Category Archives: Ace Jordyn

What’s Keeping You From Publishing and Building a Fan Base?

We all have beliefs which limit our ability to succeed as artists. Whether you’re publishing with a small, large or medium press, or independently publishing, it’s time to believe in yourself. Let’s talk about those limiting beliefs and

I’m afraid of failure
this statement can mean a lot of things. But, let’s take it at face value. You’re afraid that your passion for writing, your imagination and your artistic core will be rejected and people will laugh. Am I right? At it’s worst, that’s how failure feels. The stakes feel high because writing is like breathing to us and it forms a significant part of how we see ourselves contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

So, now that we understand the problem, let’s change how we define failure. If I suddenly got the job of being a chief structural engineer for a 20 storey high rise, I’d fail. I don’t have training as an engineer. I don’t have a team or know how to put one together. I know nothing and of course I’ll fail. Even a little knowledge sometimes isn’t enough. So, with the current statement and definition, failure is our only option.

Having defined failure in this manner, let’s change the statement to: I don’t understand the steps I need to succeed. This is a proactive statement now with a positive goal (failure isn’t an option anymore) and a plan. Now make a plan. Two of them. One for you to better your skills at story telling and the other to learn the business of both independent and traditional publishing which includes marketing. Why both? Because when you understand both, you’re making informed choices and choices give you power and increase your ability to meet your goals.

I’m not good enough
Bah! Humbug! Gosh, I hate that critical inner voice. I want to know – good enough for what? Seriously? Are you trying to write the perfectly executed book or is your goal to become a best seller? Now, no matter which, writing well is important. However, you need to know your target market and what they want to read. Write for your market! Get to know it. You’ll be good enough because you’ll be writing to your passion (okay, I’ve assumed you’ve chosen a genre or market you love).

Besides, saying I’m not good enough is like saying I’m not perfect. Well, none of us are and when it comes to craft and telling a good story, what defines perfection? There are so many styles of writing within any genre because every author has a unique voice. Which authors do you love? For me it is the ones who compelling characters, good pacing and an intriguing plot. Understand the stories you love, how they’re structured and what makes them compelling. As you write those stories, remind yourself, that you are not that author (I’m not Stephen King!) but you’re an author with a unique voice and story to tell – heck, even the best faced failure before they became best sellers.

You’re better than good enough! Change the belief to: My ideas and voice make me a unique story teller.

My work isn’t good enough
Oh, flip the bird on this one! Story telling is a skill! Keep learning and practising. Sometimes, you can over-edit a story and kill it. I’ve seen that done. Sometimes you can revise until you’re so sick of the story that you’re certain it’s trash. That’s what beta readers are for – to tell you what is and isn’t working. And hey, if you’re going to hire an editor to help you with structural or scene or line-by-line edits, make sure you hire someone who knows the genre and who has experience writing so you don’t get inappropriate advice.

But one other thing – your work may be good enough because you’ve done everything you can, but if your confidence isn’t good enough (which I suspect is more the problem) then you’ll self-sabotage and self select. Let an editor reject your story. That’s their job, not yours! Submit. Write, get the feedback you need, and submit.

I don’t know enough people to build a fan base
Of course you do! You just don’t know it yet. Let me digress and tell you a story.

Not that long ago, there was a very shy person (she still is) who attended a wedding. At that wedding, she sat with people she didn’t know. When they were talking, she go brave enough to tell people about her writing and that one of her stories was up for an award. Much to her surprise, those around her were genuinely interested. Then, she got brave enough and asked them if they’d support her. They said yes! And, they even gave her their email addresses to add to her email list. Now, she even has beta readers who are fans and give her great feedback.

That story is about me. It was the most nerve wracking and the most wonderfully validating thing I had ever done. Talk to people. Tell them a little about yourself. Ask for their email. Then, as your career grows, they’ll tell other people and they’ll sign up because you’ve given them a means to via your website. Your website, just like talking to people at a wedding, provides people the opportunity to participate in your writing career.

I’m a slow writer and won’t be able to keep up with fan demand
Learn to dictate. That’s all I can say on this one. There are many dictation programs, Pick one. Use it. But, I must admit, that even with dictating, it’s easier to get a better first draft for me if I outline or plan the book a bit. I guess maybe that’s two things – outline and dictate. It’s an amazing combination.

The timing isn’t right
Hmmm …. when will it ever be? When the kids are grown up? When my arthritis stops aching? When? When? When?

