What makes a great book?

As a writer, deep down you want to know what makes one good book better than a bad one. How do you maximise those 5 star amazon reviews for your work? Is there a golden formula? I previously discussed what makes a best seller. In this blog post, I outline the three simple ingredients that you need to judge yourself on before you write your bestselling novel.

When you scan upon amazon reviews, you will see that all the best sellers have a mix of both five star and one star reviews. Whether or not your competitor’s book is any good, appears to be a subjective matter. In all fairness, you can’t please everybody. However, there are three things that you should take into consideration before you write your book.

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Before you start writing your novel, you should self judge your story. As a result, you can increase your likelihood of getting better reviews online. You will also create a better reading experience for your reader. (image source: csoonline.com)

They are quite boring, however the best reviewed books tend to get these three factors correct.

The research pays off, and they tend to pick up a field of good reviews for every handful of bad reviews.

So, what does make a good novel?

The answer isn’t about grammar, and only incidentally about the content of the piece. Instead, you must judge your novel on the matters of audience, purpose, and genre.

  • Who is your audience?

Who are you writing for? Do you take the time to search your story and genre until you find the make-up of your target audience? Writing for a high school student is very different than writing for an elderly woman. Furthermore, writing for a fantasy audience is very different than writing for a hard-science fiction audience. What does your audience look like, and what do they read? Sit down with a piece of paper, and define who it is you actually write for. Then, find out what they like to read. This will provide you a great starting point for moving forward.

  • The purpose of your story

When you write your novel, do you want your reader to feel happiness, or sadness? The purpose of any piece of writing will determine its effectiveness. You want to create a horror novel, but if you end up making the reader laugh, perhaps you should stick to comedy instead? Ask yourself if your novel accomplished the purpose you decided upon. Did it accomplish what you set out to accomplish? Start by asking yourself, what effect do you want your book to have?

  • Genre

I had covered the topic of ‘How does your genre work?’ in detail before and the post is worth a read. The bottom line is that you want to include in your book, set pieces that are commonly found in your genre of choice. What would you expect from a mystery-spy novel? There’s a password, a briefcase with something important, some double crossing, involvement of bugged phones, and your protagonist or thief will be found scaling the glass wall of a skyscraper at 3am in the morning as they attempt to break in and steal the new set of codes / nuclear microchip.

If you need help in considering what is specific to our genre, I suggest you look up tvtropes.org. They will have all you need, they are a valuable resource and when you check them out, you will see why.

If you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips. If you need any advice on the publishing process, contact me here for a free 30 minute consultation.

Remember: You should only write the kind of book that you want to write. Otherwise, you are wasting your own time. Then, you find the audience that will love to read your book. Also, each genre has its own conventions of characters, events, plot points, settings, and so on. If you break or bend those conventions, you risk alienating your readers.

Thanks for reading, please leave your comments below!

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How you use beta readers

I don’t know who coined the term ‘beta reader’, but whoever did it, deserves a medal. I have integrated Beta readers into my editing process and the move has paid dividends to the improved quality of my books. Here, I discuss what beta readers are, and how you can get the most out of them.

Looking back, I think this started with computer games. Games developers would create a beta version of their console game. Beta gamers would play the beta version of the game and test for bugs within the virtual world. Bugs such as ‘does this wall stay solid’, ‘can the avatar walk up these stairs’ and ‘can the character pick up that box’. The games developer would then iron out any play ability bugs, and then develop and release the alpha version of the game to market.

How games developers treat their games, is how you should treat your novel, before you release the final, or alpha version to market. The parallels between gaming and writing are strong. Where gamers test for play ability, authors should test for readability. For in both instances, be it gaming or reading, a consumer takes a walk through an imagined world that they get to experience for themselves.

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Run your beta readers through your book before you publish. They will help highlight any problems within your text. Beta readers provide invaluable information about your book that editors can’t. (image source: screenrant.com)

Ask a friend to be a beta reader for your book. Get them to read it, and get them to fill you in on any problems that your book has. However, I warn you now, not all beta readers know what to look out for. When getting your feedback from them, it is important that you ask the right questions in order to glean as much valuable information from them, without wasting either your time or theirs.

In relation to your book, there are six main topics that you want to test your beta readers on.

  • Factual details.

If you are writing a Science Fiction of Fantasy novel, you may wonder how important facts are to the story. What you want to do is check with your beta reader if the facts within your story, remain consistent throughout. For instance, if the room is darkly lit, and only has one small window in chapter 3, does it suddenly have two large bay windows in chapter 6. Anything at all that comes under factually inconsistent to your story, your beta reader will be able to flag these for you.

  • Repetitive Launguage

This is a big one for me, for I have had a habit of repeating the same descriptive words within the space of a paragraph or two. Repeated word description jars your reader out of the story, and back into reality. You end up losing readers here. They won’t be obvious to you, but they will be immediately obvious to your readers. Get the beta readers to make note of any obvious word repeats. And eliminate them.

  • Is it a page-turner?

