In an Era of Social Media, Do I Still Need a Website? By Karen McCullough

Karen_McCullough_2015_200Increasingly over the last year, I’ve seen authors and businesses abandoning their websites and using Facebook or Tumblr or other similar social media sites exclusively instead.

 

I get the reasons – it’s cheap and easy and provides a good way to keep in touch with your core market to keep them up to date with what’s going on in your piece of the world.
But I think it’s a bad idea for anyone who’s trying to sell a product – like books, for instance. I could be accused of self-interest here, since I run a website business, but in fact, I’m at retirement age and I’m phasing out of that business, so I no longer have a horse in the race.  I have other reasons for thinking it’s a bad idea, particularly for authors.

 

Boiled down, a website is an advertisement for an author – an extensive and, if done well, an appealing one. An effective website reflects the author’s brand in every bit of it – color scheme, information breakdown, graphics, and content. Plus it provides information tailored to the needs and interests of visitors wanting to know about you and your books.

 

Facebook and other social media sites have built-in limitations that make them less effective in that role. You can add a nice graphic header to a Facebook page, with a little work, but let’s face it – the biggest percentage of the branding is pure Facebook. And the content most visible is the most recent few posts and comments. Everything else is difficult to find.

 

A well-done website is a hub for all of the author’s marketing efforts, brought together in a way that gives visitors a full picture of the author and what he or she writes and has available to the public. It sells you and your books. Visitors can (or should be able to) find a list of all your books in order, related material to the books, a bio of the author, a listing of your appearances or events, and how to contact you.

 

There are ways to display lists of your books in series order on Facebook, but they’re awkward and viewers won’t always realize what they are. You can include buy links in your posts – sort of.  Easy enough if it’s on Amazon only, but including a set of links to other publishers/sites is awkward at best. And including a link with your post, any link, almost guarantees it’s less likely to be seen by a large number of people. In fact, Facebook has gotten much pickier about who gets to see your posts, period.

 

Part of the appeal of Facebook and similar sites is that it’s so easy to keep the content dynamic and fresh and to interact with visitors and friends easily. It helps keep people coming back. That’s a major virtue and it’s a bit part of the appeal, which is why Facebook is part of so many authors’ marketing strategy.

 

But it shouldn’t be your entire marketing strategy. A website that can display all your books at the click of an easily identifiable button is an essential for authors who want to improve sales. A site that makes it easy for visitors to find out what books are coming out in the future and when the next book in that series they love will be available can’t help but increase your exposure (and pre-orders!).

 

Your website should be a hub for all you marketing efforts. An integrated blog can provide dynamically updated content and a way to discuss things. A Twitter widget can display your latest posts. Links to everywhere you have a presence can keep visitors moving through all the places you hang out. But you can maintain more relationship by using your website as a central switching station for all your activity as well as a repository for the essential information you want people to know about you.

 

 

Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a AGFM_200finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, four grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

 

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough

 

Blurb for A Gift for Murder: The Gifts and Home Decoration trade show provides Heather McNeill with the longest week of her hectic life. As assistant to the director of Washington, D.C.’s, Market and Commerce center, she’s point person for complaining exhibitors, missing shipments and miscellaneous disasters. It’s a job she takes in stride—until murder crashes the event.

 

Buy Links:

 

 

 

The Evolution of the dictionary By J. H. Bográn

According to Wikipedia, a dictionary is a collection of words in one of more languages, often alphabetized. But of course you knew that. In the age before computers and internet, people had to resource to a book to learn the meaning of a new word, or how to spell it correctly. That book, of course, is known as a dictionary.

 

I always thought dictionaries were relatively new, but to my surprise they date back to over 2300 years before Christ! They are common on almost every language. So basically, if there is a language then there is a list of its words somewhere.

 

With the advent of computers, and word processing software that incorporated dictionaries, the use of those sacred old books became less frequent. By the time the 21st Century arrived, people were used to just “google” for a word.

 

I teach English as a foreign language in a local college, and as such, I’m always in the look for new ways to help my students. Of course they hate me at the beginning of the course because I insist they put some money to invest in a proper dictionary, an English one and not the English-Spanish type that helps at the beginning but does more damage than good in the long run. In the process of learning the new language they must begin to think in that language, thus the handicap of the translation dictionary in advanced courses.

