Tag Archive | writing

Language switching and “Empress Matilda of England”

empress-matilda-of-england-full-cover

As Matilda prayed King Henry quietly slipped into the chapel, “You are still in mourning, Matilda.”

Matilda turned to him and bowed her head respectfully, “Mein König!”

“You are not empress and this is not Germany.”

“Ja, mein König.”

“Stop calling me that and speak English, Matilda,” growled King Henry sternly.

“Pourquoi?”

“Parce que je suis le roi d’Angleterre et vous êtes ma fille!”

“Oui, sa est ta fille, Henri,” confirmed Queen Adeliza as she strode out from behind one of the chapel’s many columns. Adeliza curtsied to Matilda, “Guten Morgen, meine Kaiserin. Fröhliche Weihnachten.”

“Fröhliche Weihnachten,” smiled Matilda before switching to English, “You must be my step-mother.”

If you are a fan of the Legendary Women of World History Series, you are probably familiar with quick language switching from the above except from “Empress Matilda of England” that hallmarks the series. Historical persons speak many languages in the Legendary Women of World History, a reflection of their personal histories and the world around him. Speaking in one’s native tongue, at least occasionally, helps us remember who people are.  Language is a core part of our identity, our psychology, even when we are not conscious of it. Words carry not only their direct meaning, but a cultural subtext that literally alters how we think.  One of the many benefits of speaking multiple languages, at least partially, is the way each language forces us to work from a different point of view.

Chinese, for example, uses the same verb form regardless of singular, plural, or when something happened.  In Chinese things these are signaled through nearby words. For example 我说中文 means “I speak Chinese.” 说 is the verb “to speak.” 她们过说中文 means “they [female] used to speak Chinese. In spoken Chinese the words “he” and “she” are pronounced exactly the same. The ideas of “he” and “she” are contextual in Chinese. 她们过说中文 and 他们过说中文 sound exactly the same and in English are translated the same since English does not distinguish gender in the third person plural unlike French which does (ils sont verses elles sont).

Specific traits from our native language shape our view of the world. Gender is not immediately obvious in spoken Chinese (only in written Chinese) unlike many Western European languages where gender is instantly recognizable. Welsh often begins sentences with the direct object and puts the subject last. A famous example of that from Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd is my favourite line, “Cymraes dw i,” which means I am a Welsh woman. Cymraes means Welsh (person) in the feminine form (the masculine is Cymraeg which is the same word as you use for the Welsh language). Dw i means “I am.” Welsh often mutates. “Gymraeg” is the same word as “Cymraeg” and which one you use depends on context — and is one reason why the language is best learned in person with native Welsh speakers.

It is this massive role that language plays in our lives that requires the persons in the Legendary Women of World History series to occasionally speak a few words of her or his native tongue.  When Baron William Fitzgerald calls Matilda, “F’arglwyddes!” she and you along with her immediately know that William is Welsh. F’arglwyddes, if you haven’t guessed, means “Milady.” Incidentally “Fitz” in a name means “son of” and is the French equivalent of Welsh “ap” in a name.

Fortunately, most of the non-English in the LWWH can be figured out through context. Contextual reading is not usually the way Americans are taught to read, but it is critical skill to develop and one more reason why the LWWH make excellent texts for home schools. Contextual reading means you are working not only on the word level, but the sentence and paragraph level to discern meaning. In chapter one of Empress Matilda, I kick this up a notch in a single scene.

“Guten morgen. Sie müssen Matilda sein. Ich bin Heinrich, der römisch-deutsche Kaiser.” Smiling Emperor Heinrich looked into Matilda’s grey eyes, the blankness on her face making clear to him that she did not understand what he just said. Slowly Heinrich knelt beside her to meet her eyes, his voice soft and reassuring. “Ich werde dich nicht verletzen. Hab keine Angst. Ich bin derjenige, der dein Mann sein wird. Ich bin jetzt dein Kaiser und wenn du alt genug bist, wirst du meine Kaiserin.”

Here we are confused and meant to be confused. Matilda is eight years old and suddenly ripped from her home and family in London to be presented to Kaiser (Kaiser means “emperor” in German) Heinrich V to whom she is to be wed. Like most royal brides of the middle ages and early renaissance, she does not speak a word of her future husband’s language. Because we do not understand on a sentence level what he is saying to her, we share in her terror and confusion and in her relief when, soon after in the scene, the English ambassador steps forward and summarizes what Heinrich just said, telling her that this is the emperor to whom she is to be wed and conveying to her his reassurances that he means her no harm.

This is context on the scenic level which is the level that we operate on when in social situations. For example, a simple “Merry Christmas” can express completely different ideas and intentions depending on who we are speaking to, when, our tone of voice, and our histories with the person or persons we are saying it to.

This is the level you are sometimes asked to work on when reading Empress Matilda of England. This is a major reason why Matilda is for ages twelve and up; it requires a more advanced reading proficiency than the six previous books in the series.

Whether Empress Matilda of England becomes your next favourite book or not, it is my sincerest wish that you will never stop reading, never stop learning, and never stop seeking to make tomorrow better than today. Let’s roar!

 

 

Babelcube beware: what authors need to know before signing a Babelcube contract

Boudicca German web

The German edition of Boudicca was beautifully translated by Christina Loew. Thanks to frequent communication and Ms. Loew’s professionalism, the translation process was smooth and easy — exactly what most authors are looking for when joining Babelcube.

If you subscribe to this blog you know that in 2016 I took my books deeper into the global market.  After an exasperating fore into the Chinese market via Fiberead, I had high hopes for Babelcube, a platform for translation that mirrors many of the features familiar to authors who use Amazon’s ACX.com site for audio production.  But as with ACX, successful production and publication requires understanding the system and knowing how — and when — to walk away from something that is not working.

The ability to walk away is important for independent authors because a poorly translated book is damaging to the author’s brand; it reflects on the author as much if not more so than the original editions written by the author in her or his native language.  Therefore an author’s career is at stake each time the author signs a translation contract.  Don’t mess with this, my friends.  As much as you want to be sweet and nice when it comes to dealing with potential translators your life depends on you being picky and walking away when you can from any deal or possible deal that doesn’t uphold your author brand.

The first place you can walk away is when a translator first sends you an offer to translate.  This is the best time to fully vet the candidate.  Don’t skimp on this and do not feel obligated to accept any particular offer. We all want to be nice and we want to give people their break into a new career.  The problem with doing that is you may end up with poor quality work because the person has never been tested in the professional world as a translator.  Before signing anything TALK TO THE TRANSLATOR — don’t just look at the profile and give the person the benefit of the doubt because s/he seems likable.  Remember that this is a form of job interview and treat it as seriously as any job interview you’ve been on.  If anything does not smell right or you aren’t sure of anything at all politely decline.

But let’s say you’ve accepted the contract.  The next place and final place you can walk away is when the translator submits the first ten pages. In evaluating these, don’t just look at the words on the page but the FORMATTING because, as with your own books you self-publish, the formatting and editorial can make or break the book.  If anything seems like you would not submit those ten pages as a stand alone, polished work DECLINE THEM — this is your last and ONLY chance to get out of the contract.  Despite what you may see in the system, this is the actual point of no return for you.  Once those ten pages are accepted you are committed to publishing the book — no matter the quality of the final product you are given.

