16 Things Every Author Wants

Every writer has dreams, and not just the ‘get my book made into the next big movie’ dream but the more down to earth dreams. The ones where we want a turret room in a castle with surround sound music or a telepathic device to record our dreams. So, just for fun, I decided to compile a list of the things (with variations) that every writer would love:

  • A castle, built into a mountainside with a lake and green valley spreading below. And excellent wifi. Of course.
  • A tower room, the walls coated with weapons, flags, and maps from my world and books.
  • Then, of course, I’d want a writing room. A long room, where I could pace. The walls would be covered with pictures of characters, character profiles, great plotlines, interconnected with silk string, and small computer screens interspersed between them for quick research.Self-Publishing
  • On the topic of research, I’d want a research room too, with a wall of screens where I could open a hundred different tabs and scroll through a dozen pages at once.
  • All of these grand rooms branch off my main writing room. A simple desk and computer in the middle of a cozy room. Candles on the walls, as well as scribbled notes. Oh, and the aforementioned surround sound music.
  • There would be a library too, of course, with several great chairs, a fireplace, a window seat, and books covering the walls. This would also be my bedroom.
  • Moving from the topic of lodging to technology, a dream recorder would be great for ideas.
  • As well as a thought recorder.
  • And a telepathic keyboard that writes out a scene just as we imagine it instead of making us labor word through word.
  • A visual storyboard would be nice too. One that would play our story in color, with dramatic music in the background.
  • Food. A stash of chocolate would be grand, as well as ice cream and cheesecake. Yogurt too, since one ought to eat something healthy. And fruit. Like strawberries and blueberries.
  • Some writers would also include coffee. Or tea. I’d prefer hot chocolate and pink lemonade.
  • Then there are the baths. Hot tubs and showers and whirlpools for brainstorming.
  • Also an endless supply of pens and paper. Notebooks and notecards. Envelopes and bookmarks.
  • And… costumes. Ranger costumes. Futuristic dress. Swords and bows and guns and daggers. Because sharp and shiny things should be acquired at every chance one gets.
  • Finally, one needs other writers. Just a few. Good friends, all with their own chambers and a central meeting room for when they want to interact with others.

If you could choose one thing from this list, what would it be? What sorts of things would you add to this list?

Author Myths: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

The writer’s life is surrounded by myths, both inside and out. ‘Oh, you are a writer? You must be rich?’ ‘A writer? Are you a starving artist? I didn’t think you could make any money that way.’ ‘Just write a book and put it out there, it will take off.’

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So…yes. Lots of myths. So I decided to collect a few; some from Facebook, some from articles I’ve read, some from things I’ve heard or heard of so much that they are now stuck in my head.

Myths on the Inside:

That you have to write every day to be a writer. Ok, so there is truth that you need to write to be a writer, and you need to keep writing and not just write every two months as the inspiration seizes you. But it is also fine to take occasional breaks and not write every day.

You don’t need an editor, editing yourself is fine. I tried this. Nope, not really fine. Though I’m an awful editor myself. I think even editors send off their work to others for correction.

There is no need to worry about grammar and punctuation. The publisher will assign an editor-minion to take care of it for you. Just dash off your book, and relax and enjoy your six-figure advance. Insane laughing. I wish, but no. Just not happening.

Just write you book, put it ‘out there’ and readers will come flocking to buy it. Sadly, no. For readers to love our book, they need to know about it. They aren’t going to come searching for something they don’t know exists.

Myths on the Outside:

That writing is easy because it isn’t a real job. Excuse me. Does your job fill your mind day in and day out, and take up all your free time? Do you know how hard writing is, both emotionally and physical (I mean, really, who has time for sleep?). Also, don’t you dare count my success by how much money I make. Success is about so much more.

While writing, you are unemployed and available for major tasks/projects. *chokes* Yes, I am writing. No, that does not mean I am free. Writing and free are like opposite ends of the spectrum…

People are self-published because no traditional publishing house would consider it. Hardly. Traditional publishing houses can only publish so much, after all. And did it ever cross your mind that maybe we wanted to be in control of everything ourselves?

Self-publishers shouldn’t charge money for their books – they should be grateful if anyone deigns to read them at all, so they should always give them away. The only reason I will not blast anyone who dares think or say this to ashes is because is because you are so ignorant about what goes into writing that I don’t even know where to start.

When you publish that book, you’ll make tons of money. Also, you won’t make any money at all. Marketing. Email lists. Followings… You could make lots of money, or you could make a little, or you could make a middling amount. There isn’t one catch-all figure.

Because you are a writer, you know how to spell every word under the sun as well as all the rules of grammar. Please, I am horrible at both. Sometimes even spellcheck doesn’t know what I’m looking for.

It is assumed you can pull plots or character out of thin air for a friend (or younger sibling). It’s really not that easy. You want to be a writer? Figure it out yourself. I’ve more plots than I know what to do with right now.

Of course, you want to read and critique anything a friend (or stranger) offers you. There is this thing called time, you know. I don’t have enough of it for my own work. And, unless I offer, I probably don’t have any to spare for reading everything else under the sun.