 

Last period I discovered something amazing: a Merriam-Webster app that you can download on your phone or tablet. We’ve all heard the phrase: “There’s an app for that,” but I was surprised to find an app for a dictionary! I don’t know how long the thing has been up, but my students love it.

 

Have you seen the meme of the bookworm problem about not knowing how to pronounce a word because you’ve only seen it written? That has happened to me very often. It turns out the app does not only give the definitions but it also helps with the pronunciation. It’s a marvelous app, and one it is now part of my required tools for the class. By the way, now is a good time to say the app is free and that I’m not getting a commission if you get it. : – )

 

Encyclopedias suffered a similar fate. Long gone are the days where traveling salesmen would offer Britannica or other popular encyclopedia door to door. The new generation never had the pleasure of having to browse the topics in alphabetical order. Then again, encyclopedias were some of the first to embrace new technology. Some may remember the Microsoft Encarta, but even that is now discontinued.

 

In fact, I think is something close to a miracle that we could still find bibles in hotel rooms, but I gather we should thank the Gideons for that treat.

 

In the end, the language and out method we consume news has changed. We have information literally at the touch of our finger. If you’re reading a book on your electronic device, all you have to do is touch the unfamiliar word and a definition will show up. That means you don’t have to put the book down and go look for a printed dictionary. In other words, the evolution of the dictionary has enabled us to read faster.

 

 

 

jh_4bywAbout the author:

  1. H. Bográn was born and raised in Honduras. Although he’s the son of a journalist, he ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. He majored in Business Administration and has worked in the textile industry for past twenty years. José’s genre of choice is Suspense, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix.

TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll.FIREFALLCOVER

FIREFALL, his second novel, was released in 2013 by Rebel ePublishers. Coffee Time Romance calls it “a taut, compelling mystery with a complex, well-drawn main character.”

He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

He lives in Honduras with his wife and three sons, and a Lucky dog.

From Social Networking to Varied Approaches by Elaine L. Orr

Orr,ElaineheadsmallIn my fifties, I decided to make novel writing my full-time profession. The timing was perfect. Kindle debuted in 2007 and the first version beyond beta testing was offered (for $399!) in 2009.

 

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) had launched in 2007, though the Kindle cost meant the device couldn’t make it to every household or briefcase. Just a few years later, my husband paid $149 for my first one, a gift. In late 2015, I paid $35 to give him one for Christmas.

 

Inexpensive ereaders meant lots of potential readers when I published my first three books for Kindle (and Nook) in 2010 and early 2011. Today I have fifteen books, mostly fiction. I don’t know the number of KDP authors when I started, but there are a lot more today. More authors equal more competition for a relatively fixed number of readers.

 

Sales are more sluggish than two years ago. My books don’t seem to be out of vogue. I still sell a few hundred each month (more if I have a new book), reviews are good, and I get fairly regular notes from fans asking when they can buy the next book in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series.

 

Kindle Unlimited, which lets readers borrow an unrestricted number of books for $9.99 per months, may compress sales. Why buy when you can rent for less? Not that I’m knocking Amazon. KDP is an exceptional business model for Amazon and authors.

 

Readers have become desensitized to social media marketing messages. Twitter bombards us with offers of free and 99 cent books. Facebook groups do the same, and blog tours never led to sales bumps.

 

I would certainly not stop online promotion, including a few ads at sites that champion books. Unlike some, I’ve always gotten out of my chair to market. I give talks at libraries, visit gift shops and hospitals (since there isn’t an independent bookstore in my town), and donate paperbacks to anyOrr,BNDec2015,Indysmaller charity doing an auction or raffle.

 

I do press releases and pester media in other ways, but I think it’s the face-to-face contacts that garner local readers. Most writers will say their strongest advocates are family, friends, and readers they come to know personally through the years (whether in person or online).

 

To go beyond cozy mystery readers, I started reaching to what I think of as tangential audiences. Jolie is a real estate appraiser, so I changed one of my book categories to real estate.

 

Lo and behold, as I wrote this, one of my boxed sets was number one in the Amazon category for home sales. I don’t know if this will lead to more sales, but my books will be seen by people who aren’t actively looking for fiction.

