Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – July update

So here’s the update from Wednesday’s meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – for those who were there, and those who wish they had been…lainey

A number of interesting topics arose. Ed Ahern mentioned that he’d been interviewed for The Two Sides of You, a book about bi-hemispheric people – those using both sides of their brain with equal facility. I mention this because I know the author, who belongs to a generation not generally known for their technological interest, never mind savvy. Yet Elaine Breakstone managed to publish this interesting (not just because I know her!) book, finding a cover designer, using Createspace to help with the layout, and putting it up on Amazon. Point is, if she can do it, you could too.

Alex McNab had his first fiction piece published in Still Crazy, suggested by fellow member Jacque Masumian. This is why we meet – to encourage each other and tell each other what works.

One submission tool that comes up at virtually every meeting is Duotrope. I mention it again for new members, and also for those of you who find submitting an overwhelming task.

Several members asked about how to write a really good query letter. We talked about Query Shark, a website run by  agent Janet Reid  who takes apart query letters she thinks aren’t any good, so you can see what not to do. One Rendezvous member suggested not sending a query letter to your top agent preferences first, in case the letter needs modification.  After you’ve sent it to your second tier list, and modified the letter (assuming you don’t get an acceptance) submit to your A list.

An interesting article in Atlantic Monthly talks about the rise in women crime writers. I find this interesting, since in my book, so to speak, women authors have dominated crime since the 30’s (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and forward). I guess what the writer is getting at is that women write better psychological crime – solving the crime isn’t just a technical puzzle, it’s an emotional one, too. Add to that the fact that over half crime readers are women, and you can see why women crime writers are so successful. A quick check of our membership shows a number of women crime writers among our members, but so far, no men.

Dogwood, the Fairfield University Literary magazine, is soliciting submissions for their 2017 Literary Prizes. If you don’t want to compete, but would like just to submit, you can do that, too.

Talking of submissions, here’s an article on why you should aim for 100 of them. Some of our members are working on it!

For non-fiction writers, Creative Nonfiction is running a workshop in Havana (Cuba) from January 31-February 4, 2017. It’s co-sponsored by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and will be led by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction. It’s called: Bringing Havana to Life, and at least one of our members is setting her novel there. Even if you’re not, Havana? Sounds great.

I heard about Plot Control software from a friend. It’s designed to help with screenwriting, but as we know, plot structure doesn’t vary much between genres. However, this is not the only one out there.  You might also look at Movie Outline, Save the Cat, and Final Draft.  I think most of these will work for fiction, too, but don’t quote me.

For those people already published on Kindle, you can, in fact, sign your book for buyers. I asked A.J O’Connell about it when I interviewed her a while back. You can read more about Authorgraph here.

As ever, Writers Read will be at the Fairfield Pubic Library on Tuesday, August 2nd, from 7-9pm. On August 3rd, Jay McInerney is talking about his latest book at the Darien Library, and on Friday, August 5th, the Writers’ Salon will be meeting at the Fairfield Library from 4-6pm.

See you next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March Update

We had another great meeting on Wednesday, which brought up a number of new ideas – some about publishing. Here’s a blog post about why it’s a good idea to publish via Amazon. This article includes links to others which tell you how to format your file and give you suggested templates.

imagesAnd this is an article about how one sells publishing rights, for those who need to know.

In upcoming events, on March 31st at 7pm, Write Yourself Free is sponsoring a free workshop with Victoria Sherrow on Writing for Kids. Please email Tish Fried at tishpatrick@mail.com to register.

Sisters in Crime, New England, are having a read-in (I invented that word. GC) on Saturday, April 16th from 1.30-3.30 at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport. Connecticut mystery writers will be reading from their books and there’ll be a chance to mix and mingle with them afterwards. In the morning, the FCWS will offer a writing workshop called Mystery 101 from 9.30am-noon.

And the day after, same location, Joyce Maynard, NYT bestselling author, in conversation with award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin (4/17 at 7p.m.)

The Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference will be held from May 27-29 in Pittsburgh this year. Meetings with literary agents are available. More details here.

For some reason, we had quite a discussion about writing poetry. It turns out there are a number of places where poets can meet others and get feedback. One of our Meetup members, Rona, sent me information about the regular meeting on Tuesday nights (7.30pm) at Curley’s Diner in Stamford. One of our regulars, Leslie Chess Feller, wondered whether the group would consider light verse as poetry (see my interview with her here)
The Bigelow Senior Center in Fairfield is the location for a Poets’ Roundtable every first and third Thursday of the month at 1pm. The gentle critique group is run by Emerson Gilmore.
And Garrison Keillor is offering five thousand dollars in prize money to the seven winners of “‘Poems of Gratitude: The Fourth Annual Common Good Books Poetry Contest. Submissions due by April 15th, only one poem per person, guidelines here.

Sophronia Scott is organizing a series of readings by Connecticut writers (not an open mic) at the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown CT. The next one is May 1st from 2-4pm and she already has some good authors lined up. It’s a good chance to meet published writers and ask them about their work.

The Westport Writers’ Workshop is now taking registrations for their Spring workshops here.

Writer’s Relief has an email newsletter you might find interesting. It includes submission listings as well as interesting articles on publishing, editing etc.

Meeting regular, Jacque Masumian, sent me details of her newly published short story “Out of the Park,” now available in the January issue of the on-line journal Still Crazy , only until the end of March. She explained that the download costs $4 payable through Paypal, so if you have a Paypal account and can manage it, please take a look. She’d love some feedback. My question is: Who gets the $4? I hope it’s Jacque.

Bernice Rocque sent details of Carol Bodensteiner’s blog post about her advertising experience with Book Bub which resulted in her second book being picked up by Lake Union, Amazon’s traditional publishing company. Bernice commented that she thinks they rarely agree to promote newly published books. But the article is fascinating because the author gives you actual numbers of books sold, money made etc. Sounds like good value to me.

Alex McNab mentioned the Muse and The Marketplace conference to be held in Boston from April 29th-May1st this year. He sent me three links, in hierarchical order, to Grub Street, the conference, and the manuscript-evaluation sessions. Go for it!

Ed Ahern, our most avid submissions guy (and therefore the most frequently published), mentioned that Duotrope now has listings for podcasts you can submit your mp3 files to. Sounds interesting (geddit?). He is also reading for Bewildering Stories, which is looking for flash fiction (defined as up to 1,000 words). Submit here

Kate Mayer talked about Listen To Your Mother, a storytelling production that
takes the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors. (I didn’t write that, BTW. GC) Cities and auditions are usually announced Dec/January and auditions are February, so the shows are decided for this year, but it’s something to keep in mind. .

And here, in a burst of shameless self-promotion (I’m quoting her, here), is the video of Kate from the 2012 NYC performance.

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – January Update

We had another wonderful get-together on Wednesday – thanks so much to all of you who came and contributed so much to help your fellow-writers.

One of the first things we talked about was the Connecticut Press Club Awards contest. One has to apply via the NFPW, the National Federation of Pen Women (men allowed), and their website is clunky. But once you’ve registered, and realize that you have to fill in all the separate tabs and save them for each entry, it gets better. I talked to Michele Turk (President of the CPC) about this, and she told me that it would make her job a lot simpler when submitting the CT winners to the National contest. You can submit in any of 64 categories here: http://www.nfpw.org/communicationsContest.php

If you have a novella waiting in the wings (Max 20,000 words) you should submit it to The Malahat Review (Canada). The prize is $1500 (Canadian, but still). Deadline Feb 1. http://www.malahatreview.ca/contests/contests_info.html

May-Lou Weisman is starting her Introductory Non-fiction Writing Workshop at the Westport Library on Feb 4 for six sessions.

We talked about Duotrope – a real time-saver for those of use looking to submit our work somewhere. It lists all the available publications and you can filter them by genre, submission dates, likelihood of publication (easier to most difficult to be get in).

