Kindlegraph: Yes Virginia, You Can Get Ebooks Signed, So Long As You Have A Kindle

Lest anyone think I am knocking Kindlegraph’s excellent idea, I’m not. The idea of being able to personalize a signature for an ebook is an intriguing idea, so of course I signed up.

How does it work? As a reader, you go to Kindelgraph.com and search for your favorite authors. The site boasts that there are 3,500 of them, and there’s probably more. If your author is there, it will shoe their name in the search results, then click it for a list of autograph-able books.  Kindlegraph will then send the author a notification and they can log on and sign away.

As an author you first need to register, which is very easy, and then enter the ASIN (found on your book’s amazon page) for each book you’d like to add to their database. Once a book is added, you will get a “test request” from the site’s admin for the first book that allows you to practice your signature and such (more on that in a moment)

On the request page there is space to write a personal message with two fonts to choose from; handwriting and typewriter, and then a second input box for your signature. You can actually use your mouse (stylus, finger, whatever your setup is) to sign your signature, like so:

Or you can “adopt a signature”, which uses that handwritten font again. Once you’ve drawn your signature, kindlegraph saves it, and you never need to do it again, though I have been because when you sign a real book no two signatures look identical, each is one of a kind, and I don’t see why e-signatures should be any different. But then I am kind of a lunatic.

What if you or your readers have a Nook or a Kobo or something else? So far I have been unable to locate any sites that supply signatures to these devices, however, I am keeping my eyes open. If I run across one I’ll be sure to share it and if you know of one I’d love it if you’d let me know.

UPDATE: this also works with Kindle apps on cellphones, tablets etc. The reader just provides the email address associated with the items Amazon account. (Thanks Tara Wood for the info!)

What do you think of ebook signatures? Good idea, or waste of time?

Adding Humor to Your Scenes

Writing is serious business and if you want your work to succeed you must develop good skills. This takes work.

It involves attending writing conferences and workshops as well as critique groups. Hours of pursuit to hone your talents. How do you release these stresses for perfection?

Write humorous scenes. They bring smiles to the lips of your readers, but they also relieve the weary writer.

However, before you can do that you need to make sure the humorous addition is conducive to the scene or the character’s traits. For example, you could not include humor in a life-or-death scene.

You can, though, use it to show readers a character’s wit. I did this in two different ways in my recently-released, inspiring-historical romance, Lockets and Lanterns. One way was through the character’s actions in a flashback scene where Red first met his soon-to-be wife.

“The barn dance flashed before him.

“He knew that bowing before her after their introduction at the dance was a gamble. He smiled, satisfied his movement at least caught her attention. He pulled out a strand of his red hair as a calling card, an impulse of pure genius. He snickered.”

What do we learn from this? That Red is a fun-loving and confident individual portrayed through his pulling out a hair strand as a calling card and his thinking this was an action of “pure genius.”

If the character is jovial, humor also works in dialogue. Another excerpt from Lockets and Lanterns:

“The crisp air drifted in behind him as Red opened the door. He came over to her. His red hair swept down around his brow. He laid the dead animal on the kitchen table. ‘Here’s a goose for you to cook.’

“Edith glared at the furry, long-eared animal. She raised her face to her husband. ‘That’s a rabbit.’ She shook her head at him.

“He wrapped his arm around her waist. His cold lips pressed against hers. He took a step backward and gave a sly grin. ‘No, it’s a goose because his goose is cooked.’”

This dialogue excerpt flowed naturally. It started with the vague description of the word, animal, to the wife looking at the dead rabbit to the ending dialogue of “No, it’s a goose because his goose is cooked.”

How do you achieve this natural style? Watch and listen to those around you. Family gatherings are good avenues. I have one son who knows how to insert some zingers. What about the family recalling your past missteps? My oldest sons remind me of the first time I had a microwave oven and heated up some leftover chicken. It became crispy chicken. Are you laughing?

Modify these incidents and create scenes which fit your characters. Children are good fodder. I remember when my oldest granddaughter was four. It was a clear day until all at once a big wind came. “What a wind?” I told her. She replied, “Well, God can do whatever He wants because He is a big guy.”

Mentally note these events and rework them to place in your manuscript. Have a friend or critique partner read them to make sure they work. Have you ever heard a joke and laughed because it was expected of you but you did not get it? Of course, you have. This is why it is important for others to exam what you write.

Additionally, read the public pulse, emails and Facebook postings, there always are comical comments. Print or jot them down either physically or mentally for later use. No matter what period, except perhaps Regency, you can redo those for the era. People cry, laugh and smile since the beginning of time. But jokes do go out of style so watch that.

Years ago my family visited the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot. The reason John Wilkes Booth got off the shots without the audience at first knowing was because of the laughter to a line in the play. When tour guides repeated that joke, not one of us laughed. The line no longer worked.

Well, I will go for now. Take care and remember to lighten your load with chuckles and as always God bless.

Writing a Series: Cliffhangers?

I had a conversation the other day about when it is – and isn’t – appropriate in a book series to have a cliffhanger.  Common rule of thumb is that each book in a series should be a stand alone book so that a reader need not buy the entire series, but only read one book and know what’s going on.

At the same time, many authors, both traditional and self published, employ the cliffhanger ending. The Morganville Vampires is a good example of this. The first book drops off in the middle of a “battle”, like the old serials with the main characters in deathly perril.

That seems to have worked for Rachel Caine since she’s ready to publish book 11 in the series.

So, when should an author leave an open ending and when should they be sure that each book can stand alone?

I think genre may be an important factor.  Thrillers and mysteries are more likely to draw in readers who will not go back and read earlier books, or who may not read the series in order. On the other hand, a fantasy epic will likely attract readers who want a huge story arc that spans several novels.

I believe another factor is how much time passes between one book and the next. If an author takes two years to finish that dramatic fight, readers will likely lose interest. If you followed the Rachel Caine link above you can see a list of her novels with publication dates, and see how close together the books are. Even if she drops off at the end of her book, fans only have to wait a few months before they can have the conclusion; and the set up for a new cliffhanger.

At the core I’m a fantasy reader, so I find that I prefer books that have a long story arc. I want to “have” to buy the next book, and I want to “have” to read them in the correct order. I want characters and situations to pop up five books down the line that make me have to scramble back to the first book in an effort to remember what the heck the author is talking about; I want a whole world. However, I don’t like it when a book drops off in the middle of a scene. If there’s a fight, then I think that fight needs to end, or else the next book should open with the fight in it’s entirety.

What about you? How do you feel about cliffhangers or stories that arc from one book to the next? Do they make you want the next book or do you prefer a book that can stand alone, even if it’s part of an ongoing series? What genres do you think lend themselves to long story arcs? What genres don’t?

Don’t Annoy Potential Readers while Marketing your Book

When I was child I went door to door to sell my mother’s crafts. Now I think some of my success was because it’s hard for women to say no to a kid, but the other part is my penchant for asking questions. I showed a genuine interest in people. Yeah, I was there to make a sale, but I didn’t let that get in the way.

Now some might say I’m a horrible marketer, because I don’t employ any of the popular techniques of marketing and promoting with my books. I don’t want to be the Tweeter that posts nothing but book links. Once or twice a day is fine, as long as there are other statuses. But when it turns into the car salesman screaming “Sale! SALE! SALE! Buy now! NOW! NOW!” it turns me away from that author.

I’m one of those people who cringe at the thought of marketing, and there is a whole long story behind it, but in order to keep it short I will say this. I don’t care about sales rank. I don’t do contest. I don’t do guest posting or interviews unless someone asks me to. If I do a giveaway, I actually give the books away for free to anyone, no strings attached; although, I may ask them to leave an honest review at their favorite book sites. If I like an author’s work, I have no problem promoting them on my blog. And I try to stay away from reviews on my books.

In the three years since I published my first book, I haven’t done much more than create a blog/website, write more books, and connect with people whose blogs I like to read. But as a writer friend pointed out to me that other day, I sell more books in a month then some of the author’s she knows who employ a more aggressive style of marketing and have been published longer. I jokingly told her that if I actually put some effort into marketing think how many books I could sell in a month. But it really wasn’t a joke.

Yeah, I love my books. Yeah, I’m passionate about them. Yeah, I’d love to tell everyone I meet about the story I wrote. But I don’t want to do the telemarketer’s style of promotion and pitch my book to people who don’t care.

Over the years I’ve learned that part of good, non-aggressive marketing is realizing when you’ve lost the sale. If you meet someone and are having a good discussion and you mention to them that you are an author of whatever genre and they shut down, move on to another topic, because if you push the issue, you run the risk of annoying a potential reader and not only losing their sale, but others. No one wants to feel hounded. If they ask questions or show interest, be ready to answer their questions and maybe have a business card to give them.

Remember, word of mouth is the biggest seller. Readers share with each other. If you annoy one, they will tell other readers about your behavior, and you lose even more potential readers. If you impress a reader with your professionalism, they will tell others about experience, and you will gain readers. And who doesn’t want to gain readers.

What things do you see other author’s doing that you find annoying? Why would you repeat their mistake?

Committed to…. Changing?

“Charles’s favorite book, the one about Claudius’s epic quest to destroy Carlos’s magic hat, is missing.”

For the last thrity years I’ve had sentences like that corrected. No, not because it’s long and confusing, but because of all the ‘s –  but no more!

I am vindicated!

Okay, not really vindicated, but they have “changed the rules”, as they do periodically.  Or at least, the The Chicago Manual of Style: 16th Edition has.  According to Mary Keeley of the Books & Such Literary Agency, the goal was on consistency with this edition, hence the final vindication of the possessive ‘s’ after names that end in ‘s’.  There were lots of other changes, too. Commas can now follow other punctuation (how would that work?), website is one word, prepositions in headlines are now always lowercase, no matter the importance of the word, and more.

What’s my opinion on it? Hm. They say that as writer’s we should keep up on every subtle change in order to show our commitment to our readers and our craft. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of good grammar or punctuation, but I wonder how many average readers buy – or read – The Chicago Manual of Style? Is it a commitment to our readers and our craft, or a commitment to proving to the other authors/industry people that we’re “with it”? After all, how many average readers  would know whether website had been officially ruled one word or two? Until you read this, did you?

You can read the rest of the article here: http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/news-from-conferences-grammar-shrammar/

(Special thanks to Barbara G. Tarn for finding the link to this article!)

Giving Your Characters Life: Online

I am cross posting this on MariMiniatt.com and the Self Published Author Blog

I did something crazy, but fun this weekend. Something other authors have done, but I was a little nervous to try.

Giving your fictional characters on online presence.

I used Twitter for one. Facebook for the other.

How do you do it?

Things you need:

  • An email with an alias.
  • A third party client like Hootsuite. Not really needed, but makes it easier to manage.

Email with Alias
You need to make an unique email. You could go through the process of registering for a new email. OR if you have gmail (maybe some others) you can make an alias email address.

1. Log into your gmail. At the top, next to the search box, there are two choices. Click on “create filter”.
2. In the TO: box. Enter your email with an alias, so it looks like this email+alias@gmail.com. Your email name with +alias then @gmail.com. Use an alias that is unique, because it is your character, their first name is perfect. Click on Next Step.

3. Create a filer: click on Apply a Label. Use the drop down to make a new label. Enter your character’s name. Now every time an email comes in for your character it will be sorted for you.

4. Last step. Send yourself a test email to see if it work. From you. to You+alias.

All done. Good.

Twitter
You set up your fictional character profile, like yours. BUT use the alias email. Twitter only allows one profile per email. The alias email gets around that.

Here is mine for Steopa: @SteopaR

Noticed I did not come out an say he is fictional. But anyone reading his bio should figure that out. For the website, use yours. Unless you are maintaining a website for the character as well.

Here is another good example: @crookedfang

Facebook

YOU CANNOT CREATE ANOTHER PROFILE.

Facebook will kick you off for that. What you have to do is make a page:
Very simple.

1.Go to: https://www.facebook.com/pages

2.Click on create page.

3.Choose Entertainment

4. In the drop down box. FICTIONAL CHARACTER!

Facebook made it easy. Follow the rest of the instructions as you make the profile and page. As you fill out the profile; you could use your alias email as the characters email. But, it will be visible.