Do it because you love it, even if it’s simply collecting ideas in a jar until the story coalesces in your head and demands to be written. Even write 50 words a day – fiction or non-fiction. As you write, the story grows and the book gets completed. As your story grows, so does your enthusiasm for it and time has a way of being found. Writing, like any craft or art, demands a modicum of discipline and for the artist to not be afraid to claim some time to write. As I’m getting older (hey, we all are!) I’m learning that the timing is never perfect. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old when you start to write, you just need to write because you want to!

So, face your fears and challenge your beliefs! You are an artist, a darned good one who is learning and practising craft and gaining business skills. You’re not afraid to ask for help. And, most importantly, you have a unique voice and story to tell, so tellit and share it with the world!

What is a fan?

We all want fans, you know, those people who love our books enough to buy them not only for themselves but for others too. Plus, they spread the word and soon, your book, your writing are known to the world. But fandom doesn’t happen overnight. How do you go from the cold calls of signing books in a book store or ebook promotions, convincing people to not only buy your book but to become ardent fans?

Part of that answer lies in understanding what each stage of fandom means and requires. Yup, I said the word stages! Just like writing a novel is a progression of stages (idea, concept, premise, outlining/plotting, revision, beta readers and more revision), so it is to create a fan base. The other part of obtaining readers and converting them into fandom, is to understand that this is abusiness and as a business, you have to have goals. Is it to get an email list and 50 fans this year? Is it to have 1,000 fans spending $30 a year on your books and products (hey, that’s $30,00 a year, doing something you love!)?

Any good business plan understands its market and has a systematic approach to reaching that market. So understanding market segments makes that job much easier. Read to teh end where aI reveal the one category of fan most writers tend to forget about.

For transparency, I must tell you that I didn’t come up with these amrket segments/stages of audience myself. I got them from Monica Leonelle who has a brilliant course for writing and marketing. You can find her and more information at http://monicaleonelle.com/. Her books Prosperous Creation and Get Your Book Selling: Jumpstart Your Sales With a Simple Plan that Just Works are great reads to understand marketing and sales.

There are 10 segments or stages of audience. When I first read this, it felt daunting, but now, it’s a thing to know because when you’re aware of the stages, you’ll know how to approach and therefore meet, the needs of the customer.

Stages 1 – 5: GETTING READERS TO PURCHASE YOUR STORY

As fiction writers, our goal is to find readers for our book or series. Once you get through these first steps, the conversion from buyer to fan is much easier. There may be a lot of speaking one-to-one at book signings, conventions, sales tables, at parties, and other venues. It may mean readings at the public library, talking to friends about leaving reviews on Good Reads, Amazon and other ebook sales and review sites. It’s a lot of work, but if you are aware of the stages, of what you must do, then each reader you win over becomes a big victory indeed.

A couple of notes: in these first stages, consider having an email list so you can send out notices or newsletters about offers, promotions, new book releases and book signings. Asking people to sign up is a great way to make their committing to you and your work easier.

Stage 1 – Target Audience: Reads books like yours but hasn’t heard of you.
This is the pool from which you must entice people to buy your novel. Know the sub genres, read the reviews and back cover blurbs of the best selling novels. Note the style of cover art. Become known in fan circles by contributing (not spamming or pushing your product) to discussions. Create buzz by doing things like having your social media circles choose a cover for your upcoming book.

Stage 2 – Lead: Has heard of you but is not actively considering your books
This person knows that you write books similar to what they read, but not much more. So, what can you do to provide that nudge to the next stage? What psychological triggers or marketing materials can you add? Part of these answers many come from understanding your target market. You’ve introduced your work to them, now you need them to consider your books. Options to entice may include a free sample, or a discount on the first book of the series.

Stage 3 – Prospective Reader: Actively considering your books but is looking for more information
This prospect needs more information which can be given in the form of a synopsis, background information on your website, a sample read (Amazon’s ‘Look Inside” provides this service), or a freebie link.

Stage 4 – Trial Reader: Downloads a sample of your book or freebie
This is great! Now, is the time the prospective buyer decides of you’re the writer for him or her. There’s not a lot you can do because you’ve made sure you’ve put out your very best product! However, if you’ve giving a sample read, make sure it ends on a cliff hanger.

Stage 5 – Prospective Customer: Is at buying decision, usually on the product page
They’re on your website, the cursor ready to hit BUY. What can you do? Feed on their primary needs as a buyer – is it the best thriller ever, a romance that will captivate their hearts, the hottest trend on… you get it. Appeal to the emotions, the reason why they should buy your book.

