Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Got Analytics?

Do you know what are analytics? These are measurements of what your website or blog are doing (essentially a measurement of readership). Analytics measure things such as page views, click-thrus, sites where clicks come from, and where the clicks come from (countries), and more. If you use Blogger then you know analytics are also called stats aka statistics. If you're considering starting a blog, I recommend you take advantage of FREE services like Blogger. You can pay for services such as Typepad, which is more robust; but I have found for the average user the depth of a service like Typepad isn't necessarily worth it. Typepad does have two different levels of keyword searches and allows the user to break the blog into self-created categories. For example, on World Less Traveled's blog, it is broken down into categories such as vacation, travel tips, State Parks, recreation, etc. Her analytics measure pretty much the same things as Blogger, but you cannot see the depth of detail. You can add more features to it, though. My feeling is any new blogger will be satisfied with the FREE service Blogger.

3L Publishing provides content services for blogs. If you're interested in hiring one of our professional writers to provide blog content, contact us at 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Every Author Should Know ...

Michelle Gamble attends the Northwest Book Festival
in Portland, Oregon.
I just came in off the road after traveling to the Northwest Book Festival and speaking to authors. I've realized the no. #1 thing every author should know ... writing a book means you are becoming in a sense an entrepreneur. "How is that?" you ask. Writing a book is only 50 percent of the work. Most authors get into the craft and forget that they are really embarking on a business endeavor. I named my writers' group Writers Who Mean Business to teach authors the "business of publishing" not just the craft of writing. Authors get so involved in their "craft" they often forget that the next step is for people to actually read their work -- and to get people to read their work it requires "business" activities and more specifically public relations and marketing. No one will know about your work without these business endeavors to publicize it. Marketing and public relations hold equal weight in publishing. First, you want an enticing, well-done product and second you have to share with the world, which requires publicity, advertising and marketing. The problem is most writers think of themselves as artists not business people. You have to be both to make a best-seller. If you don't have the business savvy or knowledge to publicize your book then hire a group (like 3L Publishing's PR and marketing division) to do it for you. If you don't publicize your book it will do nothing more than gather dust on the shelf or not be downloaded as an eBook.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

On the Road Again

I am prepping for the Northwest Book Festival that is scheduled for July 27 in Portland, Ore. I have a great tip for you if you ever need to buy a table and chairs for your booth space: Costco. So, I went over to Costco and picked up this really cool fold-up long table with a handle to carry it like a suitcase and two (padded) folding chairs. It cost me $75 for the whole shindig. We also needed a canopy tent structure (I guess it rains or too much shines) in Portland. So I borrowed an easy-up tent from a friend. I am set for my display already ... so check! Done. Now I emphasized padded chairs ... have you ever sat for 8 to 10 hours on a metal surface? Not comfortable so make sure you get padded chairs if you're going to sit for any duration of time. We also have the standard banners and the dog-and-pony show necessities. FYI, do you have the following for your display:

  • Poster-board signage
  • Business cards or (in this case) bookmarks with proper contact information
  • Drop cloth (decorative to match your brand)
  • Product (naturally) ... in this case books
  • Handouts or brochures about your business
If you don't have those items, please note: my company 3L Publishing produces marketing collateral materials, too. We do beautiful marketing promo pieces. Want some created? Send an email to info@3LPublishing.com or call 916-300-8012. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Create a Unique Voice for Your Characters

One of the hardest things to do when writing fiction is to create unique voices for each character. If you make all the characters sound alike it makes the writing flat and uninteresting. It also makes it difficult to get to know a character -- they all sound like the same person. When I teach my fiction writing workshops, I always teach writers the following concepts to help create a voice for each character.

Phone a friend -- I'm being cute ... what I really mean is pick someone you know in real life. Hear how he or she talks. Take this person's voice and apply it to one of your characters. If you don't know someone who would "fit the part" then take an actor or actress or even a public figure and listen to how this person talks. Mimic their inflections and phrases in your character(s). My biggest insight: really listen and repeat. People have their own ways of saying things. So, you want to capture the unique essence of the voice.

