Showing posts with label bestseller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bestseller. Show all posts

18 July 2017

Bestseller Metrics with Editor & Author Elaine Ash

by Paul D. Marks

Today I’d like to welcome Elaine Ash, editor, writer and friend. Elaine was born and grew up in eastern Canada, but calls L.A. home these days. Under the pen name “Anonymous-9,” Elaine’s crime fiction is included in numerous “Best of” lists every year. Anonymous-9 was invented as a blind for her hard-hitting, experimental short stories. Her work has been praised by T. Jefferson Parker, Ray Garton, Johnny Shaw, Douglas Lindsay, Josh Stallings, Robert Randisi and many others.

But Elaine also edits fiction writers, from established authors to emerging talent. As the former editor-at-large for Beat to a Pulp webzine, Elaine worked directly with writers of all genres to develop stories for publication. Some of those writers went on to fame and fortune such as recent Edgar nominee Patti Abbott (Polis), Jay Stringer (Thomas and Mercer), Chris F. Holm (Mulholland), S.W Lauden (Rare Bird), Kieran Shea (Titan), Hilary Davidson (Macmillan) Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur, Delacorte) and many more.

Today, she works with private clients, helping them shape manuscripts, acquire agents and land publishing deals. She also ghostwrites and edits for industry clients.

Elaine has a new book out called BESTSELLER METRICS. It’s a different approach to writing novels so I thought it might be of interest to people here and I asked her some questions about it:



Paul: What made you decide to write Bestseller Metrics?

Elaine: I saw that if writers could get novel structure right before hiring an editor, everybody would win. Well-structured stories attract bigger agents and land better publishing deals. That might sound like a sales pitch, but it’s the truth. 


How did you develop it and how did you figure out what it takes to have Bestseller Metrics?

I developed it over years of editing novel manuscripts. In my view, people who give hard-earned money for an editor’s opinion deserve proof that the changes will move them closer to publication. I had metrics in my head for many years before I wrote them down. The key here (that you may not know about) is based on my personality type. The Myers-Briggs personality scale reveals that I’m an INTJ, “Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging personality. There are 16 types and INTJ females make up 0.8% of the population. Males make up 2% of the population (https://www.16personalities.com). We are called “The Architects” and our brains never stop categorizing and creating systems out of information. For kicks. Really. Don’t I sound like a fun date? A colleague of yours and mine, the indubitable Dana King says I “put into words what’s been sitting in plain sight.” Metrics patterns have been showing up in books for a hundred years at least. Nobody was oddball enough to document them in terms of novel structure until I came along. 


I understand that you’ve trademarked your plan, what is so different about it that it deserves a trademark?

The system has registered patent pending status from the US Patent Office, which is different than a trademark. That may be changing, however, after my conversation with Dr. Gregory Benford, a physicist and professor at UC Irvine, also a Nebula Award winner for his science fiction. He told me about a genetics testing company that operated under trade-secret law. It’s nothing strange or new—the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe is a trade secret. So I came up with a plan. I’ve released the initial part of the system to the general public in the book, while other parts are being developed as publishing industry software that will operate as a business trade secret. It sounds great, but as Dr. Bentham said as he walked away from me, “Just remember, every mook with a gat thinks he’s a tough guy.” So we’ll see if the plan actually works in the real world. 


What one thing holds back most unpublished manuscripts?

Structure. There so little information for aspiring authors. For decades, I’ve seen manuscripts with sparkling prose, 3-D characters and great premise ideas fail solely on structure. It’s not because writers don’t want to learn—they’re paying for books, classes, conferences and workshops. They’re breaking their fingernails to get it right. But structure is rarely taught, or it’s taught in a way that is not accessible to large numbers of learners. My greatest wish is that educators will pick up this book and start teaching it. On my to-do list is to create teacher-support materials for use in classrooms. I’ll work with any teacher who contacts me.




You talk about “Imaginary Memory.” What is that and how does it affect writers and their writing.

The Imaginary Memory tricks a writer into thinking details are on the page that aren’t really there, or are only partly there. As an author reads his or her own writing, a parade of stored memories and images flood the mind, filling in missing plot points and smoothing over missing descriptions. A cold reader can tell something’s missing immediately, but the writer feels like everything’s complete. Imaginary Memory is a trickster. That’s why a writer can be convinced they’ve just turned in a tremendously vivid piece of work to a writers’ group, and reaction falls flat. I invented tests to help short-circuit IM and give the writer clear indicators of what’s missing.


How is Bestseller Metrics different from the average how-to book on writing fiction?

It’s a window on the creation of novels. It offers a series of tests for writers of every genre to find how close they are to the metrics of bestsellers. If you can count from 1 to 10 you know enough math to do the tests. The book has crystal-clear diagrams, cartoon line drawings, detailed analyses, and a sprinkling of humor and encouragement so it stays interesting and entertaining.


You talk a lot about numbers of characters in best-selling novelscan you tell us a little about that. Character countingwhat is that? And why is it important?

Too often, good manuscripts are flawed by a carousel of characters dropping into a chapter and then vanishing, never to be seen again. Too many characters create confusion and complicate the plot. Successful novels have basic and measurable numbers of characters that track from beginning to end. Key information a writer needs is, “What’s the right amount of characters?” I’m talking about average-sized novels around 100,000 words or less. Epics and sagas with huge word counts like A Game of Thrones have their own metrics, and there are separate chapters on that.

Leaving the literary leviathans aside, there is a predictable amount of characters that appear in the first quarter of the books I examined. The first quarter of a story is golden—it’s the time when readers get to know the main character and “the world.” Inside the books on my list, in every genre, between 25 and 53 characters appear in the first quarter, no matter if the book is 62,000 words (The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett) or  146,000 words (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn). Flip to the last quarter of each book and you’ll find a range between 4 and 22 characters that made it through to the climax and ending. Will you find novels that don’t match these metrics? Of course! Art isn’t set in stone. But for the beginning novelist, trying to craft a manuscript for sale, these guidelines are tried and true. They will help you create a story that works. Like I say in the book: “Learn the rules, land a publishing deal, and then break all the rules you want.” 



You talk about discovering the secrets of best-selling books like— 

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding, The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler, Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn, The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett, Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice, A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin, Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling, A Confederacy of Dunces -John Kennedy Toole, The Shining - Stephen King, Lady Chatterley’s Lover - D. H. Lawrence, The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins, The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger, The Lincoln Lawyer -Michael Connelly, Monster Hunter International -Larry Correia, The Other Side of Midnight - Sydney Sheldon, Kill Shot - Vince Flynn 

—what are those secrets?

I examine each cast of characters and their relationships to one another. I provide simplified outlines for some books and point out the major plot elements. Nailing the first and second act plot twists can be tricky, and as far as I know, no book has distilled this information before. Hollywood does these breakdowns for films all day long, but nobody’s done it for novels. This is the kind of information I longed for and searched everywhere for as a first-time writer. A career novelist email me yesterday and said, “If I’d had this book 20 years ago, I could have saved a lot of time.” That was a pretty big compliment.


Anything else that you’d like to say?

Friend me on Facebook and ask any questions you like. Visit me at bestsellermetrics.com. You can email me there, too. Look inside the book at https://www.amazon.com/Bestseller-Metrics-Novel-Writing-Structure/dp/1546524886. FYI, there is no e-book and there likely won’t be one. This is a full-size workbook meant to be written in.

Thank you for joining us, Elaine.

***


And now for the usual BSP:

My short story “Blood Moon” will be coming out in Day of the Dark (Stories of the Eclipse). Edited by Kaye George. Releasing July 21, 2017, one month before the big solar eclipse on August 21st. From Wildside Press. Available for Pre-Order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073YDGSL5


