The Last Hero, I had to write it (Guest Post by Nathaniel Danes)

This is a guest post from Nathaniel Danes. He can be found at: Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, and his official website.

I never thought I’d write a book. Heck, for most of my life, getting beyond page three of any school writing project felt like a Herculean task. I think the difference between now and then, is my writing doesn’t feel forced, like the story is there, I just need to get it out. Maybe that’s the difference between writing what you want as opposed to what you have too.

Thinking about it now, it almost feels as if The Last Hero grew itself organically rather than having been written. My over active imagination, love for military history, science fiction addiction, blindness, failed military career, daughter, and more were filtered through my fingers onto the page. It’s a nexus where several pieces of my life came together. Believe me, that sounds far easier than it was.

I’ve always used my imagination as an escape hatch from life. As far back as I can remember I’d bolt from mundane situations in my mind, transporting myself to excitement and adventure. I’m sure most kids do this, but for me, I’ve never stopped. Today, I do this as a coping mechanism. I’m loosing my sight to a genetic disorder, reason for my failed military career, and I find it relaxing to drift off into worlds where I don’t have that limitation.

These fantasies were always content to live inside my head until I read The Forever War. That classic sparked something inside me. Science fiction has always been my preferred genre for TV and movies, but as far as books go, I used to only read military history. After stumbling upon The Forever War everything changed. I couldn’t read enough military science fiction and those stories in my head started to become restless.

I also can’t understate the importance of my daughter’s birth in helping to shape the story in my first novel. There are a select few things I truly love in his world, my wife for one, so the feeling isn’t foreign to me. However, I honestly wasn’t prepared for the body blow of raw emotion, of pure unconditional love, I felt the second I held my baby girl for the first time. From then on, I couldn’t imagine a universe that she wasn’t a part of, where that incredible connection didn’t exist. Her presence in my life enriched and brought depth to my fantasy worlds. She brought meaning and purpose to them.

Literally bursting at the seems, I had to get the stories out. So, I started to write and write, then I rewrote and rewrote. Before I knew it, a few years had pasted and I’d written four books. Finally, I decided to try and get one published. Fortunately, Solstice Publishing saw fit to give me a chance and agreed to release the The Last Hero.

If you read my book, I hope you enjoy if and can feel the passion that went into its creation. It will be the first of many, I don’t have a choice, the stories have to come out.

Last Hero cover art

Get The Last Hero on Amazon

The Trials and Tribulations of Self-Publishing Top 10

Moved as part of my HowToSelfPublishABook.org redesign. This is a guest post from Hillary Peak, Author of Wings of Hope and Cappuccino is the Answer for Job Dissatisfaction.

Her personal website is www.HillaryEPeak.com

10. So far, I’ve spent a lot more than I’ve made.

9. In my experience, good reviews sell more books than anything else. Check out bookrooster.com

8. It isn’t worth it to spend money to try and win an award.

7. The frugal ereader is worth the money.

6. Those free days on amazon are exciting–until you realize that you didn’t make any money. Plus, I haven’t seen the pick-up in reviews I’d hoped.

5. There are a lot of opportunities out there that are free or fairly cheap–particularly goodreads and facebook.

4. Facebook ads work, as do goodreads ads, if you are willing to spend a little money.

3. Doing a blog tour is really fun–and a lot of work.

2. Get into the Indie world, there is a lot of great information, help, support and new ideas!

1. If you have a good product, you can sell it, but it requires a lot of time and effort.

 

E-Book Self-Publishing: Part 3

Note this was moved here as part of my HowToSelfPublishABook.org redesign.

Here is part 3 of J. Dane Tyler’s series. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. The original appeared on his whatnot blog, and appears here with his explicit permission.

If you get a minute, you should also go check out his produced ebooks:

All right, in this section of the tutorial – which, among us geek-types who like to learn on the interwebz is known as a “tute” – we’re going to have to dig, and worse still, script. *Shudder*

What you’ve done so far, if you’ve followed all my steps to the letter, is to take your Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer document, strip out all the formatting (and I do mean ALL the formatting), and now you’ve got it back into a nice, handy little HTML template suitable for you to transform into a .prc file which is DTP- and Kindle-friendly and allows you to check out your creation with the Amazon Kindle Previewer software.

So you’ve got an HTML document with no formatting. Now what?

Put back what you lost

You lost a lot. If you’re anything like me, you use a fair amount of italics to emphasize certain words in your manuscript. Don’t do that. As much as you can avoid it, you should. As a writer, you should have a strong enough voice to where that kind of thing is rare and well-placed in your document. But whatever the case, be you heavy-handed or light-touched on formatting, whatever you had, you’ve lost. It’s gone. There’s nothing there but a plain ol’ text document with a few paragraph tags now.

So, I’m going to tell you how to add back italics. This will go for any other inline sort of formatting you did too – bold face, underlining, strikethrough, whatever. As long as it isn’t a title or heading, a footer or a block quote, it’s probably inline and this is how you have to put the formatting back.

  • Open your word processing document, NOT the HTML document. The one with either the .doc(x) or .odf file extension. Open it with whatever the native word processor is.
  • Now, go to the Edit menu and choose “Find”.
  • Locate the special or format location features on the “Find” dialog box.

image

  • From the special formatting selections, locate the selection for “Font” and choose the font and the type of formatting to locate. For instance, in the image below, the Find dialog is set to locate Times New Roman 12 point italic font.

image

  • Once you click OK on the setup you can have Word (and presumably Writer) locate the  instances of italicized text in your manuscript. Presumably. I’ve never actually tried this, of course. Ahem.
  • When Word or Writer finds an instance of formatted text, you can locate it in your HTML document using the “Find” feature in either Notepad++ or your text editor (if it has one) to locate the same text in the HTML document.
  • When you’ve found the text to italicize, put an <em> before the text you want to italicize and a </em> after it. Note those differences! The one without the slash is called a start tag, and the one with the slash (and it’s a forward slash, leaning from lower left to upper right) is called an end tag. You need BOTH, or everything AFTER the <em> tag will be italicized in your manuscript. BE CAREFUL!
  • Okay, finished with that? Great! Now go back and do it for every other type of formatting you did.
  • Did you manage to use drop caps in your document? Well, while HTML and CSS (that’s Cascading Style Sheets to you an’ me) might be able to replicate that for you, the Kindle doesn’t show it. If you HAVE to use that technique, you have to make the initial cap a larger font face than the rest of the text. I kid you not, that’s the work-around.
  • Save your HTML document after EVERY CHANGE and check your progress by opening it in the web browser of choice for you. EVERY. CHANGE. NO. EXCEPTIONS.
  • Close the word processor document when you’re finished.

Now for the Rest of It

Okay, with that done, let’s go back and add your book title, chapter headings and any other subheadings you might like to add. Remember your book is going to need “front matter” too – this is the copyright statement at the beginning of the book, and you’re going to want a table of contents in there if you’re doing a book with, say, multiple stories. You know … like my eBook, f’rinstance.

So let’s format the title. First, you want to open the manuscript in Notepad++. If you’ve installed N++, you probably noticed it asked you if you wanted to add it as an option to your context menu. I find this extremely handy for this part. I right-click the HTML file and click on the Notepad++ option in the quick-menu that comes up. Bada-bing, it’s open in N++ ready to edit. It should automatically be opened with HTML as the language selected too.

