Pronoun is unfortunately closing

It’s always sad to see the demise of a platform that supports authors, and I heard (though never personally used) lots of great things about Pronoun.
But it seems like they’re at the end of the road.

Here’s part of the announcement.

Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power of data could be harnessed for smarter book publishing, leveling the playing field for indie authors.

We are proud of the product we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.

Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.

While many challenges in indie publishing remain unsolved, Macmillan is unable to continue Pronoun’s operation in its current form.

You can read the whole piece here.

Indie/Self-Publishing 101 – Vendors, Writers, and the Business of Self-Publishing

In the beginning, there were the bards, the storytellers, and the spoken word.

And then, language was written down.  Books became rare, hand-copied treasures.

Gutenberg changed that by inventing the printing press.

With the printing press came a new way for storytellers to share their tales. As time went by, multiple venues grew for those stories.

And an industry was born.

Publishers eventually sprung up; businesses who decided what stories would be printed, and then agents who sold those stories to those publishers.

And then, lo, there was self-publishing. First as vanity ‘publishers’ who would take advantage of those who could not pass the publishers’ gatekeepers, to fuel the dreams of those who thought they had wonderful stories to tell and a few who might have had those wonderful stories, filling their garages with their hopes and dreams. Only to watch them turn to dust.
Most, though, still though of traditional publishing as the only legitimate way to publish.

Then came Smashwords offering true self-publishing. However, there was one drawback – one had to read those first books on your computer or laptop. E-readers were few.

Smashwords was followed by Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble, who saw the limitations (and freedom!) of reading on the computer.  Thus was born the e-reader in truth as Amazon’s Kindle, the Apple iBook app, the B&N Nook, all of which helped bring about the tablet.

As with all good things, though, times changed. The Nook was the better e-reader at first but B & N wasn’t certain what to do with it or Indie writers and so Amazon came along with the new, improved Kindle. Amazon gave Indie writers a true home. And they all lived happily ever after…or mostly.

Here the fairy tale ends and so it should because it is a fairy tale.

Publishing, whether traditional or self-publishing, is a business like any other. Despite its reputation for being the big, bad wolf of self-publishing, Amazon, like Apple, is a business. But it’s not primarily a self-publisher, any more than Apple is. You could look at Amazon as a mall while Apple is more like an electronics store. Only Smashwords, D2D (Draft to Digital) and Kobo (primarily Canada) are true self-publishers. And what do they owe authors? In truth? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They are ultimately responsible to their customers – readers. All they do is provide authors a venue, a method of getting their work in front of readers, in exchange for a varying portion of the proceeds. That’s it, and nothing more.

Is Amazon sometimes draconian? Yep. They’re a business, and not primarily a self-publishing business. As a business, they owe their customers and only their customers. Like all the other vendors, that’s how they make their money. So, when any supplier pays for reviews – rendering the review process untrustworthy – the company cracks down on reviews. When authors on another site misrepresented the content of their novels and/or had covers that many found too revealing, all but Smashwords cracked down on erotica. When an author gamed the system to make it appear as if they’d sold more books than they had, they started looking at the sales and reviews of other authors.

Did they warn authors they were going to do that? No. Amazon – and other vendors – don’t have to. They are responsible to their customers, not their suppliers. And that’s true across the industry. Despite their avowed democratic and egalitarian outlook, even Smashwords had to bow to their distributors/customers – there are limits to what some distributors will permit when it comes to covers and content. In the one case, a father with his child on his lap looked for books about Daddies – and got an eyeful of content not suitable for small children. All because a few writers decided they didn’t want their books relegated to a separate corner.

Even vendors aren’t pure as the driven snow, though, one particular company colluded with traditional publishers to raise the price of e-books, primarily to cut another company off at the knees. This is why many traditionally published e-books are priced above the cost of paperbacks, even though e-books cost pennies to produce compared to the expense of printing paperbacks.

What do Indie authors owe vendors, whether Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, B&N, D2D or Kobo? In a lot of ways, they owe everything. Where else can they go to print their novels, their way?

Authors owe an understanding of the rules of the site. They should then follow those rules. If you notice one thing about the example given, it’s that in many cases it was an author or authors who pushed the limits, and a lot of innocent authors who followed the rules paid the price along with them. With hundreds of thousands of new books added every day, sites like Amazon and Apple must rely on their algorithms to detect problems.

How can we decrease the likelihood that we’ll be impacted?

First, read and follow the rules of the site.

Second, get legitimate, organic reviews – not from friends/family, not from review ‘exchanges’, but from sales and ARCs (advance reader/review copies). Third, be professional – have a professional attitude, purchase a professional cover, have your book professionally edited. And, on the be professional front, stop complaining and don’t talk badly about a vendor. What business wants to deal with a vendor who complains about them all the time or talks badly about them in public or social media? If you don’t like them, take your business elsewhere. You might take a pay cut, but you’ll do yourself and the provider a favor.

Oh, and stop complaining about how unfair it all is. It is unfair that a few unscrupulous ‘writers’ created the problem. Go to another site if you don’t like it. Indie writers are a drop in the overall bucket of a vendors offerings, however great some of us think our ‘great American novel is’.

Stop biting the hand that feeds you, or it will stop, and then where will you be? Nowhere. And while you’re at it, you’ll squash the hopes and dreams of thousands of others.

Self-Editing 101

  1. Spelling – Even the best spellers make mistakes. Use a software program like Grammarly or WordWeb (both of which have free versions.) Both may catch other errors in word usage – like affect vs. effect – and both do offer a thesaurus so you can find a better word or correct one that’s overused.
  2. One of the first things they may or may not tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel it’s all about action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way…) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. Do a search for begin and start.
  3. Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over? For #2 and #3, a professional editor will often scribble “SDT”. This is not a disease, it means “Show Don’t Tell”. “The best “show don’t tell advice” came from Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  4. Very or Really. They’re not very happy or really happy, they’re ecstatic or delighted. Use a better, more descriptive word. If nothing comes to mind get a thesaurus.
  5. Search for contractions. For some reason, many writers don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. Be very careful not to do a universal search and replace to correct this or you’ll hate yourself in the morning because once it’s saved you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (Always start a new copy when editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over that way.) For example, a universal search and replace for ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ will also change ‘had noticed’ to ‘hadn’ticed’. (This is a personal choice, in a more casual voice like dialogue in fiction, it works, but in more formal writing, it may not.)
  6. ‘There was’. Sometimes it’s justified. Look at each sentence to see if you can rephrase it to make the sentence clearer.
  7. Speaking of there – their (possessive), there (in that direction), and they’re (they are).
  8. *aargh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases, the use of the word ‘that’ is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech so it can sound correct when you write it.
  9. Try not to use that when you mean who. “The man that…” should be “the man who… “
  10. Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them and that they’re next to the word you want to modify. For example – only costs vs. costs only or it just costs or costs just… Do you really need either?
  11. Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence to a more active voice. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
  12. As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better.
  13. Watch for split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. “I decided to not go” sounds awkward.
  14. Of…. is another sneaky little beggar. ‘Inside’ works as well as ‘inside of it’ in most cases.
  15. ‘Then’ and ‘and then’ are telling words, don’t use them. For instance: Then he went to sit down. Just say: He sat down. Or…. And then she set a bowl on the table. Just say: She set a bowl on the table. Using then or and then is like a narrator in your book telling us a story, it slows it down. Show, don’t tell.
  16. Do not use really, very, or like. He’s either hot or he’s not. He’s not really hot, or very hot, he’s roasting, burning up, or he’s gorgeous, sexy, etc. She’s not ‘like’ that, she IS that.
  17. Commas. If you have more than two it might be a good idea to look at the sentence and decide if it would work better as two separate sentences. This is DEFINITELY true if you have more than three. For more information on commas and their proper use –
  18. Singular and plural pronouns. When speaking about an individual, the pronoun should be singular, when speaking about a group, it’s plural. Ex. It brought him to their feet. Wrong.
  19. (Although this is primarily a grammar document, it is about writing and this has been seen too often to go unremarked.) Don’t ‘Slug a Nun’, as a well-known writer once said. In other words, when opening a chapter, any chapter, get to the point. Don’t say “Mikey slugged a nun” and then take ten pages, eight of which explain the history of the Catholic Church before you explain WHY Mikey slugged the nun.
  20. Another very common mistake – Her eyes wandered. Please put them back in her head, that’s disgusting. Her gaze might wander, but not her eyes. She might glance at him, their gazes may meet, or lock, etc., or they might stare at each other, but his eyes will never wander over her breasts unless it’s a zombie movie and they’ve gained legs. Some editors might let this go, but you should be able to find a better way to say it.
  21. Watch for sentences that start with the same word or the same type of beginning. He did this, he did that. Change it up so the reader doesn’t get bored.
  22. Too much use of “it” as a subject can make writing weak. Delete the vague pronoun and identify ‘it’ with a solid noun. Not – It felt good to dress up. Try – She enjoyed dressing up.
  23. Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another. Ever. Even if, or especially if, you’re using omniscient point of view. And always identify the person speaking or thinking.
  24. Action and reaction. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. Not – She jumped as the door slammed shut. Try – The door slammed, making her jump.
  25. Eliminate unnecessary words. In the above example – few doors slam open, so it must have slammed shut or closed. So, the door slammed.
  26. Try to avoid prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc.) that can be implied. Not – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was to her. Try – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was.
  27. Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Try to evaluate each adverb (words that end in -ly), especially in conjunction with speaking tags. Replace with stronger words. Not – He leaned close and spoke softly. Try – He leaned close and whispered.
  28. Repeated words: There’s a function in Word that shows words you overuse, but a beta reader or editor can be a better choice. Sometimes it’s justified – a character tic.
  29. How often do you use ‘look’? Try variations like glanced, gazed, stared, their eyes met, saw.
  30. Said, but don’t get too caught up it. Studies have shown that said is a word that readers eyes pass over, registering only who is speaking.
  31. Starting a sentence with But when you could use However.
  32. Starting a sentence with And. Can you rework it? It’s acceptable, but too much or too often is a bad thing.
  33. Redundant actions: stood up. How else would you stand? Sat down – try sat. Nodded his head – just use nodded, if he’s nodding anything else it’s just weird.
Also, consider picking up The Elements of Style. It’s a small, thin book, perfect to keep beside your laptop or desktop computer. It answers some of those pesky grammar questions.
For style suggestions, try Hemingway Editor, a software program that highlights lengthy, complex sentences, common errors, and passive voice. Always be careful taking the advice it or other programs offer – you don’t want to sound too mechanical or lose your authors ‘voice’.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through sentence by sentence but using search instead, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. It makes it much easier to spot errors you might otherwise have missed or to question the wording of the sentence. Try reading it aloud, or use text to voice to read it back, that may help you pick up errors in flow.


KDP Select and Instafreebie – a caution

I’ve been talking to people a lot about the new promotional methods out there while we revamp the blog (you’ll notice that all bar a few articles are still up on the site for now – they need updating, to the point that we’re actually setting up some new projects and doing something new for y’all.  It’s a huge revamp, but I’ll talk about that in a separate post later in the week.).  For now, let’s talk about Instafreebie and how it could get you into a lot of trouble with Amazon.

Amazon’s KDP Select/KU rules are set up that they’re supposed be the only place your book is available from – bar those that you personally supply to reviewers.
I’ll repeat that.  The only place you should be sending your books out are personally FROM YOUR EMAIL or from a site such as Netgalley (for now, that may change), through your blog tour team if you’re using one and KDP select.

What’s the difference between KDP and KDP Select?

KDP allows you to publish to the KDP platform, gives you lower royalties on certain territories, and no promotional tools.  It also allows you to go ‘wide’, that is, publish on every existing writing distribution platform.

KDP Select means you’re ONLY on Amazon.  It gives you access to KU, which allows people to borrow your books (which is paid for from a subscription pool), and you earn a set amount per page, which they announce monthly.  It gives you promotional tools.  And it means that you don’t drop royalties from 70% to 35%  in certain territories.  KDP select is a rolling unless opt out 90 day period.  You can enroll, run for a few days, then tick the box to leave after 90 days, but many authors don’t, and frequently notice after 90 days have passed.

Well, what about Instafreebie?

Until recently, I thought Instafreebie was fine, but I’ve recently had to look into it when it was asked on a page and I was available to answer.
Believe it or not, Instafreebie says no. They’ve ALWAYS said no.  KDP select was introduced in 2011 (late 2011, I believe, possibly as late as November and December), and Libboo, which later became Instafreebie’s first archived terms and conditions page shows up in March 2014.

Here’s the clause in it’s entirety.  It exits on the current site, but for the purposes of research, I went through the Way Back Machine to look up it’s terms and conditions. (May 2nd, 2014)

3.7 Amazon KDP Select and other Exclusive Programs. By creating a Freebie campaign or giveaway on InstaFreebie, you represent that you are not forbidden to do so by other Programs in which you are enrolled, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. InstaFreebie holds no responsibility for parties who violate the Terms and Conditions of other Programs by using the InstaFreebie service. Please check the Terms and Conditions of other Programs in which you are enrolled before creating a Freebies campaign on instaFreebie

Here are the current terms.

Libboo owns Instafreebie – note that the orange site is Instafreebie by Libboo, while the Green site appears to simply clarify the brand to Instafreebie, and acknowledge Libboo in the terms and conditions.

What does this mean for me?

It means that if your book is in KDP Select or KU, it’s important NOT to use Instafreebie.  Instafreebie has always had that clause in and while  it’s possible it’s just a protection, it’s equally possible that it’s not allowed.  Everything I’ve read in fact suggests that it’s completely not advised, so if you’re in the position of doing an Instafreebie right now and you’re in KDP select/KU, I would recommend removing the Instafreebie immediately.  The only way around this is to change it to 10% or less of your book and then give away it as a sampler, because that is within KDP’s rules surrounding exclusivity.

What do you think?   Does this affect you?


Weekly subgroup discussions – Week beginning Sunday 15th May

All of our Indie Author groups are no spam, so people can enjoy the discussions.  We feature our subgroups regularly, so please join us for some great conversations, and to hang out with other writers that enjoy the same genres.  Readers can join us to see who is discussing the things that interest them and click through to the writers that offer the most interesting talking points.
Head on over to the discussions and join the groups to answer, or comment below! (or both!)


Weekly discussion May 15th.

  • Paranormal and Supernatural – What paranormal and supernatural creatures do you think have been underused in novels? On the flip, which ones are overused?
  • Romance writers – What tropes are overdone in romance?  Anything you think are a complete no-no (other than the obvious rape/forced marriage stuff)?
  • Thriller – What is the single most important element of a thriller?
  • Fantasy – What makes a fantasy novel a fantasy, rather than magic realism?
  • Sci-Fi – Star Trek basically predicted some of the technology we have now, so what do you think we should be predicting for ten to thirty years time?
  • Young and New Adult group – Do you tackle difficult subjects in your Young Adult/New Adult books? Why?
  • Children’s group – Do you tackle difficult subjects in your Children’s books? Why?
  • Horror – What’s your favorite horror subgenre? Why?
  • Mystery – What makes a mystery different from a thriller?  Do you agree that the genres can be used interchangeably?
  • Non-fiction – What three elements of your platform do you have in place and why are they so important?
  • Erotica – Let’s talk about the difference between erotica and porn and the books that are neither and are about sex/relationships but are so terrible that they can’t even be considered in either genre
  • Transgressive – Do you think people place too much emphasis on the ‘I’ in transgressive and erotica writing and why?
  • Historical writers – What’s your favorite time period and why? Bonus, what’s one great website (not your own!) to research that time period, or other time periods?
  • Lit/poetry/short stories/Novellas – Poll – what I write…
  • After the novel (marketing and prep for publishing)  – What’s the hardest part of marketing and why?
  • Historical fantasy – What’s the difference between historical writing and historical fantasy writing?

And, if you’re blogging regularly (if not, why not?) head on over to our blogging page and share your blog posts in this thread!

Reality Check for Indie Authors

scribdn all honesty I suspect that Scribd found the path of least resistance in their romance/erotica decision. (Witness the petitions to Jeff Bezos/Amazon asking him to change the review policy.) The truth of the matter is likely to be a more harsh reality – a lot of romance/erotica readers were downloading books, finding them to be dreck and so they didn’t finish them, they just deleted them off their e-readers and went onto the next. Scribd, however, still had to pay the writer for the unread book. So, rather than try to evaluate hundreds of thousands of e-books, they just decided not to carry the vast majority of romance/erotica.

Here is the truth. Amazon/Jeff Bezos owes us nothing. If you want tea and sympathy, go to Smashwords. Mark CoAmazon logoker is a genuinely nice person and will offer you a great deal of encouragement. However, Smashwords also pays quarterly, not monthly, so be prepared to wait for the check. Also post to B&N, Kobo and D2D for the most bang for your post. You’ll make a fraction of what you make with Amazon, but there you go. Understand that Amazon is a business – a business that provides a venue for Indie authors to post their books and – possibly – make money at it. Indie authors are a drop in the vast bucket of products Amazon offers. The vast majority of their profits come from the Big Five publishers and all the other products Amazon offers. Be ungrateful for the opportunity, become enough of a pain in the butt and they’ll drop the program like the annoying hot potato it’s become.

Sadly, a large number of Indie authors came into the game thinking ‘oh, yeah, I can write my novel at long last’, it’s easy and I can make money at it. As many of you have now noticed, the easy bit is harder than most thought. Writing a book isn’t necessarily easy, and writing a good book is even harder still. Even worse, some folks are still looking for the magic wand that will write the book for them. Some also turned to Indie writing because they suspected that the Big Five wouldn’t take them (not to mention the fact that the author gets a pittance of what the publisher gets. We need a Taylor Swift for that.) And that’s before you get to the marketing. Then there’s the cover art, the editing, formatting and deciding where to upload it. Too many are taking shortcuts, unfortunately, skipping over the most important, the most expensive, and the hardest parts of the process – editing and cover art. Just take a look at many of the Indie books being offered. (Especially the erotica since the explosion of 50 Shades.)

Think this is harsh? Take a look at Scribd, a subscription service much like Kindle Unlimited. They’re removing a vast number of romance/erotica novels – even good ones. Why? They say that too many readers are downloading so many books they’re putting them out of business.

Regarding reviews… Remember the comment about Scribd and the crappy books? It might be overly simplistic, but there is some degree of truth there. Most of those awful books didn’t get reviews saying they were awful. They were just deleted. For all we complain about the mean people out there, most people really aren’t and it takes time to write a review. Rather than take the time, they just deleted and moved on. Want to get reviews? Understand that unless you write something people want to write a review about – and even if they do – most won’t. It takes time. Try to write something good enough they’ll want to review.

Want to get your reviews removed or to devalue reviews? Forget to ask those people who received ARCs or free copies to add ‘I received this book in exchange for an honest review’ to their review so Amazon won’t pull it. Participate in easily trackable review exchanges or give positive reviews to books you haven’t purchase or read. That’ll do it.