And this is the part that no one ever mentions to you:  you cannot decline to publish a completed book on Babelcube — even though there is a button in the review process that says “decline this translation.”

What happens if you do hit the “decline” button?  Firstly you are asked to confirm and warned that confirming the decline will open a dispute with Babelcube.  What this means is that they will investigate and make a ruling.  If they rule for you, the translator has to fix the errors.  If they rule against you then you owe the translator an undisclosed amount of money.  But the system doesn’t tell you that.  I found out by asking via email after I reviewed the final document on one of my books and deemed it of such poor quality that I was not comfortable with continuing.

In essence you have to approve the final book.  You can ask for some changes (hit “return” and then send a message to the translator to do so), but you actually DO have to hit “accept translation” and then publish the book. “Reject translation” means you are willing to pay for the translator’s time for a book that you will not publish.

For most people it’s far cheaper to enlist the help of someone outside of Babelcube’s system to help you fix the document so you can publish — which is exactly what I am doing right now.

This is why it is critically important that you wait until each translation is complete before signing another contract with a translator. Even after publishing one or two books all the way through the process (meaning the book is live Amazon, iBooks, Scribd, etc.) with a translator, my experience shows that it is best to only contract one book at a time with a specific translator.  Life happens and schedules change.  Limiting yourself to one contract at a time per translator helps everyone balance time and priorities to the satisfaction of all parties and empower everyone to create the best work possible.

In summary, Babelcube can be an excellent platform for translating books into multiple languages.  But success with it requires the author always beware of its inner workings and courageous enough to walk away from any project that does not meet expectations either before the contract is signed or when receiving the first ten pages.

This is your brand.  Protect it.

Meet Boudicca in new youtube videos.

Since 2014 Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni has informed and inspired you in digital, paperback, and audio editions.  First in English, then in Chinese, and this spring in Italian, Spanish, Welsh, and Welsh-English editions with French and German language editions releasing on or about Labour Day weekend.

Just for fun here are three brand new videos (all of them created in May 2016) celebrating this new global approach to biographical history.  Can you name what language each of these videos is in?

 

 

 

More videos coming this summer exploring more lives from the Legendary Women of World History biography series. Stay tuned!

In Her Own Tongue: “Buddug” Brings Boudicca’s Story To Wales | NFReads.com

Boudicca Welsh webBuddug, Brenhines Iceni Prydain is the first Legendary Women of World History biography available in the Welsh language and one of the few biographies

Source: In Her Own Tongue: “Buddug” Brings Boudicca’s Story To Wales | NFReads.com

Going Global: A Look at Translation Options for Independent Authors

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as an author was to publish as many books in as many places as possible and to sell on as many websites as possible.  The writing profession is a numbers game.  To win it (meaning making a living as a writer) you need to be where the customers are and sell what they want to read.  You cannot achieve it with a single kindle book sold exclusively on Amazon.  It won’t happen — or perhaps it could but your chances of winning the lottery or becoming president of the United States are greater if you lay only the one literary egg and sell it from a single basket.

One efficient way of maximising your exposure is to publish in multiple languages, opening your books for sale in more markets with more readers.  As popular as English is with Americans, the reality is that globally there are far more readers outside of the United States, readers who prefer to read in their native languages — not English.

For independent authors, there are three primary methods of reaching this global audience in the form of translated editions 1) contract with a traditional publisher offering translation services, 2) Utilize a royalty share-based translation platform, and 3) hire an independent and professionally certified translator.

I personally use all three.  Here are the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publisher

My Chinese language editions are published with Fiberead, a Beijing-based fusion  publisher slash translation service using royalty share to pay the translation team.  It works similar to many self-publishing platforms.  You fill out a form about your book, provide Fiberead with both the current and blank versions of your cover art, and upload it to their system.  A team of translators is recruited and eventually your book is published in Chinese.

Pros:  Getting a contract is relatively painless.  It’s a straight forward process setting up your title with them. Publishes to Amazon China, iBooks, and several Asia market retailers unknown to most Americans. No upfront costs to the authors. All the technical details of the publishing process is handled by the publisher; once submitted the author does not touch her book again. Cover art is done by in-house designers from the blank cover provided by the author.

Cons:  Once your title is set up, you have little to no control over the book.  Author has no input on the translators chosen or quality of the translation.  Contract empowers Fiberead with broad editorial powers, including over book content (they can re-write your book if they wish to). Royalty share rate is (currently) 30% for the author — forever.  Fiberead forbids translators from providing authors with copies of the final work.  Authors cannot control or even suggest the sale price.  So for example Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni sells for just 1 RMB. Converted to USD the sale price on Amazon China is about 12 cents.  At 30% of 12 cents, the per copy payment to me is 3.6 cents USD.  It takes 55 copies sold to equal the royalty paid on just 1 copy of the book in English on Amazon.com.  Once a book sells, Fiberead does not release any funds to the author until the author earns $50 USD.  As you can see from the above figure, that takes a long time.  Fiberead does not promote your book either — that’s your responsibility.  And if you want a copy to quote from, you must buy it yourself.

Royalty Share Translation Program – Babelcube

Boudicca German webThe second option for independent authors is to use a royalty share translation platform such as Babelcube which is what I use.  Very similar in format to Amazon’s ACX audiobook publishing platform, authors fill out a form with book details and the book copy for consideration by translators in several languages including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.  Not every language is offered, notably Chinese, but authors are able to upload books published in any language so long as the book is sold on Amazon. Once the book is completed and approved, authors initiate the publication process on both digital (primary) and paperback options.

royalty

Babelcube’s incremental payment scale.

Empress Wu Spanish webPros: royalty share works on an incremental scale based on royalties earned, no upfront costs to the author, creative control over the final published work, ability to edit pricing and other details by re-publishing after the initial publication, some control over who translates the work. Authors are able to leave reviews for each translation.

 

Cons: authors need the technical ability to custom format their own work and correct certain errors that can come up in the publishing process. Not all the translators are professionally certified nor in possession of appropriate technical skills. Not all desired languages are available.  Some languages offer very few translator choices.

 

Independent Translator

Boudicca Welsh webThe third and final option is, in most respects, the most traditional. Translators are available globally and discoverable online through search engines, social media, or in the case of my work with Gwenlli Haf of Cyfieithu Amnis Translation, through a personal recommendation from a mutual professional acquaintance.  Translation fees are typically word count based, a format familiar to authors who hire professional editors.  A down payment is typically required at the time both parties sign the contract.  At project completion translators then invoice the author for the balance due.  Only upon payment in full is the work released to the author for self publication.

Pros: translators are typically professionally certified with some level of guarantee built into the contract. Authors and translators are able to negotiate precise terms for the project so the details (such as publishing rights) are clear before the work begins. Upfront payment to translator; the author keeps all royalties upon payment of the invoice unless other terms are specified in the contract.  Creative control across the entire process.

Cons:  word counts in different languages are not uniform, making it easy for the author to underestimate the final word count for the translation.  Translators and authors are typically residents of different countries and using different currencies with exchange rates and currency exchange fees varying widely.

Analysis/Summary

Independent authors benefit greatly from expanding into larger, more global marketplaces by offering their books in multiple languages.  In my personal experience with all three options, hiring a translator offered me the most flexibility and creative control which I, like many independent authors, tend to value. The professionally certified skills of independent translators offers security and confidence in the quality of work offered.  However as with any upfront professional service such as editors and illustrators, this option requires considerable pre-publication investment.  Of the royalty share options, the translation publication platform offers a balanced approach.  Though great care must be taken in choosing the translator, the author is able to avoid upfront costs while maintaining creative control.  The royalty share split is typically fair to both author and translator.

