Word Economics 101

As my critique partners can attest, I’m a big proponent of what we call word economy. Not a technical term, exactly, but here's my definition: using only as many words as the story needs.

Of course, every story has different needs. Some need a clipped, concise writing style, while others need a more flowery voice. Some need mostly action, while others need lots of internal reflection and characterization. No matter what kind of story you’re writing, word economy always applies—and should never be overlooked. Word economy will help you keep readers engaged and make you look more professional to agents and editors. Here are my strategies for getting the most bang for my literary buck.

Firstly, I always keep in mind what I consider the Prime Directive of storytelling: Every single element (subplot, character, scene, paragraph, sentence, or word) must further the story in some way. This means each element has to move the plot forward, reveal character, and/or illuminate theme. No excuses.

I know, I know, your three-page description of the sunset is just so pretty! But don’t be so naïve, dear writer. Don’t flatter yourself that an agent, editor, or reader will love those three pages as much as you do. If they’re not meeting the Prime Directive, your story doesn’t need them.

Now, how do you determine which elements are meeting the Prime Directive? As you revise, give each element this litmus test: If you cut this element completely, would the story still stand? Too many side characters, subplots, and descriptive passages—especially if they’re not meeting the Prime Directive—can dilute your story. Cutting or combining them will make your story feel tighter, punchier, more powerful. If, however, cutting an element results in a weaker story, then that element is meeting the Prime Directive. The story needs it, so it can stay.

How could a three-page sunset meet the Prime Directive? Maybe it symbolizes the protagonist’s marriage coming to an end, or brings up memories of her father’s death, or foreshadows the murder she’s about to commit. But if not, cut it. And be prepared to be ruthless with your scissors.

When revising for word economy, it helps to start big and narrow your focus over time. In the early stages, consider word economy on the story level: subplots, characters, and scenes. Does Character X have an integral role in the story? If he serves a purpose, but not an integral one, could you combine him with Character Y to create a single more impactful character?

When evaluating scenes, consider each scene’s role in the overall plot. Does the scene bring your protagonist closer to or farther from her goal? Does it reveal some new, critical piece of information? Does it forge an alliance or drive a wedge between two characters? If not, it may be time to pull out your scissors again.

In later revisions, when your plot, characters, and scenes are in place, look at word economy on the word, sentence, and paragraph level. Is that chunk of backstory absolutely necessary, or is there a more concise, engaging way to deliver that information, such as through dialogue? Could those two sentences of description be reduced to one sentence, or cut altogether? Is that adjective or adverb telling the reader something he doesn’t already know?

Revising for word economy can be a liberating experience. It helps you break your story into elements and look at them more objectively, making it easier to “kill your darlings.” But with great power comes great responsibility. Don’t use your revision scissors lightly, or for the wrong reason. Word economy is not about sacrificing your voice and style so your story can be as short as possible. It’s also not about whittling your story down to fit the word count guidelines for your genre. It’s about what your story needs.

Writing is about giving your story what it needs—and word economy is about trimming the fat so the heart of your story can shine through.

To everything there is a reason. A time to write, a time to…not

I just got back from a retreat with a group of great writers in a creepy old hotel. There were times when I would have sworn I was the only one there, despite there being at least twelve other people in a twelve-room hotel. It was that quiet, because I couldn’t hear all the other keyboards clicking from where I was.

Why do you care? Okay, you might not, but you should. Because what I’m going to tell you is important. At least it is to me. Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean…yeah, maybe I have been listening to Sirius too much.

Four and a half days just writing. 35,000 words on the page for my newest Bad Carma book. Three meals a day in the companionship of great writers. Reading to/listening with - a bunch of fabulous writers. That’s what I got to enjoy at the retreat.

Not everyone can take four days off, even with a Monday holiday. It doesn’t have to be four days. But for me, it can’t be fifteen spare minutes. I know the butt in chair thing says you should write every spare moment every day. But I can’t. I’m a binge writer. I need to stay focused and when I do, I can write like crazy (35,000 words!). I have to be able to re-read my last couple of chapters, decide or know where I’m going from there and have no interruptions while I blast may way through the story.

If you’re like me, the guilt of not using all those tiny fifteen minute moments to write keeps worming itself way into your subconscious, and they shouldn’t. We don’t all write alike. Find the way that works best for you. For me, it’s at least four hours of clear time. No laundry, no cleaning, no food prep, no weeds calling my name. I can’t write when someone keeps asking me questions (sorry, dear, but I need you to shut the heck up!).

