Sunday, June 29, 2014

Expo Tips

I know a great many of you like to attend Expos and book fairs, not just to enjoy the event itself, but also to promote your own work. It's something I'd certainly love to get the opportunity to do if they had that kind of thing, way over here in Greece, it is...all I can do is stare across the ocean in envy, stick my bottom lip out, and sulk.

Anyway, for those of you who are able to enjoy the luxury of an Expo or two, I came across an excellent little article on the Writers Network, that you might find useful. It was written by a guy called, Ron Knight, who made some excellent suggestions as to what we could all do to make our work stand out that little bit more, and especially if you actually get to attend these events.
Here it is...see what you think.
I just attended a book fair in Venice, Florida that had 56 authors selling their books. Here are some things I noticed:
1~ About 20% of the authors were sitting. The problem with that is it makes the author look like they aren’t passionate about sharing their story. Of those 20%, only half stood up when I spoke to them. This is a big mistake if you want to sell books.
TIP: It can be exhausting, but you must stand and greet each potential reader. You only have a few seconds to make an impression.
2~ Only 2 authors stood in front of their table, rather than behind the table. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that I spent a few extra minutes listening to those 2 authors pitch their books.
TIP: Standing to the front/left or front/right of the table shows confidence in what you’re doing and you will engage in more conversations.
3~ Only 50% of the authors had either a bookmark, or business card with their contact information. Of those, 20% had cheap looking bookmarks or business cards that they obviously copied off their printer and cut out.
TIP: Most people will collect bookmarks and decide later on which books to purchase. This is essential for every author to have. Of those that had bookmarks or business cards, only 20% provided an email address. For some reason authors aren’t including their email addresses, but I’m not sure why.
TIP: You never know who will be stopping at your table. It’s important to have all of your contact information provided on a professional bookmark, or business card, which includes all of your links AND your email address.
4~ Only 2 authors provided an extra activity to do at their table.
TIP: If you provide some sort of simple game where you can win a free prize, this will build a crowd around your table and keep people near you longer.
5~ Only 1 author gave away a free pencil. (On that pencil was their book title and website.)
TIP: If you give away a pencil, or some sort of small prize, it will be a promotion that lasts even longer than a bookmark.
6~ Only 10% of authors pitched me on their books in less than 25 words.
TIP: The most difficult thing for authors to do is pitch their novel in one sentence, but it’s critical to have that pitch ready. Perhaps you can pitch your book the same as the film industry pitches a new movie. “My book is like Die Hard on a bus!” Or, “My book is Blade Runner meets Field of Dreams.”
7~ ZERO authors gave away an excerpt of their book.
TIP: Even if you sat down behind your table, didn’t give away bookmarks or business cards, didn’t provide an extra activity or handout free items, or didn’t pitch your book, there is one slam dunk way to get anyone excited about your story…give them an example.
Professional Excerpt Tips:
8~ On the top left corner provide a black and white photo of your book cover, or some sort of image that relates to your book.
9~ Provide the first chapter of your book, or whatever fits on a 9×11 sheet. On the back, (Or if you have room on the bottom front page) provide your links and email address.
Your story is amazing, so people will purchase your book before leaving the event, or purchase your book using one of your links. There’s no better pitch than your writing.
Bonus: Spend a little extra money and printout another sheet that provides 10 tips that benefit your target readers. Staple that tip-sheet to your excerpt.
For example, if you write teen books, provide 10 tips on how to survive high school. If you write inspirational books, provide 10 tips on starting off the day with a positive attitude.
10~ Zero authors sold something other than their book.
TIP: The book fair was outside in Venice, Florida. If an author sold waters for a dollar, they would have made a killing. Also, authors should sell wristbands for a buck that have the title of their book, or a catchy phrase based on their story.
Your book is the gateway to all kinds of success, but it starts with YOU…
Ron Knight
I don't know about you, but I found some of Ron's advice intriguing. I've done small publicity events here in Greece...and I don't know if it was the informality of the affair that helped...but thankfully, I naturally did some of what he suggested. I stood round on the other side of the desk. I socialized. Had a little competition, had cards and flyers made, etc.
But other aspects?
Having a one sentence blurb prepared? Fantastic!
Having excerpts of your book - or even a print out of your 1st chapter? Canny idea!
Other little gimmicks with the title or the emblem of your book?
Look at this.
My regular readers will know what these two symbols represent. Imagine if I had then transposed - as he suggested - onto wristbands, magnets, pens etc. Simple and effective.
I think I'm going to start doing this...and tell you how it goes. :)
That's all for now. I hope YOU found something within this item that might prove useful.
Until the next time, have a great day...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Poetry Acceptance

