No matter how many books have been written about a topic, there is probably some important facet that has not yet been covered thoroughly or well. A key driver behind success is understanding how you fit into the existing landscape, what distinguishes your work, and why it is likely to appeal to a particular audience.
This post was first published in 2012 and is regularly updated. First things first: an author’s website, whether it gets much traffic or not, is foundational to your career. It offers readers as well as the media the official word on who you are and the work you produce. If you blog, then it can […]
Do you write write according to your own internal motivations or creative impulses—with the intention to create serious art—or do you write hoping to create a bond between writer and reader?
Younger generations (and older ones!) flock to Instagram for its feed of beautiful pictures. So how can writers use Instagram to their benefit?
Public speaking skills are more akin to musical or athletic skills than intellectual knowledge alone. Mastery does not take place simply in your brain; it takes place in your body, in the “doing” of it.
Writing a novel requires the creation of a living, breathing, fully populated world. Deities can pull off a trick like that in six days, but how long should it take to write a book?
Learn how to simplify the writing process for how-to books and write them in a way that provides maximum value in an information-filled world.
A trade distributor is a partner company who takes over the tasks and responsibilities of selling your books to trade accounts like bookstores and wholesalers.
Few of your readers care about what you know, no matter how many years you have spent accumulating that wisdom. They care about what they need or want to understand.
For beginning fiction writers, focusing on place is one of the easiest ways to improve stories that aren’t quite working.
I’ve been air-quoting “reading” since my first legitimate introduction to audiobooks this past winter.
A checklist for repackaging and republishing your own backlist after you get rights reverted from your traditional publisher.
A Q&A on children’s self-publishing with authors Zetta Elliott, who has released several books under her own imprint, including picture books; Brent Hartinger, who self-published a young adult series and a new adult series; Cheryl Klein, the author of a self-published a work of nonfiction; and Stephen Mooser, who released a middle grade book on his own.
For every new venture, there is a learning curve. When it comes to self-publishing your book, however, that curve can be steep.
I used to laugh at the “Christmas-in-July” ads until I promoted my first holiday-related book. We actually started the promotion in July, and July turned out to be the perfect time.
Subplots help you pace your story and keep the tension rising. Unfortunately, the name “subplots” wrongly suggests they are somehow inferior or substandard.
Broadly, traditional print book sales continue to grow at about 2 to 3 percent per year, but growth is driven by nonfiction, backlist titles, and children’s/YA. Fiction sales have been flat for several years now, with frontlist fiction down 5 percent due to a lack of big titles.
I don’t trust author-income survey results and I question their usefulness in improving the fortunes of writers. Too often it feels like propaganda from writers’ organizations, with the outcome boring and predictable.
Rule No. 1 for flashbacks: until and unless you’ve invested us in a scene, don’t flash back (or away) from it! The point of a flashback is to illuminate the scene from which it digresses, to add dimension and tension to it.
As the publishing industry has transformed in the digital age, small press activity has proliferated. Here’s how authors can evaluate their offerings.
To some degree, we get to pick and choose our publishing and publicity tasks. Sometimes we forget this and freak out because we think we have to do it all.
In many ways, a portrait photographer encounters the same great issue as fiction writers, chiefly, creating and revealing character.
It’s one thing to know how to setup something technical like an advertisement, an email system, or your book’s sales page on Amazon. However, crafting them so a potential reader will take action is something else.
A problem with fictional dreams is that they ask us to invest emotionally in an experience only to have that investment rendered null and void when the experience turns out not to have been real.
Unless you are Harper Lee, you are probably going to launch more than one book during your career. For the introvert, learn six ways to keep your head above water not just for your first book, but also for the long haul.
Silence—or, in fact, just saying less—is an art that can be strategically practiced by authors who seek attention. It is also a critical strategy when trying to influence people who hear about new books all day, every day.
On the whole, stories are about change. And scenes are a boiled down, less intense, mini-story. They should do the same thing your global story does: upset the life value of the character and put them on a path to try and restore it.
Writing about addiction is tricky business. While most stories have a single protagonist, addiction narratives are usually about two people: the addict deep in the throes of their addiction, and the recovered narrator looking back objectively on the experience.
