Monthly Archives: April 2013

When Writing Fiction, Start at the End (Huh?) (L. Stewart Hearl)

To get anywhere, you first have to know where you are going. If you don’t know how your story will end, your story will simply drag the reader along on, what will quickly seem likely to your reader, a pointless journey. You want the reader to be with your main character, moving toward a specific goal. The goal is up to you. (Examples of goals: He/She solves the mystery, finds the treasure, wins the girl, survives the disaster, achieves success, etc.)

Setting the Hook

After you’ve chosen your goal, you must let your reader know what that anticipated goal is. The fact that you have a map (outline) doesn’t help the reader at all unless the reader has some idea where your main character is going. The actual destination may not be where the character winds up, but it is the main character’s motivation to move ahead in the story. This bit of information you provide to the reader is called a hook. Its intention is to literally hook your reader into going along for the ride. Very important – you must place your hook as early in the story as possible. In a novel, it’s usually in the first 5 pages. Examples: “Your mission, Mr. Bond is to…”, “Gosh! This thing looks like a treasure map!”, “Billy…look at her neck. Two holes! I told you there’s a vampire here in Middleton!”, “Her name’s Mary Watson. She’s so beautiful, and even though I’m 5 inches shorter than she is, have a problem with body odor, can’t talk to girls and am covered with boils, I’m gonna make her mine!” (Remember, I said some goals aren’t always achieved.)

L. Stewart Hearl
Author of “Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge”

L. Stewart Hearl is a 64-year-old genius (certified by MENSA). He is also crazy (certified by the Texas State Institute for the Bewildered). If you enjoyed his short story, check out his novel Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge. His short stories “Invasion” and “Good” (co-written with Cash Anthony) appear in Underground Texas.

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Close Up Promotion (Laura Elvebak)

One day about a month ago, I was steadily working on the third Niki Alexander book. I was not thinking primarily about promotion, although in the back of my mind, I knew promotion was part of the business. First, I had to have a book to promote. In my mind, that involved getting the third book completed and sold. Or my standalone bought and produced.

Meanwhile, I needed to reissue my first two Niki Alexander books after getting my rights reverted back to me from my publisher. I knew this would also take time. A wonderful artist was recommended by Jeffrey Marks, who moderates the Mystery Must Advertise Yahoo Group. Patty G. Henderson designed the new covers for both books. Hitch, who often offers good advice on the same Yahoo Group, has a business called Booknook.biz. I hired her to format both books to sell as e-books in all venues. Both Patty and Hitch are very reasonably priced and their work is outstanding.

I discovered ACX (Audiobook Creative Exchange) at ThrillerFest, a conference in New York put on by the International Thriller Writers. Through ACX I found a narrator and soon both books were in production and would soon be released on Audible, iTunes and Amazon as audiobooks.

Also during the time, I was trying to sell my standalone noir/thriller/suspense/women’s fiction (or whatever met the agent/publisher’s needs).

With all that going on, I didn’t think about promotion. Too early. Then, out of the blue, I listened to a voice mail on my landline. Anthony Holmes, of Close-Up Talk Radio, said I was one of three authors chosen to be interviewed for global promotion. He said their research department had read my books and were very impressed. If I passed their initial interview, I would be spotlighted in the month of March and will receive huge promotion and marketing support. The author (me) would be interviewed four weeks in a row. Two by Doug Llewelyn (formerly the host of the People’s Court), and two by Jim Masters of PBS.

This was quite a production. Anthony called me every day. He did a pre-interview. The script writer called to get my background. The only matter of concern was my website. They were right. My website was put up in 2008 and hasn’t been updated since. Anthony said they would need to put their website guru to work on it and the result would sell thousands of books. Also, they were interested in my screenplay that had been twice optioned in 2000. All this sounded fantastic. I sent them the script and finally agreed to let their webmaster redo my website.

They said I was chosen over the other two writers on the strength of my initial interview. I was thrilled and flattered. My website was getting a fresh new look. They did a press release and sent me a copy along with their clipping list of 101 news outlets they were sending with the caption: “Close-Up Talk Radio spotlights author Laura Elvebak.” These went to all the major news outlets in the United States as well as International news. They sent me a list of questions they plan to ask so I would be prepared ahead of the schedule interviews and Tips For A Professional Radio Interview.

I spent most of my time preparing by getting the e-books on Amazon, the audiobooks narrated, reviewed and online. I needed print books in hand, because of all the talks I would be giving. I gave the first two Niki Alexander books a final re-edit and went to Createspace. The process was easier than I expected and when I received the proofs from UPS, I was thrilled with the result and ordered copies. I was then prepared for the call from Houston Writers Guild. They wanted me to speak for an hour at the April Workshop. I agreed and could sell books.

The first two interviews with Doug Llewelyn had a rocky start. I had been sick with the crud all week, but I struggled through the first interview. In about the middle, there was some interference on the line. Toward the end I had a coughing spell that lasted too long. A disaster. However, the second interview went very well and both of us were pleased with the result.

By the time the first interview with Jim Masters rolled along, I was more prepared and more at ease. I was completely well by that time and the interview went by so fast that even Jim remarked how it seemed like ten minutes instead of thirty. We have since become Facebook and Twitter friends. The next and last interview is Thursday, April 4, again with Jim Masters.

The result is nebulous. It’s too early to tell by sales results. On the pro side, I had print copies of the books and the audio and e-books were available. The problem I see is timing. The books I’m promoting, after all, were first published in 2008 and 2009, and I haven’t finished the third book yet. I’m still trying to sell my standalone. So no new book to promote yet, but I have pre-promoted both books by including them in the interviews.

Okay, now you’re wondering about the real downside. First, a question to all of you. How much are you willing to spend on promotion? How big of a risk are you willing to take? Was this no more than a scam? I had to fork over $5000.00 for everything but the website. Their webmaster, whom they pushed on me, cost $3500.00. In my head, I could just about justify spending $5,000 on promotion, but I know I could have a comparable or better website for a fraction of what I paid this guy. The website looks good, but I don’t think he was worth the money. Now I’m out $8500. Was it worth it? I recently saw an article on Writer Beware Blogs written as a Solicitation Alert for Close-Up Talk Radio. They described all the steps I went through. They called it a scam.

I know I’m an impulse buyer. I’m probably naïve about some things. If I didn’t happen to have the money at the time, I wouldn’t have a story to write. But I would still have money. Now I’m just hoping I get enough future book sales to eventually recover what I spent. So again, I put the question to you. How much would you pay for promotion?

Laura Elvebak is the author of Less Dead (2008) and Lost Witness (2009), (L&L Dreamspell), both awarded five star reviews on Amazon, which features Niki Alexander, an ex-cop turned teen counselor. Her short stories are “Searching for Rachel” featured in A Death in Texas, and “Dying For Chocolate” in the award winning A Box of Texas Chocolates.

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