by Bonnie Hearn Hill
& Christopher Allan Poe
Bonnie and Chris share a little about why they wrote Digital Ink and after that is an excerpt from the book. Details on how to enter to win a copy of Digital Ink after this post.
E-books are here. Money is to be made. Put that baby on Kindle and Nook and the other brothers and cousins of the e-book age. You no longer need a big publisher. Isn’t that what what’s-his-name did? Turned down the advance and made a fortune, right? And that woman with the novel no one would publish? She got a couple of million after she published it online. So what’s holding you back?
Good sense, maybe?
The editor of this publication spent time with us at Left Coast Crime, and the question she asked that made us think was this one. “Why did you write a book about publishing fiction in the e-book age?”
Anyone can do it, right?
CHRIS: Mind if I start here? And I love the age of e-books as much as anyone. Finally, there is no filter. Writers can make real money. But, no. Anyone can’t do it. If you don’t have a well written book, it is not going to sell, regardless of how diligently you market.
BONNIE: That’s a fact. We now have people who have never attended a writing class or conference putting their books on Kindle, Nook and the others. Some don’t know the difference between there and their or they’re, for that matter. They certainly don’t know the finer points of crafting fiction. Others would have great stories if they had better craft and a tighter focus. But the gatekeepers of big publishing are gone, and all many want to do is break on through.
CHRIS: I’ve got to confess. I’ve been there. When I first came to your class, I had finished a novel that still makes me cringe. It was a fictionalized, paranormal version of me.
BONNIE: That’s everyone’s first novel, Chris. My first one was an autobiographical version of myself, too. My husband has a term for them, which I won’t be repeating here.
CHRIS: Neither will I, but Larry’s right. Most first novels are the author with a better body and a sex life.
BONNIE: Well, you know what I write, so mine had all of that—in addition to a serial killer.
CHRIS: Trying not to laugh here. At least we were saved from publishing those books. Today, we could have slapped them online before we had time to realize how awful they were.
BONNIE: They weren’t awful. Yours wasn’t.
CHRIS: But they weren’t ready. Admit it.
BONNIE: No, they weren’t. They could have been fixed if we had known how. In fact, I’m rewriting mine now.
CHRIS: Most can be fixed if the author knows how to hook a reader, how to write goal-driven scenes and how to create conflict without the old fist in the face.
BONNIE: Right. You can have fists in the face and bullets flying, but it won’t work if you don’t have true, organic conflict.
CHRIS: We’re sharing an excerpt from the first chapter here, and we hope it motivates you to get that manuscript of yours in shape.
DIGITAL MANIA: IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN MARKETING
You’re a writer.
You want to be published.
You can be.
It seems awfully simple, but it’s the truth. Digital mania is not an overstatement. In late 2007, an earthquake shook the publishing world and its name was Kindle. Two years later, Nook fractured the foundation further. Apple’s iPad then sealed the deal by bringing in the casual reader. You may love the idea of e-books, or you may hate it. Either way, these tectonic shifts won’t reverse themselves. Just ask the music industry.
Although the changes can feel disorienting, this is actually the most exciting time in publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg press. Self-publishing is no longer a last resort for the desperate. E-book sales are soaring, and we writers now have options.
Put your masterpiece online, read the latest marketing blog, and, at least in theory, you’ve got as fair a chance at potential buyers as Stephen King. Sure, nothing is stopping you from publishing this very minute. Nothing is stopping any of us. In fact, anyone who can write a grocery list is also able to publish his book just like you.
This includes drunken Uncle Bob, with his how-to guide on the perfect technique to hit on college women. Don’t forget your coworker, Marjorie, whose debut manuscript involves her protagonist weeping for fifteen pages. Yes, they and everyone else can see their names in lights, millions of us all competing for the same readers. That sense of the competition is why so much of the dialogue about e-books has centered on marketing.
But in the rush of data about electronic books and digital media, crucial information about the craft of writing is missing. Not any longer. By the time you finish reading this, you will know how to write a novel that accomplishes what all fiction must, regardless of genre or format. You will learn how to hook and hold a reader, and you will be able to make your novel stand out in the age of digital mania.
Yes, everyone is talking about marketing e-books and making a fortune. Here’s what hasn’t been said: You can market your heart out, you can tweet and blog like a computer hacker on meth, but if you have not written a compelling novel that makes the reader want to put everything else on hold, you’re not going to make the sale.
Some supposed experts have actually said that you don’t have to be a good writer in order to sell books today. Nonsense. If your novel is terrible, the reader won’t finish it. Nor will that person ever again buy anything with your name on it. Not even a six-pack of beer.
In order to succeed, you need more than the marketing plan du jour. You need to know how to write fiction. Before anything else, you must master a few key skills. We’re not talking about charlatan marketing tricks that might fool a few people into buying once. Don’t kid yourself. When the reader is staring at that digital ink on his screen, with thousands of authors at his fingertips, he has neither the time nor the patience for shaky craft.
Don’t let that deter you. You’ll soon have the power to yank the reader into your fictional world and keep her turning pages. You’ll have the confidence to know when your story works and when it is drifting off course. Just as important, you’ll know how to navigate the uncertain terrain of today’s fast-paced publishing culture.
We’ve said it once, and it bears repeating.
You’re a writer.
You want to be published.
You can be.
You can also write great fiction that holds its own on any platform.
Fiction that makes people care, fiction that is exciting to read, and—okay—fiction that entices the reader to hit that buy button time and again. In short, you can have the writing career you’ve always dreamed of.
Check out Christopher & Bonnie’s websites to learn more & to purchase a copy of Digital Ink :
To enter to win an e-book copy of Digital Ink, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Digital”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 7, 2012. U.S. residents only.