One important lesson learned from all of this:  traditional publishing contracts offer less and less value to independent authors.  Therefore 21st century authors seeking to prosper in the new publishing market increasingly thrive by handling as much of the publishing process as possible rather than defer to traditional publishers whose contracts increasingly work against the author’s interest, costing authors more while offering less value.

 

Why some book series should be read in the order written

Goodbye 3D

Good-bye A672E92 Quintus is chronologically the first book in the Peers of Beinan Series. However it was actually written FOURTH of the six books.

I love a great book series.  From the JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon Series, I find it satisfying to stay within the same world, getting to know characters, places, and events intimately.  It’s one reason why serialized fiction is so popular and entertaining.

Like both my aforementioned literary mentors, I do not write in chronological order.  With the Legendary Women of World History series this makes sense:  each biography is a stand alone book.  The series designation signals consistency in theme and approach to historical data.  But the books themselves are not necessarily strongly connected (the exception:  Mary Queen of the Scots and Journey to Gloriana).

By contrast, the Peers of Beinan Series is much more traditional with the same cultural, historical, and environmental setting across the books.  The books were written in the following order:

  1. The Great Succession Crisis (along with its companion Data Files, now out of print).
  2. The First King
  3. The Ghosts of the Past
  4. Good-bye A672E92 Quintus (most editions integrate The First King into the text)
  5. The Poisoned Ground
  6. Princess Anyu Returns

This means that the bulk of the world building and explanations of the world building are achieved in The Great Succession Crisis and The Ghosts of the Past — much like George Lucas establishes his world building in Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back.  Viewers of Return of the Jedi and of the three prequel films are expected to know ideas like Jedi Knights and Sith Lords before viewing these films.

And so does the Peers of Beinan Series.  The result:  a chronological reading of the series as the first reading of the series is a little bit confusing.  Especially with the novellas (Good-bye A672E92 Quintus and The Poisoned Ground) I found myself not re-describing the wheel already built.  And, to risk sounding pompous, I honestly did not expect to need to do so.  These books are for young adults and adults, after all — not middle grade children like the biographies.  So I expect a higher level of education and deductive reasoning/critical thinking skills from Peers of Beinan Series readers than I do with the biographies.  After all, science fiction readers are some of the smartest and best educated of literary audiences.  As lovers of science fiction we expect our books to be factually accurate, imaginative, and thought-provoking.   We expect to be challenged intellectually and emotionally.  As a life-long science fiction fan, I wrote the books that I most want to read myself.

And so the series best makes sense when you read it in the order that I wrote it in with a chronological reading (such as you find in The Complete Series) best for the second and subsequent readings.  In that, I continue to follow the greats I love:  JRR Tolkien, Frank Herbert, George Lucas, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana,  J. Michael Straczynski, and Stan Lee.

Read these in the order I wrote them and i know you will love them too!

No Excuses: One Star Reviews on Ebooks

permission to walk awayEvery author wants five star reviews.  This is a given.  As human beings we want everyone to love and adore our work, even when we know that is impossible.  Everyone has different tastes in books.  I like non-fiction history, you like a spicy romance.  You want to escape into another world; I want to better understand the one we are already in.  Different tastes make the world go round.

Indeed, critical reviews help authors by offering substance, feedback, and credibility.  No author with more than five or six reviews has a perfect five star average; someone will always find something imperfect about your work.  This is how it should be.  Your work should receive a mix of reviews.

With one exception:  the one star review.

Ghosts of the Past cover webOn books, there is absolutely no reason for a one star review.  Why?  Because all book retailers offer book SAMPLING — try it before you buy it.  The purpose is obvious:  if you like the sample, odds are really good you will like the book and buy it.  If you do not like the sample, odds are equally good that you will move on and not bother to purchase the book.  Sampling helps match books with readers who like and appreciate them so that there is SOMETHING the reader likes before purchase.

If you like a book before you buy it, odds are good you will still like something about the book after you read it.  Yes, there are plenty of examples of books not living up to their promise by the end — those are the ones who receive two star and three star reviews.  But a one star review is different:  it means there is no redeeming quality to the book.  If this is the case, why did the reader download it after reading the sample in the first place?

To this, only one logical answer resonates:  the person did not read the sample before download.  Why not?  In my experience this happens with free books.  A person who pays nothing for a book risks nothing by downloading it (this is often why authors often their books for free).  The flip side to this is that the person who pays nothing invests nothing in the same book; there’s no value to it because no money is actually paid.

When we pay money for something, we value it.  It matters to us.  We are careful about our choices.  We make sure before we buy something that it is something we (or any person we give it to) really want and expect to enjoy.  The more something costs us, the more careful we are to evaluate whether or not we really want it in the first place.  With books, we take our time and read the samples.  We research.  We investigate.  Then and only then do we spend the money and buy.

Every single one star review I ever received came from people who received my book as a gift in some way — a winner in a giveaway, a special sale promotion, or a permafree book.  In paying nothing, the reader invested nothing.  By investing nothing the reader had no inhibitions about trashing my book and hurting its review average with that one star.

That is, if s/he read it at all; I have reviews where it is clear all the person did was skim the sample, then write the review based on a few paragraphs and feign to have read the entire thing.  These too were negative reviews whose content did not match with anything mentioned in reviews written by those who read the books.

Why do people do this?  Give me your thoughts!  Let’s talk about our experiences dealing with negative reviews!  Post your comment here or tweet to https://twitter.com/laurelworlds.

Reblog: An Active Author Brand

Today’s book marketing post comes from Richard Ridley of Createspace.

————————————–

If I had to describe the key to succeeding in indie publishing in one word, that word would be “active.” For a profession that involves a great deal of sedentary activities, those who rest on their laurels find it very difficult to sell books on a consistent basis. You have to keep moving in order to grow your author brand. Here are the three crucial areas where you should concentrate most of your activity:

 

ABW – Always Be Writing: If you want to get noticed, you have to have a track record in today’s publishing world. One book will most likely not help you gain widespread notoriety. You need multiple books to create an author brand that will get you noticed and bring in the sales.

 

ABM – Always Be Marketing: You can’t have books on the market today without an author platform. A platform is simply your online presence. That presence in today’s digital age includes your own website/blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And this presence requires you to be present in order for it to be effective. Contribute to your online presence multiple times a day.

 

ABI – Always Be Interacting: When you have your platform up and running, your readers are going to reach out to you. Don’t ignore them. Interact with them. Let them know how appreciative you are for their support. The more you connect with them, the greater the support they’ll give you.

 

The world of indie publishing is not for the lazy or unmotivated. It requires boundless energy to succeed. It requires that you be active.

 

-Richard

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

Top Four Independent Author Mistakes Certain to Drive Away Readers, Potential Reviewers

new-york-times-best-selling-author3As an independent author who is very active on social media (twitter, facebook, and pinterest), I see a lot of book marketing posts.  If you read this blog regularly, you know I have eleven titles out and will be publishing my twelfth, Princess Anyu Returns, sometime before the 28th of February.  So I feel like I know something about this business.

 

Here are the top four mistakes I see independent authors making that are absolutely certain to drive away potential readers.

 

#1 Mentioning you checked spelling and grammar in your book description or on social media.

I am genuinely shocked at the number of times “authors” tout this as a reason to buy their book.  It takes MINUTES to run spell check in a word processing program.  You do not get a gold star or a pat on the head for doing this.  Adults are expected to do this.  Likewise, telling us that you hired an editor to correct your typos only tells us that you do not possess the language skills to write, let alone publish a book.

Writing is a job, a profession.  Treat it that way.  If you need editorial help, hire an editor. That is fine and many experts say you should anyway.  But for heaven’s sake, the only appropriate place to mention you used one is in the credits of your book — quietly and without any noise.

 

#2 NOT correcting spelling, grammar errors

Right after telling someone you corrected your spelling errors, the next best way to drive away a potential reader is to publish with spelling, typing, punctuation, and grammar errors in your book or in the book description.

Why?  Because leaving these errors in your published book screams of unprofessionalism.  It says “I expect you to treat me as a serious writer, but I am not going to bother to fix my mistakes before you read my book.”  It  disrespects readers and it hurts your reputation.

That said, mistakes do happen and sometimes they slip past the best of editors.  What distinguishes the best professionals from everyone else is the response given to locating these errors.  Professionals will quickly and quietly fix any errors they find and resubmit their books to their publishing platforms, knowing that doing so offers future readers a more perfect and more desirable product for purchase.

 

#3 Indiscriminately spamming social media and bloggers

No one likes a hard sell.  As a matter of fact in today’s world we are so accustomed to advertisements across media formats that we instinctively tune out ads in favor of engagement.  We want to be talked to and not talked at.

Enter social media forums and facebook groups, each of them designed around a central theme or purpose.  An effective group offers members conversation and social opportunities.  An effective book marketing group is a place where readers (potential customers) can discover new books without having to sift through a flood of advertisements for books they are not interested in.  This is one reason why I love Tom Tinney’s “Promoting My Published Book,” group.  By enforcing a strict set of rules for posting, readers are able to browse listings relevant to them without having to sift through posts of absolutely no interest to them.

Follow these rules and you are golden; you reach the readers most interested in buying your posts.  But post without care or concern for what the group is about and you alienate not only readers, but the colleagues and potential reviewers most willing and able to get the word out about your books.

#4 Being difficult to reach

For me personally, the number one reason why people buy my books is that I am accessible.  I am easy to reach and I spend large sections of nearly every day on social media answering questions and talking to people. The easier you are to reach, the more people connect with you.  The better they connect with you and the better the rapport you build on social media, the more likable you become and more appealing your books become.

 

Remember:  people buy from people, not corporations.  Be a warm, friendly, accessible professional online and you are certain to see your sales skyrocket.

 

 

 

 

Authors: this form is not rocket science

Keywords: marketing, self-publishing, blogging

It is three in the morning eastern standard time.  Really truly I thought I would be back in bed like a civilized lass by now.  But I am taking out a few minutes in the middle of the early morning because I am utterly baffled on something when it comes to my sister and fellow authors:  why can so few of you follow kindergarten level instructions?

If you follow this blog you know that on Thursdays I run a character profile column based on the Chris Matthews’ Show column called “tell me something I do not know.”  On his show, Chris Matthews gives political pundits about 15 seconds each to tell viewers something they do not know and should know about current events and politics.  I can be a bit of a political junkie at times; Meet The Press is my favourite program on NBC.  And yes, I confess I love the dedicated journalism of NBC London’s Keir Simmons; he is definitely a role model to look up to as a writer.

Taking a page from this journalism, these character profiles are designed to be SHORT.  Firstly, they are completely free to the authors featured — as opposed to book cover reveals which tend to be PAID ADVERTISEMENTS (and no, I do not find those effective from a marketing standpoint).

Secondly and perhaps most importantly, the purpose of these profiles are to get you CURIOUS.  When you as a reader are curious about something, you take the initiative to learn more about it, to explore it.  The discovery process is satisfying for us as humans; we like to sample and try things ourselves. When authors deny us this process by overselling, our instinct is to move on.

 

The First KingThe requested information on my form is therefore no accident.  It is in fact very straight forward.  I ask for the series name (if there is one), the character name, the book or books the character appears in, the Amazon or Smashwords link (permafree flash fiction like The First King tends to be on Smashwords, not Amazon because Amazon does not allow authors to offer free books there), and of course two or three sentences about the character.  This is not rocket science.  In fact, the instructions for the character profiles are many times simpler than those used by Amazon, Smashwords, and Apple to publish on their platforms.

I assume that someone able to self publish on the above is capable of filling out these fields.

Apparently though I am wrong.  This is discouraging because I genuinely want to profile more character from more secular children’s, middle grade, and young adult books on this blog (if you are an author of these, please email me at peersofbeinan at gmail dot com with your inquiry and proposal).  I love working together to bring great independent and small press books out there to readers like you.  But seriously:  this is a favour to you, a service.  I am not your mother, I am not your editor.  Do not treat me as one unless you want to pay me for the privilege.  Do not get cute or think that the rules here do not apply to you.  Because at this point instead of playing mommy dearest and treating you like a child, I am simply now rejecting submissions.

This form is not hard.  It is not rocket science.  If you can pass 2nd grade, let alone write for the 2nd grade, you can follow my instructions — or at least email me back for clarification on what I mean.

Time to grow up, folks!  Self publishing is not for the feint of heart.  If your aim is to fail at this industry, the best way I know is to disrespect bloggers and other writers doing you favours like this.

 

I for one am done playing mommy.

 

 

 

Why I said goodbye to large print

Gone forever:  the large print edition of Ghosts of the Past goes out of print in favor of a larger texted regular paperback edition.

Gone forever: the large print edition of Ghosts of the Past goes out of print in favour of a larger text regular paperback edition.

Ever since I first published the original edition of The Great Succession Crisis, there has always been a large print edition for my books.  It is something I believe in as a low vision author, an accessible resource making reading easier.

Sadly, large print remains the dark child of the publishing industry.  Retailer websites bury large print editions.  In the 2 1/2 years since initial publication of the initial version of The Great Succession Crisis not once was either GSC or Ghosts’ large print edition attached to or promoted with its digital edition.  Large print editions are not eligible for the Amazon matchbook program.  They are, like many foreign language editions, put away where no one can find them unless the customer is absolutely determined to get to it anyway.

This of course creates a hassle — for both me as the author and you as the reader.  No one wants that.  We want finding a great book in the format we prefer to be effortless.  Buying the book should never be difficult nor should it ever be difficult for the author to offer readers choices.

 

This hassle of course also meant that I was not able to keep up with the updates I am compulsively known for.  Snatch up one of my books early enough and you may well be treated to a collector’s item.  Thanks to the wonders of print-on-demand publishing I am able to tweak and prune and reformat as much as I want to until my inner perfectionist is perfectly happy.

 

And so today I make a compromise:  my paperback editions are now and shall henceforth be printed in 16 point font — larger than the industry standard of 11 or 12 point for traditional paperbacks — and a tiny bit smaller than the 18 point that makes a book large print.

 

Like all compromises, it is perhaps imperfect.  But in taking the middle ground I make buying books simple and easy.  What more can you want?

