Elements of a Great Story – Pacing

This month on Aussie Owned we’re looking at the elements of a great story. I chose pacing because it’s one of my favourite elements of story, and one I have struggled with from time to time — particularly when I was a wee baby writer working on my first novel. (I liked to overshare about the day-to-day of my characters’ lives, you guys. No, I loved it. I was still getting to know them, and that’s fine in a first draft — but some of those scenes had to go because, ye gods, they were boring.)

Pacing is, simply, how fast the story unfolds. The “right” pacing varies depending on the requirements of your story. Some stories take you along like you’re old friends going for a stroll along the beach, slowly immersing you in events until you’re invested (before probably sucking the sand out from under you or smashing you with a wave). Other stories are the equivalent of riding a runaway stallion, all thundering hooves and branches slapping you in the face and maybe, if you’re lucky, the chance to pause and eat some grass at some point.

Okay, I’ll stop with the terrible similes!

The tools for adjusting a story’s pacing are varied; action and dialogue speed the story up, while description slows it down. Short sentences and paragraphs speed it up; long sentences and paragraphs slow it down. I think it’s best expressed by one of my favourite writers (who writes fast-paced speculative fiction and gives the best writing advice I’ve found on the internet), Chuck Wendig.

Further reading … but not, like, in a boring way

I love to give book recommendations, and, happily, I can readily bring to mind two five-star favourites with very different levels of pacing. (Both are speculative fiction, because that’s how I roll.)

The first is Aussie urban fantasy Shadows by Paula Weston (and in fact the whole Rephaim series). The four books of this series are set over the course of a couple of weeks. Sure, there are flashbacks, particularly in the last one, but still. It really gives you a sense for how exhausted the characters must be, the urgency of the storyline. When they had a chance to pause for food or a sleep I was relieved on their behalf! I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

 

The second book I’m recommending is one I just finished, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. This man is a world-building, story-crafting genius. I strongly recommend his works if you like your fantasy on the EPIC side of epic — Goodreads tells me the hardcover of The Way of Kings is over 1000 pages. (I listened to this on audiobook and it was 45+ hours long.) Because Sanderson spends so much time building his worlds and layering them with backstory and foreshadowing, the books are immersive and the build of tension is slower than in some other stories, but the stakes just keep getting higher and higher. And there are flashes of action that keep you gripped.

 


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer whose latest urban fantasy, False Awakening, hits the shelves at the end of August. Preorders are now available from your favourite ebook retailers.

From Query to Publication – Six Stages of Emotion

Are you a writer? Have you been busily squirreling away words in secret while the rest of your household sleeps? Maybe you’re at that uncertain point where you’re thinking of writing a novel, of taking the leap into a pool of words powerful enough to build new kingdoms and birth new people. Yes? YES? Do it! Take the plunge! It’s completely and utterly magical. It will ensnare you, captivate you. And it will catapult you down a raging river of unchecked emotion.

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Photo by Carl Cerstrand on Unsplash

I’m new to this publishing gig. My first novel is due for release in just a few weeks (Yay! Yikes! Gulp!), but I’m already well familiar with the emotional ups and downs that come with bringing a book baby into the world. So strap on your floaties (or maybe a life vest) and hold on tight as I take you through the six stages of the traditional publication journey’s Raging River of Emotions. First comes …

1. The Calm on the River Bank (Emotions = sense of achievement / satisfaction)

After months, maybe years, of self doubt, procrastination, and cleaning dirt from under your fingernails after all the times you’ve had to dig yourself out of a plot hole, you’ve finished your novel! Big pat on the back. You should be proud. This is a great achievement. Writing an entire novel is no small feat. But now what? How do you release it into the big wide world? Well, you must dip your toes into …

2. The Churning Channel of Submissions (Emotions = confusion / doubt)

Whether you’re querying agents or submitting your manuscript directly to editors and publishers, you’ll need to decide WHO to send it to. Which agent is a good fit for you as a writer? Which editors or publishers are looking for your kind of story? Confusion abounds as you sift through agent and editor databases, and your eyes glaze over as you try to read yet another set of submission guidelines. But, with perseverance – and copious cups of triple shot coffee – you’ll eventually have a list of suitable agents, editors, and publishers. You then dutifully send out your query in small batches like all the query gurus have advised you to do. And you float down river into …

