Monday, September 29, 2014

Indie Warrior shares best tips for self-publishing

The Indie Warrior: Tips from the Battlefield
by Nicolette Pierce

Navigating the publishing world can feel as though you’re tromping through a battlefield, shrapnel blasting you with every step. It can seem overwhelming. We globally compete for rank, sales, ratings, fans, and so much more. The difference between self and traditional publishing is not that vast. Having said that, I would not switch to traditional unless I was offered a king’s ransom. I love self-publishing! And here’s why: I control everything. From the book cover to the final manuscript, I am the supreme ruler. Enough said? Not quite.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with dozens of traditionally published authors that unfortunately do not have control and are left dissatisfied. That is not to say that all authors are dissatisfied. Please do not spear me yet. But, one poor soul comes to mind. The unfortunate fellow is not allowed to release his sequel because the publisher wants more sales on the first book. Does that sound right? To a company looking at profits, yes. To me, it’s insane! Yes, I said insane, and I’ll tell you why henceforth. So, strap on your Viking helmet (not football . . . the real ones with horns), roar your fiercest battle cry, and charge into the book war with me as we go over a few tips that can give your novel the edge it needs to be victorious. And, best of all, on your terms.

  • The first should be obvious, but here it is anyway: Write a great book . . . and then have it picked apart by peers. Sure, let your friends and family read it, but they might not have the insight you need. Plus, they tend not to be completely honest if your work is horrible. Find a solid writers’ group. They’ll tell you what can be improved. Consider their suggestions, but also be true to your writing. You are king after all.
  • Edit! Edit! Edit! And then have a professional editor take over. There are hundreds to choose from, so be smart about it. Make sure the editor’s rates are reasonable. A standard pricing structure on the Editorial Freelancers Association website is available to verify. Also, send a few editors a page of your novel to work on. If they won’t do a free sample page, STOP! Find a different editor.
  • Invest in an awesome book cover. Notice how I didn’t say “create”? If it’s not eye catching and professional, you might as well delete that manuscript right now. Covers sell books! If you’re not familiar with the design world or are afraid to take a chance on a designer, do what I did and use a website like 99designs.com. Dozens of freelancers will submit designs based on your criteria. Pick the winning cover and hang on to that designer for future novels.
  • There are several ways to publish your e-book. My distributor, or “aggregator,” of choice is Smashwords but look around and find one that works best for you. Never, and I repeat, NEVER give them money. If you find one that is requesting money upfront, retreat as fast as you can! A good distributor will only take a small percentage of your royalties per book sold.  
I’m not going to lie. I did develop a mighty headache when I released my first book. Whatever distributor you choose, they should have a step by step manual. Read it and follow it. You’ll be a pro by your second novel.

Second novel? Yes. And third and fourth . . . and twenty-ninth. Success can be largely based on how many engaging books you produce. A single book might sell for a brief period, but it will eventually get lost in the battlefield. Even famous authors have to keep writing if they want to stay profitable. Keep at it, keep writing. Your fans will follow you. New fans who read your tenth novel will be interested in your prior work. It’s a cycle. One book doesn’t create a cycle. It stagnates.
  • Don’t print. Stick with e-book format for the first year or two. Did several people just faint? Okay, before you mutiny, let me explain. For the first year of my self-publishing career, I was carving a path, smoothing the kinks out, and keeping my overhead costs down. So, when I finally did print, I found that it wasn’t worth it. I don’t make money off print. My profit is solely on e-copies, and it’s so much easier dealing with e-books than clunky paper ones. I now have a cabinet filled with fifty or so books, which means another spot to dust. I hate dusting. So, if you HAVE to have that print copy, then go through a print-on-demand company like CreateSpace. Buy a dozen and see what happens. You can always buy more if you find they’re selling.
  • Plaster yourself on the web. If you’re doing it right, you should have several hits when you search your name. Create a website. Join Facebook and Twitter. Start a blog or newsletter. Get visible! Link your website and social media sites in your e-book for fans to find you quickly. You only have a small window of opportunity to grab their attention before they’re on to the next author’s book.
  • You are an author, but you are also a business owner. Treat your work as an enterprise and keep realistic expectations in mind. It was only after three years of writing that I was finally able to quit my accounting job. Overnight successes are, more often than not, false. It takes famous writers years of hard work to get to their pillared ranks. If you’re looking for overnight success, you might want to pick up a lottery ticket as well. The odds are nearly the same.
  • Free! This is my best war strategy advice. I began with one series and gave the first book away for free then released the second book the next day. It created a buying surge with frantic requests for more. Readers snatched up the free book whether or not it was in their genre. It gave them a risk-free opportunity to see if they liked my writing. I still give that book away for free and hope that if the reader likes the first book they’ll continue the ever growing series. Not everyone does, and that’s okay. The ones that do stick with me. They’ve turned into my super fans.
  • Reward your fans. Every year I come out with a useful promotional giveaway, something that fans can use or see daily. The first was refrigerator magnets with my book cover; the second was a compact mirror with a message and my website address. There’s always a gouge in my bottom line when I do this, but I’m trying to establish more than just profits. I’m keeping my name where my fans can see it and remember it. Just try not to break the bank while doing it.
In today’s world where there are millions of books being produced every year, it’s imperative to form a bond with your fans. I have, in places I never thought possible. Somewhere in Botswana there is a woman who has read all of my books, has my magnet on her refrigerator, and my compact in her purse. It’s pretty dang awesome.

Did you ever sing “Anything you can do, I can do better”? It’s time to start singing again. Dive into the battle with your shield held strong and your sword honed and ready. Ask authors for their success and failure stories. You’ll learn a lot. Whatever path you choose, make it the best for YOU.


Nicolette Pierce is a member of WWA and prolific author of the romantic suspense Nadia Wolf and Mars Cannon series, as well as the spin-off character novels that accompany the series. Nicolette lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and Herbert the cat. She’s part of the Moraine Writers Guild. Her books are available at online retailers. Visit her website, www.NicolettePierce.com, for more information and direct links to her books. 


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Authors: How to Get it Right On Social Media

Social media has become essential today for writers to build a platform and connect with readers. But are you getting the most out of it and more importantly, working it correctly so your readers benefit?







Be a Person First

Remember the first word in social media: social! Always be a person first and a marketer last. In between “first” and “last” are all the things that tell readers about who you are. In other words, don’t start off by sharing links about your books. Start off by connecting with readers and getting in on the conversation.

Some of the writers who do social really well have large followings because readers enjoy their personalities. They interact with authors and then (and only then) look for their books. This is the right way to do social, because it allows people to discover and buy your books in their own time.


Follow Some of the Folks Doing It Right

You can learn a lot about how authors are using social by how some of them are using it. Here’s some of my faves.

On Twitter:

On Facebook:

On Instagram:

I’m finally on Instagram and fairly new at it, but so far... I love it. It's a completely different way to connect with people. I've heard these writers do Instagram right: 

On Pinterest:

Get Creative

One of the coolest things I saw was how Philippa Gregory actually tweeted out the entire thoughts of her character Elizabeth Woodville for her historical fiction novel The White Queen. Gregory took her perspective from the book and boiled it down into individual 140 character tweets for the whole novel.





Then, after the book launched, she put all the tweets in an application that you can read again and again.


Hang Out Where Your Readers Are Hanging Out





One reason Jennifer Weiner has such a successful Twitter following is that she live tweets during her favorite TV shows like The Bachelor. Why? Because that’s where her fans are! (Plus, she really likes the show.) She also answers her fans there and comments on celebrity gossip and things going on in her household. This works for her and her genre.

Know what she doesn’t do? Send out endless links about her books!


Share Some Parts of Your Life

You don’t have to get all TMI on the world, but go ahead and share some things about yourself that people might find interesting. For example, I look forward to the multiple pictures of baked goods on Facebook that author Janice Hanna Thompson creates. I love seeing the things she’s working on, and how she balances it with writing.


Be Genuine

We’ve all seen authors who feel obligated to do Twitter or Facebook because someone (their agent, publisher, or another author) told them they need to be on it. As a result, their efforts seem forced and inauthentic.

Never go into social with half the effort because you’ll be wasting your time and turning off readers. The best thing you can do is to embrace social (at least one platform), get comfortable in it, be yourself, own it, and enjoy it. If you don’t, skip it and find another way.

__________________________________________________________

Cherie Burbach has written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, and more. Visit her website, cherieburbach.com.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Do We Care?


 





Why do we turn the page? Because we care about what happens to the character. Somehow, an author has fleshed out a character so well that we want to know how they deal with the conflict that has come against them. As authors, how do we make our readers care?