When you copied everything from the KompoZer screen and pasted it into the <body> section of your HTML document, it presumably brought over the title and other information you had there as well. I, personally, leave all that out until it’s time to do this portion, but if it’s there, that’s fine too.

Find the book title if it’s there. In front of the first word (i.e., to the left in English-speaking, right-to-left reading countries), type the code <h1>. Note the angle brackets. That’s mandatory on all HTML code and you must use it with everything you do in HTML. This puts the Heading 1 or top-level heading format on the title. If you look at your nifty little template, you’ll see I did a tiny bit of CSS scripting for you. What happens to your title is, it becomes all uppercase, 24-point bold-face font and is centered on the document. When you save and reload the HTML document into your web browser, you’ll see this happen. Cool, no?

Now, after the last word of the title, put the end tag for the Heading 1 formatting, </h1>. This makes sure ALL the text in your manuscript isn’t transformed to a level-one heading.

There’s more. If you have a subtitle, you can use an h2-format heading by putting <h2> in front of the subtitle and an </h2> end tag after it. I have a special format set up for the author’s name too.

So find your name. The part where it says “by You” or whatever. And in front of that line, put <p class=”auth”>. Then, after your name, i.e., where you want the formatting to end, type </p>. Save your document, reload in the browser, check it out, be impressed.

Now, you can place your copyright front matter. Copy and paste it if it’s not in place, and if it is, put <p class="ctr"> in front of it and </p> at the end of it. And your front matter will be nicely centered on the screen for you. Voila! You’re finished with the front matter formatting.

A word about Amazon and Smashwords front matter – be especially careful not to include a statement like “printed in …” with your country of origin. It is NOT a printed book and this statement is meaningless. It will probably get you kicked off of Smashwords.com. Amazon doesn’t like it either. They both have very particular standards about their front matter, so research it carefully before you put one in place.

For my hierarchy of headings, I use this guide:

  1. H1 headings: Book title only.
  2. H2 headings: Story or chapter titles.
  3. H3 headings: Section titles or chapters within shorter works included in anthology.

I don’t go below level three for myself. You can go down to H6, it’s up to you.

Locate your chapter divisions and make sure they are formatted correctly.

Now, let’s discuss the pages.

Pagination in HTML

There isn’t any. None. Zero. Here’s what you have to remember: this is one long document. On a web page, each page is a separate document. In a Kindle, that’s not possible, each eBook is all one document. But there are tricks you can use to keep some page breaks in place.

Microsoft Word creates this neat piece of code when I convert the document to an HTML file.

<br clear=all style=’mso-special-character:line-break;page-break-before:
always’>

Now, I’m not sure what, if any, of that gobbledygook is of use to the browser, but I know I can create page breaks so that each story starts on a new page and each chapter does too, if you’re so inclined. But the idea is free-flowing text without margins and bottoms and tops. The Kindle likes this best and even does some formatting for us, all by its little lonesome.

The problem is that little ‘mso-special-character:’ part. The one I used on my hand-made book was similar, but cleaner:

<br clear=all style=’page-break-before:always’>

Much simpler, yes? And no ‘mso-’ specific formatting, which is bad juju.

Table of Contents Crafting

Crafting a good, working table of contents isn’t easy. It’s pain-staking, in fact, and you can’t just let your word processor do it for you. At least, Smashwords hated that. So you have to build them by hand.

  1. Open the HTML document in Notepad++ if it’s not already.

  2. For each story or chapter (I’m going to call them chapters to save a little typing from here on out), you create an entry on a Table of Contents page. So, I put in a page break right after my front matter and dedication, if any.

  3. At the top of the page type “Table of Contents” and apply an h2 formatting.

  4. In the body of the page, add the name of the chapter, such as “Chapter One” or “Chapter 32” or whatever.

  5. In front of each one, type the following code: <a href="#ChapterNum">. For “ChapterNum, of course, you use the actual digit. Or name, if you’re going with named chapters. At end of the chapter name, you type </a>. So, a complete entry is <a href="#Chapter01">Chapter 01</a>. And see the pound sign/hash mark/tic-tac-toe/whatever you want to call it thingy? That’s required before the chapter name or number. Won’t work without it.

  6. Save your HTML document, but don’t bother loading into the browser yet; we’re only half finished with the ToC.

All right, what you just did is create a bunch of anchor tags, or hyperlinks, which we now have to assign targets for. You can click ‘em now, but nothing’s going to happen because they have no destinations to connect to. So let’s give them the targets.

“Target” is where the links take you. So, let’s finish them off.

  1. Open the HTML document in Notepad++ if you closed it.

  2. Go to the first chapter title in your book after the ToC. Chapter 01 or Prologue or whatever you called it.

  3. Before the chapter title and either INSIDE or OUTSIDE the heading format tags (doesn’t matter), type the following tag: <a name="ChapterNum">. The ChapterNum is replaced with whatever you named your chapter and it must PRECISELY AND EXACTLY MATCH WHAT YOU TYPED IN THE TOC LINK. Otherwise, the link will not work, period. BE CAREFUL! So, a full entry would be: <a name="Chapter01">Chapter 01</a>.

  4. Do this for all the chapters in your book. You can use the find and replace feature and just type in specific numbers if you want, but for named chapters or story anthologies like mine, this is a manual process.

  5. Save the HTML document when you’re finished. Make SURE you get them all.

  6. Open your HTML document in the browser and test each and every link. Every. One. No. Exceptions. Test. Re-test. Test again, then do it all over again. Close it, open it, save it, then test test test testtesttest! Test it, over and over! Get it?

  7. Do they work? If yes, GREAT JOB! If not, don’t be bummed out. It’s probably a typo somewhere, and will be easy to fix. (Yeah, right.)

Okay, this is a lot. A LOT. But don’t worry, the hard part’s over. Now we have a hyperlinked, well-formatted HTML document and we can run it through a couple of crunches and get a new file type. We’re almost there!

Oh, and a cover image. We need a good cover image. We’ll talk about all those things next time.

Have fun, gang!

E-Book Self Publishing: Part 2

note: This was moved here as part of my HowToSelfPublishABook.org redesign

Here is part 2 of J. Dane Tyler’s series. You can read Part 1 here. The original appeared on his whatnot blog, and appears here with his explicit permission.

If you get a minute, you should also go check out his produced ebooks:

Welcome back, fellow eBooklets! …0r whatever we are. Today’s segment of my eBook publishing tutorial gets into the file conversion part of the process, which can be fun or really aggravating depending on your skill, patience and how well you follow instructions.

Let’s get to it then.

Open the File in the Word Processor

First, open the story or manuscript you’re going to convert in Microsoft Word or whatever word processor you’re using. If you’ve created a plain text file, you can skip this step and go on to the next portion of the tutorial. We’ll catch up.

Once the file’s open, you want to create an HTML file from your story which will be manipulated elsewhere. So go to the Save As feature of your chosen word processor and in the file type designator box, choose “HTML” for the file type.

image

Now save your story as an HTML document. When it’s finished, open your file explorer – My Computer or Windows Explorer for Windows; you weirdos using stuff other than Windows are on your own again.

The file should be named something you can easily recognize and remember. It will have an .htm or .html extension wherever you saved it. Now navigate to it with Windows Explorer.