Hello again,
I'm proud to announce the latest release from Shoe Music Press,
Penny Ante Feud 14 - The Fires of the Earth / The Dying Word.
Penny Ante Feud is a quality press who only accept one - just one - submission from each of the applicants who strive to encapsulate their thoughts and emotions in a way that describes this most desperate and perfect act.
I am delighted to say, my submission, Virtual Reality, will be part of this thought provoking collection.
If you've never read poetry before...try this.
You won't look back :)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Improving You Craft

I don't know about you, but I'm always on the lookout for articles and blogs that contain advice as to how I can refine my skills as a writer. I've been under contract from the beginning of 2012, but I still feel like an infant on shaky legs who needs the security of a baby stroller.

So what do I do as I wade through the many sites offering help? Because as you'll come to appreciate, there are a lot of them out there.
The first thing I'd say is, Don't get put off by the volume. The wealth of information they contain can be turned to your advantage.
Do what I do. Skim.
All of us are different, so the help we need - or even want - will vary from person to person.
However, there are some "Bread & Butter" points that must be heeded, especially when those tips are repeated again and again.

Here are some of the *** what I feel to be *** most often repeated slogans you'll see. Therefore, we need to take note of them.

1. Be active, not passive.
One of the most common manifestations of bad writing is overuse of the passive voice. The passive voice makes the object of an action into the subject of the sentence with verb forms like, "X had been attacked by Y." instead of simply putting, "Y attacked X."
Now, using the passive voice isn't always bad. Sometimes there's no other way you can make a clear statement. But wherever you can, follow the rule of activity.
Be honest, what do you feel more comfy reading?
"The blog had been written by Andrew while he was at home." OR, "Andrew wrote the blog while at home."

2. Use strong words.
What do I mean? Good writing is precise. Evocative and thought provoking. Finding the right verb or adjective can turn a coma inducing sentence into a one where the reader catches their breath, and remembers it for years. Look for words that are specific, and try not to repeat the same word over and over, unless you're trying to build a rhythm with it.
But be careful, especially when it comes to dialogue.
Bad writing can be filled with 'he commented." or "she responded." A well placed "he sputtered." or "she gasped." can work wonders, but most of the time, a simple he/she "said" will do. Sometimes, this might feel awkward, but changing things up unnecessarily can make it harder for your reader to get into the back & forth flow of a conversation or exchange.
Remember, when writing dialogue, you want your reader to hear the characters voices, not your own.

3. Cut the chaff.
(Something I had to work hard on when I started out.)
Good writing is simple, clear, and direct. You don't get points for saying in 50 words, what you could have said in 30. Good writing is about using the right words, not filling up the page. It might feel satisfying to pack a whole load of ideas into a single sentence, but the chances are it'll just make it harder to read.
I can relate to this, especially with my Guardian Series that contains many references to technical and scientific jargon. Originally, I tried to convey too much information in the hope it would make things clearer. It didn't. My attempts just brought things to a grinding halt. Thankfully, I have a great editor who isn't afraid to wield the literary knife. With her help I learned - and am still learning - if the phrase doesn't add anything valuable...cut it!

Personal note: For all you newly contracted writers out there...take heed.
WORK WITH YOUR EDITOR. They know what they're doing, so trust them. In my case, I've improved a great deal in regards to this personal area of weakness. But it's something I still have to watch carefully. When I've finished my 1st draft, I can still cut up to 3,000 to 4,000 words from a 100K manuscript. Pretty good, eh? I think so too, until my editor (Demon Barber) gets her hands on it, and trims off a further 'X' amount. (Bah humbug!)

4. Show don't tell.
Instead of just sitting your readers down for a long exposition regarding a character's background or a plot point's significance, try to let the reader discover the same ideas through words, feelings and actions. Now, I understand there are times when things will be a little dry. Imitating a press release, for example, captures the mood of what you see in newspapers. But, when it comes to your actual dialogue, applying the advice of this masterly piece of advice is a crucial factor in improving your craft.

5. Break the Rules.
Isn't this a contradiction? No. The best writers don't just follow the rules, they know when and how to break them. If you know being naughty will improve your piece, grow a spine and don't be afraid. Do some research, apply what you learn, and take the plunge. Just ensure your standards are clear elsewhere, so that readers understand what you've done, and appreciate it.

