Monday, October 28, 2013

Designing a Character

Everyone has his or her own style of writing and getting to know main characters. I’ve always found it easiest to design a character first and then plan a story around him. Some like to tackle the story first and let the character develop. Either way, here’s a list of details to consider as you build your characters.

Name and gender

Background - What are the characters’ race, culture, and nationality? What are their religious or spiritual beliefs? What was their upbringing like? What was their economic status? What relatives were present - parents, siblings, others?

Personality - What are the characters’ personality types? (There are several personality type scales and charts. I use the ones outlined in Florence Littauer’s Personality Plus book - choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine, and melancholy.) What are the strengths and weaknesses? What are their interests and hobbies? What are the goals of each character? (That alone can set the storyline.)

Physical attributes - What is the basic body build of each character? Height, weight, eye color, hair color? What is each one’s intelligence level?

Misc. - What are the characters’ ages or birthdays? Who are their friends? Do they have a spouse, girl/boy friend, or children? What other details would help define the character?

Those basics can provide a solid foundation from which to build. Sometimes it takes a bit to coax the details from our minds - or our characters if we decide to interview them. But the results will be three-dimensional characters who are ready to go any direction you send them.

What other details are important to know about your characters?

I’m also posting at the Insecure Writers Support Group website on How to Present a Professional Appearance as a Self-Publisher.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Who’s Your Hero Blogfest

Hosted by JL Campbell.

The release of the novel Saving Sam by J.L. Campbell has been timed to coincide with National Heroes’ Day celebrations in Jamaica. Sam, the protagonist finds a hero—or heroine if you like—in his aunt and the mission of this blogfest is to write a maximum of 300 words about someone who has been a source of inspiration. So, Who’s Your Hero?

As soon as I saw this blogfest, I knew who I would pick - my husband, Craig. And I feel really bad anytime I hear an author say he or she doesn't have the support of the spouse. That's your best friend - that person should be the most supportive.

He’s always seen more in me than I see in myself and he leads our family by example. Craig has always supported me in my ventures, from photography to writing - even my roller coaster obsession. (He waits at the exit for me and holds my drink - LOL!) He doesn’t always understand my choices, but he allows me to plow forward.

Craig let me step away from a J-O-B I didn’t like 14 years ago to become fully self-employed. He helps me whenever he can, and often when he doesn’t want to. He’s driven me to seminars and wandered malls for hours while I did book signings. He tells me he admires my drive and desire to do better and learn more.

He’s the spiritual leader in our house and handles all of the expenses when they don’t pertain to my businesses. Not worrying about money has been a tremendous blessing to me. I joke that he is Mr. Safety, but he is my reality check, as I am prone to jump without a lot of thought.

My husband is my hero!

Who else would spend over a week making me a Despicable Me Minion pumpkin?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Challenges of Running a Publishing Company

Today I welcome Karen Jones Gowen, who not only is an author, she runs WiDo Publishing. She was kind enough to answer some questions about running a publishing company.

How did WiDo Publishing get started?

The Gowen family had no idea about getting into publishing but things just kind of evolved that way. I had written the manuscript for Farm Girl as a gift for my mother’s 90th birthday, figuring I’d bind up a few copies by hand. My son Don, who worked at Kinko’s, went beyond that. He collected the old family photos, did the typesetting and layout then printed up a dozen bound books for the family.

As Don was showing the finished product around, an investor saw the book and wanted it to launch a publishing company, with our family members who had helped staying on board to run it. WiDo Publishing is named for my two sons, Don and William, who were key in the creation of Farm Girl.

After Farm Girl, it took awhile to get things going, but we managed to publish five books in three years. The fourth year, 2011, WiDo released nine books. In 2012, most of the family who had helped to start the company had left to carry on their lives, so we hired freelancers to do the editing, covers, typesetting, and formatting. We have since published 42 books. By mid- 2014, our sixth year in business, we will hit our 50-book milestone.

We like to say that most publishers launch a book, but in the case of WiDo, it was a book that launched a publishing company.

What genres do you publish?

We publish fiction with a literary bent, including sci fi/fantasy, contemporary fiction, and historical fiction. We also like memoir that has subject matter of unusual interest along with a strong story line. Fiction is limited to YA and older, although we will consider middle-grade fiction that has potential for a wide appeal. We avoid popular romance and erotica.

What markets do you target - bookstores, libraries, academic, ebooks, etc?

Our primary markets are brick and mortar bookstores for print books, and Kindle for ebooks. Libraries can order from Follett Library Resources, which they are inclined to do when a patron comes in and requests a book. We distribute to bookstores through Ingram, offering the standard discount and full returns the first six months after release. This makes our books competitive in the bookstore marketplace.

Most books and websites are geared toward author promotions - what did you have to learn in order to promote as a publisher?

We had to learn a LOT. Especially since the entire industry changed between 2007 when Farm Girl came out and 2012, when we went from doing 1000 initial print runs to short-run digital. Also we had to decide where ebooks would fit into our market, and we chose to focus solely on Amazon, utilizing the KDP Select program for maximum exposure and profitability.

We had to evolve in how we published, how we marketed—going from personal phone calls to bookstores to assisting our authors with creating their platforms on social media. It’s amazing the changes that happened in publishing between 2007 and 2012, and we saw many small companies fall by the wayside. We feel very fortunate that we were able to weather the storm and get to the other side stronger than ever.

What are some of the mistakes writers make when querying?

They happen with manuscripts and with the query letters themselves. With manuscripts, it would be sending it out before it’s ready. Not only proofread, but where the narrative style, the voice, the flow of writing is just not polished enough. Often a writer will need to complete 3 or 4 novels and set them aside before they’ve achieved mastery over these elements sufficient to attract a publisher. Just finishing a novel and editing it completely is not always enough. It takes time and practice to achieve the skills necessary to create a manuscript that will make a publisher want to invest time and money in making a book out of it.

Another mistake is not understanding the market, not realizing how important it is for an author to actively promote. In today’s bookselling world, the author is the face of the book, not the publisher. Nobody cares who the publisher is, but if people get to know a writer online and like their blog or their personality, they’ll be much more interested in buying a book by that writer. A query letter should include information about what the writer is doing online, to make the publisher realize this person is serious about promoting themselves and their work.

A query letter is much like applying for a job. If you want to get hired, you’ll need to come across as someone worthy of being hired. Your personality should shine through, because it’s not just about the manuscript or story you’re submitting, it is also about you. If someone comes across as dull or strange or aloof in a query letter, how will they come across on a blog?

Tell us something about yourself. Be someone we’d like to get to know, who we want to work with. And let us know you’ve done your legwork, researched our company and that you want to work with us.

What can a small publisher offer that self-published authors can’t do on their own?

A really good question, and what every writer should ask before submitting to a publisher. Not all small publishers are alike. Some charge fees for editing, cover design, marketing assistance. They offer fee-based publishing services yet split royalties and call themselves publishers. It’s where a lot of the confusion comes in with the term “small publisher.” Who wouldn’t question submitting to a company like that?

A publisher such as WiDo, who takes on the financial risk so the author does not have to, can free up the writer from business concerns to focus instead on writing the next book. Also, when you pay for everything yourself, the people you hire may be excellent but still do not have a vested interest in whether or not your book does well in the marketplace, whereas a publisher does not get paid until your book sells. The publisher who has taken on the financial risk is going to make sure the editing, formatting, cover design and marketing, even the very title, will give that book every chance to succeed.

We can also get your book into libraries and bookstores, which is extremely difficult to do for the self-published. Our distributor is Ingram, the largest distributor world-wide to both physical and online booksellers; and for libraries, it is Follett Library Resources.

What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the past few years?

One of the biggest is the floodgates opening to self-publishing. Even writers who have agents are moving in that direction. Many have said that it will put publishers out of business, but we personally haven’t seen any decrease in our submissions. If anything, our submissions are higher than they’ve ever been. It seems that with the ease of writing and publishing (maybe ease is the wrong word, because it is never easy to write a good book); let’s say with the attention paid to all the books being published, it seems like more and more people are writing and submitting overall.

And who can ignore what Amazon has done for the book business? Before Kindle, it was incredibly difficult for a small press to make it on print books alone. Once ebooks took off, that became a viable source of income quickly surpassing print sales. Bookstores are still caught in the old traditions of returns, of only stocking what is popular, of only ordering a book when someone requests it—simply no way for a small press to survive without ebook income.

Also, the prominence of social media has made a big impact on the marketing and selling of books. WiDo can still sell a book where the author isn’t active on social media, but it is so much easier if they are. And more fun, because then it’s like we are a team working together to give that book every chance at success.

Thank you, Karen!

You can find Karen at her BLOG and WEBSITE, and visit WiDo Publishing HERE.

A while back, Heather Gardner posted an image of three Despicable Me Minion pumpkins - and I knew I had to have one! My husband obliged, and created Steve for me:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CK Reader Giveaway, EJ Wesley's Dragon's Game, and Zombie Vomit

This week two of my books are featured in Ciara Knight’s CK GIVEAWAY. You can visit her for your chance to win an autographed copy of How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now or Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership and Goal-Setting. The giveaway is open to all. You can also visit the Facebook CK Giveaway.

Available Monday, October 22nd!

Jenny Moonsong recently inherited the title of "monster hunter" and an ancient tribal journal/how-to manual passed down by her Apache ancestors. She has already faced a werewolf, witches, and a troll. But nothing could prepare her for her latest confrontation...

Dragon's Game, Moonsongs Book 4, finds Jenny out of her rural West Texas element, searching for an evil witch in an urban Houston nightclub. After attempting to help a handsome and mysterious stranger out of a jam, she finds herself on the run from a ruthless gang who are even more dangerous than they initially appear.

Forced into a twisted game of life and death, Jenny must navigate the complexity of a budding relationship, and somehow survive a night filled with unexpected horror and paranormal mystery.

Dragon's Game is approximately 14,000 words or 45 pages, and is the fourth volume of the Moonsongs Books, an ongoing series of New Adult, speculative / urban fantasy novelettes by author E.J. Wesley.

(These stories contain language and content better suited for readers 17+)

~Moonsongs Series List~

Blood Fugue, Moonsongs Book 1
Witch's Nocturne, Moonsongs Book 2
Dark Prelude, Moonsongs Book 3
Dragon's Game, Moonsongs Book 4

Moonsongs, Anthology 1 (Collecting books 1, 2, & 3)

Add Dragon's Game on Goodreads And for a limited time, you can catch up on the entire Moonsongs series for just .99 cents (regularly $2.99) - Moonsongs Anthology 1 (books 1, 2, & 3) is on sale October 15th - 20th at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Connect with E.J. for all the latest on the Moonsongs books - BLOG, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, GOOGLE+, LINKEDIN, and GOODREADS

This is for Laura at Wavy Lines - she posted a picture of a graveyard treat and it’s one that we make every year. I don’t do chocolate, so we use vanilla or butter cookies.
With all of the layers of cookie, Jello, and Cool Whip, once you cut into it the dish becomes quite messy. Thus, we call it Zombie Vomit.
Or since I am the master of messing up my letters - Vombie Zomit!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Monday, October 07, 2013

IWSG Progress, Industry News, and Escalation Cover Reveal

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group website kicked off very well last week. We have well over 100 followers through Google Friends Connect alone, plus countless others who subscribed by email, Readers, and other means.

The Facebook Page really took off! It’s so encouraging to see people posting questions and getting such a huge response. Today is Motivational Monday, so if you’re in need of some motivation, visit the group.

One thing I’ve realized since we started building this website is that each of us has a unique talent and strength. Alex provides the direction and motivation and we fill in the voids. I plan on being active in the Facebook group and respond to comments whenever possible, but I know my strength lies in my organized and detail nature. Between the seminars I teach and my book, I can provide many links and options. I hope to keep feeding the IWSG website with more great sites and links. I’m also going down to just Mondays for a while, except for the first Wednesday of the month.

In other news…

Book Business had an article about social media and the publishing industry. It’s geared toward publishers, but I found this section interesting:

“Many authors are choosing to by-pass traditional means of publishing in favor of self-publishing, a trend that publishers need to be aware of. Jill Schwartzman, Executive Editor at Dutton, discussed the ways that traditional publishing houses can use this trend to find content.”

Read the full article HERE

They also had this article - Indie Authors Are Spending Too Much Time On Social Self-Promotion:

“The only thing that can be counted on to enhance your visibility as a writer is to interact with readers in a real, honest, and generous way. If you are dead bent on using social media, focus all of your energies on a singular platform. Hugh Howey said he focused on the readers he already had instead of trolling the universe for more. When you create the kind of goodwill and loyal fan base he has, word of mouth spreads about your books. That way, you get those “1000 true fans” instead of amassing pointless lists of numbers.”

Read the full article HERE

And finally…

Stephen Tremp, author of the Breakthrough Series, reveals the final cover in the trilogy.

Together, Breakthrough, Opening, and Escalation follow the lives of the unlikely participants from innocence to a coming of age through sacrifice, betrayal, passion, lust, unconditional love, and hope. Escalation will appeal to fans of modern-day science fiction, action, and horror.

Congrats, Stephen - another great cover!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today, Alex has a big announcement - the Insecure Writer’s Support Group website is now open! 

The site features oodles of information for writers, with links to sites that will help with writing, publishing, promoting, and more.

There is even a Facebook Page.

Behind the scenes was a team of admins working hard to put together the site. Many thanks to Alex for asking me to be a part of the site! The others are Alex J. Cavanaugh, Joy Campbell, Michelle Wallace, Joylene Nowell Butler Susan Gourley/Kelley, and Lynda Young.

We are still working on the site - any suggestions you have are welcome. We are looking for any site that would benefit writers. (Not individual posts.) There is a page where you can leave your suggestion.

Help us spread the word about this great site!

If you read my last IWSG post, you’ll recall I was going to cut back. LOL! I didn’t even post on Monday because I had six formatting orders come in last week. But I have cut back in one area and will cut back even more. My dedication to this new site, my services, my speaking, etc. - those come first.

And maybe someday I will even start writing again!

* As a side note, my husband will be home for a while. Since the government failed to get its act together with the budget, he got into work on Tuesday and everyone was told to go home - and they are expecting it to be a couple weeks. (He works for a contracting company on base.) We are fine financially, but it was totally unexpected! I feel bad for those with no vacation time or savings.