Once you get 25 likes; your address for you page changes from https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Vincent-Hugh/149281288471540 to https://www.facebook.com/Vincent-Hugh

What can you do with them?

1. Interact with fans as the characters.
2. Help promote your book.
3. Help you practise writing in your character’s voice.
4. Have fun.

Don’t go too overboard. Plan it so you only have to spend a few minutes to an hour a day maintaining them. That is where a program like Hootsuite will help. On the free version you can link up to 5 different social networking profiles. I find it works better for keeping twitter straight. Facebook moves slow enough that all I have to do is log into the page or twice a day to keep it maintained.

I hope this helps and gives you some ideas.

Q&A: The Stalker Reader

Question: Help!  Someone please make a post for me and for other writers who might be dealing with this situation because I am too close to the problem to be objective about it.

If you’ve been receiving emails every day for about two weeks from the same person who isn’t necessarily being rude but is obviously wanting to keep you answering them with questions like “What kind of house do you live in?” or “What is it like in the U.S.?” or “What are the color of your cat’s eyes?”  I mean, these emails have nothing to do with your books, but you suspect the person is lonely and probably wants to reach out and communicate with someone but you don’t have that kind of time to email this person every single day, then what do you do?

I don’t want to be rude.  But do I have a choice?  Is there a form letter I can send out? 

Answer: I wanted to have your question answered as soon as I could and later I’ll make a post on Author Etiquette. Most people on here might not know what Ruth means by form letter. This isn’t some cold letter that you copy and send out. In the last year that we have been conversing, we have made a dozen or more form letters. What they are, are letters written to answer emails that would otherwise make you send a heated email cussing the rude reader off for whatever reader reason. Our letters aren’t a publisher’s rejection letters.

First, they are written when you’re not upset. Second, they can be modified to answer specific points in the readers email, which you should do if it doesn’t invade your privacy. And third, it provides a credible, professional image.  

I’ll use Ruth’s questions for an example.

Dear (Reader’s name);

Thank you for your emails, however, I am uncomfortable with your line of questioning (or as Dave suggested, due to work / family commitments / time restraints, etc. I am only able to speak  you on the writing/reader basis.) If you have a reading or writing related question please let me know (at your email or you can place a blog address here). I also have an author blog at (address), feel free to visit and comment.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Of course modify this for your writing style. I’m more formal in my letter writing then, Ruth. And I open this Q&A for anyone else that might have a better solution. Anyone?

Improving the Reader-Character Interaction

While reading the Writer this month (a paid for subscription before I realized I was going to go the Self-publishing route). I came across an article that made me think. It wasn’t necessarily about character creation, but there was a moment when the writer touched on creating characters. The writer, Melissa Hart, drove home the idea that it is not only the protagonist, but every character in the book that risks something.  And we as writers need to show the readers what is at stake for the various characters—even if it’s just a passing mention or foreshadow for the next book—because characters that have something at stake are in danger of losing something if they gamble on a particular character or course of action.

Ask yourself this simple question , “What is at stake for this character?” If you can answer this question you are a step closer to learning your characters fears, hopes, motivations, and anxieties. You are closer to improving the quality of your writing. You give the readers insight into the minds of your characters and a chance to better understand them. You are a step closer to giving the reader a firm sense of who the characters are.

The writer, Melissa Hart, had a suggestion on how she does this. She creates freewrites based on questions about her characters. What do they love? What motivates them? What do they hide from the world? What are they afraid of?

I’ve also heard of authors doing Character Interviews. For example: Interview the villain about what motivates him. (e.g. Why did you murder X? Why have you sworn revenge on this particular man/family/group of people? What made you decide to run this scam?) ; interview the heroine about what drives her. (e.g. Why is it so important to you to switch jobs? Why do you want to move to a different city? What is it about X that draws you to him? How did you become estranged from your sister?) ; interview characters about a specific aspect of their lives. (e.g. What was the most significant event you can remember from your childhood? What are your political beliefs? Do you have a deep, dark secret? What is one thing that you have done that you would prefer others not to know about? What do you think would be the perfect lifestyle? How quickly can you make decisions?)

Do you have any suggestions?