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Authors Magazine – Stoking the Flames

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Romances are meant to inspire passion but when Stephenie Meyer, EL James and Jojo Moyes wrote their bestsellers, they probably weren’t counting on that passion being the violent, pitch-fork-wielding rage that has found them online.

What’s so bad about these books? And how is it that they, like some woebegone heartthrob, are still able to find love?

Twilight

The Twilight series hit bookshelves back in 2005 to a chorus of squeals from teen girls across the globe. In the decade since, it has acquired a dedicated fan base of all sorts. But for every “Twihard” the vampire love story has, there’s a critic waiting to give you an earful. Here’s why:

The controversy

The biggest controversy surrounding this vampire love story is the role of the main character, Bella. She is passive and indecisive, her whole existence revolves around boys – particularly the rather creepy stalker-type that becomes her boyfriend and later (spoiler alert) her husband. Did I mention he also wants to eat her? Yea, he has to fight a constant battle with himself not to sink his teeth into her flesh. If that’s not an analogy for spousal abuse, then I don’t know what is. As if that wasn’t enough, when he leaves her (for her own protection) she falls into a self-destructive spiral to get his attention, bordering on attempting suicide, because her life is just that meaningless without him. The perfect role model for young women, right?

 The other thing that annoys Twilight’s critics is how the story portrays the author’s Mormon beliefs. According to some accounts, the Cullens represent the Mormons and the story is a parable about how great their faith is compared to other Christians (depicted as ancient, evil vampires) and how a non-believer (Bella) can find happiness and love by converting to Mormonism. Was Meyer trying to indoctrinate young minds?

 The defense

It’s easy to hate something when you look at the surface details, but Twihards are not stupid. There’s a reason that they love this series, despite the avalanche of negative commentary.

 “Bella in the books is funny, down-to-earth and relatable,” says Cherise Sue-Leigh, who took Twilight out of the library when the movies were announced to find out what all the fuss was about. “[Bella] was a character I could connect with. I was entertained by her inner thoughts, clumsiness, and connected with her heartache and ups and downs.”

 She echoes what many say about the erstwhile heroine: she’s intentionally described in broad strokes, left mostly empty, so that anyone can fill her shoes and experience the story from her perspective. This technique is often used by authors writing in the first person to bring the reader closer to the story.

 As for Bella’s relationship with her vampiric dreamboat, some readers see the hardships that they go through (her being his natural prey, for instance) as a pretty decent lesson for teens.

 “I guess to me it’s about forbidden love, or socially unacceptable love. But at the end of the day, true love prevails and that’s what’s important. True love, when working together and supported can overcome any challenge,” says long-time fan, Cloe Hart.

 Gina Jett read Twilight after she saw a girl being lambasted online for getting a Twilight tattoo. Judging by the all-out rage the novels inspired, she expected the book to be much worse than it was. “So many people say ‘Oh, they are abusive relationships that set a poor example’, but I frankly find it insulting that people insinuate that any woman (or girl, or boy, or man) would consider any work of fiction a how-to guide of relationships of any kind. Examples of healthy relationships are created at home and in the community, and not by single works of fiction.”

 And how do the fans feel about the accusations of the series being a dogma-laced Mormon analogy? Well, for some of them that adds to the appeal.

 “Christian values can be seen throughout the books,” says Hart. “Waiting until they are married for sex, their strong views on family, their views on marriage being important (just look at how important it is for Alice and Jasper to be married after high school, every time they graduate). The books may be based on a dream, but the underlying values of Christianity are still there. I love that it is a fantasy love story, that has enough depth that it could almost be real and that a lot of the values sit well with me, being a Christian.”

 Of course, there’s also the argument that all of those critics are completely overthinking it.

 “I see the Twilight books like junk food,” says Stacey Anne, “Generally falling on the bad side of the literary spectrum and not something I read all the time, but nice to binge on occasionally.”

 According to Laura Carter Tackett, they are the ultimate wish fulfilment. “They may not be the best written novels ever, but they did a lot of things right, and for that I’m grateful to have read them.”