For children’s book writers among us, here is Gail Gaulthier’s Calendar of Children’s book author events, which includes author appearances, workshops, conferences etc. Here’s the calendar I mentioned this morning: http://blog.gailgauthier.com/search/label/CCLC-Connecticut%20Children’s%20Lit%20Calendar This link looks weird, so if it doesn’t work go to Gail Gauthier‘s blog and look on the left for the calendar. One of these is the Big Sur Conference Cape Cod, which takes place in May this year.

Gwen Hernandez, Scrivener maven extraordinaire, is beginning a new season of classes at the end of the month. Fantastic value at $25, they break the learning process down into very manageable daily chunks. Great as a refresher, or for beginners.

Jane Friedman and Joanna Penn have blogs of particular interest to those of us interested in publishing, self-publishing and book marketing. Here’s a link a post in which Joanna interviews Jane about the latest in publishing. Even if you think you’re not ready to publish yet, there’s a lot of interesting food for thought. They talk about the rise in mobile publishing – people reading on their phones or tablets– which will affect the way bookstores sell books. And they talk about alternatives to Amazon for self-publishing. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/01/18/publishing-trends-jane-friedman/

Sandra Beckwith, of Build Book Buzz, a book marketer in Long Island, has a free webinar series on web marketing you can sign up for, beginning very soon. Check it out here.

A number of or authors use video book trailers to promote their books, a tool that seems to be on the rise. E.J. Simon has three books with trailers out, and Leslie Chess Feller has had several videos made of the poems in her book, Monster in My Lunchbox. She used Rozanne Gates to make them. Please contact me or her if you’d like to connect with Rozanne, who’s in Westport, CT. And here’s an article about the importance of book trailers for self-published authors.

Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com is running a free 10-part crash course on Story, which is his specialty. He has a way of looking at a plot and finding the holes or excesses in it, which is very clear and easy to apply to your own work. You can sign up for a series of emails which explain it all.

Hope you find this useful!

 

Pitchapalooza comes to Westport February 13th. Be there.

Last July, I wrote a post about Pitchapalooza, a sort of American Idol of books, created by literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry, AKA The Book Doctors, They’re coming to the Barnes and Noble in Westport CT next Wednesday evening, and if you live anywhere nearby, and you write, you should be there. The evening is free, and a portion of all purchases (all day – any purchases!)  at that Barnes and Noble that day will go to the Fairfield Public Library , which is co-sponsoring the event.

Briefly, anyone with a book they’re writing, an outline for a book or even just an idea for a book, can go and pitch their book/outline/idea. The organizers will draw 20 names out of a hat, and then off you go. The catch? You only have one minute in which to do it. A panel of four industry insiders that includes Eckstut and Sterry gives constructive feedback on everything from idea to style to market potential and more. At the end of the evening, the Judges choose a winner, who receives a half hour consultation with Eckstut and Sterry.

I went in July, and as I sat and listened to other people pitch their ideas, I realized that my own pitch was going to be pretty bad. As I listened, I sat revising the 200-word pitch I’d prepared. (200 words takes about one minute.)

When my turn came, I got up and began my pitch, but about 35 seconds in, I literally lost the plot of my novel. I couldn’t remember what happened next. They were kind, and said it had promise. But the moral of this is that you NEED to have your pitch honed and ready for any occasion. And it needs to be good.

So – if you have a book or an idea for a book – go.

If you haven’t – go. Because just listening to other people’s pitches will give you an idea of what’s involved in getting an idea across to a publisher. Everyone who goes will come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.

The Book Doctors, co-founded by Eckstut and Sterry, is a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. Their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, contains all the information you’ll ever need, taking you through the entire process of conceiving, writing, selling, marketing and promoting your book. Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

Need book reviews? Check out this repost from The Creative Penn –

Joanna Penn has one of the best sites around for indie writers – she’s a source of constant inspiration and generously shares her knowledge with the rest of us. Her website, The Creative Penn, is regularly listed among the Top Ten Blogs for Writers, and she has indie published the first two novels of her Arkane trilogy, (Prophecy and Pentecost) under the name J.F. Penn. She often asks people to write guest blogs for her, and recently featured this one by Laura Pepper Wu, about how to get more and better book reviews. I thought it was fascinating, as well as useful.

