Ripping Ozzie Reads

Ozzie Spec Fic Authors offer you worlds of Wonder and Imagination

Archive for November, 2011

Adventure beyond Paris

Posted by richardharland on November 28, 2011

Today we took a train trip to Chartres. Outside of Paris, it was real late autumn weather, very misty, and the leaves on the trees all beautiful yellows and browns. Still not full-on winter, in other words.

We must jinx public transport: on Friday, there was an accident ahead of us on the line, blocking trains for hours. Yesterday, the lights inside the carriage went out, and there was an announcement that there was someone on the line (a body on the live third rail?) That was only a 5 min delay. Today, the train stopped halfway to Chartres and we had to go the rest of the way by bus.

Charters is as I remembered it from over thirty years ago – the most beautiful stained glass in the world. I loved it all over again. Here’s a photo, but only the palest imitation of the real thing.


We wandered around the old town, warmed up on onion soup in a tiny restaurant (I still think I do a better onion soup), and somehow didn’t get rained on even though you could almost see the raindrops forming in the air. (We’ve noticed this before, how it can come so close to raining you’d swear it had already started – yet it still stays dry.) Here’s us at the restaurant –

Advertisements

Posted in Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Creativity | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Lazy morning, busy afternoon

Posted by richardharland on November 27, 2011

Having a great time in Paris! Not as cold as expected (there are still leaves on the trees!), though grey, except for one sunny day.

On the first evening, we went to dinner with my publisher, Sophie Giraud. Here’s a pic –

That’s Sophie next to Aileen (Gilberte, editor, and Valérie, translator, turned up after the photo was taken).

Next day we went to the Musée d’Orsay, then the following day was readings and signings at Les Enfants Sur Le Toit bookshop in Montmarte. Here’s a pic of me with Cirinne and Valérie (a different Valérie), the owners.

Our apartment inParis is near Rue Oberkampf, which is where the young people in Paris come to party. So I was told, and it was true last night. Boy, what a party they were having in the apartment next to ours. Here,s a view from our apartment window –


Today we went to the famous flea market at St Ouen – bought a whole lot of clothes, boots, jewellery for Aileen and steampunk goggles for me (at last!) We’ve been eating great French and Algerian food … All going good!

Posted in Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Creativity, Editors, Promoting your Book, Publishers | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ian Irvine Reveals 41 Ways to Keep Readers Turning the Page!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on November 26, 2011

 41 WAYS TO CREATE AND HEIGHTEN SUSPENSE IN FICTION

PART ONE – CHARACTERS AND THEIR PROBLEMS

According to top New York literary agent Noah Lukeman (The Plot Thickens), if a writer can maintain suspense throughout the story, many readers will keep reading even if the characters are undeveloped and the plot is weak. Clearly, suspense is a vital tool, yet most books on writing only mention it in passing and few devote much space to its creation and development.

I’ve written 27 novels, and some of them have been rather successful, but Lukeman’s observation came as a revelation. Accordingly, I’ve scoured my writing notes for the past quarter century, and the books and articles I’ve read on storytelling, in order to compile a comprehensive list of ways to create suspense. Here it is. Sources and links are listed at the end.

 

STORY

At its simplest, a story consists of a character (the hero) who wants something badly, and an adversary (the obstacle) who is trying equally hard to prevent the hero from getting what he wants. In each scene, the hero attacks his problem in a new way, the adversary fights back and the hero either fails or his initial success leads to a bigger problem.

Readers read to lose themselves in the story and, hopefully, to become the hero through identification (see Jerry Cleaver’s excellent book, Immediate Fiction). But before readers can identify with a character, he has to reveal his true inner self. Character is revealed most clearly through adversity and conflict, when the hero is desperate and has to give everything he has. When he’s forced to the limit, the reader will identify strongly with the hero. The reader’s hope that the hero will succeed, and fear that he will fail, creates rising suspense until the climax, where the hero’s goal or problem is resolved.

Suspense comes from readers’ anticipation of what’s going to happen next. Therefore, never tell your readers anything in advance when, by withholding it, you can increase suspense.

Following Brown, I’ve grouped the suspense creation tools into these categories:

  • The viewpoint characters;
  • The problems these characters are facing;
  • The plot of the story;
  • The structure of the story.

For simplicity I refer to ‘the character’ or ‘the hero’, though many stories will have a number of viewpoint characters and more than one hero.