You need to identify what portions of your story come across as boring and mundane. You need to find out where the pace of your story dies. As a result, you can identify the portions of your novel that readers will most likely put your book down. It is wise to try and hoke out where your pace breaks down from chapter to chapter, and if your beta reader can help identify where your story slows down paragraph to paragraph, even better. However my experience has taught me that beta readers will more likely remember that one chapter where everything just slowed down and they wanted to stop reading. Find out where that chapter is, and fix it.

  • Confusion

You need to know if your reader becomes confused at any part of your story. Granted, there may be times where you want your reader to be confused. However, what we discuss here are those chapters where your reader has no idea what is going on. Perhaps the action is moving too fast, or perhaps you forgot to add something important? You need to know where this is and once the beta reader finds these spots for you, you go in and fix it.

  • Natural Characters

Your characters need to show consistency in how they react, convey emotions, make decisions. Your readers will get to grips with your characters very quickly. They will be more sensitive to inconsistencies in your character development. Ask your beta readers if your characters appear natural and act with consistency. Find out if any of your characters do things not entirely expected. Do your beta readers have a character they love/ hate, and if so, why?

  • Visualisation

I ask my beta readers if they can see my story clearly. I know that as they read my book, that they will watch the story unfold like a movie in their head. Hence, if there ever comes a part where they can’t visualise my story then I am in big trouble. I know that for one, this is my fault as writer, and secondly, if they have a problem visualising the story in their mind, then other readers will do the same. Highlight these portions and work through your text so that it visually flows better for the reader.

If you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips. If you need any advice on the publishing process, contact me here for a free 30 minute consultation.

Remember: If I have one more top tip relating to beta readers, it is this: don’t get the same beta reader to read your story twice. They will get bored during the second reading. Build a team of 4 or 5 beta readers. Get the results from one, before giving the re-edited version to the next beta reader and so on. This way, you can maximise your beta readers and they don’t suffer burn out.

Leave your comments below, and thank you for reading!

Perfectionism hurts you

We live in a world where value comes from what you create and as artists we buy into the art of perfectionism very easily. The pursuit of perfection is woven into our way of life. And yet the hunt for perfectionism does one of two terrible things to you and your work.

• Perfectionism can hinder your ability to create freely.
• Perfectionism can prevent you from ever sharing your work with others.

The ability to create freely
I used to strive towards the goal of creating a piece of work that stood flawless against the likes of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. As a result, back when I started writing seriously, I would re work paragraphs time and time again, for hours on end until I had the perfect paragraph.

Sadly, within the four to five hours spent on that paragraph, I should have had 4-5,000 words in front of me. Instead, I had perhaps 600. For the same amount of time spent, I could have had more words on the page. I would have had a longer draft of work. If there is one thing a writer needs, it is a large first draft that can be worked upon later with edits.

Hence, the solution here is to let go of perfectionism and create a draft of work that is going to be garbage. At the end of the day, you will have a few thousand words of prose that holds plot holes, poor description and chunky dialogue. You won’t be wise to publish it now. However, you will have something you can edit later. Ditch perfectionism, and just get the draft written.

You have to share your work
No piece of writing is ever finished. And there comes a point when you need to let your work go, and surrender it to the world. For, no matter how many re writes and edits you execute on your creative writing, you will always feel that you can do more. Your pursuit of perfection will hinder you from sharing your work with others because you know it’s not perfect. Hence, your piece of work will always stay hidden on your laptop.

My advice? Put your work out there, and let others read what you have written. You will grow as a writer if you do this. Writing is about failure, in that when you give out your work, you need to listen to constructive feedback. Your beta readers and editors will highlight your failures for you. You will take the advice on board and you will become a better writer, because you’ll know what to fix.

The solution here is to release your book to your beta readers before publishing. Listen to their feedback on content and copy. Then, make the changes, do a final edit. And hit publish.

Pedantic housewife gardening. Trimming the bush to perfect

The pursuit of perfectionism will hold you back as a writer and self-published author. Avoid perfection at all costs, for it stops you from seeing the trees for the forest. No one will care if there is a strand or two out of place. (image source: timesmartime.com)

The result?
Since publishing Fermanagh Horror Stories, I’ve had ideas, thoughts, and experiences I would love to put into the book. Paragraphs, stories, perspectives, ideas, new plot twists. Especially after listening to feedback post-publication.

However, there comes that time where you have to say ‘No more perfection’, and just get your book finished, and out onto the public domain. If I had not done this, and still strived for perfection, then my books would never have been published in the first place. As a result, I would not be a self-published author.

If you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips. If you need any advice on the publishing process, contact me here for a free 30 minute consultation.

Remember: Of course, you want to create a piece of work that is the best that it can be. However, you have to ask yourself which is worse. Publishing a book that is not perfect, or not becoming a self-published author in the first place?

Leave your comments below, and thank you for reading!

