Thursday, May 30

Anne Rice's Advice On Writing

Anne Rice's Advice On Writing

This morning I sat down to write a post on book promotion and ended up with a post about Anne Rice's advice on writing. I love doing research on the internet!

As part of my post on book promotion I wanted to link to one of Hugh Howey's informative blog posts where he gives his advice on how best to sell one's work, but then I came across his link to Anne Rice's advice on writing.

Of course I stopped what I was doing and listened to it. I mean, come on, it's Anne Rice!

I'm glad I did.

The video is only 12 minutes long and you don't have to watch it, you can let it play in the background while you do housework or surf the web.

A Summary Of Anne Rice's Advice On Writing

The first half of the video is Anne Rice saying that there's no one way to write, just write! Starting at around 6:04 she gives a couple of tips:

1. Go where the pain is

I couldn't help it, immediately that scene from The Princess Bride flashed through my mind. You know the one.

Anyway. The idea is to go where it hurts. Find a memory that hurts so much you can't breathe. Write about it. Explore it.

Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire after her daughter passed away. I've often thought that the writing of Interview may have helped her deal with the pain of her loss.

2. Go where the pleasure is

What excites you? Where would you like to be? Where would you like to go?

Write that book. Write what's interesting to you. Write the story you most want to read.

What is the best advice about writing you ever received?

Here's a link to a great article by Hugh Howey: Making a Living as a Writer.

Photo credit: "Untitled" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, May 28

7 Interesting Links For Writers

7 Interesting Links For Writers

I've been busy with other things these last few days, and have gotten behind on my blog reading.

For months I've wanted to do a kind of 'dogs breakfast' post where I talk briefly about a bunch of articles that have wonderful information for writers. Since I have such an embarrassment of riches at the moment I thought, no time like the present! Here we go:

7 interesting links for writers:

1. Amazon's New Subcategories

Amazon has a few new subcategories--character categories and theme categories--for books. India Drummond over at The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing tells you how to get your books listed in these new categories. To read more about this see her article:  Amazon’s New SciFi, Fantasy, and Romance Subcategories. Thanks to Passive Guy for the link.

2. Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Psychic Powers

This week the theme is psychic powers: write a story of around 1,000 words where a character has one of the 20 psychic powers listed in this blog post: Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain Psychic Powers. I've found writing flash fiction has helped me enormously, it's a fabulous way to stretch one's writing muscles.

3. What It Means To Be A Writer

Amanda Palmer gave a talk entitled, Connecting The Dots. Good stuff. Again, thanks to Passive Guy for the link.

4. Dean Wesley Smith Does An Encore

I loved it when Dean Wesley Smith blogged about writing a 70,000 word novel in 10 days. Well, he's doing it again! This time Dean won't be writing a novel, instead he'll write 5 shorts stories and he's starting June 10th. Read more here: “Ghost Novel” Writing So You Can See.

5. Storytelling Techniques

My goal is to write stories other folks love to read. How one does that, time after time, is the 64,000 dollar question. Fortunately, this is the sort of craft question the folks over at The Write Practice love to write about.

Joe Bunting asks: Does your story promise to reveal a secret? A solution to a problem? Is it about the demise of a savior figure? Those aren't the only ways of adding interest to a story, but they are great ideas to have in your writer's toolkit.

6. Hugh Howey: Does Barnes & Noble Manipulate Its Rankings?

It looks like erotic stories aren't allowed to rank above 126 over at Barnes & Noble, no matter how well they sell. Read more here.

7. Short Is The New Long

Recently I've talked a bit about whether novellas or novels sell better. Here's an article encouraging writers to spend more time writing short stories: Short is the New Long: 10 Reasons Why Short Stories are Hot.

Have you come across a great article about writing? Tell us about it! 

Photo credit: "Oerlikon" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, May 27

Saying Goodbye To Larry

Saying Goodbye To Larry
Larry (the white & gray cat) lying with his brother, SJ.

My cat died today.

His name was Larry and he was a great cat.

Larry, his mother and four other kittens came into my life almost eight years ago when I took his family in after they'd been surrendered to a local cat shelter.

The month-old kittens were infested with fleas, and one died at the shelter before I took the brood home. The vet said said that SJ, a small black kitten--the runt of the litter--might die, but I kept him with me each day as I wrote, and I made sure he ate, and he pulled through.

Larry and SJ were the two kittens I kept from the litter.

SJ and I had bonded and Larry ... Larry was Larry. That cat had a personality. He was the first kitten to climb to the top of their huge cat-tree, he was the first one to fall into their drinking fountain and he was the last one to make it over the barrier I put up over the door to their cat room, but that was only because he was a BIG kitty. Not fat, muscular.

When he was a little fluff-ball of a kitten, Larry's favorite game was crouching down and sneaking up on one of his siblings, pouncing on them, and then going on a raucous chase through the apartment. One day he pounced on his sister who was playing with a bit of string in my lap. I'm not sure why, but he looked up then, right into my eyes.

Larry was terrified! He arched his back, all his fur standing on end, and backed away slowly.

At the time I was astonished, but then I realized it was a perfectly rational reaction to looking into the eyes of a giant.

He was a very smart cat.

Larry and SJ got along well, though, of course, they fought occasionally. But they slept together, and they ate together. Neither minded giving up food to the other, they never fought about it, even if sardines--their favorite food--was involved.

Larry, though, did have one special love in his life: Luna.

Luna is a big, fluffy, long-haired cat that I had before I took in the kittens. In fact, I took in the kittens because I was wanted Luna to have some company. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. Luna disliked the kittens as much as they liked her. Larry especially.

Larry had never seen anything like Luna's furry tail and all he wanted to do was touch it with his paws and bury his nose in it. Luna, of course, wanted none of it.

One day while I was holding Larry he noticed Luna sitting at my feet. Before I could stop him, he sprang out of my hands and dove straight for her tail. He landed on his mark and for two whole seconds buried his face in her fur. He was in heaven! Luna was very displeased and boxed his ears but I don't think he ever regretted it.

In the beginning, Larry didn't have much use for humans, but he loved playing with cats, SJ especially. It took Larry about a year before he would lie beside me on the couch and another half year until he would lie on my lap.

I found out Larry was sick when he was about a year old. Hemolytic anemia. There were many veterinary visits over the years, his red blood cell count would plummet, sometimes for no reason, and his medication would need to be adjusted.

But, through it all, he was a great cat. He purred when I held him, he never scratched me, not once. He hated the cat carrier and purred like a motorboat when he got back home. He'd flop down on the carpet in my bedroom, all sprawled out, clearly overjoyed to be back.

Larry suffered a stroke yesterday and there wasn't anything I could do, expect the one thing I did.

I loved Larry. I'm so sad I'll never see him again, never pet him again, never hold him in my arms and hear his deep throaty purr.

Goodbye Larry, you were a great cat and you'll always have a place in my heart.

Saturday, May 25

A Must Have App For Writers: Index Card (5 out of 5 stars)

A Must Have App For Writers: Index Card (5 out of 5 stars) Writers, I've found the killer app for the iPad: Index Card.

Chuck Wendig recommended Index Card in a recent blog post, 25 Ways To Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story. Since I'd gotten a lot of use out of his last app recommendation (SimpleMind for iOS), I gave it a try.

I've used Index Card every day since I've bought it! I even wrote the first draft of my last story using the app.

(I guess after this glowing recommendation I should say I have no connection to the folks who made this app and I'm not an affiliate. I just like to pass along information that's helped me.)

Chuck Wendig also recommended a page called 10 Hints For Index Cards which gives great advice on what to include on a card. For instance:
  1. Keep it short. Maximum seven words per card.
  2. A card represents a story point, be it a scene or a sequence. You don’t need a card for every little thing.
  3. Keep cards general enough that they can be rearranged. (“Battle in swamp” rather than “Final showdown”)
I hear someone asking: What's so great about Index Card?

1. Index Card allows you to write as much per card as you want. 

This is a definite plus for me since I'm ALWAYS running out of room on physical index cards, but I don't want to buy huge cards because I want to be able to fit them all on my cork board. The app just shows the first couple of paragraphs of text in card view and allows you to title each card so you know what that scene/section/chapter is all about. Problem solved!

2. You can move the cards around

Yes, this is something we'd expect from a digital app, but it's a definite improvement over physically arranging bits of paper on a board made of cork.

3. You can change the color of the index cards

Again, this is a small thing, but it helps me keep track of cards that are just description (I use one card to describe each character). You can duplicate and rename the cards, or entire cork boards. 

4. You can create stacks of index cards

For instance, you could call one stack Act One, another stack Act Two, and so on.

5. If you don't like viewing the cards in rows there are other ways of viewing the cards.

You can view the cards in columns or as one long row.

6. You can diagram multiple stories at the same time. 

I like to work on three stories at the same time, but I don't have space to have three cork boards up on my walls. With the Index Card app, just start a new file. I can switch between projects with the tap of a finger.

7. You can quickly and easily export all your work to Dropbox, or email it to yourself, or export it to iTunes, or preview and print it. 

It can even make you coffee in the morning! Okay, maybe not, but I feel that it wants to.

Index Card is $4.99 but, for me, it was well worth it.

A couple of years ago Chuck Wendig wrote a post where he recommends a bunch of apps for the iPad, apps that help him as a writer; it's a great post, highly recommended (Chuck Wendig uses spicy language, so be warned): The iPad For Writers. His app recommendations are toward the end of the post.

What is your favorite writing app?

Photo credit: "form follows function" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, May 23

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, Shares Survey Results: 5 Ways To Sell More eBooks

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, Shares Survey Results: 5 Ways To Sell More Books

I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It's possible I'm being too conservative.
-- Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords
I've been meaning to discuss Mark Coker's analysis of the results from his latest eBook survey but other projects kept intruding.  Finally, I just dove in and did it.

What follows is my condensed version of Mark Coker's post, New Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks.

5 Ways To Sell More eBooks

1. Longer eBooks Sell Better

I was surprised by this, but successful indie author Russell Blake would agree: novels sell better than novellas. MC writes:
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 115,000 words.  When we examined the word counts of books in other sales rank bands, we found the lower the word count, the lower the sales.

2. Shorter book titles have a slight sales advantage

I chuckled when I read this because it's one of the points I included in my blog post about how to choose the perfect title. I have a bias toward books with shorter titles, but this could just be because shorter titles are easier to remember. Mark Coker writes:
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 4.2 words in their book title.

For titles ranked #1,000-#2,000, the average word count was 5.7, or about 36% more words than the top 100.

Books ranked #100,000-#101,000 (not a sales rank any author wants!), the book title word count was 6.0 words.

3. Lower priced books sell more copies

That's not at all surprising. Mark Coker writes:
[B]ooks priced between $1.00 and $1.99 significantly underperform books priced at $2.99 and $3.99. 
It was surprising that books priced at $1.99 sell the most poorly. Mark Coker's advice: Whatever price you put on your book, don't sell it for $1.99.

Free books, of course, are downloaded most often. Basically for every 92 free books downloaded one is sold. Mark Coker writes:
FREE books, on average, earned 92 times more downloads than books at any price. If you've written several books, consider pricing at least one of the books at free. If you write series, consider pricing the series starter at FREE. Nothing attracts reader interest like FREE. But remember, it's one thing to get the reader to download your book. It's an entirely different challenge to get them to read it, finish it and love it.

4. $3.99 is the new sweet spot

Significantly more books were sold at $3.99 than for any other price. Mark Coker writes:
One surprising finding is that, on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE.  I didn't expect this.  Although the general pattern holds that lower priced books tend to sell more units than higher priced books, $3.99 was the rule-breaker.  According to our Yield Graph, $3.99 earned authors total income that was 55% above the average compared to all price points.

The finding runs counter to the meme that ebook prices will only drop lower.  I think it offers encouraging news for authors and publishers alike. It also tells me that some authors who are pricing between $.99 and $2.99 might actually be underpricing. [Emphasis mine]

5. Go indie!

Mark Coker writes:
An indie ebook author earns about $2.00 from the sale of a $2.99 book. That book, on average, will sell four times as many units as a book priced over $10.00. In order for a traditionally published author to earn $2.00 on an ebook sale, the book must be priced at $11.42 (if the publisher has agency terms, as Smashwords does) or $16.00 (if it's a wholesale publisher).
. . . .
If a reader has the choice to purchase one of two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other is priced at $12.99, which will they choose?
. . . .
I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It's possible I'm being too conservative.

Indie ebook authors can publish faster and less expensively, publish globally, enjoy greater creative freedom, earn higher royalties, and have greater flexibility and control. It's not as difficult to successfully self-publish as some people think. The bestselling traditionally published authors already know how to write a super-awesome book. That's the most difficult task of publishing because the best books market themselves on reader word-of-mouth.
I didn't talk about everything Mark Coker wrote, his article is well worth reading.

The upshot: This is a great time to be an indie author!

Photo credit: "hamburger hafengeburtstag (fisheye) wasserschutzpolizei" by fRedi under Creative Commmons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0.

Wednesday, May 22

Getting Organized

Getting Organized

I was wondering what I could blog about today--for some reason when I only blog once a day it's twice as hard to come up with a topic! (Which goes to show that the more one writes the more one can write.)

