I have a confession to make. Most of my life, I’ve been a rule follower. Okay, I don’t always obey the speed limit, but in every other sense of the word, I tend to follow the rules. I don’t know why. Maybe it was my good, wholesome Canadian upbringing.
So when I pitched a story idea in my very first writing class, the pregnant pause that followed felt like an eternity. It seemed to last three hours. I felt like the kid in the class who gave the wrong answer and all I wanted to do was shrink into the floor and disappear.
What came next surprised me.
Three seconds of silence ticked by, and then the room erupted. Ideas exploded from my fellow students like fireworks on the Fourth of July. “Have you ever read this book?” “What if you did this?” “What would happen if you did that?”
The energy of the room electrified me, and in that moment, I thought I had a story worth telling. My story pitched a stereotype on its head—it was about a woman who had a secret life, and when her husband found out about it, everything changed.
So I started writing. Pages piled up on my desk. Chapters crowded my head as characters jostled each other to get out on paper. Page after page, Jill Shannon took shape. The book was coming along swimmingly well, until I started to share it. That’s when I realized I’d broken a few of the cardinal rules of storytelling.
1. Your hero should be nice.
2. The good guys always win.
3. The story needs to be wrapped up in a pretty bow.
we have a problem. Houston
I didn’t set out to be edgy or controversial. I wrote the story that spoke to me. Conforming to the rules would have meant radical changes to Deadly Lies, and in truth if I did that, it would no longer be the book I envisioned.
There is freedom in breaking the rules. Ignoring the boundaries and constraints allows your creativity to flow resulting in something that is new, different, and uniquely yours.
History is full of people who followed their passion, broke the rules, and changed the world around them. Picasso’s work was called “schizophrenic” and practically satanic by one of his early critics. The rock band, Queen, created an unorthodox brand of music theater that defined an entire branch of 70’s rock and roll. Bill Gates quit college and founded his own company.
I’m not saying screw the rules and abandon all reason. That would be anarchy. Story structure exists as a guideline for a reason. Without it, your story could flounder. But I do think there is room in a creative life to color outside the lines and express yourself in a way this is unique.
The world is changing. The rise of independent publishing has opened the door to more innovation. It used to be your book had to fit into a specific genre and conform to certain structural constraints to get published. Your band had to have a certain sound if you want to get signed. This is no longer the case.
Some people feel that this rise in Indie publishing erodes quality standards. There are more typos in books. And while that may be true, as traditional lines get blurred, creativity abounds. There are new and interesting stories out there—stories, like mine, that never would have seen the light of day in a color-inside-the-lines kind of world.
So wear mismatched socks if you like them. Turn you amplifier all the way up to 11 and play loud. A wise man once said if it sounds good, it is good.
Follow your passion. Write your story. And break the rules.
When Chris Patchell isn't hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn't steal them from comic books.
Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels. After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time - suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.
Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. "My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior."
Tell us about your latest book. To the Survivors is a deeply-moving book about my journey as a rape crisis counselor with true stories of sexual violence shared by survivors. The survivors are diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity, yet each gives a similarly raw and heartfelt account of his or her victimization and recovery. The authenticity and vulnerability with which survivors speak resonates profoundly. Messages within To the Survivors are very hopeful -- to the pleasant surprise of many readers -- and I am humbled to find it continues to positively affect people’s hearts and minds.
What formats is the book available in? To the Survivors is available in Paperback, mobi (Kindle), epub, PDF, rtf, lrf, pdp, and txt.
What advice do you have for other writers? Write, write, and write some more. It is imperative to not be nervous, to not fear anything, and to fight through whatever blockage one may have. Write from your heart. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and don't stop writing if you have the desire to write.
What's the best thing about being a writer? For me, the best thing about being a writer is the ability to meaningfully connect with other people and impact their lives in a positive way.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing? People can go to my website at www.robertuttaro.com or check out To the Survivors and read the reviews at amazon.com.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book? I believe people will continue to enjoy To the Survivors because it is hopeful, compassionate, inspirational, and deals with life issues that affect us all.
How long did it take you to write your book? It took me just under three years to complete.
Where can a reader purchase your book? Readers can purchase To the Survivors at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online retailers.