Formalism in modern writing sounds ridiculous or who talks like that? -- turning modern characters into "narrators" doesn't work. This dilutes the voice into a bland vanilla-sounding, uniform voice. Rarely do people talk in formal English. Most people are colloquial and use vernacular of some kind. Even the most educated character will use some kind of idiom to express something. So don't make your characters talk like they are nothing more than narrators.

Pick a unique phrase or behavior -- give your characters their own vernacular. Do you know someone who says a particular phrase all the time like "it's all good" or "and shit" or "whatever" ... these can be your character's "brand" phrase. Do you remember on the series Entourage, Ari Gold used to say "BOOM" -- and thus, a whole new word became the way to express something. The same goes for your characters. Give them a choice word or phrase that defines that character.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Storytelling Tips: Show don't Tell

Some writers have a bad habit of doing what we call "telling and not showing". They will do this in two different ways:

#1 Underdeveloped scenes aka as impatient writing -- to progress a story faster than an ice melting on 220-degree pavement, writers will in one sentence or less tell you a major plot point. I call this impatient writing. The writer is often much more excited to get to the action and climax then to develop important plot points. For example, telling us a character got summoned to the police station for questioning and then just skipping to the after scene and briefly saying what happened. A police questioning scene is ripe for drama. Why would you skip over it, especially if it's an essential plot point. Sometimes writers just aren't as fascinated or excited about the scene so it's easier to just jump over it. This leads to...

#2 Lack of story development -- when you skip really fast over important plot points, you are making your storytelling shallow. When you have a chance to play out important dramatic scenes, chew it up. Have you ever heard of "scenery chewers"? A dramatic scene gives you a chance to chew up the page in great drama. Play out those important scenes. SHOW the action, reactions and drama. Don't tell me, she was upset. SHOW me how she is upset. TELL me what she says. SHOW me her reactions.

If you are a new or emerging author, you may want someone to guide your work. My company 3L Publishing offers book coaching. We go through manuscripts and point out these issues by providing analysis and commentary to help guide a book to perfection. If you want to hire one of our experienced and skilled book coaches, please send an email to info@3LPublishing.com or call 916-300-8012. For more information about 3L, please visit the website at www.3LPublishing.com.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cheap is as Cheap Does -- Why a $99 Self-Publishing Deal is Not a Deal


Many authors ask questions about self-publishers such as iUniverse or more recently Book Baby or Smashwords. Now before I explain why these "publishers" are nothing more than a "mechanism" to get your book out there, I want to be fair. Some of these services do exactly what they say -- they get your book converted to an eBook and then posted on eBook distribution service like Kindle on Amazon or Nook on Barnes and Noble. A place like iUniverse does a little more than that, but for the most part not much more. 

After speaking to hundreds of authors who have used self-publishing services, I would like to clear up the confusion that seems to follow some of the more popular self-publishers. 

Your book is edited by a professional -- true or falseFalse! Some services provide ZERO editing. Other services provide an editor. Is that editor always qualified? One review of some back cover copies produced by some of these self-publishers suggests a lack of qualifications. Just count the type-os and mistakes. You will be shocked to learn that sometimes these publishers use non-English speakers to edit English books. Why? Cheap labor. Cheap is as cheap does ...

Your book cover design will be excellent -- true or false? Sometimes True most of the time False. When you've paid $100 for a book cover design you can expect to get your $100 worth. Most seasoned graphic designers minimally charge $35 to $50 an hour. So you can imagine that either the graphic designer isn't experienced or he or she is not that talented in the first place to command a professional's hourly rate.

Your book will be distributed into all the major bookstores -- true or false. Again, false. Most of these "publishers" do nothing more than eBook conversion. They take your manuscript (that you may or may not have had professionally edited) and convert it to eBook (Kindle, Nook or iBook). Then they claim worldwide distribution of your eBook that amounts to nothing more than posting it on those sales channels (Amazon, Barnes and Apple). You will get no print copies. You will not get print copies delivered to bookstores. It's an eBook conversion service. 

