The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

 
Publisher: Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake guy")
 
Motto: "A Vision for Excellence"
 
Date: August 11, 2014
Issue: Volume 10, Number 8
Personal Site: www.Ingermanson.com
 
Circulation: 9428 writers, each of them creating a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
 
"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"
 
 

What's in This Issue

 
1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine! 
2) Organization: Your Production Plan
3) Craft: Collaborating on Your Novel
4) Marketing: Indie Versus Traditional
5) What's New At AdvancedFictionWriting.com 
6) Randy Recommends . . .
7) What Randy is Reading
8) Randy's Deal of the Day
9) Steal This E-zine! 
10) Reprint Rights
 
 

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine!

 
Those of you who have joined in the past month (330 of you signed up in July), welcome to my e-zine!

 

If you missed a back issue, remember that all previous issues are archived on my web site at: www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com/ezine/

 

This month I’m interviewing several very successful novelists who are collaborators with me on a boxed set of 8 thrillers that we released in July—the Thrill Ride boxed set. In this issue, I’ll tap into the brains of these authors. Hope you’re inspired to work harder and smarter on your own fiction!
 

2) Organization: Your Production Plan

Part of being a successful novelist is production. You can’t sell what you haven’t written yet. 

 

Successful novelists often create a “production plan” that spells out their list of projects and schedules them. This may not sound sexy, and it isn’t. But a production plan makes it possible to do way more of the sexy stuff, which is writing.

 

This month, I’m interviewing an amazingly productive writer, Joanna Penn. You may know her as the force behind The Creative Penn, a web site for writers that includes a blog and podcast. Joanna is an  awesome, high-energy person who gives out tons of free information, and you’ll love her instantly. You can learn more about her here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com

 

Joanna is also a best-selling novelist who writes thrillers mixing action, history, suspense, and the supernatural. Her novel DESECRATION is one in a set of 8 thrillers in the Thrill Ride boxed set that just came out in July. 

 

I’ve admired Joanna ever since I discovered her web site. She’s smart, energetic, and giving. Recently, we did a very long Skype conversation and I’ve edited the transcript way down to a reasonable size. I wanted to learn from Joanna how she manages her production plan. I think you’ll find her comments incredibly valuable and motivating. Here’s how it went:

 

 

Randy: Are you totally indie in your writing?

 

Joanna Penn: I guess I'm technically hybrid. I have a digital-only deal in German with Ullstein-Midnight -- just came out and audiobook deal with a small press in the US which I signed before ACX went international. Otherwise, the rest are indie.

 

Randy: How many novels have you written so far?

 

Joanna: Five full length novels, two novellas, and three non-fiction.

 

Randy: Plus, you have your blog and podcast, so you're incredibly busy, which means incredibly productive.

 

Joanna: I have 2 brands -- JF Penn and The Creative Penn -- 2 separate audiences -- so yes, very busy!

 

Randy: I have this theory that Success = Quality x Target Audience Size x Discoverability x Production.

 

Joanna: x Time

 

Randy: Quality has to do with craft, and we hear a lot about that. Discoverability has to do with marketing, and we hear a lot about that. Production is not very sexy. Nobody talks much about how to make that happen.  So I'd like to hear how you do it because I'm in awe of what you've accomplished.

 

Joanna: I've worked in factories with robots making stuff -- that's pretty sexy :) But you're right -- "production" makes it sound factory like -- which is antithetical to the creative process in many people's minds. But you can't exploit the rights for your books unless you have books to exploit! So you need a production plan -- especially if you want to do this for a living.

 

Randy: Jim Bell has been telling me about the importance of production plans for a while now, so I started something along those lines this year, finally. How do you manage your planning process?

 

Joanna: I think this develops as the author develops though -- recently I talked about the arc of the indie — from first book to CEO of global media  empire: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/07/08/arc-of-the-indie-author/  It's only when we get serious, after a couple of books, that I think we get to the production plan point. So for me, I have a couple of things: I have a business plan -- with my strategy -- which includes what I will do and what I won't do in my business. As you know, many opportunities come along and I get excited and want to write lots of random things.

 

Randy: A vision statement or branding statement?

 

Joanna: No -- detailed business plan with sections on what I am writing and producing -- X books in ARKANE series, and X books in the London Psychic series,  and X non-fiction books on what topics. 

 

Randy: You exhaust me just listening to everything you're doing. 