Check Out the Ugliness

This is an optional step, but it gives you some idea of how bad word processing software is at generating good HTML code.

When  you’re finished, you can open the file with your brand-spankin’ new Notepad++ text editor. If you didn’t download it, shame on you, lazy-butt. Open it in whatever plain-text editor you want. Not a word processor, though; that’s critical. If you DID download Notepad++, make sure you select HTML under the Language menu.

With the HTML version open in your text editor screen, you’re going to see a LOT of code you didn’t know was there. Matter of fact, it’s gonna be a hot mess.

image

Yikes! Look at that!

But don’t despair! We can get rid of almost all of that gobbledygook and clean this up jiffy-quick.

Cleaning It Up

Okay, now we’re going to clean up the HTML from this thing properly.

  1. Open the file in its native software again – Word, Writer, whatever it was.
  2. Hold the Ctrl key and press the A key (Ctrtl + A) to select all the text in your file.
  3. Copy the text (Ctrl + C).
  4. Close the word processor; click YES if prompted to make all the text available to other applications.
  5. Open your text editor (Notepad, Notepad++, etc.).
  6. Paste the text into the text editor (Ctrl + V). This eliminates all unnecessary formatting and word processor-specific coding.  If you use Notepad++, check the Language menu to see it’s on Normal Text.

Okay, so you’ve got a nice clean document now. It has no formatting. What’s that you say? You had italics in some places, centered scene break markers, things like that? Too bad, Bucky. They’re all gone now. It might be in the HTML document you made, and it will still be in your original file, but it’s gone from this puppy now.

Some sites, like Smashwords, for instance, call this the “nuclear option”. This removes any and all formatting from your file. The curly quotes will still be there, pointed in the right direction, but pretty much anything else you added, like italics for emphasis or special formatting for chapter titles, things like that … gone. Zap. Pow. Bzz. Pbbt.

Getting It Laid Out

Once that’s done, you need to lay the text out in a way such that the HTML file will have paragraphs in it. If you don’t do this, you’re going to have one long, continuous paragraph. Or you’ll have a bunch of lines broken with line break tags, which might look okay or it might not, depending on how the reader sets the sizing for the text in their Kindle/eReader.

You need to make sure the device knows where to break paragraphs, so they don’t end up in the middle of a line somewhere. You also don’t want any other headaches associated with bad HTML coding. So let’s get this done.

I like to use KompoZer, the HTML editor, for this step. There is also a composer window as part of SeaMonkey, the Mozilla browser no one knows about, but … you know. If you didn’t download KompoZer, you’ll have to do this all by hand. Have fun. Remember, copy and paste is your friend.

  1. Copy all the text from the text editor (Ctrl + A to select all, then Ctrl + C to copy).
  2. Open KompoZer.
  3. Paste the text into the design screen (Ctrl + V).
  4. Go to the View menu, and choose HTML Tags view.
  5. Select all the text on the screen (Ctrl + A).
  6. On the Format menu, choose Paragraph, Paragraph.
  7. Switch to the Source tab (at the bottom of the window).
  8. Go to the Edit menu, choose Find and Replace.
  9. In the Find box type <br>; leave Replace blank. Click Replace All.
  10. When the search is finished, return to the top of the document and run it again. You should get a message saying it can’t find what you’re looking for.
  11. Click the Design tab again; you should now have nicely formatted HTML paragraphs.
  12. Click on the Source tab again and copy all the text from the edit screen (Ctrl + A, Ctrl + C).

The KompoZer Source tab should show something like this:

image

See the pretty paragraph tags (<p> and </p>)? You’re finished with KompoZer now, but leave it open, just in case of boo-boo later.

Okay, the next steps are pretty easy, and very straightforward, but crucial.

Putting It into a New HTML Document

Open Notepad++. In a blank document, go to the Language menu and choose HTML.

BE CAREFUL! Remember you have your entire story and your HTML code for paragraphs on your clipboard; DO NOT COPY ANYTHING! If you have to delete to correct a mistake, either double-click on the error and re-type, or use the backspace key to erase it. I REPEAT, DO NOT COPY OR CUT ANYTHING DURING THIS PROCESS!

Type the following text into the document, just like you see it:

image

Don’t worry about the little + and – signs on the far left; that’s a function of Notepad++ and you don’t have to type that part. Just the rest of it.

What you have now is a template you can use for all your Kindle-published stories and manuscripts. It will do all sorts of neat tricks; anything you tag with the HTML heading 1 tag will automatically be changed into all uppercase letters, with a font size of 24 points and be centered. All the h2 tags will be centered; all the paragraphs of the class “auth” will be centered, 10-point italic font; and so on. The Kindle Previewer software had no difficulty with this little style sheet added to the HTML document, but YMMV, so use this template at your own risk. You can eliminate everything between the head tags if you’re worried.

All right, with that done:

  1. Open the Kindle Stories template you just made (if it’s not open).
  2. Save the document with a new name.
  3. Open a new tab in N++.
  4. Paste the markup text from KompoZer (Ctrl + V).
  5. Go to the top of the document (Ctrl + Home does this quickly).
  6. Delete everything from the top of the document to your first paragraph tag (<p>). All this information is already in your template; you don’t need it.
  7. Select all the remaining text (Ctrl + A) and copy it (Ctrl + C).
  8. Switch to your Kindle Stories template.
  9. Move the cursor between the two body tags (<body> and </body>).
  10. Paste the text from the other tab into the template (Ctrl + V).
  11. From the Languages menu, choose HTML.
  12. Save the story in N++ with an .htm extension as file type HTML from the File, Save As menu. You can overwrite your existing HTML version of the story if you’d like.
  13. Open the new HTML file from My Computer or Windows Explorer with an Internet browser.  Or just double-click on it to have it open in your default browser.
  14. Verify all the necessary formatting is in place — titles, subtitles, chapter names, italics, bold — all were removed and have to be put back manually.

Next time, we’ll do a little HTML markup to make your story pretty again. Hang in there gang, we’re almost finished. See you next time.

E-Book Self Publishing: Part 1 by J. Dane Tyler

This article was written by J. Dane Tyler and originally appeared on one of his blogs. You should also check out his fiction blog. It’s one of the guest posts I’m moving over from my self publishing blog.

This series reflects the path Dane took to self-publish his short story collection via the Kindle Store and SmashWords. You can check it out prove to yourself that he knows his stuff. (And of course read some good fiction)

Thus begins my series of posts about how to self-publish an eBook on Amazon.com’s Kindle store and Smashwords.com. As I warned before, if this is not something you’re interested in, click away and I’ll see you when the series is over. I’m not sure how many parts this will run, though, so I hope at least some of you with stories you feel are entertaining and would be enjoyed by others but don’t think you have a market for them will stick around and consider this.

J. A. Konrath also suggested if you’ve got a manuscript which did its rounds – that is, you sent it out for representation and an agent didn’t pick it up or your agent sent it around and no publisher picked it up – you consider doing this with those as well. What have you got to lose? At the worst it languishes just like it is now. At best, you have an eBook bestseller on your hands and who knows what doors that will open.

I self-published my eBook for a number of reasons.

