How to Be Hooky

Great advice on how to keep readers coming back for more!

Hookiness. It’s what a good book is all about, really. When I look at the books I really enjoy, that I burn through, they’re (a) pulling me in and (b) pulling me on. But how do you do that? How do you grab a reader? How do you KEEP the reader? How do you entertain a reader enough that she will go on to read the next book? How do you (I) consciously do those things better?

Source: How to Be Hooky

Why Literary Agents Reject Books | How to Write Novels | WritingNovelsThatSell.com

Great advice for both writing and marketing. Know your specific subgenre!

75 percent of all manuscripts get rejected because the author hasn’t done her research.  She hasn’t  studied – and applied — the conventions (or key story elements) that separate Suspense novels from Mysteries, or that make a Romance novel a Romance.

Source: Why Literary Agents Reject Books | How to Write Novels | WritingNovelsThatSell.com

No. A book CAN’T be a romance without a HEA. Stop asking.

I apologise for this rant, but I’m frustrated.

Without fail, every month or two, a book blog will inevitably ask the question ‘Can a book be classified as a romance if it doesn’t have a happily ever after?’ (The latest from Heroes and Heartbreakers, who I’m sure have asked this question at least once before) And the answer, from romance readers and writers alike, will be a resounding ‘Hell No’.

It’s literally the one constant in the romance genre. It even says it right here on the Romance Writers of America website. I’ve written before about why it’s so important here. So why do people keep asking the question?

Mostly it’s from people trying to make romance money, without adhering to our most sacred tenets. Like this person. And the person that wrote this book. They ask the question to legitimise their decision to end the book without a HEA—and still market it as a romance.

And for all the authors talking about how they have to follow their muse and end it the way they feel the story must go, they still choose to disrespect our genre by marketing it as a romance. Even when knowing PERFECTLY WELL that Romancelandia wouldn’t consider it a romance at all. If you want the romance money, then you have to write an actual romance – ie, a book with a HEA. If you want to write the book you want to write (without a HEA), then market it as general fiction with romantic elements. Simples.

So why do well-respected ROMANCE bloggers still ask this same question? It’s baffling to me. Stop legitimising an author’s decision to mess with our genre by asking this question again and again! It makes them think they can get away with it, as if the answer might one day be yes. (Spoiler alert: it won’t ever be a yes. No HEA = not a romance. Forever and always)

Bloggers – stop asking this question. Please. I beg you. The discussion has been had. It’s done. Over. I know you like the click-baity question, because romance readers and writers will jump to defend our genre against all the trolls that pop up – and we’re a passionate bunch when Romance is threatened. And the trolls like the question, because at any excuse to shit on Romance as a whole, its “predictability”, and the women that read the genre, they are going to show up and rub their misogyny all over us. But despite the page views and retweets I’m sure you get, it does nothing to serve our community to have this discussion yet again.

So, how about we put it this way: Every time you ask the question ‘can a book be a romance without a HEA?’ a fairy loses its wings. So stop.

Filter Words and Crutch Words – plus, how to get rid of them

glasses11

Filter words and crutch words are a more recent discovery of mine with writing. Learning what they are, why they’re bad, and how to get rid of them has really changed my style for the better.

Distancing words are things like: felt, heard, saw, touched, looked, etc. They put a barrier between the reader and the book, rather than immersing them right into the action or description.

For example this sentence: She looked up to see dark clouds in the sky and heard the distant rumble of thunder. She felt a chill run down her spine.

Can become: Dark clouds rolled across the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. A chill ran down her spine.

Fewer words and more powerful and immersive, right?

Crutch words are slightly different. They are words we use too often, and pause a sentence unnecessarily. They are fine for speech, but aren’t needed in writing!

Examples include: Just, like, obviously, that, etc

Search and replace these words in your manuscript and you’ll find many that don’t need to be there!

Since I’ve just finished edits on book #4 in the Soldiering On series, I thought now would be a good time to share my list of words that I comb through my manuscripts for. I don’t worry about these two much when I’m actually writing, because it would slow me down too much. But when I’m in the edit phase I can be ruthless! I cut out over 1,500 of these words and phrases from my manuscript over a period of two days, so I definitely mean business.

able to – can usually be replaced ‘can’ for a cleaner sentence  
Almost – often this can reduce the power of what you’re trying to say
Began – as in ‘began to’. Get rid of this and just say the character did the action
Decided – again, the character can often simply do the action
Down – As in ‘sat down’. Usually just ‘sat’ is needed
Felt – describe the sensation without using ‘felt’
going to – can usually be replaced by ‘will’ or similar
Heard – A distancing word. Usually not needed.
Just – This one is a weakness of mine. It’s often not needed
Looked – (as in ‘she looked at’) Often, you can just describe what they are looking at
Out – eg. ‘Stepping out in front’. Often just ‘stepping in front’ would work
Quite – Like almost, it’s a weak word
Realised – This word can be useful, but sometimes it can be overused and unneeded. Use your judgement.
Really – Like ‘very’ it’s better to use one word rather than qualify with ‘really’. Eg. ‘Really big’ should be ‘enormous’.
Saw – Like ‘heard’, just describe what they see.
Seemed – Like ‘realised’, this is one to use your judgement on
Speculated – Words like this are often better written as a question. Eg. Instead of ‘she speculated whether he was evil’ simply write ‘Was he evil?’
Started – Like ‘began’ it’s often not needed
That – The general rule of thumb is, if the sentence makes sense without the ‘that’, then you don’t need it. It’s amazing how many of these I find.
there were/was – eg. ‘There were three people in the room’ can become ‘three people stood in the room’
Thought – Like ‘speculated’, it is often better, particularly if you write in Deep POV, to get rid of many of your ‘thoughts’, but they can also be useful.
Touched – Like ‘heard’ or ‘saw’, this is a filter word.
Try – ‘Tried to’ is one of those things that creeps into my writing a few times when it’s simply not needed.
Up – Same issue as ‘down’. Often redundant.
Very – See ‘really’
was _ing – this is one of my favourites! For example ‘He was leaning’ becomes ‘He leaned’
Watched – Like looked or saw, this can be a filter word.
Went – ‘Went to’ like ‘began’ and ‘started’ is often not needed.
were _ing – A sister of ‘was _ing’
Wished – This is a tricky one, but again there’s often a simpler way.
Wondered – Same as above

So there you have it! What are some of the filter and crutch words you watch out for? I’m always on the lookout for words to add to my list!

