Welcome to 2020! Let us help you make it your year! #IAG2020

IAG Happy New Year 2020

Hi guys! I know it’s been a while that we’ve been writing regularly here, but we’ve got an actual editorial calendar and a plan now, and we’re back. Valerie and I will be blogging and we’ll be introducing the mods that are around, old and new, throughout the year. We’ll also be looking for guest posters, but I’ll explain more on that in a few days 🙂

In 2011, Valerie Douglas put out a call for moderators. I think I was either first, or one of the first to say ‘I’ll help’. We’ve run this site, and others for almost as long, but we took a sabbatical last year, to think about what we wanted to do. And now….we’re back!

But first….
This year is a fun year for us. Not only are we NINE in May, but Valerie is a stone’s throw from 30 books, unless I miscounted, and that’d be funny cause I’m doing a Combined STEM degree, mostly maths. No, we’re not back in 2011, when this all started, but things are very similar again.

So…to start with, we thought we’d invite you guys to share your goals. Same rules as always, you can use the link in the form that you fill in to make a comment, but any URLS in the comment bodies will be rejected.
And if you’re not sure how to make goals, hang around this week – we’re doing a crash course on this, and some other stuff that might help.

Quick tips to setting goals

While I’ll be sharing many more articles on building yearly and five-yearly plans and your vision board for the decade, using free tools, the biggest and most important tip is that any goal you set (whether you call it a goal, a target, a resolution or where I’m going), is to be as specific as possible.
Whether it’s “make six figures, five figures, four figures or three”, whether it’s to write a million, half a million or any range of words, whether it’s to publish 1-100 books, put a number on it, then tell *everyone*. Stick it in the sidebar of your blog if you have one. Put it on your Facebook, your Twitter, and check out our post on making an intentions post on Canva, on the 3rd.

And, share it in the comments on the blog. We’ll be here, cheering you on.
You’ve got this – and we’ve got you.
Happy New Year, guys!

Self-publishing 101

  1. Looks like a good bookWrite a good book and finish it. Do not even consider self-publishing until it’s finished, with good cover art and editing.
  2. Write at least two and up to five more books before releasing Book One, even if it’s in another genre – nothing sells Book One like Book Two, Three, etc.
  3. Give the first book to beta readers for evaluation – give them a time to return it to you with their critiques/evaluation.
  4. Hire an Editor (there’s a list in Files)
  5. Find Cover artist (there’s a list in Files). If money is tight, find an artist you like and see if they offer pre-made covers.
  6. If you’re not a geek, hire a formatter (A good formatter will prep for all sites.)
  7. Write your bio in something like Wordpad (text files are easy to copy paste.) Write it in the third person, as if someone else was describing you. Try to keep some of it light and a little humorous.
  8. Write the blurb for your book(s). There is no easy way to do one. Keep it concise – give hints to the genre, make it enticing, give a little information on your main character(s). The object is to entice readers to want to read your book, don’t give away the entire plot. (ex. Jack, an expert hill-climber, and Jill, a novice, are climbing a difficult hill, will they make it to the top?)
  9. When the book has been edited, the cover is complete, it’s time to set up promotion. (*grins* List in Files, but apply to Bookbub or E Reader News Today)a.) Set up a release date for at least three weeks in advance. b.) Decide whether to use Kindle Direct Publishing Select (recommended) or other venues. c.) Decide whether to do a pre-releasec.) Send out ARCs (Advance Release Copies) to other authors, bloggers, etc.d.) Decide which promotion sites to use (List in Files)e.) Do a cover releasef.) Set up an event page – with your blurb, the inspiration for characters – and offer a free copy as a prize for one of the people who responds.
  10. Post to Amazon KDP Select.
  11. Categories (genre/subgenre. See list of BISAC codes here in Files. Ex. Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, and the subgenre – Fantasy *Urban* or *Epic* or Mystery *hard-boiled*) and keywords (special tags that describe your book – Fantasy – Epic – keyword Arthurian or Sword & Sorcery.)
  12. Use the Kindle Select free days – split 3-2. (Save the two spare days for a special occasion or to boost sales)
  13. Set up an Author Central page on Amazon.
  14. Set up a separate Facebook author page.

Take off the check-mark to automatically re-enroll in KDPS if you choose. Upload to other sites – B&N, Kobo, D2D, Smashwords when your Select days are finished.

Submitting to a traditional/legacy publisher made simple

I was asked by a writer recently how they would go about submitting to a traditional publisher, so I created this (very) basic primer.

  1. Finish/edit the novel. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this step. Skip it at your peril – an unedited novel is instant death. (Even if they’ll still edit it themselves. ) Some editors will be forgiving and request a revise/resubmit. Only some will be forgiving, there’s no guarantee which one you’ll get. (Most editors are great people.)
  2. Determine genre and category – https://www.bisg.org/bisac-subject-headings-list-fiction – this is important when choosing a publisher. Many have preferences for certain genres and/or categories. Make sure the one you choose is one they publish and that they’re still accepting submissions in that genre. ex. historical fiction or middle-grade fantasy
  3. Find the appropriate agent/publisher. There are a number of sites available to help you – http://querytracker.net/ or http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ Take a look at their website to see if books similar to yours are listed. Find the agents/editors that will best suit your work. Some writers recommend choosing the newest agent/editor listed, because they’re still trying to build their listings.
  4. Write a good query letter – Picture yourself and a hundred other authors. Each of you has thirty seconds to speak to your chosen publishers before moving to the next. How can you make that agent/editor fall in love with your story and request more? The first impression you leave will be a professional query letter that clearly follows their requirements. A typical query letter usually consists of: 1st and 2nd paragraph – typewriterIntroduction to the book. Don’t be shy or cryptic in your synopsis. Share the vibrancy of your characters and plotline, and don’t leave out the ending. Then, close your eyes and envision who is reading your book. Share that image with us. We don’t expect you to be a marketing expert, but you should be able to tell us who your readers are and why they want to read your book. Last paragraph – about the book and writer. (Title is 100,000 words, the first of a completed three part trilogy. It’s my first novel.) For examples of good and bad query letters see http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
  5. Wait. Many agents/editors have dozens if not hundreds of queries they’ll consider. It can take three to six months before they respond. Usually they’ll give their possible response time. At the end of that time, if you haven’t heard from them, you can send a letter asking if it was received. Be polite, not demanding. Most will have sent a standard rejection. DO NOT demand more information. That standard rejection letter is to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings.
  6. They request a revise and resubmit. Follow the instructions. Get it back to them as soon as possible. Do not make major changes, you sold them on the novel. Not only do they want their revisions, they may also want to see if you follow instructions.

Weekly roundup, week ending 19th January

Last week’s roundup

Every week, one of the IAG moderators will round up what’s gone on, on the group and in the Indie community as a broader view.  If you’ve been busy writing, editing, or promoting, let us catch you up and find conversations and blog posts that should interest you and dive into the information you’re really keen to see.

On the group

Nikki Broadwell started a conversation about Createspace versus LSI last month, which concluded here.  All great information if you’re stuck with the decision.
Valerie Douglas shared a link discussing Pintrest and what it can do for writers.
Denise McGee shared a ‘How to write a one page synopsis’
Alison S Moore asks how a writer can get the most out of Goodreads
Brian Margraff asks whether free or deeply discounted is better (there will be at least one post on that in the coming weeks on the blog!)
We discussed an Eventvwr scam, raised by Valeire Douglas
KDP formatting tips from Rik

Resources and more

We’ve been cleaning up and setting up discussions on the Subgroups.  Come join us and see if there’s anywhere you’d like to join!

On the Blog

We launched our Twitter listing – come and join in (but read the instructions first!)
Formatting by Paul Kater
The Four E’s of Indie Publishing, by D Kai Wilson-Viola
The blog Two Midlist Indies merged into the archives 🙂

In the community

A great article from Bookbub partners – 5 Test Results To Help You Market Your eBook
Hugh Howey’s 13 Publishing Industry fixes

Repinnable images

Posted by Valerie Douglas, originally from the Random House page.



