Category Archives: novel

How Do Authors Become Known?

 

This morning I continued my research into how authors manage to promote their writing. First destination was Goodreads, which I registered for as a reader several years ago and rarely visit.

How do authors use Goodreads?

I got there after looking up about Auckland author Tina Clough, after seeing her comments about her favourite books in the Press (Saturday, August 5, 2017, p17). She is featured on Goodreads after the publication of her newest book: The Chinese Proverb.

This is Tina’s third novel posted on Goodreads. She has been a member since August 2013 about the time she published her first novel: The Girl Who Lived Twice. Her novels have been reviewed/commented on by 9 reviewers, but I was unable to read the reviews (there must be a way, but this technically challenged author (me) couldn’t find the right link).

What I discovered about Goodreads, thanks to Tina, was that authors have a number of ways to promote themselves on Goodreads:

  • You can blog
  • You can publicise your website
  • You can list your own book (books) as ones you are reading so it appear on lists
  • And you can add events (book launches/interviews/podcasts etc)

5000-strong support group

I was sure there were other ways to advance yourself as an author. So I went looking at other authors who wanted to ‘connect’ with me (I told you it was a long time since I’d visited).

I found out that Goodreads has a ‘group’ that is a Showcase for Readers and Writers. Within this community authors can bring a little hype about who they are and what they have recently published. It may be talking amongst yourselves, but who knows who might be reading!

Goodreads also sponsor a Support For Indie Authors website: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/154447-support-for-indie-authors

This is already in the 5000 plus membership range, but for $US12 per year shares a mass of information.

New Zealand support

In New Zealand author support comes in bucket-loads from the New Zealand Society of Authors (linked to the international organisation PEN). This organisation will publish a a supplied review of your work and share it with members on the month it is selected. The lists are accessed here:  http://authors.org.nz/writers/new-books/

Writers who belong to NZSA can be searched and I found a long time friend and children’s author, Helen McKinley, whose ‘Grandma’ series has been delighting children for a decade.

The NZSA now supports authors who are self-published and /or are eBook authors. In doing a search for my own name I discovered that I have not entered any information and I’m missing a huge opportunity. That will be rectified promptly.

heatherS2

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

The Illusions we live by

By Heather Sylvawood

Authors/writers deal in illusion. Readers accept that they are being drawn into the illusion and for a time enter the unreal world the author has created. Even non-fiction is an illusion because the writer offers the reader ONLY the filtered version of their observation.

So when this image (below) came through Facebook from UniverseLetters.com (artist is J R Slattum) I was jolted into a mind-blowing vision of illusions within illusions within illusions.

TheIllusionOfSelfControl

‘Your future self is watching you right now through your memories’

My translation of experience today becomes my memory, and influences how I look at things in the future – thereby, at the moment of the experience, I am shaped inevitably into my future-self.  (This is my filter – not necessarily yours. If you see it differently, whose illusion is the ‘truth’?)

As a writer,  I know also that my memories shape the characters I will write into my novels and short stories, and in the writing of them and their imaginary experiences they become another layer of memory. Then, in reading my stories, the reader (perhaps you) absorb the memory of my character and what happens to them, and your filtered memory shapes your future self, your beliefs and even your intentions.

Like a bolt from the blue

The thought made me realise that authors and writers have a huge advantage. We can influence future generations through memory and illusion.

My second thought was – ‘Duh! People have known this for centuries when relating the stories, propaganda, and the half-truths they have told.’

All religions have passed on and added to the stories that influence their believers. Even the ‘truth’ that has been written down is recalled through the reader’s filters. For instance, the stories in the Christian Bible from the apostles, while based on the same experiences as the others, will have been filtered by the previous experiences of the apostle who is relating  what happened.

Who is doing the telling matters

Think about the real-life dramas that are being played out in Court rooms throughout the World. Witness 1’s recall contradicts  Witness 2 and 3 and … We talk about reliable witness statements – but these come from the illusion that people who haven’t had a conviction, or attend church, or run community groups, or public figures, or are talented entertainers are somehow more reliable than the general hoi polloi. We can all point to examples where people in these groups are far from reliable.

The only way that these illusions are accepted as ‘truth’ is by having them committed to memory. And most of our memories are based on frequently repeated stories that become ‘beliefs’.

Writers capture readers by beliefs

A book or story that captures reader imagination must be based on some accepted belief or disbelief. So the writer or author needs to understand the common illusions accepted by most people in their culture.

