Tag Archives: Mistakes

More Questions To Ask After That First Draft Is Done

Your first draft is done!

And trust me when I say this, it is not ready to be published! 

How do you know this? No one writes a perfect first draft. You don’t either. Before you let your mom, your best buddy or the pizza guy read this draft, make sure it’s the best you can make it.

15 More Questions To Ask After That First Draft is Done by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

Here are questions you can ask about this draft.

Go on! Take your time to think about it! Make notes!  Each change you make will probably be for the better. And if you are serious about getting this published, then you’ll be far more marketable and competitive in this saturated markets. Your pizza guy? He probably won’t notice the changes precisely, but he probably will enjoy the pacing, characterization, and conflict. Make sure you tip him well.

Are there believable surprises in your story?

Your reader needs to be surprised, so think of ways to put the unexpected in. What if the sidekick decides to betray our main character? Or what if the getaway is interrupted by a car crash? What if the protagonist is recognized by the guard? Or what if the love interest is really that bully from her childhood? What if his food allergies give away his identity? It’s hard when you’ve read your work a million times to see a surprise (that’s where a beta reader could come in) but keep thinking! Surprises keep your readers turning pages long after they should be in bed!

 

Do the supporting characters contrast the main character enough in what they do or say?

When creating your cast of characters, think of the supporting cast as an ensemble. They should have different personality types, different life experiences, different points of view. And they should never get along perfectly. The main character could take turns listening to each one and yet changing his loyalties. What do you have in this draft? Consider each one carefully and make necessary changes.

Is every supporting character necessary?

Can you cut any out? When creating characters, think about variety and roles that each character plays. Just like our main character, each of the supporting cast should have desires and objectives. To make good conflict, you don’t want them to perfectly align with your protagonists. But if they are too similar, you may have a problem.  If you have characters that are too much the same either make one an extreme exaggeration or eliminate one altogether.

Do you have a subplot or two that can divert the reader from the main story, just for a moment?

A good subplot harmonizes with the main plot, it doesn’t compete with it. If you don’t have one in this draft, now’s the time to add one.  That’s why a romantic subplot often works in books that aren’t necessarily romances. Cutting away to the subplot, right when the tension in the main plot is high, is a good strategic move for story telling. Your readers will be invested in both if you do this right, and they’ll keep reading.

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Is your antagonist too much of a cartoon?

It’s really easy to take a villain and put a mustache, beard and black hat on him. You can do that in the first draft. But the more you make him like a cartoon the less serious he will be to your reader. Have you taken the worst of your antagonist and exaggerated it to the point of caricature? It may be better to work with their nuances, their personalities, and their worldview rather than their quest for “one meelion” dollars.

Is your antagonist’s objective clear?

Does it oppose your protagonist enough? Do you want to have your antagonist monolog to reveal all of their intentions to your good guy? Or would it come up some other way? Antagonist development is really important. The richer you make this conflict between him and the protagonist, the more interesting your story.

Is your dialogue distinctive between characters?

The voice between the characters should be so distinctive that you could remove the dialog tags and still know what’s going on. If you don’t see any distinction, this could mean that you have too many characters or too many that are alike. Consider merging a couple together or killing a few darlings.

What do all of the characters learn by the end?

Every character needs to have some sort of arc. This means that by the end of the story everyone has had a change for the better or for the worse. The change could be a physical change, or it could be financial, spiritual, emotional, academic or professional. The point is that growth is evident to the reader.

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Do you add in touches of sensory description in each scene?

Sensory descriptions can make the scene come alive. Consider using three descriptors, but not too many more. A scene that’s too heavy handed with description can be boring, so take care that you don’t get carried away.

Is the mood and tone of the story consistent with the theme and the genre?

Tone is the emotional weight of the narration. For example, thrillers are mostly serious. Romances are more light-hearted. Comedies, regardless of their setting, are the lightest of all. If you’re writing genre fiction, you want to sound like all of the other books in your genre. If your tone is too different from what is expected, you may turn off some readers.

Do your scenes feel like they build with excitement like the tension is increasing as the story plays out?

Each scene requires a push or a pull, toward the main character’s objective or away from it. There should be a sense of more gained than lost, and each scene is more treacherous than the last.

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Do your protagonist and antagonist have a final conflict where something unexpected happens?

This should happen late in the second act. There should be a point when all hell breaks loose and your protagonist and your antagonist are at each other’s throats. You’ve seen this scene in countless movies — the final showdown. Now, if you do this well, you don’t make it last too short or too long, you give the villain the upper hand for just a second and then BAM! Something unexpected helps the protagonist out and your bad guy gets the Disney accidental-death-by-falling-which-technically-doesn’t-make-your-good-guy-a-murderer. Okay, maybe that’s a big much for your romance, but you get what I’m trying to say.

Does your protagonist make a choice between two mutually exclusive desires?

This conflict is one of my very favorite things to create for my characters. They’ve have wanted to get to A for a long, long time — say 250 pages — and here they are, just about to touch it and have what they want but then, THEN, they realize they’ll lose B if they do! B?? B?? Oh, not B! This is good conflict. Set your characters up to make them choose!

Is your ending predictable?

