This Business of Writing

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Tips on How to Build Blog Readership

In General Information, Marketing Your Book on December 17, 2009 at 9:34 am

A couple of readers asked if I might post an article about how to increase readership of a blog and today’s the day. There are a thousand things you might do to increase readership, but let’s focus on some basic ideas even those new to blogging can initiate.

Determine why you’re doing this. You’ll spend time, energy, forethought and effort. And it helps to know what is it you wish to gain for this endeavor? If you have no goal in mind, why even spend the time? In my case, I want people to recognize my name so when my book is published, I’ll have a market already established.

Determine your target audience. Once you’ve determined your goal, determine your target audience and make that target a restively small group – a niche. Don’t even try to have the world read your blog. They won’t do it. Instead, aim for a realistic number – a niche. A niche market is one interesting in a single subject. More than six billion readers are available to you and even the guy who focuses on the chemical makeup of the pecan shell can find a million followers. There will be plenty of people interested in what you have to say. Identify your market and shoot for it, ignoring everyone else. In my case, I want aspiring authors to read my articles so to gain a bit of notoriety within my industry.

A blog is not about you, it’s about them. After you’ve established your goal and audience, then you must determine what it is they wish to know. Focus your blog on what THEY want to know. A potential reader must immediately understand what is in it for them. Your articles must have some sort of value to the reader or they won’t take their time. Consider this, I write to writers. If my articles were about cooking, how many writers do you think I would attract? (Here’s a secret – they don’t want to know about you.)

Next, consider the design of your blog. When you look at my blog, it’s quite minimalistic, on purpose. In fact, the one of the most common compliments I receive is the easy to read design. You should design yours based on your audience. If your market is young, say in their teens, it should be flashy, with color and motion. An older crowd would prefer something more staid.

Make people aware of your site. Joining communities is one way to do this. In my case, writers use social networking. So, I followed my audience. I set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Scribd and Ning then mention my articles. If they find a title interesting to them, they’ll click through to my site and, with a bit of luck, tell others about it. Learn the social networking end of it first and you’ll be well on your way. Though there are a thousand ways to make people aware of your site, but they are outside the scope of this article.

Write well. If your writing looks amateurish, you’ll not be able to develop credibility with readers and they’ll move on.  You don’t have to master the skills of Tolstoy, but you should learn how to write with skill. The occasional typo won’t kill your blog, but too many will.

Allow your personality to show through in your blog. Some say you must have something unique to say. Not so. I’ll bet there aren’t a dozen blog with truly exclusive concepts. In lieu of being one-of-a-kind, be you. Your audience numbers in the billions so you’ll find plenty who appreciate how you say what you say. However, you should keep profanity and vulgarity to a minimum. It ain’t as cool as you think.

Okay, my friends, this is your primer on building blog readership. In later postings, I’ll get into some more detailed methodologies.

Until then, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

The Monkey is on Your Back

In General Information, Marketing Your Book on December 15, 2009 at 9:05 am

We, as novel writers, have had more than just a monkey jump on our backs. The proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla has landed with both feet. I’m talking, of course, about how writers are now their own publicity agents, in contrast to the “good ol’ days.”

If you are among the flattered few who sign a contract with a publisher, the odds of him putting money into marketing your work are nil. And what is the net result of this? If you want to sell your book, you are the marketing agent.

Many authors write a sterling book but simply don’t have the money, time or personality to market and sell their work. But really, how many of us have the cash lying around to purchase that full-page ad in the Times? We, therefore, must look to other, less expensive, avenues with which to market our books.

You remember the old saw that you must spend money to make money? The good news is that is no longer true. Today, marketing can be almost free if you utilize the blogosphere and other virtually free methodologies. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you need to learn how to leverage the Internet and effectively use Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, WordPress and the like. The Internet is your answer, at least early in your novel writing career.

These days you must, and please note the word, “must”, delve into these new technologies to succeed as an author. Even if you have a publisher, he’ll insist you develop what is called a platform and reach out to touch people with these 21st century tools. So, get used to it, face the music and bite that bullet. Pick your cliché, but just do it, jump in with both feet and learn how to reach your buying public by building your platform. If truth be told, it’s amazing how many people you can touch with these techniques.

