Common Grammar Errors, Part 1: Dialogue Tags and Action Tags

I’ve done a fair amount of beta reading for other authors, and I’ve noticed several recurring errors many authors make.

Let me be clear:

It’s okay to struggle with grammar when you’re a writer.

Grammar and storytelling are different skills, and copy editors/proofreaders exist for a reason!

That being said, the better your grammar, the smoother your writing, publishing, and marketing processes will likely be.

In this blog series, I’ll review core grammar rules and how they’re often broken. Let’s get started with our first one, punctuation when using dialogue tags and action tags.

In the sections below, you’ll find the following:

  • Examples and detailed rules
  • Typical errors and how to fix them
  • An “in-a-nutshell” downloadable image with examples and quick rules

Punctuation When Using Dialogue Tags and Action Tags

Dialogue Tags

What’s a dialogue tag?

  • A dialogue tag is a short indication of who’s speaking. It identifies the character and includes a verb such as said, asked, whispered, or exclaimed.
  • Dialogue tags include phrases like, “my friend said,” “Joe exclaimed,” and Alma asked.”
  • The verb used in a dialogue tag must be said or another word that can be used in place of said. You can say, ask, whisper, or even growl a statement. You can’t swallow or blink a statement. (See the Action Tags section below!)

How do I punctuate dialogue tags?

  • Example 1: “I’d like to drive to New York,” my friend said.
    • In this example, the dialogue tag is used after a quote that would normally end in a period.
    • Use a comma in place of the period at the end of your quote (within the quotation marks).
    • Don’t capitalize the beginning of your dialogue tag unless it’s a proper name.
  • Example 2: “Let’s drive to New York!” my friend exclaimed.
    • In this example, the dialogue tag is used after a quote that’s an exclamation. These rules apply to quotes that are questions too.
    • Use a question mark or exclamation point at the end of your quote (within the quotation marks).
    • Don’t capitalize the beginning of your dialogue tag unless it’s a proper name.
  • Example 3: My friend asked, “Should we drive to New York?”
    • In this example, the dialogue tag is used before the quote.
    • Use a comma at the end of the dialogue tag.
    • Use normal end-of-sentence punctuation at the end of the quote, within the quotation marks.

Action Tags

What’s an action tag?

  • An action tag describes an action that a speaker takes before or after they speak. It identifies the character and is a complete sentence with a subject and predicate (verb).
  • Why use action tags?
    • They help us follow a classic rule: show, don’t tell. Instead of a character saying something “nervously,” we can write that the character “chewed on her lip.”
    • Action tags allow us to identify characters without using said so often.

How do I punctuate action tags?

  • Example 4: “I’d like to drive to New York.” My friend glanced at his car.
  • Example 5: My friend smiled. “New York or bust!”
    • In these examples, the action tags are “My friend glanced at his car.” and”My friend smiled.
    • Action tags are complete sentences, unlike dialogue tags!
    • Punctuate the quote with normal punctuation within the quotation marks.
    • Punctuate the action tag with normal, end-of sentence punctuation.

Typical Errors and How to Fix Them

Error 1

  • Mistake: “I want some cookies.” She said.
  • This is punctuated as an action tag, but it’s a dialogue tag. See Example 1 above.
  • Correction: “I want some cookies,” she said.

Error 2

  • Mistake: “I can’t believe you’d do that!” She screamed.
  • Even though the dialogue ends with an exclamation point (or question mark), “she” shouldn’t be capitalized since “she screamed” is a dialogue tag. See Example 2 above.
  • Correction: “I can’t believe you’d do that!” she screamed.

Error 3

  • Mistake: “I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you,” she wrapped her arms around his waist.
  • This is punctuated as a dialogue tag, but it’s an action tag. I see this mistake all the time!
  • The action tag is a complete sentence and should be treated as such. See Example 4 above.
  • Correction: “I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you.” She wrapped her arms around his waist.

Error 4

  • Mistake: Sal smiled, “I didn’t know you liked cotton candy.”
  • This is punctuated as a dialogue tag, but it’s an action tag. Again, this is an incredibly common error. You can say a sentence or scream a sentence; you can’t smile a sentence!
  • “Sal smiled” is a complete sentence and should be treated as such. See Example 5 above.
  • Correction: Sal smiled. “I didn’t know you liked cotton candy.”

