Marketing for Fiction Writers

crowd so eager to buy
All so desperate to buy your books

All writers need good marketing and there are plenty of contenders on the net offering help or tools towards marketing for fiction writers.

You know the usual approach, an email with video offer: a video that begins with 20 minutes of insistent voice outlining typical author problems, another 10 minutes of the entrepeneur’s success – usually via setbacks and problems (to show you he’s been where you are and COME THROUGH) and there you are waiting and waiting for the promised help, tip or tool. Near the end of the video it comes in miniature, followed by the plug to buy the book, video, or course that really holds this apparently magic solution to marketing for fiction writers.

The thing is, if you show people gold, there’s a chance they’ll buy it. If you yap on and on about people’s need for gold, the misery of not having it, the desirability of buying it and how you own gold, silver, diamonds etc., but you never show anything, you produce frustration, envy, and – in the case of sales – probable disappointment.

Epitome of success

So I will mention two entrepeneurs who do not disappoint and are not full of bull. No, I have NO affiliations and gain nothing but this post from talking about them. I’ve tried them and benefited from them.

Firstly, Bryan Cohen. Recently, he offered a free video about writing a book description, his Best Page Forward service. Bryan’s delivery is to the point. He speaks clearly and unhesitatingly about the process. It’s obvious this is from confident practice of his technique which he then demonstrates live. Using an actual example of someone’s fiction title and synopsis, he analyses key selling points, divides into sentences, strategically ordered. This effective copy writing process is shown in full, suggestions from the video audience invited and used and by the end, produces a really good book description that any author would be thrilled to have. Yes, there are services to be bought advertised at the end but viewers will have clearly seen their worth and, importantly, if they can’t afford to buy, they have learned, or at least seen, valuable techniques. This gives confidence in buying Bryan’s other services and tools, on the basis of “This was so convincing, I bet his other stuff is good, too.”

Secondly, there’s the talented Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur. He gives away quite a lot online, such as his neat conversion from written book description to an html output so that it looks good on Amazon or elsewhere. I have his PublisherRocket: once bought, all updates (and they are frequent) are free. Rocket helps with keywords and categories and considerably slims down the process of discovering these. It’s best for US markets, but a great and quite comprehensive tool. Moreover, Dave answers emails himself, and promptly. So any hiccups in using this or his other tools are quickly ironed out.

Entrepeneurial treasures

Many groan about having to engage in marketing techniques for fiction writers. There’s a whole deluge of offered supports and solutions out there. Some may be great, a lot really are NOT. At least I can write a post about two entrepeneurs who deliver.

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Turning to Art through fiction

I have a keen interest in cross-fertilization. This post is about turning to Art through fiction.

This post was sparked by turning to Art programmes on TV during lockdown. At a time of constant real-life drama, fictional crises and any human concerns were too difficult to watch. Art is a way of taking the mind to a calmer place, and it was easier to concentrate on descriptions of paintings, or artists at work.

Consider the rôle of Art in fiction. The dramatic opening of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch introduces the precious little painting that entrances its young visitor to the art gallery, so much so that he rescues it from the calamitous event. Is it all he will have left of the mother who died and who loved that painting? The hero’s journey in this wonderful novel is actually the secret journey of the painting. The plot makes the reader long to see the original Goldfinch work and thus, turn to Art through fiction.

The goldfinch, Carole Fabritius

Above is a tiny 1654 oil by Carole Fabritius. This link shows the delicate brushwork, and which of use would have seen it let alone considered it artistic qualities if not from reading the novel?

Similarly, I learned about the Scottish contribution to the development of photography from In the Blink of an Eye by Ali Bacon. This is a fictionalised biography of David Hill, (D.O.Hill) who, with his partner, Robert Adamson, produced the earliest art form of Scottish photographs.

This novel begins with a minister, Scobie, travelling to view the famous Disruption Painting by David Hill. It showed the First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission on 23rd May 1843. Four hundred ministers were represented in it, and many other men and women…only after his really arduous journey, Scobie finds his own face is missing. Imagine the psychological effects of that: being wiped from an event of such historic interest, and one of such significance to him! Rather like being omitted from your parents’ will. Without that painting, Scobie would have continued seeing himself as an essential part of that historic event. Turning to the painting itself, the hundreds of characteristic and life-like portraits, including some bystanders, make it easy to empathise with a minister who must have felt faceless and excluded. This character prompts the reader to discover the painting.

NewhavenFishwife on text by Stevenson.jpg

Alison Bacon describes beautifully how entranced Hill is by his subjects. Her description of his capturing some fishergirls in a spontaneous photograph led me to seek that out, and find how amazingly characterful and atmospheric all his work is, despite photography being in its infancy. How different from the stiff poses of most Victorian photographs!

