Monthly Archives: July 2013

Ancient Marginalia: Yesterday’s Naysayers

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Reposted from Digital Book World
Categories: Expert Publishing Blog
July 25, 2013 |  | 0
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This is an historic day.  Today, the reputable news source The Onion has announced the death of print at the advanced age of 1,803.  The piece reports:

“Print, which had for nearly two millennia worked tirelessly to spread knowledge around the globe in the form of books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and numerous other textual materials, reportedly succumbed to its long battle with ill health, leaving behind legions of readers who had for years benefited from the dissemination of ideas made possible by the advent of printed materials.”

I would like to remember print by going back to its early years – to a time when, as a punky young upstart, print was lingering on street corners spooking the squares.  You see, print wasn’t always the stately (if not stodgy) elder statesman it was just before its demise.  Actually, it was something of a boogyman even in its infancy as mere writing.

Prior to writing, cultures relied mostly on oral transmission of stories and information.  Oral cultures (the common mode for ~150,000 years) place great emphasis on mnemonics, formulaic expressions, and the social immediacy of face-to-face communication.  There was an emphasis on the present and on the group and on a certain fluidity of knowledge.  Words were not objects, but were acts loosely memorized and differentially performed between physically proximal people.

Writing showed up on the scene and immediately raised eyebrows.    Writing allowed massive information storage in a non-neurological medium. It allowed folks to communicate with others who were not there – writing lets information and stories travel through time and space in a way that your brain simply cannot.  This was great for inventories and laws but even more awesome for communicating, well, almost everything.


Plato backs the wrong horse.

But not without a price. An alphabet is very disruptive technology.  The transition from orality to writing restructured consciousness in immediate and observable ways.  And this made some people cranky.  Like Plato, who writes (ironically!) of writing:

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.”

Ouch!  And Plato was upset about handwritten texts. Young printwas even more of a thug – if Greek and Latin papyrus scrolls freaked out the neighbors, what of the almost infinite collection of mechanically printed compendia unleashed by moveable type?  For some, the advent of readily available and widely distributed books served only to kill the word, enfeeble minds, and empower fools.


Ink and elbow grease, Exhibit A

What would happen if none ever had to memorize anything?? They could just look it up in books!  What if people read wrong information?? Or worse, information that you didn’t want them to read?? Power brokers like popes and bishops were quick to condemn widespread literacy and book distribution.  In 1486, for example, Archbishop Berthold of Mainz forbade the printing of any book that he did not approve.  A piece of satirefrom the time has a bishop complaining that though banishing ministers was easy, silencing printers was not, “…no Art yet could prevent these seditious meetings [of printers].  Two or three brawny Fellows in a Corner, with mere Ink and Elbow-grease do more harm than a hundred [wayward ministers].”

Even people in the business were spooked – Hieronimo Squarciafico, a 15th Century Venetian print editor famously stated “Abundance of books makes men less studious.”

Alas. These guys were on the wrong side of fate.  Print, as we know, went on to become the basis of civilization.  Until its death on July 25, 2013.

Of course, we still live in a print culture.  But binary situates us at another crossroads.  We can now reintroduce some of that orality that print could not deliver.  We can invent ways of reading that extend and expand on print’s work. Here at the rosy-fingered dawn of digital, swift-footed binary can carry us closer to Ithaca


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What Makes Iconic or Popular Characters Unforgettable?

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Posted by  at Writing Forward!

iconic characters

Why are iconic characters so memorable?

Luke Skywalker is the obvious hero of Star Wars, so why do Han, Leia, and Darth Vader get all the attention? When I think about the characters from Star Wars, Luke is often the last one who comes to mind. It’s not that he’s utterly forgettable, but he doesn’t stand out from the crowd of characters who surround him, despite the fact that the story centers on him. The other characters easily overshadow him, even the characters whose roles are not as critical to the story.

