Amazon Featured Book of the Week

Here’s this week’s Featured Book-of-the-Week available now on Amazon.com!


Characters, Tales and Tragedies In the Boston Fire Department

by Richard Connelly

(4 Stars – 13 Customer Reviews)

Price: $21.95

Richard Connelly’s “Characters, Tales and Tragedies In the Boston Fire Department” is about the author’s 42 years with the busiest fire department in the world along with the other brave and humorous firefighters protecting the City of Boston and its citizens. Captivating and funny, this book is a must-read for any firefighter or fire buff. You are sure to be both entertained and shocked as the author takes us through life in the firehouse and on the streets.

 

 Learn More 

 

Please note that product prices and availability are subject to change. Prices and availability were accurate at the time of this posting; however, they may differ from those you see when you visit Amazon.com.© Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Amazon, Amazon.com, the Amazon.com logo, and 1-Click are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon.com, 410 Terry Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98109-5210.

 

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Feeling Stuck? Launch a New Story With These Three Prompts

Perhaps you’re feeling a bit stuck this week, and the blank page is threatening to overwhelm you with its possibilities and its difficulties. Or perhaps you’re simply in between writing projects right now, and looking for inspiration. Whatever your reasons, you may be in need of a prompt … or three! And you’re not alone: in all of our years working alongside self-publishing authors, one of the most common questions we hear is simply: “What else can I try?” We’re here today in the hope that we can help spark your creativity, improve your writing, and perhaps even help you finish writing your next manuscript this summer!

To that end, we have come up with three writing prompts we think are particularly useful.

ONE: Invent a character.

Each story is anchored by its characters. Start with mentally picturing just one, one person or entity (depending on your taste in genre) who leaps easily into the canvas of your imagination–and describe what you see. Maybe this character has a memorable face, or peculiar taste in clothes, or an old injury. Not every detail may be important later, but you never know, so get it all down. Think of this character like a pin on a map, and that map is your guide forward into a larger work (if you want it to be). Now invent a second character. Then, consider the following questions: Who matters to these characters? What do they mean to each other? What are their dreams? What motivates them? What do they regret, or fear? How do they see themselves? What foods might they like? What kind of a home might they live in? What locations on that map might be important to them? What do they spend money on … or not? Do they adhere to a faith, or an artistic practice, or an academic discipline? Who else might have claims upon their time, or their hearts?

Not every question is going to have an answer, or an answer that will prove fruitful for further writing. But consider them all, and write down whichever answers help you understand these characters you’ve created. Now you have the first necessary ingredient of a story!

TWO: Place a scene.

Shakespeare is famous for writing scenic shorthand. Remember the beginning of Romeo and Juliet? “Two households, both alike in dignity, / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, / From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, / Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” We may not all aspire to Shakespearean style and affectations, but we can learn a lot from a master like him, and the first thing to learn is that every good story begins with a scene, and it doesn’t take much to set a powerful scene. Romeo and Juliet, for example, opens with only three full sentences made up of fourteen lines of prose, all of which takes less than a minute to read aloud.

You might think of scene-setting as some monolithic venture which requires you to picture and describe every detail before the plot can move forward, but this isn’t how scenes work at all! There’s always room for a touch of lyrical description if your setting is particularly scenic, but that’s just window-dressing. Scenes are functions of plot, and microcosms in which your characters interact. The only necessary details are the ones which matter to your characters, and you’ve already mapped out what those details might be in the previous prompt.

Give yourself three to five sentences, right now, to frame your characters’ first interaction. Where are they? What time of day is it? Is it cold, or hot? What other elements of the setting will affect how these characters interact? Don’t try to envision the whole thing, not yet, not unless you fall in love with the place and want to file away a full description for later. It doesn’t need to be fancy, as Shakespeare proves, it just needs to provide a canvas upon which your characters move.

THREE: Kill your darlings.

