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Good Writing Gets Noticed

29 June 2015 | No Comments » | Kim May

I know. It seems like a no brainer. Of course good writing will be noticed. Good writers get the award nominations, the six figure publishing contracts, and interviews on morning talk shows.

That’s true some of the time. Those are the things that popular writers get. Sure, most of them are also good writers but sometimes hacks receive those accolades, to the bafflement of many, and the definition of what good is will change from audience to audience, genre to genre, and reader to reader. Favorable reviews in publications like Publishers Weekly and Locus are fantastic and can curry favor with the lords and ladies of publishing but that doesn’t necessarily translate into sales because those publications are primarily read by people in the industry. They’re (generally) not read by the people who buy and read your books — and their opinions and reviews are what influence sales.

So how do you know if your writing is good enough to please the readers? Well you can send your work out into the world and wait for the Amazon and Goodreads reviews to appear. Some have found success that way. However, I’ve always thought of it as a Hail Mary pass. Your effort is spiraling through the ether and you’re praying that the right person will catch it so you can ride home on a sea of applause. In my opinion depending on divine intervention and luck isn’t a good business plan. They don’t hurt and I’ll take as much of both as I can get but there is a lot that writers can do to improve their writing.

A lot of writing blogs will tell you if you want to be a good writer do this, or don’t use pronouns, or sacrifice a latte to the this deity. Some of the advice is really good, some of it won’t apply to the genre or style you’re writing, and some of it is worthless bunk. Which advice falls into what column is all up to you. That said, there are three bits that I find are universally helpful.

1) Know your target market. If the people who read your genre devour action packed pulse pounding adventures, then you might want to replace that love triangle with a few more fight scenes. If the people reading your genre tend to be young moms needing an escape from reality then you might want to keep your chapters short so they can read one while the kids are napping.

2)Don’t try to be something you’re not. We can’t all be Hemingway or Tolkien. Be you. Find your voice and don’t be afraid to use it.

3) Become a better writer. Find out what your weak points are. Is your dialogue choppy? Are your characters one dimensional? Do you use the same plot twist over and over? Once you know that you can study and practice in order to turn them into strengths.


Audio Books: The How and Why of it All

25 June 2015 | 7 Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by Terry Odell.

FS Audio_smallI’m delighted that I was invited to be here today to share some information about audio books. I’m a firm believer in casting as wide a net as possible, but the audio market was one I’d ignored, thinking it would be too expensive. Not so. I’ll share what I did, which is the easiest and cheapest way into the system. There are other routes, but I can’t talk about something I’ve had no first-hand experience with. Therefore, this post is about using ACX to create an audio book. While I was going through the process with 5 of my books, I did my own blog posts about each phase. I’ve included links for those who want more specific details.

The pros: Audio book sales have been growing in double digits. It’s a new audience. It’s easy to do. It’s a way to make a little extra money. There’s little, if any, up-front money required. Narrators are waiting. And using ACX puts your books at, Amazon, and iTunes.

The cons: It will take time. It’s a new audience, and if you’re a digital/print person, finding the listening audience is a new marketing effort. Income is unpredictable.

Of course, the big question is, “Is it worth it?” but I can’t really answer that. What I’ll do here is lay out the process, and you can decide if the time required would make it worthwhile for you. I’m not putting a roof over my head with my audio book sales, but I know others who are. And I’ve liked it enough to start production of my Mapleton Mystery series soon.

acxLogoHow to start.

ACX Starting point_smACX is part of Amazon. If you have a book on Amazon (and hold the rights to them), you’re already in the system. Just go to and “claim” your books. Easy-Peasy.

Next, pick one of the books you want to turn into an audio book. You’ll get a bunch of screens asking for information. Most of it is obvious. Since I had no money to ‘hire’ a narrator, I chose the royalty split option. This means I only get half the royalties, but I have no out-of-pocket expenses. And, since it’s a split, narrators are likely to market the book. I was also lucky to have my books included in ACX’s stipend program, which means ACX gives narrators a bonus, so you’ll get more auditions.

Here’s where there’s a little more effort required: You have to ‘sell’ your book to narrators. There’s a box for description, and it’s smart to mention your ‘reach’ – social media, newsletters, blog, awards – anything that will let the narrator know you’re serious about your career.

