My 5 pieces of advice to get through trauma: For self-published authors and business owners

My first blog post in months. Things have changed dramatically for me this year, due to some very traumatic experiences that happened to me at the end of last year, and the beginning of this year. Events that changed the course of my life and changed me as a person.

This year the Agency had a really rough start. One of the worst 6-8 months I’ve experienced since this business came to life back in 2008. I’ve experienced mental illness to the point of paralysis, and being unable to work. And this week I have lost a dearest and darling family member, and my heart is broken again.

But instead of hiding my pain, I use it to teach myself lessons. I use my darkness to give me strength, I always have. And I have decided to write this blog in the hopes that other authors and business owners out there who feel the same pain, know that you will get through it.

So these are my top 5 pieces of advice for anyone out there trying to build a business for themselves (especially you self-published authors, because that’s what you’re doing) about getting through trauma, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:

 

Accept your pain.

Our society teaches us that it’s better to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. They forget that we can’t exactly do that if we’ve broken a leg. If my experiences over the past year had displayed themselves physically, I would have been in the hospital under constant care, with bruises and broken bones and internal bleeding. I’m under no illusion about the severity of what I went through, but we are not taught to view our emotional and mental states in the same way.

It is important for you to recognize when you are in pain and need care. Accepting your hurt and pain paves the way for healing. You are allowed to hurt, you are allowed to feel all the emotions that are going on inside you. You don’t have to keep pushing them away and pretending they’re not there. You’re a human being and deserve great love and care, and the way you give that to yourself is by giving yourself permission to feel it, and heal.

 

Get people around you.

I am very used to isolating myself in crisis mode. I’m naturally an introverted homebody, and I love being on my own. But you need people around you. It is very easy to get swallowed up in your own self-criticism and punishment but you need people around you to tell you to stop doing that and that you’re being too hard on yourself (because you are). You need people to be your strength when you have none, to help you.

This year I have bonded more closely to my family than I ever imagined. They were at my door and calling me on my phone when the shit (repeatedly) hit the fan, and they have been there ever since. I have carved new intimate friendships with people in my life who I had no idea would ever become so important to me. I learned a new aspect of support, one I didn’t think was there and I didn’t understand how everyone else had people around them and I didn’t. But I did, and I do. And so do you.

But you have to ask for it. These people probably have no idea what you’re going through, or don’t know how to help you. You must ask for it. People want to help you, they often don’t know how. How many times have you seen a friend or family member go through something and felt totally helpless? Don’t be afraid to ask. There is no shame in asking, only love for yourself. Asking for help means you are taking action with trying to help yourself. You will be surprised at how willing the response will be.

 

Do things that make you happy.

When the storm clouds are above and the waves are crashing in upon our ship, we may forget that there are things out there that make us happy. Writing makes me happy. Playing Magic the Gathering makes me happy. Watching and analysing movies makes me happy. Learning about business makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. What makes you happy? When was the last time you gave yourself time to do those things, simply to be happy and enjoy it? Without any expectation of success, achievement, or improvement. Just… cos it makes you happy?

Actively find things in your life that will trigger that happiness part of your brain. The more that triggers, the bigger the ripple effect it will have in your life. These aren’t just temporary moments, but they are influencing how you feel the rest of the time. Piece by piece, feeling good about yourself will begin to chip away at the feeling bad about yourself. Give these moments to you, each day, to remind yourself what it feels like to be happy.

 

Recognize your strength

I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I’m not capable.

Are these familiar thoughts? I have them every single day. But it’s thanks to #2 on this list (people) who remind me of how strong I am. That my recovery throughout this year has been far faster, and with greater emotional health, than normal. Others in my position would probably not have felt the way I do for another two years.

I lose perspective so easily. I forget how much I’ve been through and all that I’ve achieved through it. I tell myself “Anyone would have been able to do better than me,” but that’s total bullshit. They wouldn’t. And we don’t know these things because they’re private, we don’t hear about it except from the Fortune500 CEO’s who experienced these things ten years ago and became stronger for it. Whoop-de-do, but what about the people now? Where are the other people who are hurting as bad as I am? Everyone else seems to have a handle on life pretty goddamn well.

This is not true. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, and everyone has their ways of dealing with it. And most of us do it quietly, because we don’t want the world to see what’s really going on.

Everyone struggles and suffers in their own way. Including you.

It takes so much strength to overcome trauma. You can drown in a wave of doubt, guilt, and shame, collapse under the weight of helplessness and loss. Don’t be blind to how much strength it actually takes to sometimes get through the day. This is not you being weak, this is you being strong.

Look at the reality of your situation, of what you have been through. Pretend it had happened to a dear friend or family member, would you be so willing to tell them that they’re being weak? Or would you understand how hard it must be for them to get through what they’ve been through? You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, I think it’s about time you start believing it.

