Friday, April 24, 2015

New York Times

Best-selling author – what does that mean in today’s market?

“In this #1 New York Times bestselling e-book …”
“The sensational New York Times bestseller …”
“A USA Today bestselling author …”
“From a USA Today bestselling author …”
“From an award-winning author comes …”
 “From a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author …”
 “From the bestselling author of …”
“A New York Times bestselling romance from an award-winning author …” 
 “gorgeous novel from a New York Times bestselling author who writes with “tender heart” 

Here’s the thing.

My books haven’t hit the New York Times or USA Today lists—yet.

My books haven’t won any awards, but then I haven’t entered them in any contests.

So, not being able to use the glowing headlines listed above, how do I entice readers to give my novels a try?

And here’s the more important question. Do I even want to use phrases like those above?

As soon as I see the word “bestseller,” I stop reading the book description. There was a time when “New York times bestseller” meant what it said. Millions of people had bought the book and read it. The author had a right to be proud and pour money into his or her bank account.

Now, the status can be bought. Gather your friends and acquaintances and convince them all to buy your book on a specific day and, voila!

How then to entice readers without resorting to contrived means? That’s the question every author asks themselves. We’re finding that there are no magic answers. We tweet, create Facebook pages, blog, set up websites, visit book bloggers’ sites, and search the web for inspiration. We join author groups, list our books on various websites and in on-line book stores. We’re told that building our brand, establishing a solid platform is what it’s all about.

Does this frenzy of activity lead to mega-sales? Not in my experience. So why bother?

Well, I’ve always been determined and this novel writing/selling business is no different. Fortunately, books don’t go rotten like apples. It may take a while, but I’m convinced there are readers out there who will find, buy, and enjoy my books.  

Meanwhile, I’m reaping the side benefits. I’m widening my circle of friends and acquaintances, meeting fellow authors and learning from them. I know my writing is improving as a result. And I’m enjoying many wonderful stories written by fellow indie authors.

So no, I’m not quitting. The first draft of my next novel is done. I’m into the rewrites and I’m having the time of my life creating and publishing my novels.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Turning Point

Most novels have at least one scene that is a turning point in the story. Something changes.  It could be an outer turning point where something happens to change the way the story evolves or an inner turning point where the person’s inner resolve or attitude changes. Maybe this change affects a character so that after this point, nothing will ever be the same for him or her. Some turning points are dramatic; some are more subtle. – Anneli Purchase

EMBROILED by Darlene Jones

Emily doesn’t believe in heaven, but she has an insane desire to go “up there.” A yearning that’s so strong that she can no longer function in daily life. Even the wonderful Dr. David can’t help her find the answers she needs.
Then a stranger arrives claiming to be her soulmate, claiming to have loved her in other lives. She is inexorably drawn to him even as she runs from him.
To prove what he says is true, Yves takes her to his world. There she meets gods and Powers and people rescued from doomed planets—living the perfect heavenly life. She knows she belongs “up there” with Yves, but all is not as idyllic as it appears. Emily is the only one who sees the danger. Can she leave her family and friends to stay with Yves? Will she be able to save him and his world?

Turning Point
Excerpt from Embroiled
Yves ordered a second round of liqueurs. They sipped and sat in tense silence. At least, for Emily, it was tense. She clasped her hands in her lap. It’s now or never, girl. “Yves, did you … did you make the kids … that is … did you influence the kids to go back to school?”
Emily felt her mouth drop open. “How on Earth did you do that?”
Yves hesitated. Emily’s heart dropped and her stomach fluttered. What story was he formulating in the pause? What lies would he tell?
“That’s not an easy question to answer, Em.”
“It has to do with your world and mine.”
Emily frowned. “Your world? What world is that?” She laughed nervously. “Are you saying you’re an alien?” Asking the question, she felt like an idiot.
“Sort of.”
Emily went cold. Her heart seemed to drop right out of her. “Sort of!?” She was so flustered she choked on her words. Aware of odd looks from the people at neighboring tables, she struggled for control. She took a deep breath and hissed, “What the hell does that mean?”
Yves winced at her sharp tone. “It’s a long story.”
“They always are.” Emily gathered her handbag and keys and slid from her chair, more disappointed than she ever thought she could be. The keys fell from her trembling hand. She reached down to scoop them up.
Yves was faster. He caught her hand and wrapped her fingers around her keys without letting go. “Please don’t leave.” He slapped some money on the table and stood. “I promised you an explanation, but I think it would be best if I showed you.”
“Showed me what?”
“My world.”
Emily stalked off to her car, as majestically as one could stalk off in flat sandals. “From another world. Yeah! Right!”
“Em, wait up,” Yves called. “You said, you believed.”
Without slowing down or looking back, Emily clicked the fob to unlock her car, opened the driver’s door, and tossed her purse inside. If Yves wanted to show her where he lived, she’d go along. Truth be told, she’d go anywhere with him. God, girl, you are so stupid. What if this guy is on the lam from some loony bin? “Where to?” she asked.
Yves’s face lit up. A sort of halo wavered around his head. Too much alcohol tonight, she thought. She closed her eyes for a moment and gave herself a mental shake, but, when she looked again, the halo was still there.
“You’ll come?” Yves asked. She nodded and saw his face glow. “We won’t need your car.” Emily clicked the lock button and pocketed the keys. “Take my hands and close your eyes.”
With a shiver of apprehension, Emily did as he asked. Her feet seemed to lift from the ground. The air felt cool on her face. Then grass tickled her toes and Yves was telling her to open her eyes. Emily glanced down. Yes, it was grass. But they’d been in the paved parking lot just a second ago. Turning full circle to examine her surroundings, she knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Maybe if she clicked her heels together…. “Where are we?”

