Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Anatomy of a Scene

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Prose Summer Camp!

Today, we're going to be taking a look at the workhorse of fiction, the scene. But first, announcements!

First, on Monday, Trav had a great post about why you shouldn't price your novel at $0.99. For the record, I absolutely agree with everything he says, but (as we always say around here), our way is not the only way. Case in point, after we posted the article, the awesome and very successful Annie Bellet contacted me on Twitter to tell me that she and several other authors have had fantastic success pricing at $0.99! This lead to a great discussion which I begged her to put into a post, and she gracious obliged. So, next Monday we'll have a guest post from Annie about why you should price your novel at $0.99! I've already read it, and it's going to be awesome.

Secondly, we've added a ton of new posters to the shop! Including this little beauty...


Folks, I've got one in my hands right now, and it is gorgeous! The colors are so much more vibrant than on screen. We've also got posters for the covers and art for One Good Dragon Deserves Another (finally) and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished as well, and they look just as good. You need more dragons in your life, right? Head on over to the swag shop to take a look and get some special Heartstrikers art for your walls!

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks, with...

Prose Summer Camp: Anatomy of a Scene

So far in this series, we've talked about the small, technical details of good writing like improving sentence structure and how to write good sentence level description. We even had Bob come in to help us with dialogue

Now we're going to zoom out a bit and take a look at a larger, but still fundamental, aspect of good novel writing: the scene. As always, though, a disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. If you don't like my writing style, knowing how I plan my scenes might not be useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you.**

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about what a scene can do.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Let's Talk Numbers: Why You Shouldn't Price Your Novel at $0.99

Hi Folks,

We're back from Colorado, so that means our more regular posts can resume. Thank you again to Kameron Hurley for filling in for us with her amazing gust post about hybrid authorship! (Seriously, go read it if you haven't! It's good!)

Today I have a short one about pricing. Let's talk about pricing a full length novel at 99c as a standard, not sale, price and the horrible problems that can create.

For this post, please keep in mind that I'm talking about full length novels. Short stories, serials, and novellas definitely have different pricing rules and this discussion may or may not apply to those arenas.

Why You Shouldn't Price Your Novel at $0.99

Every now and then, we see people doing this. They have a a shiny new book, a full length novel no less, and they release it for sale at a $0.99 cover price. Rachel and I cannot help but cringe when we see this happen, because we understand the faulty logic that's happening behind the scenes here.

Why would someone do this? There's basically three kinds of authors who put up full novels at what is a discount price.
  1. Those who are part of the book mill brands who write a book a month, don't edit or copy edit it, and just go for quantity over quality as a publishing strategy.
  2. People who are trying to build readership, often desperately so.
  3. Folks who don't think their books are worth full price.
It should come as no surprise that Rachel and I disapprove of the book mill approach. We don't think that it's good for the industry in general. Worse, the people we've see who pursue this kind of business model often talk about how soul killing it is, so y'all can see why we dislike this practice on many levels.

Now, people who are pricing their books at 99c as a means of building readership faster, those people I want to talk to the most today. For insecure authors, I'll be hitting on that topic near the end of this post.

Most everything I have to say about pricing low to build readership can be summed up simply as,

Using $0.99 as your regular price point is trading long-term gains for short-term ones.

Starting out, new authors need to build readership. It's the first and last item on their agenda besides writing the next book. Additionally, most people understand that lower price = greater volume so pricing to move is the logical tactic.
"Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat"
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Persistent bargain-basement pricing is engaging in grievously short term tactics without really considering their impact on the future (ie the strategy for a healthy long-term career). There's three major issues with using $0.99 as a regular price point for full length novels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writing Wednesday GUEST POST! with the amazing Kameron Hurley

Hello from COLORADO!

Yes, I'm standing by a frozen lake. Yes, I am wearing shorts. 10,000 feet, baby!
As you've probably surmised from the pictures, we're on vacation this week. Fortunately, this works out in your favor because we've got the amazing (and Hugo award winning!) essayist, author, feminist, and all around whipsmart lady Kameron Hurly here on the blog to talk about making the jump from trad to self-pub and back again!

I've read many of the essays from Geek Feminist Revolution and I love them. She has a ton of essays featuring deep, critical thought on geeky topics up for free all over the internet. It's a type of deep introspection genre that's very hard to find in genre fiction especially, and as a member of the SFF community, I absolutely love what she does with and for my genre. I'd be super stoked to get her on the blog for any reason, but she is especially perfect for today's topic, and let me just say, we are ALL in for a treat.

So, without further ado, here's Kameron to talk about the business of taking an indie project to NY!

How to Repackage a Self-Pub Project for Traditional Publication

Hello, everyone! And thanks to Rachel for hosting me. Today I’m going to talk about my recently-released essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, and how my agent and I worked to repackage and pitch content which had already appeared around the web into a traditional publishing deal.

As a general rule, unless a self-publishing project sells a lot of copies, it’s difficult to get traditional publishers interested in them. I know! It sucks, but you’ll hear this a lot from agents and publishers. It really has to be a legit phenomenon to stir up interest, especially now that there are so many more self-pub success stories. Even essay collections like the one I pitched can be a difficult sell if more than 20% of the content you propose for the collection has been previously published online.
So how did we do it?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Simple Strategies to Vastly Improve Your Sentences

Another summer Wednesday, another Prose Summer Camp! Hooray!

Don't sue me, Forest Service!
Before we get going, though, for all you Heartstrikers readers who might have missed last Monday's post, I'm going to be writing a special Heartstrikers short story in which (not to be too spoiler-tastic) Bethesda is going to be asked many questions. Rather than make up all these questions myself though, I thought it would be fun to open up the floor to you, the readers!

So if you have any questions you'd like the Great and Terrible Bethesda to answer, head on over and leave them in the comments! The best ones (that won't be answered in upcoming books) will be posed to the Heartstriker matriarch herself, so ask away! (And wear flame retardant clothing!)

Now that's covered, back to the post!

Writing Wednesday: Simple Strategies to Vastly Improve Your Sentences

*Disclaimer: This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. Some of the rules I lay out below are universal, others are stylistic choices. Either way, if you don't like my writing style, seeing how I write my sentences might not be very useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you. Enjoy responsibly!**

So far in Prose Summer Camp, we've talked about how to write better sentence level description and how to write properly formatted, compelling dialogue (with help from everyone's favorite seer!). This week, we're getting even more fundamental with a detailed look at how to buff up actual sentence level writing.

Surprisingly complete. Thanks, internet!

The ability to write a good sentence or paragraph is something that gets brushed over way too often in the genre community. This isn't to say there aren't amazing lyrical writers in genre, there absolutely are, but all too often I see genre writers focusing all of their improvement efforts on the big picture elements--plot, character, world building, all the things that make genre fiction amazing--while ignoring the most basic aspect of good writing: the sentence. It's as though we think that, just because we're not writing literature, bad prose is somehow okay.

Now I'm not saying your paragraphs have to be a staggering works of heartbreaking genius to be good (Lord knows mine aren't), but bad prose is like a dirty bathroom. Sure, the sink might be amazing and the showers might use waterflow methods hither-to unknown to mankind, but if the mirror has toothpaste spit marks on it and there's hairballs on the floor, that fancy stuff doesn't matter. If it looks a mess, no one is going to want to spend any time inside.

This is such a shame, because--like everything else we've covered in this series--bad sentence level writing is one of the easiest problems to fix. I can't tell you how to have better ideas, but I can show you how to write a sentence that reads well, clearly communicates what you're trying to say, and (most importantly) don't distract your reader from all the stuff you wrote this book to talk about in the first place.

Ready? Let's get started!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Upcoming Q & A with Bethesda!

Hello, everyone!

Rachel here, commandeering Trav's blog day to ask you folks for a little help. As you might have heard from a few previous posts NO GOOD DRAGON GOES UNPUNISHED is coming out in just a few weeks (preorder it here!). I actually just sent the final version of the text to the proofreader, so that means it's time to start doing fun bonus book launch stuff! Yay!

Free stuff?! THIS. IS. RACHEL'S BLOOOOOOOOOOG! (so yes)

One of the projects I have in mind is going to be (hopefully) really cool, but to make it even cooler, I wanted to ask for your input. Without letting the dragon out of the bag too much, I'm going to be doing an...interview of sorts with everyone's favorite terrible mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker! So if you ever had a question you wanted to hear Bethesda answer about her children, her clan, dragons, or her life in general, please ask it in the comments below.

Bethesda, she's not as bad as she looks! She's actually way worse.

I'll be picking the best ones (or at least the ones I can answer without horribly spoiling the series) for her to answer in a special Heartstrikers short story that will come out before the release of book 3. YES! EARLY HEARTSTRIKERS! WOO!

This story will be free and made specially for you guys, my awesome fans! So if there's a question you desperately want to see Bethesda answer that I haven't addressed in the books, ask it below, and let's have some fun!

Thanks as always, and I'll see you guys on Wednesday for more Prose Summer Camp!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Writing Wednesday: "Hey, Rachel!" the readers cried. "Can you do a post about dialogue?"

Ah, summer. The sun's out, the heat is oppressive, and there are UNINVINTED GUESTS in my house. Clearly, the only thing to do is to break out the swimwear and dive into the nitty gritty details of writing at the prose level. It's,

A badly photoshopped sign using stolen Park Service fonts! No, wait, I mean it's...

Prose Summer Camp!

Yaaay! Today we're going to be focusing on dialogue. Not how to come up with good dialogue (for that, see this post), but how to actually write the stuff in a way that reads well and makes sense on the page. 

Now this might not sound like a big deal, but I can't tell you how many books have been ruined for me by, shall we say, unwise dialogue and dialogue tag choices. Even if the dialogue itself is decent, it's hard to appreciate witty banter when you're trying to figure out how someone can gesticulate a word (are they using Sign Language?). I know that sounds nit picky, but when you're talking about your book, these are your nits to pick. Voice in a book is made up of thousands of nit picky choices just like this. 

Choose well, and no one will notice because they'll be too busy paying attention to your characters and plot. Choose poorly, and the little bad decisions will be all your readers notice. It's like a big old scratch in the paint job of a brand new car. Sure it might not actually change how the car runs, but no one wants to buy a new car with a scratch on it. If you're going to sell that thing, it has to look its best, and this kind of attention to detail is one of the ways we get there.

It should also be noted that these sort of decisions are often considered a stylistic writing choice, which means unless you're really murdering the grammar, no copy editor is going to fix them for you. (And if you are murdering the grammar, you shouldn't be depending on a copy editor to fix that in the first place.) You're the writer here. It's up to you to write well, so let's dig into how we do that.

But first, a disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. Some of the rules I lay out below are universal, others are stylistic choices. Either way, if you don't like my writing style, seeing how I make my dialogue choices might not be very useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you. Enjoy responsibly! **

Now that's out of the way, onward to...

Writing Wednesday: How to (Actually) Write Dialogue

Rachel clapped her hands and looked around the virtual room. "Okay," she said, positively vibrating with grammatical excitement. "Let's talk about writing and talking, my two favorite things! Dialogue in text is one of those writing things we assume everyone just knows. After all, we've all read books before, which means we've seen proper dialogue in action. But seeing isn't always understanding. To truly get what's going on, we have to understand why these authors made the dialogue choices they did."

"And I suppose you're going to tell us?"

Rachel looked up in confusion to see Brohomir, Great Seer of the Heartstrikers, sitting at the back of the room, feeding his pigeon from the tray of complementary snack crackers. "What are you doing here?"

"Shameless self-promotion," Bob said with a grin. "The third volume of my adventures comes out August fifth, and I wanted to make sure everyone in your audience knew they could preorder No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished."

"I don't see how they could have missed it," Rachel said, pointing at the long line of announcement posts, tweets, and other various public declarations. "But since you're already here, how would you like to be my example?"

Bob sighed. "Why are you even asking? You're the writer, and I've already foreseen the end of this little mise en scène. Even if I say no, we both know you're going to make me do it anyway."

"But of course," Rachel said with a cruel grin. "That's the price of being a fan favorite. When the author needs people to pay attention, you get pressed into service." Her smirk widened. "Characters exist to be used."

The dragon seer arched an eyebrow. "Careful," he warned. "Your Bethesda is showing."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Thanks and Updates This Memorial Day

Hi Folks,

This being memorial day weekend here, I've not been able to put together a business post for today.  We're just too busy doing family stuff. Today I'm grabbing a chance, while my son watches his morning cartoons, to update ya'll about all the exciting things we have coming up this summer.

I cannot tell you how many Warcraft jokes were made on this hike...

More Than Just Pre-Orders

Thank you SO MUCH, all you wonderful people who've pre-ordered No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished! We already have 350+ pre-orders which, according to my records, is 150 more than we had 4 days in on the One Good Dragon pre-order launch. Woooo!

Now, just a little preview of what's going to happen with promotions this summer as we head towards our August 5th launch day, here's what you can look forward to on the Rachel Aaron / Heartstrikers front.

New Posters - oh boy do we have new posters! We have five new posters no less! This includes the much requested Marci and Ghost book 2 art poster (no words, just art). There's also a special poster coming that makes even me squee (not actually hard to do haha) and will surely melt ya'll when you see it.

Sample Chapters - Ready to actually read some of book 3? Later this summer (cough, when the book has been through more proofreading), we'll be putting sample chapters up for everyone to devour. Think of them as an appetizer for the main course.

Special Content - there's a chance that Rachel will be writing something special for Heartstrikers that isn't in the books. I'd call it a short story, but I think its actually going to be a fictional interview set within the Heartstrikers world. What's important to know is that it will only be available to people who are on the new release mailing list or those who join the list after it's been made. If you don't get it though, don't worry, its not essential reading for the series.

Anyway, there's lots to be excited about coming up! Stay tuned, subscribed, bookmarked, or whatever term applies these days.

Also, a lot of folks are asking Rachel questions about the other formats, so please allow me to answer.

Audio and Print for No Good Dragon...

We're doing our best to have print and audio for No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished come out same day as the eBook. It'll be a small miracle if that actually happens though. This is mainly because the manuscript will be coming out of the last rounds of quality control very close to the August 5th release date.

This doesn't give the other formats much time to line up. Print we might land, but audio will likely still be in production. Audible works fast though, we're getting it to them earlier this time, and so I expect that it will not be a long wait for the audio book. It will certainly be much shorter than the 4-5 months delay we had for One Good Dragon

That's not very committal, I'm sorry. The take away here is that we're much more on the ball this time about print and audio so no one will be left waiting as long for their favorite format to come available. Yay!

If you want to know the moment these new formats are up, join the mailing list. This is great if you don't want to miss a release, but don't read the blog every week.

Have a Great Holiday!

Or if you aren't in the USA, have a great Monday. As for me, I'm going to go answer my son's requests to play Castle Crashers now. ^_^


Friday, May 27, 2016

The wait is over! NO GOOD DRAGON GOES UNPUNISHED comes out August 5th! 

If you're part of my New Release Mailing List, you've already seen this (subscribers always get the good stuff first), so you can kick back enjoy being cool before it was cool. If you're not a subscriber and you want first dibs on all the new release info (and only new release info, I hate email spam as much as you do), signing up is easy. One click and you're in!

Okay, okay, mailing list pitch over. It's COVER REVEAL TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!

Click to see Chelsie and Heartstriker Mountain in full, glorious resolution!

At long last, the sequel to Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another is just around the corner. Book 3 of my Heartstriker series, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, comes out August 5th, 2016!

Sure you could buy it then, but you could also preorder it right now and have the book delivered automatically to your Kindle at midnight on August 4th! How cool is that? You should definitely do it. Bob would want things that way. He cares deeply about your reading happiness.

And speaking of Bob's machinations, let's take a look at the blurb.

WARNING! BLURB CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK 2!! If you haven't read One Good Dragon Deserves Another, go do that first and then come back (or just scroll really fast down past the special text).


No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished...

When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place. 

To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair. But there’s more going on in Heartstriker Mountain than politics. Every family has its secrets, but the skeletons in Bethesda’s closet are dragon sized, and with Algonquin’s war looming over them all, breaking his clan wide open might just be the only hope Julius has of saving it.


There is so much more going on in this book than I could possibly fit in one blurb. There's more Bob, more Amelia, more Chelsie and Bethesda, and of course more Julius, Marci, and Ghost. Trust me, if you liked my other Heartstriker books, you're going to LOVE this one. It's dragon schemes all the way down!

I realize August is still two months away, but don't worry! I'm going to have a lot more awesome for you guys in the interim. So if you don't already, please follow me on FacebookTwitter, or (even better) sign up for my mailing list to make sure you don't miss anything! You can also add the book on Goodreads.

Thank you as always for being my readers! If you're a reviewer and would like an advanced copy of the novel (or any of my books for that matter), please contact me and I'll be delighted to hook you up. I hope you're all as excited as I am about No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished!

Happy reading!
- Rachel

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Five Steps to Writing Better Sentence Level Description

Over the last few weeks I've noticed my Writing Wednesday posts have been getting a bit broad of topic. This is fun for me, I love nothing more than a good wax poetic, but these WW posts are supposed to be about the craft of writing. So, for the next few weeks, I want to get back to basics and really dig into the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts issues of putting together a good piece of fiction on the sentence and paragraph level.

Why go so small? Well, because there's already tons of information out there on how to do the macro stuff. Just on my blog I have multiple posts about character creation, plotting, tension and pacing, hooking your reader, and so forth.

But despite the obvious importance of these big issues, the problems I see most in books by new authors are not the big ones. It's the little stuff--dull prose, uninspired description, mediocre dialogue--that puts me off first. The book may have major character issues further on, or it may be a work of perfection, but if the sentence level writing is bad, then I'll never get far enough to find out. Life is simply too short to read a badly written book, especially when I have so many other excellent choices as a reader.

Fortunately, these little problems, though book killers if ignored, are some of the easiest to solve in our profession. Motivation, dramatic timing, proper pacing, imaginative plotting, great characters--this stuff is hard. This stuff is art. Learning to writing a nicely put together, functional paragraph? Easy peasy!

This isn't to say writing deathless prose is easy. Quite the opposite. Prose composition is one of those "easy to learn, hard to master" kind of things, which is why you hear stories about literary writers spending years on one paragraph. That said, this level of artistic effort is most definitely not the standard, nor should it be. Some readers love that deep, prose-as-poetry stuff, but there's a vast audience out there that just to read a story told competently and interestingly in a style that doesn't distract from the words are there to say, and that's what we're going to be focusing on in this blog series, which I'm calling Prose Summer Camp!

 'Cause summer. And I love naming things. :)

Ready? Let's tackle the first and perhaps biggest bear on the docket: sentence level description.

Writing Wednesday Prose Summer Camp: Five Steps to Writing Better Sentence Level Description

I've talked about description twice on the blog before: once in a broad "what does description actually do for you?" sort of way, and once with a specific focus on how to describe things in your text without resorting to the dreaded info dump. Everything I said in those posts still applies, but today we're going to look at the fundamentals of writing good description (ie, telling your reader what stuff looks like/feels like/does in an interesting and concise way) as they function on the sentence and paragraph level.

First though, a disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. If you don't like my writing style, knowing how I craft sentences might not be useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you.**

Now that's out of the way, let's talk details.

Monday, May 23, 2016

All About Audio Books and ACX

Hi Folks,

Travis here. Last Monday was about the how's and why's of a series relaunch. This week's post is about audio books. I'm gonna touch on the explosive and awesome growth of the audio book market and how you can get into it. Plus some tips I'd learned at RT about managing your audio production properly.

I hope, by the end of this, you'll be totally pumped to get audio editions of your own book or books made. Also, I'm going to talk about ACX a lot today. This is basically an ACX guide.

So let's talk,

All About Audio Books

Audio books used to be limited and crazy expensive. Why In My Day it was something like $100 for a box set of 3-4 western short stories. Also, the audio book section of the book store was a lonely, hidden shelf that a reasonably tall person had to bend down to see. It was sad. 

Today though the audio book landscape is totally different. I mean, there were 43,000 audio books produced last year alone. One of the numbers I heard at RT2016 was that the audio book market has doubled every year for the last three years. That's fairly explosive by anyone's measure.

Yes Mr. Rock, that explosive

Rachel's and my personal experiences with audio book sales have been wonderful. We had 2k to 10k produced via ACX late last year for around $500 and it has already earned out. This is a book that's been out for a while and which we didn't really do any appreciable promotion for its audio release. That it has sold this well is a testament to the book but also to the strength of the growing audio book arena.

We've also signed deals with Audible for the audio book editions of Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon, and the soon to be released No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. So far this has resulted in awesome sales and an Audie award, which has knocked our socks off I must say.

Why Should You Go Audio?

First, more sales revenue is more better. I probably don't have to explain that part. Second, it's a new source of income that isn't fully coupled to print or ebook sales and sales channels. Additionally, audio book sales definitely affect ebook sales. Take a look at what happened with the Audie award.

NDFL eBook/KU sales.. May 13th was the announcement
Less dramatically, having an audio format helps sell more ebooks at a low level. Multiple formats makes your book(s) look official, more like a big deal, and that is very encouraging to customers in general. This effect is so well proven that Audible actively courts authors to make audio production happen. It's also good to know that having a print edition does this too. There's a reason CreateSpace likewise approaches authors with print services.

Lastly, consider market position. Audio books are growing fast, which means that getting in now and establishing presence, precedence, and audience are all investments that will grow with time. There's less competition in the audio book spaces, for now. It won't last forever.

Hopefully I've sold you on the many commercial reasons for having audio books made for your work.

Artistically, there's also the sheer cool factor of hearing your books narrated as well as just getting the story to an audience that otherwise would likely never read it. Consider the audio book customer, like I did in my customer stories a while back. Many are people who like books, but don't have time to sit and read books. They do, however, have space in their lives to listen to books.

Convinced? Let's get into execution then,