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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, December 29, 2013

6 Writing Dragons: How To Slay Them...and Realize Your Writing Dreams in 2014


by Ruth Harris


Why Tough (Self-) Love (and Some Dragon-Slaying) Will Get You Where You Want To Be Next Year


The reasons (excuses?) for not writing/not getting your book finished often come down to six usual suspects:

1) The Procrastination Dragon

As if you don’t know what I’m talking about. ;-) But, just in case you only recently landed on Planet Earth, here’s a short list:
  • You’re tweeting instead of writing.
  • You’re surfing the web instead of writing.
  • You’re making coffee instead of writing. 
  • You’re answering emails instead of writing.
  • You’re cleaning the bathroom instead of writing.
  • You’re organizing your spices instead of writing.

Bottom line: You’re doing anything and everything you can think of exceptwrite.

2) The Interruption Dragon
  • The phone.
  • The kids.
  • The dog. 
  • The cat.
  • Your husband/wife/significant other.
  • The Amazon drone delivering 3 pairs of gym socks you ordered half an hour ago.
  • You lose your train of thought. If you were in the zone, you’re now out of the zone. If you weren’t in the zone, you’re now out in Siberia.
How can you be expected to write if you’re being interrupted all the time?

3) The What-Happens-Next? Dragon

Your MC is on the top branch of a burning tree and the bad guys are down below. With guns, knives, IEDs, RPGs, snarling tigers. machetes and blowtorches.
  • So now what happens?
  • What does the MC do?
  • What do the bad guys do?
  • What does his/her husband/wife, cubicle mate, best friend, bridge partner, girl friend/boy friend, Pilates teacher, dog walker, nutty neighbor, favorite TV comedian or movie star do?
  • Who says what? And to whom?
You mean you don't know? Don't even have a clue?

4) The Fear and Loathing Dragon 

  • You forgot why you’re writing the damn book and you hate every word anyway because you’re a no-talent nobody.
  • You can’t figure out whether it’s a comedy, a thriller, urban fantasy, horror or romance. 
  • You can’t remember why you started the stupid thing in the first place. 
  • You have no idea what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you got from there to here.

Excessive, much?

Not really.

Writers, like everyone else, have mood swings. Not enough for clinical intervention but enough to—at least temporarily—undermine confidence and forward progress.

5)  The "Dream Big" Dragon

You’re writing the Great American/Latvian/Cambodian novel. It’s so wonderful you’ll reach millions and millions of readers everywhere.

An invitation to the White House, to a billionaire’s yacht, to a fabulous mansion on a private island in the Caribbean is in the mail. Beautiful, brilliant people are lined up, just waiting to experience the exquisite pleasure of your company.

And, while you’ve unleashed your imagination about the rewards about to come pouring down on you, please, definitely do not forget the prizes:

  • The NBA (Not the one that’s played by tattooed seven feet tall men aka hoops. The other one.). 
  • The Booker. 
  • The Legion of Honor. 
  • The Nobel. 
  • The Pulitzer.


The list is endless.

Which leads us to—

6) The Perfection Dragon
 

Every word chiseled in marble. Every syllable a treasure for the millennia. So, of course, it has to be perfect. That’s why you have that infallible misery-maker, your own personal internal critic, to tap you on the shoulder and remind you of every terrible thing anyone ever said about you, your crappy taste in clothes and your rotten books.

  • You’re so terrible, even your dog hates you.
  • You write. And rewrite.
  • Consider and reconsider.
  • Contemplate and then contemplate some more.
  • You hit the delete button. Then the undo. You open the sentence-in-question in two documents and review them side by side. Still can’t decide which one is better so you write a third version.
  • Which just adds to the confusion and misery as you scratch your chin and tear your hair (at the same time if at all possible because—don’t forget!—we’re going for perfection here) and try to decide whether or not afourth version is called for.

Getting to the point: 

Here is where tough love comes in because, believe it or not, every item on this gruesome list is identical. Each one, no matter the superficial differences, is a self-inflicted wound.

That’s right: you caused your own suffering.

It’s your fault.

You did it to yourself.

You’re the dragon.

Once you truly understand that you are the cause of your dilemmas and frustrations, you are halfway to conquering them.

We are not in “it-hurts-so-good-don’t-stop” mode here. We are in destructive, self-defeating territory, a lethal terrain in which you will never get your book written, much less edited, revised, proof read and published.

Which is actually the good news and the point of this post. Since whatever is going wrong is something you are doing to yourself, you are the one who can undo the damage.

Let’s slay them one by one:

1) Procrastination 

Are you an adult? Or a kid who doesn’t want to go to school because there’s a history test today and you haven’t done your homework? The real answer is—or should be—that you’re a professional and professionals get the job done.

  • You shut down the internet.
  • You let the soap film remain on shower curtain. Until later. Afteryou’ve done the day’s work.
  • So the oregano is next to the thyme, not next to the pepper where it belongs? BFD.
  • You’re the boss of you. You’re a grown up. You do not give in to your self-defeating tendencies. You go back to your desk and get back to work. If you can’t do that, then you have to wonder how committed you are to your work.

Are you serious? Or are you just fooling around—and fooling yourself in the process?

2) Interruptions
  • Turn off the damn phone.
  • Close the door.
  • Put up a “do not disturb” sign.
  • Make a deal: Trade a hour of uninterrupted work for an hour of errands/child care/chores: you’ll walk the dog (the one who hates you)/do the grocery shopping/take the kid to soccer practice in exchange.
  • If your family doesn’t respect your work, doesn’t that mean you have somehow given them the signal that it’s OK to barge in and interrupt you with whatever?

Nora Roberts famously said that she will allow interruptions only in the case of blood and/or fire. NR is as professional as it gets. Isn’t her no-nonsense attitude something to emulate?

3) The What-Happens-Next? Syndrome


You’re stuck and then what? You got yourself into this pickle and it’s up to you to get yourself out.

Here is where experience is crucial. Every writer, no exceptions that I’ve ever known of or heard of, faces the blank wall, the blank screen, the blank brain. Every writer has been there before and every writer has escaped because, if they hadn’t, no book would ever have been finished.

What you need to do is develop a backlog of techniques that will get the work moving again.
  • Brainstorm with a trusted friend.
  • Go to your junk file. By that I mean drafts you wrote but junked. Never delete unused paragraphs or scenes, just put them in a junk file. When you’re stuck, open the file. You may well find just the right route forward in something you once rejected.
  • Make a list. Steven Sondheim spoke of making a list of all the words that might apply to the song he was writing. That list, SS said, revealed hidden connections he hadn’t seen before. There’s no reasons that approach can’t work for a writer.
  • Have a glass of wine. I am not talking about getting rip-roaring drunk. I am talking about having a glass of wine with dinner. The combination of a small amount of alcohol, a relaxed mood and diverting conversation can spring open a door that has been stubbornly closed.
  • Go for a walk. Take a shower. Weed the garden. Very often just getting away from your desk and engaging is a different activity is enough to break the block.
  • Face up to your own tics and twitches. For me, it’s beginnings. When I’m stuck, I go back and reread. Almost invariably, the hang up is somewhere in the beginning: either I’ve told too much or not enough. 

