All posts by Darcy Pattison

About Darcy Pattison

Author, blogger and writing teacher Darcy Pattison is published in eight languages. Her books includes children's picture books, how-to-write books, teacher resource books, and middle grade novels.

26 Jan

Outrage: A Negative Emotion that Works In Your Novel

As 2014 events unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri and in New York City over race relations, I watched with a storyteller’s eye. That’s not to make light of the events–which have sparked massive debates and outrage. Rather, I put on my writer’s glasses and tried to evaluate the news reports AS A WRITER.

Conflict on Every Page: What Kind of Conflict?

Many writing teachers drum it into their students heads: conflict on every page.

What they mean is that something has to happen on every page that makes the situation worse for the characters. Storytelling is about the problems of life, not the happy moments. Happiness is only possible when thrown into relief by contrast with the bad stuff.

This can easily go wrong: after a writing class where conflict was encouraged, one writer added “conflict” by having a wild creature attack a main character; but in the next scene, the character easily escapes and nothing was different. That’s adding in conflict just for the sake of conflict and that’s off-target. Instead, conflict should be integral to the story and make the characters’ lives different in some way.

contagiousRecently, I found insight into this from a surprising source. In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger says that things go viral easier when people are met with moments of high arousal. That sounded suspiciously like “conflict on every page.” Berger backs up his claims with various psychological studies (you should read his book for details). The high arousal moments included positive emotions: excitement, awe, inspirations, humor. But they also included negative emotions: anger, disgust, anxiety, and especially outrage.

In his book, Berger gives examples of Outrage, including one about mothers who carry babies in a special sling. In 2008, the practice was celebrated with the inaugural International Babywearing Week. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the company who makes Motrin pain medication wanted to support the event. According to Berger, they figured that carrying babies in a sling was great for the mother-child relationship; however, they also thought that it would cause strain on mother’s backs and they would need pain-relief. The advertisement they created, however, caused outrage!

The advertisement implied that mothers wore babies as “a fashion statement,” and it implied that babywearing looked “crazy.”

Outrage swept through the mommy-bloggers. And of course, OUTRAGE brings us back to Ferguson and the problems of racial relations in the U.S. Outrage–as a storytelling element–has been evident in almost every report I saw on the incident.

It’s not redundant to say this: the events in Ferguson were outrageous; the outrage at the events made the news stories successful. So successful that I later heard a radio interview with protestors in Hong Kong who were asked about relations with the police there in Hong Kong. The protestor answered that the relations were just as strained as those between police and citizens in Ferguson. In other words, the outrage–the negative emotional response to events–has been so strong that it has been reported worldwide and has become a symbol of difficult police reactions. That’s the power of outrage in storytelling.

In your story, can you find a place to add outrage? If you can, your story will be stronger.

19 Jan

Scenes: The Skeleton of a Novel

You’re a human being: you can stand up, sit down, or do a somersault. That’s because you have a skeleton that gives your soft tissue a structure.
skeleton copy

Likewise, it’s important to give your novel a structure that will hold all the soft murmurings about characters, places and events. It begins with understanding the structure of a scene. First, let’s answer the question: do you have to write in scenes? No. There’s a continuum from those who write strictly in scenes to those who don’t. However, for beginning to intermediate writers, you’ll see more improvement in your writing if you move closer to the strictly writing in scenes end of that continuum. Early in a career, writers need discipline to add structure that may come more easily with experience.

External Action. A scene is a unit or section of a story that hangs together because of the action or event. Scenes are not internal, but external. Something must physically happen.

Something Changes. Something important must happen in a scene; after the scene is over, the situation must be different for the character’s lives. The definition of “important” and “different,” of course, will change with the genre, but still, we recognize that something important has created a difference.

Goal Oriented. The strongest scenes begin with a character wanting something and encountering difficulties in achieving his/her goal. The goal can change or develop over the course of a story, but it must be there.

Conflict. If your character wants something (Goal), and they have instant gratification (Result), that’s not a scene. Every Goal must meet with obstacles that prevent the character from achieving the goal. This is the basic promise of all fiction, that life will encounter problems that won’t be solved till the last page.

