Author Solutions, Editing, Indie book publishing, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 ways you can use your life experience to help write a great story

You have probably heard the old adage, “write what you know”.  That is great advice for any aspiring author. However, I think too many writers believe those words only apply to factual knowledge when they should actually serve as encouragement to draw on all your sensual experiences for writing. In other words, don’t neglect your remembrance of smells and touch and emotions and particular sounds and dialect. As a writer, you have a vast resource of experiences to draw from to make your writing as good as it can be. Here are three ways you can tap experiences from your past.

Draw from places you have been. Too many writers try to describe locations and scenes that they have never visited. That usually creates a flat or incorrect description of a setting. When you are establishing a scene, take the time to draw upon what you remember from a particular location with all your senses. Use that to bring the scene to life for the reader. Also, be careful if you are writing about a city or geography where you have never traveled. Making up a setting for a fantasy novel is fine, but I would not recommend describing a location from someone else’s description.

Use dialogue and physical description to convey emotion instead of telling the reader how the character feels. Too often first-time writers tell readers what a character is experiencing emotionally, which is not the best way to draw the reader into the life of the character. Writing in that way reads more like a newspaper than a novel. Instead, use dialogue to unveil what the character is feeling or thinking.

One of the best examples I know of personally is the book Still Alice written by Lisa Genova.  This book, which was first self-published by iUniverse, is now a Simon and Schuster title and a major motion picture starring Julianne Moore. The first time I heard Lisa talk about writing the book she explained that she had actually taken acting classes to develop her craft of writing dialogue. It definitely worked. The book, which takes you through the experience of a woman with early onset memory loss, masterfully draws you into what Alice is experiencing. I could not put it down.

…think about all the experiences of your life as a place to look for inspiration. Smells you remember as a child. Time spent with crazy relatives. Car rides with the family.

Visit your past to find things to use today.  When you think about writing, you should think about all the experiences of your life as a place to look for inspiration. Smells you remember as a child. Time spent with crazy relatives. Car rides with the family. Any or all of those may be resources you can draw from to make your writing more interesting.  One author who used her past as motivation for writing a whole book is Virginia Castleman. Virginia self-published her book Strays with Archway Publishing and then was picked up by Simon and Schuster.  In the video below, she talks about how drawing from her childhood challenges gave her the inspiration to write the book.

 

 

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

5 ways that mistakes in your manuscript can hurt your reputation as an author.

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCoverRecently, I had Kathy Ide write a guest post for this blog titled: LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The importance of proofreading. I interviewed Kathy for the Author Learning Center and found her to be quite insightful on a range of topics. She is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker.  Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a volume I would recommend to every aspiring author

What follows is a second guest post from Kathy that was originally published with the title, How to Uphold Your Reputation as an Author. As with her first post, I think you will find her points to be very helpful. Enjoy.

The buzz word in publishing is platform. But did you know that having mistakes in your manuscript can affect your reputation and platform?

 

Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.

Even if your manuscript has already been accepted by a traditional publishing house, if their in-house editor has to spend all her time fixing your mistakes, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.

Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.

A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house but to the author.

Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.

I once saw a published article with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing.

Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.

Readers who find a lot of mistakes in your book will not be as likely to recommend that book to their friends. And who knows? You may have a high school English teacher reading your book, and she just might recommend it to her students . . . unless there are a lot of mistakes in it.

Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.

If you self-publish, or work with a small, independent publisher that doesn’t proofread carefully, your book may go out to the public with several typos, inconsistencies, or PUGS (punctuation, usage, or grammar) errors. Readers who catch those mistakes may consider you an amateur.

For a lot of avid readers, typos practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader knows the rules and you don’t, that’s not going to make you look very good.

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Author Solutions, authors, Indie book publishing, self publishing

Author Solutions titles honored as Kirkus Best Indie Books of 2014

KirkusReview-BlogImage

Once again, this year a number of books published through Author Solutions imprints received recognition from Kirkus Reviews as the best books of 2014 on their Indie list. Those titled honored were:

  • “Stein House” by Myra Hargrave McIlvain (iUniverse)
  • “Tales of a Country Doctor” by Paul Carter (Xlibris)
  • “Whirlwind & Storm” by Charles E. Farnsworth (iUniverse)
  • “An Adirondack Life” by Brian M. Freed (AuthorHouse)
  • “ A Century on New Brunswick’s N.W. Mmichiira” (Xlibris)
  • “Playing Until Dark” by John R. Alberts (AuthorHouse)

Each book has been awarded with the Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, which is arguably one of the most trusted and respected sources for book discovery since 1933. The Kirkus’ Indie program began in 2005, when the editors wanted to expand their coverage to include the fastest-growing segment in the book industry—self-publishing. The program gives self-published authors the opportunity to earn critical acclaim from one of the most prestigious reviews in publishing.

