I’ve been seeing a lot of success on fiverr over the past couple of weeks. Aside from graphic design work, I’ve started giving feedback/editing other writers’ work. I was just punching out my feedback for one of my clients when it dawned on me that I could go into very heavy detail on “where I’m coming from” when I give suggestions and input.
So here goes.
I like to consider myself unconventional as a writer (and as a person in general.) It’s probably all of the philosophy books I spent ten years reading, but I think having an open mind is critical both to success as an artist and to being a happy person. As such, I will spend as much time trying to think of ways to destroy the “marketability” mold as I will trying to fit inside of it. My feedback and input will reflect this.
Regarding “Style” – It took me a long time to figure this one out. What is a “writing style?” Your “writing style” is how you adapt your work to best convey your message. It’s a functional element, not a flourish. I believe that style has to evolve from good fundamentals. First, you learn how to write correctly. Then you learn how to bend the rules to fit your whims. If you START by bending rules, you won’t know which ones are important and why, and you will write poorly. Learn the rules, then spend the rest of your writing career figuring out the best way to smash them to pieces.
Regarding Rhythm – To me, writing is all about rhythm. I’m not a musician and I don’t fancy myself a poet, but I must think like one. When I read, I set the words against a metronome. There’s a reason for this. Music is something that has penetrated and thrived within every human culture (it even defines some cultures!) and it has done so for a reason. It’s pleasing. The human mind loves the mathematics of music. It revels in the beats and measures. It’s relaxing, familiar, comforting to have input streaming into you that follows a cadence. Think of your story like a song. Every narrative is a poem. How does the rhythm of your words make you feel? If the scene is fast and choppy, make your sentences fast and choppy! Make the reader’s mind dance the beat of your drum.
Most importantly, mind your measures. When you change the rhythm of your words, the reader will notice. Don’t do it unless there’s a reason. In other words, try to keep the number of beats in each sentence the same until it’s time to change the mood. This is fast. My words fly by. My fingers strike the keys and words erupt on screen. Quickly now, I think. I must blog. Notice anything? If you didn’t consciously feel the difference, your subconscious picked up on it.
Regarding Purpose – What’s important in writing? The feelings, the message, the words. In that order. Words mean nothing, which is why I finally learned to use the simplest words whenever I write. The message (the story, in fiction) is far more important, but still borderline meaningless when put into perspective. The feelings matter. That is the purpose of writing. We write to make the reader feel what we want them to feel. This is where style becomes important, and rhythm as well.
You can make the reader feel rushed, tired, angry, sad or excited just by changing how many words are in the sentence. You can make the reader feel scared by using dissonance and varying the rhythm. Think about the scary movies where the screen flashes randomly to spooky pictures. The duration of each shot is random, varied, chaotic. Our brains hate that, and used effectively, it can make the reader scared or angry.
That’s about all the time I have tonight. Keep on writing, and go study some music theory!
So I’m deep in my promotional campaign and I find myself thinking heavily on marketing concepts from dusk till dawn. Part of the reason is because I’ve bent to demand and begun writing a new ebook on marketing.
Why? Because quite a few people have been talking to me about my marketing techniques and many of them see value in my insight. Right now, I’m going to share a secret that explains why my insights are so valuable to the small business owner and indie artist. I’m a guerrilla marketer. I know all sorts of tricks to making cheap, effective marketing campaigns. Cheap is the key word that makes everyone listen.
Here’s a bit of information for the marketing portion of the blog. This is coming straight from the book that I’m writing:
One of the first keys to effective marketing is belief in your product. I call it “Shameless Marketing.” You can’t promote something that you don’t think is worth buying. If you don’t think your book was formatted well enough or that your song was mixed properly or your new widget works correctly, you’ll feel a lot of apprehension marketing it. You have to believe that people want your product and will benefit from having it. If you feel any shame about them seeing it, hearing it or using it, it will show in your advertising. And people won’t care about what you have to offer.
So what if your feelings that your product isn’t ready for market are correct? Then don’t put it to market! Simple. Don’t polish a turd just to get something up for sale, either. Here’s why:
Only 8% of the market (people) care about you and your product. 4% will go for it right away and 4% need some convincing. BUT 92% of people don’t care and never will. That’s just a fact of commerce. So when you get some attention from that 8% who DO care, you don’t want to drop a steaming pile in front of them, right? No…you want to deliver something that will keep them coming back. If you start disappointing your 8%, your share is going to dwindle quickly.
Now, a quick note on goalsetting:
I’m terrible at this. I’m absolutely awful at setting goals and sticking to them. Here’s the thing, though. When I do manage to set goals, I usually stick with them and they work for me. So my advice for the day is to set a writing goal. If you have something to market, set a promotion goal. Make these daily goals (I will write one short story a day; I will write 500 words a day, tweet five times and spend 1 hour tracking my web stats; etc.) Now stick to these goals.
