Category Archives: Frank Morin

Finding a Good Story

The StorytellerI love a good story.

I’ve always hungered for good stories, and consumed them in whatever form I could get, from books to movies to campfire tales. I played a unique version of D&D with my brothers that we developed ourselves. It stripped away most of the dice and complexities that we found boring, and concentrated on the pure fun, the central creation of the game: the story.

As a writer, I keep the thrill of finding new stories alive with my family. We tell a lot of stories in our home, and we’ve gone way beyond reading standard bedtime tales. For the past ten years, we’ve built stories interactively, plunging into the midst of fantastic adventures, bringing worlds alive through spur-of-the-moment adventures we tell on the fly. There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of riding the cusp of a fun story, trying to figure out the next step in time for the words to flow from your tongue.

Not only are such storytelling experiences tons of fun, but they are tremendously valuable as writing tools. The mental exercise of building a good story off the cuff like that helps break through inhibitions or blockages that can happen when we as writers don’t dare to take the plunge and throw our story off a cliff just to see what happens. If something doesn’t work, who cares? Make a change and try something different.

It’s also a wonderful chance to gauge audience reactions to various story elements with instant feedback. Kids are brutal critics. If a choice I make in a story doesn’t work, the kids will frown and say, “Dad, that’s stupid.”

Okay, try something different.

It’s a magical experience to feel a story coming together in the moment, see the excitement in my kids’ eyes as they get it and enjoy it, join with them in laughter as we throw a surprise curveball into a story and cause our heroes so much trouble.

Set in Stone CoverMy Petralist series started in this way, with the kids helping me develop the basic idea for the magic system, and the world taking shape around our initial story concept. It’s transformed a lot through the process of moving the story to print, but its inner heart is unchanged. I think that’s why Set in Stone has done so well. It’s a good story.

So when I feel like I need inspiration for writing, or if an idea is feeling flat or boring, I take it to the family to give it new life.

 

 

 

FrankMemory Hunter cover

About Frank Morin: When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, Frank’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on his popular YA fantasy novel, Set in Stone, or his other scheduled book releases, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads logoThere are lots of pros and cons to Goodreads, and everyone who uses it has an opinion. If you’ve never used Goodreads, it’s explained as a facebook-like social media for readers. You can track books you want to read, you’re currently reading, and those you’ve read. You can rate books, leave reviews, join chats, and browse many lists. There are a lot of good features.

The cons to Goodreads usually tie back to bad behaviors of other Goodreads users. I won’t go into that since I’ve been lucky enough not to run afoul of any of the Goodreads trolls I’ve heard so much about. I’ll just say, it can be a useful site but, as with everything, tread with caution and don’t allow others to dictate how you feel about yourself.

For me, Goodreads has been a good thing. I enjoy seeing what friends are reading and following other authors I enjoy. One of the features of Goodreads I was slow to take advantage of is the Goodreads Giveaways, but they can be great for readers and for authors.

For readers, it’s easy to sign up for many giveaways, entering for chances to win free physical copies of books that look interesting. It’s a no-risk way to perhaps explore a new author’s work.

For authors, setting up a giveaway is a very inexpensive way to reach hundreds or even thousands of potential readers. How do they work?

First, you have to decide how many copies of your book (ARC copies or final, published copies) you plan to give away, and to which countries you’re willing to ship to. The cost of the books and the shipping is all yours to swallow.

Next, design your giveaway.

The simplest approach is to add your cover, title, and a brief blurb. That’s all you need and you can launch the giveaway. You specify the start and end dates of the giveaway, and let it rip. This works, but there are tons of giveaways running, and the downside is it’s hard to find a specific book among the long lists of giveaways. So it’s easy to get lost in the flood. I’ve found that most of the readers you snag to sign-up for your giveaway are won in the first days and in the final days of the giveaway, when it’s near one end of the list or the other. It’s easier for people to find them.

