Archive for the 'writers' Category

Social Media Marketing for Books

If you read the many social media advice pages, you could be forgiven for thinking that all you need for success with social media is to learn some tricks and tips for Facebook and Twitter (or any one of the latest social networks with a buzz). This is a bit like saying if you learn to use Microsoft Word, you will have no problem being a successful writer.

–“3 Epiphanies about Social Media Marketing for Books” by Lisa Buchan in Publishing Perspectives

Digital Book World 4

A new study from
Digital Book Word and Writers Digest

I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Digital Book World conference in person because of the kid’s tonsillectomy. (It went well!) But at the last minute someone sent me a link for live streaming and on-demand access. I haven’t made my way through all the sessions yet, and it’s already been worth the money. I especially like the ability to pause, rewind something interesting and watch the sessions on my own schedule.

The “What Authors Want” study from Digital Book World and Writers Digest was a really informative piece, and several of the smaller sessions have led to ideas for new projects and investigations.

 

Blogs Aloud

blogfest

Brooklyn Blogfest happened last week. A friend from my neighborhood curated the Blogs Aloud collection/performance, and she chose a piece from my other blog!

The piece was only a half paragraph, but I was totally psyched. I couldn’t make the main event, at The Bell House, so I finagled an invitation to the rehearsal. The video is below.

Charlotte Maier, Nancy Graham and Elizabeth Palmer read from blogs across Brooklyn. My piece comes at 1:09. The whole thing is ten minutes, and the final piece, at 8:59, from Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, is my favorite part of the whole collection.

Goal, Motivation, Conflict

gmc

I’m reading GMC by Debra Dixon for a book discussion at work. It’s a fast-paced, easy-to-grasp read with practical suggestions about creating solid characters and plots.

The first thing GMC made me think about was writing a book of my own. Yes, I used to write, before I realized I liked editing as much as, maybe more than, I liked writing. The results of my writing experiments were two really bad novels that will remain “under the bed.” Their biggest problems? They had no believable plots. And plot, since it is the core of the story, is kind of important.

The plot how-to laid out in GMC made me think (wish?) that I could fix my plot problems. Not for those two ghastly manuscripts, but for something new. But, since I’m barely hanging on to my once-a-week update here on the blog, writing a new novel seems unlikely.

The second thing GMC made me think about was the really good lunch I had a few weeks ago. During our book discussion, we agreed we liked “something else” to be going on in our books, something in addition to the romance.

Debra Dixon cuts this idea down to its essential elements.

I used to think about “conflicts” in romance novels as being the obstacles, both internal and external, that the hero and heroine must overcome before they can fully embrace a relationship.

But now I have a more interesting way to think about it. The romance—the relationship—IS the conflict. The romance is what’s going on while the hero and heroine are trying to get other things done.

The heroine’s goal in a romance novel is not to fall in love and get married. Ditto for the hero. The last thing on their minds is meeting a soul mate. In fact, it’s darned inconvenient. Romance will be a conflict for your characters.
~~from GMC by Debra Dixon

Some fun things my lunch table said they like about romance novels

harvard

I spent today at a NJ RWA panel where I, and four other industry folks, talked about the most common mistakes writers make in queries, synopses, manuscripts, pitches and publicity. It was a fun discussion, made so by the insightful questions from the audience and the good humor of my fellow panelists.

But one of my favorite parts of the day was actually off the panel, at lunch.

When I looked forlornly around the dining room, a group of funny, smart, book-loving ladies were kind enough to invite me to pull up a chair and sit with them. I’m so glad they did.

After the obligatory grammar and punctuation jokes–this was a writers meeting after all!–we got down to the nitty gritty of book discussion. I added five books to my Goodreads TBR from that conversation alone!

There were a few things we all loved, things I don’t always hear discussed when folks talk about what should be in a romance novel. So I thought I would share.

1. Complex characters. It’s a romance, so the journey together is guaranteed, but the hero and heroine also need to each have an individual journey over the course of the story. (Loretta Chase came highly recommended as someone who could do this well. Can’t believe I haven’t read her yet!)

2. High stakes. Which means, there’s something more to the story than just “will she get her soul mate or won’t she.” High stakes come pretty naturally to romantic suspense. The stakes can’t get higher than life or death. But for contemporary romance, high stakes are harder to pull off.

