Adrian King Writing revolution guest post headshot

Self Publishing: The Writing Revolution

Becoming an author is easier than it has ever been - we have something to say and now, with the advent of self publishing in all its forms, we are able to reach an audience through our own efforts, rather than relying on being noticed by an agent or publishing house. This week's guest poster, Adrian King, has some tips on how to take full advantage of the writing revolution.

The Writing Revolution

By Adrian King

Adrian King Writing revolution guest post headshotI consider myself privileged to be a writer living in one of the most extensive revolutions to ever hit the publishing industry. Authors have more access to their readers than any other time in history. We no longer rely on the decisions of a few publishing houses to determine the destiny of our work. Rather, we can look to our audience, and create our own success. The wide distribution of E-readers and more access to print-on-demand companies in the last ten years have transformed how our business works.

“Tweet something personal. Post a picture of your pets.”

So, how can a novice writer begin their solo journey to published author? This short guideline can help you begin a strong foundation.

  • Start by testing your work. Ask family and trusted friends to read your piece, and get it edited. If you can't afford a professional editing service, then seek out writer's critique groups. You have asked these people for their opinions, so be prepared when they offer them. Some writers become so attached to their work that they cannot accept constructive criticism. All they have done is ignored the fact that their work could be better. However, do not let anyone dilute your focus either. Keep an open mind about suggested changes and consider every option, but ultimately it is your name on the cover.
  • Build a strong author's platform.
    • Create an author's page on Facebook, and link it to your Twitter account. Once you link them, your Facebook posts will tweet, and your tweets will post as status updates on Facebook. Invite all of your friends to like your page. Be sure not to make your pages one long running commercial. Tweet something personal. Post a picture of your pets. You will be ignored if you bombard your friends and followers with commercials about your book. It is also important to grow your audience. Follow industry professionals, invite everyone you know to be your friend, and even include your Facebook and Twitter information on your printed materiel. It is common now for people to judge the reputation of artists, authors, and companies on their number of likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter. This is why many large companies have entire departments dedicated to their social media coordination.
    • Also, an author's website is a must. Have your complete bio available. Have descriptions of all of your available titles, along with a link to where they can be purchased.
    • Want to make two royalties for each sale? Amazon makes it possible.
      • First, make sure your book is available for sale on Amazon.com.
        Then become an Amazon Associates Member. This allows you to sell Amazon products on your author's page for a commission.
      • Finally, create links to your book at Amazon Associates and use them as the links to purchase your book. Now, when people click the link to buy your book, you will get paid a commission for the advertisement and the royalty for your book sale.
    • Start a blog. Your blog doesn't need to be about writing. Blog about something you love. Your family, travel, pets, anything. People who do not typically read Sci-Fi might buy the Sci-Fi title of their favorite travel blogger. You may not look forward to starting another regular commitment, but there are plenty of good reasons to get it done. You will get good practice writing, grow your audience, and provide content for your social media posts.
  • Choose your weapon. Choosing your printer and distributor is like choosing a relationship. Carefully define your budget, and then do your research. Createspace.com, Lulu.com, and iUniverse.com all have their pros and cons. You will need to choose a company that fits your needs and budget.
  • Get your name out there. When people search your name, you want them to find your book. There are many ways to get this done, but here are a couple of simple and cheap methods that I like.
    • I listed my book on E-bay. Most search engines will display E-bay results on the first page.
    • Next I created an author's bio on Amazon.
    • Become a guest blogger. Establish your blog and write enough content to show your expertise on your topic. Then, offer to write posts for other blogs similar to your own. This will not only spread your byline, but also help drive some traffic back to your own blog.
    • Finally, a blog tour is a great way to get your book mentioned on several websites in a short period of time.
“You are no longer just a writer. You are an Author”

All these things can help you build a strong base. Remember, how successful you become is completely up to you. You are no longer just a writer. You are an Author... Not to mention publicist, head of marketing, editor-in-chief, and designer. It is hard work to be your own publisher, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Useful tips there from Adrian King - there were a few I hadn't thought of! How do you let people know about your books? Use the comments below to share your thoughts - and the handy buttons to share this post with your friends, too.

