Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: Writing From the Trenches

Review by Jocelyn Andersen: I love it! 
... ...I ordered the paperback because I love to highlight, take notes, and re-read. And I am doing just that. I have been looking for a resource like this for AGES. Non-fiction flows fairly easily from my pen, but I have struggled with finishing my novel. Some of my questions have been so basic, yet books I have read purporting to answer them have fallen short. NOT ANY MORE! Writing from the trenches is a joint effort of ten best-selling authors. Yes, I said TEN. I love that I'm getting ten different takes on different methods of getting that novel started and finished. Not only are my novel-writing questions getting answered, but I find myself inspired, motivated, and moving forward with new confidence that I CAN DO THIS! 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

When Should You Pay for a Manuscript Critique?

 The rejection letter below, was sent by One Way Press to a writer who shows AWESOME promise and who we believe would benefit from a manuscript critique. Most beginning novelists would do well to hire professionals to edit and critique for grammar and story issues.
 
Dear Author

Thank you for submitting your manuscript for consideration. We have made the decision not to accept it for publication. Your writing and grammar editing are excellent. We loved your story idea and have a few suggestions for you based on our reasons for not offering a contract at this time.
  • Begin the story with the main character
  • Introduce the conflict between the two main characters as quickly as possible 
  • Avoid back-story, especially in the beginning (show not tell)
  • Reduce the number of POV's 
  • Tighten up the story by editing out scenes [delightful as they may be] that do not develop characters or propel the story forward
We believe you have an excellent story idea and the writing skills to execute it in a commercially marketable way. You may benefit from hiring a story critique editor to help with tightening up the plot and slashing unnecessary scenes. 

Once these issues are resolved, you are invited re-submit your story. We wish you best-selling success in your writing and hope you find these suggestions helpful.

The OWP Acquisitions Team
 
OR

Friday, August 3, 2018

Your Brand as an Author

 What is your brand as an author? Don't really know? Do you even know what a brand is? Not exactly? Join the level-one author branding club, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the process . You really can get this.

What do you write about? What else do you write about? Do you have a blog(s), social media profile(s)? Do your blog(s) and social media posts reflect what you write about in your books? 

They should. 

Have you spent years blasting the blogosphere and the social-sphere with a mixed bag of anything-that-comes-to-mind, Heinz 57, mishmash of snips, quips, and quotes that don't say anything much about your brand? Don't despair. It is never to late to haul yourself and your battered brand out of the abyss of discombobulation.  

Here's how to get started in 2 simple steps:
  1. Isolate your categories
  2. Clean-up your platforms
Isolate your categories: Do you write about more than one thing? Do you write fiction or non-fiction, or both? Make a list--a social media post-scheduling list--based on what writing hats you wear (only the ones you wish to promote).

You may need to segment. Separate blogs and social media profiles are in order if you're interests are widely diverse. Whatever you choose to do, stay consistent.

Limit social media posts to things consistent with your brand[s]. It is OK to post about your book[s], as long as every post is not  is not about your book[s]. Acknowledge and appreciate your friends and fans. Post about their books or events.    

Clean up your platforms: If you're a newbie to social media, begin with just one platform, branching out as you become more comfortable with it: Twitter for example. To establish a profitable presence on Twitter (one that can help sell books), some suggest an author tweet 10-20 times a day. 

10-20 tweets a day is a tall order for some--including this writer. Nope, can't tweet "buy my book" twenty times a day. BIG No-No. Speak to your followers with helpful, relevant, content. Think, write, research, use a scheduler. Platforms such as  Buffer.com Crowdfire and Hootsuite are helpful, and the free versions (if you have all three) are usually more than sufficient. Again, start with one and expand from there. I use all three.

Buffer is a good start for beginners.

I found this book VERY helpful 

The Facebook page scheduling feature is excellent as well.

