Thursday, March 26, 2020

Being Kind

This week I sent out my monthly newsletter just before New Zealand began to prepare for a four-week lockdown. We are entering an uncertain time. I get to share my working space with my family for four weeks solid. This could be challenging. Here are some of the ideas I shared in my newsletter for writers coping in this brave new world.
Clean up all your computer files.
Back up all your documents.
Shelve your books alphabetically, or by colour… or practice book structure sculpture.
Write a book review and post it online every day for Book Karma.
Study a good film for plot points and emotional payoffs- Do it as a group activity (family time?)
Check-in with your loved ones and your colleagues. This is about physical distancing not social distancing. 
Be Kind To Yourself

The calm good sense of K M Weiland on the power of hopeful stories when the world seems a bit mad is a nice reminder that the world needs storytellers. 

Joanna Penn has a great article on productivity from guest writer, Tiffany Joy. If your productivity has gone out the window it is alright to regroup and try again.

Nate Hoffelder has a great post on how to look at your author business and move forward with a new plan for when we come out on the other side. Very sensible, also his 6 stages of grief are right on target.

Anne R Allen has been looking at Amazon’s review policy and yes, they have changed it again. Now you have to be careful of ARC team reviews. But as Anne says there are other places you can leave reviews.

New Zealand was going to be hosting the WorldCon this year and now the whole country is in lockdown. As a nice pivot Worldcon will be virtual. 
Meanwhile, BEA is still attempting to go ahead despite the withdrawals of 3 big publishers.

Kris Rusch has dug out an old post on setting priorities if you are new to working from home. This is absolutely the best advice as we figure out how to work in this brave new world of coronavirus lockdown. She then continued her current thinking about black swan events and what might be coming down the track for author business.

In The Craft Section,

5 ingredients for story subtext- K M Weiland- Bookmark

Creative Writing Prompts and Writing Exercises from Reedsy- Bookmark Both

How to format dialogue – Jami Gold - Bookmark

In The Marketing Section,

How to get publicity- Tom Corson Knowles- Bookmark

April - unique content ideas- Penny Sansevieri – Bookmark

To Finish,

Last week was I was writing about creativity. The Oatmeal blog came up with an awesome comic on creativity. 
Here in New Zealand we are lucky to have a brilliant microbiologist and a cartoonist join forces to write creative, entertaining and factual daily articles that are now being shared globally.
Be Kind. Stay strong.

Day One of New Zealand Lockdown

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Getting Creative

Last week I was urging people to look for the silver lining. A lot can happen in a week. 
Sadly, I am seeing many people in the arts industry who have had their jobs disappear, launches canceled, speaking gigs (that pay the rent) postponed or stopped. Then I saw booksellers struggling and the layoffs of staff have begun.

Some great booksellers are keeping their staff on full pay and giving them vacation time. Others are coming up with innovative ways to stay relevant in the community. A friend who does a regular storytime in a children’s bookshop is now doing an online version for the store. (They also have a mobile EFTPOS machine so they can go out to cars with your phone in order.) Other bookshops have started a delivery service. 
Now is the time to get creative to weather the Covid 19 storm. 

With the canceling of so many festivals, some kid’s authors got together to hold an online book festival for kids. Check out how they are doing it and share the idea around.

Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and others are relaxing their licenses so teachers can use their books and crafts in videos for children who are unable to go to school. Authors who have their own licenses for this may be able to offer something similar. 

Librarians overseas, are arguing that now is the time to relax the fair use rules on copyright. This is tricky as authors should still be paid for their work. It is their livelihood.

Amazon is priority shipping- anything not a priority for Covid 19 is getting delayed. Unfortunately, books are not seen as a priority. However, that doesn’t apply to KDP print and ebooks. (silver lining)

In the middle of all this Macmillan ended its library embargo. Everyone told them you don’t mess with librarians, but they had to find out the hard way.

Kristine Rusch talks about Black Swan events and how the world and business change forever at these times. This is an interesting read and something to ponder on as we look at our author business. Dean and Kris are also offering big discounts on all their courses for authors who are stuck inside. 

Nate Hoffelder is noting that most of the Book Fairs are talking postponement. He has a blog post on what to take if you are planning to go to a fair as soon as everything gets back to the new normal.

Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors has a very useful article on how Indie Publishing might be able to weather the Covid 19 storm.

In The Craft Section,

4 tips for creating Villains- Sacha Black - Bookmark

Ways to add depth to settings- Jordan Dane- Bookmark

Taking the first step towards writing- Shanna Swendson- Bookmark

In The Marketing Section,

Packaging your book- Keywords, metadata, and selling points- Nicolas Erik- Bookmark!

Increasing discoverability- Facebook Goodreads Twitter- Ingram blog

Change your author blog into a website- Nate Hoffelder- Bookmark

To Finish

In this time of uncertainty with the news constantly changing around us it can be tempting to lock ourselves away and go back to comfort food, books, etc etc. If you know anyone contemplating plans to write that picture book, ‘because it’s easy to write a kids book’ send them over to read Melinda Szymanik’s blog- The picture book gospel. 

Now is the time to be kind and to think outside of the box, to get the word out about books and reading. Write reviews, talk on social media about favourite books, share your process, invent words games, social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Writers are already ahead of the rest of the world in these skills. It’s time to show them off.


It’s nearly time for my monthly newsletter of the best of the months' bookmarked links.
When you subscribe you will also get a nifty mini book crammed full with marketing notes as a thank you. 
If you like the blog and want to shout me a coffee, hit the coffee button up top. I appreciate the virtual coffee love. Thanks.

Pic: Flickr- Creative Commons – Bill Smith- Girl Scout cookies 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Looking For The Silver Lining

This week the publishing industry was trying to catch up with all the cancellations as the Covid 19 virus is now a global pandemic. Publishing Perspectives announced a roundup today of what’s been canceled. 

Meanwhile over on Amazon, there have been scams taking advantage of people’s fear. Let’s rip off some scientific articles dress it up with a salad of opinion and badly formatted or just scanned pages of tips and sell it to frightened people. 

If you are thinking it’s all a big conspiracy theory and the virus isn’t that bad you need to read this detailed article on the statistics of the pandemic thus far. 

I was hoping to find some silver linings I could share with you this week. This became especially important for my mental health as I investigated the contents of our emergency bag and discovered expired food. Hmm. What would a writer need to get through some forced isolation time? A separate workroom from children and spouses for a start. (The laundry- I’m always in there.) Lay in a stock of pain killers, cough medicine, your favourite chicken soup, wine, chocolate, pens, and paper and get in a stack of books from your local bookshop.
When you are all settled in, channel Mary Shelley. She wrote Frankenstein during a pandemic. You too could write a novel that changes the literature landscape. 
(N.B. You might have to handwrite it just like Mary if the internet goes down because everyone is working from home.)

This could be a great time to do some computer spring cleaning says Litreactor- Have you ever spent twenty minutes going through the files of your manuscripts trying to find the latest version where you didn’t make that stupid change that resulted in the hero heading to Antarctica? Clean up your hard drive.

The Portalist caught up with some pandemic apocalypse writers and asked them why people were searching out their books. First of all, Chuck Wendig apologized for writing a book about a pandemic in an election year….

If you were planning on attending a book fair or conference that has just disappeared there is light on the horizon. The Alliance of Independent Authors online conference is still on. Attend virtually and soak up all the great information for free this weekend.

A ray of sunshine amid the gloom for UK writers. Their government is dropping the VAT on books.

Kris Rusch examines the double-dealings of Hachette this week when their staff walked out to support Ronan Farrow’s protest over publishing Woody Allen’s memoir. It’s ok to enforce these clauses of non-compete to authors but not when the shoe is on the other foot.

In the Craft Section,

39 writing tips to take seriously- Zoe McCarthy- Bookmark

Test your story concept- Scott Myers- Bookmark

Killer plot twists- Tom Corson Knowles

Children’s writer's biggest challenge- Sherryl Clark- Great Read!

