Writers’ Block – like Global Warming – An Excuse for Waffle Time

September 14, 2014 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

writers-block

Image courtesy of photoXpress.com

Ever heard of Talker’s Block. Always keen for fame, just by writing this I’ve copyrighted the phrase. But could such a thing exist? Yes – so I gather, but it’s invariably a medical condition prompted by either physical or mental trauma. So, pull yourself together, writers, and forget about writers’ block. If all you are doing is waiting for ‘spontaneous combustion’ in the form of great literature transferring itself effortlessly from your brain to the keyboard, think again. It’s not going to happen.

Think about it! Did Mr Hoover (the ‘keep carpets clean’ campaigner) come up with the idea for his vacuum cleaner ‘out of the blue’ – a notion that just flew in through the window one morning – and had he never previously entertained a thought about dust, brushes and machinery that could make his wife’s life easier. He was a doer as well as a thinker; a man constantly imagining how to improve machines and through them, make life better for us all. Not for him, countless hours sitting in front of a drawing board praying for inspiration. His mind was always full of projects. And so should yours be!

Of course there are days, and sometimes months, when writing is just not on the cards; not something that suits, for a variety of reasons. But this isn’t writers’ block, it’s the human condition that conspires occasionally to make us apathetic. In such times, it’s pointless to sit in front of a keyboard. In fact, I’d go further and say it borders on the insane. If ones’ mind and body are at a low ebb, what could possibly be worse than sitting before a blank screen awaiting salvation. Even idiots have more sense – and walk around talking to themselves. Perhaps that’s a better answer. At least some words are coming out. If you want to write and publish a book, you will, but first, release your mind and get on with something else, anything else, if you are currently going through a ‘can’t think of anything’ stage.

No – the solution to this ludicrous notion of writers’ block is to come at the problem from an oblique angle. Set yourself a task, or a series of tasks that will have the effect of releasing energy rather than damming it up. Take on physically draining tasks, even if it’s only cleaning the bath, and release your mind to think about themes you feel passionate about. Any theme, any passion. If you are down in the dumps you have to climb out of them – perhaps by kidding your brain that the worst is over, and soon you will be OK again. A clean and sparkling bath is a great improvement on a still-empty screen or blank sheet of paper. And while you are scrubbing away as though your life depends on it, let the mind wander abroad. It will. They always do.

I remember as a boy, riding to school on my bike, (yes – I’m that ancient) and passing an old horse that stood motionless in a paddock. Week after week I swear it never moved more than a foot from the spot. And it was getting progressively thinner and weaker, too, staring into the distance, taking nothing in. And yes, I’m afraid, there was no happy ending. It was seeing life out – literally – and one day all that remained was a bare patch in the middle of an otherwise fertile field. Don’t be a donkey – get on with life. A writer you will be, once your mind is released.

Tell Your Story With An Infographic

January 18, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions, Writing & Publishing

Book Writing Infographic

 

The world is changing and people are being overwhelmed by information.Communication is instant, huge numbers of people use smart-phones or mobile devices and life is fast moving and hectic. So it becomes pretty clear that pages full of text and little else are probably not ever going to be read, unless they come in the form of a book of course.

But you, as an author or publisher, still need to gain the attention of a public audience.

Enter the infographic, a new way to communicate. 

Infographics convey their message through a mixture of symbols, icons, graphical images and text. They give the creator a chance to be creative and the more creative you are the more attractive your infographic will be.

I used http://magic.piktochart.com/ to create the infographic above, I signed in with my Google+ account, but it could have been Facebook or I could have created a username and password. The point being that I was registered in literally seconds and was then able to view a few very short tutorial videos. Within 5 to 10 minutes I was then designing my very first infographic on Piktochart.

How to Write A BookI will be the first to admit that the resulting infographic is not the most creative you will ever encounter, but I can genuinely say that from a standing start, of never having used the program before, 2 hours later I was able to publish the infographic that describes How to Write a Book or NovelWriting a book.

Why is that important? Basically because it provides another medium with which I can describe what the book is about and share it through social media sites that are very much geared towards presenting graphical information in the form of an image.

Google loves text, the search engine relies on it to decipher what a page is all about, but social media sites like graphics and they make it very easy to share a graphic. So if the infographic is good and conveys its message in a clear concise way, there is no real reason why it couldn’t suddenly go viral around the Internet bringing lots of traffic to the associated link in the process.

Social Media Sites for Graphics

Remembering that you can upload and post to many, many sites. The principal ones being Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Scoop and many more. The latter ones becoming very popular because they are pretty much ‘graphic’ based. One of my personal favourites is Pinterest and I have already seen some image based pages being re-pinned more than a 1000 times and of course every pin carries the link you provided.

