Tag Archives: Love Your Reader

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz!

Why in the world would authors need to be ethical? Don’t they make up stuff for a living?

Are you one of those writers that does whatever it takes to get a sale? Are you the kind that responds publicly to a bad review? Do you manipulate your public numbers to look better than you really are? Do you neglect excellence in your writing for the sake of a fast buck?

Of course, you’re not. But you probably know someone who is.

Even if you haven’t, you see this kind of writers everywhere. You read about their bad behavior. You nudge the author next to you and say, I can’t believe they did that. And sometimes, the response you get is, but isn’t there no such thing as bad publicity?

And then,  perhaps you think to yourself: Am I doing this all wrong?  Writers everywhere are behaving badly and getting away with it. Aren’t they?

This industry — writing, publishing, and marketing in the information age — is still so new that good practices haven’t caught up yet. In some ways, modern writers don’t know what is good behavior and what isn’t. I’d like to encourage every writer who reads this blog to learn how to be ethical.

Ethics, at its core, is choosing to take responsible public action out of respect for our readers, our art and ourselves.

So, are you ethical or not?

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz!

 Get A Pencil! Let’s Take A Quiz!

Number your paper. Write down yes or no to each of the following questions. Keep track. If you look at your neighbor’s paper, then you’re in worse shape than we thought.

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 ever claimed that you were in a professional writers association, like International Fiction Writers Who Use Modems when you let your membership expire in 1998?

 

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

4. 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?

5.  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? Or have you ever insisted that a stranger change their review?

6. 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?

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

8. 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?

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”
C.S. Lewis

 

9. 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?

10. 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?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you may not be an Ethical Author!!

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.

Many of us are new to publishing and have 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. Or 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. These practices are not ethical. 

I can't encourage you enough: earn your sales and reviews honestly and with integrity.

 We may fear to speak to other authors about their questionable practices because we don’t feel we have either the authority to speak nor a reference point for better behavior.

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 an advantage in this industry.

Because authors have never had so much freedom. But with freedom, we must accept responsibility for our public persona. This responsibility extends to our works whether self-published or traditionally published. And it includes our relationships with our readers.

This is how to be more ethical:

Love your readers by producing excellent work and allow them the freedom to critique you honestly in public forums.
Love your art by choosing not to cheapen it with slimy sales techniques and shortcuts cuts.
Love yourself by holding your author friends to a high standard of behavior in our public appearances both online and real life.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

7 Ways To Deal With That Dreaded Bad Review or,

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

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

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 Tips To Make Your Blog Title More RT Worthy

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 Ten Ways To Be There For Your Readers By Way Of ’90s Television

I firmly believe that your readers can be your friends.

I think that if you are a wise author, you are looking at your readers not as someone who bought, read and reviewed your book, but someone who, could potentially turn into a raving fan. 

The term raving fan was coined by Kenneth Blanchard to describe a customer who enthusiastically promotes a company or service and would be a lifelong fan of the people behind it.

In the writing world, we can have raving fans too.

A writer who has raving fans will have an army or coalition of people who will always buy what they publish, they will always leave good reviews, they may also comment on the Facebook page or communicate with you on other social media. But the most important thing they will do is passionately tell other people about you. 

You can’t get raving fans overnight. You have to cultivate the relationship. You have to be friends.

You know, FRIENDS. 

Top 10 Ten Ways To Be There For Your Readers  By Way of 90s Television by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

 

Top 10 Ten Ways To Be There For Your Readers By Way Of ’90s Television

1. Be as accessible to your readers as Chanler & Joey was to Monica & Rachel.   Your social media presence should be there to nurture relationships, not just push your sales. Carefully consider every way that you and your brand are represented. If it’s not welcoming or easy to find, make some changes.  It’s this frequency and accessibility that can build a relationship. Just don’t come in unannounced. 

2. Be as generous as Phoebe was when she found a thumb in her soda.  In the relationships with your readers, make giving your default setting. Does someone need advice? Give it gently. Does someone have a question? Answer, and do a little digging for them. Give without any expectation of return. Readers will flock to writers who have something to offer — and I’m not talking about your free download. I am talking about your practical advice, your words of inspiration, or your funny stories. And if Ross ever needs fashion advice, make sure you give him the right bag.

 

3. Be as interested as Joey is when Rachel’s sister visits. But more appropriately.  This could be your How You Doin’  strategy. Take the time to ask readers about themselves. What is their life like? What do you have in common? I find that if I turn my purpose from “connect with readers” to “make new friends” not only is it more fun, but I walk away far more satisfied. I also lay the groundwork for future conversations that could evolve over time into rich relationships. Nobody knew in season one that Monica and Chandler would get married in season seven.

4. Be as excellent in your writing as Monica was in the kitchen. This is a pretty important item on the list. If you have entered a relationship with a reader and they have actually paid money for your book, then you better respect that bond!  That means your book should be the very best it can be — professionally designed and edited, followed the rules of good storytelling and presented well.

5. Be just as authentic as when Monica and Ross danced on national television.  It never ceases to amaze me how much people are drawn to me when I am honest about my weaknesses. It seems counter-intuitive; we think we should hide our flaws. There are some dance moves that should stay in the family room in 1989. But I’ve found that the more real I am, the more my readers (who are now my friends) circle around me to support me. My weaknesses then becomes my strength. Maybe it didn’t for Ross and Monica.

