Amazon Issues

So every one knows, if you have trouble downloading a free copy of Birthright, try putting ‘Birthright Koenig’ in the Amazon search bar.

Only 4 more days!

Birthright is Free

Click the picture or click here

One of THOSE Days

I’m headed down the final stretch with On The Sly. Go me!

But this final editing process has me rewriting tired phrases into something fresher. And, for the most part, it’s going well. However, I find I’m having more brain farts than my usual. I can’t seem to find a word for something simple, like ‘laundry’. I mean, I actually can’t think of that specific word.

How ridiculous is that?

Anyway, On The Sly is on its final stretch. The next step after this is getting it out to the agents. I’m so excited and I hope you will be too!

Authors: The Importance of a Website

Being an author is a profession. Writing is a part of it, like bricklaying for a bricklayer. Having a profession makes you a professional. You need to look the part. You need your readers to know you’re not a wannabe.

You. Are. An. Author.

A website is a must. Not a webpage on someone else’s site. It needs to be your own domain. It means you have arrived. You’re a professional and you’re not taking prisoners. (Er, you get what I mean, don’t you?)

It says to the arriving reader, “You have found me. This is my place, mine alone. I share it with no other. This place is filled with all things me.”

I’ve tried expensive sites: GoDaddy, Yahoo. But WordPress makes it very easy and inexpensive to own your own domain, and they’ve got all kinds of lovely blocks and widgets you can use. If you don’t find the widget you want, it’s often in the help section. OR you can google “(widget style) wordpress” and someone will have a posting on it somewhere.

The key to making a good website is to make every bit of it clear, not clever. Simple is always better. Clever just clutters, and a cluttered website turns people away. I’m always improving mine.

You should spend a lot of time on your About page. Let people know why they like you. Make yourself very human and very accessible. I have a gallery page too.

I chose not to have my blog as my landing page, but that’s entirely up to you. I wanted to present my site not as a blog, but a full site.

Freebies are always a bonus, but they don’t have to have their own page like mine does.

What you really need to do, is go look at author websites. Look at others in your genre. Look at those you admire. Emulate (read steal) what you like.  I look at Kathy Reichs and Dean Koontz, both of whom use WordPress. Also Brandon Sanderson, who doesn’t use WordPress.

White letters on a dark background, or colored letters on a similar colored background, are bad things. Hard on the eyes. People won’t stay long. So I’ve been told, but I see a lot of professional mystery and horror writers use it, so I might be changing.

And that’s the thing about websites. The public’s tastes change. You have to keep updating, so make sure it’s one you can figure out pretty easily.

Good luck!

Authors: Your Target Reader

As a writer, we often write to please ourselves. And so we should. WE are our own target readers.

We grow and develop. We start gaining fans. At first they’re generic friends and family who love us, therefore love everything we do.

But it’s not good enough to just have fans. We can’t write a children’s book and expect everyone to like it or want it. We can’t give a horror book to a child.

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We start to develop target audiences. As in the two examples above, we write for those people. We still write what we want, but the way we write the story changes. Simple friendly words for children. Hard edgy details for adults. We tailor the details for our reader too: gore, monsters, or happy unicorns.

But it’s not enough to write for general horror fans. There are sub-genres and details galore. There are creature-features (my fav), slasher, psychological, etc…. Even within those sub-genres there are nuances and tropes savvy readers like to see.

Defining our specific target reader helps us. We can keep this reader in our thoughts while we write so we don’t stray too far off the path. We’ve all seen the movie star who does a dud film. The target audience was forgotten. We don’t want to be that star.

A target audience helps us when we market too. We know exactly with what type reader our book will resonate. We know how to reach them, because we’ve researched them. We can say to the publisher, “Why, yes. I do know my target reader. It’s a 17 year old girl, stepping into womanhood, who feels alienated from her family. My book is about this type girl, who discovers her family was never hers.”

We need a target reader. But, it’s not just one. It’s three.

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We have our current target reader. The potential target reader. Then our future target reader. It’s important we remember they’re all vitally important to us. We have to be careful to remember to bring our current readers along while reaching for the future ones.

We need to pick out one or two fans we currently know. Someone who buys all our books, loves everything we write. Usually, it’s someone who gives us a bit more feedback on our book than just “I like it.”

We list what we know about this person: likes, dislikes, age, income, education, routines, values, how they spend their time online and off. It’s a bit like stalking, but not quite as creepy. More like preparing for a date. Really get to know this current reader. Maybe it’s a late middle-aged woman who is just bored with her life. Or it could be a teacher who reads while his students take tests. It stands to reason these two examples would like different books, even though they read everything you’ve written.

We next take a look at what kind of reader almost fits into our target audience. Do the research. This is our potential target reader. Find a specific person who fits into this group. That’s another person to keep in mind while writing or marketing.

Our last group is our future reader. This is a natural extension from the current fan through the potential target audience to here. Research. Pick your person. This is the third person for whom you’re writing/marketing.

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To give you an example from my life. My current target reader is a retired school teacher. She’s up there in years as is her husband. She spends a lot of time reading. She’s bought EVERYTHING I’ve ever written. When I have freebies, I make sure she gets some.

My potential reader is a middle-aged professional. She loves the same books and movies I do. She buys most of my books, but mostly because she’s a friend. I want her to buy them because she can’t stand not knowing the next story. BIG difference. That only happens when the story resonates with the reader. It’s getting there.

My future reader? A middle-aged superhero fan who has watched all the Marvel and Star Trek movies each a dozen times. He picks up a hard-core mystery to read in between. Yes, he’s a movie watcher. Yes, my books have to be blockbuster movie worthy.

See how this works? It changes my word choices, and nearly every choice I make in my writing and my marketing.

Good luck!

Post-Fermentation

So, when I laid On The Sly down to ferment, I had a squeaky clean outline. All my notes had been worked through. But you remember what I said fermentation was really about? Me forgetting my story. Clearing my head.

Now I’m back at it and my outline has more notes than I’ve ever seen. These are quick, easy to take care of notes, though. I also decided to add more chapters, not just at the end, like I said in an earlier post, but throughout. Not many. Just a dozen or so.

All in all, I’m really pleased with how this novel is working.

As for Wasteland, the rough draft is still coming along. The writing (so far) is coming easily and the storyline is clear. Very excited about it.

And, a few local markets have opened up, so I’ll be doing some book signings on Saturdays. My books are also available at the Acanthus Gallery on Church Street in Grand Falls, NB.

The novels won’t write themselves, so it’s back to work I go.

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The Care and Feeding of Agents

The first thing you need to know is that agents are business people. They need to make money just like the construction worker down the street. Just like an office manager, or a boutique owner. They make contacts in the publishing world just like a dress manufacturer makes contacts with warehouses and stores.

They are the middle links, the facilitators. Nothing more. They don’t hold life or death over your novel. There are millions and gazillions of small and mid-range publishers out there that work directly with the writer.

The agent’s job isn’t to market your book to the public. It’s just to take your manuscript a decent publisher (not necessarily a top publisher) for the best possible outcome.

Your manuscript will go to the publisher with whom it fits. If your manuscript is messy, full of errors, a poor storyline, disjointed, hard to read, etc., it will go to a publisher who wants to spend lots of time correcting your mistakes. Guess what, that’s not a top line publisher. In fact, it’s not even a mid-range publisher. You’ll be lucky if a small publisher takes it. And if that’s the case, you probably won’t get an agent.

So, your first job, is to get your manuscript as clean as you can. Have lots of people check it for errors. Hire an editor if necessary.

Second, research the agents. Make sure the people you send your manuscript to even like the genre you wrote. Check Preditors and Editors (pred-ed.com) to see what reviews your agents have. Take a close look at those the agent represent. Did they go to a decent publisher? Are their books languishing? If you pick a small agent no one’s heard about, you’re not going to the big publishers. Also, pay attention to the agent’s personality, you have to be able to work with this person.

Third, In the old days — you know, last year — you’d then go to a conference or workshop where this agent is appearing. Get on the docket to give a pitch. You then would follow the conference with the manuscript, saying thank you for listening to your pitch and specifically mentioning what the agent said (they see tons of people and probably won’t remember you). Nowadays, it’s kinda the same. Lots of conferences are doing online things, agents included. It’s just a bit more difficult.

