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Friday, 28 December 2012

Technology failure!

My apologies to anyone seeking enlightenment and entertainment on the blog this week - Erin has written a terrific post and sent it to me for uploading, but I'm unable to complete the mission at this point. I'm holidaying in the South Island, and despite being overloaded with every possible kind of travelling technology - iPad, smartphones, laptop, digital cameras - I don't have the right version of Word to open the file Erin sent, so I can't upload it!

I may be able to acccess the file using another computer that DOES have the right version of Word in a day or so, in which case I'll get the post online for you.

In the meantime, enjoy the silly season between Christmas and New Year and I'll catch you later!


Friday, 21 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hi everyone, welcome to the New Age! Now that all this end-of-the-world rubbish has been kicked to the kerb we can get on with planning for an exciting New Year in 2013.

The pace of change in the publishing world is still increasing. This year saw the Big Six continuing to struggle with their outdated business model, and I suspect the now Big Five will not find things any easier next year unless they embrace radical change. The successful business model in tomorrow’s publishing is a small, nimble company (or individual) who can produce good quality books quickly and economically, and promote them to their target readers using a variety of techniques and channels. Here are some of the options to consider.

The way to achieve meaningful sales – which for New Zealand authors means ebooks and POD – is to have an active online platform. That doesn’t mean you have to spend weeks figuring out how to use your website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, a blog, LinkedIn, AND a dozen other channels and then sit on your computer for hours a day tweeting and posting to all of them. It does mean that you need to actively engage with strangers online in whatever channel you are comfortable with, exchanging comments, asking questions, and contributing useful information to be shared. Or even reposting some good jokes now and again! All of that gets your name out there and establishes you as a recognised source of good content. And you'll make some good friends.

Many quite ordinary writers have started a blog, posted such good content that they’ve gained a large following, and then gone on to become world authorities in their field. The potential is there for any of us with talent and determination to do the same.

Now that the world seems set to continue for a while, I think making the effort will be worth it. World literary domination in 2013? Who’s with me?!

Wishing all our blog readers a happy and stress-free Christmas and apocalypse-free New Year.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A glowing review for Jenny Harrison's latest book.

Carrie Beavers in Alameda Sun reviews The Lives of Alice Pothron by Jenny Harrison

 As a child I had the good fortune to live overseas in Brussels and London. This was in the early ‘70s, and memory of World War II was very much alive. In London, particularly, visible evidence of the war was everywhere. As a result, when I returned to the U.S., I had a completely different appreciation of the war than my American classmates.

Evelyn Pothron, a long-time Alameda resident, also has a different view of World War II. In July I939, her parents Emile and Alice Pothron, naturalized American citizens, traveled to their native France for a much-needed six-week vacation. It would be four years before they would return to the United States with their daughter Evelyn.

In a harrowing, yet uplifting account, New Zealand author Jenny Harrison tells the story of the Pothrons’ ordeal; the separation of a family; life in a German prisoner of war camp and the unimaginable nightmare of living at the whim of occupying Nazi soldiers.

The majority of the story centers around Alice and Evelyn. As a result of an extraordinarily difficult childhood, health problems had left Alice in despair of ever having a child.

When it is discovered that Alice is expecting a miracle child, the family makes the fateful decision to remain in France until the baby is born. It is this decision that places the family in harm‘s way when the invading Nazi forces arrive at their doorstep. Emile, conscripted into the French military and subsequently captured, is unable to protect his family.

When circumstances become life threatening, Alice, who has been forced to feed and house a unit of Nazi soldiers, makes the courageous decision to escape to freedom, a journey that will endanger their lives many times. At the journey’s end is a miraculous reunion and return to the United States that will eventually bring the family to Alameda. The incredible strength that Alice shows in the face of such adversity is an inspiration for all of us.

This story held me in its thrall from beginning to end. When I had to put it down for those daily inconveniences like sleep and work, I thought about it. I spoke to friends and co-workers about it.

One afternoon, as I worked at my desk, a petite elegant woman came in to the office. I realized instantly that she was Evelyn, the tiny tot who had walked away from the Nazis.

If it hadn‘t been for her extraordinary mother, I would never have met this lovely, soft-spoken woman, and find out the rest of the story. The measures to which this mother went to save her family would eventually shorten her life.

Many years later, Evelyn’s retelling of her mother’s story to a fellow passenger on a cruise — author Jenny Harrison — led to this book.

Evelyn's wish for the book was to teach her grandchildren just how fortunate they are. That’s a wish I’d like to share with us all.

The Lives of Alice Pothron, 286 pages, is available at

Congratulations, Jenny, on a well-deserved great review!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Jean Allen on showing character with language


‘On my holidays my mother sent me to stay with Auntie Beral. I didn’t know Auntie Beral very well. She was skinny and tall and had spectackles that keeped on rolling down her nose and she keeped pushing them back up her nose with her thumb. Her eyes looked like they were on a escanlater.
        On the first day we played Snap and I won all the games.
        On the second day we had pikelets and treacle and cheese for lunch and I was sick on her carpet square and she showed me how to wash up the sick.
        On the third day we went out to see her friend Eva Cramps and I had to call her Auntie Eva Cramps and we had scrambled egges for lunch and they were so runny they ran all over the table cloth.
        On the last day we went shopping and Auntie Beral let me stay outside with Buskabill from Buffalohill. He played all the nursery rhymes on his geetar and I singed every one of them and so did he but he singed different words than me. We made lots and lots of money and when Auntie Beral came out of the Supermarket I wasn’t there because we were in the Ice Cream Parlar next door and eating ice cream sundees with chocolate sauce and jelly beans on top and then she did find us and she was mad. I think it was becos she didn’t get any ice cream sundees and she was jellus. Next holidays Mum says I can go to the moon!’           © Jean’s younger alter ego

This is Jean ‘Angel’ Allen hoping you are enjoying today’s character.

A note from Officer in Charge - I see we've just reached 5084 page views, and have readers spread across the world. Very happy to see you - stay and post a comment so we can see you! *waves.*


Friday, 7 December 2012

Maureen Green asks - Are Book Retailers Catering to Client Needs?

My sister, an avid reader, has difficulty in reading standard-size print in published books. Because of this she has turned to large print editions and to talking books. She has found limited choice of reading material available in both of these forms, and New Zealand authors are rarely represented.
          Having heard her complain about the lack of choice afforded other readers I checked out our library’s data bases and found the range of materials available uninspiring.
          A visit to the larger bookstores drew a blank. When I approached staff members and asked where I might find the large print section, puzzled faces met my inquiry.
"We don't have any."
         "Why not?" I asked.
        A shoulder shrug and backing away from me was the common response to this fractious question, as the assistants slunk away. I left wondering why in our society where equal opportunity is a priority, bookstores did not see a need to cater to those whose sight was failing.
            I got to thinking then, whether the so-called literary world knew what the reading public wanted.
            Do they ever ask the reading public?
            My examination of the written materials stocked in store showed the focus to be on cookbooks, how to do, life stories of sportspersons, fancy stationery and what I would class as knick-knacks; the gutsy stuff was in short supply.
            In these hard times when every opportunity to draw customers is a bonus, I would have thought large print books and talking books in bookshops would have been a must. Books in many differing genres, written by New Zealand authors, are readily available from independent publishers., and Amazon are sites where titles may be viewed.
            Why not encourage libraries and bookshops to visit these sites and to stock these works?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Once You're on Amazon...

Make the most of your Amazon presence by filling in everything you can on your author page. This link tells you all you need to know about maximising your author visibility there. 

Thanks to Jenny for suggesting this as a post.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Bev Robitai shares Catherine Howard's post

I read a blog post this week that got me wondering. Here was an author who was selling 1000 copies of her novel in 8 months and she considered it a failure. Here are some key points from her article…

“Results Not Typical was, sales-wise, a complete disaster. Despite a 21—21!—stop blog tour to herald its arrival, excellent reviews from influential book blogger sites and my existing readership, it sold in 8 months what Mousetrapped sells in the month of January: about 1,000 copies. This doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that I gave away over 25,000 copies of it through free promotions and that when I unpublished it, it only had 18 Amazon reviews. I even changed the cover mid-way through, but after an initial bump it had little to no effect.