I know other people can pick up and write in short time frames. I read about them all the time. But I need to write like I need to write, and so do you. It’s important that you decide what that way is so you aren’t making excuses for not writing. If you need long blocks of time, how can you get them? Do you enjoy writing in coffee shops? Go there on a weekend. Do you need quiet? Can you reserve a space at the library? Do you have a friend with a nice sunroom they’d let you borrow when they’re out of town?

I have a friend with a VRBO house (she rents it out by the day, like AirBnB, only the whole house). I hope to talk a few writer friends into renting the 5 bedroom house for some long weekends to write. No chores. No husband. Hopefully no phones. But lots of comfy space with peace and quiet, snacks, writers to talk with during meals. And words on the paper. Lots and lots of words. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t get the most words – that was Cindi Myers. So it’s not just me. There are more of us out there than you hear about.

So find your method. If it’s fifteen minutes waiting to pick your kids up, great. If it’s twelve hours straight on a Saturday sitting in a corner of a quiet coffee shop or senior center, peachy. Just make the effort. Make those words happen. Seriously, just Write On!

 

What Editing with an Agent is Like

If you've been following me here on this blog (somewhat unlikely since it's been all of four months!), then you'll know that I just recently (October) got my very first agent for my very first book, Deity Six.  But what I haven't told you yet is what the editing process has been like so far. You may be aware that some agents like to take on a manuscript fully formed, no adjustments needed. While others like to leave their own stamp on it and help the author draft it into something bigger...or smaller, possibly even better.

This latter part is what's going on with me right now.

Things and stuff...they're going down:

One of the first things that happened after signing with my agent was a phone call. If you look online you'll see this is pretty standard protocol. If you haven't met your agent in person, the next best thing is obviously the sound of their dulcet tones over a grainy cellular network while you constantly question if they actually said what you think they said. This can simply be about introductions. "Hello. How are you? Nice to sort of meet you. You sound different then I thought you would have based on your picture." That sort of thing since it's likely you've never met in person. But with me, since I had met my agent at a writer's conference, the phone call we had was about jumping right into work. Deity Six, if you don't mind me self-indulgently plugging my own work multiple annoying times in one short post, and about the myriad things wrong with my baby. If you want to call it a baby. Really just an amorphous blob of too many words and misplaced modifiers as the author (me) tried sounding more intelligent than he/she/it actually is.

Sad.

Edits...Round One:

With Deity Six the main point of contention was the fact that the story didn't have an entirely clear genre/sub-genre that it fit when I originally wrote it. It was kind of YA because of the character's ages, but I didn't really think of it as such while I was writing. And it wasn't until later that I realized, yes, in fact, it is YA. So when my agent wanted to represent it, it was in that category...Young Adult Science Fiction.

And this is where the real work began. Taking something that kind of fit one category, and trimming down the more adult elements, all the while beefing up those elements which were YA and adding even more of them to make it fit squarely in Young Adult. The lesson to be had here: Know your genre and your target audience. And that will make it easier to tailor your story and your characters to fit what appeals to them.

Side Note:

Does that mean you should change your story to fit what's popular? No. Let me say that again...NO! Write the story you want to write. But knowing where your story fits and who it appeals to will not only help you to sell to the market best suited to it, it will help you to better engage your readers. End of side rant.

Edits...Round Two:

Similar to round one, this next pass through was about continuing to make changes to keep the story firmly in the genre it needs to be in. But there's more to it as well. Now you start getting into more specific refinement. Are the characters fleshed out? Are the story elements cohesive? How much of what has been written needs to be in the story? Can you add more backstory? Internal dialogue? The answer on all of these things...yes. At this point I removed chunks of chapters, pages and pages at a time because they served no real narrative or plotting purpose. Because filler, like fire, is BAAAAD! All the while I moved on, adding more personality to the characters, giving them uniqueness. I added more backstory and internal conflict, more personalization of the journey from my main character's perspective. Pretty top down stuff, and all of it useful.

What's next?:

The name of the game is refinement. Just like with your own editing of your story, with each pass your job is to make the story better, to make it fit the genre with meaning and authenticity. Only now you have help. Trust your agent. But ultimately this is your story and if something they suggest doesn't make sense to you...don't change it. Or, or even better, talk about it. Discuss. Compromise, without compromising the integrity of your story.

But don't be headstrong or arrogant. Some of the most valuable information you can get is from someone from the outside looking in. Because it's them, not you, that might have just the right perspective to see a problem, or make a change, that you weren't able to see before. And when that happens, your book will be that much that better for it.

