Monday, January 30, 2012

Will you be reading a paper book in 10 years?

The Amazon Kindle was the company's biggest seller out of all their merchandise this last Christmas.  Publishers, authors, and readers are all wondering what the future holds for books actually made out of paper.  I seem to think that a true book lover just can't resist the feeling of a real book in hand...that being said, I'm one of the recipients of a Kindle reader from Santa last year...

Jonathan Franzen, the author of Freedom and The Corrections, launched a passionate defense of the printed book—and an attack on e-books—at the recent Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia. “The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom I can spill water on it, and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology,” said Franzen. “And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model.” 

Wondering whether nonelectronic print will be around in 50 years, he said he fears that “it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”

So what do YOU think?  Will you be reading "real" books in ten years?  Do you own an e-book reader?  Love them both?  Need them both?  What would you say to Jonathan Franzen?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scene Cards

by Rebecca Talley

I'm in the midst of a heavy-duty revision on my YA paranormal. I am currently going through the story scene-by-scene. In each scene I am looking for: goal, conflict, disaster as well as protagonist, antagonist, setting, and conflict.

I use an index card for each scene and on the back of the card, I write each of the above elements. On the  front side, I write a sentence describing that scene. I punch a hole in each card (upper left) and then use a ring to keep them all together. This allows me to see the story through its scenes and also allows me to see where the scenes lack something. I originally did this before I wrote the manuscript but much changed over the course of writing it so now I'm going back through each scene and finding the holes.

It's a ton of work. But it's helping me to see where I've dropped the ball in the story. If I can fix a scene then I can strengthen the story. Of course, simply fixing a scene won't fix the entire manuscript, but it's a start.

Holly Lisle recommends this process in her revision course, "How to Revise Your Novel," and I've tweaked it to meet my own needs. I've found the course to be very valuable, and added to my own techniques, has really helped me.

Do you ever write scene cards? What do you do to examine your scenes during revision?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Time Gangsters by Berin Stephens

Description from Amazon:
When Billy discovers a hidden cache of ancient coins, it isn’t long before a gang of thugs swipes them right from under Billy. Plotting to use the magical properties of the coins to seize power in the past, these power-hungry gangsters will do anything to reach their goal. Their future threatened, Billy and Danny must race through time to steal back the coins—before history is changed forever!

What are the three things every middle-grade reader wants? Imagination—excitement—fun. Time Gangsters by Berin Stephens delivers each of these in spades.

Young readers are a lot like old readers. They want a story that is going to get their brain thinking and their imaginations wandering. They want to explore new places, times and ideas while still enjoying the comforts of characters they can relate to and recognize. Time Gangsters provides plenty of food for the imagination. In Time Gangsters we get to read about ancient coins with mystical powers. We get to read about time travel and all the mind bending realism that accompanies. We also get to read about gangsters. What a blast! There is plenty to keep me and the middle-grade readers in my home turning the pages.

What’s the most common refrain we hear from 10-14 year olds? In my house it’s, “I’m bored.” We could be at the amusement park and they may say the same thing. Kids want to be entertained and they want a story that speeds along at an exciting pace. Keeping the attention of a tween or young teen is its own magical gift and Time Gangsters delivers the action, adventure and excitement a young reader craves.

Lastly, kids have many mediums competing for their attention; TV, the internet, video games, iPods, sports etc. I really want BOOKS to be a major part of my children’s lives and thankfully they are. The reason BOOKS are so important in my house is because my kids love the fun, exciting stories that capture their imaginations. They have many favorites from recent years like the Percy Jackson and Fablehaven series. Time Gangsters is in the best tradition of these books.

Time Gangsters is a creative adventure with realistic characters, and the bottom line is Time Gangsters is FUN!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The All-Girl Boy Scout Troop

It’s not uncommon for me to be one of the few guys in a group full of girls. I am the only brother to four sisters. I have only daughters. In nearly every writing-related group, the women outnumber the men by roughly ten to one.

And now I’m one of the token men in an all-girl Boy Scout troop.

Venturing is a fairly new program in the Boy Scouts, and allows for all-boy, co-ed, and all-girl crews. Last summer my oldest daughter joined a community-sponsored crew, comprised primarily of young women from our ward. I was asked to be an assistant advisor.

The primary goal of this all-girl Venturing Crew is to participate in a trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch this summer. That means we’ve been doing some camping lately. Lots and lots of camping.

In the last three weeks, we’ve had two separate camping trips in sub-freezing temperatures—one in (marginal) teepees of our own (amateur) construction, and the other in a primitive state park campsite where campfires were not allowed. Cue the heavy coats.

Even though I’m an Eagle Scout, sleeping on the hard ground was never a favorite activity of mine. Add in a few decades of bodily wear, and combine that with the above-mentioned cold (I earned my camping badges in the jungles of Hawaii), and these trips have been a bit lacking in sleep.

However, it’s a challenge that has been more than adequately rewarded. These young women are amazing, and I am honored to associate with them.

Just prior to the New Year, we participated in a Mountain Man Rendezvous with some two-dozen other local scouting groups. There were a couple of co-ed Venture Crews in attendance, but ours was the only group comprised entirely of girls.

And they made an impression.

Part of that impression, of course, was simply because they were girls. But a bigger part was how the girls worked together, encouraging and supporting each other in ways that many of the outpost leaders had never seen before. So although their skills and abilities were often limited, they still managed to sweep a full third of the awards based on attitude and determination alone.

As a writer, I consider myself a student of human nature. That part of me has loved watching the interaction between these girls as they’ve worked through personal challenges and interpersonal conflict. Seeing the growth of these girls as individuals and as a crew has been well worth every cold night spent on the hard ground.

These scouting activities have wreaked havoc on my writing schedule, but in return my writer’s brain has been crammed full experiences and examples that I hope to draw inspiration from for many years to come. It’s proof to me that real life provides the best inspiration of all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Save the Date: Writing Conference

Would you like to attend a writing conference? What about a free writing conference? What about a free writing conference at Snow College in Ephraim, UT? What about a free writing conference at Snow College in Ephraim, UT on April 14, 2012?

Well, you're in luck because on April 14, 2012 we are having the 2nd Annual Write Here in Ephraim at Snow College.

Save the date because you won't want to miss it. Did I mention it's free?

Registration begins at 8:00 am and the conference runs until 5:00 pm. There will be about 20 authors in attendance teaching classes on self-publishing, writing mystery/suspense, writing for the YA and MG markets, the nuts and bolts of writing, writing romance, and many more. We'll have door prizes and opportunities for you to meet your favorite authors.

Stay tuned for more details, including a list of instructors and classes. This is going to be AWESOME!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Marketing 101

Writing an engaging story is a major challenge and a wonderful accomplishment. It requires skill and knowledge, practice and perseverence. Over time, as we work to improve our craft, our writing gets stronger proportional to the effort we put in to our personal writing improvement. Still, as challenging as writing can be, for an author, writing the story may be the easy part. Once the story is submitted, accepted, edited, revised and edited a couple of more times we are feeling good about our work, and maybe getting a little tired of it. But the work is just beginning. Now comes the challenge of marketing our work. Auuugh!

The book is finished. Now what? How do we generate buzz for our work? How do we get the word out? Who do we market to? What activities will help us find the success we're seeking? Here are a couple of things I'm trying to do as I market my new book, Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island.

1- Online Book Promotion: Have an online presence.
- Create a Facebook Fan Page. Post updates and interesting thoughts relevent to the book.
- Twitter- Actively participate in Twitter to get your name and the name of your book out there for others to see and think about.
- Web Page- create and maintain a professional looking web page with information about you and your book
- Create a book trailer and post to uTube, your blog, FB, your website, etc.
- Organize a blog tour. Your publisher may help you in this but if not, follow a number of blogs relevant to your book and audience and build relationships. Ask people to review your work. They may say no, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
- Seek additional reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc. People won't know what you need or what you want unless you ask. People you ask may not always respond, but it's easy to ask and doesn't cost you a thing.

There are many other things you can do to build up your online presence but remember, it's not necessary to beat people over the head marketing your book. Keep it fun and interesting. Sometimes marketing will be overt, but sometimes it is covert by asking an interesting question or sharing a fun story that gets people thinking that you might have something to say that they may be interested in reading.

2- Traditional Book Promotion:
- Build relationships with local bookstores and arrange for a launch party and additonal book signings.
- Prepare a press release and contact newspapers, radio & TV stations. Think BIG and think small. Local is good but you may as well send notifactions to the larger outlets as well. It's easy to do, doesn't cost you anything, and the worst that happens is they don't run your story.
- Donate a couple of copies of your book to local and school libraries and ask them to hang a poster of your book on the wall or pass out some book marks.
- If appropriate, set up school visits to make presentations.
- Attend writing conferences to improve your craft and network with other authors
- Utilize Family and Friends to help you market your book. It doesn't need to be a formal thing like you're running a political campaign, but let your biggest fans help spread the word.

These ideas are not novel, but when we put together a marketing strategy aimed at reaching the ideal audience, we set goals, and then work the plan, our work will have a better chance of getting into the hands of more readers. Remember the old addage: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Marketing doesn't happen by accident. It takes effort. And unless your publisher is willing to put loads of effort and money into marketing your book (which most will not), it's up to you. Find what works for you, and attack your marketing plan to make it happen.