Monday, October 27, 2014

Mistakes to Avoid in Book Blurbs

Let’s assume your book cover was eye catching and has encouraged a potential new reader to read your book’s blurb. A good blurb can motivate that reader to purchase your book – or avoid looking at anything with your name on it ever again.

Below are a few mistakes to avoid, which I hope will help you write a great blurb that will draw in new readers.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes
It goes without saying that your book, blurb and all marketing material should be error-free. Yet I still constantly see mistakes in blurbs – the very thing that is intended to entice readers to purchase your book is the same thing that can turn them off it. I certainly wouldn’t waste money on a book for which the blurb contains errors – if the author can’t even edit a few short paragraphs properly, just how many errors will the book itself contain?

Bad formatting
Avoid writing one long paragraph for your blurb. Rather, split your blurb into shorter paragraphs to make it easier and faster to read – unless, of course, the entire blurb is very short.

Spoilers are those nasty little things that tell readers what happens in the story. Sure, you need to tell them a little in order to gain their interest, but, if you tell them how the story ends or other major things that happen in the book, leaving no questions in their minds, they will have no reason to purchase and read said book, will they? I advise giving the overall theme or plot – specifically the conflict – but, as far as possible, leaving out the finer details.

Summarising the book
Summaries are for traditional publishers and agents, not potential new readers, and thus tend to provide far more information than is necessary for a book blurb. In fact, summaries and blurbs are total opposites – summaries are intended to give away the ending so publishers can see if your story has a strong ending, and blurbs are intended to entice readers to read the book in order to find out how it ends. Summaries also often come across as rather ‘blah, blah’ – ‘this happens and then that happens and then…’ and so on. Remember, the purpose of a blurb is not to tell the reader every little thing that happens in your book.

Being vague
There’s often a fine line between giving too much or too little information in a blurb. While it’s inadvisable to give too much information, it is just as bad to not give enough. Readers want to know what to expect from the book, so you need to give them enough information to pique their interest.

Try to keep your book blurb to between 150 and 300 words. Most readers do not have all day to browse for new books and authors, so, if your blurb is too long, they may choose to skip your book and look at another instead.

Too much selling
Yes, the purpose of a blurb is to sell books. However, this should be done by sharing what the story is about (it helps to have an interesting book!), not by creating a sales pitch in the blurb. Avoid using your blurb to tell readers how great the book is, how wonderful and gifted the writer is and so on. The story details should do that.

Giving readers the wrong idea
The blurb is intended to tell readers what to expect from the book. Do not promise something in the blurb that the book does not contain. In other words, if your book has a few science fiction elements, but is mostly fantasy, do not even mention the sci-fi elements in your blurb. It will make readers think the book is science fiction, even if it is listed as fantasy, and they are likely to be disappointed – and readers do not usually purchase other books from authors who have made them feel as if their money was wasted on the purchase.

Weak ending
Your blurb needs to have a strong ending that leaves the reader interested. There’s not much point in starting off well and ending on a boring note, because readers will then be left feeling bored, not interested. It’s also a bad idea to end the blurb with a question – in most cases, the reader already knows the answer will probably be ‘yes’, so the words are wasted and it might even annoy some people.

I hope you find these tips helpful!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healing Magic in Today’s World

Today I bring you a short guest post by fellow fantasy author, Vanessa Finaughty, as part of a month-long virtual book tour to celebrate the release of her new series, Wizard of Ends. Enjoy!

Healing Magic in Today’s World
Guest post by Vanessa Finaughty

Regardless of its nature, magic can and does have potent healing powers, and modern humans are becoming aware of this and following in our ancestors’ footsteps, in a sense.

One example is that young people suffering from hemiplegia have been attending ‘magic camps’ in London, with startling results. Hemiplegia, a condition in which the trunk, arm and leg on the same side of the body becomes paralysed, can be treated by performing magic tricks that improve co-ordination and hand movement. The fact that the treatment is exciting magic rather than painful and/or boring medical treatment encourages the afflicted children to ‘take their medicine’ by continuous practice.

Thanks to these magic camps, many children are able to use their hands for the first time. Now, they cut their own food, dress themselves, tie their own shoelaces and even make their own costumes. It also gives a much-needed confidence boost and some sense of power over their lives, because, the more one practices, the more dexterous one becomes.

It goes to show that, just because something is unconventional, it doesn’t mean it won’t work – now there’s some food for thought!

