Archive for April, 2016

Trying Out New Marketing

Happy Friday, Squiders. My apologies for once again dropping the blog when things get busy.

Here’s the good things for this week:

  • I figured out why my website was fubared and have fixed the issue (which took several emails to tech support and contacting my old host). I will have to fix all the images individually, which sucks, but at least now they are fixable.
  • We got the final cover art for City of Hope and Ruin, which looks awesome.
  • The final edits on City of Hope and Ruin were completed.
  • The ebook formats of City of Hope and Ruin were completed and uploaded to all ebook distributors (except for Kobo which will go live on release day) and pre-orders are live.
  • The paperback version of City of Hope and Ruin is ready to go, with the exception of some back matter.

It’s been a lot of work (as a professional book formatter, I’m the one who does most of the formatting for Turtleduck Press releases) but now the hard part is done, and I can focus on marketing. Yay!

Because there’s two of us, Siri and I have decided to try out some more expensive marketing techniques since we can split the price. I’ll come back in a few months to let you know if they were worth the money. But here are some things we’re trying:

  • We splurged on a fancy-butt book cover. Personally, I’m pleased with the results, but we’ll have to see if it significantly increases sales above previous books. We all know that, despite the saying, people do judge books by their covers. We’re doing the official cover reveal on Sunday, so check back then to take a look.
  • We’ve signed up to do both a book blitz and a long-term (12-week) blog tour. A book blitz is a one-day tour on a bunch of blogs, so we’re hoping that the combo of a lot, short-term and the more spread out ones will get and keep momentum up.
  • We’re also doing pre-orders, which don’t cost money. I think I’ve talked about them before. It will be interesting to see if they help boost first day sales or not.
  • Siri’s hosting an in-person launch party at her local scifi/fantasy book store in Toronto. I’ve never done an in-person launch and have never really had the inclination to do one either, so I will be interested to see how that goes down.
  • We’re also going to do a launch day party on Facebook. I’ll get you guys details on that once we know them (probably the middle of next week).

We’re going to do the combo of a Goodreads giveaway/ad again, which I’ve done with each of my previous books, and that generally works pretty well.

Anything you’ve tried that has really been worth the money, Squiders? Readers, what attracts you to new author/books (i.e., what sort of advertising do you find works on you)?

See you Sunday!

Advertisements

The Cycle of Serial Formatting

So, having run out of new Doctor Who episodes (until the last season arrives from the library), the not-so-small, mobile one and I decided we’d watch a few episodes of the original series, starting with the first doctor.

What I did not know is that each “episode” of classic Who is actually a series of episodes, usually somewhere between 4 and 6. While each episode within an “episode” contributes directly to the same story, the “episodes” themselves seem to be more or less episodic, without a specific order that they need to be watched in.

It’s a weird television format, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it elsewhere. Other same-era scifi shows don’t follow it (such as the original series of Star Trek or Lost in Space) and I can’t say that I’ve seen it in anything since then either. Shows tend to either be mostly or fully episodic, or all episodes in a season/series contribute to the same ongoing plot.

Now, books on the other hand…

Books used to be written in serial form all the time. Dickens did it. Dumas did it. It was cheaper and easier to distribute. But eventually we moved on to “books,” as it were, where a single story comes in a single, large chunk (or, in the case of series, a couple large chunks).

But it seems like now, books are moving back into a serial form. E-publishing makes it easy to put up and change your work whenever you like. I’ve seen people serialize a story, putting up each section individually, and then combine the work into a single novel when done. Some people do this for each book in the series, which kind of brings us back to the classic Who format: a series of serials.

How do you feel about reading/writing serials, Squiders? Have you done any yourself? Read any excellent ones?

Any thoughts on the first doctor?

Have a happy weekend, Squiders.

