Write Away

By Kerrie L. Flanagan and Jenny Sundstedt

Write_Away_FrontCoverWRITE AWAY: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers combines monthly insightful and humorous stories with tips, tools and interactions that encourage writers to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. From “Writing Naked” to “Writing an Effective Query Letter,” these essays remind readers of the unique nuances in the life of a writer and provide practical advice for strengthening skills and knowledge. Each month opens with a place to record goals and action plans. A back section provides resources and tools to help readers stay on track and stay informed. Inspirational quotes, reflective questions, and short exercises keep motivation and energy flowing. Here are a few excerpts:

“Time to Get Rid of Excuses”

By Kerrie

One of the biggest issues I hear writers bring up is that they find it difficult to find time to write. The bottom line is that if you want to be a serious writer, then you must make the time to write. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have the power to decide how we are going to use those hours.

If all you can spare is 30 minutes a day, then commit to those 30 minutes. Don’t let anything get in your way. Think about it—a half hour a day, five days a week, is two and a half hours a week, which then equals 120 hours a year. That is definitely enough time to make a dent in your novel or write a dozen poems or a few stories or a picture book or two or a dozen articles . . . you get the idea.

Here are some quick tips to help you find success in organizing your time.

  • Make a daily/weekly goal for the number of hours you are going to write.
  • Schedule your writing times and mark those times on your calendar.
  • Stick to your commitment. If someone calls to try to schedule something during your writing time, nicely say to them, “That time won’t work for me, I have a prior commitment.” No further explanation is necessary.
  • Reward yourself after one month of sticking to your plan.

What is one way you can be better about honoring your writing time?

“Take A Leap”

By Jenny

Poor February. It’s the little brother of the calendar, never quite matching up to the longer months. But every four years, it puffs up its chest a bit with the addition of an extra day. I love the novelty of Leap Day, even though it occasionally gyps me out of a coveted Friday or Saturday birthday.

February 29 is a bonus day, but, as such, how should one choose to spend it? Is it a do whatever you want because nothing counts day (i.e., whatever happens on Leap Day stays on Leap Day), or is it a day to take a real shot at something meaningful? Or maybe a little bit of both.

We’re told how to celebrate most holidays, whether it’s with candy and flowers, fireworks, or green beer. But I say that Leap Day should be celebrator’s choice. So, writer friends, it’s up to you. If you’ve been working so hard on a manuscript that you’re revising it in your sleep, perhaps your Leap Day should be spent with crossword puzzles and a bottomless cup of tea, or a double feature of completely mindless entertainment at your local movieplex. Cheesecake for lunch is also a viable option.

But if your writerly self has lately been feeling hampered by self-doubts, intimidated by the prospect of success and/or failure, and generally reluctant to strike off in any direction, then perhaps February 29 is your day to take a leap of faith. Send a query. Enter a contest. Register for a conference or sign up for a pitch session. Write a first word, a first line, a first page, a first chapter. You may like it so much that you’ll want to treat every day like it’s Leap Day. Except for the cheesecake for lunch part.

My leap is sending off one of the short stories I’ve been sitting on for a while. What will your writer’s leap be?

For more helpful tips and motivations, get the WRITE AWAY eBook here!

About the authors

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Kerrie Flanagan is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers (NCW), writing consultant, and freelance writer with articles in regional and national publications including Writers Digest and The Writer.

Jenny Sundstedt is a member of NCW and serves on the creative team for the annual NCW Writer’s Conference. She writes long and short fiction, essays, overly ambitious to-do lists, and since 2010, has been a regular contributor to the NCW blog, “The Writing Bug.”

 

An exciting new initiative: Digital Book Day

“One day, one site, hundreds of authors and free books, all to celebrate our readers!”                         – CJ Lyons, founder of Digital Book Day

For three years, World Book Night was an effort to share the love of reading by giving away thousands of books in a single day, once per year. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, World Book Night announced last week that they would cease US operations.

Author CJ Lyons quickly stepped up to the plate to organize something unique and exciting: Digital Book Day, an initiative with the same mission – celebrating readers – but featuring free digital copies instead of print editions. It’s all happening next week, on July 14, 2014.

DBDsquare“When I heard the news that World Book Night USA was over, it saddened me, “ Lyons told Kobo Writing Life. “And it came on the heels of so much upheaval and distress in the publishing industry that instead of addressing the issue with more rhetoric and empty words, I decided to take action.”

“After all, thanks to digital publishing, authors (traditionally published or self-published) have a less expensive and more efficient way to gift books to readers via e-books. I myself have given away over 50,000 print and e-books in the past five years—and it’s always, always, always led to new readers finding me, not to mention a ton of fun for me to do, kind of like Christmas all year round! So I thought, why not a self-funded Digital Book Day?”

We applaud CJ’s efforts and the inclusive spirit of Digital Book Day. Any author can submit a free book HERE, and link to their preferred retailer – including Kobo!

By self-publishing with Kobo Writing Life, you have the ability to price your titles free anytime, with no exclusivity. If you want to offer a book free for a limited time for Digital Book Day, use our easy price scheduling tool to schedule that price change ahead of time. Readers, remember you can find amazing free books any time on our First Free in  Series page: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/Collection/free-first-in-series

Find out more about Digital Book Day here: http://DigitalBookDay.com

About CJ Lyons

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-three novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has

Author and Digital Book Day founder CJ Lyons.

Author and Digital Book Day founder CJ Lyons.

lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers’ prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

CJ will be giving away SNAKE SKIN for free on Digital Book Day. You can find all of her eBooks on kobo.com, including her latest release, FAREWELL TO DREAMS: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/farewell-to-dreams-a-novel-of-fatal-insomnia

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net

 

 

Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do

By Merry Farmer

I, Merry Farmer, am an indie author. And I’m proud of it, too. I was never really interested in taking a path to publication that went through the traditional publishing industry. Sure, it had and still has its advantages, but after a few half-hearted attempts to toe the party line, I knew it wasn’t for me. The feedback I was repeatedly given was that I was a great writer, my plots were interesting and my characters had dimension, but my stories wouldn’t sell. No one was buying medieval or western historicals. It couldn’t be done.

That was when my purpose as a writer was born. The refrain that has become my battle cry and the heart of everything I write is, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” Nothing pushes a creative mind harder than being told that something can’t be done. I’m convinced that that is at least half of what has fueled the indie revolution, and I know that that’s what keeps me writing the books that I love instead of chasing the latest trend.

Self-published author Merry Farmer.

Proud indie author Merry Farmer.

When I first started publishing in 2011, the indie revolution was near its beginning. There was a lot of skepticism from high and low about the quality of the books that those crazy rogue writers would dare to publish. What ended up happening, though, is that without the fear of huge financial loss, writers like me were able to experiment with story and setting, with character and themes. Slowly but surely, new voices began to be heard amongst the tried and true staples of every genre.

I write historical romance, and while I love a good Regency era story, complete with dukes and dances, I always wanted to hear more about other eras of history and the richness of the lives of men and women who didn’t have title or money. I love a story full of tight historical accuracy, but I wanted to see what would happen if I wrote a tale with a modern twist set hundreds of years ago. When I published my first novel, THE LOYAL HEART, which is intended to feel more like the movie A Knight’s Tale than THE CANTERBURY TALES, I held my breath, eager to see how it would be received. I was told people would pan it, that it didn’t fit within the confines of the medieval romance genre.

You know what? People loved it! It turns out that there is a place for an adventure-packed romp in the world of traditional chivalry. So I decided to play with ideas and experiment with themes again with my Montana Romance series. I was told historical westerns weren’t selling anymore and that the late 1890s was far too late in the 19th century to appeal to the historical romance crowd. And what was I thinking, including an m/m romance in the middle of a conventional m/f series?

A sneak peek at book one in Farmer's upcoming series, GRACE'S MOON.

A sneak peek at book one in Farmer’s upcoming series, GRACE’S MOON.

Don’t tell me what I can’t do. The beauty of indie publishing is that it has allowed me to try out ideas that a larger publishing house isn’t prepared to take a risk on. I can’t say I blame them for not taking that risk either, but just because they aren’t prepared to put a chunk of cash behind an untried concept no longer means that that concept will wither. There are books being published now that can open whole new worlds to readers. The sky’s the limit now when it comes to creativity and experimentation. We truly are living in the Age of the Author now.

My next experiment? Publishing in a different genre with the same name, Merry Farmer. I have a sci-fi series, GRACE’S MOON, coming in July. They say you can’t publish different genres under the same name. They say your readers won’t follow you, that you’ll have to start the discoverability struggle all over again.

Three guesses what I say to that.

You can find Merry’s eBooks on Kobo through the links below:

THE LOYAL HEART

THE FAITHFUL HEART

THE COURAGEOUS HEART

OUR LITTLE SECRETS

FOOL FOR LOVE

SARAH SUNSHINE

IN YOUR ARMS

THE INDOMITABLE EVE

SEEKS FOR HER

SOMEBODY TO LOVE

 

Visit Merry’s website to learn more, and follow her on Twitter @MerryFarmer20.

Oh, the Mistakes We’ve Seen!

By BlueInk Review

In our mission at BlueInk Review to review self-published books, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. While it’s difficult to explain how to create stellar prose – as there’s always a touch of genius involved in the best literature – there’s no secret about where writers go wrong. As our reviews show, authors tend to commit the same writing crimes, book after book.

Below, we have compiled excerpts from the more than 2,000 reviews we’ve done, each of which expose common writing blunders. So what makes the bad review rear its dreaded, beastly head? Here are five traps you should avoid at all costs:

1. Writing rife with spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors

The fact that this is at the top of the list is both discouraging and heartening: discouraging because, let’s face it writers, a book should be free of all spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors long before it’s reviewed or even published; heartening because this is one of the simplest problems to remedy.

Mechanical errors detract from the plot by forcing readers to wade through a veritable pool of inaccuracies in an attempt to decipher meaning. Don’t punish your supporters for reading your book; reward them with flawless mechanics.

Simply put: Hire a professional copy editor. And when he/she is finished, don’t rest easy. Proofread, my friends, proofread.

Here’s a sample of what our critics said on the subject::

“More frustrating, however, is the inundation of spelling and punctuation errors in the novel, specifically the incorrect use of the question mark, which is employed improperly in countless sentences. The seeming lack of any proofreading leads to an exasperating reading experience that is made even more challenging by a storyline that is disjointed, aimless, and, at times, self-indulgent.”

BlueInk Review2. Fiction containing overpowering agendas

Readers don’t appreciate picking up a romance novel or thriller, only to be inundated with an author’s opinions about abortion or saving the rainforest. Yet authors often feel it’s appropriate to hammer a political or social message home through their characters.

It is perfectly acceptable for a character to have strong opinions,  provided that this point of view is in keeping with the character’s overall persona. But if readers can tell that the character is simply acting as your mouthpiece, they will feel used and manipulated, and your story will collapse under the weight of your agenda.

Before you write, ask yourself: Is this my character’s opinion or am I simply trying to get a pet message across?  Am I focused on telling a story, or presenting a diatribe? Let the story lead the way, not your politics, your religious beliefs or your social attitudes.

3. Mixed genres

You don’t go to a Chinese restaurant for tacos. Readers have similar expectations when picking up a book. If your book cover promises a mystery, science fiction novel, romance or other genre story, only to deliver an odd mash-up of fantasy, erotica and young adult, readers aren’t likely to appreciate – or in many cases – even understand your book.

Before writing, study highly regarded books in your genre. Read, read, read!  And then read some more. This will help you understand the plot elements, character requirements, and pace that readers will expect of your story.  And if you’re tempted to mix genres in the interest of creativity, without the skill of a professional with decades of writing experience behind him/her, think again.

Here’s what one reviewer had to say about that:

“At heart, (title deleted) is a brash mash-up of kung-fu flicks, superhero capers, and airport thrillers that skews along the lines of John Carpenter’s cult bomb ‘Big Trouble in Little China’.  The narrative is immature at best, while unwieldy dialogue and overlong expository sequences hinder the book’s pace.  Ultimately, the story’s atmosphere of spiritual mysticism is overpowered by childish notions of heroic fantasy that often feel out of place in the midst of an adult-oriented thriller.”

4. A lack of focus

It seems to us that many authors simply sit down and write whatever comes to the top of their heads, leaving readers baffled at the book’s ultimate purpose. When writing, every word you choose must help you make your overall point. Ditto every sentence, every paragraph and every chapter.

Ask yourself: What message am I conveying with this book? How does each chapter – in fact, each and every word – help convey this point? Here are some review excerpts:

“The weakness of the book is its lack of cohesion. The author jumps from subject to subject – farming methods, family reminisces, tangents about personal interests, people with no connection to (the author’s) story – without a clear thread or progression. Information about (the author’s) disability is interjected at intervals that lack the chronology or firm contextualization to be of real benefit to most readers.”

“Unfortunately, the book’s bland recitation of history continues, without benefit of a theme or thread to tie together or promote the author’s slant. When readers finish this book, they won’t know the ideology of either major party, let alone how each evolved to the present day.”

 5. Unsubstantiated arguments

When writing nonfiction, self-published authors often feel that presenting their opinion is enough. But you can’t expect readers to buy your argument if it’s not backed up with coherent logic and/or research.  Why, after all, should your readers just take you at your word?

Successful authors lead readers through their thought process logically.  They cite credible sources to back up their arguments, along with facts and examples.  Don’t simply share your thoughts and/or opinions.  If your argument is to make a lasting impression on your audience it must be properly supported.

What not to do:

“The authors cover everything from 12th century BC Arabian trade routes to proper coffee roasting temperatures, but without giving the context or explanation that would affirm their expertise. They emphasize that, while critics focus on the risks of consuming caffeine, coffee has antioxidants and many other beneficial components, but they do not cite studies that prove these benefits in any detail. Stronger claims are hedged (“There is a lower incidence of type II diabetes among coffee drinkers …”) and difficult to fact-check, given that there are no footnotes.  Ninety-seven of the 101 chapters have exactly three sources referenced for each.”

“He might be justified in claiming credit, but readers will find little persuasive evidence here to validate these undocumented assertions.”

BlueInk Review offers credible and unbiased reviews of self-published books exclusively. Visit  http://www.blueinkreview.com to learn more.

In Bed With The Reader

This year’s Book Summit (Presented by the Book and Periodical Council and Humber College, in association with IFOA) which takes place in Toronto at Harbourfront Centre on Thursday June 19th is entitled “In Bed with the Reader: Marketing Uncovered” and explores how the relationship with the reader has grown more intimate. How do we learn about our customers? And how do they learn about the books they want to read and to buy? No matter the place or the platform, uncovering reader preference, proclivities, and passions has become the marketing focus.

BookSummit2014

Book Summit 2014 provides a full day of practical labs to update on social media, measurability, branding strategies, and effective distribution. Lively panel discussions will inspire and inform about new models in the publishing world as well as recent developments in subscriptions, fan fiction, self-publishing, and more.

Speakers this year include Mike Shatzkin, who will open up the day with a talk on that highlights trends and issues related to digital publishing, book distribution and the evolving relationship between authors and publishers and discuss what they all mean for publishers large and small, authors, booksellers, agents, and readers. Professionals from BookNet Canada, Scribd, Simon and Schuster, Penguin Books, Diversion Books and Upworthy among many more will be providing valuable insights, perspective and commentary.  Professionals from across the book industry will also be there, from agents, editors, publishers, distributors, librarians and booksellers — providing an incredible opportunity to network and connect with some of the brightest minds in the industry.

BEA_UPublishU

Steven Spatz (Bookbaby), Hugh Howey, Mark Lefebvre (Kobo) and Orna Ross (Alliance of Independent Authors) at Book Expo America UPublishU – May 2014

Kobo Writing Life‘s Director, Mark Lefebvre will be on a panel with Wattpad‘s Ashleigh Gardner and internationally bestselling author and self-publishing advocate Hugh Howey entitled Non-Traditional Publishing Communities. National Post‘s books editor Mark Medley will be moderating the discussion on how self-publishing has gone from an endeavour of vanity and desperation to one of choice and opportunity. They will discuss how fan fiction, collaboration and open distribution are changing the literary landscape.

nathan_hugh_ashleigh

Kobo‘s Director of Merchandising, Nathan Maharaj, Hugh Howey and Ashleigh Gardner (Wattpad) at a NYC publishing event in 2013.

Whether you are a writer, editor, marketer, agent, librarian, retailer – or any kind of publishing professional – you won’t want to miss the 2014 Book Summit.

Thursday, June 19th – Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, Ontario 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. 

Registration opens at 8:15 and walk-ins are welcome (but you can pre-register in advance)

 

For more information, contact the Book and Periodical Council at publicity@theBPC.ca and be sure to check out the full schedule!

Self-publishing will save literary fiction

By Hugh Howey

This article was originally created as a blog post on Hugh’s blog. You can find the original post here.

An interesting piece on The Bookseller today about literary fiction. The worry from some agents and publishers is that unique and daring voices are going to fall silent because of the changes in the publishing industry (fewer bookstores, lower advances, less risk-taking). The idea seems to be that without the funds to support these writers, the works will never materialize, and literature will suffer a great loss.

I think the opposite is going to happen. The future of literary fiction will be owned and operated by digital natives — writers who grow up posting on blogs, debating on forums, posting on Facebook and Twitter, and all the myriad forms of self-publishing that we don’t seem to label “self-publishing.” Learning how to turn a manuscript into both a physical book and an e-book at almost no expense to the author takes a weekend of fiddling around. And that’s from someone who learned to type on a typewriter. Digital natives are going to be both literary and technologically savvy. It won’t be long (it’s probably already happening) before the next great voice is putting her work out there . . . simply because she can.

What goes unsaid but seems implied in the message that literary works will die without a publishers’ support or bookstores in which to shelve them is that we write literary works for the pleasure of publishers and bookstores. These works are rarely even written for the pleasure of the audience. The three works of my own that I consider the most literary are the three that I tell people *not* to read. I wrote them for myself. I wrote them because I had to. Because it would have pained me *not* to write them.

Works such as this have been penned in composition books by others and shelved, never to be seen. Digital natives won’t do this. They might post the entire work on a blog. They might text the entire work to strangers, one line at a time. They could craft these works on WattPad for public purview. They might typeset the work at a book crafting workshop and bind the pages into a jewel of stitched leather to be read by no more than one person at a time. They might distribute their masterpiece on thumbdrives. But they will write. It’s what we must do.

Artists have relied on the largesse of patrons for centuries. Increasingly, those patrons will become the general public. Or, as the cost of production and distribution drop to zero, artists will realize the patron has become moot. Anyone today can carve out enough time to work on their masterpiece. And that’s why masterpieces will continue to be written.

The final advantage digital natives will have is the absence of a self-publishing stigma. Soon (this is already true for many) self-publishing will be seen as the purer artform. No tampering with style or voice. No gatekeeper. No need even for monetization. Doing it yourself has all the allure of the hacker culture, the local culture, the maker culture. Doing it for a corporation has all the allure of . . . vanity, perhaps?

Great works are being penned at this very moment. They are waiting to be discovered. The problem for the agents and publishers who like to plant their flag upon such works is this: In the future, it’ll be the reader who gets there first.

hugh Hugh Howey is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series. Hugh’s eBooks are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Hugh’s website!

 

5 Ways to Optimize Your Crowdfunding Campaign

By Daniel Baylis

When I decided to publish my book (The Traveller) independently, I knew I would have to get serious about crowdfunding. The process of leveraging funds from my online community became a step in the publishing process that was as inherent as designing a book cover. Overall, my campaign was very successful, garnering more than 200% of my target goal. Why is that? Well, I applied a selection of key tactics to make sure my campaign would be successful.

Here are five lessons that I have learned about crowdfunding.

Start planning early. I began doing research into what makes a great crowdfunding campaign six weeks before I intended to launch my own. This entailed scouring other campaign pages, watching other videos, reading other writers’ campaign pitches, and analyzing how campaigners communicated their “rewards.” Then I essentially pillaged their ideas and drew up a shortlist of my favourites. If you want to go deeper, Indiegogo offers a Field Guide and Kickstarter offers a School. These tools are free. Use them.

Make an awesome video. If you don’t have the skills to do this yourself, hire someone. On most crowdfunding platforms, the first thing a potential funder will see is your video. Think of it as your storefront. A quality video will be worth the investment. Bonus tip: Keep it under three minutes — the Internet does not have time for wordiness.

Communicate creatively. On the first day of your campaign, you’re allowed to explicitly say “Please support my campaign!” But by Day 30, nobody in your network is going to want to hear your tired plea. You’ll need to spice it up. Try creating campaign-related content that had an implicit request for support. For instance, every few days I featured a photograph of funder and had them explain why they chose to support the campaign. Go ahead, steal my idea, but come up with your own, too!

Be realistic with your goal. It’s tempting to apply the old adage: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!” But when it comes to crowdfunding, that’s not the strategy you want to employ. Read these words: DON’T SHOOT FOR THE STARS. Ask for the amount that you feel absolutely confident you can get. If you reach that goal, be prepared to encourage additional funding with stretch goals — further objectives that communicate what you’ll do with more money. Remember that campaigns stay online forever. Your name will be attached to it. What type of cyber footprint do you want to create? I’ll answer that question for you: One that reeks of success.

Say “Thank You.” This might be an obvious one, but it needs to be highlighted. For every single funder that gave to my campaign — there were 253 people — I issued a personalized thank-you email. This might sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be a long note. A simple personalized acknowledgement goes a long way. Think of it this way: You’re not just selling a book; you’re building a personal brand. Care what people think of you.

daniel baylisDaniel Baylis is a writer and adventurer. In 2011, he spent the entire year travelling around the world, visiting a different country each month and engaging in a variety of volunteer positions. Upon returning to his homebase in Canada, Baylis wrote a book about his journey and crowdfunded many of the expenses of his book on Indiegogo. In September, his campaign was fully funded in less than three days and went on to earn more than 200% of the initial target goal. Baylis’ book, The Traveller: Notes from an Imperfect Journey Around the World, is now available on Kobo. He politely invites you to buy it — and read it.

A Story to Kill for: Writing Crime & Detective Fiction

By Victoria Salvas

Are your Twitter and Facebook feeds filling up with True Detective and Sherlock predictions? These hit series are just the latest detective stories to overtake mainstream media, but crime novels and detective fiction have been turning heads since the 17th century. The best detective writers have become household names and their stories have spawned star studded blockbuster films. Legends like Hammett, Conan Doyle, and Christie carved out the archetype of the style, which Larsson, Flynn and others have made their own in new and eerie ways.

If you’re inspired to write your own blood-soaked stumper, we’ve put together some guidelines and resources to get you on your way.

Writing Crime & Detective Fiction PhotoCreate an Original Central Character

A detective story is only as good as its detective. Before you begin, you should ask yourself; is this detective a veteran or will he/she discover and develop their talents over the course of the story? Do they answer to an overbearing chief?  Or are they a rogue acting on their own accord?

One thing that makes the expert detectives of crime fiction so fascinating is their ability to understand the human psyche on a level that the average person just can’t. However, the quirks that make them great at their jobs (and not to mention irresistible to members of the opposite sex) may also isolate them.

Martin Edwards, author of The Coffin Trail, stresses that writers remember that their characters don’t exist in a vacuum of the novel – they are living, breathing people. They change and can do unexpected things.

On that note – it’s best if your detective uses actual science and reasoning to crack the case instead of intuition, spirits, or ‘acts of God.’

Construct Authentic Crime Scenes

Whether your sleuth is a novice or a vet – your crime must be extremely complex in order to keep the reader entertained. When planning the crime, keep in mind it should be something sufficiently violent, yet believable.

No one knows crime better than real cops, as Joanna Penn learns from her guest blogger, retired RCMP homicide detective (turned novelist), Gary Rodgers. Rodgers has become a resource for tips on how to create the perfect crime. This a must read blog post if you are a gumshoe crime writer.

As with any fiction – it is crucial to hook the reader early.  Nothing is more captivating to readers than a gruesome, complex, and seemingly unsolvable crime. Try to get to it within the first three chapters.

Know the Genre and Read Widely

Why?  Because PD James says so! In an interview with BBC News, James, who’s been publishing detective fiction for nearly 50 years, stressed the importance of knowing what’s out there and what’s been done before writing. Read the classics (Cornwell, James, Rankin) and then find out everything you can on what’s new and upcoming in the genre.

Choose a Good Setting

If you close your eyes and imagine a particular setting, it can be a multi-sensory experience; a well of emotions, memories. Imagine the soggy streets of London, a quiet New England town, the neon lights of Hong Kong. This is always a good exercise at the beginning of your writing process, and if you ever find yourself stuck along the way.

The Who’s Who of Whodunit

Start your research with some of these classics and up-and-comers:

Edgar Allen Poe Tales of Mystery & Imagination (1852)

Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Graham Greene Brighton Rock (1938)

Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep (1939)

PD James A Taste for Death (1986)

Gillian Flynn Gone Girl (2012)

Dennis Lehane Live by Night (2012)

Alexander Soderberg The Andalucian Friend (2013)

Joe Nesbø Police (2013)

KWL Director Chats With Joanna of The Creative Penn Podcast

thecreativepenn

KWL Director Mark Lefebvre is a guest on the latest episode (Episode 178) of The Creative Penn podcast hosted by author and professional speaker Joanna Penn.

JoannaPenn_MarkLefebvre_LBF2013

Joanna and Mark at the Kobo booth at London Book Fair 2013

You can listen to the podcast online, download the mp3 directly or listen to it through your favourite podcaster (iTunes, etc). If you haven’t listened to Joanna’s amazing podcast, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour by checking it out. And the great news is that there are over 175 episodes to listen to on all kinds of amazing topics that writers will benefit from. The video of the interview appears here for your convenience if you prefer to watch it online.

Joanna is also part of an amazing bundle with 11 other authors, and it’s called Deadly Dozen.  It has hit the USA Today Bestseller list and is currently trending in the #2 and #3 spots at Kobo Canada for sMystery & Suspense / International Thrillers and Mystery & Suspense / Police Procedural respectively.  The bundle is still only 99 cents (as of March 6, 2014) but will be going up to the regular price of $9.99 USD soon.

deadlydozen_Canada_March6

Kobo Canada screen shot of Deadly Dozen, a collection of mysteries and thrillers by J.F. Penn and 11 other amazing authors.

Check out Joanna’s books (Written as J.F. Penn) at Kobo.

Indies for Indies: My Partnership with My Local Bookstore

By Robert L. Slater

Bellingham, Washington, has as many bookstores as many small towns have churches and bars. You can literally have a top ten… I frequent many of them, but the one I know best has become a great friend—Village Books. VB did a lot for me as a reader and community member. I saw Terry Brooks, Neal Stephenson, and many more folks at VB events.

As a customer in their original location, an old building in underdeveloped Fairhaven, I joined their Reader Rewards Club.  Every year on your birthday month, club members receive a coupon for a discounted book, your age up to 39 as a percentage discount, and a cup of coffee. Eventually the costs of maintaining an awesome local brick and mortar bookstore took their toll and everyone got 25% off no matter what their age. In addition, at 20 purchases customers get a cash voucher for the average price of those books. I’m a cheap and careful shopper, so mine was never big, but always more exciting than the free haircut or coffee punch card.

Village Books offers customers a savvy reminder they have access to Kobo’s giant catalog of eBooks.

Village Books offers customers a savvy reminder that they can access Kobo’s giant catalog of eBooks. Learn more here!

Over the last year VB became more of a place to go see ‘friends.’ The past year has been a series of synchronicitous events in my writing. I wrote my third novel for NANOWRIMO 2012. Soon after I opened an email from Village Books announcing a Speculative Fiction Writer’s Group. I went and met Paul Hansen, their General Manager. He read from his own work in progress. Two weeks later, I returned and soon volunteered to manage the group mailing list and reminders.  I met other local writers, now  friends, whom I hope to see in print someday.

Then I was chosen with five other writers to write a Speculative Fiction Serial Story for the local newspaper, The Bellingham Herald, set in Bellingham 100 years in the future. One of the first questions from editor, Dean Kahn, was, “Do you want to read at Village Books?” I wholeheartedly agreed. My theatre background would come in handy. When Dean had to opt out, I stepped in to be master of ceremonies.

The evening came. I dressed for success, imagining what a professional writer might wear and say and do. We went from empty to a crowd in minutes. Sam Kaas, another fabulous VB employee, introduced us and we were off. The evening went well. I handed out postcard promos for my collection: Outward Bound, (already on Kobo) and for my soon to be released debut: All Is Silence. New folks signed up for my mailing list. I thanked Sam. He asked for some cards and asked if I would like to be featured in an eBook newsletter as a local author using Kobo. Of course, I said yes.

All Is Silence by Robert L. Slater

All Is Silence by Robert L. Slater

As a local teacher at Windward High School, I partnered with Village Books in printing WHS’ first annual book of poetry, art and fiction, Whispers in the Wind, using their Espresso Book Machine [EBM]. When it came time to talk about publishing my own book I knew I wanted to partner locally if I could. My initial plan was to have Village Books print my Advanced Reader Copies [ARCs] using the EBM, but unfortunately, the EBM had become unavailable. Brendan Clark, the ever-helpful arm of Village Books’ publishing forays, told me cryptically that I should wait and see what else was in the works.

I had done my homework. I had a plan. VB would print ARCs, then pro-printing with Lightning Source. When I sat down with Brendan and talked about my vision, it turned out what was in the works was a VB partnership with Lightning Source to print books. Turnaround time was longer, but the book cost was better for short runs. Best of all, Brendan Clark would be my go between with Lightning Source.  When I printed 500 copies, the books would be more expensive than going with Lightning Source direct, but only by about 8%. That trade off was perfect. I could partner with Village Books, get the quality I wanted without LS’ legendary lack of author-friendly support. That 8% into my local community and the extra help made it an absolute win-win.

When I got the call from Village Books that my ARCs had arrived, VB personnel and patrons ooed and ahhed as I grinned like a monkey and set my book on the shelf to see what it would look like. The cover wasn’t quite popping so Brendan changed to high gloss for the second set of ARCs. When they came in, the cover popped!

Author Robert Slater promotes All Is Silence at the KWL-sponsored Village Books event in January 2014.

Author Robert L. Slater promotes All Is Silence at a KWL-sponsored Village Books event in January 2014.

I worked on getting final edits in and my cover artist made adjustments. My goal was to have people’s jaws drop when I told them it was self-published. After sending off the ‘final’ edits, I settled into all the other prep work for releasing a book. Then I got an email from Sam. Would I be interested in doing an ePublishing workshop with Kobo? Sure. I had been trying to get All Is Silence uploaded as an ePub to Kobo, and was having issues—too much specialized formatting. So Sam connected me to Mark Lefebvre at Kobo, the main speaker at the workshop. Mark helped me through the process, even purchasing a copy for himself after getting hooked!  The workshop with Mark was great, Paul and Brendan and Sam were great. We had a great crowd and lots of questions.

Mark helped me set up a special pricing deal on a card for the eBook leading up to release of my print book and connect readers to VB eBook opportunities. We gave it out to workshop attendees, Mark took some on the road with him and Sam kept some at VB. Soon, I hit #7 on Kobo’s Young Adult Dystopian Fiction Bestsellers and, for a very short time, #3 behind Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Insurgent on the Young Adult Science Fiction list. [I have the picture to capture the moment.]

My partnership with VB led to many unforeseen benefits. Rumor had it that one major retailer would not allow pre-orders on self-published books. The only way around it was to create a seller’s account and cough up $30 for set up. Because I partnered with VB, and through them Lightning Source and Ingram’s, my book was up for presale internationally on that major retailer for no extra charge. It also got me into the local library system early. I have more books being requested than they have in stock. It’s a great start.

KWL Director Mark Lefebvre presents a workshop on digital publishing alongside Rob Slater at Village Books.

KWL Director Mark Lefebvre presents a workshop on digital publishing alongside Rob Slater at Village Books.

Now my book is in Village Books. They’ll be hosting a novel release party with me on March 14th and after that… who knows. What did I do to get so lucky? When I picked up the first batch of my print books, Paul Hanson told me, “When you first came in you said, ‘What can I do to help?’”

So, writers, ask not what your bookstore can do for you [the answer is plenty], but ask what you can do for your bookstore. Be professional. Communicate warmly, openly and politely. Get off the broken record of “buy my book, buy my book,” and make friends, find partners, and buy books at your local brick and mortar bookstore.

Visit Robert’s website.

All Is Silence on Kobo.

Outward Bound on Kobo.

Learn more about Kobo’s partnership with indie bookstores here and here.

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