It’s been three days since I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth Writing Conference, and the more time that passes, the more I look back and go “Wow, did I really just spend 48 hours surrounded by other writers?”. It went by way too fast.
To make up for missing the time I spent with my fellow writers, I decided to turn July into a “Writing Conference Reflection” month. Since this was my first conference, I’m going to talk about what I learned, what I wish I knew, and what I’ll be doing differently for my next conference.
I’ll be making posts every Monday, but will also be adding up one on Friday for suggested topics, if I find the time.
Here are some things I’ll be posting about. If you have anything you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask me to add it!
In 1992, Batman Returns hit theaters to an audience that had, to some extent, no idea what they were in for. This in part was due to the marketing put out at the time, both in content, and the lack there of.
The limited marketing till the last minute, decided by Robert G. Friedman, Warner’s president of worldwide theatrical advertising and publicity at the time*, was meant to build hype. Instead of promoting the movie’s plot, they sold merchandise in the form of toys, t-shirts, and Coke cans. This youth based marketing lead parents to believe that this would be a movie for children.
Then it hit theaters.
The cheerful toys put out by McDonald’s were a far cry from Tim Burton’s version of the Dark Knight, and many believe this caused him to lose his credibility for the next Batman film.
In many ways, because of the poor marketing done by higher ups and misleading the audience, Burton fell from grace in the eyes of the movie goers for a short time, and we wound up with Batman Forever and *shudder* Batman & Robin, both directed by Joel Schumacher.
So what does this have to do with your book?
Too many times, especially with independent and self published authors, bad marketing is done in one of two ways. Spamming social media to the point where followers lose interest, and/or lying to the audience.
Now, of course, this goes without saying that this isn’t what ALL independent authors do, this is just what I notice as a trend in those who don’t know how to marketing works.
Lying to your audience, in my opinion, is the worse of the two. While spamming is annoying, deceiving your audience for the sake of hype discredits you as a writer. If you say your book is a fun fantasy, with promotional products featuring flowers and singing birds, when really it’s a dark story filled with adult themes, the next time someone sees your name, they’re less likely to trust your book.
In Burton’s case, he didn’t have a say in marketing, as he was just the director, but he still suffered for the choices made by higher ups. This is another lesson you can take away from the Batman Returns debacle.
If you hire someone to do the marketing for you, know what they’re putting out.
Burton didn’t have a hand in how his movie was presented to the world, as he answered to Warner Brothers, but you, as an independent author, do. If you hire someone to create your cover, make a video, or do any promotional items for you, you have the right to say the product doesn’t convey the tone of your novel.
This is extremely important. The ability to chose how and what in a novel is put out to the world is why many people are leaning more toward independent publishing vs traditional. If you don’t exercise your right to veto ideas presented by people working for you, you can wind up in the Burton boat.
You should always be polite when working with others, but remember, you need to stand up for your work. Also know that you get what you pay for. Paying someone to design your cover for only $10 is great, however remember that they might not have the best quality product.
All in all, marketing is extremely important. It’s the business side to writing that some independent authors overlook all together, but this is crucial to your sales. Learn from Batman Returns and create a marketing campaign that’s an honest representation of your novel.
Have any marketing tips that work for you? Disagree with anything I said here? Comment below and let me know.
This isn’t a tough love talk about writing fantasy. No, I’m talking about The Writing Fantasy. The fantasy all new writers and creators have about the world of writing.
This is coming from someone who’s never been published outside of vanity sites, so take it as you will. That being said the more I interact with writers, the more I get sick of hearing about this mythical world we’re supposed to live in.
So here we go! Top five fantasies I’m going to completely crush into the ground!
1. Every bad review or person who doesn’t like my work is personally attacking me!
Well okay there, self absorbed Sandra, let’s tone it down a notch. When someone doesn’t like your work, it has nothing to do with you as a person. I know it hurts when you put months or years into a project only to get rejected by agents, your audience, or even past fans, but you can’t make everyone happy. Is it okay to get your feelings hurt? Yes, but if every bad review makes you fall apart and threaten to quit creating art, maybe it’s time to take a step back.
Now there is an exception to this rule. If you’re getting the same negative feedback every single time you put something out there, but you’re not fixing your mistakes, yes, some of the reviews might start to get personal. This is because you’re not fixing things that your audience doesn’t like. If your counter to this is “Well, I’m writing it for me, not to make everyone else happy! I’m not a sell out!” then why bother caring about reviews in the first place? Heck, why even put it up for anyone else to read if it’s just for your personal enjoyment and you don’t care what other people think?
2. I don’t have to read other people’s work anymore because I’m a writer now.
This isn’t “I don’t have time”, this is the “Nick Miller” defense.
Most, if not all professionals in any job, keep themselves sharp through practice, study and staying informed. Reading is part of the studying/staying informed portion of that for writers. You learn how other authors break writing rules, what works in their market (or in some cases what doesn’t work), and how to better your writing by studying the works of others.
And for those who think “I can’t read anyone else anymore because I’m just so fantastic as a writer, it’s insulting to read their drivel.”
Welcome back, self absorbed Sandra. Get over yourself. There’s ALWAYS someone better than you out there.
