Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Giving Readers What They Want


guest, Candee Fick

Hello Seekerville! I'm so glad to be back with you today, and even though it's Halloween, I promise no tricks. Only treats. (Including an advance reader copy of my upcoming release!)

One of my delights as an author is hearing from readers. Especially when a storyline or character's journey has directly inspired or encouraged them through a difficult time. 
Whether it's direct to my inbox, online through social media, or shared inside reviews, I'm searching for those golden nuggets to know what resonated the most with my readers...and what fell short. That way I know what to repeat...and what to improve upon. 

JOURNEY INSIDE A BOOK – Book-1014197_1280,
Creative Commons License from Pixabay


While stories are dear to my heart and come to life in my imagination first, this authoring adventure is all about giving readers what they want—an emotionally satisfying journey.
The best stories include a journey that actually goes somewhere and has a logical point to the twists and turns along the way. A journey that tugs on a variety of emotions with an ebb and flow to the underlying tension. And a journey that leaves readers smiling in satisfaction at the end to know it ended perfectly without feeling rushed or drawn out.


However, after publishing FocusOn Love back in February, for the first time I got mixed signals from readers. Some were glad I didn't nicely wrap up all the loose ends with my heroine's family because life sometimes stays messy and instead of easy answers, we can discover God's strength to forge a new future. Other readers clearly stated they couldn't wait for my next book to find out what happened.

The problem? That next official book in the series (featuring a secondary character) was already written and submitted to my publisher without any hint of a resolution for the previous heroine. And I had no logical reason to include an update during the editing process without making it feel forced and artificial.

But readers wanted to know! And since this business is truly driven by those who buy books, I decided to give my readers what they wanted. That true happily-ever-after ending without an unbearable wait until long after the next official book releases in May.

(Cue drum roll and shameless plug that Audra said I was allowed to include...)

A Picture PerfectChristmas is the continuation of Liz and Ryan's story and is available for pre-order now before officially releasing on November 12th.  Here’s the blurb:

From disowned to daughter to “I do?"

Freelance photographers Liz Foster and Ryan Callahan are finally making plans for their future. And what better time to get married than during the festive holiday season that brought them together?

If only Liz’s parents weren’t standing in the way of a picture-perfect wedding.

Spurred on by the ghosts of Christmases past, Dan Foster has already written Liz out of his will, so even attending the wedding—let alone walking his daughter down the aisle—is out of the question. However, this is the season for miracles and Ryan will do anything to make his bride smile.

What will it take to bring this family back together in time for the wedding?

If you like Christmas weddings, family reunions, and happily-ever-afters, then you’ll love this next chapter in The Wardrobe series.

But that's not all that's new in my life when it comes to storytelling and giving readers what they want...

(Psst. If you're a Christian writer looking for a publisher, pay attention. And if you love reading middle grade, young adult, romance, suspense, cozy mysteries, and/or seasonal stories with Christian messages...there are some amazing stories on the way.)


As of this writing, I've been a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for a month. In that time, I've had the privilege to evaluate incoming queries and submissions looking for that next emotionally satisfying story to recommend to our Acquisitions Board. I've also been elbow-deep in several contracted books helping other authors to hone, shape, and polish their ideas into a product readers will want to read.

So, if you'd like the specifics of what I'm looking for as an editor, check out my official introduction and wish list post. Or, if you'd rather, browse our upcoming releases to see if there's anything you'd want to read next.


Let's discuss: As a reader, what do you want in a story? And what do you do if it's lacking? Is it hard to articulate what's missing from a storyline? 

As for those promised treats, I'm offering an advance reader copy of A Picture Perfect Christmas to a randomly drawn commenter. The rest of you can sample our virtual buffet of spiced apple cider, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bread…and candy corn while we chat.

___
Candee Fick is a romance editor for a small Christian press and a multi-published award-winning author. She is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy editing or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at sporting events, exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Where can you find Candee?

Visit her website www.candeefick.com
Sign up for her email list 
Check out the rest of her books 



54 comments:

  1. Hi Candee:

    I really like the cover art for "Focus on Love" and I just downloaded it.

    I have a few questions.

    Did you use beta readers on "Focus on Love"? I would think they could indicate what they did not like in time to allow for changes.

    Also, I would expect books in a series to all be about the same page length. If Amazon has it right, there seems to be a big difference in pages between books.

    Along those lines, Amazon lists "A Picture Perfect Christmas" as having 121 pages. If that is correct I would think of that book as a novella. What do you think?

    These are just a few things you might want to consider in your marketing.

    I look forward to reading "Focus on Love". I was a photographer for a number of years so that alone had me hooked.

    Vince

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    1. Good morning, Vince. You always bring up great points to consider. I think my biggest challenge is consistency in word count throughout the series. That's why I'm trying to learn to plot out my books now. The whole pantsing thing isn't working for me. It's a challenge, but very rewarding.

      I love photography. It's fun, though I fear my status as a photographer will always remain point-and-shoot, LOL.

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    2. Thanks for the insightful questions so early in the morning!

      I have a group of readers who get that early look in addition to my critique partner and the rigorous editing process with my publisher. The same editor that made me change/add to the ending of Dance Over Me (the first book in the series) also made me add a prologue to Focus On Love and take a careful look at several other scenes. However none of them reacted the way a significant chunk of my readers did. Or at least they didn't vocalize it.

      In hindsight, I could have added an epilogue to attempt to wrap up those loose story threads but fear those same readers would have felt it rushed and too convenient.

      Instead, I'm actually thrilled with the "extended epilogue novella" I ended up with instead. And yes, A Picture Perfect Christmas is more a novella in length. I'll take another look at the marketing side of things to see if I can make that more clear.

      I hope you enjoy Focus On Love and thanks for stopping by today!

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  2. Candee, so glad you can be with us today! Loved your post. Congrats on your new editor role!

    In my last series, I kept a few threads hanging through the first two books. Some readers wanted everything wrapped up at the onset...until they realized the unresolved issues would span the series and come to a satisfying conclusion in the end. That's probably the downside of having a series with an overarching suspense. My new series will feature more stand alone stories.

    Will there be Trick or Treaters at your house today? I have tons of candy and hope we get lots of little ones. They're always so adorable!

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    1. Good morning Debby! It's a tricky balance to wrap up enough of the story to satisfy readers while keeping that hook dangling to make them want to read the next book too. I think it's all about delivering on the promise you made to readers...and at the risk of borrowing too much from today's date, you want to leave them with a treat instead of feeling tricked.

      And based on where we live, there will certainly be a parade of little ones through our neighborhood. Of course, I had to buy the "good" stuff in case there's some left over. ;-)

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    2. We seem to always have a least some chocolate left over after Halloween, which is probably why I buy so much! :)

      YUM!

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  3. Good morning, Candee and welcome back to Seekerville. Congratulations on your new position as Senior Editor at Anaiah Press. I've always valued your editorial eye on my work as a fellow writer and friend.

    I love following the emotional journey through a romance of any length. If I can't feel the couple overcoming their challenges and falling in love, rather than being told it's happening, I'll have a hard time picking up another book by that author.

    I think the emotional thread is particularly difficult to develop in novellas. There's so much external plot you need to create for the storyline, and then thread in - not drop by dollops - the emotional journey, many unedited, indie novellas fall short of the mark.

    Thanks so much for joining us today!

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    1. Thanks for hosting me! And we'll have to talk stories soon...like this weekend. ;-)

      I totally agree that as a reader I want to experience the story as it unfolds by truly becoming the character. From the author's side of the craft, that means I have to get inside my character's skin and master a deeper, closer POV. I also need to strategically show the body language cues of the other characters in a scene as subtext.

      Here's hoping I was able to deliver that same emotional impact in a shorter novella...

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    2. I'm so ready to spend 4 glorious days in the mountains doing nothing but writing...well, maybe eating and hiking a little, but mainly writing. I'll try not to pester you too much, LOL!!

      Tomorrow. NaNoWriMo. 50K words or bust!!

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  4. P.S. Unplanned by me or I would have mentioned it earlier...but Focus On Love is free today! How's that for an extra treat?

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077TYHD4T/

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    1. Thanks! Just got mine.

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  5. Thank you so much Candee for your post... and for listening to your readers! There have been some stand alone titles I have read of which would be fun to read the rest of the story - kind of like all those sequels or imaginings of the continuing story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. But sometimes good stories need to be left alone (I haven't read one book that's proven satisfactory for the Darcys...). I think it really comes down to author choice. Is there enough of a story to do the first book and your characters justice? If so, write away! Thanks again. Lee-Ann B

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    1. You make a great point. Sometimes there just isn't enough story left to tell.

      There's also the risk that if the first book was too strong (as if that's possible LOL), that the sequel will be a comparative disappointment. We've all seen movie series where they really should have stopped after the first one (Ahem, Rocky) instead of dragging out a storyline. Hmm. Food for thought...

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    2. I know what you mean about the Darcys. I have also never seen any acceptable sequel to "Gone With the Wind," either in print or on the screen. So there's that. Some things are meant to be left alone.

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    3. ALSO ROCKY, but that's kind of a given.

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  6. I'm a writer who loves to read. What I want in a book: The main character's situation to look so bad and grim in the beginning, but the ending is so sweet. Both parts would be the kind that would cause me to not want to put it down, to possibly read it in one sitting.

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    1. Exactly! A character in trouble...who we root for and can then celebrate with. And I'm totally a one-sitting reader if I'm invested in the outcome.

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  7. I love how invested your readers are in your stories that they would have such specific wants for other characters in your books. How awesome is that?

    Congrats on your position as editor! And I pray your new release satisfies your readers. Now I'm off to find your book! ;)

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    1. Thanks! Readers are loving The Wardrobe theater gang almost as much as I do. And having finished checking the galleys last week, I'm also looking forward to their reactions to Gloria's story in May.

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    2. Hi Sherrinda! Isn't it wonderful when your characters become real people to your readers? Definitely something to strive for! I'm glad you stopped by and i'm waiting for your book to hit the stands!!

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  8. Good morning, Candee!

    Congratulations on your new adventure with Anaiah Press!

    Thank for this great post. The one reason why I read reviews is to see what readers like or don't like about a book. If I read the same comment a dozen times, then I know I have a problem...or something to celebrate! And it makes each book a learning experience. :-)

    Thanks for being here! And I'll be popping over to Amazon for the free copy of Focus on Love!

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    1. Yeah! Another review reader like me! I can't fix what I don't know about, so even if it bruises the ego a bit temporarily, we all win in the long run. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy Focus On Love.

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  9. Congratulations Candee! I loved Focus on Love and am thrilled you wrote A Picture Perfect Christmas! I confess to being one of your readers that like the story wrapped up. I won't even read a series with an overarching suspense that doesn't resolve at the end of a book. Thank you for finishing the story!

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    1. You're welcome! And I hope this time around it leaves you completely satisfied.

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  10. To me it depends if the book is a series or a stand-alone. But even in a stand-alone, you can't always wrap everything up because life doesn't always wrap up. At least mine doesn't. Sometimes there's loss. In our work especially, the HEA happens, but it's to characters who overcome the harshness of a not-perfect-world to be what God wants them to be. Just my humble op-ed...

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    1. You're not alone in that opinion. Seeker Carrie Booth Schmidt wrote a fabulous review of Focus On Love that actually praised me for leaving those threads dangling...So, Carrie, I suppose you could pretend I didn't write A Picture Perfect Christmas after all. ;-)

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  11. Hello Candee! Congratulations on your new position!

    Thank you for the great post. I enjoy stories that impact me on the soul level and cause me to look at life differently.

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    1. So true. I read to escape, but I love it when I come away from a book a better person for having invested those hours.

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  12. Candee, I have "Dance With Me," actually I won it here! Nice job.

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    1. Now I'm the one being "treated" today. Thanks!

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  13. Candee, as a reader I like a story which leaves me smiling at the end. I do like satisfying endings. Your solution to the ending problem was good.

    As a writer, I understand how hard it is to finish a book but leave an opening for future novels.

    Thank you for your thoughts....and the goodies...especially the candy corn!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and reminding us to leave our readers with a smile on their faces.

      And as for the candy corn, I didn't used to like it at all. Mostly because my maiden name was Coen and all the jokesters at school liked to butcher my name for fun. At least the "candy corn" jokes gave way to "candy cane" eventually. Until the next fall rolled around.

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  14. I've been traveling today. Just ran in the door to unload the car. But we have trunk or treat at the church in a little while. I'll have to come back and read more later!

    Candee, welcome!! I'm sorry to rush off before getting to carefully read your post. Thanks for being with us as a treat today! :)

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  15. Welcome back to Seekerville, Candee! Happy Reformation Day! :)

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  16. Thanks for joining us today, Candee! Great post. As a reader, I want a book to have a satisfying ending. If it doesn't, I'm disappointed. I remember reading one book that, I felt, left me hanging. So I basically had to make up my own ending. Yeah, that bugged me. It's also something I always keep in mind when I'm writing, because I want those readers to be satisfied.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in Mindy! I definitely aim for that "awww, sweet" ending because it's all about the readers. And I have to admit that making up a few alternate endings to disappointing books is one reason I started writing in the first place.

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  17. Hey, Candee, love the memes. In a cozy mystery, like the ones I create, the ending is destined from the start. Catch the villain and have a good character arc for your sleuth. But, if you have insufficient clues as to who the villain is, or go round the houses too much, readers are not happy. So, it's spoon feeding clues without the reader swallowing until the end. Fun to write. Thanks so much for the blog and great ideas.

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    1. Glad you stopped by Marilyn! Cozy mysteries certainly have an expected ending to satisfy the readers' expectations, but like you said, they also want a good balance between real clues and red herrings.

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  18. Candee, you soar with talents: Editor, blogger, writer, tech guru, coach and friend to word lovers. I loved Focus on Love and will enjoy the rest of the story in Picture Perfect Christmas. Since I'm not a big reader of romance novels, I was as much interested in how Liz's relationship with her parents would work out as her boyfriend, Ryan. But I'm happy to read A Picture Perfect Christmas! Great post and reminder to invest and care about the readers!

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    1. Gretchen! Here's hoping your talented Genesis-winner self is settling into your new home. And thanks for stopping by and chiming in to the discussion.

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  19. I think you're braver than I am. I had quite a few people asking for a sequel to my book that came out last year, but I just can't wrap my mind around writing more on a story I felt was wrapped up. I have a feeling I will have even more requests for the one coming out in April because it doesn't end with everything wrapped in a nice, neat bow. Like you said, life is messy. :-)

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    1. I still have people asking for a sequel to my debut standalone, but like you, I don't have any idea where to take it next. For this current series, it helped that I made sure to plant other interesting secondary characters who could go on to star in their own books.

      I hope your readers are understanding. Although, I suppose you could write a short epilogue to have available only on your website. Or even encourage your fans to write their own ending for others to vote on. They'd get the satisfaction of a happily-ever-after while you'd get more traffic to your blog or website with minimal work.

      Hmm. I might steal my own idea for down the road... ;-)

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  20. Oh I love finding a new author for me. For me some books have to have a good back story to keep my attention or a good friends to love story.

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    1. Kim, thanks for stopping by and letting us know what makes a story sing for you. I too enjoy the friends-falling-in-love trope.

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  21. I think that it is wonderful that you took your readers into consideration and are giving them closure. I am an avid reader so I have seen stories end with a perfect solutions and others have left me wondering but I agree that life is not always cut and dried!
    Congratulations on your new position and I admire all of the hats that you are wearing so capably.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks...but I don't know how capably I'm wearing them. LOL Some days it feels like the latest hat only serves to keep me from pulling my hair out.

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  22. Thank you for sharing
    https://aab-edu.net/

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Hi Candee:

    I believe that it is one thing to give readers what they know they want as well as what they will tell you they want but the secret of great success and the most powerful marketing is giving readers what they want that they do not know they want and would never be able to articulate as a want.

    Think of this as having a great tasting entree with secret ingredients no one else knows about. They love it but they don't know what it is that makes it so good.

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  25. Candee, I know I'm a day late to the party. I'm so glad your "party" is happening for two days. :) You are one busy lady! I loved this post and how you decided to give readers what they want . . . in the form of a novella. What a great idea! As a women's fiction writer, my current story doesn't have everything tie itself up with a neat little bow. One of my secondary characters gets thrown a big life change half way into the story, and I haven't resolved it. It's women's fiction, I can do that . . . right? But I hadn't figured out what I would do with her. I still don't know, but creating a novella if readers want to know what happens is a golden idea.

    Congratulations on your position at Anaiah Press! How exciting for you!

    Your novella sounds like a great story! May God continue to bless your writing journey!

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    1. Thanks Jeanne! Sometimes I feel like I have to write the story that's on my heart and then shape it later to fit the market expectations. As long as your main characters get their complete arc, I personally think a secondary character is just fine to leave unresolved. Especially since their continued journey would be a great second book eventually (either full length or novella). But you're right, readers of women's fiction are more understanding of messy endings than romance readers are.

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  26. Hi Candee:

    I'm taking the Dan Brown writing course and in the first lesson he said something I think is just perfect for your post topic:

    "Give the readers what they want…
    in a way they don't see coming."



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    1. I love it! That's exactly what you said before about the recipe with the secret ingredients. They might not know exactly what they want until you give it to them. Definitely food for thought as I'm working on my latest manuscript...

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