Writing

The Struggle with Sequels Standing on Their Own

How many of you have written a full-length novel? If so, congrats! What about a series? Extra congrats times a million! Now can your sequels stand on their own?

I don’t know about others, but for me, getting a sequel to stand on its own was the biggest challenge for me. It ended up connecting to my first book too much. Maybe because of how I ended my first book (don’t worry, I won’t say how)?

To get a sequel to stand on its own, you need just enough backstories to get the reader caught up with what happened in the first or previous installment. It’s going to be a bit hard, depending on your story.

It took me nearly three years to complete my sequel (which is temporarily off the market, but will return as a second edition soon). And the biggest reason is probably because I had trouble making it stand in its own.

Depending on your storyline, you will need to include backstory that is relevant but also makes the sequel stand on its own. My problem was that I hadn’t included enough. But with the help of editors, it worked. And many readers said that the sequel was able to easily stand on its own.

It may also be necessary to summarize your first book in one or two paragraphs in your sequel. Obviously, do it when relevant and don’t get too hooked on certain details.

The best way to test if your sequel can stand on its own is to have editors or beta readers look at it and give you honest feedback. You won’t be able to judge by yourself.

Anyway, thanks for reading. In the meantime, you can check out my novel, “From Frights to Flaws, 2nd Edition” right on Amazon.

Writing

Pick Your Publisher Wisely

Image from Pixabay

Have you written a book? If so, good. Can it please strangers? If yes, great. Will it sell? That depends on who you publish with.

Traditional publishing is difficult to get into. You can get rejected, even if your book is a master piece. If you do get accepted, you have to give up control and wait for your book to be published, which can take months or years.

Self-publishing is easier and quicker. You keep all control and can have a book within hours.

Then there is hybrid publishing. They accept and reject authors, may let them keep their book’s right, and do other things that combine traditional and self-publishing. It’s not exactly the most encouraging, though.

And lastly, there is vanity publishing, which is often called self-publishing by many. They let you keep all the control, but they charge you for publishing (between hundreds to even thousands of dollars) and other services, like press releases, revisions, and more. Despite that, books from those companies usually don’t sell too well, even if they’re well written. I did so much marketing and promotion with them when my books were first published. And even though the books pleased strangers, they only sold an average of 25 copies a year.

I believe it’s because people do not trust vanity publishers. I regret using them. One was fine and I got along with the company. Another, however, constantly forced me to buy services, even if I couldn’t afford them. They wouldn’t let me out of anything. I got mad at them at least a few times.

I’ve learned the (kind of) hard way to not use vanity presses. People apparently judge books by their publishers. Books that may be worthy of becoming bestsellers may hardly sell if published by a vanity press.

Traditionally-published books sell the best. Self-publishing is fine too. In fact, the author is responsible for marketing on their own with either route. Commercial publishers might only market for top authors these days.

If you self-publish, I’d recommend using companies like Amazon’s KDP program. It’s free to publish. People trust books from them more. And books from there tend to sell much better than vanity-published ones. How do you tell if a company is a vanity press? Look for things like publishing packages. So choose your route wisely. I would avoid vanity presses at all costs. It’s better to get traditionally published or self-publish through Amazon KDP or even Ingram Spark.

movie

Why I Often Like the Movies More than the Books

book vs movie pic final

“The books are always better than the movies,” say everyone, but me. Of course, if I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, I would not have a say. But at least with, “Harry Potter”, “Lord of the Flies”, “Aladdin”, and “The Little Mermaid”, I like the movies a lot more.

Now all these opinions are my own, so everyone can still prefer the books over the movies. A lot of people get disappointed when something they liked in a book was cut from the film adaptation or changed. I totally understand that. With me, though, there are sometimes moments in books that I didn’t like, and if removed or altered, I appreciated. The “Harry Potter” franchise is actually one of the biggest of these. You can read that on another post, though.

“Lord of the Flies” was a required book when I attended high school. I found it boring, but the movie engaging. “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid”, like many other Disney movies, were based off fairytales. And the original stories were pretty R-rated. I don’t know if they were all told to children, but, of course, Disney had to drastically clean them up to make them appropriate for all ages. There are several moments from Disney classics that would not be acceptable today (i.e. a damsel-in-distress or a guy kissing a strange unconscious girl to wake her up). There are also several moments that aren’t historically accurate, and if they were, the movies would not have been rated G or PG.