Beyond these requirement, strong scenes add a deeper structure. It’s not required, for those who only write loosely in scenes, but it helps.

Scenes can be divided into three or four sections: beginning, middle, turning point or pivot, ending.

Beginning: This sets up the situation, setting, characters and the goal.
Middle: Conflict piles on conflict as the goal gets farther and farther away.
Turning point/Pivot: Something happens to spin the story in a different direction. Scenes without a pivot are possible, but scenes WITH a pivot are more interesting.
Ending: What has changed?

Good Will Hunting: Bar Scene Analyzed

A good way to see the structure of a scene is to watch the “Bar Scene” from the movie, Good Will Hunting. If you can’t see this video, click here.

Beginning: Will and his friends enter the bar, choose a table, order a beer.
Goal: These “Southies” want to experience a Harvard Bar and maybe pick up a girl.

Middle: Chuckie goes over to check out a girl. But a Harvard man steps in to put him down.

Pivot point: Will takes over the conversation with his superior intellect.

Ending: Will meets the love interest. The conversation with the Harvard man is a win/lose: Will wins because he manages to make his point that a college education isn’t everything; however, listen carefully to the deeper conversation about class distinctions and you’ll see that Will still faces challenges.

For more on scenes, I always recommend Sandra Scofield’s excellent book, The Scene Primer. Or see my series, 30 Days to a Stronger Series.

12 Jan

Openings: 5 Ways They Go Wrong

Openings are incredibly important. This was brought back to me recently as I was judging a contest. Those manuscripts that kept my interest for three pages were rare. Usually, they lost me by the middle of page two!

Am I harsh? I don’t think so.

Grab the Reader with Your Opening Lines

STOP

Noah Lukeman has it right in his book, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. This is a book I ask those attending my Novel Revision retreats to read before they attend. Lukeman’s premise is that an editor will decide if they want your book or not based on the first five pages of your manuscript. After judging this contest, I agree. Sometimes, you can even make a judgment based on the first paragraph.

That first paragraph? You want to grab the reader by the throat and never let go!

Here are five things that made me stop reading

  • Nothing happened. The whole first chapter could be cut, because no major action occurred. Ask yourself: what happened in this chapter? Is there any conflict here?
  • The voice was flat. Monotone and uninteresting. Read it aloud: Does the text demand that you use an interesting variation of pitches, tones, stops, starts, etc?
  • Inconsistencies. If I found myself thinking, “No, that couldn’t happen. Not that way,” then the story was in trouble. Consider: does the story logic work?
  • Backstory. Please don’t put backstory in the first chapter. Give us an active scene with the character in motion and wanting something. It doesn’t have to be the major goal of the book, but the character needs to want something and it should be something that leads into the main conflict. Ask yourself: Do I really need to explain the backstory here, or can I wait until page 100? Yes! Page 100! Move that stuff out of the first act entirely!
  • The point-of-view jumps out at me. Too many of the mss had first-person point-of-views that just jumped out at me and made me cringe. In other words, the voice wasn’t distinctive enough for first person. This is a personal opinion–FWIW–but I think too many people are trying to write a first-person narrative. The default should be third-person unless there is a compelling reason for first. It’s not just a bias against first-person, but rather, that the story would be better served from third in many cases.

    There were some first-person stories where I didn’t even realize it because the story caught me. When it works, it work well. When it fails, the story might could be salvaged by a switch to third. Consider: Is there a compelling reason for the first-person point-of-view? Could this ONLY be told from first? Try–OK, just try–writing the first chapter from third and give it to an independent, unbiased reader (like you can find that!) and ask which version they like better (don’t tell them what the difference is). I bet that third will win in the majority of cases.

07 Jan

How Many Pages in a Children’s Picture Book? Printing Methods Determine the Answer

I recently watch Miss Potter, the movie based on the life of children’s book author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It’s a fascinating look at the life of one of the all-time best selling authors of children’s books. When my children were small, I read The Tale of Peter Rabbit to them so many times that I’ve memorized it.

HOWMANYPAGESOne line in the movie caught my interest, though. When the publishing company was first discussing her book, Beatrix had definite opinions on how it should be published: black and white illustrations so that the price could be kept low. However, the publisher had another idea on how to keep the price low. If the book’s interior pages could all be printed on a single sheet of paper, it would be economical and the price could be kept at an attractive low price.

That decision–to design the book for an economical printing model–was genius and partly responsible for its huge popularity. That model is so popular that today, children’s picture books that are offset printed are still designed for printing the whole book on one sheet of paper. That means 32-pages.

Standard offset printing places a children’s 32-page picture book on a single sheet. 32 page books are the standard in the industry, not because it’s the best length for a story, but because the printing was economical.

However, because that length became a standard, there’s now, more or less, a standard type story told in children’s picture books.

RedCover250x400-72If you have a title page, half-title page, copyright page and dedication page, that takes up 3-5 pages of “front matter,” leaving 27-29 pages for the story itself. Stories usually start on page 5 (though it could be page 3 or 4). Then illustrations are laid out in double-page spreads. That gives you about 14 double-page spreads (give or take). When I write a children’s picture book, I divide my story into 14 sections. Each section must 1) advance the story, 2) make the reader want to turn the page, and 3) give visual possibilities to the illustrator. For more on writing a children’s book, see How to Write a Children’s Picture Book.

Many conventions have grown up around the 32-page picture book: the page 32 twist, the character opening, the use of double-page spreads, and so on. All that is good. Writers and illustrators took the restricted format and made it into a thing of beauty.

Print on Demand and eBooks: How Many Pages in a Children’s Book?

But the question for today is this: what is the most economical way to produce a children’s illustrated story today? That answer varies because of print-on-demand and eBook technologies.

Print-on-demand (POD) means that your book is stored on a printing company’s computers. When a book is ordered, the book is printed, bound and delivered. This eliminates the need for warehousing, and has the advantage of bundling the fulfillment (mailing the book) with the printing. Instead of buying 1000 copies of a book, publishers/authors/self-publishers can set up a book with a POD company with very little up-front investment. It’s perfect for the self-publisher or small publisher who don’t want to invest a lot in stock.

However, POD’s biggest disadvantage is price. Because you print one book at a time, the until cost is often two or three times that of offset printing. This is usually fine, because selling online eliminates the extra cost of wholesaling to a bookstore.

POD also means that the 32-page picture book is no longer mandatory! For example, Createspace.com requires a minimum of 24-pages, but after that you can add as many or as few pages as you like. 26 pages? That’s fine for a POD printer.

Likewise, digital books can be any length you want. 2 pages? Well, most of us wouldn’t all that a BOOK! But if can make the case for it, it is possible.

The 32-page illustrated picture book made sense for years because the offset printing presses could accommodate huge sheets of paper that would hold 32 pages EXACTLY. The process made sense economically.

The options are open.
Offset printing: Much lower unit cost are possible if you stick to the 32-page standard book.

POD printing: You accept higher per-unit costs because you don’t have to warehouse. The length is up to you.

eBook: You accept that this is only delivered and read digitally. Page length is variable.

I still design my books for 32-pages because I do both print and eBooks and because I’ve learned to write to that length. But also, it leave me open to short-run offset printing for special orders where it makes sense to go for a smaller per unit cost. By sticking with the industry standards, I have even more options.

Picture Books by Darcy Pattison

Here are some of my picture books.

2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.

2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.

The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world.

The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world.

Coming February 17

9781629440323-Case.indd

9781629440118-ColorPF-alt.indd

05 Jan

Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2015

Thank you!
Your support for the last year has meant so much. And because of your nominations, Fiction Notes has been named one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2015!

WritetoDone.com has named the 2015 Top 10 Blogs for Writers.

WritetoDone.com has named the 2015 Top 10 Blogs for Writers.

The other blogs named to this honor are amazing! Click on the image to check out the full list.

This blog succeeds only because of readers like you! If you’d like to see a special topic covered this year, please leave a comment and we’ll try to research answers and write a post for you.

05 Jan

Lessons from a Master: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Opening a novel in an interesting way is crucial. I often see stories-in-progress with weak openings. This week, I happened to pick up a copy of the classic Jurassic Park, and I was stopped on the first page with the economy of language. In two brief paragraphs, Crichton sets a scene, introduces a character, puts us into the character’s life, and places us in a Costa Rica fishing village. He accomplishes so much in a brief passage. Let’s look at it to see if it gives us tips on starting our own stories.

Opening of Jurassic Park

The tropical rain fell in drenching sheets, hammering the corrugated roof of the clinic building, roaring down the metal gutters, splashing on the ground in a torrent. Roberta Carter sighed, and stared out the window. From the clinic, she could hardly see the beach or the ocean beyond, cloaked in low fog. This wasn’t what she had expected when she had come to the fishing village of Bahia Anasco, on the west side of Costa Rica, to spend two months as a visiting physician. Bobbie Carter had expected sun and relaxation, after two grueling years of residency in emergency medicine at Micheal Reese in Chicago.
She had been at Bahia Anasco for three weeks. And it had rained every day.
(First two paragraphs of Jurassic Park, Prologue, by Michael Crichton.)

Jurassicpark
Weak openings leave me confused, wondering where I am and what is going on. Crichton starts with a specific setting. The second word is “tropical,” which narrows down the location on the globe, while also explaining the type of rain. A “corrugated” roof probably indicates a lower income area where cheaper materials are used for construction.

Notice the great verbs which animate that first sentence: fell, hammering, roaring, splashing. And it ends with a strong descriptive word: torrent. This is masterful selection of language. After one sentence, I know approximately where I am and what is happening.

Next, Crichton focuses on the point-of-view character for this section. Because it’s a prologue, this character won’t be important in the story proper, but he takes the time to give us some of her background, which implies much about her state-of-mind.

She is an ER doctor, just finishing her residency in Chicago, and she thought this trip to Costa Rica would be a vacation. Notice that she’s an ER doc. The old sayings is that you should never put a gun in Chapter 1, if you don’t intend for it to go off sometime. Crichton put an ER doctor in the first paragraph because someone soon would require emergency medical attention. We know Roberta/Bobbie (Notice how he named her fully, then gave us a more casual nickname) is skilled in medicine, but she’s also tired and disappointed with this location.

As far as setting a mood, the torrential storm sets up the possibility of something happening. We’d expect that a “torrent” would bring other problems with it.

Finally, Crichton actually names the locale: Bahia Anasco on the western coast of Coast Rica.

Setting, mood, characterization, anticipation–Crichton sets up so much in just two short paragraphs!

Applying Crichton’s Lessons to Your Story

Setting. Readers need to be oriented immediately to the location of your story. While you describe the setting, use language to create a distinctive mood and set up anticipation. Don’t be afraid to name a location directly.

Mood. Choose language that sets up a distinctive mood. The torrential rain is described with evocative verbs and language. Strong, forceful, a force of nature–you expect something to happen, and soon.

Characterization. It’s important to know something about the character. Crichton gives us a name, place of origin (Chicago hospital), and something of her inner life. Bobbie is a strong-willed woman or she wouldn’t be an ER doctor; but she’s tired because of the “grueling” residency. Bone-weary, maybe. The impending emergency that will require her skills will challenge her, not because she’s not capable, but because she’s so tired. That’s great characterization for one paragraph!

Anticipation. How can you not turn the page? Crichton has set up an interesting enough scenario, and populated it with an interesting character that I’m hooked. I would read on! Wouldn’t you?

Avoid weak openings! Study Jurassic Park for hints on how to take your story’s opening to a new level.

29 Dec

18 Months of Indie Publishing

About eighteen months ago, my writing career pivoted: I decided to commit to self-publishing my work. I’ve not talked about it much because I’ve been so busy being an author and publisher, but I’m going to take time to reflect on the experience and look toward the future.

WHY INDIE PUBLISH?

There are many reasons why I decided to go this direction but in the end, it’s a question of creativity. For many years, I’ve felt hobbled by the traditional publishing world because I can and do write a lot. Independent publishing offered me a chance to write and publish many titles in a short time period. It’s also offered me the possibility of creating a steady monthly income.

Setting Up an Indie Publishing Company

When I committed to funneling all of my work though my own publishing company, I had to make business choices.

What type of company? Self-proprietorship, C or S Corporation. Name of company?
Buy a domain, set up a website, open a business bank account, get a local business license, get a sales tax ID, etc. Don’t discount the business side of indie publishing; but don’t fear it, either. There’s lots of help for these business decisions. In the end, I set up MimsHouse.com — go take a look; I’m excited about this opportunity.

Then, to work! The first eighteen months have been about three things: production, distribution and accounting. I’m assuming that writing is always happening in the background, for it is, in fact, the foundation of everything else.

Accounting. I’m using QuickBooks and this is the hardest thing I do. I just keep plugging away at learning good business accounting and long for the day when I can afford an accountant.

Production. The first question to answer is formats. I decided to try every format possible: paperback, hardcover, eBooks. That sounds easy enough. Ha! It’s complicated. After 18 months, here’s my current configuration.

  1. Createspace.com paperback in two versions. One version is with my own ISBN and is for general distribution; a second version is with a Createspace ISBN and I only enable it for distribution to Baker and Taylor.
  2. LightningSource.com (NOT Lightning Spark which is the only section of the company currently open to newcomvers). I currently do paperback and hardcover books here.
  3. eBooks. OK, this is where it gets tricky because each platform wants a version for their proprietary platforms. Currently, you’ll find my ebooks on Kindle, iBook, Nook, Kobo and various educational publisher’s platforms.

File production for the print and ebooks varies depending on the type of book. Also, technology changes every six months or so, which means that each time I come back to produce files, I have to reevaluate previous production methods to see if they are still the best, are compatible with the current ebook and print standards, and are the most cost-effective.

  1. Novels that are mostly text-based or short chapter books with b/w drawings. I create the book in MSWord, making sure to be very strict on the style sheets. Word exports to print quality Adobe pdfs for printing on paper. I use Jutoh to convert these to ebooks.
  2. Color picture books are laid out in Adobe InDesign, which a access via a $20/month subscription; the October, 2014 update to InDesign has made export to ebooks simple. I mean VERY simple. I tried the mid-year release of Kindle Kid’s Book Creator program and found it easy to use; however, there are two main problems with it. First, it only creates the .mobi files for Kindle, and I still had to create epub files for other distributors; second, it creates a bloated file which means you have huge download costs from Kindle. At 70% royalty, they charge the publisher $0.15/MB download fee, which amounts to a “printing cost.” A file created with the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator program is easily 6-8 MB, or $0.90-$1.20 per download. You have two choices: charge a lot for the book or drop to the 35% royalty which doesn’t charge a download delivery fee.

    Examples:
    $2.99 at 70% payment, 8MB file
    $2.99 x 70% = $2.093 – $1.20 delivery fee = $0.893/book
    $2.99 at 35% payment
    $2.99 x 35% = $1.0465/book (NO delivery fees at this rate)

    InDesign, on the other hand, takes the same book and creates files of 3-4MB.
    $2.99 at 70%, 4MB file
    $2.99 x 70% = $2.093 – $0.60 delivery fee = $1.493/book

    My choices, then are to profit $0.89, $1.05, or $1.49 for each eBook priced at $2.99.

    InDesign’s smaller file sizes mean money in my pocket, AND flexibility in what I charge. I could drop prices to $1.99 for a sale and still make a profit of $0.79/book; it’s my choice.

Math. It runs the business and it affects production methods!

Illustrations. Another problem of production has been obtaining illustrations for my color picture books. Fortunately, the first couple books were done in a joint business arrangement with Kitty Harvill. Since then, I’ve had to find funds to pay illustrators. Behance.net has been a great place to find new illustrators. That is Adobe’s social media site for artists, where they post their portfolios. Ewa O’Neill’s debut books will be out in February; and Rich Davis, a local longtime friend and amazing illustrator, struck a deal for b/w line drawings for my short chapter series. So, I drew from friendships and from an artist’s social media site to find quality, exciting art. This has been one of the most creative and fun parts of the process, to work with some great talents to produce amazing books. I’ve learned a lot about being an art director and working with artists—it’s just fun.

GGG-ACXCover250x250


AudioBooks. Amazon’s ACX program is in its infancy, but it offers authors an entre into the audiobook world. By hooking you up with a group of narrators who will audition for your book, you have control of the process and can end up with some exciting audio books. It’s hard to say which is my favorites: I love the actress Paula Bodin’s reading of my novel, The Girl, the Gypsy, and the Gargoyle; she truly brings the story to life. Monica Clark-Robinson brings her acting skills to the production of Saucy and Bubba, which is especially exciting because she’s a local actress and author. Josiah Bildner knows how to crack a joke! His narration of the Aliens Inc, Series, Book 1: Kell, the Alien shows his genius in timing of comedy.

Distribution. The third piece of the puzzle for the last eighteen months has been distribution. This means I’ve had to think hard about where my books might sell. Who is my customer? Where does that customer already buy books? What price points do they want/need/like?

Because I mostly write children’s novels and picture books, eBooks haven’t been as big a factor (though, I think that is changing in interesting ways). My customers are parents, teachers, and school librarians. Teachers and school librarians buy from education distributors, rather than from the trade markets. They can and they do buy from Amazon, B&N and other online places, of course. But the bulk of their budget is spent at places that cater to their needs.

I’ve picked up distribution from Follett School Solutions, Mackin, Permabound, and Child’s Plus. The first three also have emerging eBook platforms which I think will become increasingly important. It means more production work because they want yet another format! It’s just a different type of pdf to export, but it means another step.

Pricing. Also, this sales channel brings some challenges in pricing. 1-to-1 pricing means a school building buys one ebook and has the rights to put it on one device only. 1-to-many pricing means a school building buy one book and has the right to put it on an unlimited number of devices.

Naturally, educators prefer the 1-to-many pricing structure; but this is so new that there’s no best-practices standards on how much extra to charge. You don’t want to leave money on the table; however, you want the pricing to be attractive.

I’m told that some publishers are asking 2x, 5x or even 15x the 1-to-1 price. But no one really knows what price structure will work. For a Newbery Award winning book, you could likely charge 20x—which in effect gives a full class set to a school building—and educators will gladly pay it. In other words, the popularity of a title, the likelihood of its use as a class set, and factors such as this should determine the 1-to-many pricing.

Also interesting is that the school pricing tends to stay at or near the suggested retail pricing, with few discounts. Translation: you’ll make more per book.

The first eighteen months have been busy. I’ve learned to pace the writing with production and marketing efforts. I’ve set up production protocols that allow me to be efficient in putting the books into multiple markets. And I’ve picked up distribution from education publishers, while also making sure I cover the digital and print distribution channels.

2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.

2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.



Marketing. Because I come from the traditionally published world, I also decided early on that I would submit books for awards. That meant Mims House joined the Children’s Book Council, which gave me access to a variety of programs. In November, 2014, I learned that my nonfiction picture book, Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub was named a 2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.

I was ready. I already had the book in distribution to all major channels, including education distributors. Immediately, I sent press releases to those channels—and sales have picked up. I expect that early next year will bring even more sales for this award-winning book.

Someone once said that marketing means you produce demand for your books. You do that first and foremost by writing and publishing a great book. After that, you have to break through the noise and get noticed; and then you need to keep the book in the foremost of your customer’s mind for as long as possible.

Marketing is what I’ll focus on for the next year. I’m trying everything from online ads to awards programs to social media blasts. Ask me at the end of 2015 what I’ve learned about marketing.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED IN THE LAST 18 MONTHS

  1. Indie publishing is refreshingly creative. It’s not about control for me, though, I hear that sentiment often. Instead, it’s about creativity. It’s opened creative channels for me in the production of the books; and it will continue to challenge my creativity in marketing. Both of those have challenged the foundation of selecting stories to write: I now start out with a stronger consideration of audience. I like how the creativity builds as I engage in more aspects of the book production, distribution and marketing. Working with creative artists and audio narrators is inspirational, too.
  2. Patience is crucial. I went into this with a long-term perspective. As an indie publisher, I am a small business owner. In the U.S., most small businesses fail in the first year; most don’t make a profit until their fifth year. From day one, I had books in distribution so I’ve made money. I sold a website domain for a nice profit and that added to my reserves. Financially, the cost to enter this business is extremely low, and it’s been easy to build up the income levels.

    Still, patience is crucial because as an indie publisher I can’t afford the book launch splash; instead, I must rely on a slow growth of a title as word-of-mouth grows. You hear stories of fantastic sales of ebooks—but that’s rarer for children’s books. It’s just a different market, and I constantly remind myself that I am building for a future so I don’t need to be impatient.

  3. Try everything. Test everything. This year, I’ve said YES to everything I could. I’m testing to see where and how I can reach an audience that likes and will buy my work. I’ve done Facebook ads, GoogleAdwords, displayed at various local and regional events, set up a sales channel on my own website, and much more. I don’t have lots of capital, so I’m careful in choosing where to put effort; but my attitude is to try something new if at all possible. Take risks.
  4. Write. Through all of this, the writing remains. It’s the foundation for everything else.

CHALLENGES AND PREDICTIONS FOR 2015: Indie Books for Children

  1. Pay attention to the education market. The education market for ebooks is poised to explode; I hear of more and more schools going 1-1, or one ipad/tablet for each child. I think the education distributors such as Follett, MackinVIA, and Permabound are going to be players, but also look for the sleeping giant, Apple, to come on strong. Since the iOS8 update this fall included iBooks as a native app, I’m moving many more books on Apple than on Kindle. It’s going to be a wild ride as companies jockey for position and as the pricing structures shake out. I’m working hard to put more books on the iBook platform; see my author page on iBooks.
  2. Hard work. Indie publishing will continue to expand, but I think the boom of 2008-2014 has played out. Now, you’ll have to dig in and work harder to get noticed. It’s only limited by your imagination, your work ethic and a bit of luck. And beware of rip-offs who promise to make your book a best seller!
  3. Change is inevitable; be ready to adapt or pivot. 2014 saw a rise in the subscription model of selling books and a host of startups that touted one way or another of promoting, marketing and selling books. Inevitably, most of these will fail; but no one knows which will fail and which will succeed. You’ll have to pay attention to the unfolding events and take advantage of sales opportunities as they arise.
  4. Global media company. One interesting idea is to consider myself a global media company. This year, I did an online video course of 30 Days to a Stronger Novel to accompany a book’s launch. And illustrator Kitty Harvill, who lives in Brazil half the year, is working on a Portuguese translation of Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma. (If it goes through that will be my 9th language! English, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Arabic, German and Taiwanese Chinese.) Will the digital world allow for an expansion into other media and a global market? Of course. It’s a question of how to approach it. It’s one area I’ll be paying attention to in 2015, whether or not I actually make direct moves on either front. I’ll be reading anything possible about the expanding German market, and perhaps experiment (Try anything!) with more video or audio.
  5. One key to success: own your own audience. You’ll see less emphasis on social media activity such as growing a Facebook Fan page. As the major social media companies work to expand income, they continually change the rules. In essence, they own your audience, not you. Instead, smart authors will build their own mailing lists of loyal fans who want to hear about new releases. Get the Fiction Notes newsletter and the MimsHouse newsletter here.

In the end, all of us in publishing are asking one question: How can I put more of my books into the hands of the right audience in the most profitable manner? We’re answering that in a myriad of ways. How do you answer that question?

25 Dec

FOLLOW Darcy Pattison on Amazon

Did you know that Amazon.com now has FOLLOW buttons for authors?

Amazon now allows customers to FOLLOW authors.

Amazon now allows customers to FOLLOW authors.

Indie authors have been lobbying for a SUBSCRIBE button on Amazon, which would allow a customer to essentially authorize a purchase of any new book from a particular author. That’s probably going too far for Amazon!

It works well for services like Patreon.com, which allow people to authorize a certain payment, say $1.00, every time a musician uploads a new video. This type of patronage is an interesting new business model that is as old as the arts, but is new in being codified online. Authors are using it to fund podcasts, short stories and other writing. It’s only limited by the author’s imagination and the fan’s ability/desire to help the author achieve certain goals which remaining financially stable.

Amazon’s FOLLOW button won’t go as far as a SUBSCRIBE, but it certainly gives authors incentive to develop their fans and audience on Amazon. Right now, I might boast about 1355 Pinterest followers, 469 Facebook Fan Page followers, 1205 Twitter followers, and a readership on this blog of over 350,000+. But none of those are directly tied to selling your book. 1000 Amazon Author followers, though, would mean that 1000 people are emailed whenever you have a new book come out. Amazon has done a great job of giving authors access to their book listings through AuthorCentral. Allowing fans to Follow an author on Amazon is a new and very interesting twist. So far, I haven’t seen any counts, so I don’t know if the number of your Followers will be shown publicly. Have you see that yet?

Will Amazon’s FOLLOW button replace an author’s mailing list?

It shouldn’t replace your efforts to build your mailing list. The main difference is the question of who owns the list. Using the Amazon FOLLOW button, Amazon will own the list of names and will use it according to their policies–and whims. If you build a mailing list–people who give you permission to contact them–then YOU own the list and can use it according to your policies–and whims.

So, I have to ask! Please FOLLOW Darcy Pattison on Amazon.

And I have to ask: Please sign up for my newsletter, which emails new posts as they are posted. You’ll also receive occasional other messages about new books, events, etc.

Get FICTION NOTES updates by email and receive a free eBook: AFTER THE FIRST DRAFT

Quick tips on revising your story.

22 Dec

Please Nominate Fiction Notes!

The Write to Done blog has opened nominations for its 9th annual writing blog recognition. Readers, you were kind enough to nominate Fiction Notes and it was named a 2013 Top 10 Blog for Writers.

Fiction Notes is named a Top Writing Blog of 2013

Fiction Notes is named a Top Writing Blog of 2013

Please nominate Fiction Notes for the 2014 award!

Blogging has its own rewards, of course, but last year’s recognition for this blog, has kept me motivated to provide you with another year of posts. Thanks for the nomination last year. And thanks for all your friendships!

Deadline for nomination is December 24, 2014.

Here’s the guidelines:
To Nominate your favorite writing blog, you need to do 3 things in the comments section of this post:

1. Nominate only one writing blog. If you nominate many blogs, even in different comments, only your first vote will be counted.

2. Specify the correct web address of the blog you’ve nominated. (Fiction Notes at darcypattison.com)

3. Give reasons why you believe the blog you’ve nominated should win this year’s award.

Thanks so much! My motto is always, “I believe in YOUR story.”
I hope you also believe in Fiction Notes.


Darcy

22 Dec

Wisdom: Oldest Bird in World to Hatch New Chick

Photo by Greg Joder, USFWS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/15853842138/in/photostream/.

Photo by Greg Joder, USFWS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/15853842138/in/photostream/.

On December 10, 1956, ornithologist Chandler Robbins banded about 20 Laysan albatrosses on Midway Atoll. Today, one of those is considered the oldest known wild birds in the world. Presumed to be at least five years old, the minimum breeding age, Wisdom is now over 63 years old. She has incredibly survived yet another year in the wild and has returned to Midway Atoll to raise a new chick.

It’s known that sometimes Laysan albatrosses will take a year off of brooding, so the best guess is that Wisdom has a minimum of 35 chicks. But she’s continuously nested since 2008 without a year off, so it may be many more.

You can follow this unfolding story at the USFWS service Tumbler site.

Read about her exciting brush with death in this award winning children’s book.

Publisher's Weekly Starred Review.

PW Starred Review.



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Praise for the Book

“It’s marvelous! I LOVE it! And I got a lump in my throat, tears! And I’m a biologist! Your book is beautiful, meaningful, simple, elegant………thank you for caring, thank you for sharing this story!”
Kim Rivera, National Seabird Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries, Deputy ARA, Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region

“Wisdom’s story makes my heart soar.”
Kirby Larson, author of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival and Winner of the Newbery Honor for Hattie Big Sky.

“On December 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses in the ‘downtown’ area of Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy, and incubating again in December 2011. While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her. . . remarkable true story. . . beautifully illustrated in color.”
Chandler S. Robbins, Sc.D, Senior Scientist (Retired), USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.

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