Be sure you specify the genre of the book (I made sure my prospective narrators knew they’d be reading a sex scene) and any other specifics from the myriad ACX provides. Narrators audition by reading a short passage you provide, about 3–5 min­utes of nar­ra­tion. I tried to find sec­tions that had nar­ra­tion and dia­logue between two characters so I could hear how they did the voices, as well as whether I could detect spoken dialogue from interior monologue from straight narration. Also, your audition script doesn’t have to be consecutive text, so you can pick and choose parts that you think will help you decide. More details here

Photo by Kelley Hazen

Photo by Kelley Hazen

Choosing a narrator. Can you record your own? Yes, but you need a professional recording studio. It makes a huge difference, and ACX will turn down projects that don’t meet their standards. One of my narrators showed me how she worked on Finding Sarah’s characters. No way could I have done that. More details here.

Keep things professional. As someone who hates saying “no” to people, it was difficult to be on the ‘send the rejection’ instead of ‘receive the rejection’ end of things, but since there are audio book listeners who won’t buy a second book if they don’t like the narrator of the first, or who choose books solely on the basis of the narrator, it’s an important decision. I tried to be professional about it and let my ‘rejected’ narrators know so they could move on. I was surprised at their response. More details here

Cover art. You can’t use your ebook cover for an audio cover. ACX wants them square. This was the only expense I encountered, and my cover artist did them for a pittance. More details here

What do the narrators think? I interviewed mine. Details here. and here.

Proof listening. Once your narrators recorded the book, you have to approve it. This is where most of your time will be spent, because you can’t ‘skim’ listen. I had my manuscript open and followed along word for word, although I know other who just listened. I’d written the books years before and wouldn’t have caught a missing word, phrase, or paragraph (it happens) otherwise. Sometimes the inflection didn’t sound ‘right’ to me. In a few cases, the character seemed ‘off’—too gruff, or too chipper for my visions of the scene. Also, although my narrators checked with me about words they weren’t sure how to pronounce, if they didn’t think it was a problem, they didn’t ask, so there were some corrections along those lines we had to make as well. A side benefit—sometimes the narrators caught mistakes in my manuscript (gasp!), which I was then able to correct in the other versions as well. More details here.

I hope this gives you some insight and a place to start thinking about doing an audio book.

You can win one of Terry’s audio books! Go to her website here, pick which book you’d like, and tell us in a comment. On Tuesday, June 30th we’ll announce the winner here and on our fictorians fb page.

Odell_200x300Terry’s Bio:
From childhood, Terry Odell wanted to “fix” stories so the characters would behave properly. Once she began writing, she found this wasn’t always possible, as evidenced when the mystery she intended to write turned into a romance, despite the fact that she’d never read one. Odell prefers to think of her books as “Mysteries With Relationships.” She writes the Blackthorne, Inc. series, the Pine Hills Police series, and the Mapleton Mystery series. You can find her high in the Colorado Rockies—or at

Do All the Hobbies!

23 June 2015 | 1 Comment » | Matt Jones

We give a lot of advice on Fictorians, but one phrase seems to come up again and again. “Keep writing.” It’s great advice, and I say it myself all the time. However, this time I think you should stop. Put your writing aside, temporarily, and go do something else. Take my word for it, and in the end, it will hopefully improve your writing as well.

I myself have taken this perhaps a little too far and I’m working on cutting back now. In the past couple years I’ve became the president of an astronomy club and a scuba divemaster. I’ve taken up projects like robotics which has forced me to learn how to weld, 3d print, and build electronic circuits. I’ve also taken flight lessons, learned to skydive, and have taken many other computer oriented courses. While this has taken up much of the time I could spend writing, it has taught me many things about the world and how we interact with it. I’m pretty sure I could write a far more realistic scene involving someone scuba diving or skydiving now than I could before.

It all comes down to writing what you know. I’ve had one author tell that he doesn’t write much about horses because he hasn’t ever been trained in how to ride or care for them. How could a real equestrian stay committed to a novel where the characters, who are supposed to be experts themselves, are making obvious mistakes? Instead, he glosses over the point and instead focuses on what he does know. Having a firm understanding of the mechanics of some parts of your book will allow you to gloss over other parts and still sound like you fully understand every aspect of what you’re writing about. Of course, as an author, you have to be careful to keep it interesting to those outside the hobby so you don’t limit yourself to a niche. Keep a close eye on your test readers. If you get positive messages from those who enjoy the hobby as well as those apart from it, you know you’re onto something great.

