Monthly Archives: October 2014

Does popular mean less ‘literary’?

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

I’ve just completed my first novel and I’m looking at publishing it on Amazon, however, I’m finding it difficult to find a category that fits its subject matter.  Here’s a brief synopsis:

“Laura Holland is coping (just) with her life bringing up two teenagers and her almost seven-year-old autistic daughter, Estella. Living on a small farm raising chooks and sheep, and the family’s vegetables, Laura’s role is definitely that of an isolated homemaker. Her husband Richard, however, is a busy principal whose involvement in the farm is spasmodic, at best. Then the Hollands meet the Langleys, a family with a very different way of coping with their disabled daughter. At first Laura and Anna find support and new possibilities in their growing friendship. But all is not well in the Langley household, and as Laura gets drawn in, further and further, the stage is set for a dramatic showdown.

Set in the early 1970s in Canterbury, New Zealand, the novel deals with how beliefs about caring for children with an intellectual disability can trap women in the caring role.”

So where does family drama fit?

It hasn’t any real mystery, no murders, little violence, no fantasy, only a little sex (but not the 50 Shades of Grey  type), it’s set about 40 years ago – but is hardly a ‘period drama’, and it doesn’t fall into the category of romance.

If I could find a category called Family Drama then that’s where it would fit. But the last time I looked on Amazon, there was no such category.

Popular novel themes

That dilemma started me thinking about popularity. Books, television, and lagging only a little behind – films, reflect what is a popular read (or genre in the world of novels). Take a look at what’s showing on the celluloid (oh, what an ancient word!) and you’ll gain a clear understanding of the genre(s) that sell most readily.

‘Write novels in popular genres’

Writers who want to make a life writing popular novels are advised to look at what sells.

On the face of it, the advice is sound. If I was to follow that advice I would write crimes novels with likeable detectives and a bit of romance; or vampire horror; or sci-fi with lots of killing at the hands of superior aliens until good old human cunning overcomes the long odds. And, of course, the other popular genre is the classic romance between heterosexual couples leading unreal,  usually privileged lives.

The genres are far removed from real lives of most people, I wondered why that appealed.

So why do people enjoy reading escapist novels?

I thought I would do a bit of research.

The first thing I realised is that ALL fiction is escapism. We look to read fiction that allows us to live (safely) some of the emotions that would otherwise be inappropriate for us to express. It is escapism for the reader, but it is also escapism for the writer.

Escapist novels have had a bad rap

As author Neil Gaiman says: “I hear the term (escapism) bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if ‘escapist’ fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.”

He goes on to say that escapist fiction “opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with” and that it  “…can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison.”

Popular fiction may be what the doctor ordered

Author Steven Handel, creator of the blog: The Emotion Machine, writes: “Instead of venting your negative emotions, sometimes it is better to just shift your awareness toward something completely different that makes you forget about your troubles.

“In many ways, this is the powerful role that entertainment plays in our lives. It is a way to escape from the stress, anxiety, and negativity of our everyday lives – and sometimes that is what we need to stay sane and healthy.”

New York Best Selling Author Elizabeth Lowell has this to say about the so-called divide between popular (escapist) writing and ‘literary’ writing:

“My life’s work has been popular fiction. Writing alone and with Evan, I have published more than sixty books. They range from general fiction to historical and contemporary romances, from science fiction to mystery, from nonfiction to highly fictional thrillers.

“Through the years, I’ve discovered that most publishers talk highly of literary fiction and make money on popular fiction; yet asking them to describe the difference between literary and popular fiction is like asking when white becomes gray becomes black.”

Isn’t WRITING a novel ‘escapism?

Wikipedia defines ‘Escapism’ as mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life.  If you use that definition, then I am using ‘escapism’ whenever I think about or start writing my novel. I am creating an unreal situation in a way that gives me pleasure. I might not be escaping from a banal life, but my escapism certainly enhances my life.

Goodreads includes The DaVinci Code, Bridget Jones Diaries, Harry Potter and Kate Hooper’s Redemption series in its list of Escapist Fiction. Put like that I’d be glad to be listed in the realms of ‘escapism’ and popular novels. Here I come!

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Blogs can help establish your expertise

Serious marketers who want to sell products will tell you that you should write blogs to gain credibility as an expert in your field (or any field). Each blog you write should contain your keyword in the titles, captions and sprinkled liberally throughout the text.

How to redecorate and use social media to market it

That may be true because Google’s search algorithm is not based on how well you write but how many times you use a word that someone might search for. Google knows that finding potential audiences for their paying customers is what earns Google quadrillions. So anyone who uses keywords favoured by their paying customers, and searched on by the Searching Public, benefits.

Search engines rank on blog keywords

Internet marketers work on the principle of having many websites on many topics and are satisfied with lower sales on each in order to gain multiple sales in total.

Lots of keywords for a blog on real estate

The Marketers who tell you ‘this is how to do it’, have spent a lot of money working out how Google, and every other Search Engine, chooses how far up the results list to place websites when the Searching Public types in a word or phrase they want to find out about.

Internet marketers sell their knowledge

Once they have worked out how to place their product sales pages high up on the search results, the Marketers package their system to sell to you (another source of income). And part of that package is teaching you to create blogs that fit the keyword criteria.

You can use the principles of blogging as described above, but if you’re just plain interested in ‘writing’,  then blogs can help you develop your skills and develop a following, if you follow the blog layout rules. Use the keyword strategy to increase your readership.

Testing your writing with a blog

How to use color swatches for your redecoration projects

Suppose you know quite a bit about redecorating because you’ve done it several times on different rooms. To make sure you were successful you learned a lot from a wide variety of sources – a local community course, books, a night course, and websites. Friends have asked you for help when they saw what a great job you did.

Maybe you’ve decided that you’d like to share this knowledge and you want to write a book. You’ve got lots of before and after photos you could use.

But where do you start?

You start by blogging

The way to create your book is to blog about all the topics you can think of that you would expect to appear in a book about How to Redecorate without Tears.

Note: That I started the title of your ‘book’ with the words: ‘How to …’. This is a deliberate ploy because a large number of people start their search by typing in the words: ‘How to (and in this case) redecorate’. So already you have captured the first three words of a likely search made by people who want to find out how to redecorate.

The second part of your title will deal to the problem they think they will experience when redecorating – (or they may already have experienced a problem that caused them lots of tears). This is a ploy internet marketers use all the time, but we are now going to apply it to your blog.

How to title your blog

You can use your book title as the title of every blog you write on redecorating but add an extra word, e.g. How to redecorate bedrooms/bathrooms (etc) without tears, or: How to decorate with wallpaper (etc).

How to decorate a kitchen pantry

You break down every topic in your book into short pieces of writing about 600 to 800 words long (this piece is about 800 words). Once you have written a blog on all your topics you may find you have a good following of people who read your blog and they are the first people to market your completed book to.

Make sure you save all your blogs in folders with names of the topics. That way when you come to put your book together you will have topic folders for all the chapters.

About those blog keywords

Always put in pictures or illustrations in your blogs. For every image, add keywords for the title of your book in the description. You may be able to right-click on the image and type in the title in the text input box that appeals. How you do it will depend on the program you’re using. Hold your mouse over the images in this blog to see what I mean.

Gather some key words that people might search on. You can find them out using tools offered by Google and other search engines or keyword software you can purchase online. The use them throughout your text. You can edit some of them out of your final book text, but in your blog repetition is key.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author