Monday, May 21, 2018

GDPR, the IWSG, and YOU!

There's been a lot of confusing information out there about the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). The new regulations are intended to improve data privacy for EU citizens. While it's a pain for those of us with newsletters and such, it's actually a good thing in the long run, and chances are it will impact data protection outside the EU at some point.

In order to be fully compliant with the new regulations, we've modified our sign-up process for the newsletter and updated all verbiage. Anyone who didn't sign up directly via the MailChimp sign-up form will have received an email from us today via MailChimp to confirm their subscription preferences. We're also updating our privacy policy, which you'll be able to find on the sidebar.

Anyone who receives the opt-in email from us and does not update their settings to confirm they still want to receive the newsletter will be removed from the list before the May newsletter goes out. Not only do we want to be GDPR compliant, but we don't want to be sending you a newsletter if you don't want it! So keep an eye on your inboxes today. If you are removed, but didn't want to be, the sign-up form can be found under the newsletter tab.

Speaking of wanting to receive the newsletter, as it's via MailChimp, it's easy to opt-out if you don't wish to continue receiving the newsletter. There is always the option to click on unsubscribe from this list at the bottom of your newsletter, or you can email us directly at theIWSG at gmail dot com.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here are some articles I found helpful in navigating this GDPR puzzle as it concerns newsletters:

Yes, the GDPR Will Affect Your US-Based Business (Forbes)
How to Make Your Website GDPR Complaint (Hallam)
New MailChimp Tools to Help With the GDPR (MailChimp)
And more specifically from MailChimp (this one is only for those with a MailChimp newsletter): Collect Consent With GDPR Forms

GDPR goes into effect May 25, so you'll have to have your newsletters and websites GDPR-ready before that date, if you haven't already done it.

Are you ready for the GDPR to go into effect? Have you updated your newsletter and contacted EU members to re-opt-in?

*Confused Panda Clip Art, OCAL, clker.com
*Checklist Panda Clip Art, OCAL, clker.com

Monday, May 14, 2018

Writing Realistic Antagonists

Every main character in every story ever told has a conflict with an antagonist or an antagonistic part of his/her inner self. The best stories and the most intriguing heroes have great antagonists. But, what makes a great antagonist? And, what kinds of antagonists are there?

Main Character Versus Environment (Nature or Technologically-Ruled Universe).
  In The Martian, an astronaut must survive the harsh elements of an alien landscape. In The Matrix, Neo and his allies must fight against the technological rules of the Matrix world while simultaneously battling a society of evil machines bent on the destruction of human freedom.
 
To make these kinds of environments into realistic antagonists, the writer must do their homework to either understand how the natural world could kill the main character step by awful step, or to create the world-building setting in a way that feels realistic to the viewer or reader so that the conflict makes “sense.”

Other examples: “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, 2012 (movie), and Hatchet.

Main Character(s) Versus Society (Community or Government).
  In The Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen must fight for her life and for freedom from an oppressive government. In Elizabeth Seckman’s romance novel, Bella’s Point, Bella struggles to survive socially as a slave-freeing pariah after the Civil War ends.

Why do these societal antagonists “work?” Because they are founded in realistic expectations of human behavior that we’ve all seen, either in our history textbooks or in our own lives. However, it’s always good to have a reason for the society being the way it is. Why does the government of Panem have the Hunger Games? It’s explained via President Snow, some edited video footage, and the actions of some people in the Capital. Why does Bella have to struggle in the South after the Civil War? It’s shown in the novel, but it’s also in our history books.

Other Examples: Mean Girls (movie), Tara Tyler’s Broken Branch Falls, a MG fantasy novel, and Nick Wilford’s Black & White, a dystopian YA novel.

Main Character Versus the Inner Self.
When the crux of the story hinges on the main character’s inner struggle with self-doubt, depression, mental health, or just plain bad attitude, the main character’s antagonist is within.
 
Some of the movies in the Marvel Universe do get into the inner conflicts of their main characters, most notably Iron Man. All heroes struggle with their self-doubts, but there are some novels that seem to really get into this as the main conflict including Alex J. Cavanaugh’s CassaStar and Dragon of the Stars, both novels in which the main character must battle with a bad, bad attitude toward others and both novels in which the main character suffers serious self-doubt. Yes, there are space battles and other conflicts, but the drive of these novels is the storm within.
 
To make the inner self conflict believable, a writer needs to keep the progress of the problem steady. A character might make progress with her/his inner conflict, but then regress slightly, only to struggle again to move forward. A character who has struggled with a bad attitude for his/her whole life does not just have an easy-going personality within a few seconds. Time needs to pass. Growth needs to be shown.

Examples: C. Lee McKenzie’s YA novels, The Princess of Los Pulgas and Double Negative, Corinna Austin’s MG novel Corners, and Diane L. Wolfe’s novel series, Circle of Friends.

Main Character(s) Versus Antagonistic Character(s) aka Man Versus Man.
There are Three Subsets to this Group:

Villains/Bullies/Criminals/Serial Killers - these are the abusive characters, the purposeful criminals, the megalomaniacs who want to rule the world or a small part of it. They seem, at first glance, to be all bad.
But, the best ones have a reason to be who they are. They’ve made choices. They have a past. They have loss. They have suffered. They are just one step away from being heroes (and sometimes they think they are heroes in their own story) and the reason they bother us so much is that if we made bad choices, that could be us. A villain with a backstory is a villain who is remembered.
Villainous Examples: Voldemort, Thanos, Annie Wilkes in Misery.

Frenemies - these are the family members, friends, or peers who stand in the character’s way, usually believing they are in the right or that they are saving the main character from some kind of harm, either social or physical. Sometimes, frenemies turn into friends later on in a story and sometimes they turn into full antagonistic enemies. Peers who are also competitors can also fit into this category; they don’t really have anything against the MC, but they want to win the competition themselves.
Frenemy Examples: Professor X and Magneto from X-men, Woody and Buzz in Toy Story, and some of Hutch’s friends in C. Lee McKenzie’s Double Negative.

Romantic Frenemies - Most romances fit into the old literary conflict area of man vs. man, or actually Woman Versus Man. I’m not a romance expert, but the main character in a romance often fears losing her dreams or her true self if she gives into her love for the “antagonist” – who is actually an ally for life.
Examples: Christine Rain’s 13th Floor novella series and her Totem series.

All of our antagonists need to follow some reasonable set of “rules” within their worlds. If an antagonist isn’t believable, our readers get frustrated or bored. Even if we throw multiple antagonists in the way of our main characters to heighten tension, we need our antagonists to be realistic.

What notable antagonists have you encountered in fiction lately?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Publicity Mistakes that Ruin Book Launches


If you're an author you know writing the book is only part of your job these days. Promotion is a huge chunk of what you have to do. Here's some excellent tips from people in the know. 



Book publicity is one of the most frustrating things for authors both experienced and new. You can write an all-time great novel, design the best book cover in history, and get blurbs from JK Rowling and Barack Obama—but if you don’t publicize your book well enough, you won’t sell any copies.

The simple fact is that people have to know your book exists before they can buy it, and publicity is the best way to get fresh eyeballs on your book.

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of good information regarding book publicity available freely. As a result, we see many authors make the same book marketing mistakes over and over again—sabotaging their own campaigns and killing their book sales.

If you want to successfully market your book, you need to be aware of these three marketing mistakes authors of all levels make...

1. Avoiding Large Outlets 
A lot of authors limit themselves by not pitching to larger outlets and publications like The New York Times or NPR. After all, there are so many authors who send their books to those offices every day, what are the chances of getting a reviewer’s eyes on your book? 

While the odds are daunting, they are not impossible. Even self-published books with no professional publicity firm behind them have landed themselves an NYT book review. The key is to do your research:

  • Which editor should you be pitching?
  • How do they like to be pitched?
  • How can you put a spin on your pitch that they will like?
  • How many times are you going to follow up? (The answer to this should be “a lot”)

With the right research and execution, you can greatly enhance your chances of being covered by a large outlet, which will lead to many more eyeballs on your book.

Pro-Tip: When writing a pitch, not tailoring it to each audience can be a huge disadvantage. Do you want a health-focused public radio station to cover your book the same way Financial Times would? Of course you don’t—you know that those stations often appeal to different audiences. Make sure your pitch highlights the value of your book to their specific audience.

2. Skimping On The Legwork 
We all have long days, and when you’re writing a book, and doing the marketing and publicity, that can make the day much, much longer. The temptation is always there to take shortcuts—send out generic email blasts, drop $10,000 on a “publicity service,” or just give up on book marketing altogether. 

But the legwork is where the magic happens in publicity.

Force yourself to reach out to local bookstores, libraries, author groups and book clubs and schedule some readings. Even when your exhausted, write those emails to journalists who probably won’t respond. Embrace the grind, because that’s the only way to get results.

Leaning in to the legwork in marketing also gives you the opportunity to really be present and seize opportunities. If you send out a generic email blast and have a virtual assistant handle all the follow up, you’ll save time, but you’ll miss those unexpected opportunities when someone responds to you offering a cool new collaboration.

Be present, be committed, and push yourself through the grind of publicity. Your hard work will pay dividends.


3. Not Building a Platform
Not building an online platform for your book is a huge publicity mistake. 

When readers and supporters want to get to know an author, and that author’s whole catalog of work, the first thing they do is go online and look at the author’s site. Don’t believe me? Check out Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, both of whom are best selling authors many times over, and both of whom have amazing websites.

Your site is your ultimate sales tool. It’s where readers go to learn more about your book, to explore ways of engaging you, and—most importantly—to buy your book.

With all of the tools available now to make website building incredibly easy (and sometimes even free) there’s almost no excuse not to have an author website when running your own publicity campaign. 

Don’t Play Small
All of these mistakes are symptomatic of a larger issue that plagues authors. We think we’re smaller than we are, that professional websites, complex publicity campaigns, and coverage in major outlets are for writers who are more prolific than us.

We relegate ourselves to thinking that we—as small, amateur writers—don’t need more than a Facebook page and maybe a review on our friend’s blog.

When you play small, you get small results. Don’t limit yourself before you start. Approach your book’s publicity campaign as if you were already a bestseller, and the results will follow.

Thanks, Reedsy! This was great.