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Messages - Usedtoposthere

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1
Writers' Cafe / Re: New POV on an old topic
« on: Yesterday at 09:55:37 am »
I write in both and read in both. With multiple points of view, you want to be careful to make it clear in the first sentence who is speaking. With first person, I have found it best to label the scene or chapter with the name. I write two alternating points of view in first person. With more than two, I have always done third person. (Up to 13 separate points of view in a book.)

You can get almost as close with deep third person, but not quite. It is easier to make a character’s voice shine in first person in my experience, if you are good at characterization. I love writing both and I find that most of my readers do not care, except for a few who will tell me that they despise first person. These are mostly quite opinionated people who will also express deeply held preferences on other book matters, so I let those chips fall where they may and do what feels right for the book.

Lee Child writes in both depending on whether the story needs more than Reacher’s point of view. Seems sensible.

2
Writers' Cafe / Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« on: June 26, 2020, 09:52:07 am »
In my experience as a writer and a reader, to really succeed you have to hook your reader via cover, blurb, title, and concept. In a way, that is all marketing, as concept is all about knowing what delights your reader. Then as others have said, you have to deliver on the promise. Get them reading, draw them in right away. Make them stay up late reading. Delight them at the end. Make them preorder the next book based on zero information.

As others have said above, craft is not just pretty prose. Storytelling craft is about how one paragraph flows into another, how you end and begin a chapter, how the characters are revealed gradually to the reader, how appealing the characters are. How much of a twist or surprise you throw in, and not just in suspense stories (I write both contemporary romance and romantic suspense, myself). How the reader realizes that the twist or surprise makes perfect sense for those characters and stories. Immersive writing. It is a thing.

Writing “good enough” books can provide a living wage, but it keeps you on a treadmill. Not everybody can keep up a book-a-month pace for long. Kudos to those who do. Success where you can relax a bit requires hooky, immersive writing. An X factor. But you can get better at the X factor.

I will not address marketing as others do that much better.

ETA: The Beatles are still iconic and listened to, something like 50 years after they disbanded. Not so much McCartney solo despite his talent and massive name recognition. There is a reason for that. The work is more forgettable.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Objectifying females and males on covers
« on: June 23, 2020, 09:46:31 pm »
I'm not sure everyone here knows what objectifying actually means.
Ee-yup. I'm so confused ...

4
Writers' Cafe / Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« on: June 22, 2020, 08:13:12 pm »
Everyone's had their chance to explain their theory and so far none have even speculated the mechanism by which you can put hundreds of thousands of people on a buy page the day after you hit publish.   

What we know is this: when you publish a new book, the only places it is visible are the new releases list (for a limited time) and your author page. Those are the only practical, verifiable places where your book can be discovered.  There are credible rumors that Amazon is notifying some of the people who bought from you in the past, but there's no way to quantify or verify that traffic. Someone might stumble over the book if it shows up in a search, but the conversion rate of that kind of traffic is minimal at best. 

If there is some secret juice that Amazon puts behind your book if it is part of a rapid writing binge where you put a new title up every 12 days while a nurse stands by with an oxygen tank and adrenaline, apparently after all these years nobody has made any attempt to prove it with actual numbers that we can examine and evaluate. Given the general demeanor on this board I'd wager if someone discovered that's all it takes, they'd keep it to themselves.

The people who are getting consistent sales growth have Bubclub-fueled mailing lists. I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise, but so far nobody has ponied up any evidence to the contrary. I've personally experienced great success with Facebook ads, but I don't have $4000 liquid disposable cash every month to pump into campaigns, so I can only drive so many sales. 

Perhaps I'll go completely against the grain and write YA fantasy two books a month and go out of my way to keep them all secret.  If they sell, then I will have proven the theory that rapid release alone is sufficient. If they don't, then I've proven that rapid release is a myth. If the former, I can retire. If the latter, I've done away with a destructive myth.  Either way I win. 

In fact, I'll even put Barsoom-style covers on them just so they look like boring throwbacks that nobody would ever want to read. They will be the anti-market. A perfect expression of my non-conformity and stubborn, unreasonable nature.  8)   

I personally believe there is something to be said for making a book that looks nothing like the rest of the top sellers list.  If all the books are placed side to side and 98 of them have oversaturated cover images with Cinzel fonts and the same focus-group-tested A/B tested LOOK AT ALL THE TROPES MOMMY book after book after YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN book and then that overweight Irish drunk comes along and gets readers to say "what the hell is THAT?" Now that might do the trick.