“This is my home,” Yves said softly.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Youth Sells

Every morning I lie in bed listening to the birds, my eyes on the palm tree, waiting for the morning when the dangling frond will have succumbed to gravity and released its fragile grip on the tree. The 

frond proves to be tenacious and day after day, it clings to life while the younger fronds, tall and erect, reach eagerly for the sky. Below them fronds begin to bend, then droop and finally sag with age.

Every morning my granddaughter bounds into my room. “Hi grandma. Let’s play.” She’s like the new fronds at the top, eagerly reaching for the joys of the new day. And me? I’m somewhere in between—a middle aged frond, not yet drooping, but certainly not possessing the energy I once had.
We live in a society that worships youth. Perfect wrinkle free bodies populate ads and television and movies. A Hollywood agent told me that no self-respecting star would agree to play a mother—not before she was in her fifties at least. The same rule doesn’t seem to apply to men, but that’s a whole other topic.

Those of us who are older bemoan the emphasis on youth, the obsession with youth, the lack of respect and regard for age and wisdom, but watching the palm, I wonder if we have it wrong. Are the young, with their energy and enthusiasm more important? Certainly they are essential to the future of our society. It is they who will take care of us as we age and, like the dangling palm frond, eventually succumb to our fate.

With the great desire to have some decent sales of my books before I die, I ask: “From the authors’ perspective, how does our age affect our promotion and sales?”
Brian Feinblum says it best. In his blog, “Are authors sexy enough for the books they write?” He says, “‘They say not to “judge a book by its cover,’ but do consumers judge a book by the age (and looks) of its author?”

Good questions. Being a young attractive author should be an advantage for marketing books. We market through social media which lets readers into our lives, lets them see and hear us, and that may influence buying decisions. So, if we are older authors, do we hide away, or pretend to be younger, or do we flaunt our age?

Or do we ignore the question and get on with the job? Perhaps Mr. Feinblum has it right when he says, “what really counts is the seductive beauty of words.”

Friday, April 3, 2015

No room for error

Recently I called my doctor’s office to inquire about test results and was told that everything was fine, but that the lab had neglected to complete the one test that was crucial for my doctor to make a decision on medication, should it prove necessary.  

When I went to the doctor’s office to pick up a new requisition, I commented that I was upset about the error. The receptionist told me not to be too hard on the lab staff as they were only human and they received so many requisitions.

Of course people make mistakes, but there are professions that don’t allow for error. This particular situation was not life or death for me, but what if it had been? Recently I met a woman dying of cancer. Her doctor had told her repeatedly that she was too young to have cancer and now that the cancer has finally been diagnosed, it’s too late to effect a cure.

Pilots, transit drivers, ferry captains … are all responsible for a great number of lives as they go about their daily jobs. How much room for error are they or should they be allowed? Pilots have an advantage in that they are not alone in the cockpit. The captain has the luxury of being able to check and cross check all procedures of the flight with the co-pilots on board.

Recently a doctor interviewed on television suggested that his profession should adopt the pilot mode of co-operation and cross checking, particularly in the operating room as opposed to the “one man knows all” attitude that currently prevails in his profession. He claimed that surgical treatments would improve dramatically with a team approach.

And authors? Where do we fit in this picture? In one novel, a well-known and well-respected author (with a huge publishing company and its staff behind her) had one of the major characters in two places at the same time.

Does an error like that matter? Probably not. We can figure it out for ourselves, but it does spoil some of the pleasure in reading the book.

Errors of that nature could be much more serious in a non-fiction work. But in fiction too, accuracy is important.

A survey of fiction readers found that the one element most important in terms of enjoyment of the book was what the reader felt they had learned something. In Domingo’s Angel, I learned about conditions in Spain during Franco’s regime. In I Do Not Come to You by Chance and 419, I learned about the conditions in Nigeria that drove young men to participate in the flood of email scams we received. I like to think that the authors had done their research and that what they presented was as close to the truth as possible. (From what my friends in Nigeria tell me, both authors were spot on.)

Since I became a self-published author, I’ve been reading books by fellow indie authors. I don’t claim to have completely error-free books, but my writing partner and I are like those pilots in the cockpit. We send files back and forth for proofing and work very hard to find and correct all the little glitches. Knowing how difficult the job is, I sympathize with fellow authors and ignore minor mistakes, but I lose patience with books that have so many errors it seems obvious the author didn’t take the time to proof and edit properly.

With pilots and doctors there is no margin for error. How much of a margin should we concede to authors?

We indie authors want to be seen as professionals. We want to be respected for our work and devotion to writing. To achieve these goals we too, have very little margin for error.