Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dear Debbie-Downer Writer,

I know a few writers who complain about a lack of readers and sales but then shoot down every marketing strategy. Most of the time it’s because they heard certain techniques have downsides or aren’t as effective as some hoped. Well, I have a few things to say to these authors/writers….

Dear Debbie-Downer Writer,

How do you know you’ll have the same experience as these other authors?

How do you know it won’t produce good results for you?

The truth is, you don’t know.

Don’t let what others say dissuade you from trying something new. Don’t decide it won’t benefit you until you give it a fair shot and look at the results.

Image from QuickMeme.com

1. Blog Tours

A blog tour is the #1 way I know to get the word out about a new book.

Debbie-Downers will say: Blog tours don’t result in sales.

I say: You’ll get some sales, not tons. How many you get depends on whether you target your readers and share unique posts to entice them. The main purpose of a blog tour is to get your name and your book’s title/blurb in front of dozens, even hundreds of people. It’s the best virtual exposure you can get and if you want readers and sales, exposure is what you need.

Debbie-Downers will say: People only congratulate you. They don’t buy your book.

I say: So? Getting “Congrats!” should make you feel good. You can’t expect everyone who comments to buy your book. And not everyone who does give you a nice comment actually reads the type of book you’re promoting. They’re being friendly. You should be happy about that!

Debbie-Downers will say: The same people go to the same blogs. I want to find new readers.

I say: Then you need to find new blogs. Step out of your blogging circle and look for bloggers you’re not acquainted with. Search blog directories and book blog listings. Build a relationship with them and see if they host guests.

Point is, it’s great exposure and you really can find new readers. The most sales I’ve received for a new book came as a result of a blog tour. I actually don’t know any better of a way to connect to potential readers than with a blog tour.

Image from Flickr
2. Free eBooks

A free eBook can be a nice way for new authors to get their eBook into the Kindles of avid readers. It’s also an awesome strategy for authors with a series. By putting a prequel and the first book in a series free for a few days (or even permafree), you are opening the door for many readers to order the next book and become a fan.

Debbie-Downers will say: People only download free eBooks because they’re free, and they don’t read them.

I say: When Hurricane Crimes was free for 5 days, it received over 2,000 downloads. I don’t have 2,000 reviews, but my eBook is in 2,000+ Kindles and that’s awesome! Someday these people may come across it and read it. You never know. Plus, many readers who get free books do want to read them and will.

Debbie-Downers will say: You’ll get a lot of bad reviews because your book isn’t what they’d normally read.

I say: This can happen. And it’s not your fault. It’s the reader’s fault for not reading the blurb and not looking at the genre and page count. I got one bad review from a reader who said she hadn’t realized Hurricane Crimes was a short story. Well, there’s a note at the beginning of the blurb stating it’s a short story. Plus, a page count. I’m not sure if this reader got my story when it was free because the review came over a year later, but that was just one review…and there were over 2,000 downloads.

Point is, if your eBook gets a lot of downloads, it’ll reach the top of Amazon lists. That’s awesome exposure. You may also get sales after your free days end. And although you won’t get a bunch of reviews right away, after some time you may get some, especially if you tell the people you know on social media about your free eBook.

Image from Wikimedia

By eliminating blog tours and free eBooks from your marketing, you’re losing out on many potentially good things. By being a Debbie-downer, you’re only bringing yourself down. And if you don’t take advice and try new strategies then how do you expect to change anything or get anywhere?


See Also:

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Choosing a Reputable Publisher

I've been doing a lot of research regarding small to medium sized publishers. I'm mostly looking for those who accept YA, so if you are an author of adult novels, this list may not benefit you as much. But as always, do your research before submitting to ANY publisher. Each publisher has specific submission requirements and you don't want them to disregard your novel because you didn't take the time to read their guidelines.

Like I said before, I'm a sucker for a great book cover, so one of my requirements when looking for a publisher is to check out their book covers. The cover of your book is the first impression you leave on your reader. How many times have you been in a bookstore and picked up a book simply because of the cover? To me, the cover is a refection of the book itself. So for those of you looking for a publisher who accepts unagented manuscripts, here is a list of my favorites with a sample cover so you can see their work.

1) Month9: This is a very reputable publishing company that specializes in speculative fiction for teens and tweens.

2) Entangled Teen: All submissions must have a strong romantic element.

