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Best of the Blogs | 2 December 2017

It’s December already! The blogs have been a little quiet this week—perhaps everyone is recovering from Thanksgiving. But there is still plenty of news!

Publishing

Christian Fiction Genre

Library Journal has published an in-depth spotlight on Christian Fiction, from writer and reviewer Julia Reffner. The article, A Delicate Balance, shows what efforts the major trade publishers are taking to bring Christian fiction to new audiences. In particular, she addresses age, race, and the amount of “real” readers are looking for.

Reffner has interviewed many major publishers for the article, and it’s well worth reading to understand the challenges in publishing Christian fiction, and the genres publishers are most interested in.

Christmas Holiday Shut-Downs

Christmas is coming, and Draft2Digital are advising you upload new manuscripts by 11 December to ensure they publish on time.

Marketing

GoodReads Giveaways

Goodreads have announced changes to their popular giveaway feature. Currently, authors can give away paperback books free via Goodreads, or they can pay USD 119 to give away 100 ebooks. The supposed advantage of a Goodreads giveaway is that your book then shows up in entrant’s feeds (as your book is added to their Want to Read pile).4

Now Goodreads have announced that paperback giveaways will be paid from 9 January 2018. The standard package will be USD 119 (with an introductory price of USD 59 for January 2018 only). There will also be a premium option, which costs an eye-watering USD 599 (again, with a 50% introductory rate for January only).

The programme will initially be available for authors with US postal addresses.

Reaching Readers

Lacy Williams borrows from Kristine Kathryn Rusch in Multi-Layered Readers and How To Read Them – a fascinating blog post at Kobo Writing Life.

Writing Your Author Bio

Anne R Allen has tips for writing your sentence, paragraph, and one-page Author Bio. Even if you have an author bio, it’s worth reviewing every year to make sure it is still current. Read the article for a top tip from Kathy Steinemann to help you keep track of where you’ve posted each bio!

That’s it for this week. What’s the best post you’ve read online recently?

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 25 November 2017

Another week gone! What have you been reading and writing this week? Or have you been too busy with Thanksgiving?

Writing

Getting the First Page Right

Jeannie Nash shares the six things she wants to see in the opening pages of a novel in What We Can Learn About Starting Strong from Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. How do your opening pages stack up?

Research

Mindy Tarquini visits Writers Digest to share 11 Unconventional Resources to Kick Your Historical Fiction Up a Notch. I can see this becoming a time-suck (perhaps why I’m scared to write historical fiction: too many fun rabbit holes!

Writing vs. Marketing

Writing or marketing? In Forget Publishing and Write, Carla Laureano says it’s more important for pre-published authors to write than to think about publishing or marketing.

In contrast, Bob Hostetler at the Steve Laube Agency blog says that if you want to show agents and publishers that you’re capable of building a platform to market yourself and your work, you need to do it before you get the contract.

What do you think?

Marketing

Facebook

Author Glynnis Campbell shows how to rock Facebook on just twenty minutes a day (hint: this does not include watching funny cat videos). I’m not sold on her rationale for working from her Profile rather than her Page, but I love her overall concept … especially the themed daily posts. What do you think?

Medium

I have barely dipped my toe in the Medium waters. I have an account. I read some posts. That’s it. Upping my Medium game is one of my goals for 2018. In Medium vs WordPress: Where Should Your Blog Live? Elegant Themes make a convincing case for answering: Both.

Do you publish to Medium? What do you see as the pros and cons of the platform?

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 18 November 2017

We’re more than halfway through November already! For those of you attempting NaNoWriMo this month, how are you going?

I’ve flunked. But I have written and loaded a heap of blog posts, almost finished the visual rebranding for a group blog (we’ll roll that out over the Christmas break), and I’m currently doing two online courses with Lawson Writer’s Academy, one on writing craft, and one on marketing. The writing course has shown me how little I know my characters … which is why I’ve flunked NaNo.

Anyway, on with the news …

Writing

Theme

Michael Hauge asks What’s Your Theme? A novel needs an overall theme … but it’s something a lot of authors either skim over, or try and shoehorn in at the end.

What Are You Writing?

