Imagine your book with no headings, no paragraph breaks and no formatting – just one long line of text, sentence after sentence with no place for a reader to pause and gather their thoughts. The narrative has become a forbidding and impenetrable jungle of text. There are no reference points for a reader to navigate by and they will quickly tune out to your message.
I was invited to attend the Hay House Writer’s Workshop this week in Sydney and the phrase of the day was definitely author platform. In fact, if you assumed that a writing workshop run by the world’s leading Mind Body Spirit publisher would be filled with creativity exercises and meditations to help you write from the soul, you might have been disappointed.
It’s often the small things that pull readers out of a story and one of the biggest culprits is sloppy, inconsistent formatting. Formatting should be invisible in a book – the hidden scaffolding that allows the reader to smoothly step into the narrative and become immersed in the writing.
Self Publishing Part 5: The Fiscal Art of Book Design (or people judge books by their covers – work with it!)
The long-term success of any publishing venture will always hinge on the quality of the writing, but without great packaging you are severely handicapping your book’s ability to sell in almost any channel you can think of. We are conditioned as consumers to make inferences about the quality of a product by the aesthetic promise of its design and wrapping. It’s a psychological loophole that marketers have been exploiting with every increasing precision.
The confluence of digital technologies such as online retail, eBooks, print-on-demand (POD), desktop publishing and social media has dramatically shifted the balance of book publishing around the world by giving authors access to the tools they need to affordably publish and market their books globally. These same technologies have also led to a virtual renaissance in vanity publishing by opening up more legitimate business models for what was once a marginalised (and sometimes fraudulent) backwater of the industry.
OK, so I recycled a throwaway metaphor from yesterday’s article in the title of this post but let’s not get too carried away extending it into any broader literary allusion – a professional editor can do wonderful things for your book but very rarely do they ask for a first-born son in return for their services. In fact, when you consider that your editor will most likely be the single most important contributor to your book (after yourself of course), the rates that they charge are extremely reasonable.
In my previous post I laid out my checklist for self published authors and top of the list was the quality of the writing. By publishing a book you are creating a product that must stand on its own in one of the most competitive markets on Earth. There are literally millions of books published in various formats around the world each year and if you hope to convince discerning readers to pay money for your work then you must make sure that the content of your book is up to a commercially acceptable standard*. A startling number of self published books are doomed to failure simply by virtue of going to print before they are ready and, no matter how good the salesman, if the product doesn’t meet expectations then it’s simply not going sell.
There’s a huge amount of speculation around the decline of traditional publishing now that digital printing, online retail, eBooks and digital marketing are allowing authors more opportunity to go it alone. While the fate of traditional publishing is a topic for another day, the fact is that more and more authors are now deciding to… Read More ›
The short lists are in for the 2009 Aurealis Awards, recognising Australia’s best Science Fiction and Fantasy writing. It’s been another strong year for Australian SF & Fantasy and the number of new authors in this year’s list is good news for the future. The Winners will be announced on the 23rd January.
Many reviewers have already pegged this book as the biggest fantasy release of 2010. That’s a big claim only days into the New Year but it’s not hard to see why this is book is getting so much hype. From its opening lines we are drawn into an intense, almost urgent atmosphere as Hoffman cleverly hints at the depths and layers of the story to come. This is a world where nothing and no one can be trusted, where words can have great power but little meaning and where cynicism and dark humour are essential to survival.
Let me just put this out there straight up: I would knock down my own Grandmother if she stood between me and a new Jasper Fforde novel. There are few authors I idolise as much as Jasper Fforde, the man who brought us, Jurisfiction, the Chronoguard, full body-contact croquet and the ingenious Footnoterphone! Imagine, then, my hand-trembling excitement as I explored a world utterly different from that of the Thursday Next series, a vision of the future I guarantee you’ve never even dreamt about before, and yet still so unmistakeably Ffordeian.
The follow up to one of my favourite debut novels from 2009, The Poison Throne – the first book in The Moorehawke Trilogy. The series is light fantasy, with a strong historical fiction feel – the action takes place in a medieval kingdom in an era very reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. The world building in the series is quite economic, however, and The Poison Throne was a book that took place entirely within a single castle and its grounds. Its strength was the intense, claustrophobic drama that built up within the royal court as the young Wynter, or Lady Moorehawke, and her ailing father attempt to find out why their enlightened kingdom has fallen into superstitious tyranny in their five year absence.
You have never seen the Peter Pan story like this. Surprised by the underlying darkness of J.M Barrie’s original Peter Pan stories, Brom was struck by this line in particular:
The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.
What happens when the Brother’s Grimm team up with Quentin Tarantino and Irvine Welsh? Diabolical carnage of the most grotesque and disturbing kind – but funny too, right, in a sick kind of way? Welcome to the imagination of Jesse Bullington.
This is a welcome return to the classic sagas of King’s early career with powerful human drama, a sprawling cast and constant action, all choreographed by a master storyteller. It’s a book that’s been over 25 years in the making, mixing beautifully some themes and ideas that have been simmering away in King’s potent subconscious mind with current world events and even some very entertaining pop-culture references.
NZ born author Juliet Marillier has achieved a huge international audience with her elegant historical fantasy novels. Like some of her previous series, Heart’s Blood takes inspiration from a traditional fairy tale. In this case it’s Beauty and the Beast – and no, you can forget that saccharine sweet Disney version, this is a story with a lot more guts to it.
Jack Vance wrote the Tales of the Dying Earth series over a period of 34 years from 1950-1984. It is still regarded as one of the most distinctive and influential creations in the fantasy genre and the Cugel volumes in particular are still as fresh and entertaining as ever. Set in the far far future, Vance imagines an Earth populated by humans capable of both powerful magic and impressive technology. Yet this advanced society lives with the inescapable knowledge that our Sun is in rapid decline and will soon die, dooming all life on Earth with it.
Gail Carriger describes her first novel as “urbane fantasy” – an apt description for this paranormal Victorian comedy of manners.
What is it about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that has managed to keep such a large audience enthralled for so many years? Since the release of The Eye of the World back in January 1990 legions of fans have doggedly followed the fortunes of that original group of heroes who set out from Two Rivers, even as the series grew and grew to encompass the fates of many more players.
Launched earlier this year by Harper Collins in the UK and Australia, Angry Robot is a new publishing imprint where “[the] mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!” Essentially, Angry Robot is all about the new wave of SF and Fantasy, whether it be subversive new takes on traditional tropes, crossover fiction, or something entirely, even bizarrely original. What makes me excited about the whole venture is that Harper Collins already has a dedicated SF & Fantasy Imprint in their stable: Voyager is perhaps the biggest specialist SF and Fantasy publisher in the world, home to many of the genres’ most successful authors. For Harper to launch a new dedicated SF & F imprint suggests they are looking to do something new.