blogging, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

One Comment Leads to Another

 – by Linda Myro Judd

The new year is around the corner. I could say something prolific, like “Welcome the new year with open arms, and let your thoughts guide your life.” And I would mean it and wish you well. By the time you read this post the new year will be here.

A few years ago, I noticed that the stories I wrote were not about anyone that I knew. But they were about how I wanted life to be lived, how I would have lived in that story. I didn’t realize I was doing this. I thought that all I wrote just came from my imagination. I’m a panster, with a desire to be a little more organized about my plans. But I love living in the moment so much, I’m afraid I’ll miss something. So planning is not an easy thing.

I love watching shows like Grimm, loosely based on the fairy tales of the Brother’s Grimm. But alas, it’s run is done. I can, however, pick up the DVDs at my local library. That’s cool.

I found that this show wasn’t too over the top, but had just enough fantastical production to keep me enchanted. When it went off the air, I went to the library to read some of the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales. I wanted to see how extravagant their writing was, and how true the TV show had been written with regards to their style.

When I read Grimm’s story of the Princess and the Frog. I just totally disagreed with the type of parenting that the story portrayed, and after I wrote my own version, a refashioned fairy tale, I found that I had been abhorred with the violence in the original. The magic in my story has no violence. And It turns out that I didn’t even mention the parents in my version. Well at least, not in the way that the Grimm’s did.

I have the characters being honest to the moment, themselves, and to each other. What they have learned from living life is guiding them. What talents they possess are theirs to develop and nurture. To me, this is a part of becoming an adult. And if actions reveal who you are, then what you believe will become apparent to others and yourself. I believe in letting people be themselves. Sometimes I’m surprised what comes out of my keyboard or even my pen.

My fairy tale is a story of how a young girl met her future husband. It is a bedtime story told within a larger story of the life of a grandmother. I have yet to finish the larger story. In fact, I didn’t even know that I was going to write the larger story until a few years after I started writing the fairy tale. More of the adventures alluded to in the fairy tale will be expanded. And because there will be mature people involved there will be stronger magic at work.

Thanks to a random reply I made to a post on Facebook with regards to stages of producing a book, I met GD. My writing background encompasses my life, but the practical parts came from working in a small town newspaper creating advertisements (which to me are little stories). I hope that in the coming year, I can find at least two more fairy tales to refashion.

I wish for you all the best opportunities to write with passion and action and honesty.

Happy New Year 2019!

Advertisements
Standard
book promotion, book sales, Literary Agents

Collective Marketing

A while ago, I made the following post on the Facebook SciFi Roundtable group:  

I’ve seen the question raised: how much do you hate marketing your books? I’ll put it this way: If you believe you can effectively market my books, I will split the royalties with you. Fifty-fifty. Not a me-pay-you-and-maybe-you-can-sell-my-books deal. A simple fifty-fifty split, after the sale.

Let me know.  

It got a few responses, ranging from the “Yep, me too” variety to the “There’s no money in marketing books” type.

For the record, I wasn’t expecting anyone to take me up on my offer.  And no one did.

***

We’ll teach you how to market your book!

Join our service and realize more sales!

We’ll show you the secret tricks to make Amazon’s algorithms work for you!

Do you get these sorts of ads? I do, and fairly often. I’ve even tried a few of those services — did my best to follow their instructions, kept an open mind — and never once made even my minimal investment back. But, hey, maybe that’s my fault.

Maybe my books suck.

Maybe I did it wrong. 

But here’s the thing: In the old days, authors had agents who sold books for them (to publishers) and earned a percentage (usually 10 to 20%) of the royalties. That model seems to be nearly gone now (or, at least, very hard to access. I tried for over a year to get an agent for my first book, querying almost fifty agencies. But that’s another story.). So, instead, we do it ourselves these days. Self-publish, self-market, self-medicate. Amazon is making plenty of money; editorial services and book cover services are probably doing okay (at least on a job-by-job basis). But authors? Mostly not so great. There is a whole industry designed not to sell books, but to sell services to authors who want to sell books.

