Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Writing Reaction Beats

The Insecure Writers' Support Group is so pleased have Mary Kole here today sharing great writing tips. 

Most writers know that it’s important to write strong, proactive action. (You can read more about that here: https://kidlit.com/writing-a-proactive-protagonist/) But how about proactive reaction? Huh? How a character reacts in a story is crucial—almost as important as how they act. Yes, the most effective driver of forward momentum and plot is still a character who moves toward their objective and guides readers through the story.

But characters can’t always act, or they can’t act in certain situations. Let’s say a character is overhearing a conversation, or trapped in a dungeon. Or they’ve just completed a big action, and are taking some downtime. It’s not always possible for your protagonist to be pushing forward (100% action careening through a plot is not very sustainable). In fact, breaks in the action are powerful places for your character to take a breather … and take stock of their situation.

Enter the reaction beat! This is a moment in the story when your character reacts to what’s happening. Think of it as a downbeat that breaks up action scenes, or a moment to integrate what has happened in your story so far. There are a few different times when this is desirable.

Here are some different applications of the reaction beat, including when to use it:

  • Action Synergy: You can use a reaction beat to integrate character and action. It can be tough for readers to stay engaged when there is endless action, such as battle scene upon battle scene. So what do you do? Give your character time to process as action is unfolding. Too much action can leave readers feeling disconnected from your protagonist. Giving your character some time to ponder the ramifications of what has just happened or prepare for the next action can be very valuable for integrating the plot and character aspects of your story. Between battles, a commander stops to mourn a fallen comrade. Their relationship has not always been easy, and the commander is troubled, as now it will go unresolved.
  • Intermission: Similarly, you can take some time between plot points to give characters some reflection. This is valuable for creating stakes. X has happened. And? So? Now what? X has not happened. And? So? How does this change things? A longer and more contemplative beat is very appropriate when you have been presenting a lot of conflict and tension via action scenes. (But writer beware: if you have too much introspection on the page, it can make your pacing, or the reader’s perception of how quickly the story moves, seem too slow.) To continue the commander example, let’s see our character having a quiet moment before the final battle for the castle. He checks in with his motivations and objectives, and remembers the words of his father, a great warrior who came before him. It’s the calm before the storm, and readers can learn how prepared the character feels for what’s about to happen.
  • Section or Chapter Ending: My strong preference is for narrative sections and chapters to end on tension. However, that doesn’t always mean action. Sometimes, a “reaction shot” from the character can be more valuable. This goes back to the question of ramifications, mentioned above. When a chapter ends on an especially juicy reveal or cliffhanger, consider giving the reader your POV (point of view) character’s reaction to the news. Especially if that reaction introduces or reinforces new or existing tension, respectively. The castle has fallen. What does that mean for the invading commander? Is this a happy moment or is a fearful moment? Did the castle fall seemingly too easily? Is there some suspicion, or some nuance you can find in the character’s reaction beat that readers may not expect? Alternately, you can wait until the beginning of a new chapter to really let the emotional ramifications of recent action bloom.
  • Character Turning Point: You don’t always have to wait until a section or chapter break to have something “land” with your character. Sometimes, a change of heart, new understanding, or another moment of evolution for your character is plot in and of itself. If you have built a character turning point into your story, make sure to take a reaction beat to really have it shine through. The commander has heard that the prince is an authoritarian ruler and terribly unjust. But everything the prince has demonstrated in battle has been honorable. Does the invading commander change his mind? Regret the invasion of the castle? Decide to join forces with the prince? This could be a moment to really shake the character’s foundation and surprise the reader.

These are four examples in your story that might benefit from strong interiority and character reaction. And most of these will not just be one moment, but several. Examine your plot and see where a deeper connection between reader and character is warranted. The more deeply you think through your character’s connection to plot, the more nuance you’ll build into your story’s connection to the reader.

For more advanced story and business insights about writing and publishing, please check out the new Good Story Learning membership: https://www.goodstorycompany.com/membership Join Mary Kole and the Good Story Company (https://goodstorycompany.com) team for nuanced exploration of all the writing and publishing topics that matter to today’s writer. You can also find Mary’s personal editorial services directly at Mary Kole Editorial (https://marykole.com).


Former literary agent Mary Kole founded Mary Kole Editorial in 2013 and provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir. She founded Good Story Company in 2019 with the aim of providing valuable content—like the Good Story Podcast and Crit Collective writing forum—to writers of all categories and ability levels.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at Kidlit.com since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Best Free and Low-Cost Ways To Sell Books


The ASPIRE Book Marketing Method

There are thousands of ways to market your book. Rather than being empowering, that can be daunting to try to sift and sort through all those strategies. This is why I set out to identify the best of the best strategies that can generate potentially thousands of book sales… all without costing you an arm and a leg.

Enter The ASPIRE Method. This is a collection of the most effective book marketing strategies. If you’ve been around the author world for a while, you’ll see most of these strategies aren’t “new.” Instead, these are the tried-and-true methods that will work for years to come to sell your books.

A - Ads
While ads aren’t free, with a platform like Amazon ads, you can run ads for as little as a dollar a day. For some books, I’ve seen returns of over 5x. That means for every dollar invested, the author made over $5 in royalties.

That said, some authors make little money (or even lose money) on ads if they don’t have the right approach dialed in. So I recommend running ads only after you have a great cover, solid description, and at least 10 reviews in addition to studying how the advertising platform works.

S - Social Media
No matter what genre you write in, chances are, your audience is on social media. The point of social media though isn’t to shamelessly post your book link in groups. Rather, it’s to build real relationships with readers and fellow authors. You can do this by contributing to author and reader groups. Once you have these relationships developed, you can then invite people you’ve connected with to subscribe to your channels. 

P - Platforms
Hal Elrod sold over a million copies of his self-published book The Miracle Morning. He said his #1 strategy was going on podcasts. Platforms, which include podcasts, publications, and stages, allow you to get in front of your ideal readers for free.

Both fiction and non-fiction authors can find plenty of podcasts and publications that feature authors in almost every genre. Once you’re featured on a platform, make sure you have a link to drive people back to your own email list.

I - Influencers
When I looked at the last ten books I bought, over half of them I purchased because someone I trusted recommended it. Imagine having a big name in your genre promoting your book for you. This is the power of influencer marketing.

The key to getting influencers to promote your book is to, counter-intuitively, NOT try to get them to promote your book. At least not at first. Instead, start a relationship with them.

Rather than approaching them with a “What can I get?” attitude, approach them with a “What can I give?” attitude. You can do this by sharing their work, providing them a glowing testimonial, and even just offering them sincere words of appreciation.

Then, once you have a relationship established, see if they’d be interested in checking out your book. Influencer marketing has been responsible for thousands of sales in my business, and I did this even when I was a ‘no-name’ author starting out.

R - Reader Referrals
Your readers and fans can be a great source of sales. Your fans often WANT to help you spread the word. Your job is to give them a clear direction on exactly how to do that. The key here is to ask yourself, “How can I make it easy and fun for readers to share my work?”

Simple strategies include offering prizes for readers who post pictures of your book on social media and providing them with graphics and text they can post. 

E - Email Marketing
All roads lead back to email. Every other strategy ideally builds your email list. The biggest authors I’ve talked to all said their email list is responsible for the vast majority of their sales. So whether it’s going on podcasts or posting on social media, the goal should be to eventually bring people back from those places to your email list.

Once a reader is on your list, make sure you’re engaging them regularly with entertaining content that keeps you top of their mind and primed to buy your books. 


The good news is, you don’t need to do all of these things. If you only did one or two of these strategies, such as guest podcasting and email marketing, that could be all you need to build a prosperous author business.

Bruce Lee said, ”I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

So if social media isn’t your thing, that’s cool. You may find you’d rather build relationships with influencers or write guest posts. The key is to find what plays well to your strengths and go all in. With this approach, you’ll find you only need to do a few things extremely well to achieve your most ambitious author goals.

Derek Doepker 

Derek Doepker went from being a broke valet parker to a 7x bestselling author. He's sold over 75,000 books sold using free and low-cost marketing strategies. He now shares these strategies with authors through workshops, courses, and retreats empowering them to turn their passion for writing into a thriving business. Discover more about his work and download a free copy of Why Authors Fail at https://bestsellersecrets.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Insecure Writer’s Support Group - Dark Matter: Artificial

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Want to know more about the IWSG? Operation Awesome recommends it and has a post up about it this week. Check it out!

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

IWSG Anthology winners!!!

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Dark Matter IWSG Anthology Contest:
Stephanie Espinoza Villamor - a librarian writer mom who lives with her husband and young son just outside Las Vegas.
CD Gallant-King - a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful little kids, C.D. was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario.
Kim Mannix - a fiction writer, poet and journalist currently residing on Treaty 6 territory in Sherwood Park, Alberta.
Steph Wolmarans - an educator, mother, wife, beekeeper, and speculative fiction author.
Tara Tyler - Tara Tyler is a math teacher who writes to share her passion for reading with others.
Deniz Bevan - a firm believer in burning the candle at both ends, she is generally writing a new novel while editing another, and blogging about her reading and research adventures—and sharing travel photos—weekly on her blog
Charles Kowalski - his thrillers for adults have won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award and been nominated for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award.
Olga Godim - a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada.
Elizabeth Mueller - an award-winning author, Elizabeth lives in Texas with her husband, five lively children, five indoor kitties, a few outdoor kitties, seventeen chickens, and a horse named Hazel.
Mark Alpert - a contributing editor at Scientific American and the internationally bestselling author of ten novels.

As Stephanie’s story was the official judge’s top pick, her story is now in the title.

Dark Matter: Artificial
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Discover dark matter’s secrets…

What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?

Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!

Release date: May 4, 2021
Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99
Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110)

Big thanks to the official judges:
Dan Koboldt
Julie Gwinn
Damien Larkin
Ion Newcombe
Colleen Oefelein
Lynda R. Young
David Powers King

And don’t forget, the IWSG Twitter pitch event, #IWSGPit, happens January 20!