Monday, May 29, 2017

Bad Blurbs in the Real World, Part 4

A book description or back cover blurb is the third-best promotion you have.  (The first is name recognition, the second the cover.)  The first two may get a reader to glance at your offering, but a good or bad blurb can make or break the sale.  

I receive a number of ebook promotion emails like BookBuzz and Fussy Librarian, and some of the book blurbs have been so bad that I’ve started collecting them.  

Here are a few with the author and book title removed to protect the incompetent.  My comments in italics are beneath each one.

NOTE:  To see how to write a good blurb, please read my article on the subject or do a search of my blog with the term “blurb” for links in my “Links of Interest” articles.  To learn how to figure out your genre, clink on this.  

DYSTOPIAN SCIENCE FICTION

100 years after America split apart, is one lone outcast the world's last chance at peace?

This would be much stronger as a declarative statement.  Not only to show action, but the answer is an obvious yes.

MYSTERY

In a noir mystery reminiscent of Mary Higgins Clark, former crime reporter, RenĂ©e pieces together clues to the identity of a serial killer from her bed in the maternity ward of Cherry Vale Hospital. Set in California, the twist at the end delivers a Roald Dahl-like sting. 

Book comparisons depend on the reader knowing the book being compared, but they work sometimes.  On the other hand, comparing books that don’t even fit don’t.  Mary Higgins Clark’s works aren’t noir, they are suspense, and Ronald Dahl wrote children’s books.  So, no.  Just no.

YA ADULT FANTASY

Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Glee! in this darkly comic story. Perfect for fans of Point Horror and R. L. Stine, as well as readers who like their horror and romance with a light-hearted touch.

Huh?  More vague comparisons without telling the reader what the book is about.  


COZY MYSTERY

Never push a woman to her limit when all she knows is pain. A powerful story of a young woman named Eva left on the doorstep of a neighbor as a child by her very own mother. She is abused, neglected, rejected and without a legal footing in the only place she knows as ''home.'' All the odds appear to be stacked against her and those looking from the outside in seriously wonder how one human being could be expected to battle such atrocities without making a fateful decision to end it all far quicker than it ever began.

This novel has a thriller cover and a thriller plot description, yet it is sold as a cozy mystery which is as opposite as two types of mysteries can be.  

Plus, no clue is given to the nature of those “atrocities.”

The writing is awkward and wordy as well.  

MYSTERY

Historian Wrenn Grayson arrives at the Rosemont mansion expecting to receive payment for her services from the mansion’s new owner, Clay Addison. That expectation dies when she and Clay find Trey Rosemont murdered on the foyer floor. Across town, police officers race to Eastwood University. Priceless Egyptian artifacts were stolen from the history department safe. Wrenn’s longtime love, Eastwood professor Gideon Douglas, heads the department. Only recovery of the artifacts will save his career. Life in Havens, Ohio, doesn’t stop for this crime spree. Wrenn works for Mayor Tallmadge. He wishes Wrenn would stop searching down clues ahead of the police and pacify temperamental playwright Barton Reed. Barton’s play is just days away from opening in historic Baxter Theater. Amid murder, theft, or curtain calls, Wrenn’s instincts prove sharp. Her stubbornness places her in the killer’s path.

What a mess of a plot summary that leaves us wondering what the plot is truly about since there are enough plots for a series of novels and if the author even understands that plot isn’t a bunch of random stuff happening.  

SUPERNATURAL SUSPENSE:

Twenty-year-old Ward de'Ath expected this to be a simple job-bring a nobleman's daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can't be a surgeon-the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying-so bringing people back from the dead it is.

The last sentence should be about the problem that sets up the novel, not backstory about what the character isn’t.  Nothing here says anything that would show that this is supernatural suspense.  

SCIENCE FICTION:

How do you defeat an enemy you cannot see? The Krim Sprinter is on a routine flight from Earth to the Proxima Outpost. When an unknown, and unseen, enemy space ship attacks them, their routine mission turns deadly series. Captain Mitch Cooper must trade in favors and use all the influence he can exert to stay ahead of the unseen enemy.

This is an example, boys and girls, of why we don’t depend only on a spellchecker for our books.  Also, the first sentences are about space battles, but the last are about politics.  A serious disconnect.  



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Links of Interest

WHAT AMAZON’S NEW BUY BOX POLICY MEANS FOR INDIE AUTHORS:


WHAT WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW MEANS:


YOUR FOUR MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTERS:


EIGHT TRAITS OF GREAT BOOK TITLES:


CREATING A STORY TIME LINE:


USING GOODREADS MARKETING:


THREE COMMON WEAPON MISTAKES:


HARLEQUIN MAY BE SHUTTING DOWN FIVE MAJOR LINES:


THREE LESSER KNOWN ARCHETYPES FOR MINOR CHARACTERS:


SELF-PUB RESOURCES:


WHAT DOES AMAZON CHARTS BOOK RANKING MEAN TO PUBLISHING?


