Tag Archives: creative writing

Book Descriptions: Can you write your own?

I have written book descriptions for over 85 different clients on Fiverr.com. Furthermore, while doing this, I maintained a 5 Star rating and a 73% repeat customer rate. I think that is pretty darn good! Therefore, in this post I will share some of the tricks I have learned about writing book descriptions with my readers.

Tips for writing good book descriptions

The purpose of a book description is to get the reader to buy the book. You want to “set the hook” and reel the reader in. And, I mean this in the nicest sort of way possible. Because, that is what you are really trying to do.

In addition, as a bonus, the same process you use to write your book description should also leave you with some good ad copy for Amazon ads or for use on Twitter, Instagram, or even Pinterest.

Finally, again, remember that a book description does not just describe what the story is about. It should “hook” your readers and make them want to buy your book. Consequently, this thought needs to be foremost in your mind.

Writing a good book description is a different skill set than writing the book itself. Therefore, many authors do pay someone else to write their book descriptions. However, if you would like to give it a try …

Step 1: Identify your book’s primary conflict

book desctiption

In this post, I am dealing primarily with fiction. Non-fiction is a little different. In contrast, for non-fiction, this “primary conflict” would be replaced with the “primary takeaway” you want your readers to get from reading the book. Hence, I will write about non-fiction book descriptions in another post.

For now, let’s focus on fiction. What is your story about? For example, in Serpents Underfoot:

The son of a Vietnam veteran and his Vietnamese wife grows up to become a Navy SEAL. On a mission, his SEAL team uncovers a terrorist plot against the United States involving nuclear weapons. Now a SEAL K9 handler, he and his dog, Ajax, race to stop the terrorists from succeeding in their evil scheme.

Develop 15 to 20 different versions of this conflict:

This will become your “hook” and is perhaps the most important part because it is what grabs the readers attention. I have included a few examples below to illustrate what what I mean.

  1. Conspiracy. Terrorism. One SEAL stands between freedom and nuclear annihilation.  
  2. If you like patriotic heroes, fanatical conspiracies, and action-packed adventure, then you’ll love D.C. Gilbert’s tale of SEAL action and suspense.
  3. When a Navy SEAL K9 handler uncovers a deadly terrorist plot to annihilate the US, he’ll need every bit of his fighting skill to protect what he holds dear.
  4. A top Navy SEAL. A deadly terrorist plot. Can one man overcome a network of fanatical terrorists to stop America’s annihilation?
  5. When the US becomes the target of an inhuman conspiracy, one dedicated Navy SEAL will need more than loyalty to prevent mass murder.

You get the idea? Each of these is a different restating of the primary conflict in the story. Similarly, this can also provide good copy for a Facebook ad.

Conspiracy. Terrorism. One SEAL stands between freedom and nuclear annihilation. If you like patriotic heroes, fanatical conspiracies, and action-packed adventure, then you’ll love D.C. Gilbert’s tale of SEAL action and suspense. Click the link to buy the book today!

Seems like it’s not too hard. As a result, it is easy to rush through this process. Therefore, be careful not to be fooled. It can take some time and lots of trial and error to come up with 15 to 20 good versions of your story’s main conflict. As a result, you should not rush through this! Give your ideas time to simmer.

Now ask your readers!

Finally, when you have your hook ideas ready, run these 15 to 20 ideas by your target readers, and put it to a vote. It is as simple as that. The #1 choices by your target readers is your hook! Then #2 thru #5 (or maybe a few more) can be ad copy.

Now, a bit more on book descriptions!

Remember, in writing the book description, you are acting as a publisher or marketer, not as the author.

  • Therefore, try to make the rest of your book description about your main character’s emotional journey. Help your readers identify quickly with the main character.
  • Also, use transitional phrases at the beginning of sentences to maintain good momentum. Transitional phrases include words like before, when, after, however, rather, while, or despite.
  • Another key is to include a cliffhanger at the end of each paragraph.
  • Above all, remember to place a call to action at the end!

Sample book description from Serpents Underfoot.