Maybe someday soon I'll be able to put up a post about "Editing with an editor," and tell you with some authority what differences there are between that and this. Well, here's to hoping anyway. But until then, Merry Christmas! Or Happy Holidays. Or whatever floats your yule-tide boat.

Advertising Secrets from RMFW authors

“Last chance! Secrets from Media Guru!”

“Sell Hundreds of Books Now!”

“Optimize social ads!”

Like cheap paper fliers of yore, these headlines fill your email inbox.

We all want publishing success, hoards of fans and yes! More than moderate fame. Some of us have been published traditionally and not found that hoped-for, instant success. Others have either refused the traditional route, or have kinked our necks on the gatekeeper ceiling and answered the Indie Call. All of us want to sell more books.

Somehow, in the big bubble gum baby maker in the sky (thank you, Garrison Keillor), most of us got rolled out lacking good marketing instincts. Some people just figure it out, but not me. I took marketing 101. I did! Still, I can’t wrap my brain around all the choices to figure out the best combination that works. It’s not for lack of passion or purpose that I remain confused and uncertain. I’ve talked about this with many fellow writers, compared notes on what kind of investments they’ve made and what produced the most sales.  I know writers—everyday folks like you and me—who have spent upwards of sixteen thousand dollars trying to boost their sales over some magical threshold that will start the income flowing dependably.

This is no secret to the industry’s service providers. Some are legit, some not.

The Good Guys. These are talented people who offer their graphic services for fabulous book covers, Facebook ads, banners and promotional material.  Also copy editors and proofreaders, who help to ensure that we emerge from the publishing process with no pie on our face, only clean copy that makes our ideas shine.  Also publicists, virtual assistants and the like who may offer a more clear, calm path through the marketing jungle.

The Bad Guys. This group includes anyone who waves a magic flag to attract authors and get rich off our dreams, even while knowing full well that their product won’t deliver as promised without considerable luck or additional investments.

Our jobs, ladies and gents, is to tell one from the other.

Good Investments.  Before rolling the dice to determine the next move on the game board, we must first be sure we have an excellent product. Good doesn’t cut it. It needs to be excellent. The investment here is time and yes, toil over the words until they shine and provide a reward to the reader for spending their precious time reading our words.  Concept. Is it intriguing, or like hundreds of others? Plot. Is it dynamic, surprising, refreshing, or safe, just following the genre formula? Characters. Do they develop naturally through the novel, or does the author merely force actions that suggest growth?

Oh, heck, I’ve seen worse. We all know of less than stellar authors who have achieved success. They slide into home base on a magic carpet of luck. As Clint Eastwood said, “Do you feel lucky?” If you do, this route is available. Beware of Bad Guys, and proceed.

Crazy Luck, Magic Formulas, or Good Ol’ Sweat Equity? Who’s to say which will bring success? No one, but you’re in this game and if you want to play you have to pay.  Find the right combination for you.

To start you on your information quest, I consulted several of RMFW’s published authors to learn their thoughts on effective advertising and promotion. I offered anonymity, which some preferred, but most were willing to share.

Here, then, are some thoughts on sharks and winners.

The Question. What advertising/promotion has brought you the most book sales?

The Answers:

No Idea.  This was Jax Bubis (Jax Hunter), multi-indie-pubbed military and paranormal romance author’s first response. I sensed her smile through the email and read on. She suggests that you build your email list.

Been There, Spent That.  An author who wished to remain anonymous shared the s/he had spent a substantial budget on ads this past year, including Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, giveaways and more, but still received a poor return on investment.  Another author, also remaining anonymous, spent over $16,000.00 on Facebook ads. S/he could accomplish no more than to break even. (At least s/he broke even.)

Skip the Swag. Several authors commented on swag—candy, bookmarks, tea bags, pens, scratch pads and the like. Most felt it’s best to skip all of it except for business cards, and write more books.

It’s All About Genre.  Mary Gilgannon has been busy testing the ad waters. She’s tried blog posts, small romance book sites, a promo service, tweets, newsletter lists and reviews, all with mixed and less-than-stellar results. “My sense is that what worked even six months or a year ago, might not work as well now. The market is ever changing and it seems to become more difficult every year to get your books noticed.” Her final answer: write in a best-selling genre, and get your books out quickly.

Reviews, Baby! Terry Wright, former contest chair for RMFW, is an indie pioneer and prolific writer. He entered the field early with his sci fi and action thrillers. He also writes screenplays, founded TBW Press, and conquered production of book trailers. He described advertising as a crapshoot, but believes strongly in Kindle reviews. He has little regard for Twitter due to the excessive tweet traffic, which buries any tweets within minutes.