3. The Query Rapids

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Photo by Jérôme Prax on Unsplash

This treacherous three-stage stretch of water will take you through a looping cycle of emotions, starting with …

  • The Waiting Wetlands (Emotions = frustration / impatience)

This is a long, dull, and trying section of the river as you wait to hear back from agents and publishers. Response times vary hugely. You might luck in and hear within a couple of weeks. Or you might still be waiting eight months down the track. It might be wise to take up yoga or Pilates. I’ve heard it’s good for managing stress levels. It’ll come in handy when you hit …

  • The Falls of Rejection (Emotions = disappointment / doubt)

This is possibly the worst part of the Raging River of Emotions. No matter how prepared you think you are, this huge dip will wind you every time you drop down it (and you’re bound to drop down it a few times at least!). But you must hang on and push through. The publishing business is hugely subjective. What is a pass for one agent / editor might well excite another. If you’re lucky to get feedback, read it with a critical eye and apply accordingly. Oh, and maybe book an extra yoga class. It’ll help you paddle into …

  • The Upstream of Persistence (Emotions = cautious optimism / determination)

Once you’ve climbed back into your boat and wrung out your sopping T-shirt, as well as your badly bruised pride, you send out the next batch of queries and submissions. Because you are made of stern stuff and the world needs your story. Rinse and repeat step 3 until you develop RSI in your index finger from hitting the refresh button on your email inbox while waiting for …

4. THE Mouth of the River CALL! (Emotions = euphoria / excitement)

This! This is what you’ve been waiting for! Finally, you can see the vast, open publishing ocean ahead. And someone has offered to help you set sail across it. Someone who loves your story as much as you do and wants to take it to the far ends of the earth. They love your voice, your characters, your unusual style of punctuation. But first you’ll need to navigate through …

5. The Editing Tributaries (Emotions = confusion / self doubt / impatience)

You’ve signed the contract, sucked the last drop from your bottle of bubbly, and now the hard work begins. You’re asked to kill off a character, add an extra chapter, and get rid of that unusual punctuation style. It’s not uncommon to be a little confused at some editorial suggestions that come your way. Self doubt can often creep in here, but a sound collaborative editorial relationship is crucial to your book’s success. Ask questions and learn from the reasoning behind editorial suggestions, because it won’t be long before your book’s …

6. Release into the Big Book Ocean (Emotions = excitement / anxiety)

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Photo by Nathan Hulsey on Unsplash

At last! Your book’s birthday has arrived. You can’t stop staring at the cover, and your friends and family can name every character in your book. Even Guido, the one-legged postman who makes a brief appearance in chapter six. It’s likely a time of mixed emotions. Excitement, anxiety, sense of pride, fear of failure. Revel in ALL of them, feel them in every corner of your writerly being, because they are proof you’ve breathed life into a new story and dared to share it with the world. And that’s something worth braving the query to publication Raging River of Emotions.

Tell us about your writing / publishing river of emotions. Does it look similar or have you had a different experience?


Kat Colmer Author

Kat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author, and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Sex in the School Library – 5 Tips for YA Authors

As both a YA author and a high-school teacher librarian, I’m in the unique position to look at young adult literature from both a writer’s as well as a gatekeeper’s perspective. And when it comes to sexual content in YA, there are some things YA authors might be interested to know about getting their book into a school library.

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Image credit: Snufkin via StockSnap.io

Let’s Talk About Sex … in YA

Sex in young adult literature is not a new thing. Ever since Judy Blume’s YA novel Forever ruffled some moral feathers along with the bed sheets back in 1975, young adult literature has gone where a lot of parents, teachers, and other adults wish teens didn’t venture until they were well past the age of eighteen—namely behind that closed door where all that … well … you know … where all the hanky panky takes place (insert blush here).

Okay, brace yourselves, because according to a recent survey of Australian upper secondary students 69% of fifteen year olds have experienced some form of sexual activity, including intercourse. Since one of literature’s roles is to reflect society, it makes sense that fiction for young adults would include themes of sex and sexual discovery. If done well, sexual content in books for young adults can play an important role in the social and emotional development of teens. Whichever way you feel about sex in YA, it’s here to stay, and any school librarian will tell you that sexual content in fiction for young adults is pushing boundaries and becoming more explicit. Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury and Patrick Ness’ Release are only two such examples.

Now, school libraries and teacher librarians are at the forefront of YA literature advocacy. The only thing we love more than YA books is matching a YA title with the right reader (cue the warm-fuzzies *sigh*). But even though most school librarians take a strong anti-censorship, ‘open access to information’ stance, they must work within the ethos and guidelines of the schools that employ them. This means some school libraries won’t acquire certain YA titles because of their explicit content. YA authors might – or might not – want to keep this in mind when writing that ‘swinging-from-the-chandelier’ sex scene.

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Image credit: Agberto Guimaraes via StockSnap.io

Here are some things for YA authors to consider in relation to school libraries acquiring their book babies:

  • Most school libraries cater for a broad age range, which often means twelve year olds have access to the same books as eighteen year olds. Depending on the procedures in place to help students select developmentally appropriate material, some school libraries may choose not to acquire YA with overtly explicit sexual content. It’s not personal, trust me.

 

  • Don’t assume all faith-affiliated school libraries will only want ‘clean YA’. Yes, some faith-based schools will have conservative acquisitions policies, but you’ll find many that are more liberal.

 

  • When writing, ensure sexual content in your YA novel has a purpose; that it serves the plot and / or character development. If it’s simply there because you believe most teens your characters’ age are ‘doing it’, it most likely won’t read true to your story, and is less likely to be selected for a school library collection.

 

  • Aim for realistic depictions of teen sexual experience. Teen sexual encounters, whatever end of the heat scale they’re at, are often awkward and fumbly, filled with insecurity, naivety, and self doubt. They need to be put on the page with sensitivity, while taking care not to patronise the intended reader. School libraries are looking for YA texts that reflect their student body and community.

 

  • More emotion and less body parts, please! YA fiction by nature is usually written from a close point of view, and can therefore benefit from focusing more on the characters’ internalisations than the mechanics of the act. Young adults learn about the physical how-to of sex in primary school. It’s the emotional and relational aspects where sexual content in YA can play a powerful developmental role in young adults’ lives, and it’s this – as well as a good story, of course – that will win school librarians over.

What are your thoughts on sex in YA when it comes to school libraries? I’d love to hear about your experiences, whether you’re an author, librarian or reader.


Kat Colmer Author

Kat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Psychology of the Villain

Villains. We love to hate them, and at times hate to find we love them. Last Tuesday’s Aussie Writers post looked at the possible motivations behind a villain’s actions, but what in their psyche allows them to make the choices that lead to these villainous deeds? To help me answer this question, I thought I better enlist an expert, so I teamed up with PsychWriter author, Tamar Sloan, to explore a villain’s psychology.

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A complex villain in most books isn’t your run of the mill sociopath with fifteen bodies in their basement. Yes, these individuals exist. We’ve seen the documentaries and read the books about them, but the broken characters we love to hate have greater depth than that. The villain of our masterpiece is usually a wounded human with the capacity for empathy, guilt and remorse. A human who makes choices that violate ethical, legal and moral boundaries.

What ultimately makes them a villain is that they reach a point where they’re okay with their choice, maybe even delight in it, and it’s the progression to this point that is valuable to tease out as a writer. Either in the planning or in the aftermath, your villain moves through a series of psychological steps that allows them to live with their choices and sleep the sleep of the guilt-free (or mostly guilt-free). Capture this process in your book and you’ve got a realistic, authentic villain your readers are going to be fascinated by, and possibly even understand on some primal, psychological level.

So what is this psychological, possibly subconscious, process your villain goes through before or after their villainous deeds?

The starting point is often a discrepancy between your villain’s beliefs and their behaviour. We each hold many beliefs and thoughts about the world and ourselves. Most of the time these beliefs, and the choices we make, coexist happily in the folds of our grey matter. Sometimes though, discrepancies arise. Like when we eat chocolate cake even though we know we should be dieting. Like saying family comes first, but then having an affair. Or like saying we value humanity, and then sacrificing thousands in the name of a cause.

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Image credit: Ryan McGuire http://www.gratisography.com

When our beliefs and behaviour clash we become uncomfortable. Nervous. Distressed. And if there’s one thing our brain doesn’t like, and has evolved to avoid, it’s discomfort. So it will do what it needs to do to achieve harmony and balance. Since the behaviour has usually already happened, or is committed to happening, the brain needs to do some cognitive gymnastics, and your villain will probably do one or more of the following:

  1. Change their belief: The ‘I don’t really need to be on a diet’ reasoning.

Saruman in the classic Lord of the Rings uses such reasoning. Originally a powerful Istari entrusted with guarding Middle Earth like Gandalf, Saruman’s belief—and allegiance—changes when he comes to believe that Sauron’s victory can’t be avoided. His love of power drives him to abandon his order and convinces him that he’s better off on the side of evil.

  1. Minimise their behaviour and how they perceive it: The ‘I hardly ate any chocolate cake at all’ reasoning.

From Middle Earth to Creekwood High and Martin Addison in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It’s not often the class clown is written as the villain, but when Martin stumbles on a personal email of Simon’s, he threatens to out him unless he helps Martin get close to Simon’s friend, Abby. When Simon asks if Martin is actually going to make him do this, Martin deftly minimises his behaviour:

‘Make you? Come on. It’s not like that … It’s not like anything … I was just thinking you would want to help me here.’

  1. Rationalise their behaviour: the ‘Chocolate cake is a good source of calcium’ reasoning.

The Hunger Games series offers us a slow-boil villain in President Alma Coin. She is all about freeing Panem and making it a better place, but her desire to take President Snow’s place as ruler at any cost, including killing Katniss’ sister, Prim, reveals her for the power hungry sociopath that she really is. Whether an act or her true belief, Alma Coin’s ‘for the greater good’ reasoning continues to the very end:

‘Today, the greatest friend to revolution will fire the shot to end all wars. May her arrow signify the end of tyranny and the beginning of a new era.’

  1. Reduce perceived choice: the ‘I didn’t have a choice. It would have been rude not to eat it …’ reasoning.

Twilight’s Aro is a villain with very clear cut, black and white principles. His primary objective as head of the Volturi coven is to keep the existence of their kind hidden. When it’s rumoured that Bella and Edward have created an immortal child, Aro argues he ‘has no choice’ but to destroy the infant who poses a threat of exposure for the vampires. Only when Aro sees a vision of his own death as a result of him trying to kill the child does he back down and let her live. Even a vampire sleeps easier at night when he’s convinced himself he had no choice.

Disclaimer: no chocolate cake was harmed in the writing of this article! Well, not a lot of it anyway, and our hands were tied. We had to eat it … for research purposes.

About the author:

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Tamar really struggled writing this bio because she hasn’t decided whether she’s primarily a psychologist who loves writing, or a writer with a lifelong fascination for psychology. Somehow she got lucky enough to do both. Tamar is the author of the PsychWriter blog – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers.

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Tamar is also a passionate writer of young adult stories of finding love and life beyond your comfort zone. You can find out more about Tamar’s books at www.tamarsloan.com

 

 

 


Kat Colmer Author

Kat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Tell Me Why? Villainous Motivations

As readers we are eternally curious about the characters who populate stories. But it’s not the surface stuff that intrigues us, is it? It’s the stuff underneath that has moulded them, formed their perspectives – the stuff that drives them. These deeply buried things are what makes a character intriguing.

Villains by definition often top that ‘intriguing character’ list.

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Villains do bad things and sure, we want to know ‘who?’ and ‘how?’ but that fades to insignificance beside the question ‘why?’. Why did he poison the cat? Why did she try to destroy Anya’s reputation? Why is he determined to terrify her to the point that she believes she’s insane? The answers to those questions are what will allow us readers to sleep well after closing the last page. We will be sated, satisfied, content.

So, is it ever enough for an author to brush that question away with a cavalier: ‘He/she is just a bad person’?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Never, nil, nada. Hardly ever. 🙂 

Why? (See? You wanted to know ‘why?’ 😉 ). Short answer: Readers want more. They’ll feel cheated. And, just quietly, be really, really ticked off with the author.

villain 3Long answer: True psychopaths are the scariest people ever. And yes, successful books have been written featuring them. But, at the risk of lighting a fuse under any psychopaths reading this, in the literary sense they’re kind of boring. Kill or torture for the sake of killing or torturing? Not going to hold my attention for long. If I’m not wondering ‘why’ then I’m out. You see, very few people are born bad, so the whole psychopath thing can often be a bit unrealistic and harder for the reader to relate. In fact studies back from the 1980s to the present all agree that a fair equation is that around 1% of western world people are true psychopaths – people who act without empathy or conscience.