I’ve come to the conclusion that writers, like many kinds of artist, will always be misunderstood. Not by everyone. I have some very supportive family members. I also have one who doesn’t quite get it. But that is fine. That doesn’t make those who don’t understand stupid, even if we might want to shake them sometimes. One day they might understand. Or not. But it is something we will face, and it is something we’ll have to live with.

So learn to laugh at it. Laughter can make about anything better. Besides, quite often what a nonwriter thinks about a writer can be funny. Don’t worry about what others think. As writers, we need to have a strong confidence in what we do and why we do it, then accept encouragement, ignore discouragement, and keep on writing!

Do you have any writing myths to share? Either something you’ve learned or something someone has said to you? Comment below!

Self-publishing: Five Time-Saving Tools

A writer’s life is filled with so much more than the mere creating of stories. There is editing and proofreading. Marketing and newsletters. Blogging and graphics. We can take any help offered, and here are five free tools which have helped me save time and work the best I can.

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Grammarly

When you create an account in Grammarly, you can type directly into a document on the site, or you can paste into a document. Grammarly also offers some cool apps which will check your grammar and spelling as you type up emails or on social media sites.

Grammarly is split between a free version and a premium version. The free version catches critical mistakes, while you have to pay to see advanced mistakes. But it is still handy to find obvious grammar or spelling mistakes, even if it occasionally marks something as wrong that you decide to leave unchanged for various reasons.

MailChimp

Building an email list is essential for any author. MailChimp offers a free mail service for up to 2000 email addresses. You’re able to create signup forms, popup boxes, welcome emails, and various other cool stuff. You can create and save templates and track opens and clicks through Mailchimp analytics.

Hootsuite

If you are on social media at all, this is a great time saver. You’re allowed to add up to three different social media sites in the free version. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts, either for each site individually, or for several sites at once.

Plus, Hootsuite has a cool dashboard where you can look all the information on a particular site, with columns for your posts, your feed, your messages, your scheduled posts, etc.

Canva

At some point, you’re probably going to make some graphics for a book launch, a sale, or your blog. Canva is a great free tool for this. With numbers of free templates (as well as others you can pay for) you get a head start on creating classing Pinterest photos or sleek Instagram posts. One of the best parts is that these templates are created for the optimal size of a post for that particular social media site, increasing the effectiveness of the graphic.

Pixabay

You’re going to need photos for the graphic you create, and Pixabay offers a great collection of royalty free photos. Though downloadable for free, there is the option to donate a few dollars if you wish to, but it’s not required. They have a wide variety of photos, especially when it comes to nature pictures.

These are the five tools or sites I use the most as I write and market. What about you? Do you have any favorite tools?

Social Media: What Does an Author Really Need?

What social media sites should an author have?

There are so many social media sites, but does an author really need to be on all of them? Is one or more of them indispensable to the serious author or do they just clutter and waste time? And the answer is… *draws deep breath* everyone has different views. What a surprise.

social-media-for-the-author

From what I’ve seen, focused work on most platforms can bring in revenue if you know what you’re doing. At least there are courses on how to grow and make money on Twitter, or using Pinterest, or with Facebook ads, from people who have used these sites themselves. That being said, an author only has so much time, so you want to spend it on what works and not just throw out information and hope it draws some people in. This involves trial and error (or buying a course), analytics, figuring out where your target audience congregates…and is beyond the scope of this article today.

However, over time, I have developed opinions on what platforms an author should have and their uses. Everyone has their own favorite sites and keep in mind that some of this is personal opinion, but hopefully it will give you some place to start if you are trying to figure out where you should devote your online time.

Website or Blog

These two terms are often used interchangeably, and they might be mingled together in reality as well, but there is a subtle difference. A website has information about you, pages leading to your books, contact information, etc. A blog is where you can post articles, pictures, stories, and updates on your life.

Every author ought to have a website of some kind. This is your central hub, the place you can send everyone to find out more about you and your work. This is where people can sign up to your newsletter and follow your life. A blog of some kind, either linked or as part of the site, is also handy. You don’t have to post every week or even regularly, just so long as you have a place your fans can find out the latest information about you and your work.

There are many free sites for both websites and blogs. I’ve tried Weebly, Blogger, and WordPress. WordPress is by far my favorite site for blogging, while I use Weebly for my main website (though some authors, including me, use two different places and domain names for their website and blog, it’s quite easy to just have your blog be part of your website under one domain name.)

Facebook

Facebook is a great place to connect with other people. You can create an author page for people to follow you, and this is useful for small updates on your life and work, but the main use I’ve found using Facebook is the ability to connect with other writers and readers. There are writing groups. There are promotional events and Facebook parties. You can message other authors and follow them easier. Though not necessary, I do think Facebook is a useful tool for authors to have.

Instagram

Instagram is a social media site where one posts pictures. If you like taking pictures of your life, then it can be quite fun. You can connect with fans to some degree as well, though not as much as if you were on a site like Facebook. Depending on what type of blog you have, you can also link your Instagram account to the sidebar of your blog so the changing pictures will keep fresh information on your web page even when you are too busy to post to your blog yourself.

Twitter

Some people love Twitter. Some are hardly on there. I’m one of the latter because I simply don’t have the time it would take to keep up with a Twitter account, but if you have the time to check it often, it can be a good place to connect with readers. If you just want to post several times a day, you can use an app called Hootsuite. You can schedule posts to a number of social media sites with Hootsuite, including Twitter, allowing one to sit down for an hour and schedule daily tweets for a whole month. Then you can forget about it (and yet still have some semblance of a presence there), only checking it once or twice a day.

Pinterest

I do make Pinterest friendly pins of my blog posts and post them to drive traffic to my blog. But, besides that, the main reason I use Pinterest is to find pictures of my characters and create storyboards. Pinterest is a very cool tool for any author to use. You’re not going to connect directly to fans through there, but marketing is a possibility if you have learned how to use it (I haven’t though I’ve seen courses on using Pinterest to sell your product) and you should be able to drive traffic to your blog or newsletter as well.

Email List

This isn’t really a site, but it is the most important marketing platform. And this isn’t my opinion…this is what every expert I listen to says. If you want to be able to sell well, build an email list. I’ll probably have an article about how to create an email list and what one can use it for next month, but there are places like Mail Chimp that let you create quite a sizable list before you have to start paying for the service.

In the end, having a website or blog is essential to providing a foundation for yourself and your work. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are most useful when it comes to one on one contacting of fans and other writers. Most authors tend to pick and spend most of their social media times one one of these sites. An email list is your largest marketing weapon, so spend the time needed to build it up. Pinterest is fun as well as useful, especially for those who write fiction.

What social media sites do you enjoy? Do you have any tips about marketing or connecting with readers on various sites? Is there a social media site which you love that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your comments below.

How to Self-Publish on Amazon: the beginner’s step-by-step guide to self-publishing their first book

Ready to self-publish on Amazon?

Considering self-publication on Amazon, but don’t have a clue where to start or what to expect? Take a glimpse behind-the-scenes, so when the time comes to push the button and create your own ebook, you already know what lies ahead of you.

self-publishing-on-amazon

Before you publish

Assuming your book is already proofread and edited, the next step is formatting. You can hire someone to do this for you from places like Fiverr, or you can spend an hour or two and format the book yourself. Though some people use HTML code, I’ve found that following Amazon’s free ebook of guidelines using Microsoft Word works very well and is pretty easy to do. You can download a free copy of their formatting guidelines here.

You also need a cover. Don’t rush this step. Almost everyone judges a book by its cover to some extent and you don’t want your months of writing ignored because of a sloppy cover, especially when you can hire someone on Fiverr to make a good cover for as low as $20. Amazon’s guidelines for ebook covers can be found here.

Finally, research categories and keywords. You’ll be allowed to choose two categories and seven keywords when you self-publish your book, so pick the best ones you can to increase your book’s chance of being found in a random search.

Categories can be found on Amazon’s sidebar, with subcategories and sub-subcategories. Once you click a category, the number of books for that category will appear in the upper left-hand corner, giving you an idea of the competition. If you click the first few books and scroll down to the book information, you can see what number the ebook is ranked in the kindle store, getting an idea of how popular the category is. Together, these numbers will help you figure out what categories will give your book its best chance.

Keywords are somewhat similar. Think of Amazon like a search engine and imagine what people looking for a book like yours might type in. Try out the keywords and see how many results you get and what the books are ranked.

Finally, set up your Amazon account. Even if you have one already, you’ll have to get a KDP account and enter in tax and bank information, as well as chose a payment option (electronic transfer, check, etc.).

The Publishing Process

On your KDP dashboard, right at the very top, you’ll have the option to create a new title. Once you’ve clicked it, you only have two pages to fill out.

The first page is metadata about your book. You enter in your title, subtitle, series name (if it’s part of one), author name, a description, categories (after all your category research, the categories you see here and the ones you see on Amazon aren’t quite the same. You might have to do some experimenting with them to get your book in the categories you want), keywords, and the age range of your book (optional, but if you want your book in a children’s or young adult category, you might need to use it). At the bottom of the page upload your cover and manuscript, and move on!

The second page is all about money. You set the price for your book and choose your royalty option. You can select between receiving 35% royalties or 70% royalties. To use the 70% option, your book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Once you’ve chosen your price, you push publish, wait around 12 hours, and your book will be live on Amazon and ready to buy!

After Publication

You can’t set a book’s price to free, but if you want a permafree ebook for marketing purposes, you can upload it somewhere like Smashwords, then contact Amazon to ask them to price match your book. They’ll generally do so within a few days.

Also, if you find a mistake, want to update a portion of your book, or change a category or the description, it’s very easy. Just click on the book in your dashboard and it will take you to the same pages you filled in when you published the book. Switch or change whatever you like, push publish again, and the changes will be live around twelve hours later.

Set up an account on Amazon Author Central so people can look you up and see what else you’ve written.

And you’re set and ready to go! Don’t let the publication process scare you and if you have any questions, feel free to ask below!

 

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