Error 5

  • Mistake: Running from the monster, “Somebody help me!”
  • This is an action tag, but it’s punctuated like a dialogue tag, and it’s not a complete sentence.
  • Action tags should always be complete sentences and should be punctuated as such. See Example 5 above.
  • Correction: Walter ran from the monster. “Somebody help me!
  • Alternate Correction: This could be reworded (and punctuated) as a dialogue tag. Running from the monster, Walter gasped, “Somebody help me!”

Here’s an image you’re welcome to download to help you remember these rules! Right-click to save it to your computer, or hard-click to save to your phone.

“Now sit and write some amazing dialogue,” Beth said.


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Author Email List Providers: MailerLite vs. SendFox

In a nutshell:

  • Compared to MailerLite, SendFox is an extremely inexpensive way to send out an email newsletter to over 1,000 subscribers.
  • SendFox works well but has far fewer features than MailerLite.
  • Price comparison:
    • MailerLite is a monthly-subscription program starting at $0 for up to 1,000 subscribers. Prices increase to $15/month for up to 2,500 subs, $30/month for up to 5,000 subs, and $50/month for up to 10,000 subs.
    • SendFox has a Lifetime plan that can be purchased through AppSumo. It’s a one-time cost of $49 per 5,000 subscribers. You can buy up to 5 codes that will give you up to 25,000 subscribers.
  • I recently switched to SendFox and am happy with it, though I miss certain features of MailerLite. All the SendFox links in this post are affiliate links. I paid full price for my SendFox service.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty!

One of the most common pieces of advice indie authors get is this:

Start an email list.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

When I was writing my first book, I followed that advice. I got a free account with MailChimp, because I’d heard of them.

Before long, I switched to MailerLite, because I learned that if I ended up with a big list, it would be a cheaper option. I used their free plan until I hit 1,000 subscribers, at which point I switched to a paid plan ($15 a month).

Then I started hearing about SendFox, a service that would let me pay $49 one time for up to 5,000 subscribers. Yep, that’s a lifetime plan. I avoided switching for a while, because I’d heard it’s not as fully featured and because I didn’t want the hassle of moving my email to another service.

Last week, however, I decided to make the switch. I plan to do a big giveaway soon to grow my email list. I know that will likely push me over 2,500 subscribers, which would’ve bumped me into MailerLite’s next tier, $30 a month (ouch).

I’ve heard a rumor that SendFox will eventually have more features…and will also force all new subscribers into monthly subscription plans. Those with existing lifetime plans, however, will be protected.

I don’t know if that’ll happen, but it makes a lot of sense. So I decided to buy three sets of 5,000 subscribers…allowing me to send newsletters to up to 15,000 subscribers. I paid $147.

For some reason, SendFox added 3,000 free subscribers to my Lifetime plan. As long as I never have over 18,000 subscribers, I’ll never again have to pay for an email-distribution service.

SendFox is not as fully featured as MailerLite. I’ve used it for four email campaigns and have also set up some automated email series with it, so I’ve gotten a good sense of what it does and doesn’t do. To me, the price difference is worth it. You’ll have to determine if it’s worth it for you.

Let’s talk about what SendFox does well.

  • Simplicity
    • I appreciate the streamlined interface.
  • Create multiple email lists
    • It’s easy to create multiple lists. For instance, I have my big Email Insiders list for readers plus a smaller list for authors who want notification about posts like this one. (See the bottom of the page.)
  • Website forms
    • It’s very easy to create forms for my website (so people can sign up).
  • Automation sequences
    • I can set up email Automation sequences (for instance, when someone signs up for a list).
  • Image size
    • I haven’t run into any issues with image size. In MailerLite, I sometimes had to make images smaller for them to be accepted in my emails.
  • Deliverability
    • SendFox claims to have very good deliverability, and I’ve had good open and click rates in the emails I’ve sent.
    • From their website: “We use a best-in-class sending platform that gives all Sumo-lings access to a IP address ranked High in Google Postmaster Tools. On many other email tools, customers are given a Medium or Low IP address unless they pay for an expensive dedicated IP.”
  • Sumo is the parent company
    • Sumo is the parent company of SendFox, AppSumo (who sells the SendFox 5,000 subscriber codes I’m telling you about), and KingSumo. They’re a respected company.

Now I’ll review what I miss about Mailerlite (ML).