 

Joanna: I have an inventory of the books I have now and all the various rights, e.g. ebooks, print, audio, as well as language -- English, German, Italian, Spanish, and then what I will create (produce) and what rights I will exploit in the coming year. I also break that down into financial aspects so I can try to gauge cash-flow.

 

Randy: What tools do you use to manage this plan? Word? Excel? Scrivener?

 

Joanna: I just use Pages on Mac (like Word) for the business plan and I have a short version on my pinboard (important tool!) that just has a list of books for the year which I tick off as I go. The Business Plan is an overarching document -- that evolves every few months.

 

Randy: How many books are on your plan for this year?

 

Joanna: This year I am behind :) It's like a property renovation -- one should always double estimates :) I had 2 novels, a novella and a non-fiction book on the plan. I've put out a novella, I have one novel about to go live (Delirium) and I should be done with the non-fiction book -- Business for Authors :) in August -- then hope to get at least 2nd draft of next ARKANE book by Christmas -- and maybe another novella :)  I think it's easier to work faster when you're writing in a series.

 

Randy: Yes, definitely. You know the characters and just need new stories.

 

Joanna: I have a couple of books I am putting off as they are stand-alone or 3rd series -- so they are waiting -- that's strategy -- what to focus on first. 

 

Randy: You mentioned evolving the plan. That implies that you keep looking at it and updating it. What's your process for that? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?

 

Joanna: I keep it on my desktop so I see it all the time -- and probably add to it monthly. So in the last month -- I updated my inventory with the 2 German and Spanish books that went live. I also updated my strategy -- I had decided to do some webinars for TheCreativePenn audience as people email me all the time wanting them -- but then I looked again at my overarching goals -- and realised I needed to write more books instead. That helped me change my production plan to take OFF the webinars on author mindset, and instead, add a book on author mindset to the list. The Amazon/Hachette thing has also made me want to do more direct sales -- so I have added that to my strategy and will add that over the next month.

 

Randy: That’s hard to do--to say no to a good idea, isn't it?

 

Joanna: YES -- very hard -- book recommendation -- “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy,” by Richard Rumelt. Which helps one to focus -- if my goal was purely cash-flow, I'd get a day job again -- but it's about creating new things in the world that last longer. And that's one of the reasons I write.

 

Randy: I'll have to check that out. Do you have any sort of vision statement you use to help you say no? That basically says, "This is the kind of book I will write and this is the kind of product I will make.”

 

Joanna: The plan is just a fleshed out version of that. My one liner is "I write, publish, sell and market books." Everything has to support that. The problem with being one person is you have to learn to say no to yourself and to others. I'm sure you also have a lot of people wanting to do things -- and you have to choose where to spend your time.

 

Randy: Right, we're all limited. My email in-box is piled up with great ideas from people who want me to do things.

 

Joanna: Strategic focus helps that. Limited is also a choice -- and I choose not to co-write with others right now.  :)  Ideas are not the problem. Time is.

 

Randy: Exactly. Time, energy, money--the only three resources we have.

 

Joanna: Life is short -- I was at a funeral last week -- we only have time to focus on the things we truly want to create. No point otherwise :)

 

Randy: So I'm reading your novel DESECRATION right now. How does that fit into your vision of your writing career?

 

Joanna: People ask why I write dark fiction on topics that might disturb people -- it's because I think we have a responsibility to think about things others find difficult. Desecration is the first book where I didn't self censor. I let it all out. It definitely marks the direction I'm heading in. Like Stephen King, I have no choice but to write about the darker side.

 

Randy: Those are the risky projects that scare the daylights out of you while you're writing them.

 

Joanna: Agreed -- I want to risk things -- Delirium (coming July 31st) has underlying themes of mental illness and suicide -- I went pretty deep on that one -- but it's important. I want my readers to enjoy a good story but also to think and learn, as I think you do. Brainy thrillers, right :)

 

Randy: Yes. I call my novels geeky suspense, but a lot of non-geeks like them too. But I try to go deep. How long did it take you to write DESECRATION?

 

Joanna: About 14 months all up. It was one of those that evolved. Delirium has taken a year as well. These deeper books take time. :) The 3rd will be called Deviance -- and I am going back to the Torture Garden :)

 

Randy: You can write the first draft quickly, but that might not be anywhere near the final draft.

 

Joanna: Back to organisation -- I also have a wall calendar and a timesheet app to keep me organised -- and a Filofax if that's of interest. :)

 

Randy: (gasps audibly) You mean ... paper?

 

Joanna: It's an actual physical diary thing. And I have a LOT of Moleskine notebooks (paper), and my wall calendar is paper -- for my word count and gold stars :) My timesheet app is an app on iPhone to track hours, for writing first draft, editing, marketing, publishing tasks, conferences, etc. 

 

Randy: I use an online application to do that. Makes it easy to know how much to pay myself each month. And it also tells me if I'm getting lazy or off-track.

 

Joanna: So I schedule writing time in my Filofax, then write in Scrivener, put my word count on my wall calendar and log my time on the timesheet app. I do kind of constant marketing that hopefully lifts all boats so the "launch" is meaningless anyway, but the rest is ongoing -- e.g. podcasting, social media, blogging, etc.

 

In terms of the production plan, there are a few things to consider:

  • How many books do you want or need to write this year?
  • How long does it take you to write each type of book?
  • When do you need extra time in your plan?
  • How much advance notice do you need to give your editor and cover designer?

Randy: So you can predict the next project. Do you plan the number of drafts you'll write?

 

Joanna: I usually have a period of research (with trips!) then first draft which takes ages — then big rewrite -- then small rewrite, and then it goes to editor for big edit, then 4th draft, or hopefully just small revisions, then beta readers, then proofreader -- then rewrites.

 

Randy: So quick final question before we wrap up: What's your favorite novel of all time?

 

Joanna: Stephen King, The Stand. I want to write something that epic -- I have an idea about it. He's the author I admire most for a) attracting a readership that get him and love him b) creating characters people absolutely resonate with c) getting darkness right and d) not caring about winning literary prizes and just creating what comes out of him.

 

Randy: He's a great writer, that's for sure. Well, I think we've about wrapped up our discussion of production plans. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

 

Joanna: Thank you for having me!

 

Final Thoughts

 

The fact is, we’re all at different places. Joanna is operating at a very high level. I’m in awe of what she’s doing.

 

But let’s make this practical for you. Do you have a production plan yet? It doesn’t have to be fancy. A Word document. Or a sheet of paper tacked up on the wall that spells out what goals you want to accomplish this year.

 

The important thing is to have goals and a schedule. No, you won’t always hit the goals on schedule, but you can’t miss them unless you know what they are. Far better to set a high goal and then only get half of it done, than to set no goals at all and achieve them completely.

 

Try it for the rest of this year. Then next year, improve on it. And the year after that. That’s what successful writers do.

 

If you want to know more about Joanna, check out her site for writers at http://TheCreativePenn.com  To learn more about her fiction, visit her site at http://JFPenn.com 

 

3) Craft: Collaborating on Your Novel

Ever wanted to collaborate with a friend on a novel?

 

It can be scary, of course. What if the collaboration doesn’t work out? What if your writing styles are too different? What if you lose your friendship?

 

I’ve collaborated on a couple of novels, and those worked out incredibly well. But it took work to make it work.

 

This month, I’m interviewing Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore, a dynamite collaboration team of thriller writers who’ve written some international best-sellers. Their novel, THE BLADE, is part of the Thrill Ride boxed set that I’m a part of, and I’ll be reading it next—a terrorist is demanding a ransom or else he’ll unleash a nuke on Las Vegas.

 

Here’s the interview:

Randy: How and when did the two of you become collaborators?

Lynn: Joe and I belonged to the same writing critique group that met every week. During the middle of each session we’d take a break and we’d all chat. Sometimes we’d share ideas about other projects we’d like to do. I had this idea about a book I wanted to write, but it wasn’t in my comfort range because of the genre. Joe thought it was a great idea, and after a year or so, he finally threatened me that if I didn’t write the book, then he would. We decided to give co-writing a whirl.

That produced THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY, our first collaboration, which did very well. It was ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year and an international bestseller. It also went to #1 on Amazon’s Kindle e-book list. So far, it’s been translated into 24 languages.

Randy: That’s amazing. My own experience was a little bit like that. I kept bugging my friend to write his novel. He finally agreed, on condition that I would coauthor it. How does your collaborative process work (i.e., brainstorming, logistics, editing one another, using each other’s respective strengths)?

Lynn: I can only vouch for what Joe and I do. At first it was very difficult, not because we disagreed on anything, but rather because our styles and voices were so different. Joe wrote male action-adventure with a very bold voice. I wrote historical fiction with a more lyrical voice. So blending took a lot of work, but we stayed with it. As a matter of fact, friends are always guessing which line one of us wrote. They’re usually wrong, but we never tell. As far as the mechanical process, we do outlining and brainstorming so we know the story. Either of us could write it. Then whoever feels they have the best handle on a scene takes on the first draft of that scene. We send it back and forth for revisions. Using Dropbox makes it easier. We drop a file in the shared Dropbox folder and voilà! The other picks it up.

Randy: What’s the best part of working with your partner?

Lynn: We left our egos behind years ago. We both have a vested interest in the book so we sort through plot, the details and motivations together. It’s great to have a sounding board and brainstorming partner with the same goal. And the really good part is if someone criticizes something, I can always say, Joe wrote that part.  

Randy: I think that’s key—to get past the ego thing. If you can’t do that, then collaboration is going to be massively harder. What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Joe: Entering into the “zone” where you lose track of time and place as the words flow freely.

Randy: Sounds like you’re like me—the first draft is the most fun of all in my writing. Your novel, THE BLADE, is exactly the kind of book I love reading—some action, an ancient artifact, high stakes, and a ticking clock. I can’t wait to get to it. If THE BLADE was made into a movie, who would you choose to play Maxine, Kenny, and Applewhite?

Lynn: Maxine –Julianna Moore, Kenny – Hugh Jackman, Applewhite – Tommy Lee Jones or William H. Macy?

Joe: I see Naomi Watts as Maxine, Jude Law as Kenny, and Brian Cox as Applewhite.

Randy: Where do you get your ideas for the fascinating characters and compelling stories the two of you compose?

Joe: An idea that sparks a story can come from anywhere, anytime. Movies, newspapers, magazines, other books. What we look for is the seed that grabs our attention. Our first book written together came from an article in Discover Magazine about a cup found by an archaeologist in Israel. He believed it was the Holy Grail and subsequently discovered that traces of blood residue were present. Could it have been the blood of Christ? What if someone used the DNA to clone Christ? The result was our first thriller written together, THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY. An article I stumbled across on the Internet about the Germans working on an atomic bomb at the end of WWII prompted our thriller, THE BLADE.

Randy: Real life is a great way to find story ideas, and sometimes the real stories are almost too weird for fiction. So now, a practical question on your writing process. Do you revise as you go along or wait until the novel is complete?

Joe: Because there are two of us and we exchange drafts of each chapter many times, the revision process is ongoing, with the final one after input from our editor. 

Randy: That was my experience too—the books I collaborated on had a lot more drafts than the ones I wrote alone. What’s your thinking on short chapters vs. longer ones?

Joe: Most of our chapters average 1000 words. We do that to keep the reader turning the pages. If they see that the next chapter is only a couple of pages long, they will decide to read just one more. And then one more. It also reflects the pace of the book. Thrillers are roller coaster rides, and that’s how we like to pace the story.

Randy: Like me and a lot of other successful writers, the two of you have gone into indie publishing rather than going the traditional route. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you discovered during the process of taking The Blade from concept to publication to marketing?

Joe: With the advent of indie publishing, writers have become a self-contained business and must handle most or all of the facets of sales and marketing. It takes away from writing time, but it’s also liberating and fulfilling. 

Randy: Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it?

Lynn: Because Joe and I write together, I don’t think we’ve ever had writer’s block. Having a brainstorming partner tends to prevent that. Of course we have plot issues we have to work out, but not true writer’s block. One thing we have learned is that when we come to a stumbling block we talk through it and something eventually pops up. We also know that there will come a time in the process that is devoted to revision.

Randy: Learning to write compelling fiction takes a lot of time, study and practice. It’s also not uncommon for a writer’s style and vision to evolve and undergo reinvention from what it was originally. Do you ever go back and read your earliest writings? If so, what’s your reaction?

Lynn: Yuck! Yes. When I first decided to take writing seriously, I wrote a book called TALISMAN ROSE, mostly to see if I could sustain 100,000 words.  I wrote it on a typewriter, which convinced me to get a computer and printer.  Well, I discovered that I could write my way through 100,000 words. But that manuscript rests in a box high in the closet that I never intend to show anyone.  Every time I write a book, I learn something new. Sometimes I look back in horror and slap my forehead asking myself if I really wrote that.

Randy: I know exactly what you mean. Whenever I need a quick dose of humility, I just think about the first few chapters I ever wrote. When it comes to character development and dialogue in a thriller such as The Blade, do you think it’s easier for a female to write from a male’s perspective or a male to write from a female’s perspective (and why)?

Lynn: I don’t think it matters to us. Joe and I have never decided to write scenes because of a character’s gender. We don’t take on specific characters when we write, we take on scenes. When Joe has a better handle on a scene or better vision, then he does the first draft of it. If I feel I have a strong image of a scene, then I do the first draft. We both have our strengths, but they aren’t gender related. 

Randy: What’s next on your plate (collaboratively or individually)?

Joe: What's next? Number 2 in the Maxine Decker series is THE SHIELD, released this past spring. She is recruited by a blacker than black government operation to track down the theft of alien artifacts originally collected from the 1947 Roswell Incident. She’ll return next year in THE TOMB.

Randy: Sounds cool! 

Lynn: As a note of interest, my earliest books, originally written under the name Lynn Armistead McKee, now Lynn Sholes, have entered the digital world. Those books are a totally different genre than what Joe and I write. The books included in THE EDGE OF THE NEW WORLD series are: WOMAN OF THE MISTS, TOUCHES THE STARS, KEEPER OF DREAMS, WALKS IN STARDUST, SPIRIT OF THE TURTLE WOMAN and DAUGHTER OF THE FIFTH MOON. They are historical fiction in the tradition of CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, but not quite as far back. These are stories about the extinct aboriginal peoples of Florida before European contact.

Randy: Thanks to both of you for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ll just add that collaboration is a load of fun, but it’s also a load of work. My coauthor and I used to joke that he did 80% of the work on our novel — and I did the other 80%. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re thinking of doing a collaboration, I strongly suggest you write and sign a document that spells out how the collaboration will work and what you’ll do if things don’t go perfectly. Because they won’t go perfectly, guaranteed.

Collaborate on that document. If you find that writing your collaboration document is easy, that bodes well. If you can’t manage to coauthor a collaboration document, then my bet is you won’t do any better on a full novel.

To learn more about Lynn and Joe and their books, visit their web site at http://www.sholesmoore.com  

 

 

4) Marketing: Indie Versus Traditional

In the last  few months, as the Amazon/Hachette battle has heated up, the publishing world has become even more polarized than before. At the extreme  on one side, indies are said to be smart entrepreneurs and authors still working with traditional publishers are said to be helpless fools. At the extreme on the other side, trad-published authors are said to be the “real” authors of quality and indies are said to be just contributing to the “tsunami of crap” who will someday be betrayed by Amazon.

 

My view  is that going indie or going trad is an individual decision that depends on the author’s circumstances. Either way can make sense, and it’s up to the author to decide for himself. I’ve published eight books with traditional publishers and now have seven indie books out. Because I tend to write novels at the cracks between categories, I think my fiction writing career will go better as an indie. But my last trad-published book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES has been a perennial best-seller and I’m proud of what I’ve done in partnership with my publisher, John Wiley.

 

This month, I’m interviewing Boyd Morrison, a best-selling author who has published both ways--with traditional publishers and as an indie. Boyd has a PhD in industrial engineering and has worked for NASA and Microsoft. Like me, he loves thrillers and writes them.

 

He’s the author of THE ROSWELL CONSPIRACY, a thriller tying in the Roswell incident to a present-day secret plan to develop a doomsday weapon. I’m reading it right now, and enjoying every lurch on the roller coaster ride. His book is one of the 8 novels in the Thrill Ride boxed set.

 

The questions I asked Boyd focused on the questions of indie versus traditional, and how you think about the issues before you make a decision. Here’s how it went:

 

 

Randy: Writers these days are hearing all sorts of things about traditional publishing versus indie publishing.  Suppose a writer comes to you and has an offer from a major publisher and wants to know if she should take it.  What issues would you look at in the offer to guide her thinking?

 

Boyd: First and foremost, find an agent who you trust and fits for you well (such as in philosophy, ambition, and work style). A good agent will know the market, will understand how any offer you get compares to the going rates, and will negotiate the best deal for you. 

 

The advance is the most important aspect of any offer you get (as well as how that advance is paid out), and it would be good to find out what other books in your genre are earning in the self-publishing realm. 

 

Other terms to look at carefully are the out-of-print clause (which determines how many books that the publisher has to sell in a year before you’d get your rights back), what formats the publisher will produce your book in (print, ebook, audio, etc.), and what countries your publisher will have the rights for (US only vs. worldwide English vs. worldwide in any language). 

 

I’d also consider the clause that states how the publisher can get out of the contract. Often writers don’t realize that a contract can be cancelled by the publisher for any reason they like, and that has happened plenty of times in the past, including to me. 

 

That said, if it’s a good offer, the terms are right, and the advance is substantial, going with a traditional publisher can be the best way to go.

 

 

Randy: Suppose a second writer comes to you who's burned out with traditional publishing. She's upset about how things have gone and wants to know if she might have a chance to make it as an indie author, but she's worried that she's not much of an entrepreneur.  How would you help her think about that so she could reach the best decision for her?

 

Boyd: It really depends on what type of person she is. If she is a go-getter and loves to have total control over the publishing process (editing, cover, release schedule, sales, marketing, and publicity), then indie publishing can be a great alternative. 

 

It can be especially lucrative if the writer is highly productive. Many of the indie authors who are doing a booming business produce a new novel every three to four months. That keeps readers invested and helps prop up interest in the backlist because a new book is coming out on a regular basis. 

 

However, some books are difficult to produce on that schedule, so that strategy may not work for everyone. It takes a lot of work to manage all the aspects of the business in addition to the writing, and it can require some non-trivial monetary investment upfront for editing, cover creation, and formatting services that a publisher would normally take on. 

 

Marketing and publicity can also be a significant expense, and without them it’s difficult to stand out with the sheer number of indie books coming out every day. 

 

But it all boils down to having a fantastic book with a unique premise and colorful characters. If you have all those, the book will usually sell itself.

 

 

Randy: We all know that a lot of the burden of marketing is on authors these days, whether they're indie or traditional.  If you were allowed to focus on only three main marketing tasks for your novels, which ones would they be and why?

 

Boyd: First is social media. Being active on Facebook and Twitter can help build an audience and keep them up to date when a new book of yours is coming out. When you have a release, you want to make sure everyone who would buy your book knows about it. And make your Facebook and Twitter posts entertaining and informative while keeping the tone and voice that your readers would find in your novels.

 

Second, you need a high-quality website. I am not a web designer, so I invested in a professional design firm that built and now maintain a slick website for me. That lets me focus on the writing and it provides a place for people all over the world to learn more about my books and where to buy them.

 

Third, if you’re an indie publisher, I’d recommend investing in marketing tools like BookBub that send out email blasts to vast address lists when you put your book on sale. Obscurity is the biggest enemy of a new author, so you have to find ways to let people know you exist.

 

 

Randy: I'm reading your novel, THE ROSWELL CONSPIRACY, right now.  Very cool--techie and action-packed!  One thing I noticed right away when I went to your Amazon page was that the book had a ton of reviews--right now, it's got 335 reviews.  What are your thoughts on how an author can get more reviews for their books?

 

Boyd: I’m not sure if more reviews help sell a book. I feel that the number of reviews is more reflective of how many readers you’ve already found. 

 

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS didn’t sell a gajillion copies because it has 28,000 reviews on Amazon; it has 28,000 reviews because it sold a gajillion copies. 

 

However, you’ll notice that most of the reviews for that book are ecstatic, which goes back to my point that a great book will sell itself. The most important tool you can have to build sales is word-of-mouth. If you write a book that gets people talking to their friends or writing on message boards about your novel, then it’s a virtuous cycle that will get more and more readers for you. 

 

The other thing that helps is a large body of work, which is why the authors who produce on a fast and regular schedule are able to build an audience quickly.

 

 

Randy: What is the most important trait for a successful writer to have?

 

Boyd: Persistence. You’ve probably heard this so much that it now sounds like a cliché, but it’s true nonetheless. Writing is a business of rejection, and that will continue throughout a career. Someone who can’t go on in the face of that kind of constant rejection should try something easier, like becoming an astronaut. 

 

You’ll notice that most writers who are well-known and extremely successful have some woeful tales of rejection they’ve overcome, and there are many points at which you can give up. But if you really believe in yourself and you have the fortitude to continue on even when it seems like outside forces are arrayed against you, you’ll eventually make writing a career.


 

Randy: Well said, Boyd! Persistence gets my vote too. When I see writers fail, it’s usually because they give up too soon. Sure, sometimes they really don’t have much talent, but talent tends to happen when you keep at it. Writers make their own luck. 

 

Boyd, thanks for your time! I’m looking forward to finishing THE ROSWELL CONSPIRACY.

 

If you want to know more about Boyd and his work, visit his web site at http://BoydMorrison.com

 

 

5) What's New At AdvancedFictionWriting.com


Writing Schedule

 

July has been a month of finishing tasks and tying off loose ends and getting books out to the market. 

 

I launched my latest e-book, How To Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. Almost immediately, it shot up to the #1 spot in the Kindle store on Amazon in two separate categories—Writing Skills and Creativity. Several weeks later, it's still at the top of both categories.

 

The paper edition of this book is now available. I used Amazon’s CreateSpace tool, which is a bit more complicated than the tools for producing e-books, but I got it done. It just took longer than the e-book. You can find the paper edition on Amazon right here. The list price is $9.99, but Amazon is currently discounting that to $8.99, at least in the US store. (Amazon's discounting policies are outside my control.)

In case you missed the announcement of the e-book a few weeks ago, the e-book is available on Amazon, on B&N, on Apple's iBookStore, on Kobo, and on Smashwords. The special launch price has been $2.99, but that will be going up within a few days.
 

 

Also in late July, I helped launch Thrill Ride, an 8-book boxed set of thrillers in collaboration with several other authors. My contribution to the set was my novel Double Vision. The boxed set is doing well on Amazon, and shortly after the launch, I noticed that several of the authors in the set reached the list of Top 100 authors in Action-Adventure on Amazon. That’s rarefied air, and a nice place to be. Thrill Ride is this month’s Deal of the Day, so see below for where to get it at the bargain price of 99 cents.

 

This week, I’m taking some time to revise my strategic plan for the rest of the year. What book should I write next? I have three options and all three would be fun and would do well in the market. 
 

Teaching Schedule

I normally teach at four to six writing conferences per year. In 2014, I’ll be attending five conferences, and that’ll be my limit for the year.

 

Why don't I teach at more conferences? Because teaching is an incredibly demanding blood sport and it sucks a huge amount of energy out of my tiny brain. I prefer to put my absolute best into a few locations than to muddle through at many.

 

Here’s what my calendar shows me for the remainder of 2014:

  • In September, I’ll be teaching a three-hour-plus session, “How To Be An Insanely Great Indie Author,” at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in St. Louis. Details are here.
  • In October, I’ll be attending the Novelists, Inc. Conference in St. Pete, Florida. This conference is shaping up to be the best Ninc conference ever, and it’s going to be in an amazing location, just feet from the beach. But it’s already sold out.

If you'd like me to teach at your conference in 2015 or beyond, email me to find out how outrageously expensive I am.

 

If you'd just like to hear me teach, I have a number of recordings and e-books that are outrageously cheap. Details on the products page of my web site.
 

6) Randy Recommends . . . 

 
I don't take paid ads for this e-zine. I do, however, recommend people I like.
 
I'm a huge fan of Margie Lawson's courses, both the ones she teaches in person and the ones she sells on her web site at www.MargieLawson.com
 
Margie is a psychologist who applies what she knows about human psychology to writing fiction. I believe her material is brilliant. Check her out on her web site!
 
I've also become a fan of Thomas Umstattd's terrific uncommon-sense thoughts on internet marketing. You can read Thomas's blog at: www.AuthorMedia.com/blog
 
Thomas and his crew at AuthorMedia are the folks who reworked my web site recently, and I'm extremely happy with the results.
 
Please be aware that in this section I ONLY recommend folks who have never asked me to do so. Tragically, this means that if you ask me to list you here, I will be forced to say no. 
 

7) What Randy is Reading

You might be interested in some of the books I’ve been reading recently. I’m omitting books I started and didn’t finish. I’m also omitting books that were horrible but I read anyway. (There are certain aspects of the craft of writing that you can only learn by reading really wretched fiction and asking yourself what makes it so bad.)

 

Here are the ones worth reporting from July:

 

Timebound, by Rysa Walker. A time travel novel about a young woman who learns that her grandmother is a time-traveling historian from the future who got trapped in the past by her ratty husband. He’s busily starting a new religion with himself as the main beneficiary, and in the process, he’s badly screwing up the past. An entertaining and fun read.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Okay, true confession. When I was in junior high and high school, educators were doing all sorts of experiments to make English class “relevant.” So they decided to not make students read some of the great novels that “everybody” reads. As a result, I went off to college without ever reading most of the classics you’re supposed to read in high school. I’m now catching up. This is one of the best American novels ever, and I finally read it. Heckuva read. Thank God it’s finally available in e-book format.

 

Desecration, by J.F. Penn. Detective Sergeant Jamie Brooke is assigned to the case of a young pregnant aristocratic Londoner who has been murdered and mutilated. Jamie teams up with a sexy psychic and descends into hell on earth—a society of depraved people enthralled with death, torture, and mutilation. This is a great study in evil, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. You have been warned.

 

Blind Justice, by James Scott Bell. Howie Patino thinks the devil made him kill his wife. He doesn’t remember it very well. Howie is mentally challenged and isn’t real clear on a lot of things. But the cops found him there at the scene and the twenty-five stab wounds in his wife’s body are pretty damning evidence. In short, Howie is the worst client a defense attorney could ever want. You are Jake Denney, attorney at law. You’re an alcoholic. You’re behind on your rent. You have no active cases. You pretty much have to take on your boyhood chum Howie’s case, even though you know you can’t possibly win. 

 

That’s all for the month—just four novels. Not high in quantity, but for sure high in quality.

 

 

8) Randy's Deal of the Day

I’m delighted to have my quantum suspense novel Double Vision included in the 8-novel boxed set e-book, Thrill Ride—a collection of high-intensity, high-action, high-stakes thrills. 

 

Thrill Ride is THOUSANDS of pages of excitement, suspense, and adventure. 

 

All for only 99 cents.

 

What Do You Get Out Of Thrill Ride?

 

You get eight complete thrillers, all written by well-known novelists.  

 

These books are normally priced at $4.99, $3.99, or $2.99. The prices total more than $30 when you add them all up.

 

Some you’ll love. Some you won’t. But for 99 cents, it costs you only about 12 cents per author to check them out.

 

If you find even ONE new author you love, then that’s a bargain. If you find TWO or THREE or possibly EIGHT, then you’re so far ahead of the game, it isn’t funny.

 

What Do The Authors Get Out Of Thrill Ride?

 

We get a chance to impress a bazillion new readers. Some will love us. Some won’t. But if we each find a few thousand new readers, we’re WAY ahead of the game. 

 

What’s In Thrill Ride?

 

Here are the 8 novels in the Thrill Ride boxed set:

 

Blind Justice, by James Scott Bell. A legal thriller about a lawyer who takes on a case where his client has already confessed to the cops that the devil made him kill his wife.

 

Sidetracked, by Brandilyn Collins. A mystery-suspense about a woman who knows that the town simpleton didn’t kill her best friend—but can’t say a word because it’ll expose the massive lie she’s been living for years.

 

Double Vision, by Randy Ingermanson. A geeky suspense novel about a straight-arrow genius with Asperger’s syndrome who has no idea that his two beautiful co-workers are in love with him and is mainly worried about the tiny problem that somebody is trying to kill them all to get his dangerously powerful quantum computer.

 

The Blade, by Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore. An international thriller about a terrorist who threatens to nuke Las Vegas unless the casinos hand over a king’s ransom.

 

The Roswell Conspiracy, by Boyd Morrison. A conspiracy thriller about a Russian agent trying to get his hands on the alien object that landed in Roswell, which will complete his doomsday weapon aimed at the heart of America.

 

The Killing Rain, by P.J. Parrish. A serial killer novel about a detective whose girlfriend’s son is kidnapped by a ring of human traffickers.

 

Desecration, by J.F. Penn. A supernatural murder suspense novel about a female London detective who must team up with a sexy psychic to solve the ritual murder of a young, pregnant aristocrat.

 

The Call, by Kat Covelle. A supernatural thriller about a geeky loser who escapes a near-death experience by agreeing to go on a supernatural quest to save the world from evil angels.

 

Where Do You Get Thrill Ride?

 

Tragically, Thrill Ride is only available through the US and Canadian sites for the following retailers. This is outside my control—it has to do with international rights on certain of the titles.

 

Get it on Amazon99 cents    

Get it on B&N: 99 cents    

Get it on Apple's iBookStore99 cents     

Get it on Kobo99 cents    

Get it on Google Play99 cents     

 

If you buy it, you might see a little “Share on Facebook” button after you make the purchase. Please click that button and brag about the outrageously good deal you just got. Your friends need to envy you once in a while.


 

9) Steal This E-zine!

 
This E-zine is free, and I personally guarantee it's worth at least 367 times the price. I invite you to "steal" it, but only if you do it nicely . . .
 
Distasteful legal babble: This E-zine is copyright Randall Ingermanson, 2014.
 
Extremely tasteful postscript: Yes, you’re allowed to e-mail this E-zine to any fiction writer friends of yours who might benefit from it. 
 
Of course you should not forward this e-mail to people who don't write fiction. They won't care about it.
 
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10) Reprint Rights

 
Permission is granted to use any of the articles in this e-zine in your own e-zine or web site, as long as you include the following 2-paragraph blurb with it:
 
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
 
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 9,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
 
 

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