Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welcome Vince Mooney

How Rewarding is the ‘Reading Experience’ Provided by Your Writing?

Measuring “Rewards-Per-Page” Can Give You an Indication of this Important Success Factor.

I have been conducting an analysis of the Romance genre for the last eight years. In studying over 1000 romance novels I have made many observations. Perhaps the finding of most importance to romance writers involves my “Rewards-Per-Page” index. (RPP)

I was an advertising copywriter and copyeditor for many years. I have written over 3,000,000 words of advertising that have appeared in print. Since no one has to read advertising, copywriters know that they must continually reward the reader in order to keep readers reading. A competent copywriter usually rewards the reader by providing beneficial information that a prospect needs and can use.

Consider this headline:

Will Your Next Manuscript Be Rejected Because You Made One of These Fatal Mistakes?

If you are an aspiring writer, you will probably find the above headline to be irresistible. It would almost be negligent not to read this ad. Even if the ad were thousands of words long, it is highly likely that you would still read every word of the copy if it kept rewarding you with important information.

The trick to getting a prospect to read long copy is to make every sentence rewarding and worthwhile to read. For example, the above ad’s body copy should begin by fulfilling the promise in the headline:

“The number one cause for manuscript rejection is: (state reason #1 here.) Then follow with:

According to leading New York editors, there are three ways to avoid this mistake.. 1) advice goes here. 2) advice goes here. 3) advice goes here. (I think you get the idea.)

Fiction Has an Advantage

While vital information will keep a prospect reading copy, fiction has many more ways to reward a reader than does advertising. Romance writers have dozens of ways available to reward their readers. Unfortunately, some writers seem unaware of this. (As evidenced by low RPP scores.)

Why Bother to Reward the Reader?

You might wonder why an author would be concerned about rewarding the reader. The book has already been sold. Shouldn’t the author be striving for literary excellence rather than be pandering to the pleasures of an anonyms reader? Isn’t a great story reward enough for any reader?

Rewarding Readers is Optional in Literature

If you are writing enduring literature, you don’t have to worry about rewarding the reader on a page-by-page basis. It is often the case with literature that readers want to ‘have read the book’ more than they wanted to actually read it. I’ve read classics that I am glad to have read, but that were very unpleasant to read.

Rewarding Readers is Very Important in Romances

If you write romances, a genre in which the reader already knows how the story is going to end, then rewarding the reader is essential. Consider a romance novel as being a consumable product, say a chocolate cake. Both the novel and the cake will be replaced in a few days by a similar consumable.

The ‘reading experience’ needs to be rewarding on a ‘page-by-page’ basis. (One just expects every bite of a chocolate bar to taste good.) Fans read romances for how the ‘reading experience’ makes them feel as they are reading the novel. Fans know how the story will turn out. Some fans even read the last pages of a romance, while still in the bookstore, just to insure they will get the ending they desire. (I’ve seen fans do this at Wal-Mart.) As such, romances are primarily about the extended, on-going, reading experience that they provide a reader.

Fans are Buying a “Basket of Feelings”

I like to think that a romance fan is really buying a ‘basket of feelings’. Fans know that some themes, like the ‘hidden baby’ theme, will provide a predictable set of feelings. When these feelings are in ‘deficit’, fans can actually develop a craving for a given romance theme.

Discovering an Important Truth about Romance Writing Success

Some years ago I was reading a romance magazine in which some second-tier authors were complaining that publishers pick favorites to promote. Nora Roberts was considered so successful because of all the promotion money spent on her books. Publishers spend a small fortune on ads and in-store, point-of-purchase, displays to promote their favorite authors. One author from the second-tier was singled out as being superior to Nora Roberts in quality because she receives better reviews. However, because of her smaller advertising budget, her sales were only a tiny fraction of those of Nora Roberts.

Better Reviews or Bigger Sales?

Coincidentally, at the time I read this romance article, I had just read and reviewed a book by Nora Roberts and a book by the ‘better’ author mentioned in the journal article. The ‘better’ author did, in fact, have better reviews. I will also freely admit that her book had more literary merit. (That is, it spoke to the human condition and universal values in a much more poignant and enduring manner than Nora’s book did.)

I decided to see how the two books compared on a reward-per-page basis. The ‘better’ author got about 1 to 2 rewards per page (with some pages having no rewards). Nora’s score was about nine rewards per page. (So far, Nora Roberts enjoys the highest scores I’ve encountered. However, Janet Evanovich, Lucy Gordon, Natasha Oakley, and Julie Lessman also score well.)

Reading Enjoyment Sells Books

The rewards-per-page scores mentioned above mirrored my own enjoyment in reading these books. The ‘better’ author’s book had clear literary merit but was dry and dull in many parts. I believe that this ‘better’ author was writing to the needs of the story. She wanted to get the story right. She was viewing the novel as an ‘end product’ to be judged by readers and critics as a whole. This is like a chef saying, “Don’t judge my cooking by each individual course but rather judge it only as a complete culinary experience at the conclusion of the meal.”

Nora Roberts & Writing to the “Reading Experience”

I believe that Nora Roberts was writing to what I call the ‘reading experience’. She was making the ‘reading experience’ as enjoyable as possible on a continuous, page-by-page, basis. Some might argue that writing this way could lessened the literary value of the work. Perhaps it might, however, this comment reminds me of an interview I saw on TV. A music ‘expert’ was asked about Yanni’s music. The expert said, “Yanni’s a fake. He doesn’t know anything about music. He just writes the kind of music people like to listen to.”

The Rewards of Providing a Better ‘Reading Experience”

Nora Roberts book and the second-tier author’s book provided very different reading experiences. After reading the ‘better’ author’s book, I felt like the book was excellent (I gave it 41/2 stars) but I was not interested in reading another one of that author’s books. After reading the Nora Roberts book, (I gave it 4 stars) I felt like reading another one of her books right away. The page-by-page reading experience was far more enjoyable with Nora Roberts. Like many fans, I place greater value on having a more enjoyable reading experience than I do on how highly a book is reviewed.

How to Sell More Books

Based on my research I believe that the way to sell more books is to enhance the page-by-page ‘reading experience’. One way to quantify this illusive measure is by the use of a Rewards-Per-Page index.

Ways to Reward a Reader.

There are many ways to reward a reader. (I keep discovering more ways all the time.)

Please Note: it is important to point out that the RPP index is ‘art’ and not ‘science’. What I might call a reward, another person might not. Some rewards might qualify as two or more rewards on the same index. Scores can also differ by which pages one chooses to use as a sample. I like to use ten pages from page 100 to 110. This is arbitrary. A more scientific study would employ more objective reward categories and use a larger sample, say 100 pages. Therefore, the RPP Index is best utilized to show which authors rate low and which rate high when using the same criteria. This is still very useful information.

Interestingly, a new author can have a high RPP score and still not be selling anywhere near her potential because she is as of yet little known or in a small niche market. How many books would Nora Roberts sell if she only wrote Christian Fiction? Authors with a high RPP score should consider moving to a larger target market and be encouraged to do a lot more personal marketing.

Some Ways to Reward a Reader

1. Give the reader new experiences. Take the reader to places she has never been. Treat the reader to smells, foods, and sights she is not likely to otherwise encounter. (For example, try a new coffee, tea, or other product. Perhaps show a new way to make coffee. The point here is that whatever your plot may dictate, you should still be thinking of ways to give the reader new experiences.)
2. Five-sense your copy. Involve odor, taste and touch as often as it makes sense within the storyline. Use hot, cold, hunger, and thirst. Five-sensing can be used to provide ‘new’ experiences and also used to enhance the vicarious experience your story provides the reader. Nora Roberts is very proficient with 5-sensing her copy.

3. Make the reader ‘feel’ an expanded array of emotions. The phenomena of ‘vicarious experience’ allows readers to feel what your characters are feeling – or at least what your heroine is feeling. These feelings can include: being loved, desired, envied, jealous, victorious, cherished, prideful, fearful, beautiful, approved of, angry, sorrowful, in doubt, joyous, hateful, and feeling betrayed. Janet Dean makes exceptional use of emotions in her first book, “Courting Miss Adelaide”.

4. Anticipatory Events (AEs): create situations in which the reader looks forward to finding the resolution. Secrets work well as AEs. Other AEs include ‘going to a big event—like a dance’, ‘who will win an award’, ‘who will get the job’, ‘what will happen when Mary finally meets her ex?’, Julie Lessman uses AEs skillfully in her “Daughters of Boston” series.

5. Make AEs happen sooner in the story than the reader expects. This is a reward in itself. (Nora Roberts is an expert at rewarding the reader sooner than the reader expects it to happen.)

6. Factoids: facts make the reader feel smarter. Lucy Gordon does this often in her Italian stories. Factoids can include ‘how-to’ items. (Like how an Italian cook might handle a cooking problem such as too much spice in a soup.) Factoids are so popular that the term ‘factoid’ is now in general usage. (As strong as factoids are, a writer must be very careful to seamlessly work them into her writing. Factoids cannot be there simply because the author wants to reward a reader.)

7. Sparkles: the poetic use of words; fresh and unique ways of expression – a selection of words the reader has never heard or seen of before. Sparkles include new terms to take the place of worn-out romance phrases like ‘toes curled’, ‘knees turns to jelly’, ‘took her to where she had never been before’, etc. Camy Tang demonstrates this ability in her new book: “Deadly Intent”.

8. Quips, quotes, and wisecracks. These cover a lot of ground. Ideally these are sayings that the reader can enjoy and perhaps use herself in the right situation. Janet Evanovich’s books are plum full of wisecracks and are a joy to read. In an interview Janet once said that she considered herself to be an entertainer more than a writer. Wow! This goes right to the heart of writing to the ‘reading experience’.

A Few Examples from Available Books:

“His Forever Love”, Missy Tippens, page 12

Her traitorous heart galloped underneath her rib cage. Stop it! I will not let my heart race over this man. This supposed friend.

(Example of ‘emotions’ and ‘sparkle’)

****

“Deadly Intent”, Camy Tang, page 8

“I need to speak to Jessica Ortiz.”
An involuntary spasm seized her throat. Of course, glamorous client Jessica Ortiz or plain massage therapist Naomi Grant – no comparison, really.
But something in his tone didn’t quite have the velvety sheen of a lover. He sounded almost…dangerous. And danger didn’t belong in the spa.”

(Notice in the above quote: 5-sense: ‘spasm’, Emotional: ‘envy’ of Jessica and ‘self-depreciation’ – she almost ‘feels’ sorry for herself, Sparkle: ‘velvety sheen of a lover’ . AE: ‘danger didn’t belong in the spa’ ).

***

“Deadly Intent”, Camy Tang, page 12

Back out in the central fountain area, the harsh smell seemed stronger, but she couldn’t pinpoint where it came from. Had a sewage pipe burst? No, it wasn’t that sort of smell. It didn’t smell rotten, just…had an edge to it.

(A good use of ‘smell’ – I can almost smell it myself. This detail enhances the reader’s vicarious experience.)

****

“Petticoat Ranch”, Mary Connealy, page 49

The man quit rubbing his head. He was staring at her and listening so intently, it was as if every word she spoke was coming straight from the mouth of God. “Earlier you asked me about a name.”
“Clifton Edwards.”
His eyes narrowed, and Sophie leaned closer along with the girls.
“Clifton Edwards, Cliff,” he muttered. “It means something to me.”

(AE: the author could have just revealed the information directly but instead the reader has to wonder: ‘Who is Clifton Edwards to this man? What happens when he remembers the name?’ Mary Connealy makes very good use of AEs in her books. By the way, the answer comes very soon.)

***

Assignment: Baby”, Lynne Marshall, page 8

Amanda Dunlap prayed this wasn’t fate’s idea of a practical joke.
And there they were, the twenty carefully selected patients, each with three or four of the risk factors contributing to future heart disease – ticking time bombs, as her mentor had put it.

(Above quote is an example of an AE – will patients die, which ones, will the bombs go off?)

*****

Assignment: Baby, Lynne Marshall, page 8

Thank heavens the Mercy Hospital medical director had found a replacement for their satellite clinic. Only one problem remained.
Where was her hero?
While destiny snickered, Amanda checked her watch again – seven-ten.

(Example of AE. Who is hero? Will he show up? What will her reaction be? )

***

“Courting the Doctor’s Daughter”, Janet Dean, page 13

Opening the side door leading to her father’s office, Mary’s nostrils filled with the smell of disinfectant, a scent she’d grown as accustomed to as the honeysuckle fragrance she wore. The waiting room chairs sat empty. A stack of well-worn Farmers’ Home Journals and Ladies’ Journals cluttered the top of a small stand. She took a minute to clear out the old issues before the whole heap tumbled to the floor.

(Example: excellent use of smell and factoids – magazines of the times)

***

“A Passion Redeemed”, Julie Lessman, beginning of Chapter 4.

What was he doing here? Again? Mitch sucked in a deep breath, thick with the loamy scent of wet leaves and burning peat, and turned the ignition off. The car sputtered to silence. He sagged back in the seat, surrounded by stillness except for drizzle on the roof of his Model T, the distant yapping of a dog, and the pounding of his pulse in his ears.

(AEs and 5-sensing. Julie Lessman scores very high on RPP. )

****

“Sushi for One?” Camy Tang, page 310.

“Lex, singles in the entire Bay Area are asking the same question.”
“But I used to succeed in everything whenever I gave my best. Why not in finding Mr. Right too? Or at the very least, a sponsor.”
“Let me get this straight. You’re complaining because you, like practically every woman in the United States of America, can’t find either Mr. Right or Mr. Rich? What planet are you living on?”

(Example of emotional desire to win and of snappy dialogue)

“Sushi for One?” Camy Tang, page 310.

