National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Guerrilla Marketing

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1guer·ril·la

noun \gə-ˈri-lə, ge-, g(y)i-\

: a member of a usually small group of soldiers who do not belong to a regular army and who fight in a war as an independent unit.

You have to ask yourself, why the writers of the Guerrilla Marketing series compared themselves to soldiers and marketing to war.  Any selfpublished author, who has tried to get their books into Barnes and Noble knows exactly why. Trying to get your book to be seen in the sea of published books can be like fighting a war with just a small rag-tag regiment. Typically a guerrilla army doesn’t have all the weapons and upgraded equipment of the regular army. However, in Guerrilla Marketing for Writers, you learn how to use what you’ve got to market your book.  Most of the marketing tools in the book cost little to no money and can be implemented in a day.

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers is a book that everyone who has published or hopes to publish a book should read. I bought this book back in 2003 and I periodically pick it up and use it as a reference book on book marketing. There have been a couple of revisions since then. Also check out Guerilla Marketing for Writers 2.0, which includes all of the revised strategies as well new media weapons you can add to your arsenal.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

You Are What You Read

images-1In the same way the food you eat literally builds and shapes your body, the books you read shape your mind. What you read, forms the basis for your beliefs, and serves as your base of knowledge. Books color the way you view the world and how you interact with people. Words have power when spoken but they have just as much power when read. Did you know that the type of books you like to read says more about you than the clothes you wear?  One of the tools that FBI agents use to learn about the mind of a serial killer is to review the list of books they have checked out from the library.

What have you been reading? I challenge you to take a look at what you like to read? List the top five genres that you read regularly in order of importance to you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is it about the number one genre that I like the most?
  2. Do I primarily read for information or entertainment?
  3. If you could not complete the list because you only read one or two types of books, what don’t you like about other genres?

They say self-examination is good for the soul. However, the answer to these questions will lead you to some important insights as to the type of person you are becoming. For example, If you only read nonfiction/self-help books and you primarily read for information, you are most likely looking for a solution.  I know people who don’t like reading newspapers or magazines because bad news and current events depress them. There are other people who have to read dry academic writing for work and so when they sit down to read for pleasure, they only read fiction, because they need to escape.

If you want to be a well-rounded individual and writer, you should read a balanced mixture of fiction and non-fiction and several genres.  I tend to lean toward non-fiction, so I on occasion will make myself read fiction. I’ve also recently tried my hand at writing my first novel, just to prove to myself that I can write fiction. I prefer a good mystery, but have challenged myself to read a sappy love story. Sometimes I’ll ease into a genre that I’m not as familiar with by reading what I call a hybrid genre. I’d rate Science Fiction as last on my list, but a Sci Fi Whodunit might grab my attention.

Next time you reach for a book consider that maybe it is not you that chooses the book but maybe the book has chosen you.  There are times when I’ll find a book at the precise time I need to read it. Then there are books that I’ve bought and could not read them until years later. But when I did, I found I was in a place to receive the information, whereas I may not have been when I bought it.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

Book Covers

Book cover design by Tony Sarg

 

As children we were all taught to never judge a book by its cover. But readers do it all the time. We look at the title, then the images and try to determine if we want to read the book. If we have time, we’ll turn the book over and read the back cover copy and maybe look at the table of contents. Like it or not the cover is the first impression that your book will make on potential readers.

 

A publishing friend of mine asked the question, “Are there certain things on a book cover that will turn you off?” I wish I could give you a magic formula that would make your book attractive to everyone who sees it. But the reality is, that everyone who sees your cover will view it through their own set of experiences. However, you can make sure that your cover has the following characteristics that readers are looking for.

 

  • Choose an image that reflects the title
  • Choose background colors that reflect the theme
  • Make sure that the overall design draws people in
  • Choose a spine font that is interesting, yet readable
  • Make sure the back cover copy is intriguing

 

You may spend months or years writing your book, spend just as much time and energy on your cover design. Pay a little more to get a custom design if that is what is needed to make your book stand out from the others on the shelf. Even electronic books, have covers so this advice applies to e-books too. A good book cover can be your best marketing tool.  You can take the image and make post cards, posters, flyers, whatever materials you need in order to promote your book.

 

Until Next Time,

 

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

 

 

 

Book Yourself Solid

In last week’s post I talked about how as a self published author, you can’t just write the book and release it. You’re also responsible for selling it. That means marketing, promotions, appearances, and yes, carrying your books with you where ever you go.  You want to make sure you are attending a book fair, or some type of community event every month. You can even create your own event, whenever you release a new title.

When I was working full-time for someone else, I had to pass on a lot of opportunities. But now that I’m self-employed, I’ve devised a plan to book myself somewhere every month. The year is broken down into seasons and your marketing  should reflect that. For example, August is the end of summer and it’s time to go back to school. I’m sure if you look around your community, you’ll find several back to school events that you can attend. You can go as a vendor, a speaker, or both. With a little planning you can book yourself solid for the whole year.

  • Do a Google search of book fairs and annual festivals
  • Check your local newspaper for events
  • Take advantage of local cultural events
  • Plan a book tour for a new release
  • Speak at schools
  • Create online seminars
  • Host writer’s workshops

The only limit to the type of events you can attend is your imagination. Attending events can be done fairly cheaply. You’ll have a captive audience to share your books with. As well as the opportunity to network and sell books.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

 

Author as Bookseller

I Believe  When I self-published my first book, it didn’t dawn on me at the time that I was becoming a bookseller. Even those who publish with a traditional publisher, are still responsible for having a marketing plan and promoting their books. Writers tend to be a little introverted. Salesperson is not exactly the best word to describe many of us. However, if you want to become a bestselling author, you’ll have to learn to sell.

The biggest thing you have to sell is not really the book itself, but rather the concept or big idea the book represents.  There will also be a lot of selling of yourself. My degree is in Theatre. I learned all of the technical, management and playwriting aspects of theatre because I hate auditioning. I was young , and didn’t know how to handle rejection. As an actor, I thought if I’m not chosen for a part that, I’m being rejected as a person. Whereas, if my script is rejected, I can re-write it and make it acceptable.

Fear of rejection is the number one reason the average person is terrified of sales. There are a select few who manage to never take it personal and as a result excel in the sales arena. To be a successful bookseller, here’s a few habits you’ll want to foster in your life.

  1. Tell Everybody Often: We are often timid about telling people about our book or what we do. Or we tell them once and expect that to be enough. Research shows it takes on average eight presentations before a marketing message is received by one person. Find ways to keep your book or service before them.
  2. Remember It’s a Numbers Game: Track your numbers and know the odds. If it takes talking to 20 people to sell one book. Then you know if you want to sell 10 books you must reach 200 people.
  3. Know Your Audience: If you know your audience and what they need you can tailor a message that will intrigue them. You can explain how your book or product solves their problem. By targeting a specific group of people who are favorable to your message you increase your odds. You can now sell one in five people.

I’ve found it’s nice to make your books available online and get them in a bookstore if you can. However, the book won’t sell itself, you still have to let people know where they can find it. You should also be prepared to sell books out of your trunk if you have to.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

Self-Publishing: Finding the Money

In case you were wondering, the life of a self published author is not bed of roses. Yes, its great to be able to publish a book whenever you want. But it can be challenging to find the money to publish. I’m currently preparing to release my next title, 7 Years, 3 Schools and 4 Majors Later. This is a book that I wrote back in 2006 that has been on the shelf all this time due to lack of funds. I shopped the idea around, and got lots of positive feedback, but no one wanted to publish it. So once again, I began the process of raising the funds to publish it myself.

When you already have books, the answer is obvious, sell those books and use the proceeds to publish the next book. However, if this is your first book or your previous book is not selling well, you have to be a little more creative in finding the money.

Here a few things I’ve begun to do in order to fund my current project.

  1. Offer my talents as a freelance writer. Writing books for others pays the bills and helps me keep my writing skills sharp.
  2. Write a weekly blog. My blog has helped me meet new readers all over the country and gives me a chance to introduce them to my books.
  3. Do a pre-publication sale. As we get closer to the release date you’ll hear more about how a pre-publication sale works.

A new feature as of this month, is a link in the top right hand corner of this page that leads to my Amazon.com store front where you can purchase my books online. I thank you in advance for checking them out.

I Wish for Snow Cover

I Believe

 

 

 

 

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin