If you’ve read any of my post over the last few months or get my newsletter, then you know that this past weekend I had a book signing in The Villages. And I’ve got to tell you, I have never felt more like a failure than I did Saturday afternoon as I sat there patiently counting the minutes until the signing was over. (Something else I’ve never done.)
I love book signings. It isn’t the potential of sales, it’s the connections and the opportunity to meet new people that I love. Plus, I get to talk about my favorite subject—writing! (You’d be surprised how much people get annoyed by that.) But this event … I believe I told my boyfriend I was in hell, which was exactly how it felt.
The worse part is it didn’t have anything to do with low sales. Yes, that happened, but it was the look of abject horror I kept seeing on people’s faces as they came across my covers. The ones that claimed the covers were too scary. Or those who said they were beautiful, but frightening. I wanted to scream at them, “Life is frightening!”
It was the number of times I had to tell people, “It’s not horror.” I truly began to wonder if these people even understood the term “horror.”
And for those who actually stopped and either picked up one or each book and read the back of it or heard me out on the story, it was the fake smile that crossed their faces that practically screamed, “Who would write a book about such a dark topic?” That doesn’t include the ones who said, “I can respect that stories like these are necessary, but I wouldn’t pick it up for myself or even someone I know.”
The more I heard, the more people that came by, the more I felt like I was drowning. It took everything I had not to break down and cry. Honestly, if I had been by myself, I probably would have. But I had my best friend there with me and my boyfriend supporting me by phone. I have a great support team and with a little coddling, they helped me see the takeaways of this event.
Research the event and it’s likely audience before signing on. (If I had done this ahead of time, I don’t believe I would’ve attended.)
Book signings aren’t just about sales, it’s also an opportunity to network and make connections. (Which I did. I met a young woman who does podcasts and I will absolutely be e-mailing her later this week to set something up.)
Each and every event is a learning experience. (An experience that I thought I would share with all of you.)
Even if you don’t make sales, remember to support other authors. (You may just make their day and gain a new friend/follower in the process.)
Walk into and out of every event with your head held high. (Some people never even make it that far, but YOU. DID.)
Finally, remember not everyone will like your book. (I’ve told this multiple times to my author friends and I forgot this myself at this event.)
No author likes hearing the word “no” over and over again, but it isn’t the end of our careers and it doesn’t mean we aren’t successful. It just means we didn’t find the right kind of people, our kind of people.
The ones who are out there, right now, looking for a book JUST. LIKE. OURS.
I promised you another excerpt. As we move away from Halloween and leave all of the costumes, candy, and trick or treating behind … I figured what better way to end than with clowns.
No, not the Ronald McDonald or Bozo kind, but more like the ITkind. On a side note, who can’t wait for the second chapter? This girl!
Back to business. Now, this is going to be short, but it’ll be anything but sweet. Who’s ready to jump in?
Here’s a sneak peek at Send in the Clowns.
“He’s not responding.”
Kay’s hand trembled. “Claire, what’s wrong with Mike?”
“Are you family?”
“I am his fiancee.” Exasperation made her words sharper than she intended them to be.
“I see. All I can tell you at this moment is that they are taking him to Mercy Hospital. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more.” Claire’s voice started to fade.
“Wait! Who is taking him to Mercy?”
Claire laughed. Cold fingers walked up Kay’s spine. “The clowns. They sent in the clowns.”
“The clowns? Why would they send clowns?” Kay’s free hand clutched her heart. She looked at the jewelry box, the dancer still turning, the music still flowing.
“Clowns? Who said clowns? I said the EMTs. Someone called an ambulance. I only picked up the phone because it was ringing and thought whoever was on the line should know.”
Kay’s chest heaved in relief. She paused long enough to catch her breath. “Thank you. Please let them know I’ll meet them there.” She didn’t wait for a response before she hung up again. She snatched her keys from the hook by her door and ran to her car, the jewelry box in her hand. She tossed the box onto the passenger seat, swallowed the lump in her throat, and swiped at her eyes. Oh Mike! What happened to you?
It has been nearly a month since my last post. I’ve been super, super busy, but I promise I’ve got some nice treats for you this week. I’ll even be sharing some exciting previews in my upcoming newsletter.
