Tag Archives: contests

SPFBO

One of the best things about the writing community is when an established author devotes some of their valuable time to helping out those of us who are still up-and-comers, particularly indie authors. You’ve heard about that sort of thing a million times over on this site via Superstars Writing Seminar, but today I’m going to talk about author Mark Lawrence‘s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (or SPFBO for short).

For the past three years running, Mark has coordinated a contest with ten blog reviewers per year (even more generous with their time) where self-published fantasy authors can submit their work and have it compete. The books are divided up equally among the bloggers, who then read each of their entries and select their favorite to advance. There were three-hundred entrants the year Unwilling Souls was in the mix, working out to thirty books per blogger, so as I said above, this was a significant time investment on the part of these reviewers.

The ten favorites would then advance to a final round, where all ten bloggers would read all ten entries and then vote on the best, which is declared the winner. But this isn’t like the Super Bowl, where only one team goes home happy. Each step of this process is a chance to increase the number of reviewers who have been exposed to your work and, if they like it, who may tell others about it. Unwilling Souls didn’t win its heat of thirty books, but it did runner-up. Mark kindly held online interviews with each of the runners-up of their respective heats, a chance to give a little extra exposure to books that had just missed the final-round cut. In addition, the contest put me in touch with several authors and bloggers increasing the number of cool people I know as well as the size of my networks that are critical for an indie author.

The SPFBO is just one example of the community of authors and reviewers working together to spread the word about great books that don’t have the kind of exposure you’d see with a traditional bestseller. It’s a community indie authors in particular need to get plugged into. I’m not sure if there will be a 2018 SPFBO or not, but even if the contest is put to bed, my larger point stands: get out there, find people who are enthusiastic about reviewing indie author’s books, and get in touch with them. The main tool indie authors have at their disposal is word of mouth, but that requires a lot of upfront work on our part, spreading the word until hopefully, one day,

About the Author:

Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. He is the author of the Unwilling Souls series, as well as stories in the A Game of Horns, Dragon Writers, and Undercurrents anthologies. He writes the kind of stories he likes to read, fantasy and science fiction tales featuring vivid worlds, strong characters, and smart action all surrounding a core of mystery. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his twitter (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Marketing Your Books, or How to Hope You Know What You’re Doing

A guest post by Leah Petersen.

physicsoffallingI jest, because there are a lot of people who have paved the way ahead of you and they’ve got some good advice. I’m probably not one of them, but just in case, I’m going to talk about contests.

Is this a good way to market your book?

I’ve run contests on my blog, on Facebook, and on Goodreads. I promote all of them on Twitter. So, I’ve done this a bit.

Contests can be a great way to build buzz for your book. When I ran the Goodreads contest for Fighting Gravity I had hundreds of people enter within only a few days. Before it was over, nine hundred people had entered the contest and several hundred of them put my book on their Goodreads shelves. When I ran it again, in advance of the release of Cascade Effect, almost eight hundred people entered.

When I ran the contest for Cascade Effect, the numbers weren’t so impressive. Just shy of four hundred people entered that one, but, also, it’s a second book in a trilogy. So unless you’ve read or are planning on purchasing the first, there’s much less incentive to enter a contest to win the second.

The blog contests and Facebook promotions of contests had smaller audiences and got less notice. The Goodreads contests were much more visible and, I think, successful. They were also very easy to set up and administrate. Marketing your book is a lot of work and you’ll be spending a lot of time on it, so ANYTHING that’s easy is very welcome.

Now, did I sell more books from this? Well, I’m not self-published so I can’t see my numbers in real time to say whether or not purchasing peaked after a contest or not. I do know that a lot of people heard about my book that may not have otherwise.

Long-term success as a writer is at least as much about getting people to hear about and TALK about your books as it is about selling any one book.

So, yes, I’m very glad I ran contests, and I’d invest in them again. (The contests themselves were free, but I had to provide the books and the shipping.) It’s a great way to get your book out there and in front of readers.

Best of luck to you!

Guest Writer Bio:
LP-bald-headshot-237x300I’m a sci-fi and fantasy author, the first two novels in The Physics of Falling trilogy, Fighting Gravity and Cascade Effect are available now! I pride myself on being able to hold a book with my feet so I can knit while reading. I live in North Carolina. I do the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. You can also find me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LeahPetersen

And the winner is …..

And the winner is ….

Not you!

What happened? You’ve worked on your craft for tens of thousands, hundreds of hundred thousand words. You’ve gone to workshops, read every blog, every book on craft you can find. By now you know what the pros say and you can teach the writing courses just as well. And yet, the podium still eludes you.

Then there’s Writer X gracing the podium. Her writing isn’t as crisp. Her wrinkles of profound thought aren’t as deep. And she’s much newer at the game. So why was her work chosen over yours?

As co-editor of the Shanghai Steam Anthology, I’ve had to read well crafted and poorly crafted stories. Some writers had great ideas but needed to hone their writing skills. Others wrote prose well enough but the story lacked tension, the story arc was incomplete, the dialogue didn’t work, it lacked theme/focus or the historical homework wasn’t done.

Then there were the stories which survived the first round of cuts. Those which had that extra something. Some would need some revision, others editing while the best ones required no work.

What!!!!!! you exclaim. Some needing revision are in the final round? What about the ones with the well crafted prose that you denied? Why weren’t they chosen for editorial revision?

The answer is simple – besides being decently written, these stories are memorable. Despite their flaws, I was engaged to the end. Every story in the last round evokes an emotional response whether it’s of laughter, amusement, bitter sweetness, feeling defeated, cheering a hero, being horrified, melancholy, elation, and so on. It may be quietly engaging as in a romantic tragedy or a simple rendering of a thought provoking moment.

The emotional response I’m describing is not about liking or disliking a character. It’s about the story itself. Am I left feeling optimistic, laughing, amused by the clever turn of events or am I saddened, horrified, forced to reflect on the human condition? And does that story stay with me long after I’ve read it? Does it have emotional resonance?

The story, like every character in it, has its own voice – its own drama, its own growth, its own ability to draw readers in and not let them go. That voice carries the story’s emotional resonance which is framed by the promise made at its beginning and is concluded or addressed by the end.

We understand that the story arc is an important backbone for a story with a beginning, middle and end which includes challenges, climax and denouement. Characters cleverly doing their thing without purpose or meaning is not enough. How do you want the reader to understand the world you’ve created when the story is done? How do you want him to feel? Happy? Sad? Thoughtful? Hopeful? Depressed? Scared to death? Satisfied for running a marathon? Cheering that the good guy beat the bad guy?

Once you understand what emotions you want the reader to experience, your writing voice will be clear and the story’s emotional resonance will reflect that. Emotionally, the reader is compelled to read the story through to its bitter, joyful, triumphant, tragic or thoughtful end. You don’t want them feeling emotionally flat and wondering so what?

 Good writing counts for a lot in submissions for contests, anthologies or publishing. But no matter how well crafted the words are, how strong the plot and characters appear to be, without emotional resonance the story isn’t memorable. It’s the little aha! I get it! or what a ride! feeling a reader experiences that makes it memorable. That aha! may be a good chortle, a reflective moment, celebration of the protagonist’s victory or grumping at a character’s stubbornness. Whatever the aha! is, every reader craves it and every story needs it to be memorable.

 Now when you revise and edit your work or when others critique it for you, ask them: How does the story make you feel?, Does it stay with you after you’ve finished it?, If you had strong feelings about the story, tell me why. If not, what does it need/why does it feel flat to you? These are hard questions to ask and answer but knowing this will take your story to the next level and make it resonate with readers.

Sloshing through the Slush Pile ““ Beginner Concerns

You wrote a story and submitted it. Good for you! Pat on the back! It takes courage to not only write but to submit! But, your story wasn’t chosen? That makes me sad, especially after all that effort. So, how do you get your story through the first reading also known as the slush pile? It’s no great mystery. I’ve been a slush pile reader and have judged the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA) short story contest and I’m here to share some of the common writing mistakes made by beginning writers.

Actions speak louder than words
There is the saying that actions speak louder than words. For the writer the saying should be reworded to: a character’s actions and reactions, based on his value system, are more revealing than a mere listing of movements and setting. Feelings, actions and reactions, what’s worth fighting for, our successes and failures in that fight and how they affect us – those are the things which move your reader and create your story.

Damn, I hate lectures …
Information dumps are bad any time – back story, setting, telling me what the character is thinking. When I hear the “professor’ lecturing me on what it’s like in space when I want to know how the character will solve a problem, I’m gone ……. and please, stay away from omniscient musings on the human condition!

The sleep inducing setting
Starting a story with a list of items the character sees isn’t exciting. Not even in real life do we note all the details in a room when we enter it. But we do notice things which affect how we feel or cause us to react like a dead body on the floor or the missing captain and the view screen showing the planet’s surface growing larger.

Setting not only sets the time and place for your story but more importantly is used to stimulate the senses; to evoke a feeling for the situation and to provide a context in which your character will react. Yes, some novels start with awesome descriptions of setting. So what makes that work? Setting is used as a character – it evokes a feeling. It’s no mistake that in Twilight, for example, the climate is cold, rainy and generally depressing. Similar, is it not, to how Belle feels about herself?

Writing in first person
Many a good idea was killed by this Point of View. Writing in first person doesn’t mean it’s a free license to explore your grey cells to produce copious ponderings. Writing in first person is difficult because there is only one point of view through which to reveal a world, create drama and to incorporate a story line which is interesting. It can be done. The trick is not to tell, but to show the person actively assessing and responding to his situation. Through his eyes and actions, he must reveal information about the people he interacts with, his surroundings and how he feels. First person can be a great way to get deeply into someone’s psyche, the trick is not to get bogged down in the thinking process. All the rules for a good story arc still apply.

Stories need to be dynamic
Whether they’re dynamic emotionally or action oriented, I don’t care. Have some tension, carry it through to the climax and ending. Actions need reaction. Reactions produce more actions. Show, don’t tell. Don’t list events, or actions, or use empty words like “pondered “which evoke nothing except that the writer didn’t really know how the character felt or how he should react. A story needs a plot and increasing tension with a climax. Writing a descriptive scene isn’t a story.

Proof reading and feedback
Truly, most of us cannot be a good judge of what we write, certainly not in the beginning of our careers. The act of writing is a solitary event insofar as we need to write our story. After that, it’s a collaborative process requiring feedback and revisions. Your manuscript is easily rejected because of poor grammar, spelling and punctuation, clunky dialogue or extensive monologues. Plot problems or character concerns such as inconsistency or believability are things proofreaders can catch.

Keep on writing!
Cheers!