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Author: Iola

I provide professional freelance manuscript assessment, copyediting and proofreading services for writers of Christian fiction and non-fiction books, stories and articles. I also review Christian novels at www.christianreads.blogspot.com.

Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings

Kill your darlings is another of those oft-quoted pieces of writing advice. It’s sometimes quoted as murder your darlings, but never fear. No actual killing or murdering is required.

No, the saying relates to the revision and editing process. It refers to the need for us to revise or delete (kill) any word, any sentence, any paragraph, any scene that doesn’t add to the point of our writing.

What Are Your Darlings?

These are called darlings because they are often the part we like best as the writer—the interesting word, the original turn of phrase, the scene that makes us laugh (or cry) and confirms we can actually do this thing. We can write. We are writers.

This could be because our darling doesn’t move the plot forward, or because it reveals too much information too soon. It could be because it doesn’t aid in characterisation, or because it is inconsistent with the character as he or she has been established. Or it could be because it takes readers off on an unnecessary tangent, like the time …

Sometimes these are our favourite parts, hence killing our darlings.

But killing your darlings isn’t a bad thing. Done properly, it makes your story better.

Why Do Your Darlings Have to Die?

In non-fiction, you have to kill your darlings because you need to keep your readers on track. You are making a point, and every word, every sentence, every paragraph needs to reinforce your argument. Yes, you can tell stories in non-fiction. But they must relate to your central point. For example, I could add in a couple of paragraphs over the origin of the phrase, Kill Your Darlings, with an in-depth examination of who reportedly said it first. That might be interesting, but it doesn’t add to the central point of this post.

Fiction is similar—we need to keep ourselves and our readers on track. There is an assumption in fiction that everything is important. This is the principle of Chekov’s gun:

If there is a rifle on the mantelpiece in the first act, it needs to be fired in the third act.

(I could now go down any number of rabbit holes expanding on whether it’s a gun, a riffle, a pistol or a sidearm, but again … kill those darlings.)

In fiction, each scene needs to move your plot forward and deepen characterisation. Any scene that doesn’t needs to be strengthened, or cut. Even though you spent hours writing it. Kill those darlings. Take the information the reader needs and sliver it into the plot. Ignore the rest, or turn it into a short story or something else that can be downloaded from your website as a gift to email subscribers.

How to Find and Kill Your Darlings

I’ve found killing my darlings isn’t the hard part. The hard part is identifying them in the first place. Some are easy to find and easy to kill. Others are much harder. Three darlings that need a swift death are:

  • Weasel words
  • Wasted words
  • Writerly words

Weasel Words

Most authors have weasel words—words like just, quite, really, that, or very—which don’t add to the writing. Other overused words include smile and shrug and nod. It’s not that they are bad words. It’s that they are overused to the point they become boring and predictable. And who wants their writing to be boring and predictable?

Kill those darlings.

Wasted Words

Some words are wasted words—words that don’t add anything to the story or deepen characterisation. At best, these are just words. At worst, they are sentences or paragraphs or scenes. Sometimes these wasted words are examples of repetition, where we’ve said the same thing more than once. Where two or three different images are used to give the same effect. Where we’ve repeated ourselves.

Like in that paragraph.

It’s not fun to read. So use the strongest image, and delete the others. Sol Stein has a formula: 1+1= ½ . It means the more different images you use to show something, the weaker the overall writing.

Here’s an example, taken from Stein on Writing:

He had time to think, time to become an old man in aspic, in sculptured soap, quaint and white.

I like the image of an old man in aspic. It’s original, and it gives the impression of someone who is so old they are almost preserved. But the image of soap detracts from the first image. The author also explains the soap image: quaint and white. Stein points out that we usually think of soap as white unless a colour is stated, so that’s redundant. And since when was soap ‘quaint’?

Kill those darlings.

Writerly Words

Fictional darlings can include words or phrases that you like, but that don’t add to the story. Sometimes they are what Margie Lawson calls writerly words. Words that don’t sound natural for your character or story. Words that sound like a writer wrote them. These are often the hardest darlings to kill, because they are the words we struggled to find. But just because we searched three thesauruses (thesauri?) to find the right word doesn’t mean it’s the right word for our character.

Kill those darlings.

But How Do I Find Them?

The best way to find your darlings is to put your manuscript aside for as long as possible so that when you read it again, you read it with fresh eyes. This means you’re better able to look at it as a reader, and more likely to pick up mistakes … and darlings. The longer the manuscript, the longer the time needed between writing and editing.

