Monthly Archives: October 2009

One Author’s Inspiration: “Finding Emmaus” by Pamela Glasner

!cid_A31B9820510C4515989E15E869C779EB@PAMSPOWERHOUSEEmpath, defined:

For the purposes of my book, an Empath is someone who experiences another person’s emotions as if they were their own, meaning they can actually feel the feelings of others.  However, unless they are aware that they’re Empathic or have the training required to make the distinction between feelings which are legitimately theirs from Empathic events, they’d have no way of knowing that they’re experiencing emotions from an outside source.  

The Inspiration for Finding Emmaus:

I knew I wanted to write a book about Empaths and actually Finding Emmaus started out as a love story with an Empathic element.  But I wasn’t crazy about it.  It kept feeling strained and forced.  I’d written about two or three chapters and I just didn’t like the ‘feel’ of it.  It didn’t flow; it just didn’t have the power to move me.  

And then, one morning, it occurred to me that perhaps I should try coming at it from a completely different angle … just pick anything.  The first thing that popped into my head was ‘name the town where the story will take place.’  

At that moment I just happened to be standing in front of a fabulous work of art I own called The Basketweaver, drawn by a wonderfully talented artist from Tennessee named Marita Parisi, a pencil drawing of an incredibly old man named Frank who truly did exist.  He used to sit inside the shelter of a covered bridge and weave baskets.  So I thought: Weaver’s Bridge, and suddenly the town had a name.  

That thought was followed closely by: yes, the town is Weaver’s Bridge and this is Frank and he’s an Empath.  In fact, he’s the Father of Empathy.  He ‘wrote the book’ on it.  But the book has long since disappeared and has fallen into legend.  

And then I thought, if the book faded into legend, this had to have happened a very long time ago.  And since modern America’s history is only about 390 years old, the decision as to when the story took place was made for me.  It couldn’t have happened any earlier than the 1600’s because that’s when Connecticut colony was settled.  

Then I thought: no-one wanted to listen to him.  He wrote the book — dedicated his life to it, in fact — but everyone considered him to be a madman.  Why?  Because HE was an Empath and therefore would have been considered a lunatic, particularly in Puritan times. 

So Frank (now dubbed Francis, as he would have been called back then) dedicated his life to the creation of a guide, a central source of information, an authoritative voice, an anthology of his experiences as well as the experiences of as many other Empaths as he could find and persuade to contribute, a manuscript containing not only practical lessons of what it meant to be an Empath and how to survive in this life, but a set of principals to live by and pass on so that none would ever be harmed again.  This guide would eventually come to be known as The Lodestarre. 

Unfortunately, Frank couldn’t find anyone to publish it or any other way to disseminate the information (because of Puritan beliefs) so eventually The Lodestarre was hidden away in the hopes that some time in the distant future, when hopefully the world might have evolved and people might have become more tolerant, that someone would find The Lodestarre and carry on with Frank’s dream.  Then, 300 years later, Katherine, the 21st century Empath, does just that: she finds it and picks up where Frank left off. 

I had all of that – I swear to God – in my head in less than 15 minutes.   

As I said, I knew I wanted to write about book about Empaths and I also knew I wanted to draw a comparison between the outward manifestations of the Empathic personality and the “symptoms”, if you will, of Bipolar Disorder.  And in order to do that accurately, of course, I had to do some research.  

In the story, Katherine finds out at 54 that she’s been misdiagnosed and inappropriately medicated all her adult life.  Now in her case, she’s an Empath so of course she could not be ‘cured’.  Katherine was actually the initial reason for MY research: I did it just so I could speak intelligently about Bipolar Disorder and not for any other reason.  But what I found in the course of my research sickened me.  Frankly, it scared the hell out of me.  Eventually, as I delved deeper, learned more and became more appalled at what I learned, it had a tremendous influence on what happened to Katherine as the story progressed.  

Traditional psychiatric philosophy has it that Bipolar Disorder is an illness which is treatable only by the administration of extremely toxic drugs, the side effects of which are pretty universal — and most of them hideous.  A good number of them, in fact, can become permanent and in about 10,000 cases each year, the effects are fatal.  Those who ingest these drugs — and I am speaking here specifically of people under the care of licensed physicians who legally prescribe them, can become psychotic, lose their eyesight, develop body tremors, become insomniacs, lose the ability to swallow, or if they can swallow they lose their appetite anyway because of severe nausea and vomiting, develop a condition known as Akathisia, develop hallucinations and actually lose ability to think clearly and reason.  

Then I found out that the failure rate of these drugs is 70% — meaning that 70% of the time, these drugs do not have their intended effect.  

Think about that: If a cough medicine failed at that rate, or if 70% of the time when you popped open a can of Coca Cola you didn’t like the taste, just how long do you think those products would remain on the store’s shelves?  

And yet, these drugs not only remain on the market, but in an economic environment when everyone else is suffering layoffs and cutbacks and closings and downsizing, the manufacture of psychotherapeutic medications has skyrocketed in four short years from a $12 billion industry to a $70 billion industry — with a product that fails 70% of the time.   

You go figure it.  

After reading congressional testimony and reports written by the CDC (US Center for Disease Control) and patient diaries and blogs from the loved ones who also suffer right along with the patients … I do not exaggerate one bit when I tell you that some of the stuff I read not only froze my blood, but broke my heart and had me sitting in my office, unable to read what was on my computer screen because I was crying too hard. 

