Tips For New Fiction Authors
From Writer's Relief staff:
If you are dipping your toes into the sometimes-tumultuous waters of fiction writing for the first time, you might be feeling a bit daunted right now. But there are certain rules and guidelines to follow that can help you keep your writing both focused and engaging (and, therefore, more publishable). Here are our top eight guidelines for beginning fiction writers:
Now, Easy to get to me:
Know your audience. Beginners sometimes want to appeal to the widest audience possible and so try to write for everyone. As a result, they let their work run off in too many directions and end up with a muddled mess of a story. But you can’t please everyone—a story that appeals to city-dwelling twenty-somethings won’t necessarily catch the fancy of a middle-aged man from the suburbs. Once you accept that, you can focus all of your energy on writing for the readers who will appreciate your hard work that much more.
Here’s a tip: Once you’ve decided who your audience is (specific gender, age group, etc.), reread your story with that audience in mind to make sure your focus is consistent. Remove any elements that could potentially cause any friction (unless that’s your goal!).
Know your genre. This goes hand in hand with knowing your audience. There are key elements that fans of certain genres will expect to find when they start reading your work. More often than not, genres can be divided further into subgenres that accommodate very specific motivations and plotlines. Keep it consistent. It is possible to write a successful cross-genre story, but you don’t want to mix it up too much. A supernatural romantic thriller, for example, could end up alienating fans of all three genres.
Create real characters. Make your characters human—give them nervous tics, phobias, a funny way of messing up clichés. Some of the most memorable stories have three-dimensional characters that readers can feel strongly about in some way. For example: A heroine who has to overcome her deep-seated fears before she can get what she wants is much more appealing than one who just breezes through without struggle. The former’s conflict is relatable (who isn’t held back by their fears?), therefore her victory will be that much more satisfying.
The same logic applies to antagonists. Why do we love to hate Othello’s Iago? Because his actions come from emotions we all know we’re capable of feeling: jealousy, insecurity, etc.
Just like you, characters should evolve over time. Everything that happens in your story affects them in some way. The changes to their progress (or lack thereof) can be significant or minute, but they must occur. Place your character in situations that force him or her to make difficult choices, mistakes, etc. You can decide whether the character should make the “right” or “wrong” decisions, but any character not evolving on some level is static and that will take away from your story’s momentum.
SOME ONLINE BOOKs will help YOU HERE:
Price: $9.97 USD. 107170 words. Language: English. Published on May 4, 2010. Nonfiction » Reference » Publishing and books.
(4.75 from 4 reviews)
Universally acknowledged as the bible for self-publishers, this guide incorporates the latest information on the process in a new edition. Twelve chapters answer common questions and provide practical guidance on writing, design, copyrighting, printing, promotion, publicity, sales, and distribution, with one chapter devoted to technology. An appendix lists useful resources.
Price: $7.97 USD. 27180 words. Language: English. Published on February 1, 2009. Nonfiction » Reference » Writing skills.
(4.25 from 4 reviews)
Book publishing is changing: this book describes how to take advantage of those changes. This Volume II is the sequel to The Self-Publishing Manual (Volume I), the most successful book ever written on the subject. This manual describes how to use new techniques to write your book even faster, use new technology to publish it for less, and how to use social media for promotion.
Show, don’t tell. Beginners often make the mistake of explaining what is happening instead of simply showing the reader. Think of it as the difference between watching a movie and having a friend describe a movie to you.
Rather than having the narrator mention that one character spent the night in jail for egging a neighbor’s car, give the reader the play-by-play of the character laughing gleefully while throwing the eggs (underhand, of course, because they were on the bowling team). Then show them crying to the point of hiccups when the cops slap on the handcuffs. This will paint a much more vivid picture for your readers and, therefore, make the story more enjoyable.
Want to take it one step further? Include a scene showing the neighbor using the character’s mailbox for batting practice—that gives your egg-throwing hero motivation, which adds to what we talked about in Rule #3.
Stick to the main plot. Beginners often get caught up in subplots they find interesting, but don’t serve to propel the characters forward in any real way. Your story isn’t a well-cast ensemble sitcom. Focus diligently on one main plotline, and if you do decide to add subplot elements to your story, make sure they relate to the main story and help propel your character to his or her inevitable end.