I came across a book recently with some really good information on this. Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life by William Bernhardt is an excellent resource. I'm just going to highlight Chapter Eight today: Making Readers Care.

Bernhardt likens this subject to meeting new people at a party. Some people you want to spend the entire evening with, talking to them and getting to know them.  Other guests make you want to suddenly see someone across the room you need to speak to so you can get away. "Characters are like that too. There are many ways to cause a reader to like your character."

Readers tend to admire characters who exhibit the following traits:

1. The Expert. Demonstrate that your protagonist is very good at what he or she does.
2. The Clown. Another reliable way to attract readers to your character is to give them a sense of     
     humor.
3. The Saint. Show your character committing an act of kindness.
4. The Underdog. Readers root for the underdog.
5. The Loved One. There are many virtues, but the greatest of these is love.
6. The Empath. Even someone outside of a relationship can be loving - and we admire those who
     are.

Bernhardt expounds on these traits in his book, and suggests that we don't use all of these---pick one or two. "These are primarily ways to cause the reader to admire your character until you provide more profound reasons."  Check out Creating Character by William Bernhardt here.

Any other suggestions about how to make our readers care?


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One Great Way to Write a Short Story

"Exhibit A"
I am a "second-rate" short story writer. 

Why would I say that? "Exhibit A" shows the answer. It is a certificate documenting my second-place finish in the short story writing contest of the East Texas Christian Writer's Conference. I have never won a short story competition but have finished in second place. 

I have written and even sold short stories. Over the years, I have entered short story contests. I am still seeking that elusive "first place" in a short story contest. 

In my quest to win a contest, I have become a student of the short story form. Here is what I call "One Great Way to Write a Short Story." It begins with planning. 

PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL

I would never start writing a short story without at least a rough outline to tell me where I am going.  I recommend jotting down the answers to a few questions. The answers provide the framework for where the story is going. 

The first step in writing a short story is a planning exercise. Plan your short story in advance by answering questions in three areas:
  • The subject – Who is the main character? What is the problem?
  • The story –What is the character’s motivation to solve the problem? What actions occur to solve the problem?
  • The resolution – What are results of the character’s acts to resolve the problem? What change does the character undertake because of that action?
HOW I DO IT – STEP BY STEP


1. The Character

I decide about whom I am going to write. You have one central character in the story. It might a soldier returning home. It could be about an astronaut. It might be about a businessperson. The reader will identify with that person.

2. The Problem

What is it that the main character struggles with that he or she may not have an instant need to resolve? It is a problem the character has had for a while, but has not had an immediate need to solve. An example would be if I were writing about a businesswoman who obtained an executive position using a falsified resume. She may not have an immediate need to deal with the issue. 

3. The Motivation

Why does the main character decide to solve the problem? I’ll use the businesswoman with the falsified resume as an example. 

It could be that she has accepted a position on the board of directors for a prominent community organization like the United Way. The local media decides to do a feature story on her background. In this case, I need to put in the appropriate backstory – her claiming to have a prestigious Ivy League graduate degree when she had dropped out of college before obtaining her undergraduate degree. Now she is in a position that requires an accredited four-year college degree as well as MBA. She realizes she is about to be found out with embarrassment to herself, her employer, and maybe she could even have to resign.

4. The Action

What does the main character do to solve the problem? What does she do to correct the situation? Maybe she confesses to her company’s president or she may try to resign quietly from board of directors for a prominent community organization for personal reasons trying to avoid being exposed and hoping it will just go away.

5. The Result

What happens because of the character’s attempt to solve the problem? Maybe she tells the president and he fires her. The employer takes legal action against her demanding restitution from her for fraudulently obtained wages. He takes her to court and wins. She is required to make restitution of tens of thousands of dollars and has her reputation destroyed.

6. The Change

Perhaps at this point the character struggles financially, loses her large home and country club lifestyle. Maybe her friends desert her. She is unable to get a job because of her lying on the resume. She could go back to school and complete the education she had claimed.  Maybe she becomes an advocate for ethical business practices.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
  • Remember the main character needs a good reason for what they are doing. They need to act consistent to who they are.
  • You need to set up every incident in the story. If the character obtained a high position using a falsified resume, make sure you set this up by doing a flashback or remembrance where she is sitting typing the resume and then clicks submit thinking no one ever checks a resume. 
  • If you bring it up you must conclude it. This refers to conflict in the story. If you have any conflict, you need to resolve it prior to ending the story.
Once you have planned your short story you will be able to write it. My guess is by following these simple principles you too can write a short story. Moreover, just maybe it will be “second-rate” or even better.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

ACFW's Biggest Cheerleader has a Book of Her Own!

