Four Books Later, I Finally Hit #1

That’s right. I finally did it!

Hidden #1

Hidden: A Pregnant Fairy Godmother’s Journey hit #1, and I received the elusive Amazon Best Seller orange tag!

Hidden best seller

And it didn’t take many sales. The day it hit number one, I sold 50 copies.

The key was a good cover, a little bit of the right advertising, and picking the correct categories for the book. Here are a few tidbits:

  1. The right cover: I’ve finally given in. I did make my Hidden Cover, but moving forward, I think I’ll be hiring cover designers. I reached out to one of my favorite designers to work on redoing Blood & Holy Water & making one for book 2 & 3 in this series.
  2. The right advertising: Having a group of authors that help support this project has helped me bring in sales (if you haven’t read my blog about the “Hidden” project, check it out HERE.) I’ve also developed a new release spreadsheet/plan that works on multiple angels of advertising, including paid promos, newsletter swaps, social media, cross promo with other authors, and Amazon/Bookbub notifications. Someday, I’ll write a blog about this — if you want a copy sooner, just comment below.
  3. The right categories: Yeah, this makes all the difference. There’s a whole mess of sites about getting into specific categories, but what I do is just browse every ebook category on Amazon, write down which ones I want, then contact Amazon (thorough author central) to add my book where I’d like it. This article has been helpful. I go right to step 3.

Oh, and a bonus to all of this…my reviews are coming in better than I expected. I have 18 reviews so far (it released three days ago,) and I’m currently averaging a 4.6 stars!

Now, my next goal: figuring out how to get “sticky” on Amazon. First, I’ll have to write more books!

Thanks for sticking with me & my writing journey.

Talk to you again soon!

 

Camp NaNo – My First Sequel

July’s Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I’m excited to start my first sequel! I published Blood & Holy Water back in April, and since then, readers have been asking for a sequel…so…here we go! I have a tentative cover (since, for some reason, covers motivate me to write) and a working title.

bhw ff

Book 1 (Blood & Holy Water) was about an angel who needed a miracle to earn her wings…and it turns out her miracle involved a vampire with a secret to protect.

Book 2 (Feathers & Fur) will be about a recently fallen angel who can’t help but try to do good, but when his path’s cross with a werewolf mother that doesn’t want his help, he feels lost in this new world.

I have the whole thing outlined, and know the characters since they appeared in other stories. (The fallen angel was in Blood & Holy Water and the werewolf was in my story Bitten in my Quick Escape: Fantasy Tales freebie.)

Next, I need to come up with a series title.

So, who’s in Camp with me? What will you be working on?

Writing Tip: Dialogue Tag Overload

WRITING TIP_ (1)

I spend a lot of my time beta reading for other authors, and one thing that flags a new writer to me is their use of dialogue tags.

What is a dialogue tag? 

The most common one is the word “said.”

  • “I want to go to the park,” Timmy said.
  • Ariana said, “I can’t believe she wore that.”

But some writers are clever and vary the word “said” such as using words like… “added” “interjected” “asked” “yelled” “pleaded” “questioned” etc.

  • “I want to go to the park,” Timmy demanded.
  • Ariana sighed, “I can’t believe she wore that.”

This is great, here and there, but when you read pages of dialogue and every line has one of these tags, it slows down the pacing.

Dialogue tags do have a place. Using a fancy one, such as “yelled” definitely adds to the story, but here’s what would be better…

Show me how they say their words. Describe their actions and their feelings, rather than tell me with a dialogue tag.

  • “I want to go to the park!” Timmy stomped his foot and cross his arms. His eyebrows narrowed into a V above his nose.
  • Ariana glanced around the room, then leaned onto the table. She dropped her voice and rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe she wore that.”

Now, let’s return to that important concept called pacing. An entire conversation packed with descriptors as in the last examples would really slow down the reading. That’s where a nice combination of dialogue tags, description, and floating dialogue make a conversation between people flow.

Here’s an example from a short story I just wrote. Not perfect, but an example of using a dialogue tag (Devora asked) mixed with action descriptors and dialogue without any description at all:

Arriving home that night, Derek was already there. “Busy day?” Devora asked.

