That’s how it is for me in all my books, I want to immerse the reader in the whole human experience. I want them to understand, really understand, the stakes involved. When the heroes, their loved ones – loves and friends – are at risk, I want the reader to experience the journey of love, loss, threat, fear, with them. Every detail is necessary and nothing is gratuitous. If two people love each other, they’ll express that in the ways that people do. Finding those people who care about them on the deepest levels, the risk of losing those precious lives, are tied to the memories of them at the most intimate moments, when they can express themselves heart to heart. Friends will remember the times they spent talking over breakfast, lunch, or dinner, laughing sometimes, or being there through the struggles of life. Lovers will remember those moments when they shared their love for each other, held each other, curled up around each other to talk, to solve the problems of the world, sharing joy, or easing each other’s sorrow. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what makes life worth living, for the people in the book, and those who are reading it.Read More »
Okay, to be honest, I never considered myself to be an audio person, although I know a lot of people who use audiobooks for traveling to and from work or on vacation. I had my reservations about doing that (more on that later) but as with many authors I love my readers, so, as with print and e-books, I wanted to give those who liked audio the chance to hear my books.
So, a few years back I took the leap into audiobooks. I was excited, but I had trepidations. ACX/Audible was available through Amazon, so I set it up through them.
The process isn’t difficult, you choose the book you want to be narrated, give the blurb and basic information about the characters (what type of people were they), choose the type of narrator you want (male/female or both) and what kind of voice you wanted for it. (My advice to writers: think about that carefully.) Then put it up for audition.
I was really curious about the process – but remember those trepidations? Like all writers, I was protective of my work. Was the narrator going to do justice to it? Since this was the first book I was doing in audio, I wanted to dip my toes in, rather than go all out, so I put one of my novellas up. In the end, I was glad I limited that narrator to one story. (I like the new one much better, more on that later.)
Not surprisingly, since it wasn’t a full novel, I didn’t get a lot of requests for auditions, but I picked the one who seemed to fit the best and sent him a section of the book which contained all the main character but was focused mainly on one.
The audition didn’t set me on fire, but I wasn’t certain what to expect, the narration seemed good, so we set up the contract.
All readers bring their own stuff to books – that’s a truism all writer/authors need to learn. I had one reader complain that all the characters in one of my books were beautiful when only one – as I’d written him – qualified. (And the character hated it.) She clearly brought her own expectations to my book. It was also true of that first narrator, and I wasn’t experienced enough with audio production to know what I should and shouldn’t object to. It hadn’t been an issue in the audition since it was only a short reading. Now it became one. For some reason – too much of the Lord of the Rings movies, perhaps – he felt all the elves in the books had to have ‘British’ accents. All in all, though, it was about what I expected from audio. He was so satisfied that he asked to read some of my other books. The novella I’d sent him was a prep to the epic fantasy. It was a character-driven story about the genesis of a friendship between three men – a wizard and two elves. The epic fantasy, though, wasn’t the one he wanted to read, surprisingly – and now I’m glad. He requested to audition for another book but didn’t feel comfortable with some of the content, so he requested another. Nope. And another. None of them suited him. In the end, we parted ways.
All those failed auditions, though, seemed to discourage others from trying, and so for a time, I gave up. I hadn’t been enthralled with the first rendition, and it had been more than a little discouraging to me, too.
Recently, though, one of my books was nominated for an Indie book award. I was floored. I hadn’t done anything; someone had recommended it to the magazine.
Excited, I wanted to capitalize on the nomination, and so I decided to try audio again.
It was scary. Once more I was going to put one of my books into someone else’s hands. They say you should what scares you, especially in writing. Challenge yourself. So I did it.
This time I received more auditions. One was close, but another…
Wow. Just wow.
It was brilliant. His voice was exactly what I wanted and conveyed what I hoped.
So, we set up the process, and he began the narration. When the first chapter came back for me to listen to, I was enthralled – at my own writing! He brought the characters to life for me in a whole new way. And we worked well together.
Bless him, I’d hoped to have the complete first version by my birthday, but I’m not a complete newbie and know there is a process, so I accepted that might not be possible. But he did it, bless him, pushing himself to get it done. When I got the complete version for correction and approval I downloaded the lot and found I couldn’t stop listening.
I was stunned and flattered to learn I was one of his first narrations. And, given the quality of his work, I want to have his marvelous voice out there more.
I know that some authors have narrators they love to work and who love to work with them. Part of me wants that (actually part of me wants to keep his talent all to myself for a little while to do my other fantasy series *grins*) but he also deserves to have the opportunity to narrate for others. So, I hope this book and any others he chooses to narrate for me give him that springboard. He’s thoroughly converted me to the world of audiobooks.