www.PaulDMarks.com

15 December 2015

Being a bestseller is *sick*

by Melissa Yi

The good news: Stockholm Syndrome hit the bestseller list on Kobo less than two weeks after its debut.
NUMBER ONE IN ESPIONAGE!!!!!!!! highlighted & craziness
The bad news: I was willing to grind myself to powder to get there.
Most people hit the brakes before they get to either point. They’re smarter than me.
Me? TL; DR: I got the flu, then pneumonia, then side effects from medications that landed me in the ER as a patient for two nights with palpitations while raving on dexamethasone. My colleagues were worried about me. And I’m still heading back to the hospital for another work-up today.
Meanwhile, I was still trying to do it all. So far this year, I hit Utah, Oregon, New York (twice), Los Angeles, Boston, Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. Drive to Boston solo with my kids? Sure. Make a two-layer homemade birthday cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday party? Of course. Stay at an acting class in Montreal despite getting assaulted with the flu? No problem.
Yeah, baby!
Us wrapped in Rush Couture
Max in Kingston
Max in Kingston
<–I bought this dress when I was pregnant with Anastasia, and now she can get inside it with me because it has peek-a-book cutouts on the sides. It’s from Rush Couture. This dress is popular on Facebook.
It looked weird on me when I was pregnant. Here it looks normal. 😉
BTW, at one of my Stockholm Syndrome book launches, one woman told me I had love handles. “Or maybe it’s your shirt.” As an author, I tell you, NEVER say mean things to a writer at a book launch.
Natalie Goldberg always brings someone who tells her she’s beautiful. Doesn’t matter if she messed up. Tell her she rocked it hard. As a fashionista and a physician, I present this dress as evidence that I did not detect love handles. If I had love handles, I would not choose to wear a peek-a-boo dress. QED.
I was doing it “all.” Except I ended up so sick, I couldn’t work the ER any more. I had to ask for help. And one of my colleagues started lecturing me how much I was burdening the group, and I’d better not take more than a week off.
I started yelling at that doctor. Which made him worry about my mental health. Which is a whole other worm-can.
In truth, I am not the best doctor right now. Not only on December 7-8th, when I was high on dexamethasone and short of breath with palpitations of up to 200 (my husband was upset that I couldn’t figure out how to dial the phone. In my defence, it was a new phone, and I was more interested in getting my clothes together for my scheduled appearance on Rogers TV the next morning). That night, the doctor kept telling me I shouldn’t go on TV. I was like, “I’m supposed to be on TV! That’s why I took the dex at night, to heal my vocal cords enough to sing! I’ll take the train if you really want, but geez. I also have a recording for CBC’s White Coat Black Art scheduled for the afternoon.” I was all set, even though I couldn’t find the Imovane they’d just given me to sleep, but RN Rebecca stopped me. She said, “You look pale. And sick.”
Suddenly, I was shocked into cancelling. I can’t be ugly on TV. That would be bad. It was like, if you want to get young women to quit smoking, you can try and reason with them about how it’s expensive, and selling out to the man, and giving you lung cancer and emphysema, but the real money is in telling them they’ll get wrinkles. No way!
I knew I needed to sleep. My husband was mad at me for getting up in the middle of the night and working. I knew, logically, I’d never get better that way. And yet I couldn’t stop.
I tried to work with the flu until I was seeing double and forgetting to order chest X-rays, and the other doctor sent me home. Then I made myself pick up my Stockholm Syndrome books and ended up dehydrated and nearly delirious when they detained me at the border for 1.5 hours (hint: if the government sends you the wrong business number, you’re screwed. If the border guards are chasing after illegal cigarettes and the remaining guard has no clue what to do with you, you’re screwed). Even yesterday, when my friends and colleagues are like, “Are you much better now?”, I’d have to say that not only did it seem like my pneumonia came back with a vengeance after we stopped all antibiotics for a few days, but I’m not completely compos mentis–at the children’s Christmas party, I answered a page from the neurologist and forgot my purse on a bench in the hallway. RN Annie was too tactful to say anything, but I knew she’d noticed I wasn’t right.
The good news is, I managed to get to Ottawa to record an interview with Fresh Air’s Mary Ito, and it was pretty cool. You can listen to it herehttps://soundcloud.com/cbc-fresh-air/final-melissa-yuan-innes-6287325-2015-12-12t04-21-11000. They’ll keep it up for two weeks.
CBC Fresh Air main w- soundcloud Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.21.58 AMI was able to put a good game face on for the 3 h drive and the recording, although I did lose my parking pass immediately.
I was taking selfies in the booth. Scared the heck out of the next group coming in to record.
I was taking selfies in the booth. Scared the heck out of the next group coming in to record.










I hadn’t checked Kobo recently–too nervous that I sucked, especially since they hadn’t mentioned the free code during the interview–but I nerved up and did it. And guess what I saw?
#8 IN MYSTERY! highlighted
#8 in mystery overall. Not just #4 in thrillers. All of mystery and suspense, people. Maybe you’ve heard of Tom Clancy or Lisa Jackson? Or James Patterson?
But, greedy Gus that I am, I wondered how I was doing overall. I was euphoric when Mark Leslie Lefebvre told me Terminally Ill (Hope Sze #3) had broken Kobos’ Top 50 after my interview with Wei Chen on CBC’s Ontario Morning. Terminally Ill ended up hitting as high as #27 for all of Kobo’s books. Not segmented by genre. Every. Single. Book. On. Kobo.
Could Stockholm Syndrome repeat the magic? Even if Fresh Air hadn’t given out the time-limited magic Kobo code of STOCKHOLM100 during the interview, only on Facebook and Twitter?

#12 overall BIGGER cropped
NUMBER TWELVE, PEOPLE. That’s better than Terminally Ill.
I was freaking out, didn’t sleep (again), high-fiving Max.
OMG. Look at it. Fifteen Dogs just won the Giller Prize. Mary Ito interviewed Andre Alexis, too. NFW.
Should I not tell you about the bad stuff? Probably. But for those of you who already know my protagonist, Dr. Hope Sze, we’re pathologically honest. I could pretend to be perfect, but I’m no good at lying. So here you go.
In other words, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. And I’m my own worst enemy. But mostly the best, because my husband, my friends, and my colleagues are rallying around me. And because I feel like telling near-strangers, I love you.
Because I do. Because we’re alive. Including me, despite myself.
Take care of yourselves. I care about you.
Love,
Melissa
“Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.”
“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”
“The loner who looks fabulous is one of the most vulnerable loners of all.”
“The need for change bulldozed a road down the centre of my mind.” —Maya Angelou
“I can paint a barn with someone else’s blood. I just can’t stand to see my own.”―Colonel Henry Blake, a surgeon on M*A*S*H Episode Guide TeamM*A*S*H EPISODE GUIDE: Details All 251 Episodes with Plot Summaries. Searchable. Companion to DVDs Blu Ray and Box Set.
“Some people should not be allowed to see beyond your surface. Seeing your vulnerability is a privilege, not meant for everyone.” ― Yasmin Mogahed
“Being an open and vulnerable doesn’t mean you are weak..” ― Jayesh Varma
“A heart that can break is better than no heart at all.” Marty Rubin
“There is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.”
People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.
People that go through serious illness – you can either go one way or the other. You can either become despondent about it all. Or it kind of rejuvenates you, makes you focus on what’s important.~Jack Layton

17 January 2015

They Call Me a Literary Slut

"The Princess Bride with Sex” or Why I Write Wacky Time Travel (in addition to respectable crime)

by Melodie Campbell

I am best known as a writer of comic crime capers, and in particular The Goddaughter series (Orca Books).  However, I also have a second life as an author of racy fantasy…the sort of thing that has been called “OUTLANDER meets Sex and the City.”

This has gotten me the rep of being labeled a 'literary slut,' in that I 'write around' in a lot of genres.

Why?  Why would a moderately respectable crime author swap genres and write a wacky time travel series, set in Arizona and Alternate-world Great Britain?

1.  I like Arizona.  Especially in winter.  You can fly nonstop there from Toronto.
(Whoops – delete, delete.  Of course, the real reason for using Arizona is I believe in accuracy of setting and doing research, which I take great pains to do once each year in February.) 


2.  I like Great Britain.  And I like to be accurate.  But you can’t travel to medieval Great Britain right
now, at least not on WestJet. (WHY doesn’t someone invent a cheap time travel airline?)  So I can’t be accurate, which bugs me a lot.  But I can be silly, which is almost as good.  Hence, Alt-world.


3.  My cousin Tony’s family, the Clegg-Hills, used to own a Norman castle in Shropshire.  Unfortunately it burned down in 1556.  Damned careless of them.  I had to make up what it would look like from family stories, which are probably dubious at best, and vaguely criminal, on reflection.  Also, I hate being sued. Hence, Alt-world.


4.  Fessing up, here.  I actually didn’t mean to write funny time travel.  I meant to write a serious whodunit that would get the respect of the Can-Lit crowd, and the more erudite members of Crime Writers of Canada.  This ‘veering from plan’ is becoming a nuisance.  Next book, for sure, will be a serious whodunit.  Okay, maybe a whodunit.  Okay, maybe a book.


5.  Okay, I lied.  The serious whodunit turned into a wacky mob comedy series that has won a Derringer and an Arthur.  Still no respect from the Can-Lit crowd.  So I might as well go back to writing wacky time travel.

Why?  ‘Cause it’s a hell of a lot of fun being a literary slut.

Are you a literary slut?  Confession time!  If you write in more than one genre, let us know in the comments.

Flash Update: The Land's End Trilogy featured in this blog started charting on Amazon this week, and on Thursday made the overall Amazon Top 100 Bestseller list, at no. #47!  Author is faint~ 

Land's End Trilogy ("OUTLANDER meets SEX AND THE CITY" Vine review) is on sale for a ridiculous 99cents this weekend!  If you were ever curious about her 'other life'...'nuf said.