Face Time. Terry also believes it pays to get personal. He has sold more print books face to face at conferences, panels, fairs, etc., than with other methods, and encourages his writers to do the same.

Good, and Free. Twice named RMFW's Writer of the Year, Robin Owens has enjoyed much success with her fantasy and paranormal ghost series. Also RMFW's former president, Robin stresses two ways to succeed: write a very good book, and develop a following. She has found good results with a multi-author ad featuring a Kindle giveway.

Carry a Big Gun. 2014 RMFW Writer of the Year and current Treasurer, Shannon Baker, is the author of the Nora Abbott and Kate Fox mystery series. She's also a tireless promoter. With her recent release of Stripped Bare, she participated in an intensive blog and book signing tour. What she’s especially pleased with is her decision to hire a publicist. She has found it well worth the investment.

Goodreads Ads.  Our 2015 Writer of the Year, PubLaw friend and Twitter guru, Susan Spann, writes Shinobi mysteries set in sixteenth century Japan. She shares that she has had great success with blog tours and Goodreads ads.

Let’s Go Surfing Now! 2016 Indie Writer of the Year nominee Corinne O’Flynn is RMFW’s Conference Chair and a multi-published author of murder mysteries. She shared this link: http://www.paidauthor.com/best-ebook-promotion-sites , a helpful overview of some of the many options available.

King Amazon. Anne Randolph’s memoir, Stories Gathered at the Kitchen Table, recently made the Amazon Best-selling list in Memoirs. “I have found the Amazon Hot New Release and 30 Day Book Launch with Amazon Select to be quite effective.  We sold over 1200 books in a two day period and more by the end of the campaign.”  Anne has a webinar and podcast about her campaign at www.AuthorU.org

Podcasts. Nathan Lowell, nominated for RMFW’s first Indie Writer of the Year, is an inspiration to many. In his January RMFW blog, Nathan mentions the large part his early podcasts played in his publishing success. Nathan sustains high output with his writing progress charts.

Audio Books. Along that line, Richard Rieman guest blogged on the January 18th RMFW blog about how audio books can resurrect a “mostly dead” book and increase your fan base.

Expensive Webinars. While I focused on RMFW authors, I’ll add that several other friends and acquaintances have taken webinar courses on book marketing. UK indie author Mark Dawson, and one of Dawson’s webinar graduates, Nick Stephenson, are the main  players in this field. It’s pricey -- $700 to $800, and focuses on advertising with Facebook. I have not been willing to put all my dollars in one place like that, so I can only recommend that you research all such webinars. Things to consider are:

* In their sales efforts, do the student testimonials include success stories for authors who write in your genre?

* Is there any kind of guarantee, and if so, does it cover a long enough period for you to determine if it’s a sound investment?

* Does it require yet more investment on your part to discover if it can work for you? If so, how much?  As I mentioned earlier, I know of authors who have invested in the course and then spent additional thousands to test the course strategy. I’ve heard from some authors that it helped their sales, and I’ve heard from others that the best they’ve achieved is a break-even. I’ve heard from yet others that it’s such a complicated ad strategy that they haven’t had time to try it out, and it’s now only gathering dust in their hard drives.

* Rumor has it that Nick Stephenson has stopped writing his thriller novels to concentrate on his teaching business because it pays better. Hmm.

* Can you “test” the webinar concept yourself for less money than the course costs?

* Is the information updated often? The market changes practically daily, so old information is quickly rendered useless.

Details Are Tools. RMFW’s first Indie Writer of the Year, Lisa Scott Manifold, recommends that you write more books. Readers are impatient and don’t like to wait a year or two for book 2, 3, etc. in the series. She believes readers want series even more these days and if you can’t manage multiple books a year, you can consider writing shorts to keep visible to your fans. “You need to figure out, among all the noise out there right now, what kind of promotion works for you.” That includes limited free days, advertising on promo websites, working on a newsletter or blog. Above all, track your efforts. “How much you spent, what sales you got (check them daily!) and did you see buy-through into your other works? That kind of data lets you know whether or not this new method is worth keeping in your marketing tool box.”

My thanks to all authors who were generous enough to share with us. Have you found this information helpful? You can pay it forward by responding to this blog, and sharing which promotion/s have worked best/worst for you.

Together, we’re stronger.

I hope to hear from you.

 

Are YOU Ready to Make a Difference in 2017? … by Angela La Voie

As writers, the very first encouragement of our work likely came from a parent or teacher. As we mature in our writing careers, peer support and encouragement buoys us through rejection, missed goals, and abandoned projects. And that support helps us reach important milestones, take on new challenges, and celebrate success. That support and encouragement is at the heart of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers mission.

Dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction, RMFW brings you programming, information, education, critique groups, and special events through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers each year.

As Volunteer Coordinator, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank each of you who gave of your time and talents in 2016. I’d also like to extend a special thanks to those of you who volunteered in more than one role! To all of our volunteers, please step forward again this year—in the same role or in a new capacity that appeals to your 2017 focus.

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to interact with members, make new friends, and expand your horizons. Volunteering enables you to share skills you already have and to acquire new ones.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert and whether you like to give a little here and there, help with a specific project, or contribute on an ongoing basis, there’s a volunteer role for you.

There are dozens of ways you can contribute your skills through RMFW, allowing you to give back to those mentors and colleagues who’ve uplifted you and to pay it forward. The time and skills you share with other members can give another writer the insight that fuels the crucial manuscript revisions that land him that first agent. Maybe it’s a newsletter article or blog post you write that helps someone make it through the first edit letter (or through the third edit letter on his fifth book). Your encouragement as a presenter may help an author break through with her next release.

There’s no pressure to be a miracle worker to volunteer. Everyone has something valuable to offer.

Here are some of the volunteer roles that keep RMFW thriving:

  •  newsletter contributor
  •  blog contributor
  •  monthly program presenter
  •  RMFW Gold Conference:
    •  presenter
    •  table host
    •  registration-desk assistant
    •  workshop monitor
    •  mentor-room coordinator
    •  workshop-proposal reviewer
    •  pitch coach and mentor
    •  bookstore-setup assistant
    •  author-signing assistant
    •  author-reading emcee
  •  RMFW Gold Contest intake coordinator
  •  RMFW Gold Contest judge
  •  WOTY and IWOTY selection-committee member
  •  critique-group leader
  •  social media assistant
  •  Moodle administrator
  •  website developer
  •  forum administrator
  •  podcast assistant
  •  podcast guest

Each of these roles presents the opportunity to make a difference in the course of our organization. Whatever your schedule, skillset, and interest permit, I hope you’ll consider volunteering with RMFW today!

Leadership Opportunities

Many volunteers assist in more than one role over time. Many also choose to serve in a leadership capacity at some point. Here are some of the key RMFW volunteer roles currently available:

Programs Chair (Denver-Area)

Recruits presenters for monthly free programs for members. Coordinates program logistics. Coordinates promotion of monthly programs through the website, newsletter, emails, and social media. Participates in board planning, discussion, and reporting.

Hospitality Chair

Coordinates with Programs Chair and provides refreshments at Denver-area monthly programs. Provides refreshments at all board meetings and announcement events, such as Writer of the Year/Independent Writer of the Year Event. Plans and coordinates the annual holiday party. Participates in board planning, discussion, and reporting.

Blog Editor

Works with co-editor to plan regular and guest contributor posts. Works with contributors to ensure timely submission of content. Schedules content through WordPress and troubleshoots posts. Requires keen eye for detail, impeccable grammar, and knowledge of WordPress.

How To Get Started

Send me an email at volunteer@rmfw.org. I’ll send you a volunteer application with all the questions and information needed to help you find the right volunteer role for you. The more information about your skills and background you include in your application, the easier it is to match you with the perfect volunteer opportunity. Once I review your application, I’ll pass it along to our board members and other committee chairs. Most committee chairs prefer to interview prospective volunteers themselves. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the key duties and the time commitment involved. Together, we’ll work to ensure you’re volunteering in a capacity that’s fulfilling for you. To volunteer for the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference, complete a volunteer preference form.

Remember, for the hundreds of hours we stay glued to our seats honing our craft, volunteering gives us the chance to connect with others, share our knowledge, develop new skills, and expand our horizons. And while writing may be a solo occupation, a writing career is forged through the endeavors of all the teachers, mentors, editors, publishing contacts, and other writers who’ve helped to shape our work. Volunteer with RMFW and help shape another writer’s future. Here’s to a terrific 2017 and to the volunteers who make RMFW so vibrant!

-----

Angela La Voie is RMFW volunteer coordinator and newsletter editor. Her articles have appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times, Daily News of Los Angeles, The Dallas Morning News, Detroit Free Press, on MS-NBC.com, and through The New York Times News Service. She’s also published poems and essays in a variety of literary journals and magazines. She holds a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) in English and communication from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is currently working on her second novel, her fourth book overall.

What’s Happening, RMFW?

