Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Know Thy Customer - How to Write What You Love and Still Sell

Hello all! After an EPIC CONCLUSION, I am finally done with Heartstrikers book 3!!

Of course I still have to edit and polish and actually write that one chapter that's nothing but a line saying [INSERT AWESOME HERE], but still,

I know it's been a long, long road on this series, but I promise you guys the wait will be worth it. This book is going to be crazy town!! If you liked the first two (or just need more Bob in your life), you're going to love this one!! I hope anyway o.o

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go check out the first two books in my (award winning!) Heartstrikers Urbans Fantasy series here. It's dragons in future magical Detroit! You won't be sorry.)

Right then. Now that all the horn tooting and blatant self promotion is out of my system, let's talk writing!

Writing Wednesday: Know Thy Customer - How to Write What You Love and Still Sell

That moment when you love your book to pieces...and you suddenly
fear no one else ever will.

One of the most important parts of being a self-published author (or any kind of professional, really) is keeping up with what's currently going on in your sphere. For me, this means reading new books that come out in my genres (oh, the hardship! I have to read this awesome book for work!), keeping an eye on what's topping the Amazon lists so I know what the market is into right now, and occasionally (but not obsessively) reading forums and business blogs by/for authors so that I don't miss any big changes to the things that impact my sales (ie, Amazon changing their algos/ranking system again). I also keep a constant ear out for clever new promo stuff because you never know when you're going to find that brilliant idea you totally want to do! 

Anyway, all this is a vastly over complicated way of saying I try my best to stay up to date with current events in the writing/publishing world as pertains to me and my books. Part of this is just good business. If a shit storm is coming, I want to know well in advance. When it comes to what books are selling/getting attention, though, staying up to date is more than just business. I like to know what's new and cool not only because it's my job, but because I am legitimately interested in genre fiction. There's a reason I write the books I do. I've been a fan of all things SFF since basically forever, and that intersection of fandom and business is what I want to talk about today.

The Old Writing to the Market vs. Writing for Yourself Conundrum, Now With a Surprise Ending!

If you're an author today, or even if you just want to be an author, chances are you've heard the phrase "write to market," which basically means "look at what's selling, and then write your book to match."

I can't tell you how many writers cringe at that statement. To be honest, I cringe, too. I am by no means an Artist Capital A, but I have a lot of pride in my work, and the idea of writing something I don't care about because that's what's selling is unpalatable in the extreme. One of my biggest cornerstones as an author is "if you don't love it, you're doing it wrong." Passion for my own stories and characters is a huge part of who I am both as a writer and a person (seriously, if you meet me IRL, and you ask me about my books, be warned that I will NEVER SHUT UP.) 

At the same time, though, I do this professionally. Writing isn't just something I do for fun and dreams anymore. It's how I eat and pay my mortgage and send my kid to summer camp, and that means I can't just write in the vacuum of "things Rachel thinks are cool." I have to also think of my reader/customer, what they want, and how I can give it to them in a way that will make them desperate for more.

This intersection of art and commercialism, doing what you love vs. doing what sells, is a struggle every professional artist faces. Now, obviously, if you don't plan on making writing your career, then none of this applies to you. Write what you love and be happy! But if you're like me and you dream of making storytelling your profession, then "Write to Market" is one of the most important pieces of advice you'll ever receive, but not in the way you think.

When we hear "Write to Market," most of us jump immediately to the worst extreme of hack writers callously churning out derivative schlock iterations of whatever's on the best seller's list that month. I admit there is a lot of that that goes on, and not just in self publishing. How many "kid finds out he's special, goes to special magical school, makes unlikely friends, saves world" books did we see from major publishers after Harry Potter hit big? Hint: A LOT. 

As much as we try to dress it up, the truth is that all of commercial publishing is guilty of the sin of copy-cating to some extent, because copying what's popular works. Readers are like any other consumers in that they move in trends. When they find something they like, they want more, and if you can give them that, you will sell. If you can give it to them in a quality package that is legitimately good in addition to being the thing they want, you will sell a lot. Give them a shitty version, and you will probably still sell, but not nearly as well. Readers, even ones in a froth for the hot new thing, are not stupid. They know shit when they get it.

