Category Archives: Writing Advice

Author Confessions: Making Conventions Easy and Awesome

I’ve a confession to make: I am an introvert.

Surprise, surprise, right? I tend to agree with CB Blake that a lot of authors (I’m not going to say most, but very likely) tend to be introverts. The fact that we can lose ourselves in our own worlds, carry on book-long conversations with our characters, and avoid contact with any real humans is a huge part of being a writer.

And yet, despite my natural introversion, I LOVE author conventions (and book/comic conventions).

Why Conventions Rock

There are two amazing things about conventions:

  1. They’re the perfect way to get your books in front of readers. Readers come to book, comic, and author conventions looking to find awesome new books/series to read. If you can force yourself to be outgoing, you have a great chance to interact with readers and make new fans in person. (To be honest, the interaction with readers is my favorite part of the conventions!)

(I won’t get into the whole “in person selling” side of things. For this post, I’m focusing on the networking aspect.)

  1. They’re a good opportunity for networking. Networking is VITAL for authors. Whether you find people to co-author a book with, start up a podcast/blog, share content, trade reviews, or just talk shop, conventions are an excellent place to make new friends and acquaintances among fellow professionals. As you can see by Heidi’s post on Authors Need to Network, it’s one of the most important parts of attending conventions.

The Secret to Convention Success: Find Where Your Interests Intersect

The problem with networking is that it’s hard. It’s hard to go up to a random stranger and say, “Hey, how can I use you to expand my reach and find new readers?”

I sure hope you’re NOT doing that!

If you want to use author conventions to network, you have to find “common ground”. Specifically, areas where your interests and theirs align. How can you do that?

??????????????????Offer to read/review. Every author wants more book reviews! If you find fellow authors who have books that interest you, offer to read and review it for them???no obligations. Most are happy to share an e-book copy, and some will even insist on giving you a paperback, especially if you offer to post a picture of you with the book to your social media networks. If you love to read and can find books that pique your interest, you can make friends for life by offering to review the books.

??????????????????Invite them to come on your blog/podcast/reader group. A guest post, guest appearance on your podcast, or an author takeover in your Facebook reader group can be a great way to connect with authors. You’re offering them something of value, expecting nothing in return. If they have something of value they can offer you, they’ll be more inclined to do so out of gratitude.

??????????????????Share a picture with them to social media. Who doesn’t love pictures? They’re a great way to engage with readers and fans, and they can help you connect with fellow authors as well. Take a picture with your new author buddy, and post it to your social media???along with links so your followers can find out more about your friend.

??????????????????Talk shop. Writers love to talk craft, characters, story construction, marketing tricks, and everything else that goes into the author profession. Few people outside our author circles “get it”, so it’s always nice to find others we can talk with who do. A simple conversation can lead to some fascinating opportunities???it’s all about right place, right time, right person.

Did you notice a common trend here? That’s right, in every instance YOU are offering someone else something of value.

This is the real secret to networking: providing value to others, not asking for anything. You build your network with fellow authors by getting them interested in your unique brand, which has nothing to do with your books and everything to do with who YOU are as a person.

Networking is as easy as going over and talking to people, being friendly, lending a listening ear, and offering to help THEM along their author journey. It’s so simple, but it will immediately make them more inclined to offer YOU what help they can.

Got any questions on simple, easy ways to offer value to new authors you meet at conventions? Drop your questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer with a few ideas to try???

About the Author

Andy Peloquin, despite LOVING hiding in the comfort of his office to write, is a friendly, sometimes-outgoing guy whose massive smile hides a mind that produces dark, twisted fantasy stories.

To learn more about his books, pop on over and join his mailing list: http://andypeloquin.com/join-the-club/

Focus Facebook Time on Networking to Hack Book Success

We??know it. We love it. We hate it.??And yes I am talking about Facebook??and??networking. So let???s share some tips on how to get in and out with as few tears as possible.

