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Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 17 June 2017

Best of the Blogs

The best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

The focus this week is on writing craft. That’s not deliberate—it just happened that way. Some weeks it’s a mix, some weeks it isn’t.

Story Genius

First up, Myra Johnson visits Seekerville to discuss Story Genius by Lisa Cron. It’s a brilliant book, and I highly recommend it. Myra talks about the “third rail,” the emotional power that keeps our story moving forward.

Using the MBTI for Characterisation

I don’t know about you, but I find getting to know “my” characters (the characters I’m writing) one of the most difficult aspects of writing a first draft. And characterisation is also what makes or breaks a book for me—that’s how important characterisation is.

In fact, Lisa Cron says:

Ultimately, all stories are character driven—yes, all stories.

That’s because great stories aren’t about what happens as much as they are about how the characters react to and make sense of what happened.

In 5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters, KM Weiland recants on her previous aversion to using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to profile her characters, and gives five great tips. And do read the comments. One commenter has written a virtual essay, which is informative (and technical).

Inspirational Romance

Jamie Lynn Booth visits Kristen Lamb’s website to discuss Why the World Needs More Inspirational Romance.

This is another post where the comments are as enlightening as the post. Many of the commenters describe themselves as Christians, but say they aren’t writing with the major CBA publishers would recognise as Christian fiction. As one commenter says:

I firmly believe that God has called us to be truth-tellers in a broken world.

I take the point. A lot of Christian fiction is telling the Truth (God’s Truth), sure. But it’s failing to tell it in an authentic way that will resonate with non-Christians. While I love Christian fiction that’s written for Christians by Christians, there is also a need for fiction written by Christians for the general market, but that will still lead people to God.

Part of this is about having flawed characters non-Christian readers will recognise.

Authentic characters.

And that’s what Lanette Kauten is talking about in Writing Authentic Characters (also at Kristen Lamb’s website). Lanette is a Christian, but isn’t writing “Christian fiction”. She says:

My characters are a part of the world they live in and act accordingly.

And her world is messy. Her heroine is described as a confused atheist in a lesbian relationship escaping from her upbringing in a weird Charismatic church. That’s part of the story, but it’s not the whole story. Her message is that our writing must be authentic.

Now for something lighter …

I enjoy humour. Who doesn’t? But I often come across novels where the humour either falls flat, or crosses the line from humour into a cringefest of slapstick.

In this excellent post at the BookBaby blog, Scott McCormick explains why: because Your Story Needs a Good Straight Man. If I think about it, a lot of the humour that didn’t work for me as a reader was because both characters were trying to be funny. And that doesn’t work. As Scott explains, good humour needs a straight man.

The best humour isn’t when one character says something funny and the other character laughs. It’s when one character says something funny, and the other character ignores the humour and carries on with the conversation. Terry Pratchett was a master at this.

McCormick also says:

Interestingly, a straight man doesn’t have to be limited to comedies. A good straight man can make your heroes more heroic, and your tragic figures more tragic.

Worth thinking about …

Do you use humour in your writing? (Or humor?)

I’m currently running a giveaway of Then There Was You, the new novel from RITA finalist (and Christian Editing Services client) Kara Isaac. Click here to enter.

Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 10 June 2017

Six of the best blog posts this week in writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Skills Writers Need

Frances Caballo from Social Media Just for Writers visits The Book Designer to share 5 Skills Every Writer Should Develop. I don’t think each point should get equal weighting: learning writing craft is far and away the most important skill. And I think I’d substitute building a website and email list for blogging (I agree non-fiction authors need to blog. I’m not convinced that fiction authors must blog. But they do need an email list).

What do you think?

Writing Effective Backstory

An excellent post with practical tips on how to drop in your backstory, from Kathryn Craft via Writer Unboxed. I especially like her idea about using continuity words—a new term to me, but one I’m going to remember (and apply).

