Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--SAVE THE CAT

As I'm in the midst of two YA's that I'm sure I'll be recommending to you, I thought I'd post a recent read on craft that I loved. SAVE THE CAT, written by screenwriter Blake Snyder, is about screenwriting but can easily be applied to books. As a former pantster, it even inspired me (along with Scrivener) to do some outlining before starting my new manuscript. He has tips on everything from loglines to scene breakdowns. It's an incredible book and I highly recommend it to all writers out there.

One of Hollywood's most successful spec screenwriters tells all in this fast, funny, and candid look inside the movie business. "Save the Cat" is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying - and saleable. This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.

Anyone else read this? What did you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Today's awesome book rec is DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth:

From Goodreads:
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

Kristi's take: This is one of those "unputdownable" books. I loved Tris' vulnerability and strength, and her relationship with Four was complex and fascinating. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, so much so that I easily read this in one sitting. Elements of this book reminded me of Ender's Game, Uglies, and even Harry Potter, but they were combined in a unique and totally fresh way. I'll definitely be reading the next one in this series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One author's self-publishing journey featuring Rick Daley

I pride myself on being somewhat knowledgeable about many aspects of the publishing world, but confess to knowing almost zilch about self-publishing. I've noticed recently that several writers I know through blogs/etc. have chosen the self-publishing route and I was curious about their decision. I thought I'd pick the brain of one such person so they could share their thoughts about self-publishing.

I first "met" Rick Daley through Nathan Bransford's blog, and those of you who know him already know how funny he is. When Rick contacted me to let me know about his book The Man in the Cinder Clouds, I was very excited for him and wanted to know more about his journey. His blog (link below) details his journey more comprehensively, so be sure to check that out and follow him after you read this. You can get Rick's book through Amazon here. This is the book:

this is Rick:

...and here is the interview:
1) Hi Rick. Thanks so much for talking to us today. Tell us what your book is about and the target audience/etc.

The Man in the Cinder Clouds is a must-read for anyone who has ever believed in Santa Claus.  Boys and girls ages 9-12 will relate to the characters especially well.  At 35,000 words—the story is just over 160 pages in print—it’s a quick read for an adult…something you can easily polish off in a night or two during the busy holiday season.  It’s also a great book to read with your kids. Here’s a short summary:

The freezing temperature is the only thing cool about Jason’s trip to the North Pole, but things heat up when his father discovers a book buried deep in the ice.  This is no ordinary book, mind you. For starters, it was written by an Elf. And if that’s not enough, the book proves the existence of Kris Kringle—you know, Santa Claus.  It’s a story you have to read to believe, and once you do Christmas will never be the same. 

Young Kris Kringle, orphaned as an infant, sets out on a quest to find his real family by bringing gifts to the children of Oldenton on Christmas.  There he finds two orphans who are about to lose everything they have to a greedy uncle.  With only days before Christmas, Kris must try to help the kids, deliver his presents, find his family, and prove that human virtue does exist…even in the most unexpected of human hearts.

2) What made you decide to self-publish your book?

Many things.  This was not a decision to take lightly.  Here were the key factors:

-         Speed to Market.  A traditional publisher would not be able to get my book on a shelf this year…in e-book or print.  I’d be very lucky if was available next year if I had gone the traditional route…more likely it would be 2013 before people could read it.  Now I have it in both formats, ready for Christmas 2011.
The Market Environment.  The traditional publishing industry is in a transitional period, and no one knows how long it will last or what will come next.  I don’t think it is dying, but it’s at a crossroads between old ways of doing things and new markets, and it’s deciding which way to go. While the traditional publishing industry considers its options, writers also have their own choices to evaluate.  Writers used to be at the mercy of the publisher, but self-publishing gives full control to the writer.  Not to mention higher revenue per book sold.  Now the trick is selling a lot of copies, something publishers have excelled at due to their large, coordinated sales forces.   But the times, they are a-changin…A few self-published authors (e.g. John Locke, Amanda Hocking) have generated envious sales volumes without the corporate sales and marketing machine.  With the rise of social networking, word-of-mouth is showing its true power in marketing. 

While the self-publishing market does still carry a general stigma of low-quality vanity projects, many readers are starting to realize that a good story can come from anywhere.  Self-publishing is better respected than it was two years ago, and will continue to evolve into a competitive vehicle for writers to consider for publishing.
-          My book.  I believe it’s a great book, and the story is very special to me.  I’ve been through extensive edits, critiques, and revisions and I think the story is as high a caliber as one you would find traditionally published.  It’s getting great reviews from adults and kids, and I am glad that people have the opportunity to enjoy the story this year for Christmas.

3) For those readers who have no idea about the process of self-publishing (like, ahem, me), what resources did you find most helpful for "learning the ropes."

I learned most by watching my peers who self-published before me.  I followed their blogs and read posts about the different stages in the process.  I bought copies of their books in print and Kindle to see the quality of the writing and the formatting / design of the finished book. 

I chose CreateSpace on a friend’s recommendation and I’m happy with their quality and service so far.  I’d love to test their high-load capacity ;-)

Consider your goals.  If you hope to sell a ton of books and you want to self-publish, it’s possible, but you must be prepared to take on the role of publisher and promoter, not just writer.  You are the sales and marketing department, the administration and finance department…basically the CEO of a start-up company.  You will need to set aside a budget for cover art, promotional copies, and marketing.  It will take time and money.  If you try to self-publish just because it’s fast and cheap the end result will reflect that. 

If you just want to see your book in print and make it available for your family and friends, please take the time to make it a quality product.  The worst book I’ve ever read was a self-published eBook (I read it several months back.  I won’t reveal the title, but it was an adult murder-mystery that was so bad it was almost, but not really, funny).  There is a stigma about self-published books being slushpile vanity projects, but the tides are turning, and there is opportunity for those who are willing to take it seriously and put the time and money into it.

4) What was the trickiest/most difficult part of the process for you, and how long did it take you to have a complete book?

I guess completing the book is the trickiest part.  Knowing when it’s done, and when changes aren’t making things better…just different.  The book took years to write, and you can read more about the story-behind-the-story here: http://mydaleyrant.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-path-to-publication-part-one.html

5) Is there anything you learned along the way that you'll do differently next time?

I am impatient.  I will always struggle to learn to take my time and not rush things.

6) What are you working on next, and do you plan to self-publish again?

I am currently outlining a sequel to The Man in the Cinder Clouds, and preparing to have illustrations made for my book Rudy Toot-Toot, a story about a little boy who was born on a bean farm and has a special power, almost like a super-hero: he can fart.  But after a monstrous emission scares all the customers away from the family bean market, Rudy must learn to use his…talent…in a special way to lure the customers back, otherwise the bank will take  away his home.

I plan to self-publish Rudy Toot-Toot, and the sequel to The Man in the Cinder Clouds, but after that, who knows?  I’m not opposed to traditional publishing.  I just think self-publishing is right for me and for these specific books.  Future books may have a different fate.

7) Do you think the trend towards electronic publishing helps those who want to self-publish?
Absolutely.  There are fewer headaches in e-books, particularly in delivery.  Create the file once, then people can download it instantly and begin reading.  It makes an author’s works more accessible, not to mention lower priced (without sacrificing any $$ in royalties).

The biggest thing writers need to be aware of is the quality of their final product.  If we are going to truly pass the hump of dis-approval for all books self-published, we the publishers need to police ourselves and ensure our work is competitive to the other books available on the market.

8) Random fun question: What's something about you that not many people know?

I kick butt at Sudoku.  It’s due to the way I make notes in the cells, it allows me to see patterns and set up a bunch of answers that fill in like dominoes once one number is found.  Maybe I should write a book about it!

Thanks, Rick!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Contest by Kody Keplinger

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend. We just got back from the mountains and I have a truckload of laundry and work to do, but I found a great contest that I had to pass along. Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF (fabulous book if you haven't read it), has a new book and a new contest. Her new book is SHUT OUT and you can check out the trailer here. To enter, just leave a comment on her post--that's it. One winner will have a character named after them in her fourth book. How cool is that? I'm just wondering how she'll pull it off if the winner's name is Humperdink or something equally bizarre (no offense intended if your name is Humperdink--I'm sure your parents didn't mean it). Deadline: Fri. Sept. 9th. Good luck!

Oh, and I'll have another fabulous book recommendation for you on Friday! Happy Tuesday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This week concludes the summer edition of Friday Book Recommendations--school is back in full swing here and my time for pleasure reading has already decreased. *sighs*  However, I'm ending with a book that I loved, loved, and then loved some more. Yes, it's creepy and yes, the cover is made of awesome. Check it out:

Summary from Goodreads:

A mysterious island.An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Kristi's take: Though it's hard to top the levitating girl on the cover, the vintage photographs woven throughout the book are eerie, strange, and haunting. I loved how the photos tied in with the story, and the setting in rain-soaked Wales was perfect. I couldn't even begin to explain the world-building, with its time loops and shape shifting, but luckily, the author does a great job of it--and makes it seem believable. My only quibble is with the psychiatrist character. NOTE: This isn't a spoiler because it's rare to find a psychologist or psychiatrist in ANY book or movie that isn't a) incompetent b) nuts c) a psychopath/murderer d) sleeping with their clients or e) some combination of the former. Most of us are actually ethical, competent, and hard-working. *steps off soapbox* Aside from that, I couldn't put this book down and will definitely be reading the sequel. FINAL NOTE: If you dislike clowns as much as I do, one picture in the book is downright freaky.