Ask Dan ANYTHING

dan
your humble host

Each week we’re taking five, maybe ten, of YOUR writerly questions and setting about answering them for you. 

Ask Dan ANYTHING

Skill level doesn’t matter. Newbie writer, veteran writer, you have questions. I’ll opine; maybe some others will chime in with their thoughts, and hopefully YOU will get several good solutions to choose from.

Or something like that.

  • Wanna know what dialogue tags are, and why you don’t want them in your story?

  • Wanna know how to create a “page turner” story?

  • Wanna know why you need to build an author platform?

And it doesn’t have to be directly writing related. Sometimes you need to get in the writing mood by NOT doing writer stuff. Maybe you wanna know about doing author events, but maybe you wanna know about public speaking, or… I don’t know; the London train system. (I had some trouble there, if you’ll recall.)

Or why so much of Europe requires you to pay to pee…

I don’t want to suggest ideas TO you, I wanna know what’s on YOUR mind.

What are YOU struggling with?

So ask.

Ask me anything.

We have lots of smart people here; if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does. Or I’ll make something up.

Go ahead, you know you want to.

ASK ME ANYTHING!

Post your questions in the comment section below. I’ll answer the first five, maybe the first ten – so don’t goof off. Post your question NOW!

.

danDan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious romantic comedy “Poggibonsi: an Italian misadventure.” 

Click HERE to get your copy of Poggi FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Also available in paperback.

17 thoughts on “Ask Dan ANYTHING

  1. Hi Dan. I don’t have any books yet out there for sale. I do have 5 written and at various stages etc. So next year will be my year for publishing. My question is – when do I start a mailing list? My blog is a writing blog so not sure how I would start a mailing list for romantic comedy books. Any thoughts? Am I too early thinking about this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Five! Wow. Gonna be a busy year for you.

      You can start a mailing list any time but it depends on what you want to use it for.

      The idea behind most mailing lists for authors is to be able to access your base – your customers – directly, without having to go through Amazon or some other middleman. I sell a lots of books; I don’t have the email addresses of all of those people – Amazon does. So if amazon decided to do something stupid, I’m at their mercy. If I have a mailing list, then I can tell my customers whatever I want and do it directly from me to them, and I’m not beholden to the whims of Amazon.

      That’s the theory.

      The flipside is, Amazon is a pretty good marketing machine, so we don’t necessarily want to alienate them, and most authors don’t have a mailing list and they do just fine.

      But a lot of people more famous than me said it would be a good idea to have the mailing list. I view it more as an insurance policy. If Amazon decided to cut their royalty rates by 90%, I would wish I could email all my customers and tell them I’m not on Amazon anymore but I’m over here at XYZ company, and they can buy my next book from XYZ. As long as it’s simple and effective, most of them would not have a problem clicking on XYZ instead of on Amazon.

      Again, that’s the theory.

      But I also use my mailing list to get beta readers and to keep people informed of what’s going on with my writing. I can offer them books from other author friends while they wait for my next book to come out. Things like that.

      So now you have the dilemma of when do you start?

      If you don’t have a book, you don’t have much reason for people to be on your mailing list. If you have a book, you kind of want a mailing list to be able to reach people. There’s a chicken or the egg dilemma.

      I would say you don’t really have to worry too much about mailing list until your first book comes out, but you could definitely do this: if you have popular blog, and you do, then everybody who comments can provide their email address to you. For example, if you have a target date March 1 for your first book to come out, you might give them an incentive to order it early exclusively through you so they can read it before anybody else or maybe at a discounted price or whatever. Then they have to use the contact form on your blog to order the book, and then you would have their email address. That would be the simplest way for you to transfer your blog readership over to your mailing list to get it up and running. From there, you would simply contact them every once in a while to keep them apprised of what’s going on.

      Finally, here’s the sneaky secret about mailing lists that most people don’t know: only about 25% to 33% of the people on the list actually open the email. Can you believe that? So you go through all this hard work and most of the people you’re sending it to aren’t looking at it.

      But it’s better than nothing and there’s gonna be a little bit of waste in any process. But ultimately I do agree: if Amazon messed me around, I can talk to my customers directly. Through Facebook, my blog, my mailing list, I can tell my readers what’s going on and where they can find me. Ultimately as a business that’s important.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It may sound rude, but rest assured, that’s not how I mean it…

    Everybody does things differently, and I’ve read some excellent books recently, all different authors, all different styles, all enjoyable despite different takes on POV, tense, tags and beats, show vs tell, etc

    What makes you think your way is the best way? and if everyone does it your way, aren’t you just spawning lots of Dan Alatorre clones? AND, doesn’t that weaken your way because through a reader’s eye, you’re just the same as all those other Dan clone writers?

    Everyone should have a unique voice, surely?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good question and here’s the answer: no.

      I was surprised one time at work when one of our corporate people was going over some stuff I considered pretty easy – and he said, “Not everyone can do the things you can do, Dan.”

      It was very surprising to hear. I always believed with the proper training and motivation everyone could do the things I could do.

      The fact is, they can’t.

      For example, certain people are just more science oriented. So their books are going to lean that way when mine don’t.

      Other people don’t want any hint of comedy in their stories. Mine tend to have at least one joker in the deck and occasionally a deck full of jokers.

      Not every writer is willing to put in the time and effort to learn the techniques necessary, and not every writer is aware enough to see the weak spot in their stories. Or to accept the constructive criticism from others. Or would go in author forums and ask embarrassingly simple questions so that they could learn.

      I did.

      I do.

      Then there is simply the “art” of storytelling. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always a very good storyteller in person. I tend to think out loud when I try to tell a story, and I can drag on… But that same methodology works very well in writing because I can go back and edit, and because critique partners will tell me where they dozed off!

      When it comes to style, I’m not worried about creating a bunch of Dan clones because if I was to look at their stories I would make suggestions. Maybe they follow the suggestion, maybe they don’t. I do this all the time for people when I edit. There’s a particular scene in a story I just read where everybody sits down before going to battle and they’re having sandwiches like they’re at a party. I suggested the author take out all the party-type references. The author found the contrast between the coming battle and the semi-party atmosphere of the lunch to be very ironic. She chose to leave it in. I wouldn’t have put it in in the first place.

      And ultimately you could give 10 writers the exact same outline and they would all write different stories.

      So my style is what’s best for me because people find my written voice and style entertaining. They find me on video to be engaging and energetic. But they would probably find me sitting around my living room on any given day being very boring! But aren’t we all?

      What I try to do is steer people away from things I know are mistakes, and things are understood as mistakes across the board, by most writers; and to steer them towards things that are more acceptable and more engaging and more interesting across the board.

      After that, the next level is: this would make me laugh, or this would make me cry, or this would make me whatever. That’s usually what they don’t bring to the table. They don’t open their soul and pour their heart on the page. When they do, that usually connects with the reader. Unfortunately, most writers are too timid to do that.

      I’m not.

      It was extremely difficult to write about the time we spent in the neonatal intensive care unit worrying that my daughter would die. It was a very personal moment and one I was not sure my wife would appreciate me sharing with strangers. But I knew to tell the story I had to tell that part or the rest didn’t make sense. Equally, writing about the death of a beloved pet was just impossibly hard to do. I cried every time I sat at the keyboard.

      But because I opened myself up and exposed that kind of vulnerability to my audience, they knew they could trust me and from then on they were eating out of the palm of my hand. I could play them like a piano – but only because I invested in them first, openly and honestly and on a true level that connected.

      So I think those things work overall, and I try to help others get there. If that stuff works for someone, it’s likely to take their writing to the next level. If they don’t work for a certain writer, maybe a different author is the one to take their guidance from. There’s not that many out there who are willing to share so many ideas.

      Ultimately I like to think of this as a team effort, me trying to help others and them trying to help me and all of us improving along the way!

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s a good take on it and answers the question pretty well. I guess it’s also important to see things through the eyes of a reader, not a writer who reads, someone who just reads for enjoyment and doesn’t know all the rules writers invent.

        I had a book recommended to me recently and – as I’m resting up at home to recover from surgery – I read it last week. The blurb made it sound right up my street and it was a New York Times bestseller, so I was onto a winner… except it was loaded with mistakes, not just ‘broken rules’, there were no end of typos, clichés and continuity errors, and I saw them because I’m constantly on high alert for them in my own writing, and because – in the case of ‘broken rules’ – I’m forever being told it shouldn’t be done like that. In the interest of research, I switched off my writer brain and stuck with it for the story instead of the writing, and do you know what… The story was great, so were the characters and my feelings for the hero evolved with the protagonist; moving from thinking he was a pompous prick to falling in love with him. I got the the end with disappointment, wanting more, forget the broken rules or the mistakes, I loved the turbulent ride through the plot and that’s obviously what made it a NYT bestseller. It was an important lesson for me, helping me to pick myself up after being made to feel like I was useless. I’m now on the lookout for more books that break the rules!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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