 

At a Sisters in Crime group book signing in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, another author asked how I had written so many books in five years. I explained that writing is a job for me, so I work almost every day.

 

A light bulb went off. Why not put pen to paper about how I used semi-retirement to write? After all, I think of my work as creating a writing annuity.

 

The idea became Writing in Retirement: Putting New Year’s Resolutions to Work. It will help people go from thinking about writing to doing it and selling the products. I used some of my work as examples and asked a few other late (writing) bloomers for perspectives on their experiences.

 

coverofwritinginretirementamazonFrom a marketing standpoint, writing something completely different can lead to new readers. With fiction, I don’t like to write what I know. It’s less fun. But putting what I already knew into a nonfiction piece meant generating a product fairly quickly.

 

More books equal more sales. In fact, any adult could like Writing in Retirement. I’m counting on it.

 

 

Elaine L. Orr writes fiction and nonfiction, including the Jolie Gentil and River’s Edge cozy mystery series. She also gives talks on self-publishing and other writing-related topics, and writes the occasional play.

 

www.elaineorr.com

www.elaineorr.blogspot.com

@elaineorr55

https://www.facebook.com/ElaineOrrFictionPage/

 

How Do I Write Thee…Let Me Count the Ways By M. E. May

ME May (2)Michele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.

In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at www.memay-mysteries.com.

Facebook URL:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/M-E-May/522693281079718?ref=hl

Twitter:  @memayauthor

 

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It’s hard to believe I finally settled down a mere seven years ago to begin my writing career. Always the late bloomer, I found myself at age fifty-five with a fabulous, supportive husband and a support system of authors in the Chicagoland area who helped me believe in myself. It’s one thing to love to write, it’s another to realize you’re good at it.

 

I spoke with a group of retired teachers recently, many of whom are thinking of becoming authors. One of the things we talked about was my process for getting started. Once my husband and I agreed that I would quit my full time job and begin writing, I realized I wasn’t sure what to write. With which genre was my imagination in tune? What skills did I have in order to produce a full-length novel?

 

After much painstaking thought, I realized mystery was my forte. I’m a puzzle solver, so how much fun would it be to have the chance to create the puzzle. Now I had to decide what type of mystery. Cozy mysteries weren’t something I felt comfortable writing. Spy thrillers didn’t appeal to me. So what about a series that not only featured police officers and detectives, but why not use the whole force?

 

That is how the Circle City Mystery Series was born. I wanted it to be different, so instead of choosing the typical city setting such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, I chose to use my home town of Indianapolis. This was a setting rarely used, so it gave me the opportunity to help readers discover it through my eyes. Indianapolis is no longer a town or small city, but a thriving metropolis.

 

The second thing that makes this series different from others is the use of a different protagonist in each novel. For instance, in the first novel, Perfidy, our protagonist is Mandy Stevenson, the daughter of the Captain of Homicide whose mother has gone missing. In this novel, we meet detectives in the Missing Persons and Homicide Departments who will each be featured in upcoming books. What makes this a series is the fact that we continue to see the detectives and patrol officers from book to book and we get to know them personally. Even though each novel can stand-alone as the featured case is solved, we see that thread of personal relationships which keep the reader intrigued.

 

In the second novel, Inconspicuous, a homicide detective you met in Perfidy takes the lead as a serial killer strikes the city. Detective Erica Barnes will introduce you to her family and her secret love all while trying to track down a psychotic killer. Then book three, Ensconced, brings Missing Persons Detective Tyrone Mayhew to the forefront as new evidence in a ten-year-old unsolved case comes to light. Ironically, this was Tyrone’s first case as a Missing Persons Detective, but he now has a new partner to bring a new perspective to the investigation.

 

Moving on to the fourth book in the series, Purged, we move over to the dark side. This one features Homicide Detective Chennelle Kendall as the lead detective trying to stop an avenging angel from torturing and murdering members of a Wicca group. This man has decided he’s been called to purge the world of sin and must get them to confess by whatever means necessary.

