Read Your Reviews

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Do you ever feel like quitting?

Quitting writing, that is.

Do you ever say to yourself, “Who am I kidding? My readers wouldn’t miss me.”

Do you ever play the mind game in which you list all the things you could be doing, if you didn’t write?

Sports, movies, television, exercise, shopping, art, camping, travel, crafts, learning a second language, volunteering …

Last week, I had a few moments where I thought about the “what-ifs” in my own life.

That’s when I read my book reviews on Amazon. An hour later, in tears, I thanked God for my readers. What beautiful and encouraging things they had shared about how my books had touched their hearts … changed their lives.

I was overwhelmed as I read their comments, recalling that the very reason I write was summed up in their remarks.

I felt humbled, energized, and encouraged.

I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to do what I love to do and have such a profound effect on lives.

How could I possibly quit when I have so much more to say? So many more readers to challenge, comfort, offer hope … 

So, when the days of doubt come, give yourself a shot in the arm. 

Jump on Amazon and read your book reviews.

 

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Head-hopping

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I love to get freebies, don’t you?

Over the past few weeks, I have downloaded several free fiction books.

Some were absolute jewels. Others … well …

That’s the way it goes in the world of “free.”

One of the books contained a LOT of head-hopping. Although the story and characters were enjoyable (that’s why I kept reading) the intermingled flow of dialogue, description, and emotion from various characters within the same paragraph made the story difficult to follow.

A reader shouldn’t have to constantly wonder who is speaking and whose thoughts are being revealed. Avoiding head-hopping is essential for writers—and it is so easy to do: 

  1. In each scene, establish your point-of-view character. Although other characters can be in the scene, can show action, and speak dialogue, only the POV character can share their thoughts and perspective. 
  1. Each paragraph should have only one character. When you want to change characters, simply start a new paragraph.
  1. When you want to change POV characters, begin a new scene.

Within the same paragraph (even within the same scene) don’t allow yourself to hop back and forth from one character’s thoughts and perspective to another’s. 

If you confuse your reading audience in this way, even the most interesting characters and enjoyable dialogue may not be enough to keep them reading to THE END.

To Query or Not to Query

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What is a Query Letter and why should you send one to an agent?

We’ve all done queries when we type a request for information into the search bar at the top of our computer screen.

A Query Letter is a little bit different, however. Put simply, a query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book.

It is NOT A RESUME.

It is three concise paragraphs, which include the hook, the mini synopsis, and the writer’s biography.

The Hook, or paragraph one:  A concise, one-sentence tagline for your book meant to snag your reader’s interest and reel them in.

The Mini-synopsis, or paragraph two: This is your novel, reduced to one paragraph. (Yikes! Are you kidding me?)

Writer’s biography, or paragraph three: Keep it short and related only to your writing.

Close your letter by thanking the agent for his/her time and consideration. If your book is nonfiction, include the outline and table of contents.

If your book is fiction, ask the agent to request the full contents, if interested.

The internet has many examples of query letters—both bad and good—available. It will be well worth your time to read some so that you get a good feel for what agents expect.

As my father always said, “It never hurts to ask…”

Traditional Publishing

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Forty-five percent of book sales on Amazon last year were written by self-published authors.

That’s getting close to half—and predictions are for that number to keep going up. 

Still, there is an honor attached to being accepted by a traditional publishing house. These authors are viewed by some as being “real” authors—although that viewpoint is rapidly changing.

There are not as many big publishing houses as there used to be, making it even more difficult for a writer to get a book deal from a publisher. If they do, it makes it all the more prestigious. 

So, what is it that a publisher might do for an author that they cannot do for themselves?

Well, first of all there’s the imprint of the publishing house on the book cover that is akin to getting a gold star on a spelling test in elementary school (at least that’s how it was “way back when” at the school I attended).

Then, there is the fact that major publishers pull a lot of weight with the brick and mortar bookstores and are much more likely to get their authors actual shelf space.

Finally, traditional publishers may get some of their most popular authors cash advances in some cases and they often have in-house editors. 

In days-gone-by, traditional publishers did a lot of marketing for their authors, but don’t count on that in today’s world. These writers are finding the greatest responsibility for advertising their books is being placed on their very own shoulders.

So, I ask, again, what is it that a traditional publisher might do for an author that he/she cannot do for themselves?

In my humble opinion, not much.

However, if you are young and have time on your side so you can afford to wait for a traditional book deal and/or the points I’ve mentioned are important to you, then by all means polish up your query letter.

We’ve talked about the query letter before, but for those who haven’t been following this blog for a lengthy period of time, I will touch on the subject next week.

 

It’s Decision Time

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Will you self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?

These are two different roads, to be sure. You may choose to self-publish if you want to retain more control in the process. Along with that is the fact that you will also do most of the work yourself, which includes the cover, interior formatting, obtaining your ISBN’s, marketing, etc. One hundred percent of the financial burden will be yours, also.

The internet is full of self-publishing options, so read everything you can about them. Talk with other authors. Ask what they chose to do—and if they would do the same thing, again. 

Some of the options offer as little or as much guidance as you’d like and vary widely in costs. Your budget, time available to work, and your technological abilities may dictate which is the best course of action for you.

I published my first three fiction books through Author Academy Elite. You can find out everything about Kary Oberbrunner and his team on the internet. Sign up for a free webinar to determine if this—or a similar self-publishing group—is the course of action for you.

My two interactive picture books for Alzheimer’s patients, I Remember the Seasons and I Remember Bible Stories were totally self-published under my own imprint, Connections Press. 

I made both decisions by listing the plusses and minuses of each option. I weighed them until I was sure that one was the best choice for my situation.

Once I made my decision, I moved ahead quickly. I got the job done.

I still go through the same process each time I am ready to publish a new book. Things in the industry change, my skills improve (or at least I’d like to think they do) and finances are always a consideration. I use what I’ve learned to help me make the best decision for each book.

Next week’s blog post: traditional publishers.

2019 Is Your Year

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Editing is the polishing before your book is published. It is at this point that you place your manuscript in the hands of your editor.

So, what are you looking to get for your dollars spent?

Well, it depends on how much you have done on your own prior to this point. Some writers will need proofreading for typos and grammar, others will want a more in-depth analysis of their story to make sure that it rings “true” with the time period in which it takes place. The editor will make sure that clothing, automobiles, literature, expressions of speech, political references, inventions, references to movies, and so on accurately reflect the calendar year (or decade) as precisely and truthfully as possible.

In one book, I researched “rabbit ears” for television reception. In another, the year of the first Cadillac Coupe de Ville was the issue, and so on.

Some editors will also see that your book is correctly formatted. Others will leave that entirely up to the publisher.

Each kind of editing has a fee attached to it. You can contract the editor to do as much—or as little—editing of your manuscript as you deem helpful.

It is at this point, while I am waiting to get my story back from the editor, that I spend time on my cover image and copy. I usually select three covers I like and then run a Facebook contest to chose the winner. This process stirs up some publicity about my upcoming book, which is a bonus.

At whatever point in the writing process you are now working— prewriting, drafting, revising, or editing—I encourage you to keep on keeping on. 

2019 will be your year, if you don’t let anything distract you and you keep moving ahead toward your goal.

Looking Back and Going Forward

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Looking back over your last year of writing, have you made adjustments or have you kept doing whatever it was that you were doing on January 1?

My guess is you’ve made changes along the way, learned things, broke some bad habits, and put into practice new techniques.

You are looking at the craft of writing in a much different way than you did a year ago. 

The overall goal of writing is improvement. So is the goal of revising our manuscript once the draft is complete. 

I view revising as dissecting—just like we did in science class in high school.

It’s taking my story apart and looking at/improving each individual section, and then putting it all back together again.

It may have been impossible to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but not so with your writing. It can be changed, reworked, rewritten, reordered until it looks much different than it did in draft form.

I begin by either selecting my known weaknesses to work on or, just what I deem important.  I go through the entire book (focusing on one at a time) looking for those things and “fixing” them. In my first book, for instance, I noticed that each chapter began with the main character’s name. So, I rewrote each beginning paragraph.

You’ll need to determine for yourself just what things are necessary. Here is the list of what I go through:

Repetitious words, past tense verbs, emotions, descriptions, flow.

I check each character’s description against my master list. If Sally has green eyes in chapter one, they’d better be the same color in chapter fourteen.

Quotation marks, italics, indentations, misspellings, etc.

Last lines of each scene (I make sure they entice the reader to keep turning the page).

Timeline/order (I once read a book where the girl’s cat died in chapter 14. Then, in chapter 15, the cat was very much alive and purring on her lap!) You don’t want huge mistakes like this to spoil your story.

Seasons/holidays (If these are mentioned in the book, they need to be in sequence) Ages (pay attention to age progression throughout).

As you can see, the list is long. I add to it for each new story, it seems.

No book will be perfect, but look especially for the mistakes you know that you tend to make over and over again. Keep polishing until your story gleams!

Next week, editing.