Devon McKay, Kathy Otten and Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter and participated in Advice from Authors March 31, 2016 at the Stow-Munroe Falls Library. Here is my presentation:
Marketing Your Book from the first line
You may not think you’re ready to market your book, but your readers aren’t the only ones you’re selling your book to. You need to sell your book or book idea to an agent or an editor for publication.
When you begin writing you need to keep several things in mind to market your book – the cover, the blurb, the first line and an excerpt.
I love old movies so I wanted my romance books to look like movie covers and my artist came through. Your artist will want to know what time period, what the characters are wearing or what symbols you might want to use for cover art.
The blurb is on the back of the book. It is an elevator sales pitch. You have an idea. You want someone else to be interested in it. You tell them in a few sentences about your characters, their problem, and obstacles they face. You may tell your agent or publisher the solution, but you want a reader to buy the book to find out the answer.
I write my blurb before my first draft, and I review it as a guide to where my story should head. It keeps me focused on the problem that drives the story.
You do not have a story if there isn’t a problem. It needs to be personal, difficult to solve and life changing.
The blurb needs to be informative and entice the reader.
These is the blurb from my first book, Impending Love and War.
Cory Beecher didn’t mean to shoot handsome Tyler Montgomery and only kisses him so he doesn’t find the runaway slave in the barn. Abolitionists never considered marrying slave owners, but her world explodes with new found desire when her lips touch his. Can she go through with her carefully crafted plans to marry math instructor Douglas Raymond when her heart longs for another?
Tyler Montgomery needs to find the runaway slaves before his rival Edward Vandal captures them. Although he doesn’t want to involve the fiery and beautiful Miss Beecher, once she kisses him, all his plans unravel. As his rival closes in on the quarry, he hesitates to leave, knowing she’s marrying the wrong man. But what does an unemployed lawyer with questionable parentage have to offer the woman he loves?
It reveals the main characters, their problem and the dilemma. It’s clear it’s a romance novel with an obstacle keeping them apart, but there is more at stake beyond their growing love.
You want to have external and internal conflicts with growth of the character.
The next thing to market your book is the first line. Often with a query to and agent or publisher you include the first three chapters. That first line, opening paragraph and initial chapters needs to capture their attention and make them curious about what happens next.
This first line is from my newest novel, to be published later this year, Impending Love and Lies:
Blake Ellsworth spotted the two mercenaries at the depot, searching the crowd, waiting for him to board the train so they could kill him.
It reveals the character, his problem and hopefully, makes the reader curious to read more.
Common Pitfalls in writing a novel.
The basics – have a dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar book on hand to keep your manuscript error free.
Use active voice not passive voice.
Use senses – sight, sound, smells, taste and touch
Don’t overuse same key word. Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.
Use vivid nouns and visual, active verbs. Instead of saying horse several times, find another way to describe the horse such as black and white mare, beast of burden, the thoroughbred, broken down nag, beautiful animal, etc.
Have you heard the phrase “show don’t tell?”
This concept ties into many problems such as adverbs, emotions and tags.
He said sadly. Avoid adverbs like this. Instead describe the character and show the emotion. One of the exercises you can do is write down a list of emotions: anger, fear, love, loneliness, etc. and then write down a description of a physical action that illustrates that feeling. Such as he balled his fists. He kicked the dog. She tore the letter to shreds. She jumped when she heard the door slam. She stared out the window at the group of children playing on the lawn, a tear falling down her cheek.
We often tell with a tag like he said, she said. Instead of identifying the speaker with a tag, describe what the character is doing.
“I arrived on the train.”
She stared at his dirty clothes. “In the livestock car?”
The woman was oblivious to her role in his dishevelment, but he was a diplomat. He changed his tone to astonishment. “Can you believe someone nearly ran me over in the middle of the street? A reckless driver behind a black gelding with three white stockings.” His hand brushed the dust from his clothes, allowing her time to comprehend his implication.
She looked at her horse, a perfect match for his description. “I didn’t see anyone in the street.”
“I was the fellow hugging the ground.” He put his hat on. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have business to take care of before someone else makes an attempt on my life.”
The most difficult thing for me to understand was Point of View. This is different from person. Person is either first person such as I or third person, he or she.
In first person there is only one point of view. The story is seen from the person who is telling the story such as Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games.
In third person it can become more difficult because the point of view can be more than one person. In a romance story it can be split between the hero and the heroine. In a mystery, the detective can be the sole POV and the reader solves the crime along with him or the killer’s POV can be added.
The error comes in bouncing back and forth between the two characters or giving insight into a multitude of characters.
When the story is being told from a character’s POV the reader sees what they see, hears conversations in the room and also reveals inner thoughts. A good writer uses that limited insight to create tension such as Elizabeth Bennett who is unaware of Mr. Darcy’s love until she discovers what he has done for her family. The reader loves Mr. Darcy at the same time.
There must be a distinct break between the point of view. Usually a chapter or a physical break with spacing or asterisks to show that the story is being told from a new character’s point of view.
Go back and read your favorite stories but examine them from a writer’s viewpoint. How did they mix dialogue with action to reveal who was speaking? What are the limitations of the POV and how do they reveal what other characters are thinking – look at action and reaction described by the author.
Look at your strengths in your writing and how you can improve them and identify your weaknesses and look at other writers for ideas on how to take your writing to the next level and publication.