Reach for the Moon

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From the dreaming to the writing to the publishing and marketing, there is far more to getting your book ready for the consumer than you probably ever imagined.

Think back to the day when the desire to write was born within you.

Now, remember the books you’ve read, the conferences you’ve attended, the podcasts you have watched, the associations you have joined.

Consider the people you have met along the way and their influence on you, the bookstores and libraries you have visited as your dream took shape.

The average reader probably has no idea how many hours you have spent writing, how many nights you stayed up late, how many early mornings you drug yourself out of bed to write while your family remained snug in their beds.

Someone once said that the harder you work for something, the sweeter the reward. 

That person must have been a writer.

The reward isn’t always monetary. Sometimes it is simply in a job well done… a knowing that you persevered… that you saw the task through to THE END.

Sometimes it’s a particularly meaningful review. Perhaps it’s a note of thanks from someone letting you know how your words impacted their life.

Don’t give up.

Keep on Truckin’.

Hang in There.

Because one day you’ll be doing that Happy Dance.

It will have all been worth it.

Stand-Alones, Series, or Both?

8271351214_7c6f31f870I know of a guy who wrote a Letter to the Editor. His writing was so good that he was offered a position with the newspaper writing his own column.

He started out writing a letter and found himself doing something much more than what he originally intended.

I relate to that guy. 

I started out to write “stand-alone” books.

However, readers liked my characters. They wanted to read more. I was soon hoodwinked into writing a second book—and now a third.

I’m not complaining, though. I’m glad people want to read more about Marcus, Simon, and the others.

An author has choices when writing a series. 

First choice: build successive books on the previous ones and simply continue the story. In this case, the reader would need to read from Book 1 through the entire series for the progressive story to be understandable.

Second choice: continue with the original characters in Book 1, but be careful to use epilogues and/or prologues—and effective beginning chapters—to make sure important information from previous book(s) is passed along throughout the series. Essentially, books like these can be read as stand-alones.    

Each book can be devoted to a different character, keeping them in the same setting (Ex. On the farm).

Or, each book in the series can focus on the same main character, but in different settings. (Think Gulliver’s Travels).

Or, change the characters, but keep the ongoing theme. (Stories about near-death experiences or angel sightings…)

The possibilities are probably endless. You just have to find that common thread and begin to weave it throughout your series.

In the series I am writing, currently, each book is based on a childhood game, thus the titles Simon Says, Truth or Dare, Tug of War, and so on.

The commonality isn’t just found in the games, but—more importantly—in  the way they make their life choices, the result of those choices, and how each one affects their future.

Surveys tell us that readers latch onto a series or a particular author and will follow them until they become tired or disappointed.

So, writing a series can be an effective way for an author to gain a following—and keep them following—if you give each book your very best effort.

Then—and only then—will they keep coming back for more.

Domain Names

 

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I’m always one to pass along what I’ve learned, so here is a little tidbit from a guest speaker (Liz Johnson) I heard, yesterday. It is one I am going to try out this week.

Liz stressed the importance of having a website domain name that ends with author, writer, books, or something else that is related to writing.

I had thought about doing this before, but I wasn’t wanting to go through the hassle of having to notify everyone of the change, reprinting my business cards, etc.

However, she said you buy the “new” domain name and then it is linked to your previous domain name so that no matter which one is clicked on, it gets to the right place.

So, my website address is: www.brendapoulos.org. When I purchase  www.brendapoulosbooks.org, or www.brendapoulosauthor.org,  none of my followers will notice the difference. New friends, however, will have an easier time finding me. 

So, if your website address doesn’t end this way, or if you don’t have a domain name, yet, consider a simple addition to make yourself more accessible.

You Know You’re Famous When…

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I knew there was the possibility of it happening some day. I just never thought it would be last Tuesday.

Following a doctor’s appointment, Mom requested that my sister and I take her to a thrift store. After looking at furniture, housewares, purses, and games, we headed to the book section—Mom’s favorite.

She asked me to pull out a book for her. When I reached for the one she had pointed to, I felt the familiar softness of the cover…the exact shade of blue I’d chosen…Runaways   was written on the spine.

As I handed it to Mom, my sister exclaimed, “You’re famous!”

Heat crept up my neck and warmed my cheeks. My heart double-thumped as I stared at my first published book.

My sister took my picture with Runaways and then she bought it for $1.25 (it was discounted for senior day) even though she already has a copy. “Now I can loan it to friends and won’t have to worry if I don’t get it back.”

