What do you NEED to be a writer/author? Pick and choose at your own peril.

So if any of you follow Mark Dawson or you’re concerned about marketing strategies, or you were thinking about taking an ads course, or if you’re in any writing groups at all on Facebook, you know that Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course closed last week. Whenever Mark opens up his course, I have a huge case of the nerves. Why? Because everyone raves about this course. How helpful it is. How it’s a lifetime pass to ads and all your questions and all of the answers until you die. You can’t be an author and learn how to sell your books without it. After hearing it’s God’s gift to sales, you’ll run out and sign up, right? Well, the next time it opens is in the winter, and you’ll need that time to save up the fee, because you know why I haven’t signed up? It’s $849.00. You read that correctly. It’s almost a $1,000. And if you take the cheapest payment plan, it does cost over $1,000 dollars payable over two years’ time.

You know how indies say, “I can’t afford a cover, or a professional edit, etc, etc, etc, because I’ll never earn my money back?” Yeah. That. How many books would I have to sell to earn back $849? That’s the whole point of the ads course, right? To learn how to make that kind of money? Sure.

So how about this one? In Mark’s SPF University, there’s a course on how to write a bestseller by Suzy K. Quinn. People have raved over this, and I’m always wanting to work on the craft part of being an author. Some would say working on craft is the most important part of being a writer because it always starts with a good book. But her class is a whopping $297.00. People say they learn so much from that class. But hey, that’s two car payments for me. Or half a month’s rent.

And I’m not picking on Mark Dawson. John Truby also has a writing class. He gave a intro talk about it at the 20booksto50k conference in November last year. And you can watch it here.

His course is $397.00. You can check it out here if you’re interested.

My favorite Amazon Ads School guy, Bryan Cohen, runs an Ads Course, too, and his costs $397.00. During his ads challenges (the next one is in July) he’ll throw in some blurb writing or something a little extra to entice you to sign up. And that’s great. A lot of these indies who are offering courses try to throw in a little something for nothing. But where does it stop?

Adam Croft, under his Indie Author Mindset brand offers courses under $50.00. You can check them out here. I love his Facebook group, and I encourage you to check that out, and his podcast, too. Andrea Pearson, one-third of the Six Figure Authors podcast and Facebook group offers classes too, also in bite-sized fees, and if you listen to the podcast she just recently gave out a code for a percentage off. Her classes range anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00. Jane Friedman offers classes, as well. I’ve taken a couple and they are usually about $25.00. You can look on her blog to keep up-to-date on the courses she offers.

And that’s just classes. We haven’t talked tools yet.

Bookbrush. A platinum yearly fee with them is $250.00. Canva. A yearly membership with them is $120.00 a year. But if you compare the two, you get quite a lot more with Bookbrush, as you should since it’s double the cost. There there’s Vellum, and if you don’t have a Mac you have to run it through Macincloud, and if you do want a Mac, well, everyone knows how much they cost.

Then there’s ProWritingAid (lifetime is $224.00), the Hemingway App ($19.99 one-time fee), Grammarly (the premium is $139.95 a year).

Scrivener ($49.00).

Publisher Rocket ($97.00).

Let’s do promotions: A Freebooksy with Written Word Media is all over the map, with the popular genres around $100.00. E-reader News Today is between $50.00 to $140.00 depending on the price of your book. Book Barbarian runs about $50.00. Fussy Librarian is isn’t terrible, but you still have to sell books to make a profit.

Never mind paying for clicks on Amazon Advertising, and the same goes for running Facebook ads and Bookbub ads. (Don’t bother with running ads on a platform you don’t understand. You might as well give me your money. I’ll use it to buy promos.)

Can we add newsletter providers too?

Oh, I forgot about website hosting and a domain name. Maybe a business upgrade on WordPress.

A yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

Forgot coffee. And booze. Are you even a writer if you’re not drinking something like a fish?

Let’s just say that indies have a lot of resources and not all of them cheap, ah, budget-friendly.

How much does it cost to be a writer? Well, nothing. I mean, literally 0 dollars. It takes no money to be a writer. Maybe two dollars. Grab a pen and notebook from the dollar store. Or scrounge your kids’ school supplies for things they didn’t use after everything moved to online learning because of COVID-19.

There’s a joke in the running world that running is the most expensive free sport there is. Shoes, race fees, GPS watches, the rest of the gear. The list is almost as long as what a writer needs to be an author. Being an author is the most expensive free thing you can do right? Tell that to my $150.00/pair Brooks running shoes so I don’t get tendonitis in my ankles.

But how much money does it really take to invest in your business?

The problem is, not anyone is going to know but you.

I had a friend step back from writing. She’s focusing on her family. That’s great; she has to do what’s best for her. And while she’s never said she won’t come back into the writing/indie space, what she did invest in will just sit while she decides what she wants to do. She bought a Mac, she purchased Vellum. She bought a yearly subscription to Canva Pro. Granted, that can run out, but I don’t know how much of her paid year will go to waste while she’s not using it. She purchased her domain name for a blog she took down. I gave her a free developmental edit of her book, so there’s something, but she paid for a cover for a book that will sink in the Amazon store because she won’t be promoting it (and by promoting it, I really mean writing the next book) while she takes a break.

So how much money should you spend? Start small. I pay for Word. I don’t use a writing software like Scrivner. But you don’t have to purchase Word, either, though the .docx is compatible with Vellum and other conversion websites as well as KDP. There are free options like Open Office or Google Docs.

There are some things indie professionals say you can’t skimp on like a professional edit, or a decent book cover. And that’s true. You don’t have anything if you don’t have a good book. That’s why there’re craft classes out there. But you don’t have to pay $300.00 for a class. There are a ton of craft books, and all you need is to invest some time into reading them. In fact, there are a lot of free resources on YouTube if you learn better listening to a speaker. Brian Sanderson has a set of lectures on Youtube people say are really good, and you can get started here. And over the years John Truby has spoken about craft and you can watch those YouTube videos for free. I’ve shared several talks I’ve enjoyed from the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. The group puts those on YouTube for free too. Chris Fox’s channel is valuable, as is David Gaughran’s new channel.

I suggest narrowing down what you need at the moment you need it. If you only have one book out, probably you don’t need an $800.00 ads course. If you only have one book chances are working on craft would suit where you are in your career a lot better than learning an ad platform or any kind of marketing strategy.

I have fear of missing out, and a lot of writers I know do too. It’s tough not to want the newest brightest thing. Especially when all your groups on Facebook are raving about it. I can’t afford Mark Dawson’s class, and if you can’t either, there’s no point in feeling bad about it. It is what it is. I’ve learned a lot taking Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenges, and he doesn’t push you to pay for his class. I break even with my ads, and that’s okay. I’m not losing money and I’m picking up new readers. At this stage in my career, that’s a win for me.