At the very least I can be creative for a change instead of wearing the same tie as everyone else in the meeting.  I didn't get into writing so I could do half-assed Mad Libs. 

That'll do for me. I hope this thread was helpful to some.
Because we don’t know how it happens, other than offering a free book and advertising it in a few places and having people pick it up and read it and talk about it. (which is what worked for me. My first spend was $10 for two freebie websites, and having two more engaging books available for people to read. That wasn’t now, though.)

There is also having Amazon recommend your book. Which does happen, both in a general sense where they notify your followers of a new release (which they do) and in a fairy-dust way where they add you to a new release email to the genre or whatever. About nine months after I published my first three books, Amazon must have put my first book into some kind of Mother’s Day email, because all of a sudden I had sold a few thousand extra copies that day. I never saw the email. I just saw the result. It does happen. Generally somebody nominates your book to Marketing, because it has sold well or there is buzz. And then you get word of mouth and it builds.

As far as I know, that is how it happens.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« on: June 22, 2020, 04:28:45 pm »
Personally, I just try to keep learning and to pay attention to what resonates and does not. I know I am a much better writer than I was when I started. That is not enough, as Crystal says, but it is satisfying. If I were of an age and place in my life where sales really mattered, I would try to learn and pay attention to that side of things. It is learnable, I know. Probably more so than the writing part in some ways. Not as mysterious.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« on: June 22, 2020, 03:35:40 pm »
I think Patty was referring to general-you, not anyone specifically.

The reason nobody can tell you why and how their first novel sold hundreds of thousands of copies is that We. Do. Not. Know. Publishers do not know either. My second book for Montlake was great. My editor emailed me to tell me that she was re-reading it in the Amazon cafeteria and sobbing. She was super excited about that book. It did fine, but not as well as the first book for them, which got to No. 9 in the store, still my highest rank. Even though I am dissatisfied with several things about that book. Go figure.

Heck, I still do not know why some of my books resonate hard and others are more like, well, that was a good book, thanks.  If I did, I would write the Wow books every time, believe me.

It is fairy dust. Best explanation I have. But many people write less marketable books at first and then get better at hitting the target.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« on: June 22, 2020, 08:53:32 am »
Word of mouth is magical.

A couple weeks ago, one of my books was featured with a lovely review in a checkstand women’s magazine with a 1.6-million circulation. I do not have a publicist, and I did zero marketing for that book other than a BookBub featured new release (you apply for them and then pay if you are selected.) Otherwise, I just announced it to my mailing list, as usual. Some editor must have picked it up and read it for fun, is all I can think, because the book released four months ago.

I am not a big name. I am a medium name. I have never hit a list, as I am in Select. The book in the magazine had a great title and series title and an evocative cover. It is a really fun story that women relate to, and it has a very grabby first chapter.

Breaking out is not easy, but the book comes first, last, and always. After that, cover, title (often ignored), series title, blurb. The most important marketing happens before you publish the book. If you get all the above right, marketing can work great and your book can sell easily. If you do not, you can throw thousands at it and the book will not sell, or it will not keep selling.

The way to keep a book selling year after year after year is to make it re-readable and strong enough that people recommend it. That is how you get word of mouth and maximize your marketing dollars.

ETA: Yeah, my first book sold big with zero mailing list and $20 in marketing. It still sells. The audio got an Audie nomination. I got a sales award for the German translation, done through a publisher, when it topped 40,000 copies. Did I know what I was doing? Not really. Was I lucky? Yeah. I also knew what kind of book appeals to a certain kind of reader, my reader, and I am a pretty good writer with a very strong voice. My timing was good. But I have kept being lucky with my second series, my third, and on through my seventh, even though they are all pretty different. I have a chunk of my audience that comes along with me. I write for myself first and for them second. I write to my market in terms of writing an appealing romance with other elements, but I take a lot of risks in subject matter and tone. I try to tell a great story that carries the reader along in an immersive fashion, and I try to provide delight. Like I said, YMMV.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« on: June 21, 2020, 04:30:52 pm »
I really think that the only truisim in publishing is YMMV. Your mileage may vary.

I do know that one thing is true of everybody I know who has thousands of avid fans and who sells lots of books year after year. They know how to write a hooky book and present it well. Hooky concept. Hooky writing. Hooky cover. Hooky blurb. They write books that lots of readers can't wait to get their hands on, books that people re-read and recommend to their friends.