Reblog: 5 New Years Resolutions for Authors

Here is another gem from Book Marketing Tools.  I do not agree with everything in this blog post, especially this idea that you can and should try to do all/most of this EVERYDAY.  I find focus is very important to my writing and my productivity; do things ONE at a time or you will burn out trying to be everything at once.

 

Here is that post in full:

5 New Years Resolutions for Authors

Happy New Year!

A new year causes us to look back at the previous year and see all that we have (and have not) done.

A new year also allows us to look ahead to the coming year with renewed optimism and excitement for what is to come.

A new year wouldn’t be complete without some resolutions. Some people want to lose weight. Others want to be more productive. Some want to start a new business and others want to take their business to the next level!

As a self-published author, there are some things that you can do to improve your business, further your brand, and hopefully make more money by selling more books. Before we dive into our list of 5 great resolutions for authors, let’s look at what makes a good resolution.

What Makes A Good New Year’s Resolution

Lisa Lahey, a Harvard professor, says, “People in the New Year’s resolution approach are just going directly at trying to change their behaviors. For the majority of people… it is just not going to work because it is not fundamentally a behavior problem: It is a mindset problem.”

The key is to not focus on changing behaviors. Many behaviors are ingrained in us and usually have a deeper root cause that, if not addressed directly, will cause our surface behavior change to be short-lived. You may succeed in the short-term, but you will usually fail in the long-term if you are trying to just change behaviors.

So how can you make resolutions that you can stick to? The key is to focus on what Lahey calls “technical goals”, those that require learning a new skill or implementing a new behavior. Instead of making a goal to “lose more weight”, you can focus on a technical goal such as “walk 1 mile, 4 times per week”. Such a goal is related to “lose more weight”, but this type of goal can be measured, tracked, and is something you are in control of. If you resolve to lose more weight but your body doesn’t cooperate, then you can become discouraged. By creating goals that you are in control of, you can control whether they are accomplished or not.

How does this relate to authors?

All authors wants to sell more books (of course), so that usually becomes the focus of their goals and resolutions. The problem is, you are not directly in control of whether or not you sell more books (unless you are buying them all yourself, which defeats the purpose.) You CAN control the steps you take to help you to sell more books and those are the types of goals that a self-published author should focus on.

What Can You Do To Sell More Books This New Year?

Here are the 5 New Year’s resolutions for authors:

  1. Spend 30 Minutes A Day On Marketing – Marketing is important but it is often neglected. Either authors don’t like the idea of marketing, they don’t know what to do, or they would just rather be writing. Whatever the case is, marketing is often neglected and if you aren’t marketing, you probably aren’t selling as many books as you could be. Marketing is simply telling other people about your product. Resolve to spend just 30 minutes a day finding and adding readers on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. Work on reaching out to blogs that have a similar subject matter as your book, finding reviewers, or setting up passive marketing mechanisms like calls to action in the back of your book. There are plenty of things to do, so if you can devote just 30 minutes a day to marketing, you will definitely be able to sell more books in this new year!
  2. Write More Books – While I don’t believe in the philosophy of simply writing more books as your only form of marketing, I do think that the more books you have, the more opportunities you have to gain readers and sell more books. Focus on publishing as many books as you can this year (even if it is just 1 or 2), because different books will grab people’s attention in different ways, but once they see and like your writing style, they will want to read more books from you so it pays off to have more books to sell to them!
  3. Set Up Your Mailing List and Send People To It – If you do not have a mailing list set up, read here to learn why you should set up a mailing list. If you already have a mailing list, or after you set one up, work on leading people to the mailing list. Create an enticing offering, whether it is a piece of art, a novelette, or something appealing to get them to sign up to your mailing list. Talk about your mailing list and the exclusive content they can get by joining the list on Twitter, Facebook, on your blog, etc. This is the single most important marketing mechanism you can have in place, so put your focus on growing your list this new year.
  4. Find 2-3 Blogs A Week That You Can Promote Your Book On – Finding blogs that deal with a similar subject matter as your books is one of the most effective ways to market your book. Does your main character love her cat? Find cat-lover blogs and tell them about your book, possibly even offering a free copy to the blog owner. They get a free book, something to write about that their readers will love, and you get a way to promote your book that isn’t saturated with other books and that can drive some solid sales to your book! It is a win-win strategy for all involved: you, the blog owner, and the blog readers! Seek out and find 2-3 such blogs each week and reach out to them (this can be done during your 30 minutes of marketing a day!) Expose your book to new readers at each blog who would love to know about your books!
  5. Connect With 3-4 Other Authors You Can Cross Promote With – The idea of “self-publishing” creates a feeling of having to go at it alone (the word “self” doesn’t help), but you do not need to go on this journey alone! Find 3-4 other similar authors early in the year and reach out to them to see if you can work together with them to promote each others’ books. You can run discount promos together, you can tweet about and share each others books, and you could even make boxed sets featuring 1-2 of each authors books. Many more promotional opportunities are available when you work together with other authors. You can share your audience, your reach, and get more exposure all from working together! Work together with other authors to help boost sales for each of you this year!

Charging Ahead in the New Year

There is always some type of marketing you can be doing, but there are never enough hours in the day to write more, market more, and do all of the publisher duties such as editing, formatting, etc. But, you can make small, measurable goals or resolutions to improve your marketing this year by resolving to do a few (or all) of the resolutions above! These steps will help you to accomplish the ultimate goal to sell more books and get more readers!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous year!

– The Book Marketing Tools Team

Reblog: What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

Okay, you have your new year’s resolution all set!  Now you are ready to go make a splash professionally.  Before you look at site statistics and let yourself feel overwhelmed, please take a look at what Kristen Lamb has to say about the odds of your success and how much control you really have over it.

 

I do not agree with everything in this article, but it is certainly worth thinking about.

What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

didn’t even consider becoming a writer until 1999 after my father passed away suddenly. Funny how death can make us take a hard look at life, right? Anyway, I recall feeling soooo overwhelmed. I mean my odds of even getting published were about as good as winning the lottery. And the odds of becoming a best-selling author? Well, mathematically speaking, I had a slightly greater chance of being mauled by a black bear and polar bear on the same day.

It was all I could do not to give up before I began.

But, after over 14 years doing this “writer thing,” I have a new perspective. Often it feels like we are the victims of fate, at the mercy of the universe, when actually it is pretty shocking how much of our own destiny we control.The good news is that if we can get in a habit of making good choices, it is staggering how certain habits can tip the odds of success in our favor.

Time to take a REAL look at our odds of success. Just so you know, this is highly unscientific, but I still think it will paint a pretty accurate picture. I will show you a bit of my own journey. And, to be blunt, this DOES NOT ONLY APPLY TO WRITERS.

Did you know most entrepreneurs fail at least three times before getting traction? Most new businesses don’t make it a year. They are fortunate to survive THREE years and if they can hit The Golden Six? Smoother from there. But WHY?

The 5% Rule

It has been statistically demonstrated that only 5% of any population is capable of sustained change.

I remember when I was a rather young writer and NYTBSA Bob Mayer introduced me to this idea. I was AGHAST! No, writers just needed nurturing, cuddling, and help. Trust me, it pains me to say he was/is right.

***But Bob is generally right and that is often why it ticks me off to admit this.***

I worked for years with self-professed writers who refused to learn, listen or even work. They had the skin of a grape and wanted to make it in an often undervalued profession that is NO place for the idle or thin-skinned.