So I would like to do something a little bit different and share one of the most useful tips I've been given as a writer: use Excel and Google Calendar to get organized.

If you're all ready organized, ignore this, and of course you don't have to use Excel, you can use any spreadsheet program, the same goes for Google Calendar. I like Google Calendar because it's easy to sync with my iPad calendar and it's simple to get alerts mailed to myself. Bottom line: use what works for you.

Using Excel And Google Calendar To Get Organized

I have Chuck Wendig to thank for this tip. He's the one who wrote about using Excel to get and stay organized in several of his blog posts.

I'm not talking about using Excel to help outline a novel (which it's great for; Chuck Wendig writes about that in this post and I talk about it more here and here), I'm talking about using Excel to help plan your days, weeks and months, to help set and keep your writing goals.

So, here's how I'm currently using Excel to stay (somewhat) organized:

1. Make a list of all the projects you want to complete in the next 12/24/36/48 etc months and give each one a tentative 'finish by' date. 

Some of these projects you're already working on, some of them, perhaps, are almost finished, some of them are just going to be ideas you want to work on, or maybe you just know you want to publish (say) two books every year for the next few years and that each book should be about 80,000 words in length.

For each project it helps if you have an approximate word count to shoot for. This can be adjusted later, but it helps to have something to work with, even if the figures are tentative.

2. Figure out how many books you'd have to sell at what price to meet your minimum financial goals.

I've written in detail how to do this elsewhere:

- How Many Books Would You Have To Write To Quit Your Job?
- Writing Goals Versus Writing Dreams: How To Get From One To The Other

What this hinges on is deciding how many books/novellas/short stories you want to write per year. That is, how many words you want to write per year. Let's say you want to write two 80,000 word novels per year, so you want to write 160,000 words per year.

Let's say that you think some of the words you write won't be used, so lets talk about this in terms of net and gross words. I use the rule of thumb that if I want to publish, say, 20,000 (net) words a month I should plan to write 40,000 (gross) words that month.

So, let's say you think that in order to publish 160,000 words per year (/two novels) you'll need to write 320,000 words that year.

((1) and (2) can be done in any order, but the two go together like a hand in a glove.)

3. Examine what you've written down for (1) and (2), above, and adjust your 'finish by' times accordingly.

The idea is to break things down so that you have a certain number of words to finish each year, each month, each week and each day. Your project start by, finish by, number of words, and so on, dates can be recorded in Excel but I find it handy to break writing objectives up.

So, for instance, if I want to write 320,000 gross words a year, that works out to about 6,200 words per week or about 900 words a day. Plug this into Google Calendar and send yourself a prompt every day, perhaps a couple of times a day, reminding you of your word count.

Don't be discouraged if you fall behind, just do the work you can and keep going.

Clear as mud? (grin)

A couple of weeks ago I started using this method and it's reduced my stress since now I can see at a glance what my goals are and where I am in meeting those goals.

How do you keep track of your writing goals? What programs have you used? What methods?

Photo credit: "This caught my eye" by Nina Matthews under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, May 21

Getting Over Writer's Block: Listen To Your Characters

Yesterday I wrote about world building because I was stuck on my WIP. I thought world building was my problem but it wasn't. I wasn't listening to my characters.

I'm writing a murder mystery and the problem was that I couldn't get my sleuth to talk.

I'd written practically all the murderer's scenes up to the midpoint and had a good outline for where I would go after that, but I was nervous because I'd only written one scene with the sleuth and that scene was mediocre.

I loved my murderer with all his flaws, I felt I knew him. He was the hero of his own story, but he'd made some bad decisions. The sleuth, on the other hand, hid behind a veil. I couldn't reach him, couldn't understand him.

It was a problem, especially since I have a schedule and a daily word count and I just can't afford this thing called 'being blocked'.

Well ...

I woke up this morning, started reading, and BAM! it hit me: I needed to write the sleuth's scenes through another character's eyes. I needed a Watson. A Hastings. When I figured that out I could write. It was like a damn burst.

So, here's my take away from this experience:

Listen to your characters

When I'm blocked on a story I'm blocked for a reason.

In this instance, I hadn't taken the time to be still and listen to the sleuth. After I started writing again the sleuth told me things about himself that surprised me. I had completely missed one of his most important characteristics: his anger over a great loss he suffered. Not sadness, anger.

Then it made sense.

I've talked about listening to your characters. There are many, many, writing exercises you could do to help with this, but here's the one I did:

I added a POV character, the sleuth's sidekick, and then chose a scene. I chose one that involved something the sidekick had to do, and started to write. At some point I started to see her, her red hair, her white freckled skin, her long fingers as she slid them along the polished mahogany of the spiral staircase.

And then she was in a room with him, with my sleuth, and they were arguing. She was saying all those things to him she'd kept bottled up ... and it turned out to be a great scene that was fun to write. And I was surprised by a couple of things the characters said, things that made perfect sense once I'd written them down, but I had no thought of them before the exercise.

Writing is kinda magical. And cool. Very cool.

If you've had writers block in the past, what have you done to get over it and get back writing?

Photo credit: "g wie grashalme" by fRedi under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Monday, May 20

Tips For Building An Interesting World

Tips For Building An Interesting World

Today I'm world building.

And, no, I'm not talking about my on-again, off-again, obsession with Minecraft.

Sometimes a world reveals itself in a rush of inspiration and all I have to do is write it down.

Other times, like today, I'll grab onto a great character who seems to come ready-made, reminding me of Stephen King's writers-as-anthropologists analogy, where all we're really doing is uncovering stories, not creating them. If that's the case, many of my villains, my "big bads," (also see the discussion of the Big Bad trope over at come from the ground fully-formed. All I have to do is brush off a bit of dirt, perhaps reattach an arm here, smooth down a bump or two there, and the character is complete; though of course riddled with flaws and strong, counter-productive, desires.

I've been doing some research for the hero of my story, trying to make him as vivid, as memorable--and, frankly, as likable--as my villain. (When one writes one learns about oneself, so I wonder what that says about me! Wait, don't answer that. ;)

In any case, today Janice Hardy published a wonderful article on world building that is (as always) oh-so-very helpful to writers in the trenches. Her advice helps if you're just starting the world-building process or if you're pulling your hair out because something isn't working with the world you've created/discovered.

Janice Hardy's Tips For Building An Interesting World

1. Color. Use it.

Janice writes: "[I]n my current WIP, color denotes status and is used as an identifier."

Interesting! That book is going on my To Be Read list. Janice writes that, in general, color can ...

Color can have a practical, aesthetic, or spiritual reason. Just like purple was used for royalty due to the rarity of the dye, another color might be scarce in your world and have particular uses and meanings behind those uses.
I admit, what color means isn't something I thought about when building the world of my WIP, but it's a great idea.


