Discussing the Research Process with Author Terri Sedmak

Terri Sedmak

This past summer WaveCloud had the wonderful opportunity to meet Australian author Terri Sedmak at Book Expo America in New York City. We love talking with our favorite authors so I decided to do a sit down of sorts (via email) with Terri to discuss part of the writing process that is near and dear to my heart as a librarian: the research. I always value a historical novel based on solid research and thought others might enjoy learning a little about the process as much as I would.

Also be sure to check out the excerpts Terri provided us from her latest series!

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Kari: You were recently in the States to work on research for your current series, The Liberty & Property Legends series, correct?

Terri: That’s right. My husband, who is also my business partner, and I combined a much needed holiday (beginning with a week in beautiful Boston) with some much needed research in St. Louis, south east Wyoming, and Denver. We also spent a week in New York City to attend Book Expo America, where to our delight we found WaveCloud. We love travelling in the States; this was our second trip, our first being in 2009, which was also a research trip. We toured more broadly on that excursion, so on this trip I was able to focus on more detailed information for the next two books in the series and for other writing projects set in The West.

Kari: What made you decide to write about the American West?

Terri: I fell in love with the American West when I was little and never fell out of it. Westerns as books, TV or film… loved them since I can remember. I think initially the adventurousness of it and the romance that surrounds it attracted me.  And horses! Then I grew to understand and appreciate and really love the history of The West. The layers of complexity in its settling. The idea of freedom and independence. The extraordinary natural beauty of it. Although my first attempt at a novel when I was eleven was not set in the West but in the Australian outback, it was only a few years later that I wrote a novel that was set in the Wild West of the 1880’s. My desire to write for this era was set from that time on and the essence of that story exists in my current series.

Kari: Did you find a lot of new information on your visit? How does that help you as an author?

Terri: I certainly did! Don’t ask me where I managed to pack all the books I brought back, but my luggage was 7 pounds overweight and there was some last minute rearranging at the check-in at Denver airport coming home. Then there are all the information booklets and relevant souvenirs. I took over a thousand photos, lots of those were of detailed museum content, of cities, towns, neighbourhoods, streets, lanes, street signs, scenic backways, from mountaintops to prairies, all in specific locations that I knew I would be, or very likely could be, or now that I’ve seen it I will be, writing about.

And then there’s meeting and speaking with people. Physical environment needs a heart and that’s the folks you meet. They give you a different (the local) understanding of what you read or view with your own eyes; they interpret your research in that sense. Although The West may have changed somewhat since the Wild West days, the folks who have a heritage of living there indicate that it’s kind of the same in spirit and they preserve their heritage with pride and affection. Heritage is one of the themes in my series, so I find this type of research helpful.

As an author all of this is invaluable. I wish I could have brought back more books, taken more photographs, shot more videos and spoken to the people I met for longer and spoken to more people overall. Everything you experience adds to your knowledge and understanding and sense of place. There is so much to take in and it can be overwhelming. You just have to do your best and know that it has all soaked in and it will come to the forefront at the right moment; I believe it will.

Kari: Would you consider physical research in the location you're writing about 100% necessary when writing historical fiction (opposed to online-only research)?

Terri: There is a great deal of information on the internet for sure, almost everything you could want – almost. I find that physically researching in the location of the setting of your novel allows you access to very specific, authentic details that really open up your writing. These are the special details which you just cannot find online that help you to create your special world and your particular characters, and that include locale-specific historical details.

Just soaking up the physical environment, breathing the air, walking amongst it, is invaluable location research. I call it walking in the footsteps of my characters.

I’ll never forget seeing the Laramie Plains for the first time. I was shocked by the unfathomable expanse of those remarkable grasslands and forever sky, and the shock went right through me and all I could think about was those pioneers in their covered wagons wondering where on earth they had come to and would it ever end. You don’t get that kind of profound reaction from looking at pictures on the internet! This stays with you, it creeps into your writing, and you make a point of including it somehow.