In Part One of this post I list ways to create suspense from the characters and their problems. Part Two will look at suspense creation from plot and structure.

 

A. CHARACTERS

For maximum suspense, you should not use any old character. Readers are only going to worry about, and identify with, characters they care about – ones who are both sympathetic and interesting.

1.    Sympathetic characters are (after Brown):

  • In trouble, or suffering in some way;
  • Underdogs. It’s difficult to empathise with a hero who is strong, powerful and has everything going for him, but everyone cheers when the underdog wins;
  • Vulnerable, ie they can be killed, trapped, enslaved, destroyed politically or professionally, or ruined financially or socially. Vulnerability can come from the character’s own physical, mental or emotional shortcomings and conflicts as well as from the machinations of the adversary; and
  • Deserving because of their positive character traits (optimism, courage, steadfastness, selflessness, compassion etc). A character can be in trouble, an underdog and vulnerable, but if he’s also lazy, selfish or a whining liar readers won’t identify with him or care what happens to him, and his troubles will create little suspense. This doesn’t mean the character can’t be a villain. If he’s acting for the best of reasons and the good outweighs the bad, readers will identify with him.

2.    Characters are likely to be interesting if (see Brown for a detailed analysis) they’re important, unusual or extraordinary. One reason we love to read about such characters is wish-fulfilment – living our lives through the story, feeling the characters’ hopes and fears, and being awed by their achievements. Characters may be more interesting if they’re:

  • Powerful – because of noble birth, wealth, high office, rank or position, intelligence or strength;
  • Naturally gifted or highly skilled at something important or useful;
  • Unusual (in appearance, a rare ability or an amazing life experience), extraordinary, strange, eccentric or downright weird;
  • Physically attractive, funny, dangerous or mysterious; or
  • Surprising (they don’t fit the stereotype of their character type).

Your characters should also be as different as possible, since they will often be working together. Having highly contrasting characters maintains reader interest, multiplies the potential for conflict with the hero and will suggest many new subplot possibilities.

To build suspense through your characters:

3.    They must have goals.

  • Common goals are: to survive, escape, win the contest or battle, become the leader, achieve their destiny, master the art, free the slaves or change the world;
  • The moment your hero forms a goal, readers will hope she achieves it – and worry about what will happen if she doesn’t;
  • Sometimes the goal (eg to survive or escape) will only appear after the character is confronted with the problem (being stalked by a killer, trapped in a bushfire).

4.    A strong hero needs a strong opponent. The opponent isn’t necessarily a villain. It can be a good person who strongly disagrees with the hero, a force of nature (flood, forest fire, epidemic), a beast or alien, or an uncaring society. But when it is a villain:

  • He should be at least as strong as the hero, and preferably stronger. You can’t make a strong story when the hero’s opponent is weak;
  • Evil villains are a cliché, and pure evil is both boring and predictable, so make your villain human. Reveal his admirable side, make his motivations clear, show why the bad things he does make perfect sense to him, and you’ll create a far more chilling antagonist;
  • If the villain is largely in the background, strengthen him by revealing how much and why everyone fears him. Show his power growing via his victories, one after another;
  • Give him advantages the hero lacks, fanatical supporters, and the power to lure away the hero’s allies.

5.    Tailor your characters to maximise suspense (for details, see Lukeman and the other refs):

  • A cautious hero won’t go down the crumbling mine shaft, but an impulsive or reckless hero will plunge in. A coward won’t jump into the sea to rescue drowning passengers, a brave man will do so instinctively. If the hero has a phobia, such as a fear of rodents, send her into a ruin full of rats;
  • Often the hero’s biggest limitation will be himself. Does he have the strength of will to confront the woman who betrayed him, or will he keep putting put it off? Is he plagued by self-doubt, or a cock-eyed optimist who believes things will come right in the end despite all evidence to the contrary?
  • Does the hero have a destiny, eg to become the next lord, president of the company, or to be the catalyst for revolution? Is this destiny foretold in the story, or is it something he’s known since birth? Is it a positive destiny, an unbearable burden or a dark and dangerous threat? Will he achieve it, or fail? And either way, what are the consequences to him and to others?
  • Create loose cannon characters. No one knows what they’ll do next and their unpredictability heightens suspense. Will the reformed drunk crack under pressure and start drinking again? Will the self-effacing heroine snap when pushed too far, and explode?

