READER SURVEY


READER SURVEY

Natalie Bright

For the past six years, Mark Coker with Smashwords has shared results of their readers survey. Several of the topics covered include pricing, box sets, word count, social media, genres. The results of the 2017 Smashwords Survey can be viewed in total, see links below.

The Smashwords catalog offers over 450,000 titles and is fiction heavy. 87.5% of Smashwords’ sales during this survey period were for fiction. Romance, including YA romance, accounted for almost 50% of total sales.

Listen to the Podcast #7 here: https://www.smashwords.com/podcast/7

Watch his complete RWA slideshow presentation here: http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords-survey-2017.html

Here are a few of the major points that I found interesting:

Top Selling Genre

According to the 2017 Smashwords survey, the top selling genres for fiction were Romance, Erotica, Fantasy, Young Adult & Teen, and Science Fiction. The top five for non-fiction were Self Improvement at #1, Health, Well-Being and Medicine #2, Business and Economics, Religion and Spirituality, and Relationships and Family.  Obviously romance readers are the most veracious, and are loyal fans.

Presence on Social Media

Of the top 1000 bestsellers, close to 75% of these authors have a website or a blog. Over 60% of the bestselling authors are on Facebook and on Twitter. Readers like connecting with their favorite authors

Book Pricing

Books that are priced at free, on average, get about 33 times more downloads then books at any other price. More proof that FREE for a first book in your series is a powerful way to introduce readers to your work. By pricing your book at free, you make it easy for new readers to take a chance on you. Many authors write a shorter novella priced as free or as a give-away in newsletters, as an introduction to their series. The survey definitely shows that series with free first book earn more than series without that starter incentive book. I’m torn on this topic, because I wonder if our hard work has been devalued. Everybody thinks they can write a book, and it’s so easy to publish these days. The profession of writing has shifted away from the craft of writing a great story to publish your work now. As you all know, writing and editing is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do, and it has to be done first before you can have a book in hand. Then comes the publishing and promotion.

It’s Still about the Story

After last week’s critique meeting with the WordsmithSix gang, I can tell you that quality continues to be our focus. We are working on stories for a Route 66 themed anthology, and from what I read last week, readers are in for a treat. We leave no stone unturned when we critique each other’s work. We talk about character motivation, plot structure, and setting descriptions. Our meetings usually run about three hours, and we don’t waste much time on spelling and grammar issues. We really try to dig deep to assure that readers discover an entertaining story.

Advertisements

Word Count for Picture Books


Word Count for Picture Books

Natalie Bright

0-200 words. 8-24 pages. BOARD BOOKS have minimal text with thick pages for little fingers to hold.

About 600 words. 32 pages. PICTURE BOOKS for ages 2-5. Text and illustrations on every page.

Up to 1000 words. 32 pages. Ages 4-8. Fiction or nonfiction.

Up to 1500 words. 40 pages. Ages 6-10. Fiction story picture books have longer stories for older readers.

Up to 2000 words. 48 pages. Ages 8-12. Nonfiction PICTURE BOOKS for middle grade readers, usually illustrated with photographs, may or may not have chapters.

REVISING: THE CRIPPLING PART


REVISING: THE CRIPPILING PART

Natalie Bright

Writing is the hardest work you’ll ever do.

Many people start their great American novel with good intentions, and for many different reasons, and then it’s time to edit.

My kids have this notion that writing an assignment paper is going to be a breeze, so they wait until the last minute. My son talked about his research paper for several weeks before the due date. The theme was something he knew a lot about, and he verbally explained the outline of his paper very thoroughly. I was impressed (and surprised at how he seemed to be interested in an English assignment). The grade was barely passing, due to sloppy sentences, misspelled words, “the writing is not good” wrote his teacher. Why didn’t he read over his work? He had put a lot of thought into the research topic, but almost no effort into the writing itself.

Time after time, I talk to wanna-be authors who have given up and given in to the utter frustration of editing their draft. They are daunted and shocked at how much work they have yet to do, because the story seemed so alive in their head. More often than not, the story has been in their head for many years. The idea that was so clear and brilliant in their mind reads like crap on the page.

Do not be intimated. This is how the process works – seriously! You have to edit your work.

The real magic happens, I believe, during the editing process. This is when your story takes shape and rises above the others. This is when you find your writer’s voice, and realize the load of crap has possibilities. This is where you’ll leave the physical world of your daily existence and disappear into the world you’ve created.

Writing is harder than most people think. There is always a better word, description, sentence order, scene; it’s never really finished and it won’t emerge on the page perfect, but you have to stay with it. Please don’t give up that easy. If you have a story in your head, YOU and only you, can be the one to write it. If you’ve always wanted to be a published author, you can!