 

Released November 15th, Unscrupulous has Sergeant Brent Freeman not only investigating the case of a dead woman and her missing five-year-old daughter, but also in charge of training a new female detective. When a couple of beautiful female FBI agents are added to the mix, Brent finds himself faced with a very jealous girlfriend. Between the stress at home and the discovery that this five-year-old has been kidnapped by a human trafficking organization, Brent is pushed to the brink of insanity.

Unscrupulous_Cover_for_Kindle

Being able to take these characters and move them in and out of the lead has helped me to keep my characters fresh and exciting. This not only makes it interesting for the reader, but keeps me from getting bored as a writer. I feel that is very important, because if I’m bored then I’m not producing a quality piece of art. This also keeps the possibilities open to continue this series for many years to come.

 

Of course, I am looking at writing other novels in the future. I’d like to do a couple of standalone mysteries as well as a private investigator series and a YA story. I see many possibilities ahead, and I hope you all will take the journey with me.

 

Dive Right In – The Rules are Different by Kait Carson

No RegulatorWrite what you know. Great advice from a great writer. One small correction, in the interest of veracity, what he really said was that he was going to “write one story about each thing that he knew about.” Slightly different, but still quintessential Hemingway. Given his life experiences, the man was never going to run out of material. As for me. What I know about is Florida, SCUBA diving, and the legal world. Put them all together, you have the Hayden Kent series.

 

The rules in Florida have always been different. That’s a given. Where else did people wear white after Labor Day in the 1950s? Where else could holiday decorations include a mechanical Santa Claus blasting off from the top of a palm tree in a multi-colored Mercury space capsule? Yep, Florida. And oh yes where else did the local ice company annually create a white Christmas for kids? We didn’t see snow in Miami until 1977. It must not have liked us. It never came back.

 

The Miami that I knew was a sleepy little southern town. A great place to run barefoot and grow up. I wanted my heroine, Hayden Kent, to have the THUNDR-diverdude-20050516-201711 (1)same kind of idyllic memories, and I wanted to write what I knew about. Hayden lived in my mind for a few years before I found a place to set her. It wasn’t until a deep dive on the wreck of the Thunderbolt when a plastic bag floated past my face from the wheelhouse that I found my story. When the bag first peeked over the windowsill, it looked like a hand. I snatched it as it floated past to keep it from being a turtle snack. That’s when I knew I was writing a book about a body on the Thunderbolt. A body Hayden discovers when a dead hand beckons her to find the rest of the body.

 

Between the time I spotted the bag and the time I surfaced from my dive, I had my story. And my location for Hayden. She was a conch, from six generations of conchs. Born and bred in the Florida Keys. Even today, conchs are a closed society. Proud, hearty, and hardworking, a conch has a different set of standards to the newcomers to the Keys. Theirs is the way of the sea and sun. Hayden’s family originally sailed the seas. Her house, the one she lived in all her life and inherited from her parents, is a hurricane house its roof connected to normal_TBoltWH2the oolite base by a thick anchor chain, and it sports a widow’s walk.

 

I knew I was the only one who could tell Hayden’s stories. I am experienced as a diver. I love the water around Marathon where she lives. My legal background complements hers and both of us share an insatiable curiosity and excellent research skills. Death by Blue Water was a book that wrote itself. My imagination had fleshed out the tale by the time the dive boat reached port. All that remained was to get my fingers on the keyboard…and three rewrites…and oh, sorry, that’s another story.

 

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Not so Death by Sunken Treasure. Treasure’s tale sprang from years of practice as a probate paralegal. The story starts in Hayden’s office, and travels a labyrinth route through the discovery of two wills, both signed by Mike Terry on the same day. The day he dies in a diving accident. It’s Hayden’s investigation to determine which will is the true last will. Tracking the evidence and unraveling the sordid and painful events of Mike’s last few weeks leave her convinced the accident was a murder and the proof is in the wills. Hayden and I worked side by side following the leads and DEATH-BY-SUNKEN-TREASURE-frontdiscounting the red herrings. Writing it was like a real time investigation. Fast paced and filled with intrigue. Her dearest friendship is at stake in Treasure, one false move and she stands to lose everything that matters most to her. This is very much Hayden’s story. I’m proud that she let me tell it.

 

The rules are different in the Keys. For tourists, for locals, for outsiders, and most of all, for the conchs.

 

Next time, we’ll talk about Catherine Swope. She’s an ex-cop and a realtor. I’m neither, but we both run.