Having all the tools and technology won’t make you a writer and I have a feeling that was what my friend was aiming for. She was collecting the tools of the trade, but in two years wrote only 60,000 words. For some indies, that’s a word total per month.

Think about what your goals are, what you want out of your career and when you want them. My fiancé bought me a Mac and purchased Vellum for me. I format a lot of books, and pay my fiancé’s kindness forward and will format free for others. Like I said, I pay for Word. It’s my main (umm, only) writing software and I use it every day. I pay for Canva. I bought Publisher Rocket because I do experiment with ads (and right now those small ads are my main source of sales). I’m ashamed to say I threw $40.00 at something I don’t even know what it is or how it will help me. All I know is she said it was her final offer because she wasn’t going to sell it anymore, and I swallowed it hook, line, and, sinker. Some kind of author toolbox website that I probably will never be able to find because I was too busy throwing money at her to pay attention to what I was buying.

It happens, and probably more frequently than we want to admit. The panic sucks. The fear of missing out on something that will make us a bestseller. And we especially panic when we think everyone else but us has the magic bullet.

A good rule of thumb is to exhaust all the free possibilities before going to paid. Newsetter providers have tutorials. So do lots of people on YouTube wanting to help you. Podcasts have been a great way to learn things, and I like to multi-task. Listen while you’re doing chores, or running errands, or taking a walk. I use my phone to take notes if they mention something of interest I don’t want to forget.

No matter how you learn what you learn, probably the one thing you’re going to need to invest is time, and in a lot of cases, that time is better spent writing.

How much does it cost be a writer? Nothing.

Okay. Two dollars.

Tell me what you think!


Writing with tropes in mind. What I learned from reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Brand

Last weekend I read Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series by Zoe York.

I love reading nonfiction by indie authors. It’s like being able to pick their brains without actually bothering them. An author shared a screenshot of the books on her Kindle in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, and Zoe’s book caught my eye. Zoe is a well-known in the indie publishing space as a contemporary romance writer. I first heard of her when she was a contributor of the now defunct podcast Self-Publishing Round Table, one of the first podcasts I listened to about self-publishing.

I was excited to see that she started writing nonfiction and I purchased her book right away.

I’ve written two series: one trilogy and another with four books. They don’t sell that great, but though to be fair, I don’t promote them much, either, and I thought Zoe could share some things that worked for her.

She goes through the reasons why a series is good–namely read-through and creating a world fans can fall in love with. I already know that, which is why I tortured myself all of 2019 writing one. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but there are things you have to consider like consistency and bringing other characters into the story of the main couple because they’re all friends and people simply don’t disappear when you don’t need them at the moment.

Zoe goes into some of the planning, encouraging you to draw a map of where your series is going to take place. She writes small-town romance, and my Rocky Point Wedding Series is placed in a small town, too. I knew my series wasn’t going to be very long — I don’t have an attention span for several books, so I trusted myself to keep Rocky Point’s details in my head without writing them down. But if you plan to write 5+ books, it may be advantageous to treat your setting like a character and write a detailed sheet to keep facts straight.

Other tips she offers are keywords, naming your series, and plotting out the books. This is where my ears perked up so to speak because Zoe is a genre fiction author. She subscribes to the Venn Diagram where you need to write to market while writing what you love and finding that sweet spot to sustain a lucrative, but happy and satisfying, career for yourself.

When I plotted my series, I started with setting first. For me that’s the easy part. I set the books in a fictional small town in Minnesota based on my hometown. I even gave my town the same attributes — along the Canadian border, a shut-down paper mill, and a similar Main Street. I’ll probably always set my stories in Minnesota. I love the seasons and the variety they can bring to the plots.

Then I move onto characters. I think this is where I dropped the ball and Zoe opened my eyes that actually when I plan out my books I don’t keep tropes in mind.

Every romance novel is based on a trope or two, and while you might scoff or want to deny it because your books are better than that drivel, I need to remind you readers love tropes. The kind of trope the book contains is why the reader chooses to read your book.

While plotting my series I forgot that, and it’s why my books aren’t as strong as they could and should be. Of course my books contain tropes, but I assign the tropes after the fact when I should be planning my stories around them. Knowing the tropes I want to include beforehand will give my books a stronger spine.

What are some romance tropes? These are from Zoe’s book:

  1. friends with with benefits
  2. married to the enemy
  3. marriage of convenience
  4. enemies to lovers
  5. fish out of water (new town, fresh start)
  6. forced proximity
  7. bad boy
  8. ugly duckling
  9. unrequited love
  10. friends to lovers
  11. strangers to lovers

There are more, these is only a sample. A Google search can come up with a couple more:

  1. forbidden love
  2. age gap
  3. secret baby
  4. fake date
  5. fake marriage

You can have a lot of fun with tropes. Take forced proximity. Maybe two strangers have to share a shelter during a tornado, or the elevator stalls (that’s pretty popular) or there’s only one bed (another that’s popular). Anything where the characters need to spend a lot of time together in a close space with no chance of escape. Like a cabin during a blizzard.

Zoe encourages you to list the tropes as you plan the books in your series and I’m going to start doing that with all my books. For now I can list the tropes that my books do contain (I can list them for marketing and ad copy purposes) and going forward use new tropes as I plot.

Knowing what tropes your books includes can help with blurb-writing and writing ad copy. As Jami Albright says, tropes sell. If you can make the tropes easy for readers to see, you’ll be more apt to make a sale.

Writing a series takes a bit of planning. At least the first few books so you can fit the pieces of each book together like a puzzle. Some series can go on for a while see (Robyn Carr) and there is no way to plan twenty books at one time. But if you can list the elements you want to include in the first few hopefully consistency won’t be too big of an issue and you (and your characters) can find a groove.

Zoe’s book gave me a new perspective and I feel there are things any genre writer could benefit from. I encourage you to pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.


A note about sub-genre and tropes.

Some writers blur the line between sub-genre and tropes. The easiest way to explain the two is to give an example.

Take Aidy Award’s books. She writes curvy-girl romance. That’s her sub-genre. You know when you grab one of her books the heroine will be voluptuous. But that can’t be the plot. The plot will contain tropes that pertain to genres that aren’t only curvy-girl. Like close proximity or enemies to lovers.

Billionaire romance is another example. Maybe every single male character an author writes will be a billionaire, but those characters will have their own plots that contain their own tropes.

I have noticed that some of the bigger in the writers like Aidy focus on one sub-genre. Then they have fun with the tropes. They have an easier time branding their books and that helps marketing and sales. It’s something to think about moving forward.


If you want to grab Zoe’s book, look here. She has another book related to this one, and I’m going to grab it as soon as it’s available.

To check out her Amazon author page, and take a peek at her contemporary romance books, look here.


Thanks for stopping by!

Letting go: stopping the search for perfect.

By the time you read this, I’ll be done going through my backlist. The loss of some of my Vellum files spurred me on to the idea that if I was going to reformat them to get my files back, I might as well re-edit them too.

