Three Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a writer’s version of blood sport. Fifty thousand words in a month, take no prisoners, a first draft heaven where anything goes. The goal is to get a novel together in a month and writers have a tendency to form a love-hate relationship with their manuscript and everything around them. This blog is going to touch on the top three things to do while preparing for NaNo so you get the most of it and not end up a wreck by the end of November.

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 Direction

Writing a book is like being dropped into the wildness, so it’s important to have a map and a compass. Finishing a first draft in a month is a huge and daunting task so it doesn’t matter if you are a plotter or a pantser, having a plan is essential. You are going to want to focus 100% on getting words on the page. Having a rough map will make sure you don’t waffle yourself into a corner and burn out. Here are some quick ideas, whether you are a strict planner or not:

  • Beat sheets– some writers hate these but they can work well to prompt you when you need to put your big events in.
  • Mind maps– grab a pen and create a scribbled mind map even if it’s to get your ideas down.
  • Chapter Plans– these can be as loose or rigid as you like. Try to view them as a suggested route but don’t forget you can move and change stuff about as you go.
  • Notebook– have a notebook designated just for your story. This is a place to jot down ideas, write snippets on the run and keep any research you will need.

Whether you plan chapter by chapter in Scrivener or jot down plot points on a wine stained napkin, you need to know where you want to go before you start. For more ideas and ways to plan go and check out Chuck Wendig’s blog, he offers some great ideas that any writer can adapt.

You Are an Island (in a Chain)

During NaNo your mind needs to be free to focus on your story and roll with all the emotions that go with it. Announcing to your friends and family that you are on a writing challenge will hopefully give them a pre-warning about respecting the space you will need. Writing is a tough, solitary business but remember; meeting up with other writers and NaNoWriMo sufferers can help refresh your mind, bounce feedback off of each other and get you a much needed break away from the keyboard.

It is going to be a busy month so setting extra reminders about birthdays, engagements or bills due dates isn’t a bad idea either. Knowing that everything is covered will free your mind of the mundane so your story can move about freely. Plan to connect so you don’t burn yourself out.

Know Thy Distractions

8583949219_f55657573e_z   Everybody has a weakness or an excuse not to write. Social Media and the ease of checking in while on your computer can seriously cut into your writing time. For 90% of us you have to fight for your writing time and protect it. Don’t waste it on Facebook updates and cat videos. If you have a Social Media weakness it’s a good idea to turn off your wifi before you start. “But I need it to research!”…No, you don’t. The point of NaNo is to write a first draft not a finished copy. If you need research then it should have been done before NaNo started (which is why it’s important to start with a rough plot idea). You can always go back and add the research information into it.

Turn the internet off, everything will be fine, I promise.

The same goes for TV and Netflix, if you know that it’s going to be a distraction, get rid of it. If you have kids or a loud flatmate then maybe head out to a café or for some quiet time at the local library. Libraries usually have quiet rooms you can book if the normal library is too loud. Know what your weaknesses are and prepare for them.

NaNoWriMo can be fun, exciting and productive, but remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Preparing your month by having a novel outlined, planning to step away from the computer to recharge, and minimising your distractions, will ensure you hit your word count and get the most out it.

What Are Your Survival Tips for NaNoWriMo?

How to write the perfect Amazon Book Description

Amazon is a powerful tool in the self publishers shed so it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make it work for you. Knowing how to market your work properly in this huge book paradise can get you noticed by your target audience and drive your sales higher. Today we are going to talk about the importance of the Book Description on your Amazon page and how to get your book to sell.

 What It’s NotNo No

The term ‘Book Description’ can be very misleading in what it’s actually asking for. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive layout of your book, with all your cast of characters and exactly what happens. You don’t want to lay down a full synopsis where you tell the potential reader all of your highlights. Giving away too much of the story will annoy readers and end up turning them off purchasing it.

 What It Is

The best way to think of Amazon Book Descriptions is to consider it in the terms of an enhanced paperback cover blurb. You are writing advertising copy to attract interest and excitement in shoppers. The goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

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How to Lay Out Your Amazon Book Description

There are many good marketing resources geared towards the perfect Book Description but all agree that the following layout, in genre focused variations, works the most effectively:

  1. Jump onto Amazon’s #100 Best Sellers in your genre and study how their book descriptions have been assembled. Like cover design there will be a distinct difference in how your genre is marketed compared to all the others. Study them, pick up tips and tailor your description to these specifications.
  1.  If you have won any awards or accolades put them first in your description e.g. New York Times Best Seller, No.1 Amazon Best Seller. If you do not have any awards you can always start with a positive quote from a reviewer. NOT YOUR MUM. Someone who is a professional reviewer such as Kirkus Reviews or Self Publishing Review.

A good review can go a long way in establishing your credibility as a writer and publisher.

  1. The first line of your description is the most important. Try to think of it as your sales hook. Don’t be nervous about referencing other well known authors here. If you wrote a book about a young pre-adolescent boy who learns magic it doesn’t do any harm to compare it to J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter or Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci.
  1. Your book description should cover these points:
    • Don’t be vague or boring
    • Keep it simple– don’t go into too much detail
    • Don’t give your story or plot lines away
    • Introduce the character in a single line
    • Focus on your characters, and their goals
    • Short, punchy, emotive sentences.
    • Deliver the conflict, make the reader beg to see if it is resolved.
  1.  Always leave the reader wanting more. Closing with particular questions is a good way to leave a description open ended. e.g. “Will Lassie get help in time? Or will little Tommy be left alone in the dark forever?” You can also use this as a tagline on your front cover to catch a reader’s attention.