3) Evernight Teen: "Evernight is seeking fresh teen fiction that is raw, gritty, and real. We want teen romance, coming of age stories, and cutting edge fiction that today's young adults can relate to. The stories should have real issues, a strong emotional punch, and a plot to keep the reader turning the pages."

4) Clean Teen: They are looking for "well-written YA (young adult) or NA (new adult) novels that are between 50,000 and 110,000 words."

5) Bloomsbury Spark: "Bloomsbury Spark is a one-of-a-kind, global, digital imprint from Bloomsbury dedicated to publishing a wide array of exciting fiction eBooks to YA, new adult, and romance readers. We're looking for fun, genre-driven stories with fresh voices and great hooks. We accept upper YA, NA, and Adult Romance submissions."

6) WiDo Publishing:  "We are currently accepting manuscripts for submission and are especially in the market for science fiction and fantasy, memoirs, and mystery/suspense. In nonfiction, we will consider essay collections and imaginative and outstanding memoirs with a strong platform."

7) Cedar Fort Publishing:  "We want to publish uplifting and edifying books that help people recognize what is important in their lives, books people enjoy reading to relax and feel better about themselves, and books to help improve lives."

8) Harper Impulse: A division of Harper Collins. This is a digital first imprint accepting adult and new adult manuscripts in the romance genre.

9) Shadow Mountain:  "In general, Shadow Mountain is interested in fiction and nonfiction suitable for a national market. We publish a limited number of manuscripts in specialized genres such as children’s picture books, family and parenting, and self-help."

10) Bookfish Books: Publishers of middle grade, young adult, and new adult.

11) Scarlet Voyage: "Scarlet Voyage is a young adult fiction imprint dedicated to providing original stories with a strong voice and an independent spirit. From literary to contemporary romance to crime thriller—across all genres—our books embody our passion for authentic and compelling stories that reflect and explore the lives of young adults. Our mission is to create books that take readers on a voyage and will leave them burning for more."

Obviously, this is not an all inclusive list. Publishers Archive has a complete list of publishers so be sure to check out their website HERE. Hope this helps you find the right publisher for you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Choosing an Unforgettable Book Cover

I'm a sucker for a great book cover. In fact, I've spent hours researching different designers who provide both premade book covers and custom book covers. And lucky for you, I've decided to share what I've found! So here are some great websites that provide some unforgettable book covers.

1) The Book Cover Designer—They have one of the largest selection of book cover designs online with several different designers displayed on their website. You can choose from premade covers starting at $30 as well as custom book covers for a higher price. Here are a couple of my favorite premade covers from their site.

2) Damonza—Designers of eBook and print covers. They are a little bit pricier but their covers are incredibly professional looking. Here's a sample of some of their covers found in their portfolio.

3) eBook Launch: This website has a Premade Gallery for $99, a Dynamic Gallery for $249, and a Premium Gallery for $379.

4) Paper & Sage Design: This online book designer features book covers, bookmarks, business cards, web badges, and more. They also have premade designs for a reasonable price. Here are a couple of my favorites.

5) Creative Paramita: This designer has both premade and custom covers with premade ones running from $40 to $130. 

6) Najla Qamber Designs: I absolutely LOVE Najla Qamber Designs. I've seen some of the custom covers they've done for a friend of mine and they are gorgeous! I love that they have premade covers but you can also work with Najla to create a cover that will directly reflect your novel. 

Obviously, there are many, many more book cover designers out there, but hopefully this gives you a starting point. If you have a book cover designer you love, please share in the comments—we'd love to add to our list! Happy hunting! And Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Choosing an Unforgettable Book Title

One might think that choosing a title for a book is easy, comes naturally. And maybe that's true for some people, but for me? Not so much.

I'd say a novel goes through several different titles before I settle on one. There's the title I come up with off the top of my head so I can save my latest manuscript and not call it "Book 1." Then there's the title I extract from my beta readers or critique partners when they're finished reading my novel. Then there's the "moment of inspiration" title that eventually becomes THE title that I query the book with.

Are you like me, or do you find coming up with a title an easy thing to do?


I recently read THIS post by Pub Crawl that has changed the way I choose a title for a novel. And not just any title, but a beautiful title you can be proud of. And the crazy thing, is that it WORKS! So, to give you some highlights in my own words, here are some tips to choosing an unforgettable title:

1) The Eyes Have It: Chances are your manuscript is riddled with amazing titles and you don't even realize it yet. Have a beta reader or friend comb through your manuscript and pick out favorite phrases. Your own beautiful writing may contain that perfect title you're looking for!

2) Phrase It: Come up with different phrases you might use to describe your novel. If you're writing a middle grade novel about a pirate ship, your phrases might look something like this:

A Boy and His Ship
Pirates at Midnight
A Pirate's Journey
A Pirate's Life for Me
Journey of the Neverland Pirates
The Ghost Ship's Lost Treasure

*I'm sure you can come up with something better! :)

3) Word Game: Make a list of words that describe your novel. Is it a fun, flirty novel that takes place in the summertime? Your list may look a little like this:


From this list, you can combine words:

Summer Kisses
Flirting with Summer
Sun-kissed Beaches
100 Days of Summer
Under the Summer Sun
The Happiest Days of Summer
The Summer of You (ooh, I LIKE that one! I may have to save it for a future book title! I call dibs.) :)

Who knows, you may just have a title in there somewhere! :)

4) The Beauty of Poetry: Sometimes the most beautiful titles can be found amongst lines of poetry. If you're writing a book and stars play a major role, try doing a Google search for poems about stars. Or maybe you're writing a YA contemporary romance and need something about love. Check out poems about love or the heart.

5) More Than Music: Be sure to check out titles of songs too. Your favorite band may just have the perfect song title that would translate well to some or all of your book title.

6) Research It: Now that you've chosen your title, it would be wise to do a Google search and make sure there aren't too many other works out there with the same title. You certainly want your work to stand out, so chances are, if a best-selling novel with that title already exists or the market is flooded with other works with similar titles, then you may want to think about choosing a different one. The last thing you want is someone to look up your book and then end up buying someone else's instead.

Hope this helps you the next time you're faced with choosing an unforgettable book title! Good luck!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The hardest questions

Finally, there’s these, which will really make you (and me!) think:

  1. Can we create a situation where our character is unprepared? In over his head?
  2. In the beginning, what distinguishes this character from other people?
  3. What external situation will require the protagonist's participation throughout the course of the book? 
  4. What is the character's goal for the time the book covers?
  5. How does this connect with the external situation? Or does the external situation divert the character from his goal? Why does the protagonist SAY he/she wants the goal? Is there a deeper motivation as yet unknown to him/her?
  6. What do you want to happen at the end of the book?
  7. What will have to happen to the protagonist against his will to make your ending come about?

My answers:

  1. I'm sure I can but I haven't yet.
  2. There is something, but I'm going to keep that to myself for now.
  3. The murder investigation.
  4. Solving the murder - but there may be some other goals that arise over the course of the book.
  5. There is a deeper motivation behind the reason Beck wants to solve the case but again, I'm going to hold that back.
  6. Ditto.
  7. Here's another hard question I don't have the answer to. Then again, does something HAVE to happen? Ooh, wait...I think I just thought of something!!! See? Isn't this fun?

Okay. Your turn now, though I'll understand if you don't want to give full answers to some of these questions! I also hope this was helpful and if anyone wants my full list of character development questions et al, email me (marcy@tidewater.net) and I'll be happy to share :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The harder questions

 As promised, I’ve got more questions to make you think about what you’re writing. This is all stuff I found elsewhere, either in books, on people’s blogs, or websites. They all make me think about what exactly I’m writing, and who my characters are. But, some of them are hard…
  1. How is this character viewed by others?
  2. What does he/she care most about in this world?
  3. Ways to annoy this person?
  4. Pets?
  5. Contradictions?
  6. How would this character describe himself?
  7. Morality level?
My answers:
  1. They respect him but no one likes working with him; he makes them uncomfortable
  2. His sister and his niece first, then his job - although sometimes the latter takes precedence over the former.
  3. Lie.
  4. He has a cat named Oscar that mostly lives outside.
  5. Ah, now here's a hard one. I'm going to have to think about this one.
  6. That depends on who he was talking to. If he was talking to someone else he would highlight the positive aspects of his life: he likes his job and he's very good at it, but the truth is there's a lot of sorrow in Beck's life he hasn't gotten over - yet.
  7. Beck is basically an honest person, if he were a D&D character his alignment would be lawfully good.
Now it's your turn...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Let's talk about characters

A while back I shared with you all some questions I ask about my characters in order to bring them more fully to life. You can read that post here along with my answers about one of my characters. It was a fun exercise and I thought we’d try it again.

In the comments, tell us what you’re working on:
  1. Working Title if it has one
  2. Genre
  3. Intended Age group
  4. The main character, or if multiple, the one you thought of first. Tell us something about him/her in one short paragraph.
  5. Current word count
  6. Where are your characters right now? What are they doing?
  7. Do you know how it all ends?
  8. Plotter? Pantser? Somewhere in between?