  • Short story markets are generally non-paying and take months and months to respond, in general, to submissions. Not all, but some. The benefit is a publishing credit, and you know what? I have those already from a non-fiction book. Why do I need them from non-paying markets?
  • My situation isn’t stable and my future’s a little rocky. I wanted to see results now.
  • I believe the buying public will let me know if story collections are still interesting or desired by the readers of the world.
  • EBooks are the way of the future. As many people as there are bellyaching about I’ll never give up books, I’ll never give up books, lots of figures show eBooks are currently outselling print books by a fair margin, which is only going to grow. Get with the program or be run over by it.
  • I can get 70% royalties with Amazon’s Kindle program. Try THAT with a mainstream publishing house. Go ‘head, I dare you.
  • My stories were already on my blog for free; why not try to make a little money from them?

I could keep going, but you get the point. All the money I’ve made so far is that much more money than I made with them by not publishing them on Amazon and Smashwords. I’m already ahead of the game. That’s why I did it, and it looks like I was right so far.

First things first: What you need

You’re going to need a few things, but you’ll already have most of them, and what you don’t have is free, so don’t freak. Just go get it.

  • A good text editor. Something like Notepad++ would be ideal, but you can use Notepad – which comes with Windows – if you’d like. If you’re not using a PC, or if you’re using a PC without Windows on it (AHEM, Bryce) [Note from Bryce: What? I use windows. I just don’t use Word…], you’re on your own. But I think Notepad++ is multiplatform, so I use it and I’m going to assume you’re using it too for the rest of this tutorial series.
  • Amazon’s Kindle for PC or Kindle Previewer software. I prefer the latter, but I have both. I can’t speak for how Kindle for PC works; never used it. The previewer does everything I want it too. I need this; it’s the only way I can test the behavior of the file and get an idea about how it looks on a Kindle. You can’t skip this one; go get it from Amazon’s Kindle publishing page.
  • Microsoft Word, or something which can save as a Microsoft Word document, like OpenOffice Writer or such. Try to avoid Wordperfect; it does strange things and no one recommends it. Also Smashwords ONLY accepts Microsoft Word documents. Go figure.
  • Mobipocket Creator. This is the program which will transform your file into a Kindle-friendly format for you. This is completely optional; many, many people upload their HTML document straight to Amazon’s DTP (Digital Text Platform) and the conversion to the Kindle-native file format is done for them. No hassles, no hair-pulling, no cussing. What fun is that?
  • I like to use KompoZer – which is a free, multiplatform HTML editor (like a word processor for HTML) to do some of the heavy, repetitive lifting. It’s not necessary, but you’ll see why I use it when we get into the process.
  • Patience. Yep, you’re gonna need it. It’s gonna take a couple of days to get this right, but by the time you do, you’ll be a pro and can do it in your sleep.

Okay, once you’ve got all that stuff together, you’re going to need a story. Of course, that story should be imported or copied and pasted into Microsoft Word if you didn’t write it in Word. The part where you have a story, I’ll assume is done.

Next time, we’ll get to the nuts and bolts.

See ya then!

10 Ways to Market Your Book

by Desiree Finkbeiner

Today’s guest post is by Desiree Finkbeiner. She’s recently had her action adventure fantasy Morning Star published by Hydra Publications.

bt9

For an author, getting published is an accomplishment to be marked as one of life’s greatest milestones. But what most authors don’t seem to have a handle on, is how to market their work. Writing is the easy part, and getting published isn’t terribly hard either… given that the writer finds a publisher who recognizes marketable quality in their writing.

But let’s face it, most authors are going to be ignored by the huge publishing houses that can afford to assign a personal publicist for each author. Independent publishing and small presses are finding it harder and harder to earn their keep in the highly competitive market of literary entertainment. Writing and publishing is the easy part, but how do you compel people to buy your book?

I earned a degree in commercial art with a strong emphasis in business and marketing. But the market changes on a daily basis, and the virtual world is transforming the industry by leaps and bounds. What are some ways you can get your book into the hands of readers?

First and foremost, once you’re published, don’t expect your book to sell itself, and don’t expect your small press to do everything for you. They simply can’t. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably like me, eager to make your writing career a success, and willing to do your part to make sure you see more than a few digits on your bottom line.

Here are 10 marketing ideas that may help.

1.      If no one knows who you are, no one will buy your book. Get out there! The world has gone to social media so that’s where you need to be too. So get off your rump and start opening as many social media profiles as possible. Luckily, many of them have applications that link together so you spend less time updating and more time writing. Example: You can link your Facebook fan page to your Twitter account so it automatically reposts everything from your fan page to your Twitter account. There are also software applications available that link multiple social media accounts in much the same way, including rss feeds from your blog to auto post to other sites like Goodreads and Amazon Author Central etc. You’ve got to get your updates to your readers, wherever they are online. Since everyone favors different sites, it’s important to use as many as possible.

2.      Once you get your social networking accounts set up, what do you do with them and how can you make them effective marketing tools without coming off as ‘spammy’? It’s as simple as this: engage your followers. Try to avoid plugging your book in every post you publish. People will get bored with it and unfollow your page when it becomes redundant. Give them something interesting to “like”. Offer content that caters to their interests and you’ll keep them coming back to see what’s new.

3.      That being said, how to you get fans and followers? The first thing you can do is invite friends and family to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your page. That will give you a start, but you’ll run out of new likes really fast if you’re not actively seeking to grow your network. First off, DON’T SPAM. It’s bad cyber karma, and people will block you if do it. Instead, as mentioned above, offer something to people that compels them to follow. Some examples: free giveaways for the first fan to send 10 new likes to your page…. And let’s not forget the golden rule! Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Follow other people’s pages. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to follow you back because you followed them first. Remember, just because they may not support you directly, doesn’t mean their likes don’t matter. On the internet, Viral exposure is important. The more feeds and lists your content appears on, the more new faces you will be exposed to through extended networks.

4.       Blogging. Keeping a blog is a great way to scratch the backs of others while growing your own exposure. Remember, if you seek to help others first, it always come back around to work in your favor too. By offering guest posts or guest features on your blog, you are not only keeping your blog interesting for your current followers, but you’re increasing potential traffic because whoever you feature might promote the feature, sending new readers to your blog. They might take the time to browse your site while they’re there, especially if you update your blog regularly with new content. A catchy banner ad for your book or product at the top of your blog is a great way to increase awareness without being pushy. Viewers who are visiting for your guest post, will also see whatever else you have posted in the blog. So make your banners attractive yet subtle enough to not seem like a shameless self-promotion campaign.

5.      Ad campaigns. I know, I know. Your budget sucks. Mine too. But some times ad campaigns are worth the investment, some are not. Most social networks have their own banner ad campaigns available where you can set your budget and ‘per click’ price. I’ve run ads on Facebook, Goodreads, Google Adwords, eBay and a few others. I saw the best results when I stuck to a strict target market. The more you can narrow your target market down, the more effective your advertising campaign will be. So if you’ve only got $25 to spend, you’ve got to make sure the right people are clicking your ads. By assuming that your Paranormal Fantasy novel would get the best exposure by selecting all age groups in all regions, you’re making an expensive mistake. Try limiting it to women readers, age appropriate demographics, within regions where English is the dominant language, and you’ll reduce the risk of some 12 yr old boy who likes action figures and puppies from clicking on your steamy romance and running up your bill.