Why We Love Reoccurring Characters

Amazon’s put Doctor Who (except for Season 9) back onto Prime, so I’ve been catching up. (I continue to have a “this show makes no sense and I’m not sure why I continue to watch it, yet there must be something because I keep watching” relationship with DW.) One of the recent episodes I watched had an occasional reoccurring character that happens to be a favorite of mine, and I may have gotten unnecessarily excited when she showed up.

That got me to thinking about reoccuring characters in general. It seems–and this may be generalizing–that people feel more strongly about their affection for reoccurring characters than main characters, in many cases. Everyone has that character that, when they happen to grace a show, book, movie, etc. with their presence, makes their day.

(Or, alternately, it could be a character that they love to hate. Or just really hate. I’m looking at you, Kai Winn.)

Why do we react stronger to characters we don’t see that often?

Well, my going theory is that we get used to characters we see all the time, so while we relate to them and may feel closer to them (or, for characters we don’t particularly like, just kind of accept that they’re there and deal with it). They lose their impact, to some degree. It’s like the friend you see every day. You’re comfortable with them, you love them, but they’re not necessarily exciting.

Reoccurring characters are like the friend you haven’t seen in a year. It’s an event when they come and visit! It’s something you look forward to. And even better if it’s a surprise, and you open the door one day to find them sitting on their porch (assuming they don’t think they’re staying with you unannounced).

It’s not that they’re better, per se. It’s just the absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I do find it interesting that when a reoccurring character becomes a main or side character for a period of time, it can go really well or really poorly. It really shows how complete of a character that character is when some of that shiny-ness wears off.

Who are your favorite reoccurring characters, Squiders? Any examples of a reoccurring character turned regular that went spectacularly well (or not)? Any experience with your own reoccurring characters?

Ten Books That Have Stuck With You

I was tagged a week or so on Facebook by a writer friend for one of those chain letter sort of things that goes around. (Do you remember, like, actual chain letters? That you had to write and mail with stamps and everything? Those were weird, and yet they have stuck in the vernacular.) This particular one wants you to list the ten books that have stuck with you the most.

The note tells you not to think about it too hard, but I’ve found I’ve had to because it’s been hard to come up with 10. I read a lot of books–try to get to 50 every year, at least–but not many of those have necessarily stuck.

Here’s the list I’ve come up with:

  1. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
  3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  4. Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie
  5. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  6. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
  7. The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
  8. Murder with Peacocks, Donna Andrews
  9. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  10. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester

Of course, now that I’ve finally gotten those 10, more are starting to pop up. Harry Potter. Maria V. Snyder’s Study series. Macbeth. The Ancient One by T.A. Barron. Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey. And there’s stories that I remember snippets of, clearly, but can no longer recall the name of the book.

Isn’t that how it always goes?

Actually, now that I’ve thought of The Ancient One again, that might be good for a readalong. What do you say, Squiders? It’s a MG/YA science fantasy trilogy. The Ancient One is the middle book. I don’t know if I’ve read any of them since my early teens, so it might be fun to revisit them.

What are the 10 books that have most stuck with you, Squiders?

Why They Tell You Not To Use Speech Tags

This advice seems to be everywhere lately, Squiders. Have you seen it? The basic gist is that using speech tags when you write is amateurish and distracting.

I feel like this advice can be really confusing to people, especially newer writers. So! To clarify, this is advice is not telling you to leave off speech tags. Then you get something like this:

“How dare you!” Jenny said.
“How dare you!” said Louise.
“You knew he was my boyfriend! You had no right to invite him to go to that party with you!”
“Hey, you were busy and he was lonely! What’s so bad about keeping a friend happy?”
“Oh, is that what they call it these days.”
“Look, I don’t like your tone.”
“Listen to you! Don’t like my tone. Like you have any room to talk.”
“I have a freaking mansion compared to you!”

Do you see the issue? After a couple lines of dialogue, it becomes near impossible to keep track of who’s actually talking. If your readers have to stop and count to see who’s talking, that’s a bad thing.

