Tag Archives | Elana Johnson

Only a small percentage of authors sell through. What’s the solution?

In the past few days I’ve read some wonderful posts.

Elana Johnson has proven once again why she’s so well liked in the blogging world. In this post, she talks about being a midlist hardcover author and trying to fit in on the other side of the fence. No whining. No complaining. Just brutal humbling honesty.

That’s what we’re looking for in a blog, in a writer, in an author. Emotion. Exactly what we’re looking for when we’re reading a book as Wendy P Miller points out.

And in another post Elana talks about defining success and how it use to be all about blog numbers for her. But not anymore.

Jody Hedlund posted about the identity crisis that most authors endure after their first book is released. Again, no whining, no complaining. Just honesty.

Angela Ackerman guest posted at Janice Hardy’s blog talking about blogging through the hard times, picking yourself up, and moving forward. Through the rejections, the almosts, the frustrating times. And we’ve all been there. We can relate. Connect.

And my new traditionally published blogging hero is Nova Ren Suma. She seems to have reinvented her blog, taking hold of the reigns with an incredible series of inspirational posts from other authors. And she has new series coming in 2012. She’s making a real effort to reach out and make a difference. And reach potential readers. Very smart.

Maybe some of these posts will extend past the writing bubble and reach non-writing readers. Maybe not. I like these authors, these bloggers. I’ll read their books. I’ll buy their books.

So why I am bringing all this up?

Because these authors are active in social media in a terrific kind of way.

Because I see tweets from industry professionals about how traditional publishers need to combat the 99-cent book. Really? I mean really? Low priced ebooks are not the enemy. (Or they shouldn’t be.) I’ve seen it suggested that the big publishers should brand the front of their books so readers know the difference. (Sounds like a dystopian novel to me.)

Most readers don’t care. And if they do – they’ll find out before purchasing.

Readers want excellent writing. A powerful story. An entertaining story. You’ve got that and you won’t have to worry about putting a logo on the front of a book in order to sell through.

Even then sometimes there’s nothing we can do. It’s out of our control.

Be likeable. Be honest. Create fans of you. Not just your books.

Write the best you can.

Promote and market wisely. (Look to the posts and blogs I mentioned.)

Write the next book and make it even better.

So honestly. Do you think branding the front of a book with a publisher’s logo will make the difference? What would help more authors sell through their advance? Because I’d love to see that happen.

This post by Angie Frazer is a must read. How do these midlist authors get noticed?


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World building and believability. (Another look at POSSESSION.)

I hear it all the time. World building. Details. But not just any details. Ones that are important to the story and reveal the world and play an important role in the story.

In any world, not just fantasy or dystopian, we want to make it believable.

Elana Johnson in her novel, POSSESSION, added some cool gadgets to Vi’s world that reflected the futuristic society and played an important role in the story.

Ecomms, robots, implanted tags that track people, hovercopters, tech-cuffs that leave your wrists red and inflamed, cell phones that do everything even taser people from across the room, cubes that make meals appear, healing lotion, sticker rings, walls that can listen and talk…the list goes on.

I loved these gadgets in POSSESSION. And they made Vi’s world extremely believable.

What details can you add to your character’s world, even if it’s contemporary fiction, that reflect your character and tie in with her external and internal conflict?

Tall order, I know.

What books have you read with great world building? Examples?

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Add layers to your first chapter. (A look at POSSESSION)

We all know that first chapters are deal makers or deal breakers. And I’m assuming that you want yours to be a deal maker. As I do mine.

Let’s look at Elana’s first chapter to see what we can learn.

“Good girls don’t walk with boys. Even if they’re good boys – and Zenn was the best. He strolled next to me, all military with his hands clasped behind his back, wearing the black uniform of a Forces recruit. The green stripes on his shirtsleeves flashed with silver tech lights, probably recording everything. Probably? Who am I kidding? Those damn stripes were definitely recording everything.”