“Not at all. All the crime must be under control.” He sat on the couch in shorts and a t-shirt, watching some sports ball game.

She pulled her phone out. “Well, I had a busy day. I broke my phone.”

“Why’d you do that?”

She clenched her hands into fists. “I was trying to text you.”

“Was something wrong?”

“Just some type of drug crime going on.”

Derek turned away from the TV and arched an eyebrow at her. “And you didn’t let me know?”

“I told you I broke my phone.” She wiggled her phone’s shattered screen at him, then tossed it on the end table. “You can’t rely on me for everything! I have my own job to do. One that you seem to not take seriously, but I do a lot of good things too.”

When I write, I try to use the least amount of dialogue tags possible, and when I read something that’s littered with them, I find myself detached from the writing and distracted from the story. This is just another one of the many ways to shift your writing from telling the reader what’s going on to showing them.

**Of note: If you need to throw in a dialogue tag, I’ve read that you’re best to just use the old-fashioned “said” because it turns invisible to the reader–minimal slowing of the pace.

So next time you’re writing “said” or “interjected” take a look if it’s really needed to portray to your reader who’s speaking.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on dialogue tags, and when you read, what flags a story as coming from a new writer to you?

Writing Tip: Cutting Pesky Adverbs

WRITING TIP_

I love beta reading a good story, and I’ve done a lot of it in the past  year. From the first page of a story, I can tell a new writer from one that’s more experienced by a handful of things I read. One of them is adverb use.

I think everyone knows what an adverb is…but as a refresher, it’s a word used to modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Usually it is a descriptor clarifying How, How Often, When, or Where. What does that mean? Many adverbs don’t end in the hallmark -ly, but most of them do, like happily, softly, quickly, etc. that changes the meaning of the verb. Examples:

  • spoke softly
  • walked quietly
  • Easily avoided a punch
  • Quickly ran away
  • Deadly gaze

So, what’s wrong with adverbs? While I’m reading, these -ly adverbs makes my brain halt while I change my perception of the verb being modified. I lose imagery of the story while I wonder exactly what does the change mean. In the examples above:

  • spoke softly (I wonder what does it mean to speak softly. Is the character whispering? Did his/her voice drop an octave?)
  • walked quietly (How is that accomplished? Tiptoed? Sneaked? Took off shoes?)
  • Easily avoided a punch (I can’t picture this? Did the character sway out of the way? Drop to the floor? Blocked it some how?)
  • Quickly ran away (Doesn’t running mean quickly? Otherwise it’d be called walking. If it’s faster than a regular run, then sprinted away would work.)
  • Deadly gaze (What is a deadly gaze? Drool? Teeth barred? Wrinkled eyebrows? Piercing eyes?)

My writing tip: Cut adverbs whenever possible. If you can replace the verb with a more descriptive/powerful verb, your readers will thank you. Here’s some stronger verb ideas to replace the simple word “walked”: (For a bigger list of 195 different verbs to spice up your writing, check out Jerry Jenkin’s site HERE)

  • Strolled
  • Glided
  • Marched
  • Tromped
  • Wandered
  • Prowled

See how the words immediately give you a mental visual? A clearer one than “walked loudly” or “carefully walked” would?

Why do newer writers add excessive adverbs? I’m guilty of this too. Years ago, I remember thinking that to make a well-crafted story, I needed to add more descriptors to my writing. Adverbs are easy descriptors. Describing what happens in detail takes more skill. I still use them in my first draft or two, but before putting a final draft to beta readers, I spend the time and energy to remove as many of them as I can.

Two ways I fix my own writing:

  1. I use http://www.prowritingaid.com as a tool to identify adverb use. I find it works best when a 3000 word chunk of text is fed through it, rather than an entire document. (You may be under the limit of “acceptable adverbs” in an entire document, but still have sections that have too many adverbs in the same place.) Also, just because it says adverb use is within normal range, it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t cut them more.
  2. I sometimes just search for -ly words and begin the painful task of deciding if it can be cut out without changing the meaning of the sentence or if I need a stronger verb. I also have a list of those other adverbs I use to much. “Just” is a BIG one for me.