This seems to be where classic “hooks” come in: secret babies, secret pregnancies, marriages of convenience, forced proximity, enemies attract. The hook adds high stakes that impact the romantic plot. But adding the hook can escalate the problem. How do you pull it off without writing something that seems too similar to books that have come before?

3. Surprises. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of interviews recently, but this time I wasn’t even the one to bring it up! Someone else said it and when she did, we all agreed we’d been reading romance so long it was hard to surprise us. But when an author can make magic happen…amazing.

4. The romance as a journey of trust. Anne Walradt put it best when she recounted the premise of one of her favorite Suzanne Brockmann books, Harvard’s Education. The hero begins the story trying to protect the heroine and keep her out of combat, even though he can’t complete his mission without her skills. By the end, when they are escaping together, he turns to her and says, “Drive or shoot?”

It’s the ultimate development for an alpha hero, moving from overlord protector to comrade in arms. Really, that line gets to the heart of the matter even better than “I love you.”

Margaret Atwood talks about dead authors and the cheese sandwiches they will never again eat

tee
The “Dead Author” T-shirt by Margaret Atwood

At Book2Camp in February, I attended a discussion about book blogs attended by Margaret Atwood. (Just so you know, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorite books, ever.)

I was a total shy fangirl, in awe that Margaret Atwood and I were in the same audience. And the highlight of the camp–not to knock all the wonderful conversations and ideas that were discussed about building reader communities, piracy and the definition of the book–was when Ms. Atwood carefully noted a list of book blogs and took special care in repeating “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.” Teehee.

So when I was reading through Guy Gonzalez‘s blog and saw the link to Margaret Atwood’s TOC keynote address, I clicked, and watched, and laughed and took some notes.

I’d recommend anyone interested in writing, publishing, editing or ebooks watch the whole video, below. It’s worth your time.

Here are the key editor-related things I took away from Margaret Atwood’s TOC talk:

** The most important thing a good editor can do is provide encouragement and validation to an author, although not every day because that would become tedious.

** The #2 thing an editor or publisher can provide is a trustworthy name. So a reader may say, ‘if they thought it was good, then I will trust that there is some merit in the work, most of the time.’

** The final thing good editors provide is guidance, by catching unintentional mistakes via copyediting, line editing and developmental editing.

** If authors want to go the “United Artists” way, there will still be a place for editors. Trained editors are out there, and ready to be hired.

Here’s the talk:

Penguin’s Sekret Projekt: Book Country

Book Country site

Colleen Lindsay has been dropping tweets about Penguin’s Sekret Projekt for months! First, when she spoke of moving over to Penguin’s Business Development Team. Then, when she tweeted the job requirements for a new assistant.

Yesterday, I just happened to see that she planned to reveal the truth behind the project at her panel this morning at the DFW Writers Conference. Am I in Dallas-Fort Worth? No! Boo! BUT I do have Twitter. And now I know what the Sekret Projekt is…finally!

Drum roll, please…

Book Country, an online community for work-shopping genre fiction. If you click on the link above, the only message available is that it is “coming soon.” I can’t wait to see how it works.

UPDATE: The site is live! Looks like there are lots of interesting elements to explore, and it’s open not only to all writers but to all publishing industry folks, too. (Not just Penguin editors!) I’ll be signing up for a profile soon so I can see what it’s all about. If you do, too, follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook and let me know what you think of the site.

How to write well, inspired by Richard Bausch and Shania Twain

Can good writing be taught?

I don’t think so.

But I do think good writing can be learned.

Just like singing.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an essay in The Atlantic’s fiction supplement about the silliness of how-to manuals for writing while I watched Shania Twain mentor American Idol contestants.

Not surprisingly, the essay got me thinking. Very surprisingly, so did Shania Twain.

Richard Bausch said,

If you really want to learn how to write [then] read…One doesn’t write out of some intellectual plan or strategy; one writes from a kind of beautiful necessity born of the reading of thousands of good stories…

Shania said something to the effect of, “To make it, you can’t just be a great voice, you have to feel it.”

Let’s ignore for a moment how the market rewards timely topics and strong platforms. Those who are great writers, great storytellers, are more than marketing.

And learning to write, like learning to sing, begins with more than talent and desire, more than “a great voice.” It begins with “feeling it.” It begins with a deep, consuming love for the source material.

