About Reviews – April Round Robin

My mother always taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. While I haven’t always followed that advice, I’m certain many authors wish critics would.

I’ve had one or two reviews that scoured my work to the bone, which … let’s be honest here … required a pint of ice cream to get me through. Mint chocolate chip is the greatest comforter in times like these.

But when push comes to shove, negative reviews are always the ones that I learn from. I’m not a world-renowned author, not yet, and I’m still honing my craft. So anything that teaches me how to be better is good.

Sometimes painful, but good.

Positive reviews help sell a book, but not nearly as much as word of mouth. Like it or not, people talking about your book is still the number one way to push those sales up – or so all the professionals tell me.

I’ve sent my books out to reviewers for their honest opinions and come back with some positive results there, but those results never last for very long. To be honest, sometimes the only result of a positive review is my own feeling of accomplishment; somebody read my book and understood what I was trying to say!

Since Sedition was first published eight years ago I’ve held a 4.36 star average on Goodreads and about the same on Amazon, which I suppose is quite good considering there are a lot of things wrong with my early novels. But the only thing this knowledge serves is to push me to become better.

Maybe it sells one book every three months or so, but at the end of the day it still only pushes me to be better. I don’t have time to check reviews every day or even every week. I check them once or twice a month, see if I have anything new, and then I get back to work.

See what some of my fellow authors think about reviews …

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/how-to-get-reviews
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

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How Important Are Titles? Round Robin Post

This week it’s all about titles in the Round Robin conversation! The question posed is this: “How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book? ”

Now, if I was a marking guru, which I’m not, I would say the title was absolutely important. That and the cover are what buyers are going to see first, right? It needs to attract them enough to get them to pick up the novel and read the back blurb or the first few pages.

When I’m walking through the bookstore and glancing over the titles, I honestly don’t have anything in mind when I’m looking. I’ll read anything and everything under the sun, so it’s a little hard to categorize what I’m hunting for in a book or a title. It really depends on my mood or the season or whatever I happen to be writing at that time.

It’s a lot easier to write Fantasy novels when your brain is already set to “Fantasy” by what you’re consuming. Now, I do have to be careful there because I don’t want MY fantasy novel to start showing traits of the novel I’m reading and all that. So I pick a different sub-genre in the fantasy realm to try and keep things separate.

How do I determine the title of my books?

That’s … a painful process, actually.

Persona was known as “The WWII novel” for many years. I actually had to brainstorm with another author on Google+ to get to that one.

Tapped was easier because I just stole the name of the super soldiers (Yes, I used super soldiers) in that book. I have been tempted to change the name to “Grey Men” from time to time but … that’s marketing strategy and I’m still sort of blundering my way through it.

For those unaware … I’m awful at marketing.

Sedition was called The Ebony Blade at first. And then just Kiavana, the name of the region where much of the book takes place. But after several drafts and a lot of moaning and groaning, I looked at what the book itself was about and came up with the vein of sedition that really pulses through the whole novel.

Generally speaking, I don’t come up with a final title until after the third or fourth draft. By then I have a better handle of what the book is showing about humanity or what adventures I’m promising the reader if they purchase it. But it is really a pain in the rear-end.

Ahem. I’m having the censor myself because my eight-year-old giggles if I use other words at the end of that sentence.

ANYWAY … I find titles and blurbs and the synopsis a pain. I suppose if I didn’t and I actually enjoyed that work, I’d be much better at it and my novels would see more success. Maybe I’ll make that part of my New Years Resolutions for 2017 – “Learn to love titles and blurbs!”

Check out what some of my fellow authors think about titles in general and their own processes for finding the perfect title for their own work.

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Kindle Scout Campaign

So! I did a new thing!

And it’s a little bit of a scary thing, but I’m trying it anyway.

Persona, the WWII novel that I have scheduled to publish in December, has been submitted into a Kindle Scout campaign. Basically what this means is that, if I get enough nominations, Kindle Scout will publish the book for me instead.

The process was relatively painless considering the book is already edited and edited and edited some more, as well as formatted and prepped for its launch in December. All I had to do was answer some questions and upload the book.

Well … that and now I have to come out and shout from every virtual rooftop I’ve got that the campaign is now open, that you can find it HERE and that if you like what you see there I would really, really, really love it if you’d click the little “nominate” button.

We’re going to see how this whole thing works and then I’ll give a more critical response to the process and things. I can say that, barring the actual writing process that you have to go through anyway, submitting to Kindle Scout was terribly easy. I got invited to Kindle Scout some time ago, I just hadn’t given it a shot until today.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Brand

So there’s this thing in the writing business where people say writers need to have a “brand” to rely on. Something to shove at a reader so that the reader knows what to expect whenever they pick up a book written by that author.

James Patterson readers know that the plot is going to move fast and it’s going to twist in ways you don’t expect. I remember from his class that he said he wanted people to know when they picked up a book of his that “the pages would turn themselves.”

And considering how many books of his frequent the bestsellers lists I think we all can attest that he’s definitely made his name a brand.

Brandon Sanderson also has a brand name to him. When I pick up a Sanderson novel I expect unique magic, intricate plots, and deep fantasy that can transport me.

When I read Diana Gabaldon I expect rich characters and enlightening history and a more visceral reading experience than I can get anywhere else.

Now then … as an author I have to ask myself exactly what “brand” I might be presenting. I find this highly annoying because, as much as I can recognize the trademarks of other authors, I’m really clueless as to my own. And from what I’ve heard from other authors, they feel the same way.

On my website I have “Writing Mayhem” as the tagline.

Why?

Well … because I love the word “mayhem” and wanted to use it. And because my life as an author feels full of mayhem. I write everything from Science Fiction to Historical Fiction. My Fantasies range from Epic to Steam Punk.

My muse just can’t seem to commit to any one genre, which makes “branding” me quite difficult.

I could try finding that one common denominator between all the books and banking on that … Which would be the characters. In all my books to date, the focus is always on the individual character on the page and the struggles they face.

But again … how do you “brand” that?

A.J. Maguire – Character Tormentor … A.J. Maguire – “The characters will grab you by the throat and demand you free them.”

… Yeah … No thanks.

In all seriousness, and after many years of trial and error, I’ve come to understand that “brand” is a conscious decision.

I have two releases scheduled for this year; the novelette “Torven” and the historical fiction Persona.

One is a fairy tale.

One is a “who am I” story based in WWII.

What “brand” do I hope to attach to them both?

I want readers to trust that if they pick up one of these books they’re going to get a good story.

How do you brand that?

Well, I’m still not sure. But when I find out, you’ll be the first to know.

 

Prepping for Launch

Gutter space and margins … check.

Cover art … check. (FYI, Chris Howard is still a genius.)

Back blurb … hmmm … that’s gonna change a couple more times, I’m sure.

(Pause to remove new kitten from the desk. He’s too curious for his own good and he’s constantly attacking my hands while I’m using the mouse. I’ve decided to call him Nuisance even though he’s my son’s pet.)

Font size and spacing for both print and ebook versions … check and check.

Re-read the manuscript for the zillionth time and STILL find a typo on page 96 … ugh, check.

Dedication … aw, that’s easy … totally check. DSCN5894

Acknowledgements … er … hmn. That one’s a little more tricky. I’ll probably add a few people before the December launch date.

IMG_0051(Pause again because kitten is now attacking my ankle and his little kitten claws hurt. Try to convince him that he should be playing with Pest, my cat, who eyes me with frank disgust but … everyone’s gotta compromise here.)

Go back to my regularly scheduled writing … I’m on chapter 10 of Dead Weight now, so it’s coming along nicely. I’m not sure I’ll make the three month deadline for a first draft, but I’ve had to swap between writing on the computer and writing by hand a couple of times so I won’t feel bad if I stretch it for another month.

Four months to write a rough draft isn’t too bad.

And really, I’m not JUST writing a rough draft, as evidenced by all the book preparation I’m doing. Persona will be my second attempt at launching a book on my own and I’m trying to remember all the mistakes I made last time — such as working while under the influence of cold medication and accidentally launching the book 2 weeks early.

And forgetting to adjust line spacing for the print version, leaving one truly massive novel that cost an arm and a leg to ship.

And not justifying the text.

And … er … so many other things.

Here in the next couple of weeks I’m supposed to start marketing for Persona, letting people know the exact date it will be out (December 6th 2016) and what the book is about (historical fiction/romance/women’s fiction/ … this one I probably need to narrow down a bit more).

Which means that, on top of all of the above, I have to research venues (blogs, magazines, etc.) that might be willing to host me and give me a second to promote the novel before it comes out and during the first two weeks of its launch.

… I think I’d rather have the kitten attack my ankles some more.

 

Year’s End

Well, after possibly the worst Christmas present ever – which was a 24 hour flu bug that gave me an absolutely miserable day – I’m finally getting around to my end-of-year post.

A friend of mine (L.J. Cohen, author of several YA novels that everyone should be reading) introduced me to the idea of posting writing goals and the like several years back and I’ve come to enjoy this little tradition.

So!

I wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted to do in 2015 writing-wise. I blame this on the re-write of Persona, which took several months more than anticipated. It is, however, finished and I have been shopping it around (another of my 2015 goals).

Tapped was released in January 2015 as my first ever self-published novel. I imagine I could do more marketing-wise for it but I think I’m going to stick to just writing the next book.

What’s next for 2016?

1)  Dead Weight – the sequel to Tapped is slated for work to begin starting January 1st. I’m terribly excited for this one and have been aching to get started.

2) Primal – This is a new-adult-paranormal-romance novel that I’ve been kicking around for years. I’ll begin work on it sometime in June, after I’ve completed the draft for Dead Weight.

3) Residual Haunting – Will be completed in 2016. ‘Nuff said.

4) Usurper – Is currently being edited. It may drag into the first two weeks of 2016, but not much further than that.

5) Persona – Is going to go onto Kindle Scout. We’ll see how that goes. And I’ll throw confetti and wave people toward it because … apparently that’s what I’m supposed to do?

I dunno, I’ve never done it before. We’ll have to see.

Beyond the writing …

I hope to enjoy many, many hours with my son, doing odd-ball things and having a blast.

That’s it … that’s my 2016. I hope everyone else had a couple of great holidays and that their new year is spectacular!

The Querying World and Why I Bother

Alright, so I’ve edited another book nearly to completion. Persona will be absolutely, totally, and finally finished if not next week, then definitely the week after. Some of you will remember I started its major overhaul/re-write in the summer of 2013 by posting chapters once a week, but since then I’ve let the work get passed between not one but two editors – both of whom I am supremely grateful to.

In the wake of their suggestions I have had to dig deeper into the story itself and I confess, I’ve learned so much about theAJMaguire-PersonaCover-1280h craft of writing just from this one book that I honestly don’t feel ashamed by the length of time it’s taken me to complete it. I’ll probably write another “What writing Persona has taught me” post but for today I’m going to concentrate on the next phase in Persona’s journey … The Query.

Honestly, that word makes my palms sweat, and my palms don’t normally sweat.

Query.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve written a query letter and my brain is overwhelmed by all the do’s and don’ts you can find out there.

Introduce myself or the work first?

Work first, of course, they don’t care about me unless they like the work.

How the H-e-(double hockey sticks) do I write an elevator pitch again?

Oh, wait … wasn’t there a formula? (Blank) meets (Blank) in this (insert brilliantly creative jargon here) that will leave you …

Authors Note: I’d like to say I made that formula up but I’m pretty sure you can still find it on some movie pitches out there.

Suffice to say, I’m terrified.

Which is silly since the worst these people can say is “No thank you” or just plain “No” and really, I’ve got six novels out for sale now. You’d think I’d be over it or something.

But, as every writer who’s submitted their work before knows, “No thank you” somehow twists itself inside our heads to become … “You should never write another book.” “Your work is crap.” “Don’t bother anymore.” “Nobody likes you.”

Or my personal favorite; “You should go eat worms.”

Which … now that I think about it … probably reveals a lot about my childhood than anything else.

I need therapy.

But I can’t afford therapy so I write. And when I finish writing I have this crazy notion other people might want to see it, which loops me back to the Query Phase and the vicious cycle continues.

Why do I bother with this?

With the publishing industry the way it is, I can easily self-publish and move on. I did that with Tapped, after all.

But … I did that with Tapped because I didn’t want to compromise on certain elements of the novel. I wrote it, and I’ll be writing all of its series, with a distinct purpose in mind (to investigate and convey the affects of religion on a social and personal level) and I recognized at the very beginning that the concept was risky and likely wasn’t going to sell.

So my motivations with self-publishing Tapped were not because I simply gave up on the traditional market, which means … I can’t do that with Persona.

Which means I have to at least try with Persona.

Which means … I have to query.

Again.

….. Excuse me, I need to go eat a gallon of chocolate to prepare my fragile ego.