After I figure out the problem and make the necessary edits, I can go forward again. Once you see a pattern to your own bad habits, you will be able to develop coping techniques you can turn to again and again.

4) Fear and loathing 

Happens to everyone. I’m not joking, either.

In fact, fear and loathing are so predictable that I and many other writers have come to see F & L as a normal part of the process.

  • Going back to your original outline can help. So can reading over your notes and research.
  • Having someone else read your manuscript and report back can also help.
  • Maybe it’s not as mind-blowingly vile as you think.
  • Maybe it is, and you have to rewrite/revise.
  • F&L is why god created beta readers, crit groups, and editors.
  • Patience, perspective, persistence, and, if necessary, a pair of outside eyes are called for.

5) Dream big, dreamer 

Dreams, even big dreams are OK and, for many, come with the territory.

They can motivate but if they lead to paralysis, you will need to ask yourself why you are allowing a dream to interfere with the necessary real-life work required to make the dream come true. Only you will be able to answer that question but unless you can look at yourself with an unflinching eye, no dream can come true.

6) Perfection 

Doesn’t exist. Everyone knows it. So why do some writers torment themselves trying to achieve something no one—not Einstein, not Picasso, not Shakespeare—ever achieved?

If you are in that group or even if you have tendencies in that direction, try a dose of reality.

Go to the Amazon page of any famous writer and check out the one-star reviews. They’re guaranteed to be there even for famous and successful writers.
  • John Grisham, The Racketeer: “this book stinks”
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch: “a meandering mess”
  • Stephen King, Doctor Sleep: “one-dimensional, amateurish”

Need I go on?

So you still think you’re going to write the perfect book? ;-)

Bottom line: more times you rescue yourself from perfectionism, procrastination, a block, unrealistic dreams, the more you will become a professional, dragon-slaying writer and the closer you will be to where you want to go. 

We want to thank all our fantastic readers who have made this blog such a success in 2013, and we wish for you all to achieve your writing goals in 2014! 

We'd love to hear in the comments about your goals for next year, and what dragons you need to slay. 


Book of the Week

On SALE for the Holidays!
CHANEL and GATSBY: A Comic two-fer. Only $2.99!
Hollywood and Manhattan: it's Bi-Coastal Comedy!

Available at
 NOOKKobo, and Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA



The Chanel Caper

JAMES BOND MEETS NORA EPHRON. OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?

Blake Weston is a smart, savvy, no BS, 56-year-old Nora Ephron-like New Yorker. Her DH, Ralph Marino, is a très James Bond ex-cop & head of security for a large international corporation. At a tense time in their relationship, Blake & Ralph are forced to work together to solve a murder in Shanghai & break up an international piracy ring.


A totally fabulous, LMAO adventure with some of the best one-liners I've ever read!!! Ruth's wit is just a hoot, and her characters have the best sassy mouths in the biz!!!...bestselling author D.D. Scott

The Gatsby Game

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO A 40-YEAR OLD UNSOLVED HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY

When Nicky Conway meets Fitzgerald-quoting Alistair at a Princeton mixer, she falls for his retro, Jazz-Age charm. But she discovers he’s a con man obsessed with his own “Daisy”—British actress Delia Kent. After Alistair manipulates Nicky into nannying for Delia’s daughter on the set of a Hollywood film, Delia finds Alistair dead in her motel room. Local police can’t decide if it’s accident, suicide—or murder, in which case, Nicky is the prime suspect.

"For anyone who likes their books to be witty, with great characters, an atmosphere which it is a delight to experience, and a fast moving plot, this book is one you definitely shouldn't miss." ...Gerry McCullough of Gerry's Books


Opportunity Alerts

FREE HOUSES FOR WRITERS.  Yes, you read that right. With its "Write A House" project, the city of Detroit is giving away houses to writers. If you're a promising writer, AND a responsible homeowner (who's handy with tools) and want to be a proud member of the Motor City intelligentia, check out their website for details. Applicants will be asked to submit a writing sample, a resume, and a brief description of why they think they should receive the Write-a-House award. Applications taken starting in Spring 2014.

Screenwriters!! 16th Annual Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition. Over $50,000 in cash and software prizes. Every script entered is read by either a producer, manager or agent. Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch and push the semifinalists and higher for an entire year. They have relationships with producers, managers and agents that are actively looking for material. Only $45 to enter if you get it in by the early bird deadline January 6th.

Dog Lovers! Here's one for you: AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB FICTION WRITING CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE. Submit one short story, maximum 2,000 words. Entries can be on any subject, but must feature a dog. (But it can't talk) Prizes $500, $240, $100. Deadline January 31.

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January only.

2014 BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE SHORT STORY AWARD $10 ENTRY FEE. Submit 2,000 words or fewer on the theme of "Food Stories". In addition to a $200 prize, the first place winner's story will be considered for print publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group's next anthology or as a featured story in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Their last anthology won Indie Book Awards for Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction. Second place will receive $100 + publication in the BWG Writers Roundtable. Deadline January 15th.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Rules of Writing...and Why Not To Follow Them


Somerset Maugham famously said, "There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are."

But pretty much everybody you meet in the publishing business will give you a list of them. (One is "never start a sentence with 'there are'" —so watch yourself, Mr. Maugham.)

Last year I read a great post by editor Jamie Chavez about what she calls the "Secret Fiction Rule Book." I wrote about it on the blog last year at holiday time. I got so many grateful comments, I decided to talk about breaking rules again this year, and offer a new version of my little verse, "The Beginning Writers' Rule Book."

The "secret writing rules" are the ones you hear at conferences, critique groups, and forums: the ones people say you MUST follow to be a successful novelist—although as an avid reader, you somehow never ran into them before you started writing.

Jamie pointed out that nobody knows where these rules come from, or why so many great books have become classics without following a single one.

Don't get me wrong: most of these rules involve solid advice, but if you follow them rigidly, you'll end up with wooden, formulaic prose that nobody is going to want to read.

Do learn them. It's much more fun to break rules when you know what they are. But then go ahead and smash them with happy abandon.

Here are some more of my unfavorites.

1. Show, don't tell  


Authors who follow this rule closely can write such murky stuff you never know what's going on.

Is this really the best way to present a character? "He wore a helmet with a wide brim, longer in the back to protect the neck, big black boots, a protective coat, and overalls held up with red suspenders. He smelled of ashes and soot."

Why not just tell us he's a fire fighter? After three pages of these guessing games, the building has burned down and WE DO NOT CARE.

2. Eliminate all adverbs 


Seriously? Even when you're writing in the voice of someone who is, um, rather vague?

3. No prologues 


Yeah, I admit I've preached the no-prologue gospel in many posts. That's because so many beginning authors use a prologue for info-dumping. But our readers keep pointing out that George R. R. Martin seems to do OK, and he loves him some prologues.

I think it depends on your genre and what your readers expect. Personally, I usually skip the prologue, but I'll go back to it later if the book grabs me.

4. You must write every day


Nothing should be done every day. Moderation in all things. Including moderation.

5. You must blog to have a successful writing career


Now even agents are seeing the silliness of this dictum. There are many paths to writing success. For me, blogging is the easiest way to build an online presence, but not everybody likes to blog. If you hate it, readers can tell.

You can get a lot of exposure with well-placed guest blog posts and a strong presence in other social media. Some writers are best at spreading a wide net on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google Plus, and others only use a single blog, or develop a following in one community like RedRoom or Wattpad.

Every publishing path is different. You should plan one that fits with your personality and writing style.

6. Eliminate all cliches


Unless your characters are wildly inventive poets, strange visitors from another planet, or children fostered by wolves, their dialogue and thoughts will include familiar expressions. Don’t rob your Scarlett O’Hara of her "fiddle dee-dees" or deprive your Bogart of "doesn’t amount to a hill of beans."

7. Write from only one point of view


Multiple points of view in one sentence—or even one chapter—can be clumsy and confusing, (and they drive me crazy), but novels with several points of view separated by chapters can be richer and have more depth.


8. Eliminate the words "was", "that" and "just" 


This is one that just makes my blood boil. I wrote a whole blogpost about the "was" police.

9. Happy endings are required and kids can't die


Jamie Chavez addressed the dying kid thing in her post. This is why Little Women has been such an obscure failure, right? Beth should not have died! And Rhett Butler should not have walked out on Scarlet with that rude line at the end of Gone with the Wind. Books like those could never become commercially successful, right?

10. Never repeat a word in the same paragraph 


Would A Tale of Two Cities have been improved if its first line read: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of historical eras." (And Mr. Dickens, the "was" police will be all over sentence!)

Or Anna Karenina with this: "Happy families are all alike; every morose clan is despondent in its own way."

Thesaurisitis can be a worse problem than breaking the secret rules.


Here is a little verse I stole from Dorothy Parker wrote about those rules, based on Dorothy Parker's hilarious poem, "The Lady's Reward".


Rules for the Beginning Novelist
…with apologies to Dorothy Parker

Newbie author, never pen
Background story till page ten.
Use no flashbacks—no, nor prologue.
Never start your book with di’logue.
Set the hero’s hair on fire.
Keep the situation dire.
Write in genres tried and true
From a single point of view.
Tell your tale in linear time.
Avoid a plot that strains the mind.
No dead kids, bad priests, abuse
Or politics in your debuts.
Copy last year's biggest hit.
No one wants to read new @#%*
Make it light but never funny.
(Humor’s too subjective, honey.)

And if that gets you published kid,
You’ll be the first it ever did.

Have a very Merry Solstice Season, everybody!

At the 2013 Grammy Awards, Neil Patrick Harris introduced the band Fun this way: "As legendary gangster-rap icon Katharine Hepburn once said,
'if you follow all the rules, you miss all the fun'.
So listen to Katherine Hepburn and have fun this season, everybody!

What about you, scriveners?  Have you run into the "Secret Writing Rules" book? What are your unfavorite writing rules?

We Have TWO Books of the Week!!


The Lady of the Lakewood Diner is finally here! 
$2.99 at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA

Anne's new comic novel about the Boomer generation and the myth of the Golden Age.


Many thanks to Keri Knutson of Alchemy Book Covers for the hilarious cover

NOSTALGIA AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE...

Who shot Morgan le Fay? The Lady of the Lakewood Diner is a comedy about a six-decade friendship between an aging rock star and her childhood best friend—the owner of a seedy diner in Central Maine, who might be the only person who can figure out who's been trying to kill the rock diva. It's Beaches meets Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.


On SALE for the Holidays!
CHANEL and GATSBY: A Comic two-fer. 
Now only $2.99!
Hollywood and Manhattan: it's Bi-Coastal Comedy!

Available at NOOKKobo, and Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA

The Chanel Caper

JAMES BOND MEETS NORA EPHRON. OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?

Blake Weston is a smart, savvy, no BS, 56-year-old Nora Ephron-like New Yorker. Her DH, Ralph Marino, is a très James Bond ex-cop and head of security for a large international corporation. At a tense time in their relationship, Blake and Ralph are forced to work together to solve a murder in Shanghai and break up an international piracy ring.

The Gatsby Game

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO A 40-YEAR OLD UNSOLVED HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY

When Nicky Conway meets Fitzgerald-quoting Alistair at a Princeton mixer, she falls for his retro, Jazz-Age charm. But she discovers he’s a con man obsessed with his own “Daisy”—British actress Delia Kent. After Alistair manipulates Nicky into nannying for Delia’s daughter on the set of a Hollywood film, Delia finds Alistair dead in her motel room. Local police can’t decide if it’s accident, suicide—or murder, in which case, Nicky is the prime suspect.

Opportunity Alerts

Screenwriters!! 16th Annual Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition. Over $50,000 in cash and software prizes. Every script entered is read by either a producer, manager or agent. Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch and push the semifinalists and higher for an entire year. They have relationships with producers, managers and agents that are actively looking for material. Only $45 to enter if you get it in by the early bird deadline January 6th.

Dog Lovers! Here's one for you: AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB FICTION WRITING CONTEST  NO ENTRY FEE. Submit one short story, maximum 2,000 words. Entries can be on any subject, but must feature a dog. (But it can't talk) Prizes $500, $240, $100. Deadline January 31, 2014. 

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January 2014 only.

2014 BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE SHORT STORY AWARD
 $10 ENTRY FEE. Submit 2,000 words or fewer on the theme of "Food Stories". In addition to a $200 prize, the first place winner's story will be considered for print publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group's next anthology or as a featured story in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Their last anthology won Indie Book Awards for Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction. Second place will receive $100 + publication in the BWG Writers Roundtable. Deadline January 15th, 2014

GINOSKO LITERARY JOURNAL FLASH FICTION CONTEST: $250 Award, $5 entry fee, Submit up to 2 pieces, 800 words maximum each piece. Deadline March 1, 2014.

AARP/HuffPo Memoir contest for Boomers! You must have been born before 1964 to enter. The winner will get a $5,000 prize will be excerpted in AARP The Magazine and featured on The Huffington Post’s website. In addition, Simon & Schuster will consider publishing the work.  Finalists from this round are invited to submit their complete memoir by June 15th. The books should run between 20,000 to 50,000 words. The first 5,000 words of the memoir is due February 15, 2014.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Author Collectives: The "Third Path" to Publication. Is it Right for You?


Liza Perrat contacted me a few months ago, asking for permission to quote me in a book about her author collective, Triskele Books. I've been fascinated by the idea of authors forming their own publishing companies, so I asked if she'd like to guest post for us. I was eager to hear more about her experiences and share them with our readers.

Some writers take to the "indie" route easily, but others prefer to work with a team, the way it's done in traditional publishing. But traditional publishing can be very scary these days. Not only is breaking in daunting, but "non-compete" and "in perpetuity" clauses, rigid rules, low royalties and glacial schedules can turn a lot of writers away from the whole process.

The author collective offers a way to have the best of both worlds. If you're a "team player" who wants the control indie publishing offers, but you don't want to go it alone, the collective may be for you. But you do need to choose your team carefully, and dedication is a must, as you will see from Liza's story.

The Triskele Books website is stunning and professional and the covers are beautiful. I could tell they have a team that includes a fantastic designer. Triskele was formed in 2011, by UK authors Gillian Hamer, JJ Marsh and Liza, who's originally from Australia and lives in France. In 2012, three more authors joined the team, Jasper Dorgan, JD Smith and Catriona Troth.

Although they write in slightly different genres, their books are aimed at a similar audience. All the books are "serious" works of fiction, mostly historicals, set in exotic times and places. They look fascinating.

They've also jointly written a non-fiction book that details their journey as a collective. The Triskele Trail A Pathway to Independent Publishing, which debuted in November.

As they put it, The Triskele Trail is a story about "a writers' collective who made some mistakes and some smart decisions; who discovered opportunities, found friends and dodged predators in the independent publishing jungle...This is not a How-To book. This is How-We-Did-It."

I'm so grateful to Liza for guesting for us while I recover from the flu and the loss of my mom. Liza has been amazingly gracious while I've been kind of a dragon-lady. Thanks a bunch, Liza! ...Anne

An Alternative Route to Publishing – The Author Collective
by Liza Perrat 



Once upon a time there were three authors. They met via an online writing group where they honed their writing skills, critiqued each other’s work, and where, attracted by the quality of each other’s writing, they gravitated towards each other. Around the end of 2011, each with manuscripts they believed were fit for the public eye, these three writers found themselves in a similar predicament.

‘Cross-genre won’t sell,’ Gillian’s agent said, of her historically-based crime thrillers with a touch of
the otherworldly.

‘Your crime novels are far too cerebral,’ one agent said about JJ Marsh’s European crime series.

‘Love it, but can’t see how to sell it,’ publishers told Liza’s agent, of her Revolutionary France novel.

Frustration at traditional publishing routes became a common topic of conversation so, spread across Europe and the UK, they got together and discussed their fears, hopes and plans.

At that stage, even as self-publishing was becoming an increasingly attractive option, the market was still littered with poorly-written, badly-presented vanity projects. They expressed their reservations about this, and about the lonely prospect of trying to tout their books in such a crowded marketplace, not to mention the frightening thought of taking on all that responsibility alone.

The idea of a team emerged. Sharing it between three, with that sense of mutual support, made it not only appealing but quite exciting. Apart, they were nothing, but together, they could make one hell of a team!

With all the administration of establishing a business, and because, legally, each member wanted to retain her own rights, they did not want to be a small press. So, they became simply a group of authors working as a team to promote their writing. Along the way, they picked up two more valuable members, and today the Triskele Books Author Collective remains a core group of five, inviting associate members from time to time, to publish under their label.

This is their story.

Getting the Author Collective off the Ground …


The three of us began by hammering out a philosophy founded on three principles:

  • High quality writing
  • Professional presentation
  • A strong sense of place
To brand ourselves, we chose the triskele as our logo, with its three independent, yet connected,
circles. We had already designed our marketing materials when we realised that the triskele symbol is also an identifier for the BDSM community. What the heck, we thought … all welcome, BYO whip and chains!

The question of finances arose next. Even though each author retains her own rights and profits, for Triskele Books to get off the ground, there had had to be a certain financial commitment. We voted in our cash-savvy member as financial manager, she opened a bank account and we all deposited an initial float to cover website, promotional material, design and initial launch. She sends out bank statements for all expenses and, as and when we need to add funds, we all chip in equal sums.

Our biggest mistake in the beginning was everyone trying to do everything. After losing a website, dragging books across London on a hot Saturday afternoon and putting noses out of joint by forgetting to use “REPLY ALL” for emails, we soon learned it was better to assign tasks to individual strengths. Each had a skill, and we should focus on that.

So, our admin girl now draws up monthly workplans, assigning each member –– based on her particular skills –– certain tasks, which the others know will be done to the best of her ability.


The Nitty-Gritty of our Author Collective…


For the actual book-writing aspects we basically hold each other’s hands throughout the process. We critique, edit and advise on each other’s drafts before they go for final professional proofreading. You might think that four editors could be counter-productive, but we all try and keep in mind what the author wants to achieve, and how we can help her to get there.

For marketing and promotion, we share the workload. In today’s crowded marketplace, an author has to shout pretty loudly to be heard over all the other voices, and it’s hard to keep thinking up new and witty things to say. Being part of a group means there is no lone wolf crying into the wilderness; we take turns out there, spreading the word, which leaves more time for actual writing. We argue. Not often, but we do. However, among five voices, we always find a solution.

Each writer self-publishes her own books. Choices regarding print and/or e-book, distributors, exclusivity or otherwise, translation rights, etc., are all up to the individual author. So far, we have all shared the same designer, but that’s not mandatory. Of course, we examine and discuss all the options together, but it’s as simple as that.

We have come to rely on each other for all these things, and take comfort in the knowledge that these mammoth tasks are far less daunting when shared. Not only that, but the pressure not to let the others down is even more of an incentive.