 

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

Writing your second book: Westbow Press Mark Eckel shares how he got to the goal.

A few months ago, I interviewed Mark Eckel after he published his first book, I Just Need Time to Think. That manuscript was a compilation of posts Mark has written for his Warp and Woof  blog. I was interested in offering insights from him because I speak to a number of bloggers, but few actually get to the goal of publishing a book. I thought it would be helpful to share what Mark had done and learned from his experience to help others who want to turn their blog into a book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Now Mark has released another book, When the Lights Go Down. Once again, he has done something few authors accomplish. He has published a second book. So I thought it would be helpful to learn what he did to reach the goal of publishing another book and hear what advice he would give to aspiring authors. What follows are answers to questions I posed to Mark about his experience as an author so far. I think you will find his comments to be very helpful.

This is the second book you have self-published recently. What prompted you to write a this book?

I love movies, so I wrote a book! J For over 30 years I have been watching, discussing, and interpreting movies with my students. The book is full of stories from these encounters. But there is another reason: I have a large backlog of writing which needs the organization a book can provide. If one has a large amount of written material, writing a book becomes much easier.

What did you learn from writing you first book that helped you when you wrote your second book?

Cover design: Instead of choosing a photo for the cover as I did for the first book I let Westbow’s design group create the book’s appearance. Everyone remarks about how good the cover looks.

Editing: I had the Westbow editors do the edits for the first book and was so impressed I used them again this time. Even with the costs involved the book looks so much better ‘punched up’ by a good set of eyes who know the market.

Organization: Many people had commented about how much they liked my layout of short essays for the first book. I used the same approach for the second book with similar responses.

What did you learn about marketing your first book that you are using as you market your second book?

Professors. I sent a galley copy to a colleague who immediately adopted it for a class. I am using the same approach this time.

Students. Often the people I teach will want a copy of the book.

Conferences. When I speak to large audiences, the emcee is grateful to be able to hold up a copy of a book I have written.

Reviewers. I asked a good number of people to write reviews for the first book. In the second book I asked 16 people to contribute interviews which provides a built-in promotional-audience.

Foreword. I desire to have high-profile leaders create publicity for the book. The first book foreword was written by a college president, the second by a famous film festival founder. In both cases, all I had to do was ask.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found as a published author?

I never cease to be amazed at the response people have to holding a book with my name on it. There is an immediate attitude of respect folks give authors. My response is always the same: humble gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and the humbled by the possibility that the writing could benefit others for good.

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

When six words are enough to tell a good story.

Book lovers peruse new titles at the Author Solutions gallery at the Miami Book Fair

Book lovers peruse new titles at the Author Solutions gallery at the Miami Book Fair

One of my favorite events of the year is always the Miami Book Fair, which is held the week before Thanksgiving. It is one of the premier venues where authors and book lovers gather to meet, mingle and discover new books.  Along with the usual schedule of activities and outstanding street fair, this year included an interesting community event called #6wordsmiami. The premise was really simple.  People submit a six-word Miami-influenced story and the Fair published the best from among the 4,000+ entries.

Six words does not sound like a lot, but as the list below shows, a writer can express significant meaning in a mere half-dozen words.  Here are some of my favorites.

  • You: Category 5 hurricane. Me: shutters
  • Tie that mattress down good, bro
  • Without Castro, there is no me
  • T’was a dark and stormy party
  • Liquor smell. Like home. Like Dad.
  • He came. He saw. Date over.

Now why is something like #6wordsmiami helpful for writers to know about? Three reasons immediately come to mind.

  1. Sometimes you can say more by actually saying less.
  2. The right words, even if only a few, can create a powerful image that engages all the senses
  3. It is a reminder of  how important it is for writers to choose their words carefully

So as you write and rewrite and rewrite again, ask your self these two questions.

  1. Could I say what I just said with fewer words?
  2. Could I use a different word or sentence structure to create a more powerful image for the reader?
Story time at the Miami Book Fair in the Author Solutions book gallery

Story time at the Miami Book Fair in the Author Solutions book gallery

Chances are if you take an honest appraisal of your work, you will find places where you can improve it by simply remembering to use fewer words or using an even better word than the one you have chosen so far.

Remember no one buys a book based on the number of words or page count. They buy it because it is good writing that impacts them.

 

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

kathyideOne of the things I enjoy most about my current role is the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazingly creative and professional people. A few weeks ago when I gave the key note address at the West Coast Writers Conference Indie Author Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Kathy Ide.  Kathy is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker.  Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a must read for every aspiring authorShe is also the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com).  