Here’s a reference on adverbs, said much better than I could ever do from Stephen King.

I’m not a writing expert and still choose to use some adverbs in my writing. I do it all the time…I love saying truly, really, and actually to name a few. Honestly, I think there is a place for adverbs — sometime. (Did you notice my adverbs in that sentence?)

I challenge you to take a look at your words ending in -ly and cut them out. As many as possible. Your readers will thank you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on adverbs, and when you read, what flags a story as coming from a new writer to you?

Cover Reveals or Cover Input?

I’m partaking in a HUGE event right now for writers and lovers of stories of suspense called Mystery Thriller Week. (Check out the giant calendar of events HERE.) Somewhere during the preparation for this event, I was asked by author Bryce Gibson if I would host a cover reveal on my blog.

Cover reveal? What’s the purpose of that?

Frantically, I went to my favorite reference (google, of course) and did a little preliminary research before I explained to Bryce that my blog is more about the writing journey…then thought that a post on what cover reveals are would be an interesting topic.

So here we are. As followers of my blog know, I’ve never done a “cover reveal” with my own novels. I always ask for input on my covers. Here were some of the graphics I’ve created in the past when I was seeking input from various social media channels:

which-cover-do-you-like-better_-1 which-catches-your-eye-first_-1

I know this way of feedback isn’t perfect, but it’s better than me picking which one I like best. (BTW-I have terrible taste.)

So…on to the point of this blog post.

What is a cover reveal? A cover reveal is a planned day, before the release of your novel, for you to give the world the first glimpse of your story.

What are the benefits of a cover reveal? As I’m learning, much of the marketing of a novel is done BEFORE release day. A cover reveal is another outlet to start pre-publishing advertising. To begin to get readers excited for your book. If you’ve read anything about marketing and advertising, a potential customer needs to see something many times before they decide to make a purchase. (Some say 7 times, other say the magic number is 20. Wow.) A cover reveal is another way to get branding and image in front of the reader.

So…on to the cover reveal I have for you today.

Drumroll…

the-reading-buddy-cover

I don’t know about you, but this definitely makes me want to read the blurb. The Reading Buddy will be up for pre-order on Amazon in April. You can watch for it on Bryce’s Amazon Author Page or by following him on any of these social media channels.

 

 

 

About author-photothe Author: Bryce Gibson writes Southern fiction that takes readers to charming and oftentimes sinister areas of the The South. He has a degree in Media Arts from the University of South Carolina, works full time as a farmer, and lives in South Carolina with his wife and their dog.

Bryce is the author of the Young Adult thriller, Perennials, and the Southern mystery, Unclaimed Acre. His next book, The Reading Buddy will be available in 2017.

 

 

And finally, to answer my question in the title of this blog post: Cover Reveal or Cover Input?

Well, I think it depends on your platform. For me, I’m sharing each step of my journey, which includes me wanting to share the actual design and selection of my cover. (And the multiple failed attempts in between.) If I didn’t blog…and had a professional design team, I’d probably go with the cover reveal.

What are your thoughts?

When You NEVER, EVER Want to Write Again

I have to admit that I’ve been in a writing funk on and off for about a month. I’ve been getting some negative critiques of my unpublished novel, and I always take negative feedback way too hard.

This week, a close writing friend asked me a question that got me thinking. Maybe I wasn’t the only one in the world who struggled with keeping up the motivation.

His question was: How do I motivate myself when I don’t feel like writing?

Considering I was currently struggling with this, I really reflected on this question. One of my favorite writing quotes sprang to mind first.

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” – William Faulkner

This quote is what kept me writing every day, whether I have something to say, or not. I don’t wait for inspiration to hit, I just write. Period. Just putting the pen to paper creates inspiration. (Or rather, staring at a blank computer screen.)

But, being in my funk, I’m completely distracted. Instead of writing, I search google for some useless fact, check social media, or read other’s blog posts. Urgh. An hour passes and I’ve written nothing. Why? Because I don’t really want to write.

“Take a break,” some tell me.

I can’t. I really can’t. Last time I took a little “break,” ten years passed!

That’s when I realized, this fear of quitting keeps me going. I love the highs I get from writing. The positive words of readers, the self-satisfaction of solving a plot problem, and the rush when a new story idea hits me.