JAN
21
1st Quarter Board Meeting: Join the board members for the first quarter board meeting and meet the new Vice President, Sheri Merz-Duff. Contact president@rmfw.org with questions.
JAN
21
Denver
Your Most Productive Writing Year: In this workshop we will cover setting big picture career goals, breaking them into actionable steps, and how to make progress on them on a day-to-day basis. Contact denverprograms@rmfw.org with questions.
MAR
1
Anthology Submissions Begins: The stories in the next anthology will feature masks of every kind. Explore what happens when we—or our friends, enemies, or lovers—conceal ourselves behind carefully constructed identities. Contact anthology@rmfw.org with questions.

Photography & Writing Research: Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Whether you're writing historical novels, contemporary fiction, or even fantasy, research photography is a skill worth developing (see what I did there...). Not only does it help with research, but photos also help writers connect with readers, supplement and inspire blogging content, and provide a library of images writers can use with articles and online.

I've already written a post about the importance of shooting "B Roll" images, but today I thought I'd offer a few tips on getting the most from your research photography.

1. Shoot EVERYTHING.

Those of us who grew up in a time when cameras used "film" and photos cost money to develop and print often forget that pixels are effectively free - and it costs no more to shoot a thousand photos than it does to shoot a dozen.

During my recent research trip to Japan, I shot over 10,000 images (in 3 weeks' time). While you may not need that many images, it's easy to delete unwanted photos after you return - and hard to go back in time to capture things you missed. Err on the side of capturing more, and sort/file/delete when you get home.

2. When possible, use maps & signs for context.

Historical and other sites often give out free maps detailing the location and sights of interest. Shooting a photo of the relevant portion of the map before you photograph the location - or even just photographing the sign at the entrance to the historical or other site -  can help you keep track of the photos when you return.

When visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine), south of Kyoto, I climbed to the top of Mt. Inari and took almost a thousand photos. To make it easier to remember where I took them, I also photographed the "station signs" that hang at each of the sub-shrines and stopping points at intervals along the route:

So even months later, I know these torii sit just outside Station 13:

Whether I'm working on a novel, writing a blog or article about my experiences in Japan, or simply offering context for a photo I want to post on social media, using the map or local signs to anchor the photos helps me remember where and why I took them.

3. Shoot your subjects from multiple angles.

During my research trip, I stayed in a Buddhist temple and slept on traditional Japanese bedding - a futon with a buckwheat-hull pillow. I deliberately shot multiple photographs of the futon, alone:

In the context of the room:

And from multiple angles:

...to ensure I had the photos needed, for writing research and for blogs about futons and Japanese temple lodgings. Shooting multiple shots from different angles let figure out which photos to use, and in which contexts, after I came home.

(The Takeaway: Don't waste valuable time sorting photos on your trip. Shoot many, and sort them later.)

4.  Crop duplicate photos to highlight details.

Taking extra photos of the futon in the temple also gave me at least one I could crop for a blog about traditional Japanese pillows stuffed with buckwheat hulls:

Creative cropping helps you turn one image into several (either by using extras or by duplicating the original and cropping it in different ways).

 

5. Remember to wait for a "clear" shot without strangers, or to crop (or blur) their images out.

In some countries, it's illegal to photograph strangers or to share their images without permission. Even in the U.S., permission is required in order to use photographs of identifiable people in many contexts (there are exceptions, but "on my author website where I also promote my books" is generally not among them). The solution: crop or blur photos to remove the images of strangers before you post them.

I shot this original image (note that I blurred the faces before posting it) to show the way a temple nestled up against a mountainside:

Here's the same photo, cropped to remove the people:

With a little practice, and a creative eye, it's easy to build a library of research photos that meet a variety of writing and social media needs.

Have photo tips to share? I hope you'll add your thoughts in the comments too!

Bringing a “Mostly Dead” Book Back to Life in Audio … by Richard Rieman

As Billy Crystal’s character said in Princess Bride, “mostly dead is slightly alive.” You can breathe new life into your older books by giving them a voice.

There is revolutionary growth in audiobooks. The Audio Publishers Association (APA) reports audiobook sales are up over 38% in 2016, and Audible listening is up 35%, The cost to produce an audiobook has fallen to less than $3,000 – sometimes much less. If you use Amazon’s ACX.com, you have an option to share royalties with a narrator/producer without any other upfront costs.

In some cases, such as “The Martian,” audiobook versions are registering three or four times the sales number of the original work. They are, in effect, replacing the text version as the primary version of the book.

