How horror gave romance a boost

I’m an all-weather reader, and although my escapist genre of choice is romance, I can read, evaluate and review almost anything. The only genre I’ll stay clear of is horror, and I’ll promptly explain why. About ten years ago, I collaborated with a Greek publishing house as a translator for an imprint called “Kolasi” (“Hell”). Yes, it was a horror imprint. The first book I was assigned to translate was “The Sleepless” by Graham Masterton. After dwelling in the author’s head for months, trying to twist my Greek words to serve his twisted vision of explicit torture and unimaginable physical pain, I decided I was done with that for life.

Now, when I started my author platform building, I thought that romance would be the most overpopulated genre in indie publishing. I was wrong. Soon, I found myself happily connecting with wonderful authors from all walks of writing life, and now the only criterion I apply when I move on from connection to actual interaction and “paying it forward” is quality online conduct and professionalism. So when Joseph Pinto, a horror writer, sent me a personalized DM, politely asking me to check out his horror short Apep, I did, although I was more interested in checking out Joseph’s writing skill than letting myself be exposed to the story’s basic elements. Truth be told, Apep is expertly written—poignant, evocative, graphic but not raw and very cleverly plotted. I ended up enjoying it and left a relevant comment with a disclaimer, which resulted in a brief and enjoyable banter between me and the writer, as you can see below.Joseph

Now, wanting to test Joseph’s claim that we shouldn’t be “pigeonholed” into one train of thought, I told him about “Web of Love”, the tiny Valentine story that I had recently published on Writersky. Joseph reciprocated, read it, talked it up in a tweet and the result? “Web of Love” became the most viewed story on the platform, exceeding 600 views! Well, it had been second most viewed, but it did need the extra boost. The irony? Up until then, the most read story was a horror piece!

Lesson learned: “Pay it forward” yields gold, even when you push yourself outside your comfort zone. The only currency you need is a well-honed instinct (not all people mean well), goodwill, and positive energy will start bouncing off walls!

If I piqued your interest, and you’re willing to read Apep, the link is here.

For a softer-toned, beautiful post written by Joseph Pinto, read Wings.

If you have your own “pay it forward” success stories, I’d love to hear them.

Thank you for reading.

5 ways new writers can chase away potential readers

5 ways Canva (2)This post is from a reader’s point of view. With just one complete (unpublished) manuscript and so much to learn, it would be presumptuous of me to give advice to anyone as a writer. Although I may be very new to writing, blogging and platform building, my fifteen-year experience as a translation instructor (tons of proofreading) plus a seasoned reader’s mentality qualify me to form a solid opinion on both the quality of any text and its potential appeal to readers. I also consider myself a good “success gauge meter”: I voted for J. R. Ward’s Lover at Last and Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam in the Goodreads Choice Awards, and both titles won in their respective categories. I missed in the Paranormal Fantasy category, but I hadn’t read the winning title (Cold Days by Jim Butcher) so there you have it.

When I got myself a Twitter account and a blog, my first impulse was to connect with new writers like me. It was fairly easy to locate budding authors, newbies, and aspiring writers through their profiles and also through comments on relevant blog posts I read. Naturally, whenever I saw they had just taken the plunge and published their first book, I jumped at the opportunity to connect, thinking that maybe I could review their work and exchange knowledge and advice to our mutual benefit. More often than not, my enthusiasm didn’t last. Almost 50% of the new writers I located were—presence-wise—below par. By that I mean their blog writing (if any), their book blurb, book cover—you name it—was lacking. Even worse, the online behavior of some was totally off-putting, downright inappropriate even, making me move my cursor away from any suggested links or “Follow” buttons; one potential reader turned away, and I know I won’t be the only one. Now, I’m positive that’s the last thing any new writer wants. So why do they do it?

There’s a ton of free advice out there (free e-books, blogs, comments with useful links) and it’s easy to sift through it, determining what’s good and what’s not: the number of followers plus the commentators verifying a tip from their own experience is always a good indicator, so, again, why do people ignore all this and do their own thing at their own expense? The answer probably lies in an urge I also have and have to stomp my foot on: the need to rush and put your work out there for everybody to see. And it doesn’t necessarily stem from a get-rich-now attitude but rather from this sweet feeling of awe and pride at what you’ve accomplished and the wish to have others recognize and acknowledge your hard work. To quote successful author R. S. Guthrie from a guest post of his for Molly Greene’s amazing blog:

“Patience is tough. We are a society that needs instant gratification. Don’t. Need it, that is.”

Rushing it means: no proper editing (“my BFF has a degree in English, and she’ll do it for free!”); no proper beta reading (“my sister plus my BFF who has a degree cheered and raved!”); no proper social media training (“I’ll just auto DM [Direct Message] anyone who follows me with all my book links!”); and, yup, just a handful of readers (the sister and the BFF with the degree).

But this post focuses on how potential readers can turn away from new writers even before they sample their work. Based on my reaction, I’ve compiled a list of off-putting elements that can seriously reduce a new writer’s chances of building a solid platform—the keys for increased sales:

A blah blurb

Your book blurb has to capture attention from sentence one. Use keywords, sound bites, shape and mold it, keeping your target audience in mind—not your literary aspirations. “Brand” your book in a couple of sentences. If the blurb is neither here nor there, ending with “a blend of mythology, suspense and romance with horror elements” no one will even bother with the free excerpt. A debut novel should clearly fall under a specific genre, sub-genre or if it’s a hybrid, it should be well defined. Readers will stay away from books that are all over the place.

A botched bio

When you talk about yourself in a slapdash, disorganized way, even letting glaring grammar or spelling mistakes slip in, why would a reader think your book looks any different? Here’s an excerpt (info is edited out) from a first-time self-pub author’s profile:

“I was born in (a city). After school, I realized that sleepwalking through it wasn’t a great idea. Soon realizing that I needed an education. From the 1990s I worked for (a company): where I ended up as an analyst. But here’s the thing: I always wanted to write so I wrote two books in my spare time. Both were rejected by the agents I sent them to.”

You’re probably finding yourself inadvertently sympathizing with agents—who would’ve thought?—even though you haven’t laid eyes on the poor writer’s actual work! On what grounds should a reader give his published book a shot when all he’s highlighted here is his incompetence?

So, even if you’ve never been outside your home town and lead a seemingly uninteresting life, if you define yourself as an aspiring writer, surely you can find a clever way to talk yourself up. Hobbies, volunteer work, cute pets, guilty pleasures and wild aspirations all offer author insights that will make readers like youa good step before deciding whether to try out your work. “I don’t do drama; I only write it” is the way Janice G. Ross defines herself on her Twitter profile (@JGRWriter). My next click was on her site link.

If you still can’t come up with anything, check your favorite authors’ bios for ideas.

An unsightly cover

Clashing colored patterns, stock photos slapped together, weird fonts; don’t go by the “don’t judge a book by its cover” adage. Stick to the “make a good first impression” one instead. I rarely bother with a book if the cover is uninspiring, and I can admit to having bought lots of “ugly” books just because of the pretty cover (okay, the catchy blurb too). So try asking your beta readers’ and editor’s opinion before sticking with your personal choice.

Irritating or needy tweets

The first tweet the “botched bio” guy sent me was an ad about a male escort service. Seriously. He hadn’t even bothered to check that I live on a different continent. He wasn’t even promoting his own stuff (or was he? *shivers*), but tweets of the pushy/needy type abound—especially auto DM services with links to authors’ blogs, pages etc. I’m the last person to wag a finger here, as I actually did that for about a week to whomever followed me until I was told by a valid source it is considered annoying. To be absolutely honest, I don’t personally find auto DMs annoying as I still have a manageable flow of new followers, but what if the super-popular writer or blogger you DM gets dozens of similar messages daily? Most likely they’ll ignore you when what you really want is to get on the good side of those “big fishes”.

The best thanks-for-the-follow tweet I’ve received was from Joseph Amiel (yes, the best-selling author!) who wrote: “@mmjaye Thx for the follow by the writer of (upcoming) FATE ACCOMPLIS.” I thought it was brilliant; you thank but also offer basic info on your new follower that might entice your own followers. This way, you show that you care and share, and that you are a giver. I’ve found that’s the operative word in the game of platform building. (Update: To get a clearer picture on how DMs can really irritate a successful tweep, scroll down to the comments’ section and read Nat Russo’s comment.)

Your BFF’s Amazon reviews

I saw a tweet the other day proclaiming an indie author’s debut novel “the most amazing thriller ever!” based on its reviews, and I clicked on its Amazon link where, indeed, four raving reviews were posted. Now, my seasoned reader’s mentality has made me suspicious so what I did next was to check what other books the reviewers had rated. Guess what? The “most amazing thriller ever” was the only book they’d ever reviewed! Now isn’t it obvious that these four persons went through the review process trying to support a friend? As commendable as this may be, the end result was that I didn’t think they were being objective so I passed.

What I plan on doing when that blessed time comes to ask for reviews is to go to friends I’ve made through my platform building with a strong presence in either Amazon or Goodreads—people whose reviews carry some weight with readers. But even if I turn to personal friends for a review, I will kindly ask them to write a couple of brief reviews on other books they’ve recently read prior to posting their review of mine. If they’re good friends, they won’t say no. This way their inevitable—and much desired—raving will be more believable 😉

The bottom line is that no matter how good a writer you think you are, before taking the plunge, you have to invest months in studying things like market trends, codes of conduct, what works and what doesn’t, and the good news for the most part is that it won’t cost you a cent. Successful indie authors are more than willing to offer advice and support, and their blogs are an invaluable source of knowledge. Still, if you don’t trust a newbie’s word (and you shouldn’t), check out the following blogs of writers/bloggers (random order) who have been around for quite some time and know what they’re talking about. You only stand to gain.

Rachel Thompson – Rachel in the OC / BadReadhead Media

Joanna Penn – The Creative Penn

Joel Friedlander – The Book Designer

Molly Greene – Molly Greene’s Blog

Belinda Pollard – Small Blue Dog Publishing

Nat Russo – A Writer’s Journey

The list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. What would make you turn away from a new writer? I’d love to have your opinion on the matter as well as any additions to the above list you may wish to suggest.