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Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media network. And as authors we want to socialize with our readers, to talk about our media, and to network with other authors and our fans. But let???s face it, Facebook is also chocked full of religion, politics, recipes, memes, games, and drama. You have a lot of distractions and if you???re not careful you could be on Facebook all day clicking around and convince yourself that you are networking when you???re not really getting any work done.

Here are a few hacks to help you streamline your social networking time so you can get back to writing.

This one is simple and I am sure most people do it already, but just in case:

Switch your News Feed from Top Stories to Most Recent

You will have to do this every time you reload the page. But it keeps you up to date without having to slog back through things you???ve already seen.

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Create a Facebook account for your author.

If you write under a pen name, use that name for your account. If you write under your real name and already have a Facebook account then simply add Author to the end of your name and create that account. You can add any existing work contacts to your new account. Make a post letting people know that you are going to open an account for your author work too. This helps narrow the focus of your Facebook time to being an author, and not socializing with friends and family.??Don???t get distracted by family/friend posts that you could respond to on your personal page.

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Find the right groups for you.

Not sure how to do that? Check out Heidi???s helpful??article??on how to use your research skills to help you. Before you join a group, make sure you??read the rules.??If there are no rules, don???t bother. Those groups turn into a spam zone where no one reads anything and they just post like crazy.

??There are a few types of groups you will want to join.

Author groups

You can go wide here and look for groups like??20booksTo50k??which is for all authors and covers everything. And you can go narrow, look for a group for your specific genre and sub-genre. I recommend doing both. Some things affect all authors, like when Amazon KDP goes down for a day, and that might not be talked about in a group for paranormal-sci-fi-horror. Find a group that you personally mesh with. This is going to be your support group so make sure you can get along with them.

Reader groups

Look for a group that has good reader participation. If you think it looks like a good group, go ahead and start a discussion about books, don???t just link to your own, and see how it goes. If it fizzles out because no one is actually talking about books and they are just posting ads for their own work, leave it. That???s not worth your time either. If the discussion merits it, and the rules allow you to link your work, go ahead and do so. But don???t spam. No one likes spam.

Author and reader groups

These are the best.??Reader groups that allow authors to post ads for their work. But don???t fall into the trap of just posting a link to your work and moving on each day. Make a post. Start a conversation. Reply to others. Talk about your favorite authors.

Start your own group

Once you have a few fans start your own reader group for your books. Do not randomly add people to your group. That???s a good way to make people, like author C. Penticoff,??angry??and not want to work with you. Talk about your work. Keep them up to date on what???s going on. Post a favorite line that you???ve just written. Engage with your followers. And promote your group on your author??Facebook??page to bring in new followers. You can also offer??advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) to those in your group and find beta readers. It???s an easy way to keep everyone together and track who is really helping you with your work.

Groups are organic

A Facebook group can grow, age, and die. Nurture the ones that are useful to you, but don???t waste time trying to revive a dead group. If your group starts to become sickly cut out the parts, and people, that are screwing it up. That means checking in at least once a day to test the waters and make your presence known. An easy way to do this is to schedule posts. Write out a post you would like shared, then instead of clicking ???POST??? click on the down arrow to the right of it. Select schedule then pick a date and time you want that post to go live. You can schedule basic posts for months in advance so you don???t have to worry about forgetting about it later. Then if something happens you want to post about immediately you still can. Or if you want to post reminders about specific dates, say a book launch when you know you???ll be super busy, you can schedule those too. It???s a great way to plan ahead so you don???t get swamped later. You can do this for your groups and your pages, so you are always talking with your audience. Just remember to respond to any comments posted.

Notifications

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Facebook loves to notify you. Of everything. Don???t let that distract you.??Set your notifications in a way that works for you and doesn???t intrude into your writing or personal time.??Check your notifications to see if people are responding to you or your comments, if they are posting in your groups. And react or responding to those people. Even a simple thanks goes a long way.

??But the most important part of networking on Facebook is be a human. No one pays attention to a bot. Even if you???re hyping a cyborg sci-fi novel. No one wants to get spammed. So be a person and be yourself. Make friends online and engage with them. That???s what networking is all about.

If you have any tips of your own??please feel free to share in the comments below.

 

Rebekah Jonesy is an independent romance author. If you want to connect you can find her on??Facebook. If you want to see what she???s up to, reading, or writing visit her??blog.

5 Inexpensive Ways to Skyrocket Book Event Success

Hello lovely Our Write Siders,

Let???s talk about book events. Every author gets nervous about doing them. Most authors avoid them like the plague. We???ve all heard the stories (or in this case, experienced the horror) of doing tons of work to set up an event only to have no one show up! Now, for this article, I will be focusing on real-world events such as book signings, conventions, author panels, etc. But a lot of the tips can be extrapolated to online events as well.

How do you make your event a big success? Here are five easy steps that are free or cheap.

  1. Plan Ahead

There???s more that goes into this than you might realize. The first step is to look at event calendars in the area where you want to have the event. (Same for Online events like Facebook Parties. One day this summer I was literally invited to ten fantasy book launch events in the same week!) Make sure you don???t have a ton of competition. I made this mistake with my first book signing in Salt Lake City. I did everything else right, but missed the fact that the same day I was doing the book signing there was an ARTS FESTIVAL two blocks away from our signing. The bookstore was dead. There was no traffic??at all.??If I had looked at the calendar, I would have sent my PAs (AKA, my husband and the heathens) to hand out flyers at the festival an hour before our event to take advantage of the foot traffic, but I didn???t know until an hour before it ended. We were still able to pull in some people, but not as many as I wanted.

calendar-1763587__340.pngAfter you look at the calendar, plan the date and a good deal of the idea behind the event. Are you doing a book signing, reading, or a talk? Can you partner with other authors in your genre in your area to create a better draw? Contact them and see if they would be interested. It is always easier to get a multi-author event approved than to get a single author event approved (unless you are a NYT bestseller. But if you are, you wouldn???t be here, would you?) Give a good month???s notice (I prefer 6-12 weeks, especially as I am planning around work.) ??Create a mock up flyer, a publicity plan, and go find a??venue.

2. Plan the Marketing

You???re asking:??Why would you do this before???You aren???t doing it ALL before, but you need to have this kind of information to present to the venue so that you can show them why they should say yes to your event. See, for you, this event is all about what you???ll get out of it, but for B & N, or your local restaurant, or Costco, or whatever, it???s what will THEY get out of it. Someone who comes with a plan shows them that you aren???t just hoping to capitalize on their traffic. You are prepared to drive additional traffic to their event. So how do you do that?

It???s actually easier than you would expect. First, make a list of all your local event calendars. Almost all of them will let you share an event for free. (You can do that when you???re checking for other local events in your area, right?)

Now make a list of all your local news outlets: radio, television, newspapers, newsletters (think city newsletters, college campuses, book groups, etc.)

Make a list of your local libraries. This is a book event. If you aren???t hosting it at a library (FYI, this is a GREAT spot to host events, but you have to be prepared to handle all the sales. I literally??just did this??as part of promoting an author panel I am doing with??Sci-fan Convention, and while at the local library asking if they would hang the promo material, I asked about doing an Indie Author Day Event there in October. She was very excited to get more information!)

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Let the venue know that you will be contacting these locations asking for interviews, announcements, etc and that you will be creating flyers and posters like the mock-up to promote the event. If they sell books, clarify if you need to bring your own, or if they will order books for the event. Bigger chains like B & N will require ordering from Ingram Spark for your event. (They want to be able to return them if they don???t sell in the next three months.) But often indie bookstores or libraries will require that you bring your own books.

Once you have your location, you can get down to the nitty gritty. Start promoting. Create a Facebook event with the details, send an invite to anyone in your location and offer incentive for them to invite others (Like a??rafflecopter??giving away something tied to your genre, but not your own book. Unless you have multiple books in a series then you can give away the first book.Other options include giving away something big in your genre. I like giving away a copy of Lost Boys when I???m promoting The Hunters Saga. They???re a natural fit.) promote the Facebook event on all your social media.