Films usually have a time-limit to their productions as well as budgets. So that is why many exciting content, unfortunately, has to be cut. I actually am trying to get myself to read more. I enjoyed reading fiction for fun until fourth grade. I would only read fiction if forced to. Then right before eighth grade, I read the “Harry Potter” books. I would only read for fun if it was a “Harry Potter” novel.

Anyway, I tend to view book-to-film adaptations differently. There actually are rare occasions when I like something in the books more than the films. But, generally, the opposite is more like me.

Writing

Want to Publish a Book? Here’s What I Learned

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We all dream of being published authors with people enjoying our books and getting the same popularity and attention that big authors, such as J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, have received.

However, it is not easy to become just a decently well-known author, even for those like Alice Hoffman or Gail Carson Levine. What I wished I had done before publishing two books (which, unfortunately, are temporarily going off the market), was building a platform. No matter what route you take, whether it’s traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing, you need to establish a fan base before.

Even if you get accepted by a big publishing house (which is extremely difficult), they want to see how many people have heard of you and admire what you do. That excludes people you know personally. Think the publishing house will market your book for you? Think again. These days, regardless of what publishing route you select, you need to market your book on your own.

I self-published my novels without building a platform prior and knowing that children’s self-published books are among the hardest to sell. While I did a free promotion for five days, and got 1662 free downloads during that time, my sales were only around 25 a year, even after the free promotion ended.

I am working on a non-fiction book and am considering hybrid publishing it. Hybrid publishing is a mix of traditional and self-publishing. They accept and reject books, but let you keep some control. They are not all alike though. Some lean toward the commercial method, where if they do accept your story, they have all the control for its production, cover design, title, and even content, and some lean toward self-publishing, where they let the author keep the control, but might not care much about the content, title, or design.

If the non-fiction book is successful after release, then I will re-publish my novels. But having a platform (Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc.) is absolutely important. I have done a ton of promotion and marketing techniques for my novels. I could go on and on with a list, but everything I have done has gotten me little to nowhere. People don’t usually like to buy books from unknown authors, because they worry about wasting their money. That is why every aspiring writer or any kind of creator needs a platform.

**Update** I have self-published my non-fiction novel through Amazon KDP instead.

Writing

Describing Characters in Books: My Unique Views on That

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(Narrative image from Pixabay)

I am not like many readers when it comes to reading physical descriptions of characters in books. A lot of readers dislike the author telling them what the characters look like. They want to picture the characters their ways. In fact, some readers rebel against what the authors say in describing the characters.

However, my views are different. Recently, I’ve been acknowledging that the characters in books are, indeed, somebody else’s creations. So I think it’s silly for me to get upset if a character doesn’t look the way I want. I support character descriptions greatly. I like to describe my book’s characters and encourage other writers to do so. In fact, I cannot really picture a character or keep a consistent image of him or her in my head unless they’re described with at least one trait. Otherwise, they don’t feel real enough to me.

I also wondered why people are accepting of character appearances on movies, TV shows, comics, and more, but not novels. That is because novels are not visual, so the idea is to use your mind to visualize the images. But I see it as the same. Visual works and non-visual are someone else’s creations for my entertainment. Just because novels don’t have pictures in them (with the exception of chapter books or graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the characters become mine to own. If I were to declare their physical appearance and promote that, I could get sued. But that’s a whole different topic.

Because the author created the characters, I believe they have every right to tell me, as the reader, what the characters look like with whatever descriptive traits they want—as long as it’s not too many (because that’s too much to remember and bogs down the narrative-up to a few are good enough) or offensive (you can figure that out).

But other than that, I accept descriptions of any trait. What I usually describe is a character’s hair and one or two other key features (i.e. glasses or beards). I never do eye color, because there are just too few choices, in my opinion. I also don’t do nose shapes or face shapes.

You can continue to approach character descriptions your way. This is just how I view them.