The (Social) Rules

Literary agent Donald Maass visits Writer Unboxed to ask What Are the Rules? When I read the headline, I thought he was going to be talking about writing rules. Because, you know, he writes books like Writing the Breakout Novel.

But no. He’s talking about the unwritten social rules we all live by, and asking which of those we bring into the lives of our fictional characters. Take food as an example. For those stuck in poverty, the main concern is quantity—is there enough? For the middle classes, the concern is quality—did you like it? But for the wealthiest among us, the concern is presentation. Hmm …

Characters

Author Sonja Yoerg visits Writers Digest to share her tips on writing mentally ill characters. As she points out, up to one in five people have some form of mental illness. As authors, we have a responsibility for getting the details right and building a rounded character who suffers from a mental illness:

Mental illness can be debilitating and all-consuming, but it does not define a person. That job still rests with the writer.

Publishing

What Authors Earn

Written Word Media share the results of their latest survey into author earnings. The result which surprised me was how little people claim to spend on editing (often less than they spend on cover design). I get that cover design is important to attract a potential reader, but it takes a lot longer to edit a novel than it does to design a cover, and it’s the quality of the writing and editing that turns a casual buyer into a reader and fan.

Amazon Book Sales

Last week I commented on the kerfuffle around Amazon’s changes to the buy button. Kara Isaac visited Australasian Christian Writers this week to share her view in Buy New, Get Secondhand? If you’re buying a paper book from Amazon, make sure the book ships from and is sold by Amazon. If you buy from a reseller, it’s likely that the book is secondhand. This means the author doesn’t receive a royalty on the sale.

Or buy the ebook—the author probably earns a higher royalty on the ebook sale. Or ask your library to order a copy, or borrow the ebook from your library if you have that option. Remember, authors are paid for library copies and some are even paid more if the book is borrowed more.

Want more current news on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing? Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 3 June 2017

The best blog posts I’ve read in the last week (or two. Yes, I missed last week’s post. Apologies!)

Writing

Writing Scenes

Beth K Vogt visits Novel Rocket to share her 5-5-1 method of planning a scene. She makes it sound easy … and effective.

Characterisation

In Shame, Shame, We Know Your Name—Or Do We? Kristen Lamb makes the point that shame is an important element of good fiction, that our characters don’t just need a secret. They need a secret that shames them.

I hadn’t thought of that … and I almost dismissed it. Except that the same day, Christianity Today published a related article: Shame, Guilt, and Fear: What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most. Hmm …

Publishing

Carla King at Bookworks has another article on the perils of vanity publishing. She specifically addresses how to re-publish your books (aka self-publish).

Marketing

Branding

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has started a series on branding. I value her opinion on all things related to writing, publishing, and marketing, so this is definitely a series I’ll be following. The first posts are:

In the latest post, Brand Identity, she talks about branding the book, branding the series, and branding yourself as a writer. My view is that the last is the most important—especially for pre-published authors.

Branding is obviously a current theme, because romance author Barbara O’Neal visited Writers Digest to share her take on developing an authentic brand: Your Writing Platform: Letting Readers Know the (Sort of) Real You 

Social Media Marketing

Neil Patel from Quicksprout shares his daily online marketing routine. Yes, you have to sort out brand first, and you need to have your website and social media set up properly. If you don’t, click here to sign up to be notified when my Kick Start Your Author Platform email course starts.

Do you have a daily social media routine?

Inspiration

Melanie Dickerson visited Seekerville to share her six tips to Take Your Career from Whine to Shine. It’s an inspiring post, and requires us to take action. Check it out!

 

 

That’s all for Best of the Blogs this week. What blog posts have you read that inspired you?

Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 20 May 2017

The Best of the Blogs for the week ending 20 May 2017 …

Publishing News

There were two major stories in the publishing world this week.

Harlequin Closes Five Lines

Harlequin confirmed they are closing five fiction lines to new acquisitions. One of these is the Love Inspired Historical line, which publishes 4-6 Christian romance novels each month. Romance Writers of America report that the final Love Inspired Historical titles will be published in June 2018.

