We’re back… :)

Well, the team have spoken, we’re updating the site, and there’s a lot of fun changes coming up.
I thought today though, I’d share some of our best bits on the site.

Resources for miles

At the core of things at the Indie Author Group is our mission statement. Both Valerie Douglas and I felt, early on, supported by the rest of the team, that a safe space to get advice as an indie author. We don’t believe in judging others for their choices and are firmly all about making the most of everything. So, in 2011, when she set up the group, I was one of her first moderators, and we’ve gone on to build a really great resource. And we have an amazing team of moderators too!
We founded the site late 2011, but the group will be 10 May 2021!

What you can find in the group

Honestly? A little of everything. We have resources that range from advice and support, to sharing information and tips and tricks. And a listing for the group’s Twitter list, Facebook pages, service providers (cover designers, editors, formatters, audiobooks, and more).
If you’re not there already – why not? (tip, if you’re not, answer ALL the questions, and be aware we don’t allow advertising, at all, bar in communal documents for those reasons).

So…there’s more? YES!

So, we have other resources! Our pages are the main one – Indie Author Group, and we keep a page just for the blog, Indie Author Group Info.
Then we’ve got the main blog (here).
Then, there’s The Writer’s Information Reference Library – short answers for simple questions 🙂
We’ll also be adding a tech page, a news page and more…
Finally, we keep a newsletter, and Twitter 🙂

Please check out our resources and let us know what you think!

Submissions open!

We are now taking guest posts for three of our blogs, and we’d love to see our readers and members join in.  If you’d like to guest post with us, all of the details are here!

The main rule of submitting to the blogs are that they CANNOT be fluff, no use posts that promote you.  We are very keen to keep the quality of the blog high, therefore all posts should be your original content (we do accept reprints), with links to anything that you’re asserting that is to be backed up.  So, for example, if you say that ‘The Benevolent Dictator says that nothing sells one book like the next book’, it’d be brilliant if you could also link those words to the page (https://twirl.indieauthorgroup.com/selling-books/).  This means people can see where you’re learning from.  Please do not link YOUR OWN blog unless you are an expert – you’ve got your byline at the end for that.

Main Guidelines

Aside from no ads, we also ask that people do not use affiliate links.  If you link to Amazon books, we reserve the right to change the links to our own affiliate link, per our privacy guidelines.  We do ask, on the whole that you don’t write articles with Amazon links in if you can avoid it, to avoid issues of this kind.

If you are linking to your own blog, we do ask that you link to specific posts, and that your own privacy guidelines are up to date.

Your byline can contain three links – one of which should ideally be a blog, or other site for people to follow you.  We do not allow friend request links from Facebook – you must use a Facebook page.

Finally, we reserve the right to reject any articles that don’t work for our site, or fits with our guidelines.  Full guidelines are of course listed here.
Once you’ve read our guidelines, you can submit here.  The blog posts will then be taken to tech or marketing, or posted to the main blog as the team decides is right.
Please ensure you include your email, your byline and any images when you submit.  We will not respond to return articles if we reject them, but we will of course let you know about accepted articles and your publication date.  If you do not hear back within six weeks of submission, please consider that your article has been rejected.

We invite people to submit up to three posts.  We know the categories are odd on the form, don’t worry about that, but if we reject all three, we do ask that you look at our guidelines (which are clearly listed in our post here, on the guidelines and at the bottom of the form) and then wait a few months.

Good luck, we’re really looking forward to seeing your submissions!

How and why to use Paper.li

For those who aren’t familiar with Paper.li it’s essentially a ‘newspaper’ about whatever you want to share and it’s easy to use. Simply go to the site and sign up. There are two versions – free and paid. (More on that later.)
Give it a title but think long and hard before choosing one. Don’t make the common mistake of naming it ‘YourName, Author‘ or ‘RomanticTitle Series‘, because using your author name is a giveaway for ‘buy my book’ promotion and if you go off that series track you have to remember to go back and rename your paper.li.  You want to consider it as part of your marketing plan but you don’t want to be obvious about it or no one will read it.
Since I write self-published fantasy, and that’s usually associated with sci-fi, mine references that. And, since no fantasy writer worth their salt shouldn’t also know something about archaeology (to ground their fiction in reality) and people are interested in that science, I reference that, too.
I’m also interested in giving back to other writers and educating them on the common mistakes many writers of fantasy make. Food, for example, was a lot harder to come by, you had to forage for vegetables and fruit, and it took a lot longer to cook. Say you have a character who takes down a bird or a deer. In some fantasy novels, writers roast them on a spit. A bird will take a fair amount of time. A deer is bigger than you think, it takes half a day to roast that way, with frequent turning.  As another example of a common mistake, do you know why ancient peoples used chariots? Because most early horses couldn’t carry a person. Centuries of selective breeding (evolution) created an animal that could. Even so, a horse will take a long period of time, even with its longer legs, to get from point A to point B. More so if hitched to a wagon. And they get tired.
So, back to Paper.li. You can give it certain parameters to search for and feature, but some come with it.