  • Email options
    • ML has a lot more options to make an email “pretty.” For instance, in MailerLite, I can post a photo of a book with text next to it. In SendFox, I have to post the book photo with text underneath.
    • Note: I’m primarily drafting my SendFox emails in Google Docs, then copying/pasting them into SendFox.
    • There is a $10/month “Empire” add-on for SendFox that includes an HTML editor. I’m not comfortable enough with HTML to consider this.
  • Form options
    • When I created forms for my website through ML, I had more customization options on the form.
    • I was also able to do a pop-up form through ML. When I switched to SendFox, I had to use another service to make that pop-up form. (I used the Sumo WordPress plug-in. Sumo is part of the same company as SendFox.)
  • Automation options
    • In ML, the Automation sequences have more options.
  • Automatic resend
    • ML makes it easy to automatically resend an email to those who didn’t open it the first time. While I know there’s a way to do that on SendFox, it’s not as straightforward.
  • Link-click info
    • ML has a cool, visual interface showing which links have been clicked. The interface in SendFox is text-based, and it’s not always easy to tell what each link is for.
  • Using with StoryOrigin
    • I use StoryOrigin, a service that lets me add readers to my mailing list when they download free copies of my books. It also lets me arrange newsletter swaps with other authors.
    • StoryOrigin connects with both ML and SendFox (and will send new subscribers directly to either service). However, ML’s API allows StoryOrigin to import stats on Open and Click rates. SendFox’s API doesn’t allow that. That means my email list on StoryOrigin is no longer “Verified.” I have to input my Open and Click rates manually.

Summing it up…

I spent just shy of $150 on SendFox since I wanted lots of room to grow my subscriber list. As I said, I don’t think I’ll ever have to spend money on an email service provider again. Normally, I’d spend $150 every 10 months on MailerLite … and that’s at my current subscriber level. The price is, as far as I know, unbeatable.

I do miss some of the features of MailerLite, but the massive price difference makes the tradeoff worth it. I hope SendFox will continue improving their software, but it does what I need it to do.

While SendFox does have a free option, they slow down your email delivery with that option. If you want free, I’d suggest going with MailerLite or MailChimp’s 1,000-subscriber free service.

If you’re concerned about trying SendFox and not liking it, you can try the free option, or you can get the paid option and cancel it if you’re not happy. They have a 60-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. (Please note, you also have to activate the service within 60 days or your purchase codes won’t work!)

Full disclosure: The SendFox links in this post are all affiliate links. If you purchase it using my link, I’ll get paid. (However, I paid full price for SendFox.)

If you’d like to get SendFox for $49, click here. Let me know what you think once you’ve tried it out.

What email service provider do you use? Feel free to comment below and share your experience.


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Using Both IngramSpark and KDP for Paperback Printing

This post explains the ins and outs of how I use both KDP and IngramSpark and why other authors might want to.

I first posted this information on the Facebook Group 20Booksto50K. There are lots of helpful comments on the thread. I’ve incorporated some of the information into this blog post, but check out the original Facebook post for even more information.

Please note that some of this information is specific to U.S. authors.

WHY USE INGRAMSPARK?

PRE-ORDERS & AUTHOR COPIES

IngramSpark allows pre-orders and allows you to purchase author copies before the book is released. KDP Print doesn’t allow either of these. (Yes, KDP lets you get proof copies, but they’re marked as such. You can’t pre-purchase copies to sell in person or on your website.)

I like having both my e-book and my paperback on pre-order on Amazon, and I like pre-ordering author copies that I can have on hand before the book is “live.”

ROYALTY RATE

KDP Print will allow you to set up Expanded Distribution so other sellers can sell your book. But the royalty cut if your book is sold by non-Amazon sellers is very low.

When someone buys your KDP Print book through Amazon, your cut is 60% minus the print cost. With Expanded Distribution, if the book is sold by non-Amazon sellers, your cut goes down to 40% minus the print cost.

IngramSpark allows you to set a Wholesale Discount rate between 30-55%. The Wholesale Discount is the amount IngramSpark discounts your book when they sell wholesale copies—basically it’s the retail profit if the retailer sells at full price. With a 30% wholesale discount, your royalty is 70% minus print cost. With 55% wholesale discount, royalty is 45% minus print cost.

Why would you set a 55% Wholesale Discount? Because a lot of bookstores require it in order to stock your book. Plus they require you to enable returns (where they can return your book if the copies don’t sell). It’s really hard to make a profit at those royalty rates, especially if they end up returning books.

Having my book on bookstore shelves is not a big priority of mine. So I set my wholesale discount at 30%. (35% is the lowest allowed in some international markets.) Online retailers (Amazon, B&N website, etc.) allow this low discount. When someone buys my IngramSpark book online, I make a really nice profit…rather than making pennies with KDP Expanded Distribution.

Note: A commenter on my Facebook post pointed out that Barnes & Noble has allowed him to do book signings with just a 40% Wholesale Discount on his books through Ingram. You’ll need to check with your local Barnes & Noble if you’re interested in going this route.