Are certain colors rare, perhaps only available to the very rich and powerful? If so, you have a great way to show a character's wealth or status.


Are certain colors forbidden?  Are they considered taboo or perhaps they are sacred to one or more gods?

2. What materials do your societies use?

Janice writes:
Different colored stones occur in different regions, or wood from the trees, or even metals mined from the ground. Coastal dwellers might use mud bricks but those who live in heavy forest areas build with wood. A desert culture probably isn't building with wood and stone, and anyone who does is likely to be wealthy or powerful enough to import them in. What materials the population has on hand goes a long way to how they create their cities and the things in those cities.

  • What building materials are nearby?
  • What's imported? Exported?
  • What are common household items made from?
  • What are luxury items made from?
  • What are considered luxury items?
Janice also talks about how to use a societies views on art, as well as their decorations, to help build a world and make it interesting. I encourage you to read her entire article: World Building Tips Learned at the Louvre.

Do you have any tips/tricks for how to flesh out a world and make it interesting? If so, please share!

Other articles you might like:

- The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize
- Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores
- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?

Photo credit: "time flies" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, May 18

The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize

The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize

Writing 3,000 words a day is hard.

I can just imagine Dean Wesley Smith shaking his head saying, "You think writing three hours a day is hard work?!"

Well, no. Writing for three hours a day is, to a certain extent, the easy part. After all, I already wrote about 1,000 words of non-fiction and 1,000 words of fiction a day.

There's also--I'm not going to say 're-writing'--but there is editing. At least there is for me. That's another two hours a day. Then there's my blog--two posts a day takes about four hours. Sorting through and answering my email, reading other blogs, keeping up with Twitter, all that takes another two hours.

Lately I've put aside an hour a day to do nothing but read, but--necessary though it is--that is time I'm not writing.

These past few days I've become acutely aware that I spend most of my working day on things that, while good and productive in their own way, keep me from putting my butt in my chair and writing fiction.

But that has changed, which is why I didn't blog at all yesterday: I was busy writing.

I've decided I need to make some sacrifices. One of these is that I won't be blogging twice a day anymore. To be honest, I'm not completely sure how much I'll be blogging. I've been thinking about writing a post a day, or perhaps five posts a week like Chuck Wendig.

Speaking of Chuck Wendig, this is really his fault, him and Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch. Actually, Kris started it all by mentioning she wrote one million words in 2012.

One million!

The thought boggled me. I imagined Kris sitting at her computer typing away in a blue bodysuit with a red "W" on the front and a red cape falling gracefully from her shoulders. In my imagination I gave her the name: Superwriter.

Then recently Chuck Wendig revealed that he, too, is a member of the one million words a year club. That's 3,000 words a day, each and every day.

My first thought was that it would be hard never having a day off.

But then I did something Dean Wesley Smith is always encouraging writers to do (see here, here and here) and I ran the numbers.

Guess what I found? Assuming that one's books are moderately successful (and that's a BIG if), if one writes a million words a year, chances are good that, at the end of five years, a writer can make a reasonable living.

Now, I'm not saying that one has to write a million words a year for five years to make a reasonable living as a writer.

Not at all!

One or more of your books could be a bestseller, and if that book is part of a series then chances are you'll be well on your way to making a decent living.

But hoping that one's books will be bestsellers is a much bigger IF than hoping each of one's books does moderately well. Thus my goal of writing a million words a year for the next five years.

Yes, folks, that's the goal! Whether I'll end up doing that, I don't know, but I'm certainly going to try.

It's difficult re-aligning one's life, one's priorities, so that can happen. It takes time, and it has been difficult for me to decide what to let go. I'm not letting go of this blog, I find it too rewarding, on a personal level as well as a professional one. I've learnt so much. Both through my own research and from your many insightful comments.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this will be a learning process for me and I hope you will forgive me if I don't post as much as I used to.

And, by all means, if you would like to see a post on a certain topic, please leave a comment or contact me here.

I'll be sure to keep you updated on how it's going.


Other articles you might like:

- Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores
- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?
- 4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence

Photo credit: "London Calling #5" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, May 16

Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores

Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores

Dean Wesley Smith has been spoiling his readers lately. First he blogs each day that he writes a novel in 10 days, showing us newbies that, yes, it can be done and, actually, it's not such a big deal.

Now he's spreading the word about how indie authors can get their books into bookstores. Yep, that's right, bookstores.

Bookstores Are Ordering Indie Published Books

If some of you are wondering why this is a big deal, not being able to sell one's work in bookstores was the single biggest difference between an indie author and a traditionally published one. (It's not entirely true that indie authors couldn't sell their work in bookstores, but it was a lot harder for indies to do than for traditional authors.) Dean writes:
[I]f you buy the $10 ISBN that puts your company name on the book in CreateSpace and put it into the extended distribution program, it will appear on the listings of Ingrams, B&T, and other distributors right beside a Simon & Schuster book or a Bantam book.
 Dean promises that ...
Over some near-future posts (and in workshops both online and here at the coast this next year) Kris and I will start working to train writers how to get books effectively to the attention of bookstores so they can order them.
Read more at Dean Wesley Smith's blog: The New World of Publishing: Books into Stores.

Kris Rusch talks about this same shift, this sea change, in her most recent blog post: The Business Rusch: Shifting Sands. She writes:
What has changed is this: Bookstores now have access to all published print books, whether they come from Createspace or from a big traditional publisher. Bookstores didn’t have access to all published print books before.

There are some caveats, of course. The first caveat is this: The indie writer must put her book into Createspace’s extended distribution program. (Lightning Source has something similar, but I’m not as familiar with it.) The second caveat is this: the bookstore must have a preferred account through its primary distributor.

If both of those things are in place—the writer has her print-on-demand book in an extended distribution program through the POD company, and the bookstore has a good relationship with its primary distributor, then any bookstore can find that book with no help from the writer at all.

Got that? The writer has to do nothing, and still her book will end up in the bookstore’s system.
What follows is a fascinating discussion about why the book industry allows returns and how returns stigmatized indie writers. It's a wonderful read, highly recommended.

Since we're talking about visibility, if you haven't already, check out David Gaughran's new book, Let's Get Visible: How to get noticed and sell more books.

The world of publishing is changing quickly, but not for the worse, not if a writer is willing to explore all the options. 

Other articles you might like: 

- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?
- 4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence
- 4 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Title For Your Book

Photo credit: "London Calling #10" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, May 15

What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?

What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?
"Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright," Aaron Sorkin.

What do Aaron Sorkin, stealing, and advice about writing have in common?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Yesterday Gwen sent me a clip of Aaron Sorkin's cameo appearance on 30 Rock where he pokes fun at himself, at his quirks.

After I watched the clip I thought, 'Huh, I wonder if Aaron Sorkin has written anything about the art of writing?' And, guess what? He has!

In How to Write an Aaron Sorkin Script, by Aaron Sorkin Mr. Sorkin gives advice about how to introduce crucial (but possibly boring) information and make it all seem interesting and clever rather than contrived and boring.

BUT, before I get to that, I'd like to talk about stealing.

And by "stealing" I don't mean plagiarism—which is bad, very bad—but the sort of outright stealing Aaron Sorkin was talking about in the quote at the beginning of this article.

In her post Develop Your Narrative Voice By Stealing From Bestselling Authors, Elise Abram teaches writers how to steal. But first, a caveat. Elise writes:
How I found my voice was by “stealing” from other writers, trying on different points of view, tones and styles until I found one that was my own.

Note: Modelling, which is what I mean by “stealing”, is very different from plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined as using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization, and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own.
So, plagiarism is nasty while 'creative stealing' or modelling, is perfectly fine.

The other day someone compared modelling to the way a musician learns to play an instrument. They play a song someone else wrote over and over again until they get it right, then move on to another song. This is the writer's version of that.

I'll leave you to read Elise's wonderful article, but I would like to share her #2 way of stealing.

Steal the setting

Elise writes:
[A] way you can model is to use a setting from popular literature.

As you read these passages, see if you can spot the similarities:
“A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street…the cask had tumbled out…the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell…The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them …Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped…Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads.”
“The driver had been coming out of the turn on the inside when the wagon had tilted and gone over. As a result, the kegs had sprayed all the way across the road. Many of them were smashed, and the road was a quagmire for twenty feet. One horse…lay in the ditch, a shattered chunk of barrel-stave protruding from its ear…Wandering around the scene of the accident were perhaps a dozen people. They walked slowly, often bending over to scoop ale two-handed from a hoofprint or to dip a handkerchief or a torn-off piece of singlet into another puddle. Most of them were staggering. Voices raised in laughter and in quarrelsome shouts.”
Did you catch the comparisons?
.  .  .  .
The first passage is from a scene in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, the second from Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman. In the modelling of this passage, King and Straub use Dickens’ setting, making it their own by serving it up with the dark and graphic horror their readers know and love.

Aaron Sorkin on How To Steal From Aaron Sorkin

Which brings us back to Aaron Sorkin's article in which he, basically, invites us to 'steal' one of his tricks, which is how to give an information dump--or a 'fact-dump' as he calls it--but make it witty and interesting. He writes:
A song in a musical works best when a character has to sing—when words won't do the trick anymore. The same idea applies to a long speech in a play or a movie or on television. You want to force the character out of a conversational pattern. In the pilot of The Newsroom, a new series for HBO, TV news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) emotionally checked out years ago, and now he's sitting on a college panel, hearing the same shouting match between right and left he's been hearing forever, and the arguments have become noise. A student asks what makes America the world's greatest country, and Will dodges the question with glib answers. But the moderator keeps needling him until...snap.
And then comes a fact-dump/information dump, but it works and it's interesting.

In his article Aaron Sorkin demonstrates what he means by giving a short scene with commentary both about the effect he wants his words to create in the audience and how he creates that effect. It reminds me of a magician giving away one of his tricks. A wonderful read.

Who is your favorite author to model? Is there anyone you're currently modelling?

Other articles you might like:

- 4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence
- 4 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Title For Your Book
- Beware Damnation Books

Photo credit: "Burglar Alarm Box" by taberandrew by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, May 14

4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence

4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence

The other day someone wrote to me and complemented me on my blog--which was very nice and made me blush--and then wrote something to the effect, "By the way, you sure talk a lot about some guy named Chuck."

I suppose I do! (grin) But only because I talk a lot about writing on writing and Chuck Wendig has done some of the best. I also write about Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch, Passive Guy and a number of others.

Which is all a way of working up to saying that this is another blog post inspired by something Chuck Wendig wrote!

The Mysteries Of Outlining

I outline.

While I acknowledge it's not the only way of going about writing I admit to being boggled that there are those who don't.

Dean Wesley Smith for example. Also Stephen King.

These are both excellent, prolific, writers who make a good living from their exercise of the craft/art. So it's not as though I think there's only one way of going about things.

That said, the thought of writing anything more than a 6,000 word short story without some sort of idea of both where the story is going and how it is going to get there gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Why? Well, I'm glad you asked that.

1. Outlining gives a writer confidence

Chuck Wendig explains why:
Sometimes what kills us is a lack of confidence in our storytelling. We get hip-deep and everything seems to unravel .... You suddenly feel like you don’t know where this is going. Plot doesn’t make sense. Characters are running around like sticky-fingered toddlers. The whole narrative is like a 10-car-pileup on the highway. Your story hasn’t proven itself, but an outline serves as the proving grounds. You take the story and break it apart before you even begin — so, by the time you do put the first sentence down, you have confidence in the tale you’re about to tell. Confidence is the writer’s keystone; an outline can lend you that confidence.
I think that is the number one reason why I outline. Also, though, ...

2. Outlining saves you time, work and frustration

[W]hat happens is, you finish the first draft (tens of thousands of words) and what you suddenly find is that this is basically one big outline anyway, because you’re going to have to edit and rewrite the damn thing. An outline tends to save you from the head-exploding bowel-evacuating frustration of having to do that because you’ve already gone through the effort to arrange the story. A little work up front may save you a metric ... ton later on.
That. What he said.

3. A good outline is a flexible outline

Mary Robinette Kowal compares an outline to a roadmap. But roadmaps can be altered. Chuck Wendig writes:
No plan survives contact with the enemy, and while you’re writing you’re going to see new things and have new ideas and make crazy connections that are simply not in the outline. Make them. Take the exit! Try new things! Don’t let the outline be a pair of shackles.

4. The zero draft: an outline in disguise

This is what I often do. Chuck Wendig writes:
Some folks never do an outline up front — they let their first draft (or the “zero draft,” as it is sometimes known) be the pukey, sloppy technicolor supergeyser of nonsense and then they take that giant pile of quantum hullaballoo and from it pull a proper outline before attempting to rewrite. This may take you a bit longer but if the result is a story you’re happy with, then ... go forth and do it. Every process you choose should be in service to getting the best story in the way that feels most… well, I was going to say comfortable, but really, comfort is ... forgettable in the face of great fiction, so let’s go with effective, instead.
I'll often start off with a picture, an idea, an inkling, a mood, a feeling or a desire to explore a certain genre, and I'll start writing.

Often I'll change direction, but (and this is the main thing) I'll discover more about what it was that I originally had hold of. Sometimes, sure, I'll decide I didn't really have hold of anything and then abandon the idea, but, overwhelmingly, by the end I'll have grasped something, some story, that I'll then know well enough to do an outline of.

Chuck Wendig's article is food for the writerly soul--or is that chicken soup? Anyway, I can't recommend it highly enough (adult language -->): 25 Things You Should Know About Outlining.

Also, CW mentions his previous article: 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure, which I talked about here: Chuck Wendig on Story Structure.

Do you outline? Ever? Why? Why not?

Other articles you might like:

- 4 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Title For Your Book
- Beware Damnation Books
- Where To Find Cover Artists

Photo credit: "sharp" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, May 13

4 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Title For Your Book

4 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Title For Your Book

Just as a great cover will help sell a book, so will a great title.

That's what I've been doing for the past few days, researching how to create the perfect title. I'm kicking myself for not doing this while Chuck Wendig had his Titular Titles flash fiction challenge.

Here's what I've learned so far. A great title is:

1. Easy To Remember

There are few things more frustrating than someone telling me the title of a book they think I'd love and then not being able to remember it at the bookstore!

Help readers out, make the title of your work memorable. Yes, I know, that's easier said than done but there are a few simple tips.


Have you ever noticed that poetry is easier to memorize than prose? It has rhythm, meter.

Maryann Yin gives these titles as examples: When Crickets Cry and Wildflowers from Winter.


This isn't always true, but I think it's best to try and keep a title to four words or less.

2. Interesting

In a way, many of the same things that can be said about what makes a character interesting can also be said about titles.

Contradictory qualities

Indiana Jones was a fearless adventurer, but he has an irrational fear of snakes. He'll face a wave of enemy soldiers without blinking but get near a snake? No thanks! Here are a few examples:

- War and Peace
- True Lies (This is a movie title, but it counts!)
- Eyes Wide Shut (ditto)


If you could make the descriptive title imply an action so much the better. Of course, again, that's much easier said than done. For example:

- Gone with the wind
- The Silence of the Lambs
- Fahrenheit 451

I thought The Silence of the Lambs was a brilliant title. Right there, at the very beginning, Thomas Harris discloses one of Clarice Starling's most private hopes/desires. We don't know that at first but, still, the title stays with us, in the back of our minds, as we read.

3. Indicates Genre

It can be difficult to do this. "The Doom of Planet 987" (I just made that up) indicates a scifi story but it feels contrived. 

Ursula K. Le Guin has been particularly good at creating great titles that, while clearly indicating genre, are memorable and intriguing. For example:

- The Lathe of Heaven (One of my favorites)
- The Wizard of Earthsea
- City of Illusions

4. Is Funny

If you can do all the above and make it funny, you've got a winner. If, that is, humor would fit your genre. You might not want a humorous title on, say, a horror novel. That probably would mislead readers.

One of my all-time-favorite titles is Terry Pratchett's, "Going Postal."

Kim Harrison has clever titles for her Hollows books, many of them inspired by movies:

- Dead Witch Walking
- The Good, The Bad and The Undead
- For A Few Demons More

5 Tips For Brainstorming The Perfect Title

I love K.M. Welland's blog, she gives practical advice I frequently find myself using when I write. For example, in how to brainstorm titles. She writes:

i. Research titles in your genre.

Zoom by Amazon and take a look at your genre’s bestseller list. What do the top twenty titles have in common? Write down the ones that particularly pop out at you and note the elements that make them attractive. How can you replicate their effect?

ii. Consider your book’s text.

Your title makes a promise to readers about what they will find inside the book. So why not look inside the book itself to find the title? Are there any lines that pop off the page? Any particularly memorable or unique phrases? What one line in the book best sums up the theme, premise, or protagonist?

iii. Look up words in the dictionary.

Grab your dictionary and flip it open to a random page. Do any words pop out? Make a list.

iv. Analyze songs/poems/books.

One of my favorite techniques is to pull vivid imagery from songs, poems, and old books (the King James translation of the Bible is particularly full of strong and unique words). Make a list of the best phrases and start playing with them. A little clever wordplay can go a long way toward making your title stand out.

v. Free write.

Scribble down every title, word, or combination of words you can think of. I often cover pages in my notebook with various title ideas. Most are dumb, but there’s always one that finally pops out as the perfect representation of the book.

Examples Of Great Titles

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to share John Floyd's examples of great titles from his article Choosing The Right Name For Your Story.
  1. A title can be a popular expression. Gone for Good, Something's Gotta Give, The Horse's Mouth, The Usual Suspects, Good As Gold, The Whole Nine Yards.

  2. A title can be a play on words. (Sometimes a "twist" of an existing expression.) Burglars Can Be Choosers, The Cancelled Czech, You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die, The War Between the Tates, A Hearse of a Different Color.

  3. A title can have a hidden meaning, later revealed in the story. The Green Mile, Rain Man, Dances with Wolves, Catch-22, Hearts in Atlantis, Cool Hand Luke, The Shipping News.

  4. A title can come from an existing work. (The Bible, Shakespeare, etc.) The Grapes of Wrath, The Sound and the Fury, The Sun Also Rises, Absalom, Absalom, All That Glitters, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

  5. A title can be a person's name. Hannibal, Goldfinger, Carrie, Hondo, Rebecca, Doctor Zhivago, Shane, Forrest Gump.

  6. A title can be a place name. Cold Mountain, Cimarron, Peyton Place, Jurassic Park, Lonesome Dove, Mystic River.

  7. A title can be a possessive. Portnoy's Complaint, Angela's Ashes, The Optimist's Daughter, Charlotte's Web.

  8. A title can be an association of ideas. Often these are words that have a "double meaning," and refer to more than one thing in a story. The Eye of the Needle, The Dead Zone, Misery, Silver Bullet, Lie Down with Lions.

  9. A title can be an "event" or "activity." (Use "ing" in the first word.) Pleading Guilty, Romancing the Stone, Waiting to Exhale, "Riding the Bullet," Raising Helen, Finding Nemo.

  10. A title can be a memorable line from the story itself. To Kill a Mockingbird, Tell No One, Sleepless in Seattle, The Eagle Has Landed, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

  11. A title (if long) can have a "rhythm." Another kind of "play on words," this makes a longer title more pleasing to the ear--and easier to remember. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, The Sins of Rachel Cade, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

  12. A title (if it fits the story) can be simple. Jaws, Shogun, Cathedral, The Exorcist, Ragtime, Lolita, Deliverance, Airport, "The Swimmer," Roots, Centennial, It, The Godfather.

If you're trying to think of a title I can't recommend K.M. Welland's and John Floyd's articles highly enough.

What is your favorite title?

Other articles you might like:

- Beware Damnation Books
- Where To Find Cover Artists
- 10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript

Photo credit: "After Catnip" by A.Davey under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0.