Your book will be marketed and promoted to the consumer -- true or false. False. Most services if you're lucky will invite you on their in-house podcast to be interviewed and promote this as marketing. The truth is you are unlikely to get any sales from these podcasts. They don't do media kits. They don't do media relations. They don't do marketing of any kind. As the author, you will have to buy marketing services elsewhere. 

You'll get GREAT royalties -- true or false. False. As an author told me just yesterday she paid $4,000 for one of those "service providers" and was paid 10 percent in royalties, which is about the same amount she would have made through a traditional publisher without paying anything. Other authors have reported that they've never been paid a cent despite obvious sales posting on Amazon. I won't point the finger at which "publisher" they were talking about, but this "publisher" falls under the usual suspects.

Want to pick my well-experienced brain? More than happy to help any author avoid the pitfalls of publishing. It actually bothers me a great deal when I hear about negative experiences. It doesn't have to work that way. Getting your book published should be a joyful, happy and exciting experience -- one you can feel proud about. Feel free to call me at 916-300-8012 or send email to michelle@3LPublishing.com. I will provide any useful guidance you need. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Morning Musings

It's Friday, and I often don't feel serious. My daydreams drift to thoughts of summer fun -- swimming with my kids or going for a hike. It all sounds way more interesting than working, doesn't it? Well, you know you have to make a living. Speaking of making a living, I have an offer for readers. How would you like a cool giveaway? Send me an email and a promise you will do an Amazon review, and I will send you a complementary copy of Vengeance is Now (www.vengeanceisnow.com). This critically acclaimed thriller is being praised as the best in new fiction -- find out why!

Send your email for your FREE copy to info@3LPublishing.com and pledge, "I will do an Amazon review."

Vengeance is Now is also available on Kindle, iBook and Nook. Scott D. Roberts and yours truly will at the Northwest Book Festival on July 27, 2013 in Portland Oregon. I will be promoting the second book in the California Girl Chronicles series, Brea's Big Break.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Storytelling Structure to Make a Book Brilliant

The best books take interesting approaches to storytelling. I recently received a submission from a new writer who naturally and successfully broke linear storytelling structure. As her memoir unfolded it wasn't the typical "...and I was born ... and died" approach. Yes, a story needs a beginning and an end. Her story was unique. She began with an opening that defined the theme in the book. She then fluidly moved to major life events. Guess what? Not in chronological order. She began building intrigue by providing her life story through defining events. As she did so, she opened questions to be answered and pull the reader forward -- and that is what you call a page-turner. The reader wonders okay how are we going to get back to this plot point? After building, for example, a chapter where she alludes to her own "death," she then successfully plunges back into her past and how this history makes her who she is now. Brilliant! So the point? Don't take a straight shot through your storytelling. Yes, we're taught in school a story has a beginning, middle and end, but how you get to each place isn't set in stone. Be creative. Be different. Just make sure it all pulls together and makes logical sense. Another great book in the 3L Publishing catalog that takes a leap of faith in structure is Vengeance is Now. Author Scott D. Roberts plays (successfully and brilliantly) with the structure and point of view, which resulted in this year's critic's darling. You can purchase Vengeance is Now on the 3L Publishing website or Amazon in paperback, Kindle or iBook and Nook.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More English 101

I have been blogging and providing tips for writers. Now even the most seasoned writer can make these common mistakes. Since I have been providing the most common mistakes made by new and seasoned writers alike, I will continue that theme. Here are some of the mistakes I see the most often.

Non-parallel verb structure: this is hard. The sentence can seem like it reads right, but it's not right. Non-parallel verb structure is when your verb tenses don't match. Here is an example:

Wrong: He walked to the store, stopping and picking up a paper, and continued inside.
Right: He walked to the store, stopped and picked up a paper, and continued inside.