There are of course many sites that provide a resource that allows you to design an instagraphic, many free and many paid. The benefit of paying for the service generally means you don’t have to carry the resource link for the site, which for many will be worth the money. But for me I am not particularly concerned so I went with the free version.

More Infographic Resource Sites

I haven’t used any of the ones above so can’t vouch for how easy or hard they are to use, but I definitely found Piktochart easy to use and I would imagine that any of these others would be equally easy.

So Good Luck With Your Infographics and please rate this post if you like what you read

Publishing Books That Sell

October 4, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, eBook publishing, Writing & Publishing

Why Amazon are offering advice on getting a book Published? 

Amazon Breakthrough NovelsClearly Amazon are more than happy to publish your book as an independent author, but they are also interested in high quality writing that will be taken up by the public and sell in the millions. Selling books after all is one of Amazon’s primary objectives.

Recently I watched a video on Createspace that described the critical factors for ensuring that a novel would be accepted into and potentially win the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’. While I was watching the video it became very clear that this was not only great advice for submitting a book to a publisher, but also for anyone wanting to write and publish a book as an independent author or publisher.

What Publishers Want

Publishers will look for different things dependent on the type of imprint they are reading. For example if the book is a fictional ‘literary imprint’, they will be looking at the quality of the writing, the way the paragraphs are structured and the style of the writer.

On the other hand if the book is a ‘mystery imprint’ they will be more concerned with the strength of the plot, whether it stands up to scrutiny and if it reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

Understanding this means that you can focus more on the most important aspects of the type of imprint you are presenting and make sure that you deliver on those aspects. That does make sense actually, because someone reading a mystery will be very disappointed if they guess the outcome too early or feel that there is not a satisfactory conclusion to the story, but may be more forgiving of the odd misspelling or typo provided the book delivers on its main promise i.e. it’s a cracking good mystery. That said getting all aspects right will do no harm :-)

Writing Fiction Novels with Strength

What does writing with strength mean, basically it means ensuring that your book has considered the 4 main publishing criteria and delivered them to a high standard:

  • Plot Development
  • Character Development
  • Originality
  • Writing style

In addition to considering these 4 main criteria  your writing also needs to be of a high quality with properly constructed paragraphs, correct spelling, good sentence structure and accurate punctuation.

You also need to understand the market you are writing for and where your book fits into that market. This understanding should be illustrated in your synopsis i.e. tell the publisher who the book will appeal to,  why you are qualified to write on the subject and why the book will appeal.

Many successful writers authors have learned their craft through studying the books of the best authors in their genre. Never assume that there is noting to learn from others, especially the best sellers. Look for the strengths to emulate them and look for the weaknesses to avoid them.

The Pitch

The pitch can be several things, it can literally be a pitch you have written for a publisher in the form of a synopsis or it can be a pitch to your intended reader in the form of a description on the product page of your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple etc. This is what your pitch should do:

  • Describe what your book is about and why you are qualified to write on the subject
  • It should be framed and written in a language that the intended market emphasises with and understands
  • It should convey what the book offers, its strengths, why people will want to read it and what it will deliver
  • It should not promote itself as the next best thing in an established franchise i.e. don’t compare the book to Harry Potter or Shades of Grey. It should be standalone, new, original, with its own identity and appeal

Again it is always worth looking at the best in genre and what they have written as a description for their books to see what does and doesn’t work.

The Importance of Starting Strong

You only have to consider that a paying public, when considering if they are going to buy a book, will nearly always take the time to have a little sample read of a potential book before buying. Amazon offers a ‘look inside’ feature and many of the other big distributors have an equivalent feature.  It makes sense then that your first 10 pages (or 5000 words for a publisher) should be where your best writing should sit.

Once you have caught the attention of a potential buyer, to the extent that they actually start to read a sample portion of your book, the last thing you then want to do is lose them. Now is the time to hit them between the eyes, so how do you do that exactly:

  • Provide a strong compelling opening that will make your reader want more. Use a quirky dialogue that intrigues, start with a strong plot or write in a rich engaging way that immerses the reader in your writing so they don’t want to put the book down
  • End chapters with a suggestion that there is even more and better writing to come
  • A little snippet from me:
    •  Get straight to the point, leave your accolades and thank you’s etc. until the end of the book. A reader is less likely to be interested in those than the real story or content and if the people you are thanking are worthy they will understand why and those that are interested will still find them

These are some of the books that have been recommended by Amazon for their strong starts and have been highly rated in the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’ as a result.

Why You Need a Biography

What many authors forget is that they are not only trying to sell a book they are also trying to sell themselves. The public will be more inclined to buy a book if they can trust the provider of that book, understand a little about them and what qualifies them to write for a specific genre or market.

A biography is the best way to communicate to a potential audience exactly what you are about, why you are passionate about what you write and how you know what you know.

Writing about the places, things and events you are knowledgeable about and are genuinely interested in will ensure your passion for the subject translates into your words and will be communicated to your reader. Writing for a market or in a niche you have no real interest in will lead to a transparency that allows your audience to see that is exactly the case. And guess what, they won’t buy your books.

Writing and publishing is a tough world, there will be countless rejections and a lack of sales, so patience and determination are the traits that any writer needs in order to succeed. There is help and support out there, you can join writer communities and engage on forums to find answers, share solutions and get general support. So if you are a writer why would you not use these valuable resources?

Always remember that there is something to learn and the right people to learn from are the best in the business. Also if you write well and don’t give up, you will eventually succeed. Especially with so many new resources now available. But at the end of the day if you write a good book and no-one finds it other than you, remember that you still did it and that in itself is a worthy accomplishment.

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photo credit: cindiann via photopin cc

Are You Making the Most of Goodreads?

August 12, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions, Writing & Publishing

Goodreads Social Media for BooksGoodreads has just  become one of the most important social media sites for writers and author on the Internet. Why? Because now it is owned by Amazon, the biggest distributor of books on the planet.

So why did Amazon buy Goodreads and why do they intend to let the site run itself independently? Those are deep questions and not that easily answered unless you happened to be a part of the purchasing decision, which unfortunately I was not. But I can hazard a guess!

Even Google is having to sit up and take notice of the power of social media, they have admitted recently that what people say on Facebook and Twitter now forms a part of their assessment of the overall quality and value of a website in terms of authority and ranking. The reason why is because social media is all about humans engaging with one another and sharing their opinions on pretty much any subject you can think of. In other words social media offers something no algorithm can ever do, a human perspective.

So now take a step back and consider this, one of the biggest social media sites for readers, sharing the books they have read and what they think of them. This is word of mouth communication and if enough people recommend a book other people will go and buy it. It is no more complicated than that.

Clearly Google deals in all and every type of information, but Amazon on the other hand is a selling site that deals primarily in books as one of their staple offerings. Simply put more people on Goodreads and other similar sites recommend what books we should all be reading than on any of the other social media sites. That has to be a very attractive carrot dangling in front of the Amazon marketing machine and as with other search engines they will have realised there is only so much their algorithms can do without a human perspective and what better human perspective is there to examine than one that comes from what is probably the top book review site on the Internet.

Shelfari Versus Goodreads

I did wonder why Amazon needed Goodreads when they already own Shelfari outright? But the answer may come from the level of freedom the members have, they are allowed to comment however they want on Goodreads, well as long as they stay within the law. But it seems on Shelfari that some of the moderators have been: let’s say a little over enthusiastic with their censorship. People have stated that they have not been allowed to express their true views. That’s not really the point of a social media site, especially one that exists to review and recommend books. But who knows, perhaps Amazon have realised that Shelfari has got itself a bad wrap and decided it is better to make a fresh start with Goodreads. Or they may simply consider Goodreads to be another string to their bow, after all they already own Shelfari and through their AbeBooks division also own 40% of LibraryThing. That’s a lot of ownership of book review sites and lets not also forget that anyone who visits Amazon’s own site can leave a product review (books included) whether they have purchased that product or not. Non-verified purchases don’t carry the same weight in the Amazon search queries as verified purchases, but they do count to an extent and give Amazon that human perspective right there on the product page.

Whether they start to meddle with Goodreads only time will tell, but if they have learned from Shelfari, they would probably be wise to leave Goodreads alone and just use the data they can get from it rather than trying to control peoples reviews.

Making the Most of Goodreads

So what does Goodreads offer authors? Well if you are an author you can, once you are familiar with the site, get yourself an author account instead of a standard account. This immediately provides you with several benefits:

  • You can add your books to the Goodreads book listings with your own description, cover image, links to distributor sites etc.
  • You can create an RSS feed from your blog straight into Goodreads
  • You can post videos
  • You can create promotional events
  • You can request reviews for your books from followers and friends
  • You can join groups and add your books to those groups

You can also use widgets like the one below to engage with other people. Remembering that social media sites are more about giving than taking. Help other people out and eventually they will help you out. For me personally I think that should mean that you do an honest review of any books you have read and not try to game the system in any particular books favour. It is a tough call, because one man’s meat is another man’s poison. So you could love a book and the next person that reads it on your recommendation may hate it, but there is nothing you can do about that. So just play the honesty card and eventually the people that agree with you will follow your recommendations and those that don’t will not.

Brian’s bookshelf: read

Jewels of French History Books - The Lauragais Story
4 of 5 stars
This book for me is really interesting because it is helping me to discover the region of France I live in. Clearly you hear what has gone on and you pick up snippets of past history, but to read a well researched book written about the …
tagged:
french-history-books and french-history
Eagle in the Sky
5 of 5 stars
One of my favourite books of all time. Wilbur Smith always manages an unexpected twist in his stories and this book was no exception. Loved it. Still think it is worth a review even though I read it a long time ago, in fact it might be d…
The Zanzibar Affair: A High Society Love Story Out of Africa
5 of 5 stars
This was a very well written book with many twists and turns, murder mystery and intrigue add to the plot, which is essentially a love affair that continued across more than one decade. Readers will be treated to a few surprises along th…




goodreads.com

 

Who Are You Writing For?

June 17, 2013 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

To me this seems like a fairly obvious question to ask when planning on writing  a new book. Coming from a technical background involving new product development, the very first thing considered before embarking on a new development is primarily whether there is a market for the product. Then secondly what are the product requirements that will fulfill the customer needs?  In technical terms, the latter is the product specification.

Well clearly there is a market for books, all manner of them, and in both printed or digital formats. Although I sometimes feel when I read a book,  that an author has somehow crossed boundaries and managed to alienate what could have been a significant market sector as a result. In the analogy, they have got the product specification wrong!

Who is your intended audience

Book Markets This then begs the question again  ‘Who Are you Writing For?’

You really do need to consider which genre you are going to write for and then who your target audience is. Are you interested in fiction writing or producing non-fiction books for educational or reference purposes for example. In many ways non-fiction is easier to write than fiction, there are clearer objectives that need to be met and certain criteria that needs to be fulfilled, most of which can come from your own expertise or the research that you do.  That said you do still need to think about your target audience, whether you are trying to communicate with a layman or someone that is already a technical expert. You could be targeting a younger audience or looking to appeal to a more adult and mature sector, maybe you are ambitious and want to target the whole caboodle.

Regarding fictional writing the borders can  become significantly more blurred. As a writer you are just letting your imagination run, once you start the words will appear to materialize from your subconscious mind and whatever pops in there is likely to appear in your story line. This is after all the artistic aspect of writing a book, something that is written completely and entirely from the imagination of the author. Often you will, even for a fictional book, have to research places, times and events to add credibility to a story. Not always, sometimes that can be completely invented as well.

But once you have that first draft down and it is there in black and white for anyone to read, do you then stop and think about your customer requirements. Part of the editing process should include whether you have considered market expectations and more importantly have you met them. Did you just write a book that would be a brilliant story line for children to enjoy and then for some reason go and add a section that included some explicit sexual content. Because if so you could just have alienated a whole customer base that the book may well have had a large appeal to.

This example is intended to illustrate that one small chapter dedicated to explicit sex could rule a book out as an option for children or teenagers but may not have sufficient adult content to keep the interest of a mature population looking for something that is gritty and hard hitting with sexual content i.e. something in an adult reading category. Somehow you may simply have gotten the customer requirements wrong by spanning two completely different sets of requirements that were not compatible with one another.

Don’t take this completely the wrong way, you shouldn’t get so hung up about the requirements that you stifle your artistic flow, rather just give some thought to the direction you would like to go in before starting and just check that you haven’t drifted too far off course when you have a first draft to review. If you do drift off course and prefer the new direction you have taken, then just make sure you have gone far enough in the new direction to engage that new audience.

The bottom line is this, if you are writing a book that you want to appeal to an audience and that you want to sell on a commercial basis, then that is a product and a product typically must have a demand and then must meet certain specifications to fulfill the customer requirements generating that demand.

For many reading this it may seem to be a case of stating the obvious. But it is surprising how easy it is to ignore (or simply forget) about the intended audience and to just hope that the end product appeals to someone, anyone, when it is finished. Truth is that there will always be an element of people a book will appeal to, but with a little thought about who you are writing for, as you follow the process, there could be so many more.

Things to think about

  • Intended genre
  • Book categories
  • Age range of target audience
  • Audience gender
  • Audience intellectual level
  • Audience expertise
  • Search terms that might be used to find your book

These are a few things worth having a think about when you are planning your next book, particularly from a target market perspective.

For more information and help writing a book why not take a look at what this experienced editor and author has to say.

 

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