Devote a couple of hours a day to this and, regardless the size of your wallet or the time you have available, you’ll be amazed at the huge audience you can develop.

Until then, good writing and I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

To Pay, or Not to Pay?

In Editing Your Manuscript, General Information, Working with Agents on December 14, 2009 at 8:35 am

There is a controversy I run across quite often as speak to writers of various genres. That is, do you pay someone to edit your books? As with many questions, there are two sides to the answer. Some say, “Under no circumstances!” Others fell there is, “No problem!”

It’s my opinion, and many will disagree with me, the answer is, “No problem – with a caveat.” And that caveat is dependent upon your goals.

The ARA, (The Association of Author’s Representatives, Inc.), is the accepted governing body for those employed in the world of literary agentry. Membership in this association is voluntary and many agents join and accept the association’s ethical guidelines. Others choose not to do so, though this does not indicate an agent is unethical. The policies of the ARA, as it regards reading fees, stipulates,

“…literary agents should not charge clients and potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works in the ordinary course of business.”

Another aspect to this controversy is a good agent will, in one way or another, see that your manuscript is edited, again for no fee. In contrast, a freelance editor will charge for the same work.

As mentioned, your individual answer depends upon your goal in the matter. In the case of an agent, he works on commission and is paid only when he sells your manuscript. They are salespeople who choose which products, (books), they wish to represent and then see them into the hands of publishers. The freelance editor, in contrast, is paid upfront and charges by the word or page.

I think this is where all the confusion about paying people to edit your manuscripts originates.

In my mind, “reading fees” are very different from editing fees. Reading fees means they charge you to study your material and determine if they wish to represent your work. Editing fees is an entirely different concept whereas the editor charges to help prepare your work for submission to an agent or publisher. Therein you find the difference between the two.

In my case, I was new to writing and I hired my editor as an instructor. I understood my lack of skills and sought an effective method to learn them. A freelance editor gave me those lessons. As I read, (and reread and reread), her suggestions, I began to see the realistic application of the craft of writing. It was from her I learned the basics of the craft and, in my case, paying to edit my manuscript substituted for years of formal education. I still had, and have, much to learn, but she got me moving in the right direction.

After sending my original manuscript out to seek representation, all of my many queries were turned down except one to a specific agent. He sounded enthusiastic about my novel and said he’d take on my book if I’d use his in-house editing staff to put it into publishing condition. Of course, this service was offered for a fee. This requested fee was unethical. He didn’t say my work still needed editing and to get back to him when it was complete. He said he’d see it done internally. This requested fee was my red flag.

An agent may appreciate your manuscript, but before they represent it they may feel it needs additional editing. They may even name three or four freelance editors they trust. However, they should never charge for editing “in-house,” nor should they receive a kick-back from any of the editors they recommend without your prior approval.

My answer to this question? If you want to learn the craft of writing or to improve your chances of representation, a freelance editor might be a wise choice. If you don’t wish to go that route, an agent who charges fees is perhaps unethical.

Now, who among you will argue with me?

Best of luck with your writing and know I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of Born to be Brothers

How to Create a Plot Outline

In The Craft of Writing on December 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

Recently a reader on Scribd.com asked if I might offer some insight as to how to outline the plot of a word of fiction. I’m glad to help.

I know of two methods by which you can outline the plot of a novel. My favorite is known as The Hero’s Journey. It’s a method by which you identify twelve major activities the hero must undergo in your story. The other is a five-step method where you perform the same task, but focus only on the most important aspects of your story. I’ve outlined the two methods below.