Words at the speed of light by Lala Corriere

Lala Press PhotoSince early childhood, Lala has been passionate about all the arts. She is a painter and a former stage performer. Early work careers blended high-end real estate sales while becoming president of an interior design firm.

Her fifth grade teacher, Miss Macy, was the first mentor to suggest she consider a career in writing. That extension of the arts, the written word, turned into a full time passion in 2001.

Career Highlights:

  • Endorsement and long-term mentoring from the late Sidney Sheldon
  • Published in regional magazines, newspapers, writer’s guides and journals.
  • Award winning poetry.
  • Endorsements from USA Today, The Arizona Daily Star, Andrew Neiderman [author of the Devil’s Advocate], J Carson Black, CJ West, The Virtual Scribe, Paris Afton Bonds, and many other remarkable authors.

Books:

  • Widow’s Row
  • CoverBoys & Curses
  • Evil Cries
  • Kiss and Kill. Endorsed by USA Today as MUST READ SUSPENSE
  • Bye Bye Bones, endorsed by Betty Webb and JCarson Black.

Readers and reviewers applaud her hallmark original plots, her in-depth character portrayals, rich scene settings, and authentic dialogue, all delivered with a fresh new voice. Oh, and her TWISTS!

Lala is a desert rat. She nestles there with her husband of over 26 years along with Finnegan & Phoebe— Teacup Yorkies weighing in at nine pounds….. total.

 

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Borrowing from the title of Bill Gates’ brilliant book, Business @ the Speed of Light, it is all about that speed.

Have you noticed the faster patterns of speech? All of these electronics and gadgets, I idealistically thought, were to give us more time. Instead, we seem to be cramming more into each day and each conversation.

I live in the desert and I’m trying to learn Spanish. When I drop across the border I constantly have to say, “Mas lentamente, por favor.” More slowly, please. I want to say this to so many English speaking people in my own backyard. Slow down.

Many persons today have lost the art of conversation. They have no concept of a pregnant pause, inflections, or emphasis. Their words come out in a stream of consciousness.

What the heck does this have to do with writing?

PLENTY!

If setting a story in today’s time, we must emulate our world’s trends in dialogue. Today people say, “You’ve got…”  “You’ve got to get a hold of yourself.” “You’ve got to kill him.” “You’ve got mail.” This is not proper English but this is how we talk.

And beyond dialogue it gets even crazier.

Do you remember in the eighties when we might pick up a book by a favorite author but often we had to read a good chunk of it before we knew the essence of the story?

When I first started writing full time I was advised by my agent and editor to get that hook out there in the first three chapters. Then it became a hook at the end of the first chapter.

Advancing to 2005, Noah Lukeman came out with the new bible for writers, The First Five Pages.  I still have my copy. I do refer back to it and I continue to recommend it.

At the speed of our new means of communication, the tides have turned again, in rapid succession. Writers were told to grab their readers in the first chapter. Then, the first page. The first paragraph. Yikes!

With five books published, I think I have one killer opening sentence.  “She smelled like hell’s testicles.” Now, I’ve never smelled hell’s testicles, and I think it’s a sure bet that my readers haven’t had this experience. It does draw them in. They are there at the scene. An imaginary world where they immediately inhale a beyond-this-world stench.

Hemmingway’s longest sentence was in his book, Green Hills of Africa. An amazing 424 well-crafted words. This is quite the dichotomy as you read all of my fragmented sentences.  Fiction writers of today are charged with writing tight prose, but we have to bring our readers into our make-believe world. We do this with well-chosen descriptions, using all of our five, and sometimes six, senses. We use clipping dialogue for those characters we create that talk fast. At least on the written page we know what they are saying.

It’s a challenge. One we’re all up for @ the speed of words.

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Bye Bye Bones Back Cover BlurbBye Bye Bones Cover

Jaxon Giles’ beloved dog is dead. He can’t prove it, but he knows who killed Gecko. His stalking ex-wife wants to take away anything and anyone he loves.

Private investigator Cassidy Clark agrees to run surveillance, while in the midst of helping the city of Tucson.

Women are disappearing. Gone. Were they murdered? Kidnapped and being held captive? A cult that enticed them to leave all belongings behind?

Without bodies and any crime scenes, there is no DNA. No evidence. No trace.

Is The First Page All That Important When Deciding Which Book To Buy? by J.J. White

jj white 1J. White is an award winning novelist and short story writer who has been published in several anthologies and magazines including, Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review, Bacopa Review, and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Adventures of the Nine Hole League, was recently published in The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, #13. He has won awards and honors from the Alabama Writers Conclave, Writers-Editors International, Maryland Writers Association, The Royal Palm Literary Awards, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Writer’s Digest.

His crime fiction book, Deviant Acts, was released by Black Opal books in November, and will be followed by his Historical Fiction book, Nisei, in 2016. He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece, Tour Bus. He lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife and editor, Pamela.

 

Links:                  www.jjwhitebooks.com

Facebook Author Page

Deviant Acts on Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Deviant-Acts-J-J-White/dp/1626942854/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1447440390&sr=1-1

 

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I was informed that most who read this blog are either writers or prodigious readers or both, so we should all be familiar with that ubiquitous mantra heard at writers’ conferences on the importance of that first page, that first paragraph, that first sentence in your novel. How important are those first words in choosing a book? Before I try to answer that dramatic question let’s find out who buys the books in the first place.

A few facts:

  • Women purchase 64% of all books. Not just novels. All books.
  • Women are more likely to read fiction than men.
  • The average age of women who buy books is 42.
  • Most women read fiction written by women.

That said, I’m screwed. The demographics for my books using those stats would entail about thirty or so old men in Mississippi working on their GED’s. Not a rosy picture for my book sales. I even used J.J. White for my pseudonym instead of John to try to trick those novel-buying women into thinking I’m a girl. It hasn’t helped. Still, I work hard on that first page to lure and entice the reader, and then, as they continue to peruse, yank up on the hook and reel them in.

Here are a few classic lines that enticed a book buyer to keep reading:

  • “Call me Ishmael.” — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877)

Much of your book rests on the foundation of those first sentences and first pages. Dennis LeHane once said at a writers’ conference: “Something has to happen on those first few pages or I’m out of there. Somebody better die, or get pregnant or something needs to blow up in order to keep me reading.” What he meant was your protagonist has to have some event happen to him or her in those first few pages which will affect them for the rest of their life. I attempted to follow the philosophy of strong first lines and paragraphs to try to keep the attention of the reader long enough for them to get interested in the character.

Here is the first paragraph from my new novel, Deviant Acts:DeviantActs cover

“Jane Fonda shot ten feet up the screen and then ten feet down. It pissed him off that she was selling out to the Man after risking her career sitting on an NVA antiaircraft gun. When the photo had come out, it was a big middle finger to the establishment, but now she was back making shitty movies for money, ignoring the cause.”

That’s a somewhat enigmatic first paragraph meant to establish a characteristic in the protagonist, whose point of view we’ve immediately entered.

Here’s another example from a manuscript I recently finished. In this one, I used setting to grab the readers’ interest:

“The room glowed green in rhythm with the flashing neon of Gerry’s Irish bar across the road and two stories down. Frank Daley, fully dressed and lying on his back on the cheap bed, put a period on the light show with the red tip of his Chesterfield.”

The truth is those first words are important but not, it seems, as important as one would think when buying a book. According to “Book in the Box,” the following criteria are used in their order of importance when buying a book at your local brick-and-mortar or on Amazon.

  1. The title.
  2. The cover.
  3. The author bio.
  4. The flap copy.
  5. The back cover.
  6. The first pages.
  7. The price.

Apparently, these book-buying women don’t even look at the first page until they’ve checked out the title, front cover, bio, flap, and back cover. I do the same thing, I just never realized it.

So fellow authors, you can’t rely on your perfect prose to lure readers. Get your act together. Don’t settle on the first title that comes to mind. Have your writers’ group suggest other ones. Anything is better than the one you came up with. And have a professional design your cover not “Frank the Photoshop Expert” at your workplace. Then write a truthful but interesting biography. Finally, take your time on the description of your book before printing it on the back cover. My wife says the description is foremost for her when deciding to purchase a book. She should know. She buys all the books in the family.

Does that ring true or do you look for different things when shopping for new reading material?