How to Get Amazon’s Top Reviewers to Review Your book

We all want more book reviews but until you have a huge readership waiting for organic reviews can be… well, a long wait!

One way to get more high quality, (usually) well-written and highly regarded reviews is to ask the ‘Amazon Top Customer Reviewers’ to take a look at your book.

Why target the top Amazon reviewers?

While I’ve seen some reviewers with 7,000+ reviews, the Top Customer Reviewer award is not only about the number of reviews one person has churned out. At the time of writing, the #1 top customer reviewer on Amazon has only (!) 671 reviews under his belt.

As always, Amazon uses a complex algorithm to determine…

Read the rest here:

Laura Pepper Wu is a writer and the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio and Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. She has successfully marketed several books to become Kindle and print best-sellers.

Laura has recently released Authorlicious, a premium WordPress theme for authors including tutorials, so if you want to maximize your blog success, check it out here:

Author interview: James Tenedero

One of my more popular posts recently was the one about authors’ blog tours. After reading it, James Tenedero, a Canadian author, asked me if I’d be prepared to host him when he organized his blog tour today. James is from Montreal, but has traveled extensively in Europe, as you’ll find out when you read his book, The Consistency of Parchment, a thriller. You can find out more about his background at the bottom of this post.

Since this is James’ first novel, I wanted to know how, exactly, he arrived at a finished, published work. I was interested in the process from first concept through editing to self-publishing. I think you will be ,too.

GC: I can see from the book that you’ve traveled in Europe a great deal. Did you live there once? And, – a couple more questions: What gave you the idea for this novel, and why all the train trips?

JT: I have studied in Copenhagen, and I also lived in Budapest for a short time.  The idea for the novel really originated during my stay in Hungary. At the time, in 2003, the transition from Communist rule to democracy was already well underway, but I was still struck by the lack of severe Soviet-era architecture and customs; while there were traces of this past, much of that history seemed to have been swept out of view.

I started to consider the idea that we relate to the past in a very visceral way through the symbols and artifacts that we encounter in our daily lives. This is really the key underlying theme of the book, from which I then developed the storyline involving Cal, Kendra, and their journey to discover the contents of the safe deposit box for which Kendra possesses the key.

The frequent train trips in the book were based on my own travels throughout Europe. I used these episodes as a way to develop the bond between Cal and Kendra, and to flesh out the details of their motivations without impeding the narrative arc or the pace of the story.

GC: Once you had your ‘final’ draft, who edited it?

JT: I edited the book myself. Although I don’t have the skill set of a professional editor, I did work as a proofreader for a federal government agency for several years – so I have some sense of what to look for. Ultimately, I decided that the person best able to tell the story was me. So it seemed to make sense for me to write and edit the book myself. I’m a big proponent of the desk-drawer approach to editing: finish the draft of your manuscript, set it aside for a few weeks, and then come back to it with a set of fresh eyes.

GC: When you decided to publish, where did you start? I assume you had a Word document, but what happened next?

JT: Since I had made a decision to publish with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I followed the template provided in their Building Your Book for Kindle guide, which is available online for free download here. I formatted the manuscript accordingly, added hyperlinks for the Table of Contents so that readers could easily navigate through the book on their Kindle, and then uploaded the full document for sale on the Amazon website.

GC: Who designed the cover and layout?

JT: As with the editing, I selected the cover art and designed the front cover. (You can probably tell that I like to exercise a good deal of control over the way that my writing is presented, and with The Consistency of Parchment I was an unabashed monopolist from conception of the story to sale of the book!). The photograph is taken from a cemetery in Manchester, England, which I visited earlier this year, and I experimented with several different fonts before settling on the text that you see here. I’m happy with the overall result, and I’ve already had some very complimentary feedback in this vein from potential readers!