 

Hold space in your life for you

A lot of the damage I experienced this year was due to the fact I was putting others before me, when I needed to put me first. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to bow to them, to make sure they had enough before I had enough. This happened with relationships, with family, and with friends. I am naturally someone who puts others above myself, and I hit a breaking point. After everything I had already been through at the end of last year, they drained me of all I was. I was getting to the point where I was losing my own identity. I didn’t even matter anymore. And it took the support of others in my life to be able to step back and say no. To begin to rebuild the walls around me. To know that I matter.

The same can be said about business. I was brought up in a family that put work above myself. Work is more important than me. And so I worked and worked and worked when I shouldn’t have, and I was going through serious breakdowns, and again paralysis. Where was I in all of this? I didn’t matter.

Finally, as I began to emerge through the trauma (I still haven’t completely recovered, and it will take quite a while until I’m feeling 100% again), I started to put myself first. Because there is no life for me, without me in it. Not only that but if I continue to bow to the will of others in my life, who want me to sacrifice my entire self, happiness and life to make them happy, then I have no life at all.

Holding space in your life is you giving yourself permission to be who you are, to enjoy all the things you want to, to give yourself the time and space you need to in order to heal.

To hold space means you recognizing this is your life, and you are allowed to live within it. You are allowed to exist within your own moments. You are important.

And most of all, keep writing. Writing is our vice. Writing is our voice. You need to get the stuff inside you out. Seeing it outside of ourselves helps give us perspective, and something to reflect on. It’s also a record, so that in six months you can look back and realise how far you’ve actually come. And it is in your blood, as it is in mine. Writing is our calling, and we must continue to let it flow.

Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. And don’t take anyone in your life for granted. Go out today and tell your friends and family how much you love them, because they may not know. Treasure them. And treasure you.

Lesser Known Pieces Of Editing Advice From 14 Publishing Pros

In the spirit of helping you write the best book possible, we’ve gathered a list of lesser-known editing tips from 14 experienced editors and authors. Between them, these ladies and gents have been through the editing wringer hundreds of times, and house worlds of wisdom we should heed.

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Beth: BZHercules.com, a low-cost editing and consulting service

In short, don’t do it [editing your own work]! It is a huge mistake that can cost an author time and money, as well as cause some embarrassment. Whether the writer is seeking to publish traditionally or to self-publish, there are certain guidelines, rules of grammar, and formatting requirements that are best left to an experienced editor. For example, many of the smaller “boutique” publishers that have popped up on the Internet require use of Chicago Manual of Style formatting for submissions. Many authors do not know what to look for regarding this style (e.g., how to write numbers, titles, and abbreviations, or indent paragraphs) and should use an editor that is familiar with it. The placement of commas is another frequent issue for authors (The serial comma is a killer!), and don’t even get me started on semi-colons (Okay, I will get started—it is necessary punctuation and it cannot just be thrown out of writing because the author doesn’t believe in it! That is punctuation-discrimination at its worst.).

If an author is self-publishing, the risks associated with posting work that is riddled with errors on many of the outlets are actually higher than submitting to publishers. At least the publishers will be discerning. When posting to the DIY outlets, there is a low filter for screening errors until the work is already out there. Often, outlets such as iTunes and Smashwords will ticket submissions that have been reported as containing mistakes, and Kindle will pull them if the “right” complaint is given. Additionally, the reviewers are another source of misery for a self-publishing author who is trying to gain readers. Reviews regarding errors found in books are not always accurate, kind, or specific and giving critics fuel for the fire is never a good idea, possibly damaging an otherwise great piece of work.

My advice, then, is to find an editor with a track record of success. If you are an author who is new to publishing (You are obviously not new to writing, but that does not make your work showroom ready.), then your editor ideally is college-educated in a writing-related field (journalism, English, education, linguistics, communications), open to collaboration, and experienced at navigating through traditional and/or self-publishing (Most editors will provide a free sample edit of a few pages to you; do not, however, ask to see the edited work of others. That is confidential information and if it is provided to you, be wary of the ethics of that editor.). As the author, expect to pay for several passes through your work (one or two isn’t going to be enough if there are thousands of changes needed—although using a couple of editors isn’t a bad idea if they have similar editing philosophies. Again, ask for samples and compare the styles.), be open to criticism, and be cognizant of what you yourself are attempting to put out in the public eye. Every author needs another set of eyes that has an experienced view.

 

Meredith Efken: Fiction Fix-It Shop

Many writers tend to discount the importance of content editing. They focus on copy or line editing, and they either believe they don’t need content help or they fear a content editor will take over the story or change their voice. However, if a story fails, it’s not usually because of a couple of typos but because the story structure itself is weak or because the character development and portrayal doesn’t ring true on an emotional level. The biggest downfalls I see in many stories are:

  1. a lack of understanding of scene structure and a wobbly or disorganized story structure, and
  2. character emotions that are either too shallow or not psychologically accurate for what the character is facing.

A good content/substantive editor should be able to help spot these problems—and do so in a way that enhances the story and your voice. But if you’re not able to hire an editor, at least study some good how-to resources on those topics. My top recs are these: For story structure, Michael Hague at storymastery.com has an excellent seminar called The Hero’s Two Journeys that explains how the outer plot meshes with the character’s inner transformation. For character emotion, Margie Lawson at margielawson.com approaches character emotions from a psychological background and explains how to convey emotions in a fresh and authentic way. For scene structure, take a look at Randy Ingermanson’s article “Writing The Perfect Scene” which draws on the concepts taught by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

 

Helen Baggott: Editor

Many writers embark on the editing process and assume it’s all about trimming things down. Often it is, but it’s too easy to edit out a crucial element that causes the plot to crumble. And because you, the writer, have the complete manuscript – warts and all – in your mind, you can’t distinguish between something that is still in the book and something that’s just a memory from a previous version. If you do decide to go for the chop, make sure you look at the bigger picture and resolve any potential issues before moving on.

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C. S. Lakin: Author, Editor

Writers should consider getting a manuscript critique or evaluation before any line editing. Most books have a lot of structural flaws and weak components that the writer can’t see, and it helps to have a professional work with the author to strengthen or fix these weak areas. I always say that getting an edit done on a flawed manuscript is like putting pretty icing on a yucky-tasting cake. The book may look nicely edited, but it’s not going to hold up. So getting that critique done first, at any stage, is so helpful.

 

Kristen Weber: Freelance book editor, Co-founder of ShelfPleasure.com

Put your manuscript away for at least a couple of weeks. When you come back to it for editing, change the size of the font. You need to make it look different so you can actually see it. It’s like when a chair in your house accidentally gets moved – you won’t notice it until you trip over it! It is important to present your eyes with something different so you see what’s really there. And then once you think it’s perfect, give it to someone else to read – and they’ll find even more to fix!

 

Chandra Clarke: Editor

As everyone knows, the problem with editing your own work is that you’re too familiar with the material. My best tip for mitigating that is to change both the font type and the font size on the document. If you’re working in a serif font, change it to something sans serif or vice versa, and make it a bit bigger. This will change the way the text looks just enough to make it seem different, and that will force you to focus more on what it actually says, as opposed to what you think it should say.

 

Gary Gibson: Author

One of the best ways to learn how to edit your own writing is to edit someone else’s. I started writing paid critiques of unpublished novels more than five years ago, and I think it did a lot to improve my understanding of my own writing and in the process made me a much better writer. Before that, I’d been an on-off member of a writer’s group in my home city for more than twenty years.
Taking part in a writer’s group can be invaluable, because you have to think about why someone’s story or novel does or doesn’t work. Even better is when you get to tell them what you like or don’t like about their work – and explain why. Doing that gets you thinking about the process, and the how-to of writing, and how to apply it to your own work. It’s a bit like the old saying: if you want to master something, teach it.

Rebecca Horsfall: Author

We’re taught at school that good writing involves using adjectives liberally in our compositions. In truth this is just plain wrong. The use of many adjectives is a sure sign of immature writing. When editing our own work it’s important to notice where we’re peppering our prose with adjectives and prune away all but the essential ones. The same is true of similes; you remember them: “his joints were as creaky as the old barn door,” or “her sudden smile was like the sun appearing from behind a cloud.” Similes almost always seem clunky and immature in prose. Same goes, in fact, for all the elaborate metaphors and figurative language so beloved of our school teachers. The more simple and uncluttered our prose, the more mature it will feel to readers (and publishers!)

Laurence Daren King: Literary Consultant

Set up the word processor for writing a novel, not an essay or letter as seems to be the default. Increase the margin size or font size until you have about eleven words to a line. You will then get a realistic idea of paragraph length. So many authors have paragraphs that are far too long. They think: ‘It’s only three quarters of a page long, I see that in novels all the time’, but they have eighteen or twenty words to a line.

Tania Hershman: Author

Change the page from portrait to landscape and change the font, to try and see your writing with fresh eyes, as if you hadn’t written it.

 

Sam Jordison: Author, Founder of Galley Beggar Press

If you can, cut the first chapter. It’s almost certain to be your worst bit of writing.

 

Fay Sampson: Author

Even after you’ve edited your book to the highest standard you can, get it professionally copy-edited. Writing consultancies like the Writers’ Workshop can put you in touch with an editor who will bring your work up to a professional standard and save you embarrassment later.
If you’re adamant on editing your own work, these professional editing tips will serve you well. After all, having a great story interspersed with mistakes and plot holes is a sure-fire way to have critics pounce, and readers close the book.
What other editing tips do you have? What do you look out for when editing your own book? And what are your most common mistakes?

16 New Year’s Resolutions For Writers

When we look back on a year of writing, we can be filled with a feeling of guilt for not having done as much as we set out to do. Or we can be overcome with pride and gratitude for everything we’ve managed to accomplish. But with each new year comes a fresh press of the reset button, enabling us to turn to those things we’ve not yet tackled.

Here are 16 new year resolutions for writers to help you choose yours. Please leave a comment letting me know which you’re taking on, and how you’re going to tackle them. Good luck!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

 

If you need the text for those:

1. I resolve to call myself a writer
2. I resolve to make time to write
3. I resolve to complete that unfinished work
4. I resolve to write what I feel the calling to write
5. I resolve to read more, and to read more widely
6. I resolve to tell the world about the book I love the most
7. I resolve to find the perfect place to write
8. I resolve to try a new genre
9. I resolve to tell the truth
10. I resolve to break some rules
11. I resolve to overcome my writer’s block
12. I resolve to back-up my writing
13. I resolve to rectify my weaknesses
14. I resolve to tell people about what I’m writing
15. I resolve to publish my work
16. I resolve to be less critical of my writing

Here’s to an incredible 2016!

NaNoWriMo- Dealing With The Aftermath

Congratulations! You survived the month! With the immediate NaNoWriMo challenge out of the way for many the question remaining is what now? This blog is going to give you some options on what to do with your hard written efforts and getting back to a regular writing routine.

The Proof Read and Preliminary Edit

With any luck you now have a draft of a novel, even if it’s just a shadow of one. This is great! You can’t edit a blank page, and one of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it provides you with a building block to start constructing your novel.

The first thing you should do after NaNoWriMo (after a week break from your manuscript) is do a proof read and a basic edit. This is forging your draft into something readable while also shaping it into something that you can really work with. This is a good way to delete what you don’t need, add what you do, expand on events and descriptions, and make note of any plot holes or character building you need to do.

Your mind will automatically pick up the problems you need to fix but it might also surprise you on what you have written. Getting in the NaNoWriMo challenge zone means that you don’t have time to contemplate on whether or not you have written a good sentence or a bad one, so this first read through will allow you to stop and smell the literary roses. You wrote the first draft of a novel in a month, this is a HUGE achievement so celebrate what you like about your draft and fix what you don’t.2349632625_4eba371b56_z

Share If You Care To  

NaNoWriMo champions are legion. If you are lucky enough to have some writing pals or NaNoWriMo group of friends, why not take the opportunity to share your experiences, or even your drafts after an edit, with each other?

Showing your work to anyone can be an intimidating prospect but a fellow NaNoWriMo champion or a beta reader friend can help you move out of the first draft headspace and give you some valuable feedback.

You are still going to be very close to your project so a fresh set of eyes can help you find many of those pesky plot holes. It can also be a fun way of sharing your badly written sentences together over wine and laughs. It’s been a stressful time (especially if you have been juggling NaNoWriMo with a full time job and family) so celebrating your victory with other writers and friends will help with a much needed recharge.

Taking NaNoWriMo Lessons On Board  

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NaNoWriMo is about writing a novel in a month. But more importantly it is about cultivating a writing discipline. Now you know that you can write 1500 words a day. That is an impressive goal to maintain but what about 500 words a day? You had the writing chops to do triple that.

To be a writer you have to write every day. Picking an achievable daily goal goes a long way when working on a project. Setting out to write a novel is an intimidating undertaking. The average novel is about 80,000 words which is enough to unsettle even the most experienced writer. Yet if you are writing 500 words a day that means you will have hit your target in 160 days. Breaking it down to bite size chunks makes it a lot less daunting.

First drafts can often be the hardest and the most enjoyable part of writing a novel. By finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge you have achieved the first step in getting your novel finished. Giving your draft a good proof and edit, gathering feedback from your betas and maintaining your writing muscles will ensure you are well on your way to getting that first draft nailed down.

What lessons did you take away from your NaNoWriMo experience? Would you do it again? 

Three Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a writer’s version of blood sport. Fifty thousand words in a month, take no prisoners, a first draft heaven where anything goes. The goal is to get a novel together in a month and writers have a tendency to form a love-hate relationship with their manuscript and everything around them. This blog is going to touch on the top three things to do while preparing for NaNo so you get the most of it and not end up a wreck by the end of November.

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 Direction

Writing a book is like being dropped into the wildness, so it’s important to have a map and a compass. Finishing a first draft in a month is a huge and daunting task so it doesn’t matter if you are a plotter or a pantser, having a plan is essential. You are going to want to focus 100% on getting words on the page. Having a rough map will make sure you don’t waffle yourself into a corner and burn out. Here are some quick ideas, whether you are a strict planner or not:

  • Beat sheets– some writers hate these but they can work well to prompt you when you need to put your big events in.
  • Mind maps– grab a pen and create a scribbled mind map even if it’s to get your ideas down.
  • Chapter Plans– these can be as loose or rigid as you like. Try to view them as a suggested route but don’t forget you can move and change stuff about as you go.
  • Notebook– have a notebook designated just for your story. This is a place to jot down ideas, write snippets on the run and keep any research you will need.

Whether you plan chapter by chapter in Scrivener or jot down plot points on a wine stained napkin, you need to know where you want to go before you start. For more ideas and ways to plan go and check out Chuck Wendig’s blog, he offers some great ideas that any writer can adapt.

You Are an Island (in a Chain)

During NaNo your mind needs to be free to focus on your story and roll with all the emotions that go with it. Announcing to your friends and family that you are on a writing challenge will hopefully give them a pre-warning about respecting the space you will need. Writing is a tough, solitary business but remember; meeting up with other writers and NaNoWriMo sufferers can help refresh your mind, bounce feedback off of each other and get you a much needed break away from the keyboard.

It is going to be a busy month so setting extra reminders about birthdays, engagements or bills due dates isn’t a bad idea either. Knowing that everything is covered will free your mind of the mundane so your story can move about freely. Plan to connect so you don’t burn yourself out.

Know Thy Distractions

8583949219_f55657573e_z   Everybody has a weakness or an excuse not to write. Social Media and the ease of checking in while on your computer can seriously cut into your writing time. For 90% of us you have to fight for your writing time and protect it. Don’t waste it on Facebook updates and cat videos. If you have a Social Media weakness it’s a good idea to turn off your wifi before you start. “But I need it to research!”…No, you don’t. The point of NaNo is to write a first draft not a finished copy. If you need research then it should have been done before NaNo started (which is why it’s important to start with a rough plot idea). You can always go back and add the research information into it.

Turn the internet off, everything will be fine, I promise.

The same goes for TV and Netflix, if you know that it’s going to be a distraction, get rid of it. If you have kids or a loud flatmate then maybe head out to a café or for some quiet time at the local library. Libraries usually have quiet rooms you can book if the normal library is too loud. Know what your weaknesses are and prepare for them.

NaNoWriMo can be fun, exciting and productive, but remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Preparing your month by having a novel outlined, planning to step away from the computer to recharge, and minimising your distractions, will ensure you hit your word count and get the most out it.

What Are Your Survival Tips for NaNoWriMo?

How Authors Can Beat the Post-Publication Slump

Writers love to read about how famous writers failed before they became famous. Hundreds of articles and anecdotes abound on the Internet about how Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. And about how J.K Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

As self publishers, getting past the gate keepers is no longer the problem. For the self-publishing crowd, the biggest hit you can receive to your ego is right after you press that almighty PUBLISH button.

This article is going to deal with that post-pub slump and how to move your focus off your stats and back onto your writing.

You’re Published! So Why Aren’t You Excited?

Getting to the point where you press the publish button is a BIG deal. You’ve probably worked years towards this moment; writing your manuscript, sourcing professional editors, cover designers and formatters. It is a big journey only made possible through hard work and tenacity. The rush of the moment is there and you celebrate in whatever way you like. But then, The Slump may hit hard. This generally happens for the below reasons:

  • You’ve been working your guts out to produce your book and your body collapses from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Well hello, burnout!
  • You realise you’re a very small fish in a very large pond.
  • You’re suddenly very aware that your difficult self-promoting and marketing journey has only just begun.
  • You start obsessing over your reviews and sale stats.

The majority of writers have impressive, yet grim stories of self-doubt that they try and keep hidden. It takes focused courage to put yourself out there, open yourself up to an audience you don’t know, and to receive criticism. This does not mean you have to dwell on it and allow it to cause you to question your writing ability or style.

What Should You Do About It?

First things first; remind yourself of your massive achievement and give yourself a pat on the back. Then consider the following alternatives to slumping:

  • Take a few days to relax, binge watch a favourite tv show or read something you have been waiting for. Let your body rest and catch up (sleep and real food is good.)
  • Create a marketing and promotional plan that fits with your budget (if you don’t already have one). Allocate a few promotional ideas each month. Remember, self-publishing is marathon, not a sprint (more on this in a moment).
  • Only permit yourself to check reviews and stats once a day, maximum. Take a moment to savour the good and the bad, then let it go. There’s more to life than analytics.
  • Get focussed on planning and writing your next project. Don’t just hitch your hopes and dreams to one horse. You are a writer so get writing!

A Reminder About Trad vs Self Frameworks

Before you crawl into your sulking comfort hole with chocolate and whiskey, remember this important fact – self publishing is the art of delayed gratification.

The traditionally published writers receive their royalty cheque with instant gratification and recognition. The traditional marketing platform works to produce and sell as many books as they possibly can in order to cover their investments and the writers royalty cheque. As time passes, the marketing efforts will fade away leaving the author to wait for their 2.5 % royalty cheque to come in (sometimes months or years later depending how well the book went).

The self publishing marketing framework is a different beast. You’re building your business from scratch. More often than not, when you hear about a successful self-publisher, it’s because they have been working at it for 5-7 years, have multiple titles and are now collecting their 70% royalty reward.

How To Keep At It Without Going Crazy

Firstly, try and think of yourself as having two separate creative personas. One is the writer and the other is the publisher. As such you need to consider these things:

  • You must allocate time for writing and time for publishing. Do not cross them over.
  • If you’ve already written a few books, or have some planned, write up a release guide for the next 5 years (or as long as possible).
  • Keep in mind your goal; whether that’s to be no.1 on The New York Times best seller list or to be able to quit your day job, it doesn’t matter.
  • Remind yourself of why you chose to self-publish in the first place. If you aren’t willing to learn about the business and acquire multiple skills (or network to find people with those skills), then it may not be for you.
  • Learn as much as you can about the industry, read about the ones who were successful and find out the marketing techniques they used. Not everything will work for you, but you don’t know until you try.

Publishing is a tough industry whether you’re traditionally- or self-published. As writers we have more options and opportunities than ever before, but self-doubt will always be there. Having goals, being even more guarded with your writing time, and remembering why you wanted to be in the business in the first place will ensure that you are too focussed to give self-doubt the time of day.

What do you do once you press publish? How do you stay focused on you end goal?

Image Credit: Diary Writing by Fredrik Rubensson (Flickr)

The Top 5 To-Dos Of Successful Self-Published Authors

Today we are going to discuss the Top 5 things you need to do in order to work smarter and become a successful self-published author. There is a school of thought out there, an incorrect one, that says choosing the self published road is the ‘easy’ way to get a book out there and claim you are a WRITER. For those who are self publishing, and who are taking it seriously, you know that there is nothing easy about it.

The self publishing success stories you hear about- those in the Joanna Penn, Hugh Howie and Mark Dawson categories- you will find common habits and themes that ensured their success. They wrote amazing books because they also got into a strict routine that worked for them and they stuck to it. These are 5 things that will help you kick self-publishing ass:

200Back It Up

Okay, this one should be a no brainer in any business, and yet every writer has experienced it. My big number is 10,000 words but I know others who have lost 250k+. Writers live on their computers, we pour hours of love and blood into our works. The rule: Have one back up locally, and one back up off base (in case your house burns down).

With all of the Dropboxs, iClouds, USB hard drives and multiple server technology there is no excuse not to save your work in a secure location. If you are sticking to a writing goal everyday (as you should be) than the very last thing you want to have to do is fall to weeping in front of an IT guru when he tells you that your hard drive could not be saved.

Take the time, back it up so that you don’t have to do it all again.

Recommended back up platforms for writers:

Writing Time Is Sacred

Life is busy for everyone. Talk to any wanna-be-writer and the first excuse they will give you is “I would write but I just don’t seem to have the time.” If you want to be a writer you actually have to write. You have to carve out a space in the day that is for writing alone. Even if you sit there for an hour staring blankly at the screen you make that time yours. Know when your commitments are and when your optimal writing time is. Get up an hour earlier in the morning if you know you have stuff to do after work, utilise your lunch breaks, your commute home, the hour you get after you put the kids to bed. No excuses. Life will always be busy, there will always be something else that needs to be done. Find your time, dig your heels in and claim it for your writing everyday.

Block It Out

Once you have selected that time for writing, you have to block life’s distractions out. I use the Pomodoro method- work in 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks between. It’s been said that our attention spans can last around 2 hours. So 4 ‘pomodoro’s’ and then a half hour break. Because I have a dire Facebook habit, I use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow which blocks websites from me for 25 minutes- but only the ones choose. So if I need to research Wikipedia I won’t put that down.

This may mean turning your wifi off so you don’t check Facebook, getting your partner to take the kids for their daily walk to the park or closing the door to your flatmates and partner. The world has no place in your writing. Be selfish, use ear plugs or noise reducing headphones, whatever it takes for you to block it out and focus at the task at hand. You only have a certain amount of time allocated to writing don’t let yourself be distracted, the new episode of Game of Thrones can wait (ha ha).
tyrion

Read

To quote urban-fantasy writer Lev Grossman,

Read everything. If you haven’t read everything, you’ll never be able to write anything.”

He is hardly the first writer to present this sentiment because it is a universal truth, good readers make great writers. Reading as a writer feeds us, , you start to see the tricks and when you don’t see them immediately you go back and disseminate in order to find it. It is harder to pull a writer into a world without them turning over every rock. It is in the rock turning that we learn about our own writing and where it is lacking. Struggling with world building? Try Tolkien, the master world builder. Writing clever crime? Read Sherlock Holmes. Know what is out there and feed your own creativity, your work will thank you for it.

Check in with your Writer World

Writing is a solitary business. We are natural introverts but occasionally checking in with the real world can help refresh you and pull you out of a writing slump. Some writer’s really thrive in writing groups and for others they are the most destructive force. Writers need other writers. These are your people, your tribe, they understand your struggles, the one’s that won’t get offended when you bring out a notebook and pen at dinner. Writers brain storm you out of writers block, pour wine as you complain about character’s and plot holes and are the best resource when dealing with writer related questions. They give constructive feedback and encouragement when you need it most.

There is no secret formula for success in self-publishing. It is a job that takes a lot of work and commitment. The writer’s that have ‘made it’ are multitasking, writing entrepreneurial machines. What works for them may not work for you, but the things that all writer’s must do, the things that will give you a solid foundation in order to become successful, are the simple things. Tangible, every day things that have exponential returns.

So remember:

  1. Back up your work so you don’t lose it
  2. Carve out a writing time that is yours (and stick to it)
  3. Block out all the world’s distractions
  4. Reading is a writer’s water so drink deeply from multiple wells, and
  5. Make sure you touch base with other writers so that you don’t end up hanging around your gloomy writing cave like a starved, wordsmith Golum.

What are some of your tips to keep you writing focused?  

 

 

 

How to write the perfect Amazon Book Description

Amazon is a powerful tool in the self publishers shed so it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make it work for you. Knowing how to market your work properly in this huge book paradise can get you noticed by your target audience and drive your sales higher. Today we are going to talk about the importance of the Book Description on your Amazon page and how to get your book to sell.

 What It’s NotNo No

The term ‘Book Description’ can be very misleading in what it’s actually asking for. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive layout of your book, with all your cast of characters and exactly what happens. You don’t want to lay down a full synopsis where you tell the potential reader all of your highlights. Giving away too much of the story will annoy readers and end up turning them off purchasing it.

 What It Is

The best way to think of Amazon Book Descriptions is to consider it in the terms of an enhanced paperback cover blurb. You are writing advertising copy to attract interest and excitement in shoppers. The goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

Yes

How to Lay Out Your Amazon Book Description

There are many good marketing resources geared towards the perfect Book Description but all agree that the following layout, in genre focused variations, works the most effectively:

  1. Jump onto Amazon’s #100 Best Sellers in your genre and study how their book descriptions have been assembled. Like cover design there will be a distinct difference in how your genre is marketed compared to all the others. Study them, pick up tips and tailor your description to these specifications.
  1.  If you have won any awards or accolades put them first in your description e.g. New York Times Best Seller, No.1 Amazon Best Seller. If you do not have any awards you can always start with a positive quote from a reviewer. NOT YOUR MUM. Someone who is a professional reviewer such as Kirkus Reviews or Self Publishing Review.

A good review can go a long way in establishing your credibility as a writer and publisher.

  1. The first line of your description is the most important. Try to think of it as your sales hook. Don’t be nervous about referencing other well known authors here. If you wrote a book about a young pre-adolescent boy who learns magic it doesn’t do any harm to compare it to J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter or Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci.
  1. Your book description should cover these points:
    • Don’t be vague or boring
    • Keep it simple– don’t go into too much detail
    • Don’t give your story or plot lines away
    • Introduce the character in a single line
    • Focus on your characters, and their goals
    • Short, punchy, emotive sentences.
    • Deliver the conflict, make the reader beg to see if it is resolved.
  1.  Always leave the reader wanting more. Closing with particular questions is a good way to leave a description open ended. e.g. “Will Lassie get help in time? Or will little Tommy be left alone in the dark forever?” You can also use this as a tagline on your front cover to catch a reader’s attention.

These are but a few helpful ideas to get your thoughts of your own Book Description flowing. It can be painful and time consuming activity but it’s worth taking the time to get it right as this section is the first example of your writing that readers will encounter. You need to get them interested!

Writing Book Descriptions isn’t an exact science, there is no magic formula that will work every time, but using them as a marketing tool can help attract your readers. The most important thing to remember? You can always rewrite and change it up until you find what works for you and your story!

For more information on crafting Book Descriptions the below is some helpful links and testimonials:

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/10/05/the-11-ingredients-of-a-sizzling-book-description/

http://thefutureofink.com/kindle-books-sales-tool/

https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1462

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/best-practices-for-amazon-ebook-sales/

What have you found works well in a Books Description? As a reader and consumer what turns you off about Book Descriptions when you are shopping?

 

Editors- Why Self- Pubbed Authors Should Have Two

The professional editorial process is key for any writer but as a self-publisher it is a major part of your business that you cannot afford to do shabbily. It may surprise you to learn that less than one percent of books that come to us for an Interior Layout are free of errors! This week we are going to put on our serious self publishing business hats and talk about why you need at least two editing rounds, by separate editors, in order to produce a professional work that meets market standards.

What types of edits/editors are there?

  1. The Structure Edit
    Like a building, your story needs a strong structure in order for it to not fall over in the storm of the marketplace. Structure deals with the important questions such as does your plot make sense, what are the themes explored within your work, is the Point of View consistent and what is your characterization like. Structural editors look at the overall flow of your story breaking it down to study the actual content. It is a time consuming process which is why the general cost of good Structural Editor can be high. Structural Editors make sure that your storylines are resolved so that you don’t have plot holes. It is important to note that Structural Editors make no physical changes to your manuscript, they will not tell you how to fix the problems that have been found. They have God Vision to point out what’s going wrong and where so that you can go back and fix it before you hand it off to the next stage of editing.
  2. The Copy and Proof Edit
    Copy Editors focus on the mechanics of your writing such as grammar, spelling, formatting so that physical changes can get made. A decent Copy Editor can help to reorganise your story and eliminate the issues pointed out by your Structural Editor. Copy editing will sharpen your prose, refine your style and make sure you’re telling your story in the most cohesive manner. There is some confusion about copy editors and proof readers being the same thing but both have a very separate role to play in manuscript preparation. The main difference is that proof reading is not about revision but correction. Proof readers check your work line by line to make sure that all editorial notes have been completed, all formatting is consistent, that illustrations, graphs, foot notes and page numbers are correct. They look at your work ‘blindly’ to ensure that everything is in its proper order and place as they are the last stop before your work goes to be formatted.

Your Structural Editor and your Copy Editor should be separate people

Why? Because editors are human and they too can make mistakes, things can get over looked easily especially if they are already familiar with the flow of the story. Having a separate Structural and Copy Editor will ensure that what one won’t pick up hopefully the other one will. In traditionally publishing it can take up to 12 months before a writer sees the book in print. This is due to the multiple changing of editing and proof reading hands that it does to ensure the end product reaches that professional standard.

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What to do before sending your manuscript to an Editor

  • Put your manuscript in a draw for a few months before you edit it. You are more likely to see the bigger problems with story lines, sub plots and characters because they aren’t living in your head anymore.
  • Join a writing group or make friends with other helpful writers who can offer valuable feedback. Only take on board the comments that are valid and constructive. They understand the process so they will be able to share their experiences and knowledge.
  • Read books about writing. Learn about structure, grammar, characterization. Read your favorite writers and try to pick out the tricks they have used to create the desired affects. The more you learn the more you can pick up where your own work is falling down.
  • Print your manuscript, two pages to a single page so that it looks like a paperback layout. All the errors that are hidden on screen will start to pop out.
  • Go through your MS backwards, line by line, so that you don’t get involved in the story.

Self Publishers are business owners and you must view your publication as a major project. You are providing a product to a well-established, competitive market and you want to give your product its best chance.

All businesses work on a budget and editing is something that you have to view as an investment to save for. If you have a very small budget try and make friends with editors through your writing group network, maybe barter services with them or ask if they will consider a payment plan but do not DIY your editing. You cannot hope to get it to the standard it needs to be because you’re too close and too biased towards your project. Let the baby go.

A lot of the criticism towards indie writers is focused on the sea of poorly edited work sloshing about the market.

Remember if there are still obvious errors in your manuscript this means it is not ready to be created into a final interior, let alone published.

Ensuring that your work has been edited by at least two separate editors and a proof reader will eliminate mistakes, save you money in the reformatting costs and help cement your reputation as a professional writer and publisher.

Here are some professional editors that I recommend:

SPR

Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Holloway House

Arrowhead Editing

Clio Editing

Katie McCoach

What is the best editing advice you have ever received? What are your processes to eliminate errors?

 

3 Things To Get You Writing Everyday

LisaAt times writers feel like gods looking at worlds that no one else can see, words flow out faster than nimble fingers can type and thousands of words can appear out of no where. Then there are the other times when you get the fear as writer Holly Black used to,

“I was scared I was doing something wrong, that I was leading the characters down the wrong path. I was scared of making choices. I had completely lost touch with the part of myself that thought of writing as play.”

This week’s blog is going to suggest three helpful ways to stop the fear and get you back to putting words down on the page.

The Sweet Spot to Stop

The great and often challenging Ernest Hemingway once stated in an article with the Paris Review;

“you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.”

This advice is true for all writers and possibly, if you can cultivate the habit, one of the most valuable pieces of writing advice you will ever receive. If you are writing and you know you are coming up to something exciting, stop for the day. That moment you are itching to keep going is your halt mark. That pick up point is the surest way of knowing a direction to head in next. Let it stew for the night and then when you wake up in the morning you will be so eager to start writing you won’t have time to listen to the voice of doubt.

Hemingway2

Out and About

Writers are observers of life. Sitting numbly staring at a blank screen is disheartening and doesn’t get you any where. Go for a walk, to the library or to your favouring cafe with a notebook and pen and write what you see. Writers have a habit of living behind desks and sometimes you need to get out like Haruki Murakami who swears that,

“Most of what I know about writing fiction I learned by running every day.”

Observing people when they don’t know they are being watched is some of the most interesting character building insights you will ever gain as a writer. It is when the masks are dropped that the characters, like people, reveal who they really are. It may seem counter intuitive and unrelated to the piece you are writing at the time but those observations will get you writing. The change of scenery may just be the thing to recharge your creative batteries and spark new stories.

Shut Up and Write

“Writing is contagious madness, a lot of the times. Even when it sucks, you wanna do it. And that, I think, is one of the things that separates the Aspiring Not-Really-Writers from the Really Real Writers — the latter group writes even when it’s hard, even when the motivation is a dry well,” says writer Chuck Wendig, and he is dead on.

Writers write. It is hard work and the people that are serious about it know that it is a skill that takes many hours to master. Writing is a muscle that needs to be worked every day even when it hurts and there is a million other things demanding your attention. Setting realistic daily word counts, slowly increasing them as you meet your target, is the ONLY way to get things written. As writers we have to carve out time, shut the door, set a goal and stick to it.

CArey

The ultimate goal of a writer is to keep at it every day, to defeat the fear of the blank page altogether. Leaving stories at interesting points, getting out and watching the world around you will always help but at the end of the day only putting in the hours of hard work it will get it done.

 

 

What gets you writing in the day? What have you found that inspires you when you are stuck?