6. Be a soft sell, which means don’t take marketing lessons from Marcel the monkey. This whole “buy my book” mindset of many authors in social media is beyond annoying, like Ross’s pet you can be smelly, loud and it feels like you’re throwing poop at me. I suggest you scrap any sales strategy that is repetitive and one-sided. Instead, lower your expectations for numbers, work on finding readers one at a time and stick it out for the long haul. This type of strategy will work far better for you in the future.

7. Be light-hearted like a couch-centered situation comedy. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Yes, you’ve written a book. That’s a great accomplishment that thousands if not millions do every year. If fight for that image as a special snowflake then you’re pushing people, and potential readers, away.

8. Be consistent, like Phoebe’s song lyrics. This is also a pretty important item on this list. Your brand needs to be predictable. Your readers need to know that when they pick up a book with your name on it, they can expect certain things. If you’re a blogger, you need to stick to a schedule. Consistency keeps your words in front of your readers so they don’t forget you.

 

9. Be yourself, unlike Joey’s acting.  If you keep looking to the right or left so you can copy what that other writer did,  you need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You will never get anywhere by trying to be derivative! Instead write freely, with blinders on, doing the best you can in your own voice. (That doesn’t excuse you from being excellent!)

10. Be unique like Rachel’s haircut. Our lives are filled with unique stories, experiences, struggles and pain that qualifies us to have a niche in this world. Take the time to find yours. Don’t rush this. Everything that you’ve experienced, good or bad, has been given to you so that you can use it to be generous to others. Your readers need you.

Now, realistically, this could take a long time. Longer than Ross and Rachel’s relationship. But I’d like to argue that the hard work of investing in people, asking them questions, looking for opportunities to be generous to them, remaining authentic, will pay off for you as your platform grows.

What else is there? What else can we do to love our readers? As a reader, how do you like to be appreciated? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! 

Making Your Author Platform Work for You — A Guest Post by Rachelle M. N. Shaw

By Rachelle M. N. Shaw

In such a highly competitive world of publishing, it’s no surprise that author platforms have taken center stage and become the foundation for any writer’s success.

But who has time to keep up with all the Tweets, Pins, and Instagram posts needed to do so? The truth is, successful authors don’t. They pick the top few social media sites that fit their style and their audience, and they roll with it.

By Making Your Author Platform Work for You --

What an Author Platform Should Do

  • Provide original content fitting of your audience through a well-designed blog or website
  • Become a place where you regularly engage with your followers; this doesn’t mean you sit back and let autoreply do all the work
  • Teach readers about yourself or your writing process
  • Allow readers to connect with you and follow you on various social media
  • Build your credibility as an author
  • Act as a landing site for media and for readers seeking events that you’re hosting; it’s a good idea to include a press release, a bio, and a professional photograph of yourself in at least one place
  • Tastefully link to your books, including where to buy them

Keep in mind that even though your platform is about you as an author, its main focus should always be on your readers and what you can provide them.

Think of it as a job interview—you want to show off your skills while marketing yourself as a prime candidate for the position.

What an Author Platform Shouldn’t Do

  • Spam readers with promotions for other authors—if you want a creative way to spotlight other authors on your website or blog, try author interviews; they’re a fun and easy way to build connections
  • Contain nothing but reblogs from other sites (it’s okay to share some of these too, but the majority of your posts should be ORIGINAL content)
  • Use completely automated responses
  • Be information based only (readers need a way to connect with you personally; a newsletter or blog is a great way to achieve this)
  • Ignore rules regarding grammar, punctuation, and spelling—this will sink your credibility faster than a one-star review
  • Feature a bathroom photo of yourself or one you took while out drinking with your buddies
  • Spam readers with promotional content for your own books (keep it to a minimum with a blurb or tagline and links for buying your books; you can also put your information about your books on a separate, clearly marked page)

Choosing Social Media that Is Right for You

The most important thing to sort out when it comes to choosing which social media you want to use is which ones will cater best to your audience. For me, though I write both YA fiction and general nonfiction about the craft of writing, the age for my target audience for the two overlaps the most for readers between the ages of fourteen and twenty-nine. For that reason, sites like WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are my main areas of reach. However, six social media sites still proved to be too many to invest my time in. So I opted to keep things simple and to go with the sites that worked best for me in terms of audience and comfort level: the blog on my website (a WordPress substitute that actually works better since it leads followers directly to my own website), Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Through active engagement and regular original content, I’ve been able to build a relationship with my readers on those sites, and my author platform has grown because of it.

The secret to building a successful author platform is this: you don’t have to reach every virtual corner of the Internet to do so.

You just need to delve into those media where you’re mostly likely to reach your target audience and provide them with solid content that they can’t resist.


Rachelle M. N. ShawAn avid reader who has an incurable need to research everything she comes across, Rachelle is an author of paranormal, horror, and writing craft books. Since scribbling down her first story at the age of eight, her love for language and books has blossomed into a full-time career. She currently works as an independent editor and author while being a stay-at-home mom to her children and two rather persnickety cats. When she’s not baking cupcakes or playing in the snow, you can catch her blogging, tweeting, or plotting her next series. Her e-book, The Eyes That Moved, was released in May 2015. It is the first in her three-part paranormal horror series The Porcelain Souls. Part two is slated for release in the spring of 2016.

Rachelle also has two solo short stories and the first in a four-book series about the craft of writing fiction in the works. 

Website: http://rachellemnshaw.com/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rmnsediting 

Tumblr: http://fmtpextended.tumblr.com/ 

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/rmnsauthor/ 

 Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Rachelle-M.-N.-Shaw/e/B00X8D3LSY/

Selling Books Through Non-Marketing: A Guest Post By Jude Knight

How to non-market

I’ve spent a large part of my career as a commercial writer in my own small business. Small business owners are responsible for everything. I was writer, peer reviewer, company book-keeper, chief executive, project manager, strategic planner, store manager, cleaner of toilets, sales person and, of course, the big ‘M’ word. The one I feared. Marketing. So I learnt how to promote my business by non-marketing: marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing. Marketing that an introvert like me could do just by being myself.

It was good preparation for being a self-published writer. Again, I am running my own business. And again, I’m out in the world vigorously non-marketing.

Magical Marketing: Marketing Is Life
Magical Marketing: Marketing Is Life

Non-marketing is about being present

The first rule of non-marketing is to spend time with people who might want to read your book. Get to know them. Talk to them about the things that interest you. Find out what interests them. Be present.

In traditional non-marketing, writers joined Toastmasters, and Rotary, and the local bowling club. They went to book fairs and gardening clubs; talked at schools and writers’ workshops; went to dinner with agents and editors and book clubs. And we can still do all of those things.

Today, we can also spend time with people all over the world, using the Internet. You don’t have to be everywhere; choose two or more from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and blogging. Then go and meet people. Be present.

Non-marketing is about being genuine

If you want a friend, the old saying goes, you have to be a friend. The second rule of non-marketing is to offer others a helping hand. One of the things I really love about the romance writing community, and about 10 Minute Novelists,  is the open-hearted, open-handed and genuine approach to helping others.

This isn’t about reciprocal arrangements: Like my page and I’ll Like yours, review my book and I’ll review yours. It isn’t about sucking up, either. Being genuine means giving because I can, because I know the answer to your question, or have the contact you need, or have a blog and would love you to be my guest.

The flashy insincere marketers might also be helpful, but always with an agenda. Sponsorships are often this kind of marketing. The support comes with strings attached, in the form of opportunities to sell their service or product. Sponsored by [insert name of famous soda drink here].

As non-marketers, you’ll be helpful because you are genuinely interested. You want to know about the birth of a friend’s grandchild. You celebrate your friend’s acceptance letter from a publisher because you’re genuinely happy for them. You hunt your research database for an obscure fact someone has asked for. You send you a condolence message because someone’s troubles touch your heart.

Selling Through Non-Marketing by Jude Knight
If this is what you think of when you think of marketing, then no wonder you don’t like doing it!

Non-marketing is about offering a unique experience

If you’re present in a community that loves the kind of books you write, one way you can be genuinely helpful is to offer them your book. Not in a ‘buy, buy, buy; me, me, me’ used-car salesman way, but gently, as part of the conversation.

Let’s say people are talking about the kinds of protagonist they prefer. You may, if it fits in the conversation, use a description of your own protagonist to illustrate your point. Keep it short. Make it interesting.

It helps to be very clear about what you do that is different, and to have a few lines you can use. If someone asks what I write, I say ‘historical fiction with strong heroines, heroes who can appreciate them, and complex plots full of mystery and suspense’. It’s a tagline I’m working on, and constantly changing, but it’s getting there. My hero Rede is “a man driven by revenge who needs to move beyond his past before he can have a future”.

And there you have it. I’ve used my work to give two illustrations of my point. And I don’t need to belabour it until you’re bored, or sell you something today. Today, we have more important things to talk about, such as how you can turn a friend into a long-term reader.

Non-marketing is about being good at what you do

Insincere marketers rely on lots of noise to keep driving new customers to their product. Non-marketers know that the best customers of all are the ones who love your product so much that they will sell it for you, by telling all their friends.

So write a good book. No. Cancel that. Write the best book you can. And when you’ve finished, write a better one. Never stop learning; never stop improving. Your best marketing tool is your library of successful publications.

Non-marketers know that the best customers of all are the ones who love your product so much that they will sell it for you, by telling all their friends.

Non-marketing is about building long-term relationships

I don’t want readers. Or, at least, I don’t want just readers. I want to make friends who will stay with me for the journey.

Readers, yes. People who find I offer them a reading experience they can’t get from anyone else, so they wait for my next book and pounce on it as soon as it goes on preorder. People who will contact me and tell me what they like, discuss my characters, adopt my heroes as book boyfriends and my heroines as BFFs, argue about the motivations of my villains, pick up some of my subtle jokes and codes.

And fellow writers. People who will laugh at the things I laugh at, tell stories about their craft that inspire, amuse, or dismay, help me out and accept my help, understand the journey — its costs and its rewards.

Above all, I want friends who care about books and about story telling, and who are happy to talk about them. The heart of non-marketing is making friends.

Jude KnightJude Knight  has been a commercial writer for most of her life, but has always dreamt of publishing fiction. She is currently writing her second regency historical novella and her second regency novel. Her first novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was published last December, and her first novel, Farewell to Kindness, in March this year. Find Jude and her books on judeknightauthor.com

How The “There Are No Rules” Rule Can Set You Up For Failure & Mockery

I’m not sure who started the “there are no rules in writing” rule.

It certainly wasn’t an English teacher.

There ARE rules.

Rules for grammar, spelling and punctuation bring order and dignity to our language. There are also rules for storytelling, rules for submissions, rules of common sense, rules of general communication that YOU MUST follow if you want to be taken seriously.

 If you are a writer then your job is to communicate  to your reader.

If you are deliberately being sloppy, apathetic or lazy then the message you’re sending to your reader is “I’m above the rules” or “You’re too stupid” or “Conventions aren’t for geniuses like me.”

In my humble opinion, I’d like to earn credibility, communicate well and set myself up for success.

I also think that if you ignore the rules, then you’re setting yourself up for failure, obscurity and it’s very likely other writers will make fun of you.

How There Are No Rules Can Set You Up For Failure & Mockery
How There Are No Rules Can Set You Up For Failure & Mockery

This is why:

Rules restrict the chaos. Have you ever been in a car accident because someone ran a red light? Traffic rules are there to keep everybody safe. Now, it’s is unlikely that a lack of grammar and spelling rules could send you to the emergency room, but nonetheless, if we didn’t have rules for grammar, spelling and punctuation, we’d have a mess on our hands.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 1.23.50 PM

Rules are like personal hygiene for the written word. You know that guy, that guy, who thinks showering is optional, who believes that toothpaste and deodorant were invented by capitalists who have conspired to convince America about the necessity of their “products.” That guy is not the guy you want to share an elevator with, right?  If you’re a writer, then if you avoid “the rules” it’s like you’re walking around with body odor. Do us all a favor — check your spelling before you leave the house. We will take you far more seriously if you keep your words tidy.

Rules separate the the hacks from the professionals. If you are serious about your writing, and have aspirations to be published, then you should take care to follow not only grammar, punctuation and spelling rules, but also rules in story structure, characterization, plots and genre. Then, if you do that and expect to be noticed by agents, publisher and editors, then follow their rules too!  Pay attention to submission guidelines, write a decent query letter, act professional!  If you really think that your talent is so brilliant that you don’t have to play the game, then you won’t mind the cobwebs in your inbox. Rule followers get in the door. Rule breakers don’t.

A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn't feel like it.
A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.

Rules are the first gatekeepers. With all of the millions of books for sale, a reader is far more likely to pick up a polished one than one that thinks “rules are for losers”. You are not e.e.cummings. Yet. Until you earn notoriety and readers, don’t even think about breaking the rules because that’s what you think the cool kids do. The cool kids shine and polish their work because they respect the time and money the readers will invest.

Rules are your friends: without rules, you can’t be a good communicator. The rules are not put there by “the man” to “bring you down”. Whether they are GSP (grammar, spelling, punctuation), storytelling or submissions rules, they are there to enhance your talent, to be your tools in your artistry, and to put your readers at ease. Imagine this blog post without nouns or commas or nice and tidy paragraphs: it would be a hot mess. I chose to follow the rules because I want to engage my readers and make this blog enjoyable.

Rules are not meant to be broken. I’m all for imaginative writing. I love reading a story that’s innovative and creative. There aren’t enough fresh stories around!  But the very best of these new, exciting works are successful not because they broke rules, there are excellent because they used the rules to their advantage. Rule-breaking in the name of creativity or passion is often rebellion and anarchy with a better agent.

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Deliberate rule breakers will not go far in this business. Show me a new writer who says idiotic things like, “there are no rules!” and I’ll show you someone who is going to have a hard time receiving the fact that his thriller is a hot mess, that his characters are not deep enough and his endings are predictable.

Writing is an art. Just like any art, there are conventions and disciplines set up for a reason. Fresh, innovative, creative works are always welcome. Anyone can break a rule and call it “genius”, but true genius comes from those who see rules and works with them.

My suggestion for all you rebels out there who want to be that romantic, passionate, non-conforming writer that shows the world you’ve got what it takes?
 Sit down. Be quiet. Put in your 10,000 hours. Read every craft book you can get your hands on. Write regularly.

And more importantly?

Be Teachable!

Your talent, your art and your readers deserve excellence.

 

#Top10Tuesday Top 10 Things That Are Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews

 

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

My friend Jane Steen, who has written a great deal about ethical behavior for authors, has this to say about reciprocal reviews. 

Top Ten Things That Are Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews
Top Ten Things That Are Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews

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.

Top Ten Things Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews
Top Ten Things Wrong With Reciprocal Reviews

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.

Do Ethics for Writers Matter?
We spend a LOT of time last month talking about ethics on this website. Reciprocal reviews are only one part of it. Interested in this subject? Click the tags on #EthicalAuthor to find them all.

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.

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.

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.

There is no such thing as an Author Ethics police.

And believe me, I’ve got far better things to do than check on you and judge you. But that doesn’t make it right nor fair. Please carefully consider the points I make in this post. I want to encourage you to make choices in every area of your writing career that puts you in the very best light, not one that could be seen as sneaky or manipulative or misleading.

 

 

This book doesn't exist. But it could if you wanted it to bad enough. Click the link to find out how.
This book doesn’t exist. But it could if you wanted it to bad enough. Click the link to find out how.

 

Six Great Ways To Love Your Readers

Admittedly, I’m new at this whole author gig. In the last two years , I’ve self-published a romantic comedy, signed a contract for a non-fiction book and started a Facebook group for 10 Minute Novelists.

Love Your Readers. Love Your Art. Love Yourself.
Love Your Readers. Love Your Art. Love Yourself.

It’s only been in the last two year that I have readers! There are people who have read my book, liked it and left glowing reviews on Amazon and I have never met them! I am not only thrilled to actually have taken these people’s money, but also to know that many of them have told me through social media that they can’t wait to read more. This is the best feeling in the world! 

This month, I’m spending a lot of time with the idea of Loving Your Readers. This post is about six great ways to do just that.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

1.  AN ATTRACTIVE ATTITUDE  I think that generally speaking, people are attracted to lightheartedness. And while there is a place in this world for controversy and strong opinions (perhaps in the books I write), I think our persona as authors should be one of cheerfulness. (This means NO COMPLAINING. EVER.) I know how much I’m turned off by bad attitudes, so I can imagine my readers would feel the same if I were whiny, condescending or rude.

2. AUTHENTICITY Writers are ordinary people who spend a lot of time thinking. We’re not some pretentious, chain-smoking, cat-loving hermits who substitute our stories for actual human intimacy and wear a lot of black. (At least I’m not.) I believe that writers who can show their humanity to others, who can allow non-writerly life to be seen by the public (within reason), who don’t isolate themselves or create a lofty image will be able to identify with their readers. I like to meet people who are real and if they aren’t afraid to show their weaknesses, then I love them all the more.

AnnieDillard quote (1)

3. ACCESSIBILITY  We are so lucky in this age to be able to communicate with our readers. It used to be that readers wrote letters to authors and there were no reviews on Amazon and no one could tweet you. Wise writers should take advantage of these communication methods and figure out what works. This would include, among other things, having an email address on a blog and engaging in conversation.

4. AN INSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE  So, what was your favorite love song from the ’80s?  Our readers can provide all kinds of answers to questions, but we need to ask them! I found while I was writing, that my Facebook fan page readers have great insight, they have good ideas, they know exactly how feasible it would be to hide a laminating machine in a dorm room. Because I’m asking them questions, I’m starting some interesting conversations, think about things in a different way and outsource my research (all of this adds to my authenticity and accessibility!) My readers know I’m up to another story and so when it comes out, they’re all the more excited. Win-win!

This will be the kind of thing I put on my Facebook Page when I release my next novel this summer.
This will be the kind of thing I put on my Facebook Page when I release my next novel this summer.

5. APPRECIATION Readers are why I do this. Every time I find out someone read my book or left a review, I am a little humbled. My readers are taking a chance on me. A $3.99 ebook isn’t a very big chance, but still. Out of the millions of things these readers could read, they chose my book and from the response I’m getting, they are willing to fork over even more. I can’t take this for granted. Perhaps fame and fortune are part of my future. I never want to be so big that I don’t forget who loved me in the beginning. I thank my readers often. You should too.

6. EXCELLENCE (and thus ends the A Alliterative point. Sigh.) If we go to the trouble of writing a book, then we must be diligent in all areas of it. We must take care to make it mechanically sound. We must not cut corners. We must not disappoint our readers with sloppy, unprofessional work. Poor editing communicates to the reader that we don’t care about them. I would hate for my reputation to be tarnished because I didn’t take the time to be excellent.

Granted, ten, fifteen years from now my own experiences may change this a little, but for now, I want to cultivate these qualities as a habit, so that I can continue to have great relationships with my readers.

 What else can you think of that readers want? What do you want as a reader? Which of these is hardest for you? Which of these is the easiest?

Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself A Guest Post By A. E. Snow

 

The first two weeks of February are #ethicalauthors weeks here at 10 Minute Novelists.

As an author and a reader, I got to thinking about authors who misbehave and how that can affect their readers and how it affects their art and their writing.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

Love your reader!

There are lots of ways to love your readers. Write about things you are passionate about. Engage with them. Appreciate them because really, they didn’t have to one-click and buy your book. They didn’t have to give you a five-star review. Always be giving back to them. It’s a lot to keep up with but loving your reader is easy.

There is more to this loving your reader stuff than just the above list. If you love your readers and want love in return, then be an author they can be proud of supporting. There are so many authors I’m proud to support. But several times in the last year or two, I’ve been terribly disappointed in authors I loved. Not because of their opinions on controversial topics, although unless writing about controversial topics is what they do, but it’s usually best to stay away from politics, religion, etc.

How not to love your reader: 

Post hateful messages on your social media. Your readers don’t deserve a huffy rant directed at them. For instance, if you become a successful author, you will get a lot of messages and probably a lot of questions. A huffy rant about how busy you are and how you don’t have time to answer questions and people should just look in the FAQ is not loving your reader. It’s not exactly unethical to do this but it’s rude and being rude only ever helped Oscar the Grouch’s career.

There was a pretty infamous situation last year involving an author stalking a troll. I loved her book. Loved it. Sang its praises all over the place, tweeted her, and took a screenshot when she tweeted me back. Then stalker-gate happened. It quickly became difficult to promote said book and said author even though I really loved the book. Don’t put your reader in that position. Yikes. If ever you have an urge to stalk someone over a bad review, get up and back away from the laptop. Go on vacation! You obviously need a break.

Don’t ask your readers to pick sides. Let’s pretend that you are a writer that had a bad experience with a blogger. This can happen and it is best kept out of the spotlight. Definitely don’t tweet about it. Later on, if the blogger has a difficulty, don’t go gloating about it anywhere but to your best friend and maybe not even then. It happens all the time that an author will encourage his/her readers to go after a blogger or reviewer and the reverse is true as well. Do not engage!

In this day and age, selling books has a lot to do with relationships both with potential readers and with other authors. It’s a wonderful and helpful thing to work with other authors and to promote each other. There is a line. Observe the line! If it feels yucky, it probably is.

Self-promotion is tricky. On social media, there is a strong temptation to self-promote a lot. You can even schedule tweets! Many people schedule promotional tweets which is totally fine. But you need to do more than that. While you want to promote yourself and your work, you aren’t creating relationships or loving your readers if it’s all you ever do. Give the poor people a break! Be cute, funny, or charming about two thirds of the time. The other third, you can say “buy my book.” You aren’t going to have any readers who love you if you harass them to death. Except your mom. Does your mom count? No and she’s probably not on social media anyway.

Love your art

Last summer, I met a fellow parent when we set up next to each other on the beach. My mom, of course, told everyone on the beach that I was a writer. Who needs self-promotion when one’s mom is around? My mom is like a one-man street team. Anyway, he was interested because he had an idea for a book. It wasn’t a bad idea, but there was nothing different about his idea. There are probably two hundred books out there with the same premise. His plan was to quit his job as a successful lawyer and be a stay-at-home dad who writes best-selling books. Hahaha! Poor guy. First of all, writing with children around is not what we call easy. It is hard and probably had something to do with the creation of 10 Minute Novelists in the first place. Secondly, that isn’t how it works. If you like to write and your plan is to make a lot of money then take a hundred steps back right into your law office, sit down at your desk, and practice law.

Loving your art means a couple of things. It means love it so much that you do it even though the reality that you will strike it rich and a movie will be made from your book is miniscule. You will get struck by lightning before this happens. 

It also means to respect your art and your fellow artists. Many writers go into writing with this mindset: I read this or that crappy book and I know I can write a better book so I will! Listen, reading one book in one genre does not mean that every book in that genre is bad. Twilight is an excellent example. While there were obviously plenty of people who didn’t care for it, there were plenty of people who did. Writing because you think you can do a better job is not a reason to write.

There are authors out there who wrote books that I really did not care for. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Publicly bashing these authors, even if you aren’t a successful author yet and only seven people follow you on Twitter, is not okay. Don’t do it. Love your fellow author because we are all in this together. Superiority complexes won’t get you anywhere. Kindness will get you connections friends who are willing to promote your work.

Love yourself enough to love your brand and to keep it positive. Be the author that other authors want to be friends with. It will only be a benefit to your career.

Happy writing and think before you tweet! 

authorphoto.jpg

A.E. Snow is a writer, mother, pet wrangler, and lives for books and publishing. She lives in a tiny mountain town with her husband, two children, three cats, a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree. A.E. has been writing since she was six. These days, she writes Young Adult, Chick-lit and Romance. She is proud to be a 10 Minute Novelist. Visit her website for more info about her new releases. www.aesnowauthor.wordpress.com

Author Spotlight: Meet Jane Steen

10 Minute Novelists is a community of writers from all over the world. Twice a month, we feature one of our writers. Today? It’s Jane Steen, author of House of Closed Doors and champion of Author Ethics.
Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015
To continue this conversation, this blog is sponsoring Ethical Author Weeks February 1-14. Got questions on how you can start conversations on ethics on your blog? Leave a comment!

Welcome Jane!

1. How did the topic of ethics for authors become an interest of yours?

It just started out as an observation that there were quite a few authors out there behaving unprofessionally. I’ve been active on Goodreads as a reader for years, and I could see wave after wave of shock run around the community because an author had plagiarized another author’s work, or had attacked a reviewer in the comments thread, or they’d detected yet another reviewing ring (where a group of authors had all given each other five stars). I could see how these actions by a few authors were eroding the trust that should exist between reader and author. I began noticing in author groups that a few authors (not the majority) were treating the market as a free-for-all, proposing dodgy marketing tactics as the latest great idea and trying to coordinate actions that I knew, from the Goodreads side, were seen as spam at least and unethical at worst.

Author Spotlight: Jane Steen

So one day I spoke up. Ironically, shortly before I did that I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to be a writer, not a campaigner—it was never my intention to become “Mrs. Author Ethics” or anything like that. But now that my efforts have been taken up by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and groups like the 10 Minute Novelists, I can see there are several ways in which I can help new authors adopt professional ethics right from the beginning (and thus have long and happy careers). I’m hoping that in 2015 I can help make author ethics as popular a subject as how to produce great book covers or the best way to edit your book. I’m already seeing other authors discussing ethics and adopting the ALLi badge.

And then, when everyone accepts ethics of part of a writer’s toolkit, I hope to focus fully on my other writing. Think I’ll succeed?