This is the funny thing about endings: the need to be believable and probable, but not completely predictable. Before you write that conclusion, make sure you’ve considered all of the options. Make a list, if you have to, of what could happen and then choose the most ridiculous, most mind-boggling or most odd. Your reader would prefer a good surprise rather than an “oh, I saw that coming!”

Does your third act bring all the characters to a new, permanent place that makes sense?

Your third act is where everyone cleans up the mess of the climax and goes on about their lives. If you’ve done your job well, then each character has a new, permanent change in their life. Third acts should be much shorter than the second act, and maybe even shorter than the third. Don’t over do it. Just sum it all up in a tidy bow and write The End.

Your first draft is certainly something to be proud of, but a well-crafted novel is even moreso. Use these questions to make your draft the best it can be.


Did you like this post? You may also like:

Twelve Questions To Ask Yourself After That First Draft Is Done and 16 Questions About Body Language & Appearance For Your Character


 


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.

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.

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

 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…

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.

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.

 

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 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.

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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.


If you liked this post, you’d probably also like:

Never Say Never: Writing “Rules” That Beg to Be Broken or,

Eight Ways You May Be Bungling Your Dialogue In Your Novel


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 Ways You May Be Doing National Novel Writing Month All Wrong

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Is it really November? Is it really time to start that non-stop frenzy that requires 50,000 words in 30 days? It is!

Congratulations to all of you who are attempting it this year!

And to those of you who have tried, get discouraged and possibly think you are on the road to failure, just consider this:  you may be doing it wrong. 

Top 10 Ways You May be Doing Nanowrimo All Wrong, by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You think every word you write is golden. Um, your nano project is a first draft. Please, for the love of all that’s publishable, type this sentence ten times —> MY NANO PROJECT IS A FIRST DRAFT. The solution? Just plan on doing some major rewrites, revisions and edits long before you let a critic, agent, publisher or reviewer see it.

You just have to write the words.

2. The converse: you think every word you write is garbage, so you delete and try again, rewriting the same sentence fifty seven times. The solution? Don’t delete! Don’t edit! Your purpose is a high word count, to have the raw material of a good book. Just keep going and worry about editing later.

You just have to write the words.

3. You’ve got your character stuck in a corner so you quit. The solution? Give him wings and let him fly out of there. Leave him in the corner and throw down 3K on his backstory. Go to a different scene, or a different point of view, and write what’s happening elsewhere. You don’t have to save your hero in this draft. You just have to write the words.

You just have to write the words.

4. Your outline isn’t as wonderful as it was in October, so you quit. The solution? Forget the outline. Go a different direction. You are the master of the outline, not the other way around. If you want start at the ending and work backward. No one says that you have to do your words in chronological order.

You just have to write the words.

5. Your write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method is stressing you out. You thought that this was the way to stay truly inspired. The solution? Go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be a creative genius all the time. Instead of wishing for the muse to show up, write about descriptions of the setting, character backstory, or the tragic forces that made your antagonist so nasty.

You just have to write the words.

6. You obsess over everyone else’s numbers. It feels like all your friends are knocking these big word counts every day and you’ve lost your confidence. The solution? Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. You only have to write for yourself. Also? If you spend your writing time today just writing all the reasons why you WILL succeed, it can count for you daily total.

You just have to write the words.

7.  You think that all the big, famous writers do Nanowrimo, so this must be the ticket to fame. Nope. Not quite. The solution? Realize that every big, famous, published writer had their own unique ticket to fame and fortune. The only common denominator is their hard work. Nanowrimo is a great idea, but it’s only a tool that writers can use to get a draft. The reward comes in completing the goal, not fame or fortune.

You just have to write the words.

8. You think that winning Nanowrimo propels into a magical world of authorship. Nope. The solution to this thought? A reality check. Many, many people complete nanowrimo and their finished draft goes nowhere. Those 50,000 words is the literary equivalent of finding a piece of carbon. Don’t you dare assume that you can sell it off as a diamond without a lot of pressure and hard work.

You just have to write the words.

9. You think writing is supposed to be easy. Oh no, honey, bless your heart. No, it’s not. It’s full of self doubt, of constant backspacing, and of getting the cat off the keyboard. Writing is an art form and to do it well, you must be disciplined. Nanowrimo can work best for you if you see it as an exercise to grow in that discipline. Put one word after another and you’ll get better, you’ll get faster and you’ll be more confident, but it may never be easy.

You just have to write the words.

10. You think that to succeed in Nanowrimo you need certain music, certain hot beverages and certain inspiration. Nope, wrong again. Writers who wait for inspiration are never successful. Writers who work, day in and day out, doing their best to make their work excellent will find the inspiration. Ask any experienced writer and ask them how dependent they were on the muse to show up. Most of them will laugh. They may suggest that we just show up, put our butt in the chair and the hands on the keyboard first, then maybe our muse will show up later.

Nanowrimo is fun, it’s hard work, and it can, at times, be stressful. But it is JUST a tool. It is not a replacement for good editing and revising, good character development or any other short cut. It is a great way to create raw materials for future masterpieces. We all have to start somewhere and if you’re working at Nanowrimo then you’re better than writers who never write a word at all.

You can do this! One word at a time! 


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I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

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 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical

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 Things Writers Do Wrong On Twitter

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 Things To Consider When Choosing A Publisher With The Same Care As A Jane Austen Heroine Chose A Husband

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good story must be in want of a publisher.

It’s the age old story. You have so many hopes and dreams. You have all these wonderful stories to tell. You know that it will take an attachment, a proposal and perhaps a big commitment to make you moderately rich and a teensy bit famous. So you, the perfect Lizzie Bennet, who will only writes for love, not necessarily £10,000 a year, will be happy just to attach yourself with a publisher who respects you.

Fortunately for you, your access to publishers on the internet is an inviting a prospect as a town full of regimental soldiers to a 16-yearold girl. But if you don’t have a benefactor such as the much lauded Lady Catherine de Burgh, or your family’s connections are little more than a barrister uncle in Cheapside, you’re going to have to figure it out on your own.

Never fear. This list will give you some guidance.

Top 10 Things to Consider When Choosing A Publisher With The Same Care As  Jane Austen Heroine Choose A Husband

Top 10 Things to Consider When Choosing A Publisher With The Same Care As Jane Austen Heroine Choose A Husband

 

  1. You’ll attract folks like you. If you want the best, then be the best.  Before you start looking for a publisher, make your story the best it can be. I know, you’ve been working on it for a long time and it really is good. It’s not silly like Lydia or Kitty’s, and it’s not quite as good as Jane’s (but she’s being courted by the Big Six.) Your first responsibility as a writer is to write well. Take your time. Learn from the greats. If you are going to take your writing seriously and you want to attract publishers who take writing seriously, then push yourself to the most excellent level. If you want to make a fast buck, then you’ll attract publishers who want to do the same. Don’t know where to get advice? Start with hanging out at my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, which was named by Writers Digest as one of the top 101 sites for writers for advice. 

 

"That is enough, child. Let the other ladies have a chance to EXHIBIT!"
“That is enough, child. Let the other ladies have a chance to EXHIBIT!”

2. Get the right kind of feedback from those knowledgeable in the industry. They will push you to excellence and the right connections. Your story is level headed. It  has a liveliness to it,  it’s been tempered by your exposure to great literature and you’ve been told, more than once, that it has “fine eyes.” But the best advice will come from critique groups, beta readers, editors or experienced writers who know the business and can honestly show you where to improve. You need to listen to them and improve your story in the very best way you can. You also never know who knows who. It does pay to be connected. I recommend Scribophile as a great resource. 10 Minute Novelists has a group there. Check them out. Ask for Sara Marschand. She’s awesome!

3. You understand your own goals for publication. Some writers have Rosings Park ambitions. Some will be content with Longbourne. (Forget Purvis Lodge. The attics there are dreadful!) If you don’t know what you want, then it will make choosing a publisher all the more difficult. This is what I did: I tried to find books, both fiction and non-fiction, that were similar to mine in content. I looked at who published them and who represented them. I asked myself if I wanted my books to be lumped together with these kinds of books. If I did, then it was from this list of publishers and agents that I would do research. If I didn’t, then I kept looking until I found books that were a better match. Writer’s Market is a great resource for writer willing to do the research. Get the book! 

Oh, Mr. Collins! You are such a charmer!
Oh, Mr. Collins! You are such a charmer!

4. You have a full understanding that an entire industry has been created to take advantage of desperate authors. And along comes your first contact with a publisher. He is tall, dark, handsome (okay maybe not in reality, but go with me, this is fun!) He is a mercenary. He may not be interested in art. He may not be interested in your long term goals. He may just want to cash in from your hard work. Legitimate publishers, who have good reputations, are, in this current economic climate, not likely to initiate relationships with writers. They don’t have to. They’re turning manuscripts away constantly.  It’s the less than trustworthy who are Googling authors and trying to sign anyone. Anyone. What to do? Go to Preditors and Editors and look for the names of reputable and notorious publishers, agents and editors. This is like Consumer Reports for writers. You’ll be really glad this site warned you about that Wickham!

5. If the publisher that contacted you is a start-up with few past authors, you need to be careful.  This should be a red flag. If you are their first client, or one of the first, it’s not likely that they have the credentials or the power or the skills to make you famous or even sold. Get names of anyone associated with them and send a few emails. Ask this, “I understand you worked with Wickham House for your book on gambling. Was that a positive experience for you?

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.54.16 AM

6. You should get a third party to look over a contract or legal document. If this potential publisher wants you to sign something, it is in your best interest to ask a lot of questions. Find a lawyer that specializes in contracts, or ask an agent to look something over for you. You don’t have to sign with an agent to sign a contract, but if you should be fully informed in what you’re signing. This is not one of those moments when I agree to the terms and conditions should be your knee-jerk reaction. And if your potential publisher doesn’t have a contract to sign, that means they’re depending on verbal agreements. This should be a red flag for you. A reputable publisher will be happy to provide you a contract, make adjustments, be patient with you while you get someone to look over it, and calm your nerves.

