Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Writing Wednesday: It's Not About Selling Books, It's About Earning Readers

Hello everyone! I'm still in the aftershock of Christmas and had zero idea what to write about today. Fortunately for me, my amazing husband/business partner/person who actually makes most of the business decisions Travis Bach appeared with this amazing post already written. Not one to overlook a belated holiday miracle, I looked it over, added a bit, and the result is the post we have today! True, it's a bit more business than craft, but I think you'll find the Writing Wednesday attitude still applies.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it, and Happy New Year! May we all write many awesome books in 2016. 

Without further ado, here's Travis!

Hi Folks,

Today I'd like to talk about the difference between readership and sales. But first,

Much to my surprise, several of my posts have garnered a decent amount of attention. I'm so glad that people like the more business
and numbers side of things. I just wanted to say Thanks! While this is always a writing blog, I'm very happy to be able to help Rachel out with keeping Pretentious Title loaded with fresh info.

Rachel and I yak the publishing business to each other all the time, so its also really fun to come on the blog and talk about what we've found and learned.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks. Now, let's talk about an important distinction that needs to be made,

It's Not About Selling Books, It's About Earning Readers

How authors feel about their readers ❤
What's the difference between a reader and a sale?

A reader is someone who reads your book; hopefully all the way through. A sale is someone who bought your book. The two might sound interchangeable, but there is a world of difference between them when it comes to your career..

Someone who buys your book will give you a sale, and that's good! But a reader who buys and finishes your book will hopefully review it. They will hopefully read the next book. They will hopefully go find your other books and read those too. If they really like it, they will hopefully yak at their friends obsessively about how amazing your book is and secretly slip copies of it under their door and lurk outside their window so they can watch them read.

Okay maybe not that far, but you get the idea. Depending on how you got it, a sale may never open your book. For example, if you do a giant free giveaway, the vast majority of those 'sales' won't ever read the book. Another example is promoting your book in box sets, packages, or themed promotions that don't match it. There are lots of indie writers these days hitting the NYT from being in a big selling box set, but when you look at the rest of their books, they're definitely not at NYT Best Seller levels of readership. This is because things like box promotions focus on sales, not readers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Turns out Christmas with a kid old enough to care about it takes a lot more work than other sorts of Christmases, so I'm afraid there's no post this week.

There are still books though! Including the lovely new print editions of my Heartstriker Series! I realize it's a bit late for Christmas shopping (and super too late for Hanukkah), but in just in case you're still in a scramble, ebooks make great last minute gifts. Yanno, just sayin' ^__^

Thank you as always for reading, and I'll see you all next week for a year end wrap up. Happy holidays!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Are Short Stories Worth It?

Today's topic of commonly held writing advice is a question I've been hearing tossed around writing circles since I started this crazy business. As you will soon see, I have very strong opinions on the subject.


The cats look so creepy!

I hope you like your books thick, cause damn o_o
If you've been waiting for your very own physical copy of Julius's suffering, here you go! Enjoy!!

Now, on with the post.

Writing Wednesday: Are Short Stories Worth It?

Way back in the day (2004) when I first got serious about this writing thing and started researching How to Get Published (TM) as a Fantasy writer, there was one bit of advice that kept cropping up over and over again, and that was the idea that road to being a Fantasy author starts by writing short stories and submitting them to the SFWA approved short fiction magazines. The idea behind this advice was that budding authors could practice on short stories first to "hone your skills" and "get your name out there" before moving on the lengthier and more difficult world of novel writing for their main career.

As you've probably already guessed from the quotation marks in the paragraph above, I thought this was pretty bad advice even at the time. I mean, the idea sounds good in theory--short stories, being shorter by definition, do require far less overhead and have a faster turnaround time than novels--but anyone who's tried both knows that novel writing and short story writing are completely different animals. Sure they're both genre writing, but a good short story is NOT a novel in miniature. 

The art and purpose of the short story genre is all about brevity and artistry combined with perfect execution. A true-to-form short story delivers its one big, hooky, sublime idea or character moment like an unfolding treasure box that, when it ends, feels like it was exactly as long as it needed to be. A novel, on the other hand, is all about the journey, the change and scope of characters and events over time. A short story and a novel can be related. They can occur in the same universe or even feature the same characters, but the storytelling format, expectations, and markers of quality for each are fundamentally not the same. It's the difference between a picture and a movie, delivering a monologue vs putting on a play, baking a cake vs cooking a banquet, and so forth.

This fundamental difference is the reason I roll my eyes to the point of pain every time I read or hear anyone telling hopeful novelists that they should write short stories as a warm up to novels. As though short stories are somehow easier than novels purely by virtue of being short. Friends, this is absolute bullshit. Sure, the final product may contain fewer words, but a quality short story is infinitely HARDER to pull off than a quality novel precisely because you have less to work with. It's just like how, on my new favorite show The Great British Bakeoff (SHOUT OUT!), the final, most difficult challenge is always a miniature version of whatever they made for the first round, because doing things in miniature is harder. Just as there's more room for little mistakes in measurement and technique in a full cake than a cup cake, there's a lot more room for error in 100,000 words than 10,000.

But wait, there's more! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Writing Wednesday: "He never wasted a single failure"

I got dragons to write, so this one's going to be short and sweet :)

Writing Wednesday: "He never wasted a single failure."

So as you guys might know, I'm a pretty big anime nerd, and my current show of obsession is Food Wars (aka Shokugeki no Soma)!

This show is SO GOOD, YOU GUYS!

On the surface, it appears to be just another goofy shonen school fighting anime that picked cooking and rampant nudity as its hooks to stand out in a crowded market. I actually ignored it for several months because I thought it was all gimmick, but after one episode, I realized I was epically wrong. Food Wars is amazing! Not only is it a perfectly executed fighting anime with some of the best tension I've ever seen (trust me, give this thing three episodes and you will be obsessively binge watching anime characters cook rice just like the rest of us) and awesome cooking techniques that are based in reality, the writing is really freaking good.

This is noteworthy in and of itself. I'm a pretty big anime fan, but even I can admit that story, especially on the episode level, is sometimes a weak point in the genre. This goes double for a weird series like this that has so much else going on, but so far Food Wars seems incapable of screwing up. The tension mechanics at work so perfect it hurts and the large cast is both amazingly well drawn and expertly handled so no one gets lost. These would all be (and are) fantastic reasons to watch the show, but what really knocked my socks off was the dialogue writing. Even in translation, there are several lines that made me green with envy, but my stand out favorite of the first season was

"He never wasted a single failure."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #4!

Wow, what a November! I think this was my most diverse and interesting NaNo thread ever. Seriously, the questions were awesome. Here's the last set of highlights for the year, and super big thanks to everyone who participated!

I hope you enjoy!

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #4!

First up, we have a question from R Beckett about naive characters and "gotcha" endings.
I have a character who is a puppet master for the events of my story. He also happens to be my main character's best friend/love interest. So since I am telling the story through her eyes, there is not much hinting to his devious ways since she is blinded by her love for him to see it. Is it going to be too off putting to readers to reveal he was the bad guy the whole time? Or put into a broader question, how much of a "Gotcha!" can I get away with.  
Actually as I am writing this I realize Disney did this kind of thing in Frozen. I should watch definitely go watch that and earn another Procrastination badge today... But I would appreciate your thoughts as well. 
My answer:

You pose a very interesting question. For me, this kind of thing is all about execution. A good gotcha is something the audience should be able to see coming...if they know what to look for. This is where the execution challenge comes in. You have to balance your information reveals just right. Show too much, and the audience will see the bad guy coming from miles away, causing them to lose respect for your heroine when she doesn't pick up on the clues as quickly. Show too little, and the villain reveal will come out of nowhere, making it seem like a cheap "gotcha!" trick you pulled out of your butt rather than something you'd always had planned.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Turkey Break!

I'm in the middle of moving houses and hosting my entire family for Thanksgiving (in my new house. That I haven't finished moving into.)

My life.
Sooooooooooooo no Writing Wednesday today guys! I am still (slowly) answering questions on my NaNo thread AMA though, so if you need some Emergency Author Assistance, pop by! Until then, I hope you have a great holiday/final week of furious novel writing.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #3!

Round 3!

Today (since I'm still moving and I'm in the run up to the end of writing Heartstrikers #3 (SQUEEEE!)) we're going going back to take another look at the best (or, at least, the ones I like best) of my NaNoWriMo thread!

Highlights 1 and 2 are here for those interested, and if you have a question about writing, publishing, or books in general that you want to me to answer, come ask! I will answer you to the very best of my ability.


Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #3!

I'm going to start out with two interrelated questions about starting over. The first is from Midnightatmoon (who's asked some really great questions this year!)

I'm 25k into this sucker, and I might have just realized that everything about my story is wrong. Like, so off, it's not even funny. My core group of characters have rebuilt themselves, and now they're much tighter as a group, which is super important since this is a heist story. They feel like a living, breathing bunch of people instead of a barely hanging together on a string. My MC has decided that the POV needs to be switched from 3rd to 1st, and I re-discovered that one of my core aspect of the story I wanted to incorporate in the beginning fell to the wayside (I didn't know how to add it, but I do now if I change the location to give it the environment it needs to thrive). 
This feels both really exciting and a little aggravating. I wouldn't have known what's wrong with it if I didn't make it this far, but on the other hand I don't feel like it'd be a step forward for my story to continue on in my NaNo. Sure, I'd get to the end of an art theft story, but it doesn't mean much if it's supposed to be a casino robbery. But all that new stuff feels like a much more solid foundation of my story-house, and I haven't even really gotten into the conflict, or the antagonist in the new setting yet. And the whole point of NaNo is to write now, fix later. Writing or the sake of writing isn't always helpful, is it? 
So my question to you is, what are your thoughts on mid-draft rewrites?
My answer

I struggle with some level of this on just about every book I write (Fortune's Pawn being the notable exception), and from the looks of things above, you are on exactly the right path.

The first draft is what you write to teach yourself how to write the book. It's the place where you can try out all those amazing ideas and see which ones can actually hold up. No matter how great a novel looks at the planning stage, you never know which ideas will actually be good until you're in the novel. This is where the rubber hits the road in writing, and it's why the #1 advice for how to be a good writer is to just write. Because there is absolutely no way to find these things out unless you're in there discovering and fixing all the stuff you're talking about.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #2!

Hey everyone! I know I promised a post, but we're in the process of moving to a new house and everything's going to hell. So since last week's AMA highlights post was so popular (and since I'm basically writing giant blog posts for this thing anyway), we're doing it again!!

Here are a few more of my favorite questions from the year so far. And if you have a question about writing, publishing, or books in general that you want to me to answer, head on over to the NaNoWriMo Fantasy forum and check out my thread! Just think of me as your own private pro author :) (unless you already have your own private pro-author, in which case I'm happy to be your second string). I'll be answering questions whenever I can until the end of the month, so drop by say hello!


Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights #2!

Rare image of the writer at work loafing on the internet.

First up, DavidJGreen has a follow up to the question I answered last week about how to find a freelance editor and how does this self publishing thing work, anyway?
"Sorry if you've already answered this one. I've noticed you've answered one similar (but that was more regarding the marketing) but I don't know whether you'd categorise it as the same 'question'. How do you go about contacting an editor/publisher? Or, if you tend to self-publish: What are your first steps in self-publishing?"
My reply:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Let's Talk Numbers: Selling Books Sells Books

Trav has put together an amazing post for you guys looking at what factors make a book's sales rank go up once the initial release frenzy has ended, but first...

I'm the Kindle Daily Deal for BOTH of the books in my Heartstrikers series today!! That's right, both Nice Dragons Finish Last AND One Good Dragon Deserve Another are on sale today only for $1.99, so in other words I'm getting nothing done today due to massive Amazon sales rank stalking ヽ(^◇^*)/!

(Chelsie shows up behind me)

Um...maybe writing will be getting done after all! (types frantically)

Anyway, that's what's exciting in my life today. I'm still live answering writing questions on my NaNo thread, so if you have a burning question about writing, feel free to pop over and ask me anything! And now, as promised, here's Travis and his really impressive tea leaf reading of Amazon's sales rank charts, how they change over time, and what we as authors can do to make them move in our favor.

Take it away, Travis!