I knew nothing of these Scottish pioneers, but fiction brought me to admire their achievements in the art form of photography.

Lastly, Jennifer Cody Epstein’s novel The Painter from Shangai introduced me to the incredible work of Pan Yuliang who turned to Art after being sold into prostitution. She later married a rich official who supported her talent and she became the first Chinese female artist to paint in Western style, having studied in Paris and later, Italy. The novel’s fictionalised history is fascinating in itself, but Yuliang is not an artist I knew or believe is particularly well known in the U.K. Again, the novel drew me to the Art, Yuliang’s atmospheric style of portraiture.

Portrait by Pan Yuliang.jpg

Art through fiction – this is a topic I am likely to return to.

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Psychological fiction

What are they thinking?

Photo by Ugur Peker on Unsplash

Inside UNCOMMON RELATIONS

I write psychological fiction: that is, narratives that emphasize the interior lives of the characters—not just what they do, but why? What are they thinking and what circumstances has prompted them to behave as they do? The reader is invited to delve into the characters’ heads. This focus is true of all my books whether historical, satire, crime or contemporary.

My recent novels are contemporary psychological dramas. It took two full-length novels to complete the story of Terry and the many characters in Uncommon Relations. The plot is involved, the characters all play their part. Each one has a back story that helps drive the plot.

Uncommon Relations – Rosalind Minett

The story tells of Terry Stedforth, an ordinary married man whose life becomes bizarre after he begins a search– in fact, opens a Pandora’s Box. There are plenty of Uncommon Relations along the way in whichever sense you apply the phrase. Terry’s life-style change from prosaic to bizarre doesn’t occur by accident, but is sparked off by a chance meeting with his look-alike. If only he hadn’t had that sighting, if only he hadn’t started off on a search, none of his friendships or colleagues would have changed, none of the drama would have occurred. And, importantly, he might never have known what was lying in wait for him at home.
The difficulty in writing a psychological thriller or mystery is providing sufficient hints of characters’ thoughts and motivations whilst keeping up the pace of the action. In all psychological fiction, deep characterisation is key.
With Uncommon Relations, one major goal for me was to provide a strong ending. This has to come at the very end of Part Two. I’ve been disappointed enough times in reading psychological thrillers that captivate utterly then fail to deliver in their final third. An exception is S.J. Watson’s Before I go to Sleep whose characters’ actions are always in tune with their personal histories.

I hope readers will find the end of Uncommon Relations both surprising and satisfying. It took me long enough to achieve!

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AND NOW THE MEN HAVE THEIR SAY…

…Or do they? The companion collection to Me-Time Tales is devoted to men curious by nature or life-style, but it’s invaded by certain women…

Something different! Short stories that surprise, pique and intrigue.

Curious Men. These short stories delve into the minds of a variety of curious men: hooked on meteorites, tractor parts, foreign parts, own parts— “stories that may be sober, bizarre or cunningly funny…Highly recommended.” San Francisco Review of Books. Kobo? Other Ebook?

Many people have curious habits, weaknesses, features, beliefs—even feelings. One or two stories are bleak, some bizarre, one even uplifting, and you’re sure to chuckle (if guiltily) at others.

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FORTHCOMING NOVEL

A psychological novel in two 88k volumes

BEWARE WHAT YOU WISH FOR!

Coming very shortly, first to Amazon, November 28th, then to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and paperback in Spring 2020.

Themes: Identity, family, illusion, dark secrets, misrepresentation, ethical dilemmas, disillusion, personal growth and the craziness of human beings

At 28, Terry fantasises a life more exciting than his marriage or job provide, but then he meets someone amazing on his daily commute and his life is changed forever. He rushes home to tell his wife, Gudrun, but events prevent him. But what is she hiding, and why? Both have developed some awkward secrets. When Terry opens his Pandora’s Box it traps him into increasingly bizarre situations. Bizarre can be funny, but also tragic, and this novel offers both, as well as a great deal of mystery.

Will Terry ever discover what he really needs to know? Is Gudrun a heroine, a victim or a packet of trouble?

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Satirical short story collection

 Me-Time Tales: tea breaks for mature women and curious men, 2nd edition

 Katie Fforde said: “Quirky and Intriguing”.

This short story collection is certainly not erotica; hardly a glimpse of bare flesh– but a subtly dark edge instead. Most, at first, seem light-hearted; then there’s the twist. After finishing the book, readers have second thoughts about the characters.

Ideal holiday reading – you’ll lie back enjoying the lives of women you think you know and feel elated that you’re away from it all. Kobo? Kindle?

Just right for the daily commute. Read one story before you reach your station and hurry off to work. Apple, Barnes and Noble or other ebook?

The paper-back — neat enough to slip into a handbag or breast pocket — is available in bookshops and on Amazon. It makes a good present for a friend, mother-in-law or male colleague. It can be a silent comment: you’ll know a woman in here! Some use it to make a point about the recipient…

A top 100 Amazon reviewer said of the short stories “…their hallmark of wry humour reminds me of a female, modern-day Saki.”

 In the collection, you’ll encounter obsessive women, an array of fish, a pile of hot money, a loving mattress, a mangy dog, a range of bras and a prosthesis. I hope each story will perk up your commute or dispel your night-time preoccupations, and send you to work or to sleep with an uneasy smile of recognition on your face. Do enjoy, do write a review.

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Writers: why go Kobo?

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi

Here are some reasons why writers might go Kobo.

It’s not only Amazon offering a brilliant service to the e-reading public. Although many successful writers have made a killing on KDP Select, those days may be numbered. Going exclusive meant that readers could sample free via Kindle Unlimited, but now the payment to authors is much reduced, fewer writers speak of substantial income coming from KU.

The alternative to publishing exclusively to Amazon is to go wide. Publishing through a company such as Draft2Digital gets your books into many alternative outlets. However, by not including Kobo in the list, you can submit to them separately and this has distinct advantages. Why Kobo?

Reasons

Firstly, any serious writer considers the reader’s enjoyment as paramount. Kobo Books sets out to keep the reader’s entire reading life in mind. The new Aura has one-touch library e-book access and a recent software update installed this capability in all Kobo devices. This facility, Overdrive, significantly increases the number of library users. How wonderful to bring more readers to libraries where new worlds await them!

This year, Walmart was made the only place to buy the various Kobo e-books. Before this, Americans had to travel to Canada or risk an on-line purchase which, if faulty, couldn’t be returned. Then, on August 21st, Kobo and Walmart launched a joint venture: Kobo e-books would now be sold there. Kobo’s share of the reader market rocketed up accordingly. Consequently, Kobo books have a greatly increased visibility.

Writers, going directly to Kobo with your books means that Kobo promotions are open to you. Kobo has them variously and often. They’re particularly good for romance and sci-fi, but general fiction and non-fiction can also be promoted. For instance, a 10% cut for discounted books aimed at Australia and New Zealand for a week, or a Free for Labour Day targeting the US, another for Romantic Suspense under $2.99 or Spy Thrillers at $0.99. These promotions are cheap for the author, perhaps a £3 charge, or a 10% reduction in royalties.

Moreover, Kobo automatically returns book prices to their proper price after the promo. Authors do not have to remember, as they do with Amazon. What a pain that is!

Much more significantly, your books may sell to 190 different countries: including very many countries that Amazon neglects. How pleasing to know that someone in Bhutan, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Cambodia, Finland, Seychelles and Zimbabwe is nosing into one of my books!

Canadian Readers

Kobo is Canadian, so this is Kobo’s most prominent outlet and for those writing in English, a very important customer source. Canadian readers are surveyed annually by BookNet Canada. The most recent survey showed an increase in e-book reading, to 52% of the sample. The few copies I’ve sold on Amazon to Canada are dwarfed by what I’ve sold via Kobo.

Sales

Sales reports are great on Kobo. On Amazon you only get to know whether your sales are US, UK, Europe or Australia. Kobo provides a map showing the number and extent of your sales worldwide— very satisfying.

Kindle readers seem fixated on free copies, so many books will be excess to need, remaining unread. Kobo readers are more discerning, so willing to pay more than a few cents for a good read.

If the massive distribution of Walmart makes it easy to discover books and authors this has to be good for both readers and writers. Go Kobo!

 

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A writing plan: are you a planner or pantser?

Overly organised?

Do you have a writing plan?

It’s assumed there are two kinds of writers: those who have a writing plan, and those who write on the seat of their pants.

I would love to write a synopsis, the theme, the backgrounds of each character, the main events of each chapter before I ever begin, but that just won’t work for me.

 When I start a novel I only have a germ: a snatch of dialogue, an incident, never a theme. I don’t even know what kind of characters will pop up or which will prove to be major or even where the setting of dramatic scenes will be. But despite the discipline of degrees and diplomas and a Ph.D. I’m an irrevocably, irredemiable pantser.

Pantser Process

Working on the small germ, as I write something happens to the character speaking or experiencing the incident. That turns into a chapter. At the end of one chapter, I know what has to happen in the next but not further. By about the fourth chapter something emerges that enriches or expands the plot, becomes a sub-plot or develops one of the characters.

The novel outline falls into place when I know the ending. Usually that’s before I get halfway. Then it’s a matter of laying out the remaining ground, including character backgrounds, needed for reaching that end.

All my fiction has one thing in common (as well as their manner of creation) — they are character-led. I can’t write any other way. There’s no great plan but interesting things gradually emerge.

Example

Here’s an example of my writing process. A Relative Invasion (a trilogy set in the Home Front of WWII) began with one tiny thread.  An elderly man told me his school had been evacuated to a village where after milk and biscuits, the children were walked around the village in a crocodile seeking billets.  A tall seven-year-old, (‘He’ll cost a bit to feed and clothe’) this man was the last to be chosen.   

I thought, children must have been so resilient at that time. And so Billy was born, a sturdy well-meaning child. He was only aged five in 1937, and so I found myself writing historical fiction (with all the research that entails). The key figure at that time was, of course, Hitler, and his rise to power came as result of German resentment, humiliation and envy after the end of WWI.

Consequently, a cousin for Billy surfaced. He would experience these negative emotions and be a psychological bully to make Billy’s life a misery. I made him artistic and physically frail. However, this Kenneth would need to be a charmer for the adults to be blind to the bullying.

Now I had a theme for my novel: the feelings and tensions in Europe (macro scale) would be mirrored in micro by the two cousins in their developing rivalry.  Billy then needed a secret symbol of power to support him. I hit upon a Cossack sabre, that then needed a background story of its own. This led me to research the Russian/Germanic conflict at the start of WWI. I realised that the sabre icon would need to filter right through the story.

I am not recommending this approach to writing, just showing how a novel can unfold as the narrative continues, and in this case, it was a trilogy that emerged.

Remedies

Ideally, have a writing plan. There are loads of HowTos on Amazon. Don’t risk half-baked advice from ebooks. Some may be good, but play safe.  A good book is Diana Doubtfire’s classic writers’ guide a paperback you may get cheap as it’s been around some years.   

Are you are you an inveterate pantser? Then buy Scrivener and let it organise you. See my last post.

(I first wrote on this subject for the ALLi blog)

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Beginner Writers’ Tools. Into serious writing

tools are needed
Necessary tools for the job
Once you’ve made the decision that you are now into serious writing, it is no longer a hobby. Now it’s an activity leading to a publishable short story or novel, so it’s time to spend out on a few essentials that will make your life easier. I promise you that the following are not luxuries, but tools that will make your writing tasks smoother, more manageable and more pleasurable.
  • WRITING PLAN  Scrivener  software organizes your writing activities. Your material is sorted, your research is reliably and quickly on hand, Scrivener helps you create plots and outlines.
  • Current costs around $45 and there isn’t space to describe all the features and functions of this fantastic software.
  • Forget writing from A-Z on one document. Scrivener encourages you to write in scenes, sections, chapters, ideas, dialogues, time frames, or whatever takes your fancy.
  • Everything is updated and saved automatically. You can set yourself targets and see your progress. Slip easily between looking at your notes, the outline, research, all beautifully laid out.
  • Quickly learn how with the tutorials, or buy this book : Scrivener Essentials. Author Karen Prince explains things clearly and succinctly: a big contrast to Scrivener for Dummies.
  • When you’ve finished the last chapter and have compiled the various sections into one book, Scrivener formats it for you: paperback, ebook or mobi. This in itself is a huge help. 
  • EDIT AND REVIEW Pro-writing aid  This comprehensive editor surveys your grammar, writing style, over-use of words, and lots more. Paying attention to its advice will make you a better writer as you progress with your book. If you buy Premium, you can submit large documents for analysis.
  • NOTIFY OTHERS Canva You may want an illustration in your book, or want to blog about it or post on Facebook. Canva allows you to painlessly compose visual images from its bank and add text It’s quick, and free too. (Paid version has extra images)
  • FORMAT AND PRODUCE Vellum  Above all, when you’re sure your book is ready, avoid hours and days trying to format your book for the different platforms. Buy a lifetime licence for Vellum and have beautifully laid out books with no stress. There are a number of options for appearance of text.  It’s really easy to use. I’ve written straight onto it on occasion, where I knew I wouldn’t be planning or reorganising much. Editing is quick: your preview is on the right, your input on the left. See an error, fix it right away.
  • SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE  on all aspects of self publishing: Alliance of Independent Authors. £75 p.a. and continuous access to a range of successful authors, editors, self-publishers and their articles, webinars, facebook group and books. 
  • SO NOW YOU’RE READY TO WRITE SERIOUSLY. Get going, good luck!
     
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