Okay, so maybe you don’t need to literally kill any of your darlings. The expression is an old one, and it has its source in an old piece of advice sometimes given to aspiring writers. Faulkner said it, and so did Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, G.K. Chesterton, Chekov, and Stephen King … and surely at least one of these people is on to something. The idea is this: if some element of your book, a character or a passage or a place, is just unkillably perfect to you, a writer, it’s probably holding you back from writing an entire book of equal quality because you’re so hung up on its perfection. But in the interest of giving you a writing prompt which you can tackle in an afternoon, we advocate for killing your darlings for a purely mercenary, functional purpose: it will provide you with plot, and stakes. No story can work without stakes, and so often we forget to develop those stakes until we’re already halfway through a book. But in an ideal world, and in an afternoon’s writing session, those stakes have to be there from the beginning. So take your characters, or take your scene, and figure out who or what is at risk. Now, pick up your pen … or sit down at your keyboard … and kill your darling. Kill your darling with flair and rich description. Kill your darling with perfunctory simplicity. And then let whoever or whatever is left deal with the aftermath, on the page, in full sentences.

Now you have your first chapter, and it only took you three short writing prompts to get there! And if you don’t like it? Well, there’s plenty of time tomorrow to start over, and to start small, with a new character.

Will you try or have you already tried one of these prompts? We’d love to hear about your successes and to cheer you on. Look us up on social media and let us know how you do! You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, or you can visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant as well as call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish that manuscript you’re working on and get it ready for publication!

Marketing Your Travel Book in Five Simple Steps

If you’ve spent much time reading the literature of travel, you’ll already know that there are many handy quotes about the process. St. Augustine, for example, is credited with saying that “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” If you’ve recently self-published a book on travel, clearly, you’ve seen more than one page of that book … but what about your readers? How do you ensure that they move from the shelf to the checkout line with your book in hand? How do you ensure that your book meets the readers it needs out there in the world?

We have a few ideas to get you started, exactly five of them in fact. Take advantage of them all and you’ll put your travel book, so to speak, on the map.

ONE: Consider the “Who?” Who are your readers, really? Are they travelers like you, in that they actually move through the physical world and are looking for templates to follow? Or are they what publishers used to call “armchair travelers,” those readers who much preferred to live vicariously through others than to conduct the trips (and endure their hardships) themselves? This being 2018, the conversation about ableism is now well-developed, and we now know that many readers pick up travel books to empower them, and to enable them to experience the world in a way that maybe they couldn’t otherwise. So, with your readers in mind, share content that gets them excited about travel, such as quality social media content, engaging lists and articles; also provide content that helps your readers plan, including itineraries and how-to videos; and lastly, provide content which will help them take an action, such as booking a trip, making a reservation, or accessing their local wildernesses.

TWO: Consider the “What?” As in, what’s your niche? Travel books happen to occupy a difficult niche, as do many other genres, in that they’re read heavily but only by very specific audiences, and sales numbers only occasionally make them blockbuster successes. (Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is a great example of an exception, however.) What this means for self-published authors is that you need to find people who are already interested in your book’s subject, even if they read in different quantities than they might in other genres. Once you find these people, they are an easy sell. And in the age of information, finding them is easier than previous generations could even dream about. Look for those Facebook groups dedicated to travel and ask if anyone is interested in reviewing your travelogue. Hop on Reddit and start a conversation about the destinations you cover. Use your niche to your advantage!

THREE: Consider the “When?” When it comes to travel, the time of year really matters. Take care to highlight seasons in your marketing, especially on visually-driven platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook: fall colors, winter activities, and seasonal foods go over really well in framing your marketing strategies! Also highlight local holidays, and ways for your readers to celebrate, which festivities to attend, and so forth, and tackle other timely elements that can become the focal point for effective marketing content. Extra content to include on your blog, social media, or website might include a local events guide or seasonal restaurant menus.

FOUR: Consider the “Where?” As with the time of year, your destination really, and truly makes a difference in your marketing strategy! In your marketing materials, make sure to explore destination-specific highlights such as exclusive events and local sights. Take care to showcase the local food and beverage scene, as mentioned earlier, including restaurant recommendations, wine tastings, and foodie-favorite festivals. And lastly, intentionally acquaint your readers with little-known travel tips such as where to find off-the-beaten paths and materials which will enable them to replicate your favorite experiences.

FIVE: Consider the “Why?” Why do your readers read? Why do you write? And most importantly, why do we travel? Remember, the art of a travel book is evoking the feeling of expansion, of exploration, in those who have not had the liberty or means or luck to travel the way that you have. In a sense, this puts a burden of responsibility on you. What can you say and do in your marketing to embrace those readers of limited mobility, who are perhaps constrained by money or by their own bodies and prevented from conducting a trip like yours? You have the ability–and the opportunity–to bring the book of this grand world of ours to your readers and help them flip through a few of its pages. If there’s a more beautiful idea, we haven’t heard it yet.

As Henry Miller put it, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” What better way of helping make the world a better place than by making it possible for your readers to see our beautiful planet through fresh eyes? We hope you’ll take the time to invest in your book’s marketing success now that it exists in this beautiful world of ours.

Still not sure where to start in marketing your book this month? There’s never a better time than now to inquire. Log into your Publishing Center to view all of the marketing services that Outskirts Press offers.

To see our staff picks of amazing travel books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Go Wild, Then Write About It — Then Publish That Travel Book

Not every traveler is a storyteller, but every storyteller takes readers on a trip, whether it’s down memory lane or far afield, in far-flung places which may or may not be on their respective bucket lists. Writes J.E. Leigh, we all of us crave the feeling of being special, of reaching beyond our boundaries to seize on something grand and greater than ourselves, whether for a fleeting moment or the length of a book. Says Leigh, “This simple yearning is in us all, hardly recognizable, often only the merest hint that there is something more to us. This is why we seek out new places … we want to remember a somewhere that gave us the space to expand ourselves, to become a little more of who we truly are.” And rather than revealing the smallness of our stay-at-home lives, reading a travel book is often where we are most ourselves, our boundaries most vulnerable to being smashed. We remake our lives in reliving the travels of others, and we do so without breaking the bank.

But how does one write a good travel book? And how does one write a good travel book in the digital age, when one not only has other writers but bloggers, Instagrammers, and vloggers as competition? We propose that there are three simple keys to a successful travel book which will set you apart.

ONE: Figure out what holds your experiences together. When you’re traveling, often it’s enough simply to be on the move; everything feels like it holds together and makes sense together simply because it’s happening in sequence and to you. But when you sit down to write your book, whether you’re drawing on memory or your travel journals or your Instagram account, you’ll quickly realize that the story doesn’t fit perfectly together afterward … unless of course there’s some singular and deeply traumatic or life-changing event which takes place while abroad. The recent spate of tsunami and natural disaster memoirs falls into this category, but most people don’t live through tsunamis, and people want to read all sorts of travel narratives, including ones without that sort of defining event. So how do you keep all the various fiddly bits from flying to pieces? You figure out a narrative architecture, just as you would with fiction! Who are your characters, and what are we meant to learn about them? Will you keep your book linear in time and place or will you let themes and life lessons be your chapter anchors? Diagram your various ideas and pick the one that feels right to you … and the most together. The architecture matters, and travel books which adhere to a linear timeline aren’t the only ones worth reading.

TWO: Craft the perfect name. After all, you’re self-publishing, and no one else gets to tell you what to name your book! And consider all the great titles to all of the equally great travel-related books you’ve read recently. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild comes to mind–short and sweet–but so too does Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, less short but no less evocative. There’s Stephan Braxton’s An American Nomad, which tells you everything you need to know, and Kay Peterson’s Chasing Rainbows, which raises images of light-drenched asphalt and lush hillsides rushing by, doesn’t it? A good title is more than just a sales point later on; it’s the anchor for your book, and central to how you conceive of your experience. Don’t wait to come up with a title. The moment you find your title is the moment you find the heart of your travel narrative.

THREE: Be authentic. You’ve heard it before, elsewhere, and often. But it can never be said too often that the most reliable key to success as a travel writer is to be true to yourself, and to your experience, and to your own voice. What do you have that an Instagram picture doesn’t? You have nuance. And what about the blogger? You have time and many, many more blank pages to unfold the nuances of your experience without the forced completion of the short post. Vloggers, too, rely on brief and to-the-point videos to highlight the visual impact of a place, but you get all of the beautiful intricacies of narrative, and characterization, and atmosphere … all without the pixilation of a cell phone camera getting in the way. These other forms of travel records are wonderful in and of themselves, and once you’re published they make for fantastic marketing tools, but whoever said a picture was worth a thousand words was not living in the digital age, saturated with millions of pictures of Pisa and millions more of the Great Barrier Reef, The Hague, the National Mall, and the Ozark Mountains. Now, the weight of proof has become a burden, and no picture can make you feel what a powerfully atmospheric sentence can. Be authentic and bring your readers into your experience with all the power that words can muster!

Travel often brings out the best, or the worst, or at the very least the most interesting parts of us. We hope you’ll take this opportunity to further hone your craft and bring the world to your readers in new and fresh ways! Still not sure what you need to get started publishing your next travel book? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

To see our staff picks of amazing travel-themed books from many of our published authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Amazon Featured Book of the Week

Here’s this week’s Featured Book-of-the-Week available now on Amazon.com!


My Grandpa Ed & The Seagull

by Brad Moseley

(5 Stars – 8 Customer Reviews)

Price: $19.95

Brad Moseley’s “My Grandpa Ed & The Seagull.” This is the true, heartwarming story of a little boy who forms a deep bond of love and admiration with his gregarious grandpa. The two play and wrestle and joke and spend as much time together as possible. When Grandpa Ed passes away, the boy learns how life and love will forever be changed. For anyone who has lost a loved one, this uplifting story will reassure you that love is, indeed, eternal.

 Learn More 

 

Please note that product prices and availability are subject to change. Prices and availability were accurate at the time of this posting; however, they may differ from those you see when you visit Amazon.com.© Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Amazon, Amazon.com, the Amazon.com logo, and 1-Click are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon.com, 410 Terry Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98109-5210.

 

Would you like your book featured here? Buy Now

5 Tips for Self-Publishing Efficiently

Self-publishing technology has come a long way since the early days of so-called “vanity press.” No longer does an indie author need to order and warehouse mounds of book copies in order to sell. The changing publishing landscape means not only can you sell without massive and expensive storage, but you can do so in a variety of formats … and, yes, in a much shorter publishing timeframe than in the past.

So, with spring on the horizon, Outskirts Press offers five ways to be well on the way by summer’s end.

  1. Get help crossing the finish line. Sometimes a skilled — and unbiased — ghostwriter can assess and finesse a nearly complete manuscript more quickly than the author can. A fresh set of eyes is a surefire way to expedite the final stages of writing.
  2. Knock out the final read-through. Many independent authors rely on friends and family to beta-read their manuscript before publication. However, this approach can cost valuable time as non-professional readers miss unofficial “deadlines.” It is a good investment to hire a professional copyeditor, who will be working on a firm deadline and will have a much greater eye for grammar, punctuation and flow.
  3. Never underestimate the frustration of formatting. Book formatting is much more complex than adding indentations and selecting fonts. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to master alternate page numbering! Save hours — even days or weeks — of frustration by handing over this taxing task to a formatter who can turn the raw manuscript into a professional looking book in a fraction of the time.
  4. Don’t “blow your cover.” A book cover design is an investment that can pay off like no other. In an age when readers are spending mere seconds deciding if a book is worthy of a second look, the cover is the most powerful marketing tool an author can have.
  5. Get ready to bundle. When time is of the essence, authors can move forward more quickly by taking advantage of publishing packages that include everything they will need to complete the publishing process, instead of selecting a la carte options as they go. This approach saves time and money, and gets authors selling sooner.

For more information about how to get your manuscript moving forward this year, call Outskirts Press at 1-888-OP-BOOKS, chat with us via the online chat on our website, or make an appointment with a Publishing Consultant.

Are You Ready? Stock Up on Author Copies (with FREE SHIPPING) and Never Lose a Sale

Half the battle of selling your self-published book is merely being ready when opportunities arise. That means having copies nearby at all times — and seizing the moment!

By getting prepared for book marketing and selling opportunities, you’ll make a positive impression, important connections and plenty of unanticipated sales! The simple step of keeping copies with you means you’ll be ready to make the most of:

  • last-minute book-signing requests
  • radio, TV and newspaper publicity offers
  • book award submissions
  • review submissions
  • book giveaways to promote on social media
  • gifts to family and friends

To help you prepare for these inevitable opportunities, Outskirts Press is offering FREE SHIPPING on orders of 50 or more copies of your book within the continental United States all through May. Plus, you can take advantage of high-volume discounts and receive up to an additional 50% off your order — and still get your shipping at no charge!

Here’s how to get free shipping:

  1. Log in to your Publishing Center, select “order books” and place an order for 50 or more copies of your book(s) in a single format before May 31.
  2. Select normal ground shipping with a delivery address within the continental U.S. and proceed with checkout. (No promotion code is necessary. You will see the free shipping offer reflected in your total once you place your order.)

Share with us how you plan to use your author copies in the comments below. Happy selling!