Tag Archives: readers

(More) Infrequently Asked Questions

I spent a couple hours talking to myself today.

Again.

Technically, I was typing to myself, but it’s still an odd situation to be both the interviewer and interviewee. For one thing, I knew the answers to the questions before I asked them.

If Souls Can Sleep manuscript with flags indicating corrections

In two months, this marked-up manuscript will be a full-fledged paperback and e-book.

This Q&A will eventually find its home in my online press kit so that reporters, bloggers, and anyone else interested spreading the word about my upcoming book can get a quick overview about If Souls Can Sleep.

I did something similar for The Renegade Chronicles in 2016 and shared an excerpt from that self-directed Q&A in this blog. I jokingly referred to them as Infrequently Asked Questions because there was nothing frequent about how often I’ve been asked the questions in question.

What follows are my best guess at what people might want to know about If Souls Can Sleep and, admittedly, the things I would like prospective readers to know.

Oh, and welcome to the conversation!

What is If Souls Can Sleep about?

Here’s what the back cover will say:

If Souls Can Sleep introduces a hidden world where gifted individuals possess the power to invade the dreams of others. Two rival factions have transformed the dreamscape into a war zone where all reality is relative and even the dead can’t rest in peace.

The story centers on Vincent Cruz, a man who lost his daughter and never recovered from the tragedy. He’s stuck, haunted by a dream that replays the dreadful memory over and over. Then the dream suddenly stops, and he’s faced with a new nightmare that starts to bleed into the real world.

Who is If Souls Can Sleep about?

It’s largely Vincent’s story, but he’s not in it alone. Jerry, Vincent’s stoner roommate, and Leah, a sleep doctor with issues of her own, get pulled into the insanity.

There’s also Milton, a partial amnesiac who is on the run and doing his best to stave off sleep forever.

Who is your favorite character?

I don’t think I could ever pick a favorite, but I do loving writing characters who allow me to express humor. Jerry provides comic relief, but honestly, DJ—a possibly crazy bus rider—takes the cake for fun dialogue. He has some of the best lines in the whole book.

What is the setting for If Souls Can Sleep?

Most of the story is set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In fact, Vincent’s and Jerry’s apartment mirrors the one I lived in while attending college there. After writing The Renegade Chronicles, which take place in an alien world of my own devising (Altaerra), it was fun to draw from real-world locations and experiences. The bulk of the book is set in the year 2007.

If Souls Can Sleep also includes glimpses at other worlds that may or may not be real.

Who will enjoy this book?

I don’t start out by picking a specific demographic to cater to throughout the writing process. Instead, I write the best version of the story clinging tenaciously to my gray matter and hope there are people out there who will also appreciate it.

With If Souls Can Sleep, I set out to write something very different from the sword-and-sorcery fantasy stories I had been reading and writing up until then. I wanted to create a book I had never read before, something very unusual and unique.

To be blunt, this book was an experiment, not so much nudging me out of my comfort zone as submerging me into a completely unfamiliar environment. As a result, the book is a mashup of several different genres, including science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and metafiction.

Categorizing If Souls Can Sleep can be tricky, but I consider its genre-bending nature a strength because the story has something for readers of many different backgrounds. It’s complex yet accessible, peculiar yet relatable.

While fans of speculative fiction—including fantasy and science fiction—are perhaps the obvious audience, I’m pleasantly surprised to find, among my pre-readers, that the book appeals to people outside those genres too.

Bringing it back around to my initial goal: if you want to read a book that’s unlike any you’ve read before, give If Souls Can Sleep a try.

What makes If Souls Can Sleep unique?

I’m not the first person to entertain the notion of oneironauts (individuals who can psychically visit the dreams of others), but my take on “dream drifters” paints an original portrait of the relationship between life and death and the dreamscape. I’ve cobbled together a number of theories, philosophies and religious beliefs to put my own personal spin on the collective unconscious.

Things also get very “meta” in If Souls Can Sleep, as I explore what qualifies something real—including the people who populate books.

What is If Souls Can Sleep “rated”?