6.      Book Trailers. Take it from the movie industry, movie trailers sell movie tickets! Book trailers sell books! Human beings are the most responsive when you can appeal to their senses. A good book trailer stimulates visual and audible response whereas reading and banner ads are only visual. More information and emotion can be conveyed in a 1 or 2 minute trailer than by reading a synopsis alone. It’s less work for the reader, and more compelling. If you don’t have a book trailer, you’re missing out on a vital marketing opportunity to increase book sales.

Note from Bryce: You can check out Desiree’s book trailers here and here.

7.      Blog tours. A blog tour is a virtual tour designed to do one thing: increase exposure. Each blog you visit has its own loyal followers that are potential customers. Again, by offering content to other blog that interest readers, you’re engaging readers. Most importantly, offer something that will benefit your blog host whether is be a helpful guest post on a topic that benefits their readers, or offering a giveaway in exchange for a feature on your new book. People love free stuff, and bloggers love interesting content, so why not help each other out?

8.      Book reviews. Never underestimate the power of reviews. They sell books to other readers who may be hard to impress, and nothing sells product better than customer testimonials. If you’re having trouble getting your readers to post reviews, offer them an incentive: free review copies of your book, for example, or sneak peak excerpt from the next installment in a series etc. You’ll need as many reviews as possible posted to Amazon, Goodreads and other sites catering to books. Also, reviews on blogs may compel new readers to buy your book as well.

9.       Pass-along cards. Business cards, flyers or post cards. Always have them on your person. You never know who you’re going to meet when you’re out and about. Those word-of-mouth one-on-one personal contacts are golden opportunities to grow your following. It could be as simple as striking up a conversation with the clerk at the grocery store. Build relationships with the people in your community. It’s always best first to let the people you meet talk about themselves first, be genuinely interested in what they have to say so they will feel that you’ve put value on their experiences, then tell them it was wonderful meeting them and give them a pass along card which promotes your book/social page/website with a polite smile. Chances are, they will take the time to visit your site and check out your content because you took the time to visit with them. I’ve sold books with this method, and they will in turn, tell their friends about you.

10.  Free Samples. You’ve seen them, the little sample tables at grocery stores that give away free food samples to get you hooked on their product. Free samples sell products, it’s proven, and it sells books too. Offer free review copies to readers and bloggers who will publish reviews online. Their incentive to read your book is because it was free, then they will tell their readers and friends about how much they liked your book, which will result in sales. You can also post free excerpt on blogs or forums to get people interested in the story. People are more likely to buy the book if they can sample it first. Free book giveaway promotions also work. Have you ever been to Amazon to download free ebooks from the free kindle page? Those downloads not only raise your Amazon ranks, they result in reviews and getting your book into circulation, which results in more sales. So don’t be afraid to give it away, especially if you have a series. Try giving book #2 away for free. People who download it will have to purchase book #1 to get up to speed on book #2. Or giveaway book #1 to get people hooked on the series. If they liked it, they will come back and buy the other installments.

 

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To learn more about Desiree & her work:

Author website: www.finkartstudio.com

Author facebook fanpage: www.facebook.com/finkartstudio

Author G+: https://plus.google.com/116389190274070035894

Author twitter: https://twitter.com/finkart

Your Characters Aren’t You

by Randy Ingermanson

Note: This article is reprinted with Randy’s permission.

At least twice a month, I get a letter that runs roughly like this:

"Hi Randy:

I’m writing a novel about something horrible that happened in my life. Nobody would ever believe what those dirty rotten scoundrels did to me, so I’m making it a novel. It’s gonna be great! The only question I have is what legal problems I’ll face when they read my book. Can I get sued, even if it’s all the exact truth? Do I have to change their names? I want them to suffer!

Sincerely, Joe Wannawriteanovel"

Before you read on, think about that for a minute. How would you answer Joe? Can he get sued for telling the truth?

I usually begin my answer to this kind of e-mail by pointing out that I’m not a lawyer, and therefore nothing I say can be construed as legal advice. Then I say that, so far as I understand it, telling the truth is not libel, but it can be invasion of privacy. So even if a novel tells the absolute truth, the author might still be sued for making private details public.

I usually advise Joe to make a few eeny weeny changes: Change the names of the characters. Change their genders. Change their personal descriptions. Change their ethnic heritages. Change their personalities. Change the facts of the story so that nobody could possibly recognize the circumstances and guess that the people involved are friends or family of Joe. Change everything.

In short, write fiction.

In my view, the legal issues aren’t really the biggest problem with writing a novel based on real people. The real problem is that real situations involving real people make really boring fiction.

In fiction, nothing is written in stone. If you need to edit a Gertrude into a Gary, then you must have the freedom to make that change. If you need to merge five fuzzy characters into two memorable ones, then you must feel free to merge. If your lead character needs a horrible seventh-grade experience involving a tarantula, a blindfold, and an icepick, then you have to be able to conjure up that memory.

You can’t afford to hamstring your fiction with an inconvenient set of facts. If you base your novel on something that really happened, then every time you need to tweak your plot or characters, you’ll hear a voice in the back of your head saying, "But it didn’t happen that way."

Let’s be honest. Fiction is about telling lies. Big, fat, hairy, prevaricating lies. If you want to write about the truth, or approximately the truth, or even something remotely approaching the truth, then the career you’re looking for is called "Journalism." It’s a fine career choice, but it isn’t fiction.

Which leads me to another common question I hear. "Is it OK if I write a character that’s really just me?"

That depends on what you mean by the word "OK." I doubt very much that you can sue yourself for libel or invasion of privacy if you write a character that is just you. (Again, I’m not a lawyer, so if you sue yourself and somehow win, then don’t blame me.)

I see several problems with writing a character that is just you:

  • You may not be quite as interesting as your lead character needs to be.
  • If you buff up your character to be "you plus a little extra," you may wind up looking egotistical.
  • If you add in some traumatic backstory that never happened, your friends and family might get upset. * What will you do for an encore?

Let’s unpack each of these in turn.

Fiction is about characters in conflict. The characters are often a bit larger than life — in some cases, a LOT larger than life. Let’s face it. Although we writers are a talented bunch, most all of us aren’t quite as talented as the characters we create. We’d like to be, but we aren’t. We can’t afford to limit our characters to be no better than we are.

Suppose you write a lead character just like you in every way. Then, halfway through the novel, you realize that he needs to be quite a bit better than you are in some way. Maybe smarter. Maybe faster. Maybe cooler. Whatever. So you tweak him and finish the story and get it published. Now all your friends and family read the story and they see right away that your lead character is intended to be you. But they also see that he’s smarter than you are, or faster, or cooler. Naturally, they’re going to assume that you think you’re smarter, faster, or cooler than you actually are. That makes you look like an egomaniac. Is that what you want?

Suppose you write a lead character just like you in every way. Halfway through the novel, you need to explain why your character is afraid of electricity. You decide to make it plausible by adding in some backstory about being shocked with a cattle prod by an unstable mother. Now you’ve got problems, because it’s going to be "obvious" to everyone that your mother must have tortured you as a kid. If it’s not true, your novel could be construed as libel. If it’s true, your story could be considered invasion of privacy. Either way, your mother may just take you off her Christmas list.