David Farland asks Are You Writing a Book, or a Movie? He goes on to explain the differences in point of view for novels and movies. As it happens, I’m currently writing a blog post on this subject, inspired by a course I’m taking through Lawson Writers Academy.

Publishing

Cover Design

Paul Barrett, Art Director of Girl Friday Productions, visits Author Marketing Experts to share Book Marketing 101: 10 Things Not to Do on Your Book Cover. There are so many bad book covers out there! Unfortunately, the authors don’t know they’re bad (because surely you wouldn’t deliberately allow your book to go out with an awful cover?).

I suspect that’s because many newbie authors can’t see beyond it’s a book! With my name on the cover!

They don’t know the principles of good design … and it’s something you need to know before you start designing your first book cover (actually, for many authors, that’s their first mistake. Designing their own cover).

Fighting Piracy

Following Maggie Stiefvater’s blog post about her experience with book pirates, Jana Oliver visits Fiction University to share what she’s doing to fight the book pirates in Why eBook Piracy Matters.

Marketing

Branding

Belinda Griffin of SmartAuthorsLab visits The Creative Penn to share 7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand.

If you’re interested in learning how to build your brand from nothing, I have two suggestions:

1. Follow my blog. I have a blog series on branding coming up in February 2018.

2. Click here to sign up to my Kick Start Your Author Platform information list. I’ll be running the programme again in March 2018 … and there will be more information about it coming up soon!

Cross Promotion

Diana Urban visits the BookBub blog to share 14 Ways Authors can Cross-Promote Each Other’s Books. You will note none of them include commenting on blog posts (although that’s always welcome!).

Facebook Chatbots

Louise Harnby introduces Facebook Chatbots in How To Market Your Book and Build Your Author Platform Using a Chatbot. What are chatbots? Are they the next big thing in book marketing? Who knows? But they are currently underutilised, and if there is one thing I’ve learned about book marketing, it’s that it pays to be at the leading edge of the curve.

That’s my top seven posts for this week. What’s the best post you’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 11 November 2017

Lots of news this week!

Social Media

280-character limit on Twitter

Twitter has historically allowed just 140 characters per tweet. A few weeks back, they announced they were trialing 280-character Tweets with a select group of users. The trial must have gone well, because almost everyone can now Tweet 280 characters (the exceptions are users tweeting in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, because the nature of these languages means they don’t come close to the 140-character limit).

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

People are on Twitter for links and pithy comments, not essays … although I’m sure the longer Tweet length will come in useful in Twitter Chats such as @ BadRedHeadMedia’s Thursday #BookMarketingChat.

Publishing

Pronoun

MacMillan has announced they will closing Pronoun, their ebook distributor, in January 2018. Pronoun has experienced problems over its’ short lifespan, with complaints of lagging dashboards and slow responses to questions. But it attracted attention because of the benefits it offered, including full 70% royalty on Kindle books priced below $2.99 (Amazon only pays 70% royalty on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99).

I guess this answers my big question about Pronoun: how were they making money if they were offering higher royalties than Amazon? The answer: maybe they weren’t.

Draft2Digital

In better news, Draft2Digital now distributes to Amazon. However, they still don’t distribute to Google Play (which many authors saw as the major reason to use Pronoun).

StreetLib

I have heard some indie authors are using StreetLib to distribute to Google Play—they even have a one-click “import from Pronoun” option. Have you used StreetLib? What was your experience?

Writing

Dismemberment aka Floating Body Parts

Cait Reynolds visits Kristen Lamb’s blog to share about Dismemberment: Taking Characters Apart in all the Wrong Ways. This is perhaps better known as floating body parts, but dismemberment is more attention grabbing.

I once read a sci-fi novel where the alien species could take their heads off and throw them around the room. They could even swap heads (although that was frowned upon by the more conservative among them).

Result: every time I see dismemberment like “she threw her head” in a novel, I’m taken out of that novel and taken straight back to 1992, when I read the novel where Mr and Mrs Basketball-Head are stressing because their daughter wants to play Swap-Heads with some hot alien she’s just met.

Editor-me tells this little story every time I see dismemberment in a novel (although I call it “floating body parts”, which is much less fun).

I just wish I could remember the name of the novel.