WHY USE KDP PRINT?

STOCKING ISSUES AT AMAZON

Once Amazon sells all the copies of my book that they ordered from IngramSpark, they won’t order more unless I have good sales coming in. And I just don’t sell that many paperbacks.

When that last book gets sold, the status of my paperback on Amazon changes. They might say it will take a couple of weeks to ship, or even a couple of months. They may even say it’s out of stock. By publishing with KDP Print, the book is ALWAYS “in stock” without a print delay.

My royalty is slightly less than with IngramSpark, but it’s worth it to never be out of stock or have long shipping delays.

BE PREPARED FOR EXTRA COSTS

COVERS

KDP and IngramSpark use different paper. For my books, which I print on cream paper, the IngramSpark copies are thinner. So the paperback covers for the two printers are slightly different dimensions. The thicker the book, the bigger the difference. IngramSpark and KDP also have different formats for submitting files. Your cover designer may charge extra for the additional version of the paperback cover.

ISBNs

One other thing to consider is that you’ll need an ISBN if you use both IngramSpark and KDP. (Either service will provide one for free if you want them to…but you can only use that free ISBN with that particular service, as they own it and will be listed as your publisher.)

I spent over $500 on a pack of 100 ISBNs before I published my first book. It was a painful purchase, but I figure I’ll probably never need to buy ISBNs again. One ISBN individually is over $100, so buying in bulk helps.

Please don’t go to a reseller to purchase a discount ISBN. They own it, not you, and they can pull your book from publication if they want to.

UPLOAD & REVISION CHARGES

IngramSpark charges $49 to upload a book, plus $25 for each revision. There are usually coupon codes floating around to cover uploads and, less often, codes to cover revisions.

I’m a member of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors), and they have a code for members that makes initial upload AND all revisions free. I pay $99 a year for that membership.

HOW IT WORKS USING BOTH SERVICES

ISBN

First, purchase an ISBN. You’ll the same ISBN for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. In the U.S., you’ll purchase your ISBN through Bowker.

UPLOAD TO INGRAMSPARK FIRST, IF DOING A PRE-ORDER

I always upload to IngramSpark first, because I do pre-orders, which KDP Print doesn’t offer.

I upload to IngramSpark & use the future publication date as both the Publication AND On-Sale date. Within a few days, the book automatically shows up on Amazon as a pre-order paperback. I ask Amazon to link the paperback and e-book, and when that’s done, I start marketing the pre-order.

Shortly before publication, Amazon purchases some copies from IngramSpark. In my experience, they purchase enough books to fulfill the pre-orders…plus some extras.

If you aren’t doing a pre-order, you may choose to upload to KDP first. Do not select Expanded Distribution, as that will make it very difficult to use the same ISBN on IngramSpark.

UPLOAD TO KDP ON PUBLICATION DAY

On publication day, I publish the paperback on KDP. The transition is seamless, because the ISBN is the same. The listing remains right where it was, linked to my e-book.

A NOTE ABOUT GETTING PAID

After you hit “Publish” on KDP Print, people who order your paperback may still get IngramSpark copies, if Amazon still has some on their warehouse shelves.

With my first series, people told me they’d ordered my books…but I didn’t see any KDP Print sales. I thought Amazon was failing to pay me. It took months to track down the reason—those were sales through Ingram that I’d already been credited for, extra books Amazon had ordered during the pre-order period. Once Amazon sold out of those books, they started printing new orders through KDP.

Hope this was helpful! Leave any questions in the comments.

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How to Make an Animated Cover Reveal Video

Today on social media, I revealed the cover for my next book by using this 20-second animated video:

I used two main programs to make this video:

  • Photoshop (but you can use any photo editing program that has these features: layers, a transparent background, and export-to-PNG).
  • iMovie

Want to make your own cover reveal video (or another, similar animated video)? Check out this tutorial!

Note: I mentioned a few different websites; here are links to them:

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So, You Want to Write a Book? Your Questions Answered!

Last month, I sent an email to my Email Insiders (sign up here!) with the subject line, “So, you want to write a book?” I encouraged people to ask questions about writing and publishing, and I got a lot of responses! I’ll answer many of them in this post, and I’ll also share some other information I think may help you.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels. Text added by Beth.

This is a monster post! You may want to use these links to jump to sections that are most important to you.