Lex didn’t realize she’d been leaning against the car until the heat began toasting her buns. She scooted away.

(Good use of showing someone who is mentally preoccupied and also how hot it is outside without expressly saying either.)

*****

“A Passion Denied”, Julie Lessman

Brady frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Collin’s chest tightened as he thought of Lizzie and the secret Faith had sworn him to.
“Collin? Something’s wrong – what is it?”
Collin looked away and threaded his fingers though his hair. “Yeah, yeah, there is. I don’t think it’s anything serious yet, but—“

(Secrets are used many times in “A Passion Denied”. Will a character reveal the secret? Will grantor of secret find out? What will happen then? Lots of AEs can be generated by use of a single secret.)

*****

Important: The RPP approach does not supersede writing rules. You still need to know how to write well. Writing a bad book that has 20 rewards per page will only produce a more rewarding bad book. Increasing the RPP may not even merit you better reviews. The higher RPP is designed to enhance the total ‘reading experience’ in order to please readers and make fans more likely to buy your next book(s).

How you might choose to apply this information:

1. create your own RPP index with rewards that you find significant.

2. score your own work – then score an author you particularly like using your RPP system. Compare scores.

3. color code your manuscript in your word processor by giving different color highlights to the five sense words.

4. color code ‘emotions’ – show what characters are feeling on each page. You can use different color type for the different emotions.

5. scroll through your WIP file. Ask yourself – how colorful is my writing and how ‘rewarding’ is my writing? If you’re seeing very little color, you have work still to do.

6. try to increase your RPP score without making the writing seem stilted. (Think of this: ‘a high-concept’ movie is one that by its very nature provides many ways to reward the viewer. If you develop a ‘high-concept’ romance plot, then by its very nature, you’ll enjoy more opportunities to increase your RPP score.)

Questions:

Do you write to ‘the needs of the novel’ or do you write to the ‘reading experience”? Do you consider yourself an entertainer?

Can you suggest some additional ways to reward the reader?

Vince
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Vince is giving away a spankin' new copy of Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure to one person who leaves a comment here today.

If you'd like to read more about Vince's philosophy of romance, check his blog at http://vmres.blogspot.com/

~

44 comments:

Rie said...

Wow, this post is so informational.

I never thought about the reading experience before. I do try to entertain, but to think about who my audience is and what they exactly need emotionally is a whole new way for me to look at writing.

I often read to forget the stresses of the day. I'm not sure how I can implement more rewards into my writing, but I'll definitely think about it.

Captain Hook said...

I'm with Rie. Just . . . Wow!

We frequently comment on here about Nora Roberts's godliness when it comes to writing. Now maybe we can hope to emulate it :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Geez, Louise, Vince.

This is an all day workshop packed in a Saturday morning post. You and Julie Lessman should get together and do a traveling show.

Time to grab my coffee and pen and start taking notes.

Thanks for the great post.

Julie Lessman said...

HOLY COW, VINCE ... Tina stole the words right out of my mouth ... this would make an AMAZING workshop!!

Thanks SO much for your very detailed and excellent analysis AND, of course, for the plugs for Seeker books!! I found your comparison of RPPs for Nora versus the other writer realllllly interesting. The woman definitely knows her craft.

Honestly, Vince, you need to hook up with ACFW and do a seminar!! I'd certainly sign up ...

Hugs,
Julie

Audra Harders said...

Terrific advice, Vince. I love your step-by-step process of writing rewards for the reader.

Interesting too how you rated the two books, giving one a 4 1/2 yet choosing not to read another by that author. Giving Nora Roberts a lower rating (4), yet wanting to read another book written by her because she exceeded your expectations emotionally.

Wow. Talk about a new way to regard your manuscripts!

Thanks for sharing, Vince! And thanks for using so many excerpts from Seekers books.

You rock!

Vince said...

Hi Anita Mae:

The layout looks great! Thanks. I just sent in some pictures and my copy and presto! I love it!

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Rie:

I think many writers don’t think about the actual ‘reading experience’. They see a book as a physical object on their book shelf. But a novel only ‘really’ exists when it is being read and experienced by a reader. The novel is not paper and ink any more than one can say ‘sheet music’ is music. Music exists when it is heard and a romance novel exists only when it is being experienced.

A writer is creating that reading experience. In my research, I have found that many of the best selling writers were once in advertising, did magic shows, or wrote plays as a child and then directed those plays. Some were actresses. When performing on a live stage one is very aware of the moment-by-moment need to be entertaining. This valuable past experience makes these writers intuitively more sensitive to the ‘reading experience’.

When I read my first Natasha Oakley romance, it was immediately apparent to me that she had been an actress. I checked and indeed she had years of stage experience. I had the feeling that when Natasha wrote, she could visualize the audience in front of her.

A good adman does this same thing. Write as if you were talking to your best prospect in that prospect’s home. Don’t write copy like it was an ad and don’t write like you are giving a speech to 100,000 people. I would never start to write an important advertisement without a clear idea of who the best prospect for that product was. I would even say to myself, “I love this person and as a friend I want to help them.” (Of course, you have to be selling a worthwhile product.)

I think a writer could do this same thing. Say to yourself, “I love this reader and I want to give her the best reading experience I can.” This really works. Indeed, if you really loved your reader, would you use tired, wore out, clichés because they are handy? Wouldn’t it be better to be creative and find a new way to say the same old thing? Writing to the reading experience makes you a better writer in many different ways.

As a bonus, thinking of ways to reward the reader and thus improve the reading experience can be helpful in breaking or avoiding ‘writer’s block’.

It is my view that you can always make your writing more rewarding. For example, in your case, you could have ways to reduce stress or have your heroine take a long bubble bath with a very expensive bath oil or lotion (or whatever it is!). Give the reader this unique experience and emphasize the scent and feel of luxury. Add music. (She was given the $100 a tube product as a gift.)

BTW, thinking as an adman, I would write the manufacturer of that luxury lotion and ask for a free sample because you want to use it in your current romance. This way you get to experience the joy first hand. That makes you a better writer.


Thanks for your post. You really got me thinking the morning.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Captain Hook:

When I read my first Nora Roberts romance I was so impressed that the next 18 books I read were also by Nora Roberts. In fact, at that time, I read all the available single title series novels she had in print. I don’t think her stories were that much different. She used familiar themes. Her books were just so much more enjoyable to read.


Years later I was reading a big Nora Roberts book, one of her many large trilogies, and as my wife walked into the room, I just spontaneously said, “Whatever they pay this woman, it’s not enough.” I must have been reading a very rewarding page at the time.


What those second-tier authors did not understand is that advertising budgets are usually a percentage of gross sales. The more sales you have, the larger your advertising budget is. I would expect that Nora Roberts has a lower percentage of her gross sales spent on advertising than the second-tier authors were receiving. (When I was advertising furniture, we spend 6% of gross sales on advertising. If we wanted a bigger ad budget, we were told to write better ads that sold more products. When sales went up, the ad budget would increase as well.)

From a ‘reading experience’ POV, Nora Roberts is as good as her sales indicate.

Thanks for your post.

Vince

Janet C. said...

Wow! This is some post this morning, Vince. But first, let me extend my welcome to The Prairies :)

I'll often abandon a book for the simple reason that I'm getting nothing out of it. It may be a good premise, interesting characters - but if the execution is 'unrewarding', I'll close it up and go looking for something else. I taught my students to do the same thing - why invest all that time in a story that can't hold your interest? Many other teachers (and some parents) couldn't believe I would advocate abandoning a book once you've started (I did have guidelines, though, they had to give it an honest try and depending on the age level there were page requirements). Once I explained my reasoning most completely understood. There are too many books out there to slug through one that will take forever to get to the end.

I've bookmarked this post so that I can come back to it once I get a chunk of time. I know it will help me take my writing to the next level. Thanks, Vince :)

Captain Hook said...

Over on CC recently, we talked about how long we'll give a book to capyture our interest. I was the only one willing to read more than 25 pages before deciding to put a book down (I do 50). Some people were adamant about not going past page 1 which really surprised me.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

I would love to do a workshop with Julie Lessman. Over the years I have developed 105 different 3-hour seminars for real estate continuing education and delivered over 2,500 3-hour sessions. (These were all approved by the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission). After all this, I tend to think in 3-hour segments. How long are writer workshops? BTW, I’d love to write the manual.

Thanks for dropping by. I look forward to the day I can review your first book! You do a wonderful and very comprehensive job on the Seeker site.

Vince

Glynna Kaye said...

Excellent, Vince! Your reader's "basket of feelings" idea is so true. To this day there are books that I may not be able to tell you the plot or who the characters were, but I remember how the book made me FEEL.

Regarding your comment: “I love this reader and I want to give her the best reading experience I can.” That's what I very much want to do--so you'll have to let me know what my Love Inspired October release "Dreaming of Home" rating is when it comes out!

The more I read (here & back in Seekerville) about your RPP, the more I think you should get that book written on the subject ASAP!

Vince said...

Hi Julie:

Thanks for the nice comments. I would love to do a workshop in Denver for the ACFW (or some other location). I assume Denver has been put to bed by now.

What I’d like to have is more feedback so I can fine tune the workshop to address the most pressing needs of the participants. I’d also like the excuse to write the manual. I have a lot of experience in writing manuals on short notice. But then, advertising is all about daily deadlines.

There is a lot of talent at the Seekers and it was easy to find examples of rewarding readers.

Thanks for your comments.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Audra:

I have found that a lot of authors work very hard and try to follow all the many writing rules and yet, in the process, they fail to consider the actual ‘reading experience’. Usually ‘job one’ is getting the book published and pleasing an editor. Of course, this is very important. However, once you write well enough to be published, it is important to build a career.

Increasing your RPP score can give you great leverage in ‘growing’ you career and selling more books.

Let me give you an example: let’s say your RPP and overall ‘reading experience’ motivates 10% of your readers to buy your next book. That is, to actively pursue buying another of your books -- even from your backlist. In this case for every 100 people who read your book, you can expect 10 more immediate sales.

If your RPP and overall ‘reading experience’ motivates 25% to buy your next book, then 100 readers will produce 25 sales or 250% more sales. If you are fortunate enough to have a 50% conversion rate, then 100 readers will give you 50 sales and that is 500% more than the 10% author (who may have written a better reviewed book!)

Now that’s leverage. But it does not stop there. Consider your personal marketing efforts like guest blogging and book signings. If you are getting a 50% conversion, your efforts will produce 500% more sales than the poor 10% author gets while doing the same amount of work that you were doing.

Now, multiple these results, like compound interest, over a few years and you’ll see how some writing careers can become much more successful in much less time than many other hard-working writers.

Of course, to sell the most books always think leverage. Always think: book series. Do the basic creative work one time – giving it a great deal of thought and planning. Then write 3 to 8 books off the same basic plan. Why reinvent the wheel every time?

In any event, the rewards to the author are very high when the ‘reading experience’ is enhanced.

Thanks for you comments.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Janet C.

Thanks for the welcome. This is a great site in which to guest blog.

I couldn’t agree with you more on having students drop dull fiction books. Today it is very hard to even get students to read. TV panders to all viewers with a ‘reward-a-second’ – this is largely because viewers have a ‘remote’ and can switch channels.

I think it is important to get students to read for enjoyment first and then worry about guiding them towards literature. When I was in high school I had to read “The Return of the Native” which I hated. It almost ruined me for the classics. A student should know that the time invested in reading a book has value too. Often the best bet is to find an author you really enjoy and then read all that author’s books.

I think reading a dull book, hoping it will get better, is a losing proposition. Teach students how to discover authors they like and you may have created a lifetime reader.

Thanks for you post.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Captain Hook:

I think that how long to give a book to capture your interest depends on the situation. If the book is highly reviewed by respected reviewers, I think most people will give it more time. If they paid $25 for the book, I think they will give it very much more time. If they are in the book store, reading the first page of many different books, then, yes, I can see disqualifying a book after only one page.

It is not for no reason that an age old writing dictum says: “Start in the middle of things” or as we say today, “shoot the Sheriff on the first page”.

At lot of westerns and romances involve POP, point of purchase, sales. The cover art, back blurb copy, and first page are very strong selling tools. I consider these very important in getting the book sold and in a reader’s hands. However, it will be the quality of the ‘reading experience’ that determines the future of repeat sales for that author. That is why I feel the RPP is such an important success factor.

I think every writer of popular fiction is sold on the importance of the opening few pages and the ‘hook’ in the first sentence. I don’t think many, however, are aware of the importance of the RPP.

Authors are selling a 'reading experience' and not ink and paper.



Thanks,

Vince

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey there Vince, Chicks, Seekers, and friends. I wrote a comment early this morning and couldn't figure out why it wasn't showing up. Then I found it on another tab - just sitting there waiting. I guess I got side-tracked and didn't post it. LOL

Tina, thanks so much for giving me Vince's email addy. As a co-competitor on eharl's writer's challenge board, I knew he had wonderful insights into the romance genre but the full extent didn't hit me until you hosted him on Seekerville way back when. That post was such an inspiration to me. Thank you.

Vince, when I asked you to write on the RPP, you didn't just send a carbon copy of the Seeker one, you expanded it and added excerpts and wow! You really put a lot of time in effort into it and I wanted you to know how much we appreciate you for doing this. As well as spending a Sat answering questions. Kudos.

Vince said...

Hi Glynna Kaye:

I also buy books to get the ‘feelings” I want. Lucy Gordon’s ‘Italy’ books always make me feel wonderful – it’s just like I am back in Italy where I lived for 3 years and had many good times. Lucy goes into all the customs, the local dialects, then she travels to interesting places. I enjoy all these delightful experiences -- plus I get a romance, too. What’s not to like?

