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Is the ending of your story too predictable?
Put your characters up a tree and throw rocks at them. That’s the basis for an interesting story, right? But at some point the rocks stop and the ending comes.
Readers are funny, though. In movies, “Rocky” fans want the SAME ending every time. And before everybody turns their literary noses up, SO DO HARRY POTTER readers. And Stars Wars fans.
Basically, every franchise wants that, in movies or books.
While reading the Harry Potter stuff, did you ever REALLY think Harry would die?
Or that James Bond wouldn’t escape intact?
Or that Hercule Poirot, Charlie Chan (or Bruce Willis in just about every movie he makes) etc., wouldn’t get the bad guy?
So, we want what we want. And by we I mean you. And by you I mean the large collective of readers and moviegoers, not necessarily you, except it probably includes you.
The TV show Friends is doing a 2 hour reunion, even though as far as I can tell the show has never gone off the air; it’s been in reruns continually since they stopped making originals ten years ago or whatever. So you can see Joey and Monica and the gang every night on Nick At Night if you want; no need for a reunion. Wanna know how they ended up? You know. Jenifer Aniston is still a megastar and the rest still aren’t. There. No need for a reunion.
But gee, none of them ever died in a car wreck or suffered from depression. There were no A Very Special Episode of Friends where Joey dies of AIDS. Because sitcom, sure, but also because $$$ means give the viewers what they want. (Friends and Scrubs on Nick At Night reruns got me through many a late-night bottle feeding not too many years ago.)
So, too, in many books and movies. Hell, just by knowing there are three or four or six Harry Potter books, you know he doesn’t die in the second one.
But that’s why when a main character dies in one of these books or movies, it’s such a big deal. Harry had one. So did Star Wars. I won’t give you the exact examples in case it’s a spoiler (but trust me, I haven’t seen or read them and I know, so how much of a spoiler can it be, but still), you get the point.
And that is why it is SO tragic of an ending – and far more memorable – when in Dr Zhivago that he has his torrid, heart wrenching love affair with Lara and they cannot be together and then finally they can and she doesn’t know it and he sees her from the trolley and she doesn’t see him and he gets off and chases after her and actually dies of a heart attack in the crowd before she ever turns around! He died with the love of his life twenty feet away and she never knew. He didn’t get to be with her but he almost did! The happy ending was right there and fate snatched it away at the last second. Readers and moviegoers were left teary eyed. Nooooo! He goes to his death not knowing what might have been. She gets away – for eternity? Nooooooo!
I didn’t do it justice there, but you get the idea. Plenty of readers would have LOVED for them to meet back up and live happily ever after. That’s why his death, so close to his goal, is so tragic – and so memorable. It helped make Dr Zhivago a classic for decades. I have to believe it’s still a good story if it has a happy ending, but showing us the candy and then taking it away right before we get to taste it, and doing it in such a masterful way, made it a classic instead. As an author, I’ll take classic any day.
As a reader, too.
An appropriate ending is what every story needs. Yeah, we like happy endings. But we love other endings – when they are appropriate to the story and they work.
It is the occasional curve ball that brings the excitement to the story. Not knowing exactly how it’s gonna go every time is part of what keeps eyes glued to the stories we write.
Readers want that, too.
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If you look at some author groups on Facebook, you hear a lot of complaints: no sales, no reviews, no royalties, marketing is hard…
Apparently, life sucks for authors.
DO NOT BUY INTO THIS CRAP!
Complaining about book sales is a bitchfest designed to… do what, exactly?
COMPLAINER: Is anyone selling books? I hear authors selling one or two every now and then but no one I know is making a killing, or has a best seller!
REPLY 1: Not selling as many these days as 2010-2011. I definitely know authors who are doing well. It usually requires writing great books and several of them and sticking with it for years.
REPLY 2: No one is going to sell much as long as they continue with Kindle Unlimited.
COMPLAINER: My friends say they sell, but what they don’t say, is they buy the books, & give them away. “I say, that’s no sell.” As they don’t make no money, nor royalties on their books.
REPLY 3: I have made no money on anything I’ve written or published at all in any format
REPLY 4: I published for the first time in January this year and things were going okay until around July when it nose dived. It picked up a bit until this month and now I barely sell one or two a day. I’m hoping that if I self publish my next, which I hope to do early next year, it will kick start sales of my current book.
REPLY 5: I have done well but need to put out new books.
REPLY 6: My sales have collapsed. The only sales these past few weeks were 6 in Germany, (Amazon de) and as I have to reach 100 Euros before I get paid, I will almost certainly never be paid for those. I assume just too many books out there.
REPLY 7: I sold a few here and there until ‘BOOK NAME’ was released in early October. It stood at #1 in SPORTS VENUE best sellers during October and remained in the top 10 so far throughout November, so sales have been brisker.
COMPLAINER: A few are selling books, but those authors are going out of their way, to pay promoting companies. Plus traveling to different cities to book signings, & talking about their books to everyone that will listen. Having a box of books in their car, in case someone wants to buy.
REPLY 8: marketing has to be done regardless – even if it means door knocking your locl district then moving furture afield. yes cart books in cars – in your handbag what ever where ever, -I used to sell many years back and travelled a long way
REPLY 9: Well, I have to admit that I do almost nothing to promote my books. (rueful face)
REPLY 10: So very true. It’s a consistent process to build an audience and a following, and requires all of that, and more.
REPLY 11: I agree sales have plummeted…wonder what’s happening? Too many books, or too many poor books?
REPLY 12: Right now I’m selling more Audio books than ebooks. I’m lucky I have two good narrators and I’m moving all of my books to audio.
REPLY 13: I think that audio books are the way to go!
REPLY 14: Would you mind sharing names of your narrators please. I would look at all
I skipped two replies, because they offered success stories and the other people didn’t seem to read them.
One said they had sold 10,000 copies this year so far and was doing well on KOLL, and
the other said her friend was doing really well.
Why did the responders skip the success stories?
Because it’s easier to blame other people than to look in the mirror and say “I need to do more.”
If life sucks as an author, go do something else. PLENTY of people make money selling books. Two of my friends just got signed with publishers last week. TWO IN THE SAME WEEK. One of my friends is doing so well she just quit her job to write full time. A few of my friends have bestselling books.
I don’t know a million people, so what’s happening? Why do I know the success stories and so many other authors don’t?
I was a sales manager for Fortune 500 companies for many years, folks, so I know a little about the attitudes of salespeople. What does that have to do with being an author? You’re selling books aren’t you?
Well, no, not according to those comments…
IF your sales are weak, you have two choices: it’s me, or the stupid buying public.
Which means 99.99% of the time, it’s you. Luckily, you can fix what’s wrong!
I have read LOTS of people’s books. People who WANT to be published. It is a twenty to one ratio of bad to good. And that doesn’t count the 2 or 3 times as many I skip because the opening line sucks or the topic doesn’t appeal to me in some way.
I can afford to be fussy! So should you! The buying public is!
Look, that doesn’t mean MY opening lines are always amazing, or that every one of my books is a page turner.
But they SHOULD BE.
You must, must, MUST have a good cover. We’ve talked about this. It’s a mini billboard ad for your book. It MUST make people want to look further – as in, read the blurb.
The blurb is not a mini story, it is AD COPY, a small advertisement for your product, the story.
The opening lines needs to be interesting. So does the opening paragraph. So does the opening chapter, but an opening chapter has to do a lot of other things, too. Like set up what the book is about.
Look, it’s simple if you address it properly. Did you see Schindler’s List or Titanic? We KNOW what happens in BOTH of those stories BEFORE we ever watch ten seconds of film. Titanic sinks. Jews get killed in WWII. There’s your plots.
But the storiesthat gettold are amazing, and both became blockbusters.
And everybody already knew the stories.
Spielberg starts with a candle and a Jewish prayer but quickly gets into watching this wealthy guy get dressed and then go charm a bunch of Nazi officials at dinner. It’s like watching a con artist ply his trade. What’s going on? Who is this guy? LOOK HOW SMART HE IS! He’s conning everybody! I wish I was as charming as that.
There’s a whole story going on along with the one we know, but it starts right away and does so in an intriguing manner.
What is the ONE piece of advice I’d give any new writer about their story? Take the most interesting thing in the chapter and say it first, in the opening paragraph if possible and in the opening line if you can. Grab my attention somehow.
After that, write a good story, keep the story moving, get a decent cover and learn how to write a blurb.
THEN you can start to MARKET your book.
start with the most interesting thing
write a good story
keep the story moving
good book cover = eye catching
good blurb = makes you wanna click to buy or read more
That’s a whopping SIX thingsyou need to do to be successful. I’d be willing to bet that NONE of the complainers are doing all six.
Know how I know?
I was a sales manager for a long time. I had to work with people I’d trained, but after I trained them on what to do, many didn’t do it.
And they weren’t successful because they didn’t.
Many, many, many people made more money working for me than they ever did in their entire lives. Many didn’t do what was necessary and quit or got let go.
Authors, you have to market. If you don’t, you won’t be successful.
You have to write a good book. If you don’t, you won’t be successful.
Each of the six building blocks requires the other five, so if one is weak the others can compensate a little but if one doesn’t exist, the entity fails. If one is super strong, that can carry the whole thing. That doesn’t happen often. As in, less than 1 in a million. So you better get good at all six.
When you aren’t, your book won’t sell. You can then join the ranks of the complainers who know everything else is at fault except their efforts.
But we know the truth.
I want you to be successful. Move away from the folks who can’t or won’t do it. The naysayers. The whiners and complainers. You can fail all on your own; you don’t need their input, and odds are they are wasting loads of your time, too.
Find the “can do” folks.
But in the end it’s YOU who has to do it. And we’ll help. Cos complainers have figured out this blog is not the place for them.
YOU can do this. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard, either. And it’s not luck.
If your writing sucks, join a critique group. Inside of 30 days you’ll see stuff you’re doing wrong, and inside of 90 days you’ll be a better writer. Stay in the critique group. A year later you’ll be amazed at how good you’ve become.
If your cover sucks, hire somebody to make one. They don’t have to cost $500. I know artists who have made covers for bestsellers that cost under $50. If you don’t have $50, there are cheaper places, too, and you can LEARN to do it yourself for free – as in, you probably can’t do it on day 1, that stuff will suck. It’ll look homemade. You’ll need to learn it.
If your marketing sucks, ask other people what worked. A lot of good marketing doesn’t cost anything, like your Amazon page and a Goodreads page, Twitter, Facebook, etc., but you’d be amazed at how many flailing writers don’t have an Amazon page set up!
If you’re a crappy storyteller, think about why you want to be a writer. Read good storytellers. Emulate them the way a kid playing baseball wants to emulate Babe Ruth. Listen to audiobooks. By the way, a LOT of stuff is free at the library so it doesn’t have to cost money. Practice your craft in flash fiction challenges and in critique groups.
Get the idea? It’s all fixable.
If you put in the effort.
And stay the hell away from people who are too lazy to do the necessary work and just want to have you end up down at their level to complain with so they don’t feel bad about their own lack of effort.