Navigate This Post

  1. Getting Ideas
  2. Starting and Organizing Your Book
  3. Finishing Your Book
  4. Software
  5. After You’ve Written Your Book
  6. Choosing a Publishing Method
  7. Miscellaneous Questions

1


Getting Ideas

I have no idea how to cement an idea. 

-David

I would love to write a book, or more, but have no idea where to start.

-Tiffiny

I’m sure David and Tiffiny (two of my newsletter readers) aren’t the only ones who don’t know what to write about!

First, here are some suggestions on coming up with ideas:

  • Good, old-fashioned brainstorming
    • On April 22, 2017, I started drafting a document with the ultra-creative title, “Brainstorm 4-22-17.” The first thing I wrote was this: “Magical system ideas: Based on something about a baby’s birth…” Out of that idea came three novels and a novella.
    • In my case, I combined a genre I love (fantasy) with something I’m passionate about (childbirth).
    • Think about what genre you love and something you know a lot about or are passionate about, and start brainstorming!
  • Microfiction
    • Every day, I write a very short story (or occasionally a poem), usually around 50 words long. These tiny stories are considered microfiction.
    • Microfiction is a great way to generate ideas! The prequel for my upcoming series started as a very short story.
    • One of the best places to get ideas for very short stories–and to share those stories with others–is on Twitter. Join Twitter if you haven’t, and run a search for “#vss365 #prompt”. VSS stands for very short story, and every day, someone puts up a one-word prompt that you can use in writing your own microfiction. And be sure to find me on Twitter! I’m @CBethAnderson.
  • Nonfiction ideas
    • I haven’t written any nonfiction books, but I know the old adage, Write what you know, is especially important in nonfiction.
    • Here’s a good blog post I found about generating ideas for nonfiction books: How to Come up with Good Nonfiction Ideas.

Sometimes the issue isn’t generating ideas. It’s, as David put it, “cementing” an idea, or choosing which idea to go with.

My best advice on cementing an idea is this:

  • Find something you’re passionate about.
  • Start writing.
  • Don’t stop until you’re done!

It’s natural for emotions to wax and wane throughout the writing process. You learn a lot by actually finishing a book, so give yourself the gift of persevering, even if your idea loses some of its initial luster.

Remember, your first book doesn’t need to be perfect. Neither does your tenth or twentieth! Write the first, and go from there.

We’ll talk more about finishing soon, but first, let’s talk about starting.

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2


Starting and Organizing Your Book

I have no idea how to organize my information to even start to write.

-Vannetta

I’m excited to write about organizing your book, because I didn’t know anything about this when I started writing! Learning about it has helped me immensely.

If you have a scene in your head and you need to get it on paper, go for it. It’s always good to just start writing.

However, I suggest that very early in the process, you take time to outline your book. (Yes, some people write without outlining. Some even do it well! However, I’m an outliner, and I think outlining is worth trying.)

Let’s talk about both fiction and nonfiction structure.

Structuring Your FICTION Book

Learning about story structure has made my books so much better! Most readers don’t know anything about story structure, but subconsciously, they expect certain things to happen at certain times. Story structure can help you meet and exceed reader expectations. It helps you write page turners!

Story structure is a huge topic, too much to cover in this one post. Instead of going in-depth, I’ll share some resources with you.

Structuring Your NON-FICTION Book

Because there are various types of non-fiction books, there’s not a one-size-fits-all structure for them. However, there are some great guidelines for various types of non-fiction.

As I’m not an expert on non-fiction books, I found a blog post detailing four structures that can be used for non-fiction. Check it out here: Four ways to structure your non-fiction book.

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3


Finishing Your Book

I’d love to one day write a full novel. Unfortunately I never make it past 3 or so chapters. I seem to run out of time and when I pick it up again it’s like starting all over…so I do. Hence slews of unfleshed ideas, partially started books, some progress here and there, but no real substance. Time seems to be the killer. I have a full time job, run a farm when I’m not at my “real job”, and have 5 kids and a beautiful wife (my most important and favorite role).

-Tom

Tom’s question is excellent. Writing a book takes a lot of hours, and many of us don’t have a lot of hours! Starting is hard enough. For many people, finishing is even harder.

Some time ago, I read a book called Finish by Jon Acuff. If you struggle to finish anything, I highly recommend it! (I listened to the audiobook, which was fantastic.) It’s not just a feel-good, inspirational book. It’s based on real research.

One of the pieces of advice that I found most helpful in Finish is this:

Cut your goal in half.

For time-based goals, this means cutting your writing pace in half. In other words, figure out how long you think it’ll take, and double it. If you think you can finish your first draft in a year, give yourself two years instead. People often don’t finish things because they get behind and feel like they failed. By giving yourself more time, it’s possible to actually meet your goal, even when life inevitably happens.