These are but a few helpful ideas to get your thoughts of your own Book Description flowing. It can be painful and time consuming activity but it’s worth taking the time to get it right as this section is the first example of your writing that readers will encounter. You need to get them interested!

Writing Book Descriptions isn’t an exact science, there is no magic formula that will work every time, but using them as a marketing tool can help attract your readers. The most important thing to remember? You can always rewrite and change it up until you find what works for you and your story!

For more information on crafting Book Descriptions the below is some helpful links and testimonials:

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/10/05/the-11-ingredients-of-a-sizzling-book-description/

http://thefutureofink.com/kindle-books-sales-tool/

https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1462

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/best-practices-for-amazon-ebook-sales/

What have you found works well in a Books Description? As a reader and consumer what turns you off about Book Descriptions when you are shopping?

 

Should you have your character on your book cover?

GMYbu1C3IpaZ9psTRe20rv2L9YZBz3bRVzY_PfnQnFgThe biggest and most frequent misstep made by self publishers is not researching current marketing trends before selecting a cover for their book. They might have written the Book of the Year but no one is going to look at it if its cover isn’t telling the right story, or worse telling too much of it. As writers we get a very firm idea in our heads about what our protagonists look like so we often try and recreate that image when it comes to designing the cover. Unfortunately how you see your character isn’t necessarily going to be how a reader sees them and this can be a major turn off. Knowing what your genre is and listening to your designer might just be the thing that plucks your book out of obscurity.

Why We Love That Face

It’s a fact humans will always be drawn to other humans. We search out faces instinctively so having a person on your book can have its advantages. The temptation is there because not only are we attracted to them but also it can convey a relationship, depending on what they are doing. This is why you see men and women on Romance covers looking at each other longingly. When H.M Ward was a guest on this blog we learnt about her personal experiences designing covers for her Romance novels. She shared about making her covers identifiable to Romance genre readers and not to cater to her own creative preference. After she did this her sales jumped so dramatically she now frequently sits in the New York Times Best Sellers Lists.

Aside from Romance you will see characters on the covers of a lot of Fantasy or Speculative Fiction. The practical reason being that many characters are sub-human and a character with a unique appearance is memorable to readers. Young Adult novels use characters on covers frequently but once again be careful of the genre trends. Lauren Kate’s Fallen cover has her main character, Lucinda Price, in a suitable gothic back drop to represent its paranormal fantasy themes.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

In contrast Veronica Roth’s Insurgent relies on symbolism to showcase her Dystopian fantasy novel. Both are Young Adult, fall under a fantasy sub-heading and are using what works best to represent that particular category. Knowing where your book sits in the genre gene pool should always be intrinsic to your cover decision making process.

Keeping the Mystery Alive

Even though we are attracted to bodies, readers hate having ideas imposed onto them. A character on your book cover can cement that appearance in your audience’s mind and take away the experience of imagining them. This annoys many readers as the appeal of reading is to immerse yourself in your own imagination. If your book is about a place or a particular concept having a character on your cover will send a confused message about the story. Symbolism in cover design is powerful because it isn’t marketed at a particular audience demographic.

George R R Martin: Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin: Game of Thrones

Take a look at the Game of Thrones covers.The original cover is very fantasy driven with castles and characters while the recent  covers have only a simple sword. This isn’t only because of a change in genrepreferences in recent years but also due to the success of the TV Series. It appeals to many (even sworn fantasy haters) and this is important when thinking about your own book.

Another example of this is Chick Lit author Rachel Schurig’s Three Girls series. She changed her covers in 2012 to a simple design and let the candy box colours, shoes and book specific icons appeal to her audience. Moving to a characterless cover helped her Three Girls series become a best seller with a passionate fan base. A little mystery goes a long way with readers and a well-designed iconic cover can have a universal audience, opening up your marketing possibilities.

Three Girls and A Wedding: Rachel SchurigBenefits of a Good Design and Changing Your Mind

Having a good cover designer takes out the guesswork and headache of your cover designing challenges. You are a writer, your art is important to you and you want to give it its best chance. A cover designer has done the research and has the qualifications to give you good advice when it comes to marketing your work. Don’t know where your book fits in the sub-genres? A good designer will, they will also know what’s trending and probably have five ideas on how to market it within reading the first paragraph of your novel. The other sign of a good designer is compromise because this is a symbiotic process. They know how significant this moment is to you, that is why you will be sent different concepts, its so that you can have input into your cover creation.

Scandalous by H. M. Ward  Always remember self-publishing is a business, if your cover is not working you can always change it until you find something that does. Sometimes like H.M Ward and Rachel Schurig you can fall in love with the original designs but even the most beautiful covers can struggle to sell books. The important thing is that they both did something about it; they went back to the drawing board until they found something that worked. Remember, you have a finite number of seconds to get your reader’s attention and having a strong, memorable design can help you find your audience every time.

Do you  have a personal preference when hunting for books? What kinds of things draw your eye?