Thus, with that in mind…

When we start out wanting to write, we are up against presumably millions of other people who want the same dream. We very literally have better odds of being elected to Congress than hitting the NY Times best-selling list. But I think that statement is biased and doesn’t take into account the choices we make.

As I just said, in the beginning, we are up against presumably millions of others who desire to write. Yes, millions. It is estimated that over ¾ of Americans say that they would one day like to write a book. And that is only ONE continent. Much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand are burgeoning markets in the new digital paradigm.

That’s a LOT of people. Ah, but how many do? How many decide to look beyond that day job? How many dare to take that next step?

Statistically? 5%

So only 5% of the millions of people who desire to write will ever even take the notion seriously. This brings us to the hundreds of thousands. But of the hundreds of thousands, how many who start writing a book will actually FINISH a book? How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to lay boundaries for friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?

Statistically? 5%

Of that 5%, how many will join a critique group—A GOOD ONE—and learn instead of sulking?

5%

Okay, well now we are down to the tens of thousands. Looking a bit better. But, finishing a book isn’t all that is required. We have to be able to write a book that is publishable and meets industry/reader standards. When I first started writing, I thought that everyone who attended a writing critique group would be published. I mean they were saying they wanted to be best-selling authors.

But did they?

Or, were they more in love with the idea of being a best-selling author than actually doing whatever it took to succeed? I would love to say that I was a doer and not a talker, but I don’t want to get hit by lightning. There were a number of years that I grew very comfortable with being in a writing group as a writer…but not necessarily a professional writer.

I was still querying the same book that had been rejected time and time and time again.  I wrote when I felt inspired and didn’t approach my craft like a professional. I was, at best, a hobbyist and, at worst, hopelessly delusional.

I didn’t need craft books *snort* I spoke English, so I knew how to write. Geesh! *rolls eyes*

I was a member of two writing groups, and had grown very fond of this “writer life.” We hung out at I-Hop and drank lots of coffee. We’d all chat about what we’d do with our millions once we were bigger than Dan Brown. We talked about new ideas for books that never seemed to get written. Or if we ever did sit to write one of these ideas, we would get about 30,000 words in and then hit a wall.

Hmmm…and I thought that idea had so much promise.

Yet, after four years hearing the same talk from the same people shopping the same novels, I had a rude awakening. Maybe I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. Maybe being a copy writer and technical writer and editor didn’t automatically make me a novel-writing genius. Maybe I needed to take this dream of being a best-selling writer a tad more seriously and not rely on bluster, BS and glitter. Maybe I needed to read craft books and scrape up enough money to go to a conference.

So, of the tens of thousands of writers who write a novel, how many read craft books and get serious enough to take classes, listen to thoughtful critique, and attend conferences?

You guys are good….5%

And of those who attend a conference (and want to traditionally publish), who are asked to send in page requests, how many follow through?

Likely, 5%

How many will land an agent right away?

5%

And of all of those authors rejected, how many writers, determined to impress, are willing to GUT their novel and wage wholesale slaughter on entire villages of Little Darlings? How many are willing to put that first novel in a drawer, learn from the experience and move forward with a new book…which they FINISH?

5%

And of the writers who land an agent or are brave enough to go indie or self-publish, how many of them get dead-serious about building a large social media platform?

Again? Probably 5%.

And of those writers who are published and doing social media, how many of them are effectively branding their names so their name alone will become a bankable asset (versus taking the easy way and spamming everyone in sight)?

5%

Of those who self-publish, how many will keep writing more books and better books until they hit a tipping point for success? (versus beating marketing one book to death)

5%

Of writers who self-publish, how many will invest in professional editing and cover art?

5%

Thus, when we really put this dream under some scrutiny, it is shocking to see all the different legs we control.

We control:

Taking the Decision Seriously

Writing the Book

Editing the Book

Finishing the Book

Learning the Craft

Developing RHINO SKIN

Networking

Following Through

Not Giving Up in the Face of Rejection

Writing Books

Writing More Books

Yes, Writing Even MORE Books

Doing Everything in Our Power to Lay a Foundation for a Successful Career

I am not saying that finishing a book is easy. None of this is easy.

This job is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which is exactly why most people will never be genuine competition. When we start out and see all the millions of other writers I think we are in danger of giving up or getting overwhelmed. Actually, if we focus on the decisions we control, our odds improve drastically.

This job is like one giant funnel. Toss in a few million people with a dream and only a handful will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most, the harder they worked, the “luckier” they got. They stuck it out and made the tough choices.

In the Sahara there is a particularly long stretch of desert that is completely flat. There are no distinguishing landmarks and it is very easy to get lost. To combat the problem, the French Foreign Legion placed large black oil drums every mile so that travelers could find their way across this massive expanse of wasteland one oil drum at a time.

Are we there yet?

 

Want to be a successful author?

Take it one oil drum at a time.

What are some oil drums you now see ahead? Does your journey to author success seem easier now? What makes you feel overwhelmed? What inspires you?

Reblog: 7 Point-of-View Basics Every Writer Should Know

This article reposted from BookDaily.com explores the subject of point of view in writing.

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Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni

Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni takes a Celtic-British point of view.

In writing lingo we refer to point-of-view (POV) as the character through whom we tell the story. We get into the head of a particular character and see the story through her eyes. Sometimes we have one POV through the whole story. Other times we have multiple POVs.

Recently while reading a book, I became confused with some of the point of view changes. It was a really good story in many ways, and the author has had a long term writing career. So I was surprised to have to slog my way through several spots of hopping from one head to the next.

As I thought about the POV issues, I realized that during the last ten years, POV “rules” have grown more firm. Editors, agents, and readers want clear, concise, easy-to-read stories. Head-hopping can brand us as an amateur. That means we have to understand some of the basics that go into having clear POVs.

1. Strategically pick the number of POV characters. We can’t get into the head of everycharacter in our books. Nor should we randomly or haphazardly pick POV characters. We should usually try to narrow down those characters we want our readers to care most about—usually the main characters (hero and heroine). Sometimes, I’ve seen writers tell snippets of the plot from the POV of the antagonist to add tension.

If we add too many POVs, we risk confusing our readers. We also risk developing shallower characters since we’ll have less time in each person’s head, giving our readers less of an opportunity to get to know and thus love the characters.

2. Introduce all the POV characters within the first few chapters. We won’t want to all-of-a-sudden halfway through the book throw in a new POV from one of our characters that hasn’t had a voice yet. It’s best if we introduce all of our POV characters fairly early in the story.

3. Delineate POV changes by a line break or chapter break. In other words, we need to make it very clear when we’re switching to someone else’s POV. Hopping heads halfway through a scene just doesn’t work anymore (if it ever did).

If I want to change POV, I finish the scene first. Before I change POV, I move to a new stage, new setting, and new plot point. Of course, this means before starting each scene I have to determine which POV character will help accomplish the goals for the scene most adequately. And if I need readers to “get in the head” of another POV character during that scene, then I have to SHOW the reactions (or wait to recap their thoughts when their POV comes along in a later scene).

4. After a POV break, clarify the new POV within the first sentence or two. I usually try to use the new POV character’s name in the first sentence. And if not, then I weave it in the second sentence so that my readers are clear right from the start of the scene whose head they’re in. If switching among first person POV, I often write out the character’s name/title at the start of the scene or chapter.