All of the characters from Star Wars are iconic, but some are more memorable than others. What can we learn from iconic characters and how can we create unforgettable characters in our own stories?

Plot vs. Characters

Not all stories call for an iconic character. The Da Vinci Code has been criticized for its relatively uninteresting characters, but the story is not about the characters; it’s about an ancient conspiracy, a puzzle. The characters are supposed to take a backseat to the plot, and an iconic character might have distracted from the story.

We can compare The Da Vinci Code and its protagonist, Robert Langdon, to Indiana Jones, whose quests are fun but not nearly as deep or complex as Robert Langdon’s. We want to go on Indiana Jones’ adventure because we want to go with him. We take the Da Vinci Code adventure for the sake of the quest itself; any character could serve as a guide.

If you’re thinking about developing an iconic character, first ask whether it’s appropriate for your story. Great detectives, for example, may be interesting and likeable but they’re rarely iconic because in the mystery genre, we’re reading to solve the mystery more than we’re reading to spend time with a particular character. For example, I like Harry Boschjust fine but I didn’t read Michael Connelly’s books so I could spend time with Harry. I read to find out who did it.

That doesn’t mean big, riveting, plot-driven tales can’t include iconic characters. But it’s worth considering whether you want your character to overshadow your plot or vice versa. Sometimes, the best stories are a good balance of compelling characters and plot. They may not be what we’d consider iconic, but they’re riveting enough.

Studying Popular Characters

In film and literature, certain characters have captured people’s imaginations and won their hearts–characters like Scarlett O’Hara, Indiana Jones, and Katniss Everdeen became more famous than the authors who created them. So what is it that makes some characters unforgettable? Let’s do a brief study of a few iconic and popular characters from film and literature:

Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind): People keep telling me she’s an anti-hero, that she’s wicked and unlikeable, but I adore Scarlett O’Hara. Remember, she’s only sixteen years old when the story starts. Keeping her age in mind, her envious, arrogant nature is more understandable. She goes on to do whatever she must to survive, take care of her family, and keep her land. Surrounded by war and famine, Scarlett doesn’t have much of a chance to mature but eventually, she thrives. She becomes an aggressive, independent woman who takes charge of her own destiny in a time and place when women were generally submissive, passive, and dependent on men. What makes her iconic is that she goes against the grain, and in the film, she boasts a striking wardrobe and memorable catch-phrases (fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow).

Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird): I’m not sure Atticus Finch is iconic but he’s definitely one of the most popular characters in literature. He’s a man who stands up against racism in a time and place where racism is the acceptable and preferable norm. Yet he’s admired and respected in his community despite the fact that he opposes their outdated, bigoted ways, which is not an easy thing to pull off. Like Scarlett, he goes against the grain, which is a trait we’ll see in many iconic characters.

Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark): I already mentioned Indie so let’s look at what makes him so iconic. Like the others, he goes against the grain. By day, he’s a handsome, refined professor in a tweed suit and spectacles. The rest of the time, he’s a daring adventurer who risks life and limb for ancient archeological artifacts. His iconic status gets a lot of help from his banged-up brown fedora and trusty whip as well his trademark wisecracks.

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games Trilogy): Everyone else depends on a corrupt government system for sustenance but Katniss jumps the fence (figuratively and literally) to hunt and gather for her family’s survival. Her iconic status is boosted by the mockingjay symbol and her bow and arrow and her status as an icon is cemented when she plays the game in a way that fits her moral standards rather than playing it to pacify the government.

Iconic Characters Share Similarities

I once heard that the best stories are either about extraordinary characters in ordinary situations or ordinary characters in extraordinary situations. I’d say that most iconic characters break the mold; they are extraordinary and so are their situations.

We can observe similarities that make these iconic characters memorable. I would say they all deviate from social norms and expectations. Most of them have distinct clothing or accessories and memorable catch-phrases.

