StoryBundle – Writestuff 2016

We don’t often feature these products on the group blog, but this is one designed for indie authors, and it doesn’t have affiliate links AND you can donate 10% to charity, so we thought we’d see how it went.

Storybundle and HumbleBundle feature products in ‘bundles’ at a significant amount of money off, and if you’re looking to study or intake information, this bundle is a great one for at least one or two perspectives to give you something to think about in the indie author community. Plus, it’s something that the mod team talk about a lot – making sure that the advice we’re listening to isn’t from people just recycling information or not sharing from experience.

Here’s the blurb:

From curator Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Hundreds of writing books get published every year, and most of those books are written by people who have written…a book on writing. I kid you not. These people have a method or a scheme or they teach a writing class—even though I have no idea how they get those gigs. (Okay, I do. They get an MFA, which universities seem to think is more important than actual writing experience.)

Those writing books have nothing in common with the writing books in this bundle. Together, the authors of the books in The Write Stuff 2016 Bundle have more than two-hundred years of writing experience, and have contributed more than five hundred award-winning and bestselling books (fiction and nonfiction) to the world of literature.

We know writing, the writing life, and what makes a writing career. And we want to share it all with you.

You can grab your bundle here.  And keep checking back on the blog as we talk about the advice we’re working on for you guys ourselves!

Pronoun merges with MacMillan

Pronoun announced today that they were merging with MacMillan, in a move that is probably going to be quite surprising to many. There have been a lot of changes recently in the indie author community, so what is clear is that people are trying to forge the best of their platforms for various needs – it’s just a question of finding the ones that work best for you.

Here’s what they said:

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Pronoun is joining Macmillan Publishers, a global trade book publishing company with over 100 years experience, and amazing imprints around the world. Macmillan shares our philosophy that publishing exists to serve the full spectrum of authors. By joining forces, we’ll be able to invest even more in improving and growing Pronoun’s self-publishing platform, all while giving successful independent authors a path towards more opportunity.

As a division of Macmillan, we’ll be doubling down on Pronoun’s free core platform, while also investing in additional levels of service and support. We will continue to make the best products we can, starting with the needs of authors and building from there. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on lately!

Read more at @Pronoun on Medium

This is another reason we have to keep up with what’s going on in the community – not only are Pronoun data aquisition positioned, but there might be other changes coming too. Time will tell, and it’s certainly interesting.

How to write a best-selling novel

King-on-writingFirst, read. Read a lot. (Stephen King, paraphrased – “if you don’t have time to read, you can’t write.”) Reading will teach you how to write, how to write well, and how to write compelling characters.

Corollary – read the genre you’re writing in, that will teach you the ins and outs of that genre, and it may inspire a story.

Second, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’ve tried to write several books but haven’t been able to finish (pantsing), try writing an outline (plotting). If writing an outline kills the story for you, you’re a pantser, stop outlining and write the story.

Third, every good writer has dozens of starts and stops behind them. Some were completed. Some died in the writing. None of them were published. They were learning their craft. Learn your craft. If this is your first novel, put it in a drawer. Read in that genre. Come back to that book. It’s okay if you realize it’s crap. You write crap to become a better writer. Really good writers like Stephen King, wrote a lot, and started early. His first book “I was a Teenage Grave Robber” was independently published while still in high school. His first professional short story, “The Glass Floor” was published in a magazine.

Fourth, writers create worlds that might exist, have existed or exist only in the imagination. If you have to ask how to write a particular genre, you need to read more, see more movies, and use your imagination. Other writers write their stories. You have to write your own.

Fifth, write because you love it, because you have to do it, because you care about the story or the reason behind writing that story. If you’re not doing it because you love it, if you’re doing it for fame or money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Most writers will not get rich writing. They might make money, but only a few get rich.

Corollary – if you can quit, if it’s too hard and reviewers are mean, if you’re not driven to write, you’re in the wrong business. Who told you this writing thing was easy? Whoever they were, they lied. If it’s too hard, stop complaining and quit.

Sixth – If you don’t feel it – love, heartache, joy, grief, whatever – your readers won’t. Care – about the characters, the story, and why you needed to write it. Tears in the writer, tears in the reader. Laughter in the writer, laughter in the reader. Fall in love with the character(s).

Seventh – who is/are your main character(s). What’s their history, what motivates them, what do they need, what do they have to overcome? (Think about your favorite novels and the characters in it.) Pantser know their characters, plotters learn them. Until the reader knows those characters and what they care about, they don’t know what the story is about, and they won’t care what happens to the people in it.

Eighth, write more books. The best writers in the world wrote multiple books. Some tried to publish their first ones and received rejection letters of varying types. The good rejection letters told them why it was rejected. Indie writers don’t have that, they have readers. If this is your first book, write at least two more, if not four more. Readers want to follow an author they love. Give them something to follow.

Ninth – If the story isn’t working ask yourself why you’re writing it? If you’re writing it for the money, or because it’s a popular genre, you’re writing for the wrong reasons.
Are you trying to force your characters in a direction the people you created won’t go? Then follow the logic. Every good writer has discovered a story where the characters say “oh, no, I am NOT going there” because it’s not true to or for that character. Always stay true to the characters you’ve created. A good guy doesn’t suddenly turn bad, there has to be a reason. A bad boy character doesn’t suddenly change his stripes in a novel any more than he would in real life.

Tenth, what’s the story you’re trying to tell? Why should readers care? What are you trying to say?

Eleventh, How do you write? There is only one way – Apply seat to chair and fingers to keyboard. Write the story. Don’t listen to the naysayers, the doubters, or your own insecurities (there’s no such thing as a secure writer, the best are insecure because it makes them question their writing). Just write.

Twelfth, show don’t tell. Characters do things. Show them doing, either by describing it, or have them say in dialog what they’re doing and why.

The story is done when the story is done, when the characters have said everything the reader needs to know. Don’t know the ending? Take a step back. Talk to your characters. Ask yourself how you want it to end. Write that. If you can’t, it’s likely that you’re pushing the story in the direction you want it to go, not the direction it wants to go.

More than anything else, though, write the story. Do it because you love it.  You’re the only one who can write that story. The story is the only thing that matters.

Is there a guarantee that it will be a best-seller? No. But a book(s) can’t be a best-seller if it’s not written.


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.

To a writer, words should be sacred

Respect words“If you don’t have the time to read you don’t have the time (or tools) to write, it’s as simple as that” – Stephen King

“You can’t write well what you don’t read for pleasure. If it doesn’t entertain you, it’s not going to entertain anyone else” – Nora Roberts

I was reading a blog the other day and I was appalled at the errors. The writer didn’t seem to know the difference between ‘steal’ (theft) and ‘steel’ (the metal, or a stiffening of the nerves).

In another case, there was an aspiring writer who posted a daily request for how to write the most basic sentences. He didn’t know the word ‘peer’, as in ‘look over or around’, and that an adult would have to be seated for the child he was writing about to be able to look over the adult’s shoulder.

There have been several times where an aspiring writer is clearly trying to write fan-fiction based on a favorite TV show.

Another writer, using said favorite TV show, didn’t know the difference between a tunic, a toga, or a cloak. He didn’t know how people dressed in ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt, and didn’t know how to describe it.

If I could give one piece of advice to writers it would be the same as those of Mr. King or Ms. Roberts. Read. Read a lot. Read everything and anything. Someone once said of me that if I didn’t have a book to read I’d read cereal boxes or skywriting. I read voraciously. I read biographies, history, and most kinds of fiction. My husband likes to read philosophy, I listen to him discuss the books he loves, and I learn from it.

If you don’t read, you don’t have the basic skills to write. Google what you don’t understand, you’ll learn even more.

Do you want to be a good writer…or a great writer? Then read. Nudge the world a little. Or rock it!



Don’t make me pull out my teeny tiny violin…

teeny tiny violinLately, there have been a lot of writers crying the blues about their books – “I’m promoting like mad, but no one is downloading my book,” or  “I can’t get any reviews,” or “Someone gave me a bad one-star review.” Oh, gee, I say as I search for it on the interwebz, I’m so sorry. My books are selling, but 1. I promote judiciously and 2. I follow the standard maxim – Nothing sells Book One like Book Two.

And while I’ve garnered my share of good reviews, I’ve gotten my share of bad ones, too.

Then I find the book in question. One look at the cover and >wince< Really? Who created that image? A five-year-old? Or it’s stock images fiddled together. And you thought that shade of green was good for the font? And the font? Papyrus? Well, maybe if the book was about ancient Egypt…

Well, that explains a lot.

Okay, now I remember, you were the one who said, I don’t need no stinking cover artist, I can make my own. Um. Oh, darlin’, bless your heart, yes you did and yes you do. Or you said, I don’t have a lot of money, and listened to those folks who suggested that you create your own. Unless you’re an artist or a graphic artist, you really should get a professional. Now I say this as someone who did make their own cover – and even won an award for it – but I was a portrait artist once. Even so, I found I wasn’t getting the readers I wanted. So, I saved until I could afford a professional – and it made an astonishing difference in sales and reviews. If money is tight, try using a pre-made cover by a good cover artist. You might find the perfect one, or you might find one that will do for now.

There’s nothing that screams amateur more than a bad cover. And I’ve seen some truly bad ones. Most writers are truly awful cover artists.

That might be one reason folks aren’t downloading your book.

You do have reviews – most of which are astonishingly complimentary. “Great book” “Best I’ve read in a long time.” So, why isn’t your book doing better?

It’s that one bad review, though, that raises eyebrows. “The editing is terrible.” Well. we all get those now and then, sometimes in phone-text speech (badly spelled, which makes the review even more questionable), or debating the placement of commas.

Then I look at the book sample provided. You also said that you didn’t think you needed an editor, and it shows. Even editors will admit that they need editors.

There are books that can help – The Elements of Style will help you correct the most common errors. Go to your local high school or university, see if one of the instructors would be willing to do a line edit (corrections for grammar) for you. Then find an editor who specializes in your type of writing. Find several. Ask if they’re available, send them a sample chapter, and save your money.

Whether self-published, hybrid or traditionally published, you first owe your readers the best quality writing you can do. You owe the same to every other indie, self-published writer struggling to be taken seriously as well. Don’t tarnish yourself or others with less than your best. Don’t make me pull out my teeny, tiny violin if you didn’t.




***NEW*** Join us for some cool classes!

This year, the Indie Author Group is launching some classes to support writers.  We’re doing two trial ones in February, which you can read about below, and then if all goes well, we’ll run other classes as needed.  We’re charging under $10 for each class to ensure that people actually take part in the classes, and there will be resources and lessons, chats and a forum.  Everything runs on Moodle.

The nitty gritty of the trial classes

Author Branding – this is a basic, brass tacks class which discusses all of the different choices that authors can use to promote themselves.  The cost is $5, which you can be invoiced for and starts February 1st.  Your payment covers one month of access, one on one support via the lessons area, downloads and more.
Sign up for our Author Branding class here.

We’re also running a Facebook branding extravaganza, explaining how I raised my interactivity percentage from 9% to 59% in only a month.  Make your Facebook page useful again, and get your audience back in easy to access tips and tricks.  We don’t garuantee that you’ll get the same results, but we do give you the tools we used and they WILL increase your interaction from sub 10% to something a bit healthier.
This class is $7.50, and starts 15th February.
Sign up for our Facebook branding class here

Save and do both!

If you sign up and take part in both classes (which is easy – both classes only need a few hours a week of commitment and will not cut into your writing time too far) you can save $1.50, and book both at $11.

If these classes work out, we’ll run them several times a year and add more for people interested in joining in.  We’ve been running amazing day drop in tutorials on Facebook for the last year and have decided to give people the chance to join in on more structured classes, designed to make people think about their interactions on social media and supported tutorials to give them the chance to evaluate and redesign your social media, and gain more traffic from all areas that you use, or boost your Facebook interactions.

Last chance to book the social media overview class is 27th, to give us a chance to ask some questions and personalise the classes.

If you’d like to sign up for news on other classes, and other projects we offer people, please head on over to our mailing list and sign up.



Introducing everything you need to be a better writer

Author Marketing Live! – Part Two

Yes, it really did need two posts! There was a LOT of information! I was getting overwhelmed, so if I misrepresent things, forgive me!

AMLHunter Boyle spoke about using e-mail to keep in contact with your fans and to build your fan base. He also advocated setting higher expectations, creating e-mail connections with the offer of a freebie. Create a compelling call to action – i.e. Sign up now to receive a free excerpt or copy of “Title” – so people will sign up to your newsletter or e-mail.

There was also discussion of using (I have a newspaper) by directing it to fans of your genre(s), and to help promote other writers. Connect with authors in your genre(s) and interact with them and their fans. DON’T promote. If those fans like you, and like your input, they’re more likely to check out your writing.

Deb Carney of Bookgoodies and Vinnie O’Hare from Awesomegang were a great tag team. (Another appears later.) If you’re not using their pages, you should be. Both are very AwesomeGang125generous in helping indie/self-published writers. They discussed Fast and Easy Ways to find your True Fans and Rabid Readers with Social media. They talked about using Hootsuite effectively and other twitter software like Shareist, Buzzsumo and Click2Tweet. They broke down each very effectively. I suggest experimenting with things like Hootsuite.

Andrea Vahl is a Facebook marketing Expert, and she advised not using boosts, but rather targeted ads – putting money in your pocket, not Mr. Zuckerberg’s, he’s rich enough. Track your progress. Do split testing – running the same ad with differences in focus or description. Run conversion tracking. How many clicks became sales?

As many of you may know, I’m a huge proponent of having professional covers made by professional cover artists. Derek Murphy echoed what I, and many of my cover artist friends, often advise – don’t expect a cover artist to recreate that great scene from the book. For one thing, that scene is probably too busy. Since all cover artists use stock art (even the Big Five) it’s very difficult to find an image that will match, and to create it will be that much more expensive. Earlier in the day, J. Thorn had shown the difference between a self-made cover, a professional cover, and the difference they made in sales.
As a cover artist, Derek was able to show that even more clearly by showing and discussing the difference between a good cover and a great one. He advocates using faces to help convey the basic emotion of the book. What was refreshing about him was his willingness to help self-publishers. For a full cover he’s probably outside the range of most new writers, but he does offer advice on how to improve the cover you have. He has a webpage called help those who want to create their own covers. He also created a neat little program where you can post your cover and folks – including him – will vote whether it’s effective or not. If he thinks he can help make your cover better, he’ll contact you. (Don’t expect him to do that for free!)

The closing/keynote address was delivered by the other tag-team – Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt from the Self-Publishing podcast. One of their key points was the difference between strategy and tactics. Tactics is running a freebie, strategy is using freebies effectively as part of an overall plan while also remaining flexible. That was another point – being willing to pivot – to make changes. My other favorite phrase – The only constant is change. You have to be willing to change, too.
For all of you who thing that the gatekeepers have gone away, you’re wrong. There are more than ever. They used to be the editors for the Big Five. Now there are new gatekeepers – they’re called readers. You need to engage and connect with them, and you do that by being personal and personable. Act professional. Put out a professional product.

If this seems to be a little overwhelming, take it in bites. Get edited. Check to see if your cover art is effective. Keep writing. The number of one-book-wonders can be measured on one hand, maybe two if you stretch it.
When you’re not writing take a look at other authors in your genre, or that interest you. Like their page and interact with them and their fans. Set up your first audiobook with ACX. Learn a new promotional program – like Hootsuite, – the following week.
Congratulations, you’re an authorpreneur.