My Answers:

  1. Bell, Black, & Briar
  2. Fantasy
  3. Adult
  4. Inspector Ian Beck, who works for the Arcane Crime Unit, or ACU for short.
  5. 10K
  6. Inspector Beck just arrived home after a long day, having been assigned the case of Lena Errett, Tarot Reader Extraordinaire, who was stabbed multiple times and found in Gravesend Cemetery.
  7. Yes, although interestingly, I first thought the end was the beginning.
  8. I've done a bit more plotting with this project. I've also deviated from the original outline while still including all the original information.
I look forward to seeing your answers in the comments and I'll be back on Wednesday with some new and harder questions :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

World Building

Charity recently posted about world building, and her post inspired this one.  *Waves at Charity*  There have been times when I’ve come across a manuscript where the world building wasn’t quite what it needed to be.

I once received a submission that was actually a pretty interesting and compelling story.  However, the author needed to go back and flesh out the world a bit more.  The story was set in a future U.S. that had already been through a war.  Certain areas had been nuked.  The survivors had primarily banded together into two groups in two different regions.  Think of how the Mason-Dixon Line is supposed to sort of separate the North from the South, and you have a basic idea of what I mean by two different regions.  Well, one of these groups is composed entirely of females.  There are no males allowed, relationships can only occur between two women.  If a couple wants to have a child, they have to be registered and go to the clinic.  All embryos are female and no male DNA is used in their creation.

The other group is composed of male/female pairings, but it’s in the extreme, because the men are completely in charge.  Women do have jobs and things like that, but in the long run, they don’t have much say in matters.

As I mentioned before, the story itself was interesting, but the world had some issues with being believable.  For one thing, why weren’t there any groups of people who didn’t fall into either of the above categories?  Even though there were the female only communities, why weren’t there any similar communities strictly for men?  Why weren’t there any communities who had male/female pairings, but where women and men had equal rights?  Surely, the war didn’t twist everyone into believing the two extremes.  You find out later that there is a resistance, a group who believes that neither of the two societies is right, but why did they have to be a resistance?  Why weren’t they just a third society?  What made people believe that either of the two extremes was right in the first place?  What made people decide they had to split into those two distinct societies?  The entire U.S. wasn’t laid to waste during the war, so it’s not like there were very few inhabitable places left.  Why didn’t those who disagreed with the two extremes go out and form their own societies?  Why did they have to be underground as a resistance?  This author did receive a rejection, but I was very detailed in the issues I noted in the manuscript.  I explained that this world just wasn’t believable, because there wasn’t enough of a background to give the world plausibility.  While the author didn’t need to drown the readers in the backstory of it, they did need to give some plausible reasons for this world to form.

The questionnaire Charity shared during her post is a great place to start.  Sure, it’s detailed, and some of the questions wouldn’t apply to every story, but just reading through the list of questions shows authors the things they need to think about when creating their world.  The author can get away with not explaining some things by having their characters say, “That’s just the way it’s always been.”  However, that will only get you so far.  The author needs to think about whatever’s being questioned in their world and decide if something is insignificant enough to say, “That’s just the way it’s always been”, or if it’s important enough to explore why it’s always been that way.  And if it hasn’t always been the norm, to explore why it became that way.

You need to make your world work, and even if it’s an odd world where social conventions don’t make sense to us, it has to make sense within that world.  Readers have to be able to see the connection.  Even if it’s not something they could ever agree with, they need to be able to see how it was possible for it to become normal for your world and its characters.  The same is true if you have fantasy elements in the modern world.  How does the magic work?  What is the price for using magic?  If there's a prophecy, who made it and why?  Try to look at your world from an outside perspective and make sure things will make sense to your readers.  This is another thing betas are good for catching.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Editor/Author Relationship

I know some of you have never worked with an editor, and some of you have, but I have a few things to say about the Editor/Author relationship.  Some editors might approach the process as a dictatorship, with the editor being the dictator.  I don’t personally know of any who are this way, unless it’s about certain things, but I’ll get into that in a minute.  My personal approach is something of a partnership.  When I’m editing your work, a little of my own heart and soul becomes entwined with your work.  I come to know and love (or hate if necessary) your characters almost as well and as much as you do.  At the same time, I often see things about your characters or story that you don’t, and I’ve helped authors more fully develop these things or get rid of them if need be.  When I’m editing, I might make suggestions regarding phrasing, but I always let my authors know that while they’re welcome to use my wording exactly, it is only there to serve as an example.  I’ve had authors who rephrased it exactly as I suggested, and I’ve had authors who rephrased it entirely differently, but which still corrected whatever issue I was pointing out.  An editor shouldn’t go in and rewrite your book.  That’s not what we’re for.  While you might say something the same way I would say it, you also might say it differently, so my words are only intended to help you find yours.  I’m not going to change something arbitrarily, or simply because I don’t understand what you mean.  If I’m concerned about it, I’ll leave a comment and ask you about it.