Who inspires you? Jesus.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I did not consider myself a writer and never once tried to write a book until one experience changed my life. This experience was a dream I had. I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book”. I interpreted this dream as a vision from God. I prayed to God, moved from the bed to the computer, opened up Microsoft Word, and continued to pray. This is how the book To the Survivors began.
When my father was about five-years-old, his father picked him up and threw him in the river.
“He expected me to save myself and learn to swim in the process,” he said.
My father was telling me this story when I was five, too. We were standing at the side of the
White River in ,
where a crowd of children was splashing around and enjoying a break from
the hot and humid
summer. I remember how the sweat trickled down my face into my swimsuit, not
from the heat, but from
fear. Anderson, Indiana
Fortunately, my father took my hand, and together we waded into the river. I felt the water rushing around my knees, and for a minute, my legs buckled. The swift current made me dizzy and disoriented.
My father was there to keep me from losing my balance. He taught me to swim that day in a more practical way than having me take a cold plunge into the deep end.
I’ve often thought about that day and this sink or swim technique. Could it have its advantages for want-a-be authors? Wading into the shallow end to test the depth of the competition or the temperature (what genre is hot), is simply delaying the inevitable disorientation and fear that come from swimming against the current trends in publishing.
According to http://www.worldometers.info/books/ there have been over 700,000 book titles published in the first four months of 2015. That number is up considerably from 2007, when there were 407,000 published during the entire year. What this means to me is that thousands of writers are jumping into the publishing stream without a sense of the marketplace. They just don’t care. And they are willing to swim against the tides of the massive competition. How about you?
If I have one regret, it is waiting so long to jump in, too. I’d be lying, if I told you I hadn’t gone under a few times, trying to stay confident of my talent and engage readers, at the same time. I have been fortunate to have called upon a couple of excellent consultants, such as Lucia Zimmitti, Dan Blank and Geoff Talbot, who have each helped me in different ways to become successful.
If you have been standing on the side of the river with a story burning to be published, and wishing and hoping for a rubber raft to float by, I would encourage you to take the plunge now. You will have many fellow authors out there to pull you back up, if you start hitting bottom. And I will be one of them.
Rebecca Jean Downey is a thriller author with her eyes on the U.S.-Mexico border. Inspiration for her novels are plucked right out of the headlines or from interviews with law enforcement sources, journalists and other experts on border crime. She and her husband, Mike, live in El Paso, Texas, with their two rescue dogs, Riley and Skye.
Whilst I was checking in on Goodreads earlier today I dropped by the Poll section. They had some pretty good questions for readers. I think you'll agree that these results give good food for thought.
How many reviews do you typically look at before you read a book?
As you can see, the majority of those who answered (55069) said that they looked at 1-3 reviews before reading a book. This highlights the importance of having at least a few reviews on your book pages but also shows that you don't need hundreds to convince readers.
There are also reviews and reviews. A review that gives insight into what the reader thought about the book including pro's and con's is of much more value than one that simply says the reader enjoyed the book.
When discovering a not-yet-published book that you're excited about, you...
As most of you know by now, Amazon rolled out a pre-order feature earlier this year which levelled the playing field that little bit more between traditionally published and self/indie published books. As you can see from these results the majority of readers said they would shelf and wait for publication. Pre-orders were second place though. Something to think about.
Do you judge a book by its publisher?
I was personally very happy to see these results. The publisher really shouldn't matter. What should matter is having a quality book. Glad to see that others feel the same way.
How do you let the world know when you find a book you love?
In person and social media are the clear winners here. It is nice to see that some people will still give books a shout out on their websites, blogs, and newsletter too though.
What convinces you to add a book as Want to Read?
Descriptions matter. Make sure yours pulls in potential readers.
Do you use Goodreads? Do you take part in their polls? Did any of the above results surprise you?
Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle: How to Maximize Existing Content and Generate Quick, Helpful Ideas to Cut Your Blogging Time in Half
By now we’ve all heard the endless chatter about Google’s issues with duplicate content. In the past, we could easily re-run pieces in a variety of places. Some experts I know reused articles as many as twenty times, but if you do that now you may find your site in a lot of trouble and severely penalized by the Google-Gods. So what’s a marketer to do? I was considering this the other day when I was trying to figure out what to blog about because the other issue is that Google does not want “thin” content, which is content that isn’t compelling, thin in data or light in information. Basically they don’t want people just throwing stuff on their blog to get traffic.
We’re all in a creative industry but that does not necessarily mean that we are an endless font of creative ideas. Then I thought: instead of coming up with new ideas, I wonder how many times I can reuse old ones in a way that won’t get us into trouble. So here are twenty of them, a variety of different things you can do with the same piece of content.
Now I’m not suggesting that you do this with each and every blog post, but if you have ideas or posts that seem to have legs (and we all know that not all of them will) then maybe it’s time to see how far you can stretch them.
- Identify and Re-run Evergreen Content – Review your posts from the past and identify those that are evergreen (i.e. content that’s always relevant and not time-sensitive) and consider republishing them with a timely revision that acknowledges new statistics and trends.
- Update Past Posts with Industry Updates – At some point, even the best and most creative posts need to be updated. Now’s the time to go through your old posts and see what can be updated and reused. Pull in new content and add a fresh take, your readers will love it.
- Pull Blog Content into an Infographic - Combine several of your text-based posts into more visual content – such as an aggregated infographic or chart.
- Tips: Create a tips list from a blog post you did and then create images from it to use on Pinterest, in Twitter, on Instagram, etc. We did this for our 52 Ways to Sell More Books: (http://www.pinterest.com/bookgalpenny/52-ways-to-sell-more-books/)
- Quizzes: People love quizzes, when we did ours on “Which Social Media Site is Right for You” people just ate it up. Most of the time it’s just grabbing existing content you’ve done, but it’s a fantastic way to repurpose your stuff. You can see it here: http://www.amarketingexpert.com/social-media-quiz-site-right/
- Checklists: People love checklists, too and in most cases content can be easily turned into a checklist. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long. We did a checklist about all of our Amazon content (How to Sell Books by the Truckload). You can see it here: (https://authormarketingexperts.leadpages.net/amazon-checklist/)
- Forms: Can any of your content be turned into forms or one-page worksheets?
- Top Ten Lists: Another great use for articles is top ten lists. And like anything related to checklists, top tens, etc. sometimes you’ll have to play with the information to get it to fit this format. But most content only needs a slight tweak to morph into something like this.
- Did You Know Posts: So let’s say you’ve written a few articles on Twitter. Why not pull them together into a “did you know” and then refer back to the posts themselves? Not only is this great, short content (and also super for graphics) but you can highlight other blog posts, too.
- Compile a “Best Of” Post – Once a month, create a best-of post of all your content (or other content) that you really love and want to share. This does not have to be everything you’ve written so, technically, it may not be entirely recycled content but it’s still a great way to share content and become a trusted content aggregator.
- Round Up Your Posts –Use or Reuse Content for your Newsletter
- Create a FAQ Post - Identify common questions from your audience, type up quick answers to each, then turn that into a blog post that refers back to your evergreen posts
- Expand On a Recent Blog Comment – If you’re commenting on blogs (and you should be) why not create a post about a particular comment or viewpoint?
- Create Bite-Sized Blog Posts or Mini Versions of Some of Your Most Popular Posts: Many of my posts are long, and by long I mean longer than 500 words, so I’ll take bites of that and create images with quotes, or excerpt pieces for social media updates, etc.
- Evolve Your Webinar into Blog Content or an eBook: I do a ton of webinars and I love doing this. You’ll want to get permission first if someone else is hosting your webinar but it’s fantastic for building content that can be used for blog posts and eBooks. When I did my first How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon session with Joan Stewart, I got her ok to transcribe it. Now it’s a book series on Amazon.
- Leverage Video Content - Transcribe an existing video, such as an interview or class, and use it as a blog post.
- Add Your Presentation to SlideShare: Or create a presentation from your blog content for SlideShare.
- Create Event Content – I do this a lot, I’ll go to an event, take notes and turn them into blog posts; sometimes I’ll supplement them with videos taken at the event. (http://www.amarketingexpert.com/viral-video-secrets-creating-video-gets-seen/)
- Content that Sparks Ideas: When I travel I take my magazines with me and often plow through them on the road. I tear out pages that have interesting stuff on them and then recycle the rest. I will highlight things that spark ideas or bits I want to share. Then I’ll use this for an article, or a graphic with a tip (citing the publication). Here’s another tip: I use Evernote to save all my ideas and bought the scanner they recommended, but I didn’t buy it on Evernote, I found the same one on Amazon for much less. It will scan your stuff into Evernote (or Dropbox) which is great because you won’t have a ton of paper notes all over the place.
- Turn content into trading cards or other swag: I had trading cards made for my book, How to Sell Your Books By The Truckload on Amazon. I pulled different tips I had already written, and put one tip per card. I took these around to speaking events and people loved them. See a sample here (http://www.amarketingexpert.com/stepping-comfort-zone-key-success/) You could do this with content from past popular blog posts or other articles you’ve written. While it’s not online content per se, people love these cards, and I mail them with everything. I also give them out at speaking events, too. Keep in mind that everyone loves swag.
http://www.exacttarget.com/blog/8-tips-for-recycling-your-content/It’s important that we get as much mileage out of what we write as we possibly can, and with all of the new places to post (Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, etc.) it’s become easier than ever to create virtual “breadcrumbs” that lead readers back to our website which, in the end, is the ultimate goal.
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™ To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2015 Penny C. Sansevieri
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What genre do you write and why?
I have often been asked why I chose mystery and crime fiction as my literary genre. It might be more accurate to say the genre chose me; and to add that a particular genre is simply the vehicle in which the writer journeys through the landscape he or she is compelled to explore. In my experience as a reader it is the theme and not the plot of a novel that carries universal and lasting impact; making the particular genre secondary to the thoughts and feelings which the writer is consciously or unconsciously driven to express.
That being said, the selection of crime fiction as my vehicle of choice was a consequence of my exposure to literary works which examined crime and its ramifications and which greatly influenced me as a young man and adult; Dostoyevsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson. And by exposure to films like The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, On The Waterfront, Anatomy of a Murder, Witness for the Prosecution, The French Connection, The Godfather and countless others.
Tell us about your latest book.
“Circling the Runway” is the first addition to the Jake Diamond Mystery series since “Counting to Infinity” (2004). After a ten year hiatus, busy working on other projects, it was time to bring Jake back. My biggest concern was whether I would still know Diamond and his supporting cast of regular characters. I discovered that I knew them all very well—and it was like a reunion with old friends.
The book itself looks at how two people, who traditionally do not get along at all, are required to team up as partners—an odd couple situation.
What advice do you have for other writers?
I am not a big believer in what is often referred to as writer’s block. There may be times when the particular project you are working on comes to a temporary impasse—but it shouldn’t stop one from writing. My advice is to write something, even if it doesn’t belong in the current work, even if you are not sure if it fits anywhere. I have found that it miraculously fits into something down the line, and to keep writing is the best way to find your way back into the primary task.
What is your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
Van Morrison was asked what he would do if he never sold a song. He said: “I would do whatever I needed to do to make a living, but I can’t not write.”
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
From the web site, www.jlabramo.com; the Facebook Author page www.facebook.com/jlabramo; and the blog http://jlabramo.blogspot.com/
Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Aside from Jake, who is like a stepbrother to me, it would have to be his associate, Darlene Roman. She is the perfect foil for Diamond. Darlene can match wits, be as smartly humorous, set Jake straight, cover his back, challenge him to show his better side, and prove that with all of his faults Jake Diamond is at the end of the day an admirable character.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
The Jake Diamond books have always been appreciated for their smart humor. Jake is more over easy than hard-boiled. The books are dialogue driven—and readers enjoy their cinematic qualities. Jake is always reading a classic, and the novel he is reading is related to the circumstance he finds himself in. In “Circling the Runway”, Diamond is reading “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”—and I believe readers will enjoy the insights Jake gathers from following Quasimodo’s plight.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
The usual online booksellers, Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Circling-Runway-J-L Abramo/dp/1937495876/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427222396&sr=1-2&keywords=circling+the+runway, Barnes and Noble, or any title can be ordered through a favorite bookstore.
How do you research your books?
I do most of my research on the internet. I am very careful about getting locations accurate, and often deal with historical subjects. I also try to visit places I write about, and speak to people who are knowledgeable about particular settings and time periods.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I recently completed a collection of stories featuring a new character, a Brooklyn private eye. I am currently working on a follow up to “Gravesend”, the stand-alone thriller set in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up.