Reading

Christy Awards

The winners of the 2017 Christy Awards were announced on 8 November. While I haven’t read all the finalists, there were two surprises for me:

  • Joint winners for Historical Romance: I haven’t seen this before. I’ve seen four finalists because of a tie, but not two winners.
  • The brilliant Long Way Gone by Charles Martin was the Book of the Year, but didn’t win the category. Again, in previous years, the Book of the Year has been one of the category winners.

Reviewing

This might be just me, but has Amazon removed the ability to vote reviews as “unhelpful”? I’m only seeing a thumbs-up button. We know Amazon is forever changing things, and we also know sometimes these changes are tests run for a select group of users (such as Twitter’s initial tests of the 280-character limit). I also know many people (especially authors) have been asking for Amazon to remove the “downvote” button for half of forever—their wish may just have been granted.

Can you see the downvote button on Amazon? Or do you just get the thumbs-up I see?

Amazon Review - Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

 

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 4 November 2017

The best of the blogs: must-read posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your books, featuring Anne Greenwood Brown, Parul MacDonald, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lisa Hall-Wilson, and Kristen Oliphant

Writing

Point of View

Anne Greenwood Brown visits Writers Digest with an excellent post on point of view, author intrusion, and the importance of showing the story through your character’s eyes.

Subtext

Lisa Hall-Wilson visits Jami Gold’s blog to share about The Hidden Messages in Deep Point of View and Subtext. This is important: as a reader, subtext is what differentiates a so-so novel from a great novel.

Publishing

Choosing a Publishers

Writer Unboxed have a fascinating post from editor Parul MacDonald on the relative advantages and disadvantages of working with small publisher vs a big publisher. What interests me most is how much of a book’s success rests on the marketing, and how even the “experts” can get things wrong when making decisions outside their area of expertise.

Copyright

One day they’ll invent calorie-free chocolate, ice cream, and fried food. On that day, Kristine Kathryn Rusch will be able to stop blogging, because we’ll be living in some kind of fantasy utopia where nothing ever goes wrong. Until then, KKR will be writing and publishing blog posts on the myriad ways agents, publishers, and others find to rip authors off.

This week, it’s unethical companies or studios offering an option on your book then registering the copyright. This creates confusion over who owns the copyright … and who can therefore benefit from sales of the book (or movie or TV series).

Long story short: don’t sign an option agreement until you’ve read ALL KKR’s blog posts on copyright, and until a competent entertainment lawyer has read the contract.

Marketing

MailChimp

If you use MailChimp as your email provider, you need to check out this post from Kristen Oliphant, then get on over to MailChimp to change your settings back to double opt in. There should be a notification from MailChimp when you log in.

Social Media

Litsy

Social media is about connecting with readers, not selling to them. One new(ish) app for booklovers is Litsy—think of it as Instagram meets Goodreads. I’ve been on Litsy for a while, but haven’t really worked it out. Fortunately, Raimey Gallant has a great post this week with 33 Pro Litsy Tips from Fellow Bookworms.

If you sign up, you can find me at @iolagoulton. Yes, I follow back! Do you have to be on Litsy? Of course not. But you might want to sign up using your Twitter/Instagram name just so you have the same user name on all three platforms.

That’s all for this week! What’s the best or most interesting post you’ve read this week?

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 21 October 2017

The best of the blogs: must-read posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your books.

Writing

Genre

What is women’s fiction? (Yes, it is a recognised genre.) Orly Konig visits Seekerville and attempts to explain The Mystery of Women’s Fiction.

Prologues

Many publishing professionals warn writers against using prologues. Why? And when can a prologue be a good idea? Meg LaToree-Snyder gives her tips in The Great Debate: To Prologue or Not To Prologue.

It may also depend on the genre you’re writing. I’ve read that Young Adult books shouldn’t have prologues, because young adult readers don’t read them. I asked my teenage daughter, and she says she only reads the prologue if it’s less than a page … and sometimes not even then.

Plot

To plot or pants? And how? Jenny Hansen shares a range of plotting methods at Writers in the Storm. Me? I’m working through Story Genius by Lisa Cron, supplemented by feedback from Michael Hauge (which I’ll talk about in my post next Wednesday).