This week I’ve got a couple of excerpts from promising tales of horror. We’re going to take a peek at a few of “The 13: Tales of Macabre” by Stephanie Ayers.
Are you ready to get your scare on?
From Off to Never Neverland.
I eye the child again, suspended in the air. She’s waiting. She has not crossed the threshold yet. The Sandman has yet to claim her. There’s still time.
“Take me instead!”
Laughter answers my plea. “You cannot take her place. No one can. She was mine long before she existed.”
Care for her intrudes a silent plea from the black depths. “I care for her. I will take her place. I am ready.” I tremble, but my voice holds firm. I am not ready, but how do you prepare for Death in the first place? “You’ve had me longer.”
“I’ll have you both. This you do not understand. You cannot take her place. Your place here is already determined as is hers.”
“Then take me first. Let her live.” Pressure against my windpipe chokes me. I swallow my words. The pressure eases, and I breathe once more.
“It’s not your time. You must finish your journey. You’ve yet to reach Never Neverland.” This comes softly, remorsefully.
“My journey? Is it not enough I am always here?”
The stench fades. The child disappears. I am alone in the darkness. A light appears in the far distance, an invitation I refuse to accept. I turn my back to the light and walk in the opposite direction. Something squishes beneath my feet, but I cannot see. I step aside only to smash something else.
No one stands before me.
Nothing. I close my eyes and wait for them to adjust.
I’ve discussed this in the past, but you know how much I love revisiting things I’ve talked about before. Here’s the thing, we work in an ever-changing industry, one where you can never stop learning. Sounds like a doctor’s office. Yet it’s true. It doesn’t mean that what was discovered yesterday is less important, it’s just not as current.
And things that you think might remain static, guess what? They can change too. Just like that. Take point of view for example. When I was in high school and even my early years in college, there were only three: first, second, and third person.
Sounds simple, right?
Yes, I said that’s wrong. Now, if you’re a fiction writer, no need to fret over second person point of view. It isn’t really used for fiction. More for essays and writing along those lines. So for our purposes, I’m only going to discuss the other two.
Except it really isn’t just two points of view. In fact, first and third are really four points of view.
Let me explain.
First person is pretty straight forward. Everything in the story is told from one person’s point of view at a time. If I have a story with Emily and Jack and the story is told in first person from Emily’s perspective that means that everything the reader knows is only what Emily knows. Not only that, but it also means the reader only knows what Emily can see, feel, hear, or smell. All knowledge that is gleaned is from what Emily has already experienced, can identify for herself, or has been told by someone else.
While it might be easy to understand first person, third gets a little more complicated. There’s third person limited, third person omniscient, and a most recent addition of third person deep.
Third person limited is just as easy as first person. They are almost the exact same. The only difference is that the perspective isn’t “I,” it’s all “he” or “she.” All of the information that the reader gains is the same, but there is the unspoken presence of a narrator. Most often the narrator is viewed as the author, but not always. While that would be a great discussion, it is something I’ll save for a later date. Back to third person limited. Everything the reader learns is told from one person’s perspective by this unspoken narrator. And typically the entire story is from the same person’s perspective or the main character.
Here’s an example of the difference.
First person: “Swallowing my nervousness, I walked up to the door and knocked.”
Third person limited: “Stroking up some courage, Emily walked over to the door and knocked.”
See the difference? Okay. Moving on.
Next, we have third person omniscient. The basic principle is that the narrator is God. Again, the story is told in “he” and “she,” but every character’s thoughts are known by the reader. If done correctly, the story will still move smoothly and flow well together, especially since this omniscient presence can go from one paragraph to another with two characters and reveal each character’s thoughts.
Here’s two examples:
From The Cost of Fame by Shay Stone
“Richard called after her, ‘Do me a favor, Alexandra? Remember this moment. My guess is you’ll be thinking a lot about it in the weeks to come.” Without turning around Alex held up her middle finger and continued on her way.
‘God, I love that fire in her,’ Richard remarked to Chase who looked a bit like a deer in headlights after witnessing their exchange. Steed pointed to a drink. ‘This one’s hers?’”