USING MYSTERY IN DIALOGUE:



Monday, May 22, 2017

A Brief History of Narrative



Narrative has dwindled in importance since the first novels. Compare a novel of a hundred years ago to one today, and you'll see what I mean. 

What you'll find is that descriptions, dialogue, and narrative have all simplified. 

Descriptions aren't as detailed, and you certainly won't find long pages of descriptions of the countryside, the houses, or the clothes. 

The narrative has become more intimate with the author less intrusive. The reader is put dead center into the character's head and thoughts, and the intimacy tends to only be for one or two characters, not every character in the novel. 

Instead of omniscient, the current standard in fiction is third and first person. Most fiction is written in warm third person with occasional forays into cold third person. Hot third person tends to be only used in romance which is about emotions.

The paragraphs are also shorter.

The dialogue carries more story weight because it must give the reader more information about what the characters are thinking and seeing as well as advancing the plot. 

In other words, much of the fat of the novel has been trimmed because modern readers want only the meat and bone of the story.  This trend continues today with the narrative even more spare than it was a few years ago.

The fourth wall is never acknowledged anymore in genre narrative because of the more intimate viewpoint. You will never see this in a contemporary novel-- "Do not despair, gentle reader, for Becky will soon get her comeuppance." 

A rare exception is in some chick lit and Buffy lit urban fantasy where the main character "talks" to the reader.

Constantly shifting viewpoints in third person has never been used in fiction except in the romance of the last twenty-five years where a bastardization of omniscient and third person developed more from ignorance of narrative techniques than deliberate choice. 

At its best, it is close to the norm of omniscient; at its worst, it is annoying and rather nauseating in a motion-sickness sort of way as the reader is jerked back and forth between two heads and offered considerably more information than is necessary. 

Few writers (Nora Roberts, for example) can write well using shifting viewpoints, and it is the kiss of death for most editors when they are looking at submissions because it shows the writer doesn't know what the spit they are doing. 

As an interesting side note, video techniques are changing viewpoint. Editors frown at sentences like, "His hand ran up and down her back." They prefer, "He ran his hand up and down her back." Body parts should not act independently according to editor thought. 

However, many writers now prefer, "His hand ran up and down her back," because they see this as a close-up in their mental video of the action, and it is beginning to creep into published writing.

In a few years, this type of video technique may be as common in genre narrative as the other changes we have seen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Links of Interest

MAKING A WORLD COME ALIVE:


THE BENEFIT OF EBOOK PRE-ORDERS:


WRITING A SYNOPSIS:


HOW TO WRITE SUSPENSE:


CUTTING WORD COUNT:


COPYRIGHT, AAP FILES BRIEF IN REDIGI “USED” DIGITAL CASE:


MAKING THE FIRST CHAPTER SUCCESSFUL, PART 3:


CREATING REAL CHARACTERS THROUGH DIALOGUE, MANNERISMS, AND ACTIONS:


LAUNCHING YOUR BLOG WITH BOOK PROMO IN MIND:


FIGURING OUT AMAZON SALES RANK:


HORSES 101:


BOOK SYNOPIS ANALYSIS:


BUILDING A BETTER SHIFTER:


POINT OF VIEW 101:


USING REAL WORLD SETTINGS:


WHEN READERS DON’T BELIEVE OUR STORY:



Monday, May 15, 2017

Reinventing Yourself

QUESTION: In a recent interview, a famous author said that she has reinvented herself (changed what she wrote) three times. Why did she do this?


Almost everyone who writes long enough for the NY conglomerate publishers has to reinvent themselves or leave publishing.

Markets die. For example, when the historical romance market faded drastically some years back, many of its writers started writing contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense.

Publishers die or drop lines, and some authors are trapped in contracts that won't allow them to move their successful series to another publisher or write anything in direct competition to their series so they have to make a major change in direction with a new and very different series.

Selling numbers can fall to a point that no publisher wants her books so the author has to start over with a new name.

Authors change. One successful paranormal romance author lost her young child, and she left PNR and started writing inspirationals.

Some authors get bored.

Other authors are trend whores (their term) who change with the shifting popularity of types of books.

The danger with the constant shift in types of books is that you lose fans every time you make a shift, and you have to work extra hard at marketing yourself to a new group of people.

The most successful way to reinvent yourself is to build a brand with a certain type of books, write at least six, then start a second series or type of book that shares many of the same readers. Then you publish at least one book of each type every year. A good example of this is Jim Butcher with his urban fantasy DRESDEN FILES and his traditional fantasy series.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Links of Interest

YOUR MASTER PUBLISHING PLAN:


CREATING CONFLICT:


OKLAHOMA CHARGES TATE PUBLISHING WITH FELONIES:


AN AUTHENTIC HISTORICAL VOICE:


AN APP THAT ALLOWS YOU TO COMPARE YOUR BOOK TO OTHERS ON AMAZON:


YOUR CHARACTER MUST EARN HIS WAY OUT OF TROUBLE:


OPTIMIZING YOUR AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:


CREATING TENSION:


THE SUCCESSFUL FIRST CHAPTER, PART 2:


FINDING BROKEN LINKS ON YOUR WEBSITE/BLOG:


SETTING UP AN AD WITH AMAZON MARKETING SERVICE:


USING QR CODE TO CONNECT YOUR COMMUNITY TO YOUR DIGITAL LIBRARY:


GOOGLE DOC TIPS:


COMPONENTS OF A SELF-PUB TEAM:


HOW OLD IS THAT FINGERPRINT?


IF YOU HAVE THE WRONG PROTAG:



Monday, May 8, 2017

The Story Twist

The story twist is a turning point or new bit of information that changes the reader's perception of the story.

The twist can be at the end like in THE SIXTH SENSE where we realize that Bruce Willis' character is not only helping the little boy deal with his ability to see ghosts, Willis is a ghost himself, so we have to rethink the movie to see that this truth has been there the whole time, but we've not noticed it.

A twist can also be within the story. For example, the reader discovers halfway through the novel that the hero's sidekick is really the bad guy, and everything the hero thinks he's learned or gained is now suspect.

One of my favorite types of twist is the expectation reversal. Sometimes, this involves the writer using a popular story trope like the marriage of convenience.

When the reader realizes this trope is being used, she will expect it to follow the standard pattern of the pretend marriage-- the characters will avoid sexual and emotional entanglement, they will gradually become emotionally and sexually closer, then their sham marriage will become a real marriage.

With the expectation reversal, the trope is set up, but the characters will do the exact opposite of what is expected. For example, the sexual relationship they've agreed not to have may happen almost immediately when they get drunk on their wedding night.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK has another excellent example. Indiana Jones is chasing after the men who have kidnapped his girl, and a huge bad guy with an enormous sword steps in front of him. The expectation is that Indie will pull out his sword, and they will fight.

Instead, pragmatic Indie pulls out his gun and shoots the man so he can continue after the girl. The big fight trope is not only skewered, but also the viewer realizes that Indie doesn't buy into the heroic yet stupid belief that a fight must be between equals with equal weapons no matter what the cost. For Indie, the girl's life is more important than the heroic ideal of an equal fight.

One of the most important things to remember about using a story twist is that the story itself must hold together and have depth of character and plot without the plot twist. The twist is the cherry on top of the sundae, not the sundae itself.

The other thing to remember is that you have to play fair with the reader and give them bits of information that will give them little clues to the big twist. It shouldn't appear arbitrary or come from thin air.

If Bruce Willis' ghost character interacted with live people as well as with the little boy, the viewer would have felt cheated. Instead, they think back to him talking to a wife who is ignoring him, not because their marriage is in trouble, but because he is dead, and she can't see him, and the viewer will gasp with surprise and wince at missing all those clues to what was really happening.

If you can make the reader gasp with surprise and rethink what she's read, your twist has worked.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Links of Interest

SHOULD YOU PRODUCE AN AUDIO BOOK?


LINKS TO VARIOUS INFORMATIONAL AND RESEARCH SITES:


HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:


BAD GUYS WHO AREN’T THE ANTAGONIST:


GOOD AND BAD EXPOSITION IN DIALOGUE:


CREATING A GOOD BOOK COVER:


CREATING AN EBOOK BOX SET:


GETTING YOUR RIGHTS BACK ON A TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOK:


WHEN YOUR STORY GETS STUCK:


DEVELOPING A SERIES HERO:


CREATING A SUCCESSFUL FIRST CHAPTER:


SECONDARY AND MINOR CHARACTERS:


WAYS TO TELL IF THE PLOT IS CONTRIVED:


ONLINE QUERY SWAP:


HISTORICAL MAPS OF NEW YORK CITY:


OVERLY COMPLEX PLOTS:


THEME AND STORYTELLING INTENT:


THE PROBLEM WITH KICKING BUTT IN A VICTORIAN GOWN:


NEW NEWSLETTER WITH WRITING TIPS:


MAGIC: