I am a big fan of protagonists with dubious character traits. There is something about a blurry line that adds flavour and depth. In fact, if the protagonist was to stop and consider themselves, they might think they were on the wrong side of that invisible virtuous line.
So in short, I like my protagonists…to be bad.
Why is a less than perfect protagonist good?
If you are the kind of person who goes to the gym 5 days a week, then going 5 days a week is no big thing. BUT, if you struggle to go once a week, then 5 days in a row is pretty impressive! And so with our protagonist. The more reluctant they are, and the more doing something good or heroic chafes, the more interesting it is when they are finally forced to comply.
As a reader, the more confused you are about the protagonists virtue, the more the tension grows. Will they do the right thing? Are they capable of doing the right thing even? Or are they just too damn lazy?
And what about our antagonist? Are they wholly bad? Or do they have redeeming qualities? Do you empathise with them at any point in the book? Perhaps their behaviour has been abhorrent, and then you discover a terrible secret about their past that casts new questions onto everything they have so far done.
There is a certain fascination with a good guy who is not completely good.
And likewise with a bad guy who is not completely bad.
When it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing a book, there are many mistakes to be made (many more than 99). The #1 most important mistake NOT to make is over-investment. I’ll give a quick anecdote about that, and then give the whole list of my 99 favorite book mistakes.
One of my favorite stories about over-investment is of two (real) people. Let’s call them Dolores and Ben.
Dolores spent $57 writing, producing, and publishing her book. Sure, it was self-published, but it looked great, and was well edited by friends and family members. She currently gets tons of gigs because of the book, and is an Amazon.com bestseller.
Ben spent more than $1/4 million dollars (yes, $250,000 …to buy your way into the New York Times bestsellers list. Ben put a second mortgage on his house, and he got #1 bestseller status from one of the major newspapers in the US. Was it worth it? He got a few more gigs, and he earned about $50,000 of his investment back. Which author is more successful?
Every Mistake in the #Book: 99 Writing, Publishing & Marketing #Fails
Spend too much.
Don’t invest enough.
Hire the wrong people.
Don’t ask for help.
Don’t use friends for writing and editing.
Don’t use family members for writing and editing.
Don’t thank friends and family after they have helped you.
Don’t edit your manuscript.
If you’ve edited once, don’t edit a second time.
If you are just plain sick of editing, just stop after three edits.
Try to be perfect.
Take ten years to finish.
Write everything in a weekend.
Give away the rights to your book for a song.
Hire the wrong agent.
Agree to a contract without talking with a lawyer.
Sign with a publisher without shopping around first.
Don’t create a business plan for your book.
Spend your entire savings on the book.
Mortgage your house a second time to pay for the book.
Decide to self-publish, and get a logo designed for “My Name Publisher.”
Trust people financially.
Hire a publicist at $3,500 per month.
Pay for publicity without worrying about building a social media presence first.
Don’t use social media.
Decide not to give away any copies for free.
Don’t ask for reviews.
Don’t say thank you to anyone.
Don’t work too hard on writing — it’s okay if it’s not your best material.
Don’t think about ROI (Return on Investment).
Fixate on ROI, as if it’s the most important thing in your universe.
Don’t worry about having a great title.
Don’t think about the target demographic of your book.
Don’t worry about Facebook.
Don’t work on your Twitter presence.
Don’t answer messages through your website or social media.
Don’t answer your emails from readers.
Don’t do interviews.
Don’t have a website.
Have content from 1985 on your website.
Build your website in Flash.
Don’t have an Author Central account on Amazon.com.
Don’t have your book available on Amazon.com
Don’t have your book available as an eBook.
Don’t offer your book free on the Kindle KDP platform.
Buy lots of followers on social media (so you don’t have to develop them naturally).
Buy Amazon reviews (if Amazon doesn’t catch you and remove your account).
Don’t have a good author bio on your website.
Don’t have paperbacks available alongside the eBook edition.
Don’t give any copies away to friends and family.
Don’t contact the local press.
Don’t do events.
Don’t run any contests.
Don’t worry about creating a great subtitle that works well on search engines.
Design a cover that doesn’t have bling.
Refuse to write on a Blog.
Refuse to make a Book Trailer online.
Go with a major press.
Pay for a press release.
Write a press release.
Advertise in the back of your book for a vitamin company.
Start a publishing pyramid scheme.
Invest a ton of money into books before you have a distributor.
Don’t spend any money on anything, even though you have a budget.
Don’t have a contract with collaborators, illustrators, or other freelancers.
Sign away your rights.
Sign away rights to future products, like ebooks and audio books.
Sign away film rights.
Dream of fame because of this book.
Dream of swimming through pools of gold coins because of this book’s success.
Write about what you don’t know.
Plagiarize! Don’t worry about sources.
Cite Wikipedia on every page.
Use pictures in the book without attribution.
Don’t use any quotes or references in your entire book.
Print too many books, and keep them in your moldy basement.
Move forward without thinking about all options.
Go into business with your family.
Take out loans to pay for the book.
Don’t ask for any emotional or financial support.
Don’t run a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign.
Don’t worry about building a great team.
Don’t hire an editor — who needs them?!
Quit your day job!
Put all eggs into this book basket!
Mortgage your house and sell your cars to pay for a marketing campaign.
Quit. Give up.
Stop trying to finish — it’s hopeless.
Worry about audience for the book.
Worry about what the critics will say.
Write too much.
Alienate people around you.
Write about non-celebrities without their permission.
Write and publish total crap.
Wait for magic to happen.
Hold out for a better deal.
Wait to dive in.
Alternately titled “Every Mistake in the Book: 99 Writing, Publishing, & Marketing Fails.”
Guest post contributed by Dr. Kent Gustavson at the Blooming Twig. The Blooming Twig is an independent, boutique publishing house that supports the adventurous tastes of its readership.
I’m finally getting around to posting about my amazing weekend writing retreat! It was the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada, perfect for a couple of nights away from ‘normal life’.
Six of us stayed in a two bedroom cabin about and hour outside of town. Some of us I’ve been friends with for a years and some are newer friends. We couldn’t have had a more wonderful group of people. We shared tons of laughs, and actually got a lot of writing in.
I’ve met some wonderful people since I’ve gone public (kinda) with my writing, though I still consider myself to be a closet writer. Only my writer friends and those closest to me really know that I actually write and work on novels and short stories.
We started our weekend with an amazing potluck meal. Nothing like good food to feed your writing muse! I really wish I took more pictures!
Sherry had organized a series of writing exercises for us. For the first one, we had 15 minutes to come up with as many first lines for stories as we could. I got 17 which wasn’t too bad. Some were garbage, but some could really lead somewhere!
For the next exercise, we picked a random envelope. Inside was a slip of paper with the last line of a story. It was our job to come up with a story in fifteen minutes. Here was my last line:
She clinked my glass and said, “Here’s to life, even if no-one will believe our story.”
What would you come up with?
For the third exercise, we were given another envelope. Inside was a piece of paper with a plot, a photograph and an object and we had to tie the three together in a story. We had fifteen minutes. I had a photo of blurred lights at night, a paperclip. Yikes!
Here was my plot:
A group of ladies make a pact with God. An car accident is involved.
Want to see what I came up with? The writing is pretty bad, but remember we only had fifteen minutes and I’m not overly quick 😉
“Come on triple 7!”
“Elsie, we’re all tired!Aren’t you out of money yet!”
“Can’t help it, Gert.I’m feeling lucky tonight,”the old lady smiled broadly, her cheeks flushed red with anticipation and wine.She held up her ziplock bag of quarters.Still plenty left. “I keep playing and but the bag doesn’t get any lighter.Figure that!”
Gert nodded and looked back toward her little group of friends leaning on the VLT.They were getting pretty crotchety.They were here since this afternoon and they would be anticipating having to get up early to go to church in the morning.
Gert approached them.
“Well, is she ready or not?” barked the tall, white haired Agnes.
“She still has lots lots of quarters.She’s feeling lucky.”
“Lucky my arse.”She marched over to Elsie.
Gert said a silent prayer under her breath as she and the rest of the old girls followed in her wake.
“You know,” she heard Elsie explaining to Agnes.“If we hit the jackpot tonight, we might just be able to save the orphanage.”
There was a buzz of conversation.
Kerry organized a workshop to create a storyboard. This was so much fun…arts and crafts! She told us in advance we could bring pictures of any characters but she also supplied magazines that we could go through and find more.
In case you’re wondering, my story is about a shampoo that is capable of taking over peoples minds. Everybody who uses it, loves it of course! Their hair becomes opalescent, but they don’t even realize that they aren’t in control of their actions until the wifi goes down. Two boys who love hacking try to save their mother and the rest of the world in the process.
Bet you’re wondering what Johnny Bravo has to do with my short story haha. He’s the thug, the bad guy…but he has cool hair.
Great food, great people, and writing! All my favourite things 🙂
The weather was on the chilly side, but that didn’t matter, we were comfy and cozy, even if the electric fireplace didn’t cast any heat 🙂