While I haven’t written anything fresh in quite some time, I’ve re-edited and reconstructed the Vellum files of seven books. It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I took the time. I found tiny inconsistencies, typos, and in some earlier books, hammered out telling, and for some reason in On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton, lots of passive voice. (That is a weird speculative fiction kind of book, and I’m not sure where my mindset was when I wrote it. The other day someone borrowed it in KU, read one page earning me .01 cent, and returned it [I’m assuming they returned it because they didn’t read anymore.] I can’t say that I blame them any.)

I can see how I’ve grown as a writer and where I can still improve.

But probably the hardest thing for me is finally letting these books go. They are the best they are going to be. It’s a little scary because no writer wants to put subpar work out into the world, and when we put out books with spelling errors, typos, or plot holes that’s what we do.

My anxiety comes from thinking my books have them (even though they could be 100% clean) and I need to let that worry go. I had a moment of panic when I was fixing something in Wherever He Goes. I thought I fixed it and moved on. Later, I went back to reread what I had edited and I discovered autocorrect had changed a word I misspelled to something completely different than what I had intended. Even the word misspelled would have been better than what autocorrect inserted instead.

Suddenly, my life flash before my eyes and I envisioned my whole book full of autocorrected words rendering my pages to a book full of gibberish.

That isn’t likely to happen, but it’s enough to give any author hives. But no matter how many times we go over our books with a fine-tooth comb, chances of putting out a 100% error-free book are slim to none.

There will always be something to change and you get to the point where it’s not a change for the better–it’s only different.

There is a certain peace in knowing these books are as good as I can make them for the skills I have right at this minute. I fully believe that as writers we will never stop growing. We’ll try for twistier plots, more points of view, we’ll get better at breadcrumbing backstory and clues, and we won’t info dump at the beginning of stories. Our eyes will get sharper and we’ll catch more of our own mistakes and we’ll realize we have crutch words and weed them out before handing off our stuff to an editor.

We’ll refine our editing process and grow more efficient. Our first drafts will be cleaner.

When I was editing my Tower City trilogy, I came to two realizations: my writing from two years ago wasn’t as bad as I had thought, but my story (particularly the first book) was just as lackluster as I’d try to deny myself.

To be kind, you can call these books “quiet.” Internal conflict, some stuff going on, but not a lot of character growth, if you know what I mean, and if you don’t, in editor-speak that means not completely formed character arcs. I didn’t understand how to tie in past demons with the present story. What I did know came from instinct and a lifetime of reading romances. Sometimes the “beats” are ingrained and you know by feel what needs to go where. Some might say that’s skill, or talent, but I call it luck and it’s what made Don’t Run Away a half-way decent read as my first contemporary romance book.

In the second book, I had “Let’s meet an ex in a public place” scene like in the first book, and I don’t know if it was bad memory, or if I didn’t care, but at least I stopped that in my other books.

Part of the reformatting included doing a new box set for the trilogy and I wrote a “Where are they now” novella for the end. It was easy to write because I was fortunate to have written what I did in the original books. The novella practically wrote itself.

Now, even though the novella won’t make up for the slow start of book one, at least I can confidently brush my hands of that whole thing. They are re-edited, I changed the covers last year, and all the couples have a new happily ever after. There’s nothing more that I can, or even want, to do with those characters.

They are finally on their own.

Chasing perfect will never end well. Sometimes you’re at a point in your writing life where you can’t give it to yourself no matter how hard you try. Sure, I could write a better book one now, but what is the point when I could use my developing skills to write an entirely new book? If it were part of a ten-book series it might be worth it for the read-through, and if that’s you, then maybe it would be worth your time.

Like anything, your mileage may vary.

Some may see the time I took as a waste, but I disagree. If I found peace of mind in these two and a half months of going back and making sure my books were the best I can do as of Spring 2020, then it was worth it to me, but the trick now is to leave them alone and focus on the new.

My books aren’t dumpster fires. Maybe they aren’t 100% perfect, but no book is. I need to accept that, let my anxiety go that there are things that could be fixed. There probably are, but I need to forget about that and market my books with confidence.

Chasing perfect is an unattainable goal.

Maybe there are tiny fires in the form of an errant apostrophe, or a number I typed out that didn’t need to be, but I need to shrug those little things off, pull up a log, and grab my marshmallows.

A little fire doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


If you want to hear a talk about chasing perfection, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch has a great one she gave at 20booksto50k Vegas last year in 2019.


Also, just by chance, my friend Sarah also wrote a post on her blog a few days ago about her own struggles with perfection, and you can find it here: https://sarahkrewis.com/survivingperfectionisminwriting/


Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 3

Hello writers and authors! This is the third blog post in this series that is exploring the findings in an author survey conducted by Written Word Media, the company that brings you Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy and other promotional tools.

You can read the intro to this blog series here and read the second part about how much time career authors spend writing here.

The third thing this survey found about these authors is that they invest in professional editing.

hand holding red pen over proofreading text

Editing can be costly and scary, but it’s much needed by every author.

Remember, emerging authors have six books in their catalog, have never made more than 60k in a year, and spend on average 18 hours a week writing.

60kers have 22 books in their catalog, and, on average, spend 28 hours a week writing.

100kers have 28 books in their catalog and spend, on average 32 hours a week writing.

As we can see by the graphic below that accompanied the original survey, all three kinds of authors use a professional editor the most. But when it comes to editing, new authors have it tough. We’re not making money yet, but we never will if we’re not selling a good product.

Marketing-Is-Hard-3-768x494

And while technology makes it easier than ever to find typos (thanks, Grammarly) technology makes it easier for readers to complain. When you read a book on a Kindle, for example, a reader can highlight a typo or mistake and report it.

Crazy, huh?

It stands to reason a well-edited book will earn you more money in the long run. But when you have no money, it’s hard to come up with the fees.

Not to mention, there are different types of editors, and you may not understand what kind you need, and the cost can add up if you need more than one kind.

If you’re a new writer, you may want to invest in a developmental editor. They’ll weigh in on character arcs, character development, plotting, and pacing. Readers aren’t going to like a book with flat characters and plot holes. Learning craft is hard, but you may only need to hire a developmental editor once to steer you on the right path for the rest of your writing career.

A line editor is different. They check facts (does your sun set in the west and rise in the east?), word usage, and syntax. They’ll correct you if you used the word sporadic when you meant erratic. If you’re not good with details, this kind of edit can help you a lot. I still use advice and tips I learned from the people who beta read and edited my earlier books. I used a lot of garbage words and learned how not to echo words in the same sentences and paragraphs.

Proofreading is a quick read through of the book as a last step for typos, missing words, etc. before publication. This is also the cheapest kind of editing.

If you can afford editing, make sure you ask for a sample first. The indie community is full of people charging for services they have no business providing because they don’t know what they’re doing. Be smart. Reedsy offers a list of professional editors, as well as Joanna Penn.