But having said that, you can write a whole novel, a pretty good one, historically set in another country from what you research while sitting all day at your computer in your pjs. It will give you the bones and the flesh and even the heart of your novel, but it won’t necessarily give you the pores on your skin, the mole on your cheek or the slight limp when you walk like location research can.

Historical fiction writing requires a certain kind of imagination, I think. You have to imagine a world in great detail that no longer exists, so it’s not there to draw on, but it has to ring true. That world must be a complete living entity in the writer’s mind, almost like a parallel universe to your everyday life. If it’s not, it won’t be for the reader either. They have to be transported there and be convinced that it and your characters truly existed.

The Liberty & Property Legends is not set entirely in The West. There are Eastern locations as well that I have also researched on location. The great cities of St Louis, Chicago, New York and Boston have been, or will be featured, some to a greater extent than others. Also, the great western cities of Omaha, Denver and San Francisco, as well. For me, the history of The West is a huge migration story. Americans of all ethnic and socio-economic persuasions went to it, with certain expectations and a certain mindset. In my series I take the ideal of liberty and property from the Revolutionary era and migrate it West, where it is embodied in the main protagonist of the series, Luke Taylor. And that’s where the adventure begins!

Currently, I am working on Volume Three, so look out for it later in 2013. It’s going to be epic!

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In the pearly gloom of a promising morning, smoke curls from the Keatons’ chimney, and there’s a smell of bacon on the wind.

Dave rides in from the cover of the forest behind the Keaton ranch house and cautiously leads both horses into the barn.

He casts his eye around the building; there don’t appear to be anything unusual except that at this hour of a deep winter morning, activity in the ranch house notwithstanding, all of John Keaton’s horses are fully awake and alert like he ain’t the first person they’ve seen today.

Empire for Liberty, Volume 2, The Liberty & Property Legends

“This is Wyoming territory. Whatever you think is odd, very likely is compared to the rest of the nation. Seventeen years ago this town was a bunch of tents and log huts. There were Cheyenne Indians out on the plains behind you and a whole bunch of people you’d rather not know making a fast buck waiting for the railroad to push through. It was hell all right. And look at us now. Sprouting like a twelve year old boy on summer vacation. We try not to make it up as we go along, but sometimes we have to.”

Empire for Liberty, Volume 2, The Liberty & Property Legends

When he wakes, his head feels thick and heavy, like he’s been boozing. And his leg hurts. He’s lying in a bed in a different room, which is so quiet the silence buzzes in his ears. The light of the aging afternoon strays into the room from a thinly draped window. Gradually, as the groggy sensation subsides a little, he becomes aware of two things. One, he is in the same room – the same bed – where Byron Sawyer died. And two, he is naked beneath the sheet and the blanket which cover him – at least he thinks so. Lifting the edge of the bedclothes, he checks. Hastily, he covers up again. The only thing he’s wearing is a bandage on his thigh. There ain’t a situation more nervy than being hurt and naked and in a dead man’s bed. How does he get himself into these things?

HEARTLAND On the Side of Angels, Volume 1, The Liberty & Property Legends

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Want more? Find Terri on WaveCloud today! Also be sure to check out her website and Facebook page.

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How would you like to discover your next book?

Recently the website Goodreads did a study on book discovery and how best sellers are found by their readers. While this study was geared more toward authors and publishers, here at WaveCloud we thought it might be interesting to find out how, as a reader, you find the books you read.

After discussing it with some of our staff, we’ve found that we tend to gravitate more toward the word-of-mouth form of discovery. If a book is recommended to us by a friend or family member, we are more likely to check it out.

Other ways we've found books include free advanced copies we've received, looking at books from authors we have enjoyed in the past, and reviews from websites and other forms of media. We’ve even been tempted by ads for books that looked enticing.

Can you think of any other ways you’ve discovered a new book? Or more importantly, how would you LIKE to find your next book? We are working on new ways of connecting readers with authors and their books. Please share with us your “book discovery” wish list.

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Summer Reads – Follow Up

How is your summer reading going? Are you already in need of some new options? We have scoured the Best Sellers and Must Read lists to find you the “Top 10 Summer Reads” that are now available on WaveCloud. Enjoy!

