Book Review: 5 Steps to Better Blurbs 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If anybody else wants an e-arc, please find me on FB. Happy writing.

IMG_07335 Steps to Better Blurbs 

by: Julie Gilbert 

I was generously given an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review; much thanks to the author!

Writing a blurb is often something authors either love or hate. You have to take your multi-hundred-page magnum opus of a manuscript and condense it down to a few paragraphs explaining the bare essentials of the plot and characters all while enticing the reader. This book breaks down that overwhelming process into five easy steps that allow anyone to write a great blurb.

Pros   

  • For All Writing Levels:  One of the great things about this book is that it starts with the basics by explaining the difference between terms such as Synopsis, Blurb, and an Agent Query. If you are already familiar with these terms, then this section is easy to skip. I enjoyed the fact that the author didn’t isolate her…

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Taking the Small Wins, Yet Experimenting for Bigger and Better

Indie Author Survival Kit:

  1. Write book
  2. Publish book
  3. Promote book
  4. Repeat until … ???

Define Your Goals (Yet be Realistic):

What do you want most out of this?

Do you want to be rich and famous? (Probably the wrong line of business.)

Do you want to share stories with perfect strangers and make some money while doing it? (You’re in the right place.)

Do you want to build a small business that can be a second source of income?

(Still figuring that one out, but I’m slowly getting there. Will keep you posted once I finally learn the ins and outs of making that happen.)

Enjoy the Small Wins:

Example small wins: a good review, a spike in sales, a new relationship formed with a reader.

When you’re just starting out or you’re not particularly good at marketing (me), enjoy the small wins. I’m slowly taking baby steps to make this more of a real thing, but for now, I’m building relationships, meeting people where I can, networking, and trying to absorb the life lessons writing/publishing can teach us.

But I’m just not good at promoting myself…

You’re going to have to be. It might not be comfortable, but if you want people to read your stuff, they need to be able to find it. This is as much a pep talk to myself as to you. Be open to new ideas. Experiment with various advertising opportunities. I’ve yet to get a Bookbub feature, but I’ve also been doing all my marketing wrong for years. Once I fix those fundamental flaws, prove I can get some sales, then I’ll try again. But just casting stuff into a void isn’t working.

Oh, and Keep Writing:

Do this because you love it. You’ve been gifted with the ability to take words and weave them into fantastic tales. Hone the craft. Get better. If you enjoy it, the process won’t seem like work. Keep coming back to the “why do I write” idea. It’s fun. It’s satisfying. It’s fulfilling. If none of those words are ringing a bell, this probably isn’t the thing for you. Keep writing new stories. Even if the old ones are doing great, have new stuff to get out there. Series are all the rage today, but you don’t have to do a series. There are literally thousands of tales to be told and every story has some elements of other ones. Fairy tale retellings are even a thing. Put your own twist on something.

I’m assuming fiction, but there’s plenty of reasons to write nonfiction too. Odds are good that you have some skill or talent or knowledge that would benefit others. Share it. You’re not in this alone. Reach out to other indie authors and get connected.

I write science fiction, YA, mystery/thriller, Christian mystery, fantasy, and poetry. If any of that stuff appeals to you, feel free to reach out to me one of the ways below. I’d be happy to give you my two cents on a matter. If you write in different genres, look around. Find an author you love and reach out to them. If they’re indie, they will likely get back to you. Most indie authors I know are very active on social media. Best of luck.

Thanks for reading!

Julie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)

Love Science Fiction or Mystery?

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Choose your adventure!
Get Ashlynn’s Dreams or The Kiverson Case absolutely free.

Email and Links:

Devyaschildren @ gmail.com

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Adventures in Other Authors’ Worlds

Introduction:

I know we’re all focused on building our own stories and keeping that going, but you might want to consider writing for Kindle Worlds. Here, Amazon has created a place for you to get paid to write fanfiction. Fanfiction gets a bad rap, but in Kindle Worlds it’s a little more structured. You have to abide by the rules set forth in whichever world you are writing for.

