How to Blurb Someone’s Book

Hacks for Hacks

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Your career is taking off–someone asked you to blurb their book! Yes, you! No, I can’t believe it either! I mean, out of all the authors available who have better sales and a bigger following and…well anyway, they picked you, so nice job.

This is a big opportunity. Blurbing a book lets you seize a chunk of someone else’s life’s work and make it all about you. Furthermore, if people are asking you for an endorsement, you’re now a tastemaker, subtly steering the zeitgeist toward works of true literary quality. The resemblance of said works to your own books is purely coincidental.

Like any important endeavor, there’s the distinct possibility you might screw it up, thereby trashing not only your own career, but that of a fellow author whose only crime was believing in you. Not sure what to do next? Aren’t you lucky you have me to tell you!

Blurbing a book you haven’t read would be unthinkable, even though it would be impossible to prove, and you’d face no consequences whatsoever. Oh yes, you’ll definitely read every word.

Step 1: Agree to Blurb Every Book You Possibly Can

Remember when you were desperately begging every author you’d ever met to say just one nice thing about your novel? Just one?! Don’t make other writers go through that. You can be sure that if someone’s asking you for a blurb, they’ve already been turned down by half the RWA. When you come across an author who’s so, shall we say, highly motivated, you can ask for a few perks. I don’t mean anything fancy, just get the author to promise that your blurb will appear before any other author’s on the jacket. You’re doing them a favor, after all, so it wouldn’t kill them to work with you a little, amirite? No need to be pushy, but don’t be bashful either; with the right combination of charm and passive aggression, they’ll let you pick the font and weigh in on the cover design.

Step 2: Read the Book

Now that the author has agreed to your demands, it’s time to read the book. This is of utmost importance, because who would ever blurb a book they haven’t read? It’s unthinkable, even though such a thing would be impossible to prove, and even if it wasn’t, the offender would face no consequences whatsoever. Oh yes, you’ll definitely read every word.

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

Awesome Combo! The 10 Keys to Writing Killer Fight Scenes

HfHWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Story is driven by conflict and action. This, of course, does not necessarily mean fisticuffs and car chases. But it should. If books weren’t meant to have lots of violence, then they wouldn’t have coined such a high-fallutin’ literary word like “defenestrate” to mean “chuck somebody out a window.” Here are the steps you’ll need to add some punch to your fight scenes.

Wisecracks are standard in the curricula in most martial arts, so make sure your character uses them when showing off what she’s learned.

Before We Begin

First, how about giving me a high-five for that “add some punch” segue right there? Was that on point or what?

Get Fired Up!

To write a proper fight scene, you need to be in a fightin’ frame of mind. Queue up Guile’s Theme from Street Fighter II to set the mood. (Side note: I’m listening to Guile’s Theme as I write this column. It’s the soundtrack to everything I write. Sonic boom!)

Research

Those three months of karate you took after school in fifth grade are finally about to pay off! Learning a martial art is the culmination of years of practice, discipline, and hard work. If you had that kind of work ethic, you’d have already finished writing this book by now. When it comes to turning your hero into a martial artiste, here are some basics:

  • Wisecracks are standard in the curricula in most martial arts, so make sure your character uses them when showing off what she’s learned.
  • When in doubt, just imply that your hero knows ALL martial arts. How or where your hero found the time to learn them all while getting straight As in school, raising her kid brother by herself, and inventing a time machine is beside the point.
  • If you don’t know enough details about any particular martial art, just make up your own. The Spinny Flip Kick is a common move for a black belt in flip fighting. That’s the martial art my characters use in my WIP, Flip Fighting.

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

How to Plan Your Own Book Tour

Hacks for HacksWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

They say book tours don’t sell books. In fact, they can actually cost authors a lot of money. So why bother? Well, you’re making connections with readers and building your brand and a bunch of other slick-sounding, unquantifiable marketing-speak. If you want to be a big-shot author, you need to act the part, and that means taking your show on the road. Think of a book tour as a tax-write-off-able vacation where people tell you how awesome you are every night. Plus, you have a few days away from your family and those brats of yours, so you can hear yourself think for once. For that kind of payoff, you can’t afford not to go. Here’s everything you need to know to book your own book tour.

Six Months Prior to Tour

  • Set a budget.
  • Ask your publisher about kicking in some money for—wow, that was a faster rejection than when you sent that butterfly erotica story you wrote to the New Yorker.
  • Adjust budget, start buying packs of ramen noodles.

Five Months Prior to Tour

Sure, library patrons love books. What they don’t love is paying for books. You’re far too busy for those moochers.

  • Choose cities. Do you mention any cities in particular in your book? Make sure to hit those. If you set your book in a faraway city, maybe ask your publisher one more time for—okay, still no, that’s fine.
  • Contact venues and explain to them that you’re a famous author who wants to have a reading/signing in their establishment. Tell them how many people will be there. You’re not lying when you say fifty people, you’re demonstrating the power of positive thinking. Besides, you’ll be long gone before they can do anything to you. Contact the following types of venues:
    • Bookstores. Duh.
    • Schools. Kids have disposable income, and best of all, it’s a captive audience. They literally can’t leave! Also, they’ll find your unremarkable adult achievements like owning a car and wearing a sport coat as the hallmarks of a successful author.
    • Libraries. Just kidding! Screw them. Sure, library patrons love books. What they don’t love is paying for books. You’re far too busy for those moochers.
    • Disneyland. Shot in the dark. Maybe they’ll let you in free? I dunno, worth a shot.

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

How to Win a Literary Feud

HfHWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Every author strives for greatness. You’ll have to invest thousands of hours honing your craft and dealing with rejection, though, if you want to be mentioned among the immortals. Or just find one of the immortals and punch them.

Ernest Hemingway vs. Wallace Stevens. John Updike vs. Salman Rushdie. Mary McCarthy vs. Lillian Hellman. A good literary feud can be as exciting as the authors’ books. You may think you already need to be a famous author to have a noteworthy spat. This is the twenty-first century, bub. Between cons, book tours, and social media, it’s never been easier to harass your idols in public.

Step 1: Choose Your Opponent

Feuds occasionally happen over innocent misunderstandings, but you’ll have a better success rate with willful misunderstandings.

If you already have author enemies, this will be easy. If you don’t have enemies, make some. With a personality like yours, trust me, you’re waaaaaay ahead of the game on this one, pal.

Many a feud has resulted from personal slights; Paul Theroux fantasized daily about V.S. Naipaul dying in a fire because Naipaul auctioned off a personalized copy of Theroux’s book. Think back to when an author offended you. Did a famous author once flag your blog comment for spam  just because it was blatant advertising for your self-published memoir? Sounds to me like Mr. Famous has let fame go to his head. The Internet has expedited personal slights the way the Panama Canal sped up international shipping. Somewhere, my special little snowflake, there’s a writer who irritates you in ways you never thought possible. When you find them, you’ll know your mutual loathing was meant to be.

Step 2: Get Ready to Rumble

You’ve got your target, but it’s not a feud until both parties attack. You need to provoke a response. Start with a snarky review of their book. It is not necessary to have read the book beforehand. In fact, the more incoherent the review, the more likely you’ll goad them into battle. The Faulkner estate was very quick to respond when I said “A Rose for Emily” would’ve been better if the zombies had won.

Feuds occasionally happen over innocent misunderstandings, but you’ll have a better success rate with willful misunderstandings. Go ahead and read sinister intent into your opponent’s behavior; you can safely assume their protagonist’s love of peanut butter crackers alludes to severe flaws in the author’s character. It’s hard to properly antagonize a person of letters over a difference of opinion. It’s much easier when you realize they’re really a crypto-fascist baby-eater. [Read more…]

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

How to Nurture Your Fan Base

HfHWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Fans are one of the greatest rewards of being a writer. It wouldn’t take much, since there’s so little money in publishing, but still. A loyal following of readers provides many benefits beyond book sales. Fans can provide a warm welcome at a convention, or a couch to crash on during a book tour, or a seething army to smite your critics online. Inspiring this loyalty doesn’t happen overnight, even for bestselling authors. Let me show you what it takes:

Business Cards: First, print some business cards listing all the places your fans can interact with you–your website, Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal…wow, Livejournal’s still around, huh? You may as well list a Hotmail address…oh, you’ve got one of those too, huh? Wow.

Fans can provide a warm welcome at a convention, or a couch to crash on during a book tour, or a seething army to smite your critics online.

Business cards double as bookmarks, and are great to give out at readings, as tips at restaurants, to the cashier at the grocery store. One trick I like to use is to print them on the back of coupons. Even if they don’t buy your book right away, they’ll forever associate you with that one time you got them 20% off a pint of Chunky Monkey.

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and blogs allow you to reach your fans without having to actually be in the same room with them, proving that there has never been a better time in history to be a writer. Set up a discussion board on your website so fans will have a place to praise you while they get into screaming matches over unrelated minutiae. Ask readers to Instagram your book in different places around the world, whether that’s in a far-away pub, on a tropical beach, or next to the toilet. Get in Twitter flame wars with nincompoops who misunderstood the Christ symbolism you put in Chapter 7 that should have been INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS, JERRY!

Fan Fiction: You’ll know you have some dedicated fans when they start writing fan fiction about your work. If you want to encourage it, publicly state how flattered you are that your fans care enough to write a nonsensical alternate ending or a poorly conceived spin-off. If you really want to encourage it, tell them that you hate fan fiction, and create a pretend law firm to threaten legal action. Pro tip: Set yourself up for success by planting clues in your manuscript about which characters might make good slash fiction pairings.

[Read more…]

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.