So I unpublished the paperback through CreateSpace, and a few weeks later, the Kindle edition disappeared too.

In all the time it’s been unpublished, maybe 4 or 5 people have mentioned its unpublication to me. And this is a good thing. Great, even.

I think as self-publishers we assume that everything we do is out in the open, noticed by all. For instance, let’s say you have a novel that’s $2.99 and you want to charge 99c for it for a while. You might feel obliged to inform your blog readers, or your newsletter subscribers or your Facebook fans, explaining why you’re doing this, hoping they won’t be upset if they’ve already paid full price for it. When you put the price back up, you might feel obliged to do the same.

BUT NO ONE NOTICES. There is only one moment when people absorb the details of a book, and that’s when they’re buying it. If I buy your book for $2.99, when am I ever going to notice that it’s now 99c? I’m not watching your book listings like you are. I don’t care; my relationship with the book is over now. And this is a good thing.

Feel free to experiment as much as you want. Up the price. Drop the price. Bundle. Separate. Unpublish. Re-publish, with new material. Do whatever you like. No one’s watching until you tell them to.”

Read the full article at

I don’t know about you, but I’d be delighted with selling 1000 copies in 8 months, and I certainly wouldn’t unpublish the book to remove it from any chance of discovery. It can take time and a number of titles to build your market – why would you handicap yourself like that?
Any thoughts?



Friday, 16 November 2012

Jenny Harrison - Who's Your Reader?

The subject comes up every now and again; who do you write for? I’m not sure how to answer that question. If I had asked that of myself before I started out writing my latest novel, Rusty and Slasher’s Guide to Crime, my answer probably would have been that the book would be for those people who have lost touch with reality and walk around with aluminium foil wrapped around their heads and their shoes on the wrong feet.
Who do we write for? A writer I know and admire recently wrote a description of her ideal reader in her blog. I’m not sure if she realised it but it was a perfect description of herself – over 50, educated and interested in history. I would have added svelte and charming to the list. And I would have also mentioned “loves fine footwear” too.
Vicky, you know who you are.
So, who will my ideal reader be? Boris Johnson, Michael Palin, or Brett McKenzie and Jemaine Clement from “Flight of the Conchords” for a start. They are all lovely chaps with a weird sense of humour. I’d also throw in Rhys Darby for good measure.
But in the end I suppose the people who will get read my book will be thoroughly respectable members of my local library and, hopefully, all those dear folk in our local retirement villages who we are about to conquer with our charm and talent and our wicked sense of humour.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Rodney Dearing muses about reviews...

I’ve been thinking about book reviews lately.

Having just published my latest illustrated children’s book, ‘Brilliant Mr Badger’, I’ve been waiting for a particular review to emerge which could have a significant influence on what I do next. It’s sometimes difficult to persuade someone to read one’s work and comment on it, let alone buy it, read it and review it.

Then, after the review the re-appraisal of what to do next. Write another book in the same genre? Drop writing altogether? Try one’s hand at another genre?

And what use are they anyway, these reviews? Traditional wisdom has it that they’re an essential marketing tool but who buys books on the strength of a review?

Quite a number of people, apparently. At least, that’s what publishers and retailers would have us believe. So, a poor review and it's all downhill from there. Particularly if the reviewer is a well know personage. Double misery!  

So I opened the latest newsletter of the Scottish Badgers (circulation about 2000!) with some trepidation, guessing that it might contain a few words about, ‘Brilliant Mr Badger.’
It did and fine words they were too. I could have hugged and kissed the reviewer. She had caught the theme of the book exactly and had been generous in her praise.  

Insightful people these Scots! Och aye.

Make mine a double whisky while I start work on my next Mr Badger book!


