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The Value Of Making A Book Free

This post by Greta van der Rol originally appeared on her blog on 2/5/15.

Writing the book, I’ve found – however difficult it might be – is the easy part. Marketing it is way, way harder. There has been a plethora of posts about why it’s so much harder now to keep your author head above the flood of new books being published every day. And there’s Kindle Unlimited and BookBub and blog tours and NetGalley and a million other ways that aspiring hopefuls can jump up and down shouting, “pick me, pick me” – all for a price, of course.

I’m no different to all the other small voices out there. My sales have been declining for months, despite having fourteen titles. One of those is a novella, three are longer short stories and the rest are novels. I could just ignore the sales and carry on doing what I do, but I don’t write for myself. I want other people to enjoy my books – and I know some do. So what to do to increase discoverability. (Don’t you love that word? Makes you sound like an exotic holiday location.)

For a start, I put my two paranormal novels and my space opera novella, each of which sold less than five a month, into Kindle Select. None of those titles were selling anywhere else – Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, B&N or Omnilit – so it didn’t cost me to take them down from those sites. I saw results after a few days, with the number of borrows quickly outstripping sales. Mind you, that simply means I could buy three cups of coffee each month instead of one.


Read the full post, which includes an informative graph, on Greta van der Rol’s blog.


5 Ways Your Competition Can Help You Promote Your Books

This post by Penny C. Sansevieri originally appeared on PR Toolkit on 9/24/14.

If you want to market successfully, you need to be smart. Why reinvent the wheel if there are more effective ways to promote yourself and your books? If you take the time to see what your competitors are doing, you’ll discover plenty of ideas and inspiration to keep you going – without resorting to only imitating what others do.

You’re simply being a smart marketer, and that means keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Understanding your market means being aware of who else is in the space. What books have they written? How do they price their books? How do they reach their audience? When you learn these things, you’ll have a better understanding of your market, and you’ll be in the perfect position to set yourself apart from your competitors.

This isn’t about copying anyone. Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery in this case. But you should know who else is in your market. You’ll gain so many insights from keeping tabs on your competitors. You’ll also learn some valuable marketing tips, and if you ever wonder how to get your message out more effectively you may find the answers from observing what your peers say and do to keep their fans engaged.

Here are some ways you can keep up with the competition:


1. Google search and alerts:

You start by looking for others in your market. You’ll find names and book titles, but you’ll also discover ways to touch base with your fans. No matter your topic, search for authors and books, but ignore the big names and titles. At their level, they can do just about anything and they’ll succeed – that’s one of the bonuses of their success, they are now their own brands (think Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Deepak Chopra). Look for the level below this supergroup because these are the authors who are working hard to break through.


Click here to read the full post on PR Toolkit.


Divas on Dialogue: Accents and Dialects

This post by Janine Savage originally appeared on Publishing A Book Is An Adventure on 4/15/14.

Accents and Dialects

Who doesn’t love listening to an accent or an entertaining dialect, especially one delivered by a sexy model or actor? Accents and dialects make people more interesting, probably because the sound is interesting to listen to and offers a fresh perspective to the words being spoken. It also adds another layer to the character, makes them feel authentic, and gives clues to the background of the speaker.

But does that same auditory experience translate well to the written word? Depends on how you handle it. As a writer you depend on the reader to do a lot of things while they read your book. One of those things is how the characters sound in their heads. This is as individual as the readers themselves are. Just as every reader has an image in his or her head of the characters, there is a voice to match. So is simply saying, “he spoke with a heavy Italian accent” enough for the reader to go on if you don’t infuse that character’s dialogue with special spellings to show the accent or dialect? Yes and no.

One of the issues with using accents and dialects is stereotyping. Perception can lead one reader to think the accent or dialect is authentic while another is insulted by it. And when phonetic spelling is used to illustrate an accent, the reader could find it too difficult to decipher if it is overused. This becomes a distraction and may cause the reader to abandon your book if it’s too difficult to read or comes across as gimmicky. I’ve abandoned a number of books for this reason.


Click here to read the full post on Publishing Is An Adventure.


Lew Wallace: From Disgraced Civil War General To Bestselling Author Of Ben Hur

This article, by John Swansburg, originally appeared on Slate on 3/26/13.