7.Make sure that they have professional editors working for them. Get names. Ask for specifics. Just because they say they’ll handle the editing, doesn’t mean that they will. You would hate it if your ARC was full of spelling and punctuation errors. It would be as embarrassing as having your petticoat six inches deep in mud. Need to find an editor? This is a list of reputable editors who would be happy to help you prepare your manuscript for publication. Check them out. 

8. Make sure that they have professional graphic designers working for them. Ask what happens if you don’t like the cover. Ask other authors if they liked their covers. Ask for them to show you all of the covers that they have been responsible for in the past. If you don’t like what you see, you may want to rethink this relationship.

9. Know the difference between a self-publishing house, an indie house and a vanity press. More importantly know what kind of publishing house you are working with. Check out this article that explains what a vanity press is and why you sign up with on, you just may regret it. 

Jane: "Oh Lizzie! The deepest love! And  . . . I can totally see up your nose!"
Jane: “Oh Lizzie! The deepest love! And . . . I can totally see up your nose!”

10. Don’t be desperate. Beginning writers think that having the word “published author” is like a halo of legitimacy. In some ways it is, but waiting to get published with a reputable, trustworthy publisher is far better than rushing into a relationship that you’ll want to get out of in a few months. Take your time. Do your homework. Someday I’ll use your book to teach your ten children how to play their instruments very ill.

Because you want so badly to be published, you’re not much different from the sad situation that all young women of the Regency Era were in.

You want to be published! That’s been the goal all along! Your mother has four other writers in the house who need to marry well because if they don’t the estate will be entailed away to Harper Collins! (Oops, sorry. I got carried away!) But trust me, you don’t to sign up with the first soldier that comes along. 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.02.15 PM

You do have choices. While being published is a great accomplishment, it’s not the only opportunity for writers. So before you sign, take the time to really get to know your publisher and do your research.

And your ending will be a happy one.

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10 Destructive, Cowardly Lies I Had To Discard So I Could Become A Writer

This is one of my favorite blog posts. I’m bringing it back from 2014 because I think we could all use a fresh reminder! 

We don’t get in this business to be comfortable.

We get in this business because the drive to create is bigger than the drive to be accepted.

It takes guts and courage to throw your words to the world. And if lies are keeping you back, then you need to put them in the toilet with the rest of the ca-ca in your life.

What do I do when I lack courage to write?
There isn’t room enough for the words “flush”, “pound”, or “destroy”. Pity.

 I’ve overcome a lot of lies to get where I am today. That alone makes me a success.

Not sales, not followers on Twitter, not likes on my Facebook page.

For eight years I’ve taken my writing seriously. For seven years, I’ve battled poor self image and wobbly self confidence far more often than I’ve battled convoluted plots and characterization. If I hadn’t battled them, wrestled them to the ground, wadded them up in a ball and then flushed them away,  then they would have festered and killed any creative desire. If they had won, then I would have believed  that my writing wasn’t worth the effort.

I’ve fought a lot of lies.

They are hateful, destructive and cowardly because they do nothing to make me feel better about myself, they feed my tendency to isolate myself and they make me more and more fearful. I hate these lies. I don’t ever want to believe them again. 

These are the top ten:

10. I can only be successful I find some other writer out there like me and copy them.

TRUTH: I am a unique individual. My interests, experiences, perspectives and skills are totally unique, so copying someone would only make me a hack, not a real writer.

9. I don’t have time to pursue my dreams, I’ve got five children.

TRUTH: I do have time. I can find ten minutes here and there to work on my novel. I can delegate household responsibilities, make meals in advance, keep my computer on in my kitchen, carry a notebook to the playground and work at it.

How can I write when I can't find time?
This mom only has one kid. Lightweight.

8. It must be some cosmic joke to have a desire to write, yet have no opportunity.

TRUTH: I am not a big fan of the phrase “God helps those who help themselves”, yet I do believe that I will have to go out and work to find the opportunities. Since starting seven years ago, I’ve started a blog, written and sold e-books, won runner up in a short story contest, written three novels, self-published two, became a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published dozens articles. Oh, and I got a non-fiction writing contract, which required me to get an agent.  I’m tweeting and I have a Facebook page. I’m doing something every single day to pursue my dreams. If I’m going to succeed, then I need to find the opportunity myself.

7. Past failures certainly trump future successes.

TRUTH: I still remember sitting in college writing courses holding back the tears for a paper with a D on it. I had a lot of D’s in my writing classes. I look back now and believe that as a 20 year old, I had no life experience, no self-confidence and clearly not much skill. But I’m older now. I’ve got something to say. I still might make mistakes, but I’m not going to look back at what happened in college. I’m just to keep looking forward.

6. I can’t be a real writer, I don’t wear black, chain smoke or have a whiskey habit.

TRUTH: When I was younger I had a lot of preconceived notions about what a real writer looks like and does with his free time. My ideal always was a poor housekeeper, wore mismatched, torn clothing and had a couple of cats. My mental image also included a lot of hard alcohol and cigarettes. I am not like that and yet, I want to be a real writer. I need to discard any silliness and just write. Real writers write. That’s all I need to worry about.

How can I get my family to leave me alone?
I mean, pretty please, with sugar on it?

5. I can only write when I feel creative.

TRUTH: Because I have so little time to devote to my writing, I’ve had to discipline my emotions. I don’t always feel creative, but I write anyway. I don’t always feel like making dinner or getting out of bed either, but it must be done for my household to run well. This same self-discipline pays off when I apply it to writing. I’ve never forced myself to write for ten minutes and then regretted doing it.

4. Everything that needs to be said has already been said, or, there’s no room for me.

TRUTH: This is a tough thought to shake, especially when agents and publishers are unkind or uninterested. Nevertheless, I must believe that my stories and perspectives are important and then sculpt them beautifully and clearly. I must work on my craft so that my creations are so well said, that others will happily make room for me.

3. Taking another idea, twisting it around to make it unique and then calling it my own is cheating.

TRUTH: There really are no new ideas, just unique interpretations of old ideas. How freeing it is to realize that many Shakespeare’s plays were based on factual events. What makes them valuable is his artistic interpretation. I can do that too. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have a fraction of the success that he did.

How can I relieve my stress?
It does. It so does.

2. Real writers write quickly and elegantly without effort.

TRUTH: BAH! This is nonsense and it took me a long time to figure this out. Real writers understand that the writing process often means riding an ocean of ebbs and flows, of storms and doldrums, of smooth sailing and choppy waters. If I think that because I get stuck once in a while, then I can’t be a real writer, then I’m doomed.

1. This can’t be my “calling. It’s way too much fun.

TRUTH:  Those of us from austere backgrounds have a hard time with this, but yet, it is true. We were created for specific purposes and by doing what we were made to do, we will find much joy. I didn’t fully embrace writing until I understood that the reason I do this is because it makes me happy. And to have readers who enjoy it, makes it a double blessing.

These are my 10 Destructive, Cowardly Lies.

Because I’ve finally seen them for what they are, dealt with them properly and embraced the truth, I’m free to write. I’m free to pursue my dreams.

What about you? Do you have any lies? How are you fighting them? What is your definition of success?

What To Do With Too Much Writing Advice (And How Not To Let it Drive You To Drink)

 

I think I understand why old school writers were heavy drinkers.

I think I understand why some of them fell into dark thoughts, depression or loneliness. I think I understand why writers generally are isolated introverts, hiding from the real world, wrapping themselves up in their imaginary lands, fighting dragons, discovering treasure and falling in love:

They’re hiding from ubiquitous and contradictory writing advice. 

What To Do With Too Much Writing Advice and How Not To Let it Drive You To Drink

Single point of view or not? Past tense or not?  Predictable, relatable characters or something unique? Write what you know or write what you don’t know? Publish it immediately to get it out there or rewrite it a million times? And that’s just the craft piece of the puzzle, there’s also the marketing end: Facebook page or not? Use Twitter to promote your book or not? Collect email addresses or not? The opinions never seem to end. If you don’t know what you are doing, (and honestly, few of us do) you’ll probably come away from these well-meaning articles more confused.

Makes me long for simpler times when all you needed was a manual typerwriter. Or a quill.

Writers, as a generalized group already have a tendency for nicotine and alcohol addiction, but I imagine if the writers of a half, whole or two centuries ago had the social media influence that we have today, we may have had fewer masterpieces and more Sylvia Plaths.

That’s one characteristic I share with the dark souls of other eras.  I know that if I become obsessed with what is expected in my favorite genre, what my agent want, what the industry is doing, what my peer groups say, what my critique partners say, what my crazy Aunt Rhonda says, then I turn into a blubbering fool, who can’t write a shopping list.

I discovered this when I sent my manuscript to twenty-five beta testers. Some thought it was too long, some thought it was too short. Some thought it had too many characters, some not enough. Some didn’t understand why I set it in Oklahoma. Some totally got it. One reader, who has absolutely no experience in the publishing industry, decided she wanted to be my editor/agent and insisted that all future changes go through her. My response to her was in an acronym. First it was BS. Then it was ROTFL.

Sometimes, however, when I get conflicting advice, I don’t ROTFL, I panic. I cry. I freak out, thinking that I really don’t know what I’m doing. I slip into that dark place of anxiety and fear that convinces me that the path to happiness goes through pleasing others and not myself. This would be the time, if I were a heavy drinker, I’d reach for the whiskey and toast Hemingway. But this isn’t how writers get better. This only makes things worse.

Perhaps the problem is too many voices? Too much clutter? Too much influence? Maybe it is. So, I’m restricting my circle of influence.  I also receive instruction from reputable sources as I need it. I want to get better by being more intentional in who I learn from and what I learn. This, I hope, will keep that overwhelmed feeling at bay. The next group of beta testers will be people I trust and who will encourage me.

I think when my mind is clear, I’ll be calmer and I’ll be stronger.

I will be a better writer.

What about you? Are you overwhelmed with advice? What do you to do declutter?

Learning From The Independent Publishing Experience: A Guest Post By Jude Knight

What have you learned from this experience?

The headline is a quote from the man I adore: “What have you learned from this experience?” (Not, incidentally, what you want to hear when you’ve just bumped your toe or broken your heart. But I love you, darling.)

Six months ago last month, I published my first historical romance, a novella. I’ve since published a novel, am about to publish another one, and will have another novel and a novella out by my 1st anniversary as an independent publisher.

I still have a great deal to learn, but here are my top five lessons from this first venture into the wild and wonderful world of Indie.

Independent Publishing From the Writers of 10 MInute Novelists

Lesson 1: We do better together than apart

Since joining various Facebook groups for historical romantic fiction, I’ve ‘met’ many wonderful authors. My to-read list has expanded at an alarming rate, but I’ve also been privileged to share their insights, tidbits from their research, and their encouragement as I’ve dipped my toes into the indie publishing water.  I’ve also joined a collaborative of regency romance writers, the Bluestocking Belles.

Without the retweeting and sharing of my friends, far fewer people would have heard of my books. And I am keen to return the service whenever I can. Readers are not a scarce resource to be hoarded; an enthusiastic reader will devour the books of many authors. When we share, when we support one another, we grow a larger market to benefit us all.

Lesson 2: 20 December is a terrible date to launch a new book

The 1st; maybe the 10th; maybe the 30th. But I launched my first book on the 20th.

The 20th was a really, really, bad idea, and very nearly did me in. So many competing demands. We have a habit of giving the grandchildren a craft day, and this year we did two (one full Saturday for the older children, and one for the younger). I work full-time in commercial publishing, and 30 years of experience should have taught me that clients pile on the deadlines in the three weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Zealand summer holidays. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on Christmas shopping and baking.

I did all my own editing, cover design, proofreading, formatting, marketing, and so on. The week leading up to 20 December was insane, and the next week, as I publicised the book, even crazier. And that week included Christmas Day.

Let’s not do that again, okay?

Lesson 3: Don’t leave the cover till the last week

I’ve done a lot of research on covers, and looked at hundreds trying to work out what I like and what I don’t. I downloaded Pixelmator for the Mac, and my PRH transferred across a heap of fonts from the ancient version of InDesign on our old publishing company’s computer. We experimented with fonts till we found some we liked. But – with final tweaks on the image — the cover I actually used wasn’t completely ready until 12 December, just a couple of days before I uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon.

More pressure than I needed. In future, my covers will be done before the book goes on preorder

Lesson 4: Distribution takes time – preorder is the way to go

I uploaded the first book on 16 December my time. The book began to be downloaded from Smashwords straight away. Somehow, I’d managed not to take that into my calculations, but hey — a download is a download, right? It took several days to filter through to the resellers from Smashwords. Apple finally started showing the book on 27 December, and didn’t really pick up speed for several days.

Amazon started selling immediately, too, but didn’t really begin to move until they made it free (see Ask for what you want, next).

Putting Farewell to Kindness up for preorder five weeks before release definitely lightened my stress load. And Baron for Becky went up nearly three months in advance.

Lesson 5: Ask for what you want; it’s less stressful than waiting

Ask for reviews. Ask for ratings. People can say ‘no’. But you lose nothing by asking. One thing I asked for was a free listing on Amazon. I was giving the novella away to give people a taste of my writing style, but Amazon insisted on a price of 99c.

I’d been told that Amazon would price match, and that I should ask people to request price matching. So I did. And nothing happened. I read discussions on forums where authors talked about how hard it was to get price matching. But then I thought ‘why not ask’?

So I emailed Amazon, told them that the novella was free at Apple and Barnes & Noble, that my strategy was to give it away free to publicise the next few books, and that — if they price matched — we’d both benefit in the long term. Within 24 hours, it was free on Amazon to US purchasers, and that slowly spread to their other stores.

So ask. People just might say ‘yes’.


Jude KnightJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

 Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is also sitting on a couple of bestseller lists. It is number one in a series: The Golden Redepennings.

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http://writeclearlyblog.com

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twitter.com/WriteLimited | facebook.com/WriteLimited

 

Nine Things I’ve Learned About Book Marketing That I Didn’t Know Last Year

Marketing is the self-discovered path of relational choices in which we meet the right people who will happily exchange something they value for something we've created.

I am not a marketing expert. 

I am, however, an informed consumer and reluctant buyer of stuff. I am not easily impressed. I don’t follow trends, I am only impressed with designer labels when I see them at my local thrift store. I also come from a family of manipulators so if anyone has a BS detector, I do. You would think that I would have negative feelings about marketing.

You’d be wrong.

I LOVE IT!

I love it because it’s not what I thought it was. I thought that if I am going to sell, then I have to be annoying to buyers. If I’m going to sell, then I have to cajole, manipulate, and lie. If I am going to sell, then I  have to yell from the rooftops the name of my book to get attention. I have to tweet constantly, I have to send auto DMs (you guys know how I feel about auto DMs) and I have to spend a lot of money, buy ad space, get onto every single social media platform, harass local bookstores, blah blah blah.
Nine Things I've Learned About Book Marketing That I Didn't Know Last Year

Nine Things I’ve Learned About Book Marketing That I Didn’t Know Last Year

No one successfully markets the same way. The path is self-discovered. You can’t market the way I do and expect the same results. Every marketing plan should be individualized for the author and the book.
Good marketing is about relationships. I’m reading To Sell is Human  by Daniel Pink and he goes into specific detail about the importance of this.
Good marketing still follows the foundational principles of finding buyers. You have to find the right people who will love your product. I recommend Amanda Luedeke’s book The Extroverted Writer for suggestions on how to do this.
Marketing is about exchange, and this doesn’t always mean money. Think about big bloggers, like Flylady or Pioneer Woman. You can receive from them a LOT of information without ever giving them a dime, right? What are you giving them? A brand. A household name. A reputation. And when they write the next book, they cash in on this exchange. Who will line up to buy the next cookbook from The Pioneer Woman? EVERYONE IN THE WORLD!
Magical Marketing: Marketing Is Life
Magical Marketing: Marketing Is Life
 A marketing plan is a living organism that can grow, stretch, reproduce and shrink. I found this truth to be freeing. Instead of being obsessed with my to-do list, I should have a plan, but then enjoy the ride it takes me on. Sometimes the best connections are the most random, most unpredictable and most scary!
 
A marketing plan must measure results.  I’m not great with analyzing data, but it’s a must. Track what works. Make changes if it doesn’t. A successful plan is one that has a 30% return. Only THIRTY PERCENT! That means that 70% of the time, your plan won’t work. Do it anyway.
A marketing plan makes the most of the author’s strengths. Some of us are great at Twitter. Some of us don’t have a good voice for radio. Some of us are afraid that our big hair will overpower any television set. That’s fine. Figure out what you can do and do it!
A marketing plan Is deliberate and thoughtful, not impulsive. Which means that TIME needs to be invested in creating it and then implementing it. My personal plan starts locally with libraries, bookstores and coffee shops. Then I’m expanding to Google searches with a few key words in my target market. I can’t assume that one blog post or one tweet is all I need to be successful.
A good marketing plan is useless unless the book is EXCELLENT.  If you are offering a slipshod product with no editing and bad artwork you are insulting writers everywhere. You are attacking the dignity of this art. You’re telling the world that you disrespect your readers and yourself. Do us all a favor and get it right first.
What can I control?
The gorgeous table I set up at a local event. I succeeded in everything I could control, yet I only sold one book.

Five More Things I’ve Learned About Book Marketing That I Didn’t Know Last Year

Marketing is not some set of hoops that we have to jump through.

Marketing is not a cause and effect scientific formula.

Marketing is not a list of dos and don’ts (except for the auto-DMs one!)

Marketing is not a for sale sign, or balloons tied to used cars, knocking on doors or cold calls.

Marketing is about figuring out WHO YOU ARE and HOW YOUR BOOK RELATES TO YOUR READERS. Good marketing takes thought, organization and humility. 

What do you think? What have you learned recently about marketing? How has this changed how you market?

Breaking Up With Writers’ Block

 

It’s time for me to break up with Writer’s Block.

If Writer’s Block was a person, he would be five feet eight. He is in his 40s but he looks much older. He has a greasy blond comb over on his freckled bald head. His face is sallow. His jowls are flabby and droopy. He admittedly never looks in a mirror. He has stray gray hairs that come out of his chin. I don’t know why there isn’t more evidence of a beard. Maybe that’s the most dramatic his beard gets. He has a dull stud in one ear, which has hairs and wax coming out of them. He’s wearing a faded light blue t-shirt. It’s torn around the neck and there are little rips in the crew neck. It’s an inconsistent color. Faded, bleach stained.  Heavy perspiration stains in the arm pits and back. Writer’s Block has boobs that sit on his expansive belly. There are tears and stains on the belly of the shirt that he doesn’t even see.

I brought him to a local diner so he wouldn’t cause a scene.

Breaking Up With Writer's Block
Breaking Up With Writer’s Block

The waitress approached our table with his order. Apparently, he’s a regular here and she can smell him coming.

His meal is a huge triple cheeseburger. The bun glistened with grease. It looks good on the plate, but the moment he picks it up with his fat fingers, it loses all of its attraction for me. He squeezed it in such a way that the mayo and the ketchup squeezed out the bottom. The patty slid out the bottom, splatting ketchup and mustard on the table. 

Writer’s Block took a huge bite. He squinted his eyes shut. He chomped with his mouth open. He chewed and snorted and wheezed and smacked. Writer’s Block is so disgusting. I have to look away. 

 The waitress asked me what I wanted.

I wanted to order something with the intention of shaming Writer’s Block. I wanted to say, in my most smug, self righteous voice. “I’ll  just have a Cobb salad.”  Writer’s Block won’t look me in the eye.

But I stare hard. I’m turning my date with Writer’s Block into a passive aggressive food fight.

Breaking Up With Writer's Block
Wanna bite?
Before I even get the order out of my mouth and WB mumbled with his mouth stuffed, “What’s Cobb Salad?” At least that’s what I think he said. He may have said, “I want one too!” or “I’m having a heart attack.” His mouth was full and I didn’t feel like asking him to repeat it, twenty minutes later, when he finally swallowed.

The waitress tapped the pen on the pad and said, “So, he’s paying?”

“YES!” I made sure that the waitress heard that clearly. 

I don’t wait for him to respond to me. “Look,” I say, “I think you are a fake. ”

He stops chewing enough to look at me directly.

 I continue. “I don’t believe in you.” He’s not nearly as intimidating as I thought he was.  “You’re a fraud. There really isn’t anything to you that a free write won’t expose. You are like many of the past pests in my life: empty and threatening.”
“I thought we had something special?” He mumbled.
“No. I’ve never been happy with you.”
He offered me another bite of his burger. I refused.
Breaking Up With Writer's Block
“I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that putting my butt in the chair and getting my fingers on the keyboard is half the battle. I’ve learned that just writing a few starter sentences about anything  can get the creative juices flowing. I’ve found a community of writers who are could about prompting me.”
“We can do all that too.” He wiped his face and fingers on his shirt.
“No. We can’t. All you tell me is that I’m stuck. You tell me I need to hold out for the perfect million-dollar idea. That if I write I’ll make too many mistakes. You tell me that it’s better to watch a lot of bad television than it is to write. You tell me that I’m not good enough to achieve my dreams. You tell me that there will be time tomorrow. And you know, I now have a goal in 2015 to write 1000 words a day. Everybody is watching me, Blocky. You don’t want me to fail, do you?”
“But . . . ” he looked like he was hurting himself. “We’ve had some good times!”
“No. We haven’t. When I’m with you, I just feel sorry for myself. I doubt my own talent. I feel flabby and lazy. I grow more fearful that I’ll never succeed. I really don’t want those feelings anymore.”
He sniffed a big snotty sniff. He looked like he was thinking about my words. “Dancing With the Stars is on tonight.”
“Oh, who cares?” I don’t have to be nice to him anymore. “When was the last time you showered?”

He chewed and looked up to one side, as if he was thinking. That’s another thing I hate about Writer’s Block. He acts like he is thinking. He’s never had an original thought. He never says much of anything. 

Breaking Up With Writer's Block

“Dunno.”

I lost it. “Writer’s Block, you disgust me.” I raised my voice. “But you are ugly. I really don’t like being seen with you in public. You need a shower. Since you aren’t a person, I don’t have to worry about offending you. I want to tell you how much I loathe your very presence.”

He shrugged and took another bite of that greasy burger.

“I’m leaving you forever.”  I stood up to leave. I had lost my taste for the Cobb Salad. “Go find another writer to torment.”

 

#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.

 

The Single Best Writing Advice (Too Bad I Don’t Always Follow It)

We’ve heard it before, write what you know. Or, write every day. Or, READ! READ! READ!

And while that is all very good advice, and you should follow it fervently, it’s still not the best.One of the best pieces of advice I was given in college was this:

The Single Piece of Best Writing Advice

Never compare yourself to others. 

If you do, you’ll compare their strengths to your weaknesses, and you’ll always be the loser.

When I compare myself to other writers, it doesn’t do me a bit of good. I either pick up some frothy bonnet romance and throw it across the room, puffing myself up with thoughts of superiority. My books will have more meaning! I will be more literarily significant! I won’t have any ripped bodices! Or, I will read something breathtakingly good, like The Elegance of the Hedgehog  or Someone Else’s Love Story and moan in despair that I can never achieve what that author has done, so I might as well give up.

I will not compare my novels to this magnificent book. Because first of all, I'm not French.

It also doesn’t help that I’m a bit melodramatic in just about everything I do.

The truth is that if I’ve signed up to be a writer, then I’m already pre-disposed to be melancholy and moody. I’m already insecure. I’m already thinking that living a secluded life like Salinger or a despairing life like Sylvia Plath isn’t all that unreasonable. So this whole business of wallowing in what I’m not is an easy and comfortable occupation at times.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
You can’t love yourself if you’re busy comparing yourself to others.

The truth is, I’m not going to be successful that way. 

I should not look at the accomplishments, styles, sales or rankings of any other writers around me. I shouldn’t compare blogs, compare paths to publication, compare works in progress, compare how many followers I have on Twitter, instead, I should focus only on meeting my goals for the day. One day at a time.

Today’s writers’ market is brutal to the insecure.

Because of the highly competitive market out there, the demand for originality, the constant pressure to be liked, followed, or tweeted is everywhere and it can easily wear away at our self esteem. It wouldn’t take much to find a way that our statistics aren’t good enough. But if we keep looking at the writers around us, we’ll just make ourselves miserable. I’m pretty sure that’s a creativity killer, right there.

You know, it's like comparing apples to or. . .HOLEY MOLEY! That's the biggest orange I've ever seen!

And EVERYONE has advice to follow. 

We need to be secure enough in our own skills, talent and abilities to know what NOT to do, what won’t work for us, or what can wait for another time. We don’t have to read every writing book on the market. We don’t have to create a promotional video. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be teachable. 

It is the poor writer who chooses not to learn. But when I move from teachability to despondency because of my perceived limitations (which is a short trip in my brain) then I’m in trouble.

So, write what you know, write every day and read constantly. But most importantly, just keep your head down and pay attention to you and your work alone.

You may not be the richest or best selling author, you may not be the most famous or win the most awards . . .

But you will be the happiest. And it will show in your work.