President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, and three-time Genesis finalist, Ane Mulligan is in everyone's corner. New to the biz? You'll find her rooting for you. Been there a while? Still rooting. Need prayer, advice, a positive word? Go to Ane. She's there for you, ready with a smile and words of encouragement.

She lives in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two Mastiffs--huge by Biblical proportions. She's one of my critique partners, a special friend, and a fellow redhead, and I'm honored to get to present her to our readers here on AuthorCulture.

AC: You’re one of the most beloved members of ACFW. When did you join? Express what the organization means to you and how it has helped you. What is your role in the organization?

ANE: Loudest, yes. Goofiest, probably. But most beloved? Now you’ve made me cry.

I joined in April 2005. ACFW opened more doors for me than anything else. First, I learned so much through mentors who taught classes, shared ideas, and encouraged me. Meeting agents and editors at conferences taught me how to hone my pitch. I became friends with my agent about three years before she became my agent.

Because I love my own local chapter of ACFW (waving to ACFW North Georgia), I want to see every member belong to one. So, I volunteer as the Zone Coordinator, overseeing the U.S. and helping build chapters through the zone directors and area coordinators.

AC: How and when did NovelRocket start?


ANE: It began in 2005 as Novel Journey to chronicle founder Gina Holmes's first novel journey. She quickly realized she only had three readers of which she and I were two. She began to interview authors, a new one each day, and after a few months realized it was more than one person could handle. She brought Jessica Dotta and me on board, and the rest is history. The name was changed to Novel Rocket a few years ago when we became a dot com. Someone else owned Novel Journey dot com and wouldn’t sell it.

AC:Your other blog is Southern-fried Fiction, which, I believe, is also your brand. How did you come up with the name?



ANE: Rose McCauley branded me with that. We’d been ACFW friends, and one day, talking about brands online, Rose said, “You mean your Southern fried fiction?” She went on to say it’s what my voice sounded like through emails. My agent said it was spot on, and we ran with it.

AC: Remind me of the story: Your novel was inspired by your hubby’s painting, or his painting was created to illustrate your story?

ANE: I was talking to Eddie Jones, CEO of my publishing house, about the cover design. I mentioned my husband was an artist, and he asked if he would like to paint something to be used for the cover. Delighted, I said yes!

Poor Hubs. He had to extract from my brain a fictional town that was a feeling inside me. Yes, I’d drawn a map of Chapel Springs, but I hadn’t pictured the buildings. So he drew and changed and tweaked until it sort looked right. Then he went into his studio to paint. Over a few weeks, what began as “sort of” suddenly turned into Chapel Springs. We had a professional photographer, who specializes in making giclée reproductions (print on canvas) take the photo, which we sent to my publisher. Ken Raney, Deb Raney’s husband, designed my cover from the painting.

AC: You have some pretty heavy hitters as critique partners, but you’re also very well connected. Newbies don’t always have that advantage. What would you advise for them?

ANE: My CPs (critique partners) weren’t heavy hitters when we met. None of us knew much about writing at all. We were raw newbies when we met and grew together. I try to explain that to new writers.

Go to writers’ conferences. Deb Raney taught my first writing class, but she never critiqued me. Eva Marie Everson was another first teacher. She never critiqued me. (Interesting point – Eva Marie was my editor for Chapel Springs Revival).

If you’re serious about publishing, you’ll read every book on the craft, don rhino skin, and take every critique seriously. Hiring a freelance editor is super if you don’t have critique partners. But don’t expect a published writer to be your CP. On very rare occasions it may happen, but that will be God-directed.

I learned from my CPs when we were all newbies. We taught each other. We'd read the craft books and apply what we learned. You don’t need to have a multi-published author as your CP. You only need to be teachable.

AC: So, let’s hit the question lots of folks want to know: which side of the battle do you land on–plotter or pantser?

ANE: Smack dab in the middle. Rachel Hauck coined a name and it’s exactly what I am—a Planster. I have to have a plan, some idea of where I’m going. Then, I let the characters take over. One caveat: I spend a lot of time on the characterization. I do a backstory for each character until I know them as well as I know myself. Once I know them that well, I instinctively know how they will react to anything that comes out in the story. Karen Ball says, “God whispers His truths into hearts, and it whispers back in stories.” And it’s true.