Tips for Writers Considering an Author Collective …


  • First and foremost, we believe you should look at quality, or level, of writing. Don't join with someone who can talk the talk and has a thousand Facebook and Twitter friends, but who lacks the skill, or ambition, to match your level of writing. 
  • One of the main reasons many people self-publish is to maintain absolute editorial control. All members of your Collective should be dedicated to quality and making each book the best it can be. It’s a good idea to say that all members must unanimously agree on any decisions concerning the Collective, and that you will never publish a book that does not have the full backing and agreement of the others. 
  • Look at diversity of skills. Who can do what? Who has business sense, financial nous, organisational skills? Who can market, and where? 
  • Don’t collaborate with anyone you do not like as a person. You might adore their writing, but if the very sight of them irritates you, it’ll never gel. 
  • Ask yourself if you would be happy to go into business with these people. Because even though this isn't a company set-up in the strict sense, the commitment is identical. There’s a lot of work and energy involved in self-publishing, and no ship can afford to carry unseaworthy passengers. 
  • But the most vital question is: who is reliable? Basic trust has to be the foundation stone of a workable Collective. You need members who can be honest about every aspect of the game; who are not afraid to tell each other the unpalatable truth. You also need people who are trustworthy on an emotional level. The route to independent publishing is bloody hard work, so someone will always be hyper, another despondent and another neutral. Whenever one hits a wall, she needs to be able to rely on the others to prop her back up. And of course, you have the slightest doubt that any of your colleagues might high-tail it to Rio with the Collective booty, best not to consider working with them. 
Founding a Collective is not something to be taken lightly, but with a team of like-minded, motivated people, it is becoming a truly viable option in today’s publishing world.

Our Author Collective Two Years Down the Line …


Eighteen months after launching the first three Triskele Books, our strategy seems to be working. In addition to practical advantages such multiple critiquers, editors and proofreaders, not to mention the emotional benefits of being able to crow or cry to sympathetic ears, the key gain has been the mutiplying of our marketing network.

We have launched our titles in sets of three or four, every six months. Each book carries an ad in the back for the others in its set, as well as a complete list of all Triskele titles.

People seem to respond more positively to the concept of a Collective rather than just another self-published book. Our sales are on the rise, we have supportive and enthusiastic readers, books ready to publish through to 2016, and a queue of authors
lining up to jump onto the Triskele team.

We’ve gained valuable advice from successful independently-published authors, swapped marketing and networking opportunities. We’ve grown to depend on each other whilst retaining our individuality.

Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and letting out books stagnate on a hard drive, we have taken on the publishing industry, our way. Independently publishing novels to a professional standard has proved to be hard work, frustrating and exciting. We’ve shared the angst, the uncertainties, the mistakes, and learned a lot in a short time.

In conjunction with our latest release of Triskele Books at the Chorleywood Literary Festival, we’ve collated everything we’ve learnt –– our mistakes, our successes, our experiences ––into a short eBook titled The Triskele Trail.

***

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever thought of joining up with other writers to form your own indie publishing company? Have you had any experience with a collective that you'd like to share? Do you know of other successful collectives? Are you thinking of self-publishing, but have put it off because you prefer working with a team? 

***

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years.
Her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical L’Auberge des Anges series set against a backdrop of rural France, and published under the Triskele Books label in May, 2012. The second in the series –– Wolfsangel –– was published in October, 2013, and Liza is working on the third novel in the series ––Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– set during the 14th century Black Plague years.

Liza reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine.

Contact and Other Information:

Book of the Week

Only $2.99 at Amazon US Amazon UK and Amazon CA





Once upon a time, there were five writers.

They believed there was a third way of publishing, somewhere over the rainbow. So they packed their books and set off to explore. This is what happened on the journey.

The Triskele Trail is a true story. About a writers' collective who made some mistakes and some smart decisions; who discovered opportunities, found friends and dodged predators in the independent publishing jungle.

Fourteen books later, here are the lessons we learned.

This is not a How-To book.

This is How-We-Did-It.

This is The Triskele Trail.

"Triskele stands out in the world of indie authors as an author collective that is focused and mindful of their writing, publishing and marketing processes. In this book, you'll learn their views on the fundamentals of being an indie author, as well as the benefits of a collective, who to trust on the journey, plus tips on time management and researching historical fiction. The Triskele Trail is a smorgasbord of useful tidbits and the book will definitely help authors make decisions in this rapidly changing publishing environment." –– Joanna Penn, Author of #1 bestseller How To Market A Book. www.TheCreativePenn.com

Opportunity Alerts

Dog Lovers! Here's one for you: AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB FICTION WRITING CONTEST  NO ENTRY FEE. Submit one short story, maximum 2,000 words. Entries can be on any subject, but must feature a dog. (But it can't talk) Prizes $500, $240, $100. Deadline January 31, 2014. 

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January 2014 only.

2014 BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE SHORT STORY AWARD $10 ENTRY FEE. Submit 2,000 words or fewer on the theme of "Food Stories". In addition to a $200 prize, the first place winner's story will be considered for print publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group's next anthology or as a featured story in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Their last anthology won Indie Book Awards for Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction. Second place will receive $100 + publication in the BWG Writers Roundtable. Deadline January 15th, 2014

DRIFTLESS REVIEW ANNUAL FLASH FICTION CONTEST $15 ENTRY FEE for up to three stories. Each short-short story limited to 500 words. $500 prize. Deadline December 31

Dark Continents Publishing's Guns and Romances anthology. They're looking for previously unpublished short fiction from 3500-9000 words. Any genre as long as there's a tough protagonist, weapons, and... at least one reference to music. Sounds interesting. Payment rate is a one-off of $20 per story plus a percentage of the ebook royalties. Publication estimated in late-2014. More info on the website. Closing date for submissions is February 28, 2014.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Secret to Writing the Dreaded Synopsis...and its Little Friends: the Hook, Logline, and Pitch


If you "won" at NaNo, and you're madly editing that manuscript, you're probably thinking about how you're going to go about sending it into the marketplace.

Or you may have spent years working on a manuscript and one of your New Year's resolutions will be to get it published.

Whether you're going to jump on the old query-go-round or you're planning to go indie, you need to learn a new set of skills—how to "pitch" a book, using things like hooks, loglines, and...the dreaded synopsis.

Yes, even if you self-publish. That's because your "product description" on Amazon and other retail sites will combine elements of all of three. Book reviewers usually ask for a short synopsis, too.

NOTE: If you plan to query agents or publishers, be sure to check the individual websites to see exactly what each one requires. The specifics may vary even between different agents in the same agency.

A query letter usually starts with a hook, and most agents want you to include a one or two page synopsis (double spaced) as well.

I've heard a lot of agents say they don't pay much attention to the synopsis, but they want to see one to find out if the book has a satisfactory ending. They also want to be reassured that zombie werewolves from Betelgeuse don't suddenly appear in chapter 25 of your sweet romance.

But a few agents and editors read them carefully. And some still ask for hefty ten-to-twelve page tomes. (It's my own opinion that an agent who asks for a twelve-page synopsis lives too hopelessly in the past to be much good representing work to modern publishers, but make your own decision on that.) So you do want that synopsis to be polished and enticing.

If you get to meet an agent or publisher in person, you're also going to want to have a great pitch ready, and you may get asked for a logline.

So logline, pitch, hook, and synopsis: what are they? Aren't they all sort of the same thing?

They are similar in that they are composed in the present tense and give the bare bones of your story. The difference is length and manner of presentation. And a synopsis always tells the ending.

LOGLINE is a term once applied only to screenplays, but it has been creeping into the literary world. It consists of one or two sentences describing the story’s premise, like a film description in TV Guide:

Here’s the basic formula for a logline:

When______happens to_____, he/she must_____or face_____.

Here's one for the Wizard of Oz:

“When Dorothy Gale gets tornadoed to Oz and accidentally squashes an unpopular head of state, she must find a wizard to help her get home to Kansas, or be killed by the ruler's evil sister and some nasty flying monkeys.”

A HOOK is longer—a paragraph or two giving the characters, premise, and conflict, like a book jacket cover blurb. (Skipping the cover blurb accolades. Self-praise doesn’t just sound narcissistic, it screams “clueless amateur.”) It should also state genre and word count.

The hook should be the main component of a query letter to an agent, editor, or reviewer and is essential for your back copy or Amazon blurb.

“The Wizard of Oz is a middle-grade fantasy novel set in a magical land where much of the population suffers from self-esteem issues. When Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm girl, arrives via tornado, she accidentally kills the ruling witch. The witch’s powerful sister wants Dorothy dead, but Dorothy only wants to get home, which she cannot do until she finds the right traveling shoes.”

Or you might want to try the “Hook Me Up” formula of the late, great Miss Snark. (Although I suggest stating the setting first if it's an important factor, especially for fantasy or sci-fi.)

X is the main guy; he wants to do_____.
Y is the bad guy; he wants to do_____. 
They meet at Z and all L breaks loose.
If they don't resolve Q, then R starts and if they do it's L squared.

Don’t take the “bad guy” reference to mean you need to make your novel sound as if it has a Snidely-Whiplash-type villain. The antagonist can be anything that keeps the protagonist from his goals, from a wicked witch to the hero’s own addictions. If you want to read more on antagonists, Kristen Lamb has a fantastic blogpost on the subject, “Introducing the Big Boss Troublemaker.”

A PITCH can contain either or both of the above. You can make a pitch in writing or in person. It tells—in the shortest possible time—what your book is about and why somebody should buy it. This is what you prepare before you go to that Writers’ Conference, hoping you’ll get trapped in an elevator with Stephen Spielberg or an editor from Knopf.

When composing your pitch, you want to answer these questions: Who? Where? What’s the conflict? What action does the protagonist take? What are the stakes? How is it unique?

To get started, it's fun to play with Kathy Carmichael’s clever “pitch generator”. It's fun and amazingly useful.

Here’s her generator’s pitch for the Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz is a 54,000-word fantasy novel set in the magical land of Oz. Dorothy Gale is a Kansas farm girl who believes a legendary wizard can help her get home. She wants to return to Kansas to be with her Auntie Em. She is prevented from attaining this goal because her transportation vehicle is sitting on a dead witch, she’s being attacked by flying monkeys and her companions are a little dim.

A SYNOPSIS is a run-down of the complete plot, including the ending. Also include the genre and word count up front. It needs to include some details, but not a lot (one page is about 250 words.)

I know. Yikes. It's like taking your baby and squashing it into a horrible little box that hides all its beauty and subtlety and sparkle.

But here's the secret: you'll find it much easier to write a synopsis if you start with a hook or logline first. Try putting your story into Kathy's "pitch generator" and then add to the result.

That's right: work on the logline first. Imagine you're pitching your book to a film producer. Get all the sizzle you can into those few words.

Then write your synopsis using that as your first sentence.

This is a trick I learned from my friend Catherine Ryan Hyde, who was the #1 author on Amazon this summer, and the author of the iconic novel Pay It Forward. Here's what she says in our book, How to Be a Writer in the E-Age:

"You were worried about boiling 104,000 words down to 250. Weren’t you? Now you’re not boiling down...you get to expand it! You’ve got some elbow room, now! Boy howdy! You get to fill up a whole damn page!"

Try it. I'm not pretending it's not going to be easy, but Catherine's method makes it less painful.

In all four, you also want to convey the tone of your book:

1) You can have a humorous logline:


“When the romantic adventures of a southern belle are interrupted by an icky war PLUS her goody-two-shoes-BFF steals her boyfriend, Scarlett whips up a fabulous outfit in order to seduce Mr. Wrong, who in the end, doesn’t give a damn.”

2) Or punch it up by emphasizing high-stakes conflict:

“With his life in constant danger from the monstrous carnivore Snowbell, young Stuart must fight for his life, and prove once and for all whether he is a man or a mouse.”

3) Or go for the thrills by emphasizing the most dangerous scene:

“Marked for death along with his companions, a toy rabbit must learn to cry real tears in order to save himself from being thrown into a burning pit by the boy loves.”

4) Or give the overall premise:

"When the adopted son of Kansas farmer discovers he’s a strange visitor from a another planet, he tries to save the world, one clueless girl reporter at a time, in spite of opposition from an assortment of megalomaniacs armed with green rocks."

Then keep working on it.

Remember these are your most important sales tools. Whether you're selling to an agent, editor, or the general public, you want to make them sizzle. Pick out the elements that make your story unique and hit them hard.

Then leave out all the other stuff. Yeah, I know—easier said than done. But it's worth putting a lot of time into. These few words are as important as any you’ll ever write.

What about you, scriveners? Do you hate writing synopses? I'd love for readers to try the pitch generator and put your pitches in the comments.


Books of the Week

This week I'm featuring two books by Dr. Shirley Seifried Allen, my mom. 
She died last Sunday night, December 1st, at the age of 92. 
She published her mystery Academic Body at the age of 89.

I hope you'll consider buying one to honor her. I learned most of what I know about writing synopses (and pretty much everything else) from her. She was a Bryn Mawr PhD. who taught English Literature and creative writing at the University of Connecticut for many years.
She's also the author of the nonfiction book, Samuel Phelps and Sadler's Wells Theatre, published by Wesleyan University Press. It's out of print, but still available used. 

Roxanna Britton, a Biographical Novel. Special December sale: Only 99c on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Amazon CA


"This has become one of my all time favorite stories of "real" people. Ms. Allen's adept use of dialogue and her clear eye for drama and suspense kept me compulsively turning the pages. Her evocation of a bygone era, rich with descriptive details--the historical Chicago fire is one vivid example--is absolutely brilliant. 

I will never forget Sanny and her family, especially her struggle and her daughters' struggle to become individuals in a male dominated world. But it is family that triumphs in the end; and the need for it to survive resonates most deeply in my mind and heart. An excellent novel that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys reading true stories about people who not only overcome adversity with grace and integrity but through strength of character also prevail. Well done, Ms. Shirley Allen!"...Ann Carbine Best


Academic Body: A Classic Cozy Mystery in the Agatha Christie tradition. Available for $2.99 at Amazon US, Amazon CA, Amazon UK, Nook (where it is mysteriously only 99c), and Kobo

"The academics at Weaver College are maintaining their exemplary standards, setting a stellar example for their students. Extramarital affairs, presumptuous posturing, blackout drinking, and gossip are part of campus life for this faculty. 

But when their blackmailing dean is suddenly murdered, all who saw him that night become suspects. Retired stage director Paul Godwin, lately turned professor, and his actress wife Lenore ponder the dean's death with the theatrical knowledge of given circumstances, personal motivation, and a thorough comprehension of Shakespeare's classic tragedies and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, which seamlessly parallel the action. 

A hilarious farce about college life delivers us to the circumstances that lead to murder most foul."...Kathleen Keena


Opportunity Alerts


Dog Lovers! Here's one for you: AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB FICTION WRITING CONTEST  NO ENTRY FEE. Submit one short story, maximum 2,000 words. Entries can be on any subject, but must feature a dog. (But it can't talk) Prizes $500, $240, $100. Deadline January 31, 2014. 

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January 2014 only.

DRIFTLESS REVIEW ANNUAL FLASH FICTION CONTEST $15 ENTRY FEE for up to three stories. Each short-short story limited to 500 words. $500 prize. Deadline December 31

Dark Continents Publishing's Guns and Romances anthology. They're looking for previously unpublished short fiction from 3500-9000 words. Any genre as long as there's a tough protagonist, weapons, and... at least one reference to music. Sounds interesting. Payment rate is a one-off of $20 per story plus a percentage of the ebook royalties. Publication estimated in late-2014. More info on the website. Closing date for submissions is February 28, 2014.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why Your Grandma Wants an E-Reader for the Holidays (Even Though She Doesn't Know It)


If you're reading this blog, you're probably relatively tech-savvy. But now that we're in the midst of holiday season, most of us are running into the inevitable friends and relations who are threatened by new technology and maybe even hostile to the whole idea of e-books and e-readers. Some of them are probably your grandparents.

Full disclosure here: I'm not a grandparent. I could be, if I hadn't neglected that interim step of having actual children. What I am is a Baby Boomer: a person born between 1946 and 1964—the demographic known in unenlightened circles as "old."

I'm also not naturally drawn to technology. My relationship to most machines is the same as your cat's relationship to the vacuum cleaner: Danger! MAKE IT STOP!   

I've got some Boomer friends who think the e-reader is the spawn of the devil. They say ebooks and self-publishing are robbing us of our cultural heritage. I understand their fears. I worked in bookstores for much of my life. Every time a bookstore goes out of business I feel a sense of personal loss.

Plus I love being surrounded by tangible, hard-copy reading material. My house looks like a library. Books are my best friends. (My mother tells me that when I learned to read, I said, "now I'll never have to be lonely again.") I don't think I'll ever stop buying paper books. When I adore something I've read on my Kindle, I sometimes buy it in paper too—so I can really "have" it.

Electronics can die and get glitchy—and nothing's more infuriating when you're engrossed in a novel than to get that "low battery" message plastered across the page.

Paper feels "real". You can touch it and hold it and yes, sniff it. (Much fun is made of "book-sniffers" but scientists say the smell of old books is related to the smell of vanilla, and stimulates a comfort zone in your brain.) You can also keep a new paper book waiting on your night stand and study the cover art, read the blurbs, and anticipate it in a way you can't with a list of titles on your e-reader. Plus you can loan a beloved paper book to as many friends as you like.

But I urge even my book-sniffing Boomer friends to welcome the age of the e-book.

Why?

1) Learning new technology keeps us young.


I have lots of Boomer friends who avoid technology. They may use a computer for email and shopping, and they might even have a smart phone—but they're mostly annoyed by all of it. Especially if they learned a bunch of tech stuff in the early '90s and now it's all different and their hard-earned knowledge is useless. Everything keeps changing too fast and they don't like it.

Yes, change can be terrifying, but it's what keeps us alive. As Dylan said, "he not busy being born is busy dying." 

There's scientific data to back this up. Doctors tell us that embracing the new keeps our brains active and healthy.

And let's face it, nothing says "geezer" like complaining about "newfangled gadgets" and waxing nostalgic about the good old days. All the hair dye, yoga, and kale smoothies in the world won't make you seem vibrant and healthy if you have a negative attitude and a sour expression on your face.

Besides, if you're a Boomer, you belong to a generation that has always embraced change.

As Mark Penn said in his 2007 book Microtrends, "Boomers reinvented youth in the 1960s and economic success in the 1980s; they are not about to do their senior years by someone else’s formula. According to a 2005 survey by Merrill Lynch, more than 3 in 4 boomers say they have no intention of seeking traditional retirement."  

2) The e-book revolution is ending age discrimination against older authors.


Traditional publishing has always dictated that young authors are the most desirable. Even when I was in my forties, I was advised to keep my age secret when querying, because publishers don't want to invest money building a "brand name" for an author who doesn't have a potential forty-year trajectory for churning out product.  

But this attitude eliminates a huge number of writers—especially writers with wisdom and life experience to share. As social media guru Kristen Lamb says. "A large percentage of writers have waited until the kids are out of the home and out of college to begin pursuing their dreams of being authors."

But ebooks and social media are changing all that.  We now live in an age when there is infinite "shelf" space, and "long tail" niche marketing reigns.

New genres like Boomer Lit can appeal to specific demographics now that every book published doesn’t have to be a potential blockbuster of one-size-fits-all scope.  And authors don't have to self-publish if they write for a niche. The Big Five probably won't be interested in a BoomerLit book unless it's written by Cher, but you can still go the traditional route with a small or digital-only press.

3) Older readers get to read books about their own issues.


For the past fifty years or so, traditional publishing has dictated that female protagonists in popular fiction must be under thirty-five. Men can be a little older, but the main characters have to be young people with young problems. (Literary fiction can be about old guys with prostate issues, but usually only if the author writes for the New Yorker.)

None of this is surprising, since the "gatekeepers" of traditional publishing are mostly 22-year-old interns at New York literary agencies.

(And I can't help wondering if some editors weren't scarred by being forced to read Silas Marner in high school. George Eliot's aged curmudgeon has a lot to answer for.)

Thing is: older people have more time to read. And most of us are hungry for books that address our own life situations, not just who goes to the prom with the hunky vampire.

As Kristen Lamb says, older authors are "writing books they’d like to read: romance novels with a sixty-year-old protagonist finding love, not a twenty-two-year-old….Now there are options. Seventy is getting younger every day and the emerging e-commerce marketplace doesn’t care how old we are or how many books we write."

4) E-readers offer physical advantages to the older reader.


  •  Adjustable fonts. I'm getting to the stage where I can't read books with tiny fonts, and I'd be much more comfortable with large-print books, if I weren't too embarrassed to be seen reading them. With an e-reader, all it takes is the click of a button to adjust the font to our own vision requirements.
  •  Lighter Weight. A friend told me she stopped enjoying reading hard-cover books a few years ago because of arthritis in her hands. But she loves that e-readers are easy to hold and getting lighter all the time. The new Nook GlowLight weighs only  6.2 ounces.
  • Immediate new books. When I finish a book I love, I get an empty feeling. I often want to read another book by that author immediately, especially if it's the next in a series. But as we age, getting out to a bookstore can be more of a hassle. (And I stopped night driving when I realized it felt like driving by Braille on dark winter nights.) With an e-reader, you can have the new book in minutes.

5) E-books have got more people reading now than ever before. 


People who might not go into a bookstore to procure entertainment are now reading books on their phones, iPads and tablets. Ebooks are cool.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, "the average reader of e-books read an average of 24 books in the past 12 months compared to 15 books for non e-book consumers."

And as Alex C. Madrigal wrote in the Atlantic last year "Our collective memory of past is astoundingly inaccurate. Not only has the number of people reading not declined precipitously, it's actually gone up since the perceived golden age of American letters. "

6) Because of the new paradigm, independent bookstores are making a comeback.  


E-books are not killing indie bookstores. Big-box bookstores and their cozy deals with Big Publishing did that in the 1990s. Indies that survived are now having an increase in sales, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Here are some ways e-books are actually helping independently-owned bookstores:
  • Amazon is now selling devices and ebooks through indie bookstores with "Amazon Source".
  • Kobo has been selling its e-readers through independent bookstores for at least a year (If you listen to NPR in the US, you've heard their ads.) 
  • Now that the marketplace isn't a monopoly of the Big Five and their cozy relationship with Big Box bookstores that sell advantageous shelf space to the highest bidder, the small independent bookshop has a more level playing field.
  • Newsletters like E-Book Bargains UK that advertise bargain e-books to global markets also carry ads for indie bookstores.

7) Paper books aren't going anywhere.


It's not a question of either/or. You can have your Kindle and paper too.

Only about 30% of book sales are e-books, and that percentage seems to be leveling off as an October report from the Book Industry Study Group reported.

Here are some of their findings: 
  • Four years of consumer data shows clearly that e-book consumption has reached mainstream readers and has expanded well beyond early adopter 'power readers,' but that physical books remain a popular format for many consumers, especially in certain categories.
  • Consumers are very interested in "bundling" print and digital versions of a book, with 48% of survey respondents willing to pay more for bundles. 
  • Consumers do not distinguish between e-books published by traditional houses and independently published options when making buying decisions.

The E-Age may seem scary to those of us who remember when the most tech-heavy thing a writer had to do was change a typewriter ribbon, but it's one of the best times in history to be a writer—or a reader—so we need to learn to embrace the new technology.

What about you, Scriveners? Did you have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age? What advantages are you finding to reading electronic books? Do you have friends and family who don't "get" e-books?


Note: If you enjoy this blog, we'd love for you to nominate us for the Top 10 Writing Blogs at Write to Done.




Book Bargain of the Week


And when you buy Grandma that e-reader, here's the perfect book to load on it. Only 99c on Amazon for the holidays. Roxanna Britton, a biographical novel, is the story of my own great, great grandmother, written by my 92-year-old mom, Dr. Shirley S. Allen.
My mom is in hospice now, and I'm here at her bedside. It makes her happy that her well-reviewed book will live on after she's gone.

Update: Shirley Seifried Allen died at 8:45 PM on Sunday evening, December 1st. As fierce and practical as her great-grandmother, my mom donated her body to the University of San Francisco Medical School and left large donations to the San Francisco Public Library and the Food Bank as well as many other charities. You can sign her Facebook page here.
I can't begin to say how very much I will miss her....Anne




"If you love historical novels about women "making it" in the mid-1800's, you will NOT want to miss this one! I loved EVERY minute of reading about "Sanny's" life and making her own way and place in a time when women were considered having less than the status of "slaves." I also loved this book because it shows how the status, influences, opinions and upbringings can make or break a family and its heritage...and just how influential the women are who guide each. 
HIGHLY RECOMMEND!"...Shawna Newton

***

"This has become one of my all time favorite stories of "real" people. Ms. Allen's adept use of dialogue and her clear eye for drama and suspense kept me compulsively turning the pages. Her evocation of a bygone era, rich with descriptive details--the historical Chicago fire is one vivid example--is absolutely brilliant. I will never forget Sanny and her family, especially her struggle and her daughters' struggle to become individuals in a male dominated world. But it is family that triumphs in the end; and the need for it to survive resonates most deeply in my mind and heart. An excellent novel that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys reading true stories about people who not only overcome adversity with grace and integrity but through strength of character also prevail. Well done, Ms. Shirley Allen!"...Ann Carbine Best

Opportunity Alerts


The Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction: Stories may be previously published or unpublished. Length up to 10,000 words. Entry fee is $5, and authors may enter more than once.The editors will select a winner and nineteen additional finalists. The winner will receive $500 and publication in The Lascaux Review. Both winner and finalists will earn the privilege of displaying a virtual medallion on blogs and websites. Deadline December 31, 2013.

Boomers: The Huffington Post's Huffpo50 is publishing short fiction! The rules: You must be 50 or older to enter. Writers can submit only one story per year, and all pieces must be 5,000 words or less. Send your original submissions, as well as your contact details, to 50fiction@huffingtonpost.com

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January 2014 only.

The Ladies Home Journal essay contest. Theme: The Best Decision You Ever Made. First Prize is $3,000 and the chance to have your essay published in the Journal. You're free to interpret the topic in whatever way you like. Essays will be judged on their emotional power, originality, and the quality of their prose. They should be no more than 2,000 words. More info and submission form on the website.

DRIFTLESS REVIEW ANNUAL FLASH FICTION CONTEST $15 ENTRY FEE for up to three stories. Each short-short story limited to 500 words. $500 prize. Deadline December 31

Dark Continents Publishing's Guns and Romances anthology. They're looking for previously unpublished short fiction from 3500-9000 words. Any genre as long as there's a tough protagonist, weapons, and... at least one reference to music. Sounds interesting. Payment rate is a one-off of $20 per story plus a percentage of the ebook royalties. Publication estimated in late-2014. More info on the website. Closing date for submissions is February 28, 2014.

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