 

PLEASE STOP, MR. MUSE


PLEASE STOP, MR. MUSE

By Natalie Bright

 

Sparks on sticky notes, piles of articles, spirals full of handwritten chapters, lists of historical topics to research – all potential stories. I’ve got to get this mess organized.

My mind is in overload mode, because I love writing so much that I am now attuned to every idea that pops into my head, and ideas are coming from everywhere. I used to worry that I’d never have enough ideas to stay busy. I gave up television, scrapbooking, and cross-stitch for this?

I’m not sure when the voices inside my head got so loud, but it happened. I can’t shut them up, and I don’t want to. My problem now; no self-discipline. I like every minute of the process from first draft, research, to final edits, and then planning book events. It’s all fun. I even like co-writing, with four projects in the works. Two more rescue animal stories coming in November, plus two more new projects next year.

Wait a minute. Let’s take a more professional view of my process. Let’s take the heart out of the creativity. The truth is I would have fired me years ago.

My middle grade historical, HANGIN’ DAY, was six years in the making through the traditional route. It was agented but never sold. Six. Years. No other industry has that kind of turnaround time. I’m taking serious disciplinary action against myself, and the key to success is to Stay. On. Task.

Here’s My New Plan:

  1. New ideas get a page in the idea journal. Nothing more. Jot a few notes, but always return to the WIP.
  2. Working titles and self-imposed deadlines are posted on a whiteboard. Stick with the schedule.
  3. Which idea burns the brightest fire in my gut, and does it have potential? List those sparks on the whiteboard, with a designated start date and possible pub date.  What needs my attention NOW? And then, what’s next?
  4. Apply myself to learning more tools of the trade. Scrivener has really made a difference for me this past year. Next up: formatting.

How do you stay on task?

In the meantime, our group project is progressing. You’re going to really enjoy these Route 66 stories.

Finish your book! The world needs your story.

 

Historical Fiction


Historical Fiction
Natalie Bright
 
Historical details haunt me. Am I getting this right? Accuracy in the stories I’m writing cause me much concern and angst; I never feel I’ve done enough homework or that I have a full grasp of the time period. Take for example a letter to the editor of the Western Writers of America’s magazine. He wrote to complain about the use of the word “sheriff” in western novels. City councils hired a “marshall”, not a sheriff. For my middle-grade series set in the Wild West, I did research Marshall, who was appointed by the U.S. President at the time. I got that right. The thought to question and research the term ‘Sheriff’ never once crossed my mind. Will the incorrect information aggravate some readers, and since it’s a children’s book, should writers have an even bigger obligation to make certain the historical information is accurate?
 
I’m experiencing the same doubts when working on the WordsmithSix’s Route 66 anthology. The history is fascinating, and it’s difficult to stop the research and just write. My story is set in the 1930s, and when I read first-hand accounts of the time period, I want to include all of the details that I find enthralling, but the readers may find cumbersome. I guess the best thing to do, is just let the characters decide.
 

Here’s the blurb for our upcoming anthology, which will be a collection of stories from different time periods but with one common Route 66 location. I think readers will love this collection of stories, and the research has been fun. My story is actually based on the true circumstances of my husband’s great-grandmother and is set in 1930’s Texas.

It started as a dirt path connecting neighbors, communities, states and finally a nation. Route 66 was an overland route traveled by pioneers, migrant farmers, and anyone going west looking for the American dream. From wagon ruts to an asphalt highway, it has connected generations of people.

Join us as we travel through time from the early days and well into the future on the Mother Road.

OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 is a collection of stories that tell of good times and bad, love and heartache, from the past to beyond tomorrow, and all of them are connected by one stop, the Tower Station, and U-Drop Inn. 

 

Promote You: Hit the Road, Find Inspiration, & Post a Picture


Promote You: Hit the Road, Find Inspiration, & Post a Picture

By Natalie Bright

Spent a Saturday morning with my Thursday night critique group researching historic Route 66, which runs through our area of the Texas Panhandle. We are working on an anthology of stories set on this iconic road.

I’ve been involved in this discussion before with a previous group of writers, and even have a 25,000 word story that never materialized into anything tangible. Sometimes you have to give a story everything you have, and then know when to move on. Maybe I can revive that someday, but in the meantime the topic of doing a group project came up again. We’ve talke about this before, and finally, we are actually to the DOING because Mr. Keel hit on a common theme that inspired us all:

Old Route 66

To set fire to our inspiration and story sparks, we planned a field trip to visit one of the most well known landmarks on Old Route 66 in our area. The U-Drop Inn is located just up the road in Shamrock. It was a great day and very inspiring. My character and her journey is definitely more clearer in my head. At some point in the story, she will make her way along Old Route 66 and stop at the U-Drop Inn diner.

Here’s the cool part; the spark from the my story came from my husband’s great-grandmother who was given to a man 31 years older then her when she was 21. Some of the family believe it was to pay off her own father’s gambling debt, others can’t say for certain. I’ve thought alot about this lady and how she must have felt. She was an interesting lady. She acquired a divorce in Washington D.C. and married a young man her own age, my husband’s great-grandfather. I have no idea if she ever traveled on Route 66 during her lifetime, but that’s where the character becomes fictional. Don’t dismiss those wonderful family stories as sparks.

Our characters  and their adventures are beginning to take shape. I am so excited about this anthology. The six stories in our new book will be in various genres and time periods, but they will all have at least one scene at the U Drop Inn. I’ll also be offering my novella as a stand alone title.

Promote You

Have you been on a research trip? Post pictures on your social media and create a little buzz about your upcoming story.

Are you looking for inspiration? Nothing like a road trip. Clear your head and just look, listen, smell, and touch. Don’t forget your pen and notebook.

More about Old Route 66

Built in 1936 at a cost of $23,000, the Tower Conoco and U-Drop Inn were featured in the 2006 Disney Pixar movie CARS.

Although the cafe does not serve food today, it is immaculately preserved. At the grand opening in April, 1936, it was considered “the swankiest of the swank eating places.” When Route 66 came through Shamrock in 1937, it was the only eating place for a hundred miles along the new roadway. Elvis ate in one of the corner booths. As an excellent example of Art Deco, the building features two flared towers with green glazed ceramic tile walls and neon light accents.

Route 66 was decommissioned in 1984 and Shamrock became one of the many towns bypassed by highway Interstate-40. Through several owners, name changes, and layers of paint, a son of one of the original owners purchased the dilapidated building in the 1980s and restored it back to the original colors and name.

Today, the U Drop Inn is owned by the city of Shamrock and houses the local tourist information center.

PROMOTE YOU: Write More!


PROMOTE YOU:  Write More!

 

“As you produce more books (or more stories or content of any kind), you are likely to grow your audience or reach more readers. And this in turn naturally leads to more followers on social media.”     — JANE FRIEDMAN

No question about it, it’s up to you, the writer, to produce more of your content. Why advertise a store with nothing in it? That’s why I’m always seeking new ways to work my life around writing time. What an uphill battle!

This past week, I read: “The 8-Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle (Growth Hacking For Storytellers #3)” by Monica Leonelle  

Book Review:

For an indepth look at why you’re not producing more words like you think you should, add this book to your writer’s reference library and beware—Leonelle doesn’t care about stepping on toes. She tells it like it is and bluntly explains how to change your mindset. This book will give you several great soul-searching moments.

Here are two passages that really hit home with me:

1)            “butt-in-chair” … “this is officially the worst advice ever unleashed on poor, unsuspecting hoping-to-be writers.” Monica Leonelle

2)            “Right now, you are probably pitting your writing goals against all the other important things in your life, and writing is losing every time. The trick is to stop pitting them against each other.” Monica Leonelle

Trying to push myself to make time for “butt-in-chair” has definitely caused me to resent the reasons I can’t spend more time writing. How about you?

From two teenagers who are always hungry to day-job obligations that run into early evenings spent at the office, I’m grouchy and frustrated, wondering why bother to finish a novel that’s buzzing my head. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but what a great new thought process: can I make writing the most important part of my day instead of the feeling like everything else is keeping me from my writing? As Leonelle says, “…you have to integrate writing into your life.”

She definitely gave me some food for thought. I have so many ideas for stories and there is only 24 hours in a day, but I’m not dead yet! Maybe it’s time for a mindset change. My writing is just as important as day-job deadlines and cooking dinner. Moving onward…

REF: Leonelle, Monica. The 8-Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle (Growth Hacking For Storytellers #3) (p. 2). Spaulding House. Kindle Edition.

 

Publishing Possibilities


Wordsmith Six members have been writing and critiquing together for many years now, and we are continually exploring opportunities for our work. It’s very exciting to move into new creative venues, and with that I’m happy to announce that two of our members have started their own publishing companies!

Yesterday’s Dream – Today’s Reality!

Rory C. Keel is now accepting clients for Carpe Diem Publishers, offering complete services for authors. Rory will take your book wide, in print and eBook, and offers a variety of services to help you realize your dream of holding that book in your hand.

