ALPHASHOCK Website Has Launched!

The website for my new sci-fi series AlphaShock is finally online. Become a Backer of my Kickstarter project to check it out (and to help fund the cover art, which is, you know, the actual reason for the Kickstarter campaign to begin with…)!

Kickstarter and The Indie Author

Independent writing can often be viewed as a community effort. Social networking is recommended to build a fan base and good word-of-mouth plays a crucial role in getting your work noticed.

To that end, Kickstarter can be a very powerful tool for the independent author.

We’re not talking about running a Kickstarter campaign so that you can pay your bills—we wouldn’t be artists if we didn’t struggle just a little bit, right? Besides, the people that run the show over there don’t allow that kind of project. However, if you plan to distribute your writing in a professional manner, there are a multitude of expenses that go along with producing high-quality work.

Lindsay Buroker ran a successful campaign for the free audio books of her Emperor’s Edge series. I am hoping to find similar success with my campaign for cover art for my new project. There are many other examples on the Kickstarter website in the publishing category—some with modest goals, others with…well, slightly more than modest goals. If you take a few minutes and browse through the various projects, you can get an idea of how it can be a valuable resource for an author.

If you are lucky enough to run a successful campaign, Kickstarter acts as a unique form of advertising. It is an added way to build interest in your project without spending a dime.

Here are some things to remember before starting your own project:

-Plan ahead: What type of campaign do you want to run? Will it be of direct benefit to your writing? Also, when setting your target goal, be sure to remember that Kickstarter will take 5% of your contributions, and Amazon (through which all payments are run) will take another 3-5% in credit card fees. On that note, make sure you start setting up your project AT LEAST A WEEK before you want it to go live. If your bank does not offer instant verification then you will have to wait up to 7 days for the slow process to complete. You don’t get any of the pledged money until the end of your established project deadline. If you don’t reach your goal, no money changes hands (i.e., getting $999 out of $1000 still equals zero).

-Rewards: Get creative. Popular rewards for publishing projects include using a contributor’s name in the story. Whatever you promise, make sure you can follow through. If you offer something that needs to be shipped, such as a hard copy of your book once it’s ready, be sure to factor that cost into your campaign.

-The video: Kickstarter pushes this aspect pretty hard, and for good reason. It is often the make-or-break factor for a project. Potential contributors want to connect with an interesting project on a deeper level than on-screen text alone can offer. Be charismatic. Be funny. Make your points clearly and quickly, and don’t veer too far off track. Consider that the viewers might be seriously thinking about giving you some of their hard-earned money, so treat them as you would want to be treated in that situation.

Now for some fun Kickstarter stats:

-Project Success Rate in 2011: 46% (up from 43% in 2010)

-A total of 5.1 million dollars were contributed to 774 successful publishing projects, coming from over 70,000 backers.

-Kickstarter projects that reach 30% funded have a 90% chance of reaching their goal.

-The largest number of successful Kickstarter campaigns run for only 30 days.

-The most common pledge is $25.

-The average project goal is $4500.

Overall, the process is easy and straightforward thanks to Kickstarter’s user-friendly interface. Everything is spelled out for you every step of the way. I suggest taking a good look at other similar projects before starting your own. Check out failed projects to see how yours can be better. Also, remember that this is not a “set it and forget it” type of campaign. Stay active throughout the entire run. Blog about it and tweet your heart out. Ask your friends and loved ones to spread the word.

From professional editing costs to cover art, from audio books to advertising, Kickstarter offers independent authors a way to make it happen with the help of a strong community that believes in supporting creativity. Just remember to give a little something back if you find a project worth supporting. You never know how far that person or project will go.

Write Better Dialogue

A big complaint I’m seeing in the reviews for a lot of self-published books is that the dialogue seems unrealistic (for any number of reasons) and therefore takes away from the pleasure of reading the story. If it is a reader’s only complaint and they go on and on about how great it could have been, then we have a problem, Houston.

Listening to the way people talk to each other in real life is a good way to learn the cadence of conversation, but it only gets you so far. Real-life speech has many supplementary processes that aid and enhance the way it’s comprehended: gestures, inflections, etc. The written word, while powerful, lacks these extra helpers.

One major rule has helped me with my writing and could go a long way with improving many authors’ dialogue: READ IT OUT LOUD. It sounds silly, and you’ve probably heard it before, but trust me on this one.

Something else that helps immeasurably is breaking up dialogue with natural pauses and unobtrusive scene description. Example below.

The biggest culprit as far as written conversations go has to be the rapid-fire exchange between two characters, where each of them speaks a handful of words before the other one responds. Note the distinct lack of description, however minor, surrounding this dialogue:


“Hi Paul.”

“Want to go to see a movie? I hear Transformers 8 is really good.”

“I hated all those movies and I don’t want to sit in a theater with a bunch of people who talk and text the whole time.”

“I liked them. I think they’re really good.”

“Well, you like a lot of bad movies. I would rather eat dirt.”

A normal, everyday conversation could play out this way, but there would be breaks in the verbal exchange to add a sense of realism. Authors can do this do. A line of dialogue does not have to be written fully, from beginning to end, without interruption. Think about where a person would naturally take a break while speaking and mimic that in your writing by splitting up sentences or adding description (changes italicized):

“Hey,” said Mike.

Paul smiled. “Hey.”

“Want to go to see a movie? I hear Transformers 8 is really good.”

“I hated all those movies,” said Paul, “and I don’t want to sit in a theater with a bunch of people who talk and text the whole time.”

“I liked them,” said Mike. He kicked at a pebble on the ground. “I think they’re really good.”

“Well, Mike, you like a lot of bad movies.” Paul stuffed his hands in his pockets and turned away. “I would rather eat dirt.”

This isn’t the best example ever, it simply exists to illustrate a point. The added description and breaks in dialogue add a sense of pacing that was nonexistent before. This lets the reader’s mind pause naturally and digest the cadence of the conversation. Whether they realize what’s happening or not, the organic rhythm works to create a more fluid—and ultimately more enjoyable—reading experience.

Following these helpful hints can enhance dialogue and make your story more enjoyable for the reader.