In the first example, you get a bit of Alex and Richard. Even though Alex walked away, the action didn’t stop. The reader sees, knows, hears, and smells it all.
Here’s another one.
From Light in August by William Faulkner
“‘They?’ the man said. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Well, if Jefferson aint too long about it.’ He shifted his grip on the old man’s arm. ‘Where do you want us to put him?’ The woman moved then. She descended the steps and approached. ‘We’ll tote him into the house for you,’ the man said.
‘I can tote him,’ she said. She and Hines were about the same height, though she was the heavier. She grasped him beneath the arms. ‘Eupheus,’ she said, not loud; ‘Eupheus.’ She said to the two men, quietly: ‘Let go. I got him.’ They released him. He walked a little now. They watched her help him up the steps and into the door. She did not look back.”
There is a rather obvious omniscient narrator here directing our attention to what the narrator feels is important.
Both are third person omniscient and yet both are different. Again, not something I’m going to discuss further here.
With all of that said, only one remains: third person deep. If you’re saying, “I’ve never heard of that before,” then my response would be, “I’m not surprised.” I only learned of its existence in the last few years. And if you’ve read my previous discussion, then you’d know I describe it as first and third omniscient got drunk one night and had a baby, which leads us to third person deep.
Third person deep is told from one person’s perspective at a time. This may be limited to one chapter and/or one scene. Whether it is one or the other, it is all from that one character. We get their internal thoughts like we do in first person, but it’s all told in third person. At the same time, we will get someone else’s thoughts in the next scene or chapter, kind of like we do in omniscient. Oh, and that pesky narrator … they are practically non-existent.
The concept behind third person deep is that you get more show and less tell in third person. Makes perfect sense, right?
If not, let me give you some examples and show you what I mean.
From Avenged by Krys Fenner
“‘Not trying to keep me away, are you?’ Miah grabbed Bella by the waist and pulled her close. Caressing her cheek, he pressed his lips to hers, kissing her like he hadn’t seen her in months.
The kiss stole her breath away. She hated lying to him. Part of her wanted to drop the bullshit and tell him the truth right then and there. If only she had a better idea of what exactly she was getting into. Keeping him safe required she proceed with caution. Hopefully, she wouldn’t irrevocably damage their relationship in the process.”
From Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
“‘We need to get out an APB.’ Was that his voice? It sounded hoarse, like he’d been to a football game and screamed for two hours. ‘White male, six-six, two seventy. Dressed in black leather, wearing sunglasses, shoulder-length dark hair.’ Butch threw out a hand, steadying himself against the building. ‘Suspect not armed. Only because I stripped him. He’ll be restocked within the hour, no doubt.’
When he stepped forward, he swayed.
‘Jesus.’ José grabbed his arm, holding him up.”
Between these two examples, I hope you get the picture. If not, think about it like this, the reader is entirely inside the character’s head as if the character is the narrator, except everything is told in third person as if the narrator is an outside person. That probably sounds way more complicated than it is. Hmm, let’s try this. God is the one telling the story, but he is limited to one person at a time. Make sense?
Good. Now, you have a better understanding of the difference between these four perspectives. As for choosing one to write in, well, I can’t do that for you. I can only tell you I’m bias toward Third Deep. Go figure. To find what works for you, you’ll have to find what you’re comfortable writing in and then practice until the sun goes down and it gets as close to perfect as possible.
I’ve spoken about this before, but I think it’s a topic that can never get enough attention. In the world of independent authors, when we think about success we generally think about being in the NY Times Top Ten, winning an award or money. Now, I’m not talking about Tom Clancy, Stephen King, or J.R. Ward kind of money. I’m talking about the kind of money that pays for writing. Maybe even pays for a bill or two.
Let me give you an example.
A couple of weeks ago I had a Mary Kay representative here for a facial party. One of the things she said, “When I joined Mary Kay, I just wanted to earn enough to pay my car note. Nothing else, just my car note.”
She was able to do that and more, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took time for her to build her business and make it profitable. Authors have to set out to do the same thing, except we want to take it a step further. We don’t just want to earn the money, we want to be known or recognized authors.