But all of the above is just one extreme of the Writing to Market strategy. Obviously, if you write good, well packaged books in a popular genre with an eye toward hitting the hot trends, you're going to sell a lot of books. But what do you if the books you want to write aren't part of that equation? It's one thing to know "Contemporary Romance is hugely popular!" but if you don't read Contemporary Romance and you don't have any ideas for Contemporary Romance plots or characters, then any Contemporary Romance book you try to write is mostly like 1) going to feel like pulling teeth, and 2) suck. With circumstances like that, it doesn't matter how hot a particular market is. If your book is bad because you don't care and you were only writing it because "that's what sells," then you're going to tank. 

Now, the obvious solution here is to just find a popular genre you do love and have exciting ideas for and just write those. This happy alignment is "Write to Market" at its very best, and if you can pull it off, you will have a great time.

But even when we stop assuming the worst, when the idea you're most in love with doesn't fit into any of the popular slots, "Write to Market" can still feel more like a death sentence than good business advice. I can't tell you how many emails I get from authors--established and new--who are absolutely in love with ideas they are convinced won't sell because they're "too weird" or "not mainstream enough." 

This is where the internet and indie publishing revolution comes in to save our bacon. Big publishers need big volume to make back their costs. That means they have to publish what's popular, but the game for small presses and indie authors is entirely different. With lower costs and a higher profit per book, the bar for success, even wild success, is much more forgiving in the indie world. You don't need to write in a giant popular market to sell well. Big or small, though, you still have to write a book that is going to sell to someone, and figuring out who that someone is is the secret to everything.

Writing To Your Market - Know Thy Customer

If you want to sell anything, you have to know who you're selling to. Who is the customer for this product? For us writers, that question becomes "who is my reader? What do they want?" 

I think about this question a lot, because writing is a constant decision making. Every time I'm trying to decide how I should turn the plot or if I should let this character run off on his really bad idea, the one question I always ask in addition to all the vital artist ones like "Will this be good for the story?" or "Would this characters actually do this?" is "How will my reader like it?" 

Obviously, reader approval is not my only consideration. Stuff still has to make sense and play out logically and dramatically within the rules of my world. But since I'm not writing this story just for myself, potential reader reaction is a huge part of my decision making process. If I do this thing, if I let this character run off on his tangent, how will my audience react? Will they enjoy it? Will they get bored? Will they put the book down? 

These are things I need to know, and the only way to get answers is to know what kind of person I'm writing this for. But honestly, that can be pretty tough. It's not like Amazon tells me who buys my books, and while I do interact with my fans all the time and get to know them that way, that's useless for a new writer who doesn't have a fan base yet. Even for established authors, though, our fans are wildly different. So what do we do? How do you write to an audience when you can't know who that audience is?

My solution to this problem is that I just pick a reader. One person that I want to please and entertain. And for my books, that person is me. 

Not writer me. Writer me wants to do all kinds of crazy shit like write a book with zero major male characters just to see if anyone notices, or write a novel in second person just to prove it can be done. This is because writer me is a writer and thus cares about writer things like clever construction and interesting conceits like resetting Titus Andronicus in space. But while all that stuff sounds cool in theory, Reader Rachel doesn't give a shit. Reader Rachel just wants a good story, something that will keep me up way past my bedtime for the sheer joy of reading, and this is why Reader Rachel, not Writer Rachel, is my audience.

This isn't to say all the crazy shit I listed above can't be a good book. I'm a firm believer that any story well told will find its audience. But all of those ideas came about because I found them interesting as a writer, not because they were actually stories I wanted to read. This is why reader me, not writer me, is my audience, because the actual audience for my books are probably not writers. They're just people who want fun stories, People like me, so that's who I write for.

Despite everything I write in this blog about character motivation and proper plot structure, when I'm struggling with a decision in my book, the final vote always comes down to "would I want to read this?" If this was a novel I was reading in bed on my Kindle, would I like this twist/scene/critical character moment, or would I just go "meh."