One more piece of advice from Finish:

If you get distracted by new ideas, tell yourself you can pursue that next project as a reward for finishing your current project.

Many writers have “shiny new idea syndrome.” Write a bit in one project, move to a more exciting idea, repeat. Nothing gets finished! By making Project 2 a reward for finishing Project 1, you can actually get stuff done.

Again, check out Finish by Jon Acuff. It’s excellent!

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4


Software

Jenny asked some fantastic questions about software.

What software do you use: for writing? for formatting? for storing your work? other software, shortcuts or recommendations?

-Jenny

Writing Software

Formatting Software

If you work with a publisher, they will likely do all your formatting for you. If you’re like me and you choose indie publishing, you’ll need to format your own books or pay someone to do it.

Indies, I suggest you learn to do your own formatting. When you format your own books, you can easily make changes. If a reader finds a tiny typo, you can change it without going back to a third party who formatted for you. Formatting your own books also makes it easier to distribute digital copies for your early readers. (More on that below.)

These days, there are plenty of good options for formatting e-books and paperbacks. I’ll highlight five.

  • Vellum: Vellum is a Mac-only program that lets you easily format truly gorgeous, professional e-books and paperbacks. I use Vellum and absolutely love it. It’s a bit pricey ($250), but you only pay it once; they have excellent customer service; and all updates are free. (If you don’t have a Mac, you can get a Macincloud subscription to use this Mac program on your PC.) Check out Vellum.
  • Draft2Digital: Don’t want to spent $250? Draft2Digital provides e-book distribution to various retailers (Apple, Kobo, etc.). They also offer free, online, e-book and paperback formatting software. You don’t have to use their distribution services to format on their site. If this service had been available when I purchased Vellum, I would’ve tried it first. I don’t know if they have as many formatting options as Vellum, but hey…free is free! Check it out here.
  • Microsoft Word: You can use Microsoft Word Styles to format both e-books and paperbacks. I’ve never done this, and I know there’s quite a learning curve…but if you do learn it, you have far more flexibility than with Vellum and Draft2Digital. You’ll have to Google this to learn more!
  • InDesign: You can use this Adobe software to make gorgeous paperbacks. Many professional formatters use InDesign. Again, I don’t know much about this; you’ll have to Google it.
  • Calibre: This is a free program that allows you to do various types of formatting. From what I hear, it’s flexible but has quite a learning curve. Once again, Google it.

Backup Software

I have three things to say about backups:

  1. Backup your work.
  2. Backup your work.
  3. Please, please, please backup your work!

I’ve heard too many horror stories about people losing large portions of work, even huge chunks of novels.

I use Dropbox for all my backups. It’s easily accessible from various devices, and it backs up in the background. If my computer suddenly blows up, I’ll lose very little work, since I save my work frequently, and Dropbox backs it up within seconds or minutes. There’s a free Dropbox plan that provides plenty of storage for text-based files like books. I pay for the Pro plan that allows me to backup all my photos, videos, etc.

There are plenty of other backup options. I advise choosing something cloud-based that automatically backs up. External hard drives are great…until your computer goes kaput, and you realize it’s been a month since you backed up! (Feel free to use an external hard drive as a secondary backup method. Some people also email their book file to themselves on a daily basis as a secondary backup.)

Other Software

Here are a few other services I use:

  • BookFunnel: I use BookFunnel to distribute digital copies of my books to early readers. (More on early readers below). I also use it to grow my newsletter by distributing a free novella to readers who sign up for my email list. BookFunnel has free and paid plans; I pay $10 a month.
    • Other options that have many of the same features and are free: StoryOrigin and BookCave. I use these services too, but for now, I still pay for BookFunnel because their newsletter builders attract so many readers.
    • One other option very similar to BookFunnel is ProlificWorks. I haven’t used them.
  • MailerLite: I’ve chosen MailerLite as my email newsletter provider, since they have a great combination of affordability and features.
  • WordPress: I use WordPress.org. (not WordPress.com) for my website. It includes a ton of free website building features (far more than WordPress.com).
  • BlueHost: I host my website through BlueHost (and also register my domain through them).
  • E-Commerce: To sell my books on my website, I use the WordPress WooCommerce plug-in (free). I process credit cards through Stripe.
  • Free Website Options: Wix, Weebly, and WordPress.com. I chose not to go with a free site, as I wanted my own domain name (carolbethanderson.com).