Kayelle Allen author marketing plan blog photo

Making an Author Marketing Plan

When you are an author - particularly a self published author - unless you are content to let your book languish at the bottom of the Amazon heap, there is really no alternative but to market your book.

Yet most of us have no idea where to start, once we've shared the book with our friends on facebook and twitter. We are most fortunate to have as today's guest poster, Kayelle Allen, founder of Marketing for Romance Writers and award winning Science Fiction and Romance, to give us some tips.

Enjoy!
[sendtokindle]

Making a Simple Author Marketing Plan

by Kayelle Allen

Kayelle Allen author marketing plan blog photoEducate yourself in how to be a successful writer and you will accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Today, let's look at a simple, four-part marketing plan. A plan like this is not the be-all, end-all of plans. It's the start of a bigger picture for your career, but it's as vital as the floor of a building.

In fact, marketing plans are like modular houses. You have a solid foundation and beams for support, but you can pull out one room and pop in another. Plans can change and grow, the way a family can outgrow a house.

Like anything you learn, you can't absorb the entire thing in one big gulp. Even if you could, I wouldn't be able to transfer it all to you in one big lump. I don't know of any teaching method that could - with the exception of telepathy. You must learn by steps, and those are bigger for some, smaller for others.

When you're doing a worthwhile job, don't allow the work to make you weary enough to quit. If you keep going, you will prosper and succeed. You haven't failed until you've quit. With that piece of advice out of the way, let's get started. There are four basic steps to making your first marketing plan.

Objectives

What do objectives have to do with marketing? Everything. If you don't know why you're marketing your books, why do it?

“it is more likely you'll complete a goal you believe in”

An objective is a goal intended to be attained (and which is believed to be attainable). To say that in a more blunt way -- it's something you want to do, and that you believe you can do. It does you no good to set a goal you don't think you can accomplish. Do you want "USA Today Best Selling Author" beside your name? That's a great goal. Many authors have attained it -- it's doable. If you don't believe you can do it, you are not likely to achieve it. A goal must be believable by you. Could you be surprised by attaining a goal you hadn't thought you could accomplish? Certainly. But it is more likely you'll complete a goal you believe in. Positive self-talk, the act of affirming your own goals, will help you. Ban thoughts such as "I'm such a loser" or "I know this is a dumb question" or "This will never work." Replace them with belief that you can and will do the things you say you will do.

Record the goals you set for yourself, and read them daily. This is part of your affirmation process and will help you focus your energy in the right areas.

Audience

Who is your audience? Do you write Young Adult (YA) books? Romance? Science Fiction? True Crime? Or maybe you're putting together a non-fiction book. It doesn't matter what you're writing -- you still have to know who is going to buy and read it. If you write for the YA crowd, your style will be different from that of the self-help psychology book author. You will market differently as well. Let's say you write YA and you decide to join Twitter. What hashtags will you use? Do you even know what a hashtag is? Before you decide to use a particular social media, you need to know whether your readers are going to be there.

List your target audience. Learn as much about them as possible. For example, if they are young people, what is their age range? What grades does that equate to in school? Which gender is more likely to read your work? Which social media is favored by this audience? Did you know that the majority (about 70%) of Pinterest users are women? If you write for a female audience, that means your target audience is there. How do you go about reaching them? It pays to know who your audience is so that you can find out where they are. If you can find readers, you can sell books.

Identity (Brand)

Who are you as an author? Do you have a recurring theme in your books? Do all your heroes tend to be cowboys, or pirates? Are your heroines usually take-charge women who don't take no for an answer? Do you write about alpha males, or do your heroes lean more toward the sensitive type? If you write non-fiction, what topics do your books cover?

“unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion”

This is likely your brand. I write about "unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion." Therefore, I've branded all my material with that phrase. My blog is called Unstoppable Heroes.

Record your identity and brand, and tweak it until you come up with something you can use as a tag for your writing. Focus your attention on marketing that allows you to make the most of that phrase. If you write about passionate heroes, don't spend time marketing yourself on a site that doesn't cater to readers who want that type of book. Focus your attention on a site that does.

Plan of Action

What steps will you take to achieve your objectives? Will you hold book signings, chats, blog frequently, create a fan page on Facebook, etc.? Make these plans short, to the point, and high level without detail. This is more of an outline for what you'll do than a detailed step-by-step instruction guide.

Following Up

In a five-year plan, each year will have different goals and objectives. Each builds upon the other. What you can accomplish by year three will be more than the result of years one plus two. This is why you will want to tweak your plan each year. Take advantage of strengths you develop, and you will grow more.

“Keep your audience in mind, and work to reach them”

As you begin to work on your plan, remember to read over your objectives. This will help you focus your time, attention, and money in the places most important to you. Keep your audience in mind, and work to reach them. Be true to yourself as a writer by clearly stating your identity and brand. All your marketing should underscore this important aspect. Stay with your plan. Have a plan and work the plan -- that is the byword for success.

Kayelle's latest book is Tales of the Chosen trilogy: Wulf, Alitus, Jawk, available on Amazon now.

Share your own author marketing successes in the comments below!

Ed Kociela Your Way guest post headshot

It’s Your Story: Tell It Your Way

How many times have you been told that there are rules to writing and that your story should adhere to those rules? In today's guest post, Ed Kociela suggests that rules are all very well (I'm an apostrophe obsessive, myself!), but only if they don't interfere with your story telling.
[sendtokindle]

Tell Your Story Your Own Way

by Ed Kociela

Ed Kociela Your Story guest post headshot
There’s no lack of hints and advice available to the fledgling author.

The Internet is filled with tips on how to write the Great American Novel.

The problem? For every tip, there is a contradictory bit of advice about how to string words together in a coherent manner.

It reminds me of a creative writing class I once took in college. The professor was a stereotypical, Irish writer, down to the red-bulbed nose acquired from many years of imbibing copious amounts of Jameson Irish Whiskey to the tweed jacket with patches on the elbows and ever-present pipe clenched between his teeth.

Every sentence, he told us, must have a certain number of words. Every paragraph must have so many sentences. Almost every noun requires three adjectives.

Yeah, that kind of thing.

I was sailing through the class, adhering to his rules until one day when I raised my hand.

“Isn’t the point of writing supposed to be one person communicating their idea to another?” I asked.

“Well, of course,” he said.

“When we speak to each other, don’t we construct our thoughts in different ways, sometimes using many words, other times using very few?” I asked.

“Well…uh…yes,” he said.

“Then shouldn’t we, as writers, find the most appropriate way to communicate rather than over-burden our reader with all this flowery bullshit?” I said.

“Aye…do the next assignment your way. Let’s see whatcha got.”

And, the fight was on. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dylan Thomas, Robert Burns, and many others were brought into the fray until, finally, the exasperated professor unclenched the pipe from between his teeth, pointed the stem at me, and said: “Aye…do the next assignment your way. Let’s see whatcha got.”

I did, and when he returned the assignment, my grade was an “A,” with a lengthy scrawled note about his desire to teach us the rules so we could then know how and when to break those rules.

So, when I see these online tips about how to go about writing, I think of Professor Casey and the brash kid who, unbeknown to him, had been earning money through writing for four years before taking his class, working in a drab and smoky newsroom of a small, southern California daily newspaper.

I would like to think that by the time somebody decides they want to write a book they would have studied grammar, know how to punctuate, and have assembled a vocabulary that allows them ample words to precisely describe the scene and characters growing in their mind.

As writers, we are under-valued. We have all listened as that relative, friend, acquaintance tells us, “You know, I been a lot of places, did good in English, and people like my stories…I oughta write a book. At least that’s what people tell me.”