This is a good time to mention that pleasing your imaginary reader is NOT THE SAME as listening to your Inner Editor. If you're at all like me, your inner editor is a bitch who only says negative things and should never be given the time of day (for tips on how to shut her up, click here). You inner reader, on the other hand, is the voice of your experience. 

If you've read enough books to want to be a writer, you probably have definite opinions on what you like. Therefore, if you focus on writing something you like, something that makes the reader you happy and excited and ready for the next book, not only will you have a grand time writing the thing, you'll end up with a book that is, in fact, written to market. The market of you. Maybe that market is big, maybe it's not, but unless you are an extreme outlier, there is certain to be someone, probably a whole lot of someones, who will share your opinion that this book is awesome, and those people are your audience. That's your market, and if you do your darnedest to write books they're going to love, you will by definition be writing a book you love, exposing the trumped up battle of Writing to Market vs. Writing for Yourself as the false dichotomy it's always been.

No writer is an island. If you write the book you love the book where you re-read bits just because they're amazing, and you do it well, you will sell. Maybe not as much as you hoped, because doing it well is really hard. But if you keep practicing, don't settle for mediocrity, and keep your reader's enjoyment as your first priority, you will build an audience of amazing people who love the same things you do, and together, you and your audience of awesome will create a fantastic career full of books you all love. 

It's win/win all around, and we should settle for nothing less.

Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed my weirdly impassioned post about writing for yourself. If you enjoy my stuff, please follow me on Social Media (Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Google+ ) to never miss an update, Thank you again, and until next time, keep writing!

Yours always,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Postponed. Also Taxes

Hi Folks,

Travis here. There's no writing wednesday today as Rachel is writing the last inches of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. As such, she's sealed herself into the writing chamber. Woe be to me or any other mere mortal who seeks to breach that line.

Normally, I'd try to have a fun business or numbers post too keep things rolling but, well, its tax season. Which means that I'm spending all my time getting our taxes ready for the accountant. That's right, I'm not even actually doing taxes, just doing the questionnaire for someone else to do our taxes.

So, in the spirit of the season, here's a little window into what tax time looks like for us and, probably, other authors. USA based ones at least. I know nothing about other country's taxes.

Now, I can't give tax advice, so I'm just going to talk about Rachel and I. Hopefully you will benefit from our experiences.

The Dragon of Taxes

This tax thing is no joke. I spend a lot of time and effort to manage it. Why? Well, historically 90% of our income has no withholding on it. That means we have to pay all our owed taxes at tax time. I.e. April the following year of earning it.

Until last June, Rachel operated as an implicit sole proprietorship. That's what most authors are as its the default status if you do business, aren't an employee, and haven't formally created a business entity for your author stuff.

Sole Prop sucks a lot tax wise. Basically, all our income is personal income but we also have to pay self employment taxes too (15.5% roughly at time of writing). If someone is earning a middle-class living in America off book money, not impossible at all with self pub, then they are probably paying about 35% or more of their earnings in taxes when we add up every tax. (I'm aggregating a LOT for that number btw. Ad velorum, property, state, etc..)

I've seen studies that add up all the taxes paid by someone of our income bracket and it can be north of 40%. Now, before anyone thinks I'm anti-taxes, I'm not. I love police, fire departments, roads, the FDA, and so on. Big fan of civilization here. However, I think that 40% is an unfairly high level, hence my complaining. I mean, look at the social services they get in those 50% Scandinavian countries! We're kinda wasteful with our money in America.. but I digress..

What's important for authors here is the size of the tax bill that comes due in April. We'll have to shell out a single check that covers something like 25% of our income from the last year for this. If you make any real money selling books, this'll be you too most likely. 

Lemme put a number on that to drill this point home. Say you're books do great and you make $60,000 in a year. Depending on your tax situation, that might result in a $10,000 to $15,000 tax bill

I'm sure those of you starting out are like, "I'm not going to have to worry about this for years!". Just keep in mind that any tax bill can be a real shocker if you are used to a normal job with normal withholding and you usually get a refund from the govt at tax time. Earning even a couple thousand from an ebook will likely reverse this situation.