Why a book released years ago should be relaunched as an audiobook:

  • Treat your audiobook launch as a completely new way to reach your audience
    This is your new baby being born. Announce it with the same enthusiasm as any proud book launch parent.
  • Audiobook listeners are a new audience for your book
    The explosive growth in listening on smartphones and in “connected cars” is steadily increasing the number of audiobook buyers, especially over subscription services from Audible and iTunes.
  • More money from existing content
    Your manuscript will only need a few minor changes (refer to “listening” instead of “reading”) to create a new royalty payment income stream.
  • There are fewer books in audio in each genre
    In each genre – especially Young Adult, Romance/Erotica, and Mystery/Suspense, there are far fewer audiobook titles, making it easier for fans to find your book.
  • New reviews call attention to all versions of your book
    You can get reviews of your audiobook through services such as AudiobookBoom.com and reviews by genre, such as AudiobookReviewer.com.
  • New promotional opportunities
    You can create YouTube video trailers using audio excerpts from your book
  • Amazon’s Whispersync feature can help you sell Kindle ebook versions
    Kindle and audiobook buyers often buy both versions at a discount so they can pick up where they left off in each version.
  • Hearing the words you wrote brought back to life can re-energize you to write again
    Whether you voice your own book or find a great narrator, you can find yourself motivated to bring life to your next book.

Audiobooks are a wonderful form of storytelling. You have an opportunity to take the words off the pages and give them a new voice, and a new life.

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Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com brings both living and mostly dead books to life. Richard is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation, Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

2017 – THE YEAR OF BALANCE

2017 – THE YEAR OF BALANCE

I am not a big believer in your standard New Year's resolutions. They tend to be broad and sweeping statements like: I will lose weight. I will exercise more. I will finish my book. But I am a believer in setting goals, so when I received J.T. Ellison's 2016 Annual Review, I took it to heart.

For the past eight years, J.T. Ellison has been doing annual reviews of her life and work, based on the format first posted on Chris Guillebeau's blog. Here's a link to the actual post entitled "How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review." J.T. notes that his method is incredibly detailed, and she's right. I downloaded the spreadsheet link on Chris' website, and it's daunting. Still, I looked at several of J.T.'s past year's annual reviews, read Guillebeau's how-to, and tackled the job. Here's what came of it—and I expect you to hold me accountable. I am going to detail my goals (just like J.T. did), but I'm going to keep the focus primarily on my work goals (as I doubt most of you are interested in my personal life).

2017 is the year I find balance in life.

For me, sometimes the lines between my work life and my personal life blur, making it hard to juggle all the demands of either. Using the spreadsheet I downloaded off of Chris Guillebeau's website, I have come up with a game plan I hope will allow me to be more productive, increase my visibility as a writer and develop more time for me to regenerate my creativity.

Work Life:

I am most productive when I write consistently for a set amount of time, and I can be easily distracted by social media. I tend to check email and binge on Facebook, Twitter and blogging, which eats up a considerable amount of time. And it isn't an effective use of my social media, marketing and writing time. Scheduling time in each day for writing and then the business side of writing will create a better balance in my professional life. By setting word count goals, defining the purpose for my social media/email time, and defining tasks that will help improve my productivity and profile, I will achieve more success and be more fulfilled as a writer.

Personal Life:

On the personal side, by devoting/designating time to family and friends and creative endeavors outside of my writing, and through continued downsizing, de-cluttering and implementing practices that improve my health, I will replenish myself, enabling me to better both at work and at play.

The Specifics

It's easy to give broad strokes (like above), and harder to outline specific goals with specific deadlines. Here's what I came up with. NOTE: this isn't everything, but it's a start for sharing on a blog.

Category #1 – Writing Production

 Dedicated writing time. I am most productive in the morning, and I'm only really productive for about 4 hours at a time. Beginning immediately, I plan to devote 4 hours every day, every morning before 1:00 PM, Monday through Friday, five days a week.

 Dedicated writing business time. By afternoon I am not as creative. Beginning immediately, I plan to devote a minimum of 2 hours every day, Monday through Friday, five days a week, to answering emails, updating websites, writing and commenting on blogs, perusing and posting to social media sites, in conversation with my agent, publisher, publicist, etc.

 Set specific writing goals. I decided, writing 4 hours a day, I could produce at a minimum 600 words a day, 18,000 words a month and 216,000 words a year. I didn't set any goals for non-fiction, though I think I'll try and track it. It might be interesting to see how much time and how many words I spend writing for blogs, etc. I will not be as detailed as J.T. – figuring out time for writing emails and Tweets, but I figure by tracking word count for blog posts and other things I can quantify, and by tracking my hours spent on non-fiction, I can see if I am giving more weight to the business of writing or writing.

Category #2 – Increase my Writing Profile (In other words, work on my "branding," and building readers.)