It was — and still remains — impossible for me to talk about or write about objectively or dispassionately, but because it’s all true and I wanted to remain true to my characters, and because Katherine really would have found all of this had she been a real person and been the one to do the research, I wrote it into the story.  

Now, not only does the story move me, but there are parts of the book that, even now, even after countless reads and edits and re-reads, still have the power to break my heart and bring me to tears.  

~~Pamela S. K. Glasner~~ 

http://www.lodestarre.com/index.html

Finding Emmaus is available at several locations. See the “Buy the Book” page on the website.

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The Person Underneath

Over the past few months, I’ve been interviewed and asked to write guest blogs on publicity, marketing, promotion and the processes of a writer. I think it’s about time to talk a little about who I am aside from that. We’re all a giant ball of a thousand things that make up the whole. Like a well developed character in a novel, we have layers of personality, likes, dislikes and obsessions that make up the image we portray to the world. Everything  buried has a prominent mark on what we do, how we do it and why. I thought it might be a good time to peel the onion and tell all (well some). This won’t take long, I’m not that interesting. 

Business PartnersThis is a picture of my cousin Charlene and me (that’s me in the stylish plaid jumpsuit). We grew up almost in each others pockets, had the same friends, the same teachers and on at least one occasion, shared the same boyfriend. She was the adventurous one, I was the follower. Once at around seven years old she sprinted across the street and I actually trailed after while her father charged to catch us. He caught my ponytail, thinking it was hers. We were so inseparable even Uncle Charlie couldn’t tell us apart. 

Charlene liked to dabble with the unknown and take the challenges; I liked to tag along (knowing full well we’d both be in deep doo doo if we got caught). She was the opening for me, the expansion that created the me I am today. 

Life and adulthood took over, we each married, had children and went our ways but we talk on the phone often. She lives in Florida, I’m in California. I miss her, or perhaps it’s just the craziness of our youth together I miss. These days I follow seldom and blaze my own paths, although I’m still glancing over my shoulder every now and then to see if Uncle Charlie is barreling down on me. 

This is the landscape of my life now. Aside from being a publicist and writer seeking publication, I’m a retired chef, mother of a grown son, grandmother, friend and roommate. Three years ago I moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, yes drastic and the time between making the decision and actually moving was less than three weeks. At that point in my life, it was time for a BIG change. 

I’ve been married and divorced twice and to the shock and amazement of many, would actually try it again. I like the yin and yang of marriage, the symbiotic partnership and the dream of “happily every after”. Here’s the kicker, I also like the independence and empowerment of being single. There has to be a middle ground for this but I’m not sure I’ll find it in this lifetime. 

GOOD_F__VMy loves include English bulldogs, cooking and entertaining, experimenting with ideas and presentation, with deep thoughts and the ever present “what ifs” of life. I’m a problem solver in every room in my house from the kitchen to my home office, with a tight household budget, a tough cut of meat or a difficult client issue. 

I’m a spiritual person, a bit Catholic, a lot seeker and I’ve studied under a Native American medicine man. Everything in my life seems to focus on a spiritual guide post of some sort … an enlightened friend, family member or tarot card reader. I’m a universal believer, a Christian aware of the vast number of paths toward salvation. 

I love chocolate (who doesn’t?), the ocean, mountains and (yes) big cities. I love nature when it intrudes boldly with intense weather, something I sorely miss in Southern California. 

I’m not political and spend a mess of time seeking the center for any given situation. As a Scorpio that seems like a contradiction. An argument or heated blow-up has never helped me make headway in anything, so long ago I chose to pass on the drama. Maybe I’m a Scorpio by mistake. 

I enjoy movies, the black and white ones especially, and I think Russell Crowe is brilliant. I’m a stagnant music lover and never have been progressive in my preferences. Everything from classical to crooning 50s and up to classic rock fits the bill to accompany my work. Meatloaf, Beethoven, Rusted Root, The Eagles, Bing Crosby, Counting Crows. Yeah, not a big explorer where music is concerned. 

I love my family, so far away now, and talk to my three grandsons as often as possible. And … I wonder everyday what made me move so far away. 

I don’t get extremely sad but I can reach ecstatic panicles of joy over a clear winter California day when I can see snow on the San Gabriel Mountains from my house. Guess it just doesn’t take much to please me. 

I am a bunch of contradictions. I’m a social animal who seldom leaves the house. I love to laugh but often find myself deep in serious conversations of a metaphysical nature. I am creative and prolific with a client’s goals and budgets but can’t balance my own checkbook if my life depended on it. I totally adore counterpoints in flavors, ideology and personalities. I’m an acquired taste. 

There … see. Told you I’m not all that interesting but writing this all down has reminded me that I’m more than a publicist and struggling writer. I’m a whole person and I’m hungry, starving everyday for the success looming for my clients, finding publication for my own writing, the prospect of flying home for the holidays, and the simplicity of working effectively in my home office exactly fifteen feet away from my bed and thirty feet away from my coffee brewer. 

What makes you what you are? What sits under the surface that defines the person you are and the profession you’ve chosen? Come on. Share. Otherwise I’ll feel like a goof for writing this blog.


