This Business of Writing

Posts Tagged ‘novel’

Why I Will Self-Publish – Probably.

In General Information, Marketing Your Book, The Craft of Writing, Working with Agents on April 7, 2010 at 7:04 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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I’m about to finalize my decision as to how I am will sell my emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.” With that in mind, I must soon decide if I am to self-publish and endure all that entails or face the gauntlet of the publishing industry and all the rest that comes with that. (We have not chosen an easy industry, have we folks?

I see advantages with either scenario and I also see drawbacks with both. However, the more educated I become on the subject, the more it seems it is in my best interest is to go it alone. Here’s my train of thought. Please so advise if you disagree. I am open to an honest discussion on the matter.

Agents:

I like the idea of an agent who represents me and feel I have the capability to find a quality agent. That part doesn’t concern me. I really don’t like the process of how they choose the writers they represent. No, I agree with the query process. After all, even writers need a resume. What tweaks my cheeks is their query restrictions. One minor, unintended error that has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, and you’re only opportunity to have them read your resume is lost. Don’t get me wrong, they have to do this. I understand and even agree. I just don’t like it. I also consider how once I find the proper agent for me, will I be the proper author for them? The odds are quite limited. Why hang my future on such low odds when I have other options? However, the real rub? After I’m through with the exhaustive experience of agenting, then I have to deal with the pub houses.

Publishing Houses:

Publishing houses do ease, though not guarantee, entry into the brick and mortars, which are the premier distribution channel for the writing industry – for now. However, distribution is their only remaining asset of any real worth and with the explosion of technology, I see their grip on distribution slip with each day that passes. In fact, I believe the Internet is about to leave them in the dust and take over their monopoly with distribution. Amazon, a technology company, even affects their sales model. That’s not a sign that instills confidence in me relative to their strength or ever their stability within the writing world.

Another major issue I have with pub houses is they’ll hire some salesman who MAY give my book a ten second pitch. If he wants to. Honestly? I want that salesman to answer to me, not some conglomerate who sees me not as a customer but as a product. Again, I understand and have no solution for them, I just don’t like the system.

Further, there’s almost no chance for an advance, which means I work on commission – a commission based not on my productivity but some unknown salesman’s capability. Now, I’ve worked on commission before and made a bunch of money doing it. But I either held the salesman’s position or the salesman worked directly for me. Under their arrangement, I’ll most likely never even meet this person, let alone develop a relationship with him. And yet, my career hinges on his efforts. It’s a scary thought to someone like me who has always pulled up his own boots.

The pub houses will not assist with marketing, so that effort and expense lies with me regardless.

The pub houses sometimes offer editing services, but even that benefit is dying. Plus, I can purchase that service on the open market and have a say in whom I hire. They do have book cover design services and that’s nice, but I give up all control over how they present what, in the final analysis, is my work. Further, I can purchase that service on the outside at a reasonable price and maintain total control.

Something else of which I do not approve? The publishing industry is absolutely subjective and good novels are lost all the time to this limiting aspect. Again, I do understand and it can be no other way, but that also dilutes my potential to a great degree. Again, I could lose not on my abilities, but on a stranger’s tastes or even their emotions of the moment.

This whole process just does not send that proverbial tingle up my leg.

So as I see it, to work with a major pub house, I give up a huge portion of my potential profits in exchange for little more than a diminished distribution system based primarily upon old technology? Hum…

Self-Publishing:

I do have one advantage most writers do not. I’ve owned and operated my own businesses since the days of paper boys with bicycles. I’m experienced with going it alone and I’m comfortable with the idea. I will admit this aspect of who I am influences me a great deal.

The major drawback to self-publishing? All the issues rest with me. I don’t worry too much as I’ve been a business decision maker my entire adult life, so making these kind of judgments are sort of par for the course.

Cost. It’s a big issue. However, it won’t break the bank, so it’s not too large of an issue. Besides, my wife is on board, so the real hurdle is already crossed.

Marketing. This is a major issue with those who self-publish and beyond the well-written novel itself, it’s the meat and potatoes of success. However, I’ve been self-employed and marketing since I my tenth birthday. Though the cost of it is a consideration, the Internet has supplanted much of that cost. I can work up copy, build web sites, use social networking and all the rest. I’ve even got contacts.