GC: Where is it available?

JT:Although there are certainly many options for authors looking to make their books available on the Web, I chose Amazon because of the popularity of the site. I wanted to ensure that I had the largest possible audience for my work, and Amazon provides me with this opportunity. Another nice feature of their publishing model is that you’re essentially unrestricted in terms of the potential volume of sales you can realize. You publish online, your book is automatically listed by Amazon, and your ultimate success is dependent on the quality of the product (as determined by the readers and reviewers, not by literary agents or publishing houses) and the amount of effort you devote to marketing it.

GC: When you sent me a review copy (thank you) it was in MOBI format. Can you tell us why you chose that format?

JT: I chose MOBI as my format because of its simplicity and inexpensiveness. An author can use freely available software such as Mobipocket Creator to convert a manuscript into MOBI. Also, these files are fully compatible with the Kindle, which of course was an important consideration for me!

GC: I opened my copy using Calibre, and then transferred it to my Kindle Fire. Am I right in thinking that this only works for free copies?

JT: Although I haven’t used Calibre myself, my understanding of the tool is that it works for both free and paid copies.

GC: So if people want to buy it, how much does it cost, and where can they find it?

JT: The Consistency of Parchment is currently on sale for $2.99 on the Amazon web site. Since my book is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon Prime members can obtain it for free. Also, the familiar ‘Look Inside’ feature allows readers to sample the first couple of chapters before deciding whether to purchase the book.

Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to speak about my work! I would invite your readers to follow me on Twitter (@jamestenedero), connect with me on Goodreads, and Like my Facebook author page. I’m always interested in hearing from other authors and readers, so feel free to get in touch with me through any of these channels.

I hope you enjoy the book, and I welcome your feedback and comments.

James Tenedero is a Montreal author, PhD student, (sometime) adventurer, and (unrepentant) bibliophile. After stints in corporate finance and management consulting, James answered the call of academia: he is currently enrolled in PhD studies at McGill University with the hopes of eventually securing his place in the ivory tower. When he’s not writing fiction, James can be found in his office researching organizational innovation and writing non-fiction. The Consistency of Parchment is his first full-length novel

Pitchapalooza comes to Darien July 12. Be there.

The Darien Library, which has regular events for writers,  has upped the stakes in the “we help writers” arena by inviting literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry, AKA The Book Doctors, to the Library on Thursday, July 12th. Eckstut and Sterry are the creators of Pitchapalooza, which they describe as the American Idol of books.

Briefly, anyone with a book they’re writing, an outline for a book or even just an idea for a book, can go and pitch their book/outline/idea. The catch? They only have one minute in which to do it. A panel of four industry insiders that includes Eckstut and Sterry gives constructive feedback on everything from idea to style to market potential and more. At the end of the evening, the Judges choose a winner, who receives a half hour consultation with Eckstut and Sterry.

If you have a book or an idea for a book – go.

If you haven’t – go. Because just listening to other people’s pitches will give you an idea of what’s involved in getting an idea across to a publisher. Everyone who goes will come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.

Pitchapalooza has been held in venues across the country, to standing room only crowds. This is a terrific chance to see what all the buzz is about.

P.S. While you’re at the Library, check out the Espresso Book Machine, which will print your book while you wait.

The Book Doctors, co-founded by Eckstut and Sterry, is a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. Their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, contains all the information you’ll ever need, taking you through the entire process of conceiving, writing, selling, marketing and promoting your book. Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

Interview with Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat

I was lucky enough to meet Charlotte Rogan the other night at an event hosted by Write Yourself Free, in Westport, CT. Charlotte is a local resident, and kindly spent a couple of hours talking to local writers and fans about her recently published book, The Lifeboat, described by Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times as “a really accomplished first novel”. The novel takes as its premise a group of 39 people stuck in a lifeboat after their liner sinks in 1914. The lifeboat is too small, and, unlike the passengers of the Titanic, these people are not rescued for three weeks. Some have described the book as harrowing, but I found it fascinating, as well as beautifully written. The power struggle between the two main characters (other than our unreliable but intriguing narrator, Grace Winter) hinges on the male and female styles of leadership. There are moral dilemmas aplenty, and I predict this will be a firm favorite with book groups.