For example, Carol and I had a conversation regarding regionalisms.  There was something she said a certain way (sorry Carol, I can’t remember what this one was specifically) and I was wondering if she was missing a word in the phrasing.  Then I discovered it classified as a regionalism.  This spawned an entire conversation regarding regionalisms and how, when someone asks me if I want a pop, I always think, “No.  I don’t want you to pop me.  What did I do to you?”  Around here, it’s either a soda or a coke.

“Do you want a coke?”


“What kind?”

“Mountain Dew.”

Once Carol explained the wording, and that it was how she and others around her always said it, it made sense.  I left it in the manuscript because I felt it added authenticity to the scene and “local flavor”.  I’ll even let you get away with using ain’t and git (as in “Git yerself outta here!”) in dialogue, because I’m from the South.  Ain’t is a word here.  However, don’t even think about using it in narration.  Not gonna happen.

For the most part, I work with authors.  If they disagree with me, I expect them to open a dialogue with me and tell me why they disagree.  Sometimes it’s simply misunderstanding the meaning, and an explanation clarifies it, so we’re good to go.  It stays as is.  Sometimes I understand, but it still has to go, so we have to reach a compromise.  And still sometimes it has to go, no matter what.  For example, Carol and I had to reach a compromise regarding “K” as a word.  She wanted Bert to say “K”.  Now, I completely understood her reasoning, (and yes, I have Carol’s permission to share this) but our publisher had a House Style Guideline that absolutely forbade the use of “K” as a word.  They would only allow okay or ’kay (only in dialogue).  For the record, a lot of other publishers have the same guideline.  Carol and I finally compromised on ’kay for Bert’s dialogue, but even if we were in his POV, it had to be okay in narration.

I try to be friendly with my authors and get to know them.  Some aren’t very reciprocal in that regard, but most are.  There are a few that have become friends.  I’ve only had one or two that you could probably describe as prickly, but we still worked together without any major issues.  With other authors, our relationship was strictly limited to edits.

My comments to an author are honest, and I try to use humor, because I know how hard it is to write and then have someone tell you this scene isn’t working, this character is coming across as a doormat, or another character you want readers to like is actually coming across as a huge jerk.  I’ll also tell you if I don’t like a character, even if it’s not yet clear whether or not I’m supposed to dislike them.  One character in a manuscript I’ve recently edited was coming across as a real annoyance.  I wanted to smack her.  Another character in the manuscript was accused of poisoning someone (no, they didn’t), and I told the author I wouldn’t be surprised if the annoying character had actually poisoned the person.  The author got a laugh out of that.

So, if you disagree with your editor about one point or another, open a dialogue.  Keep in mind that their hands might be tied by the publisher’s guidelines, because part of our job is making sure your manuscript adheres to them.  And that (along with grammar) is where most of us will become dictators.  Always remember that we, like you, want your manuscript to be the best it can possibly be, and we want to see it do well.

And for the record, even though Carol said I did, I’ve never told any of my authors they were falling down the stairs like a defunct slinky…at least, not in those exact words.  *grin*

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Follow The Guidelines

Follow the Guidelines

I’m sure I’ve told you some things you already know, but maybe I’ve told you something you didn’t, or possibly shed additional light on those things you did.  But I know you’ve heard this.  You’ve probably heard it so many times you’re sick of it, but it’s just as true now as the first time you heard it.

Make sure you follow submission guidelines exactly.  Even if they tell you to send your manuscript in TNR 8, or Jokerman 16, their guidelines exist for a reason.  (And no, I don’t know of anyone who actually has these guidelines! *grin*)  Maybe their email platform does strange things to files, or maybe their software doesn’t play well with certain file types.  Maybe they just like the way the manuscript looks in Jokerman 16.  Or maybe they just want to see if you still remember the number one rule you learned in Kindergarten.