3. Writing is romantic so I should try and copy some of my favorite classic literature.
Copying an author’s style as a warm up is eye opening, or doing it so that it makes sense in the story can be acceptable when done well. It’s when you’re forcing it on every aspect of your writing does it get old. Here’s a little secret. Readers are smart. They’re going to know you’re trying to be someone you’re not. It comes off as insincere and boring. It’s one thing to try and find your voice, it’s another to be so pretentious to think you’re the next Hemingway or Poe so you have to copy their style down to the last period.
4. I’ll just get an agent and they’ll do everything for me!
No. Wrong. Don’t expect this. Agents are very busy and the last thing they want is an author who can’t pull their own weight. Many new authors have to do a LOT of work in order to get their work noticed. You need to self promote, keep up your writer’s platform, network with other authors, talk to your agents about possible marketing opportunities, travel on book tours, start your next book, look for contests or magazines to submit short stories to, and those are just things off the top of my head! There could very well be a million other chores to do in order to get your book off the ground. Don’t expect your agent to be your fairy godmother, as magical and amazing as many of them are.
5. Editing is for writers who don’t know how to write.
Editing is CRUCIAL to writing your book. I can’t tell you how many self published authors I’ve spoken to who’ve excitedly told me about how they “wrote a book in three weeks” and then instantly put it out to the public without even doing a second read through. I’m not going to point out that there could be HUGE grammatical errors (because trust me, there will be), but you could have completely forgotten to finish a paragraph, or you might’ve accidentally cut out something without realizing it that one night when you were up till 2am working. There could be glaring inconsistencies that might’ve been fixed if you just took the time to edit your work.
I’m not saying you have to spend years on edits, or completely rewrite your novel, but not even looking at your work once you’re done could turn off readers if you have annoyingly obvious problems with your work. I’m even going to go back through and do a round of edits on this blog posts just to make sure things look good! Editing is important!
If you don’t like editing, save up and hire an editor. There are a lot of affordable options out there, and if you’re serious about getting published, it’s easy to put aside the money here or there to get your work in the hands of a professional. (I’m putting aside my coffee funds every month to get one and yeah, it takes time to save up, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice)
And that’s it! Those are the writing fantasies I’m crushing for today. I’ll probably do another Tough Love Talk about this later, but I figure this’ll be good for now.
What are some writing fantasies you’d like to crush for other people? Comment below and let me know!
I’ve been reading quite a lot of self-published work lately. Some great, others not so great, and what I’ve realized is most problems that arise in self-published writing comes down to the editing. Misspelled words, incorrect grammar, page layout, and fixing minor style problems are all things that slow your story down and get in the way of what could be a great novel.
Now I’m not an editor by any means, but here are some things I’ve learned in my own work and in reading others that will improve your writing.
Watch out for the same word showing up multiple times in back to back sentences. “She went up the stairs, and woke her sister up. “You’re late, it’s time to get up.”” It’s repetitive.
U.S. writers have different spellings and word usages than other English speaking countries, which is fine, but make sure you’re being consistent. No “towards” in one sentence then “toward” in the following paragraph, or no criticizing one minute and then criticising the next. If you’re going to call “pants” “trousers” and “underwear” “pants”, stick with it through the whole book.
When a new character starts speaking, start a new line. It’s very confusing looking at a wall of text and slows down the reader when they have to figure out who’s saying what.
“And then she went up and walked down stairs. Then she smiled at her mother. Then she….” You get it right? “And then” can ruin a good book. Not only because it’s repetitive. It makes the story bland.
Cut out flabby words in general. Better writers than me have written articles on this, check them out here and here. It might not always apply, but there are a lot of excess words that make a great book fall from readers’ graces.
Say your dialogue out loud to see how realistic it sounds. A modern thirteen year old saying things like “Where do you purpose I venture from here?” sounds strange, if it’s not in the context of the story.
When you make point of view changes,give a heads up by either changing the chapter, or separating it somehow from the rest of the work. Jumping into one character’s head and then another can be jarring for the audience.
Keep your characters consistent. If your character doesn’t know something, they can’t suddenly have all the answers just because they read one paragraph of a news article. Or my favorite character inconsistency, “I’m a virgin who doesn’t even know how sex works”, but two pages later, “OMG that cutie has me thinking up dirtier things than Fifty Shades of Grey mixed with German torture porn.” It cracks me up every time.
Keep the tone and style consistent. A book that starts out like Shakespeare, but ends like Stephenie Meyer after the fifth chapter, then turns into Hemmingway by the tenth gets confusing. All authors have their merits, but if you’re trying to copy a style, make sure you keep it steady. Again, this is only if it doesn’t make sense in the narrative. I’m sure there’s someone who’s pulled off changing styles, when it was in the context of the story.
Conveniences are my least favorite thing in ANY book, self published or otherwise. This is the “The door was locked, but luckily he knew how to pick it using nothing but a spoon. But when he opened the door there was someone with a gun. Lucky for him, he knew how to use kung fu! They pushed him out a window, but luckily, he had super powers and whole time and could fly!” No one, not even a leprechaun holding a horseshoe made of rabbit feet, while also wearing a suit of four leaf clovers is this lucky! If you notice your character somehow getting out of every single situation from unexplained help, it might be time to make some edits.
Agree with my list? How do you go about editing your novel? What advice can you give to people who are new to editing their work?