Editing 101 – Self-editing for self-publishers

In the first of a series of articles, Valerie Douglas talks Self Editing – we’re storing them on our pages, so they don’t flow away in the blog stream 😀

One of the first things they should tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel, it’s all about the 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. When self-editing do a search for begin and start.

Get this and more tips on the article.

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 – http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/QAoxfordcomma.htm
  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.

 

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.

Writing series/sequels

Looks like a good bookFirst, readers love series/sequels. However, the next book in any series should always be a standalone book, that is unless you really want to annoy your readers. And you should only write it because you have more to say, because you like the world in which you wrote it, or because you love the characters so much that you want to spend more time with them. Because if you did, your readers probably will, too.

If you’re going to write a sequel, though, don’t assume that a reader read book one. They may only have seen an intriguing cover or read the blurb for book two or three. I know of one writer who took a lot of backlash because her ‘sequel’ required readers to have read book one – they felt it was a cheat, that book two was just a way to make them buy book one. That’s why every book in the series should stand on its own.

You also have to be careful not to rehash all the info in book one in book two. It should be organic, as part of the story, something that can be shared via dialogue between two characters or as a memory. New readers need to know those shared experiences, so they understand what motivates the characters, why they’re friends or enemies. (Ditto Books Three, Four, and so on.) If you do your job right, then your readers will want to know more, and they’ll read Book One.

When you market Book Two, market it on its own merits. If you set it up correctly, the subtitle and cover will let readers know it’s part of a series. Series can be challenging for just that reason.

If you knew you were going to write a sequel to Book One, or a series, it’s much easier. Just make sure you actually have those books written. Or at least Book Two, with Book Three in-process, if it will be a series. There is nothing worse for a reader than having a writer talk about a sequel or series, but then they don’t deliver. If you didn’t, it gets complicated. For one thing, you need to join the books under a series name. Hopefully, you have an idea what that will be. It also means you’ll need to go back to book one and add that series name to the listing for the book. Ideally, too, the books should have similar covers. Those covers will automatically announce that there is a connection between the books. Without it, it makes it difficult for readers to know it’s a series. That may mean you need to purchase new covers, or contract with your original cover artist to produce a similar one. Similar covers will tell readers that it’s part of a sequel or series, reassuring them that they’ll find more books by their new favorite writer.

And nothing sells Book One like Book Two.

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.

Indie author group roundup, week ending 26th January

Welcome to this weeks’ ‘weekly round up’. Featured moderator of the week is Valerie – please pop on over to her profile and say hiya, ask a question, let her know about your favorite book of hers. She loves to talk to other writers and readers!

It’s been a busy week here at IAG HQ, with blog updates and new features for writers that blog for us regularly.  Now your profile can include your Amazon page link (after a minimum of one submitted article, you can have a login for the site), and we’ll soon be adding a way to feature up to five books on your profile.  All you have to do is create a post for us and the bio and links back are all yours!

This week on the Indie Author Group

We’ve had some amazing questions on the group.  Some really good answers too, so do click through and read the comments and add your own!
Rick Gualtieri asked where your sales are split by market.

Isabelle Leroux asks about Songs in Books.

Christina Bates asks if you indent character dialogue.

Great advice from Valerie Douglas about Proof copies….

A discussion on ‘unexpected character moves‘ by Elaine Angelus Kehler

And Do you need an MFA to write?  by Peter Bahi

 

This week on the Blog

We’ve had a fairly quiet week on the blog, but we did launch a whole new column type – the Quick Indie guides to….
Twitter!  We’ll be sharing a new one every Friday.  Next week is part 1 to the Facebook guide.

This week in the community and beyond

Rachel Thompson says ‘If you’re not reading Indie books, you’re missing out…’

Mark Coker offers predictions for 2014 from Smashwords.

Chuck Wendig features a fun flash fiction challenge and “something, something blah blah author income.”

Universal Grammar from Tzarzul Nicolai.

Featured community.

NEW feature – every week we’ll highlight a subgenre community.  This week it’s the turn of the Sci-Fi community.
WE’ve got some great sci-fi writers there, who love to talk hard and soft sci-fi, world building, writing and more.  Come join in! (all of our groups are featured here)

Featured Quote

 

King-on-writing

Find more at The Daily Write.

The Indie Author’s quick guide to Twitter

In a new feature, we’ve decided to provide some quick guides to various social networks, from our social media based moderator (Kai).  Remember too, that we have our own Twitter and Facebook page, and will be launching a Pinterest profile for our members soon!

The Quick guide to Twitter

Twitter is a basic social network where you can post tweets, which are 140 characters or less.  Tweets are designed to be short and sweet – they can contain hashtags (sort of like categories) and mention other members of twitter by username by using the @ symbol.  Your tweets can also be retweeted, you can follow people and place them on lists.

Signing up to Twitter

Twitter is easy to sign up for – all you need is a unique email address and a username.  That said, there are many limitations on usernames, mostly down to length and availability – Twitter is now a huge network, so even if you’re the same username everywhere else and don’t yet have a twitter account, you MAY not get the username you want. Continue reading

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