Fourth, if an agent is interested, he/she may want changes to your manuscript. Be willing to work on it. If you don’t want to change anything, you should probably self-publish. Ask questions to get a precise idea of what the agent wants. Remember, this person probably knows what publishers are buying better than you do. And be timely about any changes requested.

Fifth, if you’re luck enough to get a contract, don’t sign it right away. Wait, what did I say? That’s right. Don’t sign it right away. You get a contract, you’re excited. That’s never a good time to sign anything. Stop. Think about it. There may be one or two details you can negotiate.

Sixth, don’t pester your new agent friend. He/she has lots to do. Several weeks between Emails is normal. But if it stretches into months, give them a nudge.

Seventh, don’t be afraid to walk away. I’ve had to do that. It’s not the end of the world. But when you do, make sure to get a few names of other agents that might represent you.

Best of luck!

Fermentation

Like a fine wine or a busty microbrew, a good novel should ferment.

That’s what On The Sly is doing right now. I’ve finished the fourth draft (it takes as many drafts as it takes, sorry), and now it’s just sitting there, waiting for me to forget all my little thoughts about it. All my hopes and despairs. It ferments so I can look at it with fresh eyes.

We often get so wrapped up in what we want our book to say, that we think it actually says that. We don’t notice where it falls short.

When I go back to it in a few weeks, I’ll be able to read it more objectively. I’ll come up with new ideas. And I’ll be able to more clearly see what it still needs. But for now, it ferments.

Guest Interview

Today I’m interviewing guest author, Robin Castle, who has recently published the book “Don’t Drink the Bathroom Water, A Guide to Living in Ireland”.

Robin, Why do you write?

I want to let others into my worldview. Most people don’t seem to see all the colours and shades and textures I do and I want to share that with them.

Where do your ideas come from?

Everywhere. Literally. A conversation, the back of a bottle of ketchup, everywhere. Even in my sleep.

Robin Castle, author of “Don’t Drink the Bathroom Water, A Guide to Living in Ireland”

Describe Your Latest Book.

I am currently at work on 3 projects: a murder mystery, a short story collection, and the 2nd book in a series of honest guides to Ireland (filled with things Fodor’s doesn’t know about and Lonely Planet won’t tell you).

Available on all Amazon affiliates

What’s your normal writing practice

Pre-pandemic, my days had a flow to them. Wake up, feed my bird, drink coffee, exercise, write. Now, it’s catch as catch can. I’m in a house full of people and we all do our best to respect each other’s space, but it’s not easy. I write whenever I can, including the middle of the night, and am glad for whatever time I get. I try to focus on what I’ve done and let go (as much as possible) of what I wasn’t able to do, because I’m constantly trying my best.

Pantser, Plotter, or Plantser

I am a pantser who wishes she was a plantser. I have tried all sorts of things to plot more, but my imagination rebels against all planning. Usually my writing is the better for it.

Robin, for you, what is the easiest thing about writing? The Hardest?

The easiest thing about writing is the joy of discovery a new story and because I am a pantser, discovering what will happen next. The hardest thing is, for me, finding the ending. I want an ending that’s satisfying, not just a super quick wrap-up. Depending on the story, that can be tricky to negotiate for me.

Writer’s block

Unpopular opinion: like Wendy, I uh, well, was that a bird? Over there to your right? Ha ha. I work on several projects at a time and if one stalls, I abandon it until the characters of the abandoned story become jealous and call me back. I’m always writing something.

Advice for writers

Keep going. Seriously. And if you hate the story you’re working on, put it in a drawer and start a new one. You don’t get penalised for unfinished stories. Keep growing. And try to have a sense of humour. I challenge anyone who’s stuck to write the worst story they can possibly imagine, something awful, and not enjoy it. Not laugh. It can be very freeing to write badly. See where it leads you. It might end up being something good. Or just an enjoyable experience. Both are worthwhile.

Thank you Wendy!!!

You’re very welcome, Robin!