Shifting from present to past tense in storytelling: this one is another common mistake. The rule: pick a tense and stay in it. For example, if you decide to write your story in present tense, you have to stay in the present tense the entire story. You can only shift to past tense when referring to something that did, indeed, happen in the past.

Wrong: She feels great today. The sun shines and the wind blows. She decided to go the store. She leaves and rode her bike.

Right: She feels great today. The sun shines and the wind blows. She decides to go the store. She leaves and rides her bike.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Don't Care About the Pie: Why Minutia in Storytelling is Bad

My associate and author Scott D. Roberts calls this too much exposition. I am a little simpler: I call it too much minutia. One of the biggest mistakes I see writers make is to bog down their writing in what Roberts aptly puts as too much exposition. What this means is that writers tell the reader everything and anything to "decorate" a description -- and it has absolutely nothing to do with storytelling. For example during a critical scene you start describing what the character is eating, how he/she enjoys it, and it has absolutely nothing to do with driving the story forward, then the real question is: why is that in there?

Ask this question for every scene: is it relevant to the plot?

If it's nothing but an interesting piece of fluff -- or your writer's ego enjoyed writing about the pie in the window that had nothing to do with the story, take it out. Every element of every scene or chapter should be a part of the story -- and it should drive the story forward. To create fast-paced storytelling, each chapter should always drive the next chapter and so on and so forth. Move through the scenes and don't get caught up in unimportant details. Unless the pie is poisoned and the character is going to die from it, we don't care about the pie.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Writer's Tip: Trim the Verbiage

I had this great writing class in college. I will never forget this excellent exercise. The professor taught us how to "trim the fat" to tighten our writing. The major tip is to look for the excess and unnecessary words. It will sharpen your writing, and it makes it easier to read. I'm going to show you an example of how it's done. 

This sentenced is pulled from my own newsletter (you can sign up at www.3LPublishing.com ... look for the First Word button). 

Exercise: Trim five words from this sentence:

Speaking of warmth, let's discuss what isn't particularly warm, but perhaps slightly "cold" and maybe even bad for business.

Speaking of warmth, let's discuss what isn't warm, but "cold" and bad for business.

You can clearly see how much better that sentence is. Now here is why I didn't write it that way in the first place: voice. The "excess" "fat" in that sentence conveys my voice. In a personal newsletter where you're establishing a personal brand (and we have a book on personal branding coming soon), you do want to have a voice. In a business newsletter where you're not trying to establish a voice, a straightforward writing exercise like the one I just showed you will create improved prose. So, next time you're writing professionally use that exercise. See how many words you can trim out. You'll find your writing vastly improved.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Name of the Game is "Gratitude"

I recently began offering complementary writer's workshop for writer's groups. I was stunned over some of the reactions that were at times abrasive and borderline rude. The major concern centered around whether or not we might expect something for our time. Since the workshops are designed as information-based marketing programs, the answer was no. We just wanted the opportunity to meet, educate, and network with fellow writers. When you give information away freely and without reservation, people will naturally gravitate toward your company. I have found free information = opportunities without hard sales. The bonus for us is we love what we do and enjoy teaching and educating others about our craft.

Well, this one writer's group just pushed and pushed and questioned about our genuine interest in sharing with their group. It got to the point where after several assurances we would not give an infomercial, the group leader continued what just became an offensive stance on the content of our workshop (of course, without having read or heard the material). This barrage of "anxiety" over a FREE workshop went over-the-top and pushed us away. We were offended by the constant anxiety over what was no more than a nice gesture. If you take everything offered to you as "what's in it for them" versus "what can they share with us," you are going to not only lose opportunities and chances to learn, but you are going to alienate as well. If someone offers something that is of great value, just say that is great and thank you so much. Gratitude is always winning! Lack of appreciation ... not so much.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Realizing Your Dreams

“Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.” ~ Paul Coelho

I have learned so many valuable lessons on this road of life. You always have to look as your experiences as lessons. What do you need to learn about living, about yourself? In March 2012, I took a major leap of faith with one full swoop and made a HUGE change in my life. Not only that I invited someone very special to me to "take a journey with me," which was a bold, profound move on my part. Sometimes, though, you have to make bold, profound moves to change your life for the positive. I recently realized that dream (and it is only just beginning). 