Final Judgment by Joel Goldman (2012):

“A man's body is found decapitated. Wrapped in plastic. Stuffed in the trunk of a Fleetwood Cadillac parked outside a federal courthouse. The car's owner: a sweet-natured con man who's on trial for mail fraud–but innocent of murder. Kansas City defense attorney Lou Mason has no idea how a corpse ended up in his client's car. But when the victim is identified as a criminal defendant in a sexually charged lawsuit, Mason is forced to team up with a woman from his past–a brilliant FBI agent who may be playing head games of her own.”

Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History by Denver Nicks (2012):

“Bradley Manning perpetrated the biggest breach of military security in American history. This intelligence analyst leaked an astounding amount of classified information to WikiLeaks: classified combat videos and hundreds of thousands of documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and from embassies around the globe. Almost all of WikiLeaks's headline-making releases of information have come from one source only: Bradley Manning.”

Trapeze by Simon Mawer (2012):

“A fascinating blend of fact and fiction, Trapeze is both an old-fashioned adventure story and a modern exploration of a young woman’s growth into adulthood. There is violence, and there is love. There is death and betrayal, deception and revelation. But above all there is Marian Sutro, an ordinary young woman who, like her real-life counterparts in the SOE, did the most extraordinary things at a time when the ordinary was not enough.”

Implosion: Can America Recover from Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? by Joel C. Rosenburg (2012):

Bestselling author and international political expert Joel C. Rosenberg tackles the question: Is America an empire in decline or a nation poised for a historic Renaissance? America teeters on a precipice. In the midst of financial turmoil, political uncertainty, declining morality, the constant threat of natural disasters, and myriad other daunting challenges, many wonder what the future holds for this once-great nation. Will history's greatest democracy stage a miraculous comeback, returning to the forefront of the world's economic and spiritual stage? Can America's religious past be repeated today with a third Great Awakening? Or will the rise of China, Russia, and other nations, coupled with the US's internal struggles, send her into a decline from which there can be no return?”

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877):

You might wonder how this novel has come to find its way on our Top 10 list. Found on a variety of “’must read” lists this classic has recently been redone into a movie due out in November. If you have already read Anna Karenina, this is a great opportunity to refresh your memory before the movie and if you have never picked it up? Well, you should always read the book before watching the movie!

“'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,’ writes Tolstoy in his literary masterpiece Anna Karenina. Commonly regarded as one of the greatest realist novels ever written, Tolstoy himself saw it as his first true novel. The novel was not well received by critics when first published, but Tolstoy's fellow Russian greats all considered it a great work of art.”

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011):

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.”

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2007):

Although this novel has been out for a while and the movie was released last year, it still has a solid spot on Best Seller lists. Perhaps it’s finally time to check it out?

“As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.”

The Winner by David Baldacci (2011):

“LuAnn Tyler is an unwed mother striving to escape a life of endless poverty. Then a mysterious Mr Jackson makes her an offer he thinks no one can refuse: a guarantee to be the winner of the $100 million lottery. But LuAnn won't do it. Less than twenty-four hours later, she is fighting for her life and running from a false murder charge. Jackson's offer – and its condition that she leave the country forever – seems her only hope. However, ten years later, LuAnn secretly returns to the United States to begin a new life with Matthew Riggs, a man whose origins are as murky as her own.”

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller (2012):

“The illegitimate son of a wealthy rancher, Sheriff Slade Barlow grew up in a trailer hitched to the Curly-Burly hair salon his mother runs. He was never acknowledged by his father…until now. Suddenly, Slade has inherited half of Whisper Creek Ranch, one of the most prosperous in Parable, Montana. That doesn't sit well with his half brother, Hutch, who grew up with all the rights of a Carmody—including the affections of Joslyn Kirk, homecoming queen, rodeo queen, beauty queen, whom Slade has never forgotten.”