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey, otherwise known as the novel that introduced housewives everywhere to the joys of erotica, was initially self-published as an e-book. It was so popular that it was picked up by Vintage Books in March 2012. It went on to sell 125 million copies in 52 different languages in its first three years. Yet, critical reception was terrible.

The controversy

One of the biggest complaints about this runaway bestseller is the writing itself. It comes across as fanfic, because it is. It was initially Twilight fanfic that had some facts and names changed to avoid IP infringement.

 Running a close second is accusations of glorifying abusive relationships. According to these critics, BDSM is one thing, but Fifty Shades crosses the line into abuse.

 The story is based around the sweet, innocent Anastasia Steele who is pursued by the wealthy but emotionally-broken Christian Grey. He wishes to take her on as his submissive, and as a stranger to any kind of sex, let alone S&M, the thought both excites and confuses her. Some of the books’ most vocal criticism comes from within the BDSM community itself.

 “When it comes to the world of S&M, Fifty Shades gets it almost all wrong,” Dominatrix, Lady Velvet Steel, says in a Hollywood Reporter feature. She was especially unimpressed with the character of Grey. “He isn’t a dominant. He’s a stalker. He breaks into Anastasia’s house, he bullies her friend, he buys her expensive gifts. He is constantly crossing boundaries. And S&M is all about respecting boundaries.”

 “BDSM is about creating vulnerability, opening yourself up to your partner in a way you can trust them to take you to some of these dark places that are considered taboo overall, but in a loving way,” Mistress Couple, the head mistress at a BDSM training chateau, is quoted as saying in the Huffington Post. “That’s what’s missing from Fifty Shades of Grey. Christian continuously violates Ana’s trust and her ability to feel safe, and any person in their right mind would get out of a relationship that’s like that.”

The defense

 “50 Shades is tricky because many people qualify what Christian put Ana through as abuse,” acknowledges Gabrielle de Souza, who enjoyed the books. “For me, it’s complicated. But in terms of their power dynamics she won. She got everything she wanted from him, and she came to enjoy the S&M.”

 Emily Pickens sees their relationship in a different light. “I like the romantic side, how Ana helps Christian to heal from his past. I like how he wants to give her the world and protect her and, in his own way, romance her.”

 Hart concurs, “To me Fifty Shades of Grey is a series of books about the abuse of a young man, and how he learns to cope with that, before he meets the right person to help him overcome and move forward.”

 As part of the BDSM scene, Hart disagrees that Fifty Shades is an insult. “This book is very, very tame compared to what really happens. None of it is so much about wanting to hurt the other person, but rather about wanting to control the amount of pain they receive.”

She says that the books don’t have time to convey everything that would go into the relationship between a dominant and his submissive. “The Sub is the world to the Dom, and their health and wellbeing is a priority.”

 According to Hart, BDSM is a way for Christian to deal with the abuse he suffered in his past. “When he meets Ana, she is nothing like he has ever experienced, and he wants to bring her into his world that is safe for him because he can control it, whereas she slowly brings him back into the socially-acceptable world, where he doesn’t have control but learns to trust Ana.”

 Then there’s the sex.

 “I enjoyed it because, for me, it was the first type of soft core BDSM book I read,” says Phillipa Sadler Carlin. “The BDSM part was built so carefully into the storyline and wasn’t as overbearing as some of the other books I read after 50 Shades. I know it sounds clichéd, but I enjoyed the fact that she was inexperienced and that he had a lot of experience, it was like bringing together yin and yang. There was a lot of hype about the book being about him overpowering her and taking her choice away, I don’t agree with that at all. I think it was consensual relationship.”

 “The kinky bits are fun to read and it gives you an insight into a darker side of sex,” says Pickens. “It’s one of those trilogies that doesn’t require much concentration. but was still fun to read (on Kindle so no one knows what you are reading…). I liked how bits made me smile, bits related to me in a sense, they were similar to my own experiences, and I still blushed like a complete schoolgirl in the kinky parts!“

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Authors Magazine – Interview with Linwood Barclay

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This article originally appeared in Authors Magazine

Linwood Barclay began writing stories at the age of eight, but when a family tragedy had him running his parents’ caravan park and cottage resort at 17, his dream of becoming an author looked unlikely to come true. It may have taken 30 years, but when it did, it really did.