2. Why are the specific points of the Code of Ethics so important?

The Code’s written as an outline of the most basic principles, not as a detailed “law.” So it’s easy for an author to adopt and follow, and it’s nice and short—eight short paragraphs, headed up by the guiding principle, which is to put your readers first. In the end this effort is all about respecting, appreciating and honoring the people without whom you wouldn’t be an author.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
Click the image above to go to Jane Steen’s Code of Ethics or take a screen shot of the image, put it on your blog as a sign you’re an ethical author.

3. What have you learned by watching other authors’ bad behavior?

What not to do! I’ve often observed how a huge row frequently begins as a mistake on the author’s part—in the first flush of being an author (or sometimes, regrettably, once they get famous enough that they have fans telling them how great they are) they decide to take offence at the way readers behave. Yes, readers do things authors would prefer they wouldn’t—they post snarky reviews or totally misread your book or make moral and psychological judgments about YOU based on what your characters do, or blame you for getting history details wrong where in fact you’re right. That doesn’t justify the author in going on the attack against her own readers—in what other industry does a producer turn round and tell its consumers they’re idiots for not appreciating the beauty of its product?

I’ve learned from experience and observation that you’ve got to build up a relationship of trust with readers, and although you can (and I do) set some boundaries (I’ve deleted comments that are clearly troll attacks, for example), for the most part you just have to keep your professional face on and if you’re upset, tell your best friend and not the entire internet about it.

Do Ethics for Writers Matter?

4. What advice would you give new writers in regard to ethics?

Well, obviously I’d advise them to read the Ethical Author Code! Also, I’d advise new writers to seek out the best sources of knowledge about the publishing industry in general and their particular niche. Look for blogs by respected industry observers, journalists, book bloggers and successful authors—I read Joanna Penn, Jane Friedman, Hugh Howey, Anne R. Allen, Dear Author and many more every day. Making an effort to keep yourself informed about the industry is vital, even if you’re publishing with a Big Five publisher.

“The days when an author could just sit back and let someone else direct their career are gone. Take responsibility for yourself and your writing business.”
Historical Romance Author Jane Steen
Historical Romance Author Jane Steen

5. Tell us about your other goals for 2015?

In 2014 I came up with the idea of the 365K Challenge, and ended up writing over 380,000 total words—which included part of two novels in my series, and concepts for a standalone novel and a new series. This year I’m participating in the bigger 365K Challenge that the 10 Minute Novelists group has launched, but I’m also working toward my own new goal—2,000 words a day but only on weekdays, as I find it harder to write on weekends. (That’s over 500,000 words a year, by the way.)

My other goal is to become successful as an entrepreneur. This means gradually introducing all kinds of systems for success—planning, scheduling, daily productivity beyond my word count, and keeping up with the other responsibilities in my life. I have several measurable goals for 2015, but my overriding aim is to work out how to stay proactive about my business and my writing, and keep moving both forward.

6. Why do you love writing historical novels?

I find history increasingly fascinating. The more you read about it, the more you see how all the parts fit together! As I’ve grown older I’ve gained a much clearer view of how I fit into history, or perhaps I should say how history has shaped the world I live in and which informs my thinking. Writing the novels allows me to invent characters who are moving within a historical context that we understand because it’s already happened. They don’t know what’s going to happen, but the author (and frequently the reader) does. And I love writing about characters who have to cope with the absence of things we take for granted—antibiotics or plane travel or telephones.

The House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen
The House of Closed Doors

7. What is it about 1880s Chicago that is so fascinating?

I began The House of Closed Doors in 1870 because I wanted to write within a specific framework of the evolution of Poor Farms—and it was set in the Chicago area because that’s where I live (the inspiration for the story came from a photo of the County Poor Farm which used to stand on my town’s main street). Right now I’m writing about Chicago in 1876-1877, and if I write the whole series as originally planned I’ll end up in 1888, well into the Gilded Age. During that time span the world of my characters will make huge technological advances and there’ll be some major societal rumblings (women’s rights and the labor movement) that lay the groundwork of the massive changes that will happen through the catalyst of the two World Wars. So I’m watching the modern world emerge through the eyes of a set of characters I like and find fun to write.

Also, the dresses are GORGEOUS. The fashion for lots of embellishment in the 1870s and 1880s produced some absolutely stunning work at the top end of the price range, and filtered down to more everyday clothing in the form of an attention to detail we’ve almost completely lost in the West. My novels are for anyone who stares in rapt attention at the costumes in period TV shows or movies—that’s why I made Nell a dressmaker.

8. What is your definition of success?

I’d like to earn a modest living from being an author-entrepreneur, of course. But my real definitition of success would be to write some characters that people love so much they dress like them and write fan fiction about them and remember them long after I’m gone.

“No writer’s immortal, but a really good character can be—look how long King Arthur’s lasted, for example. My dream is to invent characters that fuel other people’s dreams.”

How Will You Know When You Are

9. What important things do we need to know about you?

I’m British—I married an American, which is why I live here. I’ve always been fascinated by languages, and by fine crafts—if I had multiple lifetimes I’d become fluent in more languages than English and French, and I’d do way more than knit lace shawls. I’m an avid reader, as you’d expect, and have had my nose stuck in a book since I was four years old. But I also love to be outdoors, and I run, walk, bike or ski on the local forest preserve trails most days. I’m happily married with two adult daughters. I’m not at all fond of housework, but messiness and dirt make me feel anxious so I force myself.

10. Please finish this:  I love my reader when I  ______________.  I love my art when I ______________. I love myself, as a writer, when I ________________.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

“I love my reader when I respect their opinions. I love my art when I give it the time and attention it deserves. I love myself, as a writer, when I celebrate my successes and acknowledge—and address—my weaknesses.”

Jane Steen lives with her husband and daughter in the Chicago area. 

#Top10 Tuesday Top Ten Ways To Love Your Art

In the first two weeks of February, the writers over on my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, will be talking about  Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself.   Today’s top ten list is about what that means, to love your art. 

To read our Top 10 Ways To Love Your Reader, click here.

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.

Top Ten Ways To Love Your Art
Top Ten Ways To Love Your Art

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.

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.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

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.

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.

Why can't I write?
That hashtag? That’s our Weekly Chat on Twitter! Join us!

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? 

 

Our 2015 Editorial Calendar! We’d love for you to write about this!

We publish 1-2 guest blog posts a week. If you’d like to be a guest blogger and need ideas, check out what we’re planning for 2015! But keep in mind, we plan months in advance. The sooner you contact us, the better. Click here to find out how.

FEBRUARY:

The month that we celebrate love is the best month to talk about Ethics!  We’re also discussing ways to Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself. 

Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

 

MARCH:

March is REALLY SPECIAL! Besides celebrating the 1 Year Anniversary of the creation of 10 Minute Novelists, it’s also the month that Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day is released! We’ll be partying all month. We’d welcome posts that celebrate this milestone, describe what being a part of this group means to you or how you are a 10 Minute Novelist. Send us your ideas!

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WANITMAD screenshot
Coming March 26! Click the image to pre-order!

APRIL:

April is National Poetry Month, but we’re novelists, so we have to expand on that a little. We’re calling April the month we celebrate Beautiful Words. This can mean anything — imagery, description, dialogue, editing, revising, proofreading and other wordy inspiration.

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MAY:

In May, we’re talking MARKETING! What to think about, what strategies work best, what attitudes are the most productive. This is NOT a silver bullet month to make you a millionaire, but it is a list of practical ideas on how to get readers excited about your books!

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#Top10 Tuesday Top Ten Ways To Love Your Reader

This month, on this website and over on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group, we’re talking about “Love Your Readers, Love Your Art, Love Yourself”.

Within this theme, we want to address good practices, good behaviors and general excellence.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

Today we want to talk about what it means to love your readers. 

Top 10 Ways To Love Your Readers

1. Be accessible.  This means have connections with your readers. Your social media presence should be there to nurture relationships, not just push your sales. Carefully consider every way that you and your brand are represented. If it’s not welcoming or easy to find, make some changes.

Top Ten Ways To Love Your Readers
Top Ten Ways To Love Your Readers

2. Be generous. This means you need to be a in a position to give without any expectation of return. Readers will flock to writers who have something to offer — and I’m not talking about your free download. I am talking about your practical advice, your words of inspiration, or your funny stories.

3. Be interested. Take the time to ask readers about themselves. What is their live like? What do you have in common? I find that if I turn my purpose from “connect with readers” to “make new friends” not only is it more fun, but I walk away far more satisfied. And you can’t measure good friends with Amazon rankings or blog hits.

“I do not want people to be very

4. Be excellent. This is a pretty important item on the list. If you have entered a relationship with a reader and they have actually paid money for your book, then you better respect that bond!  That means your book should be the very best it can be — professionally designed and edited, followed the rules of good storytelling and presented well.

 

5. Be authentic. It never ceases to amaze me how much people are drawn to me when I am honest about my weaknesses. It seems counter-intuitive; we think we should hide our flaws. But I’ve found that the more real I am, the more my readers (who are now my friends) circle around me to support me. My weaknesses then becomes my strength!

6. Be a soft sell. This whole “buy my book” mindset is beyond annoying. I suggest you scrap any sales strategy that is repetitive and one-sided. Instead, lower your expectations for numbers, work on finding readers one at a time and stick it out for the long haul. This type of strategy will work far better for you in the future.

selling books ebooks marketing hard sell

7. Be light-hearted. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Yes, you’ve written a book. That’s a great accomplishment that thousands if not millions do every year. If fight for that image as a special snowflake then you’re pushing people, and potential readers, away.

8. Be consistent. This is also a pretty important item on this list. Your brand needs to be predictable. Your readers need to know that when they pick up a book with your name on it, they can expect certain things. If you’re a blogger, you need to stick to a schedule. Consistency keeps your words in front of your readers so they don’t forget you.

9. Be yourself.  If you keep looking to the right or left so you can copy what that other writer did,  you need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You will never get anywhere by trying to be derivative! Instead write freely, with blinders on, doing the best you can in your own voice. (That doesn’t excuse you from being excellent!)

“There is no greater agony than bearing

10. Be unique. Our lives are filled with unique stories, experiences, struggles and pain that qualifies us to have a niche in this world. Take the time to find yours. Don’t rush this. Everything that you’ve experienced, good or bad, has been given to you so that you can use it to be generous to others. Your readers need you.

What else is there? What else can we do to love our readers? As a reader, how do you like to be appreciated? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!