So speech tags are good, right? Well, kind of. Here’s an older post about general speech tag usage, but generally you should be conservative with what speech tags you’re using. Or not use them at all!

Here we get into the root of the above advice. You need speech tags to tell who’s talking, but if you overuse them, you get what’s called Talking Heads Syndrome.

Here’s an example of that:

“How dare you!” Jenny said.
“How dare you!” said Louise.
“You knew he was my boyfriend!” Jenny cried. “You had no right to invite him to go to that party with you!”
“Hey, you were busy and he was lonely! What’s so bad about keeping a friend happy?” asked Louise.
“Oh, is that what they call it these days,” said Jenny scornfully.
“Look, I don’t like your tone,” said Louise.
“Listen to you! Don’t like my tone. Like you have any room to talk,” retorted Jenny.
“I have a freaking mansion compared to you!” shouted Louise.

See the problem now, Squiders? We might know who’s saying what, but it gets repetitive and boring, because Jenny and Louise aren’t doing squat except talking. It’s also completely unrealistic, because who just stands there and talks in the middle of a fight?

So when people say ‘don’t use speech tags,” they’re not saying to make it impossible to tell who’s talking. They’re saying to have your characters do something instead of being a talking head.

Jenny pushed through the crowd to Louise. “How dare you!”
Louise pulled away from the girl she’d been talking to, towering over Jenny. “How dare you!”
“You knew he was my boyfriend!” Jenny cried. “You had no right to invite him to go to that party with you!”
“Hey, you were busy and he was lonely! What’s so bad about keeping a friend happy?” Louise smirked at her, and Jenny dug her nails into her palms to keep from hitting her.
“Oh, is that what they call it these days,” said Jenny, letting the scorn drip through her voice.
That got Louise’s full attention. “Look, I don’t like your tone.”
“Listen to you! Don’t like my tone.” Jenny crossed her arms over her chest. “Like you have any room to talk.”
Louise’s eyes flashed. “I have a freaking mansion compared to you!”

Now, that’s a late-night first draft example, but do you see the difference? You know who’s talking through the action, and now it’s much more engaging than just having two people yell at each other. You can use actions, thoughts, etc. instead of speech tags to give a sense of emotion, setting, what have you. And, sure, the odd speech tag can stay. Sometimes people do just say something. But in this case, they’re also doing other things.

Have any thoughts about speech tags, Squiders?

Also, good news! City of Hope and Ruin is now available for pre-order on Amazon! We’ve got it on sale until launch. Only the ebook version is available for pre-order, but there will be physical copies launching at the same time on May 11. And if you missed the excerpt, you can read it here. Pick it up now before the price goes up! (Or wait until we get a cover.)

(It will also be available for pre-order on other ebook platforms, such as Nook and the iBookstore. Lemme know if you prefer one of those and I shall link you.)

Whew!

Good news, Squiders! We got a cover artist all picked out and set up and our book description finished AND you can go read our excerpt here! (I’ll wait while you do.)

Now it’s on to the more mundane (and less visible) marketing stuff. Again, if you’d be interested in hosting us for a cover reveal or the book launch, let me know! Or if you’d like to review.

So that’s a heavy weight off my chest.

Although, now that’s done with, I am reminded that I need to do final edits and check copyedits and all that lovely stuff.

Hmm.

Pre-orders should go live later today or tomorrow, so I shall retroactively come back and post those as well, and mention them on Thursday.

I have not moved on to other projects and find myself mostly unmotivated to, which is, of course, the issue with marketing. It kind of drains all your creative stores, and because I write/edit for my real job as well, there’s not much left at the moment. I hope to move on to Camp some time today. Not the space dinosaurs, no–and probably won’t get to them until later in the month after the edits are done–but the nonfiction books.

In non-writing news, I’ve got a triathlon coming up in a little over two months, so I’ve got to start training for that too. I don’t think I’ve been swimming in over a year.

What’s up with you, Squiders? How’d you like the excerpt?