Hi Everyone,

I've got a treat for you all today! Serious usage of Rachel's author central sales rank graphs! Today I'm going to show you which events over the last several years have made the biggest differences in Rachel's book sales. But first,

I was originally expecting to talk about how the best thing to do to sell books is to write more books and how promo is over rated. I felt that we (and modern authors in general) focus on marketing a lot because its the one wheel we can crank outside of writing to help sell books... I even rounded up a lot of sales data for ya'll to show this. Except that, when I got our data together, this wasn't a black-and-white truth at all.

True, writing more books is a great way to sell more books. Really though, the truth is that,

Selling Books Sells Books

Turns out sales beget sales, and some promotions are almost as effective as releasing new books is. However, cross-promotion is key to maximizing the impact of your sales spikes.

Let's take Nice Dragons Finish Last for example,

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights

First up, I'm DELIGHTED to announce that One Good Dragon Deserves Another was an Romantic Times Magazine Top Pick for November!! HOORAY!

Yep, that is a print page from a legit paper magazine! You can read the review online here if you don't feel like squinting, or you can pick up your own copy of RT Magazine and read it in glorious, glossy color! Whichever floats your boat. 

On to the post!

So, as you've probably already noticed if you're anywhere near my social media, I'm doing my yearly NaNoWriMo AMA thread on the NaNo Fantasy forum.

This thread is one of my favorite things I do all year. I always get a ton of amazing questions, and I love talking to NaNo peeps. They're just so excited about writing, and that makes ME excited about writing my own stuff. It's a lovely, happy feedback cycle, and I really can't recommend it enough.

That said, the thread does take a huge amount of time out of my schedule, which is already packed since we're also closing on a house this week! (FINALLY! My own sequestered writing office! SQUEEEEEE!!). So, since I'm already making giant posts about writing answering questions, I thought for today's Writing Wednesday I'd share some of my favorites so far.

If you're already following the thread, I'm sorry for the cop out! I promise to be back next week with an actual new article. If you're not on the NaNo forums, I hope you'll find this highlights reel interesting.


Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNoWriMo Edition!): AMA Thread Highlights

First up, we have a great question from BLynchBooks about building characters.
"I know you'd mentioned the "Knife Test" on your blog in terms of testing motivations (which has been a huge help for the book I'm writing now, thank you!); do you have any similar methods for figuring strengths and flaws out?"
My reply:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNo Edition!): How to (Successfully) Write Every Day

Well folks, we are only 4 days way from everyone's favorite month of the year, National Novel Writing Month! To celebrate, I'm going to be doing NaNoWriMo themed Writing Wednesday posts for the next few weeks as well as my annual Ask Me Anything thread on the NaNo Fantasy forum. It should be good times.

Last week, I talked about getting your characters prepped. This week, with the starting line looming, I'm going to talk about how to actually, successfully pull off the hardest part of NaNo for most people: writing every day.

Writing Wednesdays (Special NaNo Edition!): How to (Successfully) Write Every Day

The entire concept of NaNoWriMo is based around teaching people who want to write books how to write daily. On the surface, it's very simple: 50,000 words ÷ 30 days = 1666 words per day. Write that every day, and you'll complete a novel in a month. 

Lovely as that sounds, though, if you've ever taken a stab at novel writing before, you know reality is rarely that clean and simple. Life is messy. Even with the best intentions, you might not get to write every day, because stuff happens. Even if you do manage to cordon off your writing time every day, stories don't always go as planned. You might spend an hour writing and walk away with -500 words. (Been there, done that).

All of these setbacks are a natural part of the writing process, and one of the things I love about NaNo is that it teaches us to keep going anyway, to charge past these bumps and just get that novel done! This is a vital life skill for anyone who wants to write professionally. Like all skills, though, it takes some practice to get right. 

To help take the pain out of the process (and to put my own failures/learning experiences to good use), I've put together my best tips for how to successfully and reliably pull off this "write every day" thing without driving yourself insane, having to scramble on catch up days, or otherwise resort to shenanigans.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Let's Talk Numbers: The Nice Dragons MEGA Fall promotion!

Hi folks, Travis here with another look at numbers!

After much talking about the benefits of The Kindle Big Deal vs BookBub, we finally lucked into a BookBub promotion for Nice Dragons Finish Last! Do you want to know what happened?

TL;DR - BookBub is awesome! (But you all knew that already.)

We also might have promoted it in a few other places as well. Ok, like 9 other places. Literally over a million emails were sent out and millions of web/social impressions were gathered. If you subscribe to a bargain book mailing list, you probably saw Nice Dragons up there at some point.

And how did all this promo work out? Splendidly!

Let's Talk Numbers: The Nice Dragons MEGA Fall promotion!

What did we do exactly?
  1. Nice Dragons was on sale for $0.99 via a countdown deal from Sept 27th to Oct 3rd... plus or minus some hours here and there.
  2. Sept 28th was the BIG DAY and we advertised the sale on the following places,
    1. BookBub
    4. Read Cheaply
    6. Genre Pulse
    7. eBookSoda
    8. BargainBooksy
    9. Reading Deals
    10. Choosy Bookworm
  3. Total cost was about $500 total.
Once we'd locked in the BookBub promotion dates, I carpeted the town for marketers. Most indie book advertising services only accept books that are on sale and require at least 60 days of normal price prior to application, so I wanted as many as possible for this $0.99 'cause it'll be 2-3 months before we could do another one.

Why hit up so many sites at once? Well, as Derek mentioned in his guest post, A Salesman Is You, it often takes multiple interactions to get someone to buy. I figured that since many of these book sale email lists have overlap, that that overlap might work in our favor.

Anyway, I'll stop teasing you all and get to the fun stuff. Results!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: Three Ways to Ensure Awesome Characters

It is officially the later half of October, and you know what that means! NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us!

Whether you participate in the organized chaos or not, the huge rush of new people trying writing in November makes this a great time to get together and talk/think about stories, how they're constructed, and what makes them good. To that end, I'm going to spend the next few blogs focusing on basic techniques you can use to make writing your NaNo novel (or plain old regular novel) faster, smoother, and more fun.

Today, we're kicking things off with the my favorite part of writing: creating amazing characters.

Writing Wednesdays: Three Ways to Ensure Awesome Characters

Confession: I am deeply jealous of comics. So much characterization in so few words.
(art via Lackadaisy - SO GOOD! Read it!!)
One of the most common writing questions I see in my email box is "how do you come up with characters?" 

Answering this question is actually really difficult, because honestly, almost all of my characters just kinda...happen. I'll be thinking about an idea I want to turn into the story, and a corresponding character will suddenly pop into my brain like it was always meant to be. Or sometimes I'll have one character already nailed down, and I'll realize I need a love interest/enemy/friend for them, so I'll start thinking about who would this person love/hate/hang out with, and boom, another character is born.

But while all of the above fits into the writing muse mythos I usually try to avoid (I hate the idea of a whimsical muse who doles out inspiration when she sees fit. No one is responsible for my writing and creations but me!), here's the kicker: none of these characters are actually good when I fist come up with them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Writing Wednesdays - Varying Your Pacing For Dramatic Effect

But before we start, did you know that ONE GOOD DRAGON DESERVES ANOTHER, the sequel to NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST, is now available as an audio book?! Well it is! And you should totally get a copy because the performance is amazing!! Go listen to the sample at least, you won't be disappointed!

I had a big NaNo post in the works, but it's not quite November yet (okay, it's barely the middle of October), and so, being the dug-in enemy of holiday creep that I am, I've decided to put the NaNo post off until next week and write about one of the most important and difficult to pull off aspects of writing: pacing. Specifically, I want to talk about how to vary your pacing to make your readers feel different things, sort of like pulling a lever on their emotions!

(Pause for evil author cackling).

Ahem. Moving on.

Writing Wednesdays - Varying Your Pacing For Dramatic Effect

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Writing Wednesdays - Is it Ever Okay to Give Up on a Book?

(Believe it or not, this is going to be a happy blog post!)

One of my all time favorite sayings is: “There’s a name for writers who never quit: published.”

I love the fairness that this quote implies: the idea that if you just keep working hard and getting better, you will eventually be rewarded with your dreams. I believe it, too. I believe that if you love stories enough to keep writing them even in the face of rejection, you will eventually find your voice and your audience. But as huge a fan as I am of the “never give up, never quit on your dreams” mentality that is necessary to the survive and thrive in the writing life, this absolutist mindset can lead to a lot of unhappiness and wasted time when applied to novels.

I talk a lot about how to save floundering books on this blog. I’ve talked about how to fix your problems, how to avoid them all together, and how to fall back in love with a book you’ve started to hate. But what happens when you’ve tried all of that, and the book still doesn’t work? What do you do when you’ve done everything, and it’s still not enough? What happens then?

The normal writing advice I see for this situation is “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” There’s a lot of merit to this approach. If I gave up on every book I’d been sure was broken beyond repair, half my current titles wouldn’t be published. That said, I do feel there is a practical limit to failing better. That sometimes, the effort needed to make a book work simply isn’t worth the finished product.

I know that sounds a little like blasphemy, but hear me out! Writing is a creative endeavor. It thrives on big, new ideas, but big, new ideas don’t always work. Sometimes, the only way to make an ambitious plan actual function is to compromise it until doesn’t look anything like what you originally intended. Even then, sometimes that big hairy idea just won't come together even after months of trying, and you’re just plain sick and tired of beating your head against the wall.

In an ideal world, this is the spot where you would double down on your principles and find a way to make it work, but this isn’t an ideal world. This is reality, and real life doesn’t always have neat endings. There’s only so much time in a life to write, which means you don’t always have the luxury of laboring on a struggling project until you have the stroke of genius that will actually make it all come together. Sometimes, you have to look at the reality of your life and future writing plans and decide if this project is worth all the time and suffering required to make it work, and sometimes, that answer is no.

I will never tell any writer to quit on a book. That’s not my place, because the only person who can say when it’s time to give up on your book is you, and it’s okay to feel really bummed out about that. Giving up on a book is a failure, but failure is not a dirty word. It's a natural part of the creative cycle, and every writer faces it multiple times because the very act of being a writer means doing audacious and ambitious things, and those don't always work out.

But just because failure is natural doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept. I think this is why so many writers cling so hard to projects long after we know the end is at hand. This isn't even an artist hang up, but a human one. We loved these books enough to start writing them, and we don’t want them to die.

I know that feeling much better than I’d like to admit. I’ve quit more projects than I care to count, and every time, it was a bitter decision, but it was also the right one. I know it doesn’t feel that way at the time, especially if we’re talking about a book you’ve already sunk months or even years of your life into. In the face of all that investment, quitting and thus losing all of that time and work can seem unforgivable.

This kind of thinking is what economists call the Sunk Cost Fallacy. We’ve sunk so much time and effort in already, the thinking goes, we need to finish this project, otherwise our investment will be wasted. But while this kind of thinking feels like staying strong in the face of adversity (which is a good thing!) it can also lead you to keep throwing good writing after bad. After all, if you can’t save that project, then sinking more time and writing into it will only mean even more will get thrown away when you do eventually quit.

Normally, this is the point in the blog post where I’d introduce my clever strategy to solve this problem, but not this time. I don’t have any steps or clever Rachel metric to figure out where a novel’s point of no return lies, because the only person who can say “enough” on your books is you. My entire blog is dedicated to clever writing hacks and ways to stay on target, but if you’ve tried everything and your book still isn’t working, if your daily writing feels like pulling teeth, if every page you struggle through makes you want to never write again, stop.

Giving up on a book is a failure, there's no way around that, but you are more than one book. You have entire worlds inside you, enormous stories waiting to be told. You are still a writer, and no single project--no matter how brilliant--is worth giving that up. So if you desperately want to quit a book you hate, do it. It's okay. Walk away. You're still a rock star.

My favorite book break-up song. If you hear this blasting from my laptop, a project is getting burned.

Embrace your new freedom! Go work on the new project that’s been capturing your imagination. Go have fun with your writing again and make something beautiful. Something you can love. And if someone calls you a quitter, just tell them that you had more books to write, and you were sick of this one taking up all your time. So long as you never give up on writing, you’ll never be a quitter in any case. You’re just an artist whose project didn’t work out, and that happens all the time.

But while you're doing all this letting go, don't hit delete. Just because you're giving up on a book doesn't mean it can never be rescued. If you can't stand to even look at it, just stash it in a folder somewhere. That way, when you're washing the dishes a year from now and you suddenly figure out exactly how to fix your broken project, your old book will be right there waiting for you. But even if that moment never comes and the book is truly lost, it's okay. You're still a writer, and you will write many books. Letting guilt over one failure drag you down just hurts your career and takes time and energy away from all the future awesome novels you have yet to write, so don’t waste your time. Go out there and write something amazing.

If nothing else, I promise you’ll feel a lot better.

Thank you for reading another installment of Writing Wednesday! If you enjoyed the post, please consider following me on social media (TwitterFacebookTumblrGoogle+). You can also subscribe to the blog directly via Feedburner. I do new writing posts every Wednesday and tons of publishing business/fun stuff in between. It's fun! Let's hangout!

I'll be back with another writing post next week and hopefully we'll be doing some kind of analysis on our recent BookBub, but we need to gather some more numbers. In the meanwhile, please check out any of my titles on the sidebar for some good reads! I'm kind of biased, but I think they're pretty good.

Thank you again for taking the time to read, and as always, keep writing!
Rachel Aaron/Bach

Friday, October 2, 2015

We Need to Talk About Your Author Website

Hi Everyone!

Travis here again! Since I've been good (still resisting urge to post ponies), Rachel's letting me write some more business related posts for the blog. ^__^ Today I'd like to talk to you about websites. Specifically, author websites, really though... your author website.

The reason I want to talk about this is because your website is perhaps the most important online tool you have as an author. Yet, every day, we see authors who neglect their websites horribly and definitely to their detriment.

Websites can do just about anything, but an author website definitely has some specifics that it provides.

What a Professional Website Does for Its Author

1. It Provides Legitimacy

Would you do business with someone online whose website was old, ugly, and hastily built?

what're thoooose???!!!!
Probably not. Those are all usually warning signs of scammers at worst and a lack of professionalism at best. A sloppy website is like a sloppy office, an indication that not all is well run.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: The Four Things You Need to Sell a Book

First up: Nice Dragons Finish Last is on sale for $0.99! Hooray!! If you've been waiting for a chance to try the series (or if you want to get someone else hooked!) this is a great chance to do it on the cheap ;).

This is where the books live! Get you one!

Also, I was on Aldus Baker's podcast this week talking fiction! He asked a lot of really great questions about my Heartstriker books, so if you're interested in a behind the scenes look at Julius, Marci, Bob, Chelsie, and everyone else came to be, give it a listen!

Now, on to the post!

Writing Wednesday: The Four Things You Need to Sell a Book

You clearly need more books! Have you tried mine?

Warning: this is a post about selling books. 

I know it might not sound like an issue of craft on the surface, but the stuff I'm going to be talking about today relates very strongly to good writing. Now, obviously, if you're still writing your book, you don't have to worry about any of this yet, but if you have a title out there, or you're planning to someday, this post contains what self-publishing has taught me about how people buy books and how I can use the skills I learned as a writer to improve my sales.

Pretty much any article you read about modern authorship--self-pub or trad--talks about the recent change of the author's role from sheltered artist to promotional machine. Personally, I think this argument is a little disingenuous. So long as books have been sold for profit, authors have always been expected to help promote their own work to increase sales, often at their own expense. But while the author as salesman/woman is hardly a modern invention, the truth of the matter is that--no matter how good you get at selling yourself and your books--the vast majority of the people who buy and read your books over your career will never know (or even care) who you are.

*record scratch*

I know, I know! How can this be? We've all heard how an author's name brand sells books, just look at any big bestseller like Stephen King or Nora Roberts. But while it's true that the really big best sellers can move titles on name alone, the opposite is actually true for smaller and midlist authors. Those of us who can't yet sell a book on name alone have to rely on other factors. Marketing can definitely help with this by getting your book in front of more people, which is why authors spend money on it, but even the best campaigns will only ever reach a fraction of your total audience.

Self pub or trad, this is the reality of publishing for the vast majority of authors. Until you become a household name, most of your readership will never have heard of your book until they see it randomly on a shelf at a bookstore or in an Amazon list. One glance, that's all we get, and it is in that moment--that second when your unknown, often busy and distracted customer's eyeballs land on your book for the first time--that makes the difference between a successful book and a flop.

If that sounds overly harsh, welcome to sales! You can write the best book in the world, but if you can't catch the attention of a busy, tired, grumpy reader and convince them to take a moment and discover your genius, it's all for nothing. But do not despair! This is a problem for everyone who tries to sell things, and while no one's figured out the absolute key, for books at least, there is a very good pattern to catching and keeping reader eyeballs, and it goes like this:

Cover, title, blurb, first pages, in that order.

Now, I am most definitely not the first author to realize this. Plenty of very successful authors before me have already pointed out that this pattern is pretty much the universal blueprint to selling books. This isn't to say that these four things are the most important parts of a book, but they are the four things that readers notice first, and this makes them the four most important things when it comes to selling your book, which is what we're talking about today.

To see why this pattern works, think about the last time you bought a novel by an author you didn't know. Chances are, you saw the book on a shelf or online somewhere, and you were drawn in by something on the cover. Next, you looked at the title, which was probably also interesting or hooky in some way. The combination of these two led you to pick up/click on the book and read the back/blurb, which, if you didn't put it back down, was probably also pretty cool, or at least intriguing. At this point, you're almost sold, but you want to make sure the writing is up to snuff, so you flip the book open/click on the sample and read the first few pages. If these are good as well, that book is sold!

This pattern is the natural progression of a sale, and it's why the Cover-Title-Blurb-First Pages pattern is the way it is. Even if the rest of your novel is horrible, if you knock these four things out of the park for your target reader, you will probably sell a lot of books. Of course, if your book actually is horrible, you won't sell any more books, but you get my point. By perfecting each part of the reader's natural book browsing pattern, you vastly improve your chances of catching their attention, even when you've only got a second to make an impression.

At this point, you're probably thinking "Wow, Rachel, that's super obvious." You're right. It is super obvious when you think about it, and that's exactly the problem, because so many authors don't

I have seen authors who will spend a year perfecting their manuscript and ten minutes on their cover. I have seen big publishers who will give a book a fabulous cover only to turn around and write a shitty, sloppy blurb. I have clicked on novels in Amazon sidebar ads because the cover, title, and blurb all looked amazing only to lose all interest because there was a typo in the first paragraph, or because the opening of the story was just boring. 

Each of these screw-ups leads to lost sales, because each step of the process--the initial interest created by a good cover and fueled by a clever title, the excitement generated by a good blurb, and the final punch of a fantastic opening page--is a decision.

Readers are busy. They don't know us, and therefore have no reason to cut us slack or take a chance on our work. It's our job as commercial authors--people writing books specifically for sale--to show readers that our stories are worth taking a chance on at every step of the book buying decision. It's up to us to catch and hold the reader's attention until our stories have a chance to drag them in, which is why I'm continually amazed by how many otherwise extremely smart authors and publishers screw up or just plain ignore these four fundamentals elements of bookselling.

We get it, Rachel. This stuff is important. So how do we do it right?

This is where things get tricky. Then answer to "What makes a good cover/title/blurb/first pages?" varies according to your book's tone, genre, and what kind of reader you're aiming for. Cozy mysteries will have different selling points than gritty Thrillers, and so forth. Part of being a successful author is knowing what makes your story interesting to your audience and then figuring out how to convey that through your title, cover, blurb, and so forth.

But while there is no universal answer, there are a few basic rules to the cover/title/blurb/first pages game that apply across the board regardless of genre, or even if you're writing fiction vs non-fiction.

Readers be like
  1. Be interesting - no matter what genre you're writing, boring is the kiss of death. Anything you put in or on your book should always be of interest/appealing to your target audience, or why is it there at all?
  2. Your cover/title/blurb/opening pages are for the READER, not for you - This is probably the hardest one for authors, especially when it comes to titles. But tempting as it is to give your book a title that is deeply meaningful to the story, that's not the point. The title isn't there to be meaningful AFTER someone has read your story, it's there to make people want to read your story in the first place. The same goes for covers and blurbs and so on. These are sales elements. To properly do their job, each one must be interesting and hooky in its own right without the help of the larger story. Obviously, this doesn't mean your title/cover/etc should be unrelated to the book. You still want it to make sense! But I can't tell you how many authors I see shooting themselves in the foot by giving their book a long title that's super meaningful in context, but dull or even nonsensical on its own, thus defeating the entire point of a good title. The only exception to this rule is for later books in a series where you can use previous reader knowledge to make the title cool, such as naming the book after an already beloved character. In general, though, anything you use to hook a reader needs to be able to be cool all on its own.
  3. Invest in Your Success - You spent a long time writing this book. Don't hamstring your success by getting sloppy once that it's done. I'm not saying you have to spend thousands of dollars on a custom cover, but it makes no sense to spend a year or more getting your book perfect if you're just going to thoughtlessly slap some stock art and stock fonts on the front and call it a day. Your cover/title/blurb/first pages are the face your book presents to the world. They should be even more carefully considered than the rest of your novel. Don't rush to market. You only get one chance to launch a book for the first time, so don't be afraid to slow down and invest the time and (if you're self publishing) money needed to do the job right.
  4. Know Your Reader -  As I said at the beginning, what makes a great cover/title/blurb/opening pages depends on your book, your genre, and your audience, but it's up to you to know what that audience wants. Whatever genre you write in will have certain conventions that readers expect, and whether you're bucking them or aiming to give readers exactly what they want, your selling points still need to be placed within that context, because that's the framework your reader is operating inside. In other words, if you're writing Romance, it has to look and sound like, or at least reference, what Romance readers expect. If you don't do this, you run the risk of losing readers simply because they didn't have the cues to realize that your book was the kind they were looking for. You can't get readers if they don't know to look at your book, so make sure your book looks like what it is. It's always good to stand out and do something different, but if the cost is having your book look so different people think someone stuck it on the wrong shelf, that's just as bad. Readers come in looking for a certain kind of book experience. If you can show in your cover/blurb/title/first pages that your book is exactly what they're looking for, but also new and awesome in its own way, that's the best of both worlds.
Now, obviously these are all elements that you'll have a lot more control over if you're self-publishing. (You also have enough rope to hang yourself, but that's the price of doing it on your own!) But even if you're going the traditional route and your publisher is the one making the final decisions on your cover/title/blurb and so forth, it's still your job to speak up if you think they're making the wrong choice.

I'm not going to lie: this can be terrifying, especially if you're a newly signed author, but that doesn't change the fact that this is your book. No one wants to be "that author" who makes a fuss, but at the same time, no one will ever care about your book's success more than you do. This is your career, and you'll be the one on the ropes if this book doesn't meet sales expectations. So if you feel your publisher is making a bad call on any of these vital four sales points, bring it up. 

You don't have to be confrontational (in fact, it's better if you're not), but that doesn't mean being silent. Don't be afraid to ask why your publisher made the decisions they made. They probably have very good reasons--they want to make money on this title, too!--but you'll never know if you don't ask. Worse, if the book does end up flopping because it had a terrible cover, you'll carry that for the rest of your career, and that's far too great a risk to take on just to avoid feeling uncomfortably now.

Remember: you're the writer here. This whole enterprise depends on you. You might not be as experienced at book selling, but you know your story and your audience. That is valuable insight, don't let anyone discount it. Even if they shut you down, it's better than knowing that something was wrong, and you said nothing.

Thank you for reading another installment of Writing Wednesday! If you enjoyed this blog, please consider following me on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+). You can also subscribe to the blog directly via Feedburner. I do new writing posts every Wednesday and tons of publishing business/fun stuff in between, so come talk shop with me! The more the merrier. :)

Thank you again for reading, and as always, keep writing!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Writing Wednesday: How to Fix a Broken Plot

First up, if you didn't see it on Monday, we did a huge post on our numbers for the One Good Dragon Deserves Another launch. If you're interested in self-pub and/or you like graphs, definitely go check it out!

Two weeks ago, I did a Writing Wednesday on common plot mishaps and how to avoid/fix them. But while it is true that there are some universal roadblocks to good plotting, things aren't always that simple. There are times in writing when you can do everything right and still end up staring down the barrel of a fundamentally broken plot.

For my money, this is one of the most disheartening things that can happen to an author. Here you have this book that you're super excited about, filled with characters you love, and it just. Won't. Work. Even when you do everything right, even best planned plots can break down unexpectedly, leaving you stranded in the middle of your book with no idea how to get moving again.