Typically, publishers are interested in doing more than just one book with you. They invest quite a bit of money in developing an author, and it make take a few books to earn back that investment. Suppose you write a great novel in which your lead character is you. That’s wonderful, but who’ll play the starring role in your next book? You might be able to do a sequel that again features you as the lead. But can you keep that up forever? If not, then why get started down that road in the first place?

It’s perfectly OK to inject a bit of yourself in your characters. In fact, I recommend it for every character, even your villains. Give each of your characters some little snippet of yourself, whether it’s your tight-trigger temper or your obsession with stamps from Zimbabwe or your amazing skill at juggling buffalo chips.

You have plenty of interesting quirks and character traits to go around for every character you ever write. Your characters are like your children, and each of them should get some bit of your DNA.

My rule of thumb is that none of my characters should "inherit" more than about a third of their traits from me. I have no idea how much inheritance is too much, but I prefer to be cautious, so I try not to go over a third.

I’ve written several major characters who were physicists. Another was a software engineer, another an archaeologist, another a novelist. All of them shared a major interest with me. But I never thought of any of them as "me plus a little extra," because I’ve always started with somebody who was fundamentally different from me and then added chunks of myself. I think of my characters as "somebody I’d like to hang out with, because we have a major shared interest."

Now here are some questions you might want to consider for the novel you’re working on right now:

  • How much does your lead character resemble you? Will your readers wonder if that character is secretly you? Is it possible that this character is more nearly your clone than your child? Does your character have some trait that makes it clear that he or she can’t possibly be you?
  • How much of your DNA does your villain inherit? Is there nothing in your villain that you can relate to? Is it possible that you might be better able to empathize with your villain by giving him or her some valued trait of yours?

Fiction is a pack of lies that masquerades as truth. Don’t risk spoiling your carefully crafted lies with too much truth — or with too little.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 17,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Practical Pointers on Plot Pacing

by Randy Ingermanson

Note: this is a follow up from yesterday’s article, and it originally appeared in Randy’s eZine. It is reprinted here with permission.

Last month we talked about the theory of pacing. About how when you have a fast-action scene, you spend a lot more words, showing every detail of the action. And when you have a dull scene, you blip through in just a few words.

This month, we’ll try to make that practical by looking at an example.

Since I have a choice in showing either an exciting example or a dull one, I’m going to show an exciting one from THE KEY TO REBECCA, by Ken Follett.

We’ll find something that may seem surprising. Even in a very fast scene, there are places where the pace slows way down. Here’s the setting:

It’s 1942 Egypt, and Erwin Rommel is closing in on Cairo. Our hero is William Vandam of British Intelligence, hunting down a spy who is Rommel’s prime source of information. If Vandam fails, then Cairo will fall, and with it all of Egypt.

In this scene, the spy, Wolff, has kidnapped Vandam’s son Billy and girlfriend Elene, but Vandam has pursued them. After Elene purposely wrecks the car, Wolff gets out to fight Vandam. We watch the scene from Elene’s point of view.

Paragraph 1: Vandam jumped forward again. This time Wolff dodged back. Vandam kicked out, but Wolff was out of range. Wolff jabbed with the knife. Elene saw it rip through Vandam’s trousers and draw blood. Wolff stabbed again, but Vandam had stepped away. A dark stain appeared on his trouser leg.

Randy sez: In this single paragraph, the pace is as fast as a knife fight can be. We see six actions and reactions by the two men.

Paragraph 2: Elene looked at Billy. The boy lay limply on the floor of the car, his eyes closed. Elene clambered over into the back and lifted him onto the seat. She could not tell whether he was dead or alive. She touched his face. He did not stir. "Billy," she said. "Oh, Billy."

Randy sez: In this paragraph, the pace slows down sharply. Why? What is Follett is doing here?

The answer is that Follett is giving the reader a chance to rest. You can only show fast action for a short time before the reader begins numbing. In this one-paragraph lull, Follett gives you a chance to recover. A little.

Paragraph 3: She looked outside again. Vandam was down on one knee. His left arm hung limply from a shoulder covered with blood. He held his right arm out in a defensive gesture. Wolff approached him.

Randy sez: The pace is still slow here, but the tension is ramping up hard. Wolff and Vandam are positioning themselves for the next series of moves. Vandam looks ready to collapse. It’s not a fair fight. The odds are heavily against our hero.

Paragraph 4: Elene jumped out of the car. She still had the broken-off gear stick in her hand. She saw Wolff bring back his arm, ready to slash at Vandam once more. She rushed up behind Wolff, stumbling in the sand. Wolff struck at Vandam. Vandam jerked sideways, dodging the blow. Elene raised the gear stick high in the air and brought it down with all her might on the back of Wolff’s head. He seemed to stand still for a moment.

Randy sez: The pace turns electric again, with every detail now shown, frame by frame. There are six actions here in this single paragraph, each one an emotional hit point for the reader. Now watch Follett bring the pace smoothly down to normal speed again in a series of short paragraphs:

Paragraph 5: Elene said: "Oh, God."

Paragraph 6: Then she hit him again.

Paragraph 7: She hit him a third time.

Paragraph 8: He fell down.

Paragraph 9: She hit him again.

Paragraph 10: Then she dropped the gear stick and knelt beside Vandam.

Paragraph 11: "Well done," he said weakly.

Overall, the pace of the scene is very high, but it’s not constant. Follett varies the pace, faster, slower, faster, slower.

Like a violinist using vibrato to constantly vary the pitch, Follett makes the entire passage read better by constantly varying the pace.

This is a very important principle for your fastest action scenes: Vary the pace. The fast parts will feel faster by contrast with the slow parts. And in the slow parts, build tension by showing the preparations for more action in exquisite detail.

Your reader will love you for it.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Pacing Your Novel

Note: This article is reprinted with permission.

by Randy Ingermanson

When I sold my first novel, one of the comments I got back from the editorial team was this: "The pace for this novel was perfect — never too fast nor too slow."

I was surprised, because I’d never thought much about pace. Certain things come easy to every author, and other things come hard. Pace comes easy to me.

What is pace?

It’s the amount of time you spend on each part of the story.

The Goldilocks Principle applies to pace — it should be neither too fast nor too slow, but just right.

There isn’t any tidy little rule you can memorize to define what the perfect pace is for a story. A general rule is to vary the pace to suit the tension in the scene.

So most often, you’ll want to zip through the boring parts of the story and take more time on the exciting parts.

That seems very strange, doesn’t it? If you’re showing a high-speed car chase, surely you’d want to make it read fast, wouldn’t you? Which means using fewer words, doesn’t it?

Yes and no.

Yes, you want it to read fast. But no, you don’t want to spend fewer words on it, you want more.

There’s really no paradox here. Ever seen a football game in which one of the players makes a huge play, dodging first one defender, then another, all the way down the field, finally dancing into the end zone for a touchdown? What happens next?

You can bet your shirt that the networks are going to show the whole thing AGAIN, this time in slow motion, dragging out every twist, turn, head-fake, missed tackle, fancy step, jump, roll, block, clip, and lost helmet, all the way down the field.

Showing it in slow-motion takes a lot longer, but it doesn’t cut the pace. It INCREASES the pace.

Why?

Because when the play ran at normal speed, you missed most of the action. You saw a guy running and you saw guys missing him. It all went by in a blur so fast that you couldn’t take it all in.