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5


After You’ve Written Your Book

Writing a first draft is amazing. You should celebrate!

Then you should buckle up, because this is the first step toward publishing, and there are plenty more steps to come.

My Publishing Process

Please understand this is my process. Yours will probably be different.

  1. Story Structure/Outlining (see above)
  2. First draft
    • Alpha Readers while drafting (see below)
  3. Revisions based on alpha feedback
    • Add another round of alpha reading/revisions if necessary
  4. Beta Readers (see below)
  5. Revisions based on beta feedback
    • Add another round of beta reading/revisions if necessary
  6. Copy editing (if I’m hiring an editor, see below)
  7. Revisions based on copy editing (if applicable)
  8. Record audiobook and make a few more minor revisions
  9. ARC readers (see below)
  10. Proofreading (Professional would be great, but due to my budget, I use an eagle-eyed friend.)
  11. Pre-Publishing Tasks & Marketing
  12. Publish
  13. Continual Marketing

(To see details on how I accomplish numbers 11, 12, and 13, check out this blog post.)

A Note on Editing:

There are different types of editing. For my first series, I only used a copy editor who also gave some limited developmental feedback. For my next series, I’m using a large group of betas instead of hiring an editor, but I wouldn’t suggest such a plan unless you know you have a very good eye for grammar and also have some super-sharp-eyed betas! Know your strengths, and be willing to get help in the areas where you have weaknesses.

Also, note that if you work with a publisher, they may provide editing. (Large publishers will probably provide multiple rounds of editing. Small publishers vary in the editing services they offer.)

A few types of editing you can consider:

  • Content/Developmental Editing: A content or developmental editor gives you big-picture feedback on plot, characters, etc. If you don’t have a great handle on story structure and characterization, developmental editing can be an excellent investment. This type of editing is usually done pretty early in the writing process, perhaps after you’ve written an early draft.
  • Copy/Line Editing: A copy editor will provide detailed feedback on grammar, sentence structure, etc. A line editor goes even further, making more suggestions on wording. You can hire this type of editor when you have a polished manuscript. (I suggest hiring them after using beta readers, but some people do it differently).
  • Proofreading: A proofreader reads your book shortly before publication to catch the leftover errors.

Alpha, Beta, and ARC Readers…Huh?

Alpha and beta readers read early versions of a manuscript and provide feedback. ARC readers read Advance Review Copies before publication so they can review the book. I have an entire blog series on my systems for working with these early readers. Check it out here: Working With Early Readers.

Finding Your Editor and Cover Designer

How do you approach the editing process?  How did you go about finding an professional editor?  Also do you create you own covers and if not how do you find the professionals who do?    

-Jenny

Editors:

I suggest joining a fantastic Facebook group called Ask a Book Editor. There, you can get free advice on grammar and other writing issues. It’s also a great place to get to know some editors. Find a few that you like, look them up, and ask them for sample edits. Most editors will do a short sample edit for free so you can find someone who fits you.

Cover Designers:

I generally don’t do my own covers. It’s usually worthwhile to hire a cover designer if you can at all afford it. Effective covers are hard to make. And effective covers are a major factor in selling books!

Again, Facebook is an excellent place to find cover designers. Join groups like The Cover Clinic and Indie Cover Project. Read others’ posts to start learning about what makes an effective cover. Scope out other authors’ covers to find potential designers for your work.

Many cover designers make premade covers that are more affordable than custom covers. A lot of these designers have Facebook groups where they sell their premades. Find a designer you like, and see if they have a Facebook group.

Copyrighting Your Work

How do one go about to make the work copyright?

-Pete

Copyright laws vary from country to country. Please look up the laws for your nation.

In the U.S., your work is automatically copyrighted. You don’t have to register your copyright for it to be valid. However, it’s easier to defend your work against plagiarists if your copyright is registered.

Here’s a blog post on how to register your copyright: How to Copyright a Book Quickly Step-by-Step [With Examples].

Only you can decide if registering your copyright is worth the time and expense. (At the time the above blog post was written, it cost $85.)

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6


Choosing a Publishing Method

When your book is done and polished, you have a big decision to make.

I’ve written my first novel… I was wondering if I should query some indie publishers or publish it myself when it’s finished. Have you been in this position? If so, what do you feel are the pros and cons of each?

-Terri

Will you take the indie/self publishing route, as I’ve done? Will you query agents in the hopes that one will love your book and try to sell it to a publishing company? Will you work directly with a smaller publisher?

This topic is huge, and rather than trying to cover it myself, I’ll defer to an expert. Check out this post by Jane Friedman: The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2019-2020. It discusses all the major forms of publishing, and it’s an incredible resource.

