Monday, April 25, 2016

Writer Conference Networking Connects with Marketing

You know when you learn of a great marketing idea and wish you'd thought of or could get in on it? While I'm finally doing a collaborative novella, twelve authors took it a step further by joining together to do a similar-themed book-a-month series. It's a great idea, and I'm happy for them. But yeah, I'm more of a band-wagon participant than an instigator. For now.
 
What I need to remember is that a year ago I was a solo book writer--period. Now my critique group is working on a collaborative novella project--all because one of them suggested it. Again, not my idea, but I was happy to be included in an opportunity that offered new potential to expand my reader base. It doesn't matter who the innovator is, and maybe it won't ever be me. The important thing is that I'm gaining experience and finding more people to network with, and that can lead to new marketing opportunities.

To my writer friends who haven't been to a conference event and want to find a way to connect with other writers, there's nothing like the pump-up you get and the variety of people to meet from a writer's conference. I whole-heartedly recommend that LDS authors of fiction and non-fiction plan to attend the LDStorymaker conference held in the Spring in Utah or the Midwest Storymaker conference in Kansas. And a big thank you to those who volunteer their time to put it on. You are amazing! Can't wait to go!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Time for Beta Test Readers

I'm ready for a break from revisions on my work in progress. Luckily, it's ready for a break from me.

Going through a final draft for the sequel of my recent book, Secrets of the King's Daughter, has stirred up feelings of inadequacy as a writer. We generally would expect to get better with experience and time in any endeavor, but I'm wondering if my second book will measure up to the overall good response of the first. Apparently this is normal.

I've been following a group discussion where even experienced authors expressed the constant battle against these feelings. For one thing, we're human and sense our own frailties. On top of that is the volume of quality books that readers can pick from instead of our own. We have to measure up and we don't want to disappoint anyone. Writer or not, we've all experienced a form of self-doubt. How do you get over yours?

In this instance, I'm losing enthusiasm/interest because of the number of times I've gone over this project. I'd rather move on to new writing than look for another word to cut from a sentence. My critique group has already read through my manuscript (Alpha Readers), I've made tweaks and read through the whole thing once more. I'm ready to give it over to Beta Readers (test readers). They provide a fresh set of eyes on my manuscript. I don't have to rely on my opinion of scenes that I know inside and out. The true test is a sampling of readers who have never seen my story. If they know something of story structure or can at least tell me which spots feel slow, their feedback is invaluable. Unseasoned writers like myself should never skip this step. In fact, I'm celebrating getting to this point.

A writer friend sent out the following quote. Perhaps I'll have to keep this in mind when the next stage of feedback comes in:
"Because we are being constantly exposed to the world’s definition of success and greatness, it is understandable that we might ...frequently find ourselves making comparisons between what we are and what others are, or seem to be, and also between what we have and what others have. … We often allow unfair and improper comparisons to destroy our happiness when they cause us to feel unfulfilled or inadequate or unsuccessful. Sometimes, because of these feelings, we are led into error, and we dwell on our failures while ignoring aspects of our lives that may contain elements of true greatness." President Howard W. Hunter, May 1982.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What an Author Wants

Putting one's book into public hands has it's risks. I'm feeling both relieved and grateful for the positive feedback I've received on my debut book, Secrets of the King's Daughter. Though true that much of that response is from people I know, and therefore possibly more kind than a less-influenced reader, it gives validation to my purpose and reinforcement for what I want to accomplish in my future writing. Here's an example of that validation:
"I stayed up and finished your wonderful book last night! You are so talented, and I loved the twists and turns at the end. I felt uplifted by the account of truth and testimony shared by the well-developed characters. Thank you for sharing your talents!" --L.S., California, USA

It's one thing for people to find an enjoyable read that didn't waste their time--a minimum authors hope for. It's another level of satisfying fulfillment if a book has reader value beyond entertainment and escapism. Many authors strive to teach, motivate, uplift, or send a message. I am no different.

While making some money would be a positive side benefit, very few authors strike it rich anymore. They write to unlock the stories inside their heads and because they love it. I am no different. What we really want is to be understood and have our writing affect and influence others. We want them to "get it".