Product: I do believe I’ve got my breakout novel in hand and am convinced my novel will sell with correct marketing. It’s a great story and the narrative is well written and well edited. In fact, I dare say it’s better than most books the pub houses crank out. I know… I know… we all feel that way about our babies, but I’ve written two stinkers, so I’ve got somewhat of a handle on good vs. bad. This one is good.

Publishers: I’m not too worried about that. I’m good enough at research and I’ll find a good print shop with benefits, which is really all they are. I used to own a wholesale print shop, so I have a feel for what to look for.

Editing: I’ve got a relationship with an excellent editor who is reasonably priced and brutally honest with me. Besides, I’ve grown into a pretty good editor myself over the years.

Book Cover Design: Graphic artists are everywhere and some are even reasonably priced. Besides, I’ve got some great ideas and I’d like to see them fleshed out.

Distribution. Now here’s the other of the three big issues which also included cost and marketing. Again, I’ll forgo the brick and mortars for the Internet any day. The B & M’s are a dying breed and the Internet allows me to get my marketing message into almost every home in the English-speaking world. I’ll have a worldwide market, which includes their customers. So again, marketing is the secret to distribution. By the way, have you noticed the B & M’s now sell the very products that will either kill their business model or force them to become something other than a book store? “Here’s yer sign.”

Profit potential? I’ve worked up a business plan and feel I’m actually ahead with self-publishing. Especially when you consider the digital end of things. I’ll not have the overhead the pub houses do so my business plan gives me an huge edge when I keep all the profits rather than some small percentage. I retired from the business of coaching other businesspeople and did so for many years. I have confidence in my plan.

So, that’s my way of thinking on this important writing decision. I challenge you to show me where I’m wrong.

In the mean time, how ‘bout some referrals to self-pub houses that have impressed you?

Thanks for your help.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


15 Tips for Character Names in Novels

In General Information, How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 6, 2010 at 7:43 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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Here’s an interesting tidbit I picked up at a writers’ conference some years ago. The most important word in our language is your first name. The second most important word, some say is, “free,” though I believe it’s, “no.” Regardless, think of how you feel when you meet someone for the second time and they say, “Oh! Hi, uh, you. Nice to see, uh, you again.” Now, how might you feel if they insert your name into that same greeting? “Oh! Hi, Patrick. Nice to see you again.” Our names carry so much power within them, and so to do the names of your novel’s characters.

Names are as important as any other word in your novel for they can bind your reader to the character and the story. With that in mind, here are some tips to assist you with your character names.

Serendipity is your friend. If a name works, well, it works. Trust your intuition.

If you’d like, you can name your characters for what they represent. “Butch” the butcher? Maybe, but be smart about it and don’t overdo.

Find a book of names and consider the symbolism within the name. Though I hope I never meet the nun named Chastity.

It’s probably best to use one or two syllables for a man’s name. On occasion, woman can get away with more. Generally, it’s best to keep them simple. Why? Because nobody wants to keep reading names like Bilbonicofillia.

You might want to use only one exotic name per novel, if that. They get real weird real fast.

Try to find names that roll off the tongue.

You might consider a character’s name a snapshot of their personality or possibly even their purpose within your novel. For example, you might not name your murderer Sally Jones but Sal “The Blade” Jones might work just fine.

Remember there were no surnames prior to the 12th Century. After that, people were named for their place of birth. Remember Joan of Arc or Leonardo de Vinci – of Venice? After too many women with the name Joan inhabited Arc, they began to name people after their professions, which is the point of origin for many contemporary surnames. Some examples include Smith from black or white smithing, Felling after a tree cutter and even my name, Schulze, which means cop or judge in medieval German.

Insure your character’s name is appropriate for your setting, the time and place of your story. There are ample websites to help you here. In my case, I write historical fiction set in the mid 19th century. So, I walk Civil War cemeteries and take names from the headstones. Talk about accuracy! I combine the first name from one marker and the last from another. Works every time. By the way, here’s a site that’ll help. www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames.

I recommend you stay away from cute. How many Bambi’s have you really met?

Consider if you might shy away from character names with similar letters and spellings. If two characters have similar names, Tom and Thom, for example, readers can lose track quite easily.

Avoid Alliteration. At least use it with care. It too, can have a negative effect on readers. Can it work? Of course. Bilbo Baggins is a great example.

Don’t name fictional characters after famous people. Tom and Jerry will simply give your readers the wrong hook.

You might wish to stay away from names that end in “s.” Erasmus’s sour samples… See my point?