I asked her to share some of her wisdom and experience with my readers through a blog post. Her post is what follows and I think you will find it to be very helpful.

 

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

Have you seen the plaques and T-shirts that say:

Let’s Eat Grandma.

Let’s Eat, Grandma.

                        Commas Save Lives.

I love that! It shows how one tiny bit of punctuation can change the entire meaning and tone of a sentence.

You may think that as long as you’ve got life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript, or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript, that should be enough. And yes, content and story are extremely important. But no matter how good those things are, you’ll be running some pretty big risks if you don’t bother proofreading your manuscript carefully for typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies … and learning the industry-standard rules regarding punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.

OK, you won’t be putting your grandmother’s life on the line or joining a tribe of cannibals. But tiny mistakes in your writing can have disastrous consequences. Here are my top ten:

 

  1. Mechanical errors can decrease your chance of acceptance by a traditional publisher.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause miscommunication.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause confusion.
  1. Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
  1. Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
  1. Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
  1. Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.
  1. Mechanical errors could cost you money.
  1. Mechanical errors can be distracting
  2. Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.

 

Professionalism Is Key

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCoverIf you’re writing just for family and friends, it may not matter so much whether every comma is in exactly the right place or if you have a few typos here and there. But if you want to get your book published in today’s highly competitive commercial market, you need every edge you can get. If you expect people to buy what you write, you need to take the time to do it right.

If you have a hard time finding typos, inconsistencies, and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. If you go to http://www.ChristianEditor.com and fill out the form for Authors Seeking Editors, you’ll be connected with established, professional editors who can make your manuscript shine.

A comma may not save Grandma’s life. But a careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

7 simple things you can do to build awareness for your self published book

This past weekend I gave the evening keynote at the West Coast Writer’s Conference Indie Publishing Conference.  I always enjoy those times, because along with meeting many aspiring authors and sharing the 4 Paths to Publishing with them, I also have opportunity to learn myself. At lunch on Saturday, Bill Van Orsdel from Bookfuel, gave a really insightful presentation on book marketing.  Inspired by his talk, I wanted to share some simple things you can do to build awareness for your book before and after your title goes live.

  1. Communicate your milestones–It sounds simple, but every time you reach a milestone such as completing a draft or submitting your manuscript or holding a book signing, let your followers and fans know. It may not seem like much, but it will help you keep people engaged and anticipate what’s next with your book.
  2. Create an engagement contest–This is where you offer different potential titles or book covers and ask your community to weigh in on which they like best. This obviously is a pre-launch activity, but it can be a great way to build a base of potential book buyers.  This also assumes you have a blog where you can post options and let them vote through a poll or in the comment section.

    If possible test different prices to see if you can build demand for your book.

  3. Experiment with the price of your book or books–There has been a lot written about pricing e-books to gain readers and certainly that is worth trying, but you want to be sure you have a clear strategy and goal. You may even want to test giving it away for a short period of time or use one of the sites out there that can facilitate that for you. I also think it is worth experimenting with your print books as well.  I spoke at a conference a few months ago and had both of my print books there. I suggest retail was $10 each but you could buy both for $15. I sold more books at that event than any other.
  4. Offer a giveaway if you can–you may be able to facilitate this through your own website or blog or use a site like Goodreads, but this can be an effective way to help build your mailing list. Use social media to also promote it, but be sure you are clear on where you will deliver books to winners. On Goodreads, you can limit to the US, which may be a good idea if you want to limit your postage cost.
  5. Consider running a PPC campaign–PPC stands for pay-per-click and is the type of campaigns you run online through Google. This probably only makes sense if you have a non-fiction book with a specific topic that people would search for such as autism or financial planning. If you consider this as a marketing option, make sure you understand how this works and you set daily limits on your spend. I have seen people spend more money than they expected because they did not set up their
    Using trending hashtags can be away to tie your book to current events.

    Using trending hashtags can be away to tie your book to current events.

    accounts properly.

  6. Pursue events where you can promote your book–Seems rather obvious to make this statement, but it is worth noting, you have to find places to promote your book. They will not find you. Bookstores and libraries are the most obvious places to start, but get creative. Think about what other places might have a connection or interest in your book. I know authors who have done events at restaurants, hair salons and churches.
  7. Use trending #hashtags–Bill made this point in his presentation and I thought it was a great idea. For example if there is a comet that is approaching the earth and you have a science fiction book that involves a comet use that in tweets about your book. The key is pay attention to what is trending and create an authentic connection to the hashtag and your book. This is certainly more opportunistic than planned, but I suspect in the right situation, it would yield some great results.

I trust you found this list helpful. Are there other things you are doing to build awareness for you book? Share those in the comment section and I will post.

 

 

 

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