 

His 2007 thriller, No Time for Goodbye, about a girl who wakes up one day to find her family has vanished with no bodies and no suspects, spent seven consecutive weeks as the UK’s top novel. His work has since been translated into 40 languages and published in 30 countries, making him one of Canada’s most successful living writers. Not to mention that Stephen King might just be his greatest fan. (“Where has Linwood Barclay been all my life? His is the best thriller I’ve read in five years,” King once said in an Entertainment Weekly column).

 

Like King, Barclay’s stories are driven by ordinary everyday people: a used car salesman, a landscaper, a construction worker, whose lives are turned upside down by tragedy or crime. Trust Your Eyes (2012) is the story of a schizophrenic obsessed with maps who, in exploring a website (similar to Google Maps Street View), sees a crime in progress. It is currently being adapted into a movie directed and produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover).

 

Tallulah Habib of Authors Magazine was honoured to interview Linwood for our August Cover.

 

Your 2012 novel, Trust Your Eyes, caused a bidding war between Universal Studios and Warner Bros, which Warner eventually won. How was that experience? And are you at all involved in the adaptation for the big screen?

 

Unfortunately, the option Warner Bros had on Trust Your Eyes has lapsed, and while no one else is currently developing that book into a movie, we have occasional nibbles. The good news is, The Accident has been made into a six-part TV series in France that will air this October, and it’s looking very likely that Never Saw it Coming, a shorter novel I did a few years ago, will be made into a movie in Canada next year. I wrote the screenplay for that – first time I’ve done that – and it was a lot of fun.

 

You’ve made a name for yourself writing detective fiction. What about this particular genre appeals to you?

 

I like a good story. Crime fiction is more plot driven than most fiction. It has a strong narrative drive. And you can do anything you want with it. Have an ax to grind? Do you feel strongly about something? You can infuse the conventions of a crime novel to talk about anything you want – from family dysfunction to corrupt politics to environmental degradation.

 

What other genre would you like to try your hand at one day?

 

I think this is what I’m good at. I don’t want to write a literary novel. Every once in a while, I have an idea that is more fantasy or science fiction, and maybe one day I’ll get to one of those, but for the moment it’s a thriller a year. And, as I think you know, there’s a book for young readers coming that is slighlty sci-fi.

 

Your first children’s book, Chase, is due out next year. It’s a middle-grade novel about a dog who carries out missions for a secret organisation. What inspired you to try your hand at children’s literature?

 

I’d had an idea about a dog with special powers for several years, and it was my wife, a former kindergarten teacher, who kept urging me to write it. She thinks it’s a book all kids will love, but she feels particularly strongly about getting boys – often reluctant readers – into books. She believes they will love Chase.

 

How was the experience of writing a children’s book different from that of writing an adult detective novel?

 

It’s shorter, and way less profanity! But the process was very much the same. Keep it moving, have lots of twists.

 

You have two children, how did having children influence your career? Did you find that it changed the kinds of stories that you tell?

 

Our kids are all grown up now, but I think having kids had some impact on what I’ve written. First of all, my thrillers are often family-based. Once you have kids, you realize how much you worry about them, and it’s that anxiety I often tap into when writing my books. When there are teenagers in my books, I just hear my kids talking when they were that age.

 

Are your kids interested in writing at all? Should we be on the lookout for their breakout detective novels in the future?

 

I don’t think so. They’re both amazingly talented, but those talents go in other directions.

 

In one interview, you joked that writing a novel is similar to journalism except that novels take a bit longer to write than a column. How long on average does it take you to write a novel?

 

I can usually write a first draft in two and a half to three months. How much longer I spend on it depends on how good that first draft is. But I would say that rewriting, editing, etc. add at least another five or six weeks to the process. I’ve had at least one book that took longer to to fix than it took to write the first draft. And while I try to write the first draft without interruptions, the other parts of the process get spaced out over the year.

 

What is your writing routine? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

 

Both. I need to know the overall story before I start, but I don’t work out every detail. I don’t see the opportunities that exist in the novel until I am into it.

 

You recently returned from Thrillerfest in New York where you gave a masterclass on hooking the attention of both reader and agent. What is the one piece of advice you’d give to writers starting out looking for an agent?

 

Don’t tell an agent you’ve written the next Twilight or Da Vinci Code or Gone Girl. Whatever’s currently in fashion will be over by the time your book comes out, assuming someone picks it up. Write a very short letter. This is who I am, and this is my pitch. Then attach chapter one. You will live or die based on that first page.

 

If I’m not mistaken, all of your novels have been traditionally published. What are your views on self and independent publishing?

 

If it works for some people, great. But I like having an established organization behind me with expertise in design, marketing, distribution. I’d like, as much as possible, to focus on the actual writing,

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Authors Magazine – Surviving the First Draft

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This article originally appeared in the digital publication Authors Magazine.

You have a brilliant new idea, you’re just itching to write. It’s so easy for the first few pages… and then it becomes gradually more difficult. So you give up. Sound familiar? Every author has been there.

So how do you defeat the twin foes, Sir Procrastination and the fabled beast Self Doubt?

Before you start writing…

Like any decent soldier, you want to go in prepared. You need to accept that a time will come when this brilliant new story will turn on you. It will feel sticky and wrong and you will doubt yourself. That’s part of the process. You can head off a lot of these doubts by having a plan of attack.

Erika Bester, director of Fire Quill Publishing and author of numerous novels across genres under different pen names, says that she never struggles to finish a first draft, mostly because she knows the story she wants to write before she even puts pen to paper.

“Know your characters like you know your friends. Know the twists and turns, the conflicts. The beginning, middle and end and even the fillers in between,” she advises. “You will be surprised how fast.you finish that first draft without having to push through or experience obstacles.”

Joanne Macgregor, author of seven books for teens and young adults, agrees that often planning is the key to an easy ride, “Many writers experience that trial of the tough middle and are tempted to give up and start something fresh. I think it’s often a consequence of not having plotted the story and structure well enough before beginning, and of thinking that one idea or concept is enough to carry a story. You need multiple plot threads to interweave with your theme to give you enough impetus to carry the story to its climax.”

There are many writers who find that plotting doesn’t work for them (fondly known as “pantsers” because they like flying by the seat of their pants). For these writers, a first draft is less like instigating a well-organised plan of attack and more like entering a dark and gloomy dungeon, feeling the way forward towards treasure. You learn about the plot and the characters as you go. There is nothing shameful about this method, in fact the results can often be more surprising and organic, but it does mean that you need to store up an arsenal of weapons to combat the foes you know are likely to leap out at you from the dark.

 

Enemies to watch out for in the dark

Even if you have plotted, there will be times that you find yourself fumbling in the dark, needing a link between scenes, to bulk out some characterisation or to reach the next plot point. This is where some of the first-draft-halting enemies most love to strike.

 

The Cliché Hunter

When you’re writing a first draft, stumbling around in the dark looking for that mythical next plot point, the very last thing you need is to encounter the Cliché Hunter.

Like all demon hunters, he has a very important job. He’s just not needed in a first draft. If he’s out hunting micro clichés – the kind that pop up in dialogue or description – you might get caught in one of his snares and that will slow your journey forward immensely. (Which is more than a little frustrating when you’re not even sure you’re on the right path and might end up rewriting this bit anyway). But he’s at his most dangerous when he’s out hunting macro clichés – looking for overdone plot elements or characters or the very story itself. That’s when he puts his crossbow to your neck and demands to know “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?”. And when you can’t answer he might even kill you. Well, kill your novel.

Sometimes clichés can be a useful means to an end – a way of moving the plot along. Keep them in as placeholders, and worry about them later. If you stress too much about being original, you’ll never finish that novel. Because the secret is, there is no such thing as true originality.

 

Sir Procrastination

He sits at his campfire, frying up some delicious snacks. He invites you to sit with him. What you don’t realise is that he’ll never let you leave. He’s a crafty devil. Sometimes you won’t even realise that you’re stuck until months have gone by and you’ve completely forgotten that there was ever any treasure in the first place.

Luckily he has a couple of weaknesses.

The most effective way to defeat him is developing a writing routine. The well known BOCHOK method has been proven an effective weapon (butt on chair, hands on keyboard). Force yourself to sit down to write every day – or at least every second day. It doesn’t matter if only a sentence comes out (and it’s a bad sentence), you’re moving forward and you’re sticking with the story on the path to that fantastic treasure.

Macgregor suggests that when you do this, you turn off your internet connection (“BOCHOK doesn’t refer to procrastinating on the internet!”). She also suggests that if you’re really stuck, you can set a timer and challenge yourself to reach a certain number of words before it goes off (known as a “writing sprint”).

If that doesn’t work, you might want to up the ante by visiting a site called Write or Die that will delete words you’ve written if you don’t continue to type. The less extreme version is Written? Kitten! that rewards you with a picture of a cute cat if you meet a wordcount goal.

The other major weapon against Sir Procrastination is nagging. In other words, make sure you have some social accountability. Tell your friends, your writing group or random people online how many words you aim to write. You’re more likely to avoid that cozy campfire if there’s a chance that other people in your life will see you sitting there being all lazy. Nothing provides a kick in the pants quite like the question, “how’s that novel going?”.

 

The Middle Marsh

About half way through the journey, there’s this vast marsh. It stinks. It’s full of quicksand. Every so often bubbles of methane rise to the surface – and we all know what that smells like.

Welcome to the Middle. Every author ever will tell you that from the mid point to the three quarters point is a horrific no man’s land where the beast, Self Doubt, roams for prey. Perhaps the passion is dry, perhaps the plot is dry. Perhaps you’re just bored. Getting across here can be even more tricky than getting away from Sir Procrastination. But worry not. Many brave adventurers have faced these marshes before you. And while the skeletons of some do lie beneath the bog, plenty of others have made it safely across.

If you’ve tried the methods you used to defeat Sir Procrastination and they haven’t worked, here are some other things Macgregor suggests you can try:

  • Try writing in another mode (longhand in a notebook, or dictating into a voice recorder).
  • Shift your brain from verbal to visual: lie down in a dark room and imagine the “movie” of the next scene, then capture it into words – quick!
  • Read! A great book will inspire you, and a crappy book will motivate you because you know you can do better.
  • Read some poetry before sitting down to write.
  • Get a trusted writing friend or beta-reader to check what you’ve written so far – your block may be due to a problem with your story.
  • “Interview” the character you suspect is causing you problems. I do this as a Q&A written exercise and it’s amazing what new ideas and character elements emerge.
  • Commit to a deadline. If you want to be really serious about this, upload your (incomplete) manuscript onto Amazon’s KDP for pre-order. You’ll have about 80 days to submit your final manuscript, and if you miss the deadline, you’re banned from publishing there for a year.

 

The Siren of Other Project

This lovely lady likes to strike you when you’re at your most desperate. Perhaps it’s while you’re having coffee with Sir Procrastination, or up against the wall with one of Cliche Hunter’s knives to your throat, or stuck on an island between quicksand and smelly bog water in the Middle. She will appear as a silken spectre of temptation and beckon you towards starting something new. Something new that won’t be as difficult as this is (she promises). She lies! Don’t listen to her!

Macgregor suggests there might be a way to incorporate the essence of your new idea, character or emotional heat, into your current manuscript. If not, make a note of it somewhere and let it stew at the back of your mind. Ideas don’t expire. You might be afraid that if you don’t act on them straight away, you’ll forget them. But the best ideas, the ones really worth something, will hang around.

The other option is to try your hand at writing both at the same time. But beware: the shiny new story will want to take over all your writing time… until you reach the middle of that one.

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Authors Magazine – Get Connected

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This piece originally appeared in the digital publication Authors Magazine.

When I was a young girl, I had this impression that an author was a lonely figure sitting behind a mahogany desk, tapping away at a typewriter while a dark and stormy night brewed outside the window (thanks Snoopy). Imagine my surprise when I realised that that archetype is as dead as the typewriter. It’s true that writing is still a solitary profession, but the advent of the internet has ensured that it need no longer be a lonesome one.

Online writing communities have been around since the days of dial-up modems, and as the internet has become more social, they have grown into the safe spaces, classrooms and social escapes of the modern author. No matter what kind of writer you are, or your level of technical ability, there’s a place for you. And the best part is, you don’t even have to leave your manuscript to go there.

Social Media

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know about social media. But in case you’ve been locked away in an office behind a mahogany desk for the last decade, social media is the latest fare on the fast food menu that is the Internet. It allows you to get what you want right at the point when you need it most.

Twitter, with its 160-character telegrams of information, is perfect for quick and dirty research and is preferred by authors as famous and well-established as JK Rowling. It’s also become an essential means of keeping in touch with your readers. Joining Twitter can be overwhelming, and a feature that can certainly help with this is Twitter Lists. Create lists of fellow authors to check in with every day, or follow hashtags such as #amwriting and #amediting to find others slaving away behind their keyboards. You might even find that engaging in some real time sprints or word wars (where you compete to achieve the highest word count in a short space of time) with these “tweeps” gets you through the tough in-between parts of your latest novel.

Facebook is the other big player in social media, and no doubt you’re already logged in, sharing memes and pictures of the kiddies with your family and friends. Using Facebook as an author doesn’t necessarily mean merging these two aspects of your life. Closed Facebook Groups offer a safe space to share the trials of the writing life with like-minded people, and to learn from those with more experience. Find a group by typing “writing” into Facebook’s search bar and navigating to the Group tab. Note that a Closed Group means you’ll need to apply to join, but also that only members of the group can see what you post there.

There are tons of other social media platforms to explore. Instagram, Tumblr, Google+ and Snapchat to name but a few. My advice would be to choose your platforms wisely and only use those that you feel you get something out of. The fast pace of social media is rewarding, but it can also be draining if you take on too much.

Journaling

Of course, you may decide that social media isn’t for you at all. Teddy Raye, a well-known fan fiction author who is currently working on her first novel, feels that these networks have limited usefulness.

“The thing about Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc, is that is seems like one is constantly on transmit.”

She feels social media is great for promoting your book once it’s out there, but in terms of helping with the actual journey? She happens to agree with another author you may have heard of, George R R Martin, who maintains a LiveJournal.

LiveJournal was established in 1999 as one of the earliest social networks – a blogging platform with a comments section. What sets it apart from something like WordPress is the ability to add other users as friends and join interest-based communities.

According to Raye, LiveJournal is ideal when it comes to feedback on larger works and building close relationships with other writers.

“The acceptance, support and encouragement I found there from almost the moment I became part of the community was overwhelming. I had at my disposal a wealth of writers and readers from all over the world, from all walks of life and all kinds of experiences and lifestyles, who opened up my eyes to the myriad possibilities of becoming a serious writer,” she says.

“If I ever have any success as a writer, it will be because of the people who nurtured me on LiveJournal. “

There are a few sites like LiveJournal. Dreamwidth, for instance, is a popular choice for writers because it’s aimed especially at “people who create”.

Forums

Travelling back to the time when connecting to the web meant shouting at miscellaneous family members to get off the line, forums were the in thing – a magical way of connecting with other purveyors of the world wide web.

South African author, Cat Hellisen, credits the Absolute Write forums (still active) with being the classroom that gave her the building blocks to get where she is today.

“As with all kinds of writing groups, you can get bad advice and misinformation, and it’s best to do your research,” she says. “But writers work in isolation, and sometimes this can feel very depressing and lonely, so I do think having the support (online or real life) of a constructive writing group is invaluable. Not only that, but I’ve forged friendships with writers and readers of all kinds and levels through online forums. For those friendships alone, using AbsoluteWrite changed my writing world.”

While the concept may be dated, forums have in fact grown from strength-to-strength, offering a level of specialisation and an aspect of anonymity that social media does not.

Romance writer, Amity Lassiter, is an active member of a website called Romance Divas that has a thriving community forum. There’s something to be said for a community built around a single genre. It can address challenges specific to that particular category of fiction, and more established writers can pass on knowledge that might only be relevant to others working in the same area.

“It’s how I connected with my idol,” says Lassiter, “She made seven figures last year with her self-published books. If I could just have a fraction of her career!”