As for me, as I said above, early on I asked for lots of feedback and I took a lot of their advice. My first beta reader, Joshua Edward Smith, gave me invaluable advice that I still use (and I still laugh over some of my mistakes and his comments).

These days, against popular opinion, I do a lot of my own editing. I have nothing in my defense except that so far I’m not making a lot, and it’s hard to justify the expense. I do use beta readers, and they’ll look for typos for me after I run my manuscript through Grammarly.

2019-11-24You could argue I’m not making any money because my books aren’t edited properly. Maybe. But I’ll use this reasoning instead. Remember Alex Newton’s K-lytics report from one of my previous blog posts? I prefer to blame the saturation of the industry. Shh! I don’t spend much on marketing, so I would prefer to think people don’t know my books are out there.

Can you get by without an editor?

That depends on where your skills are with the craft, how much writing you do, how much feedback you listen to and apply. It depends if you can catch all your own typos, or if you know enough to use Grammarly effectively. (Not everything Grammarly flags needs to be fixed, so you can’t trust it blindly.) Usually the answer to those questions is no.

Would I advise a new author to publish without an editor? Nope. There’s no denying a book will sell better with a strong plot, three-dimensional characters, great grammar and punctuation than one without those things. And if you’re a new author, you’re unlikely to catch all those things on your own, or even know what to look for while editing.

You can building a writing career on a bad book, but it will take you longer than if you start strong.

What can you do?

  1. Join a writing group on FB and swap with someone in your genre. Just be careful and have a thick skin. Ideally, you’d want to form relationships with people in those groups before you ask. At least if you’re more than acquaintances they’ll hopefully be kind and actually be helpful. People can be cruel, and some just like to tear others down out of their own self-esteem issues, or they think they’re better than everyone else. You may need to pick through a few people before you find a good match. Twitter is also good if you search #betareader with maybe a hashtag of your genre. There’s been lot of activity on the #writingcommunity hashtag in the past six months or so. Just look for someone who will be willing to give you some real and useful feedback.
  2. Do what you can on your own when it comes to craft and grammar. The cleaner your manuscript when you hand it off, the less time an editor will have to spend on it, and that can cut down on costs. There are a lot of books out there that can help. Two of my most favorite books are James Scott Bell’s VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Sit down and read it just like you would any other book. Mignon is funny and very easy to understand. She didn’t write it like a reference book, and you’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know. Another good editing book that everyone at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference I attended a couple years ago said was a must have is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. How to Edit Yourself into Print. 
  3. Publish on WattPad for feedback. I don’t really condone this, as I feel that if you’re going to use the platform as a publishing site, putting up work only to take it down to publish it elsewhere might not sit well with your readers. On the other hand, I’ve heard from other writers that do this, and it seems to be an acceptable thing. If WattPad has turned into kind of a testing site for books and stories, then I’m not one to say anything. It’s something to consider at least, if you think a plot isn’t working, or you want general feedback overall.
  4. Keep an open mind. When you ask for feedback you need to keep an open mind. I hear some writers say they would never change their plot/characters/POV whatever based on feedback alone, yet they say they’re querying. A book being published without needing edits is almost unheard of, so if you’re querying without an open mind, you’ll never get published and you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you are honest and know that you’re not going to take people’s valid opinions into consideration, you’ll never grow as a writer. There is always room for improvement.

This wraps up the editing portion of the survey. Smart authors get their books edited/apply feedback, and the authors who don’t will deal with the consequences (ie, bad reviews and poor sales).

Next up, the survey asks about book covers and what the three levels of career authors do in that instance.

See you then!


end of blog post graphic

The “As you know, Bob . . .” Syndrome. What it is and why you should stop it.

as you know bob

I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.

Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.

I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.

What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.

The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.

How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.

  • Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
  • Find a different way to introduce the character.
    It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:

    So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.

    Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.

  • Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
    What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire?  Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
  • If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
    Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
  • Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.

Thanks for reading!


Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:

The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland 

As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis

Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb


end of blog post graphic

Downtime. Not doing a damn thing.

You know how it is. You have a long list of things you could be doing. As writer, publisher, and entrepreneur, that list is long. There’s always something, and writing new words is right on top.

What’s after writing?

  • Writing a blurb.
  • Looking at hot guys stock photos
  • Reading a non-fiction book
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Beta reading
  • Reading  a book in your genre
  • Creating an ad (after you’ve read the book about it, of course)
  • Blogging, reading and commenting on other people’s blogs

But sometimes you turn on your laptop, a cat crawls into your lap, and boom. You’re tired, and you’d rather watch the next episode of Outlander than see if your blurb is converting (if you don’t know what that means, you need to read Mastering Amazon Descriptions: An Author’s Guide: Copywriting for Authors by Brian D. Meeks. Another thing you can add to your list! Yay!)  I’m sure Diana Gabaldon thanks you. But I probably should point out that without her writing the words, there would be no show. Maybe Outlander was a bad example.

I’m in that predicament tonight. The things that I could be doing right now? Working on the new cover for All of Nothing. Working on the blurb. Writing more words for the third book in my Wedding Party series.

Instead I’m sitting with a fan blowing on me. I’m a little nauseated from sipping too much Prosecco on an empty stomach. I was grinding my teeth in my sleep last night so I have a toothache on the left side of my jaw, top and bottom, that feels a little more than mild, and all in all, I’m just tired.

And feeling like this is always a conundrum. Do you give in, or push through? Give in and practice a little #selfcare, or do you, in fact, get some shit done?

I suppose it depends on where you are in your schedule. Don’t have one? Well, nothing gets done simply by dreaming, and if you give yourself a pass too many times, you’ll end up with a handful of days where nothing got accomplished. A schedule isn’t a bad thing.You need to be a self starter and self motivator if you want to keep getting your stuff done. It can keep you on track. A schedule or a plan can at least be a guide in that if you do start letting too many days go by, you can tap yourself on the back and ask yourself what the heck is going on.

Taking a break to breathe is advisable, but if you want books to publish, you have to write them, too.

I could put on some coffee and at least get one or two small things done. Work on my blurb. Look over what I have for my cover. I’d like to swap them out so the book is ready to go when I put all my books back into KU next month. The cover is going well, and I’ll update you on that probably Thursday. I’ll be swapping out the cover for IngramSpark, too, so that will be lovely, though I’m getting used to the IS user interface and dealing with the cover template isn’t so hard anymore.

I had a soft deadline of getting book three done by the end of the month. I’ll be close, but maybe not finished. But that’s okay. Without the deadline I probably wouldn’t have made as much progress as I did. I’m proud the book is almost done. It’s a good book with a strong plot and relateable characters. It seems crazy to say that I’ll have finished three books this year.

But I guess that’s the point of this blog post. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that had I given myself too much downtime.

For tonight I’ll try to calm my stomach down, make some coffee, and see if I can check one thing off the list before going to bed.

