Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 07/03/2015

LOOKING AT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

The basic elements of character development—one character at a time—holds these four essentials: What is the desire that motivates him? What obstacle(s) is in the way? What struggles must she go through in order to fulfill her aspiration(s)? What are the consequences to him and/or others?

Once you’ve answered these questions for the Main Characters—before you delve into these next steps—prepare files for each character and label it: Essence of (character’s name).  Here are several tools to use in building complete characters who will resonate with multiple Readers.

  • Research and collect several studies on motivation.  Some will spout the latest theories and others will give you a history of “the study of human motivation.”  Some will offer nuts-and-bolts clarity, other will peel information off the onion for you and then leave you with more questions than answers. And yet, each one will provide a nugget upon which you can build your unique, yet very human, character.
  • Draw a picture. Well, not literally, draw a picture although I’m sure there are several people reading this blog who are gifted in that area, too. The concept here is to create a visual representation of your characters. There is software in the world today that can produce very realistic facial composite and I’ve heard of some writers using them.  However, I consider magazines to be a good source and Web-Search-Images of various types to be the best tools for this piece. There are also several “Free Image” sites that allow access to hundreds of “people photos.”
  • Home is where the heart is. So, build a home for each character. Whether they are street-dwellers or mansion-moguls the author needs live there with them. As you will learn, much of human motivation comes from their environment past, present and planned for. Again, the Internet carries volumes of photos—interior and exterior—of homes around the world.  Which one(s) have your characters lived in?

The old cliché of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is extremely valuable to the writer who is building characters from scratch—and the suggestions given above will guide you well. IF, however, you have a real person you’re writing about, that is a whole different process.  Here is what that looks like…

  • Research and collect ALL the information you can on that person—past and present—and then consider developing a file (your opinions) of the motivations that have activated their life choices.  Each event—from choice of sports to play in elementary and high school to marriage partner and career—will give you pages of information to draw from.
  • Select specific photographs of that person at their various stages of life. These will give you a visual representation of how life has treated them and how they responded to the challenges.
  • WHERE have they lived?  The Internet can help you here, too. Examples of cities and towns and even neighborhoods will be available for you to find by simply searching the addresses of the person you’re placing in your story.

I’ve heard this process—of discovering what motivates a character—labeled “forensic physiological mapping.” I don’t know how accurate that is, however, I do like the concept of mapping. Working this process will definitely build you a believable character! ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

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An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | First Thoughts

Everyone’s got an opinion on how best to use social media.  These two simple words have become the locus for more blogs, podcasts, and even heated offline debates than any other subject in the last five years––or more.  In part we can attribute this pervasive conversation to the fact that the advent of social media has radically altered the average Westerner’s daily routine as well as that person’s basic expectations of relationships, whether we’re talking about relationships with other individuals, or with the companies and other institutions with which you or I might have some connection.  These days, for example, it’s entirely reasonable for consumers to expect their favorite companies––whether Nike, or Denny’s––as well as their favorite celebrities––be they Rihanna or Neil Gaiman––to have active and responsive presences on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  And while Lady Gaga won’t be able to respond to each and every tweet lobbed her way over the course of a day, the fact that she responds to any tweets renders her a more accessible figure to the average Twitter user.

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But we’re not just here to gab about the latest and greatest in Facebook updates and how to use the Twitter app––even though, certainly, those two will rank among many other topics we’ll examine over the coming weeks.  We’re here, first and foremost, to talk about how to market your self-published book.  It’s already hard enough to break into the market when it comes to books, especially self-published books––talk about a daunting proposition!––without a guide or even professional assistance; we exist to make your life a little bit easier.  To that end, each and every social networking tool I address will be tied back to this notion of marketing, and marketing specifically as a newly-published or on-the-verge-of-published indie, hybrid, or self-published author.

The first social network that everyone thinks of is still, by and large, Facebook.  And don’t worry, we’ll absolutely talk about how to use Facebook effectively.  It is important to note, however, that the bigger a platform is in terms of user base, the more “crowded” the market will seem to a reader seeking new material.  It is vital that an indie author knows the ins and outs of Facebook updates and feeds and public profiles and so on and so forth, because the vast majority of any author’s potential readers will have Facebook accounts; however, it’s just as vital for a self-published author to establish a certain degree of comfort with at least a couple of the lesser-used platforms, because they will be both more “discoverable” and more visible without the throng of other authors competing for attention.  To that end, I will take a stroll through each of the quote-on-quote “major” social networking sites, including:

  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

… but I will also examine lesser-known or more specialized platforms, such as:

  • Goodreads
  • Etsy
  • LinkedIn
  • Flickr

… because, ultimately, it’s the tools we’ve neglected that end up most surprising us with their unexplored possibilities.