Let your scenes play out. Don’t cheat your readers by trying to wrap up every scene too quickly. Events in real life don’t often end neatly; chances are neither will events in your story. Instead, let the falling action of each scene sow the seeds of the following scene’s rising action. Propel your audience through to the next plot point—make them want to keep reading.
If you are going for suspense, cliffhangers are a plus. But there is a big difference between a cliffhanger and an abrupt, unnatural close, so make your choices carefully.
Learn the art of conflict. Creating a powerful conflict and weaving it tightly throughout the story is a tricky thing to master, and can take years of practice. The catharsis that a reader will experience at the resolution, however, is worth the struggle. Conflict is what makes us interested in outcome. And your conflict must affect your characters in a way that forces them to act and grow as a result. A story with a weak conflict that leaves the characters exactly as they were at the start won’t be satisfying; your story won’t make a lasting impression.
Here’s a tip: The best way to learn how to write conflict is by reading it. The next time you’re reading a short story or novel, take note of how the author presents the main conflict and the specific ways in which the characters react to it.
Revise your story. Revising is an important part of any writer’s process, but there is much debate as to the best approach. Some writers like to finish the whole piece before starting any major rewrites. Only when the work is completed are they able to assess the story as a whole and recognize its flaws. Others prefer to rewrite as they write, finding it easier to tighten the laces as they go. A revision early in the story can clear the path for engaging plot points down the line that wouldn’t have been possible had things been written differently. Try both methods so you can feel out which one works best for you.
Read more at Writer's NEEDs
Differences of Our Preject from Others:
MY FIRST PUBLISHING STORY
eBook (ePub for Adobe Digital Editions): $6.99Download immediately.
“Isaac Newton was a shy, quiet boy growing up on a farm in England 300 years ago. He was not a very good student and nobody paid much attention to him. Nobody that is, except the school bully…. More >
It has been almost two years since I wrote my first book, and it has not yet been accepted by a traditional publisher. I have received accolades on the proposal, but the competition in the publishing field today makes it extremely difficult to get an educational / self-help book for teens published. Even with the help of a great literary agent, the process of trying to get publishers to take on the book has been grueling. I know that others who have written on AC have noted the difficult journeys of authors, and at least I have the solace of not being alone in my struggle. However, I am now in the process of self-publishing my non-fiction work for young adults, and have been told I have made the second round of judging in a national writing contest.
I have gotten this far because of the advice of a good agent, the research I did into my subject, and by not giving up. Here are some tips for first time authors to help them through the journey:
– Spend time on the book proposal. Know your target audience and how this book will sell to them. If your work is a non-fiction work, do thorough research on how your book is different from others on the same subject. Do a thorough outline of the chapters and sections of your book. Discuss how you will market the book.
– Get a good literary agent that specializes in the type of book you are writing. You can locate literary agents through literarymarketplace.com or by purchasing the Writer's Market. The Writer's Market is a great tool for new authors. It lists literary agents and publishers by genre, and provides great tips on preparing cover letters for various types of literary works.
– Once you and / or your agent send the proposal and manuscript to publishers, and receive a response, read the rejection letters carefully. Many times there are both direct and indirect comments that will tell you how you need to adjust your work. The letters may also direct you to other publishers or venues that would be more appropriate for your work.
– If you have written a how-to or educational book, try writing related articles for magazines, newspapers, or on the web. My agent suggested that I do this, and this is one of the reasons I am now writing on AC. Also, try to get speaking engagements in venues that would be interested in your subject.
– Join associations related to your type of writing or literary subject. This will help you gain contacts and network.
– Think "out of the box". In trying to get recognition for my work, I have written to local congressmen, school districts, the Trump Institute, and even Oprah, to name a few. Out of all my contacts, I received just one response. However, I will hit them all again after the book is published.
– Take part in a writing contest. Writer's Digest and the Writer's Market Book list numerous writing contests. Some contests are for non-published works, and others only take published works. It's a great way to get some recognition.
– If you decide to self-publish your book, do a lot of research first. Check the Better Business Bureau for the records of self-publishing companies, and research each self-publishing firm on the web for comments and ratings. If you do self-publish, think ahead as to how you will market the book. Though each self-publishing firm provides marketing guidelines, you need to be creative.
