Moira here welcoming you to another #SensualSunday. Hope everyone is having a fabulous day. This post was set up well ahead of time *fingers crossed* and here’s hoping it went up without a glitch. I am off to visit with the family and clean out the garage so they can get some much needed fixes done to the floor. Yes, even on weekends I am put to work and not in a fun way. So while I am slugging heavy items, sweating and cursing like a maniac, think of me fondly. But at least there will be booze for after to numb the pain. That’s a plus.
Anyway, enough on that! On to the post I say.
I realized that here on Naughty Quills we’ve talked about many a topic but we haven’t really hit on those very first steps. Those moments before you’ve started to write your story, started to clean up your MS, started to contemplate self-publishing versus going with a publisher, and well before you hit submit. So today I bring you a crash course, Moira style naturally, of what you need to think about and consider doing before you take the plunge into this crazy, insane, and wildly entertaining (when you’re not pulling your hair out) business.
Investigate your genre
You’ve chosen a genre, now you need to figure out what sells and look at reviewer comments on sites like Amazon, B&N, iTunes and other legally authorized book selling sites. If you have chosen Romance there are unlimited sub-genres to choose from. That in and of itself is mind boggling, but let’s take this a step at a time shall we? You’ll want to investigate Romance in general on a site that allows you to peek at the first few pages of a book. This is beneficial because you can see how they start their books, and find the ones that are attention grabbers. So here’s what next you should be looking at…
- Covers. While we all know the old adage to never judge a book by it’s cover, a cover often sells a book. Who hasn’t gone snooping through one of the big sellers, spotted a cover that grabbed our attention and went further to investigate. While there is no perfect formula to make the cover of all covers, knowing what’s a hit with folks can’t hurt. I will say that for Romance, half naked men are BIG sellers *wink*. Note down a few that you personally find quite visually appealing and keep that tucked away for later on. You won’t actually need it until you finish your book, but it’s fun to look at when you’re doubting your sanity in choosing to be an author.
- Reviewer comments, good and bad both. Good because they will often highlight a point that resonated with the reader. Bad because the “good” bad ones will point out certain things the author, if they are a true story teller, will utilize to better themselves. It is also a handy guide to help you during your writing/editing process down the line. Take notes on what reviewers are saying. Not the trolls, but the ones that truly are providing feedback to the particular author. You’ll know who they are.
- Book blurbs. I hate writing book blurbs and thank my publisher profusely each time they tweak it to make it perfect. Honestly I’d be lost without them. But there are some authors out there who have this blurb writing magic that I really wish they could bottle and ship world wide. I would be on their monthly subscriber list for sure. Read blurbs, all sorts – not just in your genre – and see which ones really grab your attention. To my mind a blurb should have a few basic factors that depending on genre might alter slightly.
- Create intrigue. Yes even in Romance you need to tantalize the readers.
- Hint at who your characters are, I don’t mean just their names, but who they are in the story you’ve created. Intrigue your readers, and new readers to want to learn more.
- Give some details while leaving them hanging. You can’t give away your ending in your blurb, but definitely hint at whatever your turning point/climax is. And leave them hungry for more.
- Don’t put anything in your blurb that is not in your book. While you might write a blurb early on, make sure before you use it that it is still 100% accurate.
Read in your chosen genre, and sub-genres
I often read about authors not wanting to read other authors works for fear they’ll end up plagiarizing them. If you’re worried about this, chances are you won’t be doing it. You have a conscience that won’t allow you to. As a budding author you need to read others works to understand what makes a story flow. Again go back to your research, find a couple authors/books who have good and bad reviews, and if the price is right for you then purchase a couple. I’m not saying you have to spend the rent/mortgage payment on books, but get a couple different ones. And yes, these could even be free reads on legally authorized book seller sites. Like I said, don’t be hitting up anyone for a loan because you went for broke shopping on line. Those one-clicks are the devils own work, watch out if you’re the trigger happy sort.
Every author that writes a specific genre must read in that genre. This not only helps our own work, but also lets our mind take a break in someone else’s world for a time often sparking our own imaginations. I have had ideas pop into my head from a single sentence another author wrote down. You may even come up with a whole new slant on the same genre from that other authors work. You never can tell what might spark the old muse into kicking things into high gear.
I’m not saying you need to run out and sign up for a course on writing, but I’m also not telling you that you shouldn’t. The choice is up to you. But it depends on what you feel you need. For this point I’m making though…
There are an untold number of books out there to can help you through the first steps. I have several on my phone that I pull out to read from time to time. Not so much to learn at this point, but as a refresher of sorts when nothing I’m writing feels quite right. It’s another tool I use to shake the muse up and wipe the mind clear of whatever’s clogging it up. As others here on NQ have brought up in various post, get books on Grammar, Character Development, Sentence Structure, Strong Characters, and the like. Anything you think will help you be better at your chosen path.
