"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: July 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Easy Way to Write - Survey Results

Dear Fellow Writer,

This week I've just updated my novel description on Amazon:

PSI Kids: Willow

I read somewhere recently that having a longer blurb on your Amazon book page can help.

The rationale is that more words means more 'keywords' that help Amazon's algorithm robots place your book alongside others that are in the same genre (and are already selling well).

Plus, of course, the longer the blurb, the more chance people may feel compelled to read your book!

Crime Fiction

The Easy Way to Write: Survey Results

Rob Parnell
Running a survey is always an interesting exercise.

I don't do them very often. I think I've done three in the last ten years. I guess it's easier to bury your head in the sand sometimes than find out what's really going on!

The first question was "Do you think the Easy Way to Write is a good resource for writers?" Here's the response:


I think that's a resounding vote of confidence - there again I don't suppose people who didn't like the site would answer the survey!

The second question was "Do you think Rob Parnell is a good teacher of writing?" Here's the response:


Not quite the guru status - but that's probably because 'guru' doesn't always have great connotations these days. People tend to associate the word with marketing types - and don't always mean it in a flattering way! So I'm happy with this result.

The third question was "How long have you been a subscriber to the Easy Way to Write?" Here's the response:


Great to see so many of you in there for the long haul! Thank you.

The fourth question was "How old are you?"


Interestingly I did this same survey about ten years ago and I had a lot more subscribers in the under 25 bracket. Students mainly.

Curious that the appeal is now to what they call the "baby boomers" - those with more time on their hands near to and after retirement.

My guess is that during the last ten years, the younger generation is far more distracted by social networking (which didn't really exist ten years ago) and tend not to focus on 'creativity' - which they probably equate with work! - as much as older folks.
I've tried all kinds of things to appeal to a younger audience - but as you can see I'm failing! Maybe I need more pictures on the site...

The final question is the one I really needed an answer to - because it would determine what I offered next. I have so many different courses, articles and resources on all kinds of writing endeavors that I sometimes feel I'm running out of topics.

(BTW, if you think I don't cover lots of topics - it's probably because you never look at the site! It's a common enough phenomenon these days when you're often judged by your day to day output and not always by your existing content!)

The fifth question was "What would you like the Easy Way to Write to focus on?"


As you can see, quite a bit of variation here. But at least it's given me plenty of 'food for thought' for upcoming courses and articles.

Finally, there were hundreds of comments left in the box supplied for that - something I wasn't expecting. The vast majority were positive with a sprinkling of (expected!) peeves. Here's a little sample:


Overall the survey gave me great insight into what I'm doing these days - and how I'm being received - so I thank you for that - and hope I can continue to inspire and inform as the years roll out.

Keep Writing!
 rob at home

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." Howard Aiken

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Spinning of JK Rowling - From YA Fantasy to Sister in Crime

Dear Fellow Writer,
I think I finally understand.

Remember I said I was at a publishing conference recently where all the major publishers said that crime fiction was the next big thing?

All the big publishing houses were saying (with uncanny confidence) they predicted the demand for fantasy would subside in favor of a upswing in interest in crime thrillers.

At the time I just took this curious stance at face value. 

Didn't really question the logic.

Just assumed these publishers had their finger on the pulse.

But now that JK Rowling has just been outed as the true author of the Robert Galbraith crime novel, The Cuckoo's Calling, it all makes sense...

Who else but Joanne could possibly start a tsunami of interest in the crime fiction genre?

For many years, publishers have tried to tap into what is known in the trade as "The Emergent Reader" - a nice way of referring to people who don't normally read - or rather buy - books, either because they're just not regular readers or that they find reading literary fiction rather heavy going. 

Actually like most of us!

James Patterson has said he deliberately targeted these "emergent" readers with his gritty no nonsense prose and graphically violent thrillers - with impressive results.

That was twenty years ago - before Dan Brown and Twilight

And then Stieg Larsson. And then 50 Shades...

But what of the future?

