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eBook Formatting: Look Good, Sell More August 23, 2011

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write, Writing.
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1 comment so far

Want to sell more eBooks without giving your work away for free?  (I think every author does.)

What to sell your next eBook almost as soon as you sell your first eBook?  (I know I do.)

The key is creating a reader experience that is e-bump free on every eReader Device, app and software program out there.

Here’s three formatting tips that will put on your way.

Chapter Heading: Dropping a chapter heading in the middle of a page is a perfect way to toss your reader out of your story. Design your book to clear the eReader screen at the start of every chapter, using the process designated by your eBook conversion program. That way, each chapter will start on a “new page”. (Technically, eBooks don’t have pages, but that’s an article for another day) Lowering your chapter heading a few lines and adding a flourish or glyph will also make your reader’s experience feel more familiar – more like a paper experience – with all the comfort and portability of an eReader.

Scene Break: Avoid using a single blank line to indicate a scene break. Kindle for PC, and the Kindle app for iPhone and iPad ignore blank lines, making it visually impossible to tell where one scene ends and another begins; major e-bump. Here’s an easy fix. Place a centered #-sign or a series of asterisks between scenes. Not altogether traditional, but your reader will (subconsciously) thank you.

Ellipses: A series of three (or four) spaced ellipses (. . .) have been the way of traditional publishing since the early nineteenth century. But in the World of “e”, spaced ellipses are viewed as individual words and thus breakable. Encountering an orphaned period (or two or three) at the left margin is another great way to derail your reader’s experience.

The fix is simple. Keep your ellipses together (no spacing in-between) and connected to the left-hand word, only. Connecting your sans-spaced ellipses to both words will cause an eReader device to view the left-hand-word + the sans-spaced ellipses + the right-hand-word as one long single word. Depending on the font-size set by your reader on his/her eReader device, a jarring early-line-wrap could result.

Here’s another tip. Avoid HTML coded ellipses. Some eReader Devices (apps and eReader software) interpret HTML ellipses as a series of numbers, or simply ignore the HTML code (and thus the ellipses) altogether. Not good for the reader experience.

The self-publishing author’s ticket to looking good and selling more is packaging a good story inside a familiar and e-bump free reader experience. 

 Written by Nina Paules

 Nina Paules is the founder of eBook Prep, a full service eBook design firm that caters to the busy print-published author working on a budget. Headquartered in New Freedom, PA – the last stop to freedom on the Underground Railroad – eBook Prep connects e-reader savvy readers with their favorite authors’ backlists and authors with a bright new source of royalties. www.ebookprep.com  www.epublishingworks.com

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Confessions of a Contest Judge: Making Conflict (part 2) June 18, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.
1 comment so far

Monday, I threw the first punch on how to write throat-gripping conflict.  That post, Confessions of a Contest Judge: Conflict (part 1), garnered the second highest number of views since I started Raw & Dangerous, three short weeks ago.   

Conflict is obviously a hot topic for us writers.  And well it should be.

Conflict is your most lethal weapon.  Chapter one, page one, word one, stab me in the heart with your pen.  Pull no punches.  Never hold back.  Knock me to the ground, grab me by the throat, glare into his my eyes and tell me that the only way your pen is coming out is when I’ve turned the last page. 

Do that, and I’ll buy your book.  And, if the ending is as good as the beginning, I’ll recommend your book to my friends, while keeping a sharp eye out for your next cover.

Conflict creates writing careers, me thinks.

So, now that you’re back for more, the question is, can I deliver on my promise to show you how good, solid, believable conflict, always begets more conflict?  That you never need to hold back, stringing the reader along because you’re afraid you’ll tip your hand too soon.

I think I can, if you’re willing to help.

Conflict that keeps on giving starts with your opening line.  Here is an earlier post I did on building knockout first lines.  But conflict rarely begins there.  Conflict begins (and ends) with your characters, no matter what genre you write. 

Many excellent books have been written on developing a character’s GMCs (goals motivations and conflicts), Debra Dixon’s bestseller being primary.  But I’m a “pantser,” of sorts.  Excessive planning drives me nuts, gags my muse, and leaves me with nothing but a well-organized laundry list of empty, emotionless scenes.  If that is how excessive planning leaves you, perhaps my “system” of freethinking will help. 

You game?

Good! 

Now, all we need are two good characters.

Into our hero, Cole Turner.  Cole is a business entrepreneur.  He learned business by working with his father and expected to inherit the company he and his father built.   Instead, the profitable company was dissolved in his father’s will with all the money given to the mega-church that Cole grew up in but rarely attended as an adult.

Enter our heroine, Jenny Boyd.  Jenny is one-year sober thanks to one of the inner-city missions managed by said church.  On her way to her new up-town job, Jenny rear-ends Cole’s new BMW at a traffic light.

The First Line of the story is “Shit.”  (nope, the story needn’t be an Inspirational)

Time to extrapolate some conflict.  I’ll start in comments.  You post from my post, and then our neighbor will post from your post, and then our neighbor’s neighbor will post.  Well, you get the idea.  By the time we’re finished, we should have a boatload of churning, heart stopping, throat-grabbing conflict that will carry Cole and Jenny (and the reader) through to the end.  And we’ll have something else too, but we have to build it first in order to see it.

Remember, the only rule is creating gripping conflict.  Let’s get started. (see my first comment on how to proceed)

Confessions of a Contest Judge: Conflict (part 1) June 14, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.
3 comments

This is my third year volunteering as a RWA chapter contest judge.  Judging, for me, is win-win.  While I give back, as so many writer friends have given to me, I am forced to explain why a certain contest entry, or story element within said entry, doesn’t work.  The effort teaches me a lot about craft.  That’s my win.

Here’s yours.

Conflict is your most lethal weapon.  Chapter one, page one, word one, stab me in the heart with your pen.  Pull no punches.  Never hold back.  Knock me to the ground, grab me by the throat, glare into my eyes and guarantee me that the only way your pen is coming out is when I’ve turned the last page.

Do that to me on page one and you will win every time (with this judge, at least).

The problem is, most new writers invariably pull that first punch in the very first line, then the second soon after when the first character is introduced, then the third part way through scene one.  As a judge, I continue reading.  But as a reader who was hoping for a black eye, I’m emotionally gone.

I think I know why writers do this, because, as a writer, I’ve done it, too.  Why did I do it?  Why did I feel like I had to string you (the reader) along, slowly luring you in, not wanting to give too much away?  Because, quite frankly, I didn’t believe in my story; or more to the point, the conflict holding my story together.

But good, solid, believable conflict, always begets more conflict. 

Don’t believe me?  Check back on Friday and we’ll give it a go. 🙂

Writerly Pickup Lines June 4, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.
3 comments

The best pickup line I’ve ever heard was the one my husband tossed out at me, before I became his wife. 

I, however, am not a pickup artist.  When I meet someone new, I am lucky to remember the person’s name along with my own, never mind a witty turn of phrase that bends them to my way of thinking.

But, good — no, make that stellar — pickup lines are a *must* in today’s writerly world. 

Why?

The first line sells the book.  To the reader.  To the publisher.  To the agent.  To the contest judge.  The rest of the story must be good, too.  It sells the author’s next book.    But the first line… those few magical words must pluck money from the pocket like a two-fingered Louie.

Luckily, I am blessed with teachers — very good teachers — who are excellent writerly pickup artists.  Here are a few of their pickup lines, and a bit on how they’ve helped me fashion my own.

The Pickup

“War was hell.  Letters from relatives could be worse.”  Never Less Than A Lady by Mary Jo Putney (2010)

“She was willing to die, of course, but she had not planned to do it so soon, or in such a prolonged and uncomfortable fashion, or at the hands of her own countrymen.”  The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (2008)

“Then what you’re saying is, I have to sell myself,” the gentleman said.”  A Bride For His Convenience by Edith Layton (2008)

The Lesson

A good pickup line seems to do three things.  Divert.  Contrast.  Elicit emotion. 

Go back and read those pickup lines again, in slow motion.   

I’ll wait.

Still waiting….

Waiting……….

You done?

Good.  Now, let’s examine.

Receiving a letter from a relative is worse than enduring war, or even hell.   Most will agree that war is hell. (diversion) Whether you, as a reader, can relate to explosive relatives or not, the contrast between war and relationship intrigues, stirring emotion from empathy to concern to even morbid curiosity.  What in the world, does “that letter” say?

A woman is willing to die, but never imagined it would be at the hands of those she was willing to die for.  And she’s young and in a bad place expecting even worse things to happen.  I am diverted by the compelling contrasts.  Immediately, I want to root for her, help her, make sure she gets her happily ever after. The only way I can do that is to buy & read the book.

A gentleman forced to sell himself.  This line has contrast in spades. Not only is selling one’s self unpalatable in general, it is doubly unpalatable for a [English] gentleman (stirring emotion), and, for a female reader, feels a bit like “just deserts” as it is usually the heroine doing the selling. (diversion)  But, Lady Layton doesn’t leave us there, wanting to “stick it” to her hero.  She elicits our compassion via the gentlemen’s surprise (backhandedly suggesting disappointment) and austere acceptance (because he is after all, a hero).  Now, we must know what went wrong and why our English gentleman must sell himself… and to whom

Did you get all that the first time you read those opening pickup lines?  I know I didn’t.  I just bought the books.

So, what are some of your favorite pickup lines?  Share from your favorite authors, or post your own, unpublished first line. 

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