Archive | May, 2007

Answers To Many Questions

A number of readers posted questions today on various aspects of promoting our fiction. I’ll try to respond to a fair number of these here, in no particular order:

1) Colleen asked:

Valerie’s question is excellent. Thanks for answering. But I have another one . . I write adventure stories of a missionary kid in different parts of South America and eventually, the world. My one-liner for my present novel: “A twelve-year-old boy risks his friendship–and his life–to unmask crime and superstition in the mysterious Archipelagos.” Any ideas for a super article when you write for kids?

Randy sez: The key word here is “South America”. I bet there are a ton of kids every year who have to write a report about South America. You should do a little research here to find out exactly what parts of South America get searched on most often. (See my e-book on SuperArticles for how you do this research.) Then write some informative and kid-friendly articles on those areas. You might even include a short story set in South America.

2) Lynda wrote:

I’ve been pondering. My novels will deal with creationism. I am a former chemist and homeschool mom,so I thought I could come from that angle. Problem: its already been done and by people far better than I in both education and creation science. Any ideas?

Randy sez: Creationism is big among home-schoolers. Since you are a chemist and a home-school mom, you have an inside track here. How about creating a unit-study for home-schoolers on some aspect of Creationism? A unit-study should be targeted to a particular grade-level, so you could do one for each grade you’re interested in. You could sell them on your web site and generate some cash while you promote your novels!

3) Valerie asked:

I am still stuck. What kind of Super Article can a fantasy writer make? The closest I can think of is writing about the extensive research I did into the year 3000 BC. I have based the setting on a blend of many cultures and technologies during this time. Of course, I will maybe use at most 10%, if that.

Do I convert my story idea into a gaming format or module? Do I make an interactive map? (Not exactly sure how to do that but have seen a couple).

Randy sez: Yes, fantasy is harder to write a SuperArticle about. I’ve been meaning to address this question, because it’s come up several times. The advantage you fantasy writers have is that fantasy is big, especially among kids and adults in their 20s. I think it’s going to see a lot of growth in coming years.

One idea I had a few days ago was that one of you fantasy writers could create an article on dragons. Where did those myths of dragons come from? How have dragons played a role in myths and stories through the ages? What is the closest living species to a dragon? What sort of dragon art is out there? Any or all of these could form the basis for a web page on dragons. Google “dragons” to see what’s available. What do you see missing? Can you fill that gap?

But there are other aspects of fantasy you could tie into. For example, all those “creative anachronism” societies. What appeals to those people? How can you serve them? The definition of an entrepreneur is “someone who finds a need and fills it.”

4) Pam wrote:

For example: I have an autistic daughter. She has seizures. That makes it just about impossible for us to go to church while on vacation or visting my parents. Most churches do not have a special needs nursery and are not equipped to handle kids who can’t sit in church, Sunday school or the regular nursery. This should not be. Of all the places in the world, the church is one place where I should be able to take my daughter. I can write an article about this. I even have a name: No Place For Anna.

Will that boost my writing? I don’t know. But like Randy sez, if the writing is good, it will get noticed.

Randy sez: I wish, I wish, I wish when my book DOUBLE VISION came out that I had got in touch with some of the national organizations for autistic people. Because I’m sure they’d have loved the book and helped to promote it. (The leading man in the story, Dillon, has Asperger’s Syndrome.) I’ve heard from a few moms who wrote me to say that they have a son with Asperger’s and he’s just like Dillon. They felt that the book was good for their sons because it showed an autistic man in a positive light.

But I didn’t do that. I wish I had. So Pam, yes, write that article. Then promote it. There’s no telling how far an article like that would take you. If you have autistic characters in your fiction, that would definitely help you promote your novels.

Bottom line: Anything you care strongly about is a prime candidate for a SuperArticle. If you care about it, the odds are good someone else will care about it. Maybe a lot of people will.

On Becoming An Expert

Carrie has announced the name of the person who gave her the best ideas for writing her SuperArticle: Joleena.

Joleena wins a free critique of one page of her current work in progress. Joleena, email me that as a Word doc and I’ll critique it for you.

Valerie asked a good question today:

How do you write super articles, when you’re not a leading expert in a certain field, just a person, whose imagination can’t/won’t shut off.
This is my current struggle and frustration. I have the ideas and the ability to write, but my expertise is ‘limited’ by publishers’ standards.
Do we have to be qualified to write the stories we desire to tell?
Or are their other ways to prove ourselves to the publishing world?

There are several related questions here:

1) How do you write a SuperArticle when you’re not famous:

Randy sez: I wasn’t famous as a writing teacher when I wrote my Snowflake SuperArticle. My SuperArticle made me famous. Nor was I known at all in the world of New Testament scholarship three months ago when I wrote two articles about the alleged tomb of Jesus. Those articles MADE me famous because they had high perceived value.

Here is the secret with SuperArticles: People will judge you on the merit of your ideas, not on who you are. People don’t care diddly who you are. If you have a good idea and express it well and do your part to get the word out, then people will notice. My Special Report on SuperArticles explains a bit of what you need to do to promote your SuperArticle, but promotion is an infinitely large topic which we’ll be discussing here for years.

2) Do you have to be “qualified” to get a story published?

Randy sez: No. For certain kinds of stories, it helps. Carrie’s qualifications as a forensic artist will help her sell her story IF her writing is good enough. My qualifications as a physicist helped me sell my first time-travel novel, but ONLY because my writing was good enough. I know a cop who writes cop stories. His qualifications help, but ONLY because he writes well.

Excellent writing is your best qualification. Degrees and job titles are just gravy. The reason I started this web site is to teach excellence in writing. That’s the main thing.

3) Do you need to prove yourself to the publishing world?

Randy sez: If you’re a novelist, no. Just write well. The best thing a novelist can do for himself is to write superbly well. The second best thing is to have some sort of “marketing platform.” The third best thing is to have some sort of relevant qualification. Those are the only three things that I know that work.

Sending chocolate to the editor doesn’t work. Sending cash doesn’t work. Sending lingerie doesn’t work.

You ask how I know those don’t work. Well . . . I’ve heard stories. Enough said.

Comments On Carrie’s SuperArticle

For those of you new to this blog, we’ve been discussing how to write SuperArticles that help promote our fiction. For the last few days, we’ve focused on Carrie’s novel on a forensic artist who stumbles onto the killing grounds of a serial killer.

I’ve been reading the comments suggesting ideas for Carrie’s SuperArticle. I like the YouTube idea. That could take a lot of work, but it could also be cool. I also like the idea of “How To Spot A Liar” which is the subject of a DVD Carrie produced. Hmmm, maybe a short YouTube clip on how to spot a liar? That could be very popular, if it were entertaining.

I haven’t researched keyphrases on WordTracker that involve liars or lying, and now my one-month subscription has expired. (I used it to research keyphrases for all the topics on any of my web sites, and now I have a vast wealth of ideas for articles.)

I do think Josh had a killer idea. Carrie, if you try that, be sure to give Josh FULL credit. And you don’t need to mention my name at all.

One point I should highlight is that if you’re trying to promote a novel, then writing a SuperArticle targeted to novelists isn’t the best strategy. (That’s a great strategy if you’re trying to promote a book on how to write fiction. My Snowflake SuperArticle has made me so famous in the writing world that I now have little choice but to write a series of “how to write fiction” books. But that wasn’t the original intent. The original intent was to not have to answer emails from people who had heard about the Snowflake by word of mouth. Little did I know how much email the Snowflake article would generate.)

My recommendation for promoting fiction is to write a SuperArticle that will target the same people who might want to read your novel. Of course, there are no guarantees on how successful that’ll be, but the world is full of people who succeeded by putting their own peculiar genius into something that was already known to work, but giving it that extra little twist that made it their own.

Brainstorming For Carrie

I spent some time on Saturday doing some basic legwork for our forensic artist, Carrie Stuart Park. For those of you who missed our discussion a few days ago, we were talking about potential SuperArticles we could write. Carrie is writing a novel with the one-sentence summary:

“A forensic artist stumbles upon the killing grounds of a serial killer.”

That’s a great premise, but how’s Carrie going to promote that? Carrie has the huge advantage that she’s a forensic artist. So I went to Wordtracker.com and fiddled around, looking to see what subjects might be related to her work. As it turns out, “forensic art” doesn’t get a lot of searches on Google. So she isn’t going to get famous by having people search on that keyphrase.

HOWEVER, here are some keyphrases that got quite a few searches in the last few months. The number in parentheses is the number of searches in the last 90 days:

zodiac killer (1654)
serial killers (1535)
forensic science (913)
missing persons (575)
forensics (540)
missing children (382)
the zodiac killer (379)
crime scene investigation (375)
famous serial killers (334)
forensic scientist (332)
forensic (233)
serial killer (226)

It seems to me that Carrie could do a couple of things to help promote her work.

First, she could start a blog on “serial killer fiction.” It could be EITHER about serial killer fiction by other authors OR about writing serial killer fiction OR BOTH. I’d recommend doing both. The blog should of course highlight Carrie’s expertise as a forensic artist. That’d be a unique angle. I bet there aren’t too many forensic artists writing novels. Over time, her blog could attract quite a following among readers and writers interested in serial killer fiction.

Second, Carrie could write some SuperArticles on one or more of the topics I listed above. Since the Zodiac killer is at the top of the list, she could write an article on the status of that case. But she could follow it up with articles on other serial killers. For example, who is her favorite candidate for Jack the Ripper? These articles of course should highlight her background as a forensic artist. And they should point readers to her blog.

Third, she could write an article on how forensic artists can help track down missing persons or missing children. If she’s got any examples from her own career, these would be good to work in. Again, these articles should point to her blog.

A blog is a nice way to build an audience. You don’t have to go coerce people to read your blog. They read it and tell other people about it if your writing is good.

OK, folks, now it’s your turn! Make some suggestions for Carrie! I’ve been a little vague and generic in my suggestions. Can you sharpen my ideas up? What would be a killer SuperArticle Carrie could write?

Be specific! Be precise! Be brilliant! The best suggestion (in Carrie’s sole judgment) as of midnight PST, Tuesday, May 29, will win the usual prize: a free one-page critique of your novel by me.

Start your suggestions!