Here’s looking at you, Bookbub

And that brings us to Bookbub. They have, for some time now, been the most successful of the email book marketing services. The gold standard. Readers sign up (for free) and get weekly emails promoting a list of books selling at a discount. The list changes constantly, and you can set some preferences in terms of genre and price points.

Authors apply for spots on these lists, and they pay Bookbub for the privilege. (There’s the key difference: in this model, authors pay the agents to market their books.)

For instance:  if you want to have your science fiction novel listed at the free price point ($0.00), you will pay $519 for that listing. This, according to Bookbub’s website, will result in an average of 29,900 downloads. If you list it for $0.99, the price of the listing goes up to $754. Different genres and different price points result in different fees. Listing your book for $3.00 or more could cost you over $2500, depending on genre.

So the service is not cheap, but they claim to get results — and most of what I’ve read agrees that they are effective. Bookbub doesn’t break down stats for the various price points, but they do report an average sold figure — excluding the results for free listings. For that Sci Fi book of yours, the average number of sales generated is 2,040 copies.

So let’s crunch the  numbers. Assume a $0.99 price point. If you are running a promotion through Kindle Direct, then you can earn a full 70% royalty on all sales made during that promotion (minus their delivery fee, which is a few pennies per download), so say you earn 67 cents per sale. If you achieve the average number of sales (2,040) you will earn $1,366 in royalties. Not bad. Subtract what you’re paying BookBub, $754, and you’ll make $612. 

So, still not bad, at least when compared to the negligible returns most of us see. And you might do better. That’s only an average. (Or you could do worse, ’cause that’s how averages work, natch.) In addition, your book gets some notice, and that aint bad either. But remember, you’re out the $754 whether you knock it out of the park or hit a weak dribbler to third. Bookbub takes their cut before the promotion even begins.

So, Is it worthwhile? Most of the time, absolutely. We’re still talking about pretty small numbers. I would be delighted, frankly, to be making $612 per month on book royalties, but it wouldn’t represent a radical change in my finances.

What’s more to the point, did you notice that word “monthly?” I know of people who work in exactly this manner — crank out a book a month, run Bookbub ads, build up a following, get noticed by the Amazon algorithms and then fame, fortune, and endorsement deals. Personally, I can’t imagine producing more than a book or two a year at the very most, so this wouldn’t for me. 

Besides, there’s another problem:  Bookbub advertising spots are very much in demand, and Bookbub is highly selective. I’ve submitted Spark three times — once for a 99 cent promotion, twice for free promotions — and been rejected each time. The problem? My book doesn’t have very many reviews on Amazon, they said — I should wait until I get more, they said — and maybe consider pricing the book at a lower price point, they said (and yes, this was the advice that Bookbub gave me, even when I wanted to price the book for free, because it was obviously a form-rejection letter). The internet rumor mill estimates that Bookbub accepts fewer than ten percent of applicants, and they prefer people who are already famous and have hundreds of Amazon reviews. In short, the more you need them, the less likely they are to accommodate you.

So, where does that leave us? Certainly, there are other book marketers out there in the BookBub mode. I’ve used them (and written about it here  and here .) None of these services are as big as BookBub. They don’t charge hundreds of dollars up front, but they also don’t suggest that they will generate thousands of dollars worth of sales. Some are even free, but, well, they tend to generate commensurate numbers, if you get my drift.

Which brings me back to my original subject: marketers. I’m still waiting for some marketer to respond to my offer: a 50/50 partnership. I write. You market. Half the royalties on actual sales go to you, half to me.

I expect I’ll be waiting for a long time.  

Meanwhile, here’s a serious question:  would it be possible for us, as a collective, to replicate, even in some small measure, the Bookbub model? Instead of paying Bookbub for access to their list, generate a list of our own? Send out our own newsletter? Even if it was significantly less effective than theirs, we’d still be saving a lot of money by not having to fork out $700 (and up, up, up) to Bookbub every time we advertised.  I have no expertise, no knowledge about what might be involved or how long it might take to build up a list. No doubt others have tried this, but since there are (at least) dozens of us, each with our own varied contacts and resources, might we have some leverage they do not?

Is this a pipe dream? Probably. But until you ask, you never know. 

So I’m asking.