Here’s one you’ll thank me for one day. Keep a file of names you run across that strike you.

How can you be sure if you’ve chosen the correct name for a character? You might try this. Say your character’s name as if you spoke to him first in jest, then anger and then as one in love. Does the name work in each of these situations? If so, you’ve most likely named them well.

Would you care to tell us how you choose your characters’ names? I’ll share them with everyone if you pass them along.

Whether you do or not, I hope by now you know I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”

The Key to Your Author’s Platform

In blogging, General Information, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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The word, “platform” is bandied about these days as one of those many things an aspiring author is required to have. So what is an “author’s platform?” Here’s your quick definition. Your platform is nothing more mysterious then how you get the word out about your book. It’s how you market your novel. Or, as they describe in this associated ARTICLE, it is “your writing and publishing resume.”

The good news? A platform is within the reach of everyone who works at it. The bad? It takes time and effort to establish your platform.

The next question, of course, is why does someone writing a novel need one of these things? The initial answer is obvious. It helps you reach your target audience, those who will purchase your novel. And that is why you’re writing, right? Also, for good or bad, your platform gives you a leg up on garnering the interest of agents. If you think from the agent’s perspective, he gets paid only when your novel sells. So, he wants to know you already have a list of book buyers interested in your novel. The larger your platform, the better the chances an agent will represent you. The same thing applies to those who decide to self-publish. You’ll sell more books if you’ve developed a ready audience of novel buyers. It really is all about the money.

Now that I’ve mentioned money, if you’re smart about what you do, you can develop your platform for very little financial input. Though they could help, you don’t need expensive newspaper and radio ads. Neither is it required you find some wealthy benefactor to support you. (Boy, wouldn’t that be nice?) The fact is, most tools an aspiring author needs to build a platform are free or nearly so. Money should not be your stumbling block.

What might you do to create your author’s platform? As Joanna Penn says in her ARTICLE, “there is no magic bullet.” But here is a primer on how to get started.

Develop an email contact list. Every person with whom you come in contact is a potential book buyer. Get their email address and keep in contact. There are all sorts of programs for this, such as Constant Contact or even ACT! (No, I’m not a paid endorser of either.) However, this is one of your best tools with which to build your platform.

Here’s another idea, and one I appreciate. Write Articles. Like this one, for example. Create a blog and post your articles. This establishes credibility and offers people an opportunity to learn how you write, to experience your writer’s voice and so on. It allows them to get to know you.

You may also wish to join and utilize various social networking sites. Those you should consider include Twitter and Facebook.

Another optimum step is to publish and optimize your web site. This is your premier sales tool.

Secure testimonials. This can be daunting for many, I know, but there is nothing like word of mouth to get your platform cranking. Often when people read those articles you write, they’ll give you testimonials on their own. They leave them in the comment section of your blog. In fact, I’ll ask you to leave a testimonial when you’ve finished reading this article. Will you do that for me? (See how easy that is?)

Another option to consider is to publish a newsletter and send it those people who follow you throughout your various digital incarnations.

Don’t forget to utilize Amazon.com and its many tools. It’s a marvelous site to develop your writing platform.

There are any number of other ways to build your platform and you might look to THIS post by Rachelle Gardner for ideas from other successful authors.

As I close, allow me to offer one telling statistic I received from a very successful author here in Richmond. He told me only 6% of the people who came to his book signings found out about him from his efforts with traditional ads. 94% come from his social media contact work. So, you now have the key. Go open some doors.

Best of luck in your efforts to create your platform and drop a line if you have any questions.

I hope you know by now I wish for you only bestsellers!

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”


How to Write a Mystery Novel

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 2, 2010 at 8:15 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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Mystery novels are one of the most widely read genres but are novels nonetheless. Therefore, a mystery novel needs all the fundamental elements every other novel requires. Mystery novels require a well written storyline, a sympathetic hero, a villain, effective dialogue and all the rest. However, a mystery novel requires one thing other novels do not, the proverbial “twist.” That’s the unexpected yet interesting and logical conclusion.

The secret to a mystery novel is to make your reader believe they know what is going on, when in fact, they do not. After all, they are called mystery novels for a reason.

It’s often best to figure out your plot, then write to your characters. That means to first decide what type of mystery novel you’ll write. Is it a ghost story, a murder mystery or maybe a story about a baffling disappearance? You can’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going. Next, you might want to decide on your twist. Then give serious consideration to an outline. You’ll need to incorporate a few false leads or red herrings and a well thought outline will keep these on track. You’ll also have to plant all those subtle clues and your outline will assist you from missing or misplacing any of your evidence.