Why Choose Self-Publishing?

woodtype-846089_1920

People often ask me why I went the self-published route rather than traditional publishing. Sometimes, on the difficult days, I even wonder myself.

Part of it was control. I’ve heard horror stories of authors hating the covers that the publishers have given them and having no recourse to change them. Or they’ve been asked to take out some element of the book that they feel is important.

In self-publishing, I have all of the control. I also have all the risk and the burden, so it’s a trade-off. But for now it is working for me. While I am relatively unknown, there isn’t as much risk.

I also like having all the information. I can see how many sales I am having per day, and adjust accordingly. I can see what is working, and what’s not. I can see how many copies I’m selling for what price, which makes estimating the amount of money I will make in a given period a lot easier.

Another reason was the freedom. I have a hero that’s pansexual. My next heroine is demisexual. I can write about any topic I like, in any way I choose. And I don’t even have to think twice or try to second-guess a publisher as to what they might want.

Again, this is not always a good thing. Sometimes the gatekeepers are right. You need a lot of trust in yourself, your work, and your choices when you’re a self-publisher. The support system you get from publishers can also be an amazing advantage, both morally and financially.

Money is another factor. I don’t think that I’ll necessarily earn ‘more’ as a self-publisher, (despite a number of authors saying that’s why they chose self-publishing) since I’ll probably sell less than if I had been trad published. But a higher percentage of each book sold will be going to me, and that’s a nice feeling. Though there are more costs, too, so again it’s a trade-off. Maybe, if and when I get popular, I can say that it was the smarter financial move, too.

I also like the idea that I can write to my own schedule. I’ve always been a quick writer, so being able to put out as many new releases as I like and only be dependent on how fast I can get the words down is a big bonus. They say that success in self-publishing is quite dependent on regular releasing, so I knew that I had that on my side when I made the decision.

I also figured that I’m smart. I learn quickly. I could make this self-publishing thing work for me. I spent a lot of time researching the best way to do things before jumping in. That’s not to say that I haven’t made mistakes. I have, and will continue to do so. But I had confidence that I could make a success of it.

Whether this is true is yet to be seen. Maybe eventually I’ll go hybrid. It does seem to be a popular option. But for now I am happy with self-publishing. I think I made the right choice.

Networking for Indie Authors

twitter-292994_1920

If there was ever such a halcyon time when an Indie Author could just hit publish on a book and then watch the sales come in, that time is long over.

Now, discoverability is a real issue, and many authors are feeling alone and disheartened, and struggling to find sales. I’m certainly not an expert on getting sales, (or on not feeling alone, for that matter!) but I have a steady amount of books sold each day. I can attribute my modest success to one thing: networking.

There are a number of different forms of networking.

  • In person
  • Online (Readers)
  • Online (Other writers)
  • Online (Bloggers and reviewers)

The first time I saw a bump in my sales (after the initial release) was when I attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference last year. There, I met a lot of lovely, like-minded people that loved the same genre I do, both as readers and writers. I didn’t spend any of my time pimping my books to people there (unless they asked!), but I did build connections, ones that I’ve continued since. And many of those people have been supportive of my writing in subsequent months.

So, in person networking is not about selling your books, necessarily, it’s about selling yourself as a person and making friends.

I also have seen an uptick in my sale since I joined a number of online groups for writers. Not critique groups, but more communities, many of which are on Goodreads and Facebook. Again, I didn’t use these groups to spam people with my books, but I try to be a helpful, active member. I answer people’s questions as best I can, I offer opinions when they’re asked for, and I cheer people on when they need it. And they do the same for me! I don’t go in with the intention of any mercenary gain, but I think in many ways these groups have contributed to me finding a readership.

This, for me, was about having a support network of other people that understand the writing process. Some of them bought my book! But that isn’t the point of the connection. Rather, they make me feel less alone in the writing and publishing world, and these groups are a place to pool our knowledge for the betterment of all of us. However, like with the in-person networking, it helps to make friends and be supportive of other people, because they’ll probably be supportive back.

Bloggers and reviewers are the group I’ve had the least success networking with. I’ve tried! But I’m probably doing something wrong. However, I’ll keep persisting because there is a wealth of evidence out there that bloggers and reviewers will be your biggest supporters down the line. They are the ones that get readers to hear about your book, and get them hyped for releases. It will definitely be a challenge worth pursuing to build those relationships!

And, now, to readers. There are a number of ways to meet and communicate with readers. In person you have book launches, conferences, conventions, and things like that. Online, you have social media, groups, forums, etc. If you can build a relationship with readers, then I’ll wager that will be your most financially successful form of networking. Part of this comes through your author branding (something I’m still working on) – readers want to know who you are. Other times it’s just interacting with them in appropriate places.

 

Networking is essential for building not just a readership, but a community around you. This isn’t (just) for financial reasons. Indie authors don’t have to take this journey alone – and they shouldn’t. Find opportunities to build relationships, and be receptive to those that come your way. It’ll make a massive difference!