If an author tried to base a story on the belief that the World is flat they would have an uphill battle convincing readers. The best they could hope is that the reader would keep on reading through sheer disbelief. Even fantasy novels are based on some commonly accepted beliefs, e.g. mountains are high and made of rock, or water runs downhill. (Think about it!)

The trick for writers is that they must pick the beliefs/illusions they tamper with. They have to decide how far the reader will go without putting their novel or short story down in disgust.  I also think they need to decide what they are putting into the memories of their readers – violence, cruelty, experience of death, love, kindness or courage.

Reality doesn’t exist unless you see it

If you consider that memory is based only on filtered illusions, news that Australian scientists have discovered that reality is an illusion comes as no surprise.

“According to a well-known theory in quantum physics, a particle’s behaviour changes depending on whether there is an observer or not. It basically suggests that reality is a kind of illusion and exists only when we are looking at it. Numerous quantum experiments were conducted in the past and showed that this indeed might be the case.

“Now, physicists at the Australian National University have found further evidence for the illusory nature of reality. They recreated the John Wheeler’s delayed-choice experiment and confirmed that reality doesn’t exist until it is measured, at least on the atomic scale.”

If you don’t believe me (and why would you?) take a look at this article on the Mind Unleashed website.

Accepted illusions of life

Many of the great novels of the last two centuries have been based on illusions

  • That good always triumphs over evil
  • That the underdog always succeeds by using tenacity
  • That the pursuit of money is a worthy goal
  • That the rich and powerful are involved in a conspiracy against world populations

Or are they illusions?

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Discover Quality NZ Authors

While attending a Writers’ Forum in Picton – a picturesque Port and marina in New Zealand, I was able to share experiences with a number of self-published authors.

HeatherReadingWalkingOnIce      

Above: (Left) Me – Heather Sylvawood – absorbed in Walking on Ice by Emma Stevens; (right) Mike Ponder’s ”could-be-true” conspiracy novel about the Royal Family

Seriously good authors

Without exception the writers who attended the Picton Forum related difficulties over being taken seriously as writers of quality books. They all acknowledged that at the beginning of the Indie (Self) Publishing emergence there were books published that really required hard editing to bring them up to the standard of print-based books, but now, unfortunately, quality books are reaching the online shelves without a whisper of recognition.

What does it take to prove quality in writing?

And if you prove it – what then?

How can New Zealand author’s become recognised in their own country against the well-resourced distribution houses of America?

There are some small publishers and printers in New Zealand who are attempting to right the balance, yet they too come up against the confusion over the terms ‘Vanity Publishing’ and ‘Self-publishing’. As Dave MacManus from The Copy Press, printing and publishing house, defined it: vanity publishing is done when the author wants only a printed copy of their material for limited circulation among family and friends; self-publishing is for people who have written a book for general distribution. Put like that, why has the term ‘vanity publishing’ earned such a bad rap?

The Legacy of Vanity Publishing

The quality of a self-published book is imperative if the publication is to be taken seriously out in the reading world. Unfortunately self-publishing is still tainted by the lack of editing of vanity press editions and the editing by those who climbed fortuitously on the indie-publishing scene when still in its infancy.

The indie/self and digital publishing divide

Another area of confusion about the quality of the writing in self-published books – as opposed to traditional print published books – is that self-published books are not edited before they hit the … shelves/lists. That can be a legitimate complaint. With publishing on Amazon as a Kindle eBook so simple, authors, who needed to learn better, put their drafts out for all the world to see. And some of the writing is cringe-worthy with poor grammar, spelling mistakes and general clumsy construction making the book a hard read.

Prior to publication, however, many authors  of self-published books and eBooks spend hundreds of dollars employing one or more editors to hone their story to a reputable standard. The reality is that good authors do not want to be shamed by a less than perfect product.

Print on Demand changed the publishing landscape

Not every printed book you might choose to order will necessarily have been edited and printed by a traditional publisher. Many of the soft copy books you can buy online will have been self-published. They may have been printed by a print-on-demand (POD) publisher such as CreateSpace (Amazon’s print book publisher) or Lightening Source.  POD is when a title is printed and bound, one book at a time, in response to your individual order.

Alternatively, an author might have chosen to have their book printed in a small run by a printer like The Copy Press mentioned above, and may then advertise it through online bookshops. That same author could either engage a distributor to get their title into bookshops, or trudge the country hawking their book. Okay, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, but some writers in our Picton forum described experiences very close.

Self-promotion is an awkward companion for many writers

Coming to terms with the need for self-promotion brings blushes to faces of many authors. Writing is what they do – not marketing.  The two activities of writing and promotion are diametrically opposed – one is a solitary, introspective activity; the other forces you to engage with others (many others) and put yourself out in the world, vulnerable to criticism and judgement.

Getting out and promoting your book is hard work and you have to get over your personal fear of rejection when someone (and this is inevitable) rejects your request to buy, sell-on-behalf, stock or otherwise help you to earn some recompense for your months of hard work. Ironically, our tax department views most writers’ endeavours as a ‘hobby’ because many of us profit by only a few cents per book.

Self-promotion, though, is the only way we are going to get noticed in the over-crowded digital world. In the world of digital publishing (eBooks and POD) we really have to use the scatter-gun approach. We need to Tweet and Link-in, advertise on Facebook and our websites, blog and plain beg our friends and relatives to spread the word.

NZ Writers to Follow

Now to introduce you to a few of the writers I met over the weekend. You’ll see what a varied bunch we are.

  
1. Emma Stevens;     2. Mike Ponder;    3. Wendy Scott

1. Emma Stevens has learned by trial and error how self-promotion benefits an author. She happily takes on talks to U3A, Probus Clubs, libraries and the like, and was rewarded recently by being interviewed by the NZ Woman’s Weekly. It’s all good publicity and you get to sell copies of your book after the talk, she explained.

Her book Walking on Ice has captured the imagination of many readers in its autobiographical description of her online romance with a teacher from Alaska and their eventual return to the isolation of a school there. The story does have all the great elements for a gripping story: the apparently insurmountable odds for a romance to flourish and the heroine and hero’s sad separation, and finally their reunion in inhospitable environs of Alaska.

2. Mike Ponder is both artist and writer. His book The Windsor Conspiracy is based on popular belief/gossip, but little known suspicion, about what really moved the House of Windsor after the war years. Is Prince Charles really a Windsor? Was the Queen Mother an evil manipulator? This fast-paced thriller is based on a conspiracy behind Britain’s Royal Family.

Mike uses snatches of history, real and conjectured, to weave a mystery around what really did happy under the Queen Mother’s ‘reign’.  Watch out for the next story and review your review your understanding of who is the power behind the throne and who might be the ‘heir apparent’.

3. Wendy Scott – Surrounded by the wild West Coast is it any wonder that Wendy’s imagination gives rise to stories of magic and witches? She says of her life: “When my partner, son (5 months), dog and I moved back to NZ we lived in a house truck for 3 years while our off-the-grid house was planned and built. During this period I wrote on a solar powered laptop and completed many correspondence courses from the AWA.”

She’s a prolific writer of adult fantasy, children’s novels and now branching into romance.

More_Than_I_Could_BearFullSize

4. Suzanne Clark;   5. Tony Sandall;    6. Heather Sylvawood

4. Sue (Suzanne) Clark lives in Collingwood, Golden Bay and began writing after retiring from teaching. Sue enjoys researching her subjects and building a what-might-have-happened novel from what she uncovers. Both Awhina’s People, a pre-european story about Maori warring between tribes, and His Father’s Will, a story of one of her own forebears have been based on extensive research and interviews with those who could shed light on early events.  Mrs Lacy, however, draws on her knowledge of living in a small community, like the environs of Golden Bay.

5. Tony Sandall – horse trainer extraordinaire has written a non-fiction, how-to book in which he shares the learning of a life time,

“My method teaches you to work with your horse through the early kindergarten months so he becomes quiet and obedient in all circumstances, ready to move on to whatever discipline you ask of him,” says Tony.

It’s one of those must have books for serious riders trying to correct a bad habit in their mount, and those who are schooling a young horse. “Essentially, the method involves the use of a specially designed strap or rope to restrict the movements of the horse during the early teaching process.”

6. Heather Sylvawood – (And this is me unashamedly promoting myself!) I call myself an emerging Amazon writer and publish most of my work as Kindle eBooks. I started with non-fiction, moved into children’s stories written to be read by adults, short stories for adults and finally I have one published novel – More Than I could Bear – A Lesbian Affair. The story, set in the 1970s, follows Laura and Anna who are both the main carers for their autistic daughters. The story relates the many ways families cope with the effect of lost hope, stress and depression caused when a family member has an intellectual disability. Its shocking climax illustrates the tragedy of women left unsupported in an age when disability was a hidden phenomena.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Wrestling with proper grammar

You’re writing a novel –
must the grammar be correct?

The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

There are two main types of writing in most novels: the narrative and the dialogue.

Dialogue completely throws out all the rules – it is as the characters say it. And everyone knows when we speak most of us tend to ignore grammar. Even an upper class character will shorten or combine words (‘we’re off ‘) or use colloquialisms like (ol’ blighty).