From the Author's Mouth Event at Orewa library

A lively gathering today, as you'd expect when a bunch of authors get together! Some readings from published books, some talk from each author about how they came to be written, a few notes from Adrienne Morris on editing, proofreading, printing and Bev Robitai on epublishing and marketing - quite a snapshot of today's book world.

Pam Laird talking to the small but intent audience.
The staff at Orewa library looked after us and the rest of the audience well with tea, coffee and biccies afterwards. Roughly equal numbers of authors and listeners, and it was great to see some new faces. Hope everyone was inspired to keep (or start) writing!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Evan Andrew on Writing Today

1st of November, and spring is finally here! The sun is shining, and I’m filled with positive thoughts for the coming year ahead.
The Frankfurt Book Fair has been a real feather in our caps, for all New Zealand authors, whether you had a book on the stands at the fair, or not.
It has really put us as writers on the world stage, and I feel sure that the spin offs, for everyone, including all our readers, now and in the future, is going to be immense.
My large print books are now available, and I’m delighted at the response and how well received they have been. After all the hard work, it gives you such a fillip of pleasure, when you first hold the new book hot off the press.
Next week our writing group is doing the first of our library tours to Orewa. This will be followed up by more visits, so that we as authors can meet our readers, and discuss our different writing styles and genres with them. Will let you know how well it goes.
The enthusiasm with which the libraries and librarians have embraced the idea is heart-warming to say the least, and like other book groups, and service clubs, we are all only too happy to assist and promote our work.
Biggest problem at the moment is finding the time to write!
Here is a snippet from the new novel I am writing at the moment. Working title, ‘Beware of The Dragon,’ set in China in Peking about the Boxer rebellion against the foreign Legations in 1900 and the enduring siege.

The memory of that ride as they jolted over the uneven pavement would remain with Eleanor for the rest of her life.
The rickshaw coolies shouting out to clear the way, among the seething mass of humanity, which eventually because of sheer numbers finally forced them to almost a walk. The strange oriental buildings, some with red pennants and coloured streamers blowing in the wind, and others with hanging signs representing their trade or business, were almost overwhelming in their complexity and variation.
They turned a corner into one of the main thoroughfares of the Tartar city and Eleanor watched in amazement Mongols in shaggy coats riding on small ponies, old men on donkeys, and closed curtained sedan chairs, and palanquins, perhaps containing some noble Chinese lady with bound feet
Surrounding them peasants shouldering long bamboo poles with caged birds, and baskets containing other animals or bales of goods, pushed their way through the crowds of people as they went about their business.
Mangy dogs slunk out of the way, as a camel driver with three ships of the desert sauntered by, mesmerising Eleanor with their peculiar rocking motion as they passed a local herdsman, skilfully mustering a flock of sheep along the road to the slaughter house, and a wealthy Mandarin surrounded by his entourage of guards on horseback raced by.
More next time! 

Evan G Andrew

Friday, 26 October 2012

Jean Allen thinks we BUY TOO MUCH!

We’ve long ago lost the forty hour week our forebears worked so hard to get. Back then weekends free of work gave families time to do things together; time for sport and recreation; time to rest and recover.

Now we work every day. Both parents work. We pay non-family workers to take care of our children so that we can work. And this is called progress? Why have wages altered our living so much that some people have to work seven days a week or they cannot fund a home – give their children an education – or afford to have them taught a hobby. We don’t have time to relax, recover and restart anymore.

We live in an age of machines and the microchip and somehow the big bosses have begun to think their workers are machines as well. Antibiotics, anti-depressants and vaccinations keep us working even when we’re not well. It’s the money age. It’s the age of possessions. We’ve been manipulated and brain washed by advertising. The millionaires and the billionaires pay the Advertising Merchants to suck us into - ‘Buy this! Buy a bigger this! Buy a better this!’

They’ve taken us over and we can’t see it. We work to their will, buy to their persuasions and build bigger than required houses with bigger than we can afford mortgages – monuments to our own egos!  We’ve been brain washed, downgraded and deprived of our rights and we don’t even know it.