Any ideas?

 

Standard
book promotion, book sales, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, Writers Co-op Anthology

TheRabbitHole.biz

“The Rabbit Hole, Weird Stories Volume One” is the Writer Co-op’s first anthology. The plan is for a volume two in 2019, a volume 3 in 2020, etc.. It’s a long term plan. To that end, we need a business domain name linked to a sales page.

The domain name, TheRabbitHole.biz, has been linked to our anthology’s business page. Authors and promoters may feel free to use the domain name in any promotion of a Rabbit Hole anthology.
(Note: The domain forwarding was requested Monday A.M., 17 Dec 18. It will update on the ‘Net’s hubs during this week. If it’s not working when you first try it, it will, and in the meantime, you can use:
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/weird-stories-volume-one/ )

The purpose of the TheRabbitHole.biz web page is to promote The Rabbit Hole anthologies.

The current business page is a great start. Curtus Bausse set it up to do exactly what we needed for the launch. But like any business web page, it needs to change over time to accommodate marketing changes, new additions, and useful suggestions.

Please take a look at the page and let us know what should be changed or added. Suggestions are greatly appreciated. But keep it simple. We’re authors, not webmasters. (Though y’gotta be a little of both, these days 🙂 )

Standard
editing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Hunting Down the Pleonasm

By Allan Guthrie

I can’t stress strongly enough that writing is subjective. We all strive for different goals. Consequently, we all need our own set of rules—and some of us don’t need rules at all! Personally, I like rules. If nothing else, it’s fun breaking them.

1: Avoid pleonasms. A pleonasm is a word or phrase that can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, in “Hunting Down The Pleonasm”, ‘down’ is pleonastic. Cut it and the meaning of the sentence does not alter. Many words are used pleonastically: ‘just’, ‘that’ and ‘actually’ are three frequently-seen culprits (I actually just know that he’s the killer can be trimmed to I know he’s the killer), and phrases like ‘more or less’ and ‘in any shape or form’ are redundant.

2: Use oblique dialogue. Try to generate conflict at all times in your writing. Attempt the following experiment at home or work: spend the day refusing to answer your family and colleagues’ questions directly. Did you generate conflict? I bet you did. Apply that principle to your writing and your characters will respond likewise.

3: Use strong verbs in preference to adverbs. I won’t say avoid adverbs, period, because about once every fifty pages they’re okay! What’s not okay is to use an adverb as an excuse for failing to find the correct verb. To ‘walk slowly’ is much less effective than to ‘plod’ or ‘trudge’. To ‘connect strongly’ is much less effective than to ‘forge a connection’.

4: Cut adjectives where possible. See rule 3 (for ‘verb’ read ‘noun’).

5: Pairs of adjectives are exponentially worse than single adjectives. The ‘big, old’ man walked slowly towards the ‘tall, beautiful’ girl. When I read a sentence like that, I’m hoping he dies before he arrives at his destination. Mind you, that’s probably a cue for a ‘noisy, white’ ambulance to arrive. Wailingly, perhaps!

6: Keep speeches short. Any speech of more than three sentences should be broken up. Force your character to do something. Make him take note of his surroundings. Ground the reader. Create a sense of place.

7: If you find you’ve said the same thing more than once, choose the best and cut the rest. Frequently, I see the same idea presented several ways. It’s as if the writer is saying, “The first couple of images might not work, but the third one should do it. If not, maybe all three together will swing it.” The writer is repeating himself. Like this. This is a subtle form of pleonasm.

8: Show, don’t tell. Much vaunted advice, yet rarely heeded.  An example: expressing emotion indirectly. Is your preferred reader intelligent? Yes? Then treat them accordingly. Tears were streaming down Lila’s face. She was very sad. Can the second sentence be inferred from the first? In context, let’s hope so. So cut it. If you want to engage your readers, don’t explain everything to them. Show them what’s happening and allow their intelligence to do the rest. And there’s a bonus to this approach. Because movies, of necessity, show rather than tell, this approach to your writing will help when it’s time to begin work on the screenplay adaptation of your novel!

