Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Great First Page Checklist


C.S. Lakin in her invaluable blog Live, Write, Thrive offers an ongoing analysis of first pages of popular books. Each post is a mini-workshop worth thinking about in relationship to your own work. I highly recommend subscribing to her blog to see how she relates current novels to the following checklist.

First Page Checklist
____ Opening Hook: Clever writing and image that grabs the reader
____ Introduction of main character in first few lines
____ Starting the story in the middle of something that’s happened (or happening)
____ A nod to setting; avoid excessive exposition or narrative
____ A catalyst, inciting incident, or complication introduced for your character
____ A hint at character’s immediate intentions
____ A hint at character’s hidden need, desire, goal, dream, fear
____ Unique voice/writing style
____ A tone set for the entire book
____ A glimpse at character’s personal history, personality — shed light on motivation
____ Hint of character’s initial plot goal
____ A course of action/decision implied: introduction of high stakes/dramatic tension
____ Good Pacing: jump right into present action. No backstory

Think of including :
  • one characteristic to reveal that makes your character heroic and vulnerable
  • one element of mystery, something hinted at that raises curiosity
  • one element out of the ordinary that catches readers’ attention
  • concise, catchy dialogue (if in the first scene) that is not boring or predictable
  • a way to hint at your theme, if you have one

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Kickstarter: Yea or Nay?

The Radiant Question
Crowdfunding can be a very effective component of an overall book marketing program. But, it's not simple.

Five years ago I failed at my first attempt at Kickstarter, so I'm now doing a deep dive into crowdfunding in order to decide whether or not to launch a Kickstarter book project. I have set March 7 as my decision date (it's now March 4 and I've been thinking and stewing over this for about two weeks). Time to put a stake in the ground.

Fortunately, I found a deep well of information shared by Jamey Stegmaier, the co-founder of Stonemaier Games - this guy offers a Ph.D. program in crowdfunding. Inc. Magazine states that Stegmaier is the, "author of the new book A Crowdfunder's Strategy Guide. He would know: He's raised more than $1.4 million by crowdfunding his own projects."

I've chosen him as my guide and here are the lessons I've synthesized from my studies. BTW, one of his projects funded in 16 minutes!!!

Lesson: Know why. Start here to create your strategy and know exactly what you're trying to accomplish with crowdfunding. It's about more than just money!
Lesson: Simplify! Telegraph the project, the process and the value to investors. You have to catch the eye of the person browsing through projects. Browse yourself to see what catches your eye.
Lesson: Build Ownership. Investors want to know that the project will be completed and that they can brag about the results and feel like they were part of making it happen. Help them feel important ... like they "own" the project and the resulting product.
Lesson: Passion Project. Start with your own passion and then connect it emotionally to the passion of others.
Lesson: Ask Questions. Use SurveyMonkey liberally.
Lesson: Say Thanks. Often and individually.
Lesson: Free Tastes. Give them a sample chapter, some images, a micro story, a video, something.
Lesson: Add Stretch Goals. Increase Backer value if you exceed your funding goal. Include milestones for FB Page Likes, Tweets to #, Pinterest pins as well as funding. See details here.

March 5: The decision came early. As much as I love the idea of crowdfunding and could use help funding my new book project, I've decided NOT to do a Kickstarter project. I'll try to summarize my thinking, in case it's useful for you.

Time and effort: To do it right, Kickstarter takes a lot of creative energy and time. I think those things would be better spent focusing on deeper research and building closer ties with people who are interested in what I want to write about.
Need: Kickstarter is designed for projects that won't happen unless the "crowd" funds it. I'm going to write my book and funding it myself is a little painful but not impossible.
Complications: Thinking about stretch goal rewards and add-ons made me realize that a simple book doesn't fit the model all that well.  Trying to make it fit was turning out to be a forced fit that I'm not ready for.
Fiction odds: Books are getting funded but, apparently, the most likely successes are non-fiction and illustrated books. A fiction book by an unknown writer is a LONG shot. It would be easy to spend a lot of time and energy and still fail.
Video: Video is a critical part of a project page and my weakest skill.

So, best wishes on your journey and I'd love to hear how your crowdfunding project goes if you decide to do one. And, blessings to Jamie Stegmaier for his generous sharing of his own experiences and thinking about this fascinating subject: may all your projects fund at the "golden goose" level.