Once this is in place, consider the following concepts about mystery novels:

  1. You should introduce your mystery early. This means within the first fifty pages or three chapters. It’s a flexible rule, but you get the point.
  2. Ensure you make your criminal and crime relate to each other. You’ll never convince your reader it was the grandmother who strafed the politicians in an F-22 Raptor.
  3. Have your criminal appear early in your novel. Give your readers an opportunity to figure out who done it. They’ll be wrong, of course, but they don’t need to know that until the very end.
  4. You’ll want your crime to be credible and accurate. People are critical these days so don’t give them a reason to tell others your novel isn’t believable.
  5. Ensure your facts are accurate. Visit police departments, PIs and the like. Make friends of these people for they know the truth of their industries. Check out the FBI’s home page and read “A Writer’s Guide to Poisons” by Serita Stevens, if it fits your novel. Do whatever you must to become an expert in the field in which you write. I met one writer who wrote a mystery that required the use of birds of prey, so he became a falconer. As they say, no sacrifice too small.
  6. Keep away from supernatural sleuthing capabilities. (Yes, there are exceptions to this.) In general however, your reader must feel the tools and techniques the crime solver uses are at least reasonably authentic.
  7. Don’t employ luck or chance as a method of solving the crime. Give your readers an opportunity to figure it out for themselves.
  8. Create a clever ending. The reader expects to be at least fulfilled, if not shocked, by the ending.
  9. Always keep the “fair-play” rule in mind. Your reader should have a reasonable chance of solving the mystery for themselves. That’s not to say they can’t be mislead by a red herring or two, but they need to know everything, just as the detective does.

So, are there any mystery writers out there with other advice for our readers?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


9 Essentials for Writing Your Climactic Scene

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 2, 2010 at 8:03 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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Every novel requires that final, explosive scene where the protagonist and his villain struggle with each other to the certain demise of one or the other. It matters not if you hero is a working mother trying to make ends meet, or the commander of the forces ready to invade Omaha Beach on D-Day. Every novel should have this climactic scene and you should consider certain criteria to make it as powerful as you can.

Here are nine tips to help you when writing that all-important scene.

This scene should be an epic confrontation with a clear winner and a clear loser. Someone gets the girl and someone goes home from the party by himself.

Your hero must confront his most worthy of adversaries. Secondary evil doers simply won’t do. Make this clash between the biggest and baddest.

Your reader expects your hero to win and so he should. However, his victory need not be what they expect. Regardless the sour taste of your hero’s success, a victory he should have.

Your hero should win something of value for his trials. It could be the realization that “The Girl” just ain’t worth the work, or it may be real estate garnered by an incredible battle. Whatever he learns or wins, it must make him a better person, or creature, as the case may be.

In this scene it is not the time for surprise arrivals of any sort. The cavalry, in any of its many forms, should not jump into the story at this point. All that should be set up earlier in your novel.

Have your hero save himself. Imagine if your hero is fighting the villain in hand-to-hand combat and just as the bad guy puts the sword to his throat, an unmentioned meteor streaks from the sky to obliterate the bad guy in a magnificent blaze of fire. Don’t you think your readers will be disappointed in that? Now, that’s not to say the beautiful model can’t Kung Fu in and save him earlier in the story, but at this time, he’s on his own.

There should be no flashbacks at this point in your novel. Flashbacks are tough anyway, but they break the tension and can kill the entire scene. Once the scene opens, focus on the conflict in that scene. Your readers’ interest should be at its peak and they deserve a healthy portion of suspense, action and conflict.

Speaking of action and conflict, this scene should be resolved with action and conflict. Let them duke it out, metaphorically, emotionally or physically, but get the tussle going. Make this thing as exciting as you can. (For more information on the difference between action and conflict, read this ARTICLE.)

Clarification of anything is death to this scene. This is the time for action and your readers should have already received any explanations they need, although mysteries might get away with this to a point.

And finally, this scene should end in a rational fashion. Make it suspenseful, but logical. You never want your readers to say, “Don’t buy it,” at the end of your story. If they do, they’ll tell their friends the same thing; “Don’t buy it.”

Now, are there any aspects to the climactic scene I’ve forgotten?

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

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”