In The Marketing Section,

Book sales techniques- Sarah Bolme- Bookmark

Making an editorial calendar- Willow Woodford- Bookmark

To Finish,

One of my young friends suffered a concussion at work and she was at a loss as to what to do for the compulsory week off. She couldn’t look at screens or bright lights. Audiobooks I said. It’s a form of reading with your ears. It takes you right back to reading with Mum. The light switched on, and we went on to talk about Stephen Fry’s superlative reading of the Harry Potter series. There are reading snobs out there who say that reading anything outside of the printed page is wrong… however, science now backs up that audiobook listening is reading. 
Yay for Science! 


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When you subscribe you will also get a nifty mini book crammed full with marketing notes as a thank you. 
If you like the blog and want to shout me a coffee, hit the coffee button up top. I appreciate the virtual coffee love. Thanks.

Pic: Flickr- Creative Commons - Sean Freese 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Let’s Be Careful Out There

The Covid 19 virus has started spreading across the world and the media are spending more time on the sensationalist aspects and ramping up the hysteria instead of the facts.
In the publishing world, the big conferences that are the tent poles of the publishing year are looking very shaky. London Book Fair has just been canceled due to many big publishers pulling out. Already we have book launches canceled or delayed. China is the world's largest printer for publishers. Due to travel restrictions, books are being delayed. If you can’t get your books out to the stores what can you do?
The latest Bond movie is delayed due to worries about audiences in theatres staying away because of contagion concerns.
Kris Rusch talks calmly of what happened to book sales in moments of crisis. Are you prepared for business disruption?

The news was out today, Simon and Schuster are up for sale. Among the reporting of dire predictions was the whimsical, what would you do with a book publishing company? 
Will Amazon buy it to get print legitimacy? Just think of all their backlist. (Stephen King… Judy Blume… Cassandra Clare…)

While you are contemplating owning a big publisher, Anne R Allen has a great blog post on the clueless ways people who know nothing about publishing offer advice. How many of these have you fielded at parties when someone finds out you write?

The Guardian recently published an opinion piece from a writer about the guilty secret many of us have. We are sponsored by someone rich to write. This is a truthful piece on what it is really like to be a writer these days. Sadly, it doesn’t look like it is going to get any better.

Audiobooks are going from strength to strength in the publishing world as the new format to get into. Joanna Penn has a great interview with Michele Cobb on all the opportunities in audio publishing.

I’ve been experimenting with writing sprints lately. They are lots of fun and you can get a surprising amount down if you don’t stop to edit your words in the middle. (Note to self!) The Pomodoro technique does work. If you don’t know how to do it check out this nifty post.

Do you belong to a writing group? This week I was thrilled to see the last person in a writing group I have been keeping an eye on for a long time finally have her book published. Writing groups can be your best cheerleaders. -There are many different types so search around to find your cheerleading tribe.

In The Craft Section,

9 Types of Narrative Devices- Joe Bunting - Bookmark

Screenplay structure simplified- Scott Myers- Infographic- Bookmark

Tips for writing a cozy mystery- Elizabeth Spann Craig

In The Marketing Section,

Looking Good -Design tips for authors- Heather Weidner- Bookmark

Panel Best Practice- Penguin Random House

How to make your author future reality- Angela Ackerman- Bookmark

Anatomy of a Bestselling Amazon Book Promotion- Penny Sansevieri – Bookmark

To Finish,

What do you do when you find out that your work has been plagiarized - but worse… they won a prize with it. You could go up in flames or you could doubt yourself or you could write an interesting thoughtful piece of how you deal with this. 
Take a breath, people. Innnnnn. Ouuuuut. Don’t use hysteria as your default emotion. Check out the facts. Make considered decisions. (I’m looking at you people in the back overstacking your shopping trolleys with toilet paper and bottled water.) 

Just a note- One of my nurse friends reported today that people are stealing bottles of hand sanitizer from the hospitals. Surgical masks, sanitizers, etc are needed by medical professionals. The mask does not work if it gets wet- One cough and it’s done for. 
Please use soap and water (20 seconds) and dry your hands. It works just as well.


Do you want the best of my bookmarked links in a handy monthly newsletter?
When you subscribe you will also get a nifty mini book crammed full with marketing notes as a thank you. 
If you like the blog and want to shout me a coffee, hit the coffee button up top. I appreciate the virtual coffee love. Thanks.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Tricky Questions. Big Consequences.