Follow the rules and/or directions.

Even if it seems arbitrary to you, there are usually reasons for the guidelines, so make sure you follow them.  And please don’t ask if you can do something different unless there is a very good reason for the deviation.  For example, if an editor tells you to send your full manuscript in an .rtf, .doc, or .docx file, don’t ask if you can send it as a .pdf.  I had this happen.  The author wanted to send a .pdf because they were concerned the other file types would ruin their formatting.  I explained that if it was accepted, it would have to be reformatted following our guidelines and template anyway, so a .pdf wasn’t necessary.  The author wasn’t obnoxious, but I got the distinct impression the author still wasn’t happy about it.  They agreed to send it, but they were still concerned about their formatting.  This might sound snarky, but I promise it’s not intended that way.  My only thought to this comment from the author was, “What kind of formatting are you using that it would be messed up by not having it in a .pdf file?”  Maybe they were just concerned with the way different programs communicate (or don’t) with each other.  That would be perfectly understandable, but our file had to be a .doc file when our content editors sent the files to the line editors.  I’m not sure what the author's concern was, or if they had tried something special in the .pdf format, something to make it look like a book, but I didn’t see anything wrong with the format when the manuscript was sent as the file type I requested.

So please, please follow the guidelines, no matter how normal or strange they seem.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mistakes In Submissions Continued -- Research

This week should wrap up my Mistakes in Submissions topic.  Other than one or two posts that were inspired by the posts of other moderators, all of my posts were written out as a single post.  Due to the length, Carol suggested I break it up.  I've enjoyed covering this topic, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it!

At the very least, please do basic research on the elements of your story.  It will save both you and your editor time and possible migraines.  For example, one author I worked with had a scene pertaining to a heart transplant.  A doctor intended to pretend he was going to perform the transplant until the patient was unconscious, and then not do it.  (Don’t ask, it would take a long explanation, and I’m trying to stay away from as many specifics as I can for the sake of anonymity.)  Now, I’m not a transplant surgeon, nor do I play one on TV, but I knew this scene was not right at all.  What the doctor was doing to convince the patient a transplant was about to occur brought me to a halt.  I felt there was a major misconception in the scene, as well as elements that could have proven fatal for a real transplant patient.

 I stopped edits and spent quite some time doing online research, and I called an area hospital with a CCU (Cardiac Care Unit).  If someone there couldn’t help me, my next call was going to a hospital in Atlanta.  Thankfully, I happened to get someone who had assisted in many transplants.  I explained why I was calling and asked if he had a few minutes to spare for a couple of questions, or if there was a better time for me to call.  I’m certain he was a little bemused, but he was kind enough to answer my questions and I thanked him for his time.  Let me go ahead and say this.  When conducting research, it’s always better to try to be as unobtrusive as possible, so if you don’t know someone in the field you need to research, and if you can’t make an appointment for a phone interview, sending an email or letter would probably be best.  I don’t recommend cold-calling like I did, but I was working against a deadline.  Cold-calling could bring you together with someone who’s having a really bad day, or who’s extremely busy when you call.  Neither bodes well for your research.

After the combination of online research and my phone call for verification, I had some very definitive answers for my concerns and I was able to help the author correct the scene.  And yes, I was correct about the things that troubled me the most.

“But wait!” you say.  “If the readers knew the doctor wasn’t going to perform the transplant, why would you even bother with the research?”

That’s a good question with a simple answer.  Remember the patient thought the doctor was going to perform the operation?  Well, the patient was also smart enough that the same things I was concerned about would have alerted them to the fact the doctor didn’t intend to do it at all.  The scene had to look good and be realistic for the patient.  Since the readers would know that this had to look real for the patient, they would be looking at how well the doctor was covering his behind.  You don’t want a reader who just happens to be a member of a transplant team to send you a letter saying, “The doctor would have never done that.  You need to do your research next time!”

Research glitches can happen in many areas, but I often see it in medical, law enforcement, military, forensics, and legal aspects of a manuscript.  I've seen:

Medals pinned on the wrong side of a uniform.

Period pieces where words that didn't exist for a hundred years or more after the story's time period were used.

Legal jargon used improperly.

Wines served in ways they would never be served in a fine restaurant.

Complications from medical procedures and injuries that made no sense whatsoever, or that were completely impossible.

Characters accessing files they shouldn't be able to access, from places they logically shouldn't be able to access them, and which would have gotten an innocent family member fired from their job, given them a hefty fine, and possibly put them in jail.

Do your research.  Don’t give your reader the details unless you absolutely have to because it’s integral to the story.  While it’s possible as much as ninety-nine percent of what you learn will never crawl out of your head or your notes, your scene must still be written with that research in mind.  It helps lend your scene the credibility and accuracy it needs to breathe for the readers.  I'm a stickler for research.  I could go on with other examples where it made the scene, and instances where scenes had to be rewritten because not enough preliminary research was done, but this post is probably too long already.  Just remember, research is important, whether it’s a minor aspect or a major one.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Beta Readers and How Does it all Pay off in the End?

I had two excellent comments the other day and they're sparking a full blog post.

The first was by Han Hills and he asked about tips on finding the right beta readers and the etiquette involved. He also wondered how to find those people with more expertise in structure and narrative flow and even those interested in non-fiction.

Oddly enough, the best place to find beta readers is online or in a writing group. I belong to a group of writers with over 20,000 members. The group is big and diverse. We come from all over the world. That gives a person looking for beta readers a huge pool to pull from. When someone asks for beta readers in the group, they give a synopsis of their book and asks if anyone would be interested in beta reading. Depending on the genre, the person could be swamped with responses. So right up front, be super honest about what your book is about. If it's a novel, then let them know and what genre it is. Some people won't touch certain genres and it's better to weed them out early. If it's non-fiction, definitely say that. I'm a person who cannot read non-fiction to save my life. I would never offer to beta read in that situation.

Several people say it's handy to have a form detailing what they expect from their beta readers. On that form, it could ask specific questions of things you're looking for. Things like structure and narrative flow. ;-) If you want someone to help you hunt for typos and grammar errors, then include those. If you just want to know if someone liked the story, then say that. Also, include if there's a deadline for when you need the feedback. Hopefully, if someone knows they can't meet the deadline, they'll back out then instead of leave you hanging. Another thing is, the more the merrier. Always expect some people to flake out. As you go through the final responses, you'll start building up your own directory of people to ask for help again in the future. You'll also know who to avoid.

Patsy hopes I'm right that all of the steps I outlined previously will pay off in the long run.

I can actually tell you a story about this, Patsy. Back in January, a young man in the group I'm in came in and asked us what we thought of his new cover. I'd never noticed him before. I never saw his book go through on promo days, but I was immediately drawn to the cover art. A lot of us asked him what the book was about and I went out and bought it. I saw the old cover and I can tell you, I would NOT have been interested based off that and his blurb.

In reading the book, I noticed a ton of errors. A lot of typos and odd uses of punctuation, but his 'rough draft' caught my attention and sparked my imagination. I will admit I gave it a rating it did not deserve. But I loved the story line so much, I was willing to overlook the errors. Most people aren't that lucky in hitting just the right tone with a story. And he has the reviews to prove that people were quite annoyed with the errors.

Since that time, I have followed that book through each of its versions. It went through a good editor and came back tighter and cleaner. It went through several beta reads and small things were caught and cleaned up. I was the proofreader on that book and helped with the final polish to get it as shiny as possible.

That book has jumped from barely being noticed to having over 100 reviews and is holding steady at a 4.8 rating on Amazon. It was also put into print at the beginning of this week. Until now, it had only lived as an e-book. The book was originally published 3 years ago. Since it underwent its transformation, it's climbing the ranks and starting to sell better. The reviews keep coming in. He is now preparing the second book in the series to come out early next year. Only this time, it's not being published until it has gone through the process.

And that book is Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi. We featured it on this blog twice... On accident. ;-) But I will admit it was fascinating to watch as it underwent its transformation and to see what each step of the process did for sales and reviews. If there is an audience for your book, then having it in the best shape possible is definitely the way to go. Don't jump the gun. You don't want to wait three years for your book to stumble its way to being "found" and recognized for the gem it should have been at the beginning.

Sevara: Dawn of Hope by Damian Wampler

Today, I'm bringing you two posts. ;-) I got sidetracked yesterday (oops) because I was working hard on creating my YouTube channel. So, my reviews will not only be on my website; they will also appear on YouTube! I'm excited by the new direction A Drop of Ink Reviews is heading and being able to use today's technology to expand the reach of independent authors and potentially reach more people than ever before.

Now, on to a review that won't even appear on my website until tomorrow.

When fifteen-year-old Sevara refuses to marry, she's kicked out of her orphanage and left on the streets of Plexus with nothing. She doesn't last long on the outside. Luckily, someone has been watching her.

A shape-shifting immortal gives Sevara a second chance at life, and a powerful set of gifts. But when Sevara begins a doomed love affair with the man she could have married, she must choose between protecting the city and saving the only man she's ever loved.
(taken from Goodreads)

My Opinion:

Sevara is a headstrong young woman. That is not something this society regards as a good trait. Females are not something someone wants. When one is born, the girl child is taken to one of the local orphanages and placed there. There are only two ways out. To be bought by a male looking to essentially raise his wife to be a model servant and bedmate or to age out. Hidden until her 14th birthday, Sevara eventually ages out. However, her personal sense of morality is a hindrance and sparks something no one in power ever wants to see. A possible change in the way things are.

In a country torn by war, Sevara aims to do what is right, no matter the cost.

I have always thought I had a good imagination, but Damian Wampler pushed it to the limits. I’ll admit there are a few things he put into his book that I still can’t picture. The main thing is the transportation system. I honestly cannot picture how such a thing would work, but Wampler could. In the end, I suppose that’s all that matters.

Sevara: Dawn of Hope is split into three books. Every time one ended, I’d turn the page on my e-reader in the hopes the next section was there. I was kept completely engaged in the story until the very end. There were a few parts where I was like, “You have got to be kidding me,” but they were few and far between. It was his world to put together as he saw fit and that’s all that matters.

I’d definitely put this in the steampunk genre, but the entire series shows promise. I’m not sure where he’s going next, but it could be fun to follow along and find out. Well, as soon as I can free up more reading time and catch up on my TBR list that is. However, I did finish reading this book a good week ago and it still lingers in my mind. That is definitely a sign of a well-told story.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

4 Easy Tips to take Your Book from Mediocre to Stunning

I read an article this morning on how a mother goes about telling her 15-year-old daughter she couldn’t write. The premise of this article boiled down to, “You don’t!” Instead, you support her and encourage her to keep working on what she obviously loves. With practice, we all get better.

However, as a book reviewer, I don’t have that luxury. As I do not have a book out there for people to read, I don’t know what it’s like to take and hold my baby in my hands and ask a total stranger to read it and give me their opinion. But I DO remember what it was like to show total strangers my writing for the first time. Let’s just say I was terrified.

Now, I’m the total stranger. Authors come to me asking me for my opinion on their work. I promise to tell people my honest opinion on their work and I contact each and every one of them when I’m done. Nothing is more painful for me than to go back to an author and tell them their work needed well… more work. It is my least favorite part of my job. I much prefer to go yelling from the rooftops that the book I just read was terrific and everyone should read it. 

We have now entered November. During this month, probably more books are created than at any other time of the year. If I had been able to keep up with my reading list, I have no doubt I’d have people climbing all over me in December asking me to read their book. Those weird little novellas penned during what is known as NaNoWriMo. I’ll admit I’m glad at this point my doors are currently shut. Now I have an inkling of how publishers feel every time November rolls around. Do I hate NaNoWriMo? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’m participating in it. But I know a few things from being a reviewer and I want to share them with you.

When you think you’re ready to self-publish, consider these 4 simple tips: 

1) Make your cover beautiful. In the world of self-publishing, the marketplace is flooded. We DO judge a book by its cover. There are many talented cover artists out there. Hire someone. If you’re not awesome at graphic design, please don’t try it yourself. It will show.

2) Make sure you EDIT the book when you are done. Nothing is more painful than reading a book that obviously would have benefited from such a service. Does it cost money? Yes. But without it, your book could potentially fail.

3) Get beta readers! These are marvelous friends who love to read and are willing to point out the problems to you. If you have a friend who has issues with punctuation and grammar and goes nuts correcting the errors, for goodness sakes, hang on to them! They’re worth their weight in gold.

4) Get your book proofread! I have returned a lot of books to authors over this minor detail. When I take stars away for every 10 typos in a book, and I end up with a negative number, I have to wonder if you even read your own book. You may very well need to bring in someone who has never seen your book before in order to catch as many as possible. There are professionals out there who do this, but sometimes there’s that good friend who will help.

These are simple steps that easily take a book from mediocre and can polish it to a high shine. A lot of writers are unwilling to go through this process because it takes time. You want to see your book OUT THERE! But trust me. Going through these four little steps pays off in the long run. With everyone doing their part, we can show the world that ‘self-publish’ is not a bad word. And then maybe my “I’m sorry” letters can be purely based on the fact the story line was not my cup of tea. I’d like that.