6.    Take away the hero’s ability to defend herself (or others) and you create intense suspense:

  • She’s being stalked in the dark, but drops her only weapon and can’t find it; she’s injured and can’t escape her enemy; her foot is trapped in a crack and she can’t get it out; or she’s paralysed by terror or self-doubt;
  • She sees her friend heading across the rotten bridge but is too far away to warn her; she rides to the rescue of an ally, knowing she’s going to arrive too late;
  • He fails under pressure – he could save the day with a magic spell but forgets the words, or gets them wrong with disastrous consequences;
  • His efforts are in vain – his son is suicidally depressed and he can’t get through to him;
  • She believes that her fate (or a friend’s, or the country’s) is fixed by destiny and nothing can change it.

7.    Use rapidly changing emotions to build suspense. By showing the hero’s emotions changing rapidly in response to some threat or confrontation you can build suspense to a crescendo that will bring your readers to the edge of their seats, eg:

  • Vague unease becomes fear becomes terror becomes shrieking hysteria;
  • Irritation becomes annoyance becomes anger becomes murderous rage.

8.    Create anticipation and expectation.

  • The more your hero dwells on or worries about some forthcoming event (good or bad) the more suspenseful it will be when the event is about to occur – a shy girl fretting about her wedding night; a young recruit marching to battle, sick with fear;
  • Have the hero make a complicated plan and be rashly confident that it will succeed. This will worry your readers because they know it’s going to go wrong;
  • Build up the hero’s anticipation (of winning the contest, gaining the prize, getting the girl) into expectation. Then, when he fails, the blow will be bitter. He hasn’t been beaten by the failure, but by his defeated expectation.

9.    Employ romantic and sexual tension. For variety or to further the plot, action-related suspense can be alternated with suspense arising from romantic or sexual tension between characters. Heighten suspense by:

  • Creating barriers to the relationship – love between enemies, between a human and an alien, a lover with a dark past or terrible secret;
  • Or by using obstacles to keep the lovers apart.

10.  Use micro-tension – the moment-by-moment tension that keeps readers in suspense over what’ll happen in the next minute. (See Don Maass’s terrific book The Fire in Fiction for details). Micro-tension comes from the ‘emotional friction’ between characters as they try to defeat each other. The characters aren’t necessarily enemies, though. There should be tension between any two characters, whether they are opponents, servants, friends, allies or lovers. There should also be tension within the character due to inner conflicts.

  • In dialogue, show: the hero’s doubt or disbelief about what the other character is saying; the disagreement about goals or plans; the disdain, dislike, contempt or concealed hatred; the power struggles, and ego and personality clashes; bring out inner conflicts in what each character says and does;
  • Often action can be lacking in tension because we’ve seen it a thousand times before – there are only so many ways two people can have a sword fight. To make action suspenseful, get inside the head of the hero to show his conflicting feelings and emotions during the struggle. Then, break the action cliché by showing subtle visual details that give the reader a clear and vivid picture of this particular scene rather than any generic action scene;
  • Use similar techniques when writing sex or violence. Show the key moments with a handful of striking visual images. Bring out the hero’s conflicting feelings and emotions at each moment, focusing on subtle emotions rather than the obvious ones such as (in sex scenes) passion, lust or tenderness;
  • When the character is thinking or emoting, create suspense by (a) cutting restated thoughts, feelings & emotions and (b) making thoughts and emotions realistic. For instance, the hero may be outwardly happy, but is concealing or fighting some niggling worry. Or struggling with an inner conflict (justice versus vengeance, duty to an bad leader vs personal honour);
  • In descriptive passages and quiet moments, show little details that make the setting vividly real and establish the mood of the place. Describe the hero’s conflicting feelings and emotions, focusing on subtle emotions rather than obvious ones.

 

B. PROBLEM

The story begins when your character confronts a problem she has to solve, or forms a goal she’s determined to achieve. Problems can be of three kinds: a danger, a want or lack, or a puzzle or mystery. Dangers and lacks arouse suspense because the reader hopes the character will solve her problem, yet fears the consequences if she fails. Puzzles and mysteries create suspense through curiosity – the reader wants to know the answer.

11.  Put your characters (or their friends or allies) in danger (for details see the references, especially Brown, Lyon and Lukeman).