Author Marketing Live Seminar – Part One

AMLI’ll be honest, I was half afraid that the seminar would be nothing more than a sales pitch, but it wasn’t. Even the sponsors didn’t promote, which was refreshing. (And made it more likely for someone like me to recommend their services.) The speakers were by and large very informative and sometimes funny. Some of it was more geared toward non-fiction than fiction, but even that had some value to indie/self-published writers. For me, the most informative speakers were content marketer and author Joe Pulizzi, horror/dystopia writer J. Thorn, social media providers Deb Carney (Book Goodies) and Vinny O’Hare (Awesomegang) , Facebook marketing guru Andrea Vahl (Don’t use Boost), cover artist Derek Murphy, and authors/podcasters Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt (although they went on a little too long). Okay to break it down: Joe Pulizzi talked about finding the niche between your book and your readership, and how to reach the last. (There was a strong drive toward e-mail subscripting throughout the day).  Find your influencers, successful writers in your genre. He also talked about finding 4 – 1 – 1 – the spot between influencers, content, and translating those to a sale of your book. 4-1-1 is also the divisions of marketing – 4 posts/twitters about yourself, one about your content, and one about ‘buy my book’. He talked about the three-legged stool – offering e-books, print and digital versions of your books. He spoke about using popovers rather than popups – especially using software like Pipity – in conjunction with e-mail subscriptions, and using keywords to make it easier for programs like Google to find you and your book.

J. Thorn

He looks younger in person

Horror/Dystopia writer J. Thorn was a riot. Like so many early self-publishers he made the same mistakes most most of us did – not getting properly edited and creating his own covers. I give him major kudos for humorously posting on-screen those early reviews – if you thought yours were bad, his were worse. (This is literature?) It was really funny. Fortunately, and wisely, he also realized that many of those early reviewers were right, and took the necessary steps to improve. He hired an editor and a professional cover artist. He definitely recommends outsourcing those skills. (He’s a techie so he does format his own books. I recommend hiring a formatter, too, if you don’t have the same tech skills.) He also advocates not reading your reviews once you’ve dealt with those issues. Reviews are for readers, not for writers, and not everyone is going to like your writing. (Where have you heard that before? *grins*) He also emphasized the importance of having multiple books. He used gardening references, like watering your garden – finding better ways to promote your books. Books, plural. Nothing sells book one like book two. Find marketing sites. Make changes to the book. Do revisions. Try different descriptions. Use Amazon’s Select, or find another way to run your book free. Price pulsing (run one price during the week, another on the weekend, or some variation thereof). Use #mondayblogs.  Do series! Do boxed sets of your series, or in conjunction with other writers. He talked about weeding the garden. In his early days he wanted to write fantasy, and did. Those were the books that garnered some of those horrible reviews. He had them properly edited and hired a great cover artist. As time went by, though, he realized he enjoyed writing horror and dystopia, and wanted to read more, but there wasn’t more out there. So he wrote the kind of novels he wanted to read. And that’s what every self-published writer should do – write what you want to read. Back to weeding the garden. Those early novels? He took them down. One of the truisms of writing is that you really have to write a lot, and keep writing, until you find your voice, your niche.  Most of that early work will be crap. I wrote several full books, and scrapped them, before I wrote something I felt so compelled to write – and write well – that I couldn’t deny it. (Personal advice – never delete those early works. You may be able to rework them, or the idea. Some of mine I still have, and may revisit.) There’s also no Kindle Gold Rush. Those days are gone. He did suggest using Kindle Select, but also branching out to other vendors, and also using promotional tools like #mondayblogs, price pulsing (running one price during the week, another on the weekend) or experimenting with pricing, and the importance of writing series and creating boxed sets of those series. He also spoke about the need to work with others with no expectation of return – creating boxed sets of similar books – to build your name and associate it with other successful writers. Using his methods, he went from selling two books per day to selling 200 per day. David Lawrence from ACX spoke about using audiobooks as another leg to your stool – another method of providing content for your readers. He’s done TV and lots of audacxLogoio. (I have to be honest here, I just started with the audio experience. It started out good, but didn’t finish that way. I was hoping to learn how to find a new, moreopen-minded narrator. The response I didn’t want was the one I got – “I can’t help you.”) However, there was a lot of useful information in his talk, including the biggest mistake that most writers make about those who provide services to authors – expectations. Expecting the narrator to sound like the voice in your head. Expecting them to understand the names and terms you use. They can’t read your mind, or duplicate what’s in it. Work with them. What seems obvious to you isn’t to them.

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