Want more writing wisdom from authors? Check out our Author Interviews.
Knowing your book’s category is essential to finding an audience. That’s why we created the Genre Map, a visual representation of all literary categories on Book Country. For every category, we carefully curated a selection of Landmark Books, titles that we think best exemplify the tropes and conventions of each genre. Revisiting the Genre Map recently made me think back on our process deciding which books to include as well as the writing lessons that each of them has to impart. Below, I’ve highlighted ten books that have not only improved my understanding of the craft of writing but that also happen to be some of my favorite!
Acacia by David Anthony Durham
Landmark Book for High/Epic Fantasy
This book has taught me that a great fantasy writer is an architect of worlds. With Acacia, you start with one idea of the dimensions of the trilogy’s universe, and every subsequent book makes shocking revelations about its actual scale and nature. David Anthony Durham executes this by building a solid foundation: he plants the seeds early on, so that once he lifts up the curtain, you realize there’s no other way the story could have gone.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Landmark Book for Psychological Thriller
Hawkins takes the “psychological” in psychological thriller to a new level with the unreliable narrator of Rachel, a woman whose life has been wrecked by depression and alcoholism. As a character, she’s both compelling yet utterly untrustworthy, making The Girl on the Train a masterwork of misdirection. If you’re looking for well-executed narration, look no further than Hawkins’s chiller.
The purpose of exchanging peer reviews on Book Country is to make each other’s books better together. Eventually, the feedback that you’ve received on and off the site will help improve your work in meaningful ways and get you to the next step in your writing process: a new draft. Today, we’ll walk you through the steps of uploading a new draft of your project on Book Country. (If you’re a first-time user and have never uploaded a book to the site, reference our post on How to Upload Your Book to Book Country instead.)
Start by going to the Read & Review tab in the main navigation and clicking on My Dashboard. Under Books in Peer Review, find and select the project of which you’d like to upload a new draft. Click on the Edit button in order to enter the Online Editor, where you’ll be able to update your text. Continue reading
One of the advantages of having a Facebook Page is that you can host a Live Q&A for your fans. It’s easier to set up and moderate than a Twitter chat, and you can get some great engagement out of it. All you have to do is to post a status inviting your audience to ask questions about your book or writing, and then use the Reply feature on Facebook Pages to answer each individual question.
As you may know, only a fraction of the people who’ve liked your author Page see your posts at any given time, so you’ll need to do some pre-promotion to make the most out of your Live Facebook Q&A.
Create a Facebook event for the Live Facebook Q&A. Do so at least a couple of weeks in advance so that you can spread the word early. People who RSVP will get a reminder to join on the day of the event. Choose the start time for it wisely, when most of your fans will be able to join the conversation—for an hour around noon or in the evening. Spruce up the event page by adding a promotional image and some information about yourself and your book to the event details.
Promote the event link on other social media channels. Don’t forget to mention the time, including the time zone, date, and social network (Facebook) for the event. Send a couple of additional reminders right before you kick off the Q&A. Continue reading
Today we’d like to introduce you to ten of the most active and accomplished members of Book Country. The list ranges from bestselling authors to aspiring writers whose book projects have garnered praise from their peers on the site, and it represents the unique spirit and diversity of our community. Whether you’re new to Book Country or have been around for a while, we think these writers and their works are well worth your time.
Last year, Alex’s New Adult novel Tryst got the attention of a Penguin Random House editor and was subsequently published by the Berkley/Intermix imprint. So how did her lifelong dream come true? The San Diego writer says, “I wrote to my heart’s content about the book boyfriends I’d imagine and made the early drafts available online on Book Country. Book boyfriend Blake turned into Tryst.” Connect with Alex on her website, Twitter, Facebook and check out some of her newest work on Book Country.
Alys started writing her Young Adult novel The Casquette Girls on a whim, the result of a 2012 New Year’s resolution. She set it in a paranormal version of New Orleans because there “some of the legends are older than dirt and others seem to materialize from the thick, humid air.” The novel went on to become a #1 Amazon bestseller, which landed her a deal with Amazon’s imprint Skyscape—the new version is slated for publication in the fall. Follow Alys on Twitter and don’t miss the video of her and Alex Rosa talking about how Book Country helped them write their best books.
It was a great weekend at the PNWA 2015 Conference in Seattle, talking with agents, editors, and writers about Book Country, social media, and the publishing process. (PNWA stands for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.) I want to share these six big takeaways from the conference with the rest of the Book Country community:
- Finding beta-readers is as important as ever. However you choose to work with beta-readers–whether in a real-life writing group, remotely via email, or on a workshopping site like Book Country–no one can dispute that a writer needs feedback on their manuscript prior to a successful publication.Technology that makes finding beta-readers easy has become indispensable to in-the-know writers.
- Feedback can be wide-ranging, but ratings are also revealing. The more feedback a writer gets on their book, the better informed revision decisions they can make. Getting reviews on your book from beta-readers is a great way to seek suggestions on how to revise. But different readers give different suggestions, sometimes contradicting one another. Your overall ratings can be a powerful way to aggregate your readers’ opinions. On Book Country, for example, your overall rating–so long as you’ve spent the time and energy to garner a large number of peer reviews–will help you gauge whether or not your book is ready to be published.
- Distribution is everything. Writers have gotten savvier about this since the last time I was at PNWA. Back then, I met a lot of writers who had self-published but their book was not widely available. It’s rare these days to find a writer who isn’t planning to publish their book electronically, and it’s also common for writers to make sure their book is available for many different types of eReader. On Book Country, for example, authors can publish once and simultaneously distribute to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Kobo, iBooks, Google, and Flipkart. It’s essential for writers to stay on top of book retail trends.
- Social media takes time. Writers at PNWA knew how important it is for them to be growing their social media audience. It’s key to start building a following early, so that when your book does launch, it has somewhere receptive to land. Learning how to use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and others now rather than later is a good use of an aspiring writer’s time.
- Social media takes time. Wait, didn’t I just say that? To be clear, it’s not just building a social media that takes time. Doing the real work of social media–writing posts, creating engaging images, reading social media feeds, and conversing with followers–takes big chunks of your day-to-day. So not only do you want to start early, you also want to get organized. Writers I met at PNWA were figuring out how to carve out time for social media tasks. One tip Andrea Dunlop shared in our “Dos and Don’ts of Social Media” session was to be realistic about how much time you will be consistently able to devote to your social media. It’s easy to sign up for a lot of accounts, but it’s better to be selectively active than to have a bunch of abandoned online profiles. (Go here for more tips from Andrea.)
- Professional author services are the author’s best kept secret. More and more writers–both those seeking self-publishing and traditional publishing–are hiring professional developmental editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, book publicists, marketers, designers, and more. The competition to get noticed is stiff, so figuring out what you need help with to make your book stand out is becoming a bigger part of the publishing process. Many writers are using editorial firms like Girl Friday Productions to develop and polish manuscripts. Authors who find social media either too daunting or too time-consuming are learning how to hire it out to professionals. While these services can be expensive, many writers and authors are finding them to be valuable. I predict that we’ll be discussing this aspect of the publishing industry much more here on Book Country in the next year.
Do you spend a lot of time promoting your book on social media but feel like it hasn’t reaped the results that you were hoping for? It may be time to focus on building an email newsletter following instead. Stand Out author Dorie Clark thinks that reaching your audience via email is one of the most effective ways to increase book sales. Read on for her advice on growing your subscriber list.
My first book, Reinventing You, launched in 2013. I tried to prepare, but despite my best efforts to interrogate fellow authors who had gone before me, I still didn’t fully understand what a book launch entailed. I was diligent in my execution yet vaguely disorganized—constantly staying up late answering interview questions, crafting guest posts, and enduring a punishing and hastily-assembled travel schedule. These were things I should have planned better, yet somehow didn’t know how to.
Two months ago, I had another opportunity to do it right with the release of my new book, Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It. Here are the key things I learned in the last two years of almost nonstop book promotion.
Your email list is paramount. What sells books? Not social media. Atlantic journalist Derek Thompson shares an indicative story in which—despite one of his tweets becoming a viral sensation, with nearly 1,500 retweets and 155,000+ impressions—only 1% clicked the link to actually read his story. Note that this is a free story—not something that costs nearly $30, like your book. So what does work? Your email list. Blogger Chris Brogan famously said, “To me, the hottest and sexiest social network right now is your inbox,” and he’s right. Even if people are overwhelmed by their inboxes, they still read email, and an opt-in relationship with your readers is the most powerful force for communicating your message. I’ve used free (and freemium) tools like AppSumo’s ListBuilder to dramatically enhance my email subscription rate.
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Will we see you at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference 2015? Let us know on the Book Country Discussion Boards!
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