Download Wizard of Ends, Book 1 for FREE 

Pre-order Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature
Barnes & Noble

Monday, October 13, 2014

Targeted Killing

Wiktionary defines ‘targeted killing’ as: “The intentional killing by a government or its agents of a civilian or ‘unlawful combatant’ who is not in that government’s custody, and who is taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, and is thus regarded by the government as having lost the immunity from being targeted that he or she would otherwise have under the Geneva Conventions.”

The term ‘targeted killing’ is preferred to the word ‘assassination’, because terrorist killings are seen as self-defence, not murder, and self-defence is legal.

Former Federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Abraham Sofaer, says that assassination is considered illegal in the USA because it is generally seen as murder. He further says that self-defence killing in international affairs is pretty much the same as the police killing a domestic criminal in self-defence.

In opposition to the above, on its website, the American Civil Liberties Union states: “The CIA and the military are carrying out an illegal ‘targeted killing’ program in which people far from any battlefield are determined to be enemies of the state and killed without charge or trial. The executive branch has, in effect, claimed the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret determinations, based on secret evidence, that individuals meet a secret definition of the enemy.”

It seems just as many people are opposed to this definition as agree with it. Those who argue against this definition say that, while criminals should be brought to justice, targeted killing is not, in fact, justice, particularly in some cases, such as where Israeli citizens are targeted as suspected terrorists simply because of their nationality. The argument is that, if the law is not strictly adhered to in terms of human rights, what is the point of having the law in the first place?

However, it is not only the US that uses targeted killing to fight terrorism – Israel, too, employs this tactic, as do other governments.

Those who oppose targeted killing are also concerned about who meets the criteria to become a target, because this information is not easily available – which is one of the main reasons for the dispute. It’s also unclear what the circumstances must be in order for targeted killing to be considered legal self-defence rather than murder.

I’m unsure of the full facts here, because, as already mentioned, some of them are hard to come by, but I must say that I disagree with killing potentially innocent citizens just because they ‘might be’ terrorists, which is what many believe is happening.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An Interview with Vanessa Finaughty, Author of Wizard of Ends

Thank you for joining us on your tour today, Vanessa.

To start off, please tell us a little about your upcoming release, Wizard of Ends.

Wizard of Ends is a fast-paced fantasy novella series. The main character, Lashlor Leaflin, is forced into all sorts of things he would rather have nothing to do with, most of which he believes will kill him. Luckily for the rulers of Ends, he is loyal to his land and will do anything to protect his king and queen.

What made you decide to publish Books 1 and 2 in the same month?

When I came to the end of Book 1, I couldn’t wait to write Book 2. So, instead of beginning my usual editing process, I followed my compulsion and just carried on writing. I’ve always been impatient to publish once a book is complete, so the thought of waiting to release Book 2 when it was already polished was a little too much for me… hence, I decided to publish both books during a month-long virtual book tour to celebrate the release of the series.

What are you doing to market Wizard of Ends?

I planned a month-long virtual book tour in which I’m currently touring via 24 blogs. Readers can find the itinerary here. I comment on all the tour hosts’ posts and thank them for having me on their blogs, and share all the posts via Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Before the tour started, I posted a few sneak peeks on my blog, and announced the book tour about three weeks before it started. I also shared snippets via Twitter and Facebook. I wrote press releases for all the major tour highlights, including the discounts, giveaways and release announcements, and posted them on PRLog. Starting from the day of publication, I will also start submitting Wizard of Ends to a few hundred book listing websites and reviewers. This will be ongoing until I exhaust the list of people who will review, interview, showcase or list authors and our books. Oh, and I also contacted book bloggers and offered them ARCs (advanced reading copies).

Tell us what it takes to organise a virtual book tour.

An endless supply of time, energy and patience! The first thing to consider is how long you want the tour to be. I’m so excited about Wizard of Ends that I felt it deserved a month-long book tour, but, of course, that meant plenty of extra work! I started by creating my invitation to bloggers, in which I listed what I would be offering, and then started putting together a list of bloggers I thought would be a good fit for the tour. I wrote 30 guest posts and character interviews, etc. – before I officially invited anyone to participate. Be sure to set aside time for bloggers who want to interview you as part of the tour. Also before sending out an official invitation, I created promotional images and tour banners. You have to decide what you’re going to give away beforehand too – I chose to discount Book 2 to 99c on the day of publication only (after which it will be $2.99), and give away free copies of some of my other books, along with freebies from other fantasy authors.

There’s so much to enjoy during the Wizard of Ends tour – where can readers find a quick link to an extract?

Which character, across all your books, have you most enjoyed writing about, and why?

Lashlor Leaflin from Wizard of Ends. Because he’s so calm under pressure, and in the face of taunting and unpalatable situations. If everyone had as much self-control as Lashlor, the world would be a much better place!

What is the biggest challenge you face when starting a new book?

Deciding which book to write. Now that I’ve published the start of two series, I need to focus on those two series to avoid disappointing fans. However, besides Legends of Origin and Wizard of Ends, there are at least another twenty stories battling for space in my head. If enough time passes, I’ll lose those stories. It can be frustrating.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block and how did you overcome it?

Not really, no. There are times when I sit at the keyboard and stare at the screen, but that’s due to extreme fatigue, not writer’s block.

Why do you prefer writing fantasy over any other genre?

I don’t have to do any research for fantasy. When you’re writing a story with real world elements, it’s important to get your facts straight, or readers will think you’re a fool, and that means you sometimes have to do research. When writing fantasy, you can make up your own facts. In fact, it’s encouraged. As long as you’re consistent and your ‘invented facts’ are believable, you’re good to go.

How long does it generally take for you to finish writing a book?

It depends. I could write six to eight thousand words a day and still have my evenings free – assuming, of course, I wasn’t working full time. At that rate, a full-length novel would take about two and a half to three and a half months. A novella like Wizard of Ends would take about five to seven weeks. That’s to write the last word, and then the editing and polishing begins.

You work for yourself and your baby daughter is home all day most days. How do you cope with writing and juggling the demands of all your other commitments?

By the skin of my teeth! Honestly, I don’t know how I do it. Some days I feel like I’m going to lose my mind, and other days are a breeze – those are usually the days where I’ve got enough sleep the night before! It helps that my husband looks after our daughter during the day, but, if he needs to go to work, then I take over and work in the hours that evening. My mom takes our daughter for the day once a week too, which helps a lot. As far as possible, I allocate mornings and early afternoons to work, and late afternoons to writing or marketing my books. I fit in doing dishes, vacuuming, mopping floors, shopping, family visits, bathing and eating whenever there’s a gap, and tend to fall asleep on the couch most nights!

Do you have any pets?

We have a cat and three dogs – a German shepherd, a rottweiler and a shepweiler – all of which could more accurately be described as my children.

What’s your favourite flower?

A white lily.

Where can readers purchase Wizard of Ends?

Wizard of Ends, Book 1 will be published at Smashwords on 9 October – this week Thursday. I will also be making Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature available on pre-order at Smashwords on the same day – the official release date is 23 October, so readers won’t have long to wait. Shortly thereafter, the books will be available for free download (Book 1) and pre-order (Book 2) from other retailers, including Barnes & Noble and iBooks.

About Vanessa Finaughty

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.

Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She’s been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and cigarettes.

Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Animals… My Favourite Cause

As you may have gleaned from previous blog posts, I’m dead against animal cruelty. Some of my best friends had fur or feathers. They were loyal, loving and helpful, and, in many ways, better than a lot of humans I’ve met. So why is it that so many humans feel nothing for these innocent creatures? They’re marvels of evolution, unique to this planet, and they have feelings too. They communicate with us in so many wordless ways, and dogs help the physically challenged, rescue people from disasters and protect their human families. Cats provide companionship and love to lonely people whose own kind neglects them. Without horses, mankind would have had to haul all its own baggage, which would definitely have slowed exploration and civilisation. These generous beasts allow us to do the most inhumane things to them, and still try to do their best to please us.

Every day, animals are tortured in slaughterhouses and aboard transportation trucks, at sporting events and laboratories and on farms. They’re injected with chemicals, force-fed, shut in dark little enclosures where they can’t even lie down or turn around, starved, beaten, bled to death and have their babies taken away so we can drink their milk. They’re plucked or skinned alive so we can use their feathers and wear their skins… and we call ourselves the more evolved race.

Worst of all are animal testing labs, where puppies, kittens, monkeys and rabbits, to name just a few, are routinely injected with toxic chemicals, or have such substances dripped into their eyes or forced down their throats. All pointless exercises, since we already know these are poisons. It’s done for money, to support an industry that might have had a point a few decades ago, but now continues only on momentum. Farms breed countless puppies and kittens doomed to a short life of torture before being put to death. It’s horrific, and I have to wonder how the people who dish out this torture live with themselves. Clearly, they hate animals, for whatever reason.

I’d like to put an end to all this suffering, so please help me and sign the petitions on these links:

To learn more about these horrific practices, click this link: