Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Author Ethics (With Taylor Swift & Zombie References!)

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Writers today have dreams of instant success and fame!

And because the idea of easy publishing is so tempting, we rush into it with  no idea what we should do to promote ourselves.

Often our goal is just to gain any advantage we can in an increasingly competitive market. We may feel “creativity” in marketing trumps courteous behavior. We may suggest trading reviews with another author, not realizing this behavior could weaken our credibility. We may be so distracted by the elusive promise of financial success that we neglect to nurture our art. Or we may attach our pursuit of fame so tightly to our own identities that we can’t tolerate criticism in public forums.

We may champion “truth” in the words that we write, through gritty characters and accurate descriptions, yet cover up our own discrepancies, create false identities or fabricate falsehoods to gain advantage in this industry.

But we may be pursuing fame and fortune at the cost of ethics.

Ask yourself the following 10 questions and test and see how ethical you are as an author.

 Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Author Ethics

1. Have you ever used the words “best-selling” to describe your own books, when what you mean is that of all the books stored in your closet, Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses, really has generated the most sales?

2. Have you claimed that you sold thousands of copies, when really you sold 556 and you just rounded up?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors do not promote books by making false statements about them. Ethical authors do not lie about position on bestseller lists or consent to anyone else promoting them in a misleading manner.

3. Have you ever made up an endorsement for the back of the book, like say, “Taylor Swift called, ‘Your Guide To  Amish Zombie Princesses’ the inspiration for her next album, coming out in 2016″? When the closest you got to Taylor Swift was when you accidentally changed your Pandora station from Muzak to ubiquitous pop tunes?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: If you engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading your readers/buyers of my books, then you’re behaving unprofessionally.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
This is the badge for ALLi’s Ethical Author campaign. Feel free to put it on your blog if you want to remind yourself and others about good author ethics.

4.  Have you ever been so upset over a negative review about your book online, that you called your mother and asked her to change it?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should never react to any book review by harassing the reviewer or getting someone else to harass the reviewer. Ethical authors would never intrude on a reviewer’s privacy or condone a personal attack. If you do, you’re not just unprofessional, you’re also creepy.

5. Have you ever gone online under a pseudonym, say, Mary Jane Smith, and posed as a raving fan of Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses, just so you could boost sales and generate buzz and possibly get the attention of Taylor Swift?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should never hide behind an alias to boost sales or damage sales of another person. They should also not hide behind aliases to hurt another’s reputation. Pen names should be used for good, not evil. If you do this, you’re not just unprofessional, you’re also a coward.

6. Have you ever attacked other authors in the Amish Zombie Princess genre, just so that your book will look better? That’s impressive if you have because there are, thousands, you know?

 You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: If you do not behave with courtesy toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals, then you are making us all look bad. If you air grievances or complaints in the press or online, then you’re behaving unprofessionally, possibly immaturely and come off as a whiner. Just don’t.

No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. – Taylor Swift

7. Do you approach other authors privately, making deals to reciprocate positive reviews so that you look better? Do you ever reward someone, like say, promising them they’ll meet Taylor Swift next week at your house for pizza night, if they give you a five star review?

  You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Ethical authors should always be transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements. Better still, they should avoid them altogether just so people won’t raise an eyebrow. This review by your author friend really isn’t worth it.

8. Have you ever taken the work of others, say, Dan Brown’s How To Fight Off Mennonite Undead Queens,  and then tweaked it just a little to pass it off as your own?

  You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why: Plagiarism is bad, bad news. Don’t do it. Passing someone else’s works as your own is a sure fire way to lose years of credibility and a good reputation. Cutting and pasting is always easier, it is never, ever better.

9. Have you been accurate and fair in your finances? Or have you manipulated your numbers so that you aren’t taxed by all that income that Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses has made in 2014?

You have? Then you may not be an ethical author. This is why:  Everyone needs to report income, pay taxes and keep good records. We know you got into writing so that you didn’t have to do math. If it’s really that hard for you, hire an accountant. This is the law, follow it.

All kidding aside. Each one of these ‘questions’ were exaggerated to prove a point. Is is possible, and sadly very common, to slip into dishonorable and unethical behaviors for the sake of a sale. 

Top 10 Great Things That Happened When I Stopped Complaining

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Sometimes, the world really is insufficient, faulty or stupid. But sometimes it’s just better not to notice. 

A few years ago, after a particularly difficult time in my life, I challenged myself to watch what I said and to stop complaining. I thought that by stopping the bad attitude was just a generally a good step in the direction of restraint. I had no idea that this would change nearly everything about my life. 

Now, this blog has the main purpose of encouraging time-crunched writers in their dreams, but sometimes, I want to write for everyone. I firmly believe that the world would change dramatically if we stopped complaining.

TOP 10 Things That Happened When I Stopped Complaining

1. I saw the world for what it was. The glass really is half full! How delightful to discover little surprises in my day that I only discovered because I decided to live in light, not darkness.

2. I had more friends. I can’t believe it took me over 40 years to find out that people are attracted to happy people, not angry ones. Who knew? I had always thought that there was virtue in honesty. Now I’m seeing that negative thoughts, kept to ones self, can open doors in a way that negative words spoken will only shut.

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
Maya Angelou

3. I became more trustworthy. This is another Who Knew moment! The people that was spending time with — those who were attracted to me for my optimism — were more willing to trust me with their real selves. This strengthened my friendships. And I suppose if I gave up the fact that they were trying to hurt me, then my vulnerability made me a better friend too.

4. I worried less. I really believe that all my negativity was rooted in fear. If I chose to be less negative and chose to dwell on the positive, then all those bad things that I thought were going to happen never happened.  Now, after practicing thinking rainbows and sunshine I’ve gotten to where if I ever feel afraid, then I know it’s because I’m thinking the wrong things.