Is that enough in the current climate? It still has been for some people who've broken out without much marketing even in the past few years. But it's less likely now. All I can say is--without that, you don't get that kind of career. And look--if everybody knew how to write as consistently hooky as John Grisham and Nora Roberts and Lee Child, you've have a lot more authors like those. You don't, because it ain't easy to have a unique voice and put out consistently strong work, month after month, year after year, whatever else is happening in your life.

I don't think it has much to do with cutting X percent of the words you write or whatever. I don't do that, and lots of other folks don't, either. I edit as I go, personally. Same with all the other rules. You don't have to publish every month. You don't have to write 10,000 words a day--though if you can, and they're great words that people want to read, well done, you. You just have to have a unique voice, write books lots of people want to read and that stand out as something memorable, distinguishable from other books in your genre and even other books in your own catalog (don't just write the same thing over & over), and keep on doing it.

It's not easy, but it's possible. I almost quit before I started because I got so discouraged by posts like some of those above, saying it was impossible, don't bother. It wasn't impossible. It still isn't. It just isn't easy.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Am I gonna get sued? Careful What You Dash For
« on: June 19, 2020, 08:36:58 am »
Your topic is about whether you will get sued. You do not care, so I wonder why you asked the question? What was your intention in posting?

10
Writers' Cafe / Re: Traditional publishing
« on: June 04, 2020, 09:17:48 am »
You will always do better with a Big Five publisher or even a university press, though not necessarily with a boutique or regional publishing firm. On the forum today I see a question about handling foreign rights. HarperCollins published one of my books in 2007 and let it go out of print in 2016. Nonetheless, it sold the rights to a Chinese publisher, from which I have earned a bit more than $3500 so far, which I'm pretty sure is more than I've earned from the vast majority of my self-pubbed books. (And that's in addition to the 40,000 copies Harper sold over those nine years -- and indeed is still selling occasionally, from its stock of unsold or returned books. Unlike Doubleday, it apparent doesn't just pulp the books.)

As a practical matter, it is impossible to get a book published today without having an, or "author's representative" as they prefer to call themselves. There were still slush piles -- books that "came in over the transom" -- when I began publishing, but I only once got read and never did get a contract until I acquired an agent. Alas, she sold the business after my second novel, and I thought I could do just as well on my own, now that I had a record. I was wrong.

Today I doubt that I would ever have broken through, however temporarily. Find an agent and listen to her (in my experience, good agents are always women). It will take time -- years, perhaps.

But as others have said, no agent is going to pick up a book that the author has published and was unable to market.
This is simply untrue. You will not ALWAYS do better with a Big 5 publisher. You can sell your foreign and audio rights as an indie as well, or publish audio and foreign translations independently as an indie. I have done all three things both with tradpub and as an indie. I have sold more as an indie in all but foreign translation, and I have earned more all three ways by a long shot. And yes, my trad versions were all promoted by the publisher.  And I am only a middling fish.

I also got all my trad contracts by the publisher coming to me. Yes you do need an agent if you are unknown, however.

It also depends heavily on genre. In romance, many agents are not taking new clients anymore. Romance is heavily indie. Several other genres are very indie as well. Urban fantasy. Cozy mystery. In other genres, there is a mix, but fantasy, sci-fi, and thriller all have strong indie presences. In literary and historical fiction, and often in women’s fiction, it is much more about tradpub.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Traditional publishing
« on: June 02, 2020, 09:33:14 pm »
I would share the book with people you trust to give their honest opinion, if you haven't done that. Did you use a professional editor? How are the blurb and cover? It's hard to know whether it's the book, the packaging, or the marketing without knowing what any of the above look like, but if you've advertised without success, it's likely to be the book and/or the packaging. I'd guess you need solid, straight-from-the-hip feedback and advice.

One book isn't "every book you'll ever write." It's just one book. It's possible to do better, but in order to do that, you need to know what you need to improve.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: June 02, 2020, 09:38:30 am »
I am sure there are fake reviews still. And some people write really good books and sell a lot of them. I have a book featured in Woman’s World this month as part of their “Book Club” of feel-good reads that has a 4.9-star average. I have never advertised it and do not have a publicist. Presumably some editor picked it up and read it. It is a happy, funny book that mothers really relate to, in a setting where many people long to be right now. Although I did not plan it this way and in fact started writing it last summer, it was the right book at the right time. Write the right book at the right time, satisfy your audience, and it can get all positive reviews. It happens. It will certainly happen to any good-selling author who produces consistent books in a popular series or world.