Given that most Americans (forgive me everyone else) have less that $1,000 in savings, this can be a big gotcha I feel and worth warning people about.

Prepare for Taxes or Death by Taxes

A LOT of what I do for Rachel and I is financial. A lot of the financial work is making sure that we pass through the tax time window like an arrow instead of hitting it like a bird.

How I do this is both simple and complicated. 
  1. I track our earnings on a monthly basis
  2. I estimate our tax burden as we go using a worst-case-scenario method
  3. I make sure we save up enough money to meet our tax burden
Ideally I do this as the money is earned. We have a special savings account that I move income into to cover for taxes. This way the money doesn't show up in checking. Money in checking is always at danger of either (A) getting eaten on accident or (B) providing a false sense of security and wealth.

A real example that happened - one time I had to tell Rachel that we couldn't afford something we wanted. I forget what it was, a modest vacation probably. At the time though, we had $25,000 in the bank. Why was I putting on the brakes? Well, because I knew how much we'd earn and spend and owe over the next 6 months and, basically, that $25,000 was already spent as most of it was to go to taxes in April the next year. In the end, I was right and we did need it.

Typically in December, I'll get together with my accountant over email and get a quick estimate on our likely taxes, just to make sure I haven't totally messed up. If I have, well, its December and there's 4 months to try and fix it.

How is this complicated? Well, item #1 is complicated once you start getting into deductions, business expenses, non-writing income, and so on. Again, this isn't me giving tax advice, so if you want to do this, you'll have to go educate yourself, talk to professionals, and get the tools to do this tracking yourself.

My weapons of choice are a yearly tax guide on deductions,, and MS Excel. Mint is invaluable as I'm able to review transactions monthly and tag things as taxes, taxable, business expenses, deductions and so on. This is a huge time saver when March arrives and I have to start answering questions like, "how much did I spend on non-federal taxes in 2015?"

How the Business Changes Things

Everything I've been talking about up till now is how Rachel as a Sole Proprietorship (that I file jointly with) have handled things. This year though, things are changed both for the more complicated and the better.

In 2015 we became Aaron/Bach, LLC. (with the S-Corp tax status)

Sadly it was mid-2015, so I have half a year of Sole Prop taxes combined with the new overhead of half a year of business taxes. This is the pain year, but next year's taxes should be a LOT easier for me to handle because of this division.

What are the benefits of being an LLC like this? There's a LOT, too many to go over here really. If you are interested, go read up, there's endless resources on the web.

As relates to this post, taxes, there's three big advantages to forming a company like this,
  1. We have company accounts and a ledger. This nicely puts all our business transactions in one place and divides business from personal most excellently. Its SO much easier to hit up QuickBooks for our financial reports than it is to build them by hand in excel using data.
  2. 100% of our revenue is no longer subject to self-employment tax. This is the TL;DR version but businesses only pay employment taxes on payroll. LLCs and S-Corps can distribute money to employees and members in more ways that just payroll. *
  3. We can do withholding on our payroll, which off loads a lot of tracking and money management chores from me.

*clarification - I'm just talking about self employment taxes here. This setup helps with limiting self employment taxes but not income taxes. 

By setting reasonable salaries for Rachel and I, we only have to pay those extra taxes on our salaried income. This is a very big savings and it'll get bigger as we get bigger.

That said, there's a ton of benefits that I'm not talking about here. One of them that does need to be talked about is my own salary.

Protecting Your Partner

I spent all of 2014 working for Rachel and not anyone else. I work easily 80 hours a week being her marketing guy, financial guy, story helper, alpha reader, sounding board, secretary, IT guy, researcher, house husband, and general leg work person. If its not writing-related or Rachel-only, I try to take it on so she doesn't have to.

According to the IRS I made basically $0 in 2014. This was a HUGE problem for us as banks and certain desirable tax deductions thought that I was basically unemployed for that year. The problem goes well beyond that legally and socially but its too much for today.