Lew Wallace was making conversation with the other gentlemen in his sleeper car when a man in a nightgown appeared in the doorway. The train was bound for Indianapolis and the Third National Soldiers Reunion, where thousands of Union Army veterans planned to rally, reminisce, and march in a parade the New York Times would later describe as “the grandest street display ever seen in the United States.” It was Sept. 19, 1876, more than a decade since the Civil War had ended. Wallace had grayed a bit, but still wore the sweeping imperial moustache he’d had at the Battle of Shiloh. “Is that you, General Wallace?” the man in the nightgown asked. “Won’t you come to my room? I want to talk.”

Robert Ingersoll, also a veteran of Shiloh, was now the nation’s most prominent atheist, a renowned orator who toured the country challenging religious orthodoxy and championing a healthy separation of church and state. Wallace recognized him from earlier that summer, when he’d heard Ingersoll, a fellow Republican, make a rousing speech at the party’s nominating convention. Wallace accepted his invitation and suggested they take up a subject near to Ingersoll’s heart: the existence of God.

Ingersoll talked until the train reached its destination. “He went over the whole question of the Bible, of the immortality of the soul, of the divinity of God, and of heaven and hell,” Wallace later recalled. “He vomited forth ideas and arguments like an intellectual volcano.” The arguments had a powerful effect on Wallace. Departing the train, he walked the pre-dawn streets of Indianapolis alone. In the past he had been indifferent to religion, but after his talk with Ingersoll his ignorance struck him as problematic, “a spot of deeper darkness in the darkness.” He resolved to devote himself to a study of theology, “if only for the gratification there might be in having convictions of one kind or another.”

But how to go about such a study? Wallace knew himself well enough to predict that a syllabus of sermons and Biblical commentaries would fail to hold his interest. He devised instead what he called “an incidental employment,” a task that would compel him to complete a thorough investigation of the eternal questions while entertaining his distractible mind. A few years earlier, he’d published a historical romance about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, to modest success. His idea now was to inquire after the divinity of Christ by writing a novel about him.

It took four years, but in 1880, Wallace finished his incidental employment. He called it Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It’s one of the great if little known ironies in the history of American literature: Having set out to win another soul to the side of skepticism, Robert Ingersoll instead inspired a Biblical epic that would rival the actual Bible for influence and popularity in Gilded Age America—and a folk story that has been reborn, in one medium or another, in every generation since.



Read the rest of the post on Slate.

Why "Genre" Is Poison

This post, by David Bryher, originally appeared on Pornokitsch.

A few years ago, shortly after I had jacked in a low-flying job in magazine publishing to go freelance, a friend asked me what I planned to write. “I have an idea for a novel or two,” I replied.

“Oh, yes? What kind of thing?”

“Fantasy,” I replied, and he frowned.

He wondered why I’d wanted to write in that genre – not because he thought it was bad, simply because it was a genre that didn’t appeal to him. As a genre, fantasy never chimed with him.

Oh, did I mention this friend writes Doctor Who? (Not all of it, just a few choice episodes.) So it might seem odd that he doesn’t like fantasy, yes? Ah, but. What do you think of when I say “fantasy”?

My friend and I didn’t talk much more about that idea. (Although I did mention a second idea, which he liked a lot: a woman falling in love with a man half her age via the medium of an online fantasy roleplaying game.) But I got the sense from what he said that he didn’t like things like elves and dwarves and magic swords – which is certainly what many people probably do think when I say “fantasy”. And (and I say this with the utmost respect to my friend) when many people start to picture elves and dwarves and magic swords, the gates of their mind shut tight and that is that is that. My fantasy idea didn’t have any of those things. Doctor Who doesn’t have any of those things. Ironically, the online gaming story idea was full of elves and dwarves and magic swords – and yet my friend liked that one more because he could see it was about a woman falling for the wrong man.

Now, that’s probably a story we can all sympathise with to some degree. We’ve all read a terrific fantasy or science fiction book that we just know a friend will love – but she won’t go near it because of the spaceship/hooded-man-with-a-dagger on the cover. It will be news to precisely no one that the use of “genre” within the publishing and bookselling world has, over many years, helped readers find the kind of things they love and then rigidly stay within those lines. I’m sure there’s only a small minority of us left that shop for our books exclusively at brick-and-mortar bookshops, but splitting books into genres (and ugly subgenres such as “supernatural romance”) only reinforces these narrow lines of taste and harms “discoverability”. But we’ve heard all these arguments and fears of ghettoisation before.

And we know that it’s not as if people are generally averse to fantasy or science fiction: such stories are a reliable source of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, and wizards and vampires didn’t put anyone off Harry Potter or Twilight.

This isn’t even an issue of science fiction or fantasy being qualitatively ‘worse’ than other forms of literature. My friend didn’t question the relative quality of my two story ideas, he simply stated his belief in which was more appealing to himself – and by extension, I think, to all potential readers. “Don’t scare the horses.”

Read the rest of the post on Pornokitsch.

How Much Should an e-book Cost?

This post, by Andrew E. Kaufman, originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Collective blog on 2/6/13 and is reprinted here in its entirety with that site’s permission.

It seems to be a question that has yet to find an answer, with about as many theories as there are books.

Back in the days of paperbacks and hard covers (remember those?) it seemed the price for a novel was pretty standard—they weren’t all the same, but at least they hovered in the same neighborhood. Since the advent of the e-book, however, it seems anything goes. The scale is frenetic, to say the least, with prices falling on average anywhere between free and about $12.99.

As an author, I find it disconcerting, and as a reader, even more so. While shopping for books, I often shake my head at some of the prices—and I also wonder: what makes one book worth more than another? Amazon tried to level the field by setting a fixed price for e-books, putting them all at a reasonable $9.99, and even taking a loss on profits, but then legacy publishing fell into an uproar and put an end to it.

So now the question remains: what makes one book worth more than another? Should they be based on prior sales? The author’s reputation? If those were the criteria, one might expect each book to be as good as the last, and that’s simply seldom the case. How about the length of a book? More pages no longer equate to more paper, but they still mean more work—should the author and publisher be compensated accordingly?

Of course, I’m just throwing out variables here, and really, I don’t know if there’s a reasonable answer. I suppose the logical theory from an economic standpoint would be that a book is only worth as much as people are willing to pay for it, but these days, even that answer seems a bit vague, because most readers have different standards on what they’re willing to pay. Some base their price cap on how much they can afford, others on how much of a risk they’re willing to take on a new author. Then there are those who set a firm cutoff point and won’t go over a certain price no matter who the author is. Yet another variable (as if there weren’t already enough) is the pricing on indie books vs. traditionally published ones. Some readers are still uncertain about paying a higher price for the former.

But whether independent or mainstream, it seems authors and publishers are just as uncertain on the matter. One might think that finding the magic price point were as complex as charting a quantum theory. I decided to take an informal survey of Amazon’s top 12 bestsellers to illustrate my point. Here’s what I found:

1. Safe Haven (Nicholas Sparks): $6.64
2. American Sniper (Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim Defelice): $8.99
3. Wait for Me (Elizabeth Naughton) .99
4. Crazy Little Thing ( Tracy Brogan) $3.99
5. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) $12.99
6. House of Evidence (Victor Ingolfsson) $4.99
7. Collide (Gail McHugh) $3.99
8. Hopeless (Colleen Hoover) $3.99
9. Beautiful Creatures (Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl) $5.80
10. The Pain Scale (Tyler Ditts) $1.99
11. Alex Cross, Run (James Patterson) $12.74
12. Rush (Maya Banks) $7.99

See what I mean? All over the map.

I suppose prices will eventually settle once the market does—or at least, I hope so—but in the meantime, what do you think? How much are you willing to pay for an e-book, and how do you arrive at that decision?

David Farland's Kick in the Pants: Being Prolific

This post, by David Farland, originally appeared on his site on 2/12/13.

Sometimes when people look at a writer who produces a lot, they make exclamations like, “Wow, how do you get so much done? You’re amazing! How did you get to be so prolific?”
-Kami M McArthur

Sometimes when people look at a writer who produces a lot, they make exclamations like, “Wow, how do you get so much done? You’re amazing! How did you get to be so prolific?”

Of course, as a writer, I don’t feel prolific, especially lately. I never think of myself in those terms. I do think about how to be more productive—almost every day. It started when I was young. So today I’m going to revisit some lessons from my youth.

As a child, I began working in the fields at age four, and at that time, I picked as many strawberries and beans as any other child—practically none. But my mother encouraged me to set goals for the day. She would say, “Why don’t you see if you can pick 100 pounds of beans today.” I tried it a few times and usually reached my goal by noon. (We’d start at about 7:00 A.M.) But after I reached my goal, I slacked off and played with the other kids in the fields.