  • Dangers can be: physical (a threat to life, health or vital functions such as eyesight, mobility or intellect); sexual (assault, pregnancy, disease); psychological (abuse, bullying, brainwashing); emotional; or moral (being led into crime, corruption or depravity);
  • Dangers can also threaten: the character’s relationships (love, friendship, family, clan, group or society); her profession, trade, career or art; her property, possessions or prospects; her sanity; her freedom;
  • Alternatively, your character could be a danger to others (he’s violent, a rapist, a psychopath or just reckless), or to himself (depressed, suicidal or reckless);
  • Expose the hero to his darkest fear – if he’s claustrophobic, trap him in a lift or a dungeon. Alternatively, make the imaginary seem vividly real (eg someone who is paranoid or psychotic).

12.  Give your character a want or lack that she’s desperate to fulfil.

  • To find love or romance, support or friendship;
  • To escape from a blighted community or life;
  • To master a skill, disciple or art, or realise a dream.

13.  Pose a mystery or puzzle. In some kinds of stories, particularly crime and mystery, suspense mainly comes from the puzzle the author has set, and readers’ curiosity about how the hero will solve it and what the answer is (see (26 and (27)).

14Force the hero to face the problem. Either:

  • She has no choice because she can’t get away. She’s trapped in a locked building, slave camp, spacecraft or bureaucratic maze;
  • She has a choice but walking away would violate her own moral or ethical code. Eg, she’s on the run but sees a child in danger and has to help, no matter the risk to herself;
  • He has a choice but walking away would violate his professional duty to act – a munitions expert who has to defuse a bomb; a priest who must exorcise a demon;
  • He initially refuses but is talked (or talks himself) into it.

15.  Raise the stakes.

  • You can either raise the prize for succeeding, or raise the price of failure – or, preferably, both at the same time;
  • These consequences can either apply to the hero, to people he cares for, or those he has a duty to (eg a doctor looking after a critically ill patient);
  • Remember that both the prize and the price are relative – if the emperor wins or loses a skirmish it may be trivial, whereas winning or losing his first battle will change the life of a young lieutenant.

16.  Make the problem more difficult to solve.

  • Increase the likelihood that the character will lose, then show what the specific personal consequences will be;
  • Threats to the viewpoint character and his friends and family will arouse far more reader anxiety, and create more suspense, than problems facing people he doesn’t know, or people in another province or country.

17.  Shorten the deadline.

  • Constantly remind your hero of the time limit;
  • Then cut it in half;
  • Slow down key scenes to heighten suspense. Show them in greater than normal detail to bring readers right into the moment.

18.  Break reader expectations.

  • Readers are constantly guessing what’s going to happen next, based on stories they’ve read before, but if they know what’s going to happen, suspense dies;
  • Analyse the hero’s problem and come up with unusual twists and reversals, new problems and difficult conflicts that will confound reader expectations of what’s going to happen.

 

The second part of this article deals with suspense from the viewpoints of plot and structure. (Next Week)

 

REFERENCES

Bell, James Scott (2004). Plot and Structure. Writer’s Digest. Probably the best book on the topic of plot and structure.

Bell, James Scott (2008). Revision and Self-Editing. Writer’s Digest. Also a great book; a wealth of practical info and examples.

John D Brown (2011). Key Conditions for Reader Suspense (27-part article). http://www.sfwa.org/2010/12/key-conditions-for-suspense/ An excellent series of articles.

Cleaver, Jerry (2002). Immediate Fiction. St Martin’s Griffin. No one has ever explained the craft of storytelling more clearly or simply.

Kress, Nancy (2005). Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint. Writer’s Digest. Excellent book on these topics.

Lukeman, Noah (2002). The Plot Thickens. St Martin’s Griffin, New York. Terrific chapters on characterisation, suspense and conflict, a lot of stuff I’ve never thought of before.

Lyon, Elizabeth (2008). Manuscript Makeover, Revision Techniques no Fiction Writer can Afford to Ignore. Perigee Trade. In my view, the best book on revision and self-editing.

Maass, Donald (2009). The Fire in Fiction. Writer’s Digest. He identifies the problems his agency sees over and over again in manuscripts and tells you how to fix them. A fantastic book.

Truby, John (2007). The Anatomy of Story – 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. Faber and Faber. A fascinating and insightful book.

Vorhaus, John (1994). The Comic Toolbox. Silman James Press. Not just the best book on comic writing, but better than all the others put together.

 

About me: I’m an Australian marine scientist. I’ve also written 27 novels, including the internationally bestselling Three Worlds fantasy sequence, an eco-thriller trilogy about catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, and 12 books for children, most recently the Grim and Grimmer humorous adventure fantasy series.

My next epic fantasy novel is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm, to be published by Orbit Books in Australia in November 2011, and in the US and UK in April 2012.

 

For more on my books, including covers, blurbs, reviews and the first chapters of all of my novels and my 2 novellas, see my site.

To say Hi or get a quick answer to your questions, please pop over to my Facebook page.

For more on writing and publishing, see my blog.

 

 

Posted in Creativity, Editing and Revision, Good Dialogue, Nourish the Writer, Plotting, Point of View, Research, Writing Craft, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

One More Sleep

Posted by richardharland on November 22, 2011

One more sleep, then Aileen and I fly off to Paris. 26 hours on planes and in airports – not good. But then two weeks in Paris – very very good! Visits to bookshops, signings at the Montreuil Book Fair, and plenty of free time as well for strolling the boulevards, nibbling the pastries, sipping the wine and generally drinking up gallons and gallons of ambiance.
Only qualm – leaving my cat, Habibi. But Michelle’s moving into the house to look after him, so he’ll probably have a ball. Here’s a photo –
Yeah, he’s looking pretty smug already. But hey, we’ll be smug in Paris, once we’ve got over that 26 hours.
I’m blogging the trip on – richardharland.wordpress.com. Maybe I said that before?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Ian Irvine: Marketing for Authors Part Two

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on November 19, 2011

Continuing with Ian’s fantastic article on Marketing for Authors.

  1. Your email newsletter –  emailing newsletters to fans who have signed up may be the best way to market to people who love your books.

Provide incentives for people to sign up to your newsletter, then send it out regularly – at least bi-monthly. Include links for sample chapters and to buy your books, as well as to your website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and blog.

Note that unsolicited marketing emails are illegal in many countries and penalties are severe. Legal requirements differ widely for email newsletters, but, basically, individuals have to opt-in and must be given a simple way to unsubscribe. I asked my Facebook fans what the best newsletter management software was, and the majority said MailChimp.

  1. Your Facebook Fan page ­– the best way to develop and engage with a community of people who love your books. The number one way to sell books is through word of mouth from your fans, and the more strongly you can communicate with them, and they with you, the better. It’s easy to set up a simple fan page, but to create a page optimised to effectively promote your books requires a substantial commitment of time and resources.

Set up a Facebook business Page (also called a Fan Page). This page is designed to communicate with your fans, not to socialise with your friends. Dana Lynn Smith’s Facebook Guide for Authors will bring you up to speed on Facebook.

I’ve devoted a lot of time to developing and running my Facebook page; I’m very happy with the way it’s working and the two-way interaction with fans. Develop a strong sense of community by:

◦         Frequent posts of interest to your fans (but not 10 times a day – some fans will be irritated and Unlike you. 1-3 times a day is ideal);

◦         Providing quick responses to fans’ questions (the same day, or, ideally within hours);

◦         Interaction that shows you as a human being rather than a promotional robot;

◦         Providing lots of useful content, particularly images, audio and video, that’s regularly updated.

◦         You can facilitate the growth of your page by promotions and competitions, and via Facebook advertising.

Facebook now has 800 million active users and publishers are moving a lot of their advertising there. So am I.

  1. Your GoodReads page – GoodReads has 6 million users who are really interested in books. It’s rapidly becoming the main book-lovers’ social media site and publishers are moving a substantial amount of advertising there. It’s also a great place for you to develop a community with readers and fans.

Set up a strong GoodReads page with lots of content that’s regularly updated, as well as deep interaction with fans and other readers. I haven’t been nearly as active on GoodReads as I should be, and will have to upgrade my presence there when I can glean the time. Also:

◦         Add your own reviews;

◦         Respond to comments;

◦         Attach your blog (though there can be formatting issues).

  1. Your YouTube page – useful because it’s a different way for people to find you. Or a way for people with different interests to hear about your books.

If you can, be active on YouTube by posting book trailers, video and audio interviews, book readings etc (you can record these direct from your computer’s webcam). As you can see, I’ve been slack on YouTube in recent years and need to do a lot more.