If it were a movie, it would likely earn a PG-13 rating. There’s swearing, some violence, drug and alcohol use, sexual content, and other mature topics. I expect the story will resonate with readers age 17 and older. That’s the suggested audience.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I started writing If Souls Can Sleep on Dec. 31, 2006, and it took two and a half years to compose a complete first draft. I then edited it, jumped into writing the sequel, and worked on a handful of other projects. By the time the book hits shelves, it will be more than 11 years in the making. (More on that here.)

Fortunately for fans, they won’t have to wait that long to get their hands on the sequel…

What does the title mean?

The title comes from a quote found within the book: “If souls can sleep, then why not dream?”

I flirted with other title options but realized, as time went on, that the opening line—“If souls can sleep”—could function as an apt foundation for the series as a whole. I also liked the idea of using a clause that leaves the reader hanging, an inherent sense of suspense.

The titles of the next two books in series follow a similar formula: If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die.

Is this another trilogy?

Yes. Sort of. Maybe?

I have written three books for The Soul Sleep Cycle to date. It wasn’t my intention to write a trilogy. In fact, I once (naïvely) believed I could tell the entire story in a single volume. Halfway through If Souls Can Sleep, I realized I needed to streamline my subplots. A second book became necessary to tell the whole story, and even before I started writing If Sin Dwells Deep, I realized I would need a third book to reach a satisfying conclusion.

Quite possibly, three books are enough. Yet I always leave a few doors open for future storylines, just in case…

Why didn’t you publish all three at once (like with The Renegade Chronicles)?

I certainly could have, and I’m sure there are those who would rather not have to wait to see what happens next. But publishing three books at once presents many challenges. I learned a lot from publishing The Renegade Chronicles en masse, and I didn’t want to end up cutting corners just so I could get this new series out there all at once.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s also difficult to sustain public interest when all three books are available on Day 1. As a compromise, however, readers won’t have to wait too long for the next installments.

If Sin Dwells Deep is slated for fall 2018; If Dreams Can Die, spring 2019.

Where did you find inspiration for this book/series?

As with many of my story ideas, the inspiration came as a random thought—this one at a roller-skating rink in the late ’90s. I was thinking about the strangers in our dreams and wondering where they came from. Do they wear the faces of people we glimpsed in passing over the years? Or are they composites our subconscious cooks up to fill out the cast of any given dream?

What if they are real people—other dreamers?

The rough outline of a short story popped into my head, but it never made it to paper. Almost a decade later, the idea resurfaced, allowing me to play with a handful of abstract concepts, including identity and the definition of “real.”

For Vincent, I thought, “What is the worst thing that can happen to a guy?” Because I was a new father with a young daughter at the time, the answer came easily: losing a child.

How does a parent cope with that? What if he can’t?

Will you write any more Renegade Chronicles books?

Writing more about Klye and the gang would be a lot of fun. I have no shortage of plots mapped out, so jumping back to Altaerra wouldn’t be too difficult.

I’ve written a complete draft of a novel starring a young wizardess who will eventually cross paths with the characters from The Renegade Chronicles. The epilogue of Martyrs and Monsters hints at that storyline. It’s possible I may polish up that book and publish it someday.

Sales of The Renegade Chronicles will also go a long way toward determining whether I return to Altaerra. (So if you want new stories, tell your friends about the existing ones!)

What is your next project?

Preparing If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die for publication will take up a significant chunk of 2018, not to mention promoting If Souls Can Sleep.

I’m currently working on a collaborative project in a different medium—a new discomfort zone—but that is a secret for now. I also have had an idea for a standalone novel that’s been trying to get my attention for years. Maybe I’ll finally get around to outlining it.

When will If Souls Can Sleep be available to purchase?

The paperback and Kindle editions will be published on Jan. 30, 2018. I plan to make it available for preorder earlier that month.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates…

Did I miss anything? Do you have a question that wasn’t addressed? I’d love to satiate your curiosity if I can. Just leave a comment below!

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Looking for literary love?

Blind dates are the worst. Maybe it’s human nature to want to know as much as we can before we commit—even if only for an evening.

The same can be said for books.