The Amateur by Edward Klein (2012):

No matter what your views, you can’t argue that this work of non-fiction has found itself squarely on the Best Seller lists. If you’re looking for something a bit political and controversial for your summer pick, check out The Amateur.

“It’s amateur hour at the White House. So says New York Times bestselling author Edward Klein in his new political exposé The Amateur. Tapping into the public’s growing sentiment that President Obama is in over his head, The Amateur argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance have run our nation and his presidency off the rails.”

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Author-Reader Relationship

Whether brand new to the industry or a seasoned veteran, if you’re an author one of the most time consuming aspects can be the navigation of your relationship with your readers. While the internet has made communication easier, it has also broadened it greatly. Not only are you attending book signings and conferences but you are monitoring social networking and review sites, responding to emails, etc. in the hopes that you can somehow connect with those who matter most, your fans. It can stretch you thin and still leave you confused on how to best contact the people buying your books. Most of the time, you rely on the reader to be the one who makes first contact. Wouldn’t authors have an easier time selling books if they were able to directly market to, and communicate with, the people who have already purchased their previous work? To gain an idea of what authors are currently using and would like to see in the future, I have asked best-selling author, Reid Lance Rosenthal to tell us a little about his own experiences with the author/reader relationship.

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Kari Stevenson: In what ways are you currently communicating to your fans?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: Through websites, blogs, magazines, Facebook, social media, and direct email.

Kari Stevenson: Is there a way to contact readers who have purchased your earlier books using the sites you currently sell through?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: Not well. The best contact with readers is through my website. It would be great to have a third party site that facilitated author/reader communication.

Kari Stevenson: Through which of these options do you find readers contacting you the most?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: It is a cumulative effect. Perhaps Facebook a little more than the others, followed by direct email.

Kari Stevenson: Does this process work well for you?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: There are always improvements to be made. It’s always nice to be focused on one effort rather than many.

Kari Stevenson: Based on what you currently do to communicate with readers, what would you like to see change?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: I’m looking for a third party site that sells books as well as has a decent landing page for the author AND allows author/reader communication directly.  If contact is just through the site, it is just like any other (social networking) site out there. Whatever the medium and message, any interaction with the reader should be respectful, helpful and give a service.

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After my conversation with Reid, it seems clear to me that the greatest challenge in the author/reader relationship is, as I mentioned previously, the fact that you have to monitor so many sites and mediums just to interact.   There is not a “one-stop-shop” currently available to enable authors and readers to communicate on the level that is needed. Here at WaveCloud, we are very aware that this is an area awaiting development and are hoping to cultivate this type of author/reader relationship. Providing this missing link to make life a little easier and communication that much greater, is just one of the few things we’re working on.  We hope you’ll check it out!

About Reid Lance Rosenthal

Reid Lance Rosenthal is a multiple #1 best-selling author of the “Threads West” series: a sixteen book saga being compared to the great American sagas Lonesome Dove and Gone with the Wind. This breathtaking series spans four generations over 170 years, from 1855 – present day.

Find out more about the first three books: Threads West, Maps of Fate (recently released April 17, 2012) Uncompaghre (due out November 13, 2012)

Also look for Reid’s work of non-fiction: Land for Love and Money due out this Tuesday, June 26, 2012. The first in a three volume set (plus companion workbook Green for Green) providing an anecdotal look at how one manages the purchase and upkeep of owning land in this day and age. “Reid’s generational land and cattle heritage, long-standing devotion to wild and remote places, intense love of the land and extensive $1.5 billion personal experience with land of all types and sizes (in multiple states, Canada and South America), uniquely qualify him to pen the true, instructional stories of lessons learned, great successes and abject failures found in each volume.  These are the first and only comprehensive books of their type—one of a kind composites of four decades of unduplicated success and failure experience, written from the ground up. Millions will find the wealth of insightful information in Land for Love and Money not only invaluable, but inspiring.”

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Top 10 Summer Reads: Time to Break out a New Book!

Did you hear? Yesterday was the first official day of summer! While you might not find yourself with the same, glorious eight-week stretch of freedom you did as a child, it is still a great chance to use what time you do have to kick back and enjoy some extra reading.

We have asked a few of our staff members at WaveCloud to suggest their pick for summer reading; who knows maybe you will find your new favorite book!

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith: Are you wondering where the idea for the upcoming movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter came from? Why the mind of author Seth Grahame-Smith of course! This summer, start your reading adventure with Grahame-Smith’s reinvention of the classic tale of Pride and Prejudice. Only this time, much more than husband-hunting is going on in Meryton: Zombies. Grahame-Smith creates an exciting, blood-soaked rendition of a beloved classic all the while explaining some of the most confusing aspects of Austen’s novel. Ever wondered the real reason why Charlotte Lucas married Mr. Collins? You’ll find out in this version! Definitely worth a summer read. - Kari

HEARTLAND, On the side of Angels by Terri Sedmak: An Aussie author with better insight into our western past then most Americans. This book takes you back in time on an adventure that meshes well with a trip to the lake or campsite. Her writing is so descript it is easy to imagine life 125 years ago, all the while swiping your e-reader for the next page… love her writing and hear the third book in the series will be out this fall!  - Tara 

The Stranger by Albert Camus: You’ll either love it or hate it, but it’s short enough you won’t feel like you wasted your time. One of the premier examples of existential writing, it’s a great companion if you’re traveling alone this summer as it perfectly captures the essence of being a stranger in a strange land. – David B.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – This novel gives a great view into some of the lesser known places and cultural aspects of India as well as providing insights into the redemption of an escaped convict’s life.  The story will be especially appealing to anyone that has an interest in India or has spent any time in this multi-faceted/multi-cultural country. – Jay

Wool Omnibus Edition (1-5), by Hugh Howey: When I caught wind that Ridley Scott optioned the movie rights, I thought the story must be good.  That’s an understatement.  I truly enjoyed the Wool storyline and also went on to enjoy the prequel, First Shift.  Hugh has a great story with great characters.  It has been particularly popular with people who don’t normally read science fiction.  It is a great speculative fiction novel.     - Bill

The Taking, by Dean Koontz:  This book takes no time to get rolling
and continues non-stop at breakneck speed until the post-apocalyptic end.  It
provides a great way to chill your bones on a hot summer night with a potent mix
of suspense and fear. – David S.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. by Chris Kyle: It’s 400 pages but a quick read.  It doesn’t go into heavy technical details of shots taken, it doesn’t go into heavy details of military operations or involvement.  It gives you a picture of Chris Kyle as a person, as it is an autobiography.  Who he is, what he did, what he had to do, a quick view of the mind set of military personnel and some funny/sad stories told by a “good ol’ boy” from Texas. – Mark 

A great mix from us here at WaveCloud! We hope you find these useful and can find something that makes your summer a bit more enjoyable.

“As an industry, we need to innovate…”

I met up with Brian Feinblum, the creator and author of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, at BookExpo America in New York. Brian, who is the chief marketing officer for the nation's largest book promotions firm, Media Connect (www.Media-Connect.com), has been involved in book publicity and marketing since 1989. We had a great conversation about the publishing industry, WaveCloud and the future of books.  Read a bit of our discussion on Brian’s blog and let me know what you think!

Our “media loungers” were a huge hit at BEA last week. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth to say hello and learn about WaveCloud.

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In the future, will print books only be available at the furniture store?

The question might sound crazy since “the book” has been around for nearly 2,000 years and has held its place on our bedside tables, backpacks and libraries for as long as we remember.  Even so, there may come a day that the print books we have in our house are mostly being used for decorating.

The act of writing – in one form or another – dates back 5,000 years.  Of course the method at the beginning was much different. The form was not that of a book, but of an inscription on stone or clay tablet.  It then slowly changed to papyrus or a parchment page and then onto the form of a book that we recognize. So, couldn’t the e-book be the next form of writing that dominates our day-to-day lives?

What I find interesting is the amount of emotion you find when these questions are raised.  There are people who fell asleep as a child reading books, they studied using books, they love the feel and smell of books, they were a librarian in their past life…they just love books.  Books are comforting to them.  Because of their history with books, the thought of e-books becoming more “popular” is very uncomfortable for them.  I wonder what is so upsetting really. Is it the loss of how it is made or the loss of the writing?  The art of bookmaking may be lost (or lessened), but the content of the book still remains and to the reader, isn’t that what matters most?

I believe that we will always have books because they are so special, but maybe it’s not such a crazy idea, that someday the traditional print book will only be found at your local furniture store; its purpose to decorate your coffee table and well-designed book cases.

Book formats continue to change.  The current e-book format won’t be around in a thousand years.  Men plan and God laughs.

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Read What You Love

How often do you actually read? I have always considered myself a proficient and avid reader. It has always been something I loved. In high school and college I collected books, making sure that my personal library was full of the classics and other “highbrow” literature. Then, I hit the real world and my time for things slowly began to diminish. Suddenly I looked up and realized that I hadn’t read a book in more than a year!

In library school I was taught that if you instill a love of reading in a child you can create life-long readers. But can you? Is that all there is to it? I learned to love reading as a child and never had it beaten out of me by the stereotypical bad teacher. In fact my love of literature was strengthened by my teachers (I know I was pretty lucky in that respect). Yet, here I am almost 27 years old and it’s a miracle if I read a book every few months. My jobs, my family, and mainly – the TELEVISION get in my way. I find myself staring at the TV night after night when I know I should be reading and the only time my book will take precedent over The Walking Dead or New Girl is if I’m so engrossed in it that I can’t wait to pick it up again.

That’s the key isn’t it? We have to LIKE what we’re reading. Once I stopped telling myself I had to read the classics and started reading what I really wanted to read I found myself more excited about it. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a time and a place for the classics, but for me to read Charles Dickens or Toni Morrison I need to dissect the symbolism and really focus. I don’t have time for that. Life moves at a fast pace and as I’ve already mentioned, it’s just a miracle I am reading.

Society doesn’t appreciate this though. I constantly read about adult illiteracy and how most adults are only reading on a “functional” level. Most recently, there was an article in the news about high school seniors and their ability to only read at a 5th grade level. This irritates me, because if you pay attention to the article, the source of this information is simply a survey of “what kids are reading.” Yes, high school kids, FOR FUN are reading 5th grade level books. Sounds bad, right? But do you know what Accelerated Reader (who is the company giving us the level) considers 5th grade? You would be surprised. I’m willing to bet 90 percent of adults I know (including myself) and consider highly literate tend to read 5th grade-level books on a regular basis. According to their website www.arbookfind.com, Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” comes in at less than a 10th grade reading level and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is only 6th grade. So if the classics are less than a 12th grade reading level, where do you think these recent books I’ve found myself enjoying lie? At the same level as our supposed “illiterate” high school seniors.

At WaveCloud we believe that WHAT you read is far less important that IF you read. The fact that I am stimulating my mind with something other than my favorite TV show is all that should matter. Adults already have so many obstacles against them and their reading; they should not also be made to feel ashamed of what level they read at. DO NOT be timid to carry your copy of The Hunger Games on the train in the mornings, do not fear the term “YA Lit” (Young Adult Literature) or hide your comic book from your girlfriend.

YOU ARE READING, which is more than most can say. Reading what you love is how you continue being a life-long reader. Graphic novels, non-fiction, magazines, websites, all of these are a form of reading and if they are what you enjoy, go with it! Get out from in front of that television (just DVR it for later) and find something that appeals to you. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games movie but trust me, the book was 10 times better.

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To Print or not to Print?

So, your book is almost finished and you are starting to think about how you are going to turn your manuscript into something that Readers want to buy.  Some book designers I’ve talked to suggest working on the book cover while you are in the editing phase.  Having a book cover can give you some focus for your writing work.  After ALL editing is complete, you’ll start on the interior layout phase.  Your book cover and interior layout will have a big impact on your marketing and reader satisfaction, respectively.

One of the considerations in building your cover and your interior layout is whether you plan to sell your book in a print version.  If you think you’ll want a print version of your book in the future and if you are engaging a professional service to create your cover and interior layout, then it is worth asking the designer(s) to design both the e-book AND print versions of your book cover and interior layout at the same time.  This will cost more now, but less than re-engaging your designer later to do the print version as a stand-alone project.  Even if you are doing the cover design and interior layout yourself, it is a good idea to tackle them at the same time.

Still not sure you care about print? Here are a variety of reasons an author might want to consider printing their book:

  • Depending upon your genre, 50% to 90% of sales are typically print books
  • Print-On-Demand (POD) is a low-cost way to make your print book available on Amazon.com
  • Position a book for bookstores and other bricks-and-mortar distribution possibilities
  • Print books for book signings and promotions
  • Print books for reviewers/bloggers that prefer print versions
  • Print books for keepsakes (families/friends/personal use)

If you are going to design a cover and interior layout for a print version of your book, then you may want to consider choosing a target book size that is ready for several different printing services.  Creating one book-cover file and one interior layout file that can work across multiple platforms (and look good on any of them) will save you money and keep you flexible as your sales and distribution evolves.

I recommend creating one set of files that can be used on any of these platforms:

  1. Lighting Source
  2. Createspace
  3. Espresso Book Machine
  4. A digital web press (hopefully a shop with the latest commercial HP printers)

There are plusses and minuses to each of these print routes, but at the very least, you should be able prepare your book files once and be ready for any of them.  In an upcoming blog post, I will ask one of our book designer friends to give us some advice on which format targets (book sizes) are common and available across all four platforms.

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What’s in a Genre? Better Question: Who decides?

J.K. Rowling recently announced her next project.  It is not about children, wizards or the school of Hogwarts.  It’s about a town called Pagford and the people who live there, torn apart by class conflict.  Her website describes the book as “blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising,The Casual Vacancy” is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.”  (Adult Fiction)

Hummm. Theses sentences got me thinking.  Were the Harry Potter books classified appropriately under the right genre?  Seems to me that the books could also be described as blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising (i.e., a school torn apart by conflict and scary wizardry).  My 8-year-old son is finally able to watch the first “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Fantasy/Children/Juvenile Fiction, Young Readers, 9-12 year olds) movie without getting freaked out. And he is not the norm. Most of his friends have read the books already or have at least seen one of the movies.

I started thinking about “The Hunger Games Trilogy,” by Suzanne Collins.  The books are listed under the Children/Juvenile Fiction or Young Adult genre.   I would not let my child read any of the books, but I know my neighbor’s 10-year-old daughter has read all three.  I just finished reading “Mockingjay” and there were times when even this 40-something had a rough time sleeping through the night.  All of this makes me wonder how genre classifications are decided and whether they are used to define age-appropriate books or simply to enable sales. Scholastic, Inc. seems to think that “Mockingjay” is appropriate for a 12 year old.  (Children/Juvenile Fiction, Young Adult 12 – 17 year olds) I beg to differ.

What JK Rowling has done really well is leverage her existing fan base, allowing those child readers to grow into adult readers who will no doubt be drawn to “The Casual Vacancy.”  They have grown into this book.  She has, and will always have, the Harry Potter series that children will read and grow out of.  She has brilliantly laid out a marketing plan using genres as a guide.

Genres are guides used to classify or organize books.  They are not policed by a world or national organization.  They are decided on by authors and publishers in an attempt to target the right audience.  We could talk for hours about the slippery slope that Romance Fiction takes when it crosses over into Erotica (a.k.a., “Paper Porn”) and how those authors may take some liberties in downplaying their genre classifications.  But what this really tells us is that we, as readers, need to be aware of what we are reading.  The genre is our guide, not a defining factor of a book’s true contents.  When it comes to our kids, I only hope that publishers and authors think long and hard about where their book falls under the Browse button. Not every parent previews their kid’s books!

Please tell us your thoughts on genres and how they impact your reading decisions.

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