Some new authors do everything right and they become what seems like instant overnight success stories. Look at E.L. James. We all know the writing is horrendous, yet this author has sold millions of books and all three have been turned into movies (which in my opinion were ten times better than the books.) Seeing something like that happen makes an independent author wonder, how do I compete? How can I be successful in this business with authors like that?
Then you have the new authors who do everything right AND still cannot find “success.”
What if I told you “success” is NOT SIMPLE?
It’s a convoluted and complex idea that differs from author to author. Some authors want the fame and fortune, some just want the fame, some just want the fortune, and some don’t care for any of it. They write because they enjoy writing.
Overnight sensations are the one-offs and we cannot compare ourselves to them. As independent authors who do it all (writing, editing, marketing, socializing, building teams, reaching out to fans) it is impossible to become an overnight sensation. That doesn’t mean it is impossible to succeed.
First, start by defining what success means to you. Here are some questions to answer to figure that out.
What is it that you get out of writing? Is it joy from great reviews? Is it satisfaction from completing a project?
Why are you writing? Are you writing because you have a story to share that is just bursting to get out? Or are you writing because you want to make some money?
What are your goals? Do you want to be well-renowned? Financially dependent on your writing?
How much time are you willing to put into it? Are you aware that it can be a thankless and time-consuming job?
Do you always plan to independently publish?
How much money do you want to put into it?
Some of these questions may not make any sense, but I promise they are accurate.
Think about it like this. There are thousands of people who come up with what they call “get-rich-quick” schemes. And most people know there is no real way to “get-rich-quick.” However, there are those who would argue that you can “get-rich-quick” by winning the lottery or going onto a television game, like Family Feud or Jeopardy.
But how much money do you waste on lottery tickets before winning even a small fraction of that back? If you do happen to win big, how much of that is the government going to get in taxes? And how many tickets did you have to buy to get there? Those dollars add up. For example, the cheapest lottery ticket is $1.00. If you buy $10 worth every two weeks, by the end of the year you will have spent $260.00 in lottery tickets. If you won nothing, then you have nothing to show for it.
Let’s apply that same theory to a book. Say you took that $260.00 and invested it in publishing a book. At the end of the year if you have had no sales, would you consider yourself successful?
I would. Because publishing that book in the first place is no easy task.
What if the following year you took that same $260.00 and applied it to marketing that book? Would you still consider yourself successful if you had no sales at the end of the year?
Your answer should be yes. Because you spent that year learning what worked and what didn’t work. So the next year you can improve.
And THAT is what makes success simple.
Success is nothing more than working toward a new and better goal and meeting that goal day after day, month after month, and year after year.
Yes, the concept of success is complex, but we have the power to make it simple by continuously reaching small goals and setting new ones.
You’ve labored weeks, months, maybe even years over your work. You slaved away at a computer writing that bad boy, editing it to perfection (as much as possible), and now you’re ready to publish. DON’T PUSH THE BUTTON YET.
For you to understand how important a copyright is, I’m going to give you two scenarios. One you’ve sent your baby to the copyright office and the other you haven’t.
Scenario A: Copyrighted
You’re reading a book in your genre trying to keep up with the latest trends. And you notice that part of it sounds familiar. Maybe immediately you can’t figure out why, but at some point you realize it’s familiar because YOU wrote it. The words in the book you’re reading written by some other author are YOUR words.
What do you do?
First, check their publication date. Second, check to see if they have a copyright symbol in their book. Third, go to the copyright.gov website and search for said copyright. If either they have no copyright filed OR their copyright was filed after yours, you have options.
Politely point out the usage and send them a “cease and desist” letter forcing them to remove their work.
Contact an Intellectual Property attorney who specializes in copyright.
By your copyright being filed first, it is proof that YOU are the original owner. You have the right to have that work removed or even sue that author if they did not get your permission to use your words in their work. This is called copyright infringement and is illegal.
This is only accurate if MORE than a few lines or words of yours are in their book. IF they have only used a word or line or two, this is called fair use. There is a limit to the amount of sentences and/or wording that may be used.
This does NOT apply to an idea. An idea or concept cannot be copyrighted.
Scenario B: Not copyrighted
Using the same scene as before, if your work is NOT copyrighted, and you come across another novel with your words, you can still politely ask that author to remove their work.
However, they do not have to comply.
If they have a copyright and you ask them to remove their work because they infringed upon your work without your permission, they in turn can ask you to remove your work stating just the opposite. They could go a step further and obtain a lawyer to sue you or get your work removed.
Let’s explore this a step further and say that neither of you have your work copyrighted. IF you see that, then file for the copyright BEFORE reaching out to the author. While it takes months to get a copyright approved, the copyright is valid from the date your file is loaded and the fee is paid.
You can request a copyright to be expedited, but it does cost more money and does require a valid reason for the request.
A copyright is your protection. This is another step in the writing process that should NOT be skipped. It may be the best money you ever spend.
There are two things an author must focus on aside from the writing part. While writing is super important, so is a great editor and an amazing cover. Today is all about the cover. You may not think this is important, but trust me it is. A bad cover can ruin a potential sale. In fact, it can ruin a lot of potential sales.
Think about it. What is the first thing you see as a reader?
The cover, right?
Whether you’re scrolling through thousands of books on Amazon? Or walking down the aisle at Barnes & Noble, what you’re focused on are all those covers. You’re looking for the ONE or if you’re like me, the several, cover(s) that are going to absolutely grab your attention.
Don’t believe me? How about an example then?
If you came across the three covers below, which book would you pick up?
Did you answer Hush, Hush?
Believe me now?
Now, if you’re an author reading this, you should know this. If you’re new to writing, take this as a lesson that a great cover is one thing you do not skimp on. This doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions.
Because here’s the thing. If you go the traditional route of publishing, you will have next to no say on your cover. You might get two options (at best) and the only difference will be the color. If you Indie (independently) or self-publish, then the only exception is IF you are a graphic artist/designer. Then you may design your own cover, BUT you have to, have to, have to GET a neutral third party opinion.
Do NOT think you know better. And if you aren’t a graphic artist/designer, this ABSOLUTELY applies to you.
Don’t believe me? How about some more show and tell then?
Below are the covers for my first book. (Yes, the title did change.) If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, then you know I’ve gone through some transitions. The first time, I put it out there, I did the cover myself with a little help from Createspace and it was a joke. The second time, I worked with a partnership publisher and just gave the cover artist my thoughts on what the cover should look like. Same thing the third time around. And the fourth, I hired a professional cover artist (thank you Molly!) and it came out perfect. All I did was tell her about something I liked that she had in a pre-made cover, a little about the story, and the main characters. The rest, she did.
So, I’ll ask again. Which book did you pick up?
You don’t have to tell me, I already know.
At this point, you may be asking yourself what makes a great cover? If you are, ask yourself the following questions.
Is it eye-grabbing?
Is it appropriate for the genre?
Is it legible? Is the font too big? Blurry? Can you read the title clearly? Is the color off?
Does it relate to your story?
Does it stand out in the crowd? (Thousands upon thousands of books are released every day. What makes your story, your cover different?)
Does it say when, where, why?
If you are confident that your cover screams all of the above, then do a poll. Don’t be afraid to ask the public (readers or even other authors) for their opinions.
Nearly every author has a newsletter. Something that they send out when they have big news to share, like a cover reveal. Or that goes out monthly with updates about their lives, their writing, and information on signings and upcoming releases. No matter what they talk about, we sign up for these things because we like being in the know.
So, at my last signing, with a push from one of my friends (she shall remain nameless, she knows who she is), I got in line with the down and dirty. And I set one up.
I cover all kinds of things from upcoming authors to books I recommend, writing tips, plus I talk about a little bit about my life, works, and what is going on in my two worlds. Plus, I mention any upcoming events that I’ll be participating in and any sales. As a bonus, I’m giving away a free short story if you sign-up. Click here for more details.
With all the writing I’ll be doing and the books I’ll be working on over the next year, being a part of this newsletter will become super important. Like most authors, subscribers of the newsletter get things FIRST. Cover reveals, book blurbs, giveaways. It’s almost like being in the land of Oz.
So, follow the yellow brick road if you dare, sign up for my newsletter and claim your free story here.
According to Stephen King, a writer’s space requires only one thing, “a door which you are willing to shut.” But as writers we all know that this isn’t always how it works out. Ideas strike at the most inconvenient of times—driving, taking a shower, going to bed, or even hanging out with friends. Yes, we all aren’t the hermits we pretend to be. Believe it or not we aren’t always glued to the computer/tablet/laptop focused on our current, next, and next to next project. Probably why ideas erupt in the manner in which they do.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have our own personal writing space. It just may not get used all the time. Though that is more likely due to the fact that it is often an organized mess.
Yes, I said that correctly. Our office space is typically in disarray, but we know exactly where everything, in that lump you call chaos, is. I know it may seem impossible, but trust me it isn’t. I know that there is an ongoing stack of business cards for other authors I have met over the last few years on my desk. And I can tell you exactly where it is.
Okay, that isn’t always true. And that is why it our desks are chaotic. The fact is that our minds are constantly working at warp speed, so we focus more on the notes we need to jot down for that next to next to next project we want to work on. Yeah, it may be four books away, but those are notes we will absolutely need to refer back to later. So it’s more important that we get that information down now so we don’t forget it instead of fretting over where the pen should actually go.
Despite all this, when we do use our “writing space” we follow one rule.
This goes back to what Stephen King said about the door. A writer’s space should have a door. This allows the writer to shut the world out and give all their attention to writing.
Here’s the thing. Back then it was important to have that physical space, however since then authors have learned to adapt. (Another reason our “desks” are cluttered.) Because ideas strike at will, it is a strategic move for a writer to perfect the art of “spacing out.” That is what it may look like to an outside audience when in actuality the author’s mind is simply working.
We no longer need a space of our own. We can write practically anywhere. The corner of the couch. Coffee shop while absentmindedly staring at people. At the park while the dogs play. The car in the middle of traffic (yes, we are probably the idiot that caused that back-up to begin with). At the bookstore while identifying at least ten books we need to add to our endless TBR list. During football practice with perfectly timed whoops and hollers of support.
The list goes on and on. When authors like Stephen King wrote, it was necessary to shut that door. In the age of digital, we have figured out the door is more mental than it is physical.
Book advertisements are everywhere. They flood your social media accounts all day long. And if the author is a big name, like James Patterson, you might even see a commercial for whatever new release that author has coming out.
Something about the book catches your attention. The cover, the blurb, or maybe it’s an author you’ve read before and you just enjoy their work. Whatever the reason, you go out and buy the book. (And we thank you for that!)
A day or so later, maybe a couple weeks later you sit down and read that book. Then you get to the end and the author asks for one more thing—a review. You LOVED the book, so sure, you’ll go out and post a review.
But what if you HATED the book? Or it just wasn’t one of your favorites? Or maybe it was just okay?
Do you still leave a review?
The other day I was on Facebook and another author asked this very question. Except they were asking as one author to another.
To me, the short answer is yes. I don’t believe it should make a difference if you’re a reader or an author. No matter what—You. Leave. A. Review.
Sadly, there were a lot of authors that disagreed with me. Most of the responses I read stated that if they couldn’t leave a 5 star review, then they didn’t leave a review at all.
That’s more harmful than helpful.
We all know that reviews don’t just help with ranking for both the author and the book, but they also help readers. The problem is that there is an assumption that a bad review will turn readers away. This isn’t necessarily true.
Just look at E.L. James. The writing was atrocious. Not to mention all the negativity garnered from those who practice BDSM. If that doesn’t make you think, then take a look at the reviews. At least 27% of those who reviewed the first book rated it 3 stars or less. Yet the author still sold millions of books, plus got all three books turned into movies.
Still not convinced?
Okay, then think about it like this. Traffic is moving slow on the highway. You have no idea why until about two miles later where you see a car pulled off to the side of the road. On the other side of that vehicle, everything is moving at normal speed. Why was it slow to begin with?
Because it is in our nature as humans to LOOK. We absolutely, positively must slow down to see what is going on.
The same is true for a negative review. We stop and we read the review. Are you convinced by one bad review that a book isn’t good? Or do you check out another review? And maybe a third review? After all, can it be THAT bad when it looks so good?
If that ONE review is the only bad review you see, I guarantee you’re going to buy that book if everything else about the book appeals to you. Because you absolutely have to decide for yourself.