The book hit #12 on the NY Times hardback fiction list and has been on the extended list for 7 straight weeks – an amazing achievement for a debut novel.  And it’s being translated into 24 languages. What’s interesting about this is that Charlotte has been writing for 25 years, and has several (unpublished) novels under her belt. She took a creative writing class with Harold Brodkey, and then simply wrote and wrote and wrote, improving as she went along.  Judging by The Lifeboat, this method seems to have worked. (Memo to self: write more…) When I interviewed her, I asked Charlotte what had made her decide to publish at last.

GC: What made you decide to try and get the book published?

CR: I think all writers want to be published, but I was busy with my family and I didn’t like doing the things it took to try to find a publisher: searching out appropriate literary agents, writing endless query letters, writing short pieces in the hopes of breaking into print through magazines, making contacts among publishing professionals. Still, I knew I was getting better with each novel I wrote, so when I looked into the future, I could see two equally reasonable scenarios: one where I continued to write only for myself and one where I finally found an audience for my work.

GC: How did you find an agent?
CR: Over the years I occasionally set my mind to finding a publisher, but none of them came to anything until my children were seniors in high school. One day I got a call from a journalist who was writing an article on the challenges for multiples (Charlotte has triplets) of applying to college. Over the course of things, she and I became friends, and after reading one of my manuscripts, she introduced me to her literary agent, who sold The Lifeboat to Little, Brown (note: publishers of J.K. Rowling’s next book. GC) in the fall of 2010.

GC: How much help have your publishers given you in promoting the book? I notice that you have great quotes on the back cover (from the likes of J.M. Coetzee, Hilary Mantel and Emma Donoghue), and interviews/reviews with all the main newspapers/publications.

CR: Little, Brown has a phenomenal publicity department, which has been wonderfully effective at getting The Lifeboat in front of various media outlets. Of course, no one can control which books the reviewers choose to read of the many thousands they receive each year or whether or not they like a particular book. As for the blurbs, I was shocked to discover that finding authors to write them was my responsibility. I didn’t know any authors! I decided to use the opportunity to write letters to my literary heroes and thank them for their books, which are really the things that taught me how to write. Out of fifteen letters, five authors agreed to write blurbs for me: among them two Booker Prize winners, an Orange Prize winner, a National Book Award winner, and a Nobel laureate. I will always be grateful to them for taking the time to help a new-comer.

GC: And as always, writers want to know how a typical day goes…it seemed to me, hearing you speak, that you’re a pretty disciplined person. Is that right?

CR: I am quite disciplined, but how a day goes really depends on the other elements of my life. My family has always come first, and I find that even twenty-something children require a certain amount of time. One of the first things established writers will say to you is to treat writing like a job. That means blocking out distractions and saying no to a lot of things. I am a morning person, so I like to use the morning hours to work. Ideally, I fit exercise, errands, and household tasks into the afternoon, with more work before dinner if time allows. I find it impossible to do more than 2-3 hours of really creative first-draft writing per day, but there are always other writing-related tasks I can do. These include editing, research, and reading books that are inspirational for my work. When I am editing a more finished piece, I might work for 8-10 hours a day if life allows it. Finally, taking care of your physical needs is an obvious but sometimes overlooked element of productivity: eating right, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise pay huge dividends when it comes to writing.

GC: You seem very self-possessed. Do you feel pressured to produce your next novel?

