Gone Too Soon
Last week from some 10 thousand miles away a follower of our friend and author John Brennan reached out to me to let me know that he had recently passed away. To say I was blind-sighted would be something of an understatement. I found myself without words, rudderless, and seeking to cling to whatever information I could find about what happened to my friend, a man I genuinely came to admire and respect. My collaboration with John began several years ago when he reached out to me about his desire to publish his memoir. The book entitled Don’t Die with Regrets, Ireland and the Lessons My Father Taught Me (DDWR) took several months longer to publish than I first anticipated. It needed a lot of work, but John and I worked tirelessly on it. It was evident that John put a lot of work into the book, after all, DDWR was dedicated to his father Mal whom he credited with teaching John the importance of living life to the fullest, not being afraid to take chances, and not dying with regrets. While reading the manuscript, I learned that actually, the last words he would hear from his father were “Son, don’t die with regrets.” It was clear that John ever devoted to his father took them to heart. For John, this would come to mean that he would pursue his dreams of traveling the world, studying his Irish ancestry, and becoming a writer. DDWR was the embodiment of John’s commitment to honor his father’s final lesson.
What I came to learn about John was how eclectic he was. He could go from reciting ancient Irish history one minute to dissecting the lyrics from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song the next. In DDWR he talked about how he once met Marley who said to him “Every conversation be a revelation.” That idea resonated with John, and if you knew him, you know that was really how he interacted with everyone with whom he came in contact. DDWR was John’s first officially published work. One of my fondest memories of John was the evening we attended the Next Generation Indie Book Awards at the Harvard Club in 2015. John could not have been more thrilled that DDWR won in the memoir category. We would learn that his talent as a writer was no fluke, for the following year John’s second book “The Journey, A Nomad Reflects” won the 2016 Book Excellence Award. John loved his family, his adopted country, writing history, and music. Most of all he loved life and he wanted all who might listen to not only embrace life with all of its challenges but to pursue life, seize it, not be afraid of it and simply love and learn from one another much as he did. I for one believe that my friend is at peace and with the angels now having lived a good life with absolutely no regrets.
The quote above was taken from The Journey, A Nomad Reflects by John A. Brennan.
Farewell to Facebook
By Diane L. Martin
As of the end of this year we will no longer post updates to Facebook. Until recently we like so many others used the platform to reach out to readers and to increase visibility for our authors. Unfortunately FB’s inability to prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform is incompatible with Escribe’s mission of publishing books for the mind, heart, and spirit. We are all about contributing to the public good, and for us that means contributing to public dialog in a way that makes us smarter and is unifying.
We simply do not believe FB is genuinely doing anything other than profiting from spreading misinformation and hate. It’s user targeting algorithms have recently been documented and exposed by one of their own employees as well as the media. What the company does is both disturbing and harmful to our society, and it is our hope that other organizations will come to realize that as well.
The fact is that our nation is already so badly fractured that anyone or thing who profits from the continued exploitation of that which divides us is not something that Escribe wishes to be a part of. We are also keeping an eye on how FB addresses complaints regarding the harm Instagram messaging is allegedly causing to young girls. If necessary we may also close our Instagram account.
For now, we have removed the familiar FB logo from our main website page, and by the end of the year other occurrences of the logo will be deleted as well.
In the new year we will search for other platforms in which to reach our readers.
Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Creating Characters for Your Novel
By Kristen L. Sharp
When preparing to write a novel, crafting characters is one of the obvious first steps. There are several necessary questions to ask yourself before deciding to move forward with any characters. In this blog, I will discuss four important questions to ask as you create characters for your novel. Ironing out important details surrounding each character is crucial before much you get too deep into the writing process. Certainly, changes and edits are inevitable; however, you don’t want to have to completely revamp a character’s dialogue, appearance or backstories. That simply creates more work for you as the author. Remembering to ask these questions and carefully thinking through the answers, maybe even do some pre-writing, can really be a time-saver.
Are your characters believable?