◦         If you are going to post videos, do it often. Make them brief, fun, quirky, interesting and informative, not long, tedious ‘talking heads’. If you can’t do it well, don’t do it at all.

◦         Respond to comments on your videos.

◦         Network by commenting on and favouriting other relevant videos and movie trailers of interest.

◦         Link your YouTube page to your website, GoodReads account and Facebook Page, and to your blog, or embed your videos in these places.

H.         Other Activities to Complement your Platform

If time permits, you should try to use or establish a presence on these sites:

  • Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the first source of information for many internet users so your entry needs to be comprehensive and up to date. Most Wikipedia entries are far too brief, and often wrong. Get someone to put up a Wikipedia page for you, if there isn’t one, or to update it if there is. You can’t do this under your own name. See Ian Irvine Wikipedia.
  • Other social networking sites relevant to authors and book lovers include LibraryThing,  and Shelfari 
  • Key genre sites: Update your entries on the most important sites. E.g., for speculative fiction, The SF site, SFF World, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, and any others you feel are important. Please let me know about any I’ve missed;
  • Fan sites: interact with your fan sites, if any, and respond to questions regularly;
  • LinkedIn: Not hugely important for book promotion, but it’s worth having a presence there – consider if it’s useful to join relevant groups (some of them are huge!) and post comments.

Lesser Sites

  • The following social media, networking and bookmarking sites aren’t tremendously useful for book promotion (though they do help, so it doesn’t hurt to have a presence in lots of places if you have the time):

If you have any comments, criticisms or advice, I’d love to hear them.

Ian Irvine is an Australian marine scientist who has also written 27 novels, including the international bestselling Three Worlds epic fantasy sequence, a trilogy of thrillers about catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, and 12 novels for children. His latest children’s series is the humorous adventure fantasy quartet, Grim and Grimmer. Ian’s latest epic fantasy is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm.

 

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Book Trailers, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Paris ooh-la-la!

Posted by richardharland on November 17, 2011

Five and a half days to go until we fly out to Paris, yay! My French publisher is flying me over for the big Montreuil Book Fair, plus some other talks and signings, and we get the use of an apartment in Paris for a fortnight. Of course, we had to pay Aileen’s flight ourselves, but she gets to gallivant around Paris with no duties to fulfill. (My publisher says that Aileen belongs in Paris!)
Here’s the team from Helium – a photo from when we had lunch on the Left Bank in 2010.

It’ll be cold, the start of their winter, but who cares when it’s Paris?! I’m nearly about to reach the two thirds point in the next steampunk novel – then I can put my iPad aside (I type up on my iPad!) and start serious preparations. I checked out the apartment on Google – I’m still not sure of the actual building in Rue St Maur, but this is the view onto the street from where we’ll be.

I’ll keep posting here on the ROR site every few days, and I’m very determined to post daily on my own blog at richardharland.wordpress.com

PS I’ll be taking Tansy’s MS with me to read on the iPad – the MS we’ll be critiquiing at the next ROR retreat. Good food, good wine, good reading!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking, Creativity, Editors, Publishers, Steampunk | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Ian Irvine: Marketing for Authors, Part One

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on November 12, 2011

Today we have the indefagitable Ian Irvine, who is sharing is hard-won wisdom with us. Take it away, Ian …

Internet Marketing Basics for Authors

A.         Introduction

Building a strong presence on the net is a long-term proposition. Unless you’re a celebrity or a genius it’ll take you a year or more to build your author platform and gain a significant following. To do so you need to establish presences in a number of places, because they have different functions in your book marketing strategy.

But it’s not enough to establish your sites on the net – you also need to promote and cross-promote them, regularly respond to comments and questions, and update these sites frequently. If a fan returns to your site after a month or two and finds nothing new, or worse, stuff that’s obviously out of date, they’re unlikely to return. But remember, to build your audience, the great majority of your updates should be engaging, relevant, informative and free.

B.        Your Author Platform

What are these functions – what does online networking actually do? What is an author platform, for that matter?

Your author platform is the way you’re currently reaching an audience. For most people, other than celebrities, this is your online presence, whether it’s your website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, YouTube, or several of these.

C.        Online Networking

According to Dana Lynn Smith, in The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to Successful Social Marketing, online networking allows you to:

  • Build your author platform and recognition of your brand (i.e., your name as the author of certain kinds of books);
  • Develop relationships with peers, influencers, potential customers and people with common interests;
  • Drive traffic to your website, blog and Facebook page;
  • Share your expertise and knowledge, and help other people
  • Directly and indirectly, promote your books (and any other services you may offer).

