Why Write a Book in the First Place?

August 23, 2015

Composition with books on the table

There are Stories to Tell.
I had lunch last week with two old friends I haven’t seen in over thirty years. It turned into a great afternoon, catching up on half a lifetime. Both of them seemed surprised and impressed to learn I have published five books of fiction.

They wanted to know if I am getting wealthy doing it. I had to laugh and tell them no. When they asked, “Then why do you do it?” I said it was because I had stories to tell.

All you author wannabes out there, if you’re writing a book simply to get rich … forget it. Stop what you’re doing right now.

You should only write a book because you have something to say.

If you have a story that inspires or entertains; or information you believe everyone needs to know, then write it. But don’t rush to get something out because you think it will enhance your bank account.

Chances are you will not succeed, and I’m not being harsh. Rowling, King and Grisholm aside, the vast majority of authors don’t make much money from their books … most sell fewer than 5000 copies.

Here are some sobering stats for you (source: Publishers Weekly):

    – Nielsen Bookscan tracks 1.2 million books
    – 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies
    – 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
    – Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies
    – The average book only sells 500 copies

Self-Publishing
In the old days, the imprint of the publisher was the main proxy for quality … if you were accepted by the publisher, you passed the test. It still didn’t mean your book would sell.

The self-publishing world has eradicated the filters and barriers the traditional publishing world represented (where editors made the judgments about content and worthiness).

This should be just fine because today, when readers contemplate buying a book, many don’t even notice the publisher. They look instead at audience ratings and reviews.

However, with self-publishing … even more so than traditional … you must start with a very good book … then market it with everything you’ve got. There is no publisher to do that for you.

For many would-be authors, writing a good book is difficult enough.

We’ve all seen self-published examples that fall far short of the mark. Or, not to dilly-dally around the obvious, many of these books fail because they’re poorly written, dismal-reading crap (sorry to be so blunt, but somebody has to be).

Many more fail not because of bad writing, but poor editing, or the total lack of it.

The Key to Success
You absolutely must have good copy editing to succeed. All writers need it, even the great ones. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can edit on your own. You can’t.

I spent many years writing, proofreading and editing copy for publications produced by one of the largest corporations in the world. I know how to do it.

But editing my own work is always a no-no … for the simple reason that when you write the copy in the first place, you quite often see what you want to see when you edit.

Believe me, if you skip this step, the quality of your product will be sorely compromised.

Readers don’t take long to spot the garbage that’s out there … and they will abandon it in a heartbeat.

In order for them to be followers and advocates for what you do, they need to see a true reason, be it talent or style, which makes yours an important story to read. It has to be well written and compelling, adding in a positive way to things that already exist.

Is Your Book Worthwhile?
Think of it this way: readers go to Amazon or visit a Barnes & Noble bookstore and see amazing books written by names they recognize … John Grisham, Ray Bradbury, Lee Child, Stephen King, David Baldacci, Anthony Doerr.

When they see your book, why should anyone give a hoot?

As an indie, to help make your book as good as it can be, get as much feedback as possible from your potential audience before publishing.

Be forewarned. You might not like what you hear. Strangers aren’t necessarily kind. You’ll likely get a host of brutally frank comments. But it is all feedback and input that you can use to understand if your book passes the test.

You should also learn how to improve it, so the work you eventually show the world is the best you’re capable of doing.

However, even if you turn out great work, in the end if you want to be a successful self-publisher, you have to be willing to do the marketing, which can be a daunting task.

Many self-published authors are ignorant of what’s required to get the word out (or they simply detest the marketing process altogether). How do you get your book the viewing it deserves?

Find Your Community
Most new authors think everyone in the world will want to read their book. To be successful, you need to get over that idea, and focus on who will really read it. Segment that audience as specifically as you can.

You want to see what those people do, where they do it, what they read, how they read it, what their biggest celebrations are, and so on. Then figure out how you can connect with them. Do they meet at rallies? Do they congregate at special places? Do they all drink Starbucks coffee?