As of today, I’m out of my funk. Why? Because a few people asked when the sequel to my Clone novel is coming out and it lit a fire inside me. Sequel? Wow. Now, I’m motivated.

But during my month struggle, here are the little things I did to keep writing.

  • Work on something relating to writing. Even if it’s cover design, blog posts, editing something really old.
  • Read someone’s work. Commit to giving them positive encouragement—as they need it probably as much, or more, than you or me.
  • Make a calendar of mini-goals and check them off as they are accomplished. I did this with that novel I haven’t published yet (the one with the negative critiques.) I committed to rewriting/fixing one scene per day. Yeah, it’ll take like 100 days to get through it, but I am making progress. Without a goal, I may never have touched it again. Now, I’m four chapters in (out of 27) and the momentum is picking up. I’m seeing progress and am excited for the new & improved version of the story.
  • Seek out a “fan,” even if it’s our mother, and discuss a piece of our writing with them. Hopefully, we get a little “pep” talk that keeps us moving forward.
  • Do something fun, unrelated to writing. For me, it’s been seeing movies. I’ve watched more movies in the past month than I’ve seen all year. Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts, and Dr. Strange. Since I write speculative fiction, all three have inspired me in little ways. Just make sure to come back to writing.
  • Find a writing friend, a critique partner who’s struggling too. Commit to encouraging each other. There’s nothing better than sharing our struggles with someone that’s struggled (or struggling) too.
  • Pull out old, “good” critiques or feedback. Reread these.
  • Reward ourselves with something. We’ve stuck with it, despite the slump, we definitely deserve that iced mocha latte with extra whipped topping.

So, I leave you with the quote my writing friend sent back to me about Abraham Lincoln and Perseverance.

“He failed in business in ’31. He was defeated for state legislator in ’32. He tried another business in ’33. It failed. His fiancé died in ’35. He had a nervous breakdown in ’36. In ’43 he ran for congress and was defeated. He tried again in ’48 and was defeated again. He tried running for the Senate in ’55. He lost. The next year he ran for Vice President and lost. In ’59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated. In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln, was elected the 16th President of the United States.”

“The difference between history’s boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often, simply, the diligent will to persevere.”

So keep with it. Never quit.

How do you stay motivated when don’t feel like writing?

I Need Your Nomination

llc-kindleI’m completely making a shameless plug in this blog.  I could use your nomination for my novel, LOVE, LIES, & CLONES on Kindle Scout.  Click HERE to make the nomination. All you need is a kindle login and if the book is selected, you’ll get a free copy.

Tagline:  Mystery/Thriller — A Clone’s Desperate Search for her Father

So… what is Kindle Scout? It’s basically a popularity contest through Amazon where authors post their books to get nominations. From the research I’ve done, it doesn’t appear that the number of votes directly translates into a publishing contract through Amazon (which is different than self-publishing through them), but having a large following does make Amazon take a second look at your novel. Overall, I’m not counting on a contract (though, wouldn’t turn it down, if it came). I think Kindle Scout is a great way to get your book “out there”.  The people that “vote” for you will get an email from Amazon when you’re book is available — whether they publish it or if you self publish.  So… it’s another channel for self-promotion.

Okay, now that the plug is done, I’ve made some teasers for Facebook and Twitter to advertise it.  Twitter has been a disappointment (literally – zero engagement, but it could be my “friend” list), but Facebook has been wonderful.  My friends and family have been sharing my post and I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to the Kindle Scout site from them.

Here is an example of the Facebook Teasers:

fb-teaser-2

And the Twitter Teaser:

twitter-teaser-2

I had appeared on Kindle Scout’s “Hot & Trending” list for 48 of the last 72 hours… which makes me happy — even though it’s not “great” data.  I’m ecstatic how many people are taking a look at my novel, especially since 68% of my page views come through the Kindle website, and not from my “Shameless Plugs”.

I’ll keep everyone updated. Thank you to all who have stuck with me from the beginning — back in February when I posted: I thought I’d never write another novel again!!!

Does anyone out there have experience with Kindle Scout?