So many people are unhappy with their lives. They've accepted mediocre over magic. They've accepted average over excellent. They've just sat in the chair of their lives and stayed in place. If you think inertia will get you where you want to go you are wrong. Sitting, hoping and waiting will produce only one thing -- more of the same. If you want to make your dreams come true you have to take steps (daily steps) to make it happen. Maybe it's not happening fast enough. Make it happen. Realizing a dream is all about taking action. The day I finally took action and made my bold move, I once more did it suddenly. And all of a sudden black turned white. Sometimes it's a sudden, bold move that moves you closer to what you want. Sometimes you just have to (as the Nike ad suggests) "do it".  

I have a book titled Second Bloom (available on my website at www.3LPublishing.com) designed to help you make just such a change.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Common Mistakes Made by New Writers

New writers make common mistakes when they pitch their manuscripts. If you've had an occasion to actually get in front of a publisher then you better scramble and have your act together. My time is valuable. Publishers don't have time to sit and listen, so if you're fortunate enough to get that precious pitch time, take advantage and don't make these common mistakes.

Free, free and free -- and what's not in it for me. Some authors will call me just to "pick my brain" even though they have no intention of working with me. They will want me to help them write a query or proposal without any idea that it's an outrageous request. We do provide proposal-writing services not for FREE. I'm just saying. Not to mention a complete stranger asking me for "favors" is slightly ridiculous, too. I don't know you, remember?

Read my entire book -- another common blunder. Writers expect I am going to read their entire manuscript. I may read their entire sample chapter and the summary; but as far as reading an entire book, it's out of the question. I don't have nearly enough hours in the day to read entire books. The expectation and the request usually results in a bitter writer reaction when I say it's not possible. They often seem shocked by the no.

Weak chapter 1 -- another blooper. Writers who submit chapter 1 and then say, "It's my weakest chapter ..." Huh? Did you really put your worst foot forward? How does that make any sense? When you apply for a job, do you say I am a "weak" worker, but the rest of my effort will be great ... I hope! No, you put your best "self" forward to win the job, right? Never tell a publisher, "Well, my first chapter sucks!" LOL

What's your book about? I don't know. Isn't that the funniest pitch? And yes, I've had writers say that to me.  You need to have your pitch down in 25 words or less. You should be able to quickly and expressively tell me what your book is about. If you don't know then I suggest you start over and figure it out.

Ready to pitch your book? You can send your "fabulous" chapter 1 and book summary to info@3LPublishing.com or call 916-300-8012.




Monday, July 8, 2013

Target and Niche Marketing

If you're an entrepreneur or even an author (authors have to market, too) then I want to call your attention to the value of target marketing and the problem with casting too broad a net. I recently got advertised to on Facebook for a group called "Seniors Meet" ... your last chance at love LOL. Now I'm sure the demographic for Seniors Meet is naturally senior citizens. I started laughing. Looking at my picture on the blog. Do I look like I fit into the geriatric crowd? You're all now shaking your heads, "No Michelle." Casting too broad a net to market or advertise products or services is a complete waste of time, resources and money. I am not old enough to be considered a senior citizen. So what criteria did the marketers put on their social media ad? I would imagine the age range they included had to be women in their 40's. Are women in their 40's senior citizen? Um no Bob they are not quite there yet. Middle-aged perhaps but hardly ready for a walker. What value did this give the marketers? It likely cost them more money to reach out to 40-year-old women. Was that effective? No! But I will tell you this about niche marketing: if you do reach out to what we in marketing and public relations call the "sweet spot" (the right demographics), the payday can be big. Your marketing pro might need to hone in on the media that reaches that prime market. Marketer usually request this kind of information from media hosts in the forms of media kits. Casting a broad net doesn't work. It makes someone like myself laugh and make fun of it. Casting a specific, drill-down net to the exact right market produces results and success.