You may have darlings that serve a purpose—moving the plot forward, deepening characterisation, or both. Great. They can live. But cut what you can. Everything you cut is something your editor doesn’t have to cut for you, which means your editing fees will be lower.

Kill those darlings. Your editor with thank you.

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs | 9 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: the best posts of the week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Point of View

One of my personal bugbears when reading (and editing) is novels which headhop. In this excellent post, Most Common Writing Mistakes: Head-Hopping POV KM Weiland explains why headhopping is a bad idea … and how it’s often a symptom of a bigger problem:

it’s also a sign the entire narrative—all the way down to the structural foundation of the plot—lacks focus.

Publishing

Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses Rip Van Winkle Syndrome among writers—a summary of how the business of publishing has changed in the last decade. Anyone who hasn’t kept up might feel like Rip Van Winkle did after waking from his twenty-year sleep.

Marketing

Cover Design

Emilie Hendryx visits Novel Rocket to share 3 Ways Your Cover Sells Your Novel. I have to agree: people do judge books by their cover. There is a new release I keep seeing promoted on blogs and social media. I know from the title and blurb it’s supposed to be historical fiction with a romantic element. Maybe I’m the only one, but the cover image reminds me of Cruella de Vil … not my idea of a romantic heroine. No, I’m not going to share the name or author.

Amazon Ads

David Gaughran shares 9 Ways to Improve AMS – Amazon Ads for Authors. It’s a combination of instruction on how to use Amazon ads, and how Amazon could make their advertising more user-friendly i.e. encourage advertisers to spend more money by providing clearer information on how to get a positive ROI.

I don’t have any books for sale on Amazon, so my experience of Amazon ads is solely as a potential Kindle book buyer. Almost all the books I check out are Christian fiction, so I’d expect the advertised books to be Christian fiction—or at the most edgy, fiction written by Christian authors for the general market. But that’s not the case, and I guess we can thank EL James and Christian Grey for that. I wonder if these authors realise they are wasting their time and money?

Sharing to Social Media

Buffer have an excellent post on What to Post to Each Social Media Platform (Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter). You can post to five of these six using a free Buffer account, or to all six using a basic paid Awesome account (my choice). Anyway, check out the post. Or click here to find out more about how I use Buffer.

Website Maintenance

If you have a WordPress website (and you should), you need to keep it maintained (voice of experience here). Shannon Mattern explains how in How to Maintain Your Website.

If you want to set up your own WordPress website and don’t know where to start, I recommend Shannon’s free Five Day Website Challenge. It’s how I developed this site, and www.iolagoulton.com. Click here to find out more.

What’s the best blog post you’ve read this week?

Write What You Know

Write What You Know

Three of the most commonly quoted pieced of writing advice are show, don’t tell, kill your darlings, and write what you know.

Of these, I suspect write what you know is the least useful.

I have no scientific proof for this, but for the sake of argument, let’s agree and move on (if you don’t agree, leave a comment with what you consider to be the most oft-quoted piece of useless writing advice).

Write what you know. I’ve spent too many hours on Amazon over the years, and I’ve yet to find a novel about a middle-aged stay-at-home working-from-home still-married mother living in a mid-sized city in a small country nowhere near anywhere.

A little boring, perhaps?

Apart from anything else, the fiction I read tends to favour big city or small town settings (and mostly US settings). It favours characters with no children (or small children). It favours single characters (who end up married).

Fiction favours characters who are dealing with some huge drama in their life. And I’m not. This is good. I have no need to fill my life with drama—I can watch the TV new or read a novel if I’m looking for drama.

Write What You Know

A lot of people write about things they know little or nothing about from personal experience. At least, I hope all those authors writing thrillers about serial killers don’t have personal experience. But they can still write about serial killers—and write well.

I’m not convinced write what you know is great writing advice.

I’m not alone. I’ve read a lot of blog posts and online articles twisting the “write what you know” mantra. Here are some of my favourites:

Write What You Feel

This one makes a lot of sense. The best fiction is fiction which makes the readers feel. This is what attracts some people to writing—the ability to manipulate their reader’s emotions. The ability to make their readers laugh. Or cry. We can all feel, so we can all learn to channel those feelings into our writing.