This week everyone in publishing has been talking about whether the Book Fairs are on or off or postponed or delayed or canceled altogether.
With restrictions on movement and fears about Covid19 and a potential pandemic, the Book Fair season is looking shaky.
London is going ahead but organisers are noting there will be restrictions in place and a smaller fair. There are still going to be plenty of good discussion along with lots of hand sanitiser. LBF are warning about shaking hands. 
With the postponement of major book fairs, there is a knock-on effect happening. May looks like it will be very busy with make-up book fairs. Already publishers are delaying publication because they can’t get books printed in China in time as restrictions on movement slows down the industry.

Ingram Spark are tightening up the rules on what gets printed through them. In their sights are Indie Publishers with badly copied PDF’s, journals with blank pages and anything they think looks dodgy like workbooks. This could catch writers on the hop especially those who publish reading copies and workbooks to go with their books

Jami Gold has a quick rundown on the RWA where we are now report which was just released. Can something rise from the ashes? The bulk of Jami’s post is on how to cope with disappointment. Do you use it to spur yourself on or wallow with chocolate cake?

Kris Rusch has a great post on challenging your comfort zone. Have you been writing the same old thing, book after book? When did you last live on the edge creatively?

Ruth Harris has an excellent post on the five mental traps that the writer can get caught up in. Yes, your writing brain is out to sabotage you. How can you recognize the signs? 

Fae Rowen sat down and wrote a list of things she wanted to achieve in her writing in the next decade. They all have to do with craft. This is a great list to mull over and steal from.

In The Craft Section,

How To Rewrite Your Whole Darn Book- P J Parrish – Bookmark

In The Marketing Section,

Unique marketing ideas for March – Penny Sansevieri- Bookmark

Professional Writing Resources- K M Weiland – Bookmark

To Finish,

During the Christmas/Summer break I went to the movies. I was keen to see Knives Out for various reasons. The cast, and the premise. An old fashioned whodunnit mystery. It seemed so fresh again to be in an audience that were treated as intelligent. After I got used to Daniel Craig’s accent, I enjoyed being surprised by the twists and turns. Excellent storytelling. Is this genre making a come back? How are your sleuthing skills?

Pic: Angela Lansbury- Murder She Wrote- TV Series 1984-96


Do you want the best of my bookmarked links in a handy monthly newsletter?
When you subscribe you will also get a nifty mini book crammed full with marketing notes as a thank you. 
If you like the blog and want to shout me a coffee, hit the coffee button up top. I appreciate the virtual coffee love. Thanks.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bad Actors

Today I was perusing Twitter for interesting writing links and I noticed that there was an online chat with Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware. What a super site. Victoria mentioned that it was started in 1998 with the late Ann Crispin. If you put #bookmarketingchat in the Twitter search box you can get a great rundown on the shonky clauses and bad hat operators out there in publishing land from today’s chat.

Chuck Wendig published a thoughtful piece on a trend he is seeing that he is NOT OK with. The soliciting of blurbs from authors for unpublished novels or novels on submission or before they have been edited. Blurbs for editors to take to acquisitions meetings??? So they’ll only publish if you’ve got fancy writer friends? (Not to mention shady opportunities.)

Agent Janet Reid has also highlighted a problem with agent persona theft that is happening.
If an agent is contacting you first… check up! Are they bona fide?

While we’re on bad ideas… Hugh Howey recently published a blog article where he describes the inertia of bad ideas in the writer’s room. He is taking part in a writer’s room for screenwriters at the moment and watching what happens when a writer gets an idea that proves to be bad and how everybody can get carried away trying to make it fit.

Kris Rusch has an interesting article this week on learning from watching horrible performances. What worked? What didn’t? Where was the point that the audience was lost? Now, how could you apply lessons learned in your manuscript?

Apparently, Google Play have made it easier to publish on their platform. After making it really hard last year that many aggregators gave up on them. I went hunting for an explanation and found this article by Publish Drive on how to get yourself into Google Play.

Meanwhile over in Sweden, The New Publishing Standard has a remarkable post today on the tipping point of digital versus print in their publishing landscape. The subscription model in the Nordic countries might be breathing life into the backlist but what about the printers…This makes the recent meeting of printers and publishers in the US have a lot more meaning for the future of print publishing.

