Perpetual Motion!

I have conquered perpetual motion.

Just before you fire off a twitter notification letting the world know that we have solved  energy production…I should clarify.

I seem to have an internal pendulum inside of me that just doesn’t stop swinging. It is the pendulum of both whether and how I should release Vengeance Will Come.

Pendulum

I can see some big pro/con lists in the near future.

In any case I can’t release it until it’s edited, so back to it…

More Q&A

(These are my notes and thoughts in relation to the Writing Excuses podcast Season 1, episodes 20 ‘More Q&A’. I will also disseminate this information to the topical sections of my resource section).

Question: How necessary are plot twists?

  • Don’t over-inflate the term ‘plot twist’ to always be the dramatic reveal which changes everything. This is not required in every book and if you’re not good at doing them then don’t do it. Small things going wrong are also plot twists.
  • There must be conflict and challenge for the protagonists; these are more required and important than dramatic reveals.

This is freeing, and correlates with my thoughts I wrote about in relation to the last episode plot twists. It isn’t always necessary.

  • The requirement for plot twists depends upon the genre: romance novels don’t really have plot twists because the reader doesn’t want it; science fiction it is more important; mysteries there must be multiple plot twists.

Question: How is the market changing with electronic media?

  • Speculation that the majority of future readers will want commute-friendly length chapters. The number quoted is 2500-3000 words long.

As someone who regularly reads on a 20 minute commute to work, I agree with this. It is much more satisfying to finish a chapter than to have to stop part way through a chapter.

I know that I am reading a great book when I consider stopping for a coffee (and a bit more reading) on the short walk to work. As an aspiring author I want to write books that completely mess up people’s schedules 🙂

  • Note the increase in the number and spread of audio books; becoming more mainstream.

I’ve never actually listened to an audio book. Maybe it’s because of my disability: I literally can’t walk and think about things at the same time. Sure, I can do some low-level thinking, but walking really does take up a large part of my active concentration. Some thoughts can distract me enough that I fall over. So multi-tasking is not something I do well… listening to a novel via audio book would make me feel as though I’m missing bits.

  • With the advent of the internet, e-books etc authors can now sell direct to readers. (The example is given that a $2 short story sold direct-to-reader gives the author more money than 2 sales of an $8 paperbacks, and the author doesn’t have to wait for 9-15 months for the publisher to send the $0.80).
  • Copy editing / editor can become contract services to individuals.

This is incredibly disruptive. As they describe in more detail in the podcast, this partially breaks the traditional publishing model.

The benefit with the traditional publisher is that they have experts in the fields of editing, marketing etc. You can do it all yourself, as many have successfully done, but it is an additional burden upon the author.

  • Could we see the return of the weekly serial?

I like the romanticism involved in this idea. I love the idea of the weekly radio broadcast where they tell a riveting story… I suspect though our attention span is not good enough these days. We are a binge-watching society, used to getting what we want exactly when we want it, on-demand. I think this would negate our ability to enjoy a weekly-released (or even daily-released) serial; we would find the wait too frustrating.

Yes, audiences tune into popular TV series season after season, grumpily enduring the between season periods… but that is entertainment that comes with visual and audio candy and multi-million dollar budgets. Broad-appeal literary serials: it would have to be exceptional material to work.

Question: How do you make your protagonists as interesting as your villains?

  • Blur the line between hero and villain.
  • Villains are more interesting because they often have better conflicts. Ensure your heroes have good/deep/interesting conflicts or they will be weak characters.
  • Protagonist should be competent but not overly-so.
  • Villains are more active, heroes are reactive. Try and make your heroes active. David Gerrold says that for the first half of the story the antagonist is driving, but for the second half the protagonist should be driving. (In the first half the monster chases the hero, in the second half the hero chases the monster).

Question: How much to sell a story for?

(This is obviously going to be the US-version of the answer, so factor in exchange rates and probably, differing markets).

  • Short stories – about $0.05 per word.
  • Novel – about $5000 advance for a first novelist is a good amount; at least $1000.

Additional Wisdom

 

  • Recommended way to break writer’s block: take the last line of dialog and make it the inverse…which then forces you to explain why they say that.
  • Ralan.com – resource.
  • The importance of networking (i.e. at conventions).

Are book trailers good?

I don’t know if I should be ashamed to admit it or not, but it was only recently that I became aware of the existence of book trailers. My initial reaction upon hearing about them was really?

Book trailer: Short video adverts which are designed to interest people in a book.

It seems that “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is so 2005. Apparently since 2006 it should now be “Judge a book by its book trailer.” Really?

I think its interesting that most of the articles I could find on the internet discussing book trailers were written pre-2014. Among them were articles praising the merits of book trailers…but the vast majority of these were written by the media companies themselves; not exactly impartial. If there is someone who could sell sand to an Arab, it’d be those marketing folk. They do have to make it sound worthwhile because otherwise the return on investment just wouldn’t add up.

Book trailers are cited as a way to capture those with short attention spans and encourage them to read. With no evidence whatsoever, I say that’s unlikely. I’d be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of people who happen to watch a book trailer:

a) would buy the book based on the author anyway (i.e. already fans),
b) are more likely to go watch a movie with the same theme as portrayed in the book trailer, and/or
c) will get stuck in the time-vortex that is YouTube

If people have short attention spans that don’t permit them to read a short blurb to see if they like the sound of a book then I don’t think they will go out and buy dozens of hours of reading based on a 3 minute video.

