23 Ways to Celebrate World Book Day

Time once again to celebrate World Book Day. What’s with the blank look? Did the holiday sneak up on you this year? Wait—you say you’ve never even heard of World Book Day? Well, this is the right blog post for you.

According to Wikipedia, World Book Day (WBD) was “organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to promote reading, publishing and copyright.”

Now that you know that, let the celebrations begin!

Um…you don’t know how to celebrate WBD? Okay, let us count the ways:

  1. Buy a book. Ever the helpful blogger, I’ve included a suggested list in the right column of my website.
  2. Give a book as a gift to someone else. New of course, unless you make it clear the book is used.
  3. Peruse a bookstore. Best to carve out the whole day.
  4. Visit a library. Again, you can get lost there, so allow time.
  5. Get a library card. Mine gets more use than my credit cards.
  6. Help a child get a library card. Open up endless new worlds for the kiddo.
  7. Buy an ebook reader. A lot lighter to carry than hundreds of hardbacks.
  8. Bake a book-shaped cake. You’ve heard of devouring books. Do it literally!
  9. Sing a traditional WBD song. What? There are no songs for this holiday? Then…
  10. Compose a song for WBD. There’s definitely a need there.
  11. Create a dance for the WBD song. Start the tradition of dancing around a bookshelf.
  12. Dress up as a book character. Pick your favorite. Spend the day talking and acting like that character.
  13. Tour a book printing factory. It there’s a book printer near you, it would be fascinating to learn how they make the darn things.
  14. Buy or build a bookshelf. Fill it with books.
  15. Write a book review. Post it on Goodreads, Amazon, BN.com, etc.
  16. Email an author. They all love to hear from fans. Hint: pick a living author.
  17. Set a reading goal. How many books do you think you can read between now and the next WBD?
  18. Attend a WBD Festival. There’s one in Kensington, Maryland. If that’s too far away, then…
  19. Plan a WBD Festival in your town. It will breathe life into the place.
  20. Commit to reading the classics. Hate it when your friends quote some classic, and you don’t get the reference? You either admit ignorance or pretend you know it.
  21. Write a book. You’ve been wanting to. I’ve seen your bucket list. You can’t finish what you don’t start.
  22. Answer David Filby’s three-book question. See below. *
  23. Read a book. Escape all TV, radio, and video games. Make it just you, your favorite drink, and your book.

* Near the end of the 1960 movie, “The Time Machine,” David Filby finds that George has left in the time machine.
David Filby: “He’s gone back to the future, to begin a new world. But it’s not like George to go off without a plan. He must have taken something with him. Is anything missing?”
Mrs. Watchett (George’s housekeeper): “Nothing…[sees blank space on bookshelf]…except three books.”
Filby: “Which three?”
Mrs. Watchett: “I don’t know… is it important?”
Filby: “Oh, I suppose not. Only, which three books would you have taken?”

 

I hope World Book Day will be as enjoyable for you as it will be for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Writer, Know Thyself

How well do you know yourself? I came across a wonderful post on this topic by Joanna Penn, guest-posting on WritetoDone. I’d like to take her basic idea in a different direction.

As Joanna said, the phrase “Know Thyself” has an ancient lineage, going back at least to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece, but possibly further back to ancient Egypt. It has various interpretations, but for today, I’ll take it to mean that wisdom begins by looking inside.

If you aim to be a writer, able to write convincing tales about characters who are unlike yourself, you must first understand the person from whom these characters will spring.

Why? It’s the filters.

Let me explain. So far in life, you’ve observed the real world and many people for several years. In your mind, you have a model of that world and those people, but it’s not a perfect model. It doesn’t match the real world exactly.

Every sensation of the world has to pass through a filter in your mind, a filter you built over time based on your experiences. It consists of your stereotypes, biases, personality, political views, gender, education, occupation, etc. The filter through which you see the world is your unique perspective based on who you really are, and it is distorting the view you see.

If you write a book, you’re writing through that filter about a world you see and characters you see. Once published, the book is out there, part of the real world for readers to enjoy. When a reader reads your book, she understands and interprets it through her own mental filter.

It’s possible that, despite all this filtering, many readers will enjoy your book and you’ll earn lots of money. If so, it will be in part because your words reached through the filters and entertained readers.

It’s wise, therefore, to take an introspective look at your own filter, to study it with as much objectivity as you can. Who is this person who wants to be a writer, who would write words describing people and who would comment on the human condition? In short, who are you?

Joanna Penn’s blog post makes some great observations about attributes that most writers have in common. But I think it’s just as important for you to understand the specific attributes unique to you.

How do you do that? You could take a few days off, get away from the world as best you can, and write down what you know about yourself. You could take a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Five Factor Model, or some other measure.

If you do this, I’m certain you’ll find many of the attributes Joanna Penn listed will be true for you (a loner seeking recognition; one who’s scared, doubtful, and creative; one who believes in finishing projects and striving to improve; one who knows the dark side of life).

You’ll find out much more than that, things that make you feel proud to be you and things you wish weren’t true. You will see facets of yourself that are average and facets that are far from the norm.

This project of learning about yourself can benefit you and your writing in several ways:

  • You may find things about yourself you’d like to improve;
  • You’ll know about those parts of you that are unusual, and realize that connecting with readers may take an extra effort;
  • You’ll understand that your characters have personality filters too, and by writing about the world of your story as well as the thoughts of a character, you are revealing something about that character’s filters.

Good luck! And now, excuse me, it’s time for me to get to know—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Should Your Book be an Audiobook?

What’s the deal with audiobooks? The market for them seems to be rising, with improvements in delivery technology, reductions in price, and increases in reader’s demands to enjoy books while multitasking. Today’s question: are audiobooks a good thing for authors, like you?

From the Reader’s Perspective

There’s something different about listening to a story, isn’t there? Something olden, even ancient. People told stories verbally for millennia before developing writing. When Edison invented the phonograph, he thought its primary use would be for books, not music. President Franklin Roosevelt understood the power of the spoken voice as he radioed his fireside chats.

Printed words are sterile by comparison. They sit there on the screen or page until your mind gives them substance. But the narrator of an audiobook breathes life, drama, tension, humor, horror, etc. into those same words. A good narrator gives the characters different and distinct voices that help conjure a picture of each one.

In addition to the difference in the audio reading experience, readers can multitask while listening, in ways they can’t do with print books. They can read while driving, showering, cooking, exercising, gardening, or performing similar tasks.

From the Author’s Perspective

We can see why readers might like audiobooks, but what’s in it for authors? Creating an audiobook is a more labor-intensive process than creating ebooks or print books, making it both slower and more expensive.

The process goes like this. You submit your novel to an audiobook publisher. If they accept, you wait for interested narrators to send you audition tapes. If you don’t like any of them, you start over and resubmit your manuscript again. Once you choose a narrator and arrange payment (see Costs below), send the narrator a pronunciation guide to your story including character names and descriptions of character voices. Listen to the chapters as the narrator sends you each recorded tape in turn. If there are mistakes, send have the narrator that chapter. (Perhaps you forgot to send that pronunciation guide.)

Note: it will likely sound strange to have your words read to you by someone else. The narrator will emphasize different parts of your sentences, give characters different sounding voices than you imagined, etc. You’ll need to get past that.

Costs

Did I mention audiobooks are expensive? First, you pay the audiobook publisher. Then you pay the narrator. The best narrators can demand payment up front. A narrator may instead offer you a 50-50 split of the remaining royalties (after the publishing company’s slice). Some narrators charge an hourly fee, calculated based on finished recording hours; you’ll only pay of the duration of the completed recording, not for the narrator’s mistakes.

Audiobook Industry Outlook

At present, there’s strong competition among audiobook publishers, and many from which you can choose, including Audible, Inc.; Beacon Audiobooks; Blackstone Audio; Caedmon Audio; Deyan Audio; and Recorded Books. You can also record your own book very inexpensively at home. Some books are being produced solely in audiobook form, without a print version being published.

There are numerous devices for listening to audiobooks now, including cell phones; desktop and laptop computers; compact disk players; MP3 players; and intelligent personal assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Cortana, Siri, and Google Home.

With retirement of the baby boomer generation, many expect the audiobook market to continue to grow.

 

Should you have your novel, or short story collection, published as an audiobook? Perhaps you can now make that decision yourself, thanks to the information provided by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Wagging the Long Tail

A few authors sell vast numbers of books, while most authors sell very few. If you could amass accurate data on that, it would probably look like a decaying exponential curve. It would have the Pareto property, where 20% of the authors sell 80% of the books—those on the left. However, today we’ll focus on the right side of the curve. Statisticians, with their penchant for arcane, hard-to-understand terminology, call that part “the long tail.”

The curve I present here is approximate and intended for illustrative purposes only. Note the vertical red line. Believe it or not, the number of books sold to the left of that line equals the number of books to the right.

Out on the tail of that curve are many, many authors who sell very few books. Looks a little lonely out there, doesn’t it? Most of those authors would love to move left on the curve, ideally all the way left. Readers only have so much money to spend on books, though, and they’re more likely to read books by authors they know.

Very few of those “long tail authors” will move much further left from where they are now, and only a tiny fraction will make it near the vertical axis into the stratospheric heights of the best-seller lists.

That may sound depressing, but let’s squint and take a closer look at that long tail. Each author represents a single point on that curve, but book distributors look at the curve differently. These days, they see the near-infinite length of the long tail as a new profit opportunity.

Distributors have realized we now live in the age of instant and easy searches for obscure information. With the ability to print books on demand, it doesn’t matter how few readers seek, for example, alternate history books about trips to the moon. What matters is that the book “A Tale More True” pops up in response to that search and a sale ensues.

In Wikipedia’s article on the long tail, they quote an Amazon employee as saying, “We sold more books today that didn’t sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday.”

You might have to read that again and let it sink in. I’ll wait.

In fact, now is the best time to be a long tail author. Let’s consider the set of those readers searching for steampunk books about planet-threatening comets. They easily find my book, “The Cometeers.” Among that admittedly small set of readers, I’m a best-selling author!

Here are a few more examples included for instructive purposes, and certainly not for crass self-promotion:

Readers search for books about: They find and buy:
Alternate histories involving the Ottoman Empire To Be First  
Romance stories taking place in Ancient Greece Against All Gods  
Stories involving Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions Leonardo’s Lion  
Sequel to War of the Worlds After the Martians  
Shakespearean clockpunk Time’s Deformèd Hand  

If you’re a long tail author, don’t despair. You have plenty of company; readers can find your books more readily than ever before; and book distributors now regard you as a profitable part of the book-selling enterprise. Happily wagging my tiny part of the long tail, you’ll find—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Getting Inside Their Heads

How do you write a story about a character who’s completely unlike you? How do you get inside his or her head enough to make your story credible? Don’t we all admire authors who can do this well? Conversely, isn’t it boring (and confusing) when every character in a story thinks and speaks the same way?

www.publicdomainpictures.net

I’ve blogged before about creating convincing characters who are the opposite gender from you. But there are many ways besides gender to be different—age, race, time period, nationality, home location, economic status, intelligence, species, planet, etc.

www.wikipedia.org

A few years ago, I read Next, by the late Michael Crichton. In that novel, one of the characters, Brad Gordon, is abnormally attracted to very young girls. If I remember correctly, I read about Brad attending a high school girls soccer game. The scene is in Brad’s point of view, and I read about watching the game through a sexual deviant’s eyes. Not only was the scene disturbing, but I was convinced Michael Crichton knew his character well enough to capture his mindset.

It’s a difficult thing, writing from the POV of a character so unlike you, one who thinks differently, who has different goals and motivations. That character doesn’t share your (the writer’s) basic assumptions about how the world works. The character reacts to events with different emotions than you would. Your job is to make that character realistic.

This character might be very different from your targeted readership. The character might be an extraterrestrial, a British colonialist explorer from the 1880s, a serial killer, or a Tibetan monk. Your readers won’t know if you “got it right,” but you still need to make it convincing. None of those characters should think or act like you do.

Of course, it’s worse when your targeted readers do match your character and you don’t. If you’re an elderly male author writing romance, your depictions of young women had better be very close to the mark, because your readers will spot any unrealistic actions, thoughts, clothing, dialogue, etc. If you’ve never been in the military and you’re writing a war story, your readership expects you to get in the mind of your POV characters and convey accurate feelings and actions.

In this blog post, Monica M. Clark discusses some helpful advice she learned from author Terry McMillan on this subject. Her three recommendations follow, paraphrased by me:

  • Empathize. Spend time getting in the mind of that character, feeling the passions, seeing the world through those different filters.
  • Listen. If possible, find real people who are like your character. Go to where they live, if you can. Then watch and listen. Pick up the speech patterns, the clothing, the gestures.
  • Apply for a job. No, the job’s not for you, it’s for your character. Fill out a job application as your character would. That will build the bio for your character.

All great advice. Regarding that last item, there are some things you need to know about your character that would not appear on a typical job application, like physical attributes and personality. Write those down, too. As you write your story, refer back to the job application every now and then to check if you have things right.

The better you can convey different characters, the better your stories will be. For example, I do my best to depict characters who are completely different from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

How Do Readers Discover My Books?

Like most writers, I’m curious about how readers come across my books. By what means do they discover them? If I had good information on that, I could focus on the marketing methods that work and abandon those that don’t.

Fortunately, author RJ Scott showed me how to do this. In one blog post, she published the results of a survey of her readers, in which she asked how they found her books.

I decided to do the same thing. I sent out thousands of e-mails to my fans (and acquaintances, and random passers-by) and gathered the responses. I first sorted the valid responses from the spam, advertising, and ugly threats to do me vicious bodily harm.

Then I plotted the data from most responses to least, Pareto chart fashion. Some responses were similar enough that I used slashes ‘/’ to show response variations.

It looks like my presence on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter is working. There’s a lot to be said for plain ol’ dumb luck, too, apparently.

The most surprising result was the two responses saying readers discovered one of my books while marooned on an island. I’m not sure if that’s two separate instances or two people on the same island. In either case, my campaign of wrapping books in bubble wrap and casting them in the ocean is probably not worth further investment.

It’s nice, too, when readers take the time to fill in the Comments section. That allows me to get beyond the mere data and explore the true reasons readers discover me, and my books. Here are all those comments:

  • “Your books are great! I can’t understand why they’re so unpopular.”
  • “You write as well as authors twice your age.”
  • “Buy ???????? cheap! Have more enjoyable ??? now!” [Comment edited for content]
  • “I love your book. It’s keeping my kitchen table perfectly level right now.”
  • “What’s this Comment space for? Am I supposed to type something here?”
  • “Qwert yui opasd fghjkl zx cvbnm.”
  • “That’s the last time I go on Amazon with my two-year-old in the room. Their one-click ordering feature is too easy.”

It’s going to be awhile before I do another reader survey, I think.

Just remember, any way is a good way to discover—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Read an eBook Week – It’s Almost Over!

Now you’ve gone and done it. You dithered, procrastinated, dallied, delayed, hesitated, vacillated, dawdled, and wavered, and look what happened. Today is the very last day of Smashwords’ Read an eBook Week.

It’s insane, really. Smashwords slashed the price for every single book in my What Man Hath Wrought series. The ones that were $3.99 are now $2.00 and the ones that were $2.99 are just $1.50. But only for the rest of today.

Oh, you meant to pick up one or more of my books at half price. The intention was there, but life dangled its distractions in your face, and you let the time get away from you.

Luckily, there are still a few hours left, but you’re burning valuable daylight reading this. Click on any link in this post now to grab a bargain. Just use the code RAE50 (for Read an eBook – 50% off, get it?) at checkout. Tell ‘em you were sent by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

My Books, Now Half Price

Yes, the rumors are true. This is Read an Ebook Week, and all of my books listed on Smashwords are half price!

Hard to believe, but it’s a fact. Read an Ebook Week runs from today until March 11. My entire series, called “What Man Hath Wrought,” might as well be called What Man Half Wrought” since the titles that were $3.99 are now $2.00 and the ones that were $2.99 are just $1.50.

You read that correctly. Get The Wind-Sphere Ship, Within Victorian Mists, A Steampunk Carol, and The Six Hundred Dollar Man for just $1.50 each.

 

 

 

 

Get Alexander’s Odyssey, Leonardo’s Lion, Against All Gods, A Tale More True, Rallying Cry/Last Vessel of Atlantis, To be First/Wheels of Heaven, The Cometeers, Time’s Deformèd Hand, Ripper’s Ring, and After the Martians for only $2.00 each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the books are listed at full price at Smashwords, when you click on any of them, you’ll be urged to enter code RAE50 at checkout to get the half-price discount.

If I’ve totaled correctly, you can get the whole set, the entire series of 14 books (16 stories), for just $27. What a great way to sample the adventurous imagination of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Analysis of Writer and Non-Writer Morphs

A significant proportion of the Homo sapiens species does not write fiction, leaving that task to a tiny sector of the population that writes all of it. Today we examine this phenomenon and these particular creatures, and draw what conclusions we can from the available data.

Observations indicate the vast majority (greater than 99 percent) of adults within this species do not write fiction. The fiction-writing and non-fiction-writing fractions have not split off as separate species, and seem unlikely to do so. The distinction between the two is behavioral only, so we may define the fiction-writers as the FW Morph, and the others as the NFW Morph. Other sub-species terms such as breed, race, cultivar, ecotype, and strain are not as applicable as morph.

Note: We are only comparing those Homo sapiens who write fiction and those who do not. The term NFW should not be confused with those who write nonfiction books.

FWs and NFWs coexist and both share a similar global distribution pattern. Evidence shows the two morphs consume similar food, display no distinctive appearance differences, and often cohabit and interbreed without apparent preference for their own, or the other, morph. Resulting offspring mature into FW or NFW in the same 1% and 99% proportions, respectively. No statistical correlation is observed regarding passing on the FW trait to offspring. For example, two NFW parents may produce a child who matures into a FW.

In general, the species puts significant value on the education of its young. Nearly all juvenile Homo sapiens are trained in fiction writing, and are encouraged to create their own stories between the ages of 8 and 18 years. Thus, nearly all have the capability to become FW as mature adults, yet few do.

Behavioral differences between the two morphs are significant, and some of these differences are documented below.

  1. Obviously, FWs spend considerable time writing fiction, and NFWs spend no time doing so.
  2. FWs are more likely to read books (both fiction and nonfiction), and to read more often, than NFW.
  3. FWs react in varied and bizarre ways to the acceptance of a submitted story by an editor, and to the arrival of a box of the FW’s own books. These apparent rituals (dancing, fist-pumping, inordinate consumption of alcohol or chocolate have been observed) are thought to be celebratory in nature, but further studies are indicated.
  4. FWs make frequent attempts to discuss their stories with NFWs, rarely with a favorable outcome. NFWs often appear bored, or make some attempt not to look bored. The FW either fails to notice or expresses bewilderment. In extreme cases, an argument ensues and the two separate, usually for a temporary period.
  5. FWs occasionally seek out the company of other FWs. Perhaps this is because they are so rare, or perhaps they understand each other better than they understand NFWs.
  6. NFWs apparently are capable of creative thought and retain vestigial memories of early fiction-writing education. Sometimes an NFW will suggest to an FW that the FW write a story around the idea the NFW just had. FWs almost never do this, and instead suggest the NFW write the story. The NFW will almost never do that.

Since FWs produce a unique product that NFWs consume, and since NFWs produce all other products needed by FWs, an economic exchange relationship has developed. The amount of wealth earned by a given FW apparently depends on the popularity and demand for that FW’s stories among the NFWs.

In an economic sense, it is fortunate that FWs are in the minority; otherwise they would have to pay NFWs to read their books, rather than the other way around.

To the author’s knowledge, this is the first significant study of these fascinating morphs and their interactions in the wild. Clearly, the need for more comparative studies is indicated. Confirmation or refutation of the observations made in this analysis is sought by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

5 Signs of Leximania, the Love of Words

Most writers love words. They adore the sound of them. They revel in learning new words. They marvel over a well-turned phrase. Do you?

I’ll define Leximania as an intense love of—bordering on obsession with—words. It’s not necessary to have leximania to be a writer…but it helps. After all, to a writer, words are like a sculptor’s clay, a composer’s musical notes, a painter’s palette and brush. Words are the tiny bits of noting which, when joined, make literature. They’re the atoms of a writer’s universe, so it’s understandable if writers take an unusual level of interest in them.

When one of my daughters entered high school, we gave her a dictionary for her birthday. That evening, she came to me. “Dad, I think I found a mistake.” She showed it to me, and, sure enough, there was an error in her dictionary.

I was very proud of her. That’s what I’m talking about—not just finding the mistake, but paging through the dictionary, maintaining an interest in the words and definitions, and getting lost in them long enough to notice the mistake. That’s Leximania.

In Chapter 31 of Theodore A. Rees Cheney’s book on editing, Getting the Words Right, he says, “Unless you become a work geek, you’ll have trouble making it as a writer.” He defines a word geek as one who listens to other people’s use of words, both spoken and written; one to whom a dictionary is a friend; and one who delights in discovering and using new words.

There’s a time in our lives when we’re all leximaniacs. Between the ages of 18 and 36 months, you were learning 10-20 new words a week. At that age, you loved learning new words. When you heard a word, and learned what it meant, you rolled it around; you sounded it out; you used it.

Back then, you had particular fascination for words that were fun to say, including abracadabra, blob, banana, baboon, balloon, cuckoo, hocus-pocus, itty-bitty, kitty-cat, knickknack, mumbo-jumbo, teeny-weeny, teepee, topsy-turvy, yo-yo, and zig-zag. Note the interest in rhythm, alliteration, and repetition.

At some point, your vocabulary growth spurt tapered off. Most of us decide we know enough to get by, and don’t bother learning many new words after that.

For writers, leximania either never subsides, or is renewed at some point. However, it’s expanded beyond a love of fun-to-say words. It now includes obscure words with precise definitions or connotations that are perfect fits for a story in progress. It includes unusual parings of words that convey just the right idea. It includes words that give a sentence almost poetic rhythm and flow. It includes short, abrupt words to end a sentence with punch.

To sum up, here are some common symptoms of leximania. Do you:

  • Turn to a dictionary or thesaurus for one word, and end up lost in the book for ten or more minutes?
  • Read or hear an unfamiliar word, look it up, and use it several times that week?
  • Listen to people speaking and try to detect their repeated words and phrases, the rhythm patterns of their sentences?
  • Make a conscious and systematic effort to build your vocabulary?
  • Pause while reading a book to repeat a word or phrase and just admire the author’s genius in word usage?

If you answered yes to two questions, you may have the early onset. Three affirmative answers confirms the diagnosis. Four or more ‘yes’ responses suggest a severe, and probably incurable, case…one from which you don’t seek a cure.

Leximania, though rare, isn’t harmful and may actually extend your life. If you ‘suffer’ from it, my advice is to consider becoming a writer. Ending disclaimer: I’m no doctor, I’m just—

Poseidon’s Scribe