In the rest of the chapter we learn how Vi, the main character, has been breaking rules in this dystopian society where the Thinkers control just about everything. Zenn is her match. They are in love. And he’s about to give her a gift. But a hovercopter interrupts the moment, picks her up, and brings her to the institute for a formal hearing.

First layer:

  • We are introduced to an awesome voice.
  • Immediate conflict.
  • Love interest.
  • Introduction to the dystopian world.

And at the end of the chapter I want to know what happens to Vi.

Successful first chapter. Hooks an agent, an editor and readers.

Second layer:

  • Nothing in the first chapter is as it seems.
  • Later in the book, more is revealed, and the first chapter takes on a whole new dimension and meaning. Wow!

Sorry, no spoilers, you’ll have to read the book.

Here’s Elana’s book on Amazon – give it a try.

How can you add layers to your first chapter? How about the whole first half of your story?

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To blog or not to blog about writing.

Okay, the whole thing started with this post by Kristen Lamb. Sacred Cow Tipping – Why writers blogging about writing is bad. Read it.

The gist of it says that by blogging about writing you only reach a small percentage of the population. You want to be reaching readers. Her one example made perfect sense: a paranormal author who blogs about wine and cooking.

It’s easy to read Kristen’s words and immediately scorn the blog you’ve put so much time into. A hot flush races across your skin as you realize you’ve been doing it all wrong.  You can’t blog about writing anymore! So maybe you better start watching soap operas – and fast! Or pick up knitting. Something. Anything.

I’m pretty sure that strategy won’t work either.

So is Kristen wrong or right?

She’s neither, just a little misunderstood. Blogging about writing is different than a pure writing blog. My takeaway is that she encourages your blog to be about you. Don’t limit your blog to just writing tips all the time. Be yourself. Include parts of you that you want to share. Funny stories. Book reviews. Your travels. Your research for your stories. Be you. Let your voice shine through. If you’re passionate about cute little green inch worms then blog about it. Or not.

No one can argue the success Jody Hedlund has had and her blog is primarily about writing. But she puts herself into each and every post. There is a difference.

I write for children and teens. Most of my targeted audience won’t read my blog unless I sell a book on the bestseller list or win an award. And then they’ll look me up to fill out a book report. So my next target would be teachers and librarians and moms. (No thanks. I’m not becoming a mommy blogger no matter how cute I think my kids are.)

I can think of a handful of authors who naturally embrace Kristen’s approach. Lisa and Laura Roecker (hilarious) blog about pop culture with self deprecating humor. But they are entertaining. Kirsten White used to blog about nothing in particular, but again, is extremely witty. And Elana Johnson not only has posts on writing but her blog is full of heart. She’s Elana. And those bloggers reached higher heights of followers through getting agents, giving back, book deals and almost dying (Kirsten).

So if you blog about nothing or pop culture or soap operas or cooking you better be ready to entertain. Or you won’t gain many followers even if they are potential readers. But the same holds true when blogging about writing. And entertaining doesn’t have to mean funny.

I return to the motto I uphold when blogging: unique, useful, and updated. Use your slant, your voice, your approach to any topic, even if it’s writing.

That’s what I think Kristen meant. Don’t dig yourself into a “writing” hole. #ofcourseicouldbewrong

Here are some great links to check out.

And Roz Morris answers my questions on the subject in this blog post. (How will she promote her fiction when she blogs about writing?)

Roni Loren recently wrote an incredible post on ten things she’d do differently. (In reference to her blogging journey) (Incredible post!)

The Bookshelf Muse wrote a terrific post about knowing your audience.

Livia Blackburn writes Author blogging: you’re doing it wrong.

And of course this brings up another scary question: How effective is blogging? Um yeah, that will be for another time. Maybe next Wednesday.

What do you all think? Are you going to start blogging about your lifetime obsession with the Smurfs? Make me laugh and I’ll read it.

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