CR: Oddly, I do feel pressure, but only some of it is related to worry about finishing the novel I am currently working on. That’s probably because there are so many new tasks vying for my time. Fiction writers tend to be introverts, but once published, they are given a microphone and asked to speak, set to writing essays for magazines, and interviewed on live radio. Those are things I have never done before, and they have taken a lot of time and energy. But the next big challenge is to balance my time more effectively because I do want to get back to working on my book.
GC: On behalf of my readers and myself, thanks, Charlotte for such an encouraging interview!

Re-post from Larry Brooks at Storyfix – How to Position Your Book To Go Viral

Larry Brooks is  a published author and owner of a terrific, maybe essential, blog for writers: Storyfix. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. IN addition to his great how-to books on writing, he’s published several novels, to great acclaim. Larry writes thrillers, and they’re page turners. When I wrote my NaNoWriMo novel in November, that’s what I wanted it to be. Not a thriller – I haven’t the first idea about how to write a fight scene – but a page turner. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

Now here’s his take on going viral:

It is the Holy Grail of instant success as an author.  The elusive grand slam home run of literary home runs.  It is better – beyond – getting published, or even making a bestseller list.

It is the dream.  Bigger than your highest vision of The Dream.

It is called “going viral.”

For in the Luddites among us… going viral means that word-of-mouth and the media, especially the internet – which in this case are simply responding to an initial word-of-mouth phenomena — conspire in a dance of co-dependent cause and effect to explode a book beyond the bestseller lists into a feeding frenzy of attention, demand, praise and bookstore waiting lists.

For most readers, this sudden attention is the first time they’ll hear about the title, or its author.

Think The DaVinci Code, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones, The Help, The Bridges of Madison County… books that seemingly appear out of nowhere and sell millions within a few weeks, and more millions afterward, almost always resulting in a movie and a sequel.

People who wouldn’t have been interested before are now clicking onto Amazon to pick up a copy, in some cases simply because they want to see what all the buzz is about.

How did they do that?  How can we do that?

Good news and bad news: we can enter the game, we can go for it, but once qualified and out there, it’s a total crap-shoot.  One over which you have, after meeting the criteria for viral consideration, absolutely no control.

It is beyond social media.  You can’t tweet or Facebook yourself into viral status. Your publisher can’t even make it happen.  It rarely happens to the common A-list author names – they became A-listers after their viral debut – it’s usually something fresh, from a fresh face.

And yet, going viral is a paradox.

It is something you can wish for, but once the book has been written, cannot create or execute.  The best you can do is write a book that is positioned – that delivers the right stuff – to be discovered, ignited and launched on a viral journey at the scale required to wear this name tag.

Many books qualify.  Few hear their name called.

The paradox is this:

The criteria for putting your book into a position to go viral is almost exactly that associated with getting published in the first place.  The book has to work.  Really, really well.

That said, viral books tend to do a couple of specific things really well:

They are often “high concept” (rather than character-driven, even though they introduce great characters), with exceptional execution across all of the Six Core Competencies.

They also deliver something else, almost without exception: they seize the inherent compelling power of underlying story physics in way that exceeds the competition.

These two realms of story – compelling concept, with exceptionally strong underlying essences, is what gets you into the viral game.

And if that sounds underwhelming, welcome to the paradox.  Doesn’t everybody try for a compelling concept and the blowing of their story physics out of the water?

Answer: not really. Mostly because they don’t address these as goals.  Some authors just write their story, write it well, let it unspool organically, and hope somebody out there gets it.  This may get them published, but it doesn’t usually get them on Good Morning America.

If you want to go viral, you should address high concept and the optimization of story physics in the story development process.  You should be aware of their inherent compelling power, or not.  And if the latter, jack it higher.

The Latest Example of the Viral Dream Come True

Just this morning Good Morning America did a feature on the latest viral sensation in the book world.  It described a mad frenzy of word-of-mouth obsession, and during the segment the GMA anchors were literally grabbing the book from each others’ hands to swoon over randomly selected sentences.

Not because the sentences were astoundingly eloquent.  Rather, because the sentences deliver more than one of the basic elements of story physics like a bullet to the brain.

The book is called “50 Shades of Grey,” dubbed an erotic novel (part of a trilogy) by a little known English author named E.L. James.  As I write this, a mere four hours after the GMA love fest, less than two weeks after initial release, it resides at #1 on the Amazon Kindle list, and #4 on the overall bestselling books list.

Almost all because of reader word-of-mouth.  And media that listens and jumps on board.

Interestingly, it isn’t yet registering on the New York Times bestseller list.  Why?  Because that’s an insider industry list based on wholesale distribution to bookstores and a lagging nod to digital books, and 50 Shades of Grey is barely in bookstores and is too new to crack the old boy network that the NYT represents.

But wait ‘til next week.  It’ll be there, and probably at #1.

Let me tell you why this book has gone viral.

And in doing so, identify the simple elements of story physics that this book delivers.  Read and learn, this is your ticket not only to the viral world, but to finding a publisher and a readership, as well.

The book is about a young woman who has an affair with a billionaire.  In one reader’s words, it is full of sex, money and clothes.  It is Sex in the City times ten.

One interviewed reader calls it “mommy porn.”  A guilty pleasure perfectly suited to the anonymity of a Kindle in a crowded mall.

High concept?  Not particularly.  But here’s what it does do well:

It is fueled by two things, both of them among the short list of essential story physics that capture readers:

The book is driven by hero empathy, while delivering a vicarious ride.

Read that again.  It isn’t the plot, and it isn’t character.  No, this is about the reader.  This strategy shoots for the result of what you’ve written, the impact on a reader that creates a reading experience beyond the intellectual curiosity of plot, the reward of laughter or any marveling at great art.

It’s about the reader transporting themselves into this world… going on this ride… feeling it… wanting to be the hero… wishing it was them… the reader completely engaging in this journey on a personal level.

You may enjoy the heck out of the latest detective thriller, but really, is this something you want to actually do?  To actually feel?  No, that’s a voyeuristic read.  50 Shades of Grey, while perhaps voyeuristic, is actually more masturbatory and vicarious in nature.  It delivers an emotional experience that taps into something deep and forbidden and unavailable.

It mines pure gold from the power of its underlying story physics.

That’s it.  Do this, and do it within a compelling premise with professional-level execution, and you are in a position to go viral.

And if you don’t happen to win that particular lottery, at least you’ll have increased your chances at publication or digital success exponentially.

For now, ask yourself what about your story delivers a vicarious ride, where your story takes the reader, and at what level your story makes the reader feel and actually become a part of the story in a vicarious and personally empathetic way… rather than sitting in the literary grandstands and watching it all go down.

The Secrets to Self-Publishing: A Panel Discussion

The Darien Public Library, in Connecticut, http://www.darienlibrary.org/ has been focussing recently on writers and their needs. One of the results of this is the installation of one of only 25 print-on-demand book machines in the whole of North America. (See my post on 11/16/11 https://writeconnexion.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-writers-espresso-machine/) Now they’re running a panel all about self-publishing – the newest way to get your work into print if you’re tired of waiting for Penguin to realize how talented you are.

Here’s the basic information from their web site:

Have you ever dreamed of publishing your own novel, memoir, or cookbook of herring recipes passed down from your Norwegian grandmother? Well now you can! And you can do it all using Darien Library’s brand new Espresso Book Machine.

On Thursday, February 2 at 7 p.m. in an event co-sponsored by On Demand Books, we will host a panel presentation to show the secrets of self-publishing.

Panelists include:

– Self-Published Author William Edgerton will speak about his experience publishing his mystery novel “Wine Killer.”

– Self-Published Book Designer and Author Sandy Garnett will recount his experience with designing self-published books and publishing his memoir “Baloney Express.”

– Award-Winning Author Adair Heitmann will discuss how to promote oneself as an author.

– Stephanie Anderson of WORD Brooklyn will discuss the decision-making process in purchasing self-published works to sell.

The chance of talking to people who’ve actually been there is what makes this an evening not to be missed – be there!

PS You can RSVP on their Facebook page, if you like.