If you are not a newbie. If you have been writing for years and years and have several social media author profiles, that are currently in a mess (deleting is allowed), rein yourself in. As an author who is building a brand, you no longer have the luxury of posting on a mingle-mangle assortment of topics. Stick to the categories you define for yourself, then step back and watch, like beauty rising from the ashes, your awesome brand begin to emerge.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Review of "Mastering Amazon Ads"


This book catapulted me out of the comfort zone of my wading pool with step by step instructions for dog-paddling into the deep waters of  book marketing that paid advertisers float in, swim in, and scuba-dive in...  I have now joined their ranks.
Need I say more?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review of Lydia's Song: A Child Lost A Woman Found

I did not want to read this book. I cringed at the subject matter. But I am so glad I overcame my initial reluctance and read it anyway. Katherine Blessan does not pull any punches. She dealt with the horror and tragedy of child sex trafficking head-on, yet somehow managed to craft a compelling story, that is ultimately a story of hope.

I loved it.

The book is about a tiny girl named "Song," who was kidnapped from her adoptive mother, Lydia, and sold into the sex trade at age ten.The story is told from both Song's point of view and Lydia's. It is a well written and sensitive depiction of a dark underbelly that exists in most societies, what is being done to little girls like Song, and also about the people who risk and dedicate their lives to rescuing these precious children, and, after that, spend years helping them to recover from their experiences and reintegrate back into society.

The novel is a bit graphic in places, but I believe no more than necessary, and my hat is off to Blessan for having the courage to write faithfully. I strongly recommend this book. Everyone needs to read it. I pray Lydia's Song will be read and shared and read and shared and read and...

And that eyes and hearts will be opened to the plight of girls who desperately need us to care enough to step out of our comfort zones and at least read about them. And after that, to hopefully become voices against their enslavement and for their rescue. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

3 Basic Building Blocks of Book Promotion

We all have to start somewhere, but where?

   Authors have lots marketing options. But how effective and expensive are they? Trial and error can be costly. But, there are a few things that are not only free but also tried and true...and absolutely essential.
   This post will simplify marketing matters for writers who are overwhelmed by the process. By talking about three absolute basics, we will start you out with only a few of the most vital and productive options. Once the marketing foundations are laid, then, and only then, is it time decide where to go next.

1.) Website

Spend a few days thinking about your brand and designing your author website. Your website works 24/7 to boost your brand, sell, build your mailing list, and sell your books. It should be your hub, with images and links to everything relating to your brand and books. There are many free, easy to use, website building platforms available online. Some authors use their blogs as websites.

2.) Mailing List

Start building your mailing List immediately. You want to keep your subscribers engaged and updated so they will be super excited with each new book release you announce. Newsletter list-building tools are also available online. Many authors use Mail Chimp, which is a free service up to about 12,000 subscribers

3.) Social Media

If you are not already on social media, choose a site you believe will work the best for you and get started. Engage and find followers. Here is where you get the chance to update your fans daily or several times daily, and your fans will have opportunity to tell their friends about you and your books. A word of caution about social media: Followers will not follow you for long if all you do is try to sell them your books. It is worth the effort to get to know your connections, interact with them, and provide them with fresh and relevant content, plugging  your books on a regular basis, but not over-doing it.

   Once you get your three basic building blocks of marketing in place, you are officially out of the newbie stage. You can confidently move on to the next steps of adding to the basic foundation of your website, mailing list builder, and social media presence.
   Who knows, perhaps you will become mentor to other new authors!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Pathways of the Heart: My Rave Review

Get it read it tell your friends to buy it. Diane Yates did a stellar job of writing her mother's story, in Pathways of the Heart. The true story, written as a novel, reads like the finest fiction. I literally could not put it down. If you love character driven stories, you will love this book.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Four Reasons to Find a Publisher for Your Book

  There are benefits to self-publishing, and there are benefits to not being self-published. Even if their stories are awesome, some authors may never find publishers, so must self-publish. Conversely, self-publishing is not for every author. Writers must weigh their goals (as well as their abilities and limitations) against the pro's and con's of each option.
   Moving forward with a poorly thought out decision, is something an author may have to live with for years, maybe even forever. 
   If one of your goals is to see your book on the New York Times Bestseller List, then self-publishing is not for you. Self-published books [even run-away-best-sellers] are not promoted on this list. If one of your primary goals is total control over your creation, then having a publisher is not for you.   
   That being said, having a publisher has many benefits. 1.) You, as a writer, will only have to write and promote your works [every author must promote their books--no exceptions]. 2.) Your publisher usually [also] promotes your works on their general platform, but in addition to that, will bear the cost of producing a product that booksellers will be excited to add to their shelves. Your publisher, not you, takes the risks and bears the costs of formatting, designing and creating a stunning cover, and printing and distributing your book.
   Create Space is an awesome platform for self-publishers, and some small press publishers also use it to print and distribute for their contracted authors.  3.) A good publisher distributes your book worldwide. Bookstores can order from a publisher at wholesale cost without minimum orders, and [in many parts of the country] even receive free shipping.
"While bookstores are usually happy to fulfill specific customer orders, most bookstore owners refuse to buy books from Amazon, Amazon imprints, or Amazon affiliates such as Createspace. Even if your digital book hits the bestseller lists, if you distribute your paperback through Createspace many bookstores won’t stock it." --Huffington Post, Dec 2017
 4.)  Although most publishers require authors to submit professionally edited manuscripts to begin with,  most authors who choose publishers, enjoy the added benefit of editors who work closely with them prior to publishing, ensuring that their book goes to market as a professionally polished product, of the highest quality, something they can always be proud of.
   Self-publishing is a great option for writers who enjoy the technical processes and either have the skills or are willing to take the time and make the effort to learn the skills. Having a publisher is the only good option for authors who just want to...write!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Why I did not finish reading this book


  This is a non-book-review on a romantic suspense novel, which means I will not disclose the names of the title or author. This book was published by a large and well-known traditional publisher of Christian romances.
   Shame on the editors for not catching this stuff.
   This non-book-review is intended to improve our writing, and not to criticize simply for the sake of criticism--never mind that I was a deeply disappointed reader who, while reading what I anticipated to be a few hours of delightful escape into the thrilling world of danger and romance, would have loved nothing better than to hack, hack, hack on the author who caused me to waste my money on her novel!

   All venting aside, this article is written with a cooler head and from the perspective of both reader and editor. From the perspective of a reader, as an avid reader of good fiction (I love it, love it, love it!), there are some things I will bear with for a while, in hopes the author will quickly adjust and improve. If that does not happen within a reasonable number of pages, I assume I am seeing a pattern in the writing, and I ditch the book.
   For the following reasons, the book in this review (which managed to keep my strained attention (for 72 pages. It had potential.) did not get finished:

  • The author repeatedly used the same idioms. It's a good idea not to repeat idioms. Once is great. Twice is too many. More than twice slaps a reader in the face (at least they do me). They notice it, and after the first use, it's already old. 
  • Research: Readers are usually well educated (whether self or academically). Some critical facts in this story were not straight.
  • Gender stereotypes: This particular publisher states in their guidelines that they want their female and male characters to be equal partners, and then are notorious for publishing all kinds of gender stereotypes in their books anyway.Such was the case with this story. The author threw in some statements to make it appear as if she was compliant with the guideline, then contradicted those statements with gender stereotypes. Even one or two are too many but after that, I generally ditch the book.
  • Believability: Situations where common sense does not prevail
  • Oxymoronic evidence in the same scene (a video too blurry to make out any details, except the color of the perp's eyes!?)
  • Convenient stuff that just gets added into the story as needed, "Oh, I just happen to have recently installed an airstrip on my farm..."
  • Contradictions: Weather conditions that prevented visuals from only a few feet away, but the characters could see headlights coming from quarter mile away
  • Flat characters--especially the hero. Even though the writer described their appearance, I simply could not visualize either one of them.
  • Chemistry: The author kept telling me the main characters were attracted to each other, but I could not feel any connection between the two. 
  • Emotional Experience: Aside from irritation, I actually felt nothing while reading this novel. Zero emotional experience.
  • Conflict: I had trouble figuring out what his conflict was if he had one. I did not relate to her conflict. It was weak and unconvincing.
   I finally gave up hope that the writing would improve and closed the book for good.
   The sad part is, the story had immense potential but fell short.
   In defense of the previously published author (she was not a newbie), she was probably on a too-tight deadline and did not get near enough editorial attention.
   A word to Editors, just because an author is a veteran, doesn't mean she or he shouldn't get the same quality editing for each book. 
   I believe the editor[s] did a dis-service to both author and readers by publishing this novel without giving it a good twice or thrice-over. Good editors could have pointed out the weak points and drawn more out of the author, helping to hone her story into a really great read.
   Published as it was, though, I found the story to be bland, shallow, and boring.