The Hero’s Journey, those twelve steps your hero must face, are defined in its most simplistic form as follows:

  1. Ordinary World – Your hero’s life prior to beginning his quest
  2. Call to Adventure – The event that tells your hero a major life change is approaching
  3. Refusal of the Call – Your hero’s attempt to ignore or forestall the Call to Adventure
  4. Meeting the Mentor – Your hero meets the premier person who will assist him on his quest
  5. Crossing the Threshold – Your hero moves away from his life and onto his quest
  6. Test, Allies and Enemies – The people your hero meets who aid or hinder him during his quest
  7. Approach to the Innermost Cave – Your hero stands on the precipice of fighting his villain
  8. The Supreme Ordeal – Your hero fights your villain
  9. Reward – Your hero receives some sort of treasure for defeating the villain
  10. Journey Home – Your hero travels home and combats additional, lesser villains
  11. Resurrection – Your hero proves worthy of the treasure he has received
  12. Return with Elixir – Your hero reaches his home and received the accolades due him

The Five-Step Method is loosely defined as follows:

  1. Identify your main characters then establish the setting and decide upon the major point of conflict around which your major characters will revolve.
  2. Create the building action. In effect, you place your protagonist in the position where he must take some sort of action to quell the conflict you’ve established.
  3. Bring the conflict in your story to a head. Here the conflict rises to the point of its highest emotion.
  4. Lower the emotional level for your reader and your hero. Any loose ends are tied up and your story is moved toward its conclusion.
  5. Define the formal conclusion of your plot arc or your story.

You can see the similarities between these two systems. I prefer The Hero’s Journey as it, to me, insures you don’t miss any critical scenes. Regardless which method you use, after you’ve created the basic storyline, flesh out those events you need to lead your hero from step one to twelve, or one to five if you prefer.

By first outlining your story and constructing those steps that must take place to move your story forward, you’ll enhance your chances of creating a well-structured and well-received story.

I wish you the best with this and if you have any questions, please post them in a comment. I’ll be glad to help.

Until my next post, I wish you best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Tips on Developing Plot

In The Craft of Writing on December 10, 2009 at 9:17 am

Plot, according to Aristotle, is “the arrangement of incidents” that follow one after the other in logical order. Plot is the turning points of your story.

There are five basic plots from which you may choose. They are:

Man against nature – “War of the Worlds”

Man against man – Any Bruce Willis movie

Man against the environment – “The Day After Tomorrow”

Man against technology – “I Robot”

Man against religion – “The Da Vinci Code”

When you break down your story, it will fall into one of these major categories. (If it does not, please let me know about it.)

Your plot, the way you develop your story, will have four components or plot elements. They are:

Exposition: The basic information needed to comprehend the story

Complication: The mechanism that introduces the primary conflict point in your story

Climax: The turning point at which your characters solve this primary conflict

Resolution: The series of events that bring your story to its conclusion

To create a persuasive plot you might consider the following tips.

Great plot is all about the conflict and the conflict is all about denial. Identify what your hero desires, then deny him that want. If your story lacks this fundamental, you have no conflict and your plot falls apart.

Think about the way you wish to design your plot. Can you create an unusual way to tell your story? Will you use flashbacks? Should you tell the story from a different point of view? Will your story be character driven, as in a coming-of-age story, or plot driven as in most thrillers? Should your plot be complex or simplistic? (Thrillers are typically more complex than a coming-of-age story, for example.) Imagine your plot if laid out in various ways and determine which works best for your story. Whichever technique you choose, remember it’s the conflict and characters’ passions that make your plot work.

Allow your plot to advance on its own. Each scene should follow naturally from the prior scene. Though they may be out of sequence chronologically, their order must make sense to your reader.

As you advance your plot, your “arrangement of incidents”, each such incident should escalate the conflict for your hero. Conflict should always be increasing. If it does not, the plot will not move forward.

Your characters should add to the plot’s development. That means events don’t just happen to them. They are instrumental in making the plot move forward. They change the “arrangement of incidents” by their own actions and motivations.

Your resolution need not be orderly. In reality, it often works best if it is not. As long as you present your reader with a final emotional release by way of your plot, they’ll be happy.

If you take your time and develop an effective plot, your efforts will go a long way toward making your novel a success.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight one method for outlining an effective plotline.

Until we again cross paths, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze