Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marketing Your Book

Marketing My Book

It Has To Be Unique

Or does it?

I like going to the megastore. There are many varied aisles for me to wander while my sensible wife is usually only diverted from her list by Hallmark. Someone she knows always needs a card.

To keep me occupied, she sent me alone to pick up my anti-dandruff, anti-itch, anti-tick and flea shampoo.
Boy, that stuff is expensive. But she would have to be proud of me this time. On the shelf slam up against my normal shampoo was a plastic bottle the same size, shape, and color. Their labels, font, size, and shape were identical. Here's the kicker. The new stuff, I think its name is Try It Now, or maybe Compare To, was two dollars cheaper. Two dollars difference per bottle.

Of course, I took the cheap one.

Husbands out there may be squirming, sensing what's coming, and they're right. First of all, my wife had a five dollar coupon for my regular shampoo. Five dollars off. We won't talk about the three dollars floating away through the ether.

There might also be a small downside to the less costly stuff. Anyone who has cleaned out a plugged drain would recognize the fragrance when applied to wet hair. However, yes there is a however, my scalp looks clean and shiny in the spots where hair has fallen out.

What does this have to do with marketing a book?

Well, see, I was going for a metaphor. If all we ever plan on publishing is a single book, we can put our effort into a splashy package looking like a knockoff of a bestseller. If a reader can be duped into buying our one book, we've done our job when it's in her hands.

Here comes that However again, when we want to engage readers and have them care about our characters - when we want them to be eager to see the plot resolved - when we want to be writers, then we must package the real deal.

Joe C. told me a story of his father raising an orphan raccoon on the farm. The old man liked to display the animal to visitors by giving the masked critter a piece of bread. The 'coon would head to the horse trough to wash the bread before eating it.
Of course, the bread dissolved leaving the raccoon jumping up and down in a chittering fit of rage.

It worked every time to the delight of Joe's dad.

Until the day whereupon watching the bread disappear, the animal, without a sound, ran back and bit the old man.

We need to give our books substance or face the teeth of reviews. That's first and foremost. Then we can discuss all the marketing methods. The story is the thing. Selling another one depends on it.

What do you think is the most important to your career, the cover or the tale? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Critique Groups

We Will Critique Your Story.

Who Told You That You Could Write?

Do we really need to hear that?
Well, no. That's a little harsh and that's not what critique groups do. (At least for others. I've watched members bite their tongues bloody while I read.)

Here's What We Need.

More than a gathering, we need an alliance with writers near our skill level so our work doesn't bore them silly. Preferably we can find those with talents that exceed ours. The benefits of listening to their suggestions can have an immediate effect on our stories for the better.

But, of course, that's all that a correct critique gives us - suggestions. We can take 'em or leave 'em.
I'm lucky to be included with talented authors who write in the action/adventure and autobiographical genres. They have different slants on plots, conflicts, and tension. Looking through their eyes always adds depth and reasoning to my scenes.

And I appreciate them. I can use all the help they give me writing in my genre of speculative fiction, which should more properly be in the groping, disjointed, and flat character genre.

Here's What They Give Us.

I love the size of our circle. It seems just right to have time for everyone to give his or her reading and receive an assessment. We will have submitted the pages we want critiqued prior to the meeting, but reading aloud seems to show up hidden errors.
Then, in a caring manner, we go around the table with each person giving an honest opinion as to what worked very well, or what should be changed.

Usually, when I read, they slide breath mints across the table. Then they leave it to the kindest one to burn my pages over a scented candle while inevitably someone will bring up the reason I should read about the Admiral Graf Spee and emulate Captain Hans Langsdorff.

I love those crazy guys.

How does your critique group work for you?
Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Creating Characters

Cast of Characters


Woo boy, have we picked a mountain to flatten with the subject of creating characters. Books - probably hundreds of books - have been written on this theme. Most of them move along the same lines and come as a surprise to a beginning writer.

We wanted our hero to stand out, be special, so we started by describing him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and had bulging biceps. We described his square jaw and steely eyes. We tried to go for his invincible yet vulnerable appeal. Get the picture? He was a cookie-cutter caricature character. (I couldn't resist that line.)

In an excellent blog post by Brianna da Silva, she lists 9 ways to connect with a character and none relate to icy blue eyes. Item 3 is Make The Character Likeable. She follows with some suggestions how to do that and, "... this is arguably the most important method for character identification." Read her post here.


We also want to make sure our readers understand who's bad and evil. Think Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians. That's usually the way we start out, writing villains with no social redeeming traits. As an antagonist, Cruella has some good things going. She's a strong adversary and that's what our hero needs. Will readers will be interested in the protagonist that only has to overcome a time-elapsed parking meter? A good antagonist will be as strong or stronger than the hero and have reasons for being the way they are.

On the nose advice for creating antagonists is on a StudioBinder Blog that looks at Batman's Joker. Drop in and see what they say.
Also, check out the Better Novel Project and see what they say about a villain.


Don't think the scene can be a character? Who's Chuck Noland's (Tom Hanks) antagonist in Cast Away? How about the weather? A storm caused his plane to crash isolating him on the island and the breakers kept him from sailing away. When he exploited a weakness in his adversary (the wind changed direction) he was able to overcome the rolling waves with the help of an improvised sail.

When Moana, Maui, and the crazy chicken are on the raft, the other character is the ocean. This time, it's friendly to the heroine.

Novels are people against people or people against nature or machinery. This post hasn't begun to scratch the surface of characterization. We haven't even mentioned the many subordinate roles for characters in your story.

Learn about them. Create them. It's fun.
And when you do, don't be surprised if he or she takes off in a direction that surprises you.

Tell us about your characters. Leave a comment.
The blog published on Wednesdays.
Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Writing Family Genealogy


The Plot ... Spreads?

It's a tenet of writing fiction that our readers must connect and identify with our protagonist. Without a strong interest in what's happening to the hero, we have a ho-hum story at best. Most likely the book found it's way into the recycle bin.

Family genealogists don't have that problem. They love every character they can uncover.

I watched Laurie Voss Barthlow start on Ancestry with her aunts, uncles, cousins, and move on to grandparents, and found a mystery at the great-grandparent level. Family lore had this ancestor as a loner, a stowaway, and finally a farmer. Laurie sifted the story like a prospector painstakingly swirling his pan hoping for a few small grains of gold.

She did it. She uncovered facts that the family never knew and introduced them to a man in which they can have pride.

Along the way, she met Gerri Voss Ward and Ruth Cooper, talented and dedicated pruners of the family tree.

From my perspective, all three ladies would be considered professional genealogists if they delved in anyone's background and had access to the network of resources available to the card-carrying members. Anyone who knows what a second cousin once removed is has got a vibe going on.

Writing a family tree is more than names and dates. Gerri, Ruth, and Laurie bring life, and where possible, faces to forebears: where they lived, what they did, how the relationship is made, where the branches connect to the trunk.

It's a never-ending job. People are very good at making people, and the tree grows. Sooner or later one of them will find proof that my brother is really an alien deserted here by a race from a planet playing a cruel joke on Earth.

Is there someone that loves your family enough to keep track of all of you? Leave a comment.

Blog is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.