We can learn even more about iconic characters by asking questions and further studying them:

  • Why is Batman more iconic than, say, Aquaman? Why is Catwoman more iconic than Poison Ivy?
  • Who is your favorite character (iconic or not) in film or literature? What was it that made the character so compelling to you? Was it the character’s looks? Attitude? Backstory?
  • There are popular characters, like Atticus Finch, and then there are truly iconic characters like Batman, Indiana Jones, and Katniss Everdeen. What’s the difference between a popular character and an iconic character? What makes one character popular while another becomes iconic?


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Let’s Go MultiLingual!

Print On Demand First Edition Design Publishing

Publishers – Aggregators – Master Distributors

As our international market has been growing in non-English speaking areas, we have opened up a new service that we are very excited to announce – We are now accepting submissions in ALL languages.

All languages are welcome for submission including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese.


All languages are welcome, however we will request an independent third party to verify content which is done at a nominal fee.


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Where Should You Begin Your Story? – An Excerpt from Structuring Your Novel

First Edition Design Publishing

Another great writing post by K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

From her Blog “Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors”

Just for fun, today I’d thought I’d give you a sneak peek of my upcoming bookStructuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. The book, available September 1, 2013, x-rays our notion of storycraft to get past the outer aesthetics right on down to the muscular and skeletal systems that make our books work. Once we grasp the mechanics of structure, we’re able to take so much of the guesswork out of crafting a strong story from start to finish.
Today, I’d like to share an excerpt from Chapter 2, which talks about one of the trickiest questions any author is faced with: Where to begin the story?

Authors are much more likely to begin their stories too soon, rather too late. We feel the pressure of making sure readers are well-informed. They have to understand what’s going on to care about it, right? To some extent, yes, of course they do. But the problem with all this info right at the beginning is that it distracts from what readers find most interesting: the character reacting to his current plight.

What is the first dramatic event?

The question you need to ask yourself is, “What is the first dramatic event in the plot?” Finding this event will help you figure out the first domino in your story’s line of dominoes. In some stories that first domino can take place years before the story proper and therefore will be better told as a part of the backstory. But, nine times out of ten, this will be your best choice for a beginning scene.

What is your first major plot point?

Another thing to keep in mind is the placement of your First Plot Point, which should occur around the 25% mark (we’ll discuss this in more depth in Chapter 6). If you begin your story too soon or too late, you’ll jar the balance of your book and force your major plot points at the 25%, 50%, and 75% marks off schedule.
(We’ll be discussing these plot points and their placements at length later on, but, for now, let me just emphasize that these placements at the quarter marks in the story are general guidelines. Unlike movies, which operate on a much tighter structural timeline, novels have the room to allow long series of scenes to build one into the other to create the plot points as a whole—and thus can occur over long sections, even chapters, rather than smack on the money at the quarter marks.)
Consider your First Plot Point, which will be the first major turning point for your characters and, as a result, often the Inciting or Key Event (which we’ll also discuss in Chapter 6). The setup that occurs prior to these scenes should take no more than a quarter of the book. Anymore than that and you’ll know you’ve begun your story too early and need to do some cutting.

What are the three essentials?

The most important thing to keep in mind is the most obvious: No deadweight. The beginning doesn’t have to be race-’em-chase-’em, particularly since you need to take the time to introduce and set up characters. But it does have to be tight. Otherwise, your readers are gone.
How do you grip readers with can’t-look-away action, while still taking the time to establish character? How do you decide upon the perfect moment to open the scene? How do you balance just the right amount of information to keep from confusing readers, while at same time raising the kind of intriguing questions that make them want to read on? When we come down to it, there are only three integral components necessary to create a successful opening: character, action, and setting.
Barnes and Noble editorial director Liz Scheier offered an anecdote that sums up the necessity of these three elements:

 A professor of mine once posed it to me this way, thumping the podium for emphasis: “It’s not ‘World War II began’! It’s ‘Hitler. Invaded. Poland.’”

Scheier’s professor not only made a sturdy case for the active voice, he also offered a powerful beginning. Let’s take a closer look.

How to Launch A Book In 3 Steps

First Edition Design Publishing

Another great guest post from Duolit!

The following is a guest post from Nick Thacker.

While any kind of launch – whether the launch of a book, a product, or something else entirely – usually involves many steps and lots of pieces, it can also be distilled down into its core components.

I’ve launched a few things over the past two years, including nonfiction books and products, and I am also in the middle of a fiction book launch. And while each of these launches were different in style, methodology, and subject matter, I’ve found that there were three basic elements that went into each one.


Let’s assume you’re launching a book. You’ll need to have a few things taken care of before you even begin planning your launch:

A great product (book). “You can’t polish a turd…” maybe you’ve heard that expression before. If not, I’m sure it makes enough sense that I don’t need to explain.
An audience. You don’t necessarily need a large audience, but at the very least you should have a good idea of who that audience is. Know what they’re interested in, know how they like to find new authors and books, and know how to reach them.
A goal. Want to make money? Want to break into the Amazon bestseller lists? Want to have something to show off to friends and family? These are all great goals, but without specifying that goal, you’re going to feel lost.
Got it?
Once you’ve nailed these prerequisites, you’re ready to launch a book – in three steps!

A quick note: I know you’re going to think that these “steps” really represent “phases” of multiple steps, and you’re right. Just understand that each of these phases can include as many steps and as much detail as you’d like (and are able to accomplish).

Step 1: Plan

“Fail to plan, plan to fail.” You must write out a marketing plan for your book – this should include at the bare minimum:

A timeline
A list of marketing/advertising/promotion venues
Your timeline can be as simple as, “by next month, I will have written x blog posts, spent x dollars on advertising, and hosted x book signings.”

Obviously the more detail you put in this timeline, the more use you’ll get out of it, but it doesn’t need to be ridiculous – things change, and nothing goes exactly to plan. Keep it simple and save the stress.

For the “venues list,” you’re just trying to get your ideas down on paper (or into a computer). By writing down your chosen advertising/marketing venues, you’re setting up a psychological “accountability partner,” and getting a feel for the logistical side of your launch.

Lastly, set goals.

Write them down – make sure you know exactly what those goals are. Don’t be vague. And don’t set hopes – ideals that are just results out of your control – set goals: actionable, measurable, check-off-able items that help you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

Step 2: Prepare

Once you’ve taken some personal “brain time,” move into the “action time.” This phase is when you’ll write, send, and schedule guest posts, interviews, Q&As, and any other marketing “collateral,” and when you’ll want to actually do the things on your Action Plan list from above.

It’s great to follow your timeline, but it’s really difficult to stick to the plan once things start rolling – give yourself ample time (more than expected) to knock out the to-do list you’ve set for yourself.

Step 3: Launch and Measure

This is it – the moment you’ve been waiting for!

It’s time to press “Go” on that launch!

…And when you realize that there’s no “Go” button, don’t freak out – the “launch” phase is just that: a phase.

It starts with the book launch (if you’ve set up a pre-order on Amazon, this date is the “publish” date), and the first order of business will be to tend to any comments you’ve received on those guest posts, respond to emails regarding any “pre-launch” giveaways/specials, and try to not go crazy during the (soon-to-be) busiest week of your life.

Plan some time to not think about the launch as well – it’s great for your sanity, relationships, and long-term health. Schedule downtime, relaxation, going to the movies, etc.

Most importantly, measure the results of your efforts. Use tracking software – Google Analytics, MailChimp’s reporting features, Amazon’s KDP Select Reports, or whatever – to keep tabs on how well your “launch campaign” is doing.

Don’t worry too much during this phase about tweaking and/or changing your plan mid-launch – just go with it, and let the measuring work for you. When all is said and done, you’ll have plenty of time to figure out what when on under the hood.