The old religions are out. The new religion has been surreptitiously well established. We now spend our lives doing whatever the new Religion tells us to do. It’s the frenetic compulsion – no time to think – no time to recover - Shopaholic Religion. Hail to the Mighty Dollar!

This is Jean ‘Angel’ Allen hoping you are enjoying  a new opinion today.


Friday, 19 October 2012

Barbara Algie with a new golfing poem

‘Hi this is Big Al here and they’ve let me ‘out’ for a spell and so I’m taking the opportunity of keeping my promise, made earlier this year, to give you a spot of poetry.

When it comes to poetry I guess you’d say (seeing I am definitely in the ‘older bracket’) that I like my poems to rhyme and to tell a story so I suppose they should be called Ballads.
I consider that if it’s good enough for the noted poets of old to express their thoughts in this fashion then do we really have to pretend we enjoy the modern type of poems which don’t have much, if any, rhyme to them and sometimes where one has to have the mind of a cryptic crossword addict to fathom out their meaning?  Perhaps they have conned us into thinking that this is the new age and we’d better shape up or ship out.   
Before I began to have a go at writing short stories etc. I was a golfer – and previous to that, in my giddy youth, a table tennis player and so, not unnaturally, my thoughts linger on these ‘body no longer able to cope with’ activities.

So here we are – about to make a start on a book which I hope will be enjoyed by my former golfclub buddies in a club which is to celebrate its 100th Anniversary next year – and if I ever get round to starting  it this will be the first one:-



Why must we play this dreaded game with hopes forever high?

Why do we score a hundred (then tell a bare-faced lie)?

We live in hopes this game of golf which taxes every nerve

makes us more stronger-minded than we actually deserve

but if we shoot a wondrous score it clearly should be known

this usually only happens when we’re playing on our own

First let’s take the graceful bit – the casual practice swing

it’s poetry in motion a smooth delightful thing

we visualise a screamer – the ball in perfect flight

but muscles seize we choke and freeze it’s not a pretty sight

Instruction books have wise advice refer to Chapter One

‘Keep your eye upon the ball relax and have some fun’

May I suggest more prudently when playing in a match

your eye should be upon your foe to keep him up to scratch


Most courses fraught with hazards like bunkers rough and lakes

take some negotiation (not to mention lucky breaks)

insist on going by yourself – to search – then with a shout

make sure that no one’s looking when you throw the damned thing out

grab a tuft of grass and wipe some mud from off your lip

as you emerge like ’Tiger’ and proceed to sink the chip


Ephemeral?  Yes just like a dream the reason we persist

The Holy Grail – the Hole in One – that thrill not to be missed

no doubt about the exercise it’s of the healthy kind

will take you long into your life (but may destroy the mind)

You’ll play that round again in bed remembering that winner

the day you sank a six foot putt to win the final skinner’


And now I hear them knocking on the door to take me back ‘inside’ so I’ll say good luck (if you’re a golfer) and tough bickies if you haven’t had the opportunity (or the money) to play it.   The old saying ‘Why is it that one never loses an old ball’ is quite true and they’re rather expensive these days!


See you next year – maybe.

Big Al’


Friday, 12 October 2012

Words: Glorious Words

This week's post brought to you by Vicky Adin

…I was spellbound. There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around you like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.
I read these few sentences in a novel recently and was captivated. This is exactly what an author seeks to achieve: to create a collection of words that speak louder than any other collection of words.
In this case, the character was speaking about the written words of another character – a novelist. So it was a double whammy really: the words of this fictional author described by the words of the character and her reactions to those words.

Some words are informative, some are instructional, others educational. All words are important and shouldn’t be wasted, but words that are emotive are the most valuable. Emotions are what drive us mere humans. If an author can put together a collection of words that draws the reader into the story to the exclusion of all else, a wonderful thing has happened.

Who are your favourite authors and why?
Is it the story line, the characters, or the setting?

Have you ever thought about it enough to know the answers?
Could it be the way the words are manipulated that appeals to you the most?

Do those words, so carefully crafted by the author, make you laugh or cry, get the adrenalin pumping or carry you away to another time and place?
For me it is being carried away to another place that matters. I like to ‘live’ in the characters skin for a while, see what ‘she’ sees (and it is usually a she for me), feel what she feels and taste what she can taste. If I can’t find ‘my place’ within the author’s words I don’t follow that path and leave it for someone else to find their place within those words. For me empathy is the most important aspect.

The best authors achieve empathy with many readers because their voice sounds real, something the reader can share in and understand. There are those who write for women and those who target men. Some books cross the genders, but not always and, for me, not often. There are few books that cross the age range. Yet there are classics one remembers reading as a child that you carry with you for the rest of your life. Do you ever read them again? Or are you scared that with adult eyes you may shatter the memory you have?
Whatever you feel and think about the books you read, remember it is the author who has spent hours, months and sometimes years crafting that collection of words that reached out and hit you right where you wanted it to at the time.

So next time you meet an author, say thank you.  They gave you the gift of words.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Erin McKechnie finds inspiration from the professionals.

It’s my turn to do the blog, but I am devoid of ideas let alone inspiration. Writing a blog is much harder than a novel I have decided. I turned for help to some of the masters. These authors, far better writers than I, have made the following remarks on why or how they write.
Anais Nin gives exquisite advice on why emotional excess is essential to writing and creativity:

               ‘...You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. Emotion comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.'
        ‘...Don’t feel that each time you write a story you give away one of your dreams and you are poorer for it. You have not thought how this dream is planted in others, others begin to live it too, it is shared, it is the beginning of friendship and love.’
                ‘...You move in a world of mysteries. It must be ruled by faith.’
George Orwell wrote on the motive for writing:
                ‘All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a window pane.  I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed.  And looking back through my work I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.’
It interested me that both writers comment in all seriousness on the mysteriousness of the writer’s world. There wouldn’t be many of us who don’t know the excitement when we sit down to write – of wondering what is going to trip from the ends of our fingers. But George Orwell seemed a little too serious for me.  I prefer the attitude of Ray Bradbury:
                ‘Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say "Oh my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ... ," you know? No, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else. ‘
How do you feel about the writing process? Is it a dark unstoppable force, an urge to create art, or a desire to tell a story? Do you write for yourself or an audience? Let us know how you feel.


Friday, 28 September 2012

How to Get Your Story Straight

a guest post by Susan J. Letham from Write 101

You were probably just a kid when you learned about getting your story straight. I mean, if you were going to tell a grownup a "story," you had to get it straight or run the risk of tripping yourself on the details. Right?

Well, the same is true in fiction. If you're going to write a story for your readers, it has to be believable, and it has to have a point. That means you need to know a few things about your reasons for writing the story. It also means you need to try and see some things through your future reader's eyes. Doing that will help you think about how logical the story is from a reader's point of view. Knowing your story before you start will also help you predict what your reader will think and feel about the events your story describes.

The easiest way to do all that is to answer the following set of questions before you sit down to write.

Question 1: What drives you to tell your story?

Most of us write because we have to. We burn with desire to tell our stories. We have wisdom to share, cloaked in the language of fiction. We say "See here! This is what life is like. This is how your life can play out if you make this choice or that." What is it that compels you to tell this story? Why now? Why this setting? Why these characters?

Question 2: What is the story really about?

Stories are about themes, topics, and questions. Characters and settings are just the tools you use to help your reader understand the story issues.

Some possibilities are: love, betrayal, trust, disaster, error of judgment, cruelty, misfortune, revolt, loss, rivalry, murder, adultery, (self-) sacrifice, ambition, jealousy, remorse, or mistaken identity.

When you strip away the characters and settings in your story, what is your story about?

Question 3: What is the story question?

What main question you want to answer through your story?

Here are some possibilities:
- How can this happen?
- What can I do to make this happen?
- What events led to this?
- Does love really transcend death?
- Does the good girl always win?

Question 4: What is the message of your story?

Every good story carries a message. The message should be clear to the reader by the end of the story. It should be clear to you, the writer, before you start. Knowing your message will help you keep your story on course.

Here are some possibilities:
- Tragedies happen because people are indifferent.
- Money counts more than wisdom.
- Here is the recipe for success.
- Love goes on forever.
- The good girl can lose but will keep her integrity.

What is the message of your story?

Question 5: What do you want your readers to feel?

When you choose the right characters, your reader will slip inside their skin and feel what the characters feel. The best stories arouse emotions, and emotions are an important aspect of "show don't tell." We humans learn best of all through emotion. You can make your reader happy or sad, but whatever you do, make her feel your story.

- How do you want your (POV character and your) reader to feel at the start of the story?
- How do you want your (POV character and your) reader to feel at the end of the story?
- What other emotions do you want your (POV character and your) reader to have in between the start and the end?
- What events will you use to orchestrate those emotions?

Question 6: What message do you want your reader to share?

Your reader has just finished your story. Her best friend asks her what the story is about and whether she enjoyed it. She asks your reader how it made her feel. What does your reader say? How do you want her to describe your book? What do you need to do to make sure this is the description she gives?

These six questions and your answers are all you need to get your story straight. Follow this format and you'll find it's really easy to stay on track as you write.

Write 101 is a great site for writerly advice, with an entertaining and chatty newsletter every Friday that distracts me from writing while I read it!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dana Lynn Smith on book marketing

A guest post this week from Dana Lynn Smith's very useful blog on ways to sell more books. She's based in the US but most of the ideas would work just as well here. In fact a book fair might be an interesting idea. Take it away Dana...
Savvy Book Marketing Tips
I've got several book marketing tips and resources to share with you today.
Target Your Customers

Few of us have the resources to market to the world at large, and it's much easier to sell a book to people who already have an interest in the subject or genre. Your book marketing plan should define several target audiences and outline strategies for reaching them.

Here are some examples target audiences:

* Readers -- people who buy the book to read. This includes your primary audience (the "ideal customer" that the book was written for) as well as secondary audiences who have an interest in your topic. For example, this article in Book Business Magazine demonstrates that a large percentage of "young adult" books that are bought and read by adults, rather than teens. 

* Purchasers -- people who buy the book for someone else. For example, people buy books as gifts, parents purchase books for children, and women buy men's health books. Who would be likely to purchase your book for someone else, and how can you reach those folks?

* Influencers -- people who communicate with your target customers and can let them know about your book. Think about how much you can multiply your book promotion efforts when other people like bloggers, reviewers and journalists spread the word to their own readers and customers.

Who are your target audiences, and how can you reach them with the message about your books? 

News You Can Use
* Many authors concentrate their book promotions online, but there are also lots of opportunities offline. Don't miss this article from Laura Pepper Wu describing 31 ways to find new readers outside of your network.

* I recently updated my Copyright and Library of Congress resource page.
* If you publish through CreateSpace, check out this page where you can post a preview of your work and get feedback.

* When I worked for a publisher, I was able to tour two book manufacturing plants to see firsthand how books are made (the old fashioned way!) This video offers a fascinating look at how hardcover books are manufactured.

* I enjoyed this article from Lynn Terry -- The Goldmine in Your Blog Archives: 8 Ways to Make Money Blogging You May Be Missing
Upcoming Book Festivals
Local book festivals can be a good place to network with other authors and publishing folks, and reach potential customers.

Festivals range from small town gatherings to large events like the Texas Book Festival on October 27-28 in Austin and the Louisiana Book Festival on October 27 in Baton Rouge.

Here are some tips on promoting through book fairs and other events:

The 12 Commandments of Selling Books at Book Fairs, Conventions and Festivals, by Terry Whalin
That's all the news for today. Don't forget to do something every day to promote your books!