Whether it's your first book or your fiftieth, this is very discouraging. As someone who just came off one of the most challenging books of my life, believe me when I say I've been there. But before you think about throwing in the towel, remember: we writers are gods in our own stories. We have the power to do anything so long as it works within the rules we create. This freedom is often the same reason we got into these plot messes in the first place, but it also means there's no corner we can paint ourselves into that we can't get right back out of again.

So, with that in mind, I give you...

Writing Wednesday: How to Fix a Broken Plot

Confession: I have plot breakdowns on pretty much every book I write. Some are relatively minor, and some are catastrophic. I'm not sure if this is because I love complicated plots, or if plot failures are a natural part of my writing cycle, but whatever the reason, I get stuck on just about every novel. The upside of this is that all this floundering has given me a pretty well tested method for getting myself back on track again.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Let's Talk Numbers: Do Pre-orders Help Sales?

It's that time again, folks! The second novel in my Heartstrikers series, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, has been out over a month now, so it's time to take a look at the numbers. This time around, we were specifically interested in pre-orders and how they helped or hindered our projected first month of sales.

There's been a lot of back and forth on this in the writing community with some authors swearing by pre-orders and others arguing that they poached from the vital first week sales that are so important to getting your book high on the Amazon lists (which gets you in front of those all important new readers who might not have seen your series before). Never having done a pre-order ourselves, we were super curious, so when we got the chance to try it ourselves with One Good Dragon Deserves Another, we dove right in, and this is what we found!

(Note: Today's post will be presented by extremely talented and handsome husband/business partner Travis, who did all the math, graphs, and analysis. As always, he did a great job! So, without further ado, I'll turn it over to him. Rachel out!)

Hi everyone! The numbers are officially in, and One Good Dragon Deserves Another has done well far beyond our hopes! As Rachel promised earlier in the month, I've put together a ton of numbers, charts, graphs, and analysis for what's been going on with it.

We have a lot to talk about, too! A lot of things happened this time around that Rachel and I have never done before. We had pre-orders, we found a great trick for leveraging the Kindle Big Deal, and we had the game-changer that was KU 2.0 happen right in the middle of it all!

Its going to be a lot so let's get to....

Let's Talk Numbers: Do Pre-orders Help Sales?

So how'd One Good Dragon do? See for yourself,

can you guess when the book went live?
There's a lot to unpack here and that's what we are mostly about today. Let's talk about these numbers. 

One Good Dragon Deserves Another (OGDDA) was available for pre-order from June 1st to July 30th. In total, it had 4565 pre-orders. It was released on August 1st, 2015 so everything on that date and beyond are not pre-orders, just er. orders.

The first thing to notice is that we have a double spike. Normally, there's only 1 spike on release day and then nothing until a promo or sale is done. Here we had two. Once for the announcement of pre-orders and another for launch day. Very cool!

I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen with pre-orders since we'd never done them before. Would they cannibalize our first month sales? Would they get us on a list? Turns out... neither (Though not for a lack of trying on that second one!).

Lists aside, these are really great numbers for us! Here's what I originally predicted for an August release with no pre-order.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Guest Post: A Salesman Is You!

This is going to be awesome!

A few weeks ago, we were having lunch our friend (and one of the the Inkshares Sword & Laser contest winners!) G. Derek Adams. Since this was a table full of authors and their SOs, the conversation inevitably turned to book selling, and I inevitably turned into a grump. This is because, like most authors, I absolutely hate trying to sell my book to strangers. HATE IT. Hucking my own work is probably my least favorite part of the author biz.

But when I said as much to Derek (who actually works in sales for his day job), he didn't join in my misery. Exactly the opposite. He came back with what is probably the best and most useful advice I've ever heard about how to sell your stuff to people without coming across as a jerk.

I'm not exaggerating here. This advice was gold. In the month or so since the conversation took place, Travis and I have already put a lot of these ideas into motion with really good (and surprisingly painless!) results. It was a win to be sure, and so, since the whole point of this blog is to share what works, I invited Derek to the blog to tell you what he told us, and he knocked it out of the park.

So, without further ado, here's author G. Derek Adams's post on how to sell your books in a way that actually sells books, but doesn't make you feel like a shyster!

 A Salesman Is You!

Hello, Sir or Madam. I have a Thing. I would like you to give me money for the Thing. But it’s okay, it’s a Cool Thing. And if you act now, I will throw in this Semi-Unrelated Thing or this picture of a wombat with your purchase of the Original Thing. What if I drive over to your house and read the Thing to you? Or chop the Thing up into easily digestible Tumblr posts with clever captions and sick Stephen Universe GIFs? No?

It’s hard to sell things. There’s something in the psyche or moral framework of most sane human beings that cringes when we have to actively ask another human being for money.  It is only those mutants or cyborgs or emotionally stunted nega-people who actively enjoy the task of parting crisp dollar bills from their owners. The faceless wolves who cry for blood and loose change at the Hunt’s trumpet, the soulless robots of commerce that infest every nexus of the world. As writers and creatives and silky-shoed wood nymphs, we despise the salesman ilk and the further we demean ourselves to enact their arcane practices and rituals - the sicker we feel. The personality types are almost diametrically opposed - which is probably why most of us creatives find it so difficult and soul-demolishing to promote our work, advocate for our web presence, or just flat-out ask people for money.

I get it. Probably better than most. I too have a Very Cool Thing That I Find Difficult to Describe Succinctly. And as my day job I sell things to people, quite successfully. You would think that I would be uniquely gifted - that for me self-promotion would be a SNAP? GUESS AGAIN (or rather guess the first time if I have misjudged your guess-count and you’re still on your first one).

It’s hard. It requires energy. It requires time. It is not fun. Not all writers are introverts - but it’s safe to say the vast unwashed masses of us expend energy on personal interaction instead of gain it. And when the interaction is a sales pitch or a plea, it becomes all the easier to avoid or blunt or escape from them instead of buckling down and facing the sharp jagged edges of Potential Rejection.

So, for the purposes of this post I speak only of the Ethos of Sales - how you can successfully and regularly convince people to give you money for things. It’s far easier to sell things that mean nothing to you than the Thing That Means Everything.  Consider these watchwords and guidelines - ways to get into the headspace of self-promotion and sales without feeling needlessly icky.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: The Bare Bones Guide to Becoming a Better Writer

Today's topic is one I've been meaning to cover for a long time now, but first, exciting news!! My fast writing book, 2k to 10k, is now available as an audio book!! 

We worked with fantastic narrator (and fellow author!) Arial Burns, and I just think the whole thing sounds amazing! She really captured the humor and enthusiasm of 2k to 10k, and the transitions are so much smoother with music :)

So if you're the sort of person who prefers to listen to your non-fic in the car or while you're doing other things, I hope you'll give it a try! Even if you've already read 2k to 10k, this new version is just so nice. I hope you'll give it a sample listen at least, because it really is a different experience. (I'm in love with this thing, can you tell?)

Anyway, enough with the news. On to the blog!


Writing Wednesday: The Bare Bones Guide to How to Become a Better Writer

One of phrases that gets tossed around endlessly in the writing world is "honing your craft." This is a fancy way of saying "get better at writing," to which I say, "duh." If being a writer is your dream, then getting better at writing is the obvious best way to make all your dreams come true. No wonder so many writing advice lists start with "hone your craft." Do you suck at writing? Just get better! Problem solved!


As you've probably picked up, I really hate this phrase. It's not the idea I disagree with. I absolutely believe that if you want to do something professionally, you should do everything you can to improve your skills. But too often, the way "honing your craft" is presented--as if it was a single entity, just a box to be checked off before you can move on to other things--bugs me to no end, because improving your craft is not an item on a list or a finish line you pass to collect your winnings. It's a process that continues for the whole of a writer's career. It's the subject of thousands of writing books, articles, essays, and this Writing Wednesday series. It's not something you can just go knock out real quick before you do a final edit and settle in to write your query letter.

All ranting aside, though, all those "How to Become a Writer" lists aren't actually wrong. If your dream is to become a published author, then becoming a writer good enough to pull that dream off has to be your first step. But (and this is my problem with almost all "hone your craft advice") telling writers they need to "get better" is about as useful as telling someone struggling with poverty to "just go make money." If it was actually that simple, everyone would do it, because if there are two things everyone seems to want to do, it's make money and be a writer.

So, clearly, honing our craft is a long and complicated process, but this does not mean it's undo-able. Quite the opposite, every successful writer, regardless of genre, has gone through this process at one point or another. Many of us are still on it, because one of the most beautiful things about writing is that it can always be better. We can always work to become more skillful, more refined in our process. But no matter where we are on the writing journey or what kind of stories we prefer to tell, the basic process of honing our craft is the same, and it goes (more or less) like this.

Writing Wednesdays: The Bare Bones Guide to Becoming a Better Writer

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: Common Plot Fails (and How We Can Fix Them)

I've talked a lot on this blog about what makes good stories. I've talked about character driven narrative and how it makes books amazing, I've talked about taking smart risks with your fiction, I've talked about tension, I've talked about plotting. Heck, all you have to do is click on the Writing label and you'll find enough Walls'o'Text about good writing to keep the Huns out of China! But while talking about how to do things well and why can be very useful, sometimes the best teachers are the failures.

A few weeks ago, I posted the following on Twitter:
In response to this, people very rightly pointed out that there are many demonstrably bad books out there that sold like hotcakes (with 50 Shades taking the top spot), and to them I can only say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Yes, those books are bad, but they clearly did something right to make readers love them so much and buy them in such numbers. That's the thing about art: it doesn't have to be technically perfect to be enjoyable. Sometimes you can slap together a terrible plot but end up with characters so wonderful that no one cares about the silliness of their actual actions.


These situations are exceptions to the rule. While it is true that extremely well done elements in fiction can overcome weaker ones, no author in their right mind willingly says "You know what? I think I'll half-ass this part of my book and just do this other thing so well that no one notices. That's a great plan!"

Obviously, if you want to write a book people are going to want to read, then you're going to try to write it to the best of your ability. You might not succeed (no one's perfect at everything), but you're going to try, and for that, it can be helpful (and hilarious) to examine some common ways authors screw things up and how we can fix them (or avoid them all together).

Writing Wednesdays: Common Plot Fails (and How We Can Fix Them)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: Strong Prose

So I got a really awesome question through Facebook (follow me! It's cool!) about prose, and since this is a subject I don't believe I've ever touched on here at Pretentious Title, I thought it would make a great Writing Wednesday!

Here's the question in question:

Tom Shreeve asks,
"Hi Rachel, I've been enjoying your blog for a while. What are your tips on writing strong prose? As much as I plan the content of what I'm writing on a scene by scene basis (plot, exposition, character, flavour etc) when it comes to the actual writing - at a paragraph level - I wing it, hoping everything I want to happen in the scene just happens intuitively.

At a granular, nuts and bolts level, do your paragraphs follow a particular structure? Do you break down scenes into smaller pieces? How reductive do you go? 

And how often do you find yourself rereading what you just wrote to make sure the next bit follows naturally? I do that way too often!"
I love getting questions like this because, quite frankly, I'd never really thought about this aspect of writing in quite this way before I read your question. But I've thought about it a good bit since, and I think I have an answer. Or, at least, my version of an answer.

(And Tom, I hope you don't mind that I'm answering you on the blog!)


Writing Wednesdays: Strong Prose

I've never considered myself to be a lyrical writer. This isn't to say I think my prose is weak, but I freely admit there are authors and poets who can evoke more emotion in four sentences than I manage over an entire novel. I mean, just read this:

That is beautiful. That is writing that makes me want to write books. It's also a sort of writing that, to my eternal despair, I've never managed to create myself.

I've long since made peace with the fact that I will never join Margaret Atwood or Ursula LeGuin or any of the other great writers who elevate words to eternal artforms. But while it makes me sad to know there's something I love but can't do (I feel the same way about drawing, which I love but utterly suck at), I don't consider my inability to write deathless prose a failing.

Being able to turn a good phrase is an inescapable element of writing, but there are more paths to being a good author than just creating beautiful prose. Every writer brings their own strengths to their stories. Some are great plotters, others write amazing tension, some create characters we'd gladly read doing anything, some are just flat out hilarious, and some write beautifully, but no writer is fantastic at every single element of storytelling. We all have our "areas of growth," and part of being a mature, professional artist is understanding where our weaknesses lie and coming up with our own ways to address them.