Archive for April, 2013

How To Sell Millions of Books (Alternatively Titled: My Reckless Gambling Streak!)

April 16, 2013

I was wondering how to motivate one of my clients to finish his book, as life and work seemed to keep getting in his way. So I recklessly said: “Let’s have a bet: let’s see if you can finish your book before I finish mine.”

Before I knew it, we’d agreed that I would roll up my sleeves and hand-wash his car if he finishes first.

And so, ‘Millionaire Authors: The Secret To Selling Over A Million Books’ was conceived.

I set myself the goal of finishing it within 4 weeks and launching it in the autumn to coincide with this year’s Millionaire Bootcamp for Authors from 1st to 3rd November.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly at the start. ‘This bet is going to be a doddle,’ I thought. Never mind that my client owns a dog that sheds fur and drools, and leaves muddy footprints on his car upholstery. I only have about 10 hours of interviews to do, and maybe another 2 hours writing the introduction. And my car could do with a good clean after so many school runs with my kids.

Except that I’ve been hitting one or two unexpected snags…

So far, I’ve contacted over 60 bestselling authors and their agents, requesting interviews. And I’ve received almost as many rejections along the way.

I’d like to interview 12 millionaire authors for my book. So far, ‘in the bag’ as it were, I have:

Jeffrey Archer, ‘Kane & Abel’ – 250 million copies sold;
John Gray, ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ – 50 million copies sold;
Sir Terry Pratchett – ‘Discworld’ series – 85 million copies sold;
Eric Carle, ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ – 30 million sold;
Alexander McCall Smith, ‘No1 Ladies Detective Agency’ – £40m sold;
Joanne Harris, ‘Chocolat’, £21 million sold.

To achieve this, I’ve had to contact – and receive rejections from – a list of celebrities and authors who include:

  • J K Rowling
  • Dan Brown
  • Jacqueline Wilson
  • Danielle Steel
  • John Grisham
  • James Patterson
  • Bill Bryson
  • Patricia Cornwell
  • Ian Rankin
  • Julia Donaldson
  • Francesca Simon
  • Martina Cole
  • Philip Pullman
  • Stephenie Meyer
  • Delia Smith
  • Stephen King
  • Marian Keyes
  • Josephine Cox
  • Sophie Kinsella
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Terry Deary
  • Anthony Horowitz
  • Ian McEwan
  • Wilbur Smith
  • Sebastian Faulks
  • Helen Fielding
  • Lee Child
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Mark Haddon
  • Joanna Trollope
  • Jackie Collins
  • Louis de Bernières
  • Jack Higgins
  • Anita Shreve
  • Robert Harris
  • Frank McCourt
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Robert Allen
  • Anthony Robbins
  • Louise Hay
  • Lynne Truss
  • Robert Kyosaki
  • Bob Proctor
  • Deepak Chopra
  • Brian Tracy
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Mark Victor Hansen
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • Khaled Hosseini
  • Ken Follet
  • Tim Ferris
  • Eckhart Tolle
  • Marci Schimoff
  • Joe Vitale

In other words, only 10 per cent of the people I’ve contacted have agreed to be interviewed. So it’s likely I’ll need to contact another 60+ authors to find another 6 writers who’ll agree to be interviewed!

When I was little, my mother told me the fable of ‘The Hare and The Tortoise’. If you’ve never read it before, it’s a story of how persistence and determination allows a slow tortoise to win a race – even when the competition (the hare) is a much faster sprinter. Mum told me the fable when I was a kid. She said: “What matters is that you keep plodding on right until the very end. Often it’s the plodders who are the winners!”

That lesson always stuck with me: that persistence and determination often win the day. If you want something badly enough, you just have to work for it. There’s no point whining or complaining. You just dust yourself down and get on with it.

Or, in my case, you prepare to roll up your sleeves grab a sponge, and get covered in dog hairs and soap suds.

I’ll keep you updated with how the bet is coming along in blogs that follow…

In the meantime, remember to block out the 1st to 3rd November in your diary for The Millionaire Bootcamp for Authors: I’m already lining up some fantastic speakers!

I’ll be releasing full details shortly at: http://www.millionaireauthorsbootcamp.com.

The Secrets To Selling Millions of Books

The Secrets To Selling Millions of Books

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How To Write A War or Battle Scene in Your Novel

April 4, 2013

Writing about war in a novel can seem pretty daunting – especially if you haven’t experienced it yourself. War may be the main theme of your book; or war may be a just small part of your story. Even if you haven’t had direct experience on the battlefield, you can still write about war in a convincing way that moves your reader.
Here are some helpful tips that I have devised for helping first-time authors I am mentoring, which I hope will help you too.

War scenes, in some ways, are no different to other scenes in your book. The most helpful advice is to focus on small detail. Imagine you are a film director making a movie. You need wide-range camera shots to give a sense of the overall action on the battlefield. But more important than this, you also need to zoom in on individual detail to allow your audience to identify with specific characters and connect with them emotionally.

If you have a battlefield with 20,000 soldiers fighting, that’s a bit impersonal and vague. You can also end up reading about it in a very cold and detached way, a little like the experience of reading a history book. Although we can read about 20,000 men dying on a battlefield, and although these are the terrible deaths of real people, we often feel little raw emotion while we are reading.

Now, if we look at the classic novels and how they deal with war, they use a number of devices to stir our emotions, so that the book haunts us for a long time to come or we might even be moved to tears – even though the characters are invented!

Take Sebastian Faulks with ‘Birdsong’ which explores the horrors of tunnel warfare during the World War 1. Much of the action is set beneath no man’s land in a terrifying world, 80 feet underground, where soldiers lay explosives under enemy lines in the hope of helping their comrades above ground. There is a powerful scene in this novel where the tunnelers decide to rescue a small yellow canary that is used to check if the air is breathable or toxic. The hero, Stephen Wraysford, has a phobia of birds and is afraid to reach out his hand and touch it. So there is an ironic contrast between the horror of war and his fearlessness in tunneling underground so close to the enemy lines, and his terror when faced with a tiny helpless bird.

There is a contrast between his longing to help, and his inability to put the bird in his pocket or feel the feathers on his skin. He does this eventually after a few tense moments. But it is an incredibly poignant scene because above ground, men are being gunned down en masse. Yet in spite of this, the tunnelers still have the humanity left to rescue one small bird from suffocating in a collapsing tunnel.

The other thing that is memorable about this scene is the fact that it is so original and unexpected. When you read about war – or indeed, watch it on TV – you might expect blood and gore. But you certainly don’t expect small yellow canaries!

To give you another example: in ‘Catch 22′, Joseph Heller focuses on the humour and the absurdity of World War 2. To take one example: the air force pilots have been issued with first aid kits that are often empty as the morphine has been sold on the black market. The officers are then faced with the task of helping men with horrific wounds with inadequate supplies, which creates a dark kind of humour.

There is a particularly poignant moment when a gunner, Snowden, is dying in quite harrowing circumstances after being hit by a mortar. He plaintively cries out, “I’m cold, I’m cold” unaware that he is injured inside his flak jacket, while the anti-hero, Yossarian, reassures him “You’re going to be all right kid! Everything’s under control!” There are echoes here of a scene between parent and child as Yossarian repeatedly murmurs, “There, there. There, there.” We sense that Yossarian has a false optimism, and nothing can be done to save the gunner’s life as his wound is “the size of a football”. There is no morphine available to ease his pain, only two aspirin. We are left with a poignant scene which is memorable for its humanity and suffering. It is not remotely what you would expect from a war novel.

Thinking again to ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ by Louis de Bernieres, there is another memorable scene that anyone who has read the novel always seems to mention. This is when the two sides temporarily down their weapons and abandon fighting to play football together on Christmas Day. They chat, share cigarettes, and even exchange photographs of family members. They see each other as people rather than ‘the enemy’ and realise that they might have been friends. Again, a game of impromptu football is the last thing you would expect during a war.

So to summarise, here are some of the techniques you can use when writing about war:

* Focus on small detail rather than the bigger picture.
* Look for unusual and unexpected detail.
* Create a sense of atmosphere by using the five senses – vivid colours, sounds, smells, tastes.
* Allow vulnerability to come to the fore – it isn’t necessary to focus only on death and destruction, bravery and valor.
* Focus on one or two characters only, rather than large numbers of soldiers.
* Stir an emotional response in the reader.