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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
This complimentary newsletter is provided by The Savvy Book Marketer. You can view this ezine and previous issues online at
If you know any other authors and publishers who can benefit from this newsletter, please refer them to to subscribe and get their complimentary book marketing tips ebook. Thank you so much!


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

Friday, 7 September 2012

Can we get back to the Good Old Days?

This week I’ve been editing some memoirs for a woman who grew up in 1960s Auckland. It’s an interesting view into how society worked back then, and the most telling difference is the job-hunting scene. When she was 20 years old, with few qualifications, she was able to walk into whatever job she applied for. Not just that, but the application process was as simple as finding an ad in the Sits Vac, phoning for an appointment (usually the next day), and attending one quick interview where she was offered work starting the following day. So easy!

These were also simpler times for writers, when any reasonably well-written book would be welcomed by a publisher and more than likely published.

It made me wonder what has changed?

Population numbers have grown – but doesn’t that make more jobs? And more readers for all the books out there? Why is it these days we have to jump through extraordinary hoops to seek employment and it can take months to fill a position? Why is there such a bottleneck between writers producing books and readers who want to buy them?

And one final question – is there anything we can do to remedy this situation?

Write your answer in 25 words or less on the back of a self-addressed envelope…no, in the comments box below this post. This is the 21st century after all, like it or not.
Bev Robitai