I’m going to a writer’s meeting tomorrow, so that should be interesting. I’m not a joiner, and while I know the value of networking, I can’t lie. More than a little bit of me wants to skip it.

When you decided to be a writer, did you know how many people would be involved?

I didn’t either.

I feel like I should offer you something since you made it this far and have given me 15 minutes of your time or so, so I’ll end my blog post with this.

I recently read Make Money on Medium: Build Your Audience and Grow Your Income with Medium.com. I’m always open to new things, but after reading the book I realized I don’t want to write for Medium–I like blogging for the audience I already have. But whether you’re a blogger or a Medium writer, Nicole gives some good tips for what to write, how to write, and headlines. I’ll share one little tip that she tells her readers about, and that is a blog title, or headline evaluator.

Headlines or titles are important in that you don’t want your readers guessing what your content is about. You could have a GREAT blog post, but no one will read it if you title it something weird. (That goes for book titles too, but that would be a different blog post.)

There are a few headline generators, and you can Google them.

Coschedule.com will analyze your title (if you give them a few pieces of info about yourself and your business) and tell you if it’s too weak. It didn’t like the title I came up with for this blog post:

blogtitle analyzer

Nicole suggests that you want your book to be at 80 or better. She even admits that she might spend more time thinking up a good headline or title than actually writing the post. That seems crazy, but on the other hand, no one is going to read what’s inside if the title isn’t appropriate, so she isn’t that far off the mark. Being she’s a HUGELY popular writer on Medium, I would take her word for it.

You can plug in titles forever, but just to see what I could do, I changed my title:

blogtitle analyzer2

That’s actually a vast improvement, but a lie. That’s not what this post is about. Mainly it’s about not feeling guilty if you don’t feel like doing anything, but also keeping those feelings under control so your to-do list doesn’t look like Mount Kilimanjaro by the end of the week/month/year. Everyone knows how fast time goes.

Anyway, if you’re interested in writing for Medium.com I suggest you take a look at Nicole’s book. She offers you some great tips on how to get started, how to follow and pick up followers, and how to write for a pub. If you’re on the fence about blogging, but feel you should be giving out content in some way to get your name out there, writing for Medium could be a good way to do that.

What am I going to do now? I still haven’t shaken off my blahs, but I did take some Aleve for my mouth and made a cup of coffee.  I could work on my blurb or watch another episode of Outlander.

I’ll let you guess which one.

Have a great week!

thank you for your patince

Mistakes I See New Authors Making

Indie books versus traditionally published books

I’ve been reading a little indie lately. I hate splitting up the two — indie vs. traditionally published. Books should be books no matter who has written them or how they were published and printed.

But I have been reading some books I’ve found on Writer Twitter and in some author Facebook groups.

Even though we shouldn’t separate books by who has written them or how they’ve been published, there is still a little issue of what does make them different.

Quality.

Indies say taste is subjective and that quality means different things to different people. I certainly say this when it comes to my own writing. But I’m not blind to the issues my books have–especially Don’t Run Away, my first “real” book I count toward my backlist. I’ve gotten good reviews and bad reviews. The bad reviews have a point. I didn’t know as much about plot as I do now. I didn’t have as much practice in character arc as I do now.

Indie books versus traditionally published books (1)

And that’s too bad because it’s the start of a trilogy, and I’ve said this before. If you don’t have a strong start to a series, no one will read the others because your readers will assume the other books are more of the same.

But I also have positive reviews suggesting the book isn’t a total train wreck and investing a little money in promos and a little time redoing the covers hopefully won’t be a total waste down the road.

I went into this blog post with the information about my own book to let you know I understand. I understand the mistakes new authors make because I have made them myself.

The problem is, we have to move beyond those mistakes if we hope to attract readers. With six books in my backlist, I’m hoping this is something I can start doing. And soon. Attracting readers that is.

What have I noticed in the indie books I’ve been reading? Here’s a short but important list:

Telling, not showing. I’ve seen this in 99% of the indies I’ve read. In fact, I’ve read it so much I’m willing to go out on a limb and say this is probably the biggest thing that sets indies apart from traditionally published authors. No matter how bad you (or I) think a traditionally published book is, it will never be bad because the culprit is telling.

Indie books versus traditionally published books (2)

Telling is 100% an indie problem because a book full of telling will never make it past an agent or an editor at a publishing house.

The book I just ordered has a letter to the reader in the front matter, and she even states she enjoyed being the narrator of her characters’ story. And her book reads exactly like that. Two hundred and fifty pages of her telling us what her characters are doing and feeling.

No thanks.

I’ve worked with some writers in an editing capacity and unfortunately telling is probably the hardest part of writing to stop doing. There are whole books written on showing vs. telling, and I have no interest in writing one. The best way you can stop telling is write a lot, find your voice, listen to feedback, know your telling words, and write more.

  1. Write a lot. Find your voice. James Scott Bell has a lovely book about finding your voice. He explains it so well it will turn your writing around. It really will.
  2. Know who your characters are. Who are they as people? Their likes, dislikes. How they react to certain situations. What are their tragic backstories? Characters are people, not puppets. Part of finding your voice is knowing how your characters sound when they think and talk and being able to translate that onto paper.
  3. Know your telling words. Think, thought, feel, felt, see, saw, know, knew, heard, could hear. Felt is horrible. Search for it. In lots of instances just deleting those words will take the telling away.
    She realized he was lying to her.
    He was lying to her. All this time she’d believed whatever he told her. Now she was paying the price.

    We’re already in her point of view. You don’t need to tell your reader she realized he was lying. Just say he was lying to her. We understand she realized it because we’re in her head and she thought it. When you use these words you slip out of your character’s POV.

  4. If you’re still having a problem, work with an editor or a beta reader. Lots of writers can’t see it in their own work, but they can see telling in other writer’s work. Choose betas and editors who won’t lie to you. The book full of telling I’m reading now? It has 17 4-5 star reviews. That means 17 people lied to her.

Speech tags. I made it to Chapter 4 of a different book. It popped up in my Twitter feed so often I decided to give it a chance. I ordered the paperback, and wow. By Chapter 4, I counted more than 35 speech tags. I couldn’t read any more. I think we’re all victims of speech tags at some point in our careers. I know I was when I wrote Summer Secrets. My editor helped me with a few–but she should have been much, much harder on me. Since I’ve written more and honed my dialogue skills, I rarely use speech tags anymore. If you find you use speech tags, work on stronger actions and better dialogue to evoke emotion. Don’t depend on speech tags for clarity.

Here’s a before and after. Tell me which kind of dialogue you’d like to read for an entire book:

“I did. Just not the way he thought. A couple of goons caught me outside the hospital—” Callie bit off.

“The hospital. Jesus Christ,” Brandon snapped. “Do I have to check myself out and drive up there?”

“No! Just listen to me,” Callie yelped, pulling over in the middle of a residential section. She should’ve driven with Mitch. She had no idea where the police department was and couldn’t use her phone’s GPS while she was talking on it.

“I defended Mitch on the ice a couple days ago,” she stated, “and I dumped one guy on his ass. Tonight he and two of his friends caught me outside the hospital. Mitch happened to be right behind me and stopped them before they could do anything. I’m on the way to the station to give my statement,” she explained.

“Are you hurt?” he asked urgently. “You beating up guys? Callie, you’re supposed to be having tea parties and watching strippers. What the fuck?” he growled.

There are seven speech tags in this little section. They don’t sound terrible, in fact, upon reading this, you might think they actually lend something to the scene. But this is just one small section of a book. When you have a book that’s heavy on dialogue like my books are, reading all those dialogue tags can be tiring.

Look at that section again. These two characters are talking on the phone having a heated discussion. How did the writer make the dialogue sound? Do they sound like real people? A brother and sister who care about each other? Do you need the tags? Most sections of dialogue don’t need tags if you write the characters well enough the readers don’t need to be told who is speaking. Read the same section without tags. Does what they are saying draw you closer in because there’s nothing taking you out of the moment?

“I did. Just not the way he thought. A couple of goons caught me outside the hospital—”

“The hospital. Jesus Christ. Do I have to check myself out and drive up there?”

“No! Just listen to me.” Callie pulled over in the middle of a residential second. She should have driven with Mitch. She had no idea where the police department was and couldn’t use her phone’s GPS while she was talking on it.

“I defended Mitch on the ice a couple days ago, and I dumped one guy on his ass. Tonight he and two of his friends caught me outside the hospital. Mitch happened to be right behind me and stopped them before they could do anything. I’m on the way to the station to give my statement.”

“Are you hurt? You beating up guys? Callie, you’re supposed to be having tea parties and watching strippers. What the fuck?”

Sound better? If not, that’s cool.

Exercise: Take a book you particularly enjoyed. Find a dialogue section (the longer the better) and count how many tags the author used. You might be surprised.

Nothing is happening, or the author tries to make a big deal out of nothing. I did this with Don’t Run Away, much to my sincere regret. I made Dane make a big deal about being married before and how nasty his divorce had been. And now I look back and think, who cares? Everyone goes through a divorce (or it seems like it, anyway), and yes, those divorces can be nasty. Especially when kids are involved. I understand small things can be a big deal, but they should still be only a small piece of the whole puzzle. And readers have called me out on it, calling Dane a weak character for not being able to move past his divorce. That’s what the book was about, but I still should have made him more ready to be in a relationship than I did. Or made Nikki smarter so she steered clear of him.

In the book where I only reached Chapter 4, all the characters had done up until that point was sit around and talk. And not about anything particularly interesting. Ask for feedback from someone who won’t lie to you. If the beginning of your book is boring, if there’s nothing happening, no one is going to get to the part where it finally does.

If you have a too slow of a start, people will bail before they get to the good stuff. If you want help with your first pages, read Your First Page by Peter Selgin. He walks you through what will make your first pages pop!

Bad formatting. I buy paperbacks because when it’s slow at work, I can read. We’re not allowed tablets, but I prefer paperbacks anyway. That being said, a lot of paperbacks I see are a mess inside, and all I can think is I hope to God they never host a book signing or do a giveaway on Goodreads. Maybe authors don’t put much time into their formatting because they don’t think they’ll sell many books. But the problem is, you will sell some at a convention, or you’ll want them for giveaways, or you may want to stock them at your indie bookstore. If the manager of that bookstore flipped open a poorly formatted book, he’d probably tell you to fix it first. Draft2Digital has a free paperback formatting tool. Or give someone a $25 gift card to Amazon and ask they do it on their Vellum software.

It’s a sad fact that you could have the most entertaining story in the whole world but no one will want to read it if your book doesn’t look like a book inside. I struggled with this too, when I published 1700. I cried, literally, until someone reminded me about the KDP Print template. Back then it was CreateSpace, but they do offer a free interior template. There weren’t the easy and free tools available there are today. (It’s crazy how the industry has changed, even in three years.) Even if you don’t know how, there is no reason why your book should look like a mess. And if you really can’t find the means to format a paperback book, you’d be one step ahead not offering one at all.


These are only four things I’ve found in the latest indie books I did not finish (or DNF in shorthand), but they are doozies and enough to turn away any reader. In the case of the woman whose book is all telling–she’s putting herself in a tough spot. She wants to write a series, but she’s waiting to see if her first book takes off before working on a second. Her book will never take off, but not for the reasons she thinks. It’s too bad.

Reading indie is a valuable experience. I love to support my friends, and of course, there are some fabulous writers out there making a living off their books.

The issues I’ve outlined can be fixed over time by studying craft and writing a lot. It’s not a coincidence that a lot of indie books I find fault with are an author’s first book.

We all mess up our first book. Unfortunately it’s a really important book. You can’t build on a crumbling foundation.

What are some things that you’ve noticed in indie books? Anything that has turned you off?

Let me know!

Thanks for reading!


My books are available everywhere! Check them out!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

all graphics made in canva. all photos taken from canva except for the horse meme that i don’t feel guilty grabbing online because it’s everywhere.

Writing Resources Non-fiction Spotlight: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors by Anne R. Allen

the author blog book coverI read Anne’s blog sometimes. Not as much as I should because she writes about some very important topics, and she’s a great resource for writers. Every so often I’ll tweet out a link to one of her posts.

So when I saw she wrote a book about blogging, I bought it ASAP, and one for a friend, too.

This book is great for the author/writer who isn’t sure if they should start an author website or a blog. It’s for the blogger who has been blogging for a while and who not seeing results (results like comments, subscriptions). It’s for the blogger that has lost his or her way. It’s also a wonderful source for maybe a more seasoned blogger who may need to get back to basics.

I belong to one or more categories. I’ve been blogging for over two years, and only now just starting to find some traction–and it’s very little. But Anne reminded me of a few things I’ve forgotten along the way. Simple things like tagging your blog posts with the titles of your books, or remembering to tag a photo with a description for your visually impaired readers.

Anne explains SEO and offers us blog ideas. Something we all need from time to time.

blogging for authors book coverI was delighted to see she knows Barb Drozdowich and recommends Barb’s book about blogging.

I know Barb from Rachel Thompson’s #bookmarketingchat on Twitter, and I have also read her book about blogging. It’s just proof that we’re all friends here. 🙂

If you’re interested in purchasing Anne’s book, click here and this will bring you to her website. She offers links to all her retailers there.

If you’re only interested in buying it from Amazon, you can click here for the buy-link.

Blogging may not be for everyone, but knowing how to start, and how to do it right, can save you time, money, and lots of frustration down the road.

Thanks, Ladies, for writing these awesome books!

 

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

 

How Do You Make Your Book Stand Out?

We all want our books to stand out, and we all go about it in a different way.

Some spend hundreds of dollars on a cover. Some spend hundreds of dollars on a developmental edit to make their story and characters the best they can be. Some authors do fancy formatting.

vellum formatting ad

This is a picture of a formatting sample using Vellum. For more information on the software visit www.vellum.pub

Some authors do all of that.

Some authors do all of that and invest hundreds, even thousands, in ads.

Experts in book marketing would say you need to do it all to help with discoverability.

Readers may say to make them happy, all that would be a given.

And I’m not disputing any of that.

What I’m talking about are the extras.

Some traditionally published books have them already.

Say you have a baker for a main character. Some authors will add their own baking recipes to the back matter of the book along with a short explanation of the family history behind it, or a funny story.

Maps are always popular–especially if you’re world-building like in Game of Thrones. I know that I looked over the family trees a lot when I was reading them to remember who everyone was, and who the members of the families were.

In some contemporary romances, I’ve seen maps of towns where a series takes place.

I’ve never tried a recipe I’ve found in the back of a book, but I could see the appeal of adding a few. You could encourage book clubs to have a baking/cooking night along with their book discussion. Hey, even suggest what kind of wine would make a good accompaniment.

Some writers will add discussion questions. I’ve seen this a lot in traditionally published books, even in “lighter” books where I didn’t think a discussion was necessary. I wanted to add discussion questions to All of Nothing, but I forgot. They may have been a nice addition to The Years Between Us, too, but again, being excited I was finished with the book, I forgot to write them and add them into the back matter.

Something I have seen added to books are playlists consisting of the songs authors listened to while writing the book. I found in one “look inside” of a Kindle book, the author included the actual YouTube links to songs she wanted you to listen to get you in the mood to read the following scenes.

I caution against this for one, you need to make sure the music is free of copyright, and two, you never know how long those links will remain active. If the links are ever broken, will the author know? Or care? Will she edit the book to take them out or replace them? I don’t like to go back and go back fixing things. It’s always the next book for me. I wouldn’t want to keep an eye on my backlist like that. It’s bad enough keeping my own front and back matter up to date.

I’ve also seen back matter that included an interview or question and answer session between an unknown interviewer and the author. I think it was in the last Twilight book Stephenie Meyer answered questions. This could be an interesting addition to back matter as well.

In The Years Between Us, Zia held a showing at a gallery. I created an invitation for the showing in Canva and included it in the front matter of the book. It shows up black and white in the paperback and simple e-readers, but it will show in color on a tablet.

 

 

In this vein, I think I’ll make Marnie and James’s wedding invitation and include that like I did Zia’s gallery showing invitation.

One of my characters, Autumn Bennett, who will be my female MC in book four of my series, is a writer for the town’s newspaper. She writes for the Lifestyles section, but also blogs for their website. During the course of four books, she’ll blog about the wedding, and interview the bride, groom, and guests as human interest pieces. I’m thinking about creating those blog posts and offering them as bonus content in some way. That would be no-brainer newsletter content, but I don’t have one and I don’t want to start one right now. So I’ll be thinking how I want to share that content.

The real question that comes from all this, is . . . is it worth it? Playlists, poems written by your characters, invitations, motivational quotes, even pretty chapter headings–are they all worth it?

They may not be, money-wise. The more photos a Kindle file has, the more Amazon charges you to deliver the file to someone’s Kindle. Those pennies add up. (Hat tip to Mark Leslie Lefebvre for doing some quick math in Killing it on Kobo, as Kobo does not charge that delivery fee.)

Also, if the photo is a spectacular array of color, only a fraction of your readers will be able to see it in color.

Indies are constantly fighting for discoverability and adding bonus content like that hasn’t taken off quite yet. I think mainly because formatting extra content is so time-consuming–especially for a newbie author. And adding extra content would make it more expensive if you hire out formatting services.

I was lucky, and I formatted The Years Between Us with Vellum. The software inserted the invitation with no problem, especially in the paperback. I didn’t have to worry about gutters or margins. All I had to do was make sure the invitation was 300 dpi for printing, and I did that in GIMP.

Vellum even allowed me to add the pretty chapter starts to Summer Secrets that I tried to do the first time around. I was too new and lacked the experience to insert them using Word and CreateSpace.summer secrets chapter starts

I also carry that image onto the back of my paperback books, and I’m really proud of that, too.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

But when it comes down to it, should you take the time to offer more content? Could that time be used to make another editing sweep, or start a new book?

Readers may appreciate the extras, but only if they enjoy the story.

The book’s recipes won’t matter if your baker’s story falls flat (pun intended) and your reader doesn’t make to the end to see them.

What readers want is a good story that pulls them in, and characters they’ll grow to care about.


 

As a side note, while I was typing out this blog post, I came up with another reason why indies don’t want to offer bonus content to the backs of their books.

Indies focus on a CTA, Call To Action. Indies want their readers to leave a review, or sign up for a newsletter, or buy the next book. Back matter is valuable real estate, and I don’t think most indies format their books with a lot of gunky back matter to get in the way of their important call to action.

And for what it’s worth, you need to be careful how much extra “stuff” you put backBe careful when considering adding bonus content to your book. there. We don’t hear much about the bookstuffers anymore, those pesky indies who would load up a Kindle file with 5-10 books to make a crap-ton of money with the KU page reads. But even if we’re not hearing about it much right now, it’s still happening. They know it takes a while for people to catch on to their new pen names.

Anyway, I wouldn’t want you think that offering bonus content was a fabulous idea and to get in trouble in any way for it. Offering a bonus novella in the back of your book, or offering the first half of a second book in a series, is too much. Put the novella for sale separately. Only add the first scene of the new book. It’s just a word of caution. Bonus content can be taken too far.

Please read KDP’s guidelines for adding bonus content.

While adding character profiles and outlines of the book before it came to fruition can sound like a great idea, keep in mind that as the guidelines states, it should enrich the reader experience.

I think that’s sound advice, especially since the reader experience begins with the story.

If you can hook them with a fantastic story, then all that extra content will be exactly that . . .

A bonus.

And maybe they’ll leave a five star review, too. Who knows?

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much?

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much_

As authors, we ask our readers to open their minds and believe the unbelievable. Writers of fantasy and sci-fi, paranormal and horror wouldn’t make a penny if readers couldn’t put aside reality and enjoy a good story. The Martian would never have taken off, and we would never know who Luke and Leia and the rest of their universe are, never mind them being household names.

Writers who write in those genres have a flexibility not all of us have–yet they are still held to some kind of realistic expectation. Why do characters behave the way they do? Why are things the way they are? It’s why in comics and huge worlds like Game of Thrones and Star Wars, origin stories are so popular. Knowing why helps us understand.

Writers who write contemporary fiction stories that take place in the real here and now struggle with this, too. More so.

