Friday, May 29, 2020

How Is Coronavirus Affecting the Publishing Industry?

I believe the answer to this question is something that worries writers--and for good reason. Print books in particular are affected. In NJ where I live, the libraries are shut. It is doubtful that librarians are ordering new print books at this time. This is an important part of the publishing business. Brick and mortar bookstores are shut down as well, being deemed non-essential during the pandemic. Virtual book tours are now in demand. But how effective are they?

 Might readers be ordering more e-books? Theoretically that should be the case—but is it? Time will tell.

THE WRITER in its current newsletter observes: “A well-known fact of publishing: Sales of romances rise during tough times. When life is uncertain, most people want something to distract them, not remind them of the unpleasant things happening in their lives. The question is how long, if ever, people will yearn for distraction. Could pandemic books become a thing in the near term? Or are we a decade away from literarily grappling with the outbreak? History suggests the latter…The majority of people aren’t ready to read fiction or nonfiction focused on COVID-19.”

Anne Bogel, who hosts the book-focused podcast “What Should I Read Next?” observes that most of the readers she hears from want a pleasant distraction. People dealing with death, financial issues, and job insecurity in real life probably don’t want to read about those things in novels.

So should we be writing light, fluffy fiction with humor and whimsy? Is this all that publishers will be considering if they are, in fact, considering anything new at all?

Many publishers are currently on hiatus. Some of the small indie publishers have already been driven out of business.

Several fellow authors have written to let me know that their books which were scheduled for release have now been postponed for at least several months, others indefinitely. Fear of the virus currently dominates every aspect of our lives. Many millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the lockdown of our country. Will these people want to sit at home and purchase e-books to read? Unfortunately, unemployment benefits last just so long.

But let me not be the author of gloom and doom mentality. Hopefully, the worldwide economy will open once again which is already starting to happen and the pandemic will eventually pass into the annals of the history books.

 Americans are nothing if not resilient and adaptable. Perhaps the publishing industry will prove to be as well.

Your thoughts and opinions welcome here.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Publication Day for BLOOD FAMILY: May 15, 2020

Published today by Encircle, Blood Family is my fifth Kim Reynolds Mystery. Each novel in this series picks up where the last one left off in Kim’s life. However, each novel presents a new murder mystery that Kim ultimately solves—with some help from Mike Gardner, her fiancĂ©, who is a Wilson Township, New Jersey homicide detective.

Kim, an academic librarian, is intent on finding her biological father. Unfortunately after locating him, James Shaw dies unexpectedly. It is up to Kim to connect with the family she has never known. In so doing, she discovers a half-sister who is in need of her help. Kim is concerned that Claire Shaw is being exploited and wants to help her. Kim also learns that Claire’s stepmother also died under mysterious circumstances and her stepbrother disappeared. When Kim becomes involved, her life is placed in danger.

Here is a brief excerpt:
Chapter One
“Ma, we talked about this before,” Kim said. She tapped her fingers against the kitchen table in frustration.
Her mother did not meet Kim’s gaze. Instead she looked down at the parquet pattern of the floor, appearing to study it as if she found it fascinating.
“You said when I visited you here in Florida we could discuss it.”
“I guess I might have agreed, but I didn’t promise anything. I don’t understand why it’s so important for you to know.”
Kim allowed an exasperated sigh to escape her. “I need to know my paternity for obvious reasons.”
Ma looked up, a puzzled expression forming on her face. “What difference does it make?”
Was her mother being deliberately obtuse? Why the need to obfuscate? “For health reasons alone I should know. I can’t understand why you’ve refused to tell me.”
“Look, Karen…”
“It’s Kim, remember?” she interrupted.
“I remember all right. But I named you Karen. You will always be Karen Reyner to me, not some name you made up because you were ashamed of your given one.”
So they were back to that again. She sighed in frustration. Nora Reyner wasn’t going to forgive or forget. Yet she’d done so for Carl countless times. Kim shook her head in denial.
“Ma, I know there are things you don’t want to talk about, and honestly, I don’t mean to embarrass you or bring up unpleasant memories, but I think maybe we should talk and discuss the matter. It’s time, and then some. Carl told me when I was fifteen that he wasn’t my real father.”
 “He said he never would tell you. He promised me.” Ma curled her lower lip.
Kim observed the fine lines around her mother’s mouth. Her mother’s hair, salt and pepper gray, now had more salt than pepper. She honestly didn’t like upsetting her mother, dwelling on a past that brought nothing but pain to each of them. Yet it was necessary to know.
“It was better Carl came out and told me. I knew anyway from the way he’d treated me. Just tell me about my paternity.”
For a few minutes, there was a palpable silence in the small kitchen of the condo. “Your real father was decent and caring, but he couldn’t be a father to you.”
“Why not?”

Reviews for previous novels in the series:

The Inferno Collection, Kim Reynolds Mystery #1

“… Interesting characters abound.” Booklist

The Drowning Pool, Kim Reynolds Mystery #2

“…Crime solver. Psychic. Librarian. Kim Reynolds is all of the above. She and police detective Mike Gardner (The Inferno Collection) are together again… Who says academic reference librarians lead boring lives?”  Booklist

The Truth Sleuth, Kim Reynolds Mystery #3

“Readers will enjoy the continuing adventures of Seewald’s conflicted psychic.” Booklist

The Bad Wife, Kim Reynolds Mystery #4:
“It is nearly impossible to put this book down until the very end and even then, the reader is likely to wish the story had never ended because the experience was so intense and satisfying. If we still told tales around a campfire at midnight, I would want to be seated at Ms. Seewald's campfire, that's for sure.” 
Cherie Jung, Over My Dead Body!

Buy Links So Far:


Comments welcome!

Friday, May 8, 2020

How to Create a Strong Narrative Hook

Spring is a time for creation, of coming alive again. And so it is for authors. Every writer knows that a narrative hook is needed in any successful type of writing. In Ann Garvin’s article “10 Ways to Hook Your Reader” published in the WRITER’S DIGEST newsletter, she lists the following “10 elements to keep a story rolling:

1.                           Begin at a pivotal moment
2.                           Add an unusual situation
3.                           Add an intriguing character
4.                           Conflict
5.                           Add an antagonist
6.                           Change emotion
7.                           Irony and surprise
8.                           Make People Wonder
9.                           Dread Factor
10.                     Keep narrative voice compelling”

Each element is explained by her in detail. Garvin’s key point is that just hooking the reader won’t keep him/her reading unless you offer more. The article is well worth reading.

Here are some additional suggestions for creating initial interest:

1.  You don't want to start the story with your character doing ordinary, boring everyday things like waking up and having breakfast. Unless something important to the story or something amazing is about to happen in these instances, do not start your story with them. You'll only bore the reader. Ask yourself. What type of beginning would keep you reading on? One of my favorite romantic suspense writers, Jayne Ann Krentz, always begins with an exciting action scene. The heroine is immediately in jeopardy.

It’s been suggested we start “in medias res”. Leave out the dull stuff and start with an intriguing narrative hook which requires  provocative dialogue or action scenes. This might mean tossing out several original beginning chapters.

2. Avoid Backstory and Info Dumping at the beginning. Let readers learn about your characters at their own pace. You should treat backstory like it's a spice. Sprinkle it gradually as the story goes along. This will keep readers turning the pages to find out more about the main characters’ backgrounds. A taste of mystery fascinates readers in any genre.

3.  Establishing an interesting setting can also be gradually developed. However, too much description can be deadening. Description is needed when it moves the story or is important to a particular scene. In a fast-paced scene, description can have a negative effect if it’s irrelevant to what’s happening that moment.

4. Bad or wooden dialogue hurts any time in a story. You must have exciting, realistic dialogue throughout but it’s crucial if you want readers to get past the beginning.

5.  Don’t force introductions of your characters at the beginning of your story. Introduce characters as they are needed and when they are doing something important. Introduce your characters gradually unless the very beginning calls for all characters.

6. Telling and not showing can kill any book no matter how good the plot is. Readers want to "see" what's going on, not have the author point it out to them. Avoid long passages of narrative. Use dialogue and make readers interested at first glance.

7. Avoid using flashbacks or dreams to begin the story. Neither one works well in hooking readers. Get into the action right away.

Anything you would like to add or remove from this list is welcome for discussion.

Friday, May 1, 2020

How to Create the Right Book Cover

Every publisher and every author wants a book cover that will draw reviewers and readers. “A cover only has seconds to make an impact,” says Becky Rodriguez-Smith, Design Services Manager at BookBaby. “Our purpose is to create visuals that will grab a potential reader’s attention so that they click on the book to read more about it. To that end, the bolder the better.”

Last week, I interviewed Deirdre Wait, a well-known cover artist with a distinguished career. Having such a designer create many of my covers for publishers has been a plus. But whether you have a professional creating your cover art or are doing it yourself, there are certain important factors you should keep in mind.

It stands to reason that writers want to create an appealing cover that draws the eye. Cover art can make or break a book especially if the author isn’t well-known. What kind of front cover will grab the reader’s attention? What kind of cover art should a book display?  A lot depends on the genre of the book itself. The cover should be appropriate to the type of book. A basic question to ask: is the book going to be sold on the shelf of a bookstore or is it going to be available only online? Is the novel going to be a hardcover, trade, paperback, e-book or audio—possibly all of these?

With hardcover fiction books, as with all others, the cover needs to fit the genre, be attractive, while the title should be easy to read and intriguing. Cover art needs to play fair with readers so that they don’t feel cheated when they select a book.
Paperbacks need simplicity in covers. The artwork should also support the title and the genre. E-book covers shouldn’t be too fussy or busy either. The old saying “less is more” works best for a book cover that’s displayed online. A short title with a large, easily readable font and bright contrasting colors shows up well on the computer screen. Publishers want to avoid covers that are complicated and hard to read. Plain, simple graphics are preferable.
What are the qualities of a good cover?

We are able to read the title and author and all subheadings with ease.

The image that doesn't interfere with the written information.

The book cover is memorable: simple yet vivid and pleasing to the eye.

The theme is expressed by the image and in keeping with the genre of the book.

The bottom line for good book covers is that they make you want to read what's inside.

Here is the cover for my latest novel BLOOD FAMILY,  5th Kim Reynolds mystery. It was designed by Deirdre Wait and the novel will be published May 15th:

What are your feelings regarding cover art? What draws or attracts you to a novel? What do you dislike or prefer not to see?