Why I never re-use a name

You want a name for your new fictional character? No problem, go consult a phone book or name generator and you are done. I swore I would never do a blog post on character names because the phone book and name generator method is so simple and easy to use, that to write a blog post on the subject, would be a waste. However, I read a blog post today, by another indie writer, where she said that she often re-uses names of characters. I am strongly against this and I voice feelings on the subject below. Plus, I leave some extra bonus material.

Why I don’t re-use names

I just won’t. When I give a character a name, I give them an identity. Well, not really. There is nothing in a name. My Christian name is Andrew. Are all Andrew’s the same? Do we share similar characteristics? No, we don’t. Put ten Andrews in the room, and you will have ten different men in the room. Our name reveals nothing about our character. Hence, there is nothing in a name.

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What name do you give to a face like this? Much like the chicken and egg, is it the face or the name that comes first? (image source: portrait-photos.org

However, you need to call someone ‘something’, so you use the proper noun that their parents gave them. For fictional characters, when I settle on a name, say ‘Eric’, I give that character an identity, I picture his physical features, the face, the eyes, the hair, the teeth, and then, I develop his emotional personality, his memories, his history. Finally, desires.

If I were to re-use the name Eric, I won’t think of a new face, with a new personality, history and memories. I think of the old Eric I have already created, and I think I know why. When I create a character, I absorb myself in their creation. I am essentially giving birth, but only in a creative sense. Even if that character were to die in the story, I still wouldn’t re use the name Eric. In my brain, in the landscape of my mind, there can only be one Eric. Would you give two of your children the same name? If not, then why do it for your characters? You certainly would not do it for your dog.

Bonus Extra

I used Eric as example for good reason. When I was 5 years old, or maybe 7, we were in class and the teacher got us all to sit down in our chairs so that we could do some creative writing. This was to form my first memory of creative writing and I did not know it at the time.

We had our pencils and paper at the ready, and the teacher (Mrs. Mayes, I think) told us to write a story about whatever we wanted. So I created this barbarian called Eric that fought a sea monster. I won’t go into too much detail of how Eric cut off the head of the sea monster and saved the day (the villagers threw a BBQ if you must know), but the guy next to me did something that bothered me. REALLY bothered me. A kid called Alistair also wrote a story, about a warrior and his warrior was called Eric.

I paused as my blood boiled at the news.

Who the hell did this kid think he was? This kid stole my character name, and now rubbed it in my face. I asked (politely) that he rename his warrior. You know, Bob or something. Of course, Alistair decided he wouldn’t. I called the teacher, explained that there had been theft of intellectual property (I didn’t quite word it like that at the time), and I requested that the teacher make Alistair change the name of his character. For, at the end of the day, Alistair was guilty of a crime. That of ‘Copying the answers from your neighbour’. We didn’t allow it in mathematics, not this class. So we sure as hell wouldn’t allow it in creative writing now, would we?

The teacher explained, as she leaned on her knees to face us both closer, that she wouldn’t ask Alistair to retract his character name. That no harm had been done. She further enlightened me to the fact that there were more than two Eric’s in the world anyway. Again, no harm was done. Just complete the writing exercise, that’s a good boy..

My blood boiled further.

I tasted injustice. I was angry, and I think that this is why this story with Eric, is one of my first and earliest memories of creative writing. Years later, I would grow up to be an Editor-In-Chief of an independent publishing company that publishes fiction and non fiction works across print, eBook and e-audio formats. Alistair on the other hand, would grow up to be an RAF pilot. Who is laughing now?

If you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips.

Remember: There is a writer out there that does re-use names, I don’t. Neither one of us is write or wrong. Yet, when I give birth to a character in my mind, and on paper, I cannot fathom why someone would re-use a name in creative writing. You wouldn’t call your new dog the same name as your old one.

Leave your comments below, and thank you for reading!

Smash the face-to-face book launch

You have your book written and thankfully, published. You want to show it off to the world, right? People spend so much time wondering ‘how do I publish a book?’ Without too much thought on the launch. Well, before you hammer your book out online and to major retailers to hit a global audience, you should start with your local community. You do this by holding a local face-to-face book launch!

As an independent publisher, I love book launches. On the 15th June 2016, AGPublsihings held a book launch for the history journal ‘Fermanagh Roots’, a book by Fermanagh Genealogy that helps people locate their Fermanagh ancestry and also contains historical ancestry stories related to people from the county. If you need help locating your Irish Roots, click here.

The book launch was a really big success over all and here, I share with you my top eight tips to holding a successful book launch. Regardless of your book, if you incorporate these tips into the business plan for your book launch, you will increase your credibility, and the likelihood of making more sales on the day.

Books

Have your books arranged like you are holding your own book store. Numerous copies, neatly laid out for all to see. Presentation, warmth and smiling faces are key. Check out my tips on selling books face to face.

  1. Books

I know it sounds stupid, and this is why I listed it first. Be sure that you have your books printed two weeks before book launch. This is to check that you have them on time, and can go over any errors or problems.

On the day, be sure that the books are displayed neatly for everyone to see and buy.

  1. Photographer

Word of mouth will ensure that people remember the day, however, when you bring a photographer, the photographs taken can be used for your social media marketing later on in the years ahead. You could hire a photographer, but your best bet is to phone the local newspapers. They love reporting on these kind of events.

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The photographs help present the magic and passion of the days book launch. Months of work went into the book and this photo captures the moment of happiness that make it all worth while. (L-R: Karen Ireson, Myself, Frank McHugh, Mervyn Haslett Hall, Kay Campling)

By doing this, you get your photos for your social media taken by a professional, and the newspaper gets to report on a local story AND you increase your brand awareness. It really is win-win-win.

Worst case scenario, if the newspapers say that they are not interested, you bring your own camera/smartphone and take your own photos, because you will still need them for your social media. If using mobile phone, be sure it is no less than a 10 Megapixel Camera.

  1. Tea, Coffee, Cakes

The back bone of any book launch. When people are engaged in your speakers (see next) and look to buy your book, they will be looking for a buffet table of some sort, because that is what they expect from a premium event. At most basic level, be sure to put on tea, coffee, milk, sugar and biscuits. Calculate your ‘Biscuit Budget’ in advance. Custard creams are your backbone. Hob-Nobs, the muscle.

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Head Editors on the ‘Fermanagh Roots’ project lead the panel presentation to the audience. These guys worked hard on the publication. Both hearts and souls were placed into the project. Great men. (L-R: Mervyn Haslett Hall, Frank McHugh.)

  1. Speakers

At a minimum, you need two speakers. One to act as an Master of Ceremonies who welcomes everyone, sets up the introduction for the author, and then thanks everyone goodbye at the end. You also need the author to say a few words. Finally, a third option that works quite well, is to have someone read an excerpt from the book. I think it best if you get someone else who is not the author or the MC to do this, for it adds to the collective experience of your book. Can you squeeze a panel of speakers in?

Note: When you talk, be sure to thank everyone involved in the production of the book.  The above photos are only three of the numerous ‘Certificates of Participation’ I handed out to all the authors of the Historical Journal. Self recommendation is no praise, so be sure to praise the major and minor players of the project because they can’t do it themselves. Publishing a book is a difficult process. Pay homage to the whole crew.

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Volunteer certificates were also given out before the book launch. This may or may not apply to you. Bottom line is, ensure you thank the team around you on your Book Launch day.

  1. A Room

Without a room, how can you have a book launch to hold the books, the biscuits, the speakers and guests? Find a room that is cheap and affordable. A room that people can easily find. We used the local ‘Enniskillen Town Library’ for ‘Fermanagh Roots’. You could use your library too. For upcoming ‘Axel America’ AGP Book Launch, we are hiring music venue ‘Black Box’ in Belfast. Find a suitable room that works for you and your book, and book in advance to avoid disappointment.

leaflets

Leaflets and booklets really hit home the brand awareness aspect of you and your organisation. This is a book launch and audiences expect this kind of supplementary material. You aren’t selling your books off of the back of a van (yet!). Supply material that help spread your message and identity.

  1. Signage/leaflets

At minimum, a few posters on the walls that advertise the book cover. Your local book launch is a premium event and it looks great when you have marketing materials dotted about the room. This also looks great for the photos on social media. I don’t recommend that you employ a budget of 100 dollars, euros or pounds for this. Just spend what you can.

Leaflets and booklets provide content that your audience can take away with them. They add to the premium feel of your book launch, and help you provide more of your message as a matter of brand awareness.

  1. Laptop / Projector screen/Microphone

This is a complete luxury. If you can squeeze a laptop and screen in for a presentation, inclusive of microphone, then do it. However, this is not essential. For the ‘Fermanagh Roots’ book launch, I had planned on giving a power point presentation. However, the rest of the speakers wanted to orate old school. Thankfully, I knew my speech anyway, so I orated without the PowerPoint and the crowd did enjoy themselves as all the speakers, in particular Frank McHugh and Mervyn Haslett Hall, delivered great content that engaged the audience.

  1. Keep it fun

This is most important. You have slaved for at least 6 months on creating your book. I know that a lot of sweat, blood and tears goes into publishing. The book launch really is just an opportunity to celebrate you book, make some sales, network, and make sure everyone enjoys the day, including you.

So there we have the AGPublishings eight tips to a successful face-to-face book launch.

Remember: You can cut out tip number seven if you wish, but the others are essential if you want to create an event that people enjoy and remember.

If you need advice or have any questions with the editing process, drop us a lineIf you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips.

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I cannot over state how much of an impact this cake had on the days festivities. Well done to Karen and Key for getting this in.

Now, I saved the best tip for last and haven’t advertised it. A gem for those of you who have read this far. What you do is, you buy a cake, and get the baker to put the front cover image on the cake (p.s. bakers tend to accept JPEG, PDF or TIFF formats).

Originally, the ‘cake-card’ wasn’t even my idea, it may have been Kay’s or Karen’s of Fermanagh Genealogy, and it worked a treat. So I pass it onto you.

Think about it, by having a cake with the front cover of your book on it, you can take one of those photos which has you, smiling, knife in hand, with the knife point floating over the layer of icing. Very similar to how a bottle of champagne gets smashed on the hull of a new boat before its maiden voyage.

Launching a book is like launching a ship. Your book will sail forward through time and improve the lives of your readers. The weather on the waves is out of your control at that point. Your book has launched.

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New books and new ships have a lot in common. This final tip with the cake really pumps the sense of ceremony into your face-to-face book launch. I will admit: it is old school and no one does it any more. Which is why is works. Plus, everyone gets to fight each other, politely, for a slice. Audience engagement is at an all time high. In particular, when they try to see what portion of your cover they are eating. I recommend sponge cake with some cream and strawberry jam in the middle. 55% of people tend to dislike raisins and marzipan is a guaranteed project killer. Make the cake a winner for everyone. Subscribe to the blog if you loved this post and want more! 

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Thanks for reading,

AGP

Why hire an editor for your book?

Why hire an editor for your eBook?

Your story has a beginning, middle and end, but does the content roll smooth like James Joyce’s Dubliners? Or is it missing small bits here and there that your mind can’t quite catch but your readers will punish you for?

You must get your book professionally edited. It is the most important part of the writing process. As writers, we all know that editing is the most frustrating part of the publishing process. However what is more frustrating, is getting multiple 1 star amazon reviews from your readers because your book is filled with grammatical errors. It can destroy your career.

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The toughest book to edit is your own, as you’ve already read it a hundred times and you just won’t spot the mistakes. James Joyce wore glasses, so let us be your lens. (image source: AGPublishings

Editing can be expensive, with some editors charging £800 – £3000 per draft. However, what is more expensive, is not making any sales on your eBook due to those multiple 1 star reviews.

How would you feel if you bought a book that wasn’t finished? To put it more plainly, how would you feel if you bought a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese at your local Italian restaurant only to find your spaghetti is still hard when you stick your fork in it? Disgusting, right?

Reading is one of the oldest forms of entertainment and an unedited book spoils the whole experience for your reader. As a writer, you should care about you reader and you should care about your product (that’s right, your book!) that you deliver to your customers.

If you don’t get an editor to do this part for you, you risk publishing your book with mistakes strewn throughout. The toughest manuscript to edit is your own. Why? Well, when you read the story you have written, it watches well visually in your mind, much like a movie on screen. You know exactly what everything looks like because you’re the creator. However, every human is different. We’re all individual, which means we all see things differently. Can everyone see what you see when you use your words?

If you want a more cost effective professional editing service, AG Publishings are providing editing of your eBook for £349, including eBook cover, formatting ISBN assignment and more as you can see here. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, as we serve a global audience (not just the islands of UK and Ireland). Give us a shout and we can discuss your needs.

If you need advice or have any questions with the editing process, drop us a lineIf you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ andTwitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips.

Remember: An editor’s job is to make your book be the best it can be, and look better than you could get it to look. Do not hire an editor that’s worse than you. For as the old saying goes, a smart person hires someone smarter. If you are going to do it right, do it premium.

Success at enniskillen comic fest 2016

Most Comic Cons these days centre upon the ‘movies, games and videos’ aspect of comic books. On 7th May 2016, the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 however, made it first and foremost, ‘all about the comic books’, as stated in their tagline. Here, I outline the how and why this event was such an amazing success.

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Note: I recommend you check out my previous blog entitled ‘7 secrets to increase face to face book sales’.

As an Independent book publisher based in Enniskillen, I had a very successful day pitching my horror novels ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM to the consumers of County Fermanagh.

I kick-started my company AG Publishings just over a year and a half ago through the Prince’s Trust and I want to offer some context as to how much of a big deal the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 means to me as an independent book publisher based in Enniskillen.

Enniskillen is located on the Island of Ireland. We are a mainly rural community, we suffer from ‘brain drain’ of our local talent because if we wish to taste opportunity and success, we need to move to Belfast, Dublin, London, Edinburgh or New York. Our crippled economy is a kick in the teeth for many of us, and the solution between government initiatives and grassroots born enterprises can be difficult to connect and nail down.

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The Fermanagh community never had the opportunity to have a comic book festival before. Previously we would have to travel two hours to Belfast in Northern Ireland, or two and a half hours down to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Worse still, we would have to make the journey to London, Edinburgh or New York. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to us, visits to Belfast, Dublin or beyond are very expensive in both time and finances.

Hence, the Enniskillen Comic Fest provided an amazing opportunity for comic book and book creators to help expand the commercial aspect of their businesses by increasing both sales and customer base. This was an opportunity I did not want to waste. So I went out and maximised the positive potential.

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Myself, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn showing off the horror!

Sales

Certainly, I write and publish books for the love of the art, however, there is a commercial aspect to what we do as an independent publishing house. The Enniskillen Comic Fest has helped me with that commercial aspect as they provided me opportunity to sell print editions of my books to consumers face to face. I mainly sell my stock in eBook and print format via Amazon. I took the risk and ran print runs on both my horror titles, ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM. The money generated from sales on the day easily covered my printing costs. I actually sold more print editions on that one day than I have through four weeks with Amazon. The books that I now have left, when I sell them, will provide pure profit for my company. This puts me in an advantageous position as it takes me a huge step closer to generation of increased sales revenue. This provides a huge economic boost to my bottom line when I fill in my tax returns for the year. And it increases my customer base.

Top Quality Talent

I will take my cap off at the efforts of the crew at the Enniskillen Comic Fest who not only promised to draw top talent to Enniskillen, but they delivered in style. Present at the event, were writers and artists from 2000AD, DC, Marvel, Image, Beano, and other high quality independent creators. Most notably, Glen Fabry, Clint Langley, Alan Grant, Pete Doherty, PJ Holden, Michael Carroll and Ryan Brown, Kevin McHugh and Andy Luke, to name just the few (you can check the star studded list here).

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The networking of great talent was a great highlight to the event. L-R: Andrew Gallagher, Clint Langley, Ryan Brown, Glenn Fabry

On the night before the Festival, all the creators took part in a pub quiz at the local Wetherspoons and the bar was filled to the brim. The Bar Manager asked me what the big deal was as he was impressed at how full his premises was. When I listed off the names of Glenn Fabry, Clint Morrison and Alan Grant, he admitted he had no idea who these people were as he didn’t read comics (He did however, recognise the names of Judge Dredd, Preacher and Slane). I explained to the Bar Manager that having those three guys in one place, in footballing terms, was like having Maradonna, Pele and George Best all in one room. To which the manager blushed at the quality of celebrity.

The Enniskillen Comic Fest really did attract top quality talent to Enniskillen. Edinburgh, London, Belfast Dublin and New York attract top talent in every field. Enniskillen normally doesn’t. People always talk a big game, but the crew at the Enniskillen Comic Fest well and truly delivered for a very rare, special, premium event that few will forget.

Networking

Richard Branson talks about how networking is key to business development and thankfully, the Enniskillen Comic Fest kept this in mind. You remember the top quality talent I just mentioned?

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Myself on the right, pictured with the very talented, double Will Eisner nominated, 2011 Unltd Millenia Winner, 2016 Titania Best Short Story Winner, Belfast born Andy Luke. He also won the 2007 best Web Log.

Well as an independent publisher, I didn’t have to travel off of the island to go meet them. They came to my home town, as did talent from Donegal, Antrim, Belfast and Dublin. The Enniskillen Comic Fest allowed us to build relationships together in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. And I didn’t have to go to New York for this. As a result, I will be building more projects with professionals who are considered the top of their field. A fantastic opportunity for all of us.

Feedback

Probably the most fun aspect of the Festival was meeting local consumers as I presented my books to them. Bear in mind that I live in County Fermanagh and my first two horror novels are ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM. Getting to talk to local people and listen to their feedback was invaluable. And thankfully, the critical feedback was extremely positive.

Having seen me, an Enniskillen writer publish horror novels based in Fermanagh, quite a few people commented that they are now more likely to write that story they always had in their head.

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Heroes, Villains and Killers, each and every one of them!

The idea that Fermanagh art can promote more Fermanagh art is remarkable. In my own opinion, for too long have we have watched American, English, Scottish and Australian arts. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I used to watch Neighbours during my tenure at the University of Edinburgh, and I am currently running through Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards on Netflix (And Fringe!).

Foreign art is great to watch, read and enjoy. However it has been at the cost of our own art here in Fermanagh. I am really happy to hear that locals here are more likely to create their own art as a result of walking through the doors of the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016. Is this my fault, or the fault of the Enniskillen Comic Fest? Well, I will say that the generation of inspiration is more likely the fault of the Enniskillen Comic Fest, for if it wasn’t for the event itself, I wouldn’t be able to promote my own books for others to see.

Community

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is management speak for: ‘A corporation has a responsibility to the Community it does business in.’ The Enniskillen Comic Fest is not a corporation but a grass roots initiative, and they smashed the Social-Community aspect here by delivering Schools programs that discussed artistry and writing as a career to local students. Furthermore, they raised £2,000, via auction of high quality art, for local charity. That is highly commendable. So in truth, the Enniskillen Comic Fest did not just ‘make it about the comics’, they also made it about the community, though they keep humble on that front.

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 Fun

The most important part of the day. Everyone from the creators to the consumers and their families had an amazing day. I find it difficult to nail down the main driving factor, for there were so many elements to the festival. One aspect in particular, is that from creator to consumer, none of us had to travel away to see what we saw. This event was held in Enniskillen and this generated the idea from within that Enniskillen is indeed able to hold an awesome event, because we are in fact great, quality people.

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Poison Ivy learning more about County Fermanagh.

We don’t need to travel around the island, or off of it to enjoy something this big. Something this awe inspiring. The Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 puts Enniskillen on the map positively, and reminds us that we don’t have to be Belfast, Dublin, London, Edinburgh or New York in order to be premium. We are Enniskillen and we can have and achieve great things.

Sadly, in my own opinion, our people for the last 50 years have had to think about subjects like fear and conflict, and without much choice on the matter. So much so, that we forgot how to build and dream, and I believe this to be one of main reasons why we consume foreign art rather than produce our own. The Enniskillen Comic Fest has allowed us opportunity to remember, to believe in the fact that we can create projects, attract top talent, and draw tourists to our town through a premium comic book festival.

In conclusion . . . .

I offer huge thank you to the Enniskillen Comic Fest Committee, Paul, Chris, Stephen, James and Mark for bringing this event to Fermanagh, so that we can all move forward with something fun, inspiring and art filled.

2017

The Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 is evidence that Government initiatives and Grassroots enterprises can meet in the middle and succeed in a manner that benefits everyone both economically and socially. Economics and society, being two of the three cornerstones to environmental sustainability.

Ideas are great to have. Thankfully, the committee of the Enniskillen Comic Fest turned these ideas into a tangible reality.

In particular, the creators, the families, the schools and the overall community of County Fermanagh benefited from this event and we are all looking forward to Enniskillen Comic Fest 2017!

If you need advice or have any questions with the publishing process, drop us a lineIf you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ andTwitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips.

7 secrets to increase face to face book sales

Face to face books sales can always seem a daunting task for any author. Here, I share my top 7 secrets that helped increase my chance of success.

On the 7th May 2016, I took hold of the awesome opportunity to take part in Enniskillen Town’s first Enniskillen Comic Book Festival.

As a local horror writer, I found myself with a table in the Indie Press room. I had an amazing day selling my horror novels ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM face to face with consumers. Before I walked in, I decided to stick to 7 simple rules to try to increase likelihood of sales of my horror novels on the day. The result?

I made enough revenue to easily cover my printing costs for both my horror novels in the space of about 6 hours. I am really happy with this victory. As an Independent Publishing Company, the Enniskillen Comic Fest has placed me at a great economic advantage as I move forward for, once I sell my remaining stock, I will make pure profit.

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Poison Ivy, Marley Quinn and I at the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016.

Below, I outline my top 7 secrets to increase face to face book sales at a comic book festival so that you too can increase your sales.

  1. Stay Smiling

If the consumer doesn’t buy you, they don’t buy your product. Your smile is your logo so keep it up. As a result, consumers will more likely approach you, thus increasing your likely hood of sales.

  1. Price Display

People don’t want to ask you what the price of your book is, because they fear it may be too expensive and they don’t want the embarrassment of offering you a rejection straight to your glum face. Display your prices on a pre-made sign next to your books. Hence, you can concentrate on developing a relationship with the consumer themselves as you deliver the ‘Hook for your Book’ and your ‘Elevator Pitch’.

  1. Hook for your Book

I have discussed the development of a ‘Hook for your Book’ previously in this blog before. I recommend you check it out. Bottom line here is that you to distill your book into a single sentence that creates desire for the story.

  1. The 30 second Elevator Pitch

Once you have them hooked, don’t spend half an hour explaining your book to the consumer. Nail your elevator pitch in 30 seconds flat, that’s all you have before they walk away to the next table. Focus on your hero, villain and the conflict. At the Enniskillen Comic Fest, I had two books to sell, ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH, and FERMANAGH EXORCISM. I had my elevator pitch nailed down to 10 seconds for each book, which left me with 10 seconds to spare to let them make their decision as to whether or not they wanted to buy. Some say yes, the rest say no. 30 seconds is all you have. Maximise the time.

  1. Develop relationships with the consumer

People hate being sold to, the hard sell scares them off. When consumers approach your table, discuss their interests and love in comic books or novels. Don’t be afraid to refer them to other creators in the room. You place the consumer at ease. Hence, having built a relationship with you, even if they don’t purchase your book, they will remember you and in turn they will refer their friends to your table.

  1. Get feedback

The majority of consumers you meet, will not buy your book. This is the nature of sales. However, don’t waste the interaction. Ask the consumer what they think of your cover, the artwork, the premise of your book. Some will love your work, others will hate it. The feedback the consumer gives you will be worth more than the price you charge for your book.

  1. Have fun

On the day, the only guarantee you have is that you will make zero pounds, and zero pence. I knew that any money made was a bonus. I was just there to have fun, talk comic books, and meet lots of people. As a result, I naturally smiled all day (SEE SECRET #1). This increased the likelihood of both sales, and my ability to have an awesome time.

These hot tips worked for me at the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016, and they can work for you too if you employ them in future.

Remember: At AG Publishings, we believe that Writing Is Creation, Publishing Is Business. We are in this sport for the love of the art. And yet, there is a commercial aspect to what we do. The bottom line is, always remember to have fun. Otherwise you shouldn’t actually be playing here.

Thank you!

Scene contrast: improve your novel

How do you make a suspense novel more suspenseful? A romance novel more romancing? A horror more horrific? Scene contrast allows a writer to manipulate change so that the reader feels what you want them to feel. I previously discussed a great way to emotionally engage your reader and the post generated quite a few replies on twitter, asking for further discussion. Scene contrast improves your readers emotional engagement with your story, and here, I break down scene contrast into a straight forward cut-and-paste framework.