Our time is precious. We’ve all romanced read wonderful books before, novels that grab us by the heart and won’t let go. But there’s no guarantee the next plot you pick up will be a keeper. And if you’re judging a book by its cover alone, you’re bound to stumble onto dull, infuriating, or otherwise awful stories.

Banner ads and back-of-the-book synopses give only a glimpse at a novel’s personality. Often we crave more. Reviews help, though in some cases, that can be like asking the ex’s opinion of a prospective partner. Beware of bias.

Fortunately, we live in the 21st century. We have the internet. If you’re looking for a book to pal along with at the beach, a companion for your next weekend at the cabin, or someone with whom to share a rainy night, you’d better do a little research.

I can’t promise 29 dimensions of compatibility, but the following “dating profile” for my fantasy series is as earnest and true as anything on the web.

Fun-loving fantasy trilogy seeks loyal reader

The Renegade Chronicles print and ebook covers

As with most dating profile pics, this image has been Photoshopped.

Name:

The Renegade Chronicles

Nicknames:

I’m sometimes called TRC for short. I also go by #Renegades on social media.

Physical description:

Some days, I compartmentalize and take the form of three individual paperback or e-book novels (Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters). Other times, I put all of myself out there as a three-in-one e-book collection.

Passions:

I’m sword-and-sword fantasy, through and through. With me you get knights, wizards, pirates, priests, assassins, thieves, and monsters.

I’m a sucker for imagination, the supernatural, suspense, life-and-death situations, politics, battle, and acts of bravery. (But perfect heroes bore me. Everyone has flaws.)

Also, I love me some plot twists.

Quirks:

I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, which can be scary for some. Maybe I’m a bit of an excitement junky because I prefer high stakes.

Having said all that, I also have a healthy sense of humor. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I’m not afraid to throw out a joke every now and then.

Strengths:

I have a lot to say, so if you like sprawling narratives that encompass many people and places, I’m the fantasy story for you. Not to boast, but my battle scenes are pretty thrilling (though not too vivid), and dialogue with me always comes off as natural.

At the end of the day, I bring the fun. Setting, pathos, narrative arc—these things are important, but I want you to enjoy the adventure, every step of the way. Pacing is important. I prefer the right level of “epic”—not as academic as Tolkien or exhaustive as George R.R. Martin. I’ll make you think…but not too hard.

I promise I won’t spend an entire page describing a leafy glen.

Flaws:

I’ve been told that getting to know me can be a little challenging at first, but with a little patience (a handful of chapters, say), you’ll see I have a lot to offer. Chances are you won’t want to let me go.

Oh, and while I put a lot about myself out there over the course of three novels, there are some secrets I’m just not willing to share up front. I’m hoping to find someone who wants to get to know me for the long haul—in which case, I’ll be more than happy to provide future stories to fill in the blanks.

Deal breakers:

Readers who love invincible protagonists should look elsewhere. This is a rebellion, people. Dashed dreams, injuries, and fatalities come with the territory. I’m kind of complicated that way; while some characters will find happy endings, others…well…won’t.

I’m thankful for:

Folks who can appreciate a layered story with a large cast of characters in a world filled with shades of gray. (I’m speaking of morality, not the best-selling erotica novel. I’m not at all kinky; I prefer romance to be understated.)

Qualities of an ideal partner reader:

Did you grow up with Harry Potter? Are you ready to take the next step in the fantasy genre with a more mature match? If so, I think we’d be magical together.

Or maybe you’ve never looked twice at a book with a dragon on the cover. Maybe you’ve always thought fantasy seemed a little childish. I’m here to tell you that you’re never too old for a fun, action-packed story populated with relatable characters. If you’re a fantasy virgin, don’t worry. We’ll take it slow.

If you’ve strayed away from fantasy over the years, I won’t judge. I’m a great rebound series.

Share the love…

Another fun fact about blind dates: it’s a lot of fun to set up a friend on one. So why not forward a link to this dating profile blog post to anyone you know who might be a good match. The first book is currently free!

Adventure—and, hopefully, some literary love—await!

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Finally, some feedback!

Reader comments really make my day—even more so than new sales.

Don’t get me wrong. When I receive a notification telling me someone purchased one or more of The Renegade Chronicles, I grin like an idiot.

But digesting a reader’s genuine reaction to one of my novels, well, my soul does a little happy dance every time.

As I’ve mentioned before, copious online reviews can lead to fiscal benefits for an author. Even better, reader feedback lets me know what “worked” in the story, what didn’t, my strengths as a writer, and my weaknesses. All of which will help make my future books stronger.

For The Renegade Chronicles specifically, here are a few things I learned. Some of it came as a surprise, while other observations reinforced what I always hoped to be true:

  • The bad news: Rebels and Fools (Vol. 1) is a slow starter. I thought I jump into the action relatively quickly, but apparently the pacing wasn’t as brisk as I had hoped. Lesson learned.
  • The good news: Once they make it a handful of chapters into Vol. 1, readers tend to get hooked—and then go on to Vols. 2 and 3. Few things sound as sweet to an author’s ears as “I couldn’t put it down.”
  • The series features strong female characters. To be blunt, most of my characters are dudes. But I’m happy to hear that ladies who do get “screen time”—including Leslie Beryl, Lilac Zephyr, and Opal—hold their own!
  • It’s OK to kill off characters. This can be controversial, but fortunately there are those who (like me) appreciate high stakes. While I’m no George R. R. Martin, I don’t shy away from the deadly consequences of battle. (See also: “The problem with invincible protagonists”)
  • Vol. 3 has some unanswered questions. There’s a fine line between leaving the reader wanting more and leaving the reader unsatisfied. The feedback leads me to believe most readers fall into the former camp.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, here are excerpts of comments compiled from Amazon.com and Goodreads.com:

Rebels and Fools

“This book is a great big step into a world that keeps you pleasantly off balance by feeling uncannily familiar and strange at the same time.”

Screen capture of customer reviews of "Rebels and Fools"“Williams’ characters are an unlikely unity of the honorable, criminal, and the witless… Their travels are filled with battles, rescues, victories, and losses. I’m looking forward to the next installment in Heroes and Liars.”

“Fantastic! The boy and I are reading this series together before bed. He’s eleven, and he loves it. I’m quite fascinated by it myself.”

“A compelling start to the series.”

“My favorite of the three. A great fantasy trilogy.”

Heroes and Liars

“In this second installment of Williams’ epic yarn, he makes good on the adventure, camaraderie, and intrigue promised at the end of the series opener Rebels and Fools.”

“I could not stop reading! The second volume in this trilogy is action-packed from start to finish.”

“Just a very enjoyable read with another very nerve-wracking ending.”

“Excellent follow up to the first book.”

“…enough questions linger as to the characters’ true motives to keep my interest into the third book. Bring on Martyrs and Monsters!”

Martyrs and Monsters

“…The Renegade Chronicles is a very solid introduction into (the fantasy genre).”

“The last volume in the trilogy is nearly as full of action and intrigue as the second book. Secrets are revealed, and the battle between humans and monsters gets vicious.”

“Many questions answers. Many new questions raised. Great closure to many plot lines without feeling too tidy.”

“While this isn’t my usual genre, I couldn’t put it down. The books are action packed and full of mystery, magic, and a dash of romance.”

“I hope we haven’t heard the last from these characters…I’m craving more!!!”

Vol. 4?

I’d love to write more about the people and places of Altaerra. Truly, I would!

As a matter of fact, I have years—yes, years—of these characters’ lives mapped out beyond what has been published so far. Which is why there were so many unanswered questions at the end of Martyrs and Monsters; these heroes’ (and anti-heroes’) tales are far from over.

The Renegade War foreshadows a continents-spanning conflict that will prove to be much more catastrophic than anything the cast has faced before…

But in order to justify the writing and publishing future fantasy novels, I must sell a heck of a lot more editions of the first three volumes. In the interest of building my readership, I’ll include a list of handy links for those interested in reading, referring, and/or reviewing The Renegade Chronicles.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Amazon

Goodreads

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Free e-book for Renegade Chronicles fans

Hence forth, let Sept. 13 be known as Reader Appreciation Day!

As a thank-you to my readers—and in hopes of reaching more—I’ve created a free compendium for The Renegade Chronicles, my fun fantasy saga featuring anti-heroes aplenty.

Cover of "Capricon and Beyond: The Renegade Chronicles Compendium"

Download Capricon and Beyond: The Renegade Chronicles Compendium for FREE here.

Available for Kindle, Nook, and just about any other e-reader you can name, Capricon and Beyond provides an in-depth look at the world of Altaerra—from the island of Capricon to greater Continae to far, foreign shores.

The e-book compiles a variety of resources for those interested in learning more about the people and places that populate The Renegade Chronicles as well as those who want a behind-the-scenes look at my world-building process. The glossary of more than 250 names and terms will serve as a handy quick-reference guide for “visitors.”

Capricon and Beyond also contains a never-before-published prologue for the series, starring “the Stranger.”

Other content includes:

  • Character profiles
  • Maps of Capricon and Western Arabond
  • Historical and cultural notes
  • Sketches drawn by yours truly

Sign up for my newsletter to receive the link to your copy of Capricon and Beyond.

And have a happy Reader Appreciation Day!

New to Altaerra? Learn more about The Renegade Chronicles here.

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Fun and games with book reviews

Sometimes book marketing seems like one big game.

Sometimes it feels like a joke.

In the spirit of positivity and productivity, I’ll eschew the plethora of ridiculous scenarios an author encounters while trying to promote his wares. But one paradox that made me smile (or, rather, roll my eyes) was when I was submitting information about my free Kindle promo and came across multiple paid services to spread the word.

That’s right: not only would I not make any profits on the book downloads during the promotion, but I’d actually be losing money in the process.

Any entrepreneur worth his home office knows you have to spend money to make money. It all comes down to ROI. But I personally believe there are better marketing avenues than pay-per-tweet networks.

OK, one more laugh: there are some online book reviewers who won’t read a novel until it has received a certain number of reviews on Amazon. I suppose professional/quasi-professional reviewers need everyday readers to make a decision before they deign it appropriate to crack the proverbial spine themselves. But from an author’s perspective, well, we need reviews on websites to gain exposure so that people buy, read, and, yes, rate the book on Amazon.com.

In an earlier blog post about the 5 ways to support the writer in your life, I brought up the importance of posting reviews. I’d like to revisit that topic today. Now. Because it turns out they are really, really important.

Also, I’m not too proud to beg for book reviews.

In case you need some convincing, here are a handful of reasons why book reviews can make a big difference in a novel’s success:

  • As mentioned above, some book review websites won’t bother with a novel unless it has at least five or ten or more reviews on Amazon.
  • Some book marketing services won’t include a book until it hits a certain quantity and rank of reviews on Amazon. For example: “Must have at least ten five-star reviews.”
  • Oftentimes, readers won’t take a book seriously if there are zero or very few customer reviews. Zero reviews just looks suspicious, and having less than ten is admittedly sad.
  • Amazon.com itself assesses the value of a book based on the number of reviews. Once a book hits fifty reviews, it makes an impact on Amazon’s search algorithm. In short, the more reviews (and the more positive the reviews), the more likely a potential buyer will be shown/recommended said book.
  • You’re also helping your fellow readers—which is why it’s important to be honest when posting a review.

So now you can see why those little yellow stars are so important—and why I’ve decided to make it as easy (and fun!) as possible for anyone who has read Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, or Martyrs and Monsters to compose a short yet oh-so valuable review.

Are you not entertained?

Mad Libs cover

Mad Libs: the epitome of fill-in-the-blank fun!

Just fill in the blanks, “Mad Libs style.” Then copy and paste copiously.

  • After reading (a previous book), I was looking forward to (expectations of this book).
  • If you like (adjective) characters and (adjective) plots, you’ll love this book.
  • This book reminds me (adverb) of (another book/series/author).
  • This book is at its best when (general example).
  • The pace of the story can be described as (adjective).
  • My favorite character is (proper noun) because (reason).
  • This book made me (verb phrase).
  • I can sum up this book in a single word: (adjective or noun).
  • I would (adverb) recommend this book to (noun).
  • I can’t wait to read more books by David Michael Williams (punctuation)

Party over here!

While Amazon is arguably the most important place to post book reviews due to its market share in the U.S. as well as other countries, there are many other places where folks buy books. Below are links to webpages where people can purchase The Renegade Chronicles, and they’re just waiting to be filled up with your brilliant comments:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

Note: you’ll only be able to leave a review at Smashwords if you purchased it via Smashwords.

CreateSpace

At CreateSpace, all you have to do is click the Facebook “like” button!

Goodreads

Are you a member of Goodreads? If so, use these links:

One more thing

If you’ve read any of my books, please, please, PLEASE post a review somewhere…anywhere!

(Told you I wasn’t too proud to beg.)

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Milestones from my book marketing marathon

What do you call a race without a finish line?

That’s not really a riddle. Or if it is, I don’t pretend to know the answer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about book marketing lately…because I’ve been doing a lot of book marketing lately. I keep coming back to that cliché about how (fill in the blank) is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as I want to quickly plow through my list of marketing tactics so that I can wrap up this project and begin planning my next novel, progress is unavoidably slow.

And pushing myself harder will only cause me to burn out faster.

Maybe the whole marathon metaphor is flawed in this case because publishing The Renegade Chronicles felt a lot like crossing a finish line. Leading up to that achievement was a series of tasks that required sustained pacing and a “keep your eye on the prize” mentality.

But even with Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters displayed on my bookshelf, trophy-like, a new endurance test lies before me—the next leg of the never-ending race.

In the spirit of celebrating small successes along the way, I submit the following 10 marketing and sales milestones:

1. Last month, I got a bit of press thanks to Action Publications.

2. Over the past couple of weeks, I sent requests to roughly 80 book bloggers. Three of them have expressed interest in reading and reviewing Rebels and Fools.

3. I’m on deck to be included in a “Newly Released” list on one website and the subject of an author spotlight on another site.

4. My professional Facebook page recently reached 100 likes.

5. The Fond du Lac Public Library now carries all three volumes of The Renegade Chronicles.

6. I’ve sold 75 “units” over the past six weeks. This includes paperbacks, individual e-book downloads, as well as the three-in-one digital collection.

The flag of Denmark

Right now, someone in Denmark might be reading my book. How cool is that? | Photo by US CIA via Wikimedia Commons

7. Three of those e-book sales were from readers in Denmark.

8. Last week, I received some very positive feedback from someone who doesn’t typically read fantasy: “I wasn’t sure if I would (like it). This isn’t my normal genre. I struggled just a little in the beginning trying to keep track of who all the characters were, but after that I was hooked. … I love the number of strong female characters, the bit of romance, all the adventure and plot twists. … I’ll be sure to post a great review when I finish.”

9. I will be the featured speaker at a Fond du Lac Area Writers’ meeting in June.

10. On June 17, I will be the featured artist at Cujak’s Wine and Coffee Bar during the Tour the Town Art Walk in Fond du Lac. (I’ll provide more information closer to the event.)

On second thought, writing, publishing, and book marketing are not so different from actual marathon running. The finish line is simply a measure of progress, not a true end—because there’s always the next race and another opportunity to improve.

Thanks for reading my blog and for your ongoing encouragement. I’m convinced “word of mouth” is the most effective form of marketing, so if you know anyone who likes fantasy adventure, please tell them about The Renegade Chronicles!

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5 ways to support the writer in your life

Do you know someone who is committed to the craft of writing? Congratulations!

Maybe this writer is a relative, in which case you have destiny to thank. Or maybe you’ve befriended someone who has been bewitched by the notion that stacking words one atop another to build a story can be fun and profitable.

Either way, if you’ve spent any amount of time around a writer, you’ve probably already learned a few things about this admittedly strange species:

She might have told you how she came up with the idea for her story and why it’s awesome.

He probably dished on the details about his creative habits or writing schedule or preferred typeface.

Perhaps she shared her protagonist’s astrological sign.

(On second thought, maybe condolences are in order.)

Here’s the thing about writers. We spend a lot of time alone, populating a private world with imaginary friends—er, people—and thinking about topics reserved solely for storytellers and serial killers (e.g., how much midazolam would it take to knock out an average adult male?).

Eventually, we need to come up for air and share some of our “head happenings” with the wider world…or, at least, with our most-trusted loved ones. (That’s you.) And that means his success as a writer depends, at least in part, on you.

So whether they are still in the planning phase, frantically pounding out the first draft, or up to their elbows in edits, here are a handful of ways you can support any writers who cross your path:

1. Encourage them

In addition to a killer concept and mad composition skillz (i.e., the two sides to every story), thick skina strong spine, and enough patience to fill a Buddhist monastery, a writer needs encouragement to survive.

Oh sure, we might be able to sustain ourselves for stretches on ego alone, but eventually our confidence fizzles, and refueling is necessary. We need to be told that we aren’t wasting our time. These proverbial pats on the back can take the form of compliments. For instance, if an idea they share sounds cool, tell them. If nothing else, praise their dedication to what so often can feel like a hopeless pursuit.

Face-to-face chats are great, but don’t forget about Facebook and Twitter and wherever else in cyberspace your writer roams. Follow their author accounts. Like and share their posts. Comment on their blogs. If you engage them online, others might also!

(Yes, I actually wrote the word “cyberspace.” Apologies.)

2. Read their stories

Every writer needs readers. This is true even before a book or short story is published. Alpha readers, beta readers, pre-readers—whatever you want to call the role, you are a prime candidate for being the first eyes on a story.

You aren’t obligated to give a thorough appraisal of the piece, and no one should expect you to play the part of proofreader, but some feedback is appropriate. What did you like? What felt a bit off? Praise is always appreciated, and depending on your rapport, constructive criticism can be very helpful too—emphasis on “constructive.”

But never leave a writer hanging. You gotta give ’em something. And if you don’t make it to the end of the novel—or even the end of the first chapter—let the writer know. You can soften the blow by saying something like, “I don’t think I’m your target reader because this part didn’t work for me…”

3. Buy their books

Encouragement can come in a variety of forms, including financial support. In fact, one surefire way to show the writer in your life that you approve of their writing is by sponsoring them. Just ask my wife! (Insert rimshot here.)

Sure, there actually are donation/sponsorship websites like Patreon, but the most forthright way you can support your writer is by buying her book. Even if you still have an early draft on your e-reader from back when you served as a beta reader. And even if you don’t plan to read the thing cover to cover. Owning a copy of your writer’s book proves, definitively, that you give a damn.

It’s not just about the money, either (though that helps). The more sales a book receives on a site like Amazon.com, the better its ranking becomes; the higher the rank, the greater the visibility—and, therefore, the greater the opportunities for additional sales.

4. Review their books

five out of five starsHere’s where support starts to feel an awful lot like work: After you’ve read the book, write a review and post it on Amazon and as many other sites you can find that carry the book.

Actually, this isn’t as onerous as it sounds. No one expects you to write a college-essay style literary criticism piece that compares your writer’s story to Great Expectations. A few sentences will suffice, and if you have more to say, great! Be honest, but if there’s a lot you don’t like, maybe focus on the stuff that shined. Then copy and paste copiously around the web.

Why are book reviews important? People tend not to trust a book until it has 100 or so reviews. Sadly, it’s the quantity of book reviews—more so than the quality of what’s written in them—that prompts customers to put a book in their cart. Ten 5-star reviews just seem less trustworthy than dozens of reviews that average to 3.5 stars. Strange but true.

5. Spread the word

Whether self-published or traditionally published, any writer worth his carpal tunnel will spend time and money on promoting and marketing his book.

But a single writer can cover only so much ground. Even Jesus saw the value of sending His followers far and wide to share the Good News, thus increasing His geographical footprint. I’m not saying you have to quit your job and become a full-time missionary for your writer’s fiction, but if you come across folks who might like the novel, tell them about it.

Or, better yet, lend them a copy of the book.

Bottom line: Successful writers need readers, and as the friend or relative of a writer, you can make a significant impact on whether her attempt to “make it” as an author turns out to be a nightmare or a dream come true.

(Besides, haven’t you always wanted your name to appear on an acknowledgements page?)

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