If you think Indie publishing is hard, try traditional. Write query letters to agents/publishers, gather rejections, hope for the moment they ask for a revise and resubmit, or a request for a partial or a full, get your hopes up, get them squashed when they decide not to take your novel because it’s not a reiteration of King or Roberts or Sparks or James, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. (For perspective, where is the writer of Twilight right now?) Then, TADA, you find a publisher who will take you. HURRAY. And then you discover you’ll still have to do the editing as well as a large part of the marketing, just to be a mid-list writer – unless you’re one of the rare few who make it big. Or you can follow the Hugh Howey model and write a unique novel, self-publish it, and let the publishers find you. (By the way, he can now afford a boat. A biggish boat.)

The best things in life aren’t free – they take work. Do you want reviews for your book? Do the work. Make people want to review it, but also understand they they don’t have to.

Our groups and subgroups, and the award winning project!

The Indie Author Group has won a Preditors and Editors award!

We were voted BEST DISCUSSION FORUM, 2014!

And while we’re here – would you like to join some new writer’s groups?

Our main writers groups are our closed one – Indie Author Group
Our open group is smaller, but just as friendly  – Indie Author Writing Group

On top of that we have a Triberr tribe, where we can all share our blogs.
Or, if you’re hankering for genre discussion groups, we run a whole pile of them!

Any groups marked with a star are closed groups – that is, people that aren’t members can’t see anything in the group until they join.  If you advertise on any groups not set up to talk reviews, or other information, you WILL be removed. Pages marked with an (A) allow some form of advertising, either reviews or posts that fit the category or subject of the page.

Indie Book Review – Indie supernatural and Paranormal writers – Indie romance writers

Indie thriller writers – Indie Fantasy Writers – Indie science fiction writers

Indie Horror writers – Indie Mystery group – *Indie Erotica Authors

Indie Non fiction – Indie Historical Writers Group*Indie transgressive writer’s group – Indie historical fantasy group

 Young Adult Book Group – Indie Author Children’s writers – The Indie Short stories, poetry, novellas and Lit indie group

[email protected] Heroines (A) – Certified Heroes (A) – Winter Reads (a seasonal group – the name changes for the season) (A)

*Indie author Writing Prompts –  Indie author Blogging group – Indie (Camp) Nanowrimo

*Indie Author Marketing And Social Media (After the Novel)– Indie Author Freelancers (Write and Earn)

 Valerie also runs Ohio Writers Group while Kai runs ‘Write the Cotswolds

What’s in a press pack and why do I need one?

As many authors are trying to gain traction, one of the major things I recommend is a perfect press pack.  And they’re EASY!

What’s in a press pack

Your ‘press pack’ should be a two part thing – one zipped package with everything in it so that you can add it to an email if you guest post or need to provide information about your writing.
So, here’s a little list of the things you should have in your press pack and the size each document should stick to.

  1. A one sheet – this should give details about who you are, what your books are and a 300 or so word bio.  Your ‘one sheet’ is exactly that and should be the most updated piece.  It’s a one sheet in your pack (save it as a PDF!) and you modify the format somewhat to make the base of your press area on your blog.  It shouldn’t be too text or image heavy – if you’ve got more than one book, mention that and share the most ‘relevant’ one to your career right now – which isn’t always your newest book.  Sometimes people share the book that made them ‘famous’.  You should try to fit in your social media links too, and the link to your press pack online.  I’ve got my logo in mine (above), you might have something else to include.
  2. Book cover images – you should have your BEST quality images available, but compress them for use on the web.  You should include a blog quality and a high quality image in your zip file.
  3. Any press releases you’ve created – nest them underneath your one sheet page on your blog, and link to them, and then store them in the press pack.
  4. Your bio and social media links – on your blog this should be on your ‘about me’ page, and should go on the bottom of any guest posts you create for others.

Pro tip – keep your zip on your site.  Keep an uncompressed folder on your desktop – that way. you can reference the files as you need to when emailing out.

If you’ve had an award or awards, mention them too, they should be included – depending on how many you’ve had will depend on where you put them – if you’ve got one or two, it could fit into your one sheet, otherwise have a seperate sheet (or, if you mentioned them in your press releases, simply link to the press releases).

Everything that you have in your zip should be regularly updated – I have a reminder in my calendar to look at it three monthly, or whenever I publish something new.

As to why you need one – not only is it text and image rich information for your site, and a good way to professionally display your books and content, and also a quick linked pack for whenever you share your writing with other people.  Having it in a zipped file means you can email it as an attachment and not need to check you’ve attached everything.

Bonus information: how to zip up your files and where you can store it

Zipping up a folder is as easy as grabbing the software.  I recommend checking out this article on PC World and choosing one from there.  I use Winzip, but it’s not free.

As to where to store it – mine is up on my Dropbox, in a public folder.  You can also upload it to your website, if you’ve got FTP.
Finally, you can see my press pack and zip here, if you’d like some examples of what I mean.  I don’t have any press releases in mine (yet) – instead, here is one I worked on for Mantic Games.

Got any questions?  Need a press pack created for you?  Just get in touch!

Four things indie writers need to stop doing right now

The Indie Author Community is a great place to be right now.  There’s never been a better time to be a writer, in my opinion, and there are some really smart and engaged people out there.
Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side.  And there are four things from the ‘dark side’ that I’m here to say that indie authors really need to stop.

Note and Pen1) Disavowing all professional help at any time – while I totally understand limited budgets and not being able to afford professional help, it’s really not right to then tell others that they do not need it.  You are not them, and I’ve yet to read a self-edited book that was as good as one that had other eyes on it.   And while some people *can* design their own covers, I’m the perfect example of why people should not – I can’t draw to save myself and I know it.
And while some of us (myself included) can format, if you’re not sure about styles nor how to deal with filtered HTML issues, perhaps you need to hire someone to help you.

Instead – Accept that indie author still need to hire outside of their own sphere of reference, and save for it. If you don’t have the necessary skills, find a helper! Your readers will  thank you for it later.  And you’ll learn from each of the processes.  Not sure who to hire, or struggling to find people?  We’ve got some really great lists of editors and other service providers on our group.

2) The phrase ‘if this isn’t allowed, admins please remove’. Not only is this at best, an ill-advised comment, it’s also a red flag to anyone that administrates or moderates a group that you’re not reading the rules, or don’t want to follow them, or are posting to too many groups at once.
At worst, it’s a sign that the poster is spamming everywhere with the same message – all of which generally amounts to ‘not really the sort of person active groups like to see’.
If you think that’s harsh, look at it another way.  I moderate several large groups who have a blanket ‘no ads, no exceptions’ rule and between the active moderators, we delete between 14 and 40 spam messages a day.  Someone saying ‘if this isn’t allowed, please delete’ just pushes people’s buttons.  And nine times out of ten, it’s still something that people shouldn’t post.

Instead – Take a minute to read the rules, or if it says ‘if in doubt, contact us’, do so.  If you don’t know who the moderators are, you can find them on Facebook under members then, ‘admins’.  Please do however, give them time to answer.
Please also bear in mind that the rules are there for a reason – whether y0u feel it unfair that others have ruined it for you in the past or that your post shouldn’t be considered advertising because of (x), then ask yourself why you should be allowed to and others aren’t. And remember too, though readers don’t know everything about how the indie author community works, if they see authors that don’t follow the rules, they’re bound to consider you less readable.

3) Private messaging lots of people with a request to read your book –  Not only is it against the rules of Facebook, it’s stupidly annoying to receive private messages from people that others barely know.  It’s also important to remember that mass use of the messaging system is not only spamming, but you’re likely to put off people, especially if they’ve just added you/that’s your only contact with them.
BONUS bad idea – messaging people and adding them to events, groups and other places without their permission.  It’s not OK to email your whole address book when you launch a book – it’s not OK to message people or post on their personal/professional walls.  It’s not to add people to your groups.  ASK, don’t assume.

Instead – consider actually using Facebook to interact with people – if you ASK for help instead of assuming it’s OK to message people and intrude (because that’s what messages are – you’re intruding on their personal space to ask for something, no matter how nicely) you’re more likely to get help.  You can’t just add someone and do it straight away.

4) Tell another writer they have to help you because you’re waiting to be discovered/ telling people who have added you that if you they don’t buy your book they’re not being supportive/to defriend you – if you can’t see a problem with this one, I’m here to break it to you that writing is not like the field of dreams.  We do not build it and they’ll come.  It’s more like build, decorate, share, open house THEN they’ll come.  And as above, using other authors to help you with your ‘open house’ is absolutely unfair.  It’s one thing to get help from friends, it’s another to spam others.  Accusing others of not helping when they don’t know how to help or expecting everyone that knows you to buy your book really is something that too many indie authors do, usually in desperation.  Not everyone is placed to read your book all at once.

Instead – the two things to bear in mind is it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and that if you’re not marketing and are instead wasting all your time collecting friends, posting to their walls/messaging them and repeating again and again, not only are you running the risk of  being banned from the networks you’re doing it on, you’re also driving people away instead of attracting them.

If you’re really struggling to promote, and you’re not sure what to do, there’s plenty of advice available in the indie author community – come join us, for example at the Indie Author Group and Indie Author Writing group on Facebook and join in – we’re strictly no ads, but there’s lots of great advice there and on our website!

New feature – Saturday Stuff to try – Tsu

Editor’s note – if you’ve got a ‘stuff to try’ article, we’d love to see it.  Just hit the contact page.  This blog is already distributed to several groups on Facebook for writers, and as I co-founded and look after the blog, the biggest indie writer’s discussion group on Facebook’s blog,


It was around the time that MySpace was on it’s downward spiral that I joined Facebook.  It was MANY moons ago, and I’ve seen it change from a small site which people hung out on to one of the top, and probably the most press-dominating social networks of the day.  It’s been a fairytale story for Mark Zuckerberg, but for the users, it’s been quite rocky too.

So, I keep an eye on new networks, just in case there’s anything that I think might be worth recommending.  In this series of articles, myself and serveral other writers will be sharing their experiences on the various networks we all use.


Today, I want to recommend something new…

With a few cautionary notes, of course.  I’ve been trying out both Ello and Tsu recently.  Today I’m going to focus on Tsu.

Tsu claims to offer it’s participants a share of the revenue it makes, depending on how active you are.  It says that it shares revenues and unlike Facebook considers all members equal.  It DOES use advertising, which ELLO does not, but that’s ok, because I think that’s where their revenue comes from.
As for how it works – it’s basically a blog system where you can post ‘updates’ and follow one another – it’s got all of the basic social things you want, but it’s no frills.  I’m sure if it takes off that will change, but it’s certainly not a social media network replacement.  And while it’s nice to earn a couple of cents here and there, I’m not hearing from people who are earning anything extraordinary.

As for me?  Like I said, there are some cautions.  It wants a lot of personal data at signup, including date of birth.  It can all be hidden from your profile, but some people don’t like that.  That said, Facebook now asks for your date of birth, and Google asks, but I don’t think it’s a mandatory question.  The fact that you have to join through someone’s referal link also seems to be a bit limiting, and strikingly designed like an MLM type project – the only difference being, you don’t pay for anything, you just get a share of your ‘family tree’s’ earnings.

I would rate it as a must try though – if only because it seems to have a huge uptake right now in my circle of readers, writers and artists.  And there’s no harm in having it and using it to cross-post to both Twitter and Facebook, which it can do.  Just be aware that the links aren’t always ‘pretty’ and the earning potential, for now, doesn’t look like it’s going to break anyone’s bank.  Want to join me anyway?  If you’re already there, I’m Kaiberie, and you can join on my link – that way I can friend you later!

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