D.         Seven Key Activities

The following activities are the most important for book marketing. Ideally, you’ll do all of these, assuming you have the time. It takes a lot of work.

  1. Your website
  2. Your Facebook Fan page
  3. Your blog
  4. Your Twitter feed
  5. Your email newsletter
  6. Your GoodReads page
  7. Your YouTube page

E.        One at a Time

I don’t recommend you work on everything at once. After you’ve created your website, start on one other activity – your blog, or Twitter, or your Facebook fan page – and when it’s working well you can move on to the next. But if there’s one activity you’re not comfortable with e.g. creating and posting videos to YouTube, don’t worry about it. You can’t do everything and it’s better to do a few things well than many things badly.

Remember that social media like Facebook, Twitter, your blog, YouTube feed and GoodReads page aren’t for direct marketing, but for connecting to other like-minded people. Only a tiny fraction of your updates to social media sites should be direct marketing – i.e., versions of ‘Buy my book!’ The great majority of your updates should be useful, informative or entertaining.

For direct marketing, you’ll use your website and especially your email newsletter. And perhaps some carefully targeted advertising on Facebook or GoodReads.

F.         Develop a Plan

Before you begin, do some planning:

  1. Work out your goals, e.g., to:
    1. Meet people, network, keep in touch and build relationships in the areas you’re interested in;
    2. Help others by sharing your knowledge and experience;
    3. Build your author platform and brand recognition;
    4. Promote your books, indirectly or directly;
    5. Gain a large audience and drive relevant traffic to your main author platforms (website, blog, Facebook fan page, newsletter etc).

 

  1. Develop your social media strategy to reach these goals, considering your available time and resources. Work out the topics you’re going to post about, then stay on message. Don’t do unrelated posts.

 

  1. General principle in social media: give more than you get. Reach out to people and ask – who can I help? Do this by sharing your expertise and experience. Promote only rarely, and when you do, be subtle.

 

  1. Ask yourself who you’re trying to connect with. The aim is to end up with as many high quality followers as possible. People follow you for what you have to say of interest to them; e.g., for me on Twitter and my blog:
    1. Authors and other people I’m friends with or interested in;
    2. Influential and perceptive writers on the publishing industry, technology and the future;
    3. Experts on book promotion and marketing, especially in social media;
    4. People with something to say about writing and storytelling;
    5. Reviewers/editors/publishers/book bloggers etc;
    6. Key bookshops and booksellers.
    7. People who love the genres I write in.
    8. Other writers trying to find a way through the maze.

G.         Developing your Platform

The way you’ll develop your platform will depend on your own time, skills and resources. I’ve used my own sites as examples of how these can be done well (or poorly, in some cases – I’m still learning, and I welcome your comments).

  1. Your website – the first and most reliable source of information about you and your books.

Build a strong, user-friendly website that loads quickly, has lots of useful content (including first chapters of all your books, links to places where readers can buy them, and plenty of images, audio and video) and is regularly updated with news or other content (ideally, weekly). As an example, I’ve put a huge effort into both the design and content of my website, and you may find some inspiration for your own site here:  Also:

◦         Add a button to collect Likes for your Facebook page,

◦         Add other useful widgets such as Google Translate, especially if you have a lot of international readers. The translations aren’t brilliant but they’re better than nothing;

◦         Make it easy to share with sharing and bookmarking buttons (I use this ), and RSS;

◦         It’s a pain trying to determine if your favourite site has been updated recently. Add a box that shows what the latest updates are and where they can be found;

◦         Optimise it for mobile devices.

  1. Twitter – probably the fastest and simplest way to build your audience, to meet and develop relationships with other authors, influencers and potential book buyers, to keep up to date, get help, create a buzz about your book or content, and to drive traffic to your other sites. It’s also a good place to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise, thus enhancing your reputation as an expert. It’s also easy compared to other social media: the learning curve is small and tweeting need not take a lot of time.

To gain followers, post valuable or useful content (your own articles and links, plus interesting and relevant material you’ve come across, but not ads or personal trivia) several times a day – with your other tweets being replies, retweets etc. Be yourself: authentic, friendly and helpful.

You can write and schedule your updates in advance with HootSuite. The Twitter Guide for Authors is helpful and relevant.