Productivity

Tamara Alexander visits Inspired by Life and Fiction to share 10 Tips for Staying Focused. I’m going to work on #1 and #4 over the next week. What are you going to focus on?

Writing Skills

What are you good at in terms of writing? What are you not so good at? Are you ever tempted to do more of what you’re good at to avoid improving your weaker areas? In this post, Julianna Baggott challenges us to take her writerly skills test, and work on our weak areas.

Karen Hertzberg from Grammarly uses cooking as an analogy for writing as she shares 9 Easy Tips That Will Improve Bland Writing.

Motivation

KM Weiland from Helping Writers Become Authors has a great post: The Only Good Reason to Write, in which she outlines five not-so-good reasons to write, and (surprise!) the only good reason. Do you agree with her conclusion?

I won’t be posting Best of the Blogs next week (28 October 2017), because I’ll be in Australia at the Omega Writers Conference. But I have a book review for you instead, so stay tuned. Subscribed. Feedly-d. Or however you read blogs.

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 14 October 2017

The best of the blogs: must-read posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your books.

Writing

Modern fiction is written in scenes … and that’s something a lot of modern writers don’t fully understand. In this excellent (and detailed) post, KM Weiland takes us through the basics of scene structure, gives reasons why we often get confused between scene and sequel, gives an alternative way of looking at theme, scene, and sequel, and provides an example from her own work. This is a great reference post.

Editing

Great writing is more than an interesting plot and wonderful characters. It’s also hooking the reader with every single sentence. Sacha Black explains in Getting Jiggy with the Nitty Gritty, or, Improving Your Sentences in a guest post at Writers Helping Writers.

Note: don’t get bogged down remembering these nitty gritty details as you write your first draft. But do consider these tips as you write and edit. That’s the time to cut the dross and power up your sentences.

Publishing

Ebook Piracy

Tim Grahl discusses whether ebook piracy is a bad thing or a good thing in Ebook Piracy = Sell More Books. He argues that for most authors, the enemy is obscurity, not piracy. If no one knows you exist, they can’t buy your books. He also shares a video clip of author Neil Gamain sharing his view on piracy—that his own sales went up in the countries in which his books were most often pirated. Gamain also says:

Because the biggest thing the web was doing is allowing people to hear things, allowing people to read things, allowing people to see things they might never have otherwise seen. And I think, basically, that’s an incredibly good thing.

Tim Grahl also shares some tips for trying to turn pirate readers into paying customers. If Neil Gamain’s publisher can’t stop ebook piracy, nor can you. But you can at least try and turn piracy to your advantage (e.g. if you upload your book to the main pirate sites, you control the content and can make sure it includes your email signup links).

 

You’re writing because you want to share your ideas, right? If you’re a Christian author, you may also want to share the Good News. People who might never pick up a Bible or a Christian book might find your pirated novel. And read it. Is that a bad thing?

Marketing

What Works?

New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak shared 9 Book Advertising Tactics I’ve Tried … And Which Ones Worked at the BookBub blog (yes, she recommends BookBub). She found print advertising didn’t result in sales (it may have increased awareness, but that’s impossible to quantify).

She also hosted a reader event for 150 people. Even though she charged $40 for tickets, the event still cost her $7,500. A better option might have been to join in with other authors, or speak at a reader-organised event. If you write Christian fiction, check out the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat as an option. Plans are in the works for a 2018 event.

Author Interview: Bethany Turner

I’m sharing this interview because Bethany Turner is an example of how you can break a lot of the writing and publishing industry “rules” if your writing is strong enough. Examples:

  • It’s written in first person
  • She talks directly to the reader
  • The first 10% of the book is backstory
  • It uses the (unrealistic, IMO) Love at First Sight trope.
  • And the (hated, IMO) Other Woman trope
  • It includes swearing
  • The hero and heroine are sexually attracted. In Christian fiction.

Despite all that, it’s the first book I’ve read this year where I immediately wanted to sit down and read it again.

She also broke several publishing industry rules

  • Turner admits she didn’t read the genre (Christian romance)
  • She never read books on writing craft or attended a conference
    She didn’t have an agent
  • She got a contract from a major publisher by submitting to Writer’s Edge (the first fiction example I’ve seen in years)

I don’t recommend following Bethany’s example—she is the exception, not the rule. But I do recommend reading the interview (and her book, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, which I featured yesterday on #FirstLineFriday).

Social Media Fun

Finally, for laughs: 30 of the Funniest Tweets About Social Media

My favourite is #18, with #19 running a close second. What’s yours?

 

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 30 September 2017

Best of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Okay, mostly on writing.

Writing

Writing Addictive Fiction

What is addictive fiction? It’s fiction that keeps the reader turning the page. In this guest post at Write to Done, Victoria Mixon shares The 3 Secrets to Addictive Fiction.

Writing Conflict

Is your conflict true conflict that’s necessary for the story, or is it just a temporary obstacle, an unimportant delaying tactic you’ve included because you know you need conflict in fiction? Janice Hardy visits Romance University to answer this question in 3 Ways to Tell if Your Conflict is Just a Delay Tactic.

Writing Scenes

Orly Konig visits Fiction University to share tips on Using Seasons (not seasoning) to Deepen a Scene. I love the idea of considering the season as part of the setting. Seasons tell us something about location – is Christmas in summer or winter? Seasons can also be used to reflect characterisation—does the character call it fall or autumn?

Writing Subtext

KM Weiland offers 4 Ways to Mine Your Characters’ Subtext. Great subtext, to me, is the mark of a great novel. It’s when I can read a scene and feel I know something about the characters before they acknowledge it for themselves. Yet the author didn’t tell me. The author showed me, through great subtext.

I’d add one thing to KM Weiland’s advice: don’t worry about adding subtext on your first draft (although you might find it comes out naturally). Use your first draft to nail down your plot and characters, then consider where you could add subtext (or remove telling) in your second and subsequent drafts.

Writer Productivity

I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of “productivity hacks” online (although none of them have yet told me how to get more hours in the day). In particular, many writers find it difficult to carve out time for writing, especially those who have other roles: wife, mother, employee, homeschooler, church volunteer … (ringing any bells?).

Joanna Davidson Politano visited the American Christian Fiction Writers blog to offer Help for the Time-Starved Writer. She says:

The truth is, you don’t need more time to write—you need a deeper reserve of creativity and strength and ideas that can only be found in intimate relationship with the Father.

Not the productivity hack you were expecting, right?

Marketing

Finally, Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader give his tips on writing a regular link post (like this best of the blogs post). Author Blogging 102: A Practical Guide to Developing Your Weekly or Monthly Link Post covers both non-fiction and fiction link posts.

That’s a great idea: I hear a lot of fiction authors saying they don’t know what to blog about, so a weekly or monthly link post is a great idea. Fiction authors can link to book reviews or author interviews in their genre, or to posts that might interest their readers.

His best tip? Read all the posts first. It’s something I do, even with the posts I share on Twitter. You don’t want to unknowingly share something you fundamentally disagree with without some kind of comment.

What do you like in my weekly link post? What would you like to see more of … or less of?

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 23 September 2017

Best of the Blogs: it’s all about writing this week!

This week was the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop, courtesy of Raimey Gallant. While all the posts were good (and you can click here to find the links to each post), there were two I thought were outstanding.

Characterisation

The first was from Erika Timar, who applies her experience in creating characters as an online RPG gamer to writing fiction in Character Creation—Building From Cliches. She points out that readers like familiar characters because they are relatable … and relatable is the key to being marketable.

Author Intrusion

The second was from editor ML Keller, on Correctly Using Author Intrusion. It’s a form of telling, but as I discussed in my own post this week, telling isn’t always bad. I would point out that her examples were older novels. Do you know of any contemporary novels that use author intrusion well?

Other excellent writing posts …

Story Secrets

Award-winning author Rachel Hauck visited Novel Rocket to share The Secret To Powerful Stories. How does your novel rate against Rachel’s criteria?

Subplots

In Five Tips for Organising Subplots, KM Weiland gives three types of plot, four types of subplot, and her five top tips. Her main point: there are no subplots, just plots.

Flashbacks

Finally, Kristen Lamb visits Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers to share about Flashbacks: when is a flashback not a flashback, and the difference between a flashback and a parallel timeline.

What great blog posts have you read this week? Share in the comments.

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?