Tuesday, July 31

The Power of Persuasion

If you already have a book published, you might have already asked this question: How do I get people to buy my books? The answer is simple: Word of mouth!

It really does't matter if you are self-published or otherwise, the process of selling a book is still the same--you need to talk about your book in order for people to start buying it. That's why getting reviews from professional reviewers is one very important step before your book is released. Traditional houses invest a lot of money in the publicity and marketing efforts of any single title they acquire. They print posters, design awesome covers, schedule events, and hire a group of people to tweet and talk about your book online. On top of that, these publishers have a list of reviewers--from Publishers Weekly to New York Times--to whom they send advance reading copies (ARCs) three to six months prior to the book's publication date. All these efforts are set in place for one specific reason: to generate lots of buzz and talk about the book. Because the pundits know what makes a book a bestseller: the power of persuasion.

No matter how you see it, when readers discuss your book, talk about it, rave about it, love it, hate it, blog about it, etc., they are actually indirectly persuading people to agree with their points of view and stand on their side. This, in turn, draws attention to your book, and when people are curious, they usually want a copy for themselves. The process of persuading people to check out your book doesn't have to be argumentative or remotely persuasive. All you need to do is the following:

Creating a buzz is not just announcing your book. It's creating a discussion between you and your readers regarding the issues in your book. If you are writing about dragons and warlords, then you may want to talk about how dragons are actually mythical creatures based on real animals, and how man's need for deity and legends define the dragons we know of today. Of course, I am just giving one example of the many topics you can discuss. Touch on social issues. It is always a good idea to tie the themes of your book to contemporary issues and subjects. Once you spark a conversation, the crowd will come. 

One other way to have people talk about your book is to thank everyone who's read your book and encourage them to share it with others. When you have a good number of followers, you'd be surprised how words can spread. The Hunger Games actually sat on the shelf for about a year before things started to warm up. And it didn't really pick up until a small group of fans started talking about it. No, they didn't just talk about it, they were persuading their classmates and families that it was the best book in the world. And that was how the book went on to becoming a NYT bestselling sensation.

The shameless self-promoter (that all writers should be), must not only talk about his book, but also himself. Switch subjects once in a while and start a conversation about how you fell into the drain while texting the other day. Get people to love you for who you are. Be personable and don't build a wall of hoity-toity superficiality just because you are an author. Yes, be professional, but at the same time, be you. Readers love to connect, and they love to be connected. And once you find that connection, you'd be surprised how many people will go out and buy your book just because they love you first. 

One thing every author needs to know when it comes to the power of persuasion is this: it is not you who holds court, but your readers. The power of persuasion does not come from you, but from the people who've read and participated in your discussions. They are the ones who will ultimately be your salesmen. All you need to do is to write an awesome book and start a dialogue. And if you do it right, your book will be selling like hotcakes!

Sunday, July 29

Why Should Writers Read?

This week, I guest blogged on author Jenniffer Wardell's humorous and witty blog about the importance of reading for all writers big and small. Without much ado, I'm going to direct traffic over to her blog so you may comment on my article. Click here for the link.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 24

Concerning Blog Design and Aesthetics

I know, I know. You're probably wondering why I am writing about design. Because though we may be writers, we still need to appeal to the public audience. A book needs a great cover to attract its readers, so does a blog. Yes, I want to touch on the subject of designing your blog platform.

First of all, we must understand the purpose of a blog. You probably already know the answer: Your blog is a publicity platform for you. It's free. It gives you infinite exposure on the world wide web. It is where you start "spreading the word." But before all that, there must first be "the word." That's right, you must first start writing about things that matter. I'll reserve the topic of what to blog about for next time, but today, I want to particularly talk about the look and feel of your blog. Yes, today I am all about superficiality. What your blog looks like is as important as the things you blog about.

Like a book, your blog needs to be easy to read. After all, the main purpose of a blog is to be read. If you stifle that purpose, you will have failed in providing your reader with the utmost experience in blog-reading. Though this may seem a little trifle to some, I think it is worth the discussion.

The first things we see when we open our eyes as babies are colors. Our vision is blurry, our cognitive senses muffled. But one thing we can recognize is color. We may not know what it is, but we see it--the blurry bleed of colors all across our eyes. And as we grow older, we start to make use of the colors we learn to love. We start to match our clothes according to colors. We love coloring books, we plan our weddings based on colors. Yes, colors are very important. So, when you design your blog, let the first thing you do be color-matching.

Like color matching your clothes, you must know what works and what doesn't. While color-matching is essentially a subjective matter, you must now see things from your readers's perspectives. After all, they are your audience, without which your blog will have no purpose, unless you write solitarily for yourself.

Unlike printed matter on which the color and saturation of a certain color is determined by the amount of ink used and brightness of the paper, the way your blog looks depends heavily on computer screens. And since we all know very well that not all computer screens are created the same--some are dimmer, other way too bright--depending on user preference, it is important that you pick colors that read well across all screens and all levels of brightness. While all the elements around your blog post can be complimentary in color, the actual part where the text is must have a certain level of contrast. This is where the golden rule of color contrast comes in.

The rule of color contrast is simple: only use font colors that will produce a mid-level contrast against dark colored backgrounds instead of a stark color contrast. Example: If you have a black or dark background (mostly fantasy blogs and such), never use a white or a bright colored font. Believe it or not, it hurts the eyes just after the first sentence. Just know this: if your background is very dark, then you must avoid font colors like white, red, yellow, and anything primary and bright. Instead, you will want to use light gray and pastels as your font colors. But my advice is to keep it simple, like a book. Keep it light or warm gray. Your readers will thank you for it.

Now the rule is a little different when it comes to light or bright backgrounds. This is the time to use a higher-level of contrast. A white background goes very well with a black font. However, a dark gray works better. Whatever color you choose for the font, make sure you don't bring the contrast all the way to the max. Bring it down a few notches until it is comfortable for your eyes. And if it passes your comfort reading level, then it should be sufficient for your readers. White colored backgrounds are always easier to work with than dark colored ones.

Let's talk about layout for a second. While there is no fixed rule, my advice is to keep it simple, yet elegant. Don't use a busy layout with moving GIFs and images that go everywhere on your blog. While it is important to advertise your book cover, it is also as important to not over clutter. Use only elements from your cover art that help connect a universal theme for your blog instead of using every element there is. Make sure the elements don't distract from the post itself. And make sure all of the navigation fonts on your blog is clear and readable. For me, simplicity is the best policy.


One thing I really love about Blogger is that it allows readers to subscribe via email. Make sure you add that to your blog (if you use Blogger, that is) by adding the gadget on your layout settings. Once that is done, place it on the top of your blog. I've subscribed to a few blogs via that method, and I must say, it is such a pleasure to have my favorite blogs sent to my inbox every week. It is also easy to read and convenient. I often read on my smart phone, so it works extremely well for me.

Comments are important on your blog. Whether they are good or bad, they do spark discussions about your blog posts. And when people are talking about them, you have done a good job. Of course, it is always advisable to only write blogs that will encourage a healthy discussion, so as not to sabotage your reputation online.

In order for us to encourage open discussions, remove all securities on the comment settings of your blog. This means no Captcha Phrases, no mandatory sign-ins, and no pre-existing accounts required. This way, you open doors to more comments and possible discussions. Yes, once in a while you will still receive some spamming, but Blogger or Wordpress should be able to catch it for you. If not, just go and delete them. After all, you should be monitoring all of the comments on your blog anyway.

This is important as writers: Do not ever delete readers comments unless they threaten the national security of your country. And in that case, you should be reporting it to the police or FBI. Hopefully, things don't go that way. And if it does, consider that as something to add to your future book's plot line.

Never retaliate or go on the defense when you have negative comments. Always be courteous and thankful, no matter how much you hate that comment, or don't agree with it, never, ever, ever start an argument, or worse, an online fight-a-thon. Just express your thanks and act fairly as a good moderator should. You'd be surprised to see how many people will come to your defense if that ever happens.

Well, that's it, folks. I hope this post helps you in your blog design and interface. And if I've missed anything, please feel free to add. I'd love to hear your comments and how you make your blog work in terms of esthetics and functionality. Do share. Until next time, have a blast of a week!

Wednesday, July 18

The Miracle of Forgiveness

The act of forgiveness, believe it or not, is a two-way process--in order to obtain complete forgiveness, we must first do the most difficult of all things: forgive ourselves. While many books have been written on this subject, they all spell out the same conclusion--forgiveness can open doors to a whole new universe of prospects and wonders. It opens our eyes to see the things that we've never seen before, though they may have always been there in front of us.

But forgiveness is so much more than just an act; it's about closure and giving ourselves the permission and freedom to move forward.

In Chris Bohjalian's Midwives, the protagonist faces her past and the guilt that it brings everyday. The consequences of her decision to perform a cesarean section on a woman whom she thought was dead in order to deliver the baby haunt her like a plague. And while she fights for her innocence, she must free herself from the guilt that she harbors for years. Ultimately, she must forgive herself before anyone can.

This journey of forgiveness, as simple as it sounds, is anything but simple. It is a long and tedious process, on which we must inevitably embark at least once in our lives. It is salvation in the most subtle manner. Imagine being burdened by a bad decision that you wish never existed; it can potentially pull us down to a very dark place. We may smile and attempt to live a normal life, but that black seed in us will fester. It will eventually be the end of us and our happiness, the long pursuit of all men.

Traveling to that dark place in our lives and confronting our guilt so that we may forgive ourselves and ultimately move forward becomes the main underlying subject for Kim Edward's The Memory Keeper's Daughter. When a doctor gives up his newborn daughter because of Down Syndrome, lying to his wife that the baby was stillborn, his life suddenly changes for the worse. That dark moment in his life that he is trying so hard to hide eventually surfaces, and it is now much larger than anything he is prepared to face. Again, Edwards show that while it is easy for people to forgive each other, it is never the same when it comes to forgiving ourselves. We may have to go through the fires of hell and back, and even that may not always be sufficient.

In The Housekeeper's Son, Eleanor Rose, my protagonist, goes through life like a ghost, not really existing, but merely there. A shadow of her past looms above her at all times--one decision she made many years ago sits heavily on her conscience. And when she is faced with the opportunity to redeem herself, she takes it, even if she has to give up everything she has, including her freedom to live. But even with such a sacrifice, her guilt does not go away until she makes one ultimate decision--forgiving herself.

The tales of these protagonists in their amazing journey of forgiveness are worth telling because forgiveness is a process everyone has to muster through. And oftentimes, it becomes one of our best kept secrets. The beauty of such stories does not only lie in the way they are written, it lies in the way they shape our lives, giving us a glimpse of hope in everything that is bleak. Because sometimes, a glimpse is all we need to conquer our fear. And when all is said and done, that dark place inside us will also be the place where most lights are born.

People say, forgive and forget. But as authors, we know very well that we never forget.

If you haven't had a chance to read The Housekeeper's Son, get yourself a copy by visiting my website (click here). You may also download an ebook version on your Kindle, Nook, and iBook.

Comment below and share with me about one book that takes you on a journey of forgiveness.

Sunday, July 15

Explaining Cultures

As part of my virtual book tour, I was asked to write about the best way to explain a foreign culture to my readers. To read the entire article, simply click the link below:

And my book site is up. Check it out!

Until next time, keep writing!

Thursday, July 5

Currently Buest Globbing!

I've been so busy guest blogging that I've really no reason to blog here--at least for these few weeks. So, I'm going to direct everyone to my first blog post as a guest, all for the sake of promoting my book and such. And when all the buest globbing is done, I'll start talking about important things again, like how to effectively eat a hamburger or trap a fairy in your own garden (fantasy fans will be elated).

So, without much ado, let's move on to business. This week, I guest blogged for one of my favorite authors, the amazing Ms. Jennifer Griffith, whose debut novel, Big in Japan, comes out September 28. (She's going to write something spiffy for me here one of these days, she promised.)

Basically, click the link below and go read what I have to say about apples and bananas:


Have fun reading, and if you like it, leave her a comment!