Personal note: I was brave enough to actually do this with the Cambion Journals series. Stay tuned to my blogs next week where I explain the process I adopted to create this series...especially in relation to POV application. It was a huge gamble, but, my homework paid off.
(Look out for the "Buy the Book Tour" starting June 16th where the process is made clear,).

6. Edit...edit...edit.
Don't believe your eyes. EDIT. Even when you've gone over your draft umpteen times. EDIT. Check your manuscript. Check it again. Then do it some more. Editing is one of the most essential parts of writing. Don't rush it. Don't cram it. Don't leave it to someone else. Keep doing it over and over until your brain hurts.
You'll be glad you did.
TIP: Some friends of mine use a Google reader to verbalize their manuscripts. Me? I drive my wife crazy by reading out loud the actual words I've written. (She goes nuts when I use silly accents. I don't do it to wind her up, I use them as a concentration aid.) And that's important. Read what's there...NOT what your brain automatically wants to fill in. I've caught so many mind/finger slips this way, that I've made it part of my process. (Despite the danger to my life)

Anyway. That's it. Nothing fancy, and certainly nothing that's new. This is sage advice. Bread and butter pointers that every writer needs to apply to ensure their craft does what it needs to do...
I hope you find something here you like.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Stuck for ideas?

No matter how much you love writing, there will always be days when you need inspiration. In fact, I would argue that inspiration isn’t just a desirable thing; it’s an integral part of the writing process.

Every writer needs to find inspiration in order to produce fresh ideas. And sometimes, they can come from the unlikeliest sources.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite ways of finding inspiration — some of them obvious, some of them less so. If you haven’t used a few of these sources, give them a go.

  1. Blogs. This is one of my favorites, of course. There are dozens of great blogs on writing and every topic under the sun. I like to read about what works for others. Now and again, I discover something totally new, and it inspires me to action!
  2. Books. I’ve confessed this aspect before. I read authors I love, and then poach good ideas from them. I analyze their writing. Their way of thinking. How they develop things. Then I’ll apply it in my own way to help keep the ideas flowing. Sometimes, I’ll try a genre I don’t normally enjoy, just to branch out into something different. You might find something that works for you.
  3. Magazines. Good magazines aren’t always filled with great writing, but you can usually find one good piece of either fiction or non-fiction. Entertaining for its writing style, its voice, its rhythm and ability to pull you along to the end.  
  4. Movies. Sometimes, while watching a movie, a character will say something so interesting that I’ll say, “That would make a great blog post!” or “I have to write that in my writing journal!” Sometimes screenwriters can write beautiful dialog. Other times I get inspired by the incredible camera work, or the way a face or the landscape captured on film. I even get ideas from blending movie themes together.
  5. Music. Along the same lines, it can be inspiring to listen to great music. I can’t listen to music while I write, but I do have it playing in the background while I research. Allow the tone and mood of what you’re listening to, to lift you up and move you.
  6. Quotes. I don’t know why, but when I see a great quote, they sometimes help inspire me. I like to go to various quote sites to find ideas to spark my imagination. Try it, you’ll be surprised.
  7. Dreams. I have a real knack for this. I’m also fortunate, in that I can remember and take control of many of my dreams. However, I only do that from time to time, as its usually best just to let my unconscious creativity manifest. So, I make it a practice to keep a dream journal by my bedside to write down what I remember. Not because I think it’ll tell me something about myself or my future or past, but because dreams don’t have boundaries. They completely disregard for the rules of reality, and have an otherworldy sense I want to capture, especially in my fantasy and paranormal works.
  8. Writing journal. I highly recommend this for any writer. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or something you write in every day. Just a plain notebook will do. Write down thoughts and quotes. Snippets and ideas. Phrases or dialog and plot ideas for new characters.
  9. Poetry. How can poetry inspire prose? Through its beauty and flow and style and use of rhythm and play on words. Through its use of language and music. Some of my best short stories started as poems.
  10. People watching. This is an interesting activity for any writer. Go to a busy public place and just sit and watch people. They’ll amuse you, inspire you, disappoint and fascinate you. There’s nothing more inspiring than humanity.

So there you go. Just 10 little ideas I’ve found inspiring. Hopefully, you’ll find something there to motivate you whenever you’re stuck for an idea and have a blank page to fill.