How can I afford to write a book? Corporate sponsorship!

Most would-be authors have never considered book sponsorship.  Yet this is a creative and effective way to leverage other people’s money (usually corporations) so that you can write, publish and promote your book.  Let’s look more closely at exactly how you can access this money.

It’s a dream so many of us have – to write a book.  People come to us all the time with their book ideas.   When individuals come to us, they often have one of the following ideas:

  • A great novel idea they want developed.
  • A biography based on incredible experiences they have lived through.
  • A self-help topic they feel can benefit many people.
  • A topic they know a lot about and want to share their knowledge.

If any of these sound familiar, read on.  Most people bring forward really good ideas.  Yes, there are a few truly bad ideas that come up.  But they are rare.  And we do get some “kooks” – eccentric people whose ideas just don’t make sense at first blush.  But you would be surprised how engaging a totally crazy idea can be; most of the “kooks” have ideas with good book potential.

With a few exceptions, most book ideas we see have what it takes to succeed, if only the authors can get their hands on…

A)    A good writer or editor
B)    Publishing
C)    Good marketing
D)    The money to pay for A, B, and C above

Workshop: How to get money to pay for your book

Money for my book

“D” is the key, of course.  “A” is easy – we provide top-quality professional book writers and editors.  “B” is easy, too – there are plenty of publishing options, including self-publishing and POD (print-on-demand) publishing programs, and we are happy to help our clients decide what publishing option is most effective for them.  As for “C”, we can also put our clients on the road to effective marketing.

But…

All this takes money, and we don’t do banking.  Some authors have money when they come to us.  Many do not.  We would love to help them all, but our writers need to eat, too. That is where corporate sponsorship kicks in and works its magic.

TRUE STORY

Not long ago, I was approached by someone who runs a not-for-profit animal shelter with a real tear-jerker tale of two puppies they had rescued and how one of them survived.  But they had no money.  So I suggested…

“Have you considered contacting a pet food company to be a sponsor?”

This book was just screaming to be written and to be sponsored.  Not every book is this obvious, but most books can be sponsored in numerous ways.  After a couple more fairly obvious candidates for sponsorship showed up on my door (one related to health and the other that could show off a nice tourism destination), I realized that I should do something to help all those would-be-authors lacking the financial means to move their ideas forward.

So I took action.  I contacted a couple experts in sponsorship, and I was thrilled to find a corporate  sponsorship expert who specializes in authors and books – Jane Ubell.  Although she generally charges a pretty hefty fee for her expertise, she was willing to share her best tips and discuss practical ways to land sponsors with a small group of our clients for a ridiculously small entry fee. (Yes, you could be one of them, but only if you are one of the first ten to sign up.)

Did you know you can get several sponsors for your book?  You could, for instance, get a sponsor to pay for the printing, another to pay for or supply refreshments on a book tour, another to provide transportation, etc. Some independent authors have actually become very adept at getting sponsors to help them sell their books.

All you need to do is find the right angle.  And you need to pitch the sponsor. Others are doing it successfully.  Just search Google for “sponsored my book” to see what might be possible.

At this point, you might have some questions:

  • How do I start searching for a corporate sponsor?
  • Who would want to sponsor my book?
  • How do I find a sponsor for my book tour?
  • What do I say to convince a company to sponsor me?

These are pretty complex questions with different answers for each situation.  Which is why they are best addressed case by case rather than in a huge assembly hall.

Of course, the first step is to make a list of all the things your book is about.  A self-help or how-to book might be obvious.  A fantasy novel, less so (not many companies selling pet supplies for dragons or magic dust for river fairies, right?). But even a fantasy novel can get sponsorship, so you might need some help.

Next, think of your readers and what types of products they like.  Are they more into fancy coffees or beer?  Hunting and fishing or macrame?

Once you have the list, then comes the strategy…which is where the “pretty complex questions with different answers for each situation” comes in and you might need help answering those questions.

Thankfully, Jane Ubell will be helping navigate questions like these at a private consultation with ten of our clients on October 15.  My hope is that ten amazing ideas will become books following this extremely focused session.

If you wish to be part of this intimate, two-hour workshop, you can sign up here.

Book Sponsorship Workshop

Interestingly, I am right now in the process of building a niche book project with built-in sponsorship opportunities.  In fact, there could well be thousands of sponsors for hundreds of these niche books over the next decade.  It is very exciting.  I firmly believe that sponsorships will be a major power tool for independent authors of the future.

The key is knowing how to access the sponsors.

Just a postscript word on the workshop…

Because the workshop is a custom, personalized event, there is no telling what will be discussed.  But here are some of the points that are expected to be covered…

  1. How to find companies that are in alignment with your project
  2.  How to turn these companies into a sponsor
  3.  How to create benefits that will entice them to want to be your partner
  4.  How to create a deck that will “speak” their language
  5.  How to close the deal
  6.  How to keep them as a sponsor
  7.  Create pitches and learn how to bring in immediate cash each time!
  8.  How to ask for the money and practice asking! (I am pretty sure there will be a lot of interest in this).
  9.  Clever ways to get free PR.

This workshop is not the only way to find sponsors.  You could also hire somebody who moves in corporate circles.  Or you can try crowd-funding on Kickstarter or IndieGogo.  Or you could just go for trial and error, knocking on doors.

Whatever approach you try, if you don`t have the money to write your book…go and get the money from someone else.*

* The author of this blog in no way wishes this statement to imply that he condones< /br>bank robberies, train robberies, muggings or pickpockets.