Not all my books do as well. My lowest is 4.2 stars. (My second book.) I am a better writer now, after 31 books. Oddly, though, the first three books are reader favorites and have sold among the best, so reviews are certainly not everything. (Neither is literary skill, possibly, which is a bit depressing!)

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Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: June 01, 2020, 10:52:40 am »
Many times reviews on Amazon are a joke. I've always found it very difficult to get reviews so when I see a fairly new book say pubed two months ago with a hundred plus reviews I get suspicious. About a year ago I came across a book that was published like forty-five days previously, so looked up one of the reviewers. Well, this reviewer had written something like three to five, generic 5 star reviews a day for months, roughly 1700 total. So I picked another reviewer and same thing and another, same thing. I went through something like eight reviewers and they were all the same and I wouldn't be surprised if all were. I did mention it with Amazon in a correspondence about something else and when I checked, the original reviewer several days later and she and her 1700+ reviews were gone.

So in my estimation there are one or more scam artists that are running for sale 5 star review businesses on ebooks.
A book published two months ago or two days ago with a hundred plus reviews is probably a book that sold a lot of copies to an eager audience. I’ve had 100 plus reviews within the first  24 hours numerous times. My best reviewed book in terms of review average has 94 percent 5 stars with 230 reviews. The other 6 percent were 4 stars. People really liked it and it was in my most popular series. They waited for the book and it met their expectations, and they wanted to say so.

If you write a very popular book that takes off (my first book got many hundreds of reviews in two weeks), a lot of the reviews will say things like, “Great book,” or “I loved it.” Real people do not necessarily write book reports. They may not write many reviews. They just want to say that they really liked this book.

ETA; That 4.9-star book is the book of mine that Amazon picks up for promos the most. It is a Kindle Monthly Deal again right now. Even though it is No. 12 in a series, and not the latest one in that series nor the best selling one. (It is a stand-alone.)


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Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: May 31, 2020, 09:00:15 am »
I can see how they would say that about a book they decided to publish. When you say marketing decisions, are you saying Amazon actually markets a book that has more reviews? How exactly do they market? Emails or moving them up the also bought list, etc? I haven't seen that to be true with my books although a couple have 500 or more reviews. I've certainly never seen a spike I didn't pay for myself.
No, this is specifically about indie books. You see, decisions on which books to include in merchandising are not all made by algorithms. They are made by humans. Books are recommended to Marketing by humans, and humans make the determination. I am not saying that reviews are the most important part of that decision. Sales are the most important part. But the number of reviews, the review average, and the credibility of the reviews all matter as well. What do the reviews actually say?

And yes, when you publish with an Amazon Publishing imprint, they also do everything they can to get early reviews, for the same reason, and also for customer credibility, because Amazon firmly believes that reviews are important to customers. (Which is the reason they matter to Marketing.)

As to what that means: including books in new release emails or preorder emails. You can move thousands of books just from one preorder email. (That will not be from reviews of course). Including them in Prime Reading. Including them in daily and monthly deals.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: May 30, 2020, 04:19:37 pm »
Except that I have been explicitly told by Audible, KDP, and Createspace reps that that is not true. They had no reason to lie. They were telling me to get more early reviews, because those matter to Marketing when they make merchandising decisions. I have seen the truth of that in books that they push. They pick up my books with a large number of reviews and a 4.9-star average in particular. It is truly not sales, period.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: May 28, 2020, 07:42:13 pm »
I believe the reason for the persistence of this idea is that there is some truth to it. The merchandising department at Amazon does like to see a large number of early reviews on books when they are deciding what to give a boost to. And a high review average. (This is not stuff pushed by algorithms, but decisions like what to put into Prime Reading, on a KDD, into emails for new releases, etc.)

The “get more early reviews” thing was said to me over lunch with my KDP rep and with the head of Createspace. It was a number of years ago (5?), but I know Merchandising still cares about reviews. Per a much more recent conversation.

Does not mean X number of reviews alone will do anything.




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Writers' Cafe / Re: First Time Writer
« on: May 21, 2020, 08:43:16 pm »
It's a good question. My first book--I edited for about a month, with feedback from some helpful and brilliant friends. Then I wrote Book 2. That one needed more rewriting than Book 1, but I learned a lot, so I went back and edited Book 1 some more. Then I wrote Book 3, which came really easily and needed nothing but proofreading. I finally knew what I was doing! Back to Book 1 for some more editing.