Love Inspired (contemporary romances) and Love Inspired Suspense (contemporary romantic suspense) do not appear to be affected.

Harlequin (knowns as Mills & Boon in the UK) have long been best known for their short category romances. But the increasing rise of self-publishing and cheap ebooks means many publishers are facing financial problems.

But knowing something is inevitable doesn’t change the reality for the stable of established Love Inspired Historical authors who are now without a publishing home. Some of these authors have been writing for Love Inspired for twenty years.

Amazon Changes Buy Buttons

Publishers Weekly report Amazon have changed the “buy” buttons for books. This means that when you buy a book from Amazon, you need to check who you are buying it from.

  • If you’re buying it new from the publisher, great. That means the author is getting a royalty from your purchase.
  • If you’re buying a new book from anyone other the original publisher, it’s likely the title is a review copy, remaindered, or perhaps even stolen. This means the author won’t receive a royalty from the sale.

Royalties have never been paid on used or second-hand books, so there’s no change there.

So be sure if you’re buying what the seller says is a new book that it actually is a new, unread book—not read carefully, not a remaindered copy (which might be marked by a black line across the pages), and not a review copy (also marked).

Writing

Writing Emotion

Screenwriter Art Holcomb visited the StoryFix blog to share What an Actor Wants You to Know About Your Novel. This is important, because:

Since the majority of movies are adaptations of novels and other materials these days, the problem lies as much with the sort of characters in novels today as they are in screenplays.

Writing Scenes

Randy Ingermanson is the author of several novels, as well as Writing Fiction for Dummies, and his website has lots of great advice for writers (including his famous snowflake method for plotting a novel, which I’ve talked about before).

This week, he’s answering a question from a reader: How do You Know When to Start and End a Scene?

Marketing

Penny Sanseveri at Author Marketing Experts posts that This One Thing Will Encourge More Book Sales. It’s a clickbait-y title, sure, but the advice is good. Her One Thing? Consistency. She says:

My homework for you is this: choose 3 things you can do better to promote your book over the next 30 days and hold yourself accountable to be consistent.

No, there are no easy answers.

What’s caught your eye in the blogs this week?

Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 13 May 2017

Best of the Blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, publishing, and marketing. Lots of marketing!

Writing

Stephanie Dees visits Seekerville to talk about critique partners, and shares her tips for finding a great partner (or group).

Publishing

Tim Grahl has published a length post on the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. It’s comprehensive, but there is one thing missing: vanity publishing aka co-operative publishing, partnership publishing, subsidy publishing and even traditional publishing.

I recently met an author who was talking about her published book. She said the publisher was a traditional publisher … but later said she’d paid the publisher $10,000. Sorry, but that’s not traditional publishing. It’s all the cons of traditional publishing with none of the pros. And all the cons of self-publishing with none of the pros.

Children’s Fiction

Publishers Weekly report growth in the religious children’s books market, including young adult novels (a genre Christian fiction has yet to crack).

Marketing

Amazon Also Boughts

Two linked posts from David Gaughran, author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible (if you’re self-published or planning to self-publish, you should read both—you can buy them from Amazon using the above links, and they’re currently showing as $2.49 each for me. There are also audio versions available, if you prefer to listen).

Please Don’t Buy My Book explains the mysteries of the Amazon Also Boughts, and why it might not be a good idea to ask your friends and family to buy your book.

The second post, Who’s Pointing at You?, goes into more detail about Also Boughts and introduces a clever tool called Yasiv (www.yasiv.com) which shows which books on Amazon are pointing towards your book.

His point is that having a famous book show up in your Also Boughts is nice, but doesn’t do anything for your sales. The important thing for sales of your book is for your book to show up in the Also Boughts of a book with high visibility.

Gaughran also promises a future post on finding your Ideal Reader and using that information to hack Amazon advertising. I’ll be watching out for it …

Amazon Keywords

An in-depth post from Penny Sansevieri at Author Marketing Experts on how to research the best keywords for your book … which might mean thinking outside the box (excuse the cliché).

Craft or Platform?

It’s one of the conundrums of writing. Which is more important—craft or platform? Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia attempts to answer the question: craft comes first.

I agree.

But nor can we ignore platform. If we want to publish (whether traditionally or self-published) and be read, we need to identify our target audience or ideal reader. Dan gives some useful questions to answer, saying if we can’t answer them, we have work to do:

1. “Someone who would love my book (or creative work) already loves theses three books: ____, ____, and ____.”
2. “My ideal reader loves this person: ______ and reads everything they write, would see them speak in a heartbeat, and really respects their opinion.”
3. “Where to find my ideal reader? This conference or event: ________, and this online blog/community: ___________.”
4. “What resonates with my ideal reader? What gets them to stop and take notice? This: ________.”
5. “What repels my reader? What gets them fired up? This: _________.”

Christian Fiction

The internet is full of posts announcing the end of bookstores or paperback books or ebooks or … the list goes on.

This post questions the doom-mongers: Christian Fiction: Heading Towards Extinction? Or Adapting to a New Market?

Even better, it suggests how readers can help ensure Christian fiction doesn’t become extinct.

 

What do you think? Is Christian fiction dying? Or is it reinventing itself to be more relevant to modern reader?

Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 6 May 2017

Apologies for missing the last two Best of the Blogs posts. I had a long wifi-free weekend away with my husband, then I was at the New Zealand Christian Writers Retreat—I had a great time!

Congratulations!

INSPY Award Shortlist Announced

Congratulations to the finalists in the INSPY Awards—especially Kara Isaac, who made the shortlist in two categories with different books (Close to You in First Novel, and Can’t Help Falling in Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense). Now it’s up to the reader judges to decide! Kara’s next book, Then There Was You, is due out in June. If you like contemporary romance, you’ll love it.

ACFW Genesis Award Semi-finalists Announced

And American Christian Fiction Writers announced the Genesis Award semi-finalists—these are the names you’ll be seeing in Christian fiction in years to come.

Publishing

Updates on Tate Publishing

The Oklahoma Attorney General has filed charges against father and son Richard and Ryan Tate of Tate Publishing. This follows over 700 complaints from as far away as Europe and South Africa. The pair have been charged with extortion, embezzlement, racketeering, and extortion by threat. Further charges may follow as the investigation continues.

I’ve long been against vanity presses such as Tate, who claimed to be a traditional royalty paying publisher. Traditional royalty paying publishers do not require payments, do not offer a contract until they’ve seen a manuscript, and only publish the best manuscripts. In my experience, Tate scores 0/3 on this simple test.

If you published books or music through Tate, you can contact the Consumer Protection Unit at the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office to submit a complaint.

Blogging

Nick Thacker at WriteHacked shares nine tips for Writing a First Blog Post Perfectly. Actually, the tips work for any blog post—I guess the takeaway is to start as you mean to go on.

Shane Arthur at Smart Blogger teaches us How to Write Spellbinding Introductions. It’s a long post, but there are lots of nuggets to mine!

Inspiration

Karen Swallow Prior visits The Gospel Coalition to remind us that Only One Platform Will Last.

I don’t agree with everything in this blog post. Some of it I don’t even understand (I’ve never voluntarily listened to The Rolling Stones, and if I’ve ever heard “Mother’s Little Helper”, I don’t remember it and I have no idea what it’s referring to).

But there are some great quotes. Especially the last line. Check it out.

 

Best of the Blogs 24 June 2017

Best of the Blogs: 15 April 2017

 

Best of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your novel. Well, mostly writing and marketing, including a useful posts about Elegant Authors from Elegant Themes.

Writing

On Christian Fiction …

TJ Mackay of InD’Tale Magazine visits Seekerville to share her views of the role of Christian fiction in a secular world.

Andrea Grigg visited Australasian Christian Writers to share a similar message. Andrea is Stepping Out and writing to encourage. And that might be in the Christian market, or the general market.

Point of View

 

Kristen Lamb continues her series on point of view with How to Immerse the Reader in Story.

And I continue my series on point of view with Using Point of View to Engage Readers. Great minds must think alike! Although Kristen has better graphics . . .

Marketing

Cover Design

Holly Brady shares seven tips to consider when briefing your cover designer. Yes, I agree with Holly when she says she never recommends authors design their own covers.

 

MailChimp Autoresponders

It is a truth universally acknowledged that authors need an email list, and that MailChimp is the market leader in the field. Okay, not quite.

I’ve seen several comments over the last week from people having trouble with MailChimp account. One problem is setting up autoresponder emails: those emails a new subscriber to your email list receives automatically. (If you’d like an example of an autoresponder sequence, sign up for my email list using the box on the right.)

Anyway, Elegant Themes have written an excellent post on how to set up an autoresponder sequence in MailChimp—complete with pictures. Note that autoresponders are a paid feature in MailChimp. You can select:

  • A monthly subscription where the price is based on the size of your list(s) and you’re allowed unlimited emails.
  • The pay-as-you-go model, where you buy email credits so effectively pay per email sent.

If budget is an issue, you could consider MailerLite. They offer free autoresponders if you have less than 1,000 subscribers.

 

If you prefer video instructions, then I recommend watching Day 3 of the free WP-BFF Five Day Website Challenge, and/or the paid WP-BFF MailChimp MasterClass (available through the BFF Academy, or separately).

Author Websites

Elegant Themes have introduced Elegant Authors, a Divi layout for authors. For those who don’t know, Divi is their popular drag-and-drop theme. They say the layout is free, but I suspect that means it’s free if you have Divi, which means if you have an Elegant Themes subscription.

I haven’t tried Divi or Elegant Authors—I currently use the free version of the Make theme on this site, and I’m happy with it. But I do use two Elegant Themes plugins on this website:

  • Bloom for capturing email optins.
  • Monarch for my social sharing icons.

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

 

Best of the Blogs: 8 April 2017

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing Services

Best of the blogs: the best posts I’ve found this week on writing, editing, and marketing your books. Plus two I wrote. In case you missed them.

Writing

Mike Duran has a new project in the works: a companion to his non-fiction book Christian Horror, this one examining Christian Science Fiction. I love shows like Star Trek, Stargate and Star Wars (see a theme, anyone?), and I’d welcome more quality science fiction that reflects Christian beliefs. What about you?

Donald Maass visits Writer Unboxed to share Casting the Spell—a new way to look at look at your opening lines and ensure they hook your reader.

James Scott Bell visits The Kill Zone blog to give us advice that’s halfway between writing and editing: Don’t Kill Your Darlings—Give Them a Fair Trial!

Editing

I guest posted at Seekerville this week, sharing steps in revising and self-editing your fiction manuscript: Creating Diamonds from Coal. The first step is putting on the pressure.

The second step is examining the stone—especially your use of point of view. I shared on Understanding Point of View here on Wednesday, and I’ll be looking at interior monologue and showing, not telling next week.

If you’re one of those readers who don’t like waiting for the end of a series, then I’ve got you covered: sign up to my mailing list via the link at Seekerville, and I’ll send you a free pdf with the full series of blog posts.

Marketing

Author newsletters. We all have one (or think we should have one). But what do we write about? In this week’s Business Musings, Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses what she sees as the two major types of newsletter—the chatty fan newsletter and what she calls the ad circular. Which do you write?

Perhaps more important, which do you prefer to read?

By the way, if you’re interested in my author newsletter, here is the signup link: Iola Goulton Author. I email about once a quarter.

