren't overtly answered, but all the tools the reader needs to find the answers are available to him--many of which are head-smackers.

Dark novels don't have to have bright endings, but they do have to contain the same major components in the dénouement as lighter novels. According to Jeff Gerke ("4 Ways to Round Out Your Climax," Writers Digest, Nov/Dec. 2011), to complete your novel you must:

  1. Show the main character's final state (the end condition after his inner journey).
  2. Show the overall disposition of things now that the climax has passed.
  3. Tie off all loose ends.
  4. Suggest how things might be moving forward for the characters . . . 
As long as you've done these four things, you can end your novel as dark as you and the reader would like.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Fabulously Fun Friday - Justin Bieber - Literary Genius

I smacked into this video the other month - talk about a head rush! We love the Red Green show at our house, and when I saw Gordon reading Justin's Memoirs, I wasn't sure if either of them were in telling tall tale mode or not.

You be the Judge.

 Visit: and hit play

Two minutes of pure giggle-snort genius.
My goodness, I'm glad I had boys, and they're mostly, sort of, grown up.

Who's the Wimp Now?
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chana Keefer's Brilliant Plan

Chana Keefer is celebrating her new release, The Fall, with a Christmas in July party! Why should we care? Well, aside from the fact that it's a terrific book, Chana has a brilliant pre-release marketing plan.

First thing she did was to solicit the help of some friends from the cross-promotions group she belongs to, Grace & Faith Authors. Each of us who are participating have offered our books and ebooks as special bonuses to Chana's Christmas in July campaign, but that's not all we're doing.

Chana has pre-written several tweets, Facebook posts, and email letters (complete with subject line ideas) for us to use in a media blast intended to reach at least 500,000 people. Considering the list of fifteen authors that have agreed to participate, it wouldn't surprise me if she reached her goal.

She has an impressive, professional page set up on her blog, Chana, called Christmas in July (visible, but still under construction as of this post date). The promo picture is top class and appealing. All the fans have to do is enter their name, email, and order number to be eligible for the bonus prizes offered. This is set up as a one-day only deal (July 10), so if successful, the Amazon rush on that day could skyrocket her novel to #1 best seller, which of course, could be a selling point beginning July 11.

Didn't I tell you her plan was brilliant?

It takes time to develop a plan like this--finding participants, designing the necessary pages in your blog or website (assuming you have one, and if not, you'd better get moving!), developing effective tweets and posts and email notes for everyone to use. Coordinating everything and everyone. I'm sure there are headaches I don't even know about--and dealing with them and everything else takes time.

The content of the tweets and Facebook posts must convey all the pertinent information in short, concise messages--particularly the tweets! Title, author, event, date, link, and ideally something about the book. In this era of impatience, when anything over 140 characters is too long, coming up with quick-glance info quips is tricky. No less tricky is the email--which, unless the subject line and opening paragraph are catchy, will be deleted like so much junk mail. These shouldn't be thrown together in the last minute. Proofreading is vital. For many, this will be the first introduction to the author; spelling and grammar mistakes in the promo devices will reflect on the his professionalism and ultimately his book.

So when your publisher delivers that disappointing release date which seems so far in the future, remember that you will need every free minute of that time to develop an effective campaign like this one, in between edits, cover development, and the unavoidable "real life" interruptions.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

What Kills Sales?

According to Joe Bunting by way of Donald Miller, what kills sales is not writing about death. Or, if the double-negative was too obscure, try it this way: write about death to get published.

Of the thir­teen books nom­i­nated to the 2011 Booker Prize longlist, every sin­gle one involved the theme of death.
Update: You can navigate to a much larger view of this starting here.
H/T: Mac

How many of your favorite novels involve a death? How many of your own stories? We've heard it said that we authors need to kill our darlings. The gist of that expression is that we develop an emotional attachment to our very clever work, which then colors our judgment. But maybe we need to be a little more literal and actual whack a character or two. It may be that a little authorial murder is just what you need to publish your work!

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