Sunday, May 12

Beware Damnation Books

Beware Damnation Books

Tim Marquitz is a writer who published through Damnation Books and who wants to warn other writers away from the company. He writes:
After filing a justice court suit against Damnation Books on November 15, 2012 for multiple counts of breach of contract, I won a small financial judgment against the publisher on April 26, 2013. The judge, however, did not feel it was within his power to rescind the disputed contracts despite finding in my favor, referring me to a higher court. (Damnation Books On Notice!)
If you are thinking about signing with Damnation Books, read what Tim has to say about their business practices. 

I heard about Tim's plight through Passive Guy's blog post on the subject: Beware Damnation Books. There's a lot of good advice in that post about how to avoid shady publishers. For instance:

1. Google the publisher's name with words like "warning" and "beware"

2. See what the folks over at Absolute Write have to say.

Absolute Write contains a wealth of information on publishers and agents. If you have a question about a publisher, agent, editor, then head on over and search their extensive database and, if you don't find anything, post your question.

I found this over at Absolute Write in a post asking about Damnation Publishing:
Overall my experience with Damnation was quite pleasant, until we disagreed on the design of the cover. They were unwilling to negotiate, so I asked to be released from my contract. At this time, they sent me a letter charging me a $800+ “termination agreement.” This letter included an itemized list of expenses—and as a publisher myself I know how exorbitant and ridiculous these charges are.

Further, there was no mention of a termination fee in the contract I originally signed. . . . When I refused to pay the fee, Kim Gilchrist told me that unless I paid it they would go on and publish the book without my support. (Show Me)

3. Search the archives of Writer Beware to see if Victoria Strauss has blogged about the company.

Writer Beware contains a wealth of information. In fact the person who left the comment I quoted above talked to Victoria Strauss about Damnation Books and their practice of charging kill fees. She pointed him to this article: Publishers' Kill Fees, and Why They're Bad For Everyone.

Good stuff.

Have you had a bad experience with a publisher? What do you look at when deciding whether to sign with someone?

Other articles you might like:

- Where To Find Cover Artists
- 10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres

Photo credit: "London Calling #2" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, May 11

Where To Find Cover Artists

Where To Find Cover Artists

It's difficult to overestimate the importance of a great cover.

Striking professional looking covers help sell books.

The cover is the first impression a reader will have of your work, and humans place a lot of importance on first impressions.

We want readers to fall in love with our book on first sight.

Think of it this way, you dress up to go about your day-to-day activities. You put on nicer clothes, you fix your hair, and so on.

Why? Because we know that how we look matters to other people. Even if you couldn't care less how others look you know that folks treat you differently depending on the clothes you wear, the way you arrange your hair, the perfume/cologne you choose.

Now think: What if you weren't just going to a business meeting, or a PTA get-together, or a  baseball mixer. What if you were going to the Academy Awards or some other gala affair?

My female friends would spend most of the morning and all of the afternoon getting their hair, nails and face done. And I cringe to think how much they'd spend on clothes.

What about your book?

It's going out into the world to be judged. It's like a child in the sense that it's an extension of you, something you created. And, unlike children who have their own ideas about what sort of clothes to wear, what color of hair to have, and so on, you control every single facet of your book's launch, including the cover. (That is, if you self publish. If you traditionally publish you probably won't have any say over the cover.)

Granted, most of us can't design the cover, we don't have those skills, but a talented artist can work with you to give you a look you want.

Which brings me, circuitously, to the topic of today's post: How to find the right cover artist for your book.

How To Find A Cover Artist For Your Book

A couple of days ago Passive Guy posted the following:
Passive Guy received a simple question from Amey:
Where does an indie author find cover illustrators online?
She knows about DeviantArt, but finds it too complicated and believes there aren’t a lot of real artists there.
So, what’s the answer to Amey’s question? 
A lot of wonderful folks wrote in with wonderful answers, but I found myself getting overwhelmed by the information as I scrolled through the replies. That's when I got the idea for this post.

In the following I've taken the information given and provided links when I could track them down. I've also provided links to the original replies so you can read those for yourself.

By including a name in the following I'm not recommending that person. Similarly, if I haven't included a name in the following I don't mean to imply they wouldn't be a great choice.

List Of Book Cover Artists

In some cases, the link is in the name.

Extended Imagery

This is the designer Joe Konrath uses for his books. Carl sells predesigned book covers for about $200.

DD Graphix

Robin Nuttall, freelance graphic designer with 20+ years experience. US based, responsive, quick turn-around. I listen to my clients and help them achieve success. Very reasonable prices as I begin to build my digital publishing portfolio.

Digital and print book cover design, interior design/formatting.

Cover Bistro

Custom covers starting as low as $35, Premades starting at $15, and Book Jacket/Ebook cover combos starting at $50.  3d Boxed sets starting at $25 if created from an existing book cover, and $45 if a new cover is required.

Indie-Spired Design

Your cover is your I.D. Be inspired.

Specializing in YA and Fantasy premade book covers, I offer premade covers as well as custom designs, ereader renders and custom advertisements.

Littera Designs

Name: Rachel Cole

Beautiful, eye-catching, professional-looking book cover design.

Pre-made covers start at $30
Custom ebook covers start at $65
Custom print covers start at $100

Carolyn McCray writes: lets you receive up to 99 spec designs. The designers only get paid if you pick them. A great resource to get a lot of different professional (okay, some are a little grade school but usually you get several pros per project) covers to choose from. It is where I got my cover artist.

Kit Foster

I read Joel Friedlander’s e-Book Cover Design Awards every month, and through that, I found Kit Foster. If you see a designer whose work you like, you’ll have to google the name to find their website. (Russell Phillips)

Steward Williams, Rebecca Swift, Peter Ratcliffe

These artists were recommended by Rob Siders.

Here are the artists my shop recommends most frequently (aside for Jeroen ten Berge, who is closed to new clients until after June):

Stewart Williams at
Rebecca Swift at
Peter Ratcliffe at

Streetlight Graphics

Nicholas Taylor writes:
DA [Deviant Art] has a lot of very talented artists, but if you are looking for a service that does a great job and specializes in publishing, I would recommend Streetlight Graphics. They did the art on my last book and are wonderful. They also do amazing work on eBook and print interior layouts. To get your cover, print layout, ebook layout and another graphic (like a business card or bookmark) it will run you $460. Their site is and you can’t go wrong with them.


India Drummond writes:
Dreamup is run by deviant art, I do believe, but it’s a curated list: For custom artwork and illustrations, this is where I would start.
India also recommended An Authors Art.