What is the NEXT big thing?

My guess is that Little, Brown and Co is counting on soon securing a whole new swathe of fiction readers who are more likely to buy an adult thriller written by Joanne Rowling - than they are to buy any other kind of book at all.

Bear in mind that before Joanne was outed, her new novel had sold less than 500 copies (less than 1500 according to some more recent sources - the figure is no doubt being spun.) 

This was despite being well reviewed and given lots of promotion. 

500 copies may not seem a lot but actually, when most new authors apparently sell less than 200, it is fairly impressive.

But with a potential readership of 500 million (the number of copies sold in the Harry Potter series) Joanne's 'Galbraith' novel is probably now set to break all records for crime fiction sales...
It's humbling for us mere mortal authors when writers achieve astronomical sales after a $25 billion dollar film franchise gets on board.

But it's also quite illuminating that JKR's new book sold so few copies when it didn't have her name on it.

In a way it's heartening that she can't sell more than the rest of us based on the story - and hearty publisher promotion - alone.
I'm sure The Cuckoo's Calling is a fabulous read. People say it's engaging if a little old fashioned - but surprisingly well written.

I think any writer who gets people reading is great for our calling.

Because the more people reading, the more demand there will be for books generally.
And my guess is that single-handedly, Joanne Rowling could potentially start an avalanche of demand for crime fiction novels.
As you know, I predicted there would be an upsurge in interest in the crime thriller recently - and even crafted a writing course on the subject, which you can view HERE.

Now, one of the effects of the success of the Harry Potter series was to create a huge amount of interest in writing fantasy novels. 

All good, you'd think.

But many publishers in the Noughties complained daily that they were inundated with juvenile and YA fantasy manuscripts from writers overwhelmingly inspired by Harry Potter's appeal.

The same publishers also complained that the majority of these manuscripts were either too derivative of Harry or just not written well enough to be publishable.
However, my guess is that this time around, publishers may actually want to read - and publish - new crime fiction manuscripts because, overall, the demand for crime fiction is already fairly high!

So if JKR's crime novel appeals to a wide audience of these new "emergent readers" (many of whom, I assume, have only ever bought a Harry Potter novel) then everybody wins.

Including every other crime fiction novelist...

Including, my friend, potentially, you.
So if you want to get in quick and learn how to easily write your own crime thriller, click on this link.

The genre is fascinating, fun and rewarding - but there are, like all genres, certain conventions that you must know before you jump right in and start writing.

Actually even before you start planning your next crime fiction novel, there's crucial information, tips and tricks you need to know. 
Even Joanne apparently studied the genre a few years ago before she launched herself into The Cuckoo's Calling.

So get on the inside track right now.

Be one of the first to ride the inevitable crime fiction wave with:

from me, your friendly, neighborhood writing tutor!
Keep Writing!
 rob at home


"Don't compromise yourself; you're all you've got." Janis Joplin

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The 'Inside' Secret to Success

Do you look at all the other bloggers, writers and artists online and wonder, how on earth can I compete?

It's hard not to. It seems every other writer is so much further ahead. They have over a 100 products. Or they have some mega bestseller under their belt. Or they already have legions of fans.

And then there are the others - the ones that your pretty sure aren't doing so well but they've got the whole self promotion thing sussed. They spam people every day. They offer free samples of their books, or they're actively seeking out opportunities, they get interviewed, they blog - the whole caboodle.

And then there's you and me - sitting at home, writing - wondering where the bus left from - and why were we late getting on it?

I was listening to the radio this morning and the DJ asked a musician how his band could possibly top their last album. How do you go about that, the DJ wanted to know.

"You don't," said the muso. "That's how agents and managers and producers think. Musicians don't think like that. We just want to play and be heard - and stretch ourselves sometimes - because being an artist is its own reward."

I couldn't agree more.