AC: Who do you credit with being the biggest influence in your writing career?

ANE: Ron Benrey, Debra Dixon, Amy Wallace, and Laurie Schnebly Campbell. From each of those people, I learned what I call “golden nuggets” or game changing techniques.

AC: What is your goal for your career?

ANE: Write as many stories as God allows me time. If I don’t write them, I’ll start talking back to all those characters in my head. Then they’d cart me off to the funny farm.

AC: What are your hopes for your debut release? What is the take-away value?

ANE: I hope people will love my characters as much as I do, and I pray that through Claire, they’ll see how God works, even when we don’t see it. God is faithful to guard His children.

Here's the lowdown about the book:

Published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, it released Sept 8th. In a nutshell, Chapel Springs Revival is a romp through miscommunication in marriage.

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.


While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups.

***
To get a personal look at Ane, tune in to 777 Peppermint Place on the 24th. She'll tell a favorite story about Shadrach, one of her Mastiffs.






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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Writer's Resource List

Ever wonder where to quickly find some bit of information on the web? You're in the middle of a great sentence, and--Bam! you realize you need to know when the moon was full? Or which branch of government runs the Witness Protection Agency? Here you go. My latest updated resource list. Feel free to share some of your own, too. This list of one of a number of things I offer on my website in the Tips and Resources page. http://www.lisalickel.com.

OnLine Resources



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Friday, September 5, 2014

The Glass Kitchen: A Novel of Sisters

This book was one that impressed me, and then disappointed me. First, the good. It started off so unique and original I would recommend reading it just to grasp the concept of the book. It’s about a person who has a sixth sense that comes out by cooking. She gets an urge to cook a particular meal and doesn’t know why. So she does, and then invites people over and they have the conversations they’re meant to have when they attend this dinner.

This concept was cool and could have made a very good start. But then at some point this storyline was dropped in favor of a run of the mill love story combined with women’s fiction. The main character and her sisters try and open a kitchen restaurant, but the physic cooking thing doesn’t really play into this endeavor very much. There’s a lot of focus on the house they live in (it used to be their aunts but is now owned by the handsome love interest who also lives there) and on the romance, which consists of nightly visits and romps in the sack.


If this sounds a little disjointed and confusing, it is. I was more disappointed by the way this book went simply because of the potential in the early pages. There was good writing here, but it didn’t come together for a cohesive story. 
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Bait



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 Our local writer’s group has hosted a noted western writer as guest speaker several times. His discussion about the publishing process left an indelible impression on me. He spoke of visiting his publisher in New York where he hung around the offices after a meeting. The staff had had a very long day, yet they ordered pizza and then kicked back to go through the slush pile, a huge backlog of unsolicited manuscripts. He said he watched as they “tossed” one manuscript after another. If the first sentence or two didn’t grab them, well, “that’s all she wrote”, so to speak.
There’s a reason it’s called a “hook”. We bait our hook with the best story in us, cast it into the great ocean of readers, and then hope to get a bite. I have daily access to nearly 80,000 books (I work at a library). Since the day I heard that writer describe the “tossing” process, I’ve developed the habit of reading the first sentence of many, many books over the course of a work day. The stories that make me want to turn the page all seem to have one thing in common. They create a question that I must know the answer to.
Does this make you want to read on? “It dropped out of the sky at 3:41 p.m. central daylight time on Friday, May 10, 1963, into a field in southeastern Oklahoma eight miles west of Tishomingo.”  What, pray tell, dropped out of the sky? That’s the first sentence from Five Days in May by Ninie Hammon.
“I remember…I was supposed to be sad that day.” Why? That’s from Dan Walsh’s The Discovery.
“The screech of brakes split the silence just before the Buick smashed through the guardrail and tumbled down the steep embankment.” Nicola Beaumont’s Silent Witness makes me wonder who wrecked and whether they made it or not.
All three examples caused me to nibble and download to my Kindle.
So, what question are you creating in the minds of your readers with the first sentence or two of your WIP? I’d love for you to post some of your first sentences. Here’s mine:
“Bailey’s not going to like this. Dizziness swirled my brain to jelly the moment I realized I’d have to tell her.”
Go!
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