Did you realise, however, that action too can ignore the rules of grammar in order to emphasise or create a certain feel to the narrative.  Short clipped sentences, or even clauses left hanging, convey urgency, speed or fear.

Examples

  • Heart beating fast, he sprints along the pier.
  • Heart beating. Fast he sprints. Along the pier.

The totally ‘incorrect’ punctuation of the second sentence conveys speed and a greater sense of fear.

You can also convey the tenor of a piece of writing by varying the sentence length or structure. Shorter sentences (as above) speed up the narrative and longer ones draw out the mood of the writing. Variety in length of sentence keeps the reader from being bored by the writing. A continuous smish-smash of short sentences could so easily descend into shopping list writing.

Starting with conjunctions

A conjunction is a JOINING word that links two sentences or ideas together. Take a read of these opening words of the Katherine Mansfield 1917 short story, A Dill Pickle:

“And then, after six years, she saw him again. He was seated at one of those little bamboo tables decorated with a Japanese vase of paper daffodils. There was a tall plate of fruit in front of him, and very carefully, in a way she recognized immediately as his “special” way, he was peeling an orange.”

You will note that Mansfield (above) writes sentences that concentrate on details, drawing us in to the promise of a slow un-peeling of the story. But there’s more: opening a paragraph with a conjunction? What? I’m sure this was a ‘no, no’ according to my English teachers.

 Yet, if you look at Mansfield’s paragraph you can easily see that she has linked two ideas together, only we don’t know the first idea. It is hidden from our view and we only know that in the past there was a relationship between the two characters of the short story. A truly masterful use of a conjunction.

Ignoring grammar – the limitations

We’ve looked at a couple of examples (above) where the use of grammar, or disregard of proper grammar, can add to the story.  There are, however, some cautions of which we writers need to be aware.

  • Accidental misuse of grammar or wrong spelling. This will make our stories look simply unprofessional. Incorrect spelling will flick the reader out of the story. If you lose the reader because of an obvious misspelling, then you do yourself a disservice. Proof reading is imperative. Of course, English spelling and American spelling of words can differ, but if the spelling is consistent throughout, readers from either continent will make allowances.
  • Writing narrative that feels clumsy or confuses. If the reader has to re-read a passage in order to make sense of it, they’ll soon give up and put your story down. The best way to check this is to read your story aloud. If you stumble over some sentence construction then you can be sure readers will have the same issue
  • Creating dialogue without making it clear who is speaking. It is important that the reader understands who is speaking in the dialogue by at least adding an occasional attribution – the ‘he said/she said’ at the end of the lines of dialogue. You don’t have to attribute dialogue for every sentence, especially if your characters have contrasting ways of speaking. Again, read your dialogue aloud without adding your own emphasis or voice expression. Remember that the readers does not have the benefit of that audible clue when they pick up your novel or short story.

Grammar and Punctuation for Publishing

Regardless of how you word your story there are some conventions that publishers and readers expect. They are especially to do with punctuation – and some writers still get confused about them.

Here is an American view of dialogue punctuation:

Double quotes–single quotes? Listen here for the American convention.

Of course, many famous early writers experimented with ignoring the conventions of academic punctuation and grammar. This blog lists a few and explains how they defied the conventions.

If you want to learn more, then I recommend the Writers Guide to Punctuation

Or this excellent column – Talk it out, in which technical writer Taylor Houston gives lots of examples on CORRECT punctuation. Of course YOU are the writer and if you want to create a reaction in the reader with unconventional punctuation (or even no punctuation at all), you can ignore these conventions. If you are a starting out writer than follow the conventions until you are confident of when and where to break them.

Summation of Grammar Rules

So you see – there aren’t any set rules for grammar or punctuation in a novel or short story . Ignoring the rules is perfectly okay. But you need to know the rules in order to ignore them.

Heather Sylvawood – Amazon Author

How It Feels To Be An Author

… at last!

I have just watched a video of Joanna Penn (www.thecreativepenn.com) talking about publishing her first novel (she had previously published a non-fiction book). The watching of it brought back to me some of my own feelings on self-publishing my first books.

One of my overriding emotions on publishing my first book (non-fiction – Real Estate Rollercoaster) was one of FEAR – fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of a flood of emails pointing out errors in the book. The last two didn’t happen, probably because the first one did. Real Estate Rollercoaster never got climbed the first  loop.

Like many authors I thought the mere publication of my masterpiece was sufficient for the world to recognise the gems I was sharing with the public and it would be an instant best seller. Uh, huh!