When they ran it in super slo-mo, you saw every little move. You saw your man do an inside-outside-inside fake. You saw the defender respond to each fake in turn, finally overcommitting in the wrong direction.

Then your man cut to his right and sped on to the next defender, faking left, then right. You saw the defender freeze, then set himself low for a tackle. Then your man leaped right over the defender.

And on down the field. When your man reached the sidelines, you saw him threading a needle between his blocker and that thin chalk line. You saw every block, every weave. You saw the last desperate flying tackler miss your man’s heels by an inch.

As he entered the end-zone, you saw his gait change to a high-stepping strut, saw him raise the ball in triumph. And then the normal pace resumed.

It took ten times as long to see it that way, but this time, YOU SAW IT ALL. You saw every action, every reaction, in beautiful, sharply cut detail. That’s what you came to see. With that one play, you got your nickel’s worth for the game.

In your novel, the moral equivalent of super-slo-mo involves spending far more words than you normally would, but using much shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.

You alternate rapidly between what your point-of-view character is doing and what his opposition is doing.

If your paragraphs are normally three sentences apiece, they might drop down to two sentences or one.

If your sentences are normally ten words apiece, they might fall to five words. Or three.

Or one.

You can’t keep that up very long, of course. That would be crazy. In the same way, it would be crazy to watch an entire football game in slow motion. You want to ramp up the pace only for the high-tension scenes, where the stakes are high.

Slowing down the pace works the opposite way. Longer sentences. Longer paragraphs. Fewer actions and reactions. More interior monologue, longer dialogue.

Why does this work? It’s really very simple. The reader reads fiction hoping to have a Powerful Emotional Experience.

Inside a scene, you provide this by showing actions and reactions between your point-of-view character and the other characters. Every time you show your POV character reacting to the other characters, you have a chance to provide an emotional hit point to your reader.

If you have short actions and short reactions (using short sentences and paragraphs), then you score emotional points with your reader faster. If you lengthen out the actions and reactions, then you score fewer emotional points.

Naturally, it only makes sense to speed up the pace when the tension is high. If you try this when the tension is low, the story is going to drag. (Imagine showing the team’s huddle in slow-motion.)

There are an infinite variety of paces you can use as you work through each scene. You speed it up and slow it down, possibly several times in the scene.

How do you know when you’ve got it right?

That’s easy. You’ve got it right when it feels right. Fiction is about creating a Powerful Emotional Experience in your reader. Tweak the pace until you’re doing that, and your reader will feel like Goldilocks.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Vanity Fair?

note: This is a guest post by Katie Lord Brown.

The high profile success stories of blog to book writers the Wife in the North and Petite Anglaise may have encouraged writers to believe blogs are a good way to get your work noticed, but is self-publishing your blog little better than vanity publishing?  The internet has been called the biggest slushpile in history.  Without the expertise of agents and editors to filter the good from the bad (and the downright ugly), who is the final judge of quality? Websites like Harper Collins’ innovative Authonomy give new writers the chance to reach potential readers – only the most popular submissions will be published.  However, print on demand services like Xlibris, Lulu and Blurb now mean that writers of blogs and traditional manuscripts can sidestep the route of agent/publisher and go it alone entirely.

The necessarily glacial pace of publishing is a familiar writer’s lament – compared to months languishing on slushpiles, the appeal of POD is obvious, particularly to anyone whose book has a limited market.  There is something almost magical about how fast it is to download the software, and upload your manuscript into a recognizable book format within minutes.  Self-publishing has a long history – at various points in their careers writers of the calibre of Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King have self published.  It’s now easier than ever for any writer willing to take on their own marketing and distribution to produce their own books.

Personally, I differentiate my blog which started for fun from my ‘real’ work writing novels.  With that I have chosen the traditional agent/publisher route, and never considered self-publishing, (I’d rather write and leave the business to the professionals). Editing a year’s blog posts into book format has been an interesting insight into POD though.  Blogs are usually stream-of-consciousness – it’s funny how it feels every word matters more when it is going into book format, and designing the cover for ‘What Kate Did Next’ has taken equally as much thought as the editing.  WKDN is a blog for writers with daily prompts – like most small blogs it has grown by word of mouth, reaching a hundred countries and tens of thousands of readers in under a year.  Enough of the 150+ daily subscribers asked for it to be published in book format that I’ve produced a writer’s workbook based on the most popular posts for charity, (all profits will go to War Child). Since deciding to do this, I’ve been approached by an old (computer-phobic) writer friend to edit and publish her Beirut diaries from the 1960’s.  With small projects like this the advantages of POD are obvious.  Sales success is usually measured in the hundreds let alone the thousands.  But when it is this easy for writers to get their work straight to their audience through ‘one-click’ POD books and e-books what does the future hold?

‘What Kate Did Next’ is available from Blurb

Further details through a link at www.katelordbrown.com

This article first appeared in The Bookseller 2009

Coauthoring Without Murder

by Randy Ingermanson

reposted with permission

"We’re Best Friends Forever," she said, tilting her head toward the woman sitting beside her at the dinner table. "And we’re writing a novel together. Isn’t that COOL?"

I nodded noncommitally. "Sounds . . . great." We were eating supper at a writing conference and I was hosting a table and trying to get to know the other writers at my table. But anytime I hear that two friends are coauthoring, I get nervous, because writing a novel together can be murder on your friendship.

"We heard you coauthored a couple of novels with your best friend," one of the BFFs said. "And those worked out great, right?"

I nodded. Yes, I wrote two novels with my best buddy, John Olson. Yes, we sold the novels, won several awards, and remained best buddies. Yes, it worked out extremely well. Yes, we would do it again.

But the fact is that writing a novel with a friend doesn’t always work out great. In fact, it rarely works out at all.

Coauthoring is serious business, and there are a lot of ways to go wrong. John and I were too ignorant to know better, or maybe we wouldn’t have tried it. But we did and it worked.

The main reason — probably the ONLY reason — you should ever coauthor a novel with anyone is that you each bring some skill to the table that the other person doesn’t have.

With fiction, the most common reason two people coauthor a novel is that one of them is an expert on the subject of the novel, while the other is an expert at writing fiction.

The reason this works so well is that fiction needs both good content and good craft in order to work. Normally, an author brings both the content and the craft, but it makes perfect sense to team up one person who has the content and another person who has the craft.

For example, the LEFT BEHIND series, which sold tens of millions of books, teamed up Tim LaHaye (famous in certain circles for his interpretation of biblical prophecy) with Jerry Jenkins (a talented novelist). Tim brought the content; Jerry brought the craft. Together, they made an enormously successful team.

So whenever I meet BFFs who are working together on a novel, the first question I ask is, "What does each of you bring to the project that the other doesn’t?"

A lot of times, this draws a very long, blank look, and the words, "Well . . . we’re FRIENDS."

My next question is, "How do you split up the writing?"

If this also gets a blank look, then I know this partnership is in trouble. You have to split up the writing somehow. You have to. You can’t sit there at the keyboard all cuddly and both type at once. (John and I NEVER tried this, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work.)

I’ve often thought about what went right with John and me. There were several reasons that we made a good team.

First, we have complementary organizational skills. John is a visionary guy who is great at setting strategic goals. I am good at taking a vision and translating that into a set of tactical goals. So our first novel, OXYGEN, was John’s idea (although I contributed a lot of ideas). I made the battle plans (and John played a key role in revising those plans).