5. Bring in each POV character regularly. I don’t perfectly alternate scenes between my hero and heroine. Sometimes I may need a couple of scenes in my heroine’s POV or vice versa. But I try not to go too long in one person’s head. For those writing with three or more POVs, the juggling can get even more complicated. But we have to remember to keep all the balls in the air.

6. Beware of making POV scenes too short. Story pacing will play a role in how long our scenes are. When we find ourselves changing POV every few paragraphs or multiple times per scene, then we may begin to annoy our readers. If we don’t have a long enough scene, then perhaps we don’t have enough goals and need to consider how we can combine the scene with another.

7. Once in a POV, stick with it carefully. When we get into one of our character’s heads, we need to do the best we can to see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and think about everything the way that particular character would. The more we can stay deeply inside our POV character, the more alive that character will become to our readers.

Remember, we can’t have our characters noticing things about themselves that they wouldn’t normally see. If in doubt, use the mirror test: Am I describing something about my character she would see of herself (i.e. the protruding blue veins in her hand)? Or would she need a mirror to notice it (i.e. the color of her own eyes)?

If she needs a mirror, then she shouldn’t be thinking it about herself (unless she really is looking into a mirror, which incidentally has become a clichéd way of having characters describe themselves).

What other POV tips do you have? What’s been your biggest struggle in handling POV changes?

About the Author:
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

You can catch her on her website www.jodyhedlund.com where she gives great advice for writers and Twitter where she gushes about reading, chocolate, cats, and coffee.

This article originally appeared on www.JodyHedlund.blogspot.com

Repost: Why Networking Is a Dirty Word

Another very useful blog post from Stage 32.  Today’s is called Why Networking Is a Dirty Word.

 

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Today’s blog marks the return of one of my favorite people on the planet, Julie Gray.

The author of Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas, Julie Gray is a script consultant and writer living in Tel Aviv, Israel. A Huffington Post and Script Magazine contributor, Julie is a favorite speaker at the London Screenwriter’s Festival and has taught story at Warner Bros. Entertainment, Oxford University and The San Francisco de Quito University in Quito, Ecuador. Julie directs the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon, consults with prose and screenwriters all over the world and volunteers with Amnesty International in Israel, helping African refugees to tell their stories, as well as with Natal, a non-profit for survivors of terror and war.

Can you see why Julie is one of my favorite people on the planet?  But wait, there’s more.

Julie has selflessly helped hundreds of screenwriters and other film creatives througout her career both personally and through her recently retired website, Just Effing Entertain Me.  She recently launched her new site, Stories Without Borders (how perfect is that name?), where her passion for screenwriting and those who choose to pursue a life in the craft shine through.

Compassionate, brave and selfless, they don’t come much better than Julie.

And she knows a thing or two about networking too.  The evidence lies below.

Enjoy!

RB

“It’s who you know”. We’ve all heard it.  It is perhaps one of the top three truisms about Hollywood, the other two being, ironically, “Know the rules before you break them” and “There are no rules”.

Networking. The word is both specific and vague. Like – go to cocktail parties with other writers? Invite people to lunch? Go to screenwriting events? Hand out business cards? What kind of business cards? What should I wear? Oh did you hear SO-AND-SO will be there? MAYBE HE/SHE WILL READ MY SCRIPT!

Oy. This is a pernicious and slippery slope. We’ve all done it, the nerves, the desperate feeling… It doesn’t even feel good to think about, right?

Let’s forget that kind of networking. Let’s call it something else.

Let’s call it Relationship Building.

Relationships have two basic building blocks: shared interests and reciprocity. Relationships are the framework within which we share valuable resources, services and information. Relationships are reciprocal – we benefit mutually.

Think of your day-to-day life. You need a lift somewhere, or a cup of sugar, or the name of a good dentist. Who do you call? No – not Ghostbusters, smarty pants – you call friends or family members and ask for help. People with whom you have a relationship. Who do they call when they need help baking a pie or changing their oil or choosing a good vet? You.

“It takes a village” is not a cliché; it is fundamentally important to our well-being and happiness as humans. Not to go all Jared Diamond on you, but man evolved away from being solitary from hunter/gatherers, subject to every whim of nature when
we settled down into a cooperative lifestyle in which we exchanged goods and services.  For thousands of years, humans have lived in a shared economy, an eco-system, if you will, of resources, services and information. It’s how we not only survived but how we flourished. We need each other.

As writers, this is especially true. Writing can be a very isolating occupation, filled with long hours and frustrations. Both the world of Hollywood and traditional publishing can seem like exclusive clubs to which you do not belong. So you wait, standing in line in the rain. How do you get in?

“It’s who you know” does not mean simply that you have met a person who might be advantageous to you, therefore you “know” them and they now help you. That isn’t how it works. That is not relationship building, that is just rude.

Let’s take it back to what we know – in our normal lives:  When a friend or acquaintance – someone who’s company you have enjoyed even just a little bit, asks a favor of you, generally, if you can, you do it gladly, right? I do. If it’s someone else – well, we’re all busy, right?

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Another truism. Truisms are called truisms for a reason. If I help you bake that pie, that’s money in the bank for me in two ways: 1) It gives me pleasure to help someone I like and 2) I know that when I need help, I can ask you. And I know for sure I will need help at some point – we all do.

It’s how we humans are wired – for cooperation and reciprocity. Relationship building is mutually beneficial.

So forget networking. A pox on it!

Build relationships with other writers.

Go to events
Bring a business card
Talk with people – actually talk with them
See if there is a favor you can do for someone else
Get to know people who are on your same level or above
Consider mentoring a writer who is starting out (don’t forget another truism of Hollywood: Today’s assistant is tomorrow’s executive).

Apply the same relationship building skills with other writers that you do in your home and your office. Reciprocity, cooperation, sharing of resources.

Relationship building is like dating: you have to kiss some frogs and there will be missed opportunities. That’s okay. There will be other chances.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things like this will happen:

You will stumble upon people who only take. Dump them.
You will stumble upon people who do not share your interests or trajectory at all.
You will stumble upon people who are simply not interested in you. That’s okay.
You will stumble upon a GREAT connection – at the wrong moment. Let it go.

Recently, a client of mine wrote a great one-hour drama pilot. I mean – really great. So I hooked him up to have lunch with an HBO/Showtime producer, an NBC/Universal fellow, and a writer on Netflix’s From Dusk Til Dawn. These are all my friends and they are happy to meet this new writer. Because I wrote that letter of recommendation to NBC/Universal. Because I have sent many good scripts to the producer. Because I helped get that writing gig. And my friends have helped me, too, in many ways. All I ask when I connect people to my connections is that they join that circle of giving themselves.  Circle of giving – not circle of taking. Nobody wants to belong to a group of people like that.

When our very own beloved Richard Botto asked me to write an article about relationship building for Stage 32, I did not hesitate for a split second. Because I believe in what Richard does – community building. And because Richard is my friend. He was there for me during a very tough time in my life – you don’t forget those kinds of things.

You’ll find that most people are actually very generous with their time, their resources and their connections – people love helping other people. It’s scientifically proven.

In the world of writing, especially writing for entertainment, which is so collaborative, relationships areeverything.  It’s how you hear about those opportunities before anybody else has heard of them, it’s how you get that recommendation or those great notes. It is how you get introduced to people who are interested in your work.

But relationships don’t happen overnight and they will not blossom at all if you are not patient, sincere and generous yourself.

Here are some common sense guidelines:

1. Meet liked minded people; go to events, participate online, get out there.
2. Primarily think about what YOU have to offer someone else (and no, it’s not your script)
3. Give relationships time to build. Check in. Grab a coffee. Have no agenda.
4. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Don’t network – a pox on networking! Build relationships!

Reblog: What Authors Can Learn From American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, And The Voice

I received this fantastic piece of advice from Marla Madison on BookDaily.com and just had to share it with you:

 

What Authors Can Learn From American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, And The Voice

Does the best singer win American Idol or the Voice? Is the most accomplished dancer the winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy on Dancing With the stars?

Anyone who is a regular viewer of talent reality shows knows this uncontestable fact: the most talented doesn’t always win. In fact, the most well executed dance or song, seldom wins.

What does win?

The winner is the performer who is most popular, the one who captures the hearts of the viewers with both performance and personality.

How does this relate to our writing?

It’s all about entertainment!!!

A few ways to keep your work entertaining:

1. Know your genre. Read, read, read. To entertain requires originality. If you’re afraid your plot is hackneyed, be sure to have a new twist on it. If you don’t keep in touch with others’ work, you’ll have no idea what readers are tiring of.
2. Make your characters original. We’ve all met the perfect protagonist, the one with the super face, toned and buffed body, and excellent skills. Readers want characters that they can identify with—make then real.
3. Make the first chapter exciting. I’ve deleted dozens of books I’ve downloaded because the beginning failed to be interesting. Make your first chapters pull the reader into your book and want to read the entire thing.
4. Series books – Take time to learn how to make each book worthy of standing alone. Check for either too much or not enough back story.


5. Be accessible to your readers. Have a presence on popular networking sites, broadcast your blog, and have a mailing list. Answer every personal message you get.


6. Read reviews of books in your genre. Reviews will put you on th
e fast track to discovering what entertains your readers.

About the Author:
Marla Madison is a retired Federal Mediator, now working as an Arbitrator for the state of Iowa and the Federal Mediation Service. She’s Not There is her debut suspense novel, and Relative Malice, her second. Marla is working on a third suspense story, that while not a sequel to She’s Not There, does have some of the same characters.

Marla lives on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter.

Also an avid reader of suspense, some of her favorite authors are Tana French, Lisa Gardner, Jeffrey Deaver, Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, Tess Gerritson, and Tami Hoag.

When not reading or writing, Marla enjoys playing duplicate bridge, golfing, and going on long walks with her dog.

You can catch her on her website www.marlamadison.blogspot.com and Twitter.

Reblog: Five Ways to Write Characters People Care About

The following is re-blogged from http://writersrelief.com/blog/2014/05/write-characters-people-care-about/

 

Princess Anyu from Laurel A. Rockefeller's  Peers of Beinan series

Princess Anyu from Laurel A. Rockefeller’s Peers of Beinan series

“In a previous article, we explored five ways to make your characters more three-dimensional. Once your characters are believable as living, breathing individuals, the next step is to make readers care about them. When readers are invested in the characters’ struggles and personal stories, they are much more likely to keep reading.

Here are five ways to make readers care about your characters:

Make Your Characters Need Something. One of the easiest ways to make your character more empathetic is to expose a vulnerability and establish a need to: save a dying mother, fall in love, crack the code, etc. The need can be as simple as “get to work on time” or as complicated as “save the world.” But it will encourage readers to empathize with the character and root for his or her success.

Example: Joe struggles through failed relationship after failed relationship in an attempt to find his soul mate.

Make Your Characters Take A Stand On Important Issues. A character with strong convictions and a cause to be passionate about will intrigue readers and earn their respect. If your audience is interested in your character’s goals and respects your character’s convictions, they’ll be more inclined to follow the story line to its conclusion.

Example: Leslie stands up for women’s equality in the workplace at a local public forum.

Make Your Character The Underdog. Nothing piques the interest of the reader more than the inspirational story of a hero battling against seemingly impossible odds, struggling to find success under the bleakest of circumstances. Who wouldn’t cheer for the little guy? Think David vs. Goliath.

Example: Despite being an amateur boxer, Andrew is nervous but optimistic before his match against the world champion.

Give Your Characters Idealistic Qualities. Readers love characters that embody qualities and ideals they also aspire to. Even if your character is a scoundrel, make him or her a soft-hearted scoundrel. Characters that exemplify the best of humanity entice the reader to stay engaged and keep reading.

Example: Dan may be a pirate, but he will use his ship to run the blockade and bring food to the starving orphans.

Give Your Characters Formidable Foes. Heroes are only as good as the villains who oppose them. Giving your main character adversaries who present challenging obstacles will bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in your characters. As daunting as that sounds, the journey to overcome these obstacles will further endear your characters to the reader.

Example: Iago has created a web of lies designed to test Othello’s resolve.

Empathetic Characters Don’t Always Have To Be Good Guys

Creating characters that evoke empathy in the reader can be challenging, but these five methods will ensure that your efforts are successful. And keep in mind that empathetic characters don’t always have to be likable. Try your hand at writing an unlikable (or even villainous) character that exudes empathetic qualities. Think Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.”

Throwback Thursday: Evolution of Great Succession Crisis cover art

It’s Thursday.  You know what that means:  time to flash back to the past and see where we’ve been.  For the next three Thursdays, we will look at the evolution of cover art in The Peers of Beinan Series, visually exploring how the book covers have changed since the series launch in August, 2012.

Cover art for The Great Succession Crisis, 1st edition paperback as published in September, 2012.  Thanks to constructive criticism from reviewers, this cover art changed for the revised edition.

Cover art for The Great Succession Crisis, 1st edition paperback as published in September, 2012. Thanks to constructive criticism from reviewers, this cover art changed for the revised edition.

September, 2012.  Two copies are formatted and printed from the original SmashWords digital publication.  I have one; my mother has the other.  Among the problems with this original print:  no page numbers, mis-spellings, and imperfect punction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Official first edition cover for The Great Succession Crisis from October, 2012.  Only sixty copies were printed of this edition

Official first edition cover for The Great Succession Crisis from October, 2012. Only sixty copies were printed of this edition

October, 2012.  The back cover is now gold.  Sixty copies were printed as the official “1st Edition.”  Less than five copies were sold; the remainder were donated to various literacy programs.  If you received a copy from one of these programs, that book is now worth something!

 

 

 

 

Great Succession Crisis Extended paperbackJanuary 2013 After listening to early reviews, The Great Succession Crisis was revised by about 25%.  An extended edition was also released to restore the data files deleted at time of original publication and to add in supporting non fiction data.  In both cases, the original stair cases is now replaced with the M31 Andromeda galaxy.  This version would remain the classic version of The Great Succession Crisis Editions.

 

 

 

 

 

In January 2014 the cover changed again, abandoning the heraldry and leaving just Anlei walking among the stars.

In January 2014 the cover changed again, abandoning the heraldry and leaving just Anlei walking among the stars.

In January 2014, the cover changed again, deleting the heraldry in favor of Anlei walking among the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????April 2014.  With the revised edition now taken out of print in favor of the better selling extended edition, the cover is completely redesigned to the current form featuring a younger, angelic Princess Anlei praying, the blue-white Beinarian sun behind her.  Why is she praying?  Find out in the final chapter, “Long Live the King.”