Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Recycling Plots: What We Can Learn From Writers

My fellow Smashwords author Marva Dasef, who left a great review for The Marconi Men, has provided a few tips for budding writers. From a web design point of view this is important because we blog and recommend blogging for SEO purposes. We can learn a lot from writers to provide a great content reading experience and market ourselves more effectively.

Marva says,
I wrote a short story titled "Pressure Drill" umpty-ump years ago. A bunch of years later, I cleaned it up and submitted it to an on-line 4theLove ezine. Matter of fact, it ended up in two different on-line zines a few months apart. With that success, I wrote a sequel story with the same character telling what happened next in her life. I titled this next story "First Duty."

I liked the character (Nyra Hutchings) and the dystopian future in which she lived. Why not write a book using the two completed stories as starter yeast?

I titled the entire book "First Duty." This first go was published by Sam's Dot Publishing, a lovely little SF/F/H press still going after all these years. When the contract ran out, I did a little more editing and added a few suggestions from readers.

I put a simple cover on "First Duty" and released it in both ebook and print on my own. Recently, I spiffed up the cover (see left) to make it look more science fiction-y. After all, this is a general space opera, not focused toward female readers even if my main character was a woman. There are a couple of heroes too. Two completely different men for Nyra to consider as potential significant others.

I also noted, during this period, that Science Fiction Romance was taking off as a subgenre. SF for the gals, so to speak. Much of this subgenre ranged from R-rated to (blush!). I went with R and my newly named heroine, Remy Belieux, could now knock a man out either with martial arts or "loving" them til they broke.

This hotter version also got some more space action and death-defying scenes. This book, "Ultimate Duty," was published by Eternal Press. Don't worry, I admitted that it was an expansion on earlier book which I self-published in ebook and print versions.

Now, you my beloved reader, can have it every which way, hot or not, short or long, kid-friendly or somewhat spicier.
All my books are available on Amazon. Many of the ebooks are on sale through the holidays for 99 cents. in the US, in the UK.

What we can learn from this

Marva talks about the source material, the audience, the medium, and the market. Let's take a closer look at these.

Source material

"Pressure Drill" was a short story she submitted to online magazines. Marva drew on her interest in science fiction and adventure and created a story out of that. Web designers writing blog posts can draw on their various interests to write articles. I started out on internet news and what was happening with my business. When SOPA came along I got all political and have been reporting on internet news and political views ever since. My source material usually comes from Google Plus posts from the people I follow. If you're writing content for a website you've got to work from the information the client gives you but if there's not much there you can add some extra information based on what the client's business is.


Marva aims her sci-fi literature at young adults who like sci-fi but it's not so jargon-filled it puts people off and it's not so geared to a particular group that only they can like it.  My audience is fellow geeks, Plussers (Google Plus users, particularly those who follow me), and potential clients. When you're writing anything for any reason you've got to think about the people you're trying to reach. I've seen websites that claim to provide wonderful services. If I ever work out what they are, I'll let you know. As it is they're too full of jargon to make much sense to anyone outside of their interest group. While aiming at a niche audience makes sense you don't want to alienate people outside of your target group. The trick is to appeal to your target audience while leaving the door open to anyone else who might be interested. Marva sticks in a bit of romance and adventure but adds scientific terms to make her stories more believable.

The medium

Publishers and platforms come with their own audiences. Marva started out on ezines, then moved to ebooks and physical publishers. The beauty of being published on a platform, even a blog, that has its own audience just by dint of existing, is that you've got an opportunity from the start to engage. It's like having a book on a shelf; where is the shelf and who can see it? Smashwords is full of authors of varying ability who self-publish and there are opportunities to advance to print. Smashwords also publishes to Kindle, EPub and Palm, and makes ebooks available on Amazon. Self-publishing ebooks makes you consider how to present them and whether or not to make your own covers. You also have to work to a specified format. This blog is built on Blogger, which has a ping system that pings Google and other services every time I post. I've also got connections to Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, which helps to spread the word. Marva does this too but also links to her work on her blog and website and blogs about it. The point is, the platform you use will influence the way you work so bear that in mind when writing for the internet.

The market

It's easy to confuse your audience with your market but not all of your readers are going to do business with you even if they like your work. I've had some readers Flattr me or "buy me a coffee." They are the market; the people who pay for my services in whatever way, shape, or form. The people who actually pay me either want to avail of my services, or if they've made micropayments or donations, it's because I've posted something that made them think. Since this is the most appealing aspect of what I do, I try to do so as much as I can. Marva writes well-researched sci-fi for young adults and her writing is very much geared to that audience. Having had contracts and print runs has demonstrated the success of what she does and how she does it. Basically, the trick is to know who your market is and how to get them to part with their money. For Marva, it's by entertaining them, for me, it's by making them think.


It's important to look for lessons to learn from not just for blogging or writing content but to get clues about how to market ourselves more effectively, whatever we're doing.

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