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A contract and a murder, and this is not even fiction

My younger daughter’s class is learning the names of the provinces and their capitals. The class has to take their Canadian geography test until they get it all right. My daughter practiced at home over and over – and she really knows her stuff.

But she will have to take the test a third time, just like the rest of her class. Yes, she knows it all, but she keeps making little errors. Like writing “WinniPeg”. Like placing Iqaluit on the mainland by accident. Little stuff like that.

Little stuff that proofreading would fix.

Why is this so important?

Well, I was reviewing a contract recently, full of the usual legalese, when I came across something most non-usual:

“Where it shall appear to the partners that this Agreement, or any terms and conditions contained in this agreement, are in any way ineffective or deficient, or not expressed as originally intended, and any alteration or addition shall be deemed necessary, the partners will enter into, execute, and perform all murder be an instrument as their counsel shall advise. Any addition, alteration, or modification shall be in writing, and no oral agreement shall be effective.”

Did you miss it?  OK, here is the abbreviated version:

Yadda yadda yadda yad yadda yadda yad. Yadda yadda yadda yadda yad yadda yad yadda.  Yadda yadda yadda the partners will enter into, execute, and perform all murder yadda yad yadda. Yadda yadda yadda yadda yad yadda.

Murder contract?

OK, clearly something went wrong in that paragraph. In fact, my best guess is that two things went wrong. First, it looks like a bad cut and paste left out a few words, because the end of that sentence doesn’t quite fit onto the rest of the sentence. Like trying to sort through the plane crash debris and placing Julia Roberts head on Hulk Hogan’s body (Yes, as a matter of fact I did have a troublesome sleep last night – why do you ask?).  Second, at the junction between the two parts of the sentence, we discover a murder – probably a spell-check anomaly as a result of the bad cut-and-paste, but still leaving us with some important questions unanswered:

  • Exactly who are these partners supposed to murder?
  • Does it matter what weapon is used?
  • Will the murderer garage door service boca raton indemnified by anybody (contracts are always full of people indemnifying each other for their sins, right?)

READ ALSO: How a typo turned a celebrity chef into a cannibal

I love a good murder mystery as much as the next guy. And contracts are common in murder mysteries. But a murder mystery is pretty rare in a contract.

So, for the benefit of my dear daughter, you see that proofreading can save a person from more than just being caught in an endless loop  geography test. It could even save you from murder.

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Point of View – telling the story from somebody’s perspective

Point of View.  It is a critical tool in the writer’s arsenal.

Point of view can best be described as: through whose eyes the reader sees the story unfolding.

There’s three sides to ever story, baby.

There’s yours and there’s mine and there’s the cold hard truth.

– Don Henley, from “Long Way Home”.

Point of view is what makes the reader empathize, maybe even sympathize, sometimes with the “bad” guy, making us feel like there is some good in him after all, that perhaps he is just misunderstood.  Point of view is what makes the difference between a respected community leader and a power-hungry control freak.

As the words of the Don Henley song point out, the same event can be see differently through two people’s eyes. I am sure you have seen this in your life, pretty much any time you get into an argument with someone. In most instances, you are not good, nor are you evil – nor is your adversary. But who is right depends on a pretty subjective point of view.

Consider this short narrative, a eulogy…

A Eulogy

It seems like just yesterday that she came into this world. She was so full of wonder, as everyone is at first. Full of energy. Full of excitement. Full of innocence.  Buzzing around heedless of the world’s dangers.

She seemed so young. Indeed, she was. But her type tends to grow up fast. They have to. She had to. It’s who she was. It’s what she was.

She learned very quickly what it’s like to be hungry. Her type doesn’t have food just handed to her on a silver platter, you know. She had to go out and get it. And that can be a risky business.

The crazy thing is that there is so much food available. A surplus a hundredfold or more. But those who have it don’t want to share it with those who need it. They never do. They never have. Sadly, they never will.

So she took risks. She knew she had to. She knew that one day she would not return. She knew each day that there was a good chance – “good” being somewhat of an oxymoron in this case – that today would be that fateful day.

But eat we must, and so we much each take the risks necessary.

We all know how it ended. That’s why we are here. We are comforted to know that she went quickly. Painlessly. That she never even saw it coming. But she is gone – slaughtered in broad daylight for no more of a crime than being hungry. By someone who had an endless supply of food, but was simply unwilling to share, but willing to kill.

Smacked by a human!

Nobody bullying books tells the story from a mosquito’s point of view.

Victim chalk outline

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Best Man Speeches – 11 questions for the speaker

There are plenty of generic best man speeches on the Internet, and just as many one-liners to toss out on the table. While a one-liner or two can add a little extra humor to a best man speech (or any speech, for that matter), the essence of the speech should be personal.

Best Man Prince HarryIt should speak from the heart.

It should speak to the groom and his bride.

It should be yours, all yours.

That is why so many people come to us to ghostwrite their best man speeches, and sometimes other wedding speeches. But making it personal is not simple for a ghostwriter. So we start by asking a few questions. Here are eleven of them.

How do you know the groom?

This is the top question. If you are the best man, it is because you know the groom. Well. That is why you stand before the room full of wedding guests. So if the speech is based on anything, it is based on your relationship with the groom.

How well do you know the groom’s family?

This will help us integrate other key wedding guests into the speech, if possible.

How well do you know the bride? Her family?

This will also help us integrate other key wedding guests into the speech, if possible. Ideally, there will be more than just a passing mention of the bride.

Who are the people you want to and/or need to mention in the speech?

This will capture anyone else important and hopefully keep the best man from being persona non grata in the years ahead. Being the best man is fraught with unintended risks, so best to bring shark repellent.

Are there any anecdotes that you really want to mention?

This is usually where the best man starts getting long-winded – which is a good thing. We often get the best material for the meat of the speech in response to this question.

Is there anyone important that will be slighted if you don’t mention them?

Ah, you noticed. Yes, this is a second safety net for the best man, in case any critical people were forgotten when we asked earlier: “Who are the people you want to and/or need to mention in the speech?”

Is the groom’s life about to change in any other way?

This is important. If a baby is on the way, or the couple plans to move across the Atlantic, this is something that should at least be mentioned. The best man speech is an ode to the past and a toast to the future.

Are there any cultural, religious of family sensitivities/taboos you wish to avoid?

This is another safety net. It is rare that it needs to be used, but sometimes there are some sensitivities and it is important no tot put the best man on the spot, especially if the caterer’s buns are not the freshest.  For example, Prince Harry is said to have toned down his best man speech due to the presence of his grandmother, the Queen.

Is there a lesson from your own marriage (or other inspiration, if not married) you wish to impart?

For some reason, when you get married, everybody wants to give you advice. Everybody is an expert. We would not want the best man, armed with the microphone, to miss his chance to dispense whatever wisdom he might wish to share.

What is your comfort level with humor? What style of humor?

And since best man speeches are usually on chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer phoenix arizona lighter side, it helps to understand whether the speaker will be more comfortable in slapstick, self-depreciating, dry or some other kind of humor.

Anything else I should know?

Finally, a wide open question that the speaker can answer however he wishes should capture anything left out up to that point.

Want to hire a speech writer?
Hire a ghostwriter for your book
So there you have it. The eleven top questions that a ghostwriter needs to ask of someone before writing his custom best man speech.  Are you ready for the big day?

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How to write the plot of a story

So many people want to write a book, but have difficulty in structuring their story.  The Infographic below is more than just how to write a story plot – it reads like the plot summary of a typical fiction story, or even an epic non-fiction story.

I am sure you can easily read adventure, fantasy and sci fi into the plot outline presented, but for the most part even a romance or detective novel follows this formula. Or the screenplay for a romantic film or even many comedies or other movies.

A story need not use all these elements, or place them in this exact order.  But most fiction (and some non-fiction) books on the New York Times Best Sellers list include most of these elements in roughly this order. A complex story will have many of these elements repeat, sometimes several times.  In fact, a complex story might have several plots moving along simultaneously.

I was just reading Son of a Witch: Volume Two in the Wicked Years by Gregory MaGuire (highly recommended, but best to read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West first), and the first half of the book runs through two threads, one past and one present, and the present thread divides in two to follow Liir along one and the two traveling maunts along the other.

One of my favorite books of all time, The Eight by Katherine Neville, follows two stories, one in present time (during the oil crisis of a few decades ago, and one historical, during the French Revolution.

Both these books use pretty much all of the elements presented in the plot outline below multiple times, and at times simultaneously along the different threads. Great reads, both, for students of how to write a book with multiple plot lines.

A generic story plot summary

 

Please share this graphic

Add the image above to your site!

 

Must the Plot of a Story Be so Dramatic?

This is just a generic plot summary.  Mark Twain once said, “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Nevertheless, in real world story plots (our own lives), we never find such superlatives. There is good and kindness in everyone, and there is mischief and ill-will in everyone, too. And even in the most fantastic of stories, we like to see a little balance shine through.

  • We like to see our Valiant Hero vulnerable, perhaps a bit socially awkward or over self-confident, or caught off guard. We like to see him doubt his ability to prevail, or fall hopelessly in love.
  • We like to see the Forces of Evil are not all evil, that somewhere inside remains a seed of compassion and tenderness…seconds before our Valiant Hero annihilates him.

It is true that not every story has all of these component, nor are they always so clear-cut. Sometimes there are more than one Valiant Hero, and they are sometimes working at cross-purposes. Sometimes there is an ambiguous character, who is neither good nor evil – or is somewhat of both.

And the evil might not always be “evil”, but it might simply be an incredible obstacle or a natural disaster.  Or a bumbling fool who always gets in the way or tips the apple cart.

And the Quest is not always obvious from the outset.  In fact, sometimes we near the end of a story before realizing what the Quest really is about.

Writing a book or a screenplay is not always that simple, and even if you hire a ghostwriter it helps if you already have the structure of your tale pretty much organized.  There is plenty of room to play with the plot of a story, plenty of room for creativity in putting your own plot outline together. But if you start with this model, you have a great structure on which to build your story.

Hire a ghostwriter for your book

A Generic Story Plot

Transcription of the image above.

The End of the World!

The world is heading for cataclysmic disaster. Perhaps the planet will explode. Perhaps somebody’s true love will leave. In the context of your story, this is surely the End of the World.

The Noble Quest

Hold on! The End of the World will have to wait. Our Valiant Hero is off on the Noble Quest to save the day (and the world)!

The Roadmap to Victory

The Noble Quest to stave off the End of the World entails certain steps that must be taken, a checklist of challenges. This is the Roadmap to Victory.

Insurmountable Hurdles

Alas! The Forces of Evil conspire to ensnare our Valiant Hero and thwart the Noble Quest.

Supreme Personal Sacrifice

Only by acts of Supreme Personal Sacrifice can our Valiant Hero overcome the Insurmountable Hurdles and proceed along the Roadmap to Victory.

Impending Doom

Confounded! The Insurmountable Hurdles have nevertheless delayed our Valiant Hero. Impending Doom is imminent. Surely these forebodings mean that the Noble Quest fails.

The Stars Aligned

Somehow all the stars in the heavens incredibly align against all odds at half a second to midnight, so that Our Valiant Hero can save the day and delay the End of the World…at least until the sequel.

Unforeseen Rewards

So busy was our Valiant Hero battling the Forces of Evil, that he did not realize how he has blossomed as a result of the Noble Quest.

A New Kind of Normal

With the End of the World now in the past, people return to their business and things return to normal. But “normal” has changed; nobody touched by the Noble Quest remains unchanged by it.

* Special thanks to Forest Parks for helping me assemble the Infographic when I got stuck.



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You might be a writer

I must be a big fan of Jeff Foxworthy.  Either that or he is innately spoofable.  This is the second time I find myself spoofing his hilarious “You might be a redneck” jokes.  Except this time it’s “you might be a writer”.  I am sure this list is far from exhaustive, so please feel free to add your own thoughts to the comments, and feel free to share with your friends on FaceBook and Twitter so they can add theirs to the comments, too.

HINT: These are a lot more fun if you imagine them being delivered in Jeff Foxworthy’s voice.  Here is an example.

 

If your thank-you notes typically run on for 14 pages, you might be a writer.

If you edit the ingredients list on cracker boxes at the grocery store, you might be a writer.

If you fight insomnia by counting typos, you might be a writer.

If you ask your child whether the new kid in school is the protagonist or the antagonist, you might be a writer.

If you feel that your life is dull because it lacks flashbacks, you might be a writer.

If your-hate list includes Wordless Wednesday blogs and music CDs with no lyrics, you might be a writer.

If you’ve ever stood up in church to correct the preacher’s grammar, you might be a writer.

If you said “But the book was so much better!” after seeing The Matrix, you might be a writer. (Look it up for yourself!)

If you prefer closed caption TV because they broadcast the screenplay, you might be a writer.

If you tell your child to redo his math homework to make it more compelling to the audience, you might be a writer.

If you avoid drinking milk because yogurt has more culture, you might be a writer.

NOTE: The following video is part of the post.  “Read” it next.

 

If you buy a jacket only when there is a “blurb” on the back, you might be a writer.

If you’ve ever staged a sit-in over the inappropriate use of a comma, you might be a writer.

If you autograph the magazines in the rack at the checkout counter, you might be a writer.

If a whole shelf on your bookcase is dedicated to books with your name on them, you might be a writer.

If your reaction to a designer dress at the mall is “Who wrote that?”, you might be a writer.

If you prepare an outline before telling your spouse about your day, you might be a writer.

If you’ve ever called out the President of Honda for misspelling “Infiniti”, you might be a writer.

If you hold back crucial scheduling details from your family to keep them in suspense, you might be a writer.

If you fantasize about typewriters, you might be a writer.

typewriter

If you even know what a typewriter is, you might be a writer.

If your favorite part of vacation is “booking” the flight, you might be a writer.

If you can’t wait for them foreclosure defense hollywood make a movie out of Roget’s Thesaurus, you might be a writer.

And if you are still reading this long-winded post, you are obviously a writer.

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Write to the point (never mind the word count!)

I have a beef with a lot of blog owners and other content websites, and you might want to blame Google.  You see, a lot of blog owners welcome guest posts – as long as they are 500 words or more.  And a lot of article directories welcome your words of wisdom – as long as it comes in doses of 500 or more.  And a lot of other websites welcome your content – as long as it is at least 500 words long.

What is so magical about 500 words?  Well, there is a common perception that if an article is 500 words or more, Google will like it more than if it is under 500 words and Google will rain darts and stink-bombs and itching powder upon your website.

The basis of this perception is that shorter articles are not as good quality as longer ones.  The number 500 is a very arbitrary choice, with no basis in fact (actually some websites insist on at least 300 or 400 words, and others on at least 600 or 700 words – in any case, an arbitrary number).

However, there is some reason to suspect that if your website has articles that are mostly 100 words long it might not be judged as having as good quality content as the site with articles that are mostly 700 words long.

Garbage, no matter how long

As a writer, you should write to the point – you should get right to the point.  Say what you want to say, and when you are finished, say no more. Sadly, a lot of people keep writing long after they have nothing more to say. I have read a lot of garbage on the Internet of 1000 words and of 700 words and especially of 500-520 words.

Why especially of 500-520 words?  Because a lot of people write 100 or 200 or 300 words of information, but take just over 500 words to say it. They are trying to please Google.  Or to conform to websites that are trying to please Google.

Quite aside from how ridiculous this charade is – like an endless Monty Python skit caught in a repeating loop – this makes for some pathetic writing.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” In order to please Google, affordable home products people will use two, three or four words where just one will do, and their writing quality suffers big time for it.

When you write to the point, you stop when you have said your piece.  That might be at 100 words.  Or it might be at 200.  In the case of this article, it is at 451.

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Long Headlines for Wordy Wednesday

All over the Internet, blogs celebrate Wordless Wednesday by posting images instead of writing.  As a writers blog, we must protest.  And what better way to protest than to post an image of what just might be the longest headline in a mainstream newspaper?

 

 

The version above was shared by Amy Vernon, and is pretty long and humorous.  But after it was captured and shared it on social media, the headline was altered, adding a word and replacing three words with longer ones, making the following headline even longer…

 

 

Can long headlines work?  I would say this is an example of when they can. A long, startling headline with plenty of words.

These pictures might not be worth a thousand words, but for Wordless Wednesday they’ll do.

 

RECOMMENDED: Wordy Wednesday – Hagrid moonlights

 RECOMMENDED: Lyrics – The Ent and the Entwife (with video)

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Wreck-It Ralph and Character Jobs, Part I

Although I haven’t watched “Wreck-It Ralph,” I have read the (highly recommended) screenplay, and it sparked some musings about characters and their jobs.

“I gotta say, it becomes kinda hard to love your job… when no one else seems to like you for doing it.”

–Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph, as an anti-hero and video-game villain in his day job, is in fine company. In his book What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z, Lance Johnson provides surveys that list some of the service industries and related jobs Americans rank as lowest and complain about the most:

  • Oil companies
  • Real estate agents
  • HMOs
  • Tobacco companies
  • Auto dealers
  • Cell phone companies (contracts)
  • Collection agencies
  • Banks
  • Auto repair
  • Mortgage brokers

If your characters hold a profession everybody hates, that makes your job as a writer more challenging, but in the case of Wreck-It Ralph, it can also be a rewarding journey.  Everyone (including, ahem, writers) can relate to days in which no one appreciates what you do. Yes, Wreck-It Ralph is about Generation X, the video game and most maligned recent generation, but it is also about our jobs and our livelihoods.

Does the job define the character? 

Does the job define the person? In our society, yes, it does.

Does the job define the character?  In the case of cop dramas, legal dramas, political dramas, hard-boiled police procedurals, stories about sex workers, stories set in the entertainment industry, stories about teachers, even family dramas in which Mom and Dad are the (toughest of all) job titles (what parent hasn’t felt unappreciated at some point?), the answer is yes.

Whether it’s Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” who lives for the job, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Kirk (when the movies prompted him to admiral and took him away from the Enterprise, that sparked major character conflict and a four-movie arc), there are many examples in which the job defines the character. But it’s also the character’s relationship to the job that creates drama and conflict.

FREE help to describe your characters!

In Wreck-It-Ralphs’s case, he just wants to be a part of society and be valued. His external goal is to get a medal, but in the course of “going turbo” and leaving his game, he develops other relationships.

This works for true stories, too: If your client has a job that the public has preconceptions, especially negative, about, such as the mortgage industry (Confessions of a Subprime Lender), IRS agents, Hollywood agents (sorry), salespeople, or politicians (if you land such a gig), your job is to make the case as to why the reader should care:  Is it a tell-all?  A personal struggle with illness?  A friendship or love story that changes lives? A how-to book on consumer advice?  A cause that’s bigger than the job?

Yes, it is hard to separate people from their jobs, because one of the first questions we ask is, “What do you do?” Why would your characters, including in nonfiction, be any different?  Also, other than their stated job title, characters have different jobs to do in your story.  Hero, comic relief, best friend, messenger, shapeshifter, mentor, sidekick…

Don’t knock the villains (even though we all love to). In my follow-up post, I’ll give some love to the antagonist/villain’s job and why, in Ralph’s words, “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, anti bullying video that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

Back to the job!

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Contest to help you write your book for children

It is contest time again, and this one will interest anyone who has ever wanted to write a children’s book. So if you know anybody who fits that description, please let them know.

Today (well, in two weeks, actually) we are giving away to one lucky winner a free copy of Write a Marketable Children’s Book in 7 Weeks by award-winning authors, Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley. They have authored more than 30 children’s books and are published by Random House, Simon and Schuster, Gale-Cengage and other houses.  You can take a peak at their Write Children’s Book website here.

You will note that the authors of our giveaway prize are well-placed to provide guidance on both fiction and non-fiction books, which they do.

In fact, here is what one book reviewer (Kathi Linz) has had to say: “If you want clear, concise, easy-to-understand directions, then pick up Write a Marketable Children’s Book in Seven Weeks by Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley.”

Here is what another reviewer (Rachel Burns, writer of young adult books) has had to say on Amazon: ”Jennifer McKerley is a true professional who knows the ins and outs of children’s book writing. From researching story ideas to revision methods and everything in between, Jennifer can help you get your book on the right track.”

How to enter

There are three ways for you to enter this Rafflecopter Giveaway contest (the more times you enter, the better your chance of winning!):

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  • Share our free Character Description Cheat Sheet for Children’s Books  using any of the buttons on the right of that page (you can bankruptcy attorney phoenix this one more than once, too – share on each of your social networks).Just remember to use the Rafflecopter widget below to tweet, follow and record your sharing.

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She Knows What the Future Holds is published

We are excited that She knows what the future holds: A Novel by G.G. Irvine has been published. This is another book that we helped the Swiss-based author to perfect. We hope you’ll enjoy this entrancing chick-lit odyssey, which she describes as “a girly book”.

Here is a quick synopsis of the novel:

Growing up, April Byrd longed for more than her very ordinary life. She was born and raised in a sleepy, small Midwest town where she spent her whole life waiting – waiting for something big to happen. When college graduation provided an escape, she knew just where to go – New York City. There she could reinvent herself and finally have the extraordinary life she’d always dreamed of. She said goodbye to her family and high school sweetheart for the bright lights of the big city.

But things don’t always go as planned. Getting to New York City was the easy enough, but nothing has turned out the way she planned. April shares a one-bedroom, walk up apartment where she sleeps on the worn, living room, sofa bed of her wild, party-girl roommate. She has a grunt job at a public relations agency, and eight months after her arrival to the “big city,” April’s life is still completely ordinary; until an uneventful visit to a psychic changes everything – starting with a certain sexy, blue-eyed, tattooed rocker named Van who never even knew she existed. Until now.

Now that April’s on Van’s radar, her life will never be the same. He’s a mysterious, captivating, bad boy and April is helpless to his charms; but she can’t figure him out. Does he really like her, or is she just another conquest? As she follows Van down the rabbit hole, she begins to realize his mysterious air just might be a façade masking a darker, more disturbing side.

You can pick up a copy of the book yourself on Amazon: She knows what the future holds: A Novel

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How to Describe Characters in Children’s Books

It seems like just yesterday (but it was actually in December) that I announced the Character Description Cheat Sheet in a post about how to describe hair. Of course that post was about how to describe hair to an adult audience, which is not the same thing as describing to a young reader audience (who are much less interested in the smell of the hair, and much more interested in whether there are ribbons in it, for example).

And the Character Description Cheat Sheet I announced then was, not surprisingly, also aimed at an adult audience.

But what about if you are preparing a manuscript for a children’s book?

No problem – we have now developed the (equally free) Character Description Cheat Sheet for Children’s Books.  Here is a snapshot of what it looks like, and you can download it for free (well, for the price of a tweet or a share on FaceBook).

The two tools are really quite similar in most ways, but there are some important distinctions, and this special shortcut just for children’s writers should help you more easily prepare your manuscript.  One example of a distinction is that a child’s life often revolves around school, so everything the reader sees through the main characters’ eyes is colored by the school experience: things that happen in the schoolyard and the classroom, homework schedule, teachers they like or that give them a hard time, etc.

Pick up our free cheat sheet to help describe children’s book characters.
Pick up our free cheat sheet to help describe your characters for adults.

I would like to thank children’s author Janet Smart for assisting with this special edition for children’s authors.  She was helpful in reminding me of a number of points that I had overlooked.

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What makes a good book?

One of the questions we get frequently goes something like this: “Do you think I have a good enough story?  Do you think it’s a best seller?”

My answer always, goes something like this, “Most stories are fascinating.  Almost anybody who thinks they have an interesting story does; it just takes a good writer to bring it out, to make it come to life.”

Of course, there are a few people who come to us whose stories really are not interesting at all, but that is pretty rare.  But this does give us a moment to consider what makes a successful book, so I would like to share my thoughts on this with you.

It’s the idea – the story

Above all, it is the idea.  It is the story.  And it is how that idea or story is developed. It needs to be interesting.  But what makes an interesting idea, an interesting story? Here are a few elements:

Strong emotions.  A compelling story makes us feel the terror of the main character(s).  Or the deep hunger for power or to be loved or to escape or…or…for something!  Or the deep love or lust of two people.

Incredible challenges. Strong emotions need equally strong challenges.  The fears need to be set off against the imminent realization of what is feared.  The hunger against seemingly insurmountable barriers.  The romance against circumstances that keep the lovers apart.

Suspense.  If the reader knows in advance how things will turn out, it is hard to keep her interest.  Suspense means keeping the reader guessing.  It means twists in the story line.  It means holding information back.  It means surprises.  It means, sometimes, the hero has to lose a battle.

If all this sounds like rules for fiction, they are.  And for biography.  And for history.  And the more of these rules that you can apply to a business book or a self-help book or a scientific report or a spiritual book, the better.

It’s the writing

 Of course, the quality of the writing is important, too.  Many an amazing idea has crashed upon the rocks of mediocre writing.  The basics need to be accounted for:

  • Proper word usage
  • Proper punctuation
  • Proper spelling
  • Proper capitalization

But “proper” is just the base.  Word usage is more than just about using the proper words.  It is also about how to use the most effective words.  The amateur tries to color his manuscript by adding lots of extra adjectives and even some extra adverbs.  The professional writer tries to remove adjectives and adverbs as often as possible and replace them with strong, descriptive nouns and verbs.

Here are a few more techniques that boost the quality of writing:

  • Vary the length of sentences, sometimes just for variety (to keep the reader from getting bored of the tempo) and sometimes to set the pace of the story.
  • Vary the length of paragraphs.
  • Except when a longer word adds more meaning, use the simplest word available (“use” instead of “utilize”)
  • Use synonyms deftly. Avoid too much repletion of a single word, except when used specifically to build cadence.
  • Dialogue is good.  The more, the better – to a point.
  • Internal dialogue is good, especially if it gives insight into a character’s motivations or emotions.

This list could grow to a hundred points, but these are some of the basics.  And these are techniques, not “rules”.  Different writers will use different techniques to different degrees, but these are some that are fairly universal among good writers and ghostwriters. Feel free to add to it in the comments.

It’s the pitch

A good idea, well-developed and well written, is still just a manuscript sitting in a drawer.  You need a good pitch.  I don’t mean a business case that you will see recommended in so many places.

“Last year there were 1200 books of this genre published and only 17 that were directly targeting this demographic.  There were twelve best-sellers in the genre, including three directly targeting this demographic, therefore…”

That’s a business case, not a pitch.  I am not saying to ignore the business case, mostly because don’t want to invite nasty comments for such a trivial issue, and because for non-fiction a business case can actually be very helpful even before defining your target audience (you might slightly alter whom you write the book for).

I am saying you need a solid pitch. Think about what might be written on the back of the book.  That is the basis of the pitch- what the book is about and why someone should buy it.

If you want to sell your idea to a publishing house, you’ll need the pitch to sell to them and, more importantly to sell them on being able to sell your book to the public. If you plan to self-publish, the pitch is what you’ll tell the public directly.  Either way, you’ll need the pitch in social media and when approaching book reviewers.

One note about the pitch and your genre.  If your book is fiction, you are trying to pull at people’s emotions and sense of suspense.  For some non-fiction genres, such as history and biography, you are doing the same.

But for more practical genres, such as business, how-to and self-help, you are trying to pitch the usefulness of your book.  And rather than focusing on readers and book lovers, you need to find people in the niche.  For example, a book on woodworking needs to be pitched not through book reviewers, but through woodworking bloggers.