With a book coming out in June, I have a lot to do in this realm. I write in two genres (mystery and thriller) and the books and audiences are very different. Figuring out how to best present myself on social media, my website and in marketing materials has been a real challenge. This year my main focus is on marketing my new thriller, RED SKY, scheduled to hit the stands on June 13th. All of the following goals need to be completed by June 13th.

 Learn how to better use social media. I will hit up friends, my children, and attend a few writers' workshops and online courses to try and figure this out. My main focus will be on my blogs (I write for RMFW and Rogue Women Writers), my Facebook page, my Twitter page and my website.

 Update my social media platforms. I have a nice head shot that has served me well for two years (thank you, Mark Stevens), but I just had some new photos taken for my new book cover (watch for the reveal). To tweak my brand, I need to upload new pictures, new book covers and new links across my social media platforms.

 Set up appearances. This gets expensive (figure $1,000 per out-of-town conference and sometimes a bookstore charge for a signing, though usually that's paid for by my publisher). Because it's easy to over-saturate a market, I plan to limit the number of local signings, and do some regional and national outreach.

 Set up a blog tour.

Categories #3 to #8 address my personal goals—specifically improving my health through diet and exercise; spending time with family and friends; reducing debt; focusing on creative projects; continuing my downsizing efforts; and planning some personal travel. (I want to go somewhere with my husband to celebrate our 35th anniversary, coming up in April.)

As I said, this is just a sliver of the commitments I have made to myself. I'm optimistic that with specific goals coupled with specific deadlines, I may have a chance of reaching my objectives. Of course, reading J.T.'s 2016 review, it's clear that many things may fall by the wayside. Still, intent and effort count for something. I may not achieve everything, but I know I'll achieve something—and there's hope I will find balance in 2017.

#Procrastinate is the strangest verb … by Rainey Hall

procrastinate

1. transitive verb
to put off intentionally and habitually

2. intransitive verb
to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

Origin and Etymology of procrastinate

Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrow

In addition to the above Merriam Webster on-line definition, I suggest to be FEARful of, or UNcertain of how to do something may produce procrastination.

If you need excuses for procrastinating the day of your writing, please use the appropriately numbered item(s) below:

#1 How can I get anything done with such soft, cuddly, cute...well, just watch a few of those puppies and kittens on Facebook and YouTube! Note: That link takes you to 16 minutes of funny cat videos. You'll love it.

#2 Hello? Playoffs? Are you ready for some football?

#3 Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

#4 Good ideas escape me.

#5 I WILL write today. Seriously. I think. Maybe. Then again…

#6 Each time I attempt to write, my ears get cold. Conspiracy? Maybe.

#7 You think you can’t find the time to write?

Amateur author: Dinner took over thirteen hours to make last night!
Amateur therapist: Tell me what you did.
Amateur author: Looked for recipes on Pinterest-3 hours
Confirmed ingredients and directions on other websites-2.5 hours
Made a quick run to Sprouts to pick up missing ingredients-2.25 hours
Rush hour traffic-30 minutes
Quick conversation with neighbor-1 hour
Mixed ingredients while talking on phone-32 minutes
Baked-165 minutes
Burnt dinner somewhere between 65 and 165 minutes
Got takeout-1.5 hours

#8 Weather! (Leaves are changing colors/Snowflakes are falling/Flowers are blooming and insects are buzzing…)

Calving Season

Seriously, I met a fellow author at a poetry gathering who told the group, “During lambing, my husband had to rush to town for emergency supplies. (The trip would take him over an hour.) He asked me, ‘Will that give you enough time to write?’”

#9 My finger hurts.

Take any combination of the above and don’t call me in the morning.

#10 Was carried away with research.

Please see Jefferson County Sheriff’s report #CR17-2333957

#11 Not. My. Fault.

Warning: The following photo, taken April 30, 2016 may be too graphic for children’s authors

Friends don’t let friends procrastinate

#12 What if I spend time and effort on plotting, writing, and then editing but somebody else produces a better book than me?

Oh bother! See what I mean?

Of course, there will always be a plethora of authors—but not necessarily in your genre and with your style and never with the same extraordinary voice.

#13 Insert your own reason(s) here!

 

May your procrastination be fenced in, and your imagination have room to roam.

For serious procrastinators—or maybe your new favorite character—check out the below links:

The Organization Against Chronic Procrastination

Crazy for Procrastinating? Maybe | Psychology Today

Remember: Nobody is just like you—thank goodness—or nothing would get done.

*A special “Thank you!” to Randy at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 14347 West Colfax Avenue Golden, CO 80401

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A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.