Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Top 3 Tips For Writing Great Historical Fiction


Like any genre there are tropes and devices that authors invariably weave through their narratives, but whether the overarching genre of Historical Fiction or its subgenres there are a succinct number of characteristics upon which the most memorable of bestsellers rise. The bedrock for authenticity has to be robust research but the inclusion of fact doesn’t necessarily make for a compelling read. Historical nuances have to be repurposed to serve the narrative without losing their symbolic impact. whilst avoiding the trap of having historical events whirling too perfectly around a novels main character.

Clearly, any view is subjective but we think our top 3 tips for writing bestselling Historical Fiction are a good place to start when setting out to write or refine Historical Fiction or its subgenres.

1 - Whether real or imagined, nuanced dialogue breathes life into a character and the period in which they live. Dialogue invariably reflects the attitudes, biases, beliefs and social expectations of the time but when too rigidly adhered to can come across as unwieldy and detract from a reader's enjoyment. The trick here is to include just enough vocabulary and phrases from the period to establish setting and authenticity.

2 - Readers read Historical Fiction because they are drawn to a time or place. They expect the past to come to life as they turn the pages and an author who fails to deliver in this respect faces the looming despondency of literary obscurity. More importantly, readers want to be immersed in time and place from the every start. Historical Fiction readers tend to be particularly discerning and failing to deliver this in the opening paragraphs will see interest quickly wane. Clothing, architecture and modes of transport are just some of hundreds of period aspects that quickly establish time and setting whilst helping to establish a theme that feels authentic in the context of a novels period of focus.

3 - Historical Fiction might be fact-centric but a plot must still make sense for the period of time it covers and be true to historical events. This is equally true of conflict which must accurately reflect the underlying social commentary of the chosen era and helps to establish that all important air of authenticity. It’s important to remember that Historical Fiction not only represents a different way of doing things but reflects a different way of thinking as well.

Despite its ever growing popularity and the vast dearth of Historical Fiction novels released, relatively few authors truly distinguish themselves or manage to carve out a niche which sets them apart. A fine example of an author who has successfully achieved this is Mary Morony whose Historical Family Saga series Apron Strings has won a host of rave reviews with Kirkus describing it as "Brilliantly written" and Mid West Book Review declaring it "The Perfect Read! "The BookViral review can be found HERE

As we said earlier, any view is subjective and what we wanted to do with this blog post was to provide a point of reference upon which you could build. As always we hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE

Monday, 27 February 2017

Classic Whodunits And The Formula New Crime Fiction Authors Can Still Use To Write Bestsellers.

Inspired by the best whodunits of all time...........

Classic whodunits revolve around the mystery that shrouds the murderer's identity and how the crime was committed. Their popularity has been an enduring genre presence in Crime Fiction but over time, they’ve become increasingly cliché ridden which sadly, more often than not, limits the element of surprise on the part of the reader, particularly when it comes to the reveal and the identity of the murderer.

Few Crime Fiction authors genuinely excel at successfully misleading their readers and revealing an unlikely suspect as the real villain of the story and those that do can invariably be found at the very top of Whodunit Bestseller lists. Of course, all genres evolve, conventions change and these days many Crime Writers lean towards the dysfunctional human relationships that orbit the murder victim. Playing to our fascination with serial killers, scalpel-wielding blood splatter pathologists, and cutting social commentary. Solving the Whodunit Mystery is still the heart of a detective story but authors are ever cognizant of the realities and uncertainties that plague the world around us and this creates an edgier sense of realism that comes through strongly in modern crime fiction.

Draw up a list of Best Whodunit Novels and you’ll be hard pressed not to include the likes of On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré or Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. They certainly set the bar for emerging authors and those who have their sights set on a Whodunit Bestseller need to do their homework before putting pen to paper. There’s no doubt that V L Towler did hers. Selected by Attorney General Janet Reno as an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy, conducting research at the University of London Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on Nigerian organised crime, her first novel, Severed, was ten years in the writing. Hands down one of the best Mystery & Forensic Crime Novels you will ever read, it has to be in contention for the ultimate Whodunit. You can read our review HERE.

The greats certainly have a lot to teach us about writing Whodunits and probably none better known than Raymond Chandler whose Ten Commandments still stand the test of time.

1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
2) It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
3) It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
4) It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
5) It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
6) It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
7) The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
8) It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
9) It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
10) It must be honest with the reader.

Following Chandlers guidelines will certainly get you off to a good start and help develop a compelling story and we hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE


Monday, 2 January 2017

Author Email Marketing. Seperating the facts from fiction


There is an overwhelming tendency in indie publishing for authors to follow trends and no better example than in the building and growing of powerful mailing lists. To many authors, it’s considered the single most important element of their book marketing strategy but it’s often hard to define meaningful numbers underpinning this viewpoint. We went out to over 1000 of the authors we have worked with to find those with author mailing lists exceeding 2000 or more contact names to ask if they really do get a return on their investment. We identified 227 authors with mailing lists with 2000 subscribers or more with a surprisingly low 43% of authors rating email marketing as a major contributor to overall book sells.

Now, we know there are a number of high profile authors who swear by their mailing lists and a few who make good money by selling the secrets of their success, but apart from testimonials, measurable success factors are hard to come by. At BookViral we believe that email marketing still has its place in an author’s marketing arsenal but far too often the hype exceeds the reality and ever increasingly many people simply divert marketing emails to their spam folders. With this in mind, we went out to BookViral readers and asked how often they deleted author marketing emails without reading them. The result was a staggering 78%! When we asked why the overwhelming response suggested there was nothing of interest in them.

When you actually stop to reflect it’s not surprising. Most authors build their list by giving something away for free. That’s the overriding incentive for subscribing to a mailing list but far too many authors fall down when it comes to converting prospects into readers and readers into enthusiastic followers eager for their latest release. With potential readers glued to their inboxes 24/7 here are the top six things you must do to ensure your marketing emails do not end up being deleted as junk.

1. Build your mailing list
Let’s cut to the quick here and say that numbers matter and all our research shows that an author needs a minimum of 2000 subscribers on their email mailing list before they realise a meaningful return on their investment. If you have yet to build an email list or are just starting out then take a look at our How To Create A Successful Mailing List post.

2. Establish your message
First and foremost ask yourself what your subscriber will get from opening your email. They will already know you are an author because they signed up to be on your mailing list and the chances are you gave them something of value in return. What are you giving them this time around? We hate to break it to you but unless you are already a celebrity or household name then progress updates on your next release, a new cover reveal or simply reminding them that you are still there doesn’t typically deliver results. Choose your message carefully and give them something they want. It may be a promotion or a thought-provoking blog post but make every email count. You can’t afford to invest your time for no measurable return on your investment.

3. Choose the right marketing partner
Choosing the right email marketing partner is a critical element of success. There is a host of powerful tools and providers offering a spectrum of services that range from sending out simple text-based emails to cleverly designed templates that demand they be opened. MailChimp remains one of the favourites because of its pedigree and longevity but others you should have on your radar include - Zoho Campaigns, Constant Contact and Infusionsoft.

4. Know your target market and above all be realistic
You need to think about your target audience and don’t take it for granted that someone subscribing to your mailing list has an overriding interest in your genre or writing. Our recent poll of 2700 readers suggests that over 86% of people subscribe to an email list on a whim. Your target audience may, therefore, be far smaller than the size of your mailing list suggests but rather than see this as a negative think about the tone in your email and focus on projecting your brand. Get this right and the percentage of readers your emails connect with will soon begin to generate word of mouth recommendations for your books.

5. Draft, draft and draft again!
Think of each email you send to subscribers as a mini-campaign and never, never, send an email on a whim or because you haven’t been in touch for a while. The best emails are the ones with clear messages that speak to your subscriber on a personal level. You need to be clear about what you want to achieve and once you have crafted it you need to take a step back. Send it to a friend and ask for their feedback, make sure the HTML works and that there are no typos or formatting problems. Each of your subscribers represents an investment of your time and possibly money, get it wrong and you may well lose a subscriber or end up on their junk list.

6. Measure your success
Measurement and feedback provide you with the opportunity to refine future campaigns and build on your successes. Click rates, unsubscribe rates and sales can and should be measured with providers like MailChimp Zoho Campaigns, Constant Contact and Infusionsoft offering a host of great analytical features which will help you get the very best from each email.

At BookViral we believe that knowledge is the foundation upon which to build success and as always we would welcome your feedback.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

5 Classic Children's Books To Give Your Children For Christmas

Classic Children's Books That Make Great Christmas Presents

We’re never too old for picture books. Of course, it isn’t the same for everyone, but for many, illustrated books continue to have a profound effect on the way we recall our youth. Those halcyon days when imagination was unbridled and we were open to a magic that our later years often deny. Illustrated children’s books may often be short on page count but never the less remain one of the hardest books to write and achieve any modicum of success. They are a peculiar form of art in that it is only in the seamless melding of images to words that the magic transcends the page to spread by word of mouth. With Christmas fast approaching we asked our readers to recommend 5 classic picture books that would make great stocking fillers for children. The emphasis was on classics and we had over three thousand replies. They are stylistically different but each represents an author and illustrator who brings something magical to their pages and each one would make a Christmas present to be treasured.

So without further ado and in no particular order, let us delve into the first five:-

1 - We can’t believe any top five list of the best-illustrated children’s books would be complete without the glorious illustrative prowess of the late Maurice Sendak. Thoughts will invariably turn towards “Where The Wild Things Are” and we were a little surprised when The Sign on Rosie’s Door, received considerably more mentions. Exuding a timeless charm it’s a testament to Sendak's unique ability to integrate fantasy and reality in a way that children so readily relate to.


2 - The Polar Express: By any stretch of the imagination Chris Van Allsburg is an exceptional illustrator, but never better than in this magnificent Christmas tale that has been wielding a magical yule tide hold over readers of all ages ever since its publication. The illustrations are quite simply stunning and inject the simplicity of his words with a magical spark that so assuredly ignites the imagination. In the bell that might only be heard by those who still believe in Santa, older readers are left reflecting on a magic that all too readily fades with the years. This the true genius captured in the Polar Express, raising the spectre of expectation whilst leaving the reader hungry for an illusion, that must be forever confined to the pages of a book.

3 - The Prayer: A Christmas classic for every day of the year, is there anyone who's read this book by Stephan J Myers and not choked back a tear? With its simple but elegant watercolour illustrations, when it comes to the seamless melding of images to words that magically transcend the page, The Prayer is an undeniable masterpiece which manages to explore the profound and idealistic nature of Christmas from the perspective of a child who has nothing. An incredibly powerful story and life lesson, few parents will read it and not want to hold their children a little closer as they reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. 

 4 – Hugo Cabret: Too many authors and illustrators come and go, but if one who is sure to withstand the yellowing of his portfolio, it is the very talented Mr. Brian Selznick. Hugo Cabret is an extravagant and infinitely elegant fantasy which radiates a brazen love for the magical perception and innocence of childhood. Fantastic, deceptively complex and a tad bizarre it stands both as a testament to the silent age of films and the ingenuity of a wonderfully creative mind. Rarely have black and white illustrations conveyed so much in the absence of words whilst imparting such depth of meaning. A hypnotic melody of images and words that never fails to capture the imagination, no matter how many times it is read.

5 – The Princess And The Pea: Although the tale has been told and illustrated countless times Child’s creative genius shines through. Eschewing traditional illustrations in favour of a series of three-dimensional miniature theatre sets which were photographed by Borland and creating a loving hybrid of style that is wholly engaging. A classic tale re-imagined with warmth and humour, Child seems to effortlessly capture that elusive magic so many authors/illustrators of children’s books strive for.

Every Christmas brings a must-read children's book but the timely magic of a real classic never fades. For discerning readers who want to give their children something truly special, these are our must-read recommendations. Enjoy!