Sometimes when I'm at home, in between projects, I'm wondering what to do with myself. I get lost in a sea of possibilities. I'm like a rudderless boat, drifting without purpose. Robyn knows when I get like this because I mooch around the house, annoying her and complaining about everything and nothing. She worries for me. She knows I need another project - but that I'm in limbo, again, wondering where best to dedicate my energy.

Should I write another novel?

Should I produce another course?

Should I record another song?

Should I make another movie?

Or should I start some new marketing strategy?

I'll take the dog for more walks than he wants (if that's possible) because I'm mulling over ideas, forcing the inspiration, looking for something to grab hold of and run with. I buy stuff I don't need. I cook more. I tidy the house. I'll keep suggesting to Robyn that we go on holiday somewhere - because when we're away I often come up with a dozen new project ideas.

But I know that all I really want is inspiration. Something that grabs me - and won't let go.

Now, the point is, whenever I ask myself, what can I do to compete - I get nothing.

Well, actually, things occur to me but they don't have the pizzazz to really get under my skin. Sometimes I'll do quite a lot of work on an idea but if it doesn't have that 'under-skin' quality I generally fizzle on the idea - and shelve it.

No, what I'm really looking for is absorption. Immersion. To be totally overwhelmed by the execution of a project - but that can only happen when the idea comes from within.

No amount of external influences seem to create that certain buzz you get when you really want to do something that feels somehow important.

I guess what each of us think of as important pretty much defines our lives.

Some people think family is important.

Some people think security is important.

Most people think love is important.

And money too.

But only artists and entrepreneurs think that creativity is important.

Pretty much everyone likes to be entertained - by stories, reality TV and celebrities.

But most people would run a mile instead of actually sitting down to explore a creative project, work on it, write it, promote and sell it and see it through to completion. That takes dedication - and maybe a little insanity.

There are so many easier ways to spend your time.

Unless you're like me - and can't feel satisfied unless I'm creating something.

I need a sense of purpose.

And creating something new can give me that.

Do you feel the same? If you follow my blogs and my sites, my guess is that you do.

So, to answer the question in the first paragraph, how do you compete with all the other creative people out there?

The simple answer is that you don't. You don't even think about them. What matters is that you explore your own mind - find what truly inspires you - and follow where that leads you.

Follow your heart, follow your instincts. Listen to that small voice inside that will lead you to your own version of important.  

And go with that.

Every time.

If you live your life like it's a competition, there will always be days when you losing. Feeling inferior. 

But if you live as though every day is a voyage of personal discovery, exploration and conquest, you'll rarely feel anything less than full of wonder.

Don't look outside for inspiration. Don't follow the herd. Look within.

Express yourself through your work - and you'll never have to worry about what anyone else is doing.

And ironically, it's then that you become fascinating - because you have the integrity to be yourself. 

And that's what people like!

Keep Writing!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

To Blog Or Not To Blog - That Is The Question

Dear Fellow Writer,

Happy 4th of July!

We often like to believe that the Net is home to everybody out there. We think that the web reflects all of our realities...

But, when you begin to rely on cyberspace to jump-start your writing career, it's worth remembering that not everyone uses the Internet, many more are ambivalent to its allure, and still more don't use it because they see it as irrelevant to their lives!

Apparently, I read recently on Google+, it's possible to have a full life without ever going online. I must check that out sometime...

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern

Write From The Start

To Blog or Not To Blog - That Is The Question

Rob Parnell

Everywhere you look on-line, a legion of writers - and writing gurus - extol the necessity of social networking as a crucial foundation for the aspiring fiction author's career.

But is this right?

It's like the emperor's new clothes. 

We've become convinced that something is essential because everyone says it is, without ever questioning the validity of the original premise.

We need to answer this crucial question:

Does blogging, Tweeting, Google plussing and Facebooking actually sell fiction? 
The short answer is: No, not really. Once in a blue moon maybe. Mostly never. 

Look at it this way. 

There are thousands of successful writers in the world who sell crate loads of books every day - but who never indulge in social networking at all

There are professional writers who write consistently and get paid royalties from publishers and who rarely use the Internet - except perhaps for research.

