Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Writers Want Reviews

I will be the first to admit that in the past, I wasn’t always good about making sure I posted a review of a book I read. I didn’t think it mattered. I bought the book. I read it. I talked about with my friends and coworkers, whether good or bad. It never even occurred to me to post a review of the book.

Since becoming a writer, I’ve come to see the error of my ways and understand how much the writer values reviews. That includes the good, the bad and the downright ugly. I’ve been the recipient of all types of reviews because what appeals to one person appalls another.

These days, writers are using all kinds of tactics to get reviews. I’m talking everything from the good old review swap (you review mine and I’ll review yours) to shameless begging; will you please, please review my book in exchange for a free copy. Some writers even get a little pushy about it; you’ve read the book. Would it kill you to review it? Others get a little craftier and create review teams. In other words, you can have a free copy of my book if you post a review to specified sites.

The multitude of tactics should tell you how desperate we are for reviews, but it doesn’t tell you why. Let me see if I can shed some light on the subject.

Writing is hard work. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t produce a Pulitzer Prize winning story every time we sit at the computer. The first draft is usually the worst and we often end up going through several revisions to reach the best possible product. And we don’t simply do it for us. We do it for our readers who love our characters as much as we do. We need you to tell us if we met your expectations. If we didn’t, we need you to tell us how we failed you so we can improve our next books.

Yes, there’s an ego factor involved. When a writer gets a good review, it makes us feel like the hard work was worth it and maybe we have a measure of talent. It’s also incredibly humbling to hear the positive ways your words have impacted others. It gives you that drive you need to keep going and on those days when you start to question your sanity and your ability, those kind words remind you that your words matter to someone. That alone makes it worth keeping at it, even when it doesn’t always come easily.

Have you ever gone to a concert or a play where there was dead silence at the end of the performance? That would be pretty awkward for the entertainer who would be left wondering if she was good or bad. The assumption would be that she didn’t do a good job since nobody clapped or whistled or shouted praise. The same thing goes for a book. If the reader doesn’t post a review online, a writer has no way of knowing if the book was met with approval or not. That’s an awkward feeling, wondering if you’re any good or if you should just keep your day job.

I’m sure some of you are thinking like I used to. It takes a lot of time to write a review. It can, but it doesn’t have to. It can be something as simple as; I loved this book and can’t wait to read more from this author because she’s the best writer ever. Long reviews are nice, but the short ones mean just as much. The important thing is being validated and acknowledged.

I hope the next time you finish a book, especially one you liked, that you’ll post a review. And if it’s one of my books, I’m begging you from the bottom of my heart to post that review! Trust me when I say the writer will appreciate it more than you know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sticking to My Story

I’ve never been the kind of writer that plans my story before I take to the computer. Typically, I have an idea for a story, along with how I’d like it to turn out, and I sit down and begin typing. It’s as I type that the story unfolds.

For a standalone novel, this hasn’t been a detrimental strategy. With one story, it’s a lot easier to keep track of the characters and events. Lately, I’m finding that it doesn’t work with serial writing. More books in a series means more is going on. That makes it easy for the details to get lost as I go deeper into the series.

While I might forget the details, the readers won’t. Readers are as emotionally invested in the characters as the authors are. They feel a sense of kinship with these characters. The term “book boyfriend” doesn’t exist for nothing. Being so attached to the characters means the readers remember things.

As a writer, I think I owe it to my readers to give them the best possible product. That means that not only is the copy editing tight, but the plot is strong, the characters are well developed and I don’t overlook the little things.

If I had a professional editor, it might be easier for a fresh set of objective eyes to catch the fact that in book one the character was twenty-six and in book two which was set in the same year, he was suddenly two years younger. Since I’m not in a position to employ an editor, I have to develop strategies to catch these things.

This weekend, I sat down and wrote a detailed character dossier for the male and female leads of my next story in the Taking on Love series. It wasn’t the first time I did something like this. I once had a publisher ask me to write a character outline for my main characters. I’d never done it before and didn’t see the point, but since the publisher asked for it, I wasn’t going to refuse. I wrote the outline and actually had fun doing it, but I didn’t continue the practice for future works. As of now, that has to change. Using character outlines allows me to have a written reference for those minor details that I tend to forget when I’m caught up in writing the story.

And I’m not stopping with character outlines. I’m going to be doing the plot summary and timeline of events prior to beginning work on the novel as well. This will not only keep me on track but may help nudge me along if I get stuck at any point.

I can’t guarantee these strategies are going to make my novels perfect, but I don’t see how they can hurt. If nothing else, it gives a whole new meaning to that old phrase, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Riding the Series Train

When I first started writing, I only wrote stand-alone novels. I didn’t have anything against the series concept, I just didn’t write them. My novels had a beginning, middle and end that usually didn’t lend itself to another book. The conflict was resolved. What was the point of writing another novel for the same characters when I could move on to the next story with new characters?

A few years ago, when I started sharing my work online, I found that readers wanted more than one story. They connected with the characters and wanted to read more about them. As a result, I wrote a trilogy with a spin off and then a four book series. When one book in the series ended, readers seemed to eagerly anticipate the next.

Most writers are readers as well. It’s our love of reading that makes us want to write and can make us better writers. As a reader, I can relate to fans wanting more of their favorite characters. I too have a number of series in my library that I love to read. Each time a new book in the series comes out, I have to make sure I go back and read the others leading up to it so I’m really ready for that new book. And when the series is over, I often go back and read and relive the entire series again.

Taking into account my own love of books, especially when they come in a series, and my own readers wanting more, it made sense for me to start writing my own series beyond the ones I shared with the online group. When I started writing a spin off story of my young adult novel, Like You Mean It, I never intended to give the male lead a four book series. It was going to be a stand-alone novel, but once I started writing it, I realized there was too much to put into one book. Have you ever heard that phrase, trying to fit ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag? That’s what I was trying to do with my spinoff novel. What started as one novel actually became four novels in a series.

And do you know what happened when the series ended and it was time to start a new book? Yep, you guessed it. The next book became a series. Now that I’ve started I can’t seem to stop and do you know what else? It’s not a bad thing. In fact, writing a series is what I call a win-win. The writer has fun writing for the characters they love and the readers get more of those characters they love just as much.

There are some people who would say that writing a series is just another way for writers to get more money out of their readers. The readers got hooked on the first book and will continue to buy the books until the series is exhausted. Each new purchase is more money for the writer. That’s true and it might be money motivating some writers, but I’d venture a guess that’s true for fewer writers than you think.

For me, there’s nothing more humbling and nothing that brings me greater joy than readers liking my characters and stories so much that they want more. I’m not one of those writers who finish a story, or even a series, and never want to hear about those characters again. To this day, I still think about those Locke twins and how much more I could do with their family.

I’m not saying every writer should make every book into a series. Some books are meant to be a stand-alone. That’s okay too, but fair warning if you read my books. Now that I’ve booked a ticket on the series train, you can expect a lot more of them from me!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How Cool is That?

So, I googled my name today, and before you judge me, you know you’ve done it too! This is something I’ve been doing since I became a writer. I’m not usually looking for anything in particular. I’m just looking to see what’s out there. It’s kind of fun and I’ve stumbled across some interesting things over the last few years.

Most of the time, I don’t find anything earth shaking. Usually, it’s online retailers of my books, my website, my social media pages and the like. Today was one of those days where I came across something that went beyond interesting. It was downright cool. It boosted both my spirit and my ego. 

Today, I found something entitled: Synopsis/Extraordinary Will by Trish Edmisten-You Tube. Naturally, I was intrigued, wondering what the heck that could be. When I clicked on the link I was taken to a one minute You Tube video promoting my book!  The video is actually just a picture of my book with the jacket summary and a link to where you can buy the book. This info appears onscreen with some nice background music.

I tried to get a little more info on who did this and why. It seems it was uploaded on March 20, 2015 by Maminha Books.  The about page for this channel is blank, but the tagline seems to be ‘the synopsis of your favorite book’.  Mine isn’t the only book they’ve done something like this for. There are a number of other books this channel has featured. 

I don’t know whose favorite book this is or anything else about Maminha Books, but I can’t say enough about what a great feeling this. Someone likes this book, likes it enough to take the time to create a You Tube video and upload it on their channel to be shared with the entire world. I’m humbled and awed and happy.

Writing is a tough business. It’s hard to put yourself out there and risk getting let down. Things like this are such a nice shot in the arm for my writing career. It’s one more thing I can remember every time I think I don’t have enough reviews or I haven’t sold enough books. Someone likes it. Someone cared. Someone took the time to share that with others.

The video has been up a few weeks and has very few views. If you want to change that, feel free to click the link and check out the video. Comment if you’d like.

A video on You Tube proclaiming my book is someone’s favorite? How cool is that?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Pitfalls of Being Married to a Writer

On 3/28/15, my husband and I celebrated our twenty-one year wedding anniversary. In honor of the occasion, we dressed up and went to a nice Italian dinner and followed that with watching a romantic movie. Our anniversary is one of the two days a year I can slide a chick flick past him. In case you’re curious, my birthday is the other.

Being married to an author isn’t easy. My husband has to put up with what I’m sure are annoying behaviors. Today, in honor of my husband, and his never ending support of my writing career, I thought it would be fun to reflect on these bad habits he suffers with a smile. So here we go…

“Honey, my computer isn’t working! Again!” I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve uttered this phrase or some variation thereof. It is my expectation that he will immediately drop everything he’s doing to race to my computer and both diagnose and fix the problem. Of course, he has to do this with me standing over him, either glaring or tapping my foot or pacing or all of the above. He should not expect me to have any idea why it’s not cooperating. Any question asked of me will likely be met with “I don’t know what happened. It just stopped working".  And heaven forbid it takes more than ten seconds for him to get it up and running again! We won’t even talk about what happens if he can’t fix it. Obviously, that is not an option.

“Oh my God! I just lost everything!” Having to revisit this is painful, but there have been times when I’ve toiled for hours, days, weeks or months only to have some snafu, usually computer related, result in the loss of my manuscript. Twice I’ve lost a whole novel, but it’s more common to lose the day’s work. As any reasonable author would do, I have a nervous breakdown. I shriek and scream and cry and beg my husband to work his magic to retrieve my lost work. And he’d better not dare ask me if I’ve been backing it up or saving throughout the day. I don’t need to hear that. I just need it fixed, damn it!

“I’ll be right there. I just want to finish this paragraph, chapter, section, etc.” Once I get in my writing zone, I don’t want to stop. I can’t stop. I need to get these last lines out or I’ll lose the brilliance that is me. And since you can’t rush greatness, “right there” does not always mean the same thing to me as it does to the rest of the world. As a result, my husband is stuck waiting until I finish before I’m willing to acknowledge his existence and grace him with my presence.

“You want to go where? When? Oh, um, okay, I guess.” This is something I say nearly every weekend. Being that I have a day job, weekends are prime writing time for me. My husband has a day job too. While I want to write on the weekends, he wants to go somewhere that often requires both our attendance. As much as I don’t want to go, I can’t ignore him forever so I have to give in. More often than not, my reluctance to leave my computer comes through loud and clear. Good guy that he is, he always promises to get me back home and back to work as soon as he can and never complains at my obvious irritation.

“Hey, I have a question.” This is never a good sign. My husband always cringes when I start a conversation this way. It usually means I want something. When it comes to my writing, I either want him to help me figure out how to do something I can’t be bothered to learn, like converting my word docs to e-books or editing PDF documents, or I want him to be my subject matter expert on a topic I want to include in my books. Think baseball or auto repair or computers here. Of course I expect him to know the answer to any question I ask and to be able to immediately do whatever I want.

“Hey, I need some money to…” This is another cringe worthy opener. Being an independent author isn’t cheap. Even with social media, there is still a cost associated with producing and promoting my books. Since I’ve designated it my husband’s job to balance our checkbook each month, it’s likewise his job to work my writing wishes into the budget. And nope, there’s no room for refusing what I want. We, (read he) better find a way to make it happen.

My husband, and the rest of my family for that matter, also has to be on guard with me. You never know when I’m going to put something they’ve said or done in one of my novels. If they’re lucky it was something good, but sometimes it’s not. Even though I never call out the person that inspired me, he knows, especially when it’s my husband.

I could probably go on and on with these. They are no way representative of everything I’ve subjected my husband to over the last ten years that I’ve been a writer.

My husband is my cheerleader, my computer support guy, my graphic artist, my accountant and bookkeeper, my web designer and anything else I need him to be. He’s also my biggest supporter and the reason I can be the kind of author I am.

I guess it’s safe to say being married makes me a better author, but it sure does have some pitfalls for him!