So you’re a writer. Then be one.

Dear reading writer,

typewriterA while ago I had a very interesting and eye-opening talk with someone. Before I go into this, let me ask you a question. How many of you look at yourself as a real author/writer? With this I mean a writer like Stephen King, Agatha Christie, George R.R. Martin, Jackie Collins and others in that range of fame? If you do then you can stop reading here, there’s nothing new for you then.

If you don’t – like I don’t – then here’s the thing: Start acting like one. Stop seeing yourself as someone who struggles to put out a book and then worries about promotion and sales. (Once the book is out, tell the world about it in a proper way. Don’t spam. But that’s not the point of this post.)

Believe it or not, but the people who buy, read and like your book look at you as a small George Martin, as the next Jackie Collins (depending on your genre). You’re not the person who could live down the street who put together this reading thing. No. You are the author of the book.

Do you look up at film stars and writers, then put yourself in the position of being looked up at for a moment, and think of the people who read your work as you. They look up to you, because you are the writer. The author.

I’ll leave it at this. Think about it. Try to see the change in mindset that you have to push yourself into.

Maybe you are afraid that you will fall into delusions of grandeur because of this and that’s the reason you don’t do it. Well, forget that. Delusions will happen anyway if you’re up for those. You’ll be you. Just dare to put on the writer-crown (not hat. Crown) and wear that with pride. You do something special. Dare to act like it.

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, Indieauthorgroup.com.

 

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.

tsu

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!

How to send your new subscribers information – Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an incredibly powerful tool – whether you’re using it as the free version, or the paid version, you can do a couple of really neat things with it.

One of the most powerful is welcoming new subscribers.  Paid Mailchimp subscribers can set up auto responders to send out an email to subscribers as soon as they subscribe.  But there is a way to almost duplicate the same action on free Mailchimp.

Why would I want to do it in the first place?

In short, welcoming your subscribers comes in two parts – confirming the ‘opt-in’, which you can edit in the settings, which I’ll explain at the end of the article, and more importantly, you can tell Mailchimp to send emails to people who have subscribed since you sent the email the last time.
You can then use this to welcome people, ask them for feedback, give them a freebie – we use this function on the Indie Author Group mailing list (which I log into once a week), to send out freebies.

Segmenting 101

Segmenting, in Mailchimp is incredibly powerful – you can set up groups of subscribers who signed up in a specific place, and are entitled to a specific offer – by genre….by need.  By the book they signed up after.  But segmenting also looks at specific criteria, such as the date emails have gone out.

How do I do it?

Log into your Mailchimp account, and start a campaign as normal, and head into your campaign setup.  Skip through the regular ‘ol campaign option.  The first time you email this out, it goes to the whole of your list.  Thereafter, set your calendar to log in once a week and check if you’ve had more subscribers.

As you can see below, we’ve not needed to send since the beginning of October on the Indie Author Group.  But we’ve got three new subscribers, YAY!

How to set up your Mailchimp to send emails to people who have joined since the last email - perfect for welcome emails!

When setting that up, it will auto populate, based on the choices you make.  The dropdown will let you do this – just look for ‘since the last campaign was sent’.  If you save this, you can then simply tell it to use a saved segment, and it’s a few clicks.  You then paste what you want to send (so save it somewhere if it’s your welcome email – or duplicate it from the last time if you like (instead of telling it to create a new campaign, look at your email list and choose a campaign and copy it, setting it up as normal).

And, I mentioned setting up a message in the ‘thank you for subscribing’ section, didn’t I?

Go to Lists – Signup forms – General signup forms and hit select.  In there, you’ll find your signup form and all sorts of other goodies in the dropdown.  Do be aware of what needs to be included when editing these, but have fun!

What do you think?  Can you think of creative ways you could use this?  Got an idea of what you’d like to do but not quite sure how?  Comment below!

Points of view…

From The Fellowship of the Rings – “There were some that shook their heads and thought that this was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) perpetual youth as well as (reputably) inexhaustible wealth.

“It will have to be paid for….”

Notice that the sentence is in no discernible particular voice.

*****

From Dune – ‘Paul’ heard the fear in her voice and wondered at it.

Jessica spoke without turning. “Reverend  Mother is waiting in my morning room. Please hurry.”

 

The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam sat in a tapestried chair watching mother and son approach…

 

Omniscient Point of View aka the POV of many movies (like Lord of the Rings and Dune) and the bane of many an editor’s existence. Also the Point of View of the novels Anna Karenina, The Lord of the Rings, Middlemarch, Charlotte’s Web and Dune. Also known as cinematic POV for its portrayal of scenery and the POV of the characters – as well as their thoughts. (Although thoughts are better conveyed through their expressions and actions, but that may just be me.) AKA the POV of the generation raised by the movies.

For those who have seen The Lord of the Rings movies, imagine the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring. Neither the movie nor the book is told solely from Frodo’s POV – at least part of the time Frodo is unconscious. The POV changes to Aragorn, Arwen (in her confrontation at the river in the movie), Elrond, Gandalf (when surprised by Saruman) and Samwise. The same is true of the books.

But it starts in Frodo’s point of view. It’s important to establish the primary voice or voices so the reader can identify with them.

Character points of view can be separated by spaces, as with the passage from Dune, or by a string of asterisks (*****).  Whichever you choose, be consistent. I do either, depending on the book, and until all the major characters have been introduced. Once that’s done the ones that work together talk to each other and interact as a group.

“Third-person point of view allows the author to be like a movie camera moving to any set and recording any event, as long as one of the characters is lugging the camera. It also allows the camera to slide behind the eyes of any character, but beware–do it too often or awkwardly, and you will lose your reader very quickly. When using third person, don’t get in your characters’ heads to show the reader their thoughts, but rather let their actions and words lead the reader to figure those thoughts out.” (Bob Mayer, The Novel Writer’s Toolkit: A Guide to Writing Novels and Getting Published. Writer’s Digest Books, 2003).

Which leads to a caveat. Many a writer advises that you end each chapter with a question (not a literal one, but a figurative question. “He looked out across the hills and wondered what would happen next….) That can be a bit stilted. For myself, I end the Chapters as the end of a scene is naturally reached. If I can end it on a question or a cliffhanger, I do, but only if it happens organically.

The second caveat is this – it is omniscient POV, but while the unseen narrator knows everything that’s going on, be careful not to presage events. Even in one of my books where the lead character has foresight, he can’t see everything. And readers like to be part of the journey.

I’m not sure when Omniscient POV went out of style except perhaps that it’s much harder to write and edit than other Points of View and it requires a very good editor in order to avoid ‘head-hopping’. It takes a good writer to properly convey the multiple POVs so that the reader/editor knows who is doing/saying/thinking what, and a good editor to make sure that in the novel they all stay straight. One of my editors insisted that there always be at least three paragraphs in a particular POV. I do that where I can, but there was one scene – a reunion of parents and child – in one of my books where I couldn’t. The scene was too crucial to showing the intensity of the feelings between parents separated from a grown but beloved child, I couldn’t eliminate it.

So, we’re going to walk you through the two most difficult POVs – omniscient, 1st person – and the most common – third person – so you can decide which POV will work best for your book.

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.

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.

readers

 

Until next week,
Kai

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.

Editing

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!

E-book formatting 101. When you’re new to this all.

Dear reader,

I don’t consider myself an expert on formatting e-books, yet so far I’ve done a reasonable job on my own. I’ll let you in on the trick to my “success”.

There are a few things to remember when you’re formatting an e-book:

1. It is not a paperback or a hard-cover.

Well, that’s an eye-opener. Still it is important to understand. An e-book doesn’t have pages. In fact, the inside of an e-book is basically one long, flowing page and the way it’s shown to the reader depends entirely on the software that is running on your e-reader or tablet, and in many cases it can even be influenced by the settings inside the software if you can get to those.

Since there are no pages, there is no reason to add page numbers. If you force them into your book, they’ll show up in the oddest places for everyone due to the nature of the beast. I mean e-book.

For that same reason it’s useless to add your name and the title of the book to the page header, as is done so often in paper books. There are no pages, so there are no headers.

2. Keep it simple.

Simple A: a mistake that many people make is to go overboard on font adornments. They will italicise, make text bold, underline and even combine the lot to make an impact. That is a nice idea, but the end result usually is a messy jumble. If you feel you need a font embellishment option, choose one and stick to that. Note that underlining often is a bad idea, because e-ink e-readers can follow links, and underline often indicates a link. Do you want to frustrate the readers of your book to tap a link in vain, be my guest, but be warned that you may annoy them.

Simple B: fonts. Use one font. A basic one like Times New Roman or Arial will do nicely. Many e-readers and tablets don’t display anything except their own built-in font, so adding all kinds of fonts you love and like will hardly have an effect.

Simple C: spacing. Don’t overdo it, but also don’t underdo it. If you switch a scene in your book, make sure you use something of a separator line in your text, like an asterisk (or a set of three), or a few dashes. Some e-readers will skip blank lines and keep the text going, so that can give you very strange results. A reader needs some indication that the story continues in a different place/from a different viewpoint, so make sure there is something.

Simple D: no tabs, no spaces. Most e-book formats on the inside are HTML- or web-pages. Webpages don’t support tabs, and also most of the time (but not always) multiple spaces will be shown as just 1 space, and spaces usually are entirely omitted when they appear at the start of a sentence. If you want the first word of a new paragraph to be indented, set the horizontal space of your default style in your word processor to what you need.

3. Images.

If you can avoid using images, avoid using images. If you’re creating a picture book you should reconsider your medium.

Images can add to a story when used wisely. Not too big, not too small. However: when is an image the right size? Remember, e-reading can be done on a 3.7″ smartphone as well as a 12″ tablet. Images usually don’t scale to the reader, so be smart about this. If possible, avoid them.

And the remark about picture books and the right medium: if you have beautiful, coloured pictures in your work and someone looks at them on a black-and-white e-ink reader… not much of your vibrant colours will survive.

 4. Be consistent

If you’re writing a series of books, be consistent in your formatting. Don’t change the font, styles or spacing with every new book just because you think it’s worth a try. Change one, then change them all. Give your reader the feeling they’re indeed reading a book from the same series.

5. Get the Smashwords Style Guide

Download the Smashwords Style Guide (link leads you to the download page in a new window.) Some people I know have complained that this book is hard to follow. Many thousands however haven’t. If you have a problem with it, then ask others what to make of it. This book has helped me tremendously, I follow it with every book I publish. I have created a template for my word processor based on this book and let me brag that it doesn’t fail. Get the book and use it. The price won’t kill you because it costs nothing except a click and the download time. It’s worth it.

And before you start shouting that you will only publish through Amazon: get the guide. I have once published a book through Amazon first and used that document for Smashwords. Smashwords rejected the file as it contained errors. Then I discovered that the e-book generated by Amazon had those errors as well and it looked awful. My rule of thumb is: if Smashwords’ Autovetter (their conversion system) says it’s good, it’s good.

Happy formatting!

Dialogue – are you doing it right?

IAG oneDialogue plays an important part in connecting your readers to your story. Good dialogue helps a reader hear the voices of your characters and creates an additional layer of context and tone. But, effective dialogue doesn’t, and shouldn’t, mirror every day conversations. In our daily speech patterns, we stammer, stall, get distracted, and often end up talking about things completely unrelated to our original intent. Effective dialogue, like the rest of your writing should endeavor to say what must be said as efficiently and quickly as possible. When characters speak, they must have a motivation for every single word.

 

Continue reading

Your author bio – compelling ways to brand

One of the major things that many authors don’t think about is what they should say about themselves in their bio. And to be honest, there isn’t anything you shouldn’t include, other than ‘and keeps getting poor reviews’.

First or third person

One of the most important initial questions that you should ask is if you’re writing your bio in first or third person. Most authors write in third person (Since picking up a pen, she… ). It seems to be the recognised way to talk about yourself, and you should open up with a compelling reason for people to read you over anyone else. Once you get awards, you could mention ‘award-winning’ but don’t fall into the trap of describing yourself as ‘bestselling’ unless you actually are – bestselling is now an ‘off’ word on bios, becuase Amazon’s ranking, though really neat, makes it almost meaningless. Continue reading

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