Firefly Covers

Christine Leov Lealand writes:
I found my cover artist when I met a traveling young German man whose hobby was graphic design. He went home after making a few covers for us – learning the basics from us and what we and Createspace/KDP needed and set up

 Nils is great at communication and good at cover design and has a network of other artists who will put together a cover for you of altered photographs or drawn art or a combo of both.

Jared Rackler Designs

Kat Sheridan writes:
I’ll toss in Jared Rackler. He’s done workj for friends. Fast, inexpensive (generally under $100), good looking:

Tibbs Design

Sue Quint writes:
I found my graphic designer/cover artist through my epublisher, and love her covers. She works with stock art photo, so is much more reasonably priced than many other cover designers. She also works freelance, so she’s available for other projects at

Jeroen ten Berge

R.E. McDermott writes:
There are a lot of very talented cover artists out there, but when I first started to self publish, I looked around and chose Jeroen ten Berge. He’s definitely not the cheapest, but I don’t think he really wants to be. What he is, is reasonably priced, very approachable, and a consummate professional. Choosing Jeroen was one of my better business decisions and I recommend him without reservation. His website is:

Robin Ludwig

Vicki writes:
May I recommend my awesome artist – Robin Ludwig. She has a real gift.
This list only scratches the service of the skilled artists available to help with your covers, I didn't include all the information given--that would have taken way too long!--so do look at the responses for yourself. That link again is: Where do you find cover artists?

Tip For Finding A Cover Artist

Maria Zannini writes:
I’m a professional cover artist and most of my work has come from referrals.

The very best way to find a cover artist is to collect the cover art you find most appealing, then email the author or the publisher and asked who designed that cover.

Take into consideration not only price, but turnaround, and a detailed account of what you’re getting for the fee.

If your questions aren’t answered to your satisfaction in writing, go somewhere else.
If you'd like to recommend a cover artist please post their information below. (If you include a URL use the aristname (dot) website (dot) com formatting otherwise blogger might see it as spam.)

Other resources:

- Kindle Boards yellowpages for authors
- Goodreads: Book cover artists and illustrators

Other articles you might like:

- 10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres
- How To Write A Terrific Review

Photo credit: "Spring Nights" by martinak15 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, May 10

10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript

10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript

This is a wonderful, must-read, article for anyone who has had trouble proofreading their own work: 10 Proofreading Tips For Self-Publishers.

Anna Lewis writes:
No matter how many times you’ve read through your work, it’s amazing how often errors can sneak through to the final stages. The problem: You’re so familiar with the text that you see what you think you have written rather than what you actually wrote.

That happens to me all the time. So, what can we do to catch all those pesky mistakes?

10 Tips For Proofreading Your Prose

1. Put your writing aside for as long as you can stand.

Stephen King says this, Chuck Wendig says this. Everyone I've ever read about writing says this. And, from my experience, it does help a lot. In the case of a book try to put it aside for at least a month, though I think a month and a half is better.

2. Know your weaknesses.

Every writer has weaknesses. Some of us are horrible spellers, some of us repeat phrases or overuse words. Some of us make certain kinds of grammatical errors. If you know what you're likely to do you can make a point of looking especially for that. (And, if you're getting a friend to go over your manuscript, you could mention your weaknesses to them as well.)

3. Read your work out loud.

Anna writes:
If you read aloud, your ear might catch errors that your eyes may have missed. Alternatively, you can use text-to-speech software.
Reading one's work aloud is great, a must-do, but I think listening to someone (or something) read the text is useful as well. I do both.

4. Try proofreading backwards.

The first time I heard this advice I thought it was nuts, but the person who gave it to me was a professional and highly sought after proofreader so I tried it. It works! But it is time consuming. Anna suggests using this method for areas such as the cover text.

5. Keep style and usage handbooks readily available and use them!

Excellent advice. I like using digital copies because they're easier to search.

6. Watch out for contractions, apostrophes and homonyms.

7. Run a spell check.

But don't rely on the spell check. You need human eyes on your manuscript as well.

8. Highlight all punctuation marks so you can evaluate each one for accuracy.

9. Proofread a printed version of your work.

I'm like this, I can more easily catch errors in a printed copy than I can by reading from the screen. I'm not sure if this is true for everyone. Perhaps folks who grew up reading from screens won't have this bias.

10. Get someone else to proofread your manuscript.

No matter what you do it'll be harder for you to see what you've actually written as opposed to what you'd intended to write. Trading with writer friends--I'll proofread your manuscript if you proofread mine--can help.

Of course the best solution, and by far the easiest, is to find a good proofreader and pay them to work on your manuscript.

I've paraphrased a good deal of Anna Lewis' article, I'd encourage you to read it in the original: 10 Proofreading Tips For Self-Publishers.

Do you have a tip for catching errors in a manuscript?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres
- Russell Blake's 26 Tips On How To Sell A Lot Of Books
- Chuck Wendig On Finding Your Voice

Photo credit: "My Brush With Death" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres

I've been completing Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges--not entering them, mind you, but doing the work--and I'm finding it easier to write short fiction!

Not too long ago I wrote about how I seemed constitutionally unable to write a story of less than 5,000 words.


A month or so ago I wrote a story of 997 words for one of Chuck's challenges. I was over-the-moon happy that I'd been able to write a complete story using so few words but didn't think much about it since the market for flash fiction is likely just marginally larger than the one for poetry. What I really wanted was to write a story in the 2,000 word range.

Then, a few days later, I wrote another short story, one of my own that I just plucked out of the air, and it was 1,800 words!

I danced, I sang, I called friends. It was great! (The feeling that is. I think the story is fabulous too, but I could be biased. ;)

So that little story of personal achievement is my way of encouraging anyone who is on the fence to get off and get writing! Practice may not make your writing perfect (I ask you, who is a perfect writer? Is that even possible?) but it can make you a darn sight better.

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres

Here's the Challenge:
Below is a list of 20 subgenres.

I want you to roll a d20 twice — or click a random number generator twice between 1 and 20 — and that will give you two subgenres. (Sure, you can choose them instead, but that means YOU HATE FUN.)

Smash those two subgenres into one story.

Write that story. Around 1000 words. Post at your online space. Link back here through the comments. Due by next Friday, May 17th, at noon EST.

Here’s the list of subgenres.

Men’s Adventure
Fairy Tale
New Weird
Space Opera
Southern Gothic
BDSM Erotica
Sword & Sorcery
Sci-Fi Humor or Satire
Haunted House
Weird West
Remember, post the link to your story on Chuck's website, here: Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres.

Have you ever completed one of Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges? Did it help your short form writing?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Write A Terrific Review
- 4 Tips On How To Find A Genre To Write In
- Russell Blake's 26 Tips On How To Sell A Lot Of Books

Photo credit: "St Michael, The Archangel Chapel - Rookwood Necropolis" by Luke Peterson Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.