Rinse and repeat
Launching – anything – takes time, effort, and practice, and the first time you launch a book you’re going to do something wrong.

Actually, every time you launch something you’ll do something wrong – but that’s okay.

There’s no better way to learn than to make some mistakes and try it again. Scrutinize the results closely (remember that part about measuring?), and figure out what you can improve upon next time around. Figure out what really didn’t work, what took too much time for too little ROI, etc.

Above all, do it again. Launch another book, and then another. There’s no marketing quite like having a large backlist, and that’s the only type of marketing that you can actively pursue while you’re writing (‘cause it’s the same thing…).


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8 Promises You’re Making to Readers—and Then Breaking

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Reblogged from – Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors

8 Promises You’re Making to Readers—and Then Breaking

By K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

A book is a contract between reader and writer. The reader is promising to pay attention to the story and emotionally invest in the adventure. In return, the writer is promising to fulfill certain expectations about the fictional experience.

When we fail to fulfill this contract with our readers, we are, in essence, breaking our promises to them. These promises range from the big one at the top of the list (“I promise this will be a good read”) to a number of smaller ones along the way. Let’s take a look at eight common promises you may be making to your readers—and then breaking.

1. I promise every instance of conflict will end with an appropriate climax.

Conflict must always lead to a specific outcome. It can’t fizzle away into nothing. Characters can’t just say, “Whoops, guess we misunderstood each other,” shake hands, and walk away. Whenever you introduce a conflict, you also have to make sure you pay it off with some sort of confrontation, disaster, or triumph.

2. I promise my characters will always behave within the parameters of their established personalities.

We never want our characters acting out of character. This doesn’t mean characters can’t act in surprising or even shocking ways. But not only do their actions have to resonate within the personality we’ve established for them, their actions also have to result from appropriate and understandable motives.

3. I promise I will always pay off significant foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is present in our stories for two reasons: 1) to prepare readers for big events down the road and 2) to ratchet up the tension. If you use foreshadowing to raise your tension, only to have readers discover there was never really anything for them to be tense about, they’ll either feel you’ve cheated them—or you were too dumb to notice what you did.

4. I promise that characters who are important in the beginning of the story will not be forgotten about by the end.

Only Charles Dickens could get away with opening The Old Curiosity Shop with a first-person narrator who, without explanation, disappears from the story after a few chapters. If a character is introduced as important early on in your story, he either needs to play an important role throughout or, at the very least, his disappearance from the story later on needs to be appropriately explained.

5. I promise every cause will end in an appropriate effect—and vice versa.

Every action needs to be followed by an appropriate reaction. And every reaction needs to make sense in relation to some preceding action that caused it. One character can’t suddenly want to kill another without an appropriate reason, just as another character can’t realistically act with passivity toward the murder of his family.

6. I promise my protagonist(s) will play an appropriately active role in the climax.

At its heart, deus ex machina, the technique of resolving a conflict through some powerful outside means (such as the cavalry rushing in to save the wagon train), is a broken promise to readers. Your audience has followed your protagonist all the way to the end of your story. They want to see him take action to defeat the antagonist via means that have been foreshadowed through the story.

7. I promise not every scene will play out exactly as readers expect.

Readers like the element of surprise. Within the confines of certain expectations, they want you to shock their socks off. They open your book expecting you to take them to surprising places. When you fail to do that, they will grow bored with the stereotypes.

8. I promise to abide by genre conventions—within reason.

Ingenuity with genre is the lifeblood of innovative fiction. But you also have to realize that your genre itself will be promising readers certain things. If you fail to live up to those expectations, readers will be disappointed. In a romance, your leading couple better fall in love. In an action story, there better be explosions. In a historical, there better be history.
Always be aware of what you’re promising readers. If you’re falling short of any of these promises, then double your efforts to not just fulfill them, but to go above and beyond reader expectations.