I’m not so sure success is measured by being on the bookshelf at Goodwill.

But, then again, who’s to say?

When the Timing is Right

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Over the past few years, we have talked about HOW to write, discussing “rules,” trends, methods, etc. We have talked about WHERE to write to be most productive. We have even touched on WHY we write, WHO is called to write, WHAT topics we might write about, WHEN the optimum time of day to write might be.

We have covered a lot of ground.

Although we may have skirted around it a couple of times, at no time do I think we’ve talked about the timeliness of addressing certain topics.

In fact, there are some things that are best if left unsaid. 

While I may feel that I have valid thoughts to share on a number of subjects. (And, believe me, I DO believe in freedom of speech. This is NOT about that.) And even though I might even feel that some people might profit from hearing what I have to say—that some might even welcome my opinions or insight—the timing isn’t always “right.”

For example, an acquaintance of mine passed away this past year. She died from an overdose of prescription medications. Although I had some strong feelings about this subject, the timing would not have been good, if I had shared my thoughts when the minister asked those attending the memorial to come up to the microphone and speak.

Nor, did I feel it appropriate to get on Facebook and articulate my position…

Sometimes, feelings are just too raw, or the unfortunate incident still too fresh in the minds of the audience. Writers need to be mindful of the timing of some of their comments and consider how readers might be affected.

If you write BOOKS, a current event might have lost some of its painful aspects by the time a manuscript has been written, edited, and published. Ideas that were once raw and perhaps not completely thought out, may profit from this lapse of time. They may have germinated…and GROWN into more polished, fruitful, and expanded truths that will benefit a vast audience of readers. In some cases, they may even become movies or get adopted by a non-profit.

The question, then, is not, “Will you say it?”

It is, “When will you say it?”

Your answer may well be the difference between being insensitive and rude or acting as a thought-provoking visionary…a catalyst for change.  

The Right Words Are “Key”

businessman with a cup of coffeeAs we continue to take actions to drive sales to our sites, our discussion naturally turns to keywords.

Simply put, keywords are the words a prospective reader would type into the search bar in order to find a book on a topic or in the specific genre they are looking for.

If you have included these words into your headline, description copy, and your pages, your book will be “found.”

If you don’t include searchable keywords, the feisty little web crawlers will, in essence, crawl right on by and continue to search until they have discovered someone else’s website, book page, etc. Yikes!

The suggestion is that we narrow down a list of 5-7 keywords and insert them in our copy everywhere—and as often as—we can.

Some day, we may not have to do this. Some day, we may be famous and have a following–readers who require nothing more than typing in our names as they search for our latest books.

But for now, those 5-7 well-chosen words are key. 

I’ve Changed My Mind

 

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After a meeting, yesterday, the topic of how often one should write (every day? how many hours per day?) came up.

I listened as inexperienced writers eagerly listened to more seasoned authors on the topic that is as dear—and as often-debated—as toilet training is to young parents.

In one of my previous posts, I said that if you are researching for your book or article, or attending a conference, or viewing a webinar, that “counts” as your writing for the day.

Well, like I told the others after the meeting, I now know a bit more about the craft of writing and have changed my mind about what I advised a year ago.

There is no substitute for WRITING.

Here’s why:

You cannot learn to dance by reading a book or studying diagrams of nimble feet doing the Cha Cha.

You cannot learn to fish without baiting your hook and casting the line into the water.

There is no substitute for actually DOING.

We need to practice writing. All the reading and conference going—although worthwhile—cannot take the place of good, old-fashioned application.

Some people find themselves in such an endless cycle of “learning how to write” that they never actually sit down in front of the computer and try their hand at it.

They think that if they will just read one more book or watch one more webinar, then they will be ready…qualified…fully prepared.

All of that is well and good, but as my neighbor’s son studies his driving manual, I am reminded that he must also get behind the wheel and gain the experience of actually driving.

As a child, I heard my mother say, “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” many times. (Mostly this was in reference to having a clean room.) But, apply it to writing an article or book and you can make the connection, can’t you?

So, my conclusion is this: you must learn the skill of writing by writing, writing, and writing some more.

Every day?

Yes.

An hour a day?

At least.

Grab a partner and dance.

Bait your hook and cast your line.

Back out of the garage and get out on the highway.

Turn on the computer and let your fingers fly across the keyboard!