There’s a simple way to increase your discovery rate and boost the number of readers who sign up for the giveaway. To do so, you must make a secondary giveaway image.

Set in Stone giveaway promo updated

 

As you can see, it’s a pretty simple thing to put together. But this image displays larger than the basic cover and helps pop out from the long lists of plain giveaways when readers are scanning the page, helping to draw their gaze. If you have a great cover and an enticing one-liner, you can get them to add the book.

For Set in Stone, my first giveaway, over 1000 people signed up for the giveaway – 2 signed hardcover copies. Even better, over 500 people added Set in Stone to their “To Read” queue! Not everyone is going to eventually buy the book, but by clicking that they want to read it, the chances are higher. That’s five hundred potential sales by investing a few minutes in setting up the giveaway, plus the cost of a couple of hardcovers plus shipping. If I hadn’t listed Set in Stone in the giveaway, none of those people would have known anything about it and none of them would have even considered reading it.

I did a local book launch for Set in Stone and did everything I could to let folks in my circles know about it, but the Goodreads giveaway allowed me to reach beyond my normal circles. The book has sold pretty well in its first month since being released, and I believe that at least part of that success is due to the Goodreads giveaway helping me reach a wider audience.

Here’s the image we just designed for the giveaway of Memory Hunter, an alternate history novel I’m releasing July 24th. It’s an awesome book with an incredible cover, and is available already for pre-order here. I’m hoping it will catch a lot of readers’ attention.

Memory Hunter Goodreads promo image

Anyone interested in checking out a currently live giveaway, or even signing up for the free hardcovers, here’s the link to my giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Memory Hunter by Frank Morin

Memory Hunter

by Frank Morin

Giveaway ends July 17, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Toolbelt roundup

This month we’ve seen a huge number of tools presented to help in every phase of producing a great story, from brainstorming to writing that first draft, to producing an ebook. The wealth of knowledge shared was simply amazing. Some of those tools included:

Protecting your work:

Getting started, research, and choosing a writing platform:

  • Ace Jordyn shared an excellent list of How-to-Write books
  • Katie Cross shared the mind-blowing coolness of Novamind for brainstorming
  • Evan Braun discussed the treasure trove that is research with Google Street View
  • Doug Dandridge discussed the wonders of building your own sci-fi universe with Orbit Xplorer
  • Jace Kilian discussed ways to Research
  • Joshua David Bennett shared a plethora of amazing tools that can be used in world building
  • Mary talked about finding meaningful names
  • Colette shared the pros and cons of Scrivener

Collaborating:

Generating that ebook:

  • Colette Black discussed the Magic of Jutoh

Promotion:

  • I shared ways to find Images without running afoul of copyright infringement
  • Emily Godhand explored using Wattpad to interact with readers in a unique and interactive way
  • Tim Reynolds shared an excellent, economical way to make a multi-use banner
  • We even fit in another great article from Guy Anthony De Marco on the tricky copyright world of DMCA
  • Greg Little discussed ways to best manage and keep track of multiple submissions
  • And Nathan Barra walked us through the process of using statistical analysis to help us target promotional and marketing efforts

I’m planning to investigate some of these and potentially add them to my writing tool belt.

Which ones intrigued or excited you the most?

An Image is Worth . . . A LOT

Picture worth 1000 wordsThey say an image is worth a thousand words, but is it worth all the hassle to find a good one? Once we find one, can we legally use it? Do we bother to find out?

We should.

Images are everywhere, and a blog post without an image is like spaghetti without the sauce. It’s edible, but who’s going to want to try it? This is the age of the internet, of micro attention spans and too much competition from pictures of cats and babies on Facebook.

So yes, we need images for blogs, for articles, for social interactions, and often for covers. There are tons of great images on the internet, but finding a fun image, although sometimes a hassle, is just the start.

Can we take any image we find on Google and slap it onto our blog, article, or cover?

Not necessarily.