How to Improve Your Ebook Sales at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes
I hear a lot of independent authors say that their ebook sales at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, etc. are practically non-existent when compared to their Amazon sales. A lot of folks seem to have enrolled in KDP Select (which requires 90 days of exclusivity with Amazon), because it might give them a boost at Amazon, and, hey, they hardly sell any ebooks elsewhere anyway, right?
If you’re happy in KDP Select and don’t care that Amazon is your only source of revenue, then that’s fine, but this post is for authors who get nervous at the idea of having all of their eggs in one basket and/or would like to expand their reach and have fans from all over.
Before I get further into this post, I do want to remind you that Amazon is the biggest online bookstore out there, and you’ll probably always sell more ebooks there (though I’ve come across exceptions who sell extremely well in iTunes, for example, and aren’t that hot at Amazon). For myself, I earn $X,XXX a month at Amazon and $XXX at iTunes, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble, with B&N being my second best earner overall.
So, how do you get on the radar in those places? I’m glad you asked…
The Free Ebook
I know not everyone is keen to give an entire novel away for free (and, honestly, there’s not much point, insofar as marketing goes, unless you have more out in the series, so the reader can go on to purchase those after enjoying the first), so before I jump into this, let me point out that you can make a short story into a free ebook. I’m a fan of using characters from your novel(s), so that the story works as a teaser to get folks into your world.
But I digress. Let’s talk about why this works.
Right now, thanks to KDP Select, there are a gazillion free ebooks at Amazon at any given time. It used to be easy to stand out over there if you had a freebie, because there weren’t that many of them, but it’s harder now. This isn’t as much the case in these other stores.
The main (perhaps only?) way to get a free ebook into these stores is to upload it to Smashwords, make it free there, and distribute it to the partner stores (iTunes and B&N being the most prominent). Because of the lag time (it can be hard to make an ebook free for a short time, for a “sale”), some authors just aren’t willing to go the free route.
Once I made my first novel free a few months ago, my iTunes sales and B&N sales grew a lot more pronounced. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, by giving Book 1 away for free, I’m making more overall, because of the increased sales of the second and third novels in the series.
The Prominently Displayed Links
I’ve done lots of posts talking about how to use your blog to sell more books. Once you start getting visitors to your site, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for them to find your books and give them a try. You’ll notice the cover art for my Book 1s (along with links to excerpts and bookstore sales pages) are prominently displayed on the side bar of every page of my site. I don’t want people to have to hunt around to give my stories a try. The whole reason this blog is here is to sell my books!
I’ve noticed that a lot of authors only include links to Amazon on their sites, and similarly they focus their social media efforts on directing people to Amazon. You can’t do that and then wonder why you don’t sell anywhere else!
I try to include links to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords at the least (and I’m starting to work in the iTunes links as well). Even though Smashwords isn’t a big store, it’s a great option for your international readers (no hidden taxes), and the fact that it offers every single file format out there is another plus. I’ve had people send me fan mail and mention that they read the pdfs of my books on their computer screens. Yes, one can do that with the free Kindle app, too, but not everyone is aware of it or would use it if they knew about it. I know it’s hard to imagine, but some people just aren’t interested in shopping at Amazon!
You might also try some campaigns to target these smaller stores specifically. It’s a great time to do so because a lot of indies have pulled their books out of Smashwords, B&N, etc. due to the exclusivity clause in KDP Select, meaning you have that many fewer competitors in those markets.
As an example, I first started selling books at Barnes & Noble last year when I tinkered with a Goodreads advertising campaign. I made some ads that specifically targeted Nook owners and sent them to my book’s sales page at B&N.
Taking Advantage of Smashwords Sales and Specials
A couple of times a year, Smashwords does big weekly sales to encourage people to try new authors. You can easily participate simply by checking a couple of boxes. I gave away over 200 copies of Encrypted last week, and sales of my non-free ebooks have been up ever since. I did a couple of tweets about the freebie, but most of those downloads came from folks Smashwords was pulling in via their marketing efforts (they were plugging their sale all over the ‘net).
In other words, I didn’t do anything except enroll my ebook, and I got new readers (and sales) out of the deal.
It pays to be aware of these types of opportunities. At Smashwords, you can also use their coupon generator to give away free or discount copies (for those who don’t want to simply make a book free indefinitely). This can be a good way to monitor where book sales come from, since you can see when coupons are redeemed.
Those are three methods I’ve used to increase my sales at other stores. If you want to recommend any others, or share your experiences with smaller venues, let us know in the comments..