Writer’s Articles

A re-blog

How to Write a Killer Villain

Image: Lego man holding gun in film noir lighting

Today’s post is by author and founder of Top Shelf Editing, Christina Kaye (@topshelfedits).


You can’t have a good thriller without a nasty and formidable opponent for your hero. But it isn’t enough to just write a character and call him “the bad guy.” Just as it’s important to create a well-rounded, three-dimensional hero, you must create a villain who is well-developed and not just your standard killer, robber, or kidnapper.

So how can we write a well-developed villain who is a worthy opponent to your protagonist?

Create a backstory

Unless you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi or the like, your villain will also be human. They will have a personality all their own and, in most cases, they’ll have a painful past, so you must tell their story, just as you would with the hero. You want him to be everything that makes us human—fallible, flawed, and complete with a backstory that explains their motives and their reason for being so downright nasty.

First, think about what made your villain turn out the way he did. Why is he killing people? Or why is he so hostile and angry? Most often, the answer comes from an earlier time in his life, prior to our entry into the story. It’s also possible he was born that way—which may not make for a compelling backstory—but usually something happened to him early on that made him snap, even if he already had a tendency to be bad.

Whatever you decide to use as your villain’s backstory, it should be an experience every human can relate to on some level. But somehow, for some reason, Mr. Bad Guy reacted to this tragedy or event in a way most humans would not.

Create motive for his actions

Beyond the backstory, the villain must have a motive for his bad behavior. There must be a “why” aside from “he is a bad guy.” Give your villain a specific motive for why he is kidnapping, robbing, killing, etc. This serves two purposes. One, it gives the bad guy even more character, and two, it gives your protagonist something to follow or a mystery to solve. So create a specific motive for your villain’s actions, and you’ll notice it helps you further develop your plot. Examples of motives for villains include:

  • Revenge for a prior wrongdoing
  • Desire to be loved and accepted
  • To gain notoriety and/or fame
  • To instill his own sense of justice
  • Fear of losing his power
  • Desperation and self-preservation
  • To achieve/fulfill his destiny

Give him strengths and weaknesses

Just like your protagonist, a villain should have both strengths and weaknesses. His strengths probably keep him from being caught by the hero during the first part of the story. Ideally, his strengths should be a good foil for the protagonist’s weaknesses. Let’s say your hero is a female sleuth and she’s smart and witty, but she has a weakness when it comes to her self-esteem. Have your villain know this and take advantage of it. Perhaps he, as a former cop, leaves her clues and taunts her because she’s not “a real cop.” This allows your villain not only to have strengths, but to use them to his advantage.

Weaknesses should make the villain fumble a few times and ultimately lead to the protagonist putting an end to his reign of terror. Eventually, your hero discovers the weaknesses and turns them against the villain. There must be something that makes the hero able to stop the reign of terror once and for all.

Parting advice

Be careful to avoid overused tropes such as:

  • Plans to dominate the world
  • Living in an underground dungeon
  • A disfigured, gnarly appearance
  • A tragic childhood story
  • Obsessed romantically with protagonist
  • Has a minion or “sidekick” who does his bidding

Villains with these types of storylines are overused, unoriginal, and predictable. Some of these can be used if you find a unique twist.

A complex and complicated villain will be a worthy adversary for your hero to fight and ultimately defeat, and your readers will not only talk about what a crazy, unique villain you created, but they’ll be grateful for your efforts.


Note from Jane: Subscribers to Christina’s email newsletter receive a free self-editin

Author Mindset: How To Thrive As A Creative In A Society That’s Always Hustling, by Margaret Olat

This is a re-blog. Click here for the original article via The Creative Penn

Every successful author is both a creative and a business owner. Creative coach Margaret Olat shares tips for how to not lose sight of your creative side while working hard for your author brand.

creative hustleRaise your hands if you’ve seen an ad for a new webinar promising you a financial breakthrough by doing three things differently in your creative business.

With the meteoric rise of social media and digital marketing, artists and writers alike have been able to make bold predictions about business growth, study past successes and failures, understand consumer behavior, and market themselves accordingly.

Life became seemingly easier because everything we need to do to “make it” has been simplified and numbered in steps.

But somewhere along the way in modern marketing, we’ve have been conditioned to think about success only in terms of metrics and funnels. Instead of the warmth we’re used to feeling when interacting with our audience, this feeling has been replaced with uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. As a result of this, our creativity is stifled and what previously felt like joy now brings judgment.

This isn’t a post to crucify writers who use social media platforms or ads to drive revenue. Rather, this post serves to highlight the conundrum that has resulted from digital marketing and ways to redeem our craft.

To thrive as a creative in a society that’s always hustling, here are 5 important questions you need to answer while evaluating your marketing efforts.

  1. Am I resistant to sharing my message?
  2. Do I have an evergreen brand?
  3. If I’m doing the right things, why am I not seeing any results?
  4. How will I get better at my craft?
  5. What can I do to make an impact today?

1. Am I resistant to sharing my message?

Call it anxiety, resistance, or writer’s block.

confused boyIf you constantly feel restless regarding your writing and have developed an aversion to what you feel called to do, your resistance might be telling you something about yourself rather than your marketing. But until you identify that part of you that doesn’t want to move, and why, you can’t make decisions that matter.

Yes, you need to be honest with yourself about whether you want to reinvent yourself and how. But before you do that, you need to:

Step away from identities you don’t want to create under.

In my work with other creatives, I’ve discovered that the thing that keeps us stuck is not that we don’t know what we’re meant to do. It’s actually that we do know but we disqualify ourselves or despise our own gifts.

What do I mean by this?

While trying to market ourselves, we tend to force ourselves to appeal to mainstream online marketing. We borrow labels and titles that give us credibility and authority because we’re afraid that the vocation of being a writer might not be enough to shoulder our ambition.

But there is no way your craft will thrive from selfish desires that come from creative misalignment.

You have to, first and foremost, be a creative to succeed in the creative industry. For you, it may mean you need to embrace being called a writer.

It could mean you need to stop letting the lack of status others associate with being an indie writer pull you away from the path that you’re being called to walk on. For some, it could mean the need to drop the act and quit serving in the niche they’re currently hacking at.

The best way to fall in love with the art of writing (again) is to fully embrace the identity of being a writer. It is to understand that you need to have a relationship with writing to fully immerse yourself in it. When you hide your gifts under identities you don’t intend to create for in the pursuit of fame, you dry up your well of creativity.

2. Do I have an evergreen brand?

One of the biggest challenges writers face is the idea that our ideas will go stale, therefore, our presence won’t be needed anymore.

Wrong.

Large Evergreen TreesAs a creative, your work in this world has to be based on an unshakeable belief that you have a BIG idea that only you can articulate, that there is a dedicated audience for your idea, and that you can make money by sharing your idea for years to come.

It has nothing to do with your writing. Yet.

I call this idea branding your craft with an evergreen brand. It borrows from the principles of personal branding and my observation that consumers respond better to businesses that are personal, relatable, and people they share an unselfish, common universal truth with.

Here’s why every writer needs an evergreen brand.

I have spent several months trying to understand writers who thrive in online marketing, have large audiences, and appear to make a lot of money at the same time.

Some of these writers do not have any books on the New York Times bestseller lists or similar listings but their influence extends far beyond what they sell in the creative space.

The reason is that they have chosen to brand themselves as something larger than what they create. As a result, they make more money from branding themselves than from their writing.