9: Describe the environment in ways that are pertinent to the story. And try to make such descriptions active. Instead of describing a book lying on a table, have your psycho-killer protagonist pick it up, glance at it and move it to the arm of the sofa. He needs something to do to break up those long speeches, right?

10: Don’t be cute. In the above example, your protagonist should not be named Si Coe.

11: Avoid sounding ‘writerly’. Better to dirty up your prose. When you sound like a writer, your voice has crept in and authorial intrusion is always unwelcome. In the best writing, the author is invisible.

12: Fix your Point Of View (POV). Make it clear whose head you’re in as early as possible. And stay there for the duration of the scene. Unless you’re already a highly successful published novelist, in which case you can do what you like. The reality is that although most readers aren’t necessarily clued up on the finer points of POV, they know what’s confusing and what isn’t.

13: Don’t confuse the reader. If you write something you think might be unclear, it is. Big time. Change it or cut it.

14: Use ‘said’ to carry dialogue. Sid Fleischman calls ‘said’, “the invisible word.” That’s not quite true (anyone who doubts this should track down a copy of Fletcher Flora’s Most Likely To Love), but it’s close enough. And don’t use adverbs as modifiers. Adverbs used in this way are ‘telling’ words (I told you rule 8 was rarely heeded!).

15: While it’s good to assume your reader is intelligent, never assume they’re psychic.

16: Start scenes late and leave them early.

 17: When writing a novel, start with your characters in action. Fill in any necessary backstory as you go along.

18: Give your characters clear goals. Always. Every scene. And provide obstacles to those goals. Always. Every scene. If the POV character in a scene does not have a goal, provide one or cut the scene. If there is no obstacle, add one or cut the scene.

19: Don’t allow characters who are sexually attracted to one another the opportunity to get into bed. Unless at least one of them has a jealous partner.

20: Torture your protagonist. It’s not enough for him to be stuck up a tree. You must throw rocks at him while he figures out how to get down.

21: Use all five senses in your descriptions. Smell and touch are too often neglected.

22: Vary your sentence lengths. I tend to write short, and it’s amazing what a difference combing a couple of sentences can make.

23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

24: Cut out filtering devices, wherever possible. ‘He felt’, ‘he thought’, ‘he observed’ are all filters. They distance the reader from the character.

25: Avoid unnecessary repetition of tense. For example: I’d gone to the hospital. They’d kept me waiting for hours. Eventually, I’d seen a doctor. Usually, the first sentence is sufficient to establish tense. I’d gone to the hospital. They kept me waiting for hours. Eventually, I saw a doctor.

26: When you finish your book, pinpoint the weakest scene. Cut it. If necessary, replace it with a sentence or paragraph.

27: Don’t plant information. How is Donald, your son? I’m quite sure Donald’s father doesn’t need reminding who Donald is. Their relationship is mentioned purely to provide the reader with information.

28: If an opinion expressed through dialogue makes your POV character look like a jerk, allow him to think it rather than say it.  He’ll express the same opinion, but seem like a lot less of a jerk.

29: Characters who smile and grin a lot come across as deranged fools. Sighing and shrugging are also actions to avoid. Eliminating smiles, sighs and shrugs is almost always an improvement. Smiling sadly is a capital offence.

30: Pronouns are big trouble for such little words. The most useful piece of information I ever encountered on the little blighters was this: pronouns refer to the nearest matching noun backwards. For example: John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it. Well, that’s good news for Paul. If you travel backwards from ‘it’, you’ll see that John has stabbed Paul with the sheath! Observing this rule leads to much clearer writing.

31: Spot the moment of maximum tension and hold it for as long as possible. Or as John D. MacDonald put it: “Freeze the action and shoot him later.”

32: If something works, forget about the rule that says it shouldn’t.

Source: Adventure Books of Seattle https://www.adventurebooksofseattle.com/Hunting%20Down%20the%20Pleonasm2.pdf

Allan Guthrie is a Scottish literary agent, author and editor of crime fiction. He was born in Orkney, but has lived in Edinburgh for most of his adult life. His first novel, Two-Way Split, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and it won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2007. Wikipedia

Standard
book promotion, book sales, Google Ads, self-publishing, Uncategorized, Welcome

When Is A Book Not A Hershey’s Bar?