Will my book be successful?

I don’t know.  Your idea is probably good, since few people think of writing a book without a feasible idea.  Few people with no ghost of a chance affordable home products told by their friends, “You oughta write a book.”  So, it is possible that your idea will fail of its own lack of merit, but not likely.  It might need some further development

If you come to us, you know you will get top-notch writing and help developing the idea.  You might already have it incredibly well-written on your own.  Either way, your manuscript has all the ingredients for success.

As for the pitch, that is a tougher one to define, and often the biggest factor in the success of a pitch is your own perseverance.  We can provide a synopsis and query letter (at no extra charge to our book writing clients, upon request), but you have to be able to ignore rejection after rejection to eventually find the publisher ready to take a chance on a new author on the strength of your manuscript alone.  Sometime the first publisher will recognize your genius.  Sometimes the 100th.  And sometimes, your route to success is to self-publish.

 

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Before you sign a Ghostwriter contract

You have found a ghostwriter that you want to work with.  You are ready to sign a contract.  But does the contract cover everything? Here is a quick guide to what you need to know…

RIGHTS

The most important thing to make sure is covered in a contract is rights.

(NOTE: Nothing in this blog posts constitutes legal advice; for that you must contact a duly recognized attorney.)

International copyright conventions recognize the writer as owner of his or her own words.  So it important to make sure that any contract between you and your ghostwriter assigns all rights, including foreign rights, film rights, etc.  So important are rights, that I would say this is the main reason we work with contracts when writing books rather than just a hand shake, as we do mwith most other projects.

PRICE and PAYMENT SCHEDULE

Price is the most obvious item to include in a contract.  You want to know how much you will pay and when it is due, and it should be clearly stated.  Some ghostwriting agencies will include a calendar schedule for payment, others (like us) base it on milestones.  We typically divide payment into thirds, but we are flexible on that.

WORD COUNT

This might also be obvious, but be careful.  All our contracts specify a range of words rather than an exact count, and there is a reason for that.

Word count is important, because it defines the quantity of work you will receive.  If you pay $12,000, you don’t want to wind up with just 10,000 words.  On the other hand, if you pay $12,000, the writer does not want to be stuck writing 120,000 words.

But – and this is critical – you do not want to identify a specific number of words that the writer is compelled to write.  If a writer has to write exactly 60,000 words, she will be far too focused on reaching that word count – at the expense of the quality of the manuscript.  Added fluff or cut corners is not to your advantage.

Our contracts always specify a range of words, such as 55,000 – 65,000 words.

CONFIDENTIALITY

This might or might not be important to you.  If it is, make sure it is included.

RESEARCH

If you are expecting the writer to do research for you, best outline that in detail.  Our default contracts specify no research.  Our writers typically do some research, such as small fact-checking or details about a location, but if there is anything specific you need, that will need to be specified and paid for.

If you are dealing with a high-priced agency, one that charges something like $25,000 for a 75,000 word book, you should expect unlimited research (in my opinion), but don’t try telling them that I said so.  Just make sure that it is clearly stated in the contract.

CONTACT

You might want to specify what type of contact you will have with the ghostwriter.  For a few people, face-to-face meetings are important, although they obviously lead to higher costs.  Some clients want frequent contact with the writer; others want to let the writer run with the topic.

Our default contract makes it clear that it is the client’s responsibility to make sure he is satisfied with the content as it is being produced, which means there is a chapter-by-chapter contact built in.  It also offers a default price for face-to-face meetings, should the client wish to do that after signing the contract. Of course, we have the ability to be flexible in areas like this.

TIMELINE

This is the trickiest element.  Often a client wants to specify a timeline, so that the writer does not drag on too long.  Understandably, you are eager to see your book published.

But the writer is a professional who pretty much sticks to a rigorous schedule.  The client, on the other hand, has a life.  And the client does not always have the time to review each chapter as it comes back from the writer.  A busy person might take a month to get back to the writer with an “OK” or a list of changes required.  A six-month job sometimes takes 12 months, as a result.

Ironically, the few times a client has insisted on specific dates, they have inevitably failed to provide timely information required for the project.  Not even close.

Our contracts all specify an expected end date.  It is important to have mutual expectations, but nobody benefits from rushing either the writer or the client.  We once had a client disappear – phone, email, mailing address – for nine months, then return to complete his book.

CONTRACTS and WRITERS

The bottom line is that you want a contract to address the legal matters and perhaps also to set parameters.  But you do not want contracts to cramp the creative process.  Keep one eye on the legal aspects (specific) and the other on the creative process (flexible) and you have the basis for an effective ghostwriting contract.

Just remember that no contract will ensure a successful ghostwriting project.  For that, you need to decide if the ghostwriter is easy to work with, whether she knows her craft and if the writer and the agency are accommodating in their approach.

 

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This fortune cookie speaks volumes

We get so many requests to write biographies.  People want to capture trying periods of their lives.  People want to share their stories as inspiration for others.  People want to capture family history from an elder member of the family before it’s too late.

So many stories.

So much inspiration.

We have even posted a chart showing how many people are seeking biography writers compared to other writers.

That is why I had to break out in a grin when I read this fortune cookie at Home of OHM:

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Wordy Wednesday – Hagrid moonlights

I can’t really tell you how it started. One of my daughters is a huge Harry Potter fan. One day, she stumbled upon Potter Puppet Pals, a series of puppet shows on Youtube. At the end of this post are a couple examples, in case you are interested.

I always tell a story to my kids at night; even when I am too tired, they won’t let me off for a night. I always make the stories up on the spot.

At some point, they asked me to tell a Potter Puppet Pals story, which evolved a bit in my telling so that both Harry and Ron have squeaky voices, Hagrid often falls out of the sky at random times crushing various characters (but mostly Harry), Snape gets no respect and Lord Voldemort is a silly character (building on the great Mustache Buddies tradition from the “real” Potter Puppet Pals – see second video below).

For Wordy Wednesday, (my personal protest against “Wordless Wednesday” blog posts), I thought I would share with you one recent story – shorter than most, was nevertheless one of the better ones. I am not normally a screenplay writer (although I have a couple good ones in my employ), but here is how it goes:

Hagrid sells Kleenex door-to-door

(Harry and Ron greet each other)

HARYY: What are you up to Ron?

RON: Not much, Harry? How about you?

HARRY: Nothing. Hey, here comes Hagrid. And this time he’s on foot!

(Enter Hagrid)

HAGRID: Y’aright, Harry? Ron?

HARRY: Hey Hagrid, what are you doing walking into the scene? Is that in the script?

HAGRID: Got myself a new job, I did.

HARRY: What, you got fired?

HAGRID: No, nothin’ like that. Just makin’ some extra cash on the side as a door-to-door Kleenex salesman.

HARRY AND RON: A what?

HAGRID: A door-to-door Kleenex salesman.

RON: But where’s the money in trucking around huge boxes of Kleenex that sells for…what, a dollar?

HAGRID: Just one box. This one is enough.

RON: What?

HAGRID: Need a Kleenex? Twelve dollars for one.

HARRY: Twelve dollars for a box?

HAGRID: Twelve boxes for a tissue.

HARRY: But Hagrid, who’s going to pay twelve dollars for a tissue?

HAGRID: Well, I…uh…I can’t be givin’ away trade secrets, now, can I? But I have…uh…found a market.

(Enter Snape, Hagrid recedes to a corner)

SNAPE: I see we have here that obnoxious Potter kid and his Weasley sidekick.

HARRY: We love you, too, Snapy Baby.

SNAPE: Harrumph.

HARRY: So much so that I kissed you in your sleep. And may I say that those lipstick marks on your cheek are very becoming.

SNAPE: That’s it. I’ve had enough of your driveling insolence. Fortunately, I have just concocted a wonderful potion of my own design that will teach you a lesson.

(Snape sprinkles some potion on Harry and Ron.)

SNAPE: Gesundheit. Heh, heh.

(Snape exits.)

HARRY: Ah…ah…ah-choo!

RON: Nose itches…

HARRY: Mine chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer phoenix getting all puffy…

RON: Need Kleenex…

(Hagird steps forward)

HAGRID: Kleenex? One for twelve dollars.

END

I hope you like it as much as my daughters (and their cats) did.

Postscript. I rarely follow up one day’s story with a sequel, but the next day the “Kleenex salesman” returned selling anti-dragon-bite pills.

 

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Lyrics – The Ent and the Entwife (with video)

Another Wordy Wednesday in protest of all those “Wordless Wednesday” blog posts out there. I was re-reading J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (for what, the fourth time?) and found myself at the song of “The Ent and the Entwife”, sung by Treebeard to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers.

Unlike most of the songs in Lord of the Rings, which I find tend to slow the story down as I stumble to pronounce all the names, I find this song a pleasure to read. In fact, this song strikes me as a classic love song, perhaps the most classic of them all. What a beautiful story it tells, if you care to read through to the end.

I would love to share the lyrics with you today, which I have done below. I was also able to find a recording someone* has put to music in the video below.

 

If you need lyrics written for a song, let us know.

 


* someone is “the Tolkien Ensemble”

The Ent and the Entwife

Ent:

When spring unfolds the beechen-leaf and sap is in the bough,
When light is on the wild-wood stream, and wind is on the brow,
When stride is long, and breath is deep, and keen the mountain air,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!

Entwife:

When Spring is come to garth and field, and corn is in the blade,
When blossom like a shining snow is on the orchard laid,
When sun and shower upon the earth with fragrance fill the air,
I’ll linger here, and will not come, because my land is fair!

Ent:

When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold
Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold,
When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!

Entwife:

When Summer warms the hanging fruit and burns the berry brown;
When straw is gold, and ear is white, and harvest comes to town;
When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the West,
I’ll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!

Ent:

When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I’ll look for thee, and call to thee; I’ll come to thee again!

Entwife:

When Winter comes, used rolex florida singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I’ll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will tkae the road beneath the bitter rain!

Both:

Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.

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Scriptless with Chantalyne

For Wordy Wednesday, I present to you a “Scriptless” episode co-starring Chantalyne. Name Your Tune is scriptless because no script – no screenplay – was ever written. An idea was presented and discussed. Three or four takes were filmed. Then it was off to post-production and the cutting room floor, where Eric Greer and some of his colleagues put it all together. Actually, in a way this is almost more of a Wordless Wednesday than a Wordy Wednesday.

I am proud of Chantalyne, her first time co-staring in a film.

For the record, you don’t have to go scriptless yourself. We have plenty of good screenplay writers you can hire if you have an idea for a feature film that Hollywood really should know about.

Enjoy this scriptless episode…

Please note that this video has also been cross-posted at http://self-help.thehappyguy.com/2013/01/09/name-your-tune/

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Merry Christmas

To every writer and aspiring writer

Whatever your age
Whatever your faith
Wherever you are

I wish you the very best in life

In love
In self
In 2013

But most of all, may your tree be jam-packed with books!

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