Find sites like??Eventbrite??or??Spingo??that allow you to create a free event. They will promote to your location. Look up your local community facebook pages. Ask if you can share your event there. Look for local book clubs online and share the information there. Create a Thunderclap or??Daycause??campaign (Free, as long as you get the requisite number of support. Learn how to do so from my first??Thunderclap Failure.)??

3. Tap Your Network

Networking??is so crucial. You have a network in your life, whether it be a job, church, school (or your kid???s school) your??book club, or your online community. Write down every possible resource. Who can you approach to help you promote your event? Does your girlfriend have an awesome laser printer and would be willing to let you make flyers in exchange for the paper and ink? Does your church have a sign maker for church events they will let you use? Is your co-worker a whiz at design and would be willing to create some banners and ads for you in exchange for having their design logo on the ad and maybe $25? Is your babysitter or kid happy to take bookmarks to school to pass out? Can you pass out flyers at church, your yoga class, whatever.

K, some of us don???t have those connections, but who in your online world will help? Tap??into??those,??too. Now onto the ???cheap??? not free part of this.

4. Figure Out Your Budget and Promote Accordingly.

The first step is to make your flyers and hand them out. If you can save yourself the legwork, see if??one (or more)??of the people in your network will help put them up. Depending on how many flyers you can create will determine on where you will put the flyers up. Look at shops around your event locale. Many have community boards, or will share it at the front register if you ask. Next you want to hit up bookish places. College campuses, high school libraries (if your book is age-appropriate.) local libraries. Still have budget for more flyers? If you write sci fi or fantasy,??hit up local game stores.??There???s a natural cross-over. Do you have any??LARPing groups??in your community? Reach out to them.

If you still have the budget, print up bookmarks and offer those to locations who put up your sign to give to their clientele. Still have some money left over? Look at local advertising options. If you still have some money left consider investing it in Facebook Promotion. You can target by location, interest, and other cool analytics. Even as little as $10 can give you some great reach.

5. Follow up

Be sure to have a sign-up sheet at the event that specifically invites attendees to your e-newsletter. (If it???s part of a raffle, you will get more sign ups.) Also have swag (stuff we all get, like bookmarks.) If you have multiple books, offer bundle deals for discount prices. If you don???t, but are doing an event with others, see if they would be open to doing a bundle.

When the event is over, send a welcome email thanking those who signed up for attending your event. Include a coupon for your e-book. Those who didn???t buy it at the event will likely buy it now. Some might get it on top of getting the paperback. Include your intro email letting them know what they will get being on your e-newsletter list, and how frequently they can expect to hear from you.??(Stick to that!) Remind them that you appreciate their honest feedback in the form of a review. ??

Be sure to send a thank you card to the host of the event. If you had books left over from the event, swing by in a week and check how sales are going. If they sold them all, ask them to order more. Again, thank them for hosting you and offer to do another event in a few months. ??

There you have it, five inexpensive ways to skyrocket your book event success. Even if you have as little as $20 for promotion, you can make your event a success. ??Have any questions or tips you???d like to add? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep??Writing!

Learn more about how Heidi at www.heidiangell.com

Harness the Power of Brevity: 5 Tips Writers Need to Say More with Less

Filling Tall Orders with Short Stuff

There???s plenty of writing an author has to do outside of the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into their fiction. In many ways, the shortest things you will write are also going to be the most important ones. If the guidelines of a query say you need a synopsis in 100 words, you???d better be able to get the main ideas across succinctly, or you’re sunk. This is closer to writing advertising copy than it is to writing War and Peace, which means it???s tough for your average fiction aficionado. But there are things you can do at the sentence level that can help save you precious words.

Here???s my tips in an easy list, but read on to find out more.

  1. Ditch rhetorical questions
  2. Keep your sentence structure simple
  3. Passive voice is a waste of words
  4. Make every word pull its weight
  5. Give the short stuff the editing attention it deserves

 

Rhetor-ick!

Will he be able to beat the clock and save the world?

How many times have you seen a sentence like this in a blurb or advertisement? 10? 100?

What about this one:

What if everything you thought you knew was a lie?

YAWN!

Rhetorical questions are exactly that, a tool for rhetoric. They were developed as part of the proper procedure for giving speeches to an audience that was listening to an orator. Furthermore, the orator had a specific purpose ??? persuasion. When you are dealing with the written word, especially narrative fiction, this practice is a total waste of time. If a story idea is boiled down to something generic enough to be put into a rhetorical question, it has already been robbed of all of its flavor. And worse, you???ve wasted words in the process!

So, ditch the questions and stick to statements.

Simplest, Simpler, Simple

Generally speaking, people begin many sentences with dependent clauses and resort to meandering vagueness in order to avoid giving too much away detail. This isn???t always the case, but when it is the case, all of those commas can really slow down the pacing. After a while, the pauses become exhausting, and the average reader will get tired of meandering along with you on these long, continuous, unbearable sentences.

See what I did there? That is a terrible paragraph. I took three long sentences to express an almost effortless idea: Simple sentences are shorter than complex ones. Plus, they pack more of a punch. The easiest superfluous clauses to avoid are the ones that express time (at the time, one day, etc.), place (In a faraway land, in the swamplands of the southern kingdom, etc.), and frequency (in general, every century, etc.).

You might think you are being economical by jamming a ton of information into one sentence. But that still results in more words in the end. This isn???t to say that you can???t have ???ifs, ands, or buts??? in your sentences, but if you are going to use them, make sure you are paying attention to the frequency. Even in a brief piece of writing, such as a synopsis, a reader is going to want variety. If the structure of a sentence, such as this one and the two before it, all share similar structures, it gets boring to read. As you can see, you are yawning already, and if you aren’t yawning already, you would be by the end of a page of this kind of comma-ridden sentence structure.

 

Sentence, Activate!

Passive sentences tend to be longer than active ones. It could be because of how often compound verb forms like ???had been??? and lots of “was blank-ING” happening in the past. But passive voice is more than just verb forms. For instance:

huntingHe had been hunted all his life by the shadow soldiers. (passive, 11 words)

By putting ???he??? at the beginning of the sentence rather than the active noun (shadow soldiers) in the forefront, the sentence gained ???had been,??? but also ???by the??? before they are mentioned.

Here???s an alternative:

The shadow soldiers hunted him all his life. (active, 8)

They hunted him his whole life. (active, 6 words, works if you???d mentioned the subject before)

In the two active examples, the verb ???to hunt??? became the main verb rather than ???to be.??? The subject also changed to refer to the soldiers. If you wanted to keep the hero as the subject, think about verbs that aren???t an extension of ???to be.??? Nearly any other option will be more active than ???was??? or ???had been.???

Here’s an alternative:

He spent his life hunted by the shadow soldiers. (active, 9 words)

He struggled against them all his life. (active, 7 words)

I may have only shaved off a couple of words here and there, but over the course of a few paragraphs, that adds up to a lot! Changing all your passive to active will definitely buy you ???white space??? to fill with those crucial words you need to sell your work, or get your idea across.

Just another reason to stick to active voice, even if you are writing a blurb or query letter.

 

Choose ALL your Words Wisely

All a sentence needs to be sentence is a subject and a verb, and usually in that order. Obviously, interesting sentences have a little bit more than that, but this is the jumping-off point for all of English.

You might spend days agonizing over a character???s name, but every word has a job to do. Some words are just more loaded than others. ???Woman??? tells you very little about the subject, but ???Mother??? automatically starts a series of connections sizzling in our brains. The word ???mother??? is a loaded word, meaning it carries not just its primary meaning (a female human who has given birth), but a whole cascade of associations. The reader will make assumptions about the relative age of the person (because children can???t have their own children), and extrapolate some experiences that could be held in common. These sorts of loaded words can help you be brief, but can also send your reader down the wrong path if the context sends the associations spiraling in the wrong direction.

Another great example would be ???apprentice.??? The reader will automatically know they are dealing with a young-ish individual who is trying to learn a trade of some sort. One could reasonably guess any apprenticeship is taking place in the past, or is in some arcane discipline like blacksmithing. If your character is some sort of apprentice and doesn???t fit this idea, then you should avoid using that word in your blurb even if you use it in the text. In the short introductory writing, your goal is communicating the most information in the fewest words, so don???t choose words unless they fit the associations the reader will automatically generate.

More than likely, you can also get by without most adjectives. If a crime has been committed, you probably don???t need to specify it was ???heinous.??? Some place called The Cave of Secrets doesn???t need to be referred to as ???mysterious.??? If you do want to convey mood or detail while still being brief, try to do it through your nouns and verbs. They have to be there to be a sentence, so make them do extra work.

A ???vixen??? is not only a woman, but a sexy one with an air of confidence and mischief. A character could be ???yelled at??? by her boss, but if her boss ???berated??? her instead, you save an extra word. Any time you can replace a noun or verb with a synonym that conveys more detail than the original, you are making those words pull their weight without weighing you down.

There are also lots of phrases and idioms that can drag you down and weaken the points you want to convey. No one in literature should ever ???feel a bit angry??? or be ???a bit of a gambler.??? If they are only a teeny amount anything, then it isn???t worth mentioning. If the anger or gambling problem is a big part of the plot or character, don???t pull any punches. Make the person ???enraged??? or ???besotted with Lady Luck,??? but for the love of ink, stop using little words that diminish your prose and slow you down. (Not to mention the passion of your character!

gambler

Give it the Attention It Deserves (AKA Revise!)

There aren???t a lot of writers who will argue with the suggestion that they run their through multiple drafts, maybe even an editor, before they let anyone see it. The ???other writing??? is no different! Even if it only takes a few minutes to jot down a few sentences, that doesn???t mean that you shouldn???t take an hour revising it. In many ways, brief forms require even more revision because every word counts even more. Even a letter or two can change how many lines are in your paragraph, which has a visual impact on your reader. (Long paragraphs = skimming!) So, let???s see if we can slim down even more.

Synonyms are your friend

We???ll keep going with our original sentence idea from above, but one of the active alternatives:

The shadow soldiers hunted him all his life.

Not a bad sentence. Not a great one, but not bad. Can you spot a place to cut a word or two? If you chose ???all his life,??? give yourself a point. ???All his life??? is three words and deals with the passage of time. ???From birth??? is only two, and also ties in to the idea of his life. On the other hand, ???always??? is only one word.

It could go something like this:

The shadow soldiers had always hunted him.

He had always been hunted.

Looking better, and it preserves the idea of time from the original sentence. Woot! But here???s where I am going to stop you from celebrating. We may have revised that sentence to a shorter version, but is all of the information actually necessary? In this case, I???d have to decide if it matters how long the hunting was taking place, or does it only matter in the present. If duration doesn???t matter to the meat of the story, and it rarely does, don???t worry about mentioning it at all. The catalyst that sets the hero on his path or the great treasure she???s searching for is much more word-worthy than words about frequency and duration.

Building it Back Up

???The shadow soldiers hunt him??? is only 5 words, and you can fill in the rest of the space you gained from the original passive sentence with more interesting words. Once you get something tight, it???s time to add some of the panache back in. Revising isn???t just about subtraction, it is also about choosing the right moments to take an extra word or two for the sake of mood or to hook your reader.

The shadow soldiers hunt him???

???without mercy, without end.

???from the backs of dinosaurs.

???on land and sea.

???until he pays for his crimes.

???until the Staff of Oo???blech is restored.

You get the idea! The more you take out at the front, the more you can put back in at the end.

 

How about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping it brief? Tell us about it!

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