What Is the Favored POV Among Best Sellers?

2015-02-20 Old Books (4)A guest post by Allison Maruska

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve read an increasing number of self-published books. They’re often cheaper, and many of them are quite good.

BUT

There’s one thing I see in a lot of self-published books, and more often than not, it makes me stop reading: head hopping.

2016-02-01 Favored POV among Best Sellers

Head hopping is when the point of view suddenly jumps from one character to another. One minute, we’re in Bob’s head thinking about donuts. The next minute, we’re in Dana’s head thinking Bob should consider a juice diet. There’s no scene or chapter break. This happens from one paragraph to another, or sometimes within the same paragraph.

Now, there is one type of POV where head hopping is theoretically okay: subjective omniscient. Or broken down:

Subjective = we know what’s going on in a character’s head.

Omniscient = we can know all the things in the story, including what’s going on in other chatacters’ heads.

BUT

I said theoretically for a reason.

I see head hopping so often in self-pubs that I started doubting my own advice to my CPs – namely, don’t effing head hop. It’s harder to relate to the MC and it can be confusing.

2016-01-20 books ebooks ereader ipad kindle reading readerI’ve been reading nothing but self-pubs for a while, so I decided to do a little research with this question in mind: what is the favored POV among traditionally published best sellers? If they use subjective omniscient, maybe my preference for limited third or first – where you’re inside one character’s head and only know what he knows – is just my own preference and I need to give my CPs a break.

But maybe – maybe – my decades of reading have taught me something. Maybe there’s a reason head hopping bothers me.

I know there are some self-pub authors who couldn’t give half a crap about traditional publishing standards, and that’s fine. You can write your book in Sanskrit if you want. Just don’t expect to sell as many books if you do that.

The point is this: if you wanna play with the big dogs, it’s a good idea to know what they’re doing.

So I read chunks of every well-known, best-selling book in my kindle. Then I went to Amazon and read the sample pages of some top selling novels I don’t own. I’ve arranged the list this way: author – title – POV

But first, a couple of disclaimers:

1. This is a minuscule sample size compared to the total number of traditionally published books. There may be some out there that use subjective omniscient. Feel free to look around and comment if you find one.

2. My inclusion of these books should not be viewed as my endorsement of them. Yes, I loved most of them. But two were so poorly written that I stopped well before the 50% mark in spite of the tight POV. I won’t tell you which ones those were. That’s not the point.

To the list!

Stephen King – The Stand – limited 3rd

Steven Becker – Wood’s Relic – limited 3rd

Marissa Meyer – Cinder – limited 3rd

Dan Brown – Da Vinci Code – limited 3rd

Stephen Chbosky – Perks of Being a Wallflower – 1st

Ted Dekker – The Circle Series – limited 3rd

Dean Kuntz – Lightning – limited 3rd

Douglas Adams – The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – omniscient

Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles – limited 3rd

Stephen King – The Shining – limited 3rd

Kathryn Stockett – The Help – 1st

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games Trilogy – 1st

Sandra Brannan – In the Belly of Jonah – alternating 1st/limited 3rd

Jerry B. Jenkins – Riven – limited 3rd

Stieg Larsson – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – limited 3rd

Naomi Novik – His Majesty’s Dragon – limited 3rd

Matthew FitzSimmons – The Short Drop – limited 3rd

David Baldacci – The Guilty – limited 3rd

Janet Evanovich – Tricky Twenty-two – 1st

Philip K. Dick – The Man in the High Castle (1962) – limited 3rd

Vince Flynn – The Survivor – limited 3rd

Kristin Hannah – The Nightingale – 1st

And for fun, let’s include some self-pubs:

Hugh Howey – Wool – limited 3rd

Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant – Invasion – limited 3rd

I was originally going to include fifty books on this list, but I think you get the point with half that number.

Side note – many of those limited third titles did include the POV of more than one character, but not within the same scene. A break of some kind occurred before jumping to a new head.

One book was written in omniscient POV – Hitchhiker’s Guide. It’s told from the view of an omniscient narrator, like someone telling a story around a campfire. We occasionally know what a character thinks or feels, but there isn’t the inclusion of what I would call head hopping. If you’re considering writing a book in omniscient POV, please read this classic as a guide.

So what conclusion can we draw from this exercise? For me, I’m more confident in my stance that limited third and first work better for storytelling (perhaps to the chagrin of my CPs). For you? Well, that’s for you to decide.

What is your favored POV for storytelling? Does this list sway your opinion?

About the Author 

Allison Maruska headshotAllison is a YA and mystery/suspense author, writing/humor blogger, teacher, mom, wife, coffee and wine consumer, and an owl enthusiast. She published her debut novel, The Fourth Descendant, in February, 2015, and it has been on Amazon’s historical mystery best seller list since April. Her newest book is a YA dystopian/urban fantasy called Drake and the Fliers, which she released on November 20th, 2015.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

About Her Book

Allison Maruska - The Fourth DescendantWhen Michelle receives a call from a Richmond historian, she sees the chance for a much-needed adventure. All she has to do is find a century-old key.

Three others – a guitarist, an engineer, and a retiree – receive similar calls. Each family possesses a key to a four-lock safe found buried in a Virginia courthouse, though their connection is as mysterious as the safe itself. Their ancestors should not have interacted, had no apparent reason to bury the safe, and should not have disappeared thereafter.

Bearing their keys, Michelle and the other descendants converge in the courthouse basement and open the safe, revealing the truth about their ancestors – a truth stranger, more deadly, and potentially more world-changing than any of them could have imagined. Now it’s up to them to keep their discovery out of the wrong hands.

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Carrie’s Top 5 List of Danielle’s 2015 Posts

5 Favorite Blog PostsFollowing are my five favorite posts of those Danielle published this year. By way of explanation, these are the posts I enjoyed the most or learned the most from. I can’t rank them (which was the funniest, which was the most instructive, etc.) because they’re all good. So I’m presenting them in alphabetical order.

I hope you enjoy them again!

Or, if you’re new to Indie Plot Twist, I hope you’ll enjoy them for the first time.

A Different Way to Identify Your Target Audience

Writers—and others—hear all the time that they must identify their target audience and create an ideal reader. The problem is that most of those admonitions lack concrete advice. We know we need to do it. Tell us how. That’s just what Danielle has done in this post.

Embrace the Muck that is First Draft

LOL, who can’t identify with this concept! While Danielle’s talking specifically about those hardy souls who do NaNoWriMo each year, the principles she shares apply to all authors and all first drafts. Whether or not you ever participate in NaNo, you can benefit from her helpful and sensible tips while wading through your own first drafts.

I Write Fiction. What Should I Blog About?

Ah. This is something I wrestle with just like every other unpublished fiction author. What in the world do I blog about!? She even includes the first thing I thought I should do but shouldn’t have.  But she doesn’t stop there and includes lists of potential topics in two categories. If you’re a fiction author and if you’re still unpublished, but you want to blog—or are blogging—this could be one of the most helpful posts you’ll read this month.

First Draft: Several Thousand Things That Won’t Work

I didn’t even need to read this post to know it would be a favorite! Why? Because I have my own list of things that didn’t work. But that’s another post. Danielle’s list of wrong turns, blind alleys, and rabbit trails is not only fun and funny, it’s very helpful. Whether you’re working on a first draft, getting ready for revisions, or have yet to get started, this post is well worth the read.

How to Be a Massively Successful Author

In this post, Danielle tackles a few of the major hurdles every writer must get over in order to realize success. It’s a good basic guide for writers of all ages and at all levels of publication.

Danielle’s Top 5 List of Carrie’s 2015 Posts

2015-04-01 Laptop2 (640x427)Last year, Carrie and I began a new December tradition, wherein we each choose our five favorite posts of the year, written by the other person. I’m going first! I have to admit, it was a little hard to narrow these down to five. But, to the best of my ability, these are my five favorites that Carrie wrote in 2015. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I did!

Single-Sentence Summary Course – Introduction

Everybody loves Carrie’s brilliant strategies for summing up an entire novel in just one sentence. She opened a new course this year (the posts are all available on the blog!) and this was the first in the series. What is a single-sentence summary? And how do you even begin to know how to write one? Carrie gets you started!

4 Special Features For Your Novel’s Blog or Website

This was one of my favorite ideas Carrie ever introduced me to. We blogger-authors all face that perennial question, “What should I blog about?” Carrie passes along the concept of treating your blog like the “special features” section of a DVD. Here she shares some specific ideas!

Fear of Risk and How it Inhibits Your Writing

Okay, let’s be honest. Authors are a fearful bunch. There’s something massively scary about putting your heart and soul on paper, then – ee-gads! – making it public! And that’s just one of many scary things we have to do. Carrie masterfully turns a simple vignette from the grocery store into an inspiring post on why we stick to situations that are holding us back, instead of doing the brave thing that will push us forward.

Once Upon a Time… A Modern Fairy Tale

Have you been here – stuck at the bottom of the Mountain of Your Dreams and wondering if you’ll ever get to the top? Guess what. So have we all. Sometimes it feels like we’ve tried everything, and there’s no point in going on. If that’s where you are, you should read this post.

7 Steps to Getting Prepared to be Published

It’s not as simple as slapping some words on the page and uploading to Amazon. It’s a competitive world out there, and if you want to make it at all, you need to have your game together! Carrie presents seven must-do steps to give your book a fighting chance.

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That’s it! My favorite five that Carrie wrote this year! Do you have a favorite from our archives? Let us know in the comments!

2015-12-16 Best Posts by Carrie

Using Amazon Giveaway to Grow Your List and Thank Your Readers

The holiday season is upon us (in case you hadn’t noticed), and the spirit of gift-giving is in the air. How about giving a gift to your loyal readers? I recently learned about Amazon Giveaway. While not built specifically for authors, we’re in a great position to take advantage of it – and let our readers know how much we love them.

2015-12-09 How to Use Amazon Giveaway

What Is Amazon Giveaway?

2015-02-20 BenchAmazon Giveaway is a tool that lets you choose any physical item from the Amazon store – your book, somebody else’s book, a Kindle, whatever – and use it as a prize in a drawing. Any physical item works, so long as it’s eligible for Amazon Giveaway. How do you know if an item is eligible? Check the bottom of the item’s product page; scroll waaaaay down below the customer reviews. You’ll find a button that says, “Set up a giveaway.”

You can also choose how many prizes to give away, and how winners are selected. Amazon can select winners randomly, or via a lucky number (such as every third entrant), or first come, first served. (Great for those, “Be one of the first ten to reply!”)

Finally, you select what the entrants have to do to be eligible for the give-away. The options Amazon makes available are following you on Twitter, watching an Amazon Video Short, or watching a YouTube video. Also, you can make your giveaway no-strings-attached.

You pay. Your selected number of entrants win. Amazon ships.

It’s that simple.

“Grow Your Following”

2015-12-09 at symbol, twitter, follow, social media, green, growOn its home page, Amazon Giveaway advertises itself as a way to “create buzz” and “grow your followers and customers.” However, I’m not sure how exactly they expect that to work.

Amazon Giveaway doesn’t appear have any built-in  feature to help you grow your following. For example, there is no requirement for the participant to SHARE a social media message to be eligible. A feature like that, combined with, say, a Kindle tablet or a boxed set by a famous author, would be HUGE.

You might argue that people might share your tweets and Facebook posts that advertise the giveaway. Well, I wouldn’t count on that. When there’s a contest for a limited number of prizes, why would a participant reduce their own odds by inviting everyone in their circle to enter the competition, as well? The only way you could encourage sharing is if it were a requirement of participation, or if the participant could increase their own odds by sharing. (“Click share, and we’ll add your name twice.”)

As far as I can tell, the only way to get people engaged in your Amazon Giveaway is to tell them yourself (and through your network) that you have a giveaway going on. You’ll have to use your own means to get your giveaway to reach people beyond the following you already have.

Sure, you can require interested parties to follow you on Twitter. But chances are, you’re using Twitter to tell people about your giveaway. Hashtags will be your only salvation here to attract participants from outside your current following.

Okay, so this isn’t an Insta-Grow solution to your followship woes. What are some other ways to turn an Amazon Giveaway into a mode of growing your following? Maybe start a Thunderclap campaign. Maybe ask all your friends in your network to let their  followers know about your giveaway. Maybe go on a blog tour and tell everybody that you’re holding a drawing.

Grow Your Mailing List

2015-12-09 book plus love equals mail reading fans mailing list subscribersOne review I read about Amazon Giveaway lamented that there wasn’t much of a way to keep in touch or follow up with the participants after the giveaway is over.

Your most valuable asset as an author is your mailing list – your direct link to those people most interested in buying your books. If you have a small list, your top priority should be to grow it. (And write books.)

So here’s one idea for linking an Amazon Giveaway to growing your mailing list: Choose your product to give away – either your own book, or a book by a best-selling author whose work is much like your own, or even a Kindle. Then instead of directly advertising the Amazon Giveaway itself to your social media outlets and network, invite people to join your mailing list in exchange for a chance at winning the product you selected. Don’t share the Amazon Giveaway link on Twitter or Facebook; put it in an auto-responder and share it only to the people who sign up to your mailing list.

Can we make this even better? And can we curb the disappointment of your new subscribers who didn’t win? Sure! Try this: All subscribers to your mailing list will receive a free copy of one of your own books (that’s author mailing list 101, right?) PLUS they get a chance at winning a book (or boxed set) by a popular author whose writing is similar to yours. Pow! Everybody wins, because everybody gets your  book, but you’ve also got the power of a well-known title behind you, which should draw even more people in.

One way or the other, you’re going to have to advertise your Amazon Giveaway. Why not make all that work count, and get all your participants on your mailing list?

Combine with Facebook Ads

2015-12-09 Free book, leather, old bookI’ve just started experimenting with Facebook ads. (Promising results so far!) One way you can use Facebook ads is to (again) grow your mailing list. Advertise your free book in exchange for readers’ email addresses.

Oh, wait. What if you don’t have a free book?

Well … why not use Amazon Giveaway to give them somebody else’s book? Again, make it a book that’s both well-known and similar to your own writing. Amazon Giveaways only run for a limited time, though, so this would be a way to create a boost of new subscribers … such as just before you release your first book. (Clever, eh?)

Or Just Thank Your Followers

2015-02-20 Humor (1)The place where Amazon Giveaway promises to excel is in taking all the hassle out of running your own giveaway, packaging items, and dropping them off at the post office. You select the prize, Amazon handles the rest.

As you can see from my comments, I don’t see Amazon Giveaway as a simple way to magically grow your following. (Contrary to what they seem to imply on their homepage.) You have to get creative to advertise your Giveaway to people outside your current following.

So why did I get excited about Amazon Giveaway when I first saw it? Because I value the people who have already signed up to my email list. What a great way to let them know just how much they mean to me!

At some point in my career, I would absolutely love to make a Giveaway an annual, holiday thing, just to let my subscribers know how much I appreciate them. These are the devoted people who enjoy my writing so much, they want to be the first to know when my next book is coming out. They want to receive my blog posts and/or newsletter in their inbox every week and month. One of my subscribers even sent me a handwritten Thanksgiving card! My fans mean a lot to me, and Amazon Giveaway would make it really easy for me to show them just how much I appreciate them.

So, I’ve proposed several ways to make Amazon Giveaway work for you. Your turn! Have you ever run a giveaway? What did you like or dislike about it?