When I was seven, I met an old woman who supplemented her income by picking fruits and vegetables. She was the most productive worker in the fields. On a regular day, she would harvest between 300 and 400 pounds of beans. So I got to wondering, “How does she do it?”

I began working in the row next to her one morning, determined to keep up. I found, first of all, that she kept her focus on the beans. She wasn’t watching other people or talking.

She noticed my interest and gave me a lesson. First, when reaching down to grab some beans, she would brush back the leaves from the bean stalks, exposing any beans that were hidden. So she hunted while harvesting. In short, she was multi-tasking. I soon discovered that I had only been picking about 3/4 of the beans available to me.

She also kept grabbing at beans until her hands were completely full, never pulling them free until she a got a good haul to drop into her bean bucket. In other words, I recognized that she was trying to make each movement count.
Of course she had to sit a certain way, squatting on her bean bucket with her legs spread wide enough so that she could put the beans in. She had to lean forward and stretch far enough to maximize her range. Then she would harvest two or three bushes at a time by working her way from the bottom to the top, then move the bucket three feet, harvest from bottom to top, and so on.

Moving this way hurt. The rim of the bean bucket would cut into her legs. The stretching made her back ache, and the fast labor meant that she constantly had sweat stinging her eyes. I asked her how to handle that, and her answer was simple, “Just ignore it, and keep on movin’.”

She worked relentlessly. While the kids nearby were throwing beans at each other, or singing, or taking water breaks, she was still working. She didn’t set goals to “work fifteen minutes,” she set goals to “finish the next three rows” before she would take a break.

Read the rest of the post on David Farland’s site.

How To Format The Dreaded Synopsis

This post, by Lynnette Labelle, originally appeared on her site on 11/13/12.

We’ve been talking a lot about synopses lately, but do you know how to format one? Here’s a cheat sheet for you.

Agents and editors typically follow the same guidelines as below, but it’s always a good idea to check their website or blog in case they have a personal preference.

-Double-space a synopsis, unless it’s one page single-spaced—ANYTHING over a page means double spacing the synopsis.

-Align left (don’t justify).

-Use one-inch margins all around.

-Check your font. It should be: Times New Roman or Courier, 12-point, black.

-If the synopsis is double-spaced, indent the first line of paragraphs ½ inch, but don’t add an extra line between paragraphs.

-If the synopsis is single-spaced, do NOT indent the paragraphs, but put an extra line between them.

-Your header should be on the left like this: author’s last name/title/synopsis. For any page beyond the first, use the same header format but add /page number after “synopsis”.

Note: Contests usually don’t want you to have your name on the entry, so check if you need to remove yours.

Page One Formatting


Read the rest of the post on Lynnette Labelle’s site.

Trolls Among Us

This post, by Steven Ramirez, originally appeared on his Glass Highway site and is reprinted here in its entirety with his permission.

A few of my colleagues have been commiserating lately in various social media circles about the one-star reviews they received for their books. I am in complete sympathy with them. I’ve had my share of nasty comments over the years. Because of this, I always do my best to comfort these sensitive souls. Truth is though, the lovely, caring artists filled with God’s gift for stringing words together in a way that amazes need to, well, man up.

How, you say, can I be so callous? Trust me, it’s not that hard. I’m sitting here alone in my office writing this piece with no audience to glower at me disapprovingly. I’ve got all kinds of chutzpah when I’m by myself. Besides, I’m in a basement, and it’s about fifty degrees down here. I could keep turnips fresh for months. If we were having this conversation in person though, say at a nice warm Starbucks, I might be a little more inclined to be nice.

Anyway, the thing is, there are trolls out there. Don’t ask me where they come from or why they feel the need to destroy another person’s months or even years of labor by making snarky remarks meant to illuminate their own questionable wit rather than provide honest, intelligent feedback. But there you have it. Know only that they exist. Like piles.

The Need to Feel Superior One author wrote recently that one of her book covers had—without her permission—been uploaded along with other covers to a sort of online wall of shame. The perpetrator even had the temerity to say that he would be more than happy to design a “good” cover for her and for all the rest of these poor hapless authors who had obviously gone astray in the cover design department. Unfortunately, the author decided to go after this person, and he retaliated by getting his friends to generate a bunch of—you guessed it—one-star reviews for her books. Ouch.

Personally, I’d love to know how much business this marketing genius actually drums up for himself using tactics not seen since Watergate. One thing’s for sure, I wouldn’t hire him to decorate the cupcakes for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, were she Jewish.

To me, this is simply a case of someone needing to feel superior by denigrating the hard work of others. It’s not professional, not wanted, and has no place in online commerce. Period.

The Need to Compete There are well known stories of authors—some of them successful—who write sock puppet reviews, singing the praises of their own works while eviscerating those of “the competition.” One best-selling author was recently found out. Check this out. Hey, it’s business! No, it’s stupid.

I am getting my own novel ready for publication, and I have nothing but admiration and good cheer for other writers who have already published their books and are seeing brisk sales. Why? Because I know how much work goes into a book. And because it helps all of us. This is a community, after all.

The Need to Be Unhappy Then there are those who write bad reviews—often without even reading or at least finishing the book—because they themselves are miserable. This makes no sense to me at all. If I have a headache, I take Ibuprofen. I don’t whack the guy next to me over the head with a wet sock puppet in the hope that somehow my pain will go away.

What’s maddening about these people is there is nothing to be gained whatsoever. No money, no fame. Nothing. They are just being mean.

The Need to Face the Truth This is a tough one. Maybe—just maybe—the one-star review is (gulp) deserved? Especially if most of the other reviews are lousy. It means you wrote a lousy book. In that case, you need to step back, regroup and try again. Maybe it is that awful book cover. Or maybe the book needs some serious rewriting. In any case, a work would have to be pretty bad to warrant one star. I mean any book in your friendly airport Hudson News is worth at least two stars, am I right?

Which brings me to my theory about one-star reviews. I’m no statistician, but it seems to me that readers might just be treating one-star reviews as patently fake anyway. I don’t know about you but when I see a one-star review, I tend not to put a lot of stock in it. For me it screams, “I was having a bad day when I wrote that!” I would hope that other readers are doing the same.

But what about those trolls? The ones who are going against the tide of good reviews, essentially throwing dog poop on an otherwise pristine basket of daisies? Two words. Ignore them.

And with that, here’s some troll humor.


10 Cons Of Self-Publishing

Here are ten reasons that explain why self-publishing might not be the right thing for you to get into when you are trying to publish your new book. But when reading this list, keep in mind that there is no one right way to get your book published. Therefore, it is important for each writer to consider their own goals, reasons, and resources before choosing to pursue the traditional book publishing route, or the self-publishing route.

1. No Guarantee Of Success
There are no guarantees of any kind of success with self-publishing – or any kind of publishing or business – or in life in general. That’s just how it is. One of your publications that you put all of your efforts into might sell one copy a week. And your next one will sell 100 per week. You won’t know for certain which of your books will sell well until you write it and publish it. And to make the whole process of self-publishing more interesting, you will shoulder 100 percent of the financial risk. If you can’t deal with any of that, then self-publishing is not for you.

2. High Out-Of-Pocket Expenses
Self-publishing start-up costs can be very high if you foolishly purchase and take delivery of a large quantity of books from a printer. And then spend the next three years trying to sell them. And then get sick of the entire process and sell them to a big bookstore chain for pennies on the dollar. Where do you think those expensive coffee-table books on the bookstore discount table come from?

3. Choosing A Particular Niche For Your Writing Can Be A Crap-Shoot
There is a market and audience for every imaginable niche. But if you expect to make any money writing about your particular micro-niche, you better pick wisely – and really know what you are writing about. A traditional publisher probably won’t accept your book if your micro-nice is too small to be profitable. They will help you make your book more marketable to a bigger audience. But if you don’t want that kind of professional help, you can self-publish your book about a very obscure topic that is of interest to you, and not many others, and languish in obscurity.

4. Revisions Can Get Expensive
Revisions can be very expensive if you haven’t yet sold the bulk of your initial inventory of books – that inventory that you foolishly ordered in bulk to lower your per-copy price – and are now storing in your basement.

5. Distribution Is Limited
Distribution can be limited because bookstore chains, for the most part, do not accept self-published books. But eventually you will find other sales outlets for your books. You can do your own distribution by finding bookstore that will accept self-published books in your niche. You can also sell and distribute your books directly to buyers that contact you through your own website. Shipping fees, bookstore fees, and distribution company fees will all take a huge chunk of your profits. And all of this takes time away from your writing.

6. Fiction Market Is Very Tough
The fiction market can be particularly difficult to sell to – especially for unknown or new authors. It is especially difficult to build a following for your fiction without the backing of a traditional publisher. And most reviewers will not touch your book with a ten-foot pole.

7. Can Be Very Time Consuming
Self-publishing is extremely time-consuming – especially if you expect to make any money at it. Don’t forget, that with self-publishing you are responsible for all aspects of your book’s production, marketing, sales, design, writing, publicity, finances, website design, etc. It can easily become a major portion of your life.

8. You Must Accept Returns And Give Refunds
If your books do not sell, the stores return them to you for a refund. And you pay for shipping both ways. You can offer a larger discount and write a special contract refusing returns, but stores will not accept that. Accepting returns and giving refunds can be a dangerous and costly game for a self-publisher with limited financial resources.

9. There Is A Huge Amount Of Competition
If you are afraid of competition, and the challenge of building a following for your publications, then self-publishing is certainly not for you. Competition is what keeps you on your toes, and constantly striving to offer a better product, and helping more people in the process. It’s called capitalism. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude for a good challenge, and the chance to help people with your books, and make a few bucks while doing it, then a life of self-publishing is not for you.

10. Big Learning Curve
There is a very big learning curve for self-publishing. It can take a few years to learn all the ins and outs of self-publishing. In addition, you need to learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry, and also learn about all aspects of running a small-business.

This article was written by Joseph C. Kunz, Jr. and originally posted on KunzOnPublishing.com


10 Reasons Self-Publishers Should Avoid Selling To Bookstores

Trying to get bookstores to accept your book and give it shelf space is very time-consuming and difficult to achieve. Most bookstores are not anxious to get your book. And to make matters worse, as a small, independent, publisher, or self-publisher, you are at the complete mercy of the bookstores. They set all of the terms, whether you like them or not. But even if you do everything they want, and spend lots of time and money in the process, to get a bookstore to accept your book, and give it some self-space, there is no guarantee that they will sell your book. Here are ten reasons that a new self-publisher should avoid spending valuable time and money trying to get their book into brick-and-mortar bookstores.

1. Bookstores Only Take Books That They Deem Will Sell In Large Volume
They will almost never believe that a self-published book will sell more than a few copies. They know that a small publisher does not have the power, connections, or budget to execute a large and sophisticated marketing plan.

2. Bookstores Will Typically Order Less Than 10 Copies
Even if they accept your book and agree to give it some shelf space, most bookstores will order less than ten copies at a time.

3. Bookstores Only Accept Books That Can Be Returned
And they might return 50% to 80% of your books to you – and you must pay to get them back. Some big bookstore chains know that small publishers cannot afford to buy back the books. They will then offer to buy your books back for under a dollar, and then put your book on their discount table.

4. Bookstores Expect The Publisher To Pay For Shipping Both Ways
This is a fact of life for the self-publisher that self-distributes. It is also time-consuming to package your books for shipping, and postage is expensive.

5. Bookstores Sell Very Few Books Compared To The Online Retailers
This is especially true for self-publishers. Big-name well-established authors, and the biggest publishers, are the ones that get the best displays and locations in the bookstore.

6. Bookstores Physically Do Not Have Enough Room To Stock All Titles
The small bookstores might stock 5,000 titles. The huge bookstores might stock 140,000 titles. Amazon stocks a few million titles. You will end up spending lots of time and money trying to get your book into bookstores, most of which simply do not have the space to take your book.

7. Bookstores Will Force You To Take Back All Of The Damaged Copies
You book will sit on the bookstore’s shelf, get handled, bent, banged-up, etc., and then the bookstore will force you to take them back, and force you pay for the shipping.

8. Bookstores Have A Bias Against Self-Published Books For Two Big Reasons
a. The reputation of vanity presses and self-publishers producing low-quality and un-marketable books.
b. Self-publishers typically lack the proper relationships with distributors, therefore their books are difficult to obtain.

9. Bookstores Can Order Your Book Even When It Is Not On Their Shelf
Almost every bookstore in America can order a book online through companies such as Ingram or Bertrams. The book will then be shipped to the bookstore, and the customer will pick it up.

10. Bookstores Can Easily Take 90 To 120 Days To Pay You
As a small, independent, publisher, or self-publisher, you are at the mercy of the bookstores. They set all of the terms, whether you like them or not. And as a small publisher, waiting several months for your money can be devastating.

This article was written by Joseph C. Kunz, Jr. and originally posted on KunzOnPublishing.com


A + B = You (The Secret Equation Every Author Needs to Know)

Who are you?