PROMPT: Yeah, I’m finally sneaking one in.
Your character wakes up with a neurological affliction that causes them to hear colors (or smell them.) The very act of opening their eyes in the morning bombards them with sensory confusion. Write how they cope with it long enough to get to the hospital.
Are you bad at writing first-person narrative? Write it in first-person. You want the reader to smell the colors. What does the color red sound like? It’s your job to figure it out and explain it to me.
Fellow Indie author also writes about writing…it’s literary inception, basically.
I’ve been writing for a while, but only for the past few years have I actually started sharing my work and my ideas with others. Most of that was because of an innate fear of rejection – no one likes to get funny looks about something that makes them feel talented. So, like many, I signed up for memberships with online writing websites. These sites allowed me to post my work for many to read.
I was very thrilled when some of my stories began winning contests on these sites. It is invigorating to see my work judged as superior to others. But at the same time, it was also counterproductive. After all, if you win a contest, it can lull you into thinking that your story is perfect.
I like writing websites. They allow writers such as myself to dive into an infinite supply of other unpublished works and…
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Here’s a quick list of recommended reading for the writers and self-publishers. I’ll reference these books quite a bit and refer to them in this blog. I’m hard at work with my book launch still, so might as well assign these for homework! 😉
Writing 21st Century Fiction – as I’ve said, probably the most helpful book I’ve read on writing fiction.
Guerrilla Marketing – This book is a primer on marketing, advertising and promotion. If you’ve never had to sell something or develop a marketing strategy, you need to read this book. It’s gold for those of us who have to do our own marketing grunt work! Also, try Guerrilla Marketing for Writers.
Here’s the link to the “Bad Kitty” children’s book that I was talking about on facebook! It teaches kids how to write a story and explains everything from plot to character development: Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble
As a special promotion to celebrate my first two books hitting the market, I’m giving Amazon.com readers a chance to download my eBook “Thoughtban” AND receive a SIGNED first-edition print copy of my novella “Sol Invictus” for FREE!
Here’s how you do it:
1) Download and read “Thoughtban Anthology” from Amazon.com. I’m running a promotion that’s making this eBook FREE on Jan 20-21 and Jan 24-27! (Or you can be a bro and buy it for $.99!) (Download “Thoughtban” Here!)
2) Go to my website and use the contact form to submit your feedback on “Thoughtban.” Give it a mini-review, a satisfied blurb or tell me you hated it passionately! Honest feedback is the best feedback! Use the subject line “Free Book’ and identify the Amazon username you used when downloading the book. (Go to my site!)
3) The first 10 people who submit feedback (good or bad) in the above manner will be contacted and asked for your mailing address. You’ll then be sent a SIGNED first-edition copy of “Sol Invictus” in the mail!
It’s that easy!
The fine print: I retain the right to use your comments or reviews to market the book and I may quote them in this blog. Please allow about 3 weeks for delivery of the signed copy, since we’re still in the proof finalization stage of printing!
Thanks and enjoy!
It’s been a busy week. I managed to get my first two eBooks up for sale on Amazon, I got my website up and I have a whole bunch of promotions queued up and ready for the coming couple of weeks. Add to that the research I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve had to remake my cover and resubmit my print edition files twice (the printed proofs are on the way!) and it all amounts to one frustrating thing: I haven’t written much in two weeks.
The upside is that I really enjoy all of this promoting. I don’t care for sharing my personal life on the internet, but I really enjoy learning the intricate dance of social media marketing. Finally, I’m putting my facebook, twitter and Google+ to work. Fortunately for me, I’ve already had a lot of experience with these things from my attempts to market myself as an actor, and I also have about 15 years of experience with Photoshop and web design. I’m on a roll.
And there’s still much more to go.
When I was getting in shape a few years ago, I learned an interesting phrase:
“At any given minute, you’re either getting fitter or you’re getting fatter.”
This statement means one simple thing. Every minute counts, and all the little steps add up to make big changes. This phrase carries over to everything. For instance, every minute that you’re not promoting yourself is a minute that people are forgetting who you are. When you’re trying to make a name and build a brand image, or when you’re trying to create a presence and carve a piece of the readership pie out for yourself, this stands. Always be promoting. Always be putting your name out there.
When I’m sitting in the coffee shop writing, I talk to people. I get into a conversation and then casually mention that my books are for sale. It doesn’t mean they’ll buy them, but that was a minute that I didn’t let people forget who I am. Those minutes all add up.