Always, of course. So, why do we market them like Hershey’s bars? Here’s two thoughts on that.

1. Most books, like Hershey’s bars, are not advertised. When did you last see an ad for Hershey’s bars? Hershey does not need to advertise them because they are everywhere candy bars are sold. Like J.K. Rowling’s books are in all the book stores. Yes, her publisher will advertise her new book, but that’s just sensibly putting the cart after the horse. They want fans to know she has a new book.

2. When books are marketed, they are marketed like Hershey’s bars, as if they too, were a commodity and people should buy a package of the same thing and if they like it, come back for more of the same book. Books are not commodities. Each one is unique. So, there are no repeat sales of the same book to the same consumer.

What to do? Consider yourself – yes, you, the author – as the commodity. One thing of which we can be certain is that when a reader is looking for something to read, they usually do not envision a cover or make up a title to look for. They will, however, consider a novel from J.K. Rowling if they have enjoyed reading her.

“Sell yourself first.” That’s what any professional sales manager teaches. Don’t expect a stranger to trust what you sell if they do not trust you. How do you get readers to know you well enough to try your book? One writer here that understands this is Perry Palin. In many ways, he sells books to people who have first come to know him. Another may be Mimi Speike. She plans to initially stir up her market with Guerrilla marketing techniques which may make her infamous.

How do you get yourself known as a writer? Use the Comments section to let us know. We, obviously, need all the ideas that we can get!

Standard
Uncategorized

YESTERDAY’S GONE

I dreamed a great change but of course forgot it on waking up. All I have left is the vision of being in a red brick building watching men move stacks of books on forklifts. Light from dirty windows illuminate dust in the air. Cries of anguish ring from a pot bellied man in a three piece striped suit and bowler hat, “Out, damned Kindle! out, I say! – Nook: Kobo: Publishing is murky!”

Not murky at all. Book publishing has been replaced by book marketing: This Notebook I write on can publish what I write and distribute it worldwide tomorrow. No factory of men and equipment are needed, no shipping, no bookstores. Just ereaders. Writers no longer need publishers, we need marketers. And, they must have a commissioned revenue model to be trusted. Amazon does. Anybody who wants paid up front to try to sell your books should offer you a free bottle of snake oil because that’s all you’ll get for your money.

Which brings up a question: Who, out there, actually markets books effectively?
Please comment if you know anyone!

Standard
blogging, Research, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

Being There

Seeing something helps a writer to describe it. Actually being in a setting lets the words choose themselves. Take the inside of the International Space Station, for example, one of the most advanced miracles of modern technology to have ever been built by mankind. It’s a mess. The room I’m in now is maybe 20 feet wide by 20 feet high by, maybe, a little longer. The white and grey walls are totally covered with color-coded cables, cases, boxes and storage packs. And there are wall panels that slide out like file cabinet drawers to allow access to the experiments being conducted inside. Not a spec of space is wasted on the four walls. You can’t walk on any of them. No floors needed here. Just float between the walls. I guess that explains the four laptop computers fixed at impossible angles. No up or down. Just float over and use one. The panel sections lining the walls are marked by metal strips to which, as astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, of the European Space Agency, showed me, she can attach shower safety hand bars (OKAY, she called them something else.) She uses the bars to hold onto when she’s working. She can also slip her stocking feet (no shoes needed here) under the bar to hold herself in place while she completes an appointed task. Or, attach a camera like the one giving me this inside view.

Yes. It’s virtual reality. But how else am I getting aboard the ISS to see what kind of socks astronauts wear? Or watch the sun rise over the rooftops of London, from a rooftop in London, and turn to see the The Shard sticking up a thousand feet into the sky? Or stand among Parisians in a little park and be the only one rubbernecking the Eiffel Tower towering above me? All without leaving my writing desk.

The little tripper lets you describe settings by putting you inside them. It’s cheap. A $20 viewer will let you use your cell phone to watch YouTube 360 videos of just about any place people can get to today. I recommend virtual reality to any writer without a twenty million dollar travel budget for a ticket to the space station.

Standard