I published them all together, about eight months after finishing Book 1. They were each about 90K. So that's my short answer. Eight months. Nowadays, i edit as I go, and when it's done, it's done--but that's 31 long books in.

To answer your second question--I don't. I've written almost every story idea I've ever had, and I've finished every book I've ever started. People's processes are different, though, because people are different. I think you have to find out for yourself. Oddly, the two books I really almost gave up on turned out to be reader favorites. I've learned that I'm a lousy judge.

Best of luck with your books.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Promotional codes
« on: May 18, 2020, 09:13:27 am »
The point is the market. Amazon has the biggest one. Each store has flaws. Until one is ready to set up a competing bookstore, though, one lives with it. (And personally, is grateful to be able to sell my work directly.) The alternative is traditional publishing, which has issues of its own and where you have much less control. So...??

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Promotional codes
« on: May 16, 2020, 09:39:52 pm »
You do a time limited sale and announce and or advertise it. You can do a regular sale on iBooks also. I do not really understand the outrage. What were you expecting?

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No. It does not work better than an unsolved murder mystery. It works the same. In other words, not at all. What you are writing is not romance. Period.

There are many, many, many types of romance beyond those you describe. Your contempt for the genre shows and is insulting both here and to any potential readers. You do not understand it. Do not try to write it unless you do.

Yes. I am an actual bestselling romance writer.

I understand that my tone is snarky. You must understand that romance authors are used to this dismissive attitude toward our work, which can encompass some of the great themes of human nature. We write about people. First and foremost and always. It is just as difficult to write romance well as any other genre. But it is incredible how many people think it is easy because the genre and its readers are stupid.

You could try writing that mystery that remains unsolved. That thriller where the bad guys win. That fantasy where evil prevails. None of them are likely to sell. That is not what readers are reading for.
 
ETA: Romance is also not about the male character “conquering.” It is about the male and female character growing. Each of them has a character arc, a personal journey.

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Women are happy to read romance from the male point of view. Most romance is written from both male and female POVs, and quite a bit of romance is written solely from the male POV.

There’s a huge universe of romance beyond “girl falls in love with billionaire boss.” It is an enormous and diverse genre. But yes, they will end up happy together, because that is the sole requirement of the genre. It’s about a relationship. And they end up happy. Just as a mystery is about a mystery, and it ends up solved. Beyond that? Anything goes.

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I took a quick look. I think an issue you will have is that you haven't really written romance. You seem, from a quick perusal, to have written the sexual adventures of a man. Two books, at least two (?) different women, and it's "about" the guy, not the relationship. (As far as I can tell from the blurb etc.)

A romance is about two people (or more, if it's a menage romance) falling in love. It may or may not have sex in it. In erotic/steamy romance, the sex may be a big part of the story, even a major plot point, but the driving force of the story is the relationship between the people. The point of a romance novel is people's struggle to be together, to build a life with each other, to complete each other and become their best selves.

It's really hard to advertise romance successfully, or to do well with it, if it doesn't meet the criteria of the romance genre.

Here are some guidelines from RWA that you could look at to see whether what you've got is a romance novel. https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx

ETA: Yes, you can advertise romance, including erotic romance. You just can't advertise on Amazon if your covers don't meet their ad guidelines.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: The #1 Contributor to your sales is....
« on: May 14, 2020, 11:37:52 am »
The book.

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My times have been normal, for what it's worth.

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I start when I know the characters very well. I don't normally have the plot beyond a general idea, and I don't outline. (I can't. I'm not creative in that way. I can't think things up.) I don't do any rewriting though or throw things out. I write the book all the way through and so far (on book 31), it's worked out fine every time. Even on pretty complex mystery/suspense books. (In many cases, I don't know who the bad guy is until halfway through.) It doesn't take me extra time. Whether I know what comes next or not, I write at about the same steady pace, though some books are faster than others. I edit as I go and rewrite for the first half of every day, then write new stuff, then edit it--and edit it again the next day.

I average 2K-3K edited words per day while I am working on a book, up to 7K/day edited words for the last 4-5 days of writing. It takes me 2-3 weeks to think up a new book though and to research the characters. My books are 110-150K. The fastest I've written & edited a long book is 5 weeks for a 120K story. The slowest is maybe 8-10 weeks for a book of that length.

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