I’ve joined two KWs: The Lei Crime Series and The Sydney Rye Series. Lei Crime is mystery/thriller and Sydney Rye is more vigilante thriller.

5 Key Benefits to Writing in Kindle Worlds?

  1. You’re starting with a ready-made audience. Amazon has specifically chosen popular series to offer kindle worlds to. You often have a plethora of cool side characters to explore. This is especially true for the Lei Crime Series as Toby Neal has gone out of her way to make deep side characters with lots of room for exploration.
  1. Try new things – this is pretty much a risk-free way to try a genre you may not have done yet. At the time, I’d not done any traditional type mystery/thrillers. The first Kindle World story I wrote was Never Again, which was a prequel to the Lei Crime series. It explores the question why one of the characters chose to become a cop.
  1. Interact with other authors – Networking is super important. You never know who you’re going to meet and what the long-term benefits will be of that relationship. As a part of both KWs, I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ve even gotten to meet one of them, even though she lives in Canada and I live in the US. It’s not exactly a mentoring system in all cases. The worlds differ in how involved the original author wants to be.
  1. Power of the collective – The Lei Crime series in particular is very purposeful about launches. You can publish at any time, but joining a launch will likely get you better sales results. I’ve had months where the sales are triple what they normally are just because of the collective advertising and social media presence of a launch.
  1. It’s a heck of a lot of fun. – At the end of the day, you’ve got to enter this because you love what you do. Some of the worlds, like the Sydney Rye one will allow you to integrate characters you’ve already written. The Lei Crime series is under and older contract that does not allow this, but in Fatal Interest (Sydney Rye KW) I was able to bring in Nadia, who is also featured in the Devya’s Children series.

“Writing for KWs is easy and fun. The “heavy lifting” of character and world building is done, and with the addition of a little imagination, the writing feels like play and flows easily. I enjoy the creativity that gets unleashed by not having to build everything myself.” ~ Toby Neal (Author of Lei Crime Series)

“I like how there’s at least a possibility you can get some new eyes on the backlist (on the off chance readers of the KW world’s original author likes your work enough to check out your other books). 🙂 And I feel like Amazon gives their KW books a nice boost during release day / month, which is always welcome.” ~Marian Tee (NYT Bestselling author, The Marriage Dare, a KW novella)

“I love writing for KW LeiCrime because it brings happy memories of living there and I enjoy working with great writers such as Toby Neal.” ~J.L. Oakley (Author of //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=juliecgilbe05-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00VQWUE5C&asins=B00VQWUE5C&linkId=b781e041307cf743263459a8ddaff64d&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff” target=”_blank”>Saddle Road, Lei Crime Kindle World Series)

How do you get involved?

Technically speaking, all you have to do is write a book that follows the guidelines of the world you want to join. Here’s the link to the main Kindle Worlds page. Odds are good that every genre is represented.

The first thing to do is get familiar with the world you want to join. If you’re already a fan of something, that’s great you can skip that step. But this is a hugely important step. Make sure you understand the world. Next, choose a character to write about. I started the Lei Crime Series intending to do a Defining Moments series featuring many different characters in each subsequent book, but once I wrote the second one, I stuck it out with FBI Agent Marcella Scott. I rebranded that series to focus just on her and called it The Shadow Council Series.

It might help to get involved in some of the FB groups for authors interested in a particular Kindle World. I know both the Lei Crime and Sydney Rye series have FB groups. They’re private but if you’re interested, you can always apply and the admins will let you in if you’re serious.

BTW, if you grab one of the free books below then let me know you came from this e-conference, I will enter you into a contest to win a copy of any of my Kindle World titles, 2 Shadow Council pencils, and a postcard pack.

Conclusion:

Kindle Worlds are an excellent publishing option, but you have to follow very specific guidelines for each world. You need to read those rules closely for each world because they will differ. That said, it’s a fun and profitable way to gain more exposure for your existing works.

Thanks for reading!

