You As An Author
It’s never too early to start your transition from writer to author. Once you start writing your mystery, spend some time establishing your presence as an author. You’ll be building your author platform where you tell readers about your book. Once your novel is published, you’ll have your author platform well in hand.
You’ll want basic marketing materials with information about you and your books to share in as many ways as possible. When you start early you’ll give yourself time to create a solid professional message about you and your books.
The Business Mindset
Business mindset differs from your creative writing mindset. You’ll be learning about creating your author identity, marketing strategies, collecting and managing information (data) about your readers and sales, and other business details.
Learn from other businesses, including other authors. Set aside time in your schedule to focus on the business side of your author life. Be willing to start and willing to learn. Authors who embrace the business side create success. The basic principles of an author business mindset will get you started on your author business journey.
With a business mindset, you don’t give up creativity. Instead, you use it in a different way
Create Your Marketing Platform
Your marketing platform is essential to your author business. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, you need that platform. Creating your author platform takes time. Don’t try to do it all at once. Take a methodical, step-by-step approach to get the details right.
Agents want to see your platform before they represent your book. Many agents will not accept a book unless you have a platform designed and in place. A good reason to start early.
You will co-promote with a traditional publisher. The reason the agent wants to see your author platform is that publishers want to know you put energy into promoting your book(s).
If you are self-publishing, you will spend time weekly if not daily promoting your work.
How to Start Your Author Platform
Creating your author platform takes time. Don’t try to do everything at once. Give yourself a month to set up your author platform activities. Setting these things up now teaches you a very useful skill for authors: dividing your time between writing and marketing. If you are serious about your author career, you need to learn this time management skill.
Before you establish your platform you need to prepare some basic materials. Keep these on hand for guest blog posts, podcast invitations, and media like print, television, and radio.
1. Write a description of your book. You will probably revise this many times but write one. Pretend you are writing the blurb for the back cover.
2. Write an author bio for yourself. You will need several. A short one, 25-30 words, to post at the end of articles or on social media that does not allow for a long description, like Twitter. Then write at least two more, a 100-word bio and a 300-word bio. If you hire a publicist or decide to do your own publicity, you may want a 1000-word biography as well. You will probably rewrite these many times but start with something now.
3. Create a formal portrait of yourself both color and black and white. You can do this yourself with a plain background or hire a professional photographer.
4. Create a cover image for your book. You’ll want this for your website and any promotions you may do.
Once you’ve created the content for your platform, you are ready to build your platform where future readers can learn about you and your books. Start with an author website.
Create Your Author Website
Your own author website is the foundation of your author platform. It’s your author base camp. Any sharing you do later on social media or with email campaigns will direct readers to your website.
You can use free website services like WordPress.com or Wix to get started. If you have time and resources, you can become more involved and intricate with a self-hosted website using WordPress.org. You will need to monitor and update the self-hosted website for updates or hire someone to manage the site for you. If you have a large budget, you can hire a website designer to create a site for you. If you do, make sure you have access to add and change the content.
Basic Pages for Your Website
Your website will have several pages. You can add more, but here are the basic pages you’ll need to get started.
As you can see, there’s a lot of work in creating an author platform. But, there’s more. Next week, in Part 2, I’ll talk about connecting with readers with email. And, in Part 3, we’ll look at social media.
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Reader Curiosity and Attention
The title of your mystery is one of the first things a reader sees. Your title and your book cover are two of the first things a prospective reader uses to make a decision
to read your story. The title of your book may not change the story but it can change a potential buyer’s interest.
A title that is interesting, catchy, and relevant to your story has a better chance to get a reader to buy your book. The title of your novel creates a connection with your potential readers.
Tucker Max of Scribe stresses the selling potential of a title:
The title of your book is–by far–the most important book marketing decision you’ll make.
Your choice directly impacts the buyer’s first impression.
Brand Awareness and Genre Targeting
Memorable titles help readers connect the title with your name. Your author name is your brand. When readers associate your name with the book you write, you build your brand awareness. Authors who offer more than one book benefit by creating titles similar in format and concept.
Features of a Good Title
You have several options for creating a book title, but all good titles have elements in common:
These guidelines make your title recognizable, targeted toward your genre, and easy for someone to remember when they recommend your book. Your book will get noticed, be remembered, and shared with other potential readers.
Create Your Book Title List
Your title is a marketing tool, so choose your title with your reader in mind. Your reader is someone who enjoys books in your genre. Use a marketing filter when you think about your book title. Get the essence of your book, then add words with emotional hooks.
Finding the right title for your book is a brainstorming process. Start large. Think of as many titles as possible first. Take time. Work the process over at least a few days if not weeks. Every time you think of a title possibility, write it down. While you are in the stage of compiling ideas, don’t judge, just add title ideas to your list.
Look at the titles of your successful competitors. Knowing how successful authors in your genre use titles to sell books is a good guideline for how to think about framing your title.
Make a list of potential titles. Start your title idea list while you are writing and keep adding to the list as you get new ideas.
Once you have a sense of the titles that sell in your genre, brainstorm titles for your manuscript. Is your story steamy or sweet, action-packed or literary? Dark and chilling, or light-hearted and cozy? Think of words and phrases that capture the tone of your manuscript.
Go through your manuscript looking for phrases, including dialogue, that reflect the essence of your story. Think of your story theme or the major conflict. Is there a quote—poetry or Biblical—that suits your novel?