I’ve read 100 Betty Neels books and these books are essentially the same book over and over again. It makes no difference to me. Her heroines are the most deserving and sympathetic that I have found in the genre. To me, reading a Betty Neels book is like reading the Christmas Carol for the first time. (I think Betty Neels fans are a special breed.)

Are you sure you want a RPP rating for your Love Inspired October release: "Dreaming of Home"? I’ll be happy to give you an expanded 50-page RRP with my most up-to-date scoring categories. We can keep the score secret unless you want to release it.

I could write the RRP book in less than a month as I have so much material already written. It is part of a much larger book on the romance genre which keeps growing. (Right now I am adding a chapter on ‘edgy’ Christian Fiction). However, given what you said, I think I should write the book as an expanded RRP chapter and get it out right away. I’ll just think ‘workshop’ and write the manual an RPP workshop would require.

It may be psychological but sometimes I think I can feel the love an author has for the reader when reading her books. The author who I most strongly feel this 'love' is Missy Tippens – also a Love Inspired writer.

I’m very interested in reading your Love Inspired book now!

BTW, I have found that generating a ‘love for the audience’ is a great way to calm down just before giving a speech. Love drives out much of the fear of speaking in public. It really does.

Thanks,

Vince

Ban said...

Grief ! What can I say that hasn't already been said ? Excellent post. I too would be interested in a workshop. Anyone up for one on Yahoo groups ?
Anyhoo - I'm not done with my first draft but I can tell you this - I am writing for MY entertainment ... like many others (I'm sure) I'm a very visual person and I see the scenes from my WiP play before me like a movie. It is important for me to add as much detail as possible so, when re-reading at a later time, I can get the same experience - see the same sights, smell the same scents etc. Those are the things that make the world I'm writing about REAL. Obviously most of it will be cut when I edit for the reader's entertainment but it's nice to hear someone call those tidbits 'rewards' instead of ... well less nice terms :D
Oh and Janet, I wish you'd been MY English teacher.

Vince said...

Hi Anita Mae:

You deserve a lot of credit for my expanded version. When you said I could make the piece as long as I needed, I rewrote the whole article from scratch. I didn’t even read the old entry. I just wrote the material as I understand it today. I’m glad I did. I am now encouraged to publish the RPP material as a small book. BTW, encouragement is good!

Thanks

Vince

Glynna Kaye said...

Oh, dear, Vince, as a newbie author barely out of the unpubbed contest realm, I'm not sure I'm ready to handle an in-depth 50-page RPP report on my very first published book. LOL. I might never write another word again! :)

I've read my fellow Seeker Missy Tippen's books, of course, but I'll have to check out Betty Neel's. I LOVE British writers. Elizabeth Goudge. Mary Stewart. M.M. Kaye. "Miss Read." Rosamunde Pilcher. And of course the "classics" -- Austen, Brontes, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc.

Vince said...

Hi Ban:

I see your occupation is ‘dreamer’. That’s a good start for a writer or a philosopher. Also, I think that thinking in terms of scenes is very helpful. I believe one of the best investments a new writer can make is to take a screenwriting course and develop a knack for making storyboards.

It is helpful to think like a director and make sure each scene moves the plot along. I find this easier to do when thinking of movie scenes. Directors also seem much better at scene transitions.

BTW, I’m curious: when you say you write for your own entertainment. This statement can be taken three ways:
1) the actual writing process entertains you
2) reading what you wrote later entertains you
3) Both 1 and 2 above entertain you.

Thanks for your post.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Glynna Kaye:

Now I am really interested. I love to read first books. I promise to do a kind and gentle RRP. 

Betty Neels is interesting because her books were written after she retired from a full career in nursing. Harlequin has reissued her books over the years as romantic ‘classics’. I believe there are seven Betty Neels books available right now as eBooks on eHarlequin. I can’t think of Harlequin doing this for any other author but they may have.

If you have not read her before, I suggest you start by reading one of Betty Neels first 10 books. I think these have more energy.

1 1970 Sister Peters in Amsterdam
2 1970 Nurse in Holland (Amazon in an Apron)
3 1970 Surgeon from Holland (Blow Hot, Blow Cold)
4 1970 Nurse Harriet Goes to Holland (Tempestuous April)
5 1971 Damsel in Green
6 1971 Fate is Remarkable
7 1971 Tulips for Augusta
8 1972 Tangled Autumn
9 1972 Wish with the Candles
10 1972 Victory for Victoria

I like British & Irish authors very much. M.C. Beaton, who wrote as Marion Chesney in romance, would rate very high in RPP. Her Hamish Macbeth mysteries are outstanding examples on how to produce high RRP scores.

I also think Maeve Binchy is a wonderfully entertaining author.

Thanks again.

Vince

Glynna Kaye said...

Thanks for the great recommendation list, Vince! I'll try to find some of those. Will have to see if perhaps they've retitled some of them as it looks as if Amazon has a ton of her books but I don't see all of those. I love disovering a new author who has a great backlist of books still available!

I enjoy Maeve Binchy, too!

Thanks again!

Ban said...

Hey Vince,
funny you should mention that - most of my outlines read like screenplays - I should REALLY take a course in that. Thanks for the idea !
Oh, and #3 :D

Ban said...

PS: where on Long Island ? I'm from Islip township originally ...

Vince said...

Hi Ban:

I was born in Rockville Centre and lived for a while in Garden City. Then we moved to Connecticut and then to New Jersey. My father was an engineer and we moved every few years.

BTW, The screenwriting book I feel may be of most use to novel writers is: “Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting”, by Robert Mckee. It is also available as an audio tape. I like tapes because it often lets me do two things at once.

Vince

Ban said...

I have an aunt in Rockville Centre, my grandmother lived in Levittown. (sorry for the cross-post people)
THANKS for the book title ... will definately check it out !

Vince said...

Hi Glynna Kaye:

Betty Neels first books are out of print. Some had several titles depending on in which country they were released. You should be able to buy most of her early books on Abebooks.com. Abe has millions of books in their virtual inventory. Some early Neels books cost over $100 but some, right now, are only $1. It depends on whether the book has ever been reissued.

Thanks,

Vince

Camy Tang said...

WOW thanks so much for this article, Vince! I'll post a link to it on my Story Sensei blog. This is absolutely fantastic information!!!
Camy

Vince said...

Hi Camy:

Thanks for stopping by and for the mention on your site. I appreciate your comment on my article.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi All:

I’ll be checking back on Sunday and will leave comments if you come late and have any questions. I'll send Anita Mae the winner of the book Sunday morning.

When I ordered Julie Lessman’s books I got my ‘Passions” mixed-up and ordered two extra copies of “A Passion Most Pure”. I sent one copy to my sister and I wanted to find a good home for the other copy.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by and special thanks to those who left a comment. I've enjoyed my time here today.

Vince

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thank you so much for your informative and memorable post, Vince. And also for sticking around for the discussion when there are so many other things to do on a summer Saturday.

I'll look for your email when I get back from church which will be early afternoon for most people here. :)

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, what a great post. You know your stuff, Dude.

Good job.

And thanks for the Seeker shout out. Good advice and great books. A win/win!

Ruthy

Vince said...

Hi Ruthy:

Thanks for stopping by.

It’s easy to find good writing examples in Seeker books. I just wish your book was already available. I don’t know how you can stand the wait.

Vince

Mary Connealy said...

Thanks for using me as a good example, Vince. :)

Missy Tippens said...

What a great post, Vince!! Thanks, Anita Mae.

Since I heard Vince talk about this topic, I've tried to be aware of it in my own writing.

Missy Tippens said...

And now that I've read the comments, thank you, Vince, for your nice comment on feeling that I love my reader.

I do! :)

Katie Ganshert said...

What an absolutely AWESOME article. So applicable. I love the idea of color coding my ms to see how "colorful" it is. I'm definitely going to do that. Thanks for the tips!!

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

You write the exact kind of books I like to read. But I need bigger type. I hope to see your books released as eBooks someday soon. Then I could read them all.

Thanks for stopping by.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

How I envy you going to the RWA and meeting all those authors at one time. And to talk with Janet Evanovich -- one of the best RPP writers there is – that must have been fun. She has a wonderful audio tape on how she writes that really shows what an accomplished entertainer she is. What fun.

Looking forward to your book #3. BTW, don't let all those workshops change you. I still want to feel the love. :)

Thanks for stopping by.


Vince

Vince said...

Hi Katie:


When I first started copywriting, the copy editor said one of my ads suffered from ‘sensory deprivation’. That’s when I decided to color code my copy. After color coding, that didn’t happen again.

I hope it works well for you, too. Thanks for coming by.

Vince

Jordan McCollum said...

Came here from Camy Tang's blog. This is so amazing! The first time I read the list, somehow I skipped the last one and I was going to add it in the comments—glad to see it wasn't overlooked!

I think that a rewards-oriented view could also really enhance a query letter. The more rewards you can pack into a query letter, the more likely an agent will want to read the book, maybe?

Carla Gade said...

This was one of the best writing articles that I have read. Just loaded! I'm still absorbing it all. I really appreciated the great examples, too. Thank you so much!