Market Research for Authors

Books_moneyWhat’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of market research? Eight people taste testing crackers in front of a one-way mirror? Irritating telephone calls from pollsters at dinnertime?  A four-page check-box survey that arrives in the mail boasting of free coupons if you’re one of the first 500 people to return it? 

You’re right, these are all tools that researchers use to find out more about their customers.  Most of us believe that this element in the product development cycle is only for manufacturers of cars, the staff of politicians and producers of cleaning products.  However, this little post is all about market research for the author. 

Most authors balk at having to promote themselves.  After all, they are ‘Creators’, not salespeople.  That’s the job for publicists or agents or publishers or someone else.  However one might feel about it, the responsibility for marketing one’s book is the author’s.  How they go about that is really up to them, whether they hire someone or take it on themselves.  The importance of building an author platform is paramount in the selling of the book – and any author worth their weight knows this.   

This blog post is here to help you with that.  This is a simple primer on market research, that little thought of, but oh so important aspect of selling a product, and yes, whether you like it or not, your book is just that – a product. 

Simplistically speaking, the goal of market research is to determine the market demand for a particular product.  By determining demand, one is then able to determine how to best sell it.  That is why market research is important for authors, because after doing this relatively simple task, you’ll find it is easier to sell your work. 

The traditional product development cycle would say to research the demand for the product, go build it, then go sell it.  For the author, this might mean checking out bestseller lists, libraries and online networks to find out what people are reading and buying and then write a book on something that has high demand. 

But does that really work in this arena?  My say is no.  The minute you write for someone else, and not for yourself, you lose all credibility as one who creates.  And what you create will be lacking, aerated and void.  And readers will see that.  And they won’t buy it.   

So, remain true to yourself and create something from your heart, soul and intellect.  Go through all the steps necessary to get to your finished product – a manuscript.  Then once you’re done, you’ll try to sell it.  For some authors this means self-publishing.  For others this means shopping it around to publishers and agents.  If you take the latter route, you’ll soon find out that most of these people are looking for authors with an established platform. 

No matter which road you take, developing a platform means getting yourself out there, marketing yourself and your book.  You might Tweet, start a Facebook page, join author’s groups, hold readings, get a webpage, a blog, etc.  It means doing anything to get yourself or your book in front of customers – whether they be readers, agents or publishers. 

But, if you take the time to do a bit of research before you start all your platform-building efforts, you’ll find that you can cut down on the costs and time you spend doing sales and marketing and maximize your efforts.  While some might say that these tasks only apply to those authors who self-publish – I say that doing this task is for all authors.   

1. Know Your Product 

Being the creator of your product, one would think you know it well.  However getting a second or third opinion would be prudent.  Get your friends to read it and ask them to give you a “product overview”.  Ask them to describe the book as though they were telling someone who knows nothing about it, subject matter, length, writing style, etc.  You’re not looking for reviews – just a description.  Both you and your colleagues should write down your “product overviews” so as to avoid any misinterpretation in trying to remember what people said.  Then from these, compile a final description of your book, including all the details from ISBN, to title, to genre to word count to synopsis. 

2. Know Your Customer 

You likely have a pretty good idea on who your target reader is.  However, it is a good idea to get some second and third opinions, via your colleagues as mentioned above.  I have had several authors be surprised that a demographic group, different than the one of which they originally thought, enjoyed their novel.  Write down who your reader is.  Don’t stop at the regular demographic particulars like age, income and whether they have kids.  Think about their lifestage.  Are they young urban singles, suburban stay-at-home-moms, mature professional men, etc?  Then, think about what those groups might enjoy doing, list their possible hobbies and past-times. Think about their reading habits, frequency or where they read.  If you don’t know, talk to people.  One of the reasons Dan Brown’s books are so popular is because of his very short chapters.  His books fit today’s harried and hurried lifestyle of multi-tasking; and fitting in a short chapter on a coffee break makes for easy reading that many people want.  Then, once you’ve got your primary reader targeted, think about your secondary readers – or groups who may also be interested in your book. 

One might read this and wonder how we can group individuals into static uniform groups of readers.  I’m not proposing that – but generally speaking, people in similar life stages share similar interests. In no way is one trying to exclude any particular demographic, but having a sound idea of who your target readers are will better enable you to reach them. 

If you’re shopping your book for publication, then you need to identify another customer segment – publishers and literary agents.  Take the time to research these people and companies and get to know them the same way that you are trying to get to know your reader. 

3. Know Your Market 

Here is when you get to know the marketplace in which you are jumping into.  You would want to know the size of the market and the growth that’s in it.  If your book is romance, a quick web search will yield that in 2008 Romance is the largest genre of the fiction market taking 13.5% of sales.  Other things you might want to have an idea of are average prices, lengths, and trends in cover design or storylines.  You should also make yourself familiar with the trends in reading, publishing and bookselling.  Bricks and mortar bookstores aren’t going anywhere for a while, but paper books are down in sales and the only growth is in digital or eBooks.  If you don’t know anything about digital publishing or any other industry trends, make it a priority to find out the basics. 