My husband mentioned that until he read my book, he let me "do my thing" without interfering, but wasn't an enthusiastic supporter. Now he sees value in its themes as a way to help others. He sees that I'm doing more than simply using my talents. We discussed my desire to explore how characters' choices are impacted by gospel principles, just like real-life situations. Maybe people can learn or gain strength from my stories. I told him the themes in a contemporary LDS novella I just completed. He gets it now, and that makes me happy.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Reason Not to Read My Book

I had an interesting experience at a book signing last weekend. This was one of those Deseret Book "Ladies Night" events with refreshments and giveaways. The place was packed, and the ladies tended to stay a while, hoping for the next drawing to call their name. Therefore, I was able to have a few conversations with those camping out near my table.

One conversation in particular has stayed with me. There was an older woman sitting on her walker seat, thumbing through a stack of books on her lap to whittle down her choices. It was the perfect opportunity to ask her what she likes to read and see if I could interest her in Secrets of the King's Daughter. As soon as she learned my story was based on the Book of Mormon, she started shaking her head. "I think that we need our own opinions of what those people looked like and did," she said.

This didn't deter me. I've considered this argument before, and wrote a blog post about finding that balance between recorded scripture and fiction. Perhaps she could be convinced. All I wanted was for readers to give it a chance so they could feel the inspirational uplift or emotional response that I expected they would from the engaging storyline and gospel messages found within, or a renewed interest in the scriptures. Something positive.

I told her that the Church filled in the details left to the imagination when they produced such films as The Testaments. I told her about the Scripture Reference List in the back of the book so that readers could look up what I wrote that was established by scripture. In fact, looking up references is encouraged. She still shook her head, so I relented. "It sounds like you know what you want," I said with a smile.

Over the course of another thirty or forty minutes, she stayed where she was and revealed more of her opinions little by little, probably wanting to explain why she turned me down flat. She'd heard me tell others that it's been getting good reviews and saw me sign a few copies. She explained that another author had steered her wrong and she won't ever read that author again. A little later she said that it took a session with her stake president to set her straight. Now it all made sense.

In most cases, I think it's good to expand your reading material into other genres and new authors, but my book was not right for this woman, and she stood firm about that. She showed me that there are valid reasons why not to read certain books. Sometimes we get easily mixed up or swayed or don't like foul language or plots that are upsetting. It might take some experimenting to learn what to avoid, but once you know, you can make the right choice for you.

Monday, March 28, 2016

About Book Reviews/Blog Tours and Their Results

This is NOT a book review. If you've followed all of last week's posts from the blog tour for Secrets of the King's Daughter, you've seen plenty of those for now, but you may find what I observed helpful or interesting.

1. I went into it recognizing that most reviewers are honest and will tell what they did and didn't like without intentional meanness. I hoped for mostly good but expected that some would find both negative and positive elements. Opinions vary, after all.
2. Book review bloggers typically have enough experience to be diplomatic. They've learned to sandwich in a negative issue between other positives. Trust that overall, they will give a fair review.
3. That said, as a first-timer I anxiously awaited each review, keeping busy to avoid excessive focus. Still, I wondered if they would love it or find it amateurish. My confidence grew when the consensus proved positive. 
4. Use the feedback rather than fear it. If one or two reviewers point out a weakness, it's not the end of the world. You either chalk it up to a singular opinion and ignore it, or you analyze similarities in what reviewers are saying so that you can find where to fix/improve. 
I'm not sure what I would have done if the reviews were less than favorable. I love writing enough to believe that I would continue on. Some writers may need a break, but should recognize that we only get better with time and practice. Find a few cheerleaders or a support group to get you going again. Read some how-to books or go to a conference if the writing craft was the issue.
5. Picking reviewers that like the genre you write in will garner more positive reviews, so do your research. My marketer handled this.
6. Sometimes a blogger will fall through. Line up two or three reviews for each day so that your book gets more reviews, a better representation, and you don't have a day that bombs.
7. Thank the reviewer no matter how the review goes. It's not only common curtesy, we need to keep those who blog about books wanting to continue with their service.
8. Consider doing more reviewing of the books you read. Writers and readers depend on your word of mouth/pen.

What do you think about book reviews?