In June 2013, Brett Osmond (Marketing & Publicity Director at Random House Australia) wrote an article that started:

I am rather sceptical about the marketing value of book trailers. In most instances they are watched by a very small audience and there is little evidence to indicate that their use drives book sales. Having said that, at Random House we do have a very successful YouTube Channel to which we add new content almost every day.

Personally I think the reason why Random House has a popular YouTube page is because they have lots of content, not just book trailers.

Show me the Stats!

The only real stats I could find were in this article:

  • Readers are 64% more likely to purchase your book if they see a book trailer that effectively promotes your book. (Source: ComScore)

Effectively is a nice weasel word. How exactly is that determined?

  • Using a book trailer on a sales landing page can increase conversion rates by as much as 80% (Source: Unbounce)

Does this mean they exclude sales by customers who were planning on buying the book before ever seeing the trailer?

  • Visitors to your author website stay an average of 2 minutes longer than on author sites that do not use video. (Source: ComScore)

That’s nice. So the visitors stay and watch the video… maybe some or all of it – but how many of those visitors actually part with hard-earned money?

  • 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others. (Source: Invodo)

I thought this stat was the best of the lot until I actually checked it. It gets a little complicated, so stick with me:

  1. This is the Invodo source (page 6).
  2. The stat is footnoted as “the etailing group. Delivering Superior Shopping Experiences Via Video”. The link is dead.
  3. When I google “delivering superior shopping experiences via video” the first result is http://www.e-tailing.com/content?p=2773
  4. This page then links to a whitepaper which has the title “Delivering Superior Shopping Experiences Via Video – Consumer Insights and
    Retail Execution”
  5. Then what should I see, the report is sponsored by Invodo. Nice and circular? I can’t say I read the whole report, but I did a word search for “share”, “others” and “92%” and couldn’t find the result.

Aside from that the stat is unclear. Which videos were shared? (Book trailers, or funny cat videos…it looks as though it is videos in general). How often were videos shared? (Does a single video-share count towards the 92%?).

  • Authors who use book trailer video in email campaigns can experience Open Rates [increases] from 19% to 300%! (Source: Forrester Research)

So they open an email? Excellent, or not. And email campaigns are not exactly the friend of the consumer.

Not Convinced

For me to be convinced that book trailers are worthwhile I’d want to see some real and unequivocal stats:

  • How many viewers of a book trailer purchase a book they weren’t already intending to buy?
  • How many viewers share the video with others?
  • What is the cost of a book trailer compared to the sales that it generates?
  • How often are book trailers successful?

Brett Osmond finishes with

However, I have to say I’m more inclined than not to lean away from a book trailer idea when it is presented to me.

In the end, if a book trailer doesn’t meet the expectations of a savvy public, it might, in fact, have a negative impact on book sales. And that’s something we want to avoid.

Book trailers could do great harm: a novel of poor quality could gain readership only because of a flashy video; which would disenfranchise readers.

I am willing to concede, however, that book trailers would be beneficial to the young, but for the older market I’d think it is useless.

Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy, but I still say really?

Writing Technique: Know Your Genre

(These are my notes and thoughts in relation to the second part of WritingExcuses podcast Season 1, episode 2 (first part) and content from Fiona McIntosh’s How to Write Your Blockbuster. I will also disseminate this information to the topical sections of my resource section).

Tips by the experts:

Decide who you are writing for and how you are going to market it. This is informed by the question we must ask ourselves first “Why are we writing?” Are we writing as a hobby or a cathartic release, to document a family history or are we writing in the hope of being the next Stephen King? Are we interested in selling popular novels or do we want to add a significant contribution to literature?

Who you are writing for is probably a project-by-project question, unless you tend to stick like glue to your favourite genre. Escape from Hell was obviously written to express my beliefs. Vengeance Will Come was conceived out of inspiration from other stories; but without a firm idea of who I was writing for.

I’d like to think that in future projects I might consider the question of audience more before I begin. It is a discipline and a process that I didn’t think about until recently.

Read extensively in your genre. Know what is currently being written by the leading authors of the genre, and what is selling well.

At the moment I don’t know my genre. I am more at the experimental stage where I want to try a plethora of genres in order to see what I like, and as a challenge for myself.

Fiona McIntosh says,

Give your audience your full respect by reading their favourite works. Analyse them, work out how the writer’s structure their tales, learn about pacing and dialogue, plots and popular themes.

This raises another question: how to find the time to write and “read extensively”. The WritingExcuses guys say that they don’t find much time for reading these days… and yet I remember also reading an article that said Stephen King used to read 70 novels a year! I think what that means is that you need to be very targeted with your reading. When you can’t be writing; read. The Stephen King article talked about him reading a book while waiting in a grocery line: every minute counts. I consider it to mean:

  • be selective: read the top authors in the genre (not random authors)
  • be intentional: learn from the books you read (don’t just enjoy the story)
  • maximise effective reading: abort bad books quickly (instead of I-must-complete-what-I-start)

Write to be ahead of the curve. Follow what is happening in the market and learn to anticipate what will happen. If you’re writing with the intention of selling, don’t write what is big now because you’ll probably miss the trend. Understand the stereotypes involved with the genre and play with them.Try to be at the front of the writing pack, not tailing along behind.