4. Know Your Competition 

Finally, get to know who else is out there.  By knowing what authors and books are selling and not selling will help you figure out where your book belongs and perhaps what kind of sales you can expect.  It’s not hard to figure out the current trends, from YA vampires to middle grade fantasy.  Pay attention to these trends and pay attention to what your competition is writing and how they market themselves.  Glean ideas from others who are better at it than you.  Watch, listen and learn, then you can get out there and put your own spin on it. 

 

This might all sound a bit daunting, but once you start writing these elements down in an organized format, you’ll realize that you likely know a lot of this already.  You might have to get a few other opinions or bits of information.  This isn’t about creating tables or graphs or demographic pyramids.  It’s just about cementing in your mind where your book fits in this mass of new books that are released every day.  You’ll find that all this will fit on a few pieces of paper. 

Once you’ve done this, you’ll find that marketing becomes a bit easier, more creative, more task-oriented and far more effective.  For example, many authors join Twitter or Facebook and start trying to sell their book/themselves that way.  They accumulate lots of friends, and figure they’re doing a great job.  But what if their target readers are middle grade kids?  Many parents don’t let their 11 year-old kids on those social networks, so all that time spent tweeting would be much better served by doing some local advertising at schools, libraries or by getting creative on how to get viral with that highly social demographic. 

Of course, now comes the hard part, how to find creative and effective ways to reach your readers.  But now that you know who they are, who else is out there, what kind of market you’re in and what you have to offer – the ideas will flow much more easily from what we already know is your highly creative mind. 

ducks 

 

 

 

Michelle Halket is the Creative Director for ireadiwrite Publishing, a digital small press which specializes in literary fiction, poetry and selected non-fiction by new authors.  For more about her and ireadiwrite Publishing, check out www.ireadiwrite.com


Mumbo Jumbo OR the Answers to Everything an Author Needs

space 2Have you ever tried to take a subject or thought as absolutely far as your mind can take it? I’m talking getting-a headache-but-can’t-stop far? I’m talking if-you-can-bend-the-light-there-is-no-spoon far? I’m talking down-the-rabbit-hole far? 

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this may be a good time to tune out. This isn’t stuff for the faint of heart. In my humble opinion, this is the stuff of true creative minds and like a gorgeous hard body with a perfect six pack and glistening muscles, it takes a mess of focus, commitment and hard work to get there. In this case, imagination work. NOTE: I didn’t say physical work or brain work. I said IMAGINATION WORK. 

About twenty years ago I taught a “Thinking” class at a kids club. My students were inner-city children between 12 and 15 years old. An unruly gathering of young people so settled into their reality, anyone could see that without an imagination shake-up they were going nowhere. Their lives, values, expectations and emotions were limited to what they saw and heard everyday. My idea was to make them see past it, beneath it, around it and beyond it. High hopes, right? But I’m no expert at any of those things so I dug into my own reality to envision the turning points in my life that could have changed everything. I got a headache, couldn’t find the spoon and dropped like a rock into the rabbit abyss. Determining how to teach the class took longer than actually doing it. 

There are benefits to every endeavor and I often wonder about those kids, where they are, if they ever thought twice about the classes after I left and if they learned anything. Here’s the kicker, I did. I discovered a whole world of metaphysical awareness I only imagined existed for other, more blessed and gifted people. And … I use that world in my practical life all the time. 

Many of my classes had a basic structure, a direction or goal in mind but I determined early that how we’d get there was going to be revealed as we explored. Sounds like mayhem and it could have been but I didn’t introduce this concept until we’d gotten a few interesting classes under our belts and noticed that the faces walking into my classroom were bright and focused and ready for more. Then I just let the energy take over. For example, at the time, I had very long hair and a favorite fuchsia scrunchie I used to pull it up into a ponytail. 

They sat, quiet and waiting (a rarity for 12 to 15 years olds), watching me with open interest. I simply tugged the scrunchie out and dropped it onto the table. “Teach is missing. She’s not here. The only clue you have is this. What happened to Teach?” 

What followed was the most intriguing mystery I ever heard; Sherlock Holmes meets the Hardy Boys in the back streets of any dingy town. It encompassed their truths and realities with the spice of unexpected creativity. From there it flowed into the next class where the students arrived with a concept for a board game based on the mystery. Art supplies were provided and my class grew in number and inspired ideas. That concept expanded from board games to hand-drawn comic books to a novella plotted, written, typed and bound by the students. The power is inside the freedom and those students had a blast. For twelve weeks while they conceptualized and created their products, they explored various ideas and venues to sell them. And every phase of this process was NOT guided by me; it grew organically from expanding young imagination. I’m not sure, but I think I unleashed the next generation of marketing experts. 

The end profits were born in the original passion. Their class experience wasn’t an instruction of techniques and skills to perfect, it was the growth of unique ideas and elements to support something they were proud of and loved. 

Aren’t we all like that? 

In this time of shifting economy and the added marketing workloads falling on an author’s shoulders, I think sometimes we miss the point. With my students, I never once said “create a product and I’ll teach you how to sell it”. I never told them that once their product was developed they’d be responsible for making it successful. Hell, I never even told them to create anything. The natural progression of logic, excitement and imagination made wonderful things happen. 

We’re all kids. Writers dabble around the rabbit hole, explore characters and concepts and boldly, courageously, write them, pitch them and hopefully publish them. Then what do we do? We freeze. Our reality limits us, tells us we’re writers and that’s all we can or should do. It tells us that publishers do the marketing, someone else does the legwork and all we need to do is write. 

When a concept germinates and develops we’re so excited! We know this is it, the one that’ll sell a million books. We feel the passions and even get glimpses of where the book should be, who will own it, love it and cherish it on their personal shelves. Then we nip that in the bud and move on. After all … someone else is supposed to do that stuff, right? Get the book into that reader’s hands? So, all our fleeting brilliance that should be part and parcel of the creation of the book and extend to how and where to make it visible, gets locked away. 

With or without a big publishing house behind your book, you instinctively know things about publicity and marketing. It ain’t brain surgery. It’s only a meatball. The process is woven into the chapters, laced through the characters’ dialog and painted into the book cover image you have in mind. Why do authors abandon this essential extention of creation? 

You know I’m a writer, but I’m also a publicist. When I write, I let the concepts for the book’s future flow through me and onto a cool little note pad I keep to the side. Those thoughts are vital, they will plot the road to success. I’m receiving those thoughts because they are elemental to the creative project at hand. 

When I am functioning as a publicist, the process is surprisingly the same … but I have rules. 

For example, I will not take on a client (especially of the author persuasion) unless they already understand their role in making a book successful. I’m not talking about authors who say “tell me where and when and I’ll be there with book sighing pen in hand”. Not interested in that author at all. 

Here’s a truth all authors must swallow. Publicity and marketing are already structured into your project and you already know it. An author who calls me, tells me their story with passion and direction then blurts out strange ideas for marketing the book … now that’s my perfect client. I have practical and professional tools to implement a great idea. I do not work for a client … I work with them. Don’t give me your book, ask me to read it then tell you how I’ll publicize or market it. That’s when I use my favorite four letter word … N E X T. Do convey your passions about the story, the characters and the reader you want to speak to. Any good publicist can help you take your voice and put in traditional venues as well as off-the-wall places you instinctively knew to reach. 

A good publicist/author relationship is about synergy. And a good author/imagination relationship should never be stifled just because it seems like someone else’s job. If it came to you, it’s yours. Own the idea, set it aside while you write, then bring it to the light to start the marketing and publicity ball rolling. Respect the ideas. If you don’t, who knows, someday they may just stop coming. 

Just as you enjoyed the rabbit hole to create your wonderful book, take some time to look through those fleeting marketing ideas that you randomly jotted down. Go back to the rabbit hole again, go ahead, leap. Take the freefall and discover all the bizarre and unique solutions that drift past. When you land you’ll be right back where you started, only a whole lot more clear on your personal journey toward publishing and marketing success

Now, while you do that … somewhere I have a spoon to bend. Oh, right, there is no spoon. 

rabbit 2


The Correct POV

by Sascha Illyvich 

eye-care2Do you know which POV your story is told in?  Do you know the correct Point of View your story SHOULD be written from?  If you answer first or third person POV, you’re obviously being a smart ass.  Let’s rephrase the question, shall we?  

What character’s point of view should my story be told in? 

There, this defines the question better.  And the answer is simple.  The main character’s POV.  But what if you have two characters?  Presumably a Hero and a Heroine, since this is Romance I’m mainly covering, let’s stick with that assumption.  What if you have a villain?  Do we tell any of the story from that character’s perspective? 

Many writers assume that during major scene changes, the perspective should change.  They’re half correct.  A lot of writers suggest that we need to know about the villain if there is one, and that character should get a say too.  Again, they’re half right. 

The truth is, POV is simple.  Tell the story from the Point of View of the character that has the most to lose.  

What do I mean by that?  Let’s break it down.  In a typical romance novel, we have the hero and heroine and a plot that runs something like this: 

Hero meets Heroine (hey you’re hot)

Hero and Heroine end up in bed (light cigar/cigarette)

Argument separates the two (God he’s a jerk/she’s a bitch)

And in the end, something happens that is greater than both the Hero and Heroine’s issues that makes them examine their beliefs and realize they need the other.

Let’s figure this out (I need you/I love you)

HEA/Happily for Now 

Throw in a villain and that character’s appearance should be before or during the cigar in the above example.  Considering that much of today’s erotic romance is paranormal or urban fantasy, there is a bad guy waiting to kill off both Hero/Heroine. 

So what determines whose point of view the story is told from? This is also easy.  For the story to flow without head hopping, let’s use a simple rule of thumb (courtesy of Morgan Hawke www.darkerotica.net

IF the story is under 20k, you simply need ONE character where the event happens to THEM and ONLY them.  

IF the story is under 40k, then we have an event that affects two characters.  

IF the story is under 100k, we have three characters who get a say, usually because the villain is the one doing shit to the world/universe—including the H/H.  

Now that we’ve narrowed that down and fixed the potential to head hop all over the place, thus eliminating characters that are central but not integral for POV purposes, we’re left with the one question:  

Who gets to talk? 

Readers get attached to characters they care about and have built relationships with, just as in reality.  Kill off a favorite character from your reader base and you’d better believe you’re going to hear about it!  Alter that character’s world somehow and again, you’ll get feedback.  But what if the hero and heroine both have something to lose?  Then what do you do? 

Refer back to length of the story.  Who has the greatest loss, and the greatest gain?  Write from THAT one character’s POV and ONLY change scenes if word length allows for it and only if that character’s journey makes us feel something universal.  