Personally I need someone to sit on the arm of my chair and smack my knuckles when I go comma happy. I find I’m often torn between using and not using the Oxford comma. And then there are the days where I have comma’s coming out my ears left, right and center. But that there is a whole other nightmare of a post so we’ll just keep on keeping on here.
Test yourself and your style, grow
This is a tip I got through someone who had heard/read it somewhere from a third party. But in the end, all that matters is, it’s not horrible advice either.
Write a scene, any scene, but only that scene. What you need to imagine is that it’s a brand new chapter so you need an opening line that galvanizes the reader to keep pushing forward to find out what’s coming next. From there just write until you feel that scene has ended. Now, yes it’s raw and rough, but it doesn’t matter because this is to gain feedback. Find a friend or two you truly trust and who know you are thinking about going on this journey down the rabbit hole of authordom. It’s a word, trust me.
Have these friends read your scene. Don’t give them any information, don’t give them any lead in, just present them with the pages and ask them for their honest opinion of what’s before them. You don’t want sugar coating at this stage, believe me, you want down to earth and brutal. Choose your readers well for this stage. From their feedback go back to the keyboard and rework the scene to fix, or integrate their thoughts as you feel works for the scene. Because this is still your work, and while outside help is highly beneficial in most cases, in the end it has to feel right to you. Then go back to them for a read again. This is about learning what you need to work on, and what you’ve got in the bag. It’s all about growing.
A story you’ve written (long or short) is your baby, you will feel naturally protective of this “baby”, and want to ignore the voices and advice attempting to penetrate your bubble. Best to start learning now though how to handle critique, and suggestions. It’s not easy, sorry, but in time you can learn to put yourself in a position where you can see their point of view and still disagree with it or grow from it. This will aid you when it’s time to work with an editor. Which is super important. Every editor is different, every editor has their own opinion and style, but in the end it is your book and as long as you can make your case as to why something is the way you have it written they will help you to make it even better. Again, another story for another time.
What happens next?
Well, let’s see. You’ve done your due diligence and done research to understand your genre. You’ve looked into what’s selling like hot cakes, and what’s cooled in your genre. You’ve picked up some books to help you grow and become better at your new career. And you’ve used your poor friends as guinea pigs without killing them … hopefully. All right, buy your friends a drink or dinner, or both and then get down to work. Now you need to write that first novella, novel, whatever that has been hounding you to make it come to life.
From there you know the next steps. Figure out if you want to self-publish or go through a publisher. Investigate every step so you are well informed. Ask questions of other authors. Get on social media, be friendly, be kind, keep in mind everything on the Net stays on the Net, forever and ever and ever. Publish your book and keep on writing.
Final words of wisdom
Buy a dictionary. Not even kidding here. I have a paperback version that sits no more than three feet from my writing space, I have the web version bookmarked and ditto for the thesaurus. While many programs have the “you fucked that word up royally” function to alert you of a misspelling, they are not always all up to date on the latest words in the dictionary. But if you have your handy dandy tools at the ready you can make sure it’s spelled right, or not and fix it, and teach your program something new. And if all else fails you can use the copies by your computer to prop your table lamp up a little higher for better lighting.
All right, that’s all I have for you this week. If you have any tips for the not yet ready to write my story soon to be author out there feel free to leave them in the comments. Have a fabulous day…
XO Moira Callahan
Public Service Announcement (and mini rant)
A couple times in my post I mentioned “legally authorized book selling sites“. These are sites like: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Smashwords, All Romance, Bookstrand, and Kobo. These sites have a contract with our publisher, Evernight Publishing, to sell our books at the Publisher set price for a portion of that price that is their fee. In turn they then turn over all other monies from the sales of our books to Evernight who in turn takes their cut and pays us authors the balance. Any other site that is not listed above, nor a subsidiary of the above are illegal sites or Pirate Sites. These sites have users who have stolen our works, uploaded them and are selling or giving them away for free. These sites are stealing our livelihood. Know the reputable book selling sites and their subsidiaries so you know that the book you are purchasing is 100% legally permitted to be there and that the author is getting their cut for their hard work, long hours, and sleepless nights. If you suspect a site is illegally selling or distributing copies of any authors works, ours included, contact the author or their Publisher and alert them. Together we can work at stemming the onslaught that is pirated works in the world. Piracy is illegal, do not support those without morals and values. If you can buy a latte then you can buy a book legally.