Now though, as part owner of Aaron/Bach, LLC, I have a real job again and real salary again. This protects me and our family in many ways. As Rachel's partner, it protects my economic value both for myself and for her.

Lastly, its more fair to me. I work hard for Rachel's and my dream. I may not write the actual books, but I have put a lot of time and effort into them here in the background.


If this stuff interests you, and I hope it does, you need to look before you leap. Go read up in detail on how LLCs and S-Corps work. At least talk to an accountant before you do anything. Preferably also a banker and a lawyer. LLCs are not simple and there's a lot you can mess up through ignorance.

I read through LLCs for Dummies after starting ours and I wish I'd done so beforehand. Fortunately, we have a wonderful accountant who's helped keep us from making any regrettable mistakes so far.

A short post today, yeah right

If you read this far.... thanks! I know this isn't the most exciting Writing Wednesday material. Its important stuff to know though and I hope that you can benefit from hearing about our experiences.

In the end, surviving taxes as an author comes down to being prepared. That's the whole point of this post really. Know what's coming and prepare yourself for it. The methods I use work for me, but they aren't the best or only methods out there. Find something that'll work for you.

We have more posts on managing author money and taxes on the blog, so please check them out if you want to read more on the different topics that I touched on today. 

Lastly, would anyone be interested in an in-depth post about LLCs and such? I brushed by a lot of material today and am curious if you all want to hear more on this from Rachel and I.

As usual, if you like the post, please share it around. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Planning Your Edit Like a Pro

Good news, everyone! In a complete surprise to me, Romantic Times Magazine has picked my second Heartstriker's book, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, as their Editor's Choice Award Winner in Indie Urban Fantasy!! In case you missed my freakout on Twitter yesterday, I am very excited about this!! Not only does it feel great to win my first industry award for a book I produced all by my lonesome, but since I was already going to the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas, this means I now get to attend an honest-to-God awards ceremony!!

Naturally, I'm pretty happy about all of this!! Thank you to the editors at RT Magazine for taking a chance on a self published book about dragons, and thank YOU ALL for reading it and spreading the word!! You have made me the happiest author ever ^__^!!

Whew, okay, gushing completed. Let's talk some writing!

In the spirit of mining my email box for blog content (what? Y'all ask the best questions!), I found this gem of a conundrum that really got my brain going.
Hi Rachel -- I apologize if you have already answered this question-- I have just started following your blog and books. In your book on increasing writing speed, you discuss tracking words/day or words/hour when writing a first draft, but what about the tracking the editing phase? Do you have any good metrics on that? 
This is a very good question that, to my amazement, I've somehow never touched on here at the blog. I've gone over how I edit my books and how to shut up your inner editor when you're trying to write, but I've never actually touched on how I figure out just how much work an edit's going to be. Given that editing is easily half of any writing process, being able to estimate how long it's going to take is vital to any author's publishing schedule, trad or indie. That said, it should come as a surprise to no one who reads this blog that I do, indeed, have a metric for estimating how much time my edit will take!

So, without further ado, here's my solution to the age old question of "just how long is this edit going to take?"

Writing Wednesday: Planning Your Edit Like a Pro

One of the biggest variables in being a pro-writer that you can actually control is how long your novels take to write and edit. But while I talked about how I estimate my own writing times (and how you can learn to estimate yours) in the original 2k to 10k post, editing is a very different animal.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Amazing Writing Moments: Heartstrikers Fan Art!

Here on Pretentious Title, we talk a lot about the professional, technical, artistic, and financial sides of writing, but while that's all well and good, there's another very important part of being a writer that I have sorely neglected, and that is the all important fandom angle.

Despite our lack of red carpets and endorsement deals, writing is most definitely a glam industry. People dream of being writers just like they dream of being musicians or actors, and the ones who do make it work their butts off to get there. For good reason, too, because things happen for writers that just don't happen for most of humanity, like, for example, fans making amazing fan art for your stories!