About this Newsletter
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Friday, 14 September 2012

The Hub and Outpost Method of Social Media Marketing

This week's piece is a re-posting of Joel Friedlander's helpful article that de-mystifies the whole social media thing. His site is well worth following for publishing and design advice.
The Hub and Outpost Method of Social Media Marketing

by Joel Friedlander on September 10, 2012


Do you feel like you’d like to get more involved in social media to market your books? Are you hearing a lot of people tell you that it’s a great way for authors to find readers and build community?

Do you wonder whether you should set up house on a Facebook fan page? Concentrate on Twitter? Don’t you have to be on there for hours?

It’s all pretty confusing when you’re new.

I know, I remember getting started on Twitter myself. I just sat and watched what other people were doing for months. I wanted to be sure I “got it” before diving in.

Eventually I got over my hesitation and learned to enjoy social media, but there’s a reason for that—I discovered a great way to make the whole thing manageable: this simple “hub-and-outpost” method to organize my social media marketing.

It came from Chris Brogan and it has served me and many of my clients well, because it works. And it works at simplifying your life, too.

Social Media and Authors

Most authors (and filmmakers and musicians) have gotten the message: you have to be marketing on social media sites if you want to make an impact and, eventually, sell your content.

Social media is indispensable to today’s self-publishers, but it’s good to remember that social media by itself is one tactic in your overall marketing strategy. Just using social media is not a strategy in itself; it’s a way to implement your basic marketing thrust.

Set Up Your Hub

This method of organizing your social media activity requires that you set up a Hub that will be your “home base.” It could be a blog or a website.

What’s important here is that you own it. You own the domain name; it doesn’t belong to another entity the way that blogs on or are part of a larger company. You need a place over which you exert ownership, which you can control without worrying about other people’s “terms of service.”

Here are a few good reasons to use your blog as the hub of your social media strategy:

  • Your blog is frequently updated—This is the place it’s easiest to post new material relating to your book or your subject area, and consequently is the most up to date and flexible site you have.
  • Your blog has your list opt-in—One of the reasons you want visitors to stop at your blog is to find the people who are interested enough in what you’re doing that they want to stay in touch and want to find out more.
  • Your blog is the best place to release news—Blog software allows you to easily post updates or breaking news items, which then go onto your subscribers through the email or RSS feed. It’s the best way to stay in touch with your fans and followers.
  • At your blog you have the best tools for engaging with readers in a robust way over time.

Explore to Find Outposts

Outposts depend on your own subject matter and preferences for working, but they have to be places where people interested in your subject congregate.

You might find effective outposts in:

  • Facebook fan page
  • Twitter accounts
  • Forums that deal with your topic
  • Photo sharing sites like your stream on
  • Video sites like your channel on
  • Bookmarking sites like
  • Networking sites like
  • Specialized niche sites like those run on

Really, there’s no limit to the number or type of outposts you create.

At your outposts you post links to content you’ve published at your hub. But you’ll also contribute content to the outpost sites, too. Outposts are used for:

  • listening to what others in your niche are doing
  • building authority by contributing expert tips and answers to questions
  • testing ideas for marketing or for your next projects
  • networking with other people and influencers in your niche
  • growing your online profile
  • creating links back to your hub

Remember to link to your hub at every outpost. These links create the connections that people will use to travel back to your hub.

On Twitter, for instance, the link will show up in your bio, and that will be the first place people click on to find out more about you when they’ve been intrigued by one of your posts.

Go Forth and Multiply

It’s likely that new social media sites with different approaches to connecting people will continue to sprout online. With the hub and outpost model for your social media strategy, it’s easy to integrate new locations.

You might decide, for instance, to start building a series of Squidoo lenses about your topic or your book. Linking back to your blog is a natural way for people who come across your sites on Squidoo to find out more about you.

When they travel back to your blog they’ll find links to your other sites, like the site you’ve set up for your individual projects, your content’s Facebook fan page, your Twitter account, and you’ll be able to supply links and “follow” buttons for all of them.

From this central location, you will rule your (social) media empire. So go forth, creator, and multiply your voice and your influence, confident that you can make use of all that traffic you generate by engaging readers with your content and, eventually, welcoming them as book buyers and readers.

Joel Friedlander