So, for Indie/self-published and other writers, should you do audiobooks?
My obvious answer would be yes, but for reasons other than just this. Today print, despite what some traditional publishers believe, is not the be all and end all – it’s just another arrow in your quiver. Readers come in all kinds; e-book or print readers, or audio listeners. Some will read the book on an e-reader and then purchase the physical book. Some will only listen to audiobooks. You should serve all your readers. With the option to share the profit, it couldn’t be easier on all levels, and unlike print which pays pennies, with audio, you can split it fifty-fifty. So there’s every reason to do it and few reasons not to.
There are a few sites for audiobooks that are usually available through your publishing site of choice. Most will help you get started.
Here are a few suggestions –
- Be patient. Don’t settle. Listen to a lot of auditions and hopefully, you’ll find a voice that will make your story shine.
- Understand your narrator/producer’s process, recording, editing and re-editing, and that they have the same demands on their time that you do – home, family, day jobs. Things happen.
- When you get your book back, listen to it carefully. Make sure it conveys what you want. If there’s something you want to be changed, don’t be afraid to tell the narrator so they know. That’s what the process is for. As with editors, a good narrator will read the book, a great one will make it shine.
(Thank you, Zac, for making mine shine.)Read More »
Should you or shouldn’t you purchase a new cover? That is the question. A good cover isn’t cheap.
Here’s how to determine the answer:
- Does it portray your genre?
- Is it working? Is it bringing readers to your book?
- Do your reviews reflect that?
A hard-edged thriller cover should be a stark as the content. A fantasy cover should let the reader know whether it’s epic/mythic (landscapes, castles, swords), urban (edgy, usually dark, street views), heroic/tolkienesque/arthurian (pastoral, swords, magicians), historical, or a combination thereof. (Two of my favorite authors write a mix of heroic and urban fantasy, quite successfully). Mysteries should convey whether they’re ‘cozy’ (small town, armchair, teapot) or hard-boiled, noir, or police procedural (dark and edgy).
Many books convey some or many of these elements, but they aren’t the main focus.
For example, one of my books is a mystery with thriller elements and an edge. There is a romance in it but as part of the story, not the primary plot. Unfortunately, while the cover was dark-edged, at the center was a couple. To many readers, it came off as a romance with a touch of mystery, rather than a hard-boiled mystery with a little romance.
And it showed in the reviews. The comments weren’t direct – unless you viewed them from the viewpoint of romance readers expecting something lighter.
So here’s my suggestion…covers aren’t cheap, so shop around. Look at what the cover artist has to offer. If 99% of their samples are fantasy or romance, they may not be a good fit for your book. A cozy mystery about a chef won’t work well with a cover that features a couple in a torrid embrace. Try a good pre-made cover. Most pre-mades are the cover artist trying out different things or promotion for their work. Some are really good. They’re not free but they are cheaper than custom made. That will allow you to publish your book while you search for another, better one, and save the money to purchase it.
Or, you may find that pre-made cover works perfectly.
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When did manners become a bad word? When did behaving well turn into a bad thing? When did political correctness become a pejorative? Has the general negative attitude of this country permeated to all levels? When did it become more right to be cruel than to be kind?
There has been a ‘debate’, and I use that word very loosely, about a certain situation on Facebook that degenerated into name calling, unkindness, and worse. Bullying. The person involved was ganged up on by a large number of people. Even worse, since it was semi-public, a comment indicated it confirmed for some that Indies are the undisciplined writers so many assume us to be.
Now, you have to understand that I was in a similar situation. I paid a great deal for work to be done from a good, reputable site, and was shocked when it was brought to my attention that someone else had the exact same cover, created after mine was. Did I bad mouth them on Facebook, send nasty messages, etc.? No. I’m a professional. I contacted them in private, and they offered me a new cover at a discounted price. (And it’s an even better cover!)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know most artists work from stock art, but I also know a number of those artists have a competition to use a single image to show off their skill at making their covers look different. It’s amazing how different they are. So, it can be done.
I’m a moderator of a 12,000 member informational writer’s group. We have two rules that result in instant banning – no promotion and absolutely no bullying, bad-mouthing, rude or unkind behavior. You’re professionals. Act like it.
What the person did was wrong – no question – so how do you behave?
Don’t recommend them.
Warn others – in private – about them.
If you see a duplicate, warn the author, and they can deal with it.
But for heaven’s sake, it’s cover art, it’s not life and death. This is not an episode of Mean Girls, it’s real. Anyone who advocates that another do themselves harm is not a nice person. Call them on it. Tell the moderators of the site, have them delete the comment. It’s not worth someone’s life. Covers can be replaced, sometimes with something better. People can’t. Let them, and you, live and learn.
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First, please hang in there and read the rest of the blog, there is some good stuff here.
Okay now, that being said, before you do anything else, before you research agents, write the perfect query letter for this spectacular idea you have, write your book. Yes, all of it. (It never occurred to me and it probably never occurred to you to think otherwise, but as I’ve learned there are a lot of people who haven’t.) Agents and/or publishers will very rarely consider looking at a book that’s incomplete, and by incomplete, I also mean unpolished. It must be polished to a fare-thee-well. Which is what we’re talking about today.
Now this is where it gets sticky. You’ll see comments about polishing in the editor’s blogs on the publishers websites sometimes. Please read them. They’ll give you excellent advice on what they’re looking for, but one or two also include a list of common mistakes that writers have made. Basic errors in English. I’ve heard or read about agent/editors who will look through a manuscript for specific errors, like sentences that begin with There was *wince* or excessive use of the word ‘had’, and automatically chuck the manuscript. Considering how many submissions they receive you can’t really blame them, they have to set the bar somewhere.
So, since I have to do a final polish on one of my novels, I thought I’d invite you along on the process as I run through my checklist. By the by, no matter how good you are, if you aren’t doing at least a second draft on your novel, you’re not doing it right. A very few writers, usually those who’ve been with one specific publisher, might be able to get away with it, but not first time writers. And even they usually get at least one final line edit before they go to print. Being a ‘pantser’ – that is, I write by the seat of my pants, usually in a stream of consciousness – I may be a little more prone to that sort of thing than a plotter – someone who plots out the entire novel. Either way, though, nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. I was advanced English throughout my education, have been the walking dictionary/thesaurus for most of my friends and coworkers, and I make them all the time. (I’m also going to assume you have a copy of one of the books of style like the Chicago Book of Style, or Elements of Style.)
As a pantser, I usually do several drafts – a first draft to establish characters and plots, then additional drafts to lay in details, develop secondary characters, plotlines, atmosphere, description, etc. Then it’s time to settle down to do a final draft, to polish it. So, I pull out my list.
- One of the first things they may or may not tell you in your writing classes or seminars, is that in a novel it’s all about the action. It’s about doing things. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. I start by doing a search for those particular words. So, for example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse by the way…) Don’t have your characters start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of things they are going to do.
- Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over?
- Next, do a search for contractions. For some reason many writers – and I’m one of them – don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. But be very careful not to do a universal search and replace, you’ll hate yourself in the morning for it, because once it’s saved that way you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (I usually start a new copy when I’m editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over sometimes)
- ‘There was’ Sometimes it’s justified. I’d still look at each sentence and see if I can determine if I can rephrase it to take the phrase out. Sometimes it becomes clearer.
- *arrggh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases the use of the word that is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech, and so it can sound right when you write it. And then there’s my personal bugaboo, using that rather than who. The man that… when it should be the man who…
- Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them, and then that they’re next to the word you want to modify. only costs vs. costs only, for example
- Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words, aka gerunds. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence.
- As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better there.
- Also watch split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. Some though like “I decided to not go” can sound a little awkward.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through but a search and replace, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. That makes it much easier sometimes to spot errors you might otherwise have missed, or question the wording of sentence. I’ve often caught mistakes that way.
Polishing can be tedious, but it’s worth it in the long run. Not only will you make a better impression on the agent/editor to whom you’re submitting, but *grin* even if they do accept your manuscript, they’re going to make you fix them sooner or later. It might as well be sooner.
Then pass it off to your beta readers – a few people who will be brutally honest with you about where you screw up. One of mine still teases me about the overuse of the word ‘astonishing’ in one novel. In other words – not friends or family. They won’t and can’t be truly honest with you. I’ve never physically met any of of mine.
Always keep in mind as you’re polishing, though, that you need to preserve your ‘voice’ – your style – and that of your characters. It’s your book. For example, in the fantasy novel I’m polishing two of the central characters are Elven, so to them ‘english’ is a second language. When I first heard Elon speak in my head, he didn’t use contractions. Neither did Colath. So I have to remember that about them and correct it in their speech, in their thoughts, but it’s much easier and faster for readers to read contractions. So I have to watch carefully where I put my contractions, and not to make Elf either sound stilted. As both interact more with their human companions, they use begin (correct usage here, as part of a process) to use contractions more and more as they become used to hearing them. It’s a subtle thing, but it contributes to their voices and the feeling of the novel.
Okay, good luck on your first attempt at polishing. And… ummmm… I strongly recommend you don’t have a glass of wine when you start. Or you’ll never finish. Voice of experience here. (Although I did finish eventually… *laughing*)