About Dan DeWitt

Simply put, I love to tell stories. My short story collection UNDERNEATH will be available at the end of June, and my full-length zombie thriller ORPHEUS in July.

Keeping it real. No, really.

I read for one reason: escapism. Entertain me. Bring me places.  Show me monsters, supercops, magic, the afterlife…you’re the magician and I’m the rube. Pull the wool over my eyes and make me forget about the real world for a small chunk of time. I’ll love you for it.

Just don’t insult my intelligence.

When I write, I follow two main rules: Rule #1 – Just write the story. I don’t get cute. I just tell the story as if we were sitting in front of a campfire. That doesn’t work for everyone; it’s just my style. As a reader, I allow a lot more latitude, because no two writers are the same, and I’d hate to miss out on a great story because someone starts slower than I would like.

And Rule #2 (Now that I think about it, this really should be #1.) – A reader will believe anything if you get the mundane, everyday details right. This means going to great lengths to make sure that your readers never have a chance to say, “Oh, come on. That wouldn’t happen.” It can be practically anything.

It might be one of those conversation where Person A tells Person B that they know something. Person B admits it, but they’re thinking about something entirely different. They both go on and neither one of them says anything to make the other say, “Wait…we’re talking about two different things.”

Or it could be mystery novel where one of the characters neglects to share the single most vital piece of information that will break the case.

Or, that staple of horror, splitting up for absolutely no good reason.

In reality, people just don’t behave like this, and it puts the brakes on what should be a smooth ride.

The most egregious example I can think of is in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. I don’t like to constantly harp on Brown’s writing (yes, I do) because he’s obviously doing quite well for himself, but one part in TLS was so unbelievable that I actually dropped the book on the table and put my head in my hands.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* Peter Solomon and his younger sister Katherine are working in a top-secret lab doing top-secret research in noetic sciences (a fringe science, at best, but I’m okay with going with it). No one but their assistant is allowed in this lab. Ever. Peter goes missing (kidnapped by the bad guy) for days. Katherine is worried sick. The bad guy sends a text message from Peter’s phone (we’ve already been told that Peter can’t figure out texting on his iPhone) and tells Katherine to let Peter’s psychiatrist (the bad guy, naturally) into the lab for some reason I never quite figured out.

It’s a book. It’s pretend. I’m fine with all of this, until…

She lets him in without question. Do you think anything good comes of it?

To recap: Secret lab. Brother goes missing. Sister receives text from missing brother, which she knows is completely out of character for him. Still hasn’t spoken to brother. She lets shrink into top-secret lab anyway. Mayhem.

What? In real life, if someone you love goes missing for days, the first thing you’ll do after they send you a text is call them up and scream at them for freaking you out. And that’s if you don’t have a top-secret lab. If you do, your initial response would probably involve the phrase “Are you kidding me?!?” peppered with the business end of a bunch of curse words.

Could Brown have figured out a believable way to get the bad guy into the lab? I hope so. I figured out about ten.

*END SPOILERS*

This is why a writer has a responsibility to ask themselves two questions at numerous points in their work: “Would I actually do this?” or “Would someone else actually do this?” If a writer can answer either of those in the affirmative, it’s probably safe to continue. If not, rewriting is necessary. Either kill it altogether or be creative and make it believable.

Keep it real.

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The devil’s in too much detail.

     On several different occasions in my life, I’ve attempted something that, to this day, frightens me: I’ve attempted to read fantasy fiction.

     It’s…not working out. The only one I’ve ever made it through is “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and I only did that because I was in the Air Force and guarding a plane for twelve hours a night. Continue reading

Why you need betas.

*Disclaimer* I’ll be honest: I’ve apparently been interchanging the terms “Alpha reader” and “Beta reader” for years now. I guess that, technically, Alphas give you quick feedback about the main elements of your story (plot, pacing, characterization, etc), and Betas go over your work with a fine-toothed comb. Here’s a good explanation.

Whatever. You just need readers who aren’t you. Don’t think otherwise. Now, back to your regularly-scheduled post… Continue reading

How much do I charge for this thing, anyway?

So you’ve written your ebook, formatted it exactly the way it’s supposed to be, and are ready to make it available with the various big players in publishing.

But how much should you, the wildly talented but completely unknown author, charge for it?

I’ve been following the dialogue for a little while, and there seem to be two main camps. The first believes in getting the maximum return for each copy they sell, because of the hard work that they’ve put into writing their novel. The other is more interested in just getting their books in front of the most readers possible and will price it accordingly.

The first approach seems to be wholly counterproductive to me. Charging a reader the same fee for your work that the international bestselling authors do for theirs seems to be an exercise in futility. I know that there is a zero percent chance that I would shell out $10-15…or more…for an unknown author. For most of us, that’s a decent chunk of change to spend on a literary nobody. I’d wager that some of these authors who insist on being “properly compensated” (a direct quote from several writers whom I’ve spoken with about this issue, by the way) have yet to sell a single copy.

On the other hand, allow me to present two examples out of several in the low-pricing camp: John Locke and Amanda Hocking. John Locke (unfortunately, not the guy from Lost) occupied seven spots on Amazon’s Top 50 and made over $126,000 in March alone. All of his novels are priced at $.99. Amanda Hocking is believed to be the first to become a millionaire entirely through self-publishing, and her novels range from $.99 to $2.99.

This business is all about getting your name out there, and the worst way I can think of to do that is to scare your readers off right out of the gate. But what might happen if you give everyone a low- or even no-risk look at what you have to offer? If you’re good, motivated to market, and patient, you’ll probably do well.

I’m not sure if an author’s prolificness (It’s a word, I swear!) has anything to do with a higher price point, but I’m not sure it doesn’t, either. After all, if an author feels that he or she only has one or two novels in them, they may be more likely to price higher than someone who has more ideas than they’ll be able to write in their lifetime.

I’ll use yours truly as an example. By August of 2012, I will have published a short story collection, a novella, and three novels (I’m not a speed writer by any means; it’s the cumulative result of the writing I’ve done for the the last five years or so). The short story collection, to be released by the end of June, will be free until I publish the first novel at the end of July, at which time I might bump it all the way up to $.99. I have absolutely nothing to lose by keeping the price on my books low; I would gladly give one away free for eternity to get a reader interested in buying everything else I write. There’s a reason that companies will give you some of their product for free in the beginning. It’s all about the hook. Every dollar you don’t charge might lead to several dollars of profit. Repeat after me: If you’re in it for the long haul, you have nothing to lose.

As far as the standard full-length novel pricing goes, the current consensus seems to be that the sweet spot for sales and, therefore, profit, is $2.99-$3.99. Three bucks isn’t much of a commitment or risk; it’s an impulse buy. And in a reading market that is becoming dominated by a hand-held gadget that has the capability to instantly download the next beach read, the impulse buy is the upstart’s best friend.