RERC_frontpage

Self-publishing is a rollercoaster ride

Far from being an even playing field, self-publishing is a minefield of craters into which the ignorant and naïve will fall unless they are prepared to educate themselves into the new realm of marketing eBooks and publishing on demand. I am a long way from being a master, in fact, I’m probably not even a mistress of the marketing game. I am LEARNING. Which is why I spend time listening to other self-published authors to find out how they do it.

I’ve been snatching moments this week to listen to some podcasts put together by Chandler Bolt, creator of Self-publishing School, as he talks to various other successful authors about ‘How-to’ write, publish and market your book.

JoannaPennVideo

In one of the interviews Joanna Penn says that the writing of fiction is hard work and tiring; you gain a sense of achievement at the end but you might have to resort to eating lots of cake in order to get over how tiring writing is. I totally concur. I have had to resort to chewing gum in order to avoid the cake.

Even the act of blogging can be tiring when you’re concentrating on making your blog fun, informative and worthwhile. Every word counts.

Rollercoaster ride of emotions

Monica Marlowe relates a feeling tantamount to depression after publication of her debut novel, Finding Felicity:  “My debut novel had been released in August and the excitement I felt at its release was euphoric. I was so lucky to be published and learning the ropes as a new author was exhilarating. But as summer moved into fall and winter, the fever pitch took on colder pall….. I wondered, could it be post-publication depression?”

In her Blog HERE Monica relates her surprise and disappointments about the way her friends received her foray into novel-writing. I can relate to many of her experiences, as I am sure other newly published authors will.

An acquaintance of mine was worried about how her friends and people who knew her would react after reading her work. I relate to that too. Although most novels are not strictly autobiographical, the ideas in them come out of your brain; the characters often reflect what you think or feel about issues; and if you write sex scenes – of course you will believe the reader will think you ‘do it’ that way. Actually, if you’ve written a quality novel, the reader will be so engrossed in what the CHARACTERS are doing they won’t even be aware of you – the author.

Like a painter who doesn’t believe their painting is worth anything until someone buys it, authors too feel their books are second-rate unless lots of people read them. And that’s where writers come unstuck in their self-belief when they self-publish. They have no way of finding out what people think about the book until they get reviews. And even if they get reviews they might get BAD reviews (or simply reviews that complain that you have your book in the wrong category – as I received).

Writing is only a 1/3 of the rollercoaster ride

You may experience fear, or euphoria, exhaustion or sleeplessness. Chuck Wendig, novelist, screenwriter, and game designer, says in his blog HERE:

“So, you just had your book published. … And you want to know what’s going to happen now. Here is — roughly, potentially, maybe — one scenario.

“For a variable amount of time, let’s call it a week, you’re going to be flying high. Hell, flying high doesn’t even cover it. You’re going to be flitting around the big blue heavens with a pair of magical laser dolphins as shoes. You’re going to be past the moon. You’re going to feel like you’re snorting comet dust and making sweet love to asteroids.

Because you wrote a thing.”

Well, Chuck may be exaggerating a little. For most of us thirsty firsties we’re out there panting for some recognition and the publishing rollercoaster keeps roaring by.

“Excuse me! Here! Did you read my book? Did anyone read my book?”

Surviving the fall

The only way I managed to survive the tiny plop of my first novel was that I was already almost finished my second and had already started on the sequel for novel 1. I’d also read a lot of blogs and viewed many videos on marketing eBooks and self-published novels.

Marketing and promoting your book takes a lot longer than you anticipate if you’re a thirsty firsty. You might even be completely turned off writing more books if you wait around for positive feedback from the amorphous cloud of readers following popular fiction.

I knew that popularity was not going to arrive with novel 1, nor probably with novel 2 … 3 …. 4. It would be only when I had an out-there profile and people accidentally came across my work, read it (in a weak moment), liked it and looked for more, that I would become better known. I also had to wait until friends read it (and they don’t read your novel when, or as quickly as you would like/expect) and then fed back to their friends about the quality of the writing.

It all takes time – and unfortunately that’s time away from writing your next blockbuster. But then … isn’t blogging ‘writing’? Don’t you also develop a personality, a sense of accomplishment AND writing technique from blogging? It’s sometimes harder work than allowing the creative flow to surge words onto the screen or paper.

The Last Word in Self-publishing

I’ll leave Joanna Penn to tell you how it is that even successfully-published writers feel when they finally launch their novel into the sea of new authors.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

PS: Only one CAKE was harmed during the writing of this blog.