Despite the notion that we are voiceless, the challenge of a good creative writing instructor is to teach students that they do indeed have a voice and that their voice, that all our voices in concert, have meaning.
Now and then my students and I broach the unavoidable question: What makes a work of art? The question can be stood on its head: What makes art work? They’re the same question, really, with (to me, anyway) the same answer: a true work of art is something that doesn’t merely elicit our emotions. It confronts us with emotions that don’t quite fit into any of our ready-made boxes.
It can happen to you. Your carefully built author business and your reputation can come under attack and threaten to disrupt your livelihood and your personal life. But you can help prevent a crisis in the first place by using some simple engagement strategies.
Hiring an outside publicity firm is a big decision, and knowing what to expect on the front end can help you make the right selection and get more out of the experience.
The only stories that matter are those we inhabit personally, not just with our minds, but through our senses. Remember: the fiction writer’s job (or that of any storyteller) isn’t to report experience, but to create it. And experience is processed in the mind by way of the senses.
If you’re determined to transition readers quickly through various scenes occurring at discordant times, skillful handling of tenses, and particularly of the no-longer-taught past perfect or pluperfect tense, becomes vital.
Some story openings happen to get the author’s pen rolling, to blow some warmth onto the icy blank page, to get the narrative blood flowing. Those not charitably inclined will call it “throat clearing.” However it’s characterized, throat clearing should be cut. It’s there for the author, not for the reader.
Seven-figure deals seem to be given to more 20-something debut writers than debut writers in any other age group, yet Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx started writing at 58—and Frank McCourt began writing in his 60s. Were these writers more talented than younger writers trying to break in at the same time? Or has the industry started gravitating more toward younger writers in recent years? Two literary agents, Sarah Davies and Dr. Uwe Stender, offer their thoughts on the publishing industry’s attitude toward age.
Book relaunches can take a variety of forms. If done right, they enhance your overall brand, as well as your book sales. Their first and foremost benefit is the new publication date. Having a new book opens up access to bloggers and media who might not have been available to you with an older book.
Where to begin? Of all the questions that harass novelists and others with a story to tell, it has to be the peskiest. The question comes down to structure. Not what happened, i.e. the series of events that make a story, but the order in which those events are conveyed.
In many ways, it’s never been harder to get a traditional book deal. At the same time, there have never been more ways to establish a career as an author.
Violence can be too sanitized, too tamed into a generic, pre-packaged mold, and so it can’t yield the kind of interesting questions or meditations readers crave, and writers must eventually confront.
Writing for businesses is a way for skilled writers to earn a good, dependable income. Someone is responsible for writing all the websites, brochures, and marketing materials out there. Why not you?
Sometimes everything we need for our story openings is there, more than we need, in fact. It’s just a matter of cutting and rearranging.
“If you build it, they will come” is the biggest crock of sh*t ever foisted. The second biggest is my own mental script: “If I write it, The New York Times bestseller list will come.” Nope. Wrong answer.
With modifiers, you want to choose your battles. Just because every noun offers itself up for modification(s) doesn’t mean you should modify it. Think of adjectives as ketchup or hot sauce; put it on everything and it quickly wears out its welcome.
“True” suspense raises the question, “What’s going to happen next?” It arises organically and authentically from characters and their actions as conveyed to us through a firmly established, consistent viewpoint. “False suspense” is generated by an author who, intentionally or otherwise, withholds information.
Over the last month, I’ve been talking (and writing) about how to build a business model for career that suits your particular strengths as well as the unique quality of your work. Here are my latest appearances.
Telling readers what to think or feel is the job of a propagandist. A storyteller’s main purpose, on the other hand, is to create experiences for the reader, to involve us so deeply, so convincingly, so authentically in those experiences that we feel what characters feel.
Many people I know are ambitious about their writing. Ambition is not bad in and of itself. But it definitely interferes with your writing. If even before you begin a writing project, you are thinking about where you want it to be published and who, you hope, will review it, you are opening the door to anxiety.
Routine is important. Without routine the extraordinary events that make for a plot have nothing to work against or to set them into relief. But that routine also needs to evoke character to make us feel something.
A smart and strategic author should evaluate their platform strength on three levels: (1) ability to reach new readers, (2) ability to engage existing readers, and (3) ability to mobilize super fans.