 

Happy Valentine Week!

WoL smallLast weekend, I read about a short story contest requesting a 1,000-word Valentine-themed story. I had been thinking about writing a short story lately but never got around to doing it, so I thought why not? There is no sample of my fiction writing anywhere yet, so this was the perfect opportunity. Of course, since I’m the one to complicate things, I went for a five-character, three-POV story which was kind of challenging to squeeze into one thousand words, but somehow, after bouncing some ideas off my editor Christie Stratos, I did it. What I didn’t do was read the contest’s terms thoroughly; it was open only for US citizens. Total bummer, but only for a second, as the main reason I decided to enter was to create a short story that I’d be able to share which I had done, so no actual regrets.

As I was considering various options as to where I could publish it, I was followed by Writersky on Twitter. Writersky is a platform where a writer can share complete works or ongoing WIPs, excerpts, chapters, anything! Now there was an idea! It turned out to be super user-friendly, and my story was up in minutes. Two days later, it has reached 350 views, the Writersky people have seriously promoted it on Twitter, I linked it to my Facebook page earning much needed Likes, and it looks like I have one more reason to be happy on this year’s Valentine’s Day.

If you’d like to read how two Valentine gifts that are completely wrong end up spreading the love, read Web of Love and find out. Caution: there’s a spider lurking about.

5 Ways Blogging Sells Books (original post by Molly Greene)

To some writers, blogging is cakewalk while others struggle to come up with what to say, how to say it, and how to attract readers. If you need innovative ideas, tips and expert guidance, look no further than Molly Greene’s excellent ebook “Blog It: The author’s guide to a successful online brand“.

Molly Greene is the author of the gripping Gen Delacourt mysteries (Mark of the Loon and Rapunzel), but I initially met her through her awesome blog (www.molly-greene.com) which is a source of inspiration to every blogger and new writer. I’m honored to have Molly’s permission to reblog her recent post 5 Ways Blogging Sells Books. Thanks, Molly!

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5 Ways Blogging Sells Books

Many of you don’t believe it’s true, that blogging can sell books and further your career. And you’re right, in the sense that blog posts should not be used as a direct-sale tactic for most authors. But I’m here to argue that a well-written, consistently updated blog can help novelists make sales.

How? Blogging makes your name, your voice, and your product recognizable, and builds a community that will help support your efforts. In addition, adding content on your blog delights Google, and when Google loves you, the search engine brings visitors to your site so they can see what you have for sale.

There is no doubt in my mind that blogging can be a value-added marketing strategy. True, you have to work at it, and it can take time to build traffic. But when readers start to find you – and they like what they see – you’ll make sales. Here’s what I think blogging can do for an author …

1. Blogging sells “you”
Professional commission-based sales reps who market any product or service know that selling is all about building relationships. The more interesting, engaging, helpful, encouraging, inspiring, and solution-oriented the salesperson, the better their chances of pulling down big commission checks. That’s why the best salespeople understand and nurture these qualities.

It’s similar with authors. Your blog gives you an opportunity to share with real and potential readers. Your blog is your “voice.” Who you are shines through. When people like you, they support you – and one of the ways they do that is by buying your books and spreading the word to other readers.

2. Blogging enhances your writing skills
Over time, once-a-week blogging just hands-down improves a writer’s skill in all areas of the craft, including fiction. And as we all know, the better the quality of our work, the better the word of mouth, the better the reviews, and the better our titles will sell. I published my first novel mid-2012 and didn’t get my second fiction title published until late 2013. What did I notice after two years of blogging? I wrote faster, better, and with more confidence. Better writing = better books = more sales.

Read the entire blog post on Molly Greene’s blog

Setting up an author platform: what I’ve learned so far

Happy new year 2014! New year design template Vector illustrationHappy New Year to all!

It’s time for me to evaluate my baby steps toward building an author platform, and I realize that probably the best decision I made in 2013 was to stop querying agents. “Sour grapes,” you’ll say, but that’s not the case as my query letter wasn’t a failure—it got me two partial requests out of the ten agents I sought out. No, I didn’t manage to get representation, but I found out in the process that I wasn’t very keen to take the back seat and hand over full control of my work to an agent and then a publisher. To be more specific, I didn’t want to see a headless man with a six-pack on the cover of my romance novel (not that I have anything against men with six-packs or covers with naked torsos) or my hearty epilogue chopped because of some imprint’s word-count limitations. But the real reason I don’t regret stopping the pursuit of traditional publishing is the brave new world indie publishing has opened to me.

I have a mere two-month online presence as an aspiring author, but I’m astounded by the possibilities not only for professional but for personal growth as well. I’ve already met wonderful, creative and inspiring people online, and most are truly willing to help a newcomer. I’ve gathered a wealth of valuable information,and now I feel more empowered to face the challenges that putting my work out there entails. I’ve also realized that without a solid platform, the odds of eventually being picked up by an agent are slim (I thought that applied only to non-fiction writers).

So here I am with a brand new blog, about three hundred followers on Twitter and ready to share what I’ve learned so far.  Continue reading “Setting up an author platform: what I’ve learned so far”