After the initial urge to strangle them, we are calmed when we remember that if you placed a monkey at a keyboard, sooner or later it would peck out a complete sentence. I know that for a fact because as a newspaper editor for more years than I care to count, I worked with my share of monkeys.

Just because you can turn on a laptop doesn’t mean you have the ability and discipline to put together about 100,000 coherent words. If you think so, I’ll be happy to buy you a bunch of bananas to sustain you while you pound away on the keys.

Because I have a couple books under my belt at this point – “plygs,” a journalistic novel about a fundamentalist Mormon cult that lives along the Utah-Arizona state line, and “It Rocked! (Recollections of a reclusive rock critic),” which is a memoir from my days as the rock critic for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner – I have had several writers contact me with questions about writing, from technique to fighting writer’s block.

“technique is a personal thing”

I always explain that technique is a personal thing and that writer’s block is something I know very little about because I have rarely experienced it.

I have read sample chapters, outlines, bits and pieces of thoughts and half-thoughts submitted to me by writers. I always encourage them to keep at it, to see where it leads, to hang on to some of the passion that inspired them to want to tell the story in the first place. As writers, we all share a certain amount of insecurity and, at times, need a little pat on the butt to keep going.

Other than that, I offer little else because I would hate to change the writer’s voice, inhibit their thought process, or interrupt the rhythm of their words. The best you can do is simply encourage them to keep moving forward. They will strengthen their words in the second or third rewrite.

A lot of writers make the mistake of emulating their heroes. The inherent danger, of course, is that there was only one Steinbeck, one Hemingway, one Mark Twain, one Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve seen writers who try to adopt the style of another. No good ever comes of it.

So, if there is one solid piece of advice I can offer, it would be, to borrow a line from Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.”

“Know yourself, know your purpose, know your limitations”

Know yourself, know your purpose, know your limitations as well as your abilities, and tell your story as you see it, and not in the manner of somebody else or to please somebody else because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Write to please yourself. When you write to please others, you end up pleasing no one.”

It’s your story.

Tell it your way.

I am occasionally guilty of emulating my favourite writers - do you have to watch yourself and your writing the same way? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and with your friends, using the handy buttons!

Giulia Simolo Writers Multiple Lives post graphic

The Writer’s Multiple Lives

As authors, we often feel like we're multiple people living multiple lives. This week's guest poster, Giulia Simolo, explores this concept. How do you experience the Writer's multiple lives?
[sendtokindle]

The Writer’s Multiple Lives

By Giulia Simolo

Giulia Simolo Writers Multiple Lives post graphicIt was midnight. I could not sleep and my mind was wandering like a ship in the night, unsure of its destination but unwilling to throw its anchor overboard. That was when the voice came to me. It felt like that of an old friend, and yet it belonged to someone completely new and utterly fascinating.

Was I going crazy?

“how do you explain the connection you experience with these characters”

To the world, you might feel that this would be labelled insane. Hearing voices? Seeing images of someone in your mind? You, of course, know that this is a character for your new story that demands being written on the page immediately. But to the world, the idea that someone out there is speaking to you could make people question your stability! Added to this, how do you explain the connection you experience with these characters, and how you feel loss when the story ends and they stop pestering you at midnight? How would you explain to a non-writer that you feel that the characters choose you instead of you picking them from your imagination?

And yet, these are the kinds of things that happen to a writer. Once you meet your character and he or she settles in for tea, you start building on that initial impression to ensure they are not a whimsical creature made of slivers of lace but actual three-dimensional beings. When tackling characterization, there are often tips and various forms of advice handed out to writers, such as that it’s important to have a full sketch of who your character is (and this should be very detailed) before you embark on the writing journey. Tips such as the above are helpful, however there is one aspect that no one can control and which must not always be reined in during this process: the writer’s mind.

“The writer takes on a role similar to that of an actor”

Award winning Irish writer Emma Donoghue once said, ‘[Writing stories] lets me, at least for a while, live more than one life…’ Through our writing we can experience various things, many of which are in contrast to our daily lives. For instance, we might put ourselves in the shoes of a protagonist who travels the world or is obsessively dieting, or a drug addict… The writer takes on a role similar to that of an actor: he or she has to play the part, explore it, invest in their imagination, and try to make it as real as possible. This experience in the mind will be different for every writer. Although one’s characters are essentially made up, the writer is spending hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes even years with them, constantly perfecting them and their stories. Through these characters, the writer not only explores their lives but their own life if they were the character - all inside their own head. It is a vicarious way to live out a different reality, which can be exciting and liberating.

We have been told many times that keeping a diary or journal can help us process feelings or situations. Writers take this idea one step further by allowing their characters to do the elbow work for them. If you cannot understand or surrender to a situation you find yourself in in real life, such as illness or heartache, it can be vastly therapeutic to allow your character to find ways to deal with the problem on your behalf. Turn your character into a sci-fi knight to slay your disease! Allow your character to be a tough-talking, independent woman who rejects the man instead of getting her heart smashed into pieces! Perhaps, if you feel you cannot do or say something in your real life, you can take your frustrations or solutions out on the computer screen, changing reality somewhat. The power that comes with the imagination! Allowing ourselves to live different lives on the page can transform our reality, helping us come to terms with our dilemmas, and offer the world an incredible story that will hopefully inspire readers who can relate to it. As the brilliant writer Virginia Woolf expressed: ‘Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.’

The reason I say one cannot, and should not, control the writer’s mind is that, as brilliant writer Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world knows.’ Every writer starts with a perspective, thought or idea that no one else would fully perceive. This is what makes every writer so unique, like a snowflake or fingerprint. Maintaining this state of being instead of feeling afraid of it is crucial to the writer excelling in his or her craft. However, the writer’s mind is at work long before any contact with the pen and paper occurs. It is as though characters are marinating in our subconscious before we meet them. They appear to us as though they are answering our private call in the small hours of the morning, and maybe they have been waiting for the right time to enter our lives. The most amazing part about characters is that they are really just ourselves answering our own calls.

“Meeting your story’s character is like meeting a part of yourself”

Meeting your story’s character is like meeting a part of yourself. Even if your character is very different when compared to you, they are a part of you. You created them, even if you didn’t realize you were doing this until they stormed in unannounced. Before pushing them out so you can get back to bed, ask them why they are there and who knows? It might just be the start of a wonderful story.

Is the writer crazy? Absolutely not. On this earth, we are all walking stories, made up of different ideas, contradictions, and sometimes feeling like different people. We change, sometimes from one minute to the other. All we are doing as writers is allowing ourselves to live out all those fancies and ideas in another realm. The beauty is when this reaches full circle: when a reader grasps onto the character and feels that they are mirrored in them, that they can survive another day or the character’s words echo the machinations of their own soul. That is when the writer’s so-called folly becomes beautiful fiction, the caterpillar of self-doubt transformed into the hopeful butterfly with wings constructed out of the most powerful material that exists on earth: words.

Giulia Simolo's book, Eat Your Heart Out, can be found on Amazon.

Some of us have many narratives all going on at the same time. What's your experience of this? Please share your thoughts in the comments below - and this post with your friends!

Susan Sloate Resarch post graphic

Research: It’s So Much Easier than Plot

Research is vital to a compelling story - minor details in the setting, background, culture or historical placement can make or break a narrative. This week's guest poster, Susan Sloate, suggests that research is also a good substitute for plot! What do you think?
[sendtokindle]

Research: It’s So Much Easier than Plot

By Susan Sloate

Susan Sloate Resarch post graphicI’m sure by now that you as writers already know some of the wonderful benefits of research in writing a novel. The obvious one is that it provides you with information to draw on in creating the world of your story (something that’s important in a lot of novels but critical in historical). It can add flavor. It can make the reader feel like he or she is really there (this is especially true if your research turns up small unknown details readers can drool over).

Research has a lot of other benefits, though, and you ought to consider these as well. For instance, it’s the best possible way to procrastinate, yet still look like you’re working. You can ‘research’ indefinitely, without having to write a single word. “Oh, I’m still doing research,” you can say airily when friends and family wonder why your manuscript still consists of a single blank page. It makes you sound industrious without having to produce anything—the ultimate joy for a novelist. Everyone thinks you’re working your butt off, while you’re just enjoying reading what someone else slaved over. Hah!

It also allows you to blame others (unless you want to do the ultimate trick and nobly take responsibility for any errors). “My research didn’t turn that up” always sounds like the nonfiction writers you consulted in good faith were the ones at fault here. After all, you tried, didn’t you? Is it your fault these dumb scholars didn’t get it right, or left something out?

Research as Plot

“using the research to help you plot”

For me, though, one of the hidden benefits of research is that the more research you do, especially on a historical novel, the less you actually have to come up with creatively in the way of plot. Seriously. If you can manage it—and the best historical writers do—you can blend what you find in your research with your characters to create what feels like a seamless story tapestry. And the beauty of it is that you therefore have less to invent on your own, because you’re using the research to help you plot.

Want an example? My latest novel, FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition (co-authored with Kevin Finn), is about the JFK assassination (a timely subject this fall, with the 50th anniversary of that event). I will admit we spent years researching this one, but I believe in the process, we turned up stuff that became gold in the story.

For instance, we learned in studying JFK’s life that his father Joe was worried that Jack’s various illnesses, especially his Addison’s disease (a weakness of the adrenal glands), could hit the headlines and destroy his political career. And while an aide always carried a bag of medicines when JFK was out in public, what would happen if he ever got separated from them?

Turns out Joe Sr. had considered that possibility. The solution? He took safe-deposit boxes in bank vaults all over the country and stashed medications for Jack in all of them. The idea was that no matter where he was in the US, if he ever ran out of medication or got separated from that black medical bag, he could still get fresh refills, and most important, it could be kept a secret.

When we learned that, we knew we had to use it. I mean, how fantastic is that for a plot point? An incapacitated president desperate for more meds but can’t tell anyone? LOVE it!

“NOBODY who has ever written fiction about JFK has ever used that”

So in our story, at one point all three of our intrepid heroes, in terrible danger, manage to get to a bank vault with one of those special safe-deposit boxes. NOBODY who has ever written fiction about JFK has ever used that. But we who had done the research—we could, and did.

We Couldn't Have Made It Up

I’ll tell you honestly that we couldn’t have made this stuff up. Some of it is so outrageous, no one would ever believe it. (And we wouldn’t have dared write it.) But finding that basis in fact gave us the confidence to go out on a limb, because we knew it had actually happened. And because it was fresh material, stuff no one else had woven into fiction before us, it made us look like creative geniuses.

Research is a Two Edged Sword

This is, of course, a two-edged sword. For years after the publication of the first edition of CAMELOT in 2003, we received wonderful compliments about our original and exciting plot. People would point out story points they especially enjoyed and ask how in the world we came up with them. And we would have to (painfully, at times) admit that actually, we hadn’t: it was true, and came out of our research. All we did was fit it into the framework of our story.

Funny, they would then look disappointed and murmur something about what a good job we’d done with the research. It somehow never sounded as enthusiastic as their compliments on our plot. Ah, well.

On one hand, it’s never fun demurring from a sincere compliment. On the other, it’s amazing how many wonderful ideas you can get from delving into the research. Ideas you can use to push your plot forward in a unique way, because you’ve got the facts to back it up.

Yeah, it takes hours from the actual writing.

But on the other side of the coin, when you let the facts drive your story, think how many hours it saves.

Ever turned up something this special in your own research? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and share this post with your friends, too!