Okay, so a more favourable equation would be nil%, but I’ll still take 1% over anything higher. Relatively speaking, it’s a low number. (Actually it’s terrifying if I say it in numbers – but it IS low really. Like 13 million psychopaths in 1.3 billion people. Whaaat!!! No, wait. Honestly, rest assured, despite that scary figure you’re unlikely to meet one walking down the street today. Or maybe not. Feeling lucky? Um, excuse me while I just nip out & lock my doors.)

So, what about all the other people – let’s call them villains –  who continue to star in our villain 2news reports or populate our gaols?  The non psychopaths. These people weren’t born bad. For the vast majority, things happened in their lives that affected their perspective and culminated in poorly made decisions to cause havoc and break laws (sociopaths). Or regular people who’ve got some kind of issue that burns them or has turned them.  These ‘things’ are called motivations. I.e,  a motive or reason for their decisions or behaviour.

Like everything else in life, villains come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, they come in all manner of villainy from the sneaky troublemaker to the morally bankrupt multi murderer/serial killer. Some are charming (in their own evil way). Some slip into the shadowy background and exist in that disregarded no man’s land ‘under the radar’. And some will make our skin crawl. As authors and readers, we’ve met them all because fiction has an unfathomably higher percentage of villains of all kinds than real life. Thank goodness, yeah?

To recap that: In real life, ordinary people will do bad things. Just as in fiction, ordinary people will do bad things. The one thing these non psychopathic villains have in common is motivation; the reason that drives their actions.

Let’s look at some. Caveat: The list below is not comprehensive and there are heaps of lists on the net. However these are all motivations – and all open to your own twists and interpretation –  that I have either used or read, where used successfully, in YA novels.

  • Romance/jealousy.
  • Revenge for a perceived injustice
  • Repayment of past treatment.
  • Desperation
  • Peer acceptance
  • Peer domination
  • Need for Power (based on villains own suppressed power by others in his life)
  • Rivalry
  • Grief/Loss
  • Fear of Discovery
  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Greed

Don’t forget your villain can also have noble motivations – or motivations that began as noble. Most superhero villains were once good guys with noble motivations who somehow got off track. A villain with a noble/likeable side is most intriguing.

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Mix up your villains motivations to add more interest. Maybe your villain can’t help being a villain because he’s trapped?

Motivations are one of the major keystones to your story. They:

  • Reveal & distinguish character
  • Drive plot
  • Build drama
  • Give your story authenticity
  • Provide the impetus for character growth arc.

Motivations apply to every character, not just the villain. They drive the story. Dare I say they are the story. Every action and every reaction of your characters will be the result of their reasoning. And all reasoning is tempered by motivation.

Good Luck and Happy villaining!

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

5 tips for a memorable villain

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking about the bad guys of the story–the villains.

When it comes to writing villains, it can be easy to fall into some bad habits. Here are my top tips for creating a worthy opponent to your fabulous lead character:

  1. Give the villain strong motivation: Why is your bad character a bad character? Sure, you could fall into the all-too-easy “because he/she is just evil”, but how realistic is that? There are true psychopaths in life, but truly memorable villains tend to have reasons for their bad behaviour. Did they suffer during their childhood? Perhaps they don’t have a support network and have battled mental health? Or perhaps again, they’re not really a bad person, simply someone who wants something that puts them at direct odds with your protagonist? Whatever the reason, make it clear to help enhance your villain as a character and make him or her a real person/creature.
  2. Give him or her at least one redeeming quality: Just like your villain should have a reason for his or her bad-assery, he or she should also have at least one redeeming quality. How many people do you know without at least one positive personality trait? Whether you only give us a glimpse of this or you show the quality in its full glory, this can make your villain not just lifelike, but possibly the tiniest bit likeable, creating a very memorable villain indeed.