Scribendi has put together their list of the 30 best writer’s websites in 2020. Take a look. There are some tried and true sites that have featured here over the years and some new ones you might like to explore.

Written Word Media has published a list of the top ten trends that 2020 will bring to publishing so be prepared. 

Have you heard of a Mary Sue? Do you know what it means? Are they the kiss of death in your novel? Litreactor takes a look at this writer/superhero stand in.

James Scott Bell is one of the better writing craft gurus around. This week he looks at the themes of The Kings Speech and what writers can learn from the way the beats were used to mine emotion in the film.

In The Craft Section,

Mapping story settings – Sara Letourneau

The a-z of novel writing- Writers Digest- (very creative)

In The Marketing Section,

Author websites- Jane Friedman- Bookmark

The perils of also boughts – Penny Sansevieri

A marketing roadmap – Insecure writers Support group – Bookmark

To Finish,

Write On Con is on this weekend! If you are interested in writing for children you need to check out this online conference. It is affordable… $10 and the range of presenters is top notch. The all you can eat feast of craft, workshops, pitching opportunities, marketing, illustrators, writers, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all schedule is here. (US eastern time)


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Pic: Salvador Dali- Not a Bad Actor but I couldn't resist that moustache! (photographer Phillippe Halsman 1942)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

How To Take Care Of Your Writer

This week the fallout continued with The Romance Writers Association of America. Things have gone from bad to worse in just a week with the current board resigning yesterday and calling for elections for an interim board. Many writers have resigned their memberships and many chapters have also tried to distance themselves from the ongoing mess.
With the high level of angst, anger and frustration around Romance land it’s time to look at writer self-care. Do you make time for yourself and incorporate it in your writing routine?
Shelley Wilson has a great article on understanding what writer self-care looks like and building it into your writing day.

Yesterday I saw a plea from an experienced writer who was asked to comment on a contract. The writer ended up spelling out what the contract was asking for. 
The term of the contract was the term of the copyright of the book, which (in NZ) is the life of the author plus fifty years. Don’t do that. Give the publisher first printing rights in English in North America, or limit the terms to something reasonable like five years not the rest of your life plus fifty years. 
The contract gave the publisher first option on any future books by the author. Seriously. Do you want to go back to that publishing company every time you write or are thinking of writing another book to see if they want to publish it?
The contract was not just for first printing rights, but for all derivative rights. Everything. Not just ebook. All languages, all countries, all formats including print, ebook, audiobook, film rights, everything. Another paragraph said that he basically didn’t get any say in what other editions were prepared- additional printing, book club edition, library edition, abridgements, adaptations, etc. 
The author was expected to provide contact info for famous people who would give blurbs, provide cover images, have the manuscript professionally proved before submission, etc.
Contracts are negotiable. Many writers are so happy to get one they never think about what they are signing. Kris Rusch pointed out in this week’s business post the problem of an IP holder going back over their assets and making an anthology audio book, twenty years later, without looking at the contracts of the anthology contributors.- Would writers even know that they were owed money?

This week Jami Gold wrote about reading recently published books in your genre. Are you doing this as part of your research? It sparked a lively discussion on her FB page. How recent is recent asked one person… I have seen agents say (this week) comp books must be under two years old. You should keep an eye on what is getting published in your genre just so you know what is being overdone.

Jonny B Truant and Sean Platt are the mouths of Sterling and Stone an indie powerhouse story studio. Recently they were interviewed by Forbes Magazine about their writing model. Take 15 writers and 150 books… This is another twist on the collaboration model.

Have you come across the ten commandments of writing? This is a nice mantra to share around your writing groups.

In The Craft Section,

In The Marketing Section,

To Finish,

How are your New Years resolutions writing goals going? Did I see a wince?
Debra Eckerling has a great post on rebooting your writing goals. Remember every day is a new day to begin something.


Do you want the best of my bookmarked links in a handy monthly newsletter?When you subscribe you will also get a nifty mini book crammed full with marketing notes as a thank you. If you like the blog and want to shout me a coffee, hit the coffee button up top. I appreciate the virtual coffee love. Thanks.

Pic: Flickr Creative Commons – Heather Kaweck
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