Twitter can become a time-wasting distraction, but many writers find it extremely useful for meeting like-minded people, making other industry contacts, and as an instantaneous publicist. I use it mainly for telling people about interesting blog, Facebook or website content (other peoples’ as well as my own content), learning from experts in my areas of interest, and driving traffic to my site and blog. Ian on Twitter.

  1. Your Blog – a great way to gain followers, network with influencers, drive traffic to your sites and be found by search engines. Also a good place to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Blogs are relatively easy to set up and maintain, but using them effectively requires a significant time commitment – ideally, at least 5 hours a week.

Create a structured blog on a topic or topics of broad appeal, with lots of useful content and helpful or thought-provoking (or controversial) articles, that’s regularly updated (ideally, several days a week), and provide quick responses to readers’ comments.

Remember, your readers don’t give a damn about you. They’ll scan your blog in 10 seconds and leave if it doesn’t seem useful. Make each article clear, simple and relevant, and definitely not an advertisement for your own books. I’ve only begun blogging recently, but the great majority of my posts contain useful information about writing, publishing and books in general: See Ian Irvine blogspot

To increase your audience, ask what interests your readers. Free Social Media Examiner.Also:

◦         Google ‘effective blog design’ and set up a clear, well-structured, uncluttered blog that’s easy to read, and easy to find content on.

◦         Make it clear at a glance what your blog is about and who you are.

◦         Make it easy to search, bookmark, share and subscribe to your blog, so visitors will return.

◦         Make it mobile friendly. Up to a third of all visitors come from mobile devices.

◦         Blog comments. Reply promptly to comments on your posts. It’s also helpful to post comments frequently to other relevant blogs (but not comments that are really ads for your book).

◦         Blog tours. Organise a blog tour where, over a few weeks soon after your book has been published, you do guest posts and respond to readers’ comments on 10 – 20 other relevant blogs. Blog tours are also very useful to get a buzz going, though quite a bit of work – for the two tours I did earlier this year, I wrote 40,000 words of posts. For more info.

Next Sunday Part Two of Ian’s Marketing for Authors.

Feel free to send questions through to Ian.

Ian Irvine is an Australian marine scientist who has also written 27 novels, including the international bestselling Three Worlds epic fantasy sequence, a trilogy of thrillers about catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, and 12 novels for children. His latest children’s series is the humorous adventure fantasy quartet, Grim and Grimmer. Ian’s latest epic fantasy is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Covers, Promoting your Book, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Sales, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Creature Court Fashion Challenge Contest

Posted by tansyrr on November 9, 2011

It’s Nanowrimo so I’m currently swamped with writing a new novel. I hated it bitterly for the first week, resenting every 1667 I had to squeeze out of a stone daily, and devastated that the book I had been waiting two years to write was betraying me so badly.

But now it’s week 2, my momentum is up, and I’m falling happily in love with exactly the same novel. Ah, the ups and downs of the writering.

There are still a couple of months before the release of Reign of Beasts, the third in my Creature Court trilogy, and to celebrate I am making a quilt. Well, I started making a quilt, and then I photographed some of the bits, and then I stopped making a quilt. The *important* detail is that I was able to print up some gorgeous postcards in honour of four of the novel’s heroines – Velody, Rhian, Delphine and Livilla – and I have a plan to write sneak peek excerpts of Book 3 onto said postcards, and release them into the wild.

If you are one of those people hanging out for Reign of Beasts (and particularly if you are among those people who were counting on it being out in October – sorry about that!) then all you have to do to earn a postcard hand-written with a tantalising glimpse of Book 3 is:

Design or describe an outfit for one of the characters of the Creature Court novels to wear.

EVERYONE’S A WINNER:

Everyone who enters the contest & provides me with a postal address [to creaturecourt (at) gmail.com – please don’t post addresses in comments] will receive a Creature Court postcard with a juicy snippet from Book 3 hand-written by me.

You can take the challenge as seriously or as flippantly as you choose. I look forward to seeing your entries. Unless you request otherwise, I will post your entries on my blog. If you wish me to remove them from public display at any time, just ask.

Competition is open until 15th December or until I run out of postcards, whichever comes first!

The first wave of entries are up here and I have another batch to put up shortly. The sooner you enter, the sooner you will get your postcard!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Creativity, Fantasy Genre, Promoting your Book | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »