Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is Less More in a Novel?

Recently, I've found myself skipping ahead in full-length novels--even by my favorite authors--because they are moving too slow. I've started reading more Kindle Singles and short novels. I find that I really like this format. It is longer than a short story and shorter than a novel. I can often read a complete work in one sitting.

My favorite movies and books are those that throw you right into the action and barely give you a minute to catch your breath. I tried to capture this pace in my first short novel, Bitnapped, by avoiding long descriptive passages and trying to include only the essential information.  (

If you are a writer or avid reader, you are probably aware of flash fiction, a genre with a word limit that strips content to its bare bones. Flash fiction ranges in length. I've read entertaining stories that were 1,000, 500, or even 100 words long. A recent contest challenged writers to create a 164-character story.

I have ambivalent feelings about works that short. I understand that everyone is busy and the fast pace of life leaves us with little time. However, the pleasure of reading includes soaking up the words and allowing your mind to wander to far away places. There must be a balance.

National Write a Novel in a Month month challenges authors to speed up their process and write 50K words in one month. What about shortening the length of the finished product? I'm not saying that there is no place for longer, slower pieces. But in my chosen genre, mystery and suspense, I'm betting that less is more.

In fact, I challenged myself to write this post in 15 minutes or less instead of the usual hours I spend agonizing over the words.

Please chime in with your feelings!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Message in a Bottle?

It's been an exciting week for me and I'd like to share. My independently-published novel, Bitnapped, is in the middle of a five day free download promotion on Amazon. The first time I ran one in July, I didn't do much to promote it, other than post it on my website and my facebook page. Oh, and I used $125 dollars of free Google and Facebook advertising that I had received from my website provider. In three days, I had a total of 208 free downloads.

The purpose of giving your book away is to gain fans who will want to purchase your next book. Successful independent authors J.A. Konrath, John Locke, and Amanda Hocking jumpstarted their career with book giveaways. Of course, there is more to the story. You need readers to write glowing reviews and tell all of their friends.

Unfortunately, after my first campaign I didn't get any reviews. Then, a gracious relative gave me one. For three others, I've had to trade reviews with other authors, which is difficult. Amazon now supposedly has a  way to check and see if you have traded or purchased a review and will remove it if they think that is the case. Ironically, or maybe not, you can pay Amazon for a review, and that is OK. (I'm not going to flog Amazon though, they provide free software for converting your work to eBook  (mobi) format and their royalty program is very generous.)

Self-help books and other content explaining how to successfully sell books independently stress the importance of building an author platform. So, what is that? It is today's version of old-fashioned networking. It requires a website, a blog, and Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest accounts. Some recommend spending an hour a day on social media building contacts with people who will eventually buy your books. The trick is to not market yourself overtly, no one likes a pushy salesman, but be friendly and helpful to others and the glow from those good deeds will reflect back on you.

An hour a day? You've got to be kidding. I work full-time, volunteer, and have a home with a large yard, a dog, and a husband. My writing is eked out in small chunks of time. To not feel guilty about the indulgence, I call writing fiction my "hobby". So, I created a website, started a blog, and got a Facebook account (I drew the line at Twitter). I spend about an hour a month. Perhaps this explains my less than stellar results.

Most authors blog about writing or self-publishing. I figured that only other authors are interested in that type of information. So, I created a blog for people who like to read. I hoped to attract those interested in a variety of short stories with accompanying pictures. So far, it's been difficult to build a following. If I get 10 views of a new post I'm doing good.

However, I have shamelessly benefited from other writers' blogs. For this free campaign with my book, I used a great website with handy links to other sites that advertise free Kindle books to their readers: Author Marketing Club. I listed Bitnapped on ten of these free sites, many of which include blogs and e-mails to a subscriber list. Before the campaign, I paid a very small fee to have Grub Street Reads evaluate my book. They gave it their seal of approval and provided some very handy marketing materials such as press releases and quotes that I could use on Amazon. At least one local digital paper picked up my press release.

Maybe it worked, I've had just over 300 downloads. More exciting, I got a four star book review on Amazon from a total stranger! So, I guess things are looking up. I just can't help feeling that blogging and posting on Facebook are like writing messages for a bottle. I roll them up, and cork them . I set the bottle afloat on the vast internet and hope that somewhere someone will read the message and smile.

Bitnapped will be free until Nov 3 (and just 1.99 after that). Check it out.