This is a three scene template. Your target scene is Scene #2. The scene that comes before and after, will be scene #1 and #3 respectively. Say you want a scene to be as quiet and abandoned as possible so that your hero can be alone with their thoughts. You don’t tell the reader that scene #2 is quiet, you show them it is quiet by having scene #1 and #3 appear more busy, crowded, and as noisy as possible. Hence, you have your scene contrast. It works much like a sandwich.

Scene Contrast

The 3 scene framework. Choose your target scene (scene #2). Ramp up the target emotion you want in your reader here. You sandwich this with the scenes before and after (#1 and #3 respectively) with the opposite emotion. Hence scene #2 will be saturated with your target emotion, whilst scenes #1 and #3 will be in complete deficit, or opposite of this target emotion. How would you work this with horror, romance or suspense?

When the reader reads this on a conscious level, they don’t notice that your target scene is quieter. However, they can feel that it is quieter, within their subconscious. They experience the quiet with great effect and this creates better fiction, for you are able to show that the scene is quieter, without actually telling it.

As I mentioned before, if you are writing an action thriller, and you make all your scenes action packed, sooner or later the reader will become bored, and switch off. This is becasue there is no contrast between the flow of emotional impulse. If there is no emotional contrast between loud-quiet, or happiness-sadness, then your reader, through linear time, will only be exposed to one emotional state. Hence, the impulse will become a linear plateau, and this creates boredom.

What you should do instead is have your target scene action packed, and sandwich this between two scenes that are, by contrast, quite quiet. This will manipulate the emotional engagement you want your reader to experience.

As you write, ask yourself:

  • What do I want from my target scene?
  • What scene comes before and after this one?
  • How can I make scene 1 and 3 contrast vividly with my target scene (scene 2)?

In my horror novel, Fermanagh Exorcism, I made my target scene as horrific as possible. The scene before and after were quite quiet and dialogue driven. The contrast allowed me to jar the readers mind so that I could create a more vivid experience, thus increasing the reader’s emotional engagement in my story.

To take your story as a whole, when your character discovers the holy grail, or has their heart broken, ask yourself where you can go in previous scenes to provide contrast in order to enhance the feeling of loss or success. To really tease it out, it is sometimes better to employ scene contrast in your second draft as you write your story backwards. This is because with your first draft, you have everything nailed down loosely, and you can refine the process in your second draft. This also improves the pace of your story.

You will have lots of fun with scene contrast if you think creatively. When it comes to scene contrast, there is no right answer, rather you have an opportunity where you can think creatively and create more possibilities for contrast. If your hero wins at the end, you should manipulate scenes beforehand and create a complete sense of loss and frustration. With creating deficit, by contrast, the gains feel bigger.

If you need advice or have any questions with the editing process, drop us a lineIf you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ , Pinterest andTwitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips.

Remember: From a writer’s perspective, great story telling is about creating convincing wins and losses for your heroes and villains. Hence when a character wins something, you need to make sure the reader feels the sense of achievement. The same is for loss and failure.

Leave your comments below. Thanks for reading!

 

The 3 act plot structure

We previously discussed plot as one of the five main cornerstones of writing. Here, we introduce the oldest plot structure, that of the Beginning, Middle and End.

The 3 Act Plot structure isn’t the only structure you can use, however, it is the oldest and has been around since the times of ancient Greece. There is very little wrong with this style of plot, which is why it has lasted several millennia.

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If you were to break any of the Hunger Games movies into three acts, how would you describe them? (image source: scifinow.co.uk)

Beginner writers should familiarize themselves with the three act structure as it is one of the fundamental building blocks to your novel.

The three Act Structure works as follows:

ACT ONE – The Beginning, or Orientation.

Here, the characters, antagonist, protagonist and conflict are all introduced. This is where to let the reader know who everyone is and what the story is about. A challenge here is to introduce all your ingredients as soon as possible without confusing, boring or losing your reader.

ACT TWO – The Middle, or Problem.

This is where your hero moves forward towards their goals, and the antagonist moves forward to stop them from achieving their aims. You invite the reader to see how your protagonist responds to conflict. You need to make sure you heighten tension that keeps the reader hooked and invested as to whether your hero will succeed.

ACT THREE – The End, or Solution.

And finally, this is where the protagonist either fails or succeeds to provide a solution to their problem. Tie up all loose ends. Or, leave a cliff-hanger for your next book. Don’t be afraid to throw in a twist ending either that allows us to re think about what we knew about the characters.

If you need advice or have any questions with the editing process, drop us a lineIf you wish to stay up to date for more tips on the craft of writing, feel free connect with us on FacebookGoogle+ , Pinterest andTwitter to stay in the circle for more writing tips.

Remember: Everybody wants to create a new story. However do stay to the basic plot structure to get your ideas through to your audience. There is a reason why the 3 Act plot structure has proven to be so successful over the last few millennia.