STAGES 6-10 BUILDING YOUR COMMUNITY

Once people are readers, it is much easier to give existing customers more and to keep them excited about buying your stories and products. These stages are about supporting the fans who support you. This can take many forms such as new novels (series or stand alone), give always, autograph sessions, information either about yourself or the novel on your website, an exciting newsletter/social media presence which lets fans know what your up to or talking about something which excites them like your favorite chocolate of the week.

The more you give to this group, the more publicity, recommendations, buys, and reviews you’ll receive. These are the fans who will bring in new buyers and create new fans from their enthusiasm. But the bottom line still is that if you produced a great book, these stages become self-perpetuating and sometimes you don’t have to do as much – but you will always have to give something back to your fans.

Stage 6 – Buyer: Bought the book
The book’s been bought, how do you ensure the book gets read? Perhaps its with emails, asking for a review on your website, announcing that the next book is coming, announcing a fan question and answer day, an upcoming webinar, anything which will elicit a response. Other ideas include asking readers about a story idea for the next book – anything which engages reader participation in which they have to be knowledgeable about the book. Oddly enough, this also works for manuscripts in the final stages of revision wherein feedback from experts creates a buzz – does The Martian ring any bells?

Stage 7 – Reader: Read the book and enjoyed it
Convert these readers into fans by doing things like giving a freebie sample of the next book, maybe even giving then an ARC copy to review. Let them know when book launches and signings are happening, or which conferences you’ll be attending. Be a speaker or panelist at conferences thus giving you the reader a chance to find you.

Stage 8 – Fan: Joined your email list and maybe bought another book
Keep this fan engaged and informed. See previous suggestions from Stages 6 and 7. Hook them with tidbits from upcoming books. Give them a release date, maybe the blurb. Create some buzz and get them to create more buzz. They’ll be as excited as you are!

Stage 9 – True Fan: Left a review, joined your email list and purchased more from you
They love you! Love your fans back. Thank them for allowing you to do what you love!

Stage 10 – Evangelist: Shared your book with friends and is willing to promote
They really, really love you!

For True Fans and Evangelists, consider what promotions, what events you can hold to thank them and to make them feel special. For example, some authors hold contests and the winning fan’s name becomes a character’s name. But really, all the things we’ve talked about to this point still apply to these stages.

DON’T NEGLECT THIS FORGOTTEN CATEGORIES OF FANDOM

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about the category of fan we call a reader. But there is one other category we tend to forget about because we lump all readers together. This fan base can prove to be very lucrative, even sustain careers and that fan is the writer.

Rarely do writers consider the needs of their fellow writer fans but those who do, are very successful, in part, because of it. Who do we as writers go to listen to and learn from at conferences? Other writers? Whose webinars do we pay for? Other writers. Whose fiction books and books on writing do we read? Other writers. See what I mean? Who do beginner writers take workshops from? Other writers? Who do teachers ask to come talk about writing and to teach their children about the process/craft? Writers. Make sure your marketing plan includes other writers.

Segmenting your target market and understanding their need at every stage of the buying process will go a long way for you as you work to reach your business goals and hopefully (fingers crossed) allow you to quit your day job!

Discover Your Best Method to Revise

April 2018 was a great month to learn about the various ways we can approach the art of revision. Yes, it is an art. Although there are skills we all need to employ, like the skills of grammar, understanding theme, knowing how to revise a scene, knowing how to choose beta readers and accept their feedback, and so much more, all those skills must be combined to form our individual approach or art to revision.

Please come back to these posts any time and find those gems of wisdom which will help you create your best ever story told! For easy reference, I’ve summed up the posts and have added links to them. Cut and paste this blog into your Revisions folder so that you have an easy reference to answer any questions you may have regarding revisions.

Oh, and one last REALLY IMPORTANT note: let it rest, have fun, party and reward yourself for a job well done and then when you are ready, buckle down, and just do it! Revision can and should be a rewarding process.

In, Conquering First Draft Fear: How to Proceed with the First Round of Revisions, Kristin Luna tells us that time away from the manuscript gives us the ability to rise past the subjective fear and to recognize what is and isn’t working. All our fears about revisions are details – and in the details! You know you still love the story and you will do the necessary work. Kristin’s most important piece of advice regarding revisions – Just. Do. The. Revisions.

Mary Pletsch’s three part series on beta readers is a must read. – Beta readers are not editors although their feedback is invaluable; you may want to include non-disclosure agreement; always be sure they know your deadline; beta readers aren’t meant to be cheerleaders who are emotionally supportive. They need to be upfront and honest about what is and isn’t working and we as writers need to know why. Be clear what you don’t want (grammar, for example) and what you do want (plot, dialogue or character issues). Check out: What is a beta reader? Part 1 of 3; Beta Reading and Emotional Minefields (Part 2 of 3); and Beta Reading and Emotional Minefields (Part 2 of 3)

Being a couch potato is a good thing, Kim May tells us in Couch Potato Time For Health and Profit, Treat yourself for finishing the first draft and then do nothing for at least a week to give your creative side time to rest and so you don’t end up resenting your work.

Author and Editor Susan Forest – After you receive comments from your beta readers, how do you handle their feedback? Put their advice into two columns: line edits and global revisions. Phrase all comments in the positive. For example, even if you agree that the protagonist is weepy and weak, revise that comment to something more positive like Angela should stand up for her position. Divide the comments into small workable batches and note them at the beginning of each scene before you revise. For more great tips read Organizing Critique Comments for Implementation .

In When A Pantser Revises, Chris Marrs likens a pantser’s first draft to putting together a jigsaw puzzle and in the process of putting the puzzle together, a picture emerges in a way you haven’t dreamed. Pantsing the first draft gives free license to the imagination from where wonderful gens emerge.

Knowing where your writing is strong and where you tend to gloss over or not do as well in the first draft is a very cool approach to revising your novel. In Revising in the Wild West, David Heyman candidly talks about his strengths and weaknesses in the first draft and his approach to creating a better novel. Having the first draft read aloud to him helps David catch things he’d miss visually. Then, he looks for three things: things he does well (yay!); those he doesn’t do well; and things he doesn’t do at all.

Jo Schneider’s approach to having finished the first draft is a fun one – party! In This is Only the Beginning, Jo explains that as an outliner, she writes the first draft quickly and then after a rest period is truly excited to discover what unplanned things happened to her characters. She makes bother reader critique notes when she reads the first draft along with specific plot, scene and other notes. After that, it’s time to revise the outline and see what awesome hybrid has been created.

How do I know it’s a Rough Draft? It’s dull. Very dull, in fact. Fiction editor Barb Galler-Smith knows when an author has a story is ready to be polished for publication when it propels her from start to finish and she can over look minor errors. Drafts vary – there’s the UGLY draft which consists of everything as it came out of your head, the ROUGH draft where you’ve cleaned up the manuscript as much as you could, then after you’ve received feedback from your beta readers and made those corrections, you have your FIRST draft completed which could also be your SUBMISSION draft.

In Revisions, edits and proofing. The real work of writing., Sean Golden explains that it’s easy to be in the creative zone and to write the first draft but the real work is in the number of specific passes Sean makes to get his manuscript ready for an editor. First, he looks for the big things like character arc, conflict and plot holes. Then it’s passes on dialogue, contractions, passive and active voice.

Like a poker player, every writer has tells which make his voice unique but some of which are bad ones and need to be culled. In Your Writing Poker Face, Gregory D. Little explains that it’s important to understand our tics and the habits we fall into because then we have an opportunity to not only correct the bad ones, but also to celebrate those which make our writing voice unique. But best of all, it helps us avoid self-plagiarism where we tell the same stories, explore the same themes, and the similar characters over and over again.

Frank Morin reveals the agony of receiving feedback from editors in Embracing the Pain – Receiving Editors’ Feedback. However, the purpose of feedback is to make the story fulfill its potential and a writer’s growth comes from constructive criticism. Although much needed, it can still be a painful process Embracing the Pain – Receiving Editors’ Feedback The joy of revision comes after Frank’s embraced the feedback, accepted responsibility for the flaws and he embraces the work and the story truly becomes amazing.

Editor and author Adria Laycraft shares her 10 steps to take before seeking critiques from others. Highlights from her post include: writing a back cover blurb and a synopsis to know the story better; drawing up plot points, looking for tension, and assessing if scenes further the plot. Oh yes … let that manuscript rest a while! To read more, check out 10 Steps After “The End”

This month I wrote about three things we can do to understand out story and to approach revision systematically:

1) In Before You Revise, Know Your Story – 5 Simple Steps, the big takeaways were to write your About Statement in one line and change it into a question. If you’re climax addresses this question, you’ve been consistent with your theme and purpose. Create a scene by scene outline which will help you see if the story is cohesive and if each scene is doing its work;
2) If you’re writing a series, don’t revise your first draft until you’ve thought about and plotted your second novel, or at least the series arc. It’s too easy to perfect the novel and later, and tragically after publication, discover that there were certain things that should or should not have been included. So, Don’t Revise – Plot the Next Novel!; and
3) What does it mean to revise a scene and how do you do that? That’s the question I answer in How to Revise a Scene which includes all steps from identifying your scenes, to their role in the story’s structure and how to assess specific scene impact.