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    Is your villain a real person or just a shadow in the dark? Photo: Stock.Adobe.com

  3. Avoid the villain reveal: We’ve all seen it. It’s the climax of the story. The bad guy has the good guy trapped, tied up in rope, and he’s about to slit our hero’s throat! Calamity! The end is in sight!
    And what better thing to do when you have the hero completely in your clutches, ready to die a slow and painful death, than launch into a monologue, explaining your motivation to date and exactly why you did what you did? This is a cliched action performed by many villains, and outside of scenes in Inspector Gadget (where they also use the infamous “I’ll get you next time, Gadget” line) I don’t think it flies. It’s not realistic. And not only that, but there’s no motivation for the villain to tell the hero all that information, making the villain less life-like and therefore less scary in a time when you want him to appear all powerful and ferocious.
  4. Offer up a worthy opponent: Is the villain in your story all powerful, the strongest man in the universe–but a bit low in brainpower? Often, we can get carried away creating a heap of braun to combat our good guys and leaving our villains lacking in one major department–mental strength. This doesn’t just apply to villains involved in a physical showdown with our hero–whether your bad guy is a land developer with cold, hard cash to your hero’s tree hugger, or an opponent vying for a job at the same company, fighting your hero by dismantling his or her computer and leaving her stranded at the copy machine, you want to make sure your villain has the smarts to help create believable and truly deep drama.
    Yes, some villains are perhaps unintelligent, bumbling idiots. Yes, these sort of people do exist in real life. Do they make a worthy opponent for your fabulous lead character, however? And are they helping to create the maximum amount of tension between your hero and themselves by giving readers the notion that perhaps they could win? I don’t think so.
  5. Bring the villain into your home: Bringing your villain into the “safe” place of the hero can up the tension and raise the stakes. This can work in multiple ways: you can physically bring the villain into your hero’s home ground, or you can take someone close to your hero and turn them into the antagonist. This is particularly useful in contemporary reads. Think of things like the child putting the mother in the nursing home; the parents telling the child they can’t run riot in the rain late at night; a loved one not believing the hero when he or she tells about the fantastical thing he or she has seen. Having someone close to your hero display villainous traits or become a villain by offering an opposing viewpoint he or she feels passionately about can sometimes result in the most tension-filled novel of all.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel, as well as an editor of fiction. You can get in touch with her via her website or Facebook.

3 Facebook advertising tips

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking marketing for authors.
When I first learned of this month’s topic, my first idea for a post went something like this:

  1. Hi, fellow authors. My advice is to study what I’m doing, and then:
  2. Don’t do it. It’s not working.

But that’s not entirely true. After all, I know some marketing activities have worked for me, resulting in sales of books and website views, more than I could have ever dreamed of.

Sound too to be true? That’s because in a way, it is. This method I’m talking about requires patience. It requires time and research. And worse than all that? It requires money.

Yep. I’m talking about Facebook advertising.

While this doesn’t work for everyone, I have found it to work for me quite successfully in the past after carefully choosing my target audience. Here are my top tips on making it work for you:

  1. Know your market. It can be daunting, picking the right key words for your ads, and I have to admit that it took me a bit of trial and error. Start with the basics (e.g. eBook readers) and then narrow it down to those who like reading eBooks AND enjoy your genre AND say, read books by one of three authors you would consider yourself on par with. Keep defining your audience until you are quite narrow.
  2. Have a compelling call-to-action. While I have found some generic book ads work well, the ones that have worked the best for me are either promoting a limited-time-only price reduction, or a new preorder. I think that implication that if they don’t get on the gravy train now, they could miss out, makes people more likely to one-click.
  3. Create strong ad content. Whether you’re using a teaser quote image from your book or a combination of the cover and perhaps five stars, letting browsers know this book has been positively reviewed, make sure your visual is clean, consistent, and fits with Facebook’s recommended size guidelines. I also always include my tag either in my image or in the copy of the ad, to try and intrigue the audience, for example in the below: Young woman at the beachThe quote about her world turning upside-down had quite a few readers leaving comments and I believe helped this ad convert to many sales.

There are many courses out there telling you how to use Facebook ads, including a great one by Mark Dawson. I by no means proclaim to be an expert, but these are just a few things that I have found work for me.

What about you? What do you think of Facebook advertising?

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can find her on Facebook here or at her website.