I recently read a story where head hopping occurred so much because the writer thought to write scenes like we see in TV.  Take Burn Notice for example:  We have Michael Westin, (The hero) Fiona (Heroine) and all the side characters, most notably the drunk former CIA op who we get to see frequently.  POV switches don’t really occur much because the story is narrated by Michael Westin, but when we do get those changes, Westin is still narrating. That works because people need to see a lot of visuals and TV/movies allow for those shifts to occur. The average attention span is not that long.  

But FICTION writing doesn’t.  You’ll end up with unsmooth transitions, annoying head hopping issues that make the reader THROW YOUR BOOK THE FUCK AWAY!  

In FICTION, you do two things.  You show the reader what YOU want them to see; otherwise they’ll see something else.  And you make the story smooth.  By sticking to word limit/reason for changes, you’ll eliminate guesswork in your plotting. 

Some writers can get away with multiple POV changes.  Sherrylin Kenyon for example can, she has a built in audience that somehow doesn’t care about the change from the H/H to Ash or Stryker.  So does Laurel K. Hamilton, but because she writes in First Person POV, she doesn’t have that ability.  But if she wrote in third person, she could afford to change because she’s ESTABLISHED.  Chances are, you’re not them. (And if you are, thanks for reading my article!) 

Christine Feehan does an excellent job of keeping the POV between her hero and heroine.  So does Richelle Mead. And Rebecca York.  Those authors are authors who don’t write what I do, but I learn from them because they’re where I hope to be someday.  

To reinforce the key points, I’ll leave with my two rules for simplification.

  1. Tell the story from the character’s POV that has the MOST to lose
  2. Use word length 20k = 1 character.  40k, 2 characters.  60k-100k+=3 and ONLY three. 

That should simplify things in your stories.  Happy writing! 

Sascha Illyvich

http://www.saschaillyvich.com

Listen to The UnNamed Romance Show Mondays at 1 PM PST and Thursdays at 3 PM PST on www.radiodentata.com – hear from Sascha as he shares his work along with interviewing the hottest authors in today’s romance


Writers Write. Successful Authors Write a Business Plan.

ss_gold_pensSeriously. I know no one likes to hear this, even my clients who are not of the “Author persuasion”, but without a business plan you are going NOWHERE. 

It is vital to have a business plan because your books and you are the products to be sold. It makes most writers queasy to even imagine selling themselves but without a plan, you can’t truly figure out a way for your book to sell itself. Think of it as a map guiding you from staving writer to successful author. 

Since I’m talking to writers, I’ve decided to take this nice and easy, no sudden movements or anything like that. Let’s start with a simple comparison … if you want to write a book, what do you need? Don’t say “nothing but your imagination” because we both know that’s not so. You need a slamming idea and you need some talent. Some writers begin the process with paper and pen, so you need paper and a pen, preferably one that works. If you’re not a pencil kinda writer, you’ve got a computer. Now, we’re not covering writer’s block or terminal confusion here, so let’s assume you now have your tools of preference and are ready to scratch out the next great American novel. We all know what comes next. 

Some writers work organically and let the story tell itself, some like outlines and some prefer pretty, colorful mind maps, charts or graphs. Short of the “organic” method, you’re on the road to understanding the business plan process. 

After the story is written, you edit, you get other people to read your work, you edit again and you begin the process of finding publication. Again, we’re not exploring agents or publishing methods today, so let’s move on. Any writer can write a book, good bad or mediocre, but only an author knows s/he also needs to write a business plan because only a successful author knows s/he is now in business. 

At what point do you start a business plan? 

I’m going to toss this out so duck if you’re too afraid to catch but … the business plan starts when you start writing the book. A business plan covers all aspects of the product. At the moment you begin a novel or non-fiction book, you must already have a clear vision of the message, the audience and even the venues where it can be sold. This isn’t wishful thinking, guys and gals, THIS is the beginning of your business plan. 

My strongest suggestion has always been to ask the business plan developer (that’s you) to start at the end. Start with your goal. Don’t be ridiculous and say you intend to be the next Dan Brown or Charlaine Harris, but trust that with the right strategy, you CAN be the next Dan Brown or Charlaine Harris eventually. They too had to go through this process, and as we all know, ya gotta pay your dues. 

Non-fiction writers will have a far better grasp on this concept than fiction writers for one simple reason … non-fiction writers are required to develop a proposal before they even start writing. If fiction writers adopt that process and take the same challenge, they are sure to have a better chance at sales success. A friend once told me, “I’d rather stick to the fantasy than write the facts of selling it.” Yeah, we argued. A lot. You can’t have success without both. 

So, realize that when you start writing your book, you also should start writing your business plan. If your book is finished, it’s not too late so no excuses there. 

How to write an Author’s Business Plan  

Ready? Take a deep breath. Now, imagine you’re sitting at the bank, talking across the desk to the loan manager and asking for money. What’s he going to ask you? Those are the questions you need to answer when putting together your business plan. 

  1. How much money to you want? This should be an easy answer. How successful do you want to be? Think of the imaginary loan amount as the financial success you want to gain from your book sales. Be realistic, you most likely won’t make millions with your first novel, but if you set the right strategy, you could make millions down the road with your fourth, fifth or sixth book. Honestly, few authors are millionaires, but there’s no reason why you can’t be one.
  2. How do you plan to organize and manage your product? Yes, they do ask that and you should have an answer when your imaginary load officer spits out those words. Exactly what is your plan for dealing with the organization and management of your new book? Should you have a publicist? Do you need an advertising agency? A book video? Imprinted bookmarks or tee shirts? Remember to research everything and be sure of the success rate for each element you want to employ. It’s a lot to think about. Can you do it alone (after all, who knows your book better than you do)? Managing the product means clearly understanding it. So now is a good time to face the fact that YOU are the product. Your creativity, your talent as a writer, your expertise, your personality, your skills … your book.
  3. Who will want to buy your product? Now is the time to jot down all those people who will want your book, why they’ll want it and how effective they’ll be at getting more people to want it. Know – really know – who your readership target is. Are they men? Women? Nothing is stranger than discovering more men read your book than women when you thought the complete opposite. Knowing your target reader is as important as knowing good spelling and grammar. It will determine the venues you choose when the book is ready to be sold. After clarifying your target, you can develop the perfect hook for your target. This is the bee line to reaching your market.
  4. What makes your product so special? You better know this or put down your pen right now. No point in writing a book if you don’t know why or if it’s special. Many writers write books they’d love to read, many write books marketing studies show readers are buying, some write books because the subject is risky or has never been explored before. KNOW why you and your book are special. It’s the backbone of a successful Author’s Business Plan.
  5. How do you plan to promote your product? Ugh, here’s where most writers cower into a corner. Relax. You know people, lots of people. And those people know people. You gotta put yourself out there. Of course there are the “big” things you must do; social networking, book events, gaining interviews, speaking engagements, seeking book reviews and attending book shows, but don’t forget your friends. Most writers have or have had another life, another career or another circle of activity that has made their lives full. When you, your publicist or publisher is sending out press releases, DO NOT FORGET YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Let old buddies from college or work know that you have a book out there. You may be surprised the buzz that can be generated when you post your book one-sheet at the dentist or vet’s office cork board. People like to support people they know. This is a powerful, easy tool to enhance the “big” stuff mentioned earlier.
  6. What are your marketing strategies? Think about it. Yes, it’s cool to have your book available on Amazon or in your local book store, but where else might it fit in perfectly? Stretch your mind and think this through. If your novel is about travel, maybe you should seek distribution at a travel agency or on travel agency websites. If the story revolves around people drinking coffee, cafes often sell gift items and books. Is the story about wine? Wineries have wonderful gift shops. If your novel is historic in nature, perhaps museum gift stores can be a venue. Be creative, after all, that’s what writers do … think creatively.
  7. What if you fail? Forget it. I have a very strong theory that failure is just a lack of seeking success. When someone tells you you can’t do something or market a book that way … try it anyway. Chances are it just hasn’t been tried or it hasn’t proven effective for someone less aggressive or creative. There’s a slogan I use with my clients. “We are the can-do team.” Go on, tell me I can’t and guess what … I do. So can you. 

Now you have an Author’s Business Plan  

It maps out who you want to sell your book to, how you want them to find or hear about the book, and how successful you want to be with it. See, that didn’t hurt one bit, did it? All you need to do now is follow the plan. Let it grow and fluctuate but always keep your eye on the prize. Ebb and flow in a good plan is positive, as long as the end goal is always at the top of your mind. Who knows, you may even exceed your expectations, but how will you ever know if you haven’t set them? 

Just like working on your book, show your business plan to people, let them make suggestions and offer ideas. Share what you’ve learned with other authors and again you will find your sphere of influence expanding. Everything about the process is good and positive. 

Now go back to writing the best book possible and I look forward to hearing all about it in the future!

Magnus - FINDING AUTHOR SUCCESS 750 x 1200Finding Author Success 2nd edition available in print & ebook Amazon, B&N, Sony, & Kobo


Flying Pen Press: The Hunt for Great Authors

guest blog by David A. Rozansky, Publisher, Flying Pen Press 

booksExactly how does Flying Pen Press find its authors?

To answer that, one must understand that, as publishing houses go, Flying Pen Press is different, in many ways. 

Who is Flying Pen Press? 

Flying Pen Press is a small, independent publisher. We have neither staff nor funds to read unsolicited manuscripts. Literary agents overlook us.

Authors and readers now connect directly without the “book trade” involved. Authors have become our clients, not our suppliers. We help authors connect with their readers. Notice, I say “their readers,” not “our readers.”

We use print-on-demand technology. There is no need for warehouses and no inventory risk. That reduces costs over a traditional print run. We can take more chances on unknown authors.

We pay royalties differently. Authors receive a share of the book’s gross profits—net receipts less printing fees—usually 35% to 46%. As more books sell directly to readers, profit margins increase and greater royalties go to the authors. 

What Does Flying Pen Press Publish?

When we look at a proposal, we ask if the book fits our imprints. Flying Pen Press publishes a variety of books, fiction and nonfiction.

In fiction, we publish most all genres except erotica, YA or poetry. We have a many science fiction titles right now, because we found our first authors at Mile Hi Con, a science fiction convention in Denver, and our first catalog focused on the World Science Fiction Convention last year.

Because of our experience with Science Fiction, it is easiest to publish, but we are not limited to any one genre.