We hope you’ve found something to help make the revision process a little easier, more fun and rewarding. Happy revisions!

Before You Revise, Know Your Story – 5 Simple Steps

At first glance, the advice ‘before you revise, know your story’ seems like silly advice. Of course you know the story, you just finished writing it! But despite the thought, the sweat, the sleepless nights mulling over scenes and characters, do you really know your story?

It’s like baking a cake. You choose every ingredient carefully. The vanilla flavouring is not an imitation extract – you’ve sourced the beans, scraped them out, pulverised them to get an even distribution of the flavouring in the batter, but not so much that you’ve destroyed the essence – or have you? Have you done too much or too little? You’ve chosen every ingredient carefully, mixed, chosen the pan, and baked it all with the skills you’ve learned to date. But, is it the perfect cake? You don’t know until you step back, see if it’s lumpy, lopsided, and taste it to know if it’s too dry or too moist.

How do you get to know your story?

  1. Let it sit for a bit, two or three weeks. Like a cake, it needs to cool before the true flavours come out.
  2. Write, in one sentence, what the story is about. For example: the story is about a girl learning the true meaning of inner strength while challenging an evil king who has oppressed the people. This line about your story will be part of your pitch.
  3. Change the about sentence into a question. The climax must answer this question. If it does not, then there is a story problem which needs to be addressed. When a girl challenges an evil king who has oppressed the people, will she learn the true meaning of inner strength?
  4. Create a chart with the following headings, Scene #, Page, One-Liner Description, Scene Type, and POV. You may choose to add other columns such as Notes for the problems you discover but note them only and don’t be tempted to fix them yet for you may have to change or delete the scenes.Even if your story is organized into chapters, I recommend the chart be created at the scene level. For example, Chapter 4 might have five scenes. Number each of them and note the page number. This is important because every scene must pull its weight as it must somehow address the About Statement. If it does not, then it must either be changed to do so or eliminated.The One-Liner Description will not only tell you what the scene is about, but when this exercise is completed, you’ll have created an outline (many editors want this done). The outline will show you the shape of the plot and will point out gaps in logic or progression.

    Knowing the SCENE TYPE helps us understand story pacing and story balance. Depending on who you read, there are anywhere from four to twenty or more scene types. I like to keep it simple by focussing on exposition, dialogue, action, and reflection. These are the four elements I want to keep balanced in a story. Is there is too much reflection and not enough action, or too much action and not enough dialogue? Examining scene types addresses issues such as the boring sections which may have too much exposition or reflection. Too many of those in a row can slow pacing and kill momentum. Too many action scenes in a row can cause reader fatigue and be unrealistic as characters need to stop and reflect, even for a moment whether it’s internally or in dialogue with someone.

  5. Forget the About Statement and Question you wrote in Steps 1 and 2. Write new ones based on the outline. Are they the same as what you originally thought? If they aren’t that isn’t necessarily a problem if you decide that this theme is what you want the story to be about.This exercise allows a writer to understand the story’s theme. That was the goal of the About Statement. The Question tells us very quickly if the climax and its resolution answer the theme’s concern. If they do not, or don’t do it satisfactorily, then there is a story telling problem which needs to be addressed.If you discover that the theme or About Statement has changed then you can either:
    1) accept the change and make sure all scenes address the new theme in some manner; or
    2) pinpoint the scenes which derailed the story theme, and rewrite with a view to making sure characters, actions and plot points address the desired theme.

Knowing your story and addressing plot, pacing and thematic issues will save you grief and many hours of work because there’s no point in line editing or scene editing if the scene needs to be eliminated or changed. Plus, your beta readers will love you. Beta readers will point out structural issues and problems this exercise has easily identified or they may know that there is a problem but don’t understand it. This process allows you to address the bigger issues ahead of time so that your beta readers can address other details, such as character inconsistencies, which are more helpful to your editing process. Make the best use of beta readers by giving them a structurally sound manuscript.

So, get to know your story because the rewards of doing so will be recognized and lauded by beta readers, editors and agents.