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Writing a First Novel in Your Fifties

As you may know, I’m not a kid. I was fifty-five years old when I decided I wanted to write. I’ve been taking classes, reading books, talking to authors, and, most importantly, writing since I decided it was something I really wanted to do.

I’ve written a number of unbelievably bad manuscripts while I’ve been learning, but I’ve gotten better. One thing that always concerned me was that I’d come to the business of writing too late. Surely you need to start when you’re young to be successful, right?

The short answer is no, but I didn’t fully realize it until this past weekend.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Laura Lippman at Sleuthfest, in Orlando over the weekend. She’s the New York Times, best selling author of the Tess Monaghan series, as well as the winner of virtually every award for excellence in the crime fiction genre. When I mentioned the age issue, she shook her head, saying she knew of plenty of authors who started at around my age, including some that had achieved great success. She was far too polite to tell me to get over myself, and just do the work.

I’d missed Hank Phillippi Ryan’s keynote address on Thursday, but I purchased the audio recording. Hank’s a big star in the writing world and is a vibrant, glamorous woman. Imagine my surprise when, during her introduction, I learned that she started writing at age fifty-five.

So I did a little research, trying … Read more

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Getty Images has made many of their photographs free to use

The Getty Images website, the home of over a hundred years of photography, is now offering the ability to embed images at no cost.  The process is as simple as embedding a youtube video into a website.

Most web content producers have learned that finding images that can be used legally on a website, is not easy, or cheap. However, some don’t care and just use Google Images for whatever they need, without realizing that using those images creates a copyright violation.

This ‘no cost embed’ news from Getty Images, can help to avoid these copyright issues.

As you can see from the image below, which was embedded from the Getty site, they post a notification, and a link, to where you actually found the image.  The photographer also receives credit for the image.  A small price to pay, to avoid breaking the law or licensing the content.

This is an interesting development, and it may be one that will spread to other image providers.

You can get more information on the program here.

HT to @JamiGold for the news on this item.

 … Read more

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Laura Lippman and Stephen Campbell at Sleuthfest 2014

Finding the Secret to Writing Success at Sleuthfest 2014

Like all new writers, I’ve been searching for the secret. The key that unlocks the door to writing success. The key that the big time, successful writers have that beginning writers must try and learn. In other words, I’m searching for the Holy Grail of writing.

Well, I got lucky and was able to discover this key at Sleuthfest 2014, in Orlando over the past weekend.

If you’re not familiar with Sleuthfest, it’s the annual conference of the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. This year’s conference was the 20th.

The conference is primarily for writers, but there were a number of mystery fans there as well, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from, and hang out with, some of the top writers in the crime fiction genre. This year there were three Guests of Honor. Laura Lippman, Ace Atkins, and Hank Phillippi Ryan. All of the three gave keynote speeches and sat in on a variety of panels.

The panels, primarily educational, ran the gamut from craft related subjects, like plotting, revising and the use of setting in books, to the more detailed and technical issues involved in this new era of publishing. Things like audio book creation, the use of social media to build author platforms, and techniques for partnering with other authors to cross promote one another’s work.

There were also opportunities to meet with agents and editors, as well as roundtable discussions with each of these well-dressed types.

I went … Read more

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Book Store

Are Some Forms of Traditional Publishing Becoming the New Vanity Press?

I read an interesting post from Hugh Howey this morning, titled, Submit. But Don’t Say Uncle.

His post is a response to a something he’d seen online, from a writer named Paul, who was desperate to be published, traditionally published, as a form of validation for his writing talents.  This writer, who actually did self-publish, regretted his decision.  He didn’t like being categorized as a self-published author, because he felt linked with those authors whose work was not up to his standards.

The idea of going the traditional publishing route is something that has to be considered by every author.  It’s obviously one of the primary routes to publication.  If your work is selected by one of the big five publishing houses, you’ll be able to have your picture taken, holding your book, at your local bookstore.  You may see your book in airport bookstores, and your friends will be able to see, and buy your book, in those bookstores.  That’s got to be an amazing feeling.  I’ve spoken with a number of authors who are no longer traditionally published, and that’s the thing they miss the most.

There are obvious benefits of being published by one of the big five.  But do those same benefits also accrue to those who are published by the smaller presses.  I’m curious what drives authors to the presses who won’t be able to get their books into bookstores.  The publishers who won’t offer advances that provide some real form of compensation for the … Read more

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Low tide - perfect running conditions

What Makes Perfect Beach Running Conditions

If you enjoy running, then the idea of running on a beach is one of those things that seem wonderful, but sometimes the realities of tides, winds and temperatures can get in the way of that wonderful experience.

Two of my fictional characters, Jack & Jessica Stillwell, live on the beach in Naples, and they run the beach every morning they’re in town. Unlike me, they’ll go out regardless of the weather, or conditions on the beach. I’m not nearly as hardy as the Stillwells. If it’s too cold, if it’s raining, if the wind is blowing too hard, I’m either not going at all, or I’m waiting until things get better.

This morning was one of those mornings when I couldn’t find a reason not to run, and since I like to pretend that beach running is actually research, I wanted to take advantage of what seemed like one of those mornings where all of the conditions come together to make a perfect beach run. What makes for perfect conditions? Well for me it’s three things, tides, winds and crowds.

Running anytime around low tide means you’ll have a running surface of hard packed sand, which is very easy to run on. Low tide this morning was at 7:26 and I started around 7:00. Just about perfect.

Winds this morning were nearly ideal, as well.  There was just enough wind to kick up some soft waves, the sound of which provides the perfect background music for any beach … Read more

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Deborah Coonts

Writing ‘Between the Book’ Novellas as a part of a Series Strategy

Over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed what appears to be a new strategy for marketing series fiction.  It’s the release of “between the book” novellas or short stories that come out shortly before the release of a new full-length series book.

Why would you as an author want to write a novella and release it a month or so before your new novel is released?   Is this an effective strategy for marketing your series?  Well, since I’m lucky enough to interview authors every week for my show on the Authors on the Air network, I decided to ask two of my favorites, Deborah Coonts and Steve Berry.

Debora, the author of the Lucky O’Toole adventure series has written four novellas that have been released shortly before the newest installments in her Lucky series.

“I write the between-the-book novellas to give the writers a taste of Lucky… Read more

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A fairly complete list of books I’ve read so far this year

Creative CommonsI’ve never really kept track of the books I’ve read during the course of a year, but Amazon, Audible and the website at the library are all  making it easier for me to try.   Here’s the list, as of today, November 27th.

I doubt the list is complete, but it’s close and it’s kind of surprising.  I would have guessed two books a week, on average, so that would have been just under 100 through November.  The actual total is 110 112 113.

Now – If only there were some way to magically… Read more

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Understanding Amazon Best Seller Rankings

7161285Since publishing GONE TOMORROW on Amazon, I’ve grown more curious about how the best seller rankings work.

It was a laughable moment for me when I saw that my short story was ranking higher than several books that had been best sellers a year ago.  I wondered how that was possible since mine had sold only a handful of copies on the day it was posted.

It turns out the Best Seller rankings are essentially a number that represents the number of books selling more copies than your book is selling, over an extremely short period of time.  The ranking has nothing to do with cumulative sales, instead it has much more to do with sales velocity.

Book rankings are updated every two hours, so it’s possible for a book to significantly jump, or fall in the overall rankings very quickly.

Some research shows that selling as few as ten copies of a book a day will keep your  book in the top 3,000 of the paid best sellers listing.  (Please note – I’m talking about the paid best sellers list, not the free best sellers list.)

Some authors manage to get their books ranked into specific categories, rather than just being ranked against all paid books.  You may have seen things as specific as this:

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So in this case, the book THE VILLIANS SIDEKICK, is ranked #45 in the Noir category, so people searching specifically for Noir fiction are fairly likely to come across this book.  Of course, … Read more

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Using a Short Story, GONE TOMORROW, to Get My Author Pages Setup

Stephen Campbell Gone Tomorrow Book Cover Edit02As I get closer to finally publishing my first full length novel it occurred to me that I have much to learn about the process of publishing my work.  So, as an experiment, I decided to have one of my short stories edited and to post it on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.   So far it’s a work in process, but I’m learning a great deal as I go.

Interesting things I’ve learned so far include:

  • You need separate source files for Amazon and Smashwords.  Presumably a third source file will be required for Barnes and Noble.  (Update 11/21 – Yes, I did create a separate source file for B&N – see below)
  • I’ve read  that the best way to publish to Amazon is with HTML files, but I found that using Scrivener and creating a .mobi file works just as well.
  • I couldn’t figure out a way to set up an Amazon Authors Page without first publishing something.  Once my short story, GONE TOMORROW, goes live, I’ll set up my authors page.
  • The royalty structure at Smashwords is pretty good, especially for things like short stories.  Unfortunately, the distribution provided by Amazon dwarfs that benefit.
  • There are lots of nit-picky little things you’ve got to get right in order to get your book / story to look good.
  • Submitting to Smashwords is a lot faster at 5:00 in the afternoon than it is at 8:00 in the evening.  (My first submission took only a few minutes, but it
  • Read more

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Author Paul D. Marks won the Shamus Award for his Novel WHITE HEAT

Author Paul D. Marks won the Shamus Award a couple of months ago for his debut mystery, WHITE HEAT.  The novel is a gripping, noir style mystery that takes place in Los Angeles during the time of the Rodney King riots.

Paul went deep into a number of different themes with this book.  There’s the “who-done-it” mystery part of the book, in which a P.I. tries to find out who killed a young actress.    Then there are the other themes of the book – race relations in Los Angles during the early 1990s, and the stalking of young actresses by obsessed fans.  All in all, I found this to be a wonderfully entertaining book that is very deserving of the Shamus Award.

We spent several minutes discussing Paul’s Shamus Award, and he shares not on the process, but also an extremely funny story about his acceptance speech.… Read more

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