There’s a lot more to using social media for book promotion, however, than simply knowing the names of the most popular sites or even how to set up an account with and update each one.  There are a whole host of other behaviors to discover, observe, and adopt––”best practices,” so to speak––than just generating content.  Authors have to know, for example, the inside tricks.  They have to know the whys as well as the wherefores: why does engaging your readers on multiple platforms translate to better book sales?  Why is it important to track your social media efficacy using analytics?  And most importantly of all, why is it necessary to create a strategy, a plan for your social media campaign?  I’ll walk with you through the theory––and together, we’ll peel back some of the layers that lie between us and a social media repertoire that actually makes a difference.  We’ll debunk some myths, learn some new things, and slowly work our way through.

Together.

(Since that’s kind of the point, in the end, of social networking.)

I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 6/26/15

WRITING CONFERENCES IV

Two weeks ago I mentioned the writer’s natural ability to fly—to write—as compared to the birds of the air having the natural ability and motivation to take-wing and soar.  I know this to be true because of the complete peace and freedom I feel when sitting in my office at the keyboard, allowing ideas to flow and become pages that (I hope) will be passable communication between me and the Reader.

However, this natural state evades me when called upon to speak in front of a group of people.  So it was that I selected a challenging workshop at the Writers Conference for my main focus, the Speakers Intensive Clinic.  You see, my friends, when you become published there WILL be a need for you to TALK about what you’ve produced.  Here are a few basic concepts that I practiced during the conference and came away with to help me continue developing this ability.

1. Who, What, When, Where and Why?  Sound familiar? These lovely little words guide us in the creation of the characters in our novels, the plot, setting and deeper elements of creative story telling.  They are also very necessary when presenting (speaking about) our finished product to agents, editors and the reading public.

a. Know Who the Audience is. Do the research about your venue and the people expected to attend.

b. What Are Their Expectations?  What are their dreams? What goals do they have?

c. When—in their life-journey—Are You Speaking to Them?  Is this audience full of unpublished writers who want to accomplish what you have?  Are they various ages—a youth group—senior writers?

d. Where will you be speaking?  I’ve heard authors talk about “walking the room” before their audience arrives.  Some pray for strength to actually complete the speech and pray for the audience that each one will take away what they need.  Most important, each of these speakers takes the time to get a “feel” for the setting—the venue.  If the seats look particularly uncomfortable, they might need to add a break-time to allow their audience time to stretch and pull in brain-power oxygen.

e. YOU Must Know WHY You Are Speaking.  Every writer has a message to give and a “speaker-personae” within themselves to present it. You could not have finished your book—whether non-fiction or fiction—without that message.  Is it meant to inspire people, entertain them, provoke them to think for themselves? If you haven’t identified it, outlined it forward and backward. Without a clear message in mind, it is unlikely your audience will understand what you’re trying to say.

2. Be Ready To Be Transparent. We hear that word, transparency, in the political arena a lot these days.  The best speakers I’ve ever listened to—whether writers, or politicians, or pastors—have been ready and willing to share a truthful personal story within their speech.  It doesn’t need to be a confession of any sort, yet when revealing a piece of one’s life to others we offer them a “real” connection that leads to friendships, Facebook followers and book-buyers.

3. Keep Yourself Aware. LOOK at what is going on around you both close to home and around the world.  Is there a story in those events that relate to you and/or your book(s)?  Write it down. These short scenarios—and your thoughts about them—also connect you to your Readers.

A final thought: Yes, there will be many times when we’re called upon to talk about our book(s) on a moment’s notice. Learning and PRACTICING these pieces to the speech-preparation-puzzle will allow us to do so with grace and flare. Eventually, it will become fun!  ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Self-Publishing & Merchandising : Summary Edition

Ten posts and eleven weeks ago, we started out on this foray into merchandising together.  My original list was only five items long, but as the weeks ticked by, I realized there was just so much more to unpack––so, so much more.  There were weeks when I faced a great recurring quandary, the same quandary that every book-to-film adaptation seems to face these days: “Do I stick with the original vision for this piece, or do I split it into three shorter pieces and fill in the gaps with editorializing?”  Which is not to say I quibble with the unstoppable Hollywood machinery; in fact, it’s entirely apropos, I think, to compare merchandising to such a vast and powerful cultural institution.

Ultimately, in the end, merchandising is about making money off of your books, and making money off of books is a difficult enterprise, even when your book is published with a major traditional publishing house.  It might sound mercenary to say so, and thereby take books out of the lofty world of ideas and philosophies and re-shelve them among the lower reaches of the sticky-fingered common folk … but at the same time, we must recognize that a book which sells well spreads its ideas well.  A well-marketed book is an effective vehicle for those lofty ideas.  We cannot shy from the twin facts that merchandising is a) good for us, the indie authors of the world, and b) good for our readers, who are presented with more options, and drawn into more worlds of ideas.

There’s also a third completely parenthetical side benefit … which is to say, c) merchandising can be loads of fun.  Who doesn’t love to participate, in some small way, in the stories that taught them to dream big?  (….and I’m saying this while I wear a tee-shirt that literally glows in the dark with the schematics for the Space Shuttle.)  It might be escapism to try and keep dreams alive a little while longer––whether by slipping on a tee-shirt, or purchasing a special edition––but it may also be exactly what someone needs to forge ahead.

There’s simply no way around one fact: Merchandising can be a lot of work.  For the self-published author, it’s a daunting idea at the very least and quite possibly even a paralyzing one.  In my first post, all those weeks ago, I wrote that publishing a book does not always equate to instant success––in fact, it only very rarely catapults an author past the breaking-even point.  But merchandising, specifically, and self-publishing in general are made so much easier by the presence of a dedicated and supportive community of fellow-laborers, and hopefully by the resources that blogs like this one compile.  This series of blog posts (listed below for convenience) may only represent one feeble drop in the bucket when it comes to the resources you can turn to, but I hope that I’ve managed to find a balance between the “Big Picture” (AKA “Concise and Readable”) and some of the finer points of merchandising (AKA “I Should Probably Break This Up Into Twenty Sequels”).

SELF-PUBLISHING AND MERCHANDISING : THE SERIES

Thank you for sticking it out and being a part of this series––your feedback and suggestions have always been of such great use, dear readers.  The comments box remains open, but in the meantime, get ready to come at self-publishing from a wholly different angle starting next week Wednesday!  I’ll be examining a whole host of social media platforms and breaking down the most surprising ways in which they can be of use to you.  It’s going to be a blast!  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 6/19/15

WRITING CONFERENCES III

Today I continue my list of thoughts about preparing to attend writers’ conferences.  Every writer will develop their personal method of preparation; however, the following are “tried and true” ways that I hope will blend with your own successful practices.

* BE PREPARED TO NETWORK.  There are many terms for this activity these days, but my favorite is “tribe”—developing a tribe of family, friends, co-workers, church acquaintances, neighbors, walking buddies, etc.—who know you well enough to be interested in what you have written.  This will include ALL the attendees of the writers’ conference you’re attending.  Simply showing up at the conference indicates the common interests shared.  Don’t be shy to talk with these folks about your book and ask for their card.  With the information written there, you have instant tribe initiation.

* BE KIND, COURTEOUS and HELPFUL. If you’ve ever been approached by an over-eager car salesperson, you’ll immediately understand how NOT to approach folks in the conference venue.  Even though the hours set aside for “free time” (which really means networking—not sleeping) is short, prepare yourself to think that you have hours to spend with each person you meet.  This gives them the opportunity to actually talk to you and, in turn, allows a real connection to be made.  There is an old saying that is very true: Value others above yourself and they will see the value in you—and your book.

* BE READY TO SPEAK ELOQUENTLY ABOUT YOUR PROJECT.  Writers’ Conferences offer face-to-face “meets” with Editors, Agents and Mentor-Authors who have agreed to talk with writers.  There will be very little time allotted for you to present your concept, your outline, your book to them.  I am working with a friend to develop Postcard Presentations for these potentially valuable moments—a nicely outlined “story” about YOUR STORY that can be discussed while talking with these folks AND be given to them.  Many things can be stated succinctly in those few minutes, yet with a postcard in hand to give them, they will remember you.  The most important item to place on the card will be your 1-sentence statement about your book.

My bottom line thought for you today is to prepare for every conference journey with realistic expectations.  We all carry those BIG DREAMS in our heart wherever we go.  We want people to recognize that this book is the best thing since vanilla-caramel-mocha-lattes were invented.  However, the “instant-ah-ha moment” with an agent or editor and contract offer very rarely happens.  Actually, I don’t know of anyone who has experienced this.  So, be prepared to learn all that you can absorb at the conference as well as bring home all the information you can to gain more knowledge about this craft of writing.  You’ll be miles ahead of those who chose not to attend that conference!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.