Julie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)

Love Science Fiction or Mystery?

AD, HFC KC

Choose your adventure!
Get Ashlynn’s Dreams or The Kiverson Case absolutely free.

Email and Links:

Devyaschildren @ gmail.com

Author Website

Facebook Page

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Writing Awesome Book Descriptions

Book Descriptions – Definition and Importance

The book description’s the first impression most people are going to get of your writing. You want to do this part right! It needs to entice them to read the book without telling everything.

Common Pitfalls of Writing Blurbs:

Telling too much: You want to get the reader to buy the book, not tell them the whole story. There’s a time and a place for this, but in general, you want to keep some salient points secret.

Rambling: This might be a personal preference thing. I don’t like long book descriptions. They run the risk of rambling. Telling too much and rambling may sound like the same thing, but I define the first in terms of giving away plot points and the second as unnecessarily defining stuff that should be obvious.

Naming too many people: You have a very finite amount of space; don’t waste it by telling us everybody’s name.

My Method:

I’m sure there are whole books on the art of writing a catchy book description. Depending on the genre, this might not work. I mainly write science fiction, fantasy, and mystery/thriller. I’ve done a few romance ones for friends, but other than that, my experience is pretty limited to the three genres listed above.

Tagline: I’m partial to taglines. These are one-liners that sum up a key aspect or theme of the book. They should be short yet catchy.

Introduce the Main Character(s) (Character): Who is the reader going to meet? What do they do? Why do we care? You don’t need to answer all of these questions in the blurb, but you should be able to capture the essence of your MC in the first little bit.

A second paragraph about MC is usually necessary for romance as there are two main characters to introduce.

Throw the Monkey Wrench at the MC (Conflict): What’s wrong?  Something must not be going right for this person or there wouldn’t be a story to tell. I usually use this as a transition to an additional paragraph or as a lead in to the wrap-up question or statement.

Wrap-up question/statement (Stakes): What’s going on that the reader should pick up the book to find out if the MC is safe/ accomplishes his or her goal? If you want to get a little cute and it fits the tone of your story, tie the wrap-up line to the title somehow.

Example 1: Violence in Vegas (A Lei Crime Kindle World novella)
Violence in Vegas final
Tagline: Sin City holds some dark secrets …

Paragraph 1 (Heroine and her friend): But Marcella Scott’s in town to help Angela Melkin-Pierce with a small case of sabotage. Somebody’s been slashing guests’ tires and ransacking rooms at The Grand Game Hotel. With the guest list including the Reno Birdwatcher’s Society and the Paradise Quilting Club, the suspect list is very thin. The only intriguing option is Gatton Technologies, headed by eccentric billionaire, Jeffrey Gatton. When he decides to host a masquerade party at the hotel, Marcella goes undercover.

Monkey Wrench Thrown at Heroine (Conflict/Problem): The air of elegance quickly turns to terror when masked men kidnap Gatton and Angela.

Wrap-up and tie to title (Stakes): Marcella’s going to need all of her wits—and a borrowed handgun or two—if she wants to survive the violence in Vegas.

Slight Variations: If you have a main villain and your leading guy/gal, you might want to spend a paragraph on each of them.

Example 2: Ie. Money Makes it Deadlier (A Lei Crime Kindle World Novella)
SC 1 MMID
Tagline: Money can buy many things, but can it purchase a permanent solution to divorce?

Paragraph 1 (Villain): Martin Cantrell would like to know the answer to that question. He has money, respect, and power, but he also has a monthly alimony payment that’s making him miserable. When a friend offers to deal with the “ex” problem for a fee, he can hardly say no. Time is of the essence. The life insurance policy on his ex-wife expires in less than two months.

Paragraph 2 (Heroine): Unaware of the plans set in motion, Special Agent Marcella Scott goes about her business as usual, only now, she finally has an excuse to dress up on the job. She’s been asked to go undercover to check out some banks. One of the branches just happens to be managed by Martin Cantrell’s ex-wife.