 

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The Dragon Writers – Facebook Ads for Authors

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This article was originally posted on the Dragon Writers website

It’s the subject of much debate: are Facebook ads worth it for indie authors?

The answer is: it depends. You have to go in with a very specific strategy to make it work and even then it’s not always going to pay off. Unfortunately all marketing is a risk, but hopefully the advice below will help you reduce that risk.

I’m not going to take you through how to run ads on Facebook – there are loads and loads of tutorials for this. Rather, I’d like to jump right in with some strategic points.

When should I use Facebook advertising?

Use it as part of a general marketing campaign when you have a specific goal in mind.

  • Don’t use it to get more likes on your author page. People will respond to an ad when they’re going to get something out of it. The only people (who don’t already know your work and your genius) getting something out of liking your fan page are going to be spammers and they will dilute the reach of your posts to fans.
  • Don’t use it for general awareness about your books. Again, people are selfish and they won’t care that you – this author they’ve never heard about – has a book out unless they can get something out of it.

So use it when you’re running a promo of some kind: a reduced price, a freebie in celebration of a new release, free books in exchange for newsletter subscribers etc.

Go into it having a very clear idea of what a “win” is to you. I would recommend a win is either a conversion (purchase/download) or a number of website visits. “People who’ve seen the ad” is not really a win unless they were driven to do something when they saw it. And as already stated, randoms liking your page is not a win.

Also, consider running the ad for a short space of time. Do it for a day, then see how it’s performing and adjust. You don’t want any ads going that aren’t paying their way.

Who should I target?

The more specific you can get an ad, the cheaper it will be.

  • Through playing with custom audiences, you can target people who have visited your website or who subscribe to your mailing list.
  • Don’t discount sending ads to “people who like your page and their friends”. Due to the Facebook algorithm, not everyone who likes your Page will see all your posts and promotions unless you pay. Also, people tend to be friends with those similar to them, so it can be a way of reaching new readers.
  • Target based on interests – send ads to people who like books similar to yours. Bear in mind that a lot of Facebook’s understanding of “interests” is guesswork.
  • Target based on demographics. If you’re marketing a children’s book, display the ad to parents only. If you’re marketing an Afrikaans book, make sure only those who speak Afrikaans can see the ad. Where are your readers based? Where is the book set? Bear all this in mind to trim down your audience.

What should my ad look like?

Use an eye-catching visual that has NO text on it (You are allowed 20% text, so you can get away with your book title and text like that if you have to). You have 3 spaces to put text: the headline, the link blurb and the post text. Post text and headline display across all platforms, link blurb will only show up on desktop.

Most people will only read the headline text. So make that your priority!

Here are some specs to start with:

  • Image: No text, low contrast (because of Facebook’s compression algorithm), pretty, bright, emotive. Upload in PNG (again because of Facebook’s compression algorithm). Create as 1,200 x 628 (it will be down-scaled to half that size).
  • Headline: About 6 words, one of which is an action word.
  • Post text: Written coming from the page/you, in the voice of the page/you.
  • Link text: More info on what you’ve said in the headline.

Where should my ad go?

When creating the ad, you’ll get the option of where to display it. To save money I’ve found the following works:

  • Strip away the sidebar ads and the audience network – those don’t display well and no one clicks on them.
  • If you really want to budget, go for mobile newsfeed only. I’ve seen the majority of clicks coming from mobile for months now.
  • It’s up to you if you want to go for Instagram – do you think your book will appeal to the kind of person who uses Instagram?

Conversions

Facebook has a tutorial on how to set up the Facebook pixel for showing conversions. So I’m not going to explain what a pixel is or a conversion is. What’s important is that when you want someone who comes through from an ad to take an action on your site, set up a confirmation page that is displayed to them once they’ve taken that action (like a “thank you for downloading” page).

You can instruct Facebook to tell you every time that page is displayed which will tell you how many times people have taken that action. This happens in real time, so you can measure your returns day-by-day and adjust accordingly.

If you find lots of people are visiting your site but not converting, it may be a sign to look at your website design and adjust that, not the ad, to make it easier for a person to follow through.

I hope this helps!

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