There is also the added benefit of gathering people who share similar hobbies. I was first given a copy of the novel “In thin air” by a rock climber. My marine biologist friend urged me to read “Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings”. If you can train yourself in a skill and really show that expertise in your novels it’ll attract others who share the same interests. It’ll give you talking points and possibly allow you to expand your reach to podcasts and blogs of those focusing on that interest. This is where you’ll be able to go into depth about those little things that would be too specialized to put into the novel. You can let your passions show, which will help attract new readers as well as spread your name in the community.

In the end, what we write is a culmination of all our live experiences. The world’s we write exist in our mind. Looking at the sky at night can give you ideas for your space opera, but it’s more like the broad swaths of color in the background. Listening to Astronomycast and joining your local astronomy club can help give you discreet knowledge that can build the foundation for your work. It’s like adding those fine strokes that can change your generic novel into a masterpiece.

That said, go climb a mountain, dive in the ocean, or fly in the skies. Go take a class and learn something new. Go do something amazing. And after you’ve finished that, come back and write something great.

Do you agree? Think I’ve been wasting valuable time away from the computer? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Laugh! and Get Noticed!

19 June 2015 | No Comments » | Ace Jordyn

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
Shakti Gawain

Writers are fun loving people with countless interests, who love a good joke, and truly are kids at heart. Yet, we can feel overwhelmed when we’re in the public eye at book launches and conventions, or when we approach and agent or publisher. Our effervescent, perfectionist selves, our I-wrote-an-awesome-book selves, crumble in a public spotlight. It’s not about our craft (we work hard at that), or our ability to complete a project, nor is it about putting our literary babies up for criticism (we’ve jumped that hurdle a few times to get the manuscript ready). It’s that we’re perfectionists and we all strive to write the next best seller.

Ah, yes. I had written the perfect pitch and had practiced the perfect delivery. With my perfect pitch in hand, I went to my first convention and encountered a publisher’s representative. What was my book about? he asked me. Well, I was prepared, wasn’t I? I had polished that pitch, memorized it and practiced it until I could recite it anywhere. And then….

… FAILURE! For so many reasons it escaped me (I wasn’t doing dishes, taking out the garbage, reciting it to a blank wall – who knows?). I rolled my eyes back into my head in an effort to mentally read my perfect pitch and I was suddenly, totally mortified. I had blown the perfect opportunity! Solution? Run? Turn a deeper red? I looked him in the face and laughing, I said, “Now that that’s over, let me tell you what the book is really about.” And so I spoke from the heart all the while laughing inside over how silly I’d been.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
Eugene Delacroix

That encounter didn’t get me the sale but I got a great chortle from the publisher and I had a good conversation with him. But most importantly, I learned to laugh at myself and relax. Publishers, agents and book buyers don’t have it easy trying to find the perfect book either. So once you understand that they have as much at stake in the moment as you do, it takes the pressure off needing to be perfect. Besides, you just want an opportunity to submit the manuscript or for prospective readers at your sales table to buy the book to read later. How does laughing at yourself accomplish that?

Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.
William Bridges

It’s about being true to yourself and sparking a relationship which in turn creates loyalty. Who are we the most loyal to? Those we are most comfortable around, not those who make us feel squeamish. Think of your best friends. You laugh, you discuss, even argue from time to time and you know what’s important or meaningful to them. So it should be with those we are trying to impress. Like with our friends, we need to listen, ask questions, converse and laugh at ourselves and with them. That’s what creates relationships and opportunities, not a perfectly recited pitch.

So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. View your encounters as if you’re developing a friendship. Ask them what’s important to them. Ask about their interests. Don’t forget to smile. Above all, laugh and relax. But what happens if they aren’t interested in what you’ve written?

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is a reaction, both are transformed.
C.G. Jung

A negative response doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good or whatever the awful thing the voice inside your head is sniping. It simply means it isn’t for them or that you’ve got a bit more work to do to answer their questions. You can choose to address the issue or not. You can choose to purse the relationship or not. But what you can always do is laugh and revel in the wonder of how although we are all the same, we are so different.

I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!
Louise Bogan.

If you’d like to read more great quotes and learn to overcome limiting beliefs and fears that inhibit the creative process (and keep you from laughing), I recommend you read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.


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