Monkey Wrench thrown at Heroine/Wrap-up: What’s an agent to do when a perfectly peaceful morning turns into a hostage-taking standoff?

Example 3: The Dark Side of Science (Prequel to Devya’s Children Series; Science fiction)
Dark Side of Sci kindle cover
Tagline: The mind can hold powerful secrets.

Intro MC: When Dr. Jessica Paladon worked for her friend, Dr. Dean Devya, she helped create Nadia, one of the world’s few Minders. Tough circumstances drove her away from that life, and to protect the secrets, she willingly took a drug that induced amnesia.

But now she needs those memories.

Monkey Wrench (Conflict): Two children—her children—Nadia and Varick are competing in a winners-take-all, losers-might-die competition for the biggest secret government contract out there. They’re fighting for the right to exist.

Wrap-up (Stakes): If Jessie can’t remember, how will she help them survive?

Example Book Blurbs I Helped Write:

Please note that most of these are mystery/thrillers. I have very limited experience with romance ones as well, but the general points still apply.

A Snake in Paradise by Eden Baylee

Out of Her League by Shawn McGuire

Kapu by Dave Schoonover

Born to Love by Amy Shojai

Palm Trees and Snowflakes by Scott Bury

Conclusion:

Book descriptions are probably one of the most dreaded necessary parts of writing a book. But they can be fun. This is your chance to shine. Play with the words and make them work for you. If you hop on my mailing list and get to know some of my works, you should be able to implement this method just fine. At that point, if you want me to take a look at your book description and offer some suggestions, I’d be happy to do so. (Disclaimer: Time permitting. I have a day job that I need to keep up with too.)

Thanks for reading!

Julie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)

Love Science Fiction or Mystery?

Choose your adventure!
Get Ashlynn’s Dreams or The Kiverson Case absolutely free.

Email and Links:

Devyaschildren @ gmail.com

Author Website

Facebook Page

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

People, Places, and Things to Fill Your Fictional World

How do you create a fictional world?

If you write speculative fiction of any sort, odds are good you’ll be creating a world. Science fiction and fantasy are especially prone to unique, author created worlds. If you have no idea where to start, try reading some of the masters. J.R.R. Tolkien and Brandon Sanderson immediately pop to mind as some of the greats. Once you’re ready to jump in, begin by thinking about what kind of world you want to make. This will largely be shaped by the plot you’re planning, the characters you’re creating, and the genre you stick the story in. Everything’s connected, so what comes first? In my experience, the answer is in the names. For simplicity, I’ll be discussing people, places, and things from Redeemer Chronicles 1: Awakening. (Cover change in the works for that series).

What’s in a name?

Your world will be more authentic if you have a system that makes sense. I have a personal preference for names that are simple and pronounceable. Some names pop right to mind and others take me hours. I’m not only talking about people, but also places and objects in your world. Awakening’s set in a fantasy world called Aeris, but I don’t actually name the world until the second book because it’s not really relevant to the first story. In the sequel, I talk about more Darkland creatures than just zombies and Denkari. It took me about two hours to come up with something that fit evil creatures with six legs.

Planet Names Tangent: Names have feelings and they evoke feelings. In a different series, I named the scifi planet Reshner. It got its name from one of the ancient languages featured in that universe because it means “restful place.” For that one, I wanted something isolated, strong, yet supple. For Aeris, I wanted something that is reminiscent of earth yet otherworldly, something soft, and something pretty.

People (and their titles):

Good guys and bad guys usually define themselves pretty clearly by their actions. Their names may come to have special meaning later, but at the start, they should tell the reader simple information such as race and gender. Here are some of the people from Awakening: Victoria Saveron, Katrina Polani, Tellen, Jackson Castaloni, Marcus Polani, Huntsman Daniel Saveron, Alec Castaloni, Markesh McArn, Sara Andari, Huntmaster Oren, Huntsman Shadow, The Lady, and Supreme Huntmaster Jordan Lekros. From that list, can you tell who’s related to whom? Can you tell approximate rank for some of the people? One of these is an immortal, can you tell which? Does a character have a nickname? Depending on who’s talking to the character, they may or may not. Katrina refers to Victoria Saveron as Vic. The Lady refers to her as Victoria. Here’s a picture of her courtesy of my friend. If you want to see the whole sketch, you’ve got to be on my mailing list.

First, let me tell you a bit about the three main people types. There’s the Arkonai, the Saroth, and the Bereft. The Arkonai and Saroth both have access to magic, but the Bereft do not. Arkonai are ruled by the Arkonai Hunting Guild, which is overseen by the High Council and the Supreme Huntmaster. Those with access to the Gift (magic) tend to become Guardians, Healers, and Seekers. The Saroth are ruled by the Tariku League and tend to become Destroyers, Minders, Shapeshifters, and Conjurers. The Bereft cannot access magical Gifts through conventional means, though they can still use certain scrolls prepared by Minders or Conjurers.

The Arkonai sometimes have last names and sometimes do not. They mostly speak with a vaguely British accent. The Saroth tend to have Italian names. The Bereft often speak with an Irish accent.

The Magic System Tangent: As I described the people types, you probably picked up on the seven magic schools: Healers, Seekers, Guardians, Minders, Destroyers, Shapeshifters, Conjurers. Although the titles have stereotypical meanings, not everything is what it seems. As with all Gifts, it’s the application of such that determines where the person falls on the good/evil scale.

Golden rule for magic systems: it has to make sense. One of the most freeing things about scifi and fantasy as genres is that you can do just about anything, but it has to make sense. This holds true for everything. For example, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has an awesome magic system that is based on metals. (Okay, so maybe I just think it’s wonderful because I’m a chemistry geek.)

Places:

Cities, regions, and villages are probably going to have different names. These names are going to be responsible for defining the character of the place. Don’t forget to fill your world with mountains, rivers, forests, and lakes as well. The Northlands are run by the Arkonai, they have city names like Bastion, Cardeth, Urdik, Resilience, and Aridel. Caramore is run by the Saroth. Some of their cities are called Dominance, Jorash, and Outreach. The Bereft mostly live in villages such as Coldhaven, Bright Hope, Coolwater Creek, and Serene Hills. There are other general places such as the Ashlands and the Badlands.

Nature should also be represented in your world if applicable. If you’re doing a futuristic science fiction about how we destroyed all the natural forests, well, then maybe you have something like preserves or domes. Awakening takes place is a middle ages of sorts. The forests are slowly being developed but only by individuals not corporations with machines. Victoria Saveron and her friends start out in the Karnok Mountains and travel to Coldhaven.

Balance the Things in Your World:

Choose objects that fit the world and avoid things that would be out of place. That sounds simplistic, but it’s actually very important. You want to mix familiar with the unfamiliar so people can follow what it is. For example, I mention blueberries and baydonberries. Blueberries exist in our world, baydonberries do not, but they’re described as being mostly the same except that they have little white flecks in the fleshy part and have wonderful “cleansing” abilities (ie. they make you puke, etc). My characters carry around waterbags instead of canteens. They fight with daggers and bows and arrows, but also lightning.

Many objects will be small details to flesh out the world, but a few will be absolutely critical to what you do. Here, a familiar object: bracers take on special meaning. Vic wears magical bracers because she would turn into a zombie if she didn’t.

Creatures: Once again, you want a balance of familiar and unfamiliar. This story started on a dare, so it has zombies in it. I’m typically not a zombie fan, but here, they fit the world. It’s a beautiful, wholesome place struggling with corruption from the Darklands. There are rabbits and deer and squirrels in the forests, but there are also Denkari, rogue spirit warriors with the power to kill in a dozen different ways. Travel by horse is common. Shapeshifters can take on the form of dogs, birds, wolves, snakes, bears, panthers, and dragons, so naturally, these creatures too have a place in this world.

Conclusion:

When creating a world, strive to make it relatable yet unique. Fill it with people your readers will want to get to know. I’m sure to take a lot of care with the main character’s name. Do the same for the people, places, and things that make up the world this person inhabits.

Thanks for reading!

Love Science Fiction or Mystery?

Choose your adventure!
Get Ashlynn’s Dreams or The Kiverson Case absolutely free.

Email and Links:

Devyaschildren @ gmail.com

Author Website

Facebook Page

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Two Perfect Snow Day Reads

Whether you’re into Christian Mysteries or YA Science Fiction, I’ve got ya covered this week.

#FREE this week 3/13-3/17/17 Varick’s Quest (YA scifi) and The Keres Case (Christian Mystery)

VQ, Keres covers

They’re not the first in their series, so if you want to get in on the ground floor check out my website for info on how you can get the first in series free.

How to Get a Narrator You Love

Introduction:

You’ve worked really hard to get your book ready to good, and now you want to take the next step. There’s something highly gratifying about hearing a talented actor/actress bring the words to life. A few people have the time, talent, and recording devices necessary for doing this themselves. I admire these people, but I’m definitely not one of them. This article is directed to the majority of people who need to search up a narrator. Also, I don’t know much about the traditional publishing world of audiobook creation. I’m going to be speaking about using Audiobook Creation Exchange.

I’ve talked to several authors in various Facebook groups who wonder things like:

  • How do I get a great narrator?
  • How long should I wait once I get a few auditions?

So, how do you find and hire a narrator you’ll love?

The first time I sort of got lucky. The first or second person who posted an audition fit my idea of the character voices perfectly. In hindsight, I might have found somebody even more fitting if I’d gone through the process I’m going to describe below, but I still enjoy the work done with Kristin Condon.

Here’s how I did got the perfect narrator the other 3 times:

  1. I selected the characteristics I was looking for on ACX’s search section. First major choice is male/female. Other things you should consider is budget (more on that later),  style, and accents.
  2. I listened to random samples from people who matched my search parameters. More on pricing later, but I would probably go with people who are in the price bracket above what you think you can afford.
  3. Once I had a list of 10-15ish people I really loved, I wrote a general letter then adapted it for each person. I sent these narrators an invitation to audition for my book. Generally, if you contact 15 people, most will get back to you, a few will be too busy or not interested because of the price you’re offering, but the others will thank you for the invite and post an audition in about a week’s time.
  4. Set a timeframe like 1-2 weeks for when you’ll close auditions. Once everybody who promised an audition comes through, listen to the auditions carefully and choose your favorite.
  5. Privately message everybody as you get auditions to keep them updated on the status of their audition. If you don’t intend to hire somebody, thank them for taking the time to audition and let them know that. Be up front and honest. These people are auditioning for a lot of projects because it’s a tough way to make a living.
  6. Offer a contract to your top choice, but don’t burn bridges with your second and third choice because your top choice might not accept the contract.

Pricing Notes:

Some people have a large budget to put behind the audiobook venture. Others are popular enough to attract a stipend from ACX which will definitely increase the number of auditions you receive. But for the rest of us price is going to be an issue.

Reality – It can easily take about 4 hours of work to get a finished hour of audiobook ready to go. The narrator needs to read the story, prep the voices, record the chapters, edit, and then re-edit to fix up any mistakes. Keep that in mind moving forward.

Royalty Share: This is the best deal for authors because you’re not taking any of the financial risk. You’re narrator creates the book for you, you approve it, and then once it’s on sale you split any royalties with the narrator.

If you can only do RS, that’s fine, but keep in mind this will likely limit you to those who are just starting out or doing it as a hobby. Most of the people with experience will stick to pfh because of the tremendous amount of work it will take to create the audiobook.

I prefer to put $50 pfh on the table, that’s the lowest paid per finished hour you can use. Most of the really talented people have $100-200 pfh. I privately let people know that I fully intend to give them a private bonus once the project goes live. ACX’s messaging system is pretty clunky but you can get their email addresses and discuss the project privately.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email: devyaschildren @ gmail.com