In other words, when reading your book, can readers imagine folks in their lives acting like your characters? When creating characters, carefully drill down on their specific personalities, mannerisms, and goals. If the scenario you’re picturing for the characters isn’t something you have first-hand knowledge of, you’ll need to do some research. You want the characters’ journeys to feel real. You want readers to be so invested in the story and want to know what happens next that they cannot stop reading. So, everything about your characters, from what they wear to what they say and how they act, has to feel natural, like they actually could be a real person. You don’t want people to read your novel and feel the characters are not believable and that the dialogue seems forced. The dialogue between characters should flow freely, make logical sense, and be in keeping with the themes of the story. Readers should be able to picture your characters in their mind.
Are your characters relatable?
Relatable characters should have plausible qualities, dialogue, and habits. Additionally, you want readers to be able to relate to characters and even sympathize with them. For example, even if your character has committed a murder, you might add another layer. Maybe this character felt murder was the only way because someone else was threatening their life. Maybe the character had hit rock bottom and felt there were no other options. Perhaps the character has a terminal illness and is struggling with their mortality. These are only a few suggestions. Obviously, if this type of journey is what you’re envisioning for your character, then you need to be sure of their rationale. The reader should be able to understand and even be able to empathize with a character’s credible backstory.
The main point here is to remember to create characters that readers can relate to and possibly understand. You want readers to be reminded of an experience or feeling they’ve had while learning about your character.
Will readers want to root for your characters?
So, like the example we visited in the last question, you can create a character that readers will root for even it seems unconventional. If characters are going to be relatable, they can’t be perfect. No human is perfect. We all have flaws, so it’s only natural that characters will have flaws, too. Even if they have made big mistakes or have selfish, ugly tendencies, you can still make readers want to root for your character.
How will your characters change and grow throughout the story?
Character development is key to writing a great novel. You want to create characters that have multiple layers. You might introduce a new facet of a certain character little by little. Maybe a character starts out hard-hearted and narcissistic, but by the end of the story, they are compassionate and working to care for others first. Now, this progression needs to be believable. So, maybe the character is starting to realize they have been extremely selfish and are in the process of making changes. There needs to be a change of heart and some sort of obvious growth. Your novel should not end with a character in the same place where readers met them. These changes can be overcoming personal growth, such as becoming less self-centered. The character development could also be dealing with a life challenge— getting fired, losing a loved one, having a child, chasing dreams, and much more.
A helpful writing exercise might be to first decide on a character’s backstory, appearance, and goals. Write a couple of pages that reveals at least some of the plot. Present enough information that you can show a friend or colleague and ask for feedback. Share with this person the questions you asked yourself before developing the character(s). If you hear that the character isn’t believable or relatable, take the advice seriously and do some rethinking and rewriting.
Implementing these ideas while crafting the characters for your novel is so important. You should have a clear vision of each character’s trajectory. This can be overwhelming when beginning, which is why we recommend starting out with some pre-writing exercises or making outlines. It’s always better to get feedback more often than not. So, don’t be afraid to ask those in your life to take a peek. However, don’t be afraid to get started. Remember: you cannot edit something if you don’t first write it.
Kristen L. Sharp is a member of the editorial staff at Escribe Publishing. She is a copyeditor and social media strategist.
Finding Empathy in This Time of COVID: Literature is Therapy
By Kristen L. Sharp
Nothing about 2020 has gone as folks have planned. This COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled so many plans because the health and safety of people are at risk. This pandemic has been especially difficult for anyone already struggling with anxiety or depression. Quarantining alone or even with family can feel isolating. We miss gathering with friends or extended family. We miss getting dressed and going to work. Some of us have lost jobs, routines and loved ones. Finding any peace or grace during these scary times can be hard. Many of us feel obligated to keep up to date with news and health information. Some of us might feel the need to respond to conspiracy theories our Facebook friends are sharing and spreading in a struggle find some truth. All of this can be overwhelming. While being informed is important, taking breaks is essential. Self-care is necessary and is not selfish. It’s okay to grieve the loss of plans and goals that just won’t be possible this year. Give yourself time to heal. Taking care of yourself includes unplugging from reality sometimes. Ignore your phone. Turn off the TV. Close your laptop. Crack open a book and escape.
Diving into a book is a great way to cope with difficult times. A book is a tangible thing; you can hold it. As you begin reading and turning the pages, you can lose track of time and realize you were so focused on the story that you forgot about 2020’s many struggles. Very often characters in literature are reflections of real-life humans. The beauty of literary works is that they tell stories of people from all walks of life and how they face their own humanity. As you read about a character’s journey, take note of the human journey, the way he or she interacts with others. Something comforting about reading is that often, you can see a little bit of yourself in certain characters. Reading about these fictional characters finding hope, reaching their goals, or triumphing over hardships is everything.
Literary fiction is not the only genre that can be therapeutic. Some people prefer memoirs or other types of non-fiction. When authors share their stories with the world, they are being incredibly vulnerable, especially when said stories features them as the main characters. They might be sharing times they struggled with substance abuse, eating disorders, grief and loss, divorce, and more. Their willingness to share their truth is an immense gift to readers. To be reminded that you are not alone, that someone else has walked this path, and have thrived can be life changing. What a powerful pen authors wield.
Many people struggle with showing empathy to others. Being empathetic is taxing. It requires you to try to see situations from another person’s perspective. It’s not simply saying that things will be okay. It’s not being dismissive or insisting your solutions are best. It’s really and truly about listening. Sometimes finding someone who is willing and capable of showing up for you with empathy and compassion is difficult.
Finding a book to which you can relate, whether it’s to the character or the author, can be helpful and therapeutic. The story in question does not have to be identical to yours. Even if you only personally resonate with a piece of the experience or story, that’s important.
Taking time for yourself to rest and recharge is crucial. This need cannot be stressed enough. Make sure to treat yourself with grace. Remember that you are not defined by your productivity. Listen to your body. Allow yourself to take a few steps back. You can’t keep smashing goals and fighting to get by in this life without letting yourself rest.
Curling up with a great book is powerful and healing. It is good for the soul. Let the words on each page soothe you. Being a human is quite a task. This journey of life wears on you. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to fall down. It’s all completely normal.
We at Escribe Publishing encourage you to find a book that touches your mind, heart, and spirit in a rejuvenating way. We also encourage you to support local, indie bookstores and authors.
Kristen L. Sharp is a member of the editorial staff at Escribe Publishing. She is a copyeditor and social media strategist.
A Preview of The Manic Manager
By Diane L. Martin
In her soon to be released book entitled “The Manic Manager” author, Diane Martin coaches new and experienced managers about best practices for keeping their talented subordinates, engaged, and productive. Failing to do so she counsels, will ultimately result in resentment and turnover. Included here and on our Authors & Excerpts page is selection from Chapter 2.
Talent Makes the World Go Around
After expending a considerable amount of their time, begging for budget, placing ads, interviewing, and orienting candidates, it’s amazing how many experienced and new supervisors manage to sabotage their own and the organization’s efforts by failing to take care of their talent. That failure manifests itself in a variety of ways. I have seen everything from failing to prepare a workspace for the new hire, to failing to ensure adequate training. In less time than it takes to consume a ham sandwich, some supervisors manage to communicate to their newbies that they don’t much care about what happens to them after they are hired. What results is truly tragic. As manic manager strikes again, new employees who are otherwise eager to become productive team players instead become bitter and remorseful. For many, leaving what once seemed like a great fit, becomes a mission to be free of a bad match and a regrettable choice.
I once watched in horror as a newly-hired colleague sat in her cubicle for days on end with absolutely nothing to do. Our otherwise caring boss overly preoccupied with her own impending nuptials abandoned my colleague “Jane”, (not her real name) like a refugee from a leper colony. It is no wonder, that a month later when my boss left the company, Jane demonstrated all the symptoms of PTSD. In an unfamiliar, large and bureaucratic organization, a new employee was left to fend for herself. Folks, this is no way to take care of the talent.
Diane L. Martin is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) with more than 10 years of training and managerial experience. She is the founder and managing editor at Escribe Publishing.
Telling Your Story
By Diane L. Martin
Everyone has a story to tell. Whether that story is funny or sad, if it’s your own story you may be wondering whether it’s worth sharing with the rest of the world. And, by the way, that decision to publish your story is largely yours to make. Increasingly, independent and self-publishing options gives every aspiring writer the opportunity to publish their work if and when they are ready, not when some traditional publishing house determines whether the work merits publishing, but more about that below. If you’re considering telling your story, you might even wonder about how much to share. A reminiscence of a particular personal experience places your story in the literary genre of non-fiction memoir. Expand your story to encompass your entire life, and you move into the realm of the autobiography. Should you write your story? If a personal experience is compelling, inspiring, and/or motivational it may well be appreciated by others in need of the particular tonic your story serves up. If your life story in and of itself is revelatory, thought-provoking, instructional, or just plain humorous, then consider the value of sending it out into the universe.
A good place for a novice to begin is with the memoir. It is obviously less extensive then the autobiography and represents an assemblage of some of your life’s personal snapshots. Keep in mind however, that though it may not encompass your entire life, it will nevertheless benefit from a thematic approach- think “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, or “Dreams From My Father” by Barrack Obama. Your memoir makes you a kind of tour guide that takes a reader with you through your journey, so your job is to make your readers want to follow you through every page. You’ll write your memoir in the first person and rely on your ability to illuminate your story with captivating and vivid language- no snoozing permitted on the journey. Could anyone really be bored while reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou?
If you are concerned about getting started- don’t be; just start typing or writing in long-hand if that is your preferred writing style. Note however, that writing in long-hand invariably means that if you seriously mean to publish, you will ultimately have to produce a typed manuscript. Unless you have amazingly great handwriting, that a typist other than you can readily read, you would be well advised to become acquainted with a personal computer; this really makes the editing process much easier for you and an editor. As far as determining what to write, you may find it helpful to use memoir prompts. Memoir prompts like “write about the places you have traveled to”, or “write about the people who have influenced you” can get you started. They really are great at nudging you along when you’re not sure exactly how to get moving. Google the phrase “Memoir Prompts” and you will retrieve hundreds of them. While your memoir may consist of various subjects, consider ways to integrate each of your stories. Developing a unifying theme throughout can help you achieve that.
Finally, having written your memoir, it’s time to consider how to go about getting it published. Be sure that you have your manuscript reviewed by a professional editor. You really can’t be your own editor. As you attempt to review your own work, your mind plays tricks on you because it compensates for what should be on the page. An editor is objective, and well worth the price. Once your book has been properly edited, it’s time to decide how you will publish. Traditional publishing houses are competitive. They receive hundreds of manuscripts annually. For this reason, self-publishing has become a popular option for many new writers. Independent book publishing can be as rewarding as traditional publishing; however, it is important that authors do their homework. Consider what services an independent book publishing company offers, what you can afford, and the royalty structure. In a future article we will discuss more best practices for getting your manuscript published.
Understanding the Publishing Process
By Diane L. Martin
New authors often view the publishing process as largely centered on the completion of their manuscript. Receipt of the galley with its polished new cover is a heady feeling that can lull a debut author into thinking that nothing more is required. The fact is that receipt of the galley does not represent the end of the publishing process. Production of the galley is a part of the process that includes copy-editing, page layout, book cover design and finally printing. Perhaps the word “finally” is a bit misleading, as the author’s role is far from over once the galley is produced. At this stage, the author must come to grips with the possibility of having to revisit the manuscript to ensure appropriate corrections have been made.
New authors should welcome the opportunity to become familiar with every stage of the publishing process. Understanding the process will help them play a more collaborative role in the publication of their book, and understand the role a publisher plays in producing a marketable product. With respect to the editing process, new authors should expect that after submission of a manuscript, a reputable publisher will actually review and critique the book. Publishers concern themselves with the process of putting a book together. This includes consideration of both front and back matter. Front matter for example, consists of pages that appear in the front of the book, such as the copyright, page, title page, and the table of contents. Other front matter pages may include a forward, a dedication and perhaps an acknowledgements page. In contrast, back matter pages might include an index, a bibliography, and/or an author biography. These elements combine to help create the completed work. A publisher will often handle the acquisition of Library of Congress Control Numbers, (LCCN) and ISBNs. The latter known as the International Standard Book Number is a unique 10 to 13–digit number that identifies a specific book or edition of a book. Booksellers and libraries for instance rely on the ISBN for the purchase and sale of books all over the world. The LCCN is the number associated with the bibliographic record created by the Library of Congress for a given book.
Publishers determine the interior layout and design for a book, with consideration of the need for headers/footers, pagination etc. In addition, part of the process of putting a book together requires consideration of both front and back matter. Front matter consists of pages that appear in the front of the book, such as the copyright, page, title page, and the table of contents. Other front matter pages may include for example, a forward, a dedication and perhaps an acknowledgements page. In contrast, back matter pages might consist of an index, a bibliography, and/or an author biography. These elements combine to help create the completed work. A publisher will often handle the acquisition of Library of Congress Control Numbers, (LCCN) and ISBNs. The latter known as the International Standard Book Number is a unique 10 to 13–digit number that identifies a specific book or edition of a book. Booksellers and libraries for instance rely on the ISBN for the purchase and sale of books all over the world. The LCCN is the number associated with the bibliographic record created by the Library of Congress for a given book.
Another one of the more interesting and perhaps challenging aspects of assembling a new book is the cover. It has been a long held belief that a cover can make or break the success of a book. While that assertion may be arguable, it really does make sense that an interesting attractive book cover is more likely to lull a shopper than one lacking in any appeal. The cover is no doubt an element of the process an author should consider. A publisher should certainly be open to hearing from its authors about any ideas they may have for the book. However, in the end, the publisher fully informed about readers tastes, literary trends, and marketing is in the best position to be the final arbiter of what will work. Here is where collaboration between author and publisher becomes so important. Last, but not least, there is the printing process to consider. In a future article, we will discuss the physical aspects of putting a book together.
Strategies for Effective Book Promotion
For many new authors publication of their new book represents a culminating event. The truth is the hard work has just begun. While your book is available for sale at websites like Amazon or at sites like barnesandnoble.com, it is one of thousands competing for the attention of readers. Publishers unfortunately have limited time and resources, for they are largely responsible for putting the book together and making it available for sale. Promotion on the other hand, requires an entirely different effort. As part of its promotional services, Escribe Publishing provides its authors with five media kits, press releases, and Featured Author coverage on our website. Our promotional program is really part of a kick-off designed to create a little buzz for our authors and inspire them to continue the book promotion process.
There are a number of options available to authors interested in garnering the kind of attention necessary to rise above the competition. It is important that new authors prepare a promotional budget, and begin to think of their book as something of a commodity. Like a personal budget, your expenses will likely reflect your financial resources. The good news however is that book promotion need not land you in the poor house, as there are a variety of options designed to fit nearly every budget. Consider the following promotional strategies:
- Prepare an e-mail blast announcing publication of your book to all of your contacts.
- Create an author fan page on Facebook.
- Send copies of your book to local media outlets. Many do book reviews on a monthly or weekly basis.
- Submit your book or individual works to book contests. See http://www.newpages.com/classifieds/writingcontests/
- Get your book reviewed by professional book reviewers, i.e. Midwest, Kirkus, Clarion
- Add the name of your book and a buy-the-book link to your e-mail signature.
- Join the goodreads.com Author Program. This site is a great book promotion tool.
- Sign-up and submit content about your book with Amazon’s Author Central. See https://authorcentral.amazon.com
- Encourage your friends and family to write reviews of your book. Reviews can be posted through your Author Central account.
- Join book clubs. See for example, https://www.librarything.com/
- Submit your book to blogposts. Checkout for example, http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/category/blogging/
- Contract with a book publicist. A publicist can identify and set-up speaking engagements, book tours etc. Ask your Escribe representative for a list of available publicists.
- Join a writers meet-up group; you can find a list of them at www.meetup.com
Please let your Escribe representative know if there is anything, we can do to assist you with implementing your marketing plan.
Note: The citing of websites referred to above, does not denote endorsement or warranty by Escribe Publishing Inc. of any kind. Readers are advised to do their own research and verification of the sites, contents, and services for themselves.
Photographs property of Escribe Publishing