Carpe Diem Publishers will be publishing our Route 66 collection of novellas soon. Stay tuned. We will let you know as work progresses.

Website: http://carpediempublishers.com

Always Keep Moving Forward

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know my books did not find a home through traditional publishing route, and that’s why I started NKB BOOKS, LLC. I write stories set in the West about the days of horse drawn wagons, cowboys, and the wild Texas frontier. Definitely not something that would appeal to a mainstream audience, but hopefully there is are readers out there who appreciate a good western story as much as I do.  I’m working to release my body of work, and that means hiring cover designers, finding formatters, and planning promotional events.  I am also working with several people on a few co-authoring projects that I will be publishing through my new LLC. I like the control so far, but it is a lot of work. I am not taking on any new clients at this time.

Website: http://nataliebright.com

Keep writing and always be on the lookout for new opportunities. You never know where this crazy journey will take you!

How Do You Define Success as a Writer?


How Do You Define Success as a Writer?
 
by N. Bright
 

The Texas High Plains Writers program this past Saturday featured a Q&A panel of authors. Two traditionally published and two Indie Authors answered questions about their writing process and the publishing industry. Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling author of 48 books, moderated. It was a fun morning, and I was honored to be a part of the panel along with Linda Broday who writes a successful series for SourceBooks, and Ryan McSwain who is an Indie Author.

 
“Secrets of Success” was the title of the program, and Jodi pointed out that each writer can define success in totally different ways. For very successful, tradtionally published authors, success might be the number one spot on a national best seller list, or seeing their book on a movie screen. As I juggle two teenagers, a busy day job, and all of the ideas in my head, success for me is holding one of my stories in hand. As an Indie Author, that is the immediate pay off for me personally, and then the book promotion is another faucett of the business that will continue through the long term.
 
The morning discussion included some great tips.
 
Jodi says, “Pick a lane,” which in some cases mean genre. Do you want to write kid lit or mainstream romance? In today’s publishing environment, I take it to mean considering the best publishing option for your work in progress as well. Every project may be different and writers have so many choices today. 

Jodi told us, “Everyone in this room has talent. Are you willing to do what it takes? Pick a lane. Develop your career.”

 
Linda says to include lots of conflict in your stories and use true events and personal stories to add depth to your writing.
 
Ryan keeps a character file, where he puts specifics about his characters as they develop. His ‘supplemental file’ is a list of changes that need to be made in previous chapters as he writes the new chapters. Instead of stopping to make changes, he references the supplemental file and makes the changes to his completed manuscript all at one time.
 
Traditional or Indie involves time and money, but as I told the group, it’s a completely different mindset. If you have a high concept book and you think readers all over the world will read it, then you have to go where the agents and editors are. You need to summarize your book into a one sentence pitch, and you have to practice that pitch. Attend conferences and sign up for appointments with the traditional publishing house professionals who will want your book. Your book must be exceptional in order to rise above the other 500 writers pitching during that same weekend.

As an Indie Author you have to write an exceptional book too, and then you have some aditional decisions to make. Pick a genre. Pick your target market. Pick a writing organization. Pick a cover designer. Pick a professional editor. The work is endless, but the rewards are extremly satisfying.

The secret to success takes hard work, but can be defined according to your terms. Jodi reminded us of one of our favorite local authors who, sadly, is no longer with us. DeWanna Pace always said that her writing goals never involved big dollar signs.
“It’s not the money,” she’d say. “I want people to love my work.”
Do you live in or near the Amarillo area? Texas High Plains Writers meets on the 3rd Saturday of every other month.

PROMOTING YOU: What’s Your Word Count?


PROMOTING YOU: What’s Your Word Count?

Natalie Bright

We had a great discussion at last week’s critique group meeting about word count. Nandy Ekle found this bit of information on Pinterest:

Short Story = 7 scenes

Novella = 27 scenes

Novel = 60 scenes

Our current group project in progress will feature six novellas around the common theme of the famous highway that goes through the Texas Panhandle: Route 66. We are striving for around 20,000 words each, but it can be a struggle. Sometimes you have to tell the story you want to tell, however long or short it turns out to be.

Here’s another word count guideline I found, which includes several options I’d never thought about:

Twitter fiction (really?)

Under 1000 words = flash fiction

Under 7500 words = short story

7500 – 17500 = novelette

Up to 40,000 = novella

Around 90,000 – 100,000 words = novel (360-400 page manuscript)

Series = 1 scene 1500 words (a change of setting or location is a scene change and usually signals a new chapter)

Let us know your thoughts and suggestions on word count. Thanks for the comments and thanks for following WordsmithSix!