Now, I’m going to tell you what my next step is. Besides writing the awesome novel that I’ve been sitting on for a month, that is. My next step is assembling a handy-dandy MEDIA KIT.
Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking of doing this until I was asked to be interviewed on a digital radio show next month. Once I was asked, I figured I needed one. Now that I’m making one, I’m thinking of dozens of ways to use them.
What’s a media kit? Think of it as a big, easy-to-deliver envelope full of SELL. It’s going to be the thing you whip out of your messenger bag when someone of importance wants to know who you are and why they should care. It’s marketing gold.
I’m going to go into detail once my media kit is complete, but here’s a quick rundown of what you could put in the kit:
-A biography sheet with your best photo (professional photoshoot recommended)
-An “author Q&A” where you basically interview yourself
-A sample/samples of your work
-A sheet that details your latest book including a good shot of the cover
Remember that all of these items need to SELL you as an author and SELL your book as something that’s worth looking at. Strangely, the matter in your media kit needs to be some of your best writing. DO NOT put a biography in your media kit that’s unedited and rushed. Put time into it! Don’t use a crappy photo of you, either! You may be a independent author, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be a slob. You can be indie and still behave like a professional when the situation calls for it. If you don’t, you’ll put up a lot of walls.
You want homework? Find your best bio…whether it’s something from Amazon’s Author Central or your book jacket. Make it better. Make it compelling. Now find the best photo of you that exists. Does it look professional? Every photo that I use on my profiles and book jackets was professionally done. Trust me, the difference is noticable. I was lucky…my pictures were taken last year to promote my acting career, so I had them standing by. However, they’ve come in handy for numerous other projects. The headshots cost me about $150 from a big-name studio, but the pic that I used on this blog was free because I promised to plug the photographer. You don’t always have to spend big bucks…but at the very least, find a friend with a good camera and the desire to take good quality pictures and arrange a shoot.
Time to get back to work! Don’t waste time on youtube…go write something! 😉
So I’ve been doing a little field research on the eve of my first book launch. I’ve been going through Amazon’s assortment of independently authored/published books and reading the reviews. The point? To see what other people are doing wrong.
Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
1) The correlation between a crappy-looking cover and low expectations for the content was undeniable.
2) Most self-published books have editing errors that could have been easily fixed, but cost them stars. One example is an author who has several novels, all of which have reviews complaining about incorrect word usage, spelling or overuse of commas. Many people said that his stories were great…but the loss of stars from bad grammar and punctuation is probably killing his sales.
So here’s what I took away from my research: have a good cover. For the love of all things sacred, don’t make your own cover in MSPaint. Some of the covers that I saw were downright embarrassing. If you have a gorgeous wife, you don’t throw a filthy onion sack over her and take her out to dinner, right? Well, your book is your hot wife. Get it a designer bespoke dress from Italy and some pearls! (If you’re a woman, then get your hot husband/book an Armani suit and a Movado. You get the idea.)
The second thing: edit your work. Have someone else edit it. Then edit it five more times before you publish it. You don’t want to lose stars over something as simple as the wrong use of “their/there/they’re.” It’s like going all the way to the Olympic high-dive and falling off the ladder on your way up.
Note: I’d be more than happy to help with book cover designs as long as I’m credited for the work. If you need a cover or you want to polish up your current one, contact me while I’m still taking a break from writing. You have about a week!
Many apologies for slacking on the blog. I’ve been working overtime on getting my website up and running, along with formatting and finishing Sol Invictus for publication.
I’d like to state that I’m now fully aware of the odd banner image on the mobile version of this blog. Due to the way that wordpress crops the photo, it’s essentially a picture of my crotch. I’m sure I’ll get around to fixing it.
It made me think of something, though. A little tidbit of Hollywood trivia that I learned while acting. There’s a move called a “Groucho” that’s used when a seated actor is being filmed in a close shot and must stand up to walk away while the camera stays focused on him. When you “do a Groucho,” you get up really slowly, walking in a crouch (like Groucho Marx) and gradually raising up until you’re standing. Why? If the actor stands up the way he would in real life, the camera wouldn’t be able to keep up and you’d get a crotch shot every time someone stands up in a show or movie. The Groucho, ladies and gentlemen.
Now you might be expecting me to draw some parallel between this and writing. It would make sense, but I was seriously just sharing some trivia. I can try to make it relevant…here: “the Groucho” teaches us an important message. It doesn’t matter how stupid you look doing something, as long as it looks right to the audience. And don’t needlessly show your groin.
We’ve come full circle.
Sneak peak: http://www.jpaulroe.com – see it in development as I struggle through the “easy” web page designer’s labyrinth of poorly labeled buttons!