The idea is to gather as many title possibilities as you can. Then play with your current title collection by trying one of these tricks:
At the end of this process, you’ll have a long list of title ideas.
Pro Tip: Make sure the title you use is not already popular.
Narrow Your List
Brainstorming is playful and fun, but once you have a big title list, you need to narrow down the options.
Review the titles of successful books in your genre. Evaluate which of your titles best suit your genre, and remove the rest from the list. This should turn your long range of options into a more focused shortlist.
Test Your Title
Before you make a final decision, get feedback. Use vehicles to test your title. Informal choices from friends and family may be instant feedback but not always the best marketing judgment.
If you have a reader fan base, send a survey. Use quick tools like SurveyMonkey or a Google Form to compare choices.
Get feedback from real readers customers with PickFu.
Your novel title is a first-level marketing tool. Use a brainstorming process. Guide your decision by the novel’s genre. Then, test for feedback before you make your final decision.
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Who Is Talking?
How your characters speak reveals their personality. Especially in mysteries, characters reveal their character, even when they try to hide it. The challenge for writers is to make the language each character uses, appropriate to that character and distinct from other characters in the story. That way, readers understand who is talking.
Dialogue is a verbal action. When a character speaks, they are actively moving the story forward. When the language, rhythm, and voice is clear for each character, your dialogue not only flows in your story you’ll minimize the need for repetitive dialogue tags.
Preparing for Dialogue
The best way to write distinctive dialogue is to know your character.
Capture the details to make each speaker in your novel unique. Use syntax, vocabulary, and tone to help your reader understand who is speaking. The more you individualize speech, the better your reader understands the character.
Dialogue in Your Story
When you understand your character, you get inside their head and think the way they think. What they say, in dialogue, reflects their thinking. Understanding your character’s motivation helps you create dialogue unique to that character.
Talking like your character becomes innate the more you understand. You’ll avoid dialogue traps that beginning writers often make.
If you think of dialogue as action, you will avoid these dialogue traps because the words your character says reflect the character’s inner workings in the same way other actions do. When you know your characters well all the actions, including dialogue, come from internal motivation.
Characters speak when they need rather than you thinking I need some dialogue here. You’ll stop worrying about getting dialogue right,
and use it as another storytelling tool.
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Thrillers and Crime and Mysteries, Oh My!
Terminology can be bewildering. New writers need to be clear about their genre because readers of each genre have expectations about what the story will deliver. Knowing your genre facilitates marketing to reach the right readers who will appreciate and enjoy your novel.
In thrillers, the clock is ticking. The protagonist is vulnerable and must achieve their goal before time runs out. Whether it’s getting out of a capture situation or preventing the assassination of the prime minister, the protagonist works against the clock.
The crime fiction label is muddled because what Americans call mystery is called crime in the UK. Crime fiction involves a law enforcement protagonist pitting wits against a known outlaw adversary. The crime novel deals with the concept of the nature of justice.
In a mystery novel, the protagonist, either a professional or amateur sleuth, works through a discovery process to reveal the person who committed a crime, usually murder. A mystery emphasizes the solving of the crime.
Components of a Mystery
For your mystery to resonate with mystery genre fans, the novel needs certain elements that readers expect in a mystery. Whether you decide to opt for traditional publishing or independent (self) publishing, readers, including agents, will expect your novel to contain the key mystery components.
The Mystery Elements of Your Novel
When you understand the basic elements of a mystery novel, your planning and writing go faster. A mystery is more than just catching the bad guy. You’ll be on your way to writing a mystery reader’s love by meeting reader expectations.
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How to Add Empathy to Your Fiction Detective
Every fictional detective has skills. Which skills and how they are used are up to you, the author. These skills help your reader admire your detective especially whey he meets confrontations and obstacles. But, your detective’s flaws are the intersection where readers empathize.
Readers empathize with shortcomings. Your detective’s skills impress the reader, his flaws make readers care. Flaws give you opportunities to create obstacles in your story. And, small flaws are just as powerful as the big ones. Flaws don’t necessarily need to cause extreme angst. A scatterbrained sleuth in a cozy mystery can leave her keys, forget to add salt to the cake, or forget where she saw the important clue. Your readers understand these setbacks.
A set of smaller flaws adds dimension to your character in a way that one large one cannot. In addition, you have more ways to set more obstacles in your story.
Defects for Your Detective
Most mystery writers are familiar with the detective who struggles with an addiction to alcohol. You may choose to hop on the train or create distinct flaws for your character.
When you give your protagonist reasons for doubt and guilt
the emotions affect decisions and actions. Your sleuth will want to hide these flaws. Each time one comes to light your protagonist has an emotional response. The defects and the protagonist’s responses create a believable human character. Embarrassment, guilt, and shame are powerful emotions that help your reader form an emotional connection with your sleuth.
Balance Positive and Negative Traits
Balance traits like intelligence, attractive looks, and positive qualities like generosity, kindness, and good humor with defects that create an engaging character.
Instead of one large flaw, give your protagonist breadth with a collection of flaws. Every time you create conflict for your sleuth, you invite reader empathy. As an author, you create more ways to frustrate your sleuth as he heads toward discovering the killer. Obstacles create tension. Tension keeps readers turning pages.
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Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.