So, the first and most important step to becoming a good writer is immersion.

Wallow in stories and language, in song and melody. Luxuriate. Find what you love, what you hate, what bores you to tears. Read it all and keep reading. I agree with Bausch. Writers never really move on from this step. Reading is the foundation for writing. Reading is writing’s raison d’être.

Second, practice.

Write to sound just like those who swept you away with their tales, or phrasing, or high notes. Write to sound nothing like them. Write everything, from recipes to essays, novellas to poems. Realize that craft and artistry take hours, days and years of practice.

Third, hone your voice.

Make each word and rhythm and story your own. Riff a little. Or a lot.

Fourth, embrace your constructive critics.

They will tell you what you need to hear, even when it hurts. Peers, judges, readers, editors…even, maybe, one or two really good books about reading and writing. Listen to the advice that resonates, drop the rest of it. Then go back to the first three steps.

Finally, perform.

Let yourself feel it. Read it back. Does the rhythm and the story flow? Does it make your audience feel it, too? Put your writing into a reader’s hands and see what happens.

Most likely, a writer’s reward won’t be money or fame. The reward will be knowing your writing is part of the backbone, the foundation. Your work is there, in a reader’s library, along with Shakespeare, waiting to sweep someone away.

My personal TOC

There are a lot of solid wrap-ups for the Tools of Change for Publishing conference making the rounds today. DBW’s webinar chose TOC Take-Aways as today’s topic, though technical problems and catch-up work prevented me from listening. Mark Coker had a piece, as did Publishing Perspectives. [Update, 2/27/10, a few more TOC links: an insightful observation about the value of chance and open-mindedness at conferences from Debbie Stier; Kirk Biglione’s DRM slides; Don Linn’s observations; and a summary of Tim O’Reilly’s speech on Teleread.]

I’m still working my way through my notes, which are way more detailed than usual, thanks to typing them instead of writing them. But I do have some personal take-aways from the conference.

1) It’s really fun to take your computer into a room with free wifi and interesting speakers. I took notes, looked up URLs as they popped up on the big screen, added books to my Goodreads to-read list as they were mentioned and had my RSS feed right there for reading should I get bored, which only happened once or twice. I wish actively using your device was socially acceptable at every conference.

2) Social media is the new SEO, especially when it comes to selling more books via word of mouth. I found the panels by Bob Carlton, Chris Brogan and Angelina Ward to be immediately applicable in my daily business.

3) Analytics will become (or have already started to become?) the new sales numbers. The amount of information that will soon be available…I mean, you can actually know if the book was bought and not read. Or, if the reader started, but then lost interest at page 20. As one presenter put it, you’ll know the multiple differences between those who read at 2 am in bars and those who read at noon during lunch. Talk about niche markets.

4) Technical guys who can create their own version of xml, automate all of their publishing systems (e.g., turn a 2-day process into a 37-second process), publish all of their royalty data for everyone to see and make money…well, they make me wish I could write a book about code and publish it with them right now.

5) I don’t like to feel that my content is brought to me by sponsors. I found suspicion creeping in every time there was a product related to a presentation, even when some of the products were ones I want to try.

6) Mobile is everywhere, even in emerging markets. The coverage is only growing. So who needs ebook readers?

7) And the most important point: It’s all about the customer–know them, meet them, talk to them, engage them, give them all the information you can, give them their choice of devices and formats, add value for them. Then maybe you can publish what they will pay to read.

Jill Sorenson rocks!

So I just left the Tools of Change conference where I managed to write 10,000(!) words while taking notes on my tiny, heroic Eee PC; met several people I had previously known only online; and learned that Marian Schembari and I have the same networking technique.

My plan was to drop by my favorite wifi hotspot, the library, on my way home to figure out which tiny item I might be able to write about today. But as I was riding the train downtown, I started reading a manuscript by Jill Sorenson.

Now, I can’t put it down long enough to think about all of the things I learned at TOC. I keep getting distracted by the eerie atmosphere of a somewhat deserted island surrounded by man-eating sharks and the steaming reunion romance about to play out between two people I totally want to see get together. (Thank you, Jill, for sending this one to me.)

So pardon me while I decompress from the digital conference by doing some old-fashioned paper reading.


DISCLAIMER

I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
my book shelf:
Stacy Boyd's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

%d bloggers like this: