Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Political Posts

I honestly believed we'd see the rhetoric on social media tone down after the election. Not so! It's still going on, and sometimes it seems to me that, if the people commenting were in the same room, we'd see a fist-fight. C'mon people.

On one writer's loop of which I'm a member (not, I might add, one populated just by Christian writers), I recently read this: "I have been appalled by what others have said in public and how they have said it."  I can only echo that sentiment.

Another writer said, "It's changed my opinion of some authors." We in this profession are urged to participate in social media to let our readers know more about us. But has this round of political posts been too much? Has it cost us some readers? Should we back off, or post our opinions no matter what?

Thus far I've posted "writing stuff" on my FB fan page and avoided political opinions and postings on my personal page. However, I'm getting tired of blocking posts that raise my blood pressure and even unfriending a person or two after looking at their sites after they left pretty far out comments. I'm considering a change. Stay tuned.

Without mentioning a political party a particular person, or your personal preferences, answer this question in the comments: Have you ever encountered a post or comment on social media that made you change your mind? And, to extend the question further, has one of your posts or comments ever resulted in someone else changing their mind?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Writing: Free Books

Note in apology: This was inadvertently posted last week before it was completed, and it was probably my fault--technology isn't my strong suit. Would those of you who commented last time re-post your comments? I promise to react to them. Thanks.

I've recently begun to wonder about the author practice of offering a free copy of their book to a person leaving a comment on an interview or a guest blog post. It probably is a good way to introduce your writing to someone unfamiliar with it, but are there people who leave comments in hopes of winning free books, yet never post a review, tell others about the writer's work, or help the author in any way afterward? 

In writing, we learn to look at ROI--return on investment. Is there ROI for giving away our books? I realize you can dine on free samples from Sam's sometimes, but do dry cleaners give away samples? Grocers? Dentists?

I queried several of my colleagues about this. All of them are established writers, some traditionally published while others had gone the "indie" or "hybrid" route. Here's the question I asked: “Do you really think giving away a copy of your latest novel helps sales?”

The response of one author echoes one of the concerns writers have: "Only if a review is actually posted online." Unfortunately, as you'll see below, there are those around who enter every "contest" but never follow through with the review we ask them to post--it doesn't have to be good, just an honest opinion.

Another author is probably a bit less cynical, and answered yes, saying that many people had become loyal readers "after reading a gift, contest, or giveaway copy." Okay, that definitely represents ROI.

Another writer voiced a concern a bit different from the one already detailed. "I fear that most free books go to (people who are already) fans. (They) tell me how delighted they are when they get a free copy from the publisher or a site like NetGalley. If our fans are no longer buying our books because they have learned to get them for free for the promise of an honest review, who will buy them? I think the 'culture of free' is harming Christian fiction a great deal.” Well, at least it's harming the pitiful monetary return most of us have. I've heard that becoming a writer is essentially "taking a vow of poverty." 

A well-known author has a different take on the subject. "If you mean doing a blog post interview, which includes giving away one copy—I don’t know. The interview gives some publicity. I don’t know that giving away a copy gives any more. But it might be a requisite for doing the interview." And this is correct--some bloggers and reviewers expect the author to offer one (sometimes more than one) copy of their book at the time they are given blog space.

A number of blogs encourag interviews or guest posts be accompanied by a free book to a randomly selected commenter. To this, yet another author says, "Why should we pay people to read our work?" I don't have an answer to that, at least not when it's phrased that way. Do you?

Well, it's your turn. Do you leave comments in hopes of winning a "freebie?" Have you ever won a free copy of a book? Did the book inspire you to post a review, tell a friend, or in some way help "influence" on behalf of the author? Have you ever been tempted to sell (or give away) a book you've won? I'd like to know. And if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, feel free--I'm not offering anything to commenters except my thanks.

Click to tweet: "What's your opinion of authors giving away copies of their books?" Click here to tweet.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Guest posting today

I'm over at Seekerville, posting about what makes a story great. Hop over and join us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day. If you intend to take your wife or sweetheart out for dinner tonight and haven't made a reservation already, enjoy your hamburger or pizza! I made the mistake once of that oversight. Fortunately, we were friends with the restaurant owner, so the wait wasn't long. But let's just say I won't do it again.

In case anyone is curious, the stylized "heart" you see about this time of year, often as  a box containing pieces of chocolate, looks nothing like a human heart. There are a number of stories about how this shape came to be used. For instance, I've heard that the curves at the top indicate the vessels running from the heart downward to supply the rest of the body--anatomically incorrect, but the thought is there. If you want to read other theories, click this link.

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine's Day? Leave a comment telling us (or say it's none of our business). Either way, happy Valentine's Day.

PS--My apologies to those who read and commented on my post about free books that appeared briefly in this space. It was meant for this coming Friday, and for some reason the incomplete draft got published much too early. Come back in three days for the finished product. Thanks.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Writing: Devising A Twist

The late Donald Westlake called it "push fiction," which I like better than the more common designation, "pantser" writing. He wrote by the seat of his pants, rather than outlining, reasoning that if he didn't know what was coming next, neither could the reader.

Although I don't advertise it, there's no secret to the fact that I don't know who the "bad guy" is in my novels until I'm writing the last third of the book. I try to leave the option open, which means setting up some blind alleys and rabbit trails for the reader. Sometimes that works, at other times it doesn't. And, as James Scott Bell taught me long ago when I learned his LOCK system, I want to have a "knockout" ending ready.

There are a number of twists that can be used to keep a reader engaged. One is the "tasteless, odorless, traceless poison." Another is the "locked room" death, popularized by Edgar Allen Poe. And Agatha Christie even brought a dead person back to life to be a murderer. (I read that last one while alone in the Bachelor Officers' Quarters in the Azores, and kept the lights on the rest of the night).

If you ever have the opportunity to be in the same hotel as a writers' conference, keep your ears open in the elevator. A person who doesn't know what's going on might call the police!

So, what's your favorite twist? Let me hear them. I promise I won't use yours--well, maybe, but I'll try to disguise it so you won't recognize it.

Tweet with a single click. "Plot twists, ways to kill without being caught--all part of a mystery novelist's life." Click here to tweet.