Having an evergreen brand that is separate from what you create gives you the wiggle room to pivot and change according to seasons without having to risk losing the audience you have built. It means you can satisfy your curiosity without being pigeonholed into one genre for life.

Don’t just be a writer. Build a brand that stands for something larger than life.

It is no longer enough to be a writer or a creative who creates. Your truest source of inspiration needs to come from the fact that you stand for something bigger than what you create. In other words, success in this hustle economy is attainable when you brand yourself and not just your business.

3. If I’m doing the right things, why am I not seeing any results?

You have embraced being called a writer and have created an evergreen brand. But why are you still struggling to make ends meet? Is hustling ever going to stop?

sapling growthSeveral years ago, you could call yourself an artist, write one or two books, go viral, and call it a good year. But recently, with the explosion of self-publishing, the rise to the top has taken a slow and more organic approach for some writers.

Understand that the rules of marketing have changed.

The real reason writers struggle with being creative and profitable isn’t a lack of profitable ideas.

Rather, it’s one (or all) of these things:

You aren’t listening to the market. It’s no longer enough to just write a book and want to get paid. Books don’t sell themselves. You need to create something that the right people have a burning desire for and are willing to pay for.

Yes, as creatives, we must write for ourselves––for the love of the craft. But once you demand payment for your services, you must write for your audience.

You aren’t speaking with the right people. Sometimes we’re afraid to alienate those we think we have to stick with. Don’t waste your time nurturing and selling to the wrong person.

If you write thrillers that make people stay glued to their seats, you will find better luck marketing to people who enjoy this work. If you want to make money with your writing, you need to attract and engage with the RIGHT people from the very beginning.

Your prices don’t reflect the value of your work. Many writers eventually move on to accept consulting offers, coaching clients, and license their craft. A common trap we all fall into is the idea that we can only demand “premium” payment for what we consider to be very difficult, even for us.

The idea of asking others to pay for a skill we’ve mastered seems unethical. But when you price yourself out of profitability, you start to resent your work and will find every excuse in the world to resist showing up as a writer or a consultant.

Believe that you have a right to be passionate and profitable. But you need to understand the market before you ask it to pay you.

4. How will I get better at my craft?

I’ve experienced it and I know you have. The sensation of finishing something, receiving great reviews, and suddenly feeling crushed by the thought that we have nothing left to offer. The feeling that our creativity is limited, and that if we continue to show up, people will eventually see us as frauds.

home-office-writingBut know this: if you’re creating meaningful and impactful work, there is always going to be an uphill battle at some point. You can’t escape this. But most importantly, your best work isn’t always at the surface level.

The secret to creating work that you are proud of despite fear and uncertainty is finishing what you start.

In the book You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) author Jeff Goins shared something powerful about the myth of “good” and effective writing. According to him, effective writing covers the basics rules of grammar and composition (except when it doesn’t) and gets the job done. But beyond that, he urged writers to stop trying to be good.

Success comes from finishing what you start.

Your bestselling work is never your first draft. No matter how much you spend on marketing, it is incomplete without a creative process. It is from this creative process, which enables you to finish what you start, that you build the confidence to write without fear and satisfy your curiosity.

Joanna has credited her success to having a creative process that she adheres to every single day. It is this creative process that has allowed her to finish writing several novels and enabled her to quit her IT consulting job to go full-time as a writer.

5. What can I do to make an impact today?

There are several ideas on how to market yourself as a writer, how many times to do it, and if it needs to be a daily practice. Again, as well-intentioned as these ideas are, you can fall into the trap of comparison and imposter syndrome if you are not careful.

My favorite way for writers to market quickly and effectively is to make quick decisions that don’t take away from the need to be creative.

And it starts by asking the question: what can I do to make an impact today?

The right answer to this takes away the question of what content to create (if you hate that kind of pressure). You can be inspirational, educational, or promotional. Your content can be either be in short form or long format. You could highlight someone else’s work or share your conversation with other writers.

You have the creative freedom to define what your marketing practices look like. Hustling, however, is a choice you alone get to make.

*********

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Things You Notice When You Print Out Your Novel

by Uninspired Writers

This week I printed out ‘Novel 2’ for the first time. It took me right back to early last year, when I printed out ‘Novel 1’ for the first time. I posted a blog back then sharing reasons to print your work in progress. This time I’d like to focus not so much on the reasons why you should print your work, but the things you’ll notice when you do.

Typos
Ah typos. How is it they’re able to crop up so often, even after several edits? Sometimes, when you’ve been editing on a screen for so long, you simply get used to your wrong spellings or other mistakes. Reading through your work in print is like looking at it through a whole new perspective, and allows you to notice these errors more easily. You can circle them in your red pen (or a different colour, if red looks too harsh!), and go back to edit them on screen once you’ve finished your print read through.
let's start fresh!

Clichés
I thought I’d gotten better at spotting clichés, and perhaps I have. But again, when reading on screen there were words and phrases I was so used to seeing, I was blind to the fact they were either weak or overused. Something about having the words on paper in front of me, as if I were reading a real book, helped to spot unimaginative descriptions, and forced me to consider new ways to word these sentences, so that they were unique to my story or my character.
Untitled design

Repeated Words
Ever read something and found yourself jarred when two words very close together are exactly the same? Yep. It really takes the reader out of the natural flow of words, and forces them to look back, thinking ‘have they already said this?’ For example, I spotted that I’d used “waited” and “waiting” within the same sentence. Somehow I’d missed it before, but reading on paper made the proximity of those words glaringly obvious.
Untitled design (1)

Missing Punctuation
Again, I think it is easier to skim read when you’re editing on screen. You know the story after all, you picked the words and planted them in that specific order. And so it can be easy to miss sentences that are too long without a pause for breath. Reading your paper copy makes it much easier to spot your missing punctuation, and will help you tighten up your sentences.
untitled design (10)

How Much You’ve Written
It’s not all typos and bad spelling and repeats of words and a lack of punctuation. Holding your words in your hands make you notice quite how much you’ve written. Sure, you can see the word count on screen, or you can scroll through the pages and watch them flicker all the way down. But seeing the thick pile of paper, feeling its weight, really gives you a sense of accomplishment. Your print copy is physical proof that you’ve written a novel, and it’s something you should be really proud of.
Untitled design (2)


What do you notice when you edit by putting pen to paper? I’d love to hear your experiences of printing your work, so drop a comment below.

Until then,
Keep editing!
M

****End of re-blog****

Barnes & Noble SOLD: Goliath has Fallen & What This Means for Writers

This is a re-blog. For the original article please click here.

By Kristin Lamb

Checkmate.

Goliath has fallen. The leviathan Barnes & Noble, the big-box chain that reinvented retail and defined a generation…is no more.

SOLD!

Reuters announced early last Friday that the hedge fund Elliot Management Corp. would be purchasing the former book giant for roughly the equivalent of Kim Kardashian’s jewelry allowance ($683 million including debt).

This bold move marks an end to the once-dominant book retailer’s status as a publicly traded company.

After almost a decade of abysmally stupid business decisions and plummeting sales—and me blogging and b#@!$ing about it the entire time—this buyout feels like a mercy killing to me.

Someone might finally save Barnes & Noble from itself.

***I secretly suspect this buyout was the only option left after Mary Kay declined to sell cosmetics alongside records, movies, toys, stationary, gifts, knick knacks, coffee, candles, essential oils and everything else NOT BOOKS.

#sarcasm

Now that the former mega-retailer’s fate is in the hands of the Elliot Group, perhaps Barnes & Noble can go back to being a…wait for it…wait for it… *whispers*…a bookstore.

Failure in Leadership

Yes, today I feel ranty. I’m angry. No, I’m past angry and onto livid. I’m not the sort of person who enjoys saying ‘I told you so.’

First, I agree wholeheartedly with the Bloomberg Opinion. I don’t quite know the future of Barnes & Noble, because they can’t keep blaming everything on Amazon.

Yet, before we focus on that bugbear, I’d like to take an opportunity to call out those in publishing leadership. Why?

Because when Barnes & Noble sneezes, we all catch cold.

And that fact just ticks me off.

In order to understand exactly how delicate of a time we’re all in (writers), it’s imperative I paint a full/accurate picture of the colossal mess we’ve been handed.

First, publishing is a business.

Might have been a good start for the powers that be to have remembered that.

This said…

To offer any reasonable projections, it’s critical for us (writers) to properly appreciate the sheer scope of the incompetence that’s led us all to this place.

Here is how leadership should work. Yes, even in publishing.

PLEASE NOTE: Most of the major houses we once referred to as ‘The Big Six’ operated under the directives of multi-national conglomerates and giant media companies. The agents and editors and everyday people in the NY (New York) publishing trenches are NOT the ‘leadership’ folks I’m calling to the carpet.

***Looking at you, CBS***

Back to leadership. First and foremost…

Protect the Resource

The top echelon/leaders in charge of the publishing business had ONE job. Protect the writers. Simple. If there are no writers, then there is no content (no stories or information). No stories or information (books), then publishers and bookstores are irrelevant.

This is NOT rocket science.

Take care of writers (resource) and readers (consumers of said resource).

NEWS FLASH:

Publishers were NOT charged with preserving the paper industry or protecting/rescuing incompetent retail outlets….especially at the expense of their most valuable resource (writers).

About Those Authors

From all indications, the powers that be ‘forgot’ that writers play a fairly important role in the whole publishing process.

They aligned with the big-box chains and, in doing so, brokered deals that lined their coffers while simultaneously decimating the author middle-class.

Authors who’d previously been making a living wage under the B. Dalton (smaller chain and independent bookstore) model suddenly had to polish up the resume.

Why?

The Raw Deal

Under the big-box model, selection and variety ruled. Shelf space was precious and finite, meaning these mega-stores didn’t carry those extensive backlists like the old independents.

Problem was, those backlists had once been the bread-and-butter for the working author.

Under the new big-box model, the stores would only stock the backlists of the top earning authors (because those were guaranteed to sell).

The New York publishers (a.k.a. ‘The Big Six’—Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins and Hachette) and other large traditional publishers used this business reality to justify mothballing the backlists of virtually all authors who weren’t household names.

It’s Just Business

Nothing personal…

This meant instead of an author earning royalties off, say, fifteen books, they could only earn royalties off their most recent title.

Many authors witnessed decades of work vanish along with the small bookstores that supported them.

Not only did this change mean a DRASTIC pay cut, but it also meant these authors had no viable backlist to cultivate existing fans into future fans. There was no longer a way to truly earn their way into household name status.

It was a formula to fail.

If fans wanted the mid-list or multi-published author’s earlier books, they had to go find them in secondary markets (used bookstores, garage sales and all places where the author wasn’t paid).

That was bad enough, but, when e-books became a viable option, NY had a second chance. An opportunity to do right by their authors.

They could have resurrected those titles at least in e-book form.

Alternate Ending

When Amazon first came on the scene, Borders was still alive and Barnes & Noble dominated the bookselling industry.

Yet, when Amazon launched the first affordable & user-friendly e-reader (the Kindle), early adopting readers found themselves in a conundrum.

They had a new gizmo where they could read all the books they wanted…but there weren’t all that many books. In fact, far too many of the available e-books were unvetted garbage that wouldn’t pass high school English, let alone a NY gatekeeper.

This didn’t have to be so.

NY possessed a ready arsenal of thousands of mothballed titles, novels that had already been thoroughly edited and market tested.

If The Big Six didn’t want to discount their new titles on Amazon? Fine. But they could have field-tested the efficacy of the digital model using backlists that weren’t doing anything but taking up space.

***Many of these books even had earned the coveted titles of USA Today and/or NY Times Best -Selling Book.

Amazon would have had good books for their customers to load on their new Kindle device and they’d make money.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

The mothballed authors would have been happy because they’d be back earning money off books liberated from cold storage.

NY could have not only made money (and happy writers) but they could have also used the backlists to appease Amazon and gather critical data to guide future business decisions.

Did they want to keep offering ebooks on Amazon or maybe create their own publisher sites for e-book distribution?

Was this e-book thing really just a fad?

The E-Book Gold Rush

…or zombie hoard.

Alas, instead of creating a Big Six controlled e-book division staffed with eager college grads to format books and flood Amazon with gatekeeper-approved books, NY decided…

E-books were evil.

And that readers would always want paper and a ‘browsing experience’ in an oversized store with ridiculous overhead.

Publishers initially handed backlists back to the authors because they believed these books were worthless. They truly believed e-books were a fool’s pipe dream and a fad (though did nothing to test this opinion).

Ah, but when those spurned authors started converting their cast-off backlists INTO E-BOOKS…and making a boatload of money?

With readers desperate for good e-books, these authors started making far more income than they ever had being traditionally published.

This e-book gold rush ignited a mass exodus of multi-published and mid-list authors…right into Amazon’s welcoming arms.

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

NY was suddenly in BIG trouble. The next generation of ‘household names’ had historically been cultivated, groomed then promoted from the ranks of the mid-list.

But the mid-list authors, after years of loyalty, got fed up with being treated so poorly…and so #ByeFelicia.

What did the publishers do? Did they see the error of their ways and make an e-book division strictly for backlists?

Maybe even broker a deal that if enough e-book copies sold, a book/series could garner a fresh print run?

Nope.

They Did THIS Instead

This might help…

Publishers changed all the contracts to make it where authors no longer had rights to their backlist…ever. Those backlists would remain the property of the publisher indefinitely to do with what they wished.

Including nothing.

A once-devoted author pool suddenly turned bitter (for very good reasons). Not content to starve, a large portion of the traditional talent went rogue.

They cut their losses and began self-publishing. More than a few created indie houses of their own that were more efficient and geared toward the digital marketplace.

The authors who’d once made money for NY suddenly became additional competition (with Amazon’s blessing).

Ironically, The Big Six unwittingly financed Amazon’s rise as a publishing powerhouse.

What’s insane is that most of the traditional authors had ZERO desire to leave. They’d been publishing traditionally for years, even decades. Going it alone meant a lot more work and a STEEP and highly technical learning curve.

…from a group that feared e-mail.

Most of these authors simply wanted to just write the books like they always had.

Ah, but when faced with starvation? You serve the master who feeds you.

In a dismal twist of fate, NY helped self-publishing transition from ‘shunned last-ditch of the hack wanna-be writer’ into a viable and respectable publishing alternative.

Genius.

About Those Indie Bookstores

Et tu, Brute?

The Big Six didn’t treat the smaller chains/indie bookstores any better. It didn’t matter that small chains, indies, and countless mom-and pop bookstores had been the beating heart of publishing since its inception.

These stores promoted authors, held events and book signings. They pushed literacy, actively sold books and made The Big Six what it was.

Oh, but how short the memory gets with big new friends with deep pockets.

The Big Six participated (obliquely) in the virtual extermination of the small independent bookstores.

Kristen! How can you say that?

Uh. Math. The larger the order, the deeper the discount. Doesn’t take an economist to to do that calculation.

Without the purchasing power, the smaller chains and mom-and-pop indies couldn’t compete. They steadily died off until only a tenacious remnant remained.

***Refer to the movie You’ve Got Mail.

This was all well and good before Web 2.0.

Goliath is a formidable ally until someone bigger, meaner and hungrier comes along.

As I detailed above, NY had countless opportunities to adopt a different business model and didn’t. They ignored all the data, and pretended the marketplace and consumer buying patterns hadn’t changed since the 90s.

Ultimately, NY continued to support the big-box stores at the expense of authors (talent) and smaller bookstores (their former allies).

Goliath versus…Skynet

All of this was utterly unnecessary. It isn’t as if people like me (and those way smarter than me) haven’t been jumping up and down screaming DANGER! for over ten friggin’ years.

I’ve blogged my fingertips bloody begging NY to see reason and turn things around. I even wanted Barnes and Noble to listen and change their ways (for reasons I’ll explain in a moment).

Ugh.

There Were SO Many SIGNS

It wasn’t like the folks in charge didn’t see Amazon’s way of doing business had more red flags than an Ashley Madison dating profile.

The Big Six got sucker-punched as early as January 2010 when Amazon removed the BUY buttons from all the Macmillan titles. The next red flag? When a ‘mysterious’ glitch temporarily removed the BUY buttons off ALL the Big Six titles—Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins and Hachette.

The NEXT of many red flags? Amazon (allegedly) removed virtually all the discounts on Hachette titles, according to a 2014 article in Forbes. I could go on, but y’all get the point.

Short of a weird rash that wouldn’t go away…

Red Flags EVERYWHERE

To be clear, I am not Amazon-bashing (yet). But just the examples above clearly demonstrate how legacy publishing refused to acknowledge how completely vulnerable they were.

For instance, maybe it really was a glitch that temporarily removed ALL The Big Six’s BUY buttons.

***And maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.

But, giving the benefit of the doubt—and assuming Amazon wasn’t flexing digital muscles to make the old dogs sit and stay—any one of these episodes alone should have been a major turning point in how The Big Six did business.

These were the crucial moments, the pinch points.

Publishing leadership should have thrown everything they had into innovating and making darn sure no one ever again had the power to grab them by the tender bits.

Everything is Okay, Nothing to See

After ALL this, did the major publishers innovate? Perhaps listen to analysts and bloggers and update their business plan? Maybe remove its parasol and bustle?

No.

Did they pay attention to the digital tsunami that had already obliterated Kodak, Radio Shack, Blockbuster, Sam Goody and Tower Records?

Nope.

Did they pay attention to why Borders went bankrupt? Hot wash it to make a better plan? No.

Did they pay adequate attention to the fact that Barnes & Noble has had FIVE C.E.O.s in the past FOUR YEARS, each one increasingly more incompetent than the previous?

*screams silently*

Wasn’t anyone in charge concerned that Barnes & Noble was shuttering an average of twenty-one stores a year as of 2017?

That the only way Barnes & Noble stock valuations could have dropped faster would’ve been to strap them to The Titanic?

Short of using sock puppets to act this out, I just…literally can’t even.

There was a time those in charge of big publishing could have learned and retooled.

If they’d cared about their writers—or listened to those agents and editors so loyal they were practically working for slave wages to maintain some sort of quality control—this whole Barnes & Noble situation might not gall me the way it does.

They could have been a contender. Could have changed. Instead?

They doubled down with Barnes & Noble, a company so inept it couldn’t find its own @$$ in the dark with Google maps and a service dog.

The Future of Barnes & Noble

Bloomberg Opinion’s Sarah Halzak said it best in yesterday’s post:

“…perhaps it is inevitable that Barnes & Noble is a smaller, less influential retailing force now than it was at the height of its powers. But it was not preordained that Barnes & Noble has become as irrelevant as it has.”

Barnes & Noble has squandered opportunity after opportunity to change their fate. Clearly the brick-and-mortar bookstore is a valuable concept or Amazon wouldn’t have gone through the trouble it has to open stores of its own.

Alas, the brick-and-mortar model wasn’t the problem…and privatization may or may not be the answer.

The Privatization Pickle

It’s a gamble.

Unfortunately, Barnes and Noble is still in trouble. Privatization is no panacea. Yes, it can be a viable shield to reorganize, rebrand and regroup. More often than not? Privatization is a harbinger of death and for sound reasons.

Too often, the weight of a private equity buyout is simply too much burden to bear.

We’ve seen this sort of debt load crush once-robust brands such as Toys “R” Us, Wet Seal, The Limited, and, most recently, Payless Shoes.

Even the former office supply giant, Staples, faces an uncertain future. The Sycamore Partners, who acquired the struggling leviathan roughly two years ago, had initially planned on rebranding and splitting the giant into three.

Now? Sycamore seems set on simply cashing out.

According to a recent Bloomberg article by Davide Scigliuzzo and Eliza Ronalds-Hannon:

“Sycamore Partners is looking to take most of its cash out of Staples Inc. through a recapitalization that will saddle the company with roughly $1 billion of additional debt…”

Sadly, the most valuable thing about Staples might be its debt.

Now that a hedge fund has acquired Barnes and Noble (and its debt) this is a tenuous time. They wouldn’t be the first giant beheaded under the PE (Private Equity) sword then parted out, the rest left to the scavengers.

Some Good News

Barnes & Noble (and the publishing industry as a whole) can breathe a small sigh of relief, namely because Elliot Advisors (namely C.E.O. James Daunt), possesses a solid reputation for rescuing completely incompetent book chains.

According to a recent (June 7th, 2019) article by Alexandra Alter and Tiffany Hsu in The New York Times:

“The acquisition follows Elliott’s purchase of the British bookstore chain Waterstones in June 2018. James Daunt, the chief executive of Waterstones, will also act as Barnes & Noble’s C.E.O. and will be based in New York.”

Daunt actually has a stellar reputation in publishing and ran his own chain of bookstores—Daunt Books—before he went on to acquire the U.K. version of the bookstore big-box, Waterstones.

James Daunt—using creativity, vision, and common sense—rescued Waterstones from bankruptcy and made the stores profitable again.

He hopes to do the same with Barnes & Noble.

***I highly recommend the The New York Times article detailing all this. I imagine many of Daunt’s solutions will seem eerily familiar for those who’ve followed this blog any length of time.

A Small Celebration

Personally, I’m thrilled Barnes and Noble FINALLY has a) someone who knows the book business in charge and b) a leader with an actual success record.

Seriously.

Because this was me envisioning the old Barnes and Noble hiring process for C.E.O.s…

Have you recently driven a household name into the ground?

Yes.

Have you any experience bankrupting a perfectly salvageable company?

Yes.

Do you know ANYTHING about books or publishing?

No.

You’re HIRED!

Party’s Over & Back to Business

ALL this said, there is a reason I’ve taken y’all the long route from where the book business started fracturing in roughly 2006 to where it sits today.

We (writers) have to hope and pray that C.E.O. James Daunt can deliver or we might all be spelling Amazon, M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y.

Amazon (or anyone) having total control should be scary for all authors. But, it is a particularly frightening scenario for indie and self-published authors, because many aren’t repped by agents with the legal know-how to fight a large machine.

Oh, I suppose we could sue, but Amazon has armies of high-powered attorneys to make a lesson out of any of us who tried.

I know this sounds a little Orwellian, but if Barnes & Noble tanks for good and any meaningful competition evaporates? What’s to stop Amazon from having ‘technical errors’ that just happen to lose YOUR books?

Food for Thought

What’s to stop another BUY BUTTON ‘glitch’? What’s to stop them from demanding we all sell our books for $2.99 and if we don’t comply, we suddenly start having ‘technical errors’?

What’s to keep Amazon from demanding we all flash mob and act out King Lear with jazz hands?

Okay, maybe that’s going too far.

This was why I began this post the way I did. Publishing leadership (those powerful media companies) should never have allowed our industry to devolve to such a piteous state.

We are now ALL vulnerable.

Remain Vigilant

I know expectations are riding a fresh high, but remember they were riding high with Staples, too.

If Barnes & Noble doesn’t salvage something out of this mess, it could be catastrophic for legacy publishing.

Remember, to finance operations, the remaining legacy publishers NEED those bulk orders that stock the Barnes and Noble brick-and-mortar stores.

They also *winces* need orders from those mom-and-pop stores they once ‘didn’t need’ and—with help from their besties Borders and Barnes &Noble—damn near killed off.

Wow, that has GOT to be an awkward conversation.

At the end of the day, if the Elliot Advisors hadn’t ridden to the rescue, the entire U.S. legacy book industry could have collapsed. Some other investor or corporate raider could have bought the whole shebang…then promptly held a yard sale.

***Refer to the movie Pretty Woman.

Sure, Amazon sells legacy published books, but they don’t keep a large amount of stock and buy as-needed. They don’t do the large preorders that keep the lights on and employees paid.

This is still a blow because there will be a major contraction. Barnes and Noble will have to consolidate and lose a lot of fat.

Translation?

The remaining stores will likely be consolidated and many closed. Excess inventory will be sold off to reduce the debt load. This is all necessary to get back in the black.

If they fail to adequately reduce overhead and debt, they could very well find themselves in the same pinch as Staples…where their debt is their most valuable asset.

In Conclusion: Put on Our Big Writer Pants

It’s all kinds of fun to play armchair analyst and blame greedy multi-national media conglomerates for our sorry state. Yet, while ‘the suits’ certainly hold a lot of the blame, they don’t have all of it.

Just like Barnes & Noble can’t keep blaming everything on Amazon, writers can’t keep blaming everything on everyone else.

There is no Publishing Sugar Daddy. I know many writers who want to ‘only write books’ and not worry pretty little heads over that icky business stuff. This is a recipe for disaster.

Trust NO ONE.

secret-keepers, Kristen Lamb, writing tips, dramatic tension, how to sell more books, creating conflict in fiction, how to write fiction

Becoming a mega-author won’t fix our problem anymore than winning the lottery will replace our retirement fund.

Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) is close to broke after his literary agency’s accountant embezzled $3.4 million. The famed agency Donadio & Olsen has now declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, their former accountant is free after posting bail.

Ironically, Palahniuk had suspected something fishy a few years ago but suspected piracy. He never thought (as if anyone would) to grill those who were being paid to handle his affairs.

If we want to thrive in the new publishing paradigm, we have GOT to be educated and know the business of our business, regardless the path we choose.

We also have to write excellent books. The more books we write and the better they are, the more negotiating power we’ll have.

And, finally…y’all knew I was going to end up here.

An author brand/platform is not an option, it is a LIFELINE.

The ONLY way to Amazon-proof ourselves is to create a passionate and vested following who will buy our books no matter where we list them.

Then, if Amazon (or Barnes & Noble, or Joe-Bob’s Book Barn or whoever) ceases to be a good business partner?

We can…leave. Yay!

***falls over***

***brains all over laptop***

I hope you enjoyed and I LOVE hearing from you!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Other than this post is long. Trust me, I KNOW. But, hey, encapsulating fourteen years of the publishing business into one post is no easy feat.

Do you feel a bit less terrified now that you know Barnes and Noble might just pull through?

What are your thoughts, concerns, ideas for what we writers can do differently in the future?

Are you hopeful? Disillusioned? Confused? Frustrated? All of the above?

I hope this post has helped y’all gain fresh (and balanced) perspective of where you sit in the greater scheme of publishing. Yes, it’s a tumultuous time in publishing, but while industries change, humans never do.

Humans will ALWAYS want stories and information.

So long as there are humans, there will be educators, inspirers, and storytellers. Our industry might be a mess, but our jobs are secure.

Long live the dreamers!

The One Literary Agent Interview All Writers Need To Read

A re-blog.

Great info.

Source: The One Literary Agent Interview All Writers Need To Read

interview-mark-gottlieb-agent

The Interview:

Q1 Bryan:

There are a lot of disillusioned authors who are tired of asking agents and publishers to pick them. And since it’s so easy to self-publish today, why should an author still hire an agent?

Mark:

Yes, it is all too easy for an author to feel discouraged and turn to self-publishing. However, many successful self-published authors eventually go into traditional publishing in order to take advantage of having a team of professionals who help them take their work to the next level.

A literary agency with industry knowledge and expertise can bring a huge value add to the table for an author, evidenced by many of the success stories we’ve created for our clients, the bulk of which are award-winning and bestselling authors. We’ve actually built a lot of self-published success stories into mega-bestsellers, giving authors a Godzilla-like footprint in the industry.

Trident Media Group is a full-service literary agency for authors, handling accounting, legal review, management, foreign rights (books in translation), book-to-film/TV, audio books, etc. We’re also a literary agency with tremendous clout in the industry, so we can get many things for authors from publishers and film / TV buyers that an author otherwise would not be able to get on their own.

I’d like to think that a literary agency would save an author a lot of headaches in order to help the author focus in on their own writing, thereby allowing the author to become more prolific. Meanwhile, the literary agent would work in concert with their subsidiary rights people and departments within the literary agency. In looking at a literary agent and considering paying them a commission on a deal, an author should be asking what they stand to gain in having a literary agent.

Read the full interview here.

When is the Best Time of Year to Release a Book? by Self Publishing Review

A reblog. Good info for self publishers.

When is the Best Time of Year to Release a Book? by Self Publishing Review

In Hollywood, there’s a pretty set calendar for when movies are released: horror movies are usually released around Halloween, high-concept blockbusters in the summer, Oscar movies start in November, movies that aren’t blockbusters or Oscar contenders in February. Does the book trade follow the same release schedule? The answer is, more or less, yes.

Peak reading and buying season is very much tied to the weather. February and March are generally good times to release a book because the weather’s not great, so people will be stuck inside, browsing the web and looking for something to read. Generally, people won’t want to read a dark book when the sun’s shining.

However, though summer is blockbuster season, it’s also the time when people aren’t locked to their computers, so it makes some sense to release a genre novel in the spring, so momentum can hopefully carry over into the summer (this is what happened with Amanda Hocking, who released books in April before they took off).

Alan Rinzler, traditional publishing expert, has this calendar for the mainstream trade:

Tie-ins by the month

January

Post holiday: Prime time for diet books, celebrity exercise books, and how-to books, including self-education, home repair, adventure travel planning, languages, and self-help books about finding a new relationship, renewing a marriage, or becoming a more effective parent.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: For inspirational books about African American history, civil rights, peace and freedom.

February

Valentine’s Day: For loving gifts of books with hidden agendas, including collections of lyric poetry, romance novels, dreamy photos of romantic foreign cities like Paris or Prague.

End of the month: Books related to Major League Baseball’s spring training, with celebratory biographies, compilations of new statistical records, glossy picture books, and metaphorically inclined literary novels, all in place for the sport’s big opening day in April.

March

International Women’s Day:  Books on the latest topical or historic issues around women’s health, reproductive rights, freedom from oppression and exploitation in hostile cultures, personal memoir, biography, quality fiction.

Easter: Books about Christ, biblical exegesis, inspirational, archeological, and illustrated children’s books about the resurrection and other relevant topics.

April

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Books about Jewish calamities and heroism during World War II, personal memoirs, new research about partisans and German rescuers. There are always many new titles for this large book-buying demographic.

May

Cinque de Mayo: Books targeting the rapid growing market for Hispanic-American fiction and nonfiction, history, politics, culture.

Mother’s Day: An occasion perfect for celebrative fiction, memoir, and appreciation to go with that bouquet of roses.

June

Graduations: Gift books for high school and college students. And in these economic hard times, a new category for graduating college students has emerged like Finding a Job When There are No JobsGuerilla Marketing for Job Hunters and many others you’ll see on the front tables during June.

July and August

Summer reading: These are the weeks devoted to summer book sales, the season for category fiction like paperback mysteries, romances and science fiction.

September

The anniversary of September 11th: The events of that day have inspired books in many genres, including politics, history, memoir, biography, education and children’s books.

Off to college: Books for for college freshmen learning the ropes about class and time management, roommates, and coping with issues like sex and drugs, loneliness and insecurity. Also advice books for parents seeking guidance for their 18-year-old’s first time away from home.

Back to school: Children’s books, also parenting, education, technical, professional, literature and fiction.

October

Halloween: Horror movie tie-in books and new titles in costume, art, graphic novel and other fiction.

November

Thanksgiving: Books for children, cookbooks, history and spirituality are popular markets for this holiday.

December

Holiday books for Christmas, Chanukah, the traditional African American Kwanzaa feast, and other special year end observances.

That list is mainly about buying habits, not necessarily release date. So while these days suggest when buying habits are at their peak for certain genres, it doesn’t necessarily mean this is when a book should be released. As mentioned, you want your momentum to build before the peak season hits, so a good measure is to release a book 2 months before whatever peak season is appropriate, and THEN focus your marketing efforts heavily during the peak months.

To simplify the above list, it is as follows:

January – April: All genres of fiction – Romance most of all, Self-Help (New Years Resolution books)
May-August: Fantasy, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller, Travel
September-December: Horror, Paranormal, Literary Fiction, Children’s Books (for Christmas)

This is just a general guideline, and each writer will have different requirements. If you’re in the middle of a popular series and readers are clamoring for books, it doesn’t make sense to sit and wait on a release. Self-publishers are often releasing several books a year (more so than traditional authors), so your release date will be dependent more on when books are completed and ready to publish than holding to these rules.

There’s a lot of criticism of traditional publishing for waiting to release a book for a year, but there is a method to their madness. Partly it’s to do with the above schedule, and partly it’s because they have a huge number of books to juggle on their roster. Self-publishers have a lot more freedom than this: it’s one of the major advantages to self-publishing.

The main question to ask yourself is: is this the type of book you’d read at this time of year? One thing is certain, you shouldn’t rush a book to publication, and if it means waiting a few months to release a book – especially if you’re in Kindle Select and want to benefit from the first three months of a KDP release, which has the most visibility – then self-publishers should mimic trad publishing and release books on a schedule.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

International Children’s Book Day

A reblog.
International Children’s Book Day, by Jo Robinson

ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Jo Robinson

Today is International Children’s Book Day. It is also Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday. The annual event is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People and has been celebrated since 1967. Each year a different national section gets to be the international sponsor of the day. An author from that country writes a message to the children of the world and a well-known illustrator designs a poster for that year. The 2019 sponsor is Lithuania, and both the message and this year’s poster are by author illustrator Kęstutis Kasparavičius, with the theme for the year being “Books Help Us Slow Down”.

The objective of the day is to share great children’s books, so of course, who but the fabulous Myrtle the Purple Turtle could I share on such a day?

Written by Cynthia Reyes for her daughter Lauren, the first Myrtle book shares the lesson that while…

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3 Types of Contracts Every Writer Should Understand, by Jane Friedman

This is a re-blog.

Original Article, by Jane Friedman

Extracted:

Many aspects of publishing—including arrangements with authors, agents, illustrators, freelancers, employees, printers, binders, and distributors—involve contracts. The terms of a contract vary depending on the situation, but in every case, the nature of legally binding agreements is the same. Here are three common forms of contract.

Implied Contracts

Contracts that are not explicitly stated in words may be implied by conduct. For example, suppose that a writer submits a manuscript to a publisher, which publishes the manuscript but does not compensate the writer. Even though they did not sign a contract, there is an implied contract between them. The terms of that contract depend upon the relationship between the writer and the publisher.

If the facts indicate that the writer submitted the manuscript with no expectation of payment, then none would be due. On the other hand, if the writer has historically submitted manuscripts to this publisher and received payment from the publisher for publishing them, it is likely that the writer expected to receive compensation and that a promise by the publisher to pay would be implied. The implied terms of the contract would be legally enforceable. But absent a clear written agreement, the parties could be faced with lengthy and expensive litigation to determine the amount due and other issues.

Oral Contracts

An oral contract is one in which the parties have verbally agreed to something but have not recorded the agreement in writing. Most oral contracts are valid and enforceable, although some kinds of agreements are legally required to be in writing to be enforceable. As a practical matter, oral contracts are often difficult to prove in court, since the main evidence is usually the conflicting testimony of the parties. It has been said that oral contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. While not technically correct, this adage does reflect the harsh reality that many worthy claims cannot successfully be enforced because oral agreements lack the strength of written ones.

Written Contracts

Written agreements should adequately describe the obligations of the parties and the consideration involved. Custom dictates that written contracts be signed and dated by the parties.

Under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and various state laws, transactions executed electronically, such as by email, cannot be invalidated solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in their formation. An electronic signature is any identifying mark, such as the sender’s name at the end of an email or email address in the header. Some kinds of documents, such as wills, are typically covered by these laws, as are most publishing agreements.

Some types of agreements are legally required to be in written form. The Statute of Frauds, a law adopted to inhibit fraud and perjury, provides that any contract that cannot be fully performed within one year must be in writing in order to be legally binding. This rule has been narrowly construed to mean that if a contract can conceivably be performed within one year of its making, it need not be in writing.

Assume that a writer has agreed to submit two manuscripts to a publisherone within eighteen months after the contract is signed and the second within eighteen to twenty-four months thereafter and no earlier. In this situation, the terms of the agreement make it impossible for the writer to complete performance within one year. If, however, the writer agrees to submit both manuscripts within twenty-four months, it is possible that the writer could submit both manuscripts in the first year and the requirements of the Statute of Frauds would be satisfied.

The fact that the writer might not actually complete performance within one year is immaterial. So long as complete performance within one year is possible, the agreement need not be made in writing. The Statute of Frauds applies to other kinds of contracts as well, but these rarely involve writing activities.

For a contract to be enforceable, the parties must be capable of understanding their contractual obligations. Minors are deemed by law to have diminished capacity to contract. A person is legally a minor until the age of majority. This age varies from state to state but is either eighteen or twenty-one years of age in most states.

Persons who have the capacity to enter into contracts and who sign written agreements are generally bound to the terms of those agreements, irrespective of whether they read or understood the agreement before signing. The law imposes the burden on the parties to read proposed agreements and understand the terms prior to signing them. The fact that an Law in Plain English for Publishersagreement was lengthy, obtusely drafted, or complicated will seldom justify rescission, except when the terms are unconscionable or against public policy.

For an in-depth guide to legal issues from a publisher’s perspective (especially helpful for prolific indie authors and small presses), check out The Law (in Plain English) for Publishers by Leonard D. DuBoff and Amanda Bryan.

__________________________________________________

Cheers,
ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Do you, or do you want to, submit your writing to literary journals? – guest blog post by Ellie O’Leary

Very helpful and practical information.

Trish Hopkinson

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and decisions I’ve made in the area of literary submissions. Some of these I consider hard and fast rules, others are more like guidelines, and finally some are my preferences representing decisions I’ve made about how to conduct my own writing business.

First, let’s go over some of the terms.

Submission – You decide that some of your work might be appropriate for a certain journal or “lit mag”. It may be one that goes to print or is entirely online. You submit work for the journal to consider.

Acceptance – They say yes and usually tell you when your work will be published and according to what terms.

Rejection – They say no. Usually, they say “No thank you” in a standard but polite email. You may get a personalized rejection, with some advice on the work or encouragement to submit…

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Hooking the Reader with a Killer Opening to Your Book, by Helena Fairfax

A Sunday re-blog. Cuz we could all benefit from a killer opening.
The original article can be found here.

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by Helena Fairfax

This is another topic that has made me take a good look at my own writing. My first thought is that it’s vital to have an opening that hooks the reader. Some people say a killer opening is even more important now, since online stores like Amazon have a facility to “Look inside” the book, or to download the first few pages as a sample.

They say readers have too much choice and a short attention span, and we have to be hooked immediately or you lose us. But I think back to the days when there was no Amazon and I could only obtain books from bookshops or libraries. I used to do exactly the same thing before choosing a book – check out the blurb, and then have a read of the opening to see if it grabbed me. If I wasn’t hooked, I put the book back.

Stories have always had to grab the reader from the opening. That’s exactly what a good story-teller does. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic opening, with bombs or car chases. It just has to set up a scene that makes the reader think, ‘I wonder what happens next?’ I expect when cavemen sat round the fire telling stories, they always began in a way that would grab their listeners’ interest.

I’ve also heard people say that writers now can’t afford a long, meandering description for an opening, which books used to have in the past. But I struggle to think of any classic novel that doesn’t begin with a great hook. Charles Dickens has some brilliant openings. I think of the convict Magwitch grabbing Pip in the foggy cemetery in Great Expectations, or of the grizzled father and daughter on the Thames, trawling for bodies in the opening to Our Mutual Friend, and the girl’s look of dread and horror. A long while ago I wrote a post on great openings in fiction. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find it here (and see if you can guess them!)

A while ago, too, I wrote a post called Let’s Start at the Very Beginning for the website Romance University on the subject of creating a great opening to a romance novel. It goes into writerly detail on “the inciting incident”, etc, and expands on the things I’ve said in this post.

As for my own books, I write and write and re-write my openings time and time again until I feel that a) I have written something interesting enough to hook the reader and b) the book is starting with something relevant to the story – i.e. not just a gripping incident for the sake of it – and c) I’m starting when the action starts, and not with a lot of backstory.

Over the summer I’ll be releasing a short story I wrote for an anthology. The story is called Come Date Me in Paris. Here’s how it opens:

Alice stood outside the door to her neighbour’s apartment, trying to quell the queasiness in her stomach. It was Saturday, and Edmond had been cooking his usual weekend breakfast. A delicious aroma of pancakes, crushed blueberries and coffee drifted through the door. It should have been a comforting smell – a smell that conjured up leisurely mornings dressed in pajamas, immersed in the pages of a book. Not this morning, though. As soon as Alice thought of cooking, she thought of what she was about to let herself in for, and her insides turned to mush.

She raised her hand, ready to knock.

‘Come on,’ she cajoled herself. ‘How hard can it be? A man who can cook like that isn’t going to bite.’

I’ve rewritten the start to this story several times. Hopefully it now starts in a place that will leave the reader wanting to know what happens next, and that it starts in the place where the real story begins – with Alice meeting Edmond.

The opening to a book is crucial, but…sometimes writers focus on the opening, and then let the rest of the book either drift away or rush towards an unsatisfactory conclusion. It’s not just novel writers who do this. How many times have you watched a film or TV programme – sometimes a whole TV series – and been massively disappointed in the ending?

Writers have to keep that momentum going and keep the reader turning the pages, but they also have to have an ending that delivers and that the reader feels satisfied by. Since I write romance, it’s obvious how my stories are going to end, but I like to make sure they end in a way that’s totally uplifting and gives the reader an “aah” feeling, instead of just fizzling out.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

How to Work With Beta Readers

A Sunday re-blog. You can find the original blog piece here.

How to Work With Beta Readers,
by Hope Ann

There is no one secret to producing a good book. Hard work, patience, more hard work, dogged determination, and did I mention hard work? Yet it is so worth it. And, the more I write, the more I value one particular asset every writer should have.

Beta readers!

Beta readers are wonderful. Sometimes they are friends. Sometimes they are other writers. Sometimes they are people you’ve never met before but who have signed up to help you. Whatever the case, they provide an excellent new look at your own work, commenting on points you’ve missed because of your closeness to your story. If there are problems you are trying to ignore, they will be quick to point those out too.

Grammar, plot, characters, awkward wording… everyone is different, and each beta reader tends to focus on different aspects of your story and will find different things. Together, they help smooth and polish your story to a great degree.

I first started writing, I didn’t even know of the term ‘beta reader’. I had help, but to me, they were friends who were helping with my story as I helped with theirs. Together we improved each other’s work. While I still beta read for friends, and they for me, I now reach out to other readers and get as much aid and new eyes on my story as I can. Without beta readers to provide feedback, I would be lost.

A writer can find beta readers in a number of ways.

The first place to look is among friends. You may have some friends (or fans) who enjoy your work and who are willing to correct your book for the mere chance of reading it. There are other friends who may be writers, and you can arrange a swap of manuscripts, each correcting the other’s work. And you can simply ask.

If you are in a writing group, tell people what you are looking for and have them contact you if they are interested in helping. Create a form people can fill out (Google Forms is great for this) and post it on your blog and Facebook with a blurb about your book. You might be surprised at the number of people who want to read your novel.

There isn’t a set number of beta readers one ought to have: anywhere from five to twenty, as a general range. If you can’t interest anyone, there are writers who hire themselves out as beta readers, as well as professional beta readers you can hire on places like Fiverr. But generally, it’s not hard to find a handful of readers among your circle of friends and acquaintances.

Once you get your beta readers, you must loosen your grip about your manuscript and let people actually read it. Depending on the length, you may send the whole story at once, or in pieces. I prefer sending a novel in parts both because I can correct it easier in smaller chunks, and because it forces the reader to correct a section before finding out what happens next in the story.

At this point, I’ll create an Excel sheet, or a chart of some kind, with the names of all the beta readers, their emails, when I sent them a particular part, when I got it back, and when I corrected that part myself. It helps keep everything in one place, especially when you have a large number of beta readers.

Now remember, unless you are hiring these beta readers, they have a life of their own. I have had numbers of stories beta read and there are two main things I account for when beta readers sign up to help me.

Firstly, I consider how long it would take to beta read a story, then add a few weeks. Then I expect some beta readers to be late. Because life happens. Some readers might whip through your story and have it back in a week. Others might take two or three months. If you do need your novel back in a particular timeframe, encourage everyone to send what they’ve corrected to you by that date, even if they aren’t finished.

Secondly, there will normally be a small percentage of beta readers who end up not getting back to you. This is nothing against beta readers because I understand that things get busy. Just expect it. If everyone sends you your manuscript by the deadline you set, that is great. If not, it’s nothing to worry about. It happens.

Eventually, you start receiving feedback. I like to correct my novel as I get comments back. The cool thing about beta reading is that everyone picks out different things. Five beta readers can go over the same page and pick out different spelling, grammar, or plot mistakes. Together, they are a powerful force.

And there is something you might start to notice. Beta readers can disagree among themselves (unintentionally, of course, since they don’t know what the others have said). Some love a particular part. Others think it could be changed. Some love a theme. Others don’t quite get it.

It is important to approach beta reader feedback correctly. Remember, one book isn’t for everyone. There will always be some people who don’t quite care for a style or idea. There is nothing wrong with this. Take each beta reader’s comment into careful consideration, but they are not Gospel truth. You can keep the thoughts, or decide they aren’t right for the book, or pick and choose what you like. Now, if everyone is agreeing that something is a problem, then it likely needs some help, but otherwise use what comments you can and don’t feel bad if you don’t agree with all of them.

Finally, and this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, treat your beta readers with respect. They deserve it. They have gone over your story, helping you improve it, just for the sake of reading it themselves. Make sure to thank them and maybe even mention them in your acknowledgements.

If you haven’t had beta readers before, don’t hesitate to find some. Once your novel is finished, but before you plunge into detailed polishing, send your book to beta readers for feedback. You won’t regret it.

Alternately titled “Indy e-Con: The Value of Beta Readers.” 

Guest post contributed by Hope Ann. Hope is a Christian fantasy writer and the self-published author of Legends of Light. She has been writing for over five years and enjoys retelling fairy tales, creating worlds, making fun of clichés, and blogging. You can claim a free copy of her Beauty and the Beast prequel here.

Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers

A Sunday re-blog. Pinterest: more than recipes and holiday decor ideas.

A Writer’s Path

by Teagan Berry

There are countless social media sites out on the internet, each of them offering us different means to share our thoughts and life with other people. For authors, social media can help us out in many different ways. Book promotion, connecting with fans, networking with other authors… and that’s just to name a few.

A little while ago I was introduced to a site called Pinterest by a fellow author and let me tell you, I will be forever grateful to her for it. In this post, along with another one I shall be putting up in a couple days, I hope to give you a few reasons why I believe Pinterest is so useful for authors. Right now, I’m going to focus on the private side of Pinterest, and what it can do for you and your specific writing.

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Choose The Write!

A Sunday re-blog. Good thoughts on going with what’s right by you, and not by others would have you do.

Didi Oviatt

I’ve mentioned before that I’m from a small town. What I haven’t mentioned is that its a small “Mormon town” in Utah. That’s right folks I was raised by an LDS family and I grew up having  a certain perception of right and wrong pounded in my head. I however, am one hard headed individual, and somehow developed my own opinion, as many of us “sinners” do… Weird right? lol

To make things worse, not only do I NOT believe in a religion that’s so big on Joseph Smith, but I also like to drink wine and beer, and I write sweary books with naughty scenes in them!  *** Insert Gasp Here***

The point of this post isn’t to show what a rebel I am, or even to encourage those weirdo’s who think its cool to do naughty things merely for the attention. I actually hate that.  There is nothing that…

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How to understand why female character types are written the way they are — Stephanie Haggarty

A Sunday re-blog. Thoughtful and intelligent. Many thanks.

via How to understand why female character types are written the way they are — Stephanie Haggarty

A Simple Guide to Book Advances and Royalties

A re-blog; for my reference.

A Writer’s Path

by Gary Smailes

When a book publisher offers a book deal to a new author, the contract will talk about ‘advances’ and ‘royalties’. These can be a little confusing to new authors, though a little bit of knowledge will go a long way to helping you fully understand what you are being offered.

In this article, you will learn about royalties and advances, you will discover what is usual for a book publisher to offer and you will find out how the publishing world is changing the way it provides advances and royalties.

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On Writing Women (when you’re a dude)

An excellent example (in my opinion) of fiction wherein the female protagonist is written by a man is Stephen King’s, Gerald’s Game.

A copy/pasted article (click here for the original article):

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“You guys, you must stop doing this. You must. We cannot keep yelling at you about it because it makes us so angry, and we are already angry all the time, about real things, like how our lives are turning into a real world Handmaid’s Tale, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha. We cannot keep spending our energy being mad at mediocre men for writing mediocre books that inexplicably win awards and that people tell us to read, for some fucking godawful who knows reason.

So men. My guys. My dudes. My bros. My writers. I am begging you to help me here. When you have this man in your workshop, you must turn to him. You must take his clammy hands in yours. You must look deep into his eyes, his man eyes, with your man eyes, and you must say to him, “Peter, I am a man, and you are a man, so let us talk to each other like men. Peter, look at the way you have written about the only four women in this book.” And Peter will say, trying to free his hands, “What? These are sexy, dynamic, interesting women.” And you must grip his hands even tighter and you must say to him, “ARE THEY, PETER? Why are they interesting? What are their hobbies? What are their private habits? What are their strange dreams? What choices are they making, Peter? They are not making choices. They are not interesting. What they are is sexy, and you have those things confused, and not in the good way where someone’s interestingness makes them become sexy, like Steve Buscemi or Pauline Viardot. Why must women be sexy to be interesting to you? The women you don’t find sexy are where, Peter? They are invisible? They are all dead?” He is trying to escape! Tighten your grasp. “Peter, look at this. I mean, where to begin. ‘She could have been any age between eighteen and thirty-five?’ There are no other ages, I guess? Do you know what eighteen-year-olds really look like, in life? Do you know what thirty-SEVEN-year-olds look like, god forbid? And not that this is even the point, but why are these supposedly sexy and dynamic and interesting women BOTHERING with your boring garbage ‘on the skinny side of average’ protagonist? Why did you write it like this, Peter?”

And maybe Peter will say at last, “I don’t know.” Maybe he will be silent for a long long long time, and then maybe he will say, “I guess it’s scary and difficult for me to imagine the interiority of women because then i would have to know that my mother had an interiority of her own: private, petty, sexually unstimulating, strange: unrelated to me and undevoted to my needs. That sometimes I was nothing to my mother, just as sometimes she is nothing to me. That I was not at all times her immediate concern.”

“I know, Peter,” you can tell him gently.

“I don’t want to know that my mother was a human being with an internal life, because to know that would be to risk a frightening intimacy with her,” Peter will say, maybe. “Because to know that would be to know that she was only a small, complicated person, no bigger or smaller than I am, and I am so small. To know how alone she was. How alone I am. How alone we all are. That my mother survived with no resources more mysterious than my own. And yet she gave me life. My God: she gave me life. How can I pay her back for that? And how can I forgive her for it? How can I ever repay her for the good and the evil of it, my life, every day of my life?” He will be sobbing probably. “I am frightened of her. I am frightened of loneliness. I am frightened of dying. O God. My God. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” Drool will run from his mouth as he cries. The way babies cry. He will be ashamed. You must hold him. You must say, “Shh, Peter. Shh.” Wrap your man arms around him. Hum into his thin hair as your own mother hummed once into your own sweet-smelling baby scalp. Kiss him gently on his mouth. There. You did it, men. You fixed sexism. Thank you. You’re the real hero here, as always, you men, and your special man powers, for making art. ”

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