Until next week,

The four E’s of Indie publishing

IAG oneThere are four e’s to indie publishing – four elements that just can’t be skimped on, or you’ll destroy yourself.  That destruction will come from poor reviews, and your image, once damaged, is really difficult to repair.  Once you’re known as a writer that doesn’t care about his/her product, though you’ll still gain readers, there will eventually be a barrier to your evolution as a writer, or even your ability to reach the next level.

So what are the four E’s?

Excellent story, editing, expert support for covers and formatting, that extra special push.
Each of these, coupled with writing more books, will give you the solid foundations you need as an indie writer to create the career of your dreams.  Of course, those goals are yours to set.

Excellent story

It all starts there.  If you’re bored with your own book, it’s possible that your readers will be too.  But there’s a difference between ‘been looking at it for so long I’m bored with it’ and a boring book.  If you’re not caught up in the rush of the story though, look at why.  If it’s because you’ve been working with it for so long it’s making your eyes bleed, take a step back.  If the story is weak or lacklustre, look at it again.  Work on it.

There are elements to an excellent story, but the best guide is how you feel about it.  And how your beta readers feel about it.  If it gives you a rush, chances are it’s an excellent story.


I know a lot of people are going to be sceptical about this, as I’ve listed the next point as expert support, so, why have I split off editing from expert support.  The short answer is that of all of the support you can get for your book, editing should be started while you’re getting your cover reveal and researching formatters.  Covers and formatting are OF COURSE important, but editing needs to come first – it’s also a good priority to make because it gives you the time to get your cover done without it being rushed, and time to investigate your formatting needs, and find someone to work with.  It’s always important to remember that just because your book is written, it’s still got a way to go, and you need to incorporate that into your timeline.  Editing isn’t a rapid process, and it also gives you a bit of time away from your story.

Editing is important because it’s a new set of eyes on your book and a professional opinion on your book.  Of course, you don’t need to take all of their recommendations, but professional editing is a must for any published book.  And you should always self-edit first.

Expert support

Covers and formatting come next.  You can start your cover design while your book is out for editing, fo course, but your cover and your formatting is really getting you to the end of your professional polish and getting ready for your launch.
You should consider running a cover reveal or other launch for your fans – not only does it build your fan base, but will also get you the start of your launch.
Once edited, your book should be formatted.  At this point you can work with your formatter, find the last of the errors (if there are any) and deal with anything that you’ve found.  These professional touches, along with editing will place your book apart from those that don’t look for professional support.

That EXTRA special push

Most authors can’t market to save themselves, and find it very difficult to do so.  And while it’s pretty much essential now, there are ways around it.  You should launch your book, and you should capitalise on as much of the attention as you can, but longer term, you may want to either have a support structure and team to help you, or set aside time for marketing.  Marketing is important, though there’s a difference between spamming people and interacting with them.  Most marketers will work with you, not against you, and author services can range from posting to your social networks, to a full service website, much like our blog.  It does come down to what you can afford of course, but do consider that professional marketing help might actually make back the rate they charge over the course of the project,  and if they don’t, they WILL create more exposure for you in the short-term and you will make the money back eventually.

And then your book is out there, and you can start on the next book!

So what’s a Midlist Indie? (at least for me)

"Writing", 22 November 2008

“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

What does it mean to me to be a mid-list Indie?

In the days when traditional publishers were the only way to go, mid-list writers were the mainstays of the industry – the mostly unsung and unheralded writers who weren’t at the top of the charts but consistently wrote good, and sometimes even great, books.  They weren’t the Kings, the Clancys, the Roberts, the Grishams, the Koontzs or even the E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey).  They were the ones that were sort of well known, had devoted fans and usually skated just below or sometimes skipped into Top 100 lists. They were journeyman writers who could be counted on to write a consistently good story – sometimes part of a series, sometimes not – every six months to a year. Many were genre writers – sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, thriller, or romance – the ones you found toward the back of the store.  Some of them did go on to greatness in their genre, while even remaining unknown by most of the reading public.

What does it mean to be a mid-list Indie, though? Not just the times, but the time lines have changed. We’re not part of a publishing house that releases hundreds of books a year, and so can afford to publish just one book by one author a year.  For the mid-listers of publishing, that frequently meant that the only real reason they published was because they loved to write – most couldn’t make a living at their writing, they seldom made back their advances – and possibly for the ego bounce of being able to say they were a published writer.

Now, thanks to Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, Apple and Kobo, anybody can be a published writer and quite frequently are, so the quality varies from truly great to truly abysmal.

For a mid-list Indie, it can mean releasing a new book in a matter of months, certainly at least every six months (if you can write that fast) in order to feed your – hopefully – growing number of fans. It’s also the only way a mid-list or ANY indie writer can do well.

To me to be a mid-list Indie is more than just writing, though. To be an Indie writer means to striving to write the best stories I can write, to not just be ‘as good as’ the traditionally published but to try to be better, (remember, I did say ‘try’) and constantly trying to improve, because we’re held to a higher standard. Why? Because there are so many out there for whom ‘good enough’ is good enough – which isn’t good enough for me.

It also means earning enough money from my writing to be able to do what so many traditionally published mid-list writers couldn’t do – make a living from my writing. (If all you hope for is just to have people read your books, then the timing is all yours. That’s one of the best things about Indie writing, it’s not one size fits all.)

Why then, if I’m doing that, do I call myself a mid-list? Well, at least partly because – although I have hit the top 100 lists (and sometimes the top 20) and not just in free but in paid – I’m not doing it consistently. Not yet.  I’m still working, still trying, to get there.  I also want the respect of my peers, other fantasy, thriller and romance writers. And because I want to get noticed, I want people to talk about my writing, just like every other writer out there. I want to be one of those authors that hits not just the Amazon bestseller lists, but the USA Today bestseller lists. I get good enough reviews to be encouraged, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop trying.

At heart, of course, what matters is that I’m doing what I love, on a daily basis, spinning stories of wonder that I hope will entertain and amaze. And even if all of the above never happens, I’ll still keep writing, because I have to, because I have all these wonderful stories to  tell you…

So, let me dream dreams both big and small, and paint the world with visions, for the sky is my palette, and my imagination is what worlds are made of….
Reach up. Let me take you on a journey to places you only dreamt of…to dance among the stars…

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To quote Isaac Asimov and Heraclitus – The only constant is change. And there have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry, the most radical of course being the addition of Indie writing and Indie Authors.

e-books EPUB

e-books EPUB (Photo credit: ceslava.com)

Much of that change is due to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, who took Indie writing out of vanity press and made it something viable. As a kid I remember having one of the last Woolworths in our town – Woolworth was the Wal-mart of the first three quarters of the last century – but it was succeeded by K-Mart, then WallyWorld and now Target. It’s the manner of things to change. Once Smashwords proved that Indie writing was not just viable but profitable, then Amazon (and more slowly B&N). Then Amazon upped the ante by adding their Select program, and an opportunity to make money from ‘borrows’. Sometimes more than the book itself.

It’s also in the nature of people to fear change. There are the die-hards who swear upon Smashwords and see Mark Coker as the patron saint of Indie writers. (Well, he more or less is… but lets keep things in proportion, okay?) Many swear that Amazon is the great big corporate boogeyman out to rip off all writers. Well, they’re a big corporation out to make a profit – if writers do it for them, they’re good with that.

Now there’s Kobo.

I have to admit, walking away from the security of Amazon and the Select program scares me. I’ve done pretty well there, so I’m a little nervous. My sales there are still good but alterations in the way the algorithms are calculated have definitely had their effect. Moving some of my books to Smashwords and B&N has shown that sales there aren’t what they were last year, so I need to try something else. (And yes, part of that plan is to release more books.) I’m going to take it in baby steps though, and just release a couple through Kobo – which is probably better anyway – and see how they do. I’ll add more if the returns are worth it.

I’m also going to do print. Why you ask, when e-books are increasingly exponentially, and DTB (dead tree books) are slowly fading. Um… note the slowly fading bit. They’re not gone, and I don’t believe they ever will be. They may become a luxury item, something you buy as a gift. Authors may release special signed copies as collectors items. More than that though, they’re still a shrinking 80% of the market.

So why am I doing it – going to Kobo, putting my books out in print?

I’m doing well, but I could be doing  better, I want to be higher in the charts, I want a LOT of people reading my books. Therefore, I need to get my books where LOTS of people can read them. That’s in as many venues as possible. I don’t want someone to look at my book listing and say “I’d really like to read that book but I can’t because…its not in print/not on Nook/not on Kobo, etc.  To do that I have to broaden my horizons and my market. That’s the next step….

Even if it does feel like I stepping into the dark…

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Sign of the Times?

English: Eslite Bookstore in Taichung Chung-yo...

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s been a while since I was in my favorite bookstore. (That picture isn’t it, by the way. ) Even so, I was shocked.

Where were the fiction books?

They were tucked away in a back corner of the store on the second level.

Oh, there were the New Release tables on the first floor, and two long shelves of New Release Hardcover fiction, but other than that there was only the discounted book racks. I had to go looking to find the rest.

Nothing on the first floor, only non-fiction, self-help, travel etc.

Children’s and YA were on the second floor as you stepped off the elevator.

Toys now filled the space Mystery had once occupied and educational toys where shelves filled with fantastic flights of the imagination had stood. Philosophy and psychology where Romance had once filled the aisles. (Are they trying to tell us something?) Then, finally, fiction. Four or five lonely aisles in the upper back corner of the store.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I own a Nook, and I love it. I know I’ve also debated a time or two whether to buy the cheaper e-book or the slightly more expensive paperback, and I’ve set down the much more expensive hardcover of an author I collected for years (although it was because their child wrote it, and I’m not sure it’s as good as the parent’s books were). But, but…. but… This was a bookstore! Yes, they were still selling books – but not much fiction. The last time I was there four or five rows was the space allotted to Romance alone, not all fiction. Were they just pushing their latest gadget? What about the folks looking to purchase a bunch of romance novels for their non-e-reader friends?

Exactly who is to blame here? Bookstores or publishers? (It’s not the writers, in most cases we have no power.) Was the low number of print books a business decision on the part of the bookstore? Or was it because the price of those books from the publishers has gotten so high the bookstores can’t afford to keep the stock?

I have to admit that part of my problem with print is the same – it’s too expensive. Personally I believe that’s why so many discount bookstores have popped up and the popularity of e-books has taken off – and not just because of the new gadgets. Like so many other things, movies, sports games, what used to be a cheap form of entertainment has now become expensive and all of that increase can’t be blamed on electronic devices. A standard paperback novel now costs $10 and a hardcover at least $16. Even a Harlequin romance is $5. When mon is tight, that’s a hard hit to the wallet. And they wonder why sales of print have fallen off? It makes far more sense to put your name on the waiting list at the local library…or wait until the TV movie comes out. Books are starting to compete with video games in price – especially if you’re not a re-reader. As libraries close or cut back due to budget cuts that effects far more than just the bookstores or publishers, that effects literacy. Books have now become a luxury where once they were the refuge of the poor.

Rather than making books more appealing or offering more selection – taking advantage of computerization and logistics – instead publishers are increasingly dumping their backlist books rather than pricing them at a discount. Thereby giving more fodder and more fuel to the growth of discount book franchises, e-books and companies like Amazon. A tragedy to all of us who love books, but a blow to the campaign to increase literacy.

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Burnout city – population – me?

burnout, exaustionThis was a hard post to write. Not because I didn’t know what to write, and not because I couldn’t work out the slant, but because this week has been one of the hardest of my writing life.
And I’ve been writing for close to thirty years.

Burnout? What’s that?

First, I’d like to address a couple of misconceptions about burnout. It’s not ‘simply’ writers block, which, in itself is rarely simple. It’s not any more complicated though than the act of balking something you can’t cope with any more. Burnout isn’t ‘just’ when your brain says ‘enough’. It’s actually worse than that – it’s when your brain backs away gibbering from anything, at all, and you begin to feel like your world is out of control. And if you’re not careful, you can put yourself in that position for a very long time.

Many people don’t recognize burnout – in fact, it’s possible, especially in the world that indie writers inhabit, that burnout is something that many writers are designing themselves into – pushing up their schedules to meet what they believe is what is required of them. I think the wider issue here is the expectation of success that many indie authors carry – it’s unfortunate though.

What does it feel like?

Everyone is different, but it’s critical to understand that there are several key features of burnout:

  • Lack of interest in writing, even if you *really want to* on one level or another. That disinterest could extend into editing your work, or releasing it, or finishing the draft. You can’t push past it – in most cases.
  • Feeling emotionally overwhelmed
  • Feeling physically sick when you sit down to write
  • Making any excuse not to write – in my case, I started cleaning the house *much* more – probably more than I really need to. It was at the point where I’d do my copywriting last thing at night, and wouldn’t get to bed till really late. I’d sleep in, and then the cycle would start over.
  • Making excuses over deadlines that – if you look at them – are serious enough that you should have noticed before now – or are making serious excuse after serious excuse. Or, though you’re having to postpone, deep down you’re kind of glad that something has happened to make you postpone.
  • Not caring about anything other than sleeping.

Burnout *IS* a type of depression. Creatives with burnout are more prone to serious depression. But, conversely, depression can be mistaken for burnout, so here comes the obligatory warning – if you’re finding it difficult in *all* areas of your life, or have thoughts that you are worried about, you should talk to your doctor. Depression is manageable – and it doesn’t always mean medication – but it can destroy your creativity if left untreated. (writer’s note – I’m bipolar – and have a fixed pattern, which this didn’t fit into, which is how I know I’m burned out)

What about ME?

I’m a ‘frenetic’ burnout subtype, I’ll keep working no matter what – but that was the wrong solution in this case. I’ve just graduated, after a four-year course, we moved less than two years ago, our personal lives are changing, and this is my first full year trading as a business, which meant more paperwork, more writing work, more *everything*. And this summer I had to get the eldest ready for high school. I should have stopped.
But I didn’t, until last week.

I’m not going to say that it was inevitable, because it wasn’t. But in a way it was – I kept agreeing to doing more and more than I should have – three books – four in fact, that are written, but not quite ready to go, lots of sites, lots of projects. Trying to bust through what I thought was writer’s block.

I burned out, entirely. 110%, and even two weeks after acknowledging that I’d hit my wall, I’m still not back to writing fiction.
But I did learn a couple of really important things in the last few weeks – the week before I realized something was wrong – and the time after.

  1. If you feel something is wrong, it’s ok to take a day off. Write something for fun instead of your book, or books. Brainstorm for lean days, or just do something fun, like reading. It’s ok to take *time* off.
  2.  Burnout is horrible – and if, like me you rely on writing, you can’t give in completely. So write something every day, even if all it is, is a blog working through your feelings. I don’t do my 750 words a day right now, but last week, I did a lot of writing working through anger, sorrow, pain, and I eventually even did some outlining. I don’t want to go back to writing fiction right now – other people might find they hit ‘blog burnout’ or ‘twitter burnout’ or ‘promotion burnout’ or even ‘Facebook burnout’. It’s ok to admit that you’re not coping with x or y.
  3. If you really can’t cope with something beyond your writing, remember there are people who can help. Indie writers are in some ways expected to be one man or one woman marketing, editing and writing machines, but that’s not what we *are*. It’s equally ok to ask for help.
  4. Time out helps – isolating yourself doesn’t – in my case, I was very lucky – I didn’t go far, and talked to some of my friends every single day I was away from the groups I’d also quit. I was also lucky that in quitting, I could tell a couple of people where to go without damaging the reputation of others. It’s ok to say NO.
  5. Eventually you’ll want to write again. That’s ok too.

What do you think? Have experience of burnout, or a story to share? Advice that’s helpful? We’d love to hear from you!

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