And despite the hype, the fact is there are millions of readers and book buyers in the world who wouldn't know a dotcom from an aspidistra.

When was the last time you saw JK Rowling tweeting a dozen times a day, even once a day? Once a month even? She leaves all that to her publisher, her publicist or her fans.

The majority of writers in the off line world only ever have an Internet presence at all through their publishers and seldom, if ever, have a blog.  

So what's the big deal? Does having a fiction writer's blog put you ahead of the game? Short answer: not really.

But the fact is, it's better than nothing.

Just in case. 

Someone may ask if they can look you up on the web. Or a publisher might want to see you have a website. Or maybe you're selling a lot of non-fiction - which does much better on the Net.

Of course, amidst all this nay-saying, I'm neglecting to mention that there is a whole new breed of fiction writer emerging. Those that have no 'real world' success - yet - but sell an awful lot of digital books on-line.

Authors and publishers of traditional cardboard and paper books may scoff at the digital author. To them, this success is not real. They believe that fiction downloads are at worst, fluff, and at best, irrelevant to their core business. 

On-line authors know better. Because if money in the bank is a good definition of a writer's success, then selling digital files is just as good as the real thing.

And of course, the only way to sell books on-line is to have an on-line presence. So all the advice you hear about putting out regular blogs, building a relationship with your fans and generally maintaining a solid author platform is useful. Up to a point.

It depends on what you're promoting. Fiction is a hard sell on-line. Always has been. Maybe not in the future - we live in hope.

As a fiction author, the main drawback to social networking is that you remove any sense of mystery about yourself. You become just another fiction author, touting your books. 

What can you offer that's different? Not much that anyone cares about before you're famous. 

You should heed the first rule of marketing:

"You can't make people want what they don't want already." 
  Doesn't matter how much you shove things in people's faces by tweeting, blogging, linking, shouting or repeating yourself. 

Because really, as a fiction author, what can you do except constantly bleat about the books you write that nobody yet wants to read?

I mean, if you were selling as many books as you wanted, you wouldn't bother promoting them so much, would you? And the savvy Internet user knows this. 

Subliminally, surfers suspect that if you're promoting your own books, they can't be any good. 

Because if they were any good, they'd hear it from their friends or they would sell in shops without one word from you, wouldn't they?

So, in some ways, social networking is counter-productive. It makes you look desperate.

Of course, as a writer, you can get a huge number of followers to your blog. But your list will usually be made up of other writers who also want to sell their own books. And, if you're an author reliant on book sales, this is not helping you much at all.

What authors need is readers and book buyers - most of whom are not online anyway!

When readers do go online, what do they do when they want a book? 

Either they already know your name (from hearing about you off line) and they look you up - or they browse for books at Amazon or on their iPad. And whose books do they see? Yep. The bestsellers - and usually the off-line bestsellers first! 

So - should you promote your fiction twelve times a day for the rest of your natural born life?

Sure. If you enjoy it, go ahead. 
Get a blog and update it at least once a week. Tweet all day if you want. Release your books through Amazon, Kobo, CreateSpace and anyone else who will list you. Sell stuff from your site. Join Goodreads and participate in every forum that will have you. Just don't expect any of these activities to sell more than half a dozen novels a month...

I'm not trying to put a complete downer on social networking. I get involved in it myself. Mainly because it's fun - not because it sells books. Because it doesn't. 

Fact is, contrary to all the silly hype out there, social networkers are generally not buyers - of anything. They're pleasure seekers, info seekers, freebie seekers. Not great customers, especially when it comes to fiction.

So don't feel bad about not having a blog. 

To be honest, for wannabe fiction writers, they're probably overrated.

If you're a fiction writer, the most important thing you can do is write fiction. Get the books under your belt first.

And worry about your on-line presence later - if and when it becomes necessary for you to have one.

Keep Writing!

 rob at home

"The tale is often wiser than the teller." Susan Fletcher

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!