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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: 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?

Best of the Blogs: 28 January 2017

www.christianediting.co.nzYes, it’s been a while. Conference in October, a family bereavement in November, a holiday and Christmas in December, and suddenly it’s been three months since I’ve written a “weekly” Best of the Blogs post. Anyway, life seems to have calmed down (I hope) and so I’m back.

So here we go …

The best blog posts on writing, publishing, and marketing I’ve read in the week to 28 January 2017:

Writing

I get a lot of questions from writers around point of view—specifically, around writing deep third person point of view. I suspect one reason authors find this aspect of writing difficult is because they are writing (well, duh!).

What I mean is that the author is writing the character, rather than allowing the character to speak for him or herself. That’s perhaps because we don’t know our characters well enough. Because we haven’t yet found the character’s voice.

In this blog post, Janice Hardy of Fiction University shares some tips on finding your character’s voice: How to Find Your Character’s Voice.

Publishing

Tate Publishing Closes

Tate Publishing & Enterprises has closed, leaving a lot of confused and unhappy authors (especially those who still don’t realise Tate has always been a pay-to-publish vanity press who’d take anyone. Hey, they offered me a contract without even seeing my manuscript. That is not how a proper publisher works.)

It would appear the company has been going steadily downhill since Ryan Tate had his famous outburst where he prayed and quoted the Bible before abusing his staff, and firing 25 people.

‘Proverbs say that the wicked will set a trap, but the righteous will prevail and the wicked will fall into their own trap,’ said Tate in the recording. ‘A lot of good people are going to get hurt.’

It would appear the “good people” are the authors who trusted Tate.

New York Times Cut Bestseller Lists

The New York Times have cut a number of their bestseller lists. I’m no expert, but I suspect this will make it a lot harder for indie authors to “get their letters” (i.e. to be able to boast of being a NYT Bestseller). On the other hand, it might be good news for readers who value such things. Although less good news for those who read the genres which have been cut, like romance. Or maybe it simply reinforces that the NYT list is irrelevant for many readers.

Data Guy at Digital Book World

The other big publishing news was Data Guy’s presentation at the recent Digital Book World conference (Data Guy is, well, the data guy behind the Author Earnings website and reports). I’ll be writing a separate blog post on that next week.

Marketing

Blogging

This excellent post from Sabrina at Digital Pubbing contains dozens of links to help you set up or improve your blog.

Kick-Start Your Author Platform

And if you don’t have a website and you’d like some guidance in building one (and some friendly accountability), then join my free March Marketing Challenge: Kick-Start Your Platform. Sign up here: March Marketing Challenge.

In case you’re not convinced you need a website, let Kevin Tumlinson at Draft2Digital tell you why you do:
The Absolute Basics
Advanced Approaches
Best Practices

He also reinforces the importance of a lot of topics we’re going to cover in the March Marketing Challenge … so if you don’t know what he means or how to implement his suggestions, sign up now: March Marketing Challenge.

Author Brand

Part of author branding is making sure you portray yourself as polished and professional. But, as Amy Matayo points out in Image Isn’t Everything, this means people get a distorted view of others, as if their lives are always good.

Encouragement

We all need a little encouragement, a reminder that we don’t need to do everything. Elaine Fraser encourages us to make space in our lives for God, and for ourselves in the Unforced  Rhythms of Grace.