Write What You Want to Know

This comes from a post by author Vicki Delany, published at Romance University. Delany echoes my own issue with write what you know: that most of us know some pretty boring stuff that no one wants to read about. In her case, that’s designing computer systems for the banking industry.

We can learn what we don’t know. We can visit locations. We can study the theory. We can ask people who are experts in the area. As Delany says:

“Write what you want to know” and you’ll meet some wonderful people, and learn some marvelous things along the way.

Write What Scares You

Caroliena Cabada heard this advice in a creative writing class at university in Sydney, Australia, from writer Nakkaih Lui. She doesn’t mean write something that literally scares you, like a horror novel. Instead, she means we need to step out of our writing comfort zones and write something different, perhaps something we said we’d never write. This might mean writing in a different genre (horror vs romance), or in a different (a play instead of a novel).

Write what scares you.

A lot of authors say they don’t like writing blog posts or book reviews. Perhaps those are the things which scare them … the thing they should try writing. For me, writing a novel is scary. It’s long. Much longer than the reviews and blog posts I’m more comfortable writing.

Write Who You Are

This take comes from a novel—The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck. I think this has a ring of truth—many novelists say they find inspiration for their characters within themselves, or they write to answer their own questions.

And our attitudes and beliefs will come through in whatever we write, fiction or non-fiction. Many people are writing to find truth, or to share the truth as they see it, the good and the bad. Steven James puts it like this:

I believe that when it comes to fiction, we should tell stories that express the full measure of humanity—stories that reveal both the glory and grandeur of life, while also honestly acknowledging the darkness and deviance that is there as well.

In Characters and Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card says:

Every story choice you make arises out of who you are, at the deepest levels of your soul; and every story you tell reveals who you are and the way you conceive the world around you

As Christian writers, this means we’re writing from a Christian world view, from the believe that God is Truth. Ann Tatlock says:

Anything a Christian writes must reflect the truth of God’s account. If as a Christian we don’t write from a biblical worldview, we’re not portraying reality as it is.

I believe that holds true whether we’re writing for the Christian market or the general market. What do you think?

What’s your favourite spin on “write what you know”?

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs | 2 September 2017

I haven’t posted for the last two weeks (did you notice?). The first weekend, I was attending the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, listening to awesome speakers like Kristen Lamb and Christie Craig.

Kristen Lamb shared lots of great tips about developing an author platform and using social media, and I blogged about that at Australasian Christian Writers (click here to read my post). Christie Craig was a brilliant combination of writing craft, humour, and inspiration. I’ve got a guest post on her presentation coming up in a couple of weeks at International Christian Fiction Writers, so I’ll link to that when it posts.

Then last weekend my husband took me away for long weekend to celebrate my birthday. We visited the South Island—Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Wakaka, and visited several Lord of the Rings filming locations. Not that any of you like #LOTR …

Anyway, let’s get back to what’s been going on in the writing world this week.

Publishing

YA Author Caught Manipulating the NYT Bestseller List

There have been several stories over the years of authors buying bulk copies of their books to gain a place on the prestigious (or is that once-prestigious) New York Times Bestseller list. The most famous (infamous?) in Christian circles is probably Mark Driscoll, but he is not alone.

The latest story is about YA author Lani Sarem and her YA novel, Handbook for Mortals. Despite being published by a miniscule publisher, with no preorder buzz, and out of stock on Amazon, the book somehow managed to make it to the top of the NYT Young Adult Hardcover list. This struck some YA blogger types as odd, so they did a little investigation.

To cut a long story short, they found someone (the author?) had manipulated the list by contacting bookstores which report to the NYT and ordering 29 copies (because orders of 30 or more copies trigger a warning that the book is being purchased in bulk). It appears these orders counted as sales, even though the book wasn’t delivered or paid for.

Good on the New York Times for doing their own research and revising the list.

How to Self-Publish

Self-Publishing Mastery is a free online course from Ian Robb Wright, run through Teachable. I’ve signed up, but haven’t completed it myself. David Gaughran has checked it out, and says while there is an upsell at the beginning, it’s only USD 28, and the rest of the course looks like it contains good solid content with no sales pitches. So if you’re looking to find out about self-publishing, this could be a good place to start.

Ebook Formatting

Draft2Digital have introduced professional ebook templates for epub and mobi files. This provides self-published authors with an alternative to the dreaded Smashwords meatgrinder, or the other options like Scrivener (which I can’t get the hang of), Vellum (which I can’t use, because I don’t use a Mac), and Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates (which I do like, but you have to buy them).

You can find out more at the Draft2Digital blog. How do you format your ebooks? Will you try the Draft2Digital templates?

Developmental Editing

I have a lot of potential clients approach me asking for copyediting and proofreading, but when I look at their manuscript, it becomes obvious their novels are not ready for copyediting. They need more work. They need a developmental edit. In Five Reasons Your Novel Needs a Developmental Edit, Jonathan Vars shares what a developmental edit should cover.

Writing

Free Story Genius Webinar

One of my favourite writing craft books is Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Lisa has teamed up with writing coach Jeannie Nash at Author Accelerator to offer an exclusive webinar next week on Thursday 7 September/Friday 8 September (it’s 10:30am Thursday Pacific Time, which unfortunately translates as 5:30 am Friday for me in New Zealand).

I expect there will be a sales pitch for Author Accelerator’s Story Genius training course, but I’m sure there will be lots of great content as well. It’s free, and there will be a replay (for those Australians who aren’t prepared to get up at 3:30am).

Writing Agathokakological Stories

Finally, Telling the Truth in Fiction shares some inspiration from Steven James, on why our stories must be agathokakological … telling good and evil. What James doesn’t say is that in order to tell the truth in fiction, we must know The Truth (which he does). That’s our role as Christian authors, no matter who our audience is.

How Do I Find a Publisher?

Reader Question: How do I Find a Publisher? (#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop)

This blog post comes from a question I was asked on Twitter: could I help the writer find a publisher. It’s also part of the August #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, hosted by Raimey Gallant.

Can I help you find a publisher?

No, I can’t. Not directly.

But I can provide you with some advice that might help. First, know your genre. Then understand the paths to publishing, and choose the best path for you.

Know Your Genre

No publisher publishes anything and everything. Small publishers specialise. Big publishers have dozens of imprints, each specialising in specific genres.

Harlequin Mills & Boon (HMB) are a great example. HMB publish romance novels under a range of branded imprints. HMB are also subsidiary of HarperCollins, one of the big five multinational publishers, who publish a huge range of romance and non-romance titles.

As an author, this means you have to know your genre so you can target the specific publishers and imprints who publish your genre. Don’t submit your post-apocalyptic thriller to Love Inspired (the HMB Christian romance line). Don’t submit your historical epic to a publisher that specialises in flash fiction.

Instead, do your research and find out which publishers represent your genre. These sources might help:

Know Your Path To Publishing

There are various paths to publishing, each of which I’ve covered in detail in previous blog posts. You can:

  • Publish through a major trade publisher
  • Publish through a small press
  • Self-publish
  • Vanity Publish

I’ll look at each of these:

Major Trade Publisher

(see Paths to Publishing: Trade Publishing for more information)

Major trade publishers are probably the publishers you’ve heard of. If you read books in your genre (and you should), they are books from these publishers. You’ll find their books in your local bookstore and at your local library. And you’ll find their books in your local supermarket or big-box store.

The problem with major trade publishers is that every aspiring author wants to be published by one of an ever-shrinking number of publishers. Almost none take submissions directly from authors—instead, you’ll need to be invited to submit, usually through a recognised literary agent (click here to read my post on finding a literary agent).

If you can’t get an agent, your other traditional publishing option is a small press.

Small Press

(see Paths to Publishing: Small Presses for more information)

You probably haven’t heard of many of the small presses, although the better ones will be represented in your local bookstore or library. Many accept submissions directly from authors (although some only accept submissions from recognised literary agents).

The main problem with small presses is that they are small, which means they can’t do everything well. They might be good at editing, but have mediocre cover design (or vice versa). They won’t have the distribution networks a bigger publisher has—you might find your novel in your local Christian bookstore, but you won’t find it at the supermarket or airport.

Some offer digital-only or digital-first contracts.

This means your book is only produced as an ebook, probably because the publisher can’t afford to invest in cheap offset printing without having a print distribution network (and perhaps can’t make a profit of the more expensive print-on-demand).

There is nothing necessarily wrong with the better small presses. But if you choose to publish with a small press, you need to make sure they are doing a better job than you could if you self-published.

Self-publishing

(see Paths to Publishing: Self-Publishing for more information)

Self-publishing means you wear multiple hats. As the author, you write and revise your book, and you have primary responsibility for marketing. (That’s the same no matter what path you take to publishing.)

You then have a role as a publisher, where you’re responsible for all the business aspects of publishing: finding one or more editors, getting your book edited, proofread and formatted. Finding a cover designer and agreeing a cover. Finding reviewers and influencers. Sending your book off to print (if you’ve decided you need a print run—many authors don’t). Converting your book into ebook format, and uploading to the various retailers.

Self-publishers still need partners to distribute their book. The most common distributors are:

For paper books:

These distributors list your book in their online catalogue, then print it when an order is received, and ship it directly to the purchaser. As the author, you receive the profit on each sale (i.e. purchase price less printing, handling, and distribution costs).

For ebooks:

There are two main formats of ebooks: epub, and mobi. All retailers except Amazon sell ebooks in epub format. Amazon uses mobi, their own proprietary format. Distributors such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords will sell books in a range of formats, as selected by the purchaser.

As an author, you receive the sale price less a distribution fee. This distribution fee varies from 35% to 70%, depending on the retailer and the sale price. For example, if you publish on Amazon Kindle, you keep 70% of the sale price on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, and 35% for cheaper or more expensive books.

There are an increasing number of companies who advertise themselves as assisted self-publishers.

Some of these are legitimate companies providing quality services to authors (e.g. editing, cover design, formatting, or printing services). But many are vanity presses, charging a lot of money and not delivering a quality result.

Vanity Publishing

(see Paths to Publishing: Vanity Publishing and Author Services for more information)

This is not my recommended route. In fact, it’s one I recommend you avoid. These publishers might tell you they are self-publishers (but they ask for money), or they might tell you they are traditional publishers (but they ask for money). They may call themselves a co-operative publisher, a hybrid publisher, a partnership publisher, a self-publisher, or even traditional royalty-paying publisher.

What they won’t call themselves is a vanity publisher. But that doesn’t change what they are. But you can learn to recognise them: vanity publishers ask for money.

Check out their website: are they trying to sell books to readers, or publishing packages to writers? A genuine publisher makes their money by selling books to readers. A vanity press makes money without ever selling a single book. They don’t usually offer editing, and their books are often overpriced relative to the market. The contract may well assure you that you earn 100% royalties, but 100% of no sales is nothing.

If you have any doubts, don’t sign.

To my Twitter questioner:

No, this doesn’t directly help you find a publisher. But I hope it helps you understand the publishing industry, and brings you a few steps closer to finding the right publisher for your book. It might just be you.

Are you a published author? Which path to publishing did you choose? What advice do you have for my Twitter questioner?

This post is part of the August #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. Click here to find other blogs participating in the Hop.

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 12 August 2017

Best of the Blogs—the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing and marketing your book.

Writing

Plot Problems

First, Kristen Lamb is back with her usual sensitive discussion on we can improve our writing. No, wait. Kristen does kickboxing, not sensitive (and she might call this post Six Simple Reasons Our Story Sucks and How to Fix It, but fixing a story which sucks can be anything but simple).

Characterisation

One of the “rules” of fiction is to write characters our readers can connect with. But there is an exception to every rule. In The Importance of Infection in Fiction, Sarah Callender uses the movie Dunkirk to suggest an exception to the connection rule. She says:

Dunkirk reminded me that it’s not the amount of character development or back story that pins me to my seat. It’s the degree to which I am infected that matters.

Have you seen the movie? After reading this, I’m not sure I want to …

Self-Editing

Janice Hardy at Fiction University shares Improving Your Writing Without Raising Your Word Count. She identifies several ways we can make our scenes overly wordy without adding anything of substance, and how we can revise our work to fix that. (That sentence is twenty-six words long, and is a good example of the flab we editors love to trim.)

Publishing

America Star Books (aka Publish America) appear to be in trouble—they have published just two books since May (compared to up to fifteen a month in previous years). They are no longer accepting submissions (although, strangely, the submissions page at the supposedly defunct Publish America is open).

Of course, this isn’t a bad thing (except for the unlucky authors caught in their web). The world would be a better place without publishers like America Star Books and Author Solutions. As usual, Writer Beware have all the details.

Marketing

Back Cover Copy

Ask any author, and they’ll tell you writing those 100 words to go on the back cover of a book is infinitely harder than writing the actual book. In Blurbs, Back Cover Copy and Pitches, Oh My! Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense Author Lisa Phillips shares her tips.

That’s it from me for this week. What’s the best post you’ve read recently on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs | 5 August 2017

Best of the blogs—the best posts of the week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your book.

Writing

Opening Hook

How to Make a Grand Opening is a great post from Tina Ann Forkner visiting Writers in the Storm. We all know—as readers and as writers—that those opening paragraphs are vital. In this post, Tina explains what needs to be included. A lot—which is part of the reason they are so hard.

Show, Don’t Tell

We all know the rule: show, don’t tell. We even know why it’s bad. What can be harder to understand is the sometimes subtle difference between the two. In Showing Versus Telling: So SHOW Me Already! PJ Parrish visits The Kill Zone Blog to show us.

It’s long, with several examples, but it’s one of the best posts I’ve read on the subject.

Christian Fiction

Lee Tobin McClain addressed an important question for Christian writers at Inspy Romance: How Racy is Too Racy? She shows a before-and-after version of a scene from her new Love Inspired release. The editor queried the scene as being out of line with their standards. It didn’t seem that racy to me, but Love Inspired is known for their conservative storylines and content. What do you think?

Marketing

Book Marketing Checklist

Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies and The Book Launch Blueprint, is back with another great freebie. The Book Marketing Checklist is a 45-page pdf download of (I imagine) pretty much everything you need to think about in marketing your book or books.

Yes, it’s a list. And I know some of you don’t like lists because they only tell you what you need to do, not how to do it. If that sounds familiar, I have a couple of suggestions:

  • Follow my blog on Feedly or your favourite RSS feed app, so you don’t miss any of my more detailed how-to posts.
  • Subscribe to my newsletter, so you’ll get a heads-up the next time I run my Kick Start Your Author Platform challenge (click here to subscribe).

Book Reviews

Jason B Ladd, author of Book Review Banzai, visits The Creative Penn to explain How to Get Book Reviews as an Unknown Author. He makes some great points (and I must read his book).

Facebook

I know next to nothing about Facebook advertising. The one thing I do know is that if you are using Facebook advertising, or intend to use it in the future, then you need to install the Facebook Pixel on your website.

If that’s gobbledegook to you, then you need to read this post from Social Media Examiner:

What are the best posts you’ve found this week on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 29 July 2017

I’m back with best of the blogs, the best posts I’ve found this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. What’s the best or most useful post you’ve read this week? Let me know in the comments.

Writing

Conflict in Romance

In Conflict – Avoid the Easy Route, posted at Romance University, editor Julie Sturgeon looks at conflict in romance. She explains how getting the internal conflict wrong can leave you with a grown-up version of “Green Eggs and Ham”. Oops.

(As an aside, Andrea Grigg uses exactly this trope in Too Pretty, but without coming off like an adult Dr Seuss book. At least not in my view).

Characterisation

How to Write Characters Who Don’t All Feel the Same is an excellent post from Janice Hardy at Fiction University on showing character traits though dialogue, dialogue tags, and action.

Janice is the author of Understanding Show, Don’t Tell. I haven’t read it yet, but one of my clients credits it with cutting her editing bill in half. After reading this book, she did another round of intensive self-editing on her manuscript (including cutting 25,000 words to go into a sequel). As a result, I was able to complete her edit for half my original quote. It made it a much more enjoyable job as well!

Editing

I was interviewed by Christine Dillon about my role as an editor. Do you have any burning editing questions you’d like me to answer?

Marketing

Website Design #1 (Big Picture)

As well as being a freelance editor, I’m also a book reviewer. As part of my reviewing activities, I like to be able to link to an author’s blog, add their brief bio to a review, link to their books on Amazon, tag them in a post on Twitter and so on.

It’s amazing how often I can’t do these things because the author doesn’t have a Twitter account or hasn’t set up an Amazon Author page or (worse) doesn’t even make their books available on Amazon.

These authors are missing out on free publicity from me (and probably from other reviewers as well) for the simple reason that they haven’t taken the time to set their basic passive marketing up properly. Most authors claim to loathe marketing ,which is all the more reason to do this part well.

After all, if you can get other people (readers and reviewers) talking about your book to their friends, that’s even more powerful than you talking about your book.

Author Jami Gold has recently updated her website, to make sure she was doing all these basics right. In this blog post, she explains what she’s done, and why: To Make A Reader Friendly Website.

Yes, I know this is a list of activities without any explanation of how she has done it. Don’t worry—I’ll cover as much as I can over the next few months in my Wednesday blog posts. In the meantime, follow my blog on Feedly (or your favourite reader) or subscribe to my monthly Newsletter to ensure you don’t miss any posts.

Website Design #2 (Detail)

Ever wanted to add quotes to your WordPress site (like Bible quotes, quotes from your books, quotes from books you’ve enjoyed …). This blog post explains how you can add quotes using a free WordPress plugin. Very clever!

How Do Successful Authors Market their Books?

BookBaby have released a survey on what successful authors do in terms of marketing. The survey was completed by 7,677 published or aspiring authors in October and November 2016.

There are some interesting results, such as the table comparing the activities of successful authors ($5,000 or more in annual book sales) vs. unsuccessful authors ($100 or less in annual book sales). What would be more interesting is understanding the return on investment (ROI) of these activities—especially the high-cost-no-guaranteed-return activities such as hiring a publicist.

There were also interesting comments on soliciting reviews. Successful authors were more likely to ask book bloggers for reviews, while unsuccessful authors asked friends and family. This is significant: Amazon will delete reviews from people they suspect of having a financial or personal relationship with the author, which defeats the purpose of asking friends and family for reviews.

Also, it’s not good marketing. If I look at a book on Amazon and notice that two of the five reviewers have the same last name as the author, I’m going to assume those are reviews from family members—especially if the author has a less common last name (e.g. Goulton). And I’m going to ignore the reviews, because I know they are biased.

What reviews do you pay the most attention to?

Interview by Christine Dillon

I’ve just been interviewed by Christine Dillon, a missionary and author who is currently in the final stages of publishing her first novel.

 

We discuss my journey into editing, and what an editor does. She also asks me about my own writing, and about my volunteer roles with Australasian Christian Writers and other writing organisations.

 

Click here to visit her website and read the interview.

 

And watch out for Grace in Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon, which releases in November 2017!

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 22 July 2017

Writing

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

This week was the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop hosted by Raimey Gallant. Over twenty writers shared their tips on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Erika Timar has helpfully compiled a listing of all the posts—and there are some good ones. I’ve included a couple of my favourites in this post.

LM Durand presents 35 ideas for marketing your book on Instagram.
Kristina Stanley shows how to open a scene.
ML Keller shows us when and how to transform telling into showing.

Song Lyrics

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about whether authors can use song lyrics in their books (short answer: only if the song’s writer has been dead for over seventy years).

In Should I Use Song Lyrics in My Writing?, published at The Steve Laube Agency blog, Christian literary agent Tamela Hancock Murray suggests we’re asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t be asking “can we?”. Instead, ask “should we?”

Marketing

Marketing Must-Haves

Chris Syme shares a short post introducing her three marketing must-haves for newbie authors. At the risk of stealing her thunder, I’ll tell you what they are:

1. An author website with a URL that matches their author name (e.g. www.iolagoulton.com).
2. An email list.
3. A Facebook business page. No, your personal profile isn’t good enough (click here to find out the difference).

Chris goes into more detail about each of these in her marketing books, all of which I recommend:

SMART Social Media for Authors

Sell More Books with Less Social Media 

Sell More Books with Less Marketing

 

Marketing Plan

Everyone tells us we need a marketing plan. There are even some internet templates to help you write one. Unfortunately, most are so long it looks like writing the book would be quicker.

In this short post, Joel Friedlander takes us through the five essential questions that need to be answered in a book marketing plan (actually, substitute “customers” for “readers”, and it will probably work in other industries).

Missing Lettr

Over the last two weeks, I’ve written posts explaining how I use the paid versions of Buffer and Social Jukebox to manage my social media sharing. There are other tools, such as Hootsuite and CoPromote.

Missing Lettr is another tool. It allows users to promote blog content over the next year. The free version allows users to share one campaign (i.e. blog post) a week, from one website to one social media profile.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books are sharing a limited-time promotion on Missing Lettr’s paid plans—6 months for the price of 1. The cheapest paid plan (Personal) is usually $15/month, and allows users to schedule four campaigns a week from up to two websites, to four social media profiles.

It’s a good deal, and I might be tempted if I wasn’t already using the Power Scheduler and Buffer’s Awesome plan ($10/month) to achieve the same result. Let me know if you sign up for Missing Lettr—I’d love to know how you find it.

That’s all for this week! Which post did you think was the most interesting?