Forget red carpets, this is the best thing ever! I originally found these pictures on the amazing Goodreads reviews for Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another, and I don't think I stopped smiling for a week. (Don't know what those books are? Check out my Heartstrikers series here!) This art is all by Gergana Hristova. (Check out her site at!), and I LOVE IT. 

I genuinely can not express how thrilled it makes me to see someone else's (far more talented) interpretation of my imaginary friends characters. It makes me fangirl about my own stuff. But how can I not?! I mean, just look at Justin and Julius!

Are they not the best?! And just look at Bob (complete with pigeon!)

How can I not look at these and feel like a rockstar?! I know I go on and on about being a professional writer and making a living, but that's all just practical adult stuff. You know, the part of me that has to pay off a house. When I get art like this, though, made by someone who genuinely enjoyed the story I wrote, THAT's when I feel the really giddy joy that makes me remember why I dreamed of being a writer in the first place.

I mean, just look at Marci and Ghost!

How can I not be delighted? READERS, I CAN NOT NOT. Looking at these makes me squee for years. I mean, check out Bethesda!

And Amelia?! OMG Amelia. (Or should I say, Aaaaaaaa-meila)
Mother/daughter issues much?
Straight up, I had a different mental image in my head when I wrote her, but the moment I saw this, this became my Amelia. That's the power of good fan art. It was so good, so absolutely what I was trying to do, it changed the story cannon in my head. I mean, damn.

And it's not just major characters, either. Check out Ian! And the Cs, Chelsie and Conrad (all of whom will have big roles in book 3)!

And let's not forget our star villainess, Estella!

(deep breaths)

I know, I know, I'm freaking out, but I can't help it! I mean, Gergana, of her own volition, chose and illustrated one of my absolute favorite scenes from One Good Dragon Deserves Another, when Estella confronts Julius in the hallway to draw out Bob.
She even got Bob's bathrobe!! (And Julius's look of unholy terror). Not joke, I legit had heart flutters of happiness when I saw this. All of it, really. It's more cartoony than the covers, but I feel the art really gets the feel of the story and the characters in it, and that makes me happier than words can say.

There are many, many reasons to want to be a writer--fame, money, making a living doing what you love, getting to tell stories all the time--but the best, the best, is stuff like this. When fans read your story and love it so much, they're make their own fanart or fanfic or whatever of your characters and your world, that's amazing. I know it sounds cliche, but my fans truly are the best part of my job, and when I see art or read a gushing review, or see someone I've never met on Twitter talking about my stories like they love them, like they know them inside and out, I feel a happiness no money could ever buy.

Getting to fan out with my fans over these stories that I loved so much, I spent years writing them is one of the true unsung treasures of being a storyteller. It is a joy that is absolutely worth all the work, and I am so so so grateful to all of you for making this possible.

So grateful, in fact, that we decided to something in return!

To thank you all for being so patient waiting for book 3 to come out (which should be this summer!), we commissioned Gergana to draw some custom, high res Julius and Marci art!!But not just any Julius and Marci. We wanted to show Julius as a dragon, something that hasn't been illustrated on the covers yet. Fantastically for us, Gergana was willing, so we worked with her to show the littlest Feathered Serpent in all his glory!

Click the pic to download the full size!

Taaa daaa!!! Isn't he ADORABLE? I loved the feathers and how happy he looks (Enjoy your happiness while it lasts, Julius... BWA HA HA HA ha ha ha AH HA HA HA #evilauthor). Ahem, anyway, this art is for you guys! We're going to be using it on our stuff, of course, but feel free to take it and use it however you want. Make icons! Make backgrounds! Print it out and put it on your wall! Do whatever you want, and then please show me what you did via Social Media (TwitterFacebookTumblrGoogle+) because, in case you haven't noticed, this stuff makes me really happy!!! XD! 

Again, huge thanks go to Gergana Hristova for making all this possible. If you like her stuff as much as I do, please check out her site, because there's tons of awesome there!

As for Heartstrikers book 3, now titled No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, there's a lot of big news coming! Seriously, you guys are going to LOVE THIS BOOK! I'll be posting stuff here and on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Google+ as it comes out, so make sure to follow me for all that.

I hope you all enjoyed this post with as much fangirl delight as I had making it!! As always, thank you so so SOOOOOO much for reading my posts and my books. I'll be back on Wednesday with a craft post as always, but until then, enjoy the pretty pictures! 

Yours always,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Writing Wednesday: How Much Does Your Name Matter?

Today's post was inspired by this awesome question I got in my contact box,
I'm a young, single woman planning to self-publish in the next year or so. I'm also a traditionalist and plan to take my husband's name, if I ever get married. But that's the thing: it's definitely an IF. It's not going to happen anytime soon-- and if it does it will be well after my publication plans. Obviously I am not putting my career off-track over a cosmetic change (last name), especially for only a vague possibility. (I hope it happens, but it may not!) I know you're known as Aaron and Bach (and I'm aware of the reasons re: Devi's story and genre-jumping). 
My question is this: did you initially publish with your maiden name out of necessity (i.e. not being married yet, it was socially/practically easier or kept business things simpler, etc.) or was it a personal choice? And can you expound on your experience a bit? (Do you have regrets? Does it not bother you at all? Do you know of other authors who have struggled with the same issue or am I the only one who cares?)
You are absolutely not the only one who cares! I actually get questions from questions worrying about their names all the time. With good reason, too, because an author's name is how the world knows us.

Writing Wednesday: How Much Does Your Name Matter?

With the exception of mega authors like Stephen King/J.K. Rowling/Neil Gaiman/etc., we're not known by our faces. Our fame, brand, and selling power is entirely tied to the name on the cover of our books, and that makes it well worth your time to carefully consider which name you want to use.

Which name? You mean I get to choose?

You absolutely get to choose! Aside from the obvious personal benefits like seeing your name on a cover and having everyone who knows you know you wrote a book, there is no reason at all--trad or self pubbed--you have to use your real name on your book. In fact, if you have a name that is very long or is difficult to spell or pronounce (and your ego can stand it), I would strongly suggest you come up with a pen name because, again, your name is your brand

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Reader Investment and the Ticking Time Bomb

I've talked about tension and hooking my reader a LOT on this blog over the years. (Seriously, a lot. Search my blog for tension and you get, like, 20 posts.)

Given all the pixels I've already spilled on the topic, you might think I've already covered every single aspect of writing tension that exists. Well, you'd be wrong! There's always more stuff to say about tension in stories! This is partially because the mechanics of good tension are deep, subtle, and worthy of exploration, but mostly, I talk about tension because tension is really freaking important. More important than characters or plot or any other critical element of writing.

Note that this isn't to say those other things don't matter. They matter a ton! Just try writing a book with cardboard characters and see how far that gets you. It's just that tension matters more, because while you could have the best characters/plot ever committed to paper, no one's ever going to read long enough to see them if your tension sucks. Maintaining good tension is how you keep a reader's attention over the course of your writing, and since 99% of being a successful author is writing shit people want to read, I'm sure you can see how keeping your tension on point is critical to story success.

This is both a great example of narrative tension and a really great book on the subject!

So if you're new to the blog and I've just made you paranoid about your own tension, click here to get caught up! (And if you have no idea what I'm talking about with all this tension stuff, click here for my very first post on the topic to see me work myself into a froth explaining what tension is and why you desperately need it in your life).

For the rest of you old hands (or who just don't want to read back posts), today's tension topic is all about tricks and mechanisms for maintaining tension and reader investment over the course of a scene, chapter, or even an entire book. (And yes, I did just use the word "mechanisms.")

Gird your loins, peeps! It's about to get technical in here!

Writing Wednesday: Reader Investment and the Ticking Time Bomb

So I've already talked about how you can use hooks to grab a reader's attention and yank them into your story like an angler landing a sweet, highly literate fish. (And if you're not sure what a hook is, go read this post.) For maximum effect, most authors use hooks at the very beginning of the story to draw a reader in and then again and again throughout the rest off the text to keep them there. This post is about what happens after the hook has done its job.

Congratulations! Your reader now reading your book! Now: how do you keep them there?