Robin’s Contact info: 

@robincastle55 on Instagram and Twitter

Website:  www.robincastle.net

Of Writers and Authors

There’s a difference between writers and authors. Do you know the difference?

Most people think of living alternate lives. They watch a movie or have an exciting thought, and that old ‘what if?’ comes out. More often than not, so does a writing device, just because who wants to lose the thought? That makes you a writer.

Are you published or not? If so, you’re a published writer. But to be an author is something different and a lot more detailed. Becoming an author is a career. And like any other career, you have to work hard at being a professional.

I don’t say these things to discourage you. Not at all. These things are to help you be honest with yourself. As a writer/author, that’s our first job. We can lie to others in our pieces of fiction, but we should never lie to ourselves. Once we identify who we are and what we want, our lives get easier. Our writing follows the niche we choose as surely as a river follows a canyon.

Firstly, do you write with the intention of publication? Do you constantly study how to write correctly? Grammer, punctuation, plot, character building, etc…? Do you read lots and lots of books about writing? I still do, and I’ve been writing for 20+ years now. I’m always eager to learn something new.

Second, do you work to learn the art of storytelling? Most people can tell an okay story. But it takes work to learn pacing, correct placing of twists, building of tension, the best denouement, for example. These aren’t the same as writing correctly. These have more to do with your voice as a writer. And yes, they are things that can be learned.

Third, do you research? A novel that has incorrect details will make your readers lose interest. Even fantasy and science fiction need research.

Fourth, do you seek honest feedback on your work? I say this delicately, because not many in this profession are really good at it. A constructive criticism should tell you what’s wrong or weak, encourage you, and NOT CHANGE YOUR STORY TO SOMEONE ELSE’S VISION. This last thing is key. That’s why it’s in caps. Read it again. A constructive criticism should help you make YOUR story stronger. It should remain true to YOUR vision.

Fifth, do you work hard to polish your work to the very best of your ability? Do you ask someone whose writing you respect to help you do this? Even before sending it to a publisher?

Sixth, are you willing to work with a publisher’s editor? This is where things get tough. A publisher will have a different vision for your work than you do. It’s the nature of things. A publisher knows his/her audience and what they like. He/She needs to make money with the books they produce. Does your work fit with their audience? Just because you’re not willing to change what you wrote/want, doesn’t mean you’re not an author. It means you, then, become the publisher. And you must look at your book the same way a publisher’s editor does.

Seventh, will you do what it takes to market your book? In today’s world, it’s all up to you. The days of the publisher marketing your book for you are long gone. If you aren’t willing to do everything to make it work, you might be a hobby writer.

Writing is hard work. Enjoyable, but hard. Make sure you know you’re on the right path. James V. Smith states you aren’t an author until you’ve completed 10 novels. I used to think that was harsh. I used to scoff at it. But I understand now.

The difference is quality, not quantity. By the tenth novel, you understand your voice. You know what it takes to make a quality novel in your chosen genre(s).

Not everyone who is a writer is an author, but anyone CAN BECOME an author.

For more from me about writing, check out my Tips page.

Cooking Along

On The Sly is coming along quite well. I’m at the point with it where I’m getting itchy to read it again. But that will wait.

First, I need to work some more on the ending. As I said before, I’m extending it by a couple chapters.

I want the final battle between Sylvia and Pike to be bigger. And badder. Still mulling it over if I want her to kill him or not. I don’t believe bad guys should always die at the end of the novel. Sometimes, they need to go to jail. And sometimes, they just need to get away. But not this one. He needs to be caught by Sylvia.

As for Wasteland, I’m 9 scenes in and loving it. Lin is a tough one, she’d have to be, surviving on her own since her brother died. It’s a dark and desperate novel, with lots of stupid/funny moments. Like the flashback of when she got her first haircut at 5.

“…It was a beast of a summer and my brother cut his own hair to show me what it was like. He held me down and chopped off my ponytail while I screamed like he was killing me. When he finished, I picked up the ponytail and tied it on top of my head. That lasted a day before I decided it was too hot.”

It’s good when the writing goes well, because there are plenty of times it doesn’t.

Back to the notepad. More later.

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