I don’t mean in the sense of your name, age, or personality.

I mean, as an author, who are you?

If you had to describe your writing – not a specific book, but just your personal writing style —to a stranger, what would you say?

It’s okay if you don’t know the answer right now.

Because by the end of this post, you will, thanks to our two secret equations (Yeah, that’s right, you’re getting a two-for-one!).

Defining who you are as an author is about more than just your genre, your book, or your blog.

It’s about what makes you unique.

And once you know what makes you unique, you can find the right readers who will appreciate your unique appeal.

So how do you find out who you are as an author?

Easy – you just have to do the math.

Don’t worry, I’ve got two simple formulas to help you along and all tests will be open book and open notes!

Both of these equations will give you two key elements:

  • Something fans can relate to (in this case, a well-known author)
  • Something that makes you unique

It’s up to you which one fits your writing personality best (Or, if you want to get really crazy, you can use both!).

1. The Unique Twist Algorithm

Start this equation by choosing a well-known author with a very similar writing style and genre (it has to be someone fans of your genre would definitely know and like).

Now take that author’s work and add a twist that describes why you are not only different, but *better* than that author (yeah, it’s bold, embrace it, my friends).

So you’ll wind up with a declaration something like one of these:

  • I’m like Nicholas Sparks, but with more laughs and less tears
  • I’m like Stephanie Meyer, but with stronger female characters

2. The Love Child Theorem

This second equation is my favorite. If you straddle a couple of genres or feel like you sort of embody a mix of two completely different styles, this one’s for you.

Start again with a well-known author who shares similarities to your writing style and genre.

Then, add another author.

Someone very different from Author A. Whether it’s in terms of genre or writing style or subject matter, just choose someone different, but who is also similar to you in some way.

Put those two authors together and proclaim yourself their simply unique lovechild.

I, for example, consider myself the lovechild of Joshilyn Jackson (smart, Southern, sassy) and Carl Hiaasen (fun, colorful, Floridian).

Try it out! You’ll come up with a statement like one of these:

  • I write science fiction like Ray Bradbury, but my characters are more like something from John Steinbeck.
  • I write a mix of fantasy and political thrillers like the love child of Stephen King and Brad Metzler.

So, which equation fits you best?

Try’em both on for size and figure out which one highlights your unique author attributes the best, and then share it with us in the comments!

Once you have a short synopsis of your writing style, you’ll have a much easier way to introduce yourself to new fans. Even better, you can do a little internet stalking/research on your new author doppelgangers to find out who their fans are and where they hang out!


This is a reprint from Duolit.

Social Media Tutorials: Apps For Writers And Other Creative People

This post, by Robin A. Burrows, originally appeared on her site on 1/22/13.

A writer-friend recently got a smart phone and wanted app recommendations. I decided that would be a good idea for a blog, and my Social Media Tutorial blog series came to be.

The first installment will be apps for writers and other creative people. I plan to post a new tutorial once or twice a month.

I use a Windows-based PC and apple products for my mobile devices, so that is what I will be talking about. However, most apps have an equivalent Android app.


By far, this is the most useful app I’ve found as a writer. It’s basically an online storage account that you can sync between devices. For example, you can install the app on your phone, your computer, and your ipad/tablet. Any documents you place in the Dropbox folders will be available in all three places. If you are away from home and think of the best story idea ever, you can write a note and place it in the Dropbox folder on your phone. Then when you get home and log into your computer, the note will also be available in the Dropbox folder on your computer.

People also use Dropbox an off-site backup of those important manuscripts. If your house burns down and you lose your computer, hard drives, and paper manuscripts, your documents will still be available on Dropbox.

Accounts are private, but Dropbox has the option to share individual folders with your friends on Dropbox. This is handy for collaborating on projects. One note, I wouldn’t save any financial documents to Dropbox because anything online has the possibility of being hacked.

There are a number of competing services which do the same thing as Dropbox. I tried out the Google Drive since I have a lot of google accounts, but Google Drive kept converting my documents into Google Docs format which I couldn’t open using my office software anymore. There are ways to work around that (primarily being always open files in the editing software and never directly from the Google Drive), but if you accidently open something important, you might not be able to “un-convert” it. So I decided to go with Dropbox instead of Google Drive since Dropbox didn’t have that issue.

The Dropbox app is free. You start out with 2 gigabytes of space, but you can get up to 16GB by promoting the app and inviting friends to join. There are also several paid packages if you need more space. You can download Dropbox free here.

QuickOffice Pro HDQuickOffice Pro / QuickOffice Pro HD

Every writer needs a word processing app. I tried dozens of apps, but QuickOffice is the only one I found that does everything I need it to do, and it has built-in Dropbox compatibility. I can create Office documents on my computer and save them to DropBox. Then I can open those Office documents in QuickOffice on my mobile devices, make edits, add text, add comments, etc. Or I can create documents on my mobile devices and open them later in Office on my computer.

My favorite thing about QuickOffice is that it retains formatting. This is especially important for writers in the editing process. Many people provide feedback to documents using the “comment” ability in Office. If you open that document in most mobile word processing software, those comments are either invisible or erased. So you’ve lost those comments when you reopen the document on a computer. All of that beautiful formatting that took hours to do also disappears in other apps, but Quick Office retains formatting. That is so incredibly wonderful for writers.

QuickOffice lets you create and edit Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents and their equivelants. (I haven’t actually tried a PowerPoint document yet, but the others work beautifully! There is an iPhone version (QuickOffice Pro) and an iPad version (QuickOffice Pro HD).

This app is not free. The price varies depending on sales, but it typically costs less than the amount you would spend for two people to eat out. You can run some iPhone apps on your iPad, but they run at the same size as the iPhone unless you use the 2X button to double the size. This doubles the screen size, but still uses the iPhone resolution, so things are blurry. I highly recommend buying the specific version of this software for the specific device.

You can find QuickOffice Pro and Quick Office Pro HD in the iTunes app store. I think it is also available in the Android app store. If you use a Mac as your primary desktop computer, and wants a mobile app that works well with that, Pages works well from what I’ve heard.

Read the rest of the post on Robin A. Burrows’ site.

Why Read The Classics?

This article, by Italo Calvino, originally appeared in the New York Review of Books in October of 1986.

Let us begin with a few suggested definitions.

1) The classics are the books of which we usually hear people say: “I am rereading…” and never “I am reading….”

This at least happens among those who consider themselves “very well read.” It does not hold good for young people at the age when they first encounter the world, and the classics as a part of that world.

The reiterative prefix before the verb “read” may be a small hypocrisy on the part of people ashamed to admit they have not read a famous book. To reassure them, we need only observe that, however vast any person’s basic reading may be, there still remain an enormous number of fundamental works that he has not read.

Hands up, anyone who has read the whole of Herodotus and the whole of Thucydides! And Saint-Simon? And Cardinal de Retz? But even the great nineteenth-century cycles of novels are more often talked about than read. In France they begin to read Balzac in school, and judging by the number of copies in circulation, one may suppose that they go on reading him even after that, but if a Gallup poll were taken in Italy, I’m afraid that Balzac would come in practically last. Dickens fans in Italy form a tiny elite; as soon as its members meet, they begin to chatter about characters and episodes as if they were discussing people and things of their own acquaintance. Years ago, while teaching in America, Michel Butor got fed up with being asked about Emile Zola, whom he had never read, so he made up his mind to read the entire Rougon-Macquart cycle. He found it was completely different from what he had thought: a fabulous mythological and cosmogonical family tree, which he went on to describe in a wonderful essay.

In other words, to read a great book for the first time in one’s maturity is an extraordinary pleasure, different from (though one cannot say greater or lesser than) the pleasure of having read it in one’s youth. Youth brings to reading, as to any other experience, a particular flavor and a particular sense of importance, whereas in maturity one appreciates (or ought to appreciate) many more details and levels and meanings. We may therefore attempt the next definition:

2) We use the word “classics” for those books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to read them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them.

In fact, reading in youth can be rather unfruitful, owing to impatience, distraction, inexperience with the product’s “instructions for use,” and inexperience in life itself. Books read then can be (possibly at one and the same time) formative, in the sense that they give a form to future experiences, providing models, terms of comparison, schemes for classification, scales of value, exemplars of beauty—all things that continue to operate even if the book read in one’s youth is almost or totally forgotten. If we reread the book at a mature age we are likely to rediscover these constants, which by this time are part of our inner mechanisms, but whose origins we have long forgotten. A literary work can succeed in making us forget it as such, but it leaves its seed in us. The definition we can give is therefore this:

3) The classics are books that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.

Read the rest of the article on The New York Review of Books archive.