Conspiracy. Terrorism. One SEAL stands between freedom and nuclear annihilation.

JD Cordell believes in freedom, honor, and hard work. The son of a Vietnam veteran and his Vietnamese wife, the Navy SEAL is proud to serve as SEAL Team 5’s K9 handler with his dog Ajax. But when his team uncovers a deadly terrorist plot in Afghanistan, he never expected a cover-up that could reach as high as the White House itself.

As JD gets drawn in deeper, he unmasks a mastermind hell bent on detonating nukes on U.S. soil. When an assassin working for the terrorist strikes close to home, JD’s fight to save America gets personal.

Can JD protect the American way of life, or will sadistic terrorists turn America into a nuclear wasteland?

Serpents Underfoot is the first novel in a nail-biting military thriller series. If you like patriotic heroes, fanatical conspiracies, and action-packed adventure, then you’ll love D.C. Gilbert’s tale of SEAL action and suspense.

Buy Your copy of Serpents Underfoot today!

Can you identify the parts as described?

If you can, you are off to a good start. Following the guidelines provided in this post can help you turn out good book description if you choose to. I hope this helps with any book description projects you have in your future. Of course, if you want help, I can be reached through Fiverr.com

Also. for more interesting post and book reviews, click here!

Twitter Marketing for Aspiring Authors

Self-published indie authors are always looking for new ways to market themselves and their books. There are several social media tools available for this purpose. Instagram is one such tool that I covered in an earlier post. Twitter is another.

Can you use Twitter to market your book(s)?

Like with Instagram, the short answer is … yes. You certainly can. However, again like Instagram, you do have to understand a few key things going in to it.

Unlike Instagram, with Twitter, your post can link directly to your book’s page on Amazon.com or any other web page you choose. You will probably still not generate a lot of sales tweeting away on Twitter, but you will generate some. However, like Instagram, Twitter is a valuable tool for establishing yourself as an author and networking with other indie authors, publishers, or editors … sharing ideas, experiences, and writing tips as well as promoting your book in those same circles.

While Instagram is more visual, Twitter is about crafting a clever message in 280 characters. You can include images (and I usually do) but the real trick here is to try to get the reader to click the link in the tweet. Below are a few sample Tweets I created and sent out into the Twit-O-Sphere!

Note the hashtags …

twitter

Again, it is about putting your name and your work in front of a growing audience in a way that builds your brand recognition and establishes you as an author to be remembered. And, like I stated earlier, you may actually even sell a few books.

twitter

Other aspects to consider on Twitter

  • Hashtags – Use hashtags before relevant keywords in your tweet to categorize tweets and help them show up in Twitter searches. Clicking or tapping on a hash-tagged word in any tweet displays other Tweets that include that hashtagHashtags can be included anywhere in a Tweet. Examples: #SerpentsUnderfoot #AdirondackBearTales #writingcommunity #amwriting
  • Tags – You can also tag a specific Twitter handle to ensure that user gets the Tweet in their feed. Examples: @darrencgilbert @AdirondackAlmanac.

    This is very basic. There are some other, trickier aspects to using the @ sign in a Tweet. For more information on using the @ symbol in Tweets, just click this link here!

Twitter also has some strong and welcoming communities for writers and readers. These folks are always willing to share ideas, critiques, etc. There are groups that run little writing contests based on “prompt words” that can help you improve your writing skills … especially since you only have 280 characters!

So, jump in and get started! Join the writing community, try your hand at a few word prompts, and mostly … have fun.

One last thought …

Don’t get caught up in the race for followers. You will have offers to grow your following by the thousands … for a fee of course. Let your following grow naturally. It is far better to have 300 followers that are really interested in you and your work, than to have 3000 followers you paid for and who don’t give a rat’s ass about what you are doing.

For other interesting posts on a variety of topics, click here!

Contest: Adirondack Bear Tale Book Cover

Here are the two covers in the contest!

Will you please help me with this cover contest by picking which cover you like best for my next book. It is a collection of family-friendly tales about true encounters with black bears in the Adirondack Park! I have two cover designs and both of them are pretty good.

contest
contest


Below is the link to the poll. Thanks, in advance, for your help!

Click here to go to the contest page and make your choice. 

Again, thank you for your help with this. Also, if you like military action thrillers, check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot, available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover from Amazon.com!

Adirondack Bear Tale #10: The Bear Trap

Family Traditions

Family reunions and joint camping trips to Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake were a big tradition for our entire family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins getting together in adjoining campsites for a week or  two. These are some of my fondest memories growing up. One such particular camping trip also involved a couple of guys from New York City, and setting a trap for a mischievous black bear.

My grandfather, Irwin Klippel and his brother, Wagner Klippel, had two campsites that were not quite adjoining. A couple of younger men from New York City occupied the spot separating their two camps sites. The two men had driven up to spend a week in the Adirondack Park. Being very friendly, and since they were camping between two contingents of our family, they just naturally kind of joined in. They’d brought all the best camping equipment money could buy, as well as a great selection of food including steaks, hot dogs, ground beef and bacon. They were set for the week. It was late in the day, so we all sat around a campfire and visited a bit. When the fired died out, everyone headed off to get some sleep.

The mischievous bear …

trap

That next morning the two city men arose to discover that during the night, a bear had raided their cooler. They stored the cooler under one end of the park-provided picnic table. The cooler’s mangled cover was now laying a few feet from the cooler, which was quite empty. The bear ate everything. Everything, that is, except the hot dogs, which now lay discarded near the cooler’s cover. It must have been a very hungry (and stealthy) bear. Amazingly, nobody had heard a sound! We had a lot of fun joking about the fact that the bear would not eat the hot dogs.

After the initial excitement wore off, the two young men took off Indian Lake to restock their supplies at the Grand Union. They also decided that it would be better to put their new cooler in the trunk of their car when they went to bed at night.  While the two men were off getting groceries, we sat around talking about the bear. The focus of the discussion was what could be done to discourage this bear from conducting future raids on our campsites. By the time the men were back from the Grand Union, we had devised a plan. The two city guys thought our scheme was a pretty slick idea as well.

The spaghetti trap!

That night after supper, we gathered up all the dirty pots and pans from cooking the various family supper meals. We then stacked them up, one on top of the other, on the picnic table in the two younger men’s campsite. With several large family units, the supply of dirty cooking pots more than adequate and they made a quite an impressive, however slightly unstable, tower. My grandmother (we called her Nanny) had made spaghetti in a big metal pot (much like the turkey fryer pots of today). That big pot, with the left over spaghetti and grease from cooking the ground beef (used to make the spaghetti) went on the very top.

Then, my Uncle Wagner tied a length of twine to the handle on the bottom pot and strung the cord all the way over to his car, where he planned to sit and wait. His idea was to turn on the car’s headlights after pulling the string at the opportune moment. All the kids gathered up flashlights and climbed into cars. We all planned to stay awake and see what happened when the bear came!

The trap is sprung …

All of a sudden, we heard a loud crashing, bashing sound. We had all fallen asleep, but the horrible noise woke us up quickly. Several flash lights snapped on and pointed toward the picnic table. Uncle Wagner flipped the headlights on in his car. There, right in the beam of the headlights, sat a big black bear with a very befuddled look on his face. There were pots and pans scattered all around him. Greasy left-over spaghetti covered his head and hung from his ears. The bear let out a bawling kind of  grunt and took off running into the trees. Our bear trap had worked!

My grandfather later told me that he had talked to a park ranger at the campground sometime after that, who had told him that they did not see that particular bear in the campground for at least six months after we sprang our trap.

If you liked this Bear Tale, check out this story, and check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot on Amazon.com.

A Writing Tip: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Writing is not a get rich scheme!

So you want to write? That is great! Here is a great tip. Don’t quit your day job. Success can come, but it is a marathon, not a sprint!

Writing is certainly very cool!

don't quit

I love to write! And, the fact that I have a published novel, a counter-terrorism action/thriller, selling on Amazon.com amazes me to this day.  It is pretty damn cool!  Serpents Underfoot has been on the market for a little over a year now. It has gotten a lot of great reviews. I believe it currently sits at about 17 reviews. And they are mostly five star.

There have been a few 3 and 4 star reviews as well. And, one 1 star review. (This reader objected strongly to the fact that there were a couple of adult scenes in the book. But hey, sex is a part of life as well. However, most people I have talked to thought these scenes were tastefully done.)

Success takes time and hard work.

So far, I have managed to sell about 100 books through Amazon.com. This does not count books I have sold myself at book signings, or have given away for promotions. I work hard at marketing. I am working with a marketing consultant, spending time using Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blog posts, and other media formats trying to promote my book. The point here is that it is a lot of hard work. It takes patience and dedication. I put in some long nights, because in addition to all this, I also have a day job. Why am I doing this? Because, I am going to succeed!

Don’t quit your day job.

So, to repeat, I have sold 100 books through Amazon.com over the last year. Given that the average number of sales for a self-published book is 20 copies, I think I am doing pretty well.  The point to all this is that, if you are looking for a get rich quick scheme, this is not it. The chances of writing that instantly successful novel that sells millions of copies in the first six months is about a good as hitting the powerball in a state lottery without first buying a lottery ticket.

The people who self-publish full time will tell you that they spent years getting to where they are today. So, it’s better that you don’t quit your day job! Just keep plugging! Write, learn from your mistakes, and don’t quit!

Etchings in Stone, Moving Beyond Belief …

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also referred to as The Wall, in Washington DC, is a late but wonderful first step in welcoming home Vietnam Veterans. Etchings in Stone is an unbelievably moving play written by Ron Harris about The Wall from a very unique perspective.

Ron Harris, Playwright and Vietnam Veteran

etchings

I met Ron Harris, a North Carolina Vietnam Veteran, at the Raleigh Museum of History during a Vietnam Veteran’s Day event. This event featured the mobile “Wall” exhibit, a Huey (bringing back my own fond memories of my time with the 101st Air Assault Division), and other Vietnam War memorabilia collected and displayed by the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Chu Chi Tunnels and a conversation 

While looking at a great 3-D diorama of the Chu Chi Tunnels of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), a man came up and asked if I had any questions about the diorama. We began to talk about the Chu Chi Tunnels and other dioramas he had built and that were on display.  During the conversation, I disclosed that I had written a novel that begins with the story of my main character’s father fighting in Vietnam, titled Serpents Underfoot

Ron then told me that he’d written a play called Etchings in Stone about The Wall, and  that it was showing every hour in the museum auditorium. I decided I needed to see this play. We talked a bit more before I headed toward the auditorium to see Etching in Stone. I was not entirely prepared for what I was about to experience.

Twenty-one Etchings

The play features about twenty-one segments, or stories, about visitors to The Wall.  Ron took the unique and extremely moving perspective of placing the audience inside The Wall, and giving them the ability to hear what the visitors were saying as well as their unspoken thoughts. The effect was moving beyond belief.  

etchings

Each visitor approaches The Wall looking for a name … a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, or a fellow soldier, sailor, marine, or airman. You hear their words as well as their thoughts. One emotional soldier thanks a medic for saving his life. Then there’s the widow who misses her husband dearly. And, the father or mother missing their son. We meet a  woman missing her older brother. There’s even a soldier apologizing for accidentally shooting his buddy because his buddy had not given the countersign when challenged upon entering the defensive perimeter. The anguish was very real! It was palpable!

You are all my father …

The last segment blew me completely away. It featured a young Amerasian woman, who I later learned she was played by Ron Harris’s adopted daughter. The young woman approaches The Wall. We learn that she is the daughter of the an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman. The soldier planned to marry her mother, but is killed in action before that could occur. The mother, with little chance of making a life for her daughter, puts the baby up for adoption. The baby is adopted and raised by a wonderful American couple. While the young woman loves her adoptive parents very much, she wants to know who her real father was.

She seeks help from the U.S. military but they have no records of who he father might have been. She contacts other Vietnam Vets, but they are unable to help her either. The young woman then returns to Vietnam and locates an aunt who tells her that her mother died and never talked much about her American fiance. He aunt is very sorry, but she cannot help her.

The young woman finally comes to The Wall to pick a name … a name to be her father.  But, when she sees the number of of names on The Wall, she is completely overwhelmed. How can she choose only one? The woman decides to choose them all … they will all be her father. And that way, in the future, if anyone should ever asks if her father’s name is on The Wall, she can answer truthfully … yes.

Moments of respite …

I do not know if it was intended this way, but between segments of Etchings in Stone there are power point slides that include interesting facts about the Vietnam War and The Wall. There is also music from the era, video, and still photos of the Vietnam War. There are interviews with veterans and songs about The Wall. The play is entertaining, extremely moving, and very educational.

A shift in America’s conscience.

This country always welcomed  its Veterans home with open arms. That is until the Korean War. Korean War veterans came home to simple indifference. However, when Vietnam War ended, that indifference became outright disrespect and even hatred. Far too many Americans spit on these veterans, or called them baby killer and other names.  These men and women only did the job their government had sent them to do. Therefore, in addition to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) some suffered due to the effects of combat, many suffered an additional layer of PTSD caused by this treatment. This treatment of these American veterans was a national disgrace. 

While the Vietnam War certainly affected the men and women who fought it, it also had a profound effect on those who stayed home. The mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and children, girlfriends, friends and strangers were all touched by the war. This play, Etchings in Stone, addresses the issues that affected all these people, veterans, family and friends. It is Ron’s hope that through this play, Vietnam veterans will come to realize that they are not alone in their feelings.

D.C. Gilbert

Patience: A Lesson Learned From Self-Publishing

Do you have the patience to self-publish?

Self-publishing is a great opportunity for anyone who wishes to become a published author to get their work into the hands of readers. But, understand! Just because you publish a book does not mean it will fly off the shelf at Amazon.com! Self-publishing is not easy. It takes a great deal of work to do it right. Looking back, I made a great many mistakes publishing my first book. Many of them could probably have been avoided with a bit more patience, but hey … as long as you learn from your mistakes and do not keep repeating them, things can only get better.

This is the first in a series of blog posts in which I will share the lessons I learned from self-publishing my first novel. These lessons-learned will certainly be applied in publishing my sequel. If you find anything in this series of posts helpful to you, then I will be happy. And, if you do … I would love to hear from you.

patience
It is also about patience

Have the Patience to do it right!

Not only did I rush to finish my book, Serpents Underfoot, itself, but I had no platform in place to successfully market it. While Amazon does help authors promote books, your book won’t fly off the charts on its own. Their algorithm does not pick up your book until a certain level of sales is reached.  Having the patience to take the time to have a marketing platform and plan in place before publishing your book will be a big help in reaching that level.

This does not mean I am not having success. My book is selling and has gotten some really great reviews along with a couple of not-so-good reviews. But hey, not everyone will like your work! That is life. 

However, there is nothing wrong with learning from the mistakes of others if you can.  Here is a list of things you might want to consider PRIOR to releasing your book:

  1. An author’s website.
  2. Author promotion and help sites such as BookBub, AuthorsDB, Author Connections, Alliance of Independent Authors, Authors Marketing Club, etc.
  3. Building a customer list.
  4. An email service such as Mail Chimp and a newsletter.
  5. Social network marketing such as a Facebook Author’s Page, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter, and how too best utilize them.
  6. Advance Release Copies for reviews.
  7. Have a long term plan and stick to it.

Success will not just fall into your lap.  These things take time and patience to understand, set up, put in place, and achieve results. There is no “one magic bullet!”  Success is built around a lot of small steps and there is so much to learn. As you can probably see, it will take a good deal of work.  Having some patience will be a real asset.

If you have a minute … 

Check out my novel Serpents Underfoot on Amazon.com