5. I had more ideas. A fearless, brave, positive person will most definitely take more chances than a fearful, angry, worried person. By releasing my negativity, I was far more willing to move forward on my ideas, try new things and forget failure. This also added a lot to my happiness.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
Abraham Lincoln

6. I had more energy. Negativity does something to me. It makes me tired and restless. It drives me to eat too much or sleep too late. By thinking happy thoughts, not only was I confident that I could tackle my to-do list, but I also make exercise a priority, which made me more energetic. This was surprising and very encouraging.

7. I had fun. Another surprise. It is more fun to be happy than to be sad. Funny: when you choose to be happy, you’re taking responsibility for your own happiness and fun rather than having it come to you. I didn’t know this before even though it makes perfect sense. It also makes me regret wasting all that time being negative.

8. Doors opened up to me. If I’m more attractive to others and I’m taking more risks, then more opportunities will come to me too. All the things that I want out of life are on the other side of fear and negativity. Hmm. If that isn’t motivation to put a smile on my face, I don’t know what is! 

“Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.”
Lily Tomlin

9. I set a good example. We all face things that we don’t like on a daily basis, but whining and complaining to the leadership rarely helps. I am a leader in my family — I am the mother. And when my children complain, I listen to legitimate concerns, but I also want to teach them that their attitudes make my job easier. Let’s all choose to be happy, even when circumstances aren’t great and we’ll probably grow stronger for it.

10. I stray clear of other complainers. For the first time in my life, I can see how toxic complaining can be. I can see how unattractive it is in others. I see how sometimes it’s destructive and divisive. I see how it can bring everything down. I don’t need complaining people in my life, so now I stay away from them and I don’t feel guilty about it.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t completely given it up.

I catch myself sometimes creating a long mental list of everything that is wrong with my life. But the difference is now I see it and I stop it as soon as I can. I have friends around me who I can be honest with about this. I can keep myself from picking up more negativity like a lint brush and making things worse.

I see now that my complaining is like illness-causing bacteria.

Complaining can cause rifts and divisions, bring down a mood, make others miserable and spread like conjunctivitis in a kindergarten class. If I choose a good attitude then I’m doing what I can to fight the infectious negativity around me. 

What about you? What do you do to combat negativity in your life? I want to know!

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

This has the potential of being my most controversial post yet.

And I like controversy about as much as I like snooty  moms asking me personal questions about the decisions I made in the raising of my children.

But I believe that reciprocal reviews for authors are unethical, unprofessional and unnecessary. 

Unfortunately, the idea of “you review my book and I’ll review yours” is a common one among writers, especially self-published writers who are just starting out. The necessity of good reviews and the belief that reviews alone will generate sales is a faulty one. So this behavior of reciprocating favorable reviews can nudge an author into a tempting but ethically slippery situation. My friend Jane Steen, who has written a great deal about ethical behavior for authors, has this to say about reciprocal reviews. But below, I have my take on the issue.

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

But  I believe that reciprocal reviews have the potential of being unethical simply because any quid pro quo arrangement could be intentionally tainted, possibly inaccurate and maybe even dishonest.

1. On their own, individual reviews don’t make a huge difference. Let’s be honest. While it helpful to have some reviews on Amazon.com, it’s like throwing a bucket of water on the house fire. You’re doing something but it won’t be enough. It is far better to have an accumulation of them, from actual readers, all with a variety of opinions about your story. Too many five star reviews is just as suspicious as no reviews at all.

2. Someone in a reciprocal arrangement is getting the short end of the stick. You hand me over your copy of  Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses‘and you yank a copy of Falling For Your Madness out of my hands and the idea, you say, is that we both write a review.So then I read Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses and I discover a lot of problems. I may find tons of spelling and grammatical errors. I may also discover the work is derivative or sloppy or badly formatted or kinda dumb. You give my book a solid 4 star review. But it would be a stretch to give yours two. So you come out with a loss. Unless I lie and give you a four or five star review, which goes against my conscience.  At that point the loss is mine. This idea of reciprocity sounds even, but it’s not. Not by a long shot.

3. Reciprocal reviews do not build up trust, do not strengthen friendships, rarely improve one’s writing — they just boost numbers. What if the case is reversed and I give your Princess Zombie book five stars and you give my FFYM two? Wouldn’t my feelings get hurt? Wouldn’t I avoid asking you in the future? If we both lie, just to make each other comfortable, we’re not doing either of us any favors.

No one is going to stop you from soliciting reciprocal reviews from your writer friends.

It’s likely you can collect a few dozen and no one will notice.

But in the long run, your reputation could be at stake.

4. Art is subjective. The whole 1-5 star system is not a very good one. I once got a two star review because the reader thought that I didn’t give enough attention to the suffering mother as she gave birth in my story. (Oh, and you better believe I wanted to respond to that!) This imperfect system already has too much corruption and too many people who take advantage of it. Reserve your reviews for books that you read, not books that someone is making you read.  That way you can enjoy the subjectivity of our art and be free to leave the reviews you want to about it.

5. Reciprocal Reviews turn a gift into an act of commerce. We give our heart and souls into our work for our readers. If we’re lucky, our readers respond to our art with their reviews, recommendations, follows or other examples of reader love. A reciprocal review, by someone that has already agreed to a favorable report, cheapens the act of art itself.

6. Reciprocal reviews tell yourself and the world that you don’t have the means to earn success through your own merit. Why do we even publish if we’re going to manipulate the system? Personally, I want to be known as a great writer. I want it to be because of my skills, my craftsmanship, my own hard work. If I depend on the manipulations of others to become great, then the victories will be far emptier.

And believe me, I’ve got far better things to do than check on you. 

But that doesn’t make it right nor fair.

7.  Reciprocal reviews are like gift exchanges at Christmas. The best gifts are those that you give. They’re the ones that you’ve thought about, that you’ve worked for, that you’ve discovered is the perfect gift for someone you love.  So not only do you give the gift, you give the meaning and affection behind the gift. But if you give a gift because you have to, then you think about equal values and “what if she gives me something nicer” and the whole reason that you give gifts in the first place, out of love and affection, is completely squashed.

8. The goal of reciprocal reviews is fairness. Fairness is a poor marketing strategy. Generosity, however, is an excellent one. Seth Godin in his book, Linchpin, said, “Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.” I believe this. I’d like to stop looking to the people around me to judge what is expected of me, like a reciprocal review. Instead, I want to look for ways to be generous and not expect anything. I believe this is the way to grow long term relationships which is far better than one review.

9. Reciprocal Reviews are based on fear. If I had you a copy of Falling For Your Madness, my fingers are crossed that you’ll like it. I’ll hope that the comments you make in your review are worth the effort it took to read the book. Hope is too positive of a word. I”ll probably be very anxious and fretful — hoping that my review of your book is fair enough. I may even go so far to count words.  If you bought it, I’ve already received my compensation. I’ll stand firm in the quality of the book and not be afraid of what you’ll say in your review. I have enough to stress out about in my life, thank you very much.

There is no such thing as an Author Ethics police. This is all the more reason to govern ourselves in the most excellent way to get reviews. 

10. Reciprocal Reviews are unethical if they hide facts from the readers. The act of hiding anything looks bad. If you avoid reciprocal reviews then you don’t have to worry about Amazon.com or anyone else connecting one of your readers with a review you left. I know that I don’t want any hint of impropriety linked to my name. I’d rather pass on your offer of reciprocity than risk an accusation of wrongdoing or misleading readers in the future.

Sales are great, good reviews are good too.

But our character and reputation lasts much longer.

Say no to reciprocal reviews and put yourself in the best possible light. 

Top 10 Ways To Love Yourself When You’re Sick

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

You know when you’re playing Wii Golf and you hit the ball way to hard? That was the noise I heard in my ear whenever I blew my nose.

I didn’t have the flu, a sinus infection, an ear infection or bronchitis.  I didn’t have the fever to warrant antibiotics and I didn’t have enough symptoms to make even a trip to the ER worth it. I knew they’d say, “yup, your ears are stuffed up”.  I knew that the treatment would be a combination of Mucinex and Benadryl and Motrin for pain and rest. Lots of fluids.

This stupid virus was interfering with my life! I had plans! Big plans! I was spending over an hour every day on the treadmill. I was writing 1000 words a day in addition to  leading the fastest growing writers’ group on Facebook. I was marketing my new release. I was homeschooling 5 children. I couldn’t afford to be sick.

And for a moment or two there, I thought I had let myself down. I can’t meet my goals if I’m sick. 

 

It’s hard to go from Super Mom mode to snothead. It’s hard to decide that you just don’t have the energy to write today.  It’s hard to realize that the Benadryl is making it way too difficult to do anything but watch The Lego Movie for the millionth time.  It’s also easy to slip into self pity when you’re confident that the amount of stuff that’s come out of your nose is way more than the volume your nasal cavity can hold.

I should have taken the opportunity to be kind to myself.should have said this: Just rest. Just close your eyes. Just think about something else. Don’t think about the things that are not getting done. Don’t think that your book will not be marketed properly because you coughed up three lungs today. Don’t worry about it.

 I should have fought against the self condemnation in the same way that antibiotics would have fought off an infection. If someone around me couldn’t fulfill their obligation to me because they were sick, wouldn’t I have grace for them? Why don’t I have grace for myself?

I know why. Or at least I know partly why. I know that my mother never reduced my workload when I was sick. I was taught to tough it out. I was taught to shut up and get over it because there was work to do. I was taught that sickness was for the weak. All I’m doing this for is attention. If I had been working harder, I would have never been sick.

I need to change my thinking. I need to learn to love myself. 

Top 10 (28)

  1. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Pushing myself mentally or physically when I am sick is rarely a good idea. I need to stop comparing the productivity an on fire good day to a wiped out sick day and just enjoy the extra sleep. 
  2. Take cues from your body and your family. If any of us is physically down, then a change must be made. As the mom, I need to figure it out. I’d be the first one in my family to send them to bed if they’re sick, I need to be just as bossy with myself. 
  3. Stick to a schedule, a survival life schedule. This means eating regularly, sleeping regularly, spending the minimal amounts of time doing the basics. Even one load of laundry a day, when you are sick, will keep the mountain from growing in the laundry room. 
  4. Get back to the basics. Enough sleep, water, right food etc. I have a mental list of what Survival Life looks like. This means the most basic of hygiene, the simplest of meals, the past of least resistance in everything I do. When I’m sick, I need to just default to this setting and live with it. 
  5. Lower your expectations. When I am sick, I need to just set the bar on the floor and try to step over it. I also need to not beat myself up for this, listen to negative thinking or feel the least bit guilty. 
  6. Celebrate what you can do.  Get the whole family cheering when you can take a shower without passing out or eat a simple meal without losing it. 
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is great advice for all of life, but when you’re already weak, it’s even more of a bad idea to look beside you. Someone will have it better than you: their kids vomit in the toilet instead of the bed. But then, someone will have it worse: it’s not the flu, it’s Lyme disease! This division of mind will never be productive if you are trying to recover. Just don’t do it. 
  8. Ask for help. Delegate responsibilities. Ask to move the deadline. There is grace in this season. Regardless of how humiliating it feels at times to ask for help, you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask kids, in-laws, neighbors, or anyone within reach to ease your life just a bit while you’re down. 
  9. Say no. This should be a no-brainer, but somehow we believe that we have to say yes, even when we don’t have the strength. While you’re sick, make sure that you have steadfast boundaries with those around you. 
  10. Think positive thoughts. Generally speaking, most minor illnesses go away in time. Keep it in perspective. You can catch up on reading, you can buy a new coloring book, you can finally get the rest you need. 

There is no shame in being sick. There is however, a lot of shame in not believing that you’re worth the effort of self-care. Maybe I’ll learn my lesson and be a better patient next time. 

Now, to print this and paste it next to the Mucinex and Benadryl.

How about you? What do you to care for yourself when you’re sick and weak? What else can be added to the list? 

Top 10 Things Writers Do Wrong On Twitter

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

 You’ve written a book!

You’ve followed all the great advice! You’ve got your Facebook page and your blog set up and your Twitter account is up and running! You’re doing everything right, or at least you think you are.  The Facebook likes are trickling in, you get a few hits on your blog and then there’s Twitter. You have few followers. You have few RTs. You aren’t making a lot of sales.

No one has seen your awesomeness.  Ever thought about why?

You COULD be making some serious mistakes that are pushing people away.

 I know, it’s hard to believe, especially since it seems like so many writers are out there. They do these same things, don’t they? Doesn’t it work for them?

Top 10 Things Writers Do Wrong On Twitter by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute NovelistThe truth is, it doesn’t.

Here are ten common mistakes I see on a daily basis, what these mistakes really say to the world and what you should do about them.

1. You may have a boring bio.  What does this tell the world? “I wrote a BOOK! But there’s not much more to me than that!” If your bio has nothing but the title of your book, or the publisher or the release date or the name of your awards, you’re boring us to tears. Your bio is not your resume, it’s your handshake and smile to the world. Instead make your bio approachable. Use nouns that describe your whole life, not just your writing life, put in something that sparks readers’ curiosity about who you are. What will an interesting, human and approachable bio tell the world? That you’re an interesting and approachable human and you’re worth following. 

2. You may plug your book ad nauseum. What does this tell the world? “I know how to schedule tweets!!!”  Instead, tweet about what interests you, ask questions of others, and crack a joke or two. Develop relationships. As people learn to love you, then they’ll buy your book. Is this the hard and slow way? Of course it is, but if you do it right, you’ll have a reader for life. What will authentic interaction tell the world? That you’re an interesting and approachable human and you’re worth following. 

BIRDS

3. You may make no effort to follow other people who share your interests. What does this tell the world? “I’m looking for customers!” Instead, follow real people who have similar passions. Me? I like homeschooling mothers of five, writers, readers, people who say something funny in their bios and former running cowards. It’s from this group that you will start your conversations, make friends and perhaps gain long term readers!  What will these followers think about you? That you’re an interesting and approachable human and you’re worth . . . wait a minute! Do you see a pattern here? 

4. You don’t make lists. Okay, so the world doesn’t know or care that you don’t make lists to keep you followers organized. But you should. By the time your followers are in the thousands, you should at least have a few dozen folks that you like to check regularly. If you have to go through your feed just to find the photo they took of their dinner then you’re doing it wrong. Create lists: some for the BFFs, some for agents & publishers, some for those celebrities you love, and some for people who make you laugh. Then, check out other people’s lists and follow the folks on it. Lists can be very specialized and if you dig around, you can find a whole crop of people who share interests with you. 

5. You don’t participate in chats or memes. The world also  ambivalent about your chat and meme activity too. But what I’ve found is that both are great ways to meet people. I’ve gained followers, and more importantly, started conversations, with new people because of my engagement in chats and memes. My favorites? #MondayBlogs meme and #10MinNovelists chat on Thursday nights at 9PMEDT. The purpose of social media is to be social!  Chats and memes are easy fun ways to do that. 

Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day

6. You don’t use apps other than Twitter. How does the world feel about this?Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are superior than Twitter when it comes to scheduling tweets, organizing lists and following memes and chats. If you’re going to get serious about your Twitter usage, then you need to play with the same toys the social media experts use. 

7. You forget to proofread. What does this say to the world? You have got to be kidding me.  Look everybody can have a goof now and then. But if you have consistently bad spelling and grammar, no one will take you seriously. This is especially important in your bio. This is triply important if you call yourself a writer. Or, as I actually saw someone put in their bio,  “I’m a writter of romance.” Just do a quick read before you hit send. You never know who –such as editors, publishers, and agents — is reading your tweets. 

8. You send auto DMs. What does the world think about this? I’ve asked all seven billion people on this planet personally and this is what they think: “Auto DMs are a scourge from the mouth of hell. Anyone who thinks auto DMs are a good idea should have their little toenails ripped off. Auto DMs make you look spammy, needy, and robotic, even cute auto DMs.  Auto DMs should only be limited to needy robots who eat SPAM. DON’T SEND THEM!” So, what I’m trying to say is that they are ineffective and annoying. I never, ever read my auto DMs. If I didn’t have so much to do, I’d unfollow everyone who sent me one. 

BIRDS

9. You ask for favors right off the bat. “Hi, Thanks for following me, can you like my Facebook page?” “How about RT my blog post?” “How about signing up for my newsletter.” NO. A thousand times no. This is the wrong way to nurture relationships, build a tribe and have long lasting success.  What does the world think? This person has no interest in giving, just taking. Your followers may feel like you’re just using them.

10. You use True Twit Validation services. What does this say to the world? “I think I’m so awesome that I want to inconvenience you with another step to take to find out how awesome I am!” Listen, we’re all going to get spammers and weirdos. These services just make people roll their eyes. I really, really think it’s the social media equivalent of offering to shake my hand and then insisting that I put rubber gloves on first. NO. Just remove this nonsense please and be real? Is that too much to ask? 

These are the top ten mistakes I see writers on Twitter commit over and over again.

What mistakes have you seen writers make? What do you think of them?

Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

In my writing life, my inner critic is the single greatest threat to my success.

My inner critic blames me for things that go wrong.

My inner critic calls me names like stupid and loser.

My inner critic compares me to others and finds me wanting.

My inner critic sets impossible standards of perfection.

My inner critic tells me that if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.

My inner critic beats me up for the smallest mistake.

My inner critic keeps track of my failures and shortcomings.

My inner critic exaggerates my weaknesses.

My inner critic threatens to withhold love.

My inner critic attacks me with rage when I fail.

My inner critic says, “You’re a failure. So why try?”

My inner critic is especially loud when I feel pleasure, when I feel love, recognition or success.

 

And if my inner critic is successful, then he has produced severe anxiety in me and made me feel worthless. It’s at this point, I’m in complete bondage to this stupid, foolish, bumbling henchman and I am dragged away to be imprisoned by fear.

The problem is, I forget just how much power I actually have. A few weeks ago, I described how I was going to kick fear in the teeth, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve already let that inner critic have too much ground.

Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic  by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

I’m not an expert, but I think these are very good steps:

1. Recognize the inner critic right away. You know his voice: it’s negative, accusatory and hopeless. In your head, it sounds either just like you or like someone in authority over you who was really good at saying toxic stuff like this.

 2. Yell right back at him. My therapist told me I can tell him to shut up. He will. You owe it to yourself to fight back. And you can mentally. And if you’re in a place where real people are saying stuff like this to you, leave them. 

“Learn to catch yourself and stop yourself immediately when you are engaging in negative self-talk.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

3. Concentrate on positive truths and self-affirmations. It usually takes me about four or five self-affirmations to get this inner critic to evaporate. (Yes, he evaporates. Why was I so afraid of something made of air?) Get in the practice of collecting positives about yourself as your weapon against your inner critic. Keep them posted where you can see them. Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you. Inner critics love vacuums — so don’t allow yourself to have one. Fill your life with good and evil can’t come in.

 4. Get to work. I’ve been finding that this inner critic shows up more frequently when I’m stuck on something. With a little hard work and determination, I get over the hump and he’s got nothing to stand on. Set your timer. Write for 10 minutes. This may shut that inner critic up for a while.

 5. List all the people who do love you and build you up. We need reminders sometimes of who is on our side. This inner critic does not want you to succeed. Listening to it and giving it attention will make you miserable.

“Negative self talk costs more than even the richest person can afford. So be nice to yourself whenever possible … and know that it is always possible.”
Doug Pedersen, Tuna Breath: A 275-Pound Teenager’s Coming of Age Story

 6. Recount all your victories. My inner critic, for all his nastiness, is a really bad accountant and can’t see that there are far more successes than failures. Yours probably is too. If you have to create a list of all the ways you’re awesome and paste it to your computer screen, do it!

7. Enjoy your moments of victory and accomplishment for what they are without focusing on the tiny mistakes. Your inner critic also has very bad vision. He can only see the faults and failures. It’s likely someone in your life taught you to look at the world that way. I suggest you change your prescription and look for good and you’ll learn to really revel in your success.

 8. Celebrate who you are on your journey. Our paths to success are filled with bumps, detours and near disasters. This is part of life! While they can be frustrating and painful, instead of sitting down on the side of the road to bawl in self pity, we should celebrate that we’re still going forward! Stop every once in a while and say to yourself, “WOW! Look how far you’ve come!”

“As believers, we must speak only words of prosperity, health, and power.”
Lynn R. Davis, Deliver Me From Negative Self Talk

9. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your inner critic may be obsessed with the success of other writers. He may whisper in your ear that you should be doing this better, or you should be published by now, or you should have more reviews because of other people’s successes!  This is a bunch of ca-ca. Your success is yours alone. Just tell that inner critic to shut up once and for all so you can focus on being you!

 10. Practice good self-care. I’m far less likely to hear from the inner critic  if I’m well rested, I’ve eaten well and I’ve exercised. Take a moment and check yourself. Are you putting your physical well being at the top of your to-do list? This could be all you need to silence that inner critic.

If I actually listen to my inner critic, then it’s like I am putting the handcuffs on and I’m allowing him to drag me into fear. There’s no way I can be successful and listen to him at the same time. One of us has to go.

What about you? What does your inner critic say? How are you kicking fear in the teeth?

Top 10 Tips To Make Your Blog Title More RT Worthy

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by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Everybody wants their blog to be noticed.

But in reality, that’s a little tricky. According to Tumblr stats, there are 375 million on Tumblr alone, that’s one for every person living in the United States. That stat doesn’t count WordPress and other blogging platforms. Writers are constantly encouraged to blog more, but getting noticed is becoming more and more difficult.

How do you get more traffic to your blog? Follow the meme #MondayBlogs!

The#MondayBlogs idea is brilliant. On Mondays, anybody who wants to can post a link to their blog and those who follow that hashtag, on Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook, can find new blogs to read and new writers to enjoy. In theory, those who participate read each others’ blogs, RT and favorite the heck out of them so that the whole world can discover this new talent. I have found dozens of new readers this way and I love doing this.

Top 10 Tips To Make Your Blog Title More RT Worthy

How Can I Get More RTs On Twitter?

I would LOVE to RT and favorite everyone who participates in #MondayBlogs on Twitter, but honestly, often the headlines or tweets that contain the link are so lifeless and dull that I’m not the least bit interested in them. I’d like to suggest, with a few changes in the tweets, all of us could see good results. I’ve listed a few things I’ve noticed (and things I try to implement) —and I’ve written some over-the-top silly blog title headlines to get the point across.

1. It’s All In The Headline

Consider your #MondayBlogs Tweet as a headline of the original post. The more concise and clear, the better. “My Thoughts on Dyeing” is terrible. Be specific. “Why I Dread Coloring My Hair This Summer” is much clearer and much more interesting. Don’t know where to start? Start with “Who” “What” “Why” or “How” and fill in the rest!

2. Follow Headline Rules, like Capitalize Each Important First Letter

This makes your tweet look more grown-up and polished. Tweets like “five ways to get your cat to sing” are wimpy and indifferent and I certainly wouldn’t be interested. But “Five Ways To Get Your Cat To Sing” at least looks like you’re trying.

3. As Tempted As You Might Be, Don’t Say “New Blog Post”

 Duh. We know. Just leave us a link. We can figure it out. Whenever I see this, I conclude that the writer is unimaginative or stuck in 1999 or both.

Click the link to find out more about #MondayBlogs
Click the link to find out more about #MondayBlogs

4. Put As Much Thought Into The Headline As You Did Into The Post Itself

Use vibrant verbs. Keep it Short. Pretend for a minute that it isn’t a blog post, but a magazine article and these first few words are on the cover of Cosmo. (It would be best, though to keep it rated G, unlike Cosmo). “Top Ten Tips To Make Your Blog Title More RT Worthy” is a little long, but it’s clear. I could have also gone with “Your Blog Title Sucks. So Fix It!” But I’m trying to be helpful. And nice.

5. Use Numbers

I asked someone a few weeks ago what their biggest pet peeve on Twitter was and they answered that seeing this: “Eight Ways To Use Your Crock Pot for Cleaning” and “Top Ten Toothbrushes for Dogs”  — the numbers in the title seemed to be too much. A pet peeve? Really? Folks, this is good headline writing. If you can quantify the contents of your blog post into a list and then use that list in the title, you’ve got something interesting. This is exactly why I write all my blog posts in Top 10 lists. My blog posts have structure, continuity and all I have to come  up with are ten points and I’m done.

6. Exaggerate A Little

“Folding Chair Options That Will Change Your Life Forever” Well of course, it won’t exactly change my life, but the exaggeration might compel me to at least click the link and see what the fuss is about. I love the fact that Twitter is so casual, you can get away with a little exaggeration and hyperbole and it may make you all the more charming.

7. Be Funny

 Now not everyone can do this well. But if you can use humor in your headlines or tweets do it! Humor is powerful. If you can get a smirk or a chuckle or a LOL out of someone, you’ve won half the battle. If you can be funny consistently, then you are building a reputation for wit and comedy that can bring readers to you.

8. Sell You, Not Your Book

 As tempting as it is to say, “My Romantic Comedy for Ninjas is $.99 today” for #MondayBlogs. Please don’t do it. I personally find this off-putting. We all have books to sell. Instead, tell me something about you, something you’re struggling with, something that demonstrates how much we have common. Then, after I get to know you, and discover how awesome you are, I’ll be happy to buy your book and maybe even interview you here about it!

9. Study Other Headlines

Spend twenty minutes and read all the headlines in your magazines and newspapers. See if you can make your blog titles just as pithy and pointed as those writers did. There is a REASON why headlines are designed the way that they are and professional writers are trained to capture readers’ attention. Learn from them. If you call yourself a pro, then act like it!

10. Consider the Blog Post Itself

If your having trouble writing a headline for your 1500 words on your writing angst, then there may be a reason. Keep your blog posts simple and to the point, then you’ll see that the titles are much easier to write.

Learn From The Experts

And do a little research on your own! Here is a fascinating article on Forbes about headline writing. And another list of very practical suggestions from author Jeff Goins.

And a whole honkin’ bunch of articles from Copyblogger. Really, after all this information, there’s no reason why your headlines need to suck.

So what do you think? Am I off the mark here? Do you think I’m expecting too much? Do you have any suggestions to add?

There Has Never Been a Better Time In History to be a Writer

But the downside to that is that we are competing against each other for readers. We must be willing to  be our very best with every tweet, every status update, every blog post. Don’t get lazy with things like this. Put your best foot, uh, I mean tweet forward and see what happens.

Top 10 Ways To Get Your Readers To Fall In Love With You

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According to an interesting article on WikiHow, “How To Fall In Love” you can find yourself in a satisfying relationship in a few not-so-easy steps.

 I’d like to suggest that authors follow their advice to be “in love” with their readers. And hopefully, readers will fall in love with them too!

Top 10 Ways To Get Your Readers To Fall In Love With You by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

  1. Boost Your Self-Esteem. For those looking for romance, this means exude confidence, know who you are, and stop comparing yourself to others. This will make you attractive to others. Writers should do the same thing. Take the time to make yourself into a good writer.  That means that you need to seek out challenging mentors and coaches that can push you to be better. You may need to take classes. You may need to have a critique partner who makes you cry. No one wants to follow a loser. So train like a winner. This also means looking good. You need to make a good impression. All of your social media personalities should be consistent and reflect the emotional goals of your brand. In other words, act like a professional! 

2. Consider why you want to fall in love. The article suggests that if we are looking for a romance to “complete” us or give us validation, we may be in it for the wrong reasons. I totally agree. I also think that writers who pursue publication for fame, fortune or any other reason may need to reconsider. Being a great writer who can live off their income takes a lot of work. Only you can decide if you’re doing it for the right reasons.

3. Consider what you’re looking for. If you are looking for a romantic partner, then you need to put some thought into what kinds of people you enjoy. You also need to think deeper than a pretty face or huge biceps. Writers need to be just as thoughtful. They need to know what kind of writers they are. Do they write mysteries? Romances? Thrillers? Steampunk? They also need to know what kinds of people read their genre. If you don’t know who you are or what you want, you’ll have a lot of trouble finding readers.

4. Meet people. This should be the most obvious. If you want healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise, you have to get out into the world. For writers this can be terrifying because we often like hiding out with our laptops and our cats. You can do this in real life, such as with a writers’ group or book club. You can also do this online, where we care far less about personal hygiene. My personal favorite group is the 10 Minute Novelists group on Facebook. Join us. 

5. Open Yourself To New Possibilities. This is good advice all the way around, for any part of your life. To have what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done. For lonely singles, you may want to try a local meet up or ask your friends to set you up. For writers, this means you need to stretch yourself. Try signing up for a new social media platform. Try joining a chat. Try calling your local library and asking them if you can drop off one of your books. Get over your fear. Take chances. You’ll probably be surprised at how fun it is.

6. Give Things Time. This is the best thing on the list. Writers absolutely cannot expect to be best sellers overnight. That’s as ridiculous as a lonely woman arriving at a singles dance expecting to meet Prince Charming, getting engaged in three months and married in a year. Be content to start at the beginning. Don’t be afraid to fail.  Write every day that you can. Don’t give up because it’s hard.

7. Develop The Relationship. Now this is where the article assumes you’ve met Mr. Right, (or at least Mr. Right Now). The author suggests that you talk, expressing interest in the values and experiences of this new person in your life. This is great advice for you as a writer too! I totally believe that if we are going to have life long reader fans, we need to start with our friends! This means talking to them. It means asking good questions. It means getting your focus off yourself (and your book sales) and work at this new relationship.

8. Open Yourself Up Emotionally. This is also great advice! Now in a romantic relationship, you need to take risks and be vulnerable. Sometimes that’s really scary! Writers have to take risks too! With each reader that reads your book, you have to be willing to get a mediocre or bad review. You have to be able to handle rejection. You need to not take it seriously when they say, you’re not my type. There are plenty of readers out there, so if your heart gets broken, keep trying! To be successful, you must deal with bad reviews like a pro. It also means understanding that art is subjective and what one person loves another will hate. The artistic nature of this business makes everything wonderful and everything harder. Sigh.

9. Build Trust. All relationships are built on trust. How do you build trust? You keep your word. You communicate gently. You don’t antagonize. You don’t criticize. You don’t judge or condemn. You don’t ignore. An affable, approachable writer who is trustworthy to his readers will be in greater position for long term success than one who is disrespectful and lacks integrity. This means absolutely no misrepresenting yourself! No manipulating numbers! No fudging reviews! No underhanded dealings! Any shortcuts you may take to “gain readers or followers” will someday come back to bite you in the butt. Don’t do it.

10. Appreciate what you’ve got. No one likes to be taken for granted, not even readers. Once you have readers who are willing to buy your books, keep them posted on what’s next for you. Say thank you by sending personal messages. Do your best to remind them that they are important to you. This will go a long way to building a great writer/reader relationship. You must understand that your readers’ attention is precious.  They will  have no trouble finding other books to read. Respect this. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t answer questions hatefully or sarcastically. Be warm. Be generous if you can. Get to know them, don’t just make it all about you.

To get our readers to fall in love with us, we’re going to have to work. We’ll need to take our art seriously, their relationship seriously and give everything our best.  

There are no shortcuts. Sorry about that.

Each bullet on this list is a long tedious task that can only be accomplished with hard work. Discouraged? Don’t be. Good relationships and enthusiastic tribes take time. And it starts with what’s inside you!

Readers are worth it. 

Top 10 Ways To Respect Your Art As A Writer by Katharine Grubb

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Thank you, Internet! 

Because of you, I have to do so little work to expose myself and my family to the works of the world’s greatest artists. Gone are the days when we have to pay for parking at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Now, all we have to do is click the mouse a few times and we are seeing, perhaps not perfectly, the art of the masters.

Click the link for print availability

I appreciate this as a writer because I clearly don’t have enough distractions as it is. But I also can appreciate it because I believe that writing is an art. I also believe that like the great painters of western civilization, great writing can be something that can be respected and revered. I believe that inspiration comes from a lot of different places and that exposing myself to great art will touch my soul somehow, and make me a better writer in the long run.

I believe also that even beginning writers need to have a great respect for the art of writing. Just because visual art is cheap and easily accessible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy it. The same can be said for the art of writing. Just because publishing has never been easier doesn’t mean that contemporary writers should reduce it to something common.

I’d like to suggest that all writers, regardless of their experience and tastes, learn to love their art.

Top 10 Ways To Respect Your Art As A Writer by Katharine Grubb

 

1. If you love your art, then you respect the masters. You have spend time reading the works of great writers, analyzing their style and choices. You’ve saturated yourself only with the best books so that you can be inspired and taught how to be great.

2. If you love your art, you don’t makes excuses for others’ bad works. This is tricky, but if we were truly respectful of the craft of writing, then we would have no trouble being honest in a review on  Amazon.com or Goodreads. We’d point out technical flaws, we’d question the author’s choices, we’d give our reasons for reducing our ratings from four to two stars. We’d be thoughtful and kind in our observations while at the same time backing up our claims.

3. If we are respectful of our art, then we should have no trouble with receiving critical reviews, even the ones we don’t agree with. We can’t leave honest reviews with integrity if we aren’t willing to receive honest ones in return.

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4. If we respect our art, then we have studied the rules of it. Despite popular platitudes in the writing community there are rules to writing. If we respect our art, then we see the rules as helpful boundaries –especially those that allow us to be clearer and better understood, such as grammar! And spelling! If we respect our art, we don’t look for excuses to break the rules. Instead we look at the rules as friends.

5. If we respect our art, then we are willing to put time into it. It is disrespectful to the art and to our readers if we are looking for ways to cut corners in our composition or creation. If we respect our art, we don’t look for easy answers like, “how many times do I rewrite this paragraph before it’s good enough?” The answer is “at least one more.”

6. If we respect our art, then we take the commitment to craft seriously. We read blogs, we read writing books, we go to conferences, we take notes, and we look for ways our prose can improve. You can’t love and respect your art if you are too proud to take correction.

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7. If we respect our art, then we write every day. Every day! There has never been a concert pianist that didn’t sit down and play for hours on a regular basis. There will never be a great writer that doesn’t slap their butt in their chair and their hands on the keyboard. If we respect our art, then our diligence in regular writing should be like breathing.

8. If we respect our art, then we don’t tie our identity to the current work-in-progress. To respect our art means to allow it to stand alone, separate from us, open to the criticisms and praise of others. As time goes by, and we add more to our finished works, we see it as an entire body of work, with individual pieces that have each had a place in the building up of our careers. The single titles are not big enough to fill the satisfaction of a lifetime of hard work. (I’m not crazy about that sentence.)

9. If we respect our art, then we don’t compare it to others’ works. It is OUR art. We can be inspired by others, but to truly respect art, that means that we refuse to copy or cheapen our work by making it derivative of someone else’s.

10. If we respect our art, then we’re never in a hurry. The best things in life are the things that take time to nurture. Rushing through a story for the sake of publishing it weakens the art process and makes the final creation the literary equivalent of a Big Mac. Take your time. Do it right. Respect and love your reader.

So, what do you think? How can you respect your art? 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing Is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist and Mother of Five

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Becoming an author is like becoming a parent. 

The writing of the book, was the pregnancy. You conceived the idea in a romantic, intimate moment.

You developed it secretly in the dark. You wrote while stuffing your face with all kinds of snacks. You tried to explain your characters and your plot to others and they just didn’t understand. And the length of the ms got bigger and bigger. And you wondered will I ever get this done? Will I be waiting for the arrival forever? 

And the big day comes!

You get your little bundle of joy from Createspace or some other expert labor and delivery establishment! You count all of the pages to make sure that it is all there!  You think that your book is the most beautiful and the most amazing thing that was ever created! And you tell all your friends! You post it on Facebook! There has never been a book before this book! No one will be a better author than you!

And then the novelty is over.

The well wishers have bought their copies. You realize that you’re the one up all night with the little buggar. You second guess yourself, are you the best marketer you could be? Amazon Kindle sales are nice but the reviews aren’t as complete as you’d like. The sales are only trickles. You thought that perhaps something significant would happen now, something bigger? The blues come on you and you don’t know what to do. One star reviews smell like dirty diapers. Rejection letters are the mean toddlers who throw sand on the play date. And then there’s that other author close to you who says, “I would never do that to my book! What are you thinking? What kind of an author are you?”

This metaphor can go on forever. 

Just like parenting, we often don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to marketing our books. Just like parenting, we read good advice and we try it, but it doesn’t always work for us. Just like parenting, we have great aspirations, but sometimes we get caught up in our own inadequacies and our own faults. Sometimes the frustration of knowing what is best for us is overwhelming.

Like parenting, if we are going to market our books, we kind of have to figure it out as we go. 

Top 10 Ways Good Marketing is Like Good Parenting by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

1. A good parent does what they can when they can. You don’t fill out college applications the day after coming home from the hospital. A good marketer understands that there are seasons for their book, look at the process in the long term and gives themselves grace.

2. A good parent has low expectations. A first time author should have them too. I haven’t  met a mother of a toddler yet that  didn’t. If you’re a first time author, understand that you won’t sell thousands of books. That’s okay. You’ve got your future ahead of you.

3. A good parent attends to the basics automatically. For a parent, that means having baby fed, washed, nurtured and well rested. For an author, that means having the manuscript well-written, well-edited, well-covered, and accessible to readers on the most basic of platforms, like Kindle direct. As your platform and skill set grows, your accomplishments will too.

4. A good parent doesn’t compare their kid or their style to another parent’s child or style. A good book marketer doesn’t either. What works well for your friend’s book, Amish Zombie Princesses won’t work for your book, Lint Art for the Lonely.  Like parenting, our marketing journey is a personal one and we have to choose what’s best for us and not judge others’ choices.

5. A good parent knows parenting is a game of inches. Children don’t master good manners in one lesson. It takes years. Authors who market should understand this too. A first book gains a few readers, the next book gains more. This game — parenting and marketing — is not for the impatient.

6. A good parent uses their community. Who hasn’t asked a friend, neighbor or family member to watch a child? What parent hasn’t depended on a social group to help them out? Authors need community too. If nothing else, an author’s community can encourage him, help promote, help fine tune and show how things can be done.

7. A good parent manages their time the best they can. They have an understanding of what must be done and figures out ways to get it done. A marketing author does this too. The engage with their readers without being too distracted. They delegate. They learn how much they can do in 10 minute increments.

8. A good parent takes reasonable risks. They want their children to stretch themselves, try new things and grow. A good marketer does this too. They aren’t afraid of speaking to the librarian at their local branch or calling the local paper. Both parent and marketing author knows you never know what great thing could happen if you try!

9. A good parent knows the “rules” but makes them work for their situation. A good marketing author does too. They’ve read marketing blogs, they understand generosity, they’ve taken great notes. Then they get good ideas and apply the principles their way.

10. A good parents sees the differences in their children and nurtures them accordingly. A good author may also see that each of their books opens doors that the other one can’t. They also aren’t afraid to learn from their mistakes and do better with children and books this time around.

Authors should take another lesson from parents — just because you do everything “right” doesn’t mean that there are guarantees. Parenting is fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, pain and expense. But then, it’s awesome and joyful and exhilarating.

But like parenting, marketing will take hard work, trial and error, risk-taking, expenses, time, energy, possible humiliation, disappointment, regret, sleepless nights, and the list is endless.

So are you a good parent/marketer?  What other similarities do you see? What has parenting taught you about marketing?