There are many who would say, “Everybody’s doing it. No one’s going to care if I ‘borrow’ this cool image and use it. Even if they notice, they’ll be happy about it – free advertising.” Etc.

Those arguments can be persuasive, but they’re also false. There are ways to do reverse image searches and identify everyone who’s using your image. Sites like TinEye make this very easy.

The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s the principle even more than the fear of potentially getting ‘caught’ that should drive our decisions about the proper use of photos. I don’t want people stealing my words, so why would I steal someone else’s image?

So what do we do?

Actually there are lots of options, so no one should feel obliged to take an image that they may not actually have rights to use. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Frank in WoodsUse your own photo.

Sounds almost too easy, but why not? In today’s world, everyone’s got a phone or three handy and most of those have cameras. If you’re like me and you’re not a professional photographer, who cares? If you see a pose or an idea that you like, there’s no reason you can’t go set up a similar photo of your own. Someone else owns their photo online, but they don’t own the ‘idea’ of a photo. It’s remarkably simple to stage your own photo for use. I’ve done it quite a few times with excellent results.

Chess

A photo I took as part of a blog post.

  1. Ask permission.

This can take longer, but if you find a photo you like, feel free to contact the person who owns it if they have a web site or link. They might just say yes.

  1. Modify your search criteria.

You can actually find great photos on Google that are available for use. Most photos you find through the general search don’t clearly state if they are, but simple modifications to your search criteria can limit your search to those photos flagged as reusable.

  • On the Google page, click the “Search Tools” button
  • In the new toolbar that appears below that, click “Usage rights”
  • Select “Labeled for reuse”.

Google search tip

You will notice often that the list of photos returned is not as extensive as the wide-open search, but sometimes you can find some cool gems. It’s worth a try because it’s fast and it’s free.

  1. More on search modifications

Another major image site is Flickr. Again, you can click on the “All license” drop-down, which is the default search and select “All Creative Commons”.

Flickr search tip

  • When you find an image you like, click on it and look for the rights declaration. Quite often it will say “Some rights reserved.” If you click on that, you can see what rights can be granted. Quite often it will allow you to use the photo for free for non-commercial use (ie – blog post) as long as you give the photographer credit and link back to their site/image from the copy you use.
  1. Free image sites.

There are a lot of these. In seconds, I did a Google search and found listings and listings of sites containing free images. Some are pretty basic, but some have a lot of images and might be worth a look. Depending on what type of images you’re looking for, and with a little investment of time, you can develop a listing of your favorite go-to sites.

  1. Paid options

For some of the best images, you might just have to pay for them, although that doesn’t mean you have to pay much.

  • Saving FaceMy favorite site is Dollar Photo Club. Great high-res photos for $1. They have a huge selection and I’ve found some incredible images there. Using pieces of several photos from Dollar Photo, combined with some mad photoshopping skills, one of my cover artists designed this excellent cover for Saving Face and also the cover for the soon-to-be-released Memory Hunter. I got killer covers for a very reasonable fee.

I’ve also used Dollar Photo to grab images for my blog and to design simple covers for short stories I posted on Wattpad.

  • Istockphoto is a well-known site where you can find royalty free images, but often you pay up to $12 per image. That’s a bit pricey for my wallet, unless it’s for a cover or other high-value use.
  • Deposit Photos is a site I haven’t used, and it also uses a subscription model like other pay photo sites, but if you use a lot of images, you can get a plan that drops the price to $0.33 per image.
  • ShutterStock is another well-known image site where you have to pay about $10 or so for most images. If you’re looking for a high-quality image to include in a book cover, it might be worth it.
  • You might also try a place like Fiverr where you can get a lot of creative work done cheap. As always, verify the source of any images you get.

There are lots of other image sites out there. I barely scratched the surface. The bottom line is, know what license restrictions your image brings with it and stay on the right side of the question. It’s not worth the hassle (and likely cost) associated with misusing someone else’s property.

Where do you get your images?