That last item is not as frivolous as it sounds. The idea is to meet your community where it lives, and reads. After you’ve figured out how you’re going to connect to your community, then start getting the word out.

For example, award-winning author Eddie Price who writes good historical fiction, actually goes in costume to annual recreations of famous battles, where he talks about (and sells) his books to folks interested in that period. He does well with it because he has found his community.

Do you know where yours is?

Build a Platform
More marketing efforts will undoubtedly involve The Twitter, Book of Face postings, LinkedIn updates, and whatever else you can stand to do. Just be sure you have something interesting to say, other than “buy my book.” You want people to like you, after all.

They are far more likely to buy a book written by someone who helps them and whom they like, than from someone who merely bludgeons them to make a purchase.

And remember, marketing and selling a book is a long-distance run, not a sprint. Your publication date is only the beginning of the journey to make your book count.

Good luck.

 

The Official Book Trailer for “Street Light”

New reviews are in for my latest novel, “Street Light.” One is from Top Book Reviewers and the other is posted by Readers Favorite. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

**********

My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

August 11, 2015

Summer Joy

Where to Start?
One of the most common questions a published writer is asked is where they get their story ideas. New writers sometimes think ideas just pop into an author’s head … or else they use some secret formula.

Many newbies think if they could learn this magic technique they could write best-sellers, too.

But fully-formed story ideas don’t just pop into an author’s head. Not usually, anyway. Nor do those authors have some magic formula.

They don’t need one. The truth is they probably already have more great ideas than they could ever write.

Great Ideas Come From the Act of Writing
Every how-to book on writing will tell you what you need is a solid premise. What they rarely tell you is where this story idea comes from in the first place.

This often causes a great deal of frustration in beginning writers because of the mistaken belief that the creation of a solid story idea is an event.

Theoretically, I suppose it could happen that a story would pop into the mind of a writer fully formed. But sitting in front of a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike is not a recipe for success.

The truth is that coming up with a full, rich story idea is a process. Knowing this is the key to generating ideas. Once you free yourself from the concept of a story idea as an event, you’ll be amazed at how much there is to write about.

The Secret to Endless Ideas
The secret to generating ideas is the same “secret” that solves every writing problem: writing itself. You can start with almost anything you find interesting and collect ideas as you go through your daily life.

Maybe it’s a location that fascinates you, a likable (or despicable) character you know, a clever line of dialogue you hear, or even a great title. You actually need very little inspiration to start writing. I started my fourth novel after imagining a great last sentence!

Hopefully, you’ll begin to notice when things you see or hear give you that little tingle that says there’s something there worth exploring. Pay attention and jot it down.

Write First, Edit Later
When you sit down later to write, just pick one of your notes and begin writing about it … what it makes you think of, how it makes you feel, what questions it raises … and write fast.

One of the keys to idea generation (and writing in general) is to write as quickly as you can. You don’t want to analyze anything yet. You want a volume of words on the page.

Even if you find yourself writing about something completely different from what you originally started … just go with it. The idea is not to stress about structure, not to analyze where the story is going, not even to think about it as a story yet.

You want volume, varied thoughts, and a wealth of possibilities. Don’t make any decisions; just stay open and receptive to whatever comes. You will be amazed at what’s in your brain just waiting to spill out onto the page.

How it Works
This process of starting with story nuggets and expanding them is the core of story idea generation. Stephen King wrote about it in his fabulous book On Writing. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

As you explore your story nuggets, ask questions and follow your answers wherever they lead. Don’t try to force your thoughts into a story yet. Keep things loose and continue asking and answering questions. Feel free to backtrack and choose different answers.

And remember to write a lot. Volume is your friend. Ask a question, answer it, repeat. Keep at it for a few sessions and you will be amazed at the material you’ll generate.

By feeding your brain a fertile mountain of images, characters and possibilities it goes to work trying to make sense of it all. This process is the truth of where great story ideas come from. It’s like magic when it happens, and I promise it happens every single time.

A Bottomless Well of Ideas
You may find yourself coming up with multiple story ideas based on the same initial nugget … and that’s great! Choose one idea and work on it until it’s done. File the others for later use.

When the pros say they have more ideas than they could ever work on in a lifetime they aren’t merely showing off (well, maybe some of them are … a little), it’s simply that the process of working on one idea always creates new ideas.

That’s the secret to a lifetime of story ideas.
 

The Official Book Trailer for “Street Light”

New reviews are in for my latest novel, “Street Light.” One is from Top Book Reviewers and the other is posted by Readers Favorite. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

**********

My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

What’s in a Book’s Elevator Pitch?

July 31, 2015

elevator2An Elevator Ride Doesn’t Last Very Long

Every author has been in the position where someone asks them to describe his/her book. It happened to me several times at a book-signing last Saturday (although, if you read my previous blog post, it didn’t happen as often as I hoped it would).*

What’s your book about?

The answer you give to that question is called an “elevator pitch.”

The term itself comes from the scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important. It’s any quick, catchy pitch you can deliver in the short time it takes for an elevator to reach its destination.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term before. I didn’t invent it. It’s been around the business world for decades. Now, however, as an indie author you need to think about it in terms of your new book.

By preparing an elevator pitch in advance for your book, you’re ready for whenever (and wherever) the question comes up.

Step 1
Decide on the goal of your pitch. Do you want the listener to visit your website? Look you up on Amazon? Choose what you want your pitch to convince the listener to do.

Remember, you’re probably not going to make a book sale right there in the elevator. Focus on what you want the listener’s next step to be.

Step 2
Brainstorm potential openings. You want something attention-grabbing that will hold the listener’s attention for the whole pitch.

Step 3
Every pitch is unique, but some of the questions your pitch can answer include:

    – What is your book about?
    – Is there a genre or author you can compare your work to?
    – Have you received any awards or glowing reviews?

Write a 20-30 second pitch (any shorter and you’ll sound like an ad; any longer and you’ll lose the listener). Keep your goal in mind! Focus on being compelling and intriguing.

Step 4
Decide on a closing line. Make it an active call to action. It can be something as simple as, “Does it sound like something you’d be interested in?” This is the final step in guiding the listener toward your goal (remember Step #1?).

Step 5
Edit your pitch. Focus on removing unnecessary words and making it sound natural. Read it out loud and be sure it’s in your natural speaking voice, not your writing voice! Make doubly sure it is clearly directed toward your goal.

Step 6
Make your pitch work even harder by always carrying a business card or bookmark with information about you and your book. Make it easy to hand out at a moment’s notice (I make my business cards with Vistaprint and my bookmarks with UPrinting).

Your pitch probably won’t be perfect the first time you use it. Every time you give it, however, you can refine it and make it more effective. Practice on friends and family first (my long-suffering wife gets to hear all of mine).

She gives me feedback I may not have thought of and the practice helps work out any jitters BEFORE I have that chance meeting with the local television news celebrity in the elevator.

My Elevator Speech for Reichold Street:
“REICHOLD STREET is a young-adult coming-of-age thriller about teenagers growing up in the Vietnam era of the 1960s. It deals with real life, and things like family dysfunction, bullying, alcoholism, madness and war. Tough issues. It was favorably reviewed by Kirkus Reviews and received a 2012 Readers Favorite Gold Medal.

Does it sound like something you might like?

Visit my website (ronaldherron.com) and you’ll learn all about it … and get to see my other books, too.”
 

**********

*Just a note to tell you the PR Director of the Sterling Heights Library and I are back on good terms. He’s using the feedback I (and several other author participants) gave him as a learning experience. So next year there won’t be any problems. (sigh)
 

The Official Book Trailer for “Reichold Street”

New reviews are in for my latest novel, “Street Light.” One is from Top Book Reviewers and the other is posted by Readers Favorite. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

**********

My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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