Second, we have different areas of expertise. John is a biochemist. I’m a physicist. Our novel, about the first human mission to Mars, required a ton of research. John handled the life-science aspects. I took on the physical-science stuff.

Third, we have different skills as fiction designers. John is exceptional at developing plot and he LOVES writing synopses. I find character development easy and I LOVE writing character sketches. So we each did what we liked best in developing the story and writing the proposal.

Fourth, we have complementary emphases in our writing. John loves to "write from the shadows" — giving each scene an air of mystery and intrigue. I like shining a bright light on things, so that the reader always knows exactly what the viewpoint character knows.

So when John edited my scenes, he added some mystery and shadows. When I edited his scenes, I clarified things that might have confused the reader. Somehow, it all melded together into a unique style that was neither mine nor John’s. Our editors were completely unable to guess which of us wrote which parts.

Now here is where things could have gone badly wrong. If we’d asked anyone for advice, they’d have told us not to both be the writer. It’s very hard to mix two people’s styles into something that works.

But we didn’t ask for advice because we didn’t know there might be a problem. So both of us wrote first draft material and both of us edited. Our biggest problem was scheduling things so that we were always up to speed on what the other guy had written.

Early on, we thought that if we each wrote a scene at the same time, then we could work twice as fast. But then we discovered that the scenes simply didn’t work, because the tone of one scene’s ending determines the tone of the scene that follows. And you don’t know exactly how a scene is going to play out until you write it.

So eventually, we hit on a plan where we’d map out the scenes for a week in advance. It would go like this: Randy will write a scene Monday morning and send it to John. John will edit that Monday night, then write the next scene, and send them both to Randy. On Tuesday morning, Randy accepts or rejects John’s changes, then edits John’s scene, then writes the next scene, and sends it all to John.

Repeat until the end of the book. It’s a little complicated, but it worked without anybody losing an eye.

There was another rule we had. Each of us "owned" certain characters and we got to write the first draft of any scenes in which our character was the point-of-view character. John "owned" the female biochemist astronaut named Valkerie. I "owned" the male physicist astronaut Bob.

There was a third character named Nate who had a fair number of viewpoint scenes. Nate was a very rude and belligerent guy, and it turned out that I’m ruder and more belligerent than John, so I wound up writing Nate’s scenes. This evened the work out, because John’s character Valkerie had more scenes than my character Bob.

If you are going to work with another author, then one key requirement is that you both have to leave your ego at the door. This is hard. Writers have big egos (otherwise, they’d never do something as egotistical as believe that they might be able to write something that many thousands of people might actually want to read.)

I think what made things work for John and me was that we each had a very healthy respect for the other guy’s talents. We had been friends for a few years, and each of us knew what the other was capable of doing. I think each of us felt lucky to be working with the other guy.

There is a very bad reason that people sometimes give for coauthoring: "It cuts the work in half to have two people working on it."

No. It cuts the MONEY in half. But there is always some inefficiency in getting two people working together. I suspect that in most cases there is a LOT of inefficiency.

Don’t kid yourself on this. It may take more time to coauthor a novel than to write it alone. I used to joke that "John wrote 80% of our book . . . and I wrote the other 80%."

But I suspect that each of us actually put in about 120% of the normal effort for a book. This would be foolish unless the end result is better than either author could have done alone. In our case, I think we did get a better result as a team than either of us could have done solo.

When John and I first pitched the idea for our book to an editor, one question he asked was what we’d do if we disagreed. We hadn’t thought about that, but the answer seemed obvious to me. The book was John’s idea. So if we couldn’t agree, then he had the deciding vote. For the same reason, his name would go first on the cover. And if we decided to break up the team, then John would own full rights to the book.

Our editor thought that made sense. It would have been wise to spell that out in writing, along with a few other details. Maybe we should have. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to write a contract between coauthors, but we never did.

Should you write your novel with a coauthor? Before you do, here are some questions you MUST have answers to:

  • Why can this NOT be a solo project?
  • How are you going to split the work?
  • How are you going to split the money?
  • When you disagree, who gets to decide?
  • Whose name will go first on the cover, and why?

You’ll notice that none of those questions has anything to do with whether you’re best friends with your coauthor. Friendship is a fine, fine thing, but you need a good sound business reason before you enter a business relationship with anyone.

I never heard what happened to the two BFFs who were writing a novel together. Maybe they finished it. Most likely they didn’t. I hope they’re still friends.

People ask me once in a while if John and I are going to write another novel together. The answer is always a good, firm, "Maybe." We’d like to. Working together was great fun, and I learned a lot about writing from John. I hope that he may have learned a trick or two from me.

But it has to be the right book, at the right time, for the right reason. When that happens, we’ll do it. If it doesn’t, we won’t. I value John’s friendship more than I value any book we might write together.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com

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Writing Dialogue – Part 5

Here’s the fifth part in Randy Ingermanson’s series on dialog:

If you like this info, check out his novel writing materials.

In the last four issues of this e=zine, I talked about
why dialogue is not like “real conversation”, about
what makes good dialogue, about the importance of using
dialogue tags, and about why Point of View is essential
to great dialogue. I made the point repeatedly that
dialogue is war.Let’s remember that there are hot wars and there are
cold wars. You don’t need bombs and bazookas to have a
war. Sometimes war is a subtle thing, with spies and
tea-time diplomacy and softly muted threats on the Red
Line to Moscow. Continue reading “Writing Dialogue – Part 5”

Writing Dialogue – Part 4

Here’s the fourth part in Randy Ingermanson’s series on dialog:

If you like this info, check out his novel writing materials.

In the last three issues, I talked about why dialogue
is not like “real conversation”, about what makes good
dialogue, and about the importance of using dialogue
tags. In all three cases, it comes down to showing
conflict, not telling it. Dialogue is war and you need
to Continue reading “Writing Dialogue – Part 4”

Writing Dialogue – Part 3

Here’s the third part in Randy Ingermanson’s series on dialog:

If you like this info, check out his novel writing materials.

In the last two issues, I talked about why dialogue is
not like “real conversation” and about what makes good
dialogue. In both cases, it boils down to conflict.
“Real conversation” either lacks conflict or it lacks
the right kind of conflict. Good dialogue has
conflict — lots of it — and the Continue reading “Writing Dialogue – Part 3”

Writing Dialogue – Part 2

Here’s the second part of Dialog and the Art of War by Randy Ingermanson. If you like what he’s said, you should check out his other writing materials.

Dialogue and the Art of War–Part 2

Dialogue, as I said last month, is war. It’s not fought
with guns and tanks. It’s fought with words. But it’s
all about the same thing. Conflict. If you don’t have Continue reading “Writing Dialogue – Part 2”

Writing Dialogue

I read Randy Ingermanson’s monthly ezine almost religiously. He’s recently printed a fantastic series of articles on writing dialogue, which I’m going to reprint here in the hopes that it will find and help even more writers. This is stuff I’m working hard to use in my writing, and I believe it makes for much more readable fiction.

If you like this, then you should check out his other writing materials.

Here’s Part I

Dialogue and the Art of War

If you write fiction, then you have probably gone
through a stage where you Continue reading “Writing Dialogue”