When I wrote All of Nothing, I struggled with what I could get away with and what I couldn’t. If you read my reviews on Goodreads, you’ll see that to some people, I failed. Jax Brooks accidentally shot someone, and I made him suffer for it–for 15 years. I got called out on it. No one would suffer for that long, or to that extent, for 15 years. Or would they? Did I make him suffer for too long? Should I have shortened my timeline?

Raven Grey was homeless for 13 years. That’s a long time to be homeless. I didn’t write her with a mental illness or a drug addiction, so anyone who wasn’t afflicted with something like that . . . would they have let themselves live on the streets for that long?

I asked the reader to believe she would have. I’ve never been homeless, or feel that hopeless. So I guess I truly don’t know if someone would drift through life that way when they had resources at their disposal to help them. But when she did turn her life around, it made it that much more poignant. Did making Raven homeless for so long add to the story, or did the implausibility of her situation take something away?

We’ve all read books that ask the reader to set aside real-life expectations. But how much is too much depends on the reader. I stopped reading Stephanie Plum at number 15 because after so many books, I just didn’t find the character believable anymore. She fumbles around as a bounty hunter suck in a love triangle, and she never changes. After so much time you’d expect her to take self-defense classes, or at the very least, learn how to shoot her gun. But she doesn’t do anything because Janet Evanovich relies on Stephanie’s ineptness as a bounty hunter to give us a laugh. And that’s great. I did enjoy the first fifteen books, and the couple of books that took place between the numbers. But eventually, and this is where real-life comes in, people need to grow and change. Most writers who aren’t writing a series only have one book in which to show us that their characters have changed, grown up, learned a lesson. That Stephanie Plum hasn’t grown, changed, in 15+ books (I think Janet’s up to 25, but I lost interest a long time ago) just makes her character worse.

stephanie plum

Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum. Her expression says it all. You can read the article and see more pictures at cinemablend.com or by clicking here.

No one is going to believe that in all the time that goes by, if Stephanie really wanted to take a real stab at being a bounty hunter she wouldn’t try to improve her skills.

But do readers care?

Janet Evanovich is a bestselling author, so I’m guessing most readers are along for the ride and don’t care Stephanie still can’t shoot, still can’t choose a man, and still blows up every car she drives.

I read something once that said as writers, right away we’re asking our readers to believe in a coincidence, an act of fate. Like the man meeting just the right woman at the beginning of a romance. Or a man killing the wrong person at the wrong time at the beginning of a mystery, or a child kidnapped just as a famous detective travels through town on vacation. How was it that Hercule Poirot happened to be on the Orient Express?

coicidence and fateAlmost every inciting event will be a coincidence, and readers accept that because that’s how a story starts.

But anything you ask her reader to believe after that just builds up until the reader throws the book across the room in disgust because the writer has asked them to believe too much.

Readers aren’t stupid, and you can’t write to them as if they are, yet some writers can get away with asking their readers to believe the impossible.

In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian Grey is a self-made billionaire at twenty-seven. Doing what, who knows. It is possible, but not likely. Not unless you’re working from your mom’s garage creating the next big thing that will replace Facebook.

Anastasia Steele was the same way, professionally. Would she really be an editor at an distinguished publishing house because her boss was fired? Probably not. She majored in English Literature. A publishing degree is a real thing.

How do you know how much is too much?

Unfortunately, you probably won’t know until you get feedback. Hopefully that is in the form of beta reader feedback and not bad reviews.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. How old are your characters?
    If you have a 20-year-old who is running a million-dollar company, ask yourself why. Why is your character 20? Is he a genius? How does his age contribute to the story? Could he be 30? 40? Could he have a different occupation? Are you writing the next Doogie Howser?
  2. Keep technology in mind. 

    All of Nothing Paperback Cover

    Do you want to check out All of Nothing? It’s now WIDE and you can click here for your favorite retailer.

    Today, anyone can know anything with a touch of a few buttons. If you’re keeping your characters in the dark about anything they could find out online, you better have a good, and believable, explanation.
    I walked a thin line of that myself in All of Nothing. Jax didn’t know the identity of the person he shot, and Raven’s parents didn’t know the identity of the policeman who killed their son. How did I explain that? The city paid Raven’s parents not to ask questions, and they kept Jax in the dark to help him put the accident behind him. That’s why I put the accident so far in the past. I didn’t need social media interfering in my story. These days, everything is splashed everywhere online. Especially police brutality. Everyone knows everything in an instant. Maybe even with a video. I couldn’t afford that because the whole premise of my book were the facts Jax didn’t know whom he shot, and Raven’s family didn’t know who took her brother’s life. Yeah, this blog post revealed a big spoiler, but did I pull it off? You’ll have to let me know.

  3. Keep your timeline in mind.
    Unless you’re writing the next 24, your characters are probably going to need time. People don’t fall in love in a day. Murders aren’t solved in a day, or even a week. People trapped in a cabin during a blizzard with no food won’t live two weeks without something to eat.
  4. Because I said so.
    If you have to say this, or any derivative of this phrase to someone asking about details of your story, you’re covering up lazy, sloppy writing. Because I said so is for children who don’t want to eat their vegetables. If you have to explain any aspect of your story, you’re doing it wrong. You can’t be over every reader’s shoulder trying to validate and justify all your choices. Your reader may come away from your story loving it or hating it, but they should always understand it.

    Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much2

Human nature is weird. There are things people put with for years and years, and in the same situation, a different person would tolerate it for only a moment.

Sometimes you can get away with it. Soap operas do. After a few years watching Days of our Lives, I finally asked, “If living in Salem was so miserable, why didn’t they just move?” You can’t tell me Bo and Hope wouldn’t finally have found some peace and quiet if they would have moved out of Salem and away from Stefano DiMera.

When I was writing The Years Between Us, I confronted this possibility as well. The whole book depends on blackmail and lies, much in the vein of a soap opera. I had a few beta readers read it and I asked them if it was too much, and all of them said no. I hope it isn’t. I hope the plot is still believable. I hope that what people willing to do for love is enough of a reason to carry the story along. You’ll have to decide.

Your readers will only accept so much. You can’t please everyone, of course, but at some point you are going to have to keep an eye on what is believable and what is not. You’ll have to decide if inconsistencies and discrepancies are intentional or the byproduct of lazy writing. Plot holes are never okay, and explaining why a character did something by saying “She was crazy, that’s why!” isn’t good enough. Even crazy people live on their own plane of reality, and it’s your job as a writer to show us that.

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much3

As writers, we are always going to be asking our readers to believe something that has a small chance of happening in real life. But after that initial leap, keep your story grounded in facts, otherwise you are going to lose them.

Fiction is fiction, we read to escape, but your story needs to make sense, or the next thing you know, your bounty hunter will have been on 25 jobs and still won’t know how to shoot a gun.

And that’s just not realistic.

Callie and Mitch blog graphic


picture attribution:

Andy Meyer from Pixabay” cellphone with castle

coincidence and fate

woman with books, canva.com

woman on stability ball, canva.com