Inspiration

Kathy Harris visits the American Christian Fiction Writers blog to ask Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations? She encourages us to focus on what we have achieved, rather than on the endless to-do list we’re stressing over.

Best of the Blogs: 1 April 2017

No, not an April Fool (although you might wonder if you watch the YouTube videos on Change Blindness below).

Writing

Narelle Atkins visits Australasian Christian Writers to challenge us to make writing a Lifelong Learning Process … and shares the news that Margie Lawson will be speaking at the 2017 Omega Writer’s Conference in Sydney, in October.

If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, this is a fabulous opportunity to hear from one of the best writing instructors I know of. Are you planning to attend any writing conferences this year? Which one?

Tina Radcliffe at Seekerville shares the best-ever explanation of GMC, The Why of Motivation. It’s all about ice cream, people.

Editing

Seven tips to tighten your writing from writing coach Lisa Tener, and a video shared by editor Joan Dempsey that illustrates why none of us can edit our own writing:

Did you spot the change? What about this one?

These two videos illustrate one of the problems of editing our own work: we see what we thought we wrote or what we meant to write … not what we actually wrote. Even worse, we don’t notice obvious errors if we’re not looking for them.

This is why we need to make multiple passes through your manuscript when editing. If you read through the manuscript looking for point of view violations, you’ll find them. But you’ll probably miss all but the most obvious spelling and grammar errors—and vice versa.

It’s fascinating to know there’s actually a name for it: Change Blindness.

Social Media Marketing

Rachelle Gardner at Books & Such Literary Agency shares on managing Your Social Media Persona. Basically, balancing being authentic with not coming across as a self-promoting whiner. This should be obvious, but I’ve seen two instances of online whining today so I guess it’s not as obvious as I thought.

Note: poor-me whining is not the same ascommenting about the world-news weather system that’s closing schools and threatening your home. That’s being real, and my thoughts are with the people of Queensland as they deal with the aftermath of ex-tropical cyclone Debbie.

Inspiration

It’s time to turn your question marks into exclamation points. No, the editor hasn’t gone mad. (Although I will admit I clicked in this blog post because of the intriguing title). Kaye Dacus explains in Writing with Exclamation Points Instead of Question Marks.

Best of the Blogs: 25 March 2107

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing ServicesBest of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Kristen Lamb is back again this week, asking: Do Some People Lack the Talent to be Authors?

Does writing take talent … or just a whole lot of practice and a willingness to learn? What do you think?

Marketing

Book Descriptions

Why is it so easy to write 80,000 words, yet so difficult to condense that down into a brief book description which sells? BookBub have eight hints to help write a book description which sells. Well, it sells books for BookBub. It might not sell on Amazon, which permits longer descriptions.

Cover Design

Joel Friedlander has published his monthly cover design awards. James Egan and Damonza solidify their reputations as the cover designers to save up for.

Possible trends to note included several covers with characters turned away from the reader or in silhouette, and one which used an italic font. There were also a few covers with yellow or orange. Joel warned against this a couple of years ago, but I’m now seeing a trend for thriller or suspense novels.

As usual, it’s worth looking through the full list (100 covers) to see what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Branding

Jenny Hansen shares a fabulous post on author branding at Writers in the Storm. Read Helpful Hacks to Build a Strong Online Brand.

Twitter

Andrew Pickering visits Social Media Examiner to share 7 top tips for using Twitter to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog. I’m only doing three of these. I’m sure I can add three more with only a few tweaks to my sharing routine. One might be a little more trouble—anyone want to guess which of the seven I’m least keen on?

Award Finalists!

The 2016 Grace Award finalists have been announced, and Kiwi Christian author Kara Isaac is a finalist in the Romance/Historical Romance category.

And Romance Writers of America have announced the finalists for the RITAs, the romance world equivalent of the Oscars … and Kara Isaac is a double finalist—First Novel, and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements. Congratulations, Kara!