In nonfiction, we look at most topics. We do not publish New Age, Religious or Art books. We do have some specific nonfiction imprints.

  • Game Day: game books and books about games
  • Flying Pen Press Aviation: technical, travel memoir, how-to and fiction subjects, for aviation enthusiasts and professionals.
  • Flying Piggybank Press: business, finance and career.
  • Traveling Pen Press: travel memoirs.
  • Flying Pen Press Travel Guides: directories and guides for travelers.
  • We have four regional imprints: Flying Pen Press Colorado, Flying Pen Press Southwest, Flying Pen Press Rocky Mountain West, and Flying Pen Press Park Trek for national parks and monuments of North America.
  • The Press for Humanitarian Causes: a non-profit imprint to give a voice to those in developing nations who do not have a voice, and those volunteers who serve them. 

What does Flying Pen Press Look For?

If the concept meets our imprints or marketing channels, we look closely at the author. The quality of the author is far more important than the quality of the manuscript. If the author is not ready for the book trade, their books do not sell. Therefore, we ask questions and do research on the Internet.

Naturally, the author must be able to produce great material. We go to the public and see what they are saying on the Internet. We also read a small sample of the author’s work, preferably from material published on the Internet or in magazines or other publishers. An author who needs remedial training in grammar is of no use.

Then we search the author’s name, through Google, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Technorati, and this is often where we weed out most of the submitted queries and proposals. We read comments by fans and lay readers.

Next, we determine the visible size of the author’s platform. A platform is a fan base or following that regularly reads the author’s material and is likely to buy her book.

We consider the platform in three ways:

  1. We can work with an author of promising talent who has started the process of developing a platform, and mentor them. This usually requires local authors. Telecommuting just does not work at this level of personal tutorage.
  2. The author has successfully built a sizable platform. We can see that the book will sell in profitable numbers rather quickly. Often, this is a quick decision for us because certainly, the author has approached other publishers.
  3. The author’s material easily fits into a platform we already have in place, like one of our nonfiction imprints.

In most cases, we are looking for authors who are building steady platforms of their own.

We want to see a blog with a lot of regular, repeat traffic. The number of “unique” visitors is not as important as is the number of “repeat” visitors. The blog should also be relevant to the author’s work. Novelists should post short stories.

The author should also participate in social media. We look at the size of the followers on Twitter, the number of fans on Facebook, and the number of friends on MySpace, as well as the intensity and authenticity of the discussions.

The author should have an electronic newsletter and a print newsletter. The number of regular subscribers to this newsletter is important. The size of the author’s mailing list is important, too, and we look at how she built it.

Basically, it all boils down to how the author attracts a fan base, and how she communicates with her fans.

If the author seems promising, we move on to an author interview and try to assess a number of factors:

  • Can the author write prolifically? We want an author to be able to produce two to four novels a year, regularly, a pace that unnerves many new authors.
  • Can the author accept writing assignments? If the author is not an assignment writer, can she write on the same subject or with the same characters and setting for many years?
  • Does the author blog regularly? Is she capable of producing a wealth of material that is always fresh, or is the blog merely a revolving advertisement? If the author is a novelist, can she supply short stories to feed to her fans between novels?
  • Is the author prone to miss a deadline? Ever? This is a vital concern.

Once all of these questions are resolved, only then do we ask for the complete manuscript. We often find 5-10 lay readers who volunteer to review the manuscript, and if their reviews are positive, an editor reads it. If the editor likes it, we perform a marketing analysis, and if all is well, we make an offer on the book. 

Where Does Flying Pen Press Find Authors? 

Flying Pen Press editors actively seek out authors. Our primary hunting ground is any gathering of authors. This includes writers conferences, genre-specific conventions, and writers association meetings. We also turn to social media. I am on Twitter most every day, looking for new authors and stating my immediate wishes subjects and story ideas.

Of course, email continues to be the busiest channel for reaching us. We look at proposals and queries, but it is a longer process because there is a delay in communication, and our email is so full of spam and frivolous submissions.

Do not even think about mailing a manuscript. A simple query letter is fine, but a manuscript by regular post tells us that the writer clashes with the electronic world that is publishing.

Sometimes, our Net surfing allows us to find an author’s platform without any previous contact. At those times, we will often initiate the contact with the author. 

About David A. Rozansky and Flying Pen Press 

David A. Rozansky is a writer with 23 years experience in journalism, public relations writing, magazine publishing, and book publishing. He has more than one million words published. He founded Flying Pen Press as a writer-centric publishing company that uses new rules for the new century.

David A. Rozansky receives emails at Publisher@FlyingPenPress.com. He can be reached directly at 303-375-0499. His Twitter account is @DavidRozansky

Flying Pen Press is located at 5491 E. Jewell Ave., Denver, CO 80222. The company website is FlyingPenPress.com.

Query letters and book proposals can be submitted to Flying Pen Press by email at Submissions@FlyingPenPress.com. Include the word “Submission” in the subject line.

All Flying Pen Press titles are available wherever great books are sold. 

Acknowledgments 

I would like to thank Deborah Riley-Magnus for inviting me to participate on her blog as a guest writer. The advice she gives to writers is invaluable, and I am proud to be a part of this experience. I met Deborah on Twitter, and she has been kind enough to point other authors my way.