Why I’m Indie:

Quite simply, I chose the indie/self publishing path because it fits me. I like doing things myself. Marketing my books comes naturally to me. I wanted to retain control over every step of the process. I also wanted to cut out the agent and publisher middlemen and keep a higher percentage of my earnings.

I haven’t tried any other form of publishing. I’m open to other avenues, but at this point, I enjoy being an indie.

That being said, indie publishing is a lot of work! Everything is up to me. I either do it or outsource it. Indie/self publishing is not for everyone. Choose the route that’s right for you.

Note there are also very small publishers who call themselves “indie publishers.” These are usually publishers that work with a small group of authors. They vary widely in terms of the quality of their books and the types of services they give their authors.

A good indie publisher can be a great partner to have if you don’t want to do everything yourself. However, they’ll keep a portion of your proceeds. A bad indie publisher will also keep a portion of your proceeds, while providing very little in return. Do your research!

I’ll answer a couple of reader questions about the costs of publishing.

I’m working on my first book, but would like to know if now days you have to pay to get it published with the ebooks.What it the cheapest way to get it published?

-Yvonne

If you self publish, it doesn’t cost anything to put your e-book up on Amazon and other retailers. You may, however, choose to hire a cover designer, editors, etc.

Traditional publishers will not charge you a cent to publish your book. Vanity presses and hybrid publishers charge authors for publishing services. Some of these companies are valid, offering services to authors. Others promise the world and in reality provide very little.

If you’re considering paying a publisher, please do your research! Many, but not all, of these companies are predatory. If a publisher contacts you, out of the blue, they probably want your money. Please be very wary before giving it to them.

As an indie, I decide where I want to spend money. If I want to pay for covers or editing or ads, I choose my service providers. I prefer this over going with a vanity press or hybrid publisher and risking that they could, for instance, provide a non-quality cover or subpar editing. Also, I can generally publish my book for less by choosing “a la carte” services. I like retaining control and saving money, so I choose to be an indie!

Is there ever a good time to hire a hybrid publisher? Yes. If you’re short on time, have some extra money, and find a hybrid publisher that will give you high-quality services for a reasonable price, it may be the best option for you. A hybrid publisher can save you the hassle of finding service providers and learning to format and upload manuscripts. Please, please, please research the heck out of them first and make sure the books they’re helping authors produce are high quality.

I’m also trying to decide if I can afford paperback printing. 

-Kristiia

You can publish print-on-demand paperbacks for free through KDP Print (Amazon). You will need a cover, or you can use their Cover Creator. (Cover Creator doesn’t tend to have the best results, so if you can provide a quality, PDF cover, you’ll be in better shape.)

I use both KDP and IngramSpark for my paperbacks. IngramSpark makes it easier to sell paperbacks places besides Amazon, such as the Barnes & Noble website. They charge $49 per book plus $25 if you make any changes to your files. I get these charges waived by maintaining a membership with ALLi, an organization for indie authors.

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7


Miscellaneous Questions

One of my readers, Jenny, gave me an excellent list of questions. I’ll answer many of them here.

Do you still homeschool and if so how do you (or did you) fit writing into your day? 

-Jenny

I met Jenny when I homeschooled my kids for two years. They’ve been in public school for several years now, and I mostly write while they’re in school.

When I started writing, I was working part time, mostly while the kids were in school. I wrote in the afternoons/evenings and on weekends. Sometimes I even wrote at lunchtime. I was very busy. It was not sustainable, and these days, I’ve made a conscious choice to be less busy so I can prioritize my family.

Right now, I have a lot of time to write. You may not have that luxury! I suggest setting very manageable goals. Then follow Jon Acuff’s advice and cut those goals in half.

Think you can write 500 words a day? Set a goal of 250 a day instead. That’s about half a page of single-spaced writing. By writing 1,250 words a week (250 for five days a week), you can hammer out a 70,000-word rough draft in 56 weeks…just over a year! When you’re done, set a goal for revisions, maybe two chapters a week. And remember, it’s okay to adjust your goals when life happens.

What are your favorite online resources for information or writing groups for encouragement?  

-Jenny

The absolute best source of publishing information for indie authors is the 20Booksto50K group on Facebook. I can’t say enough about how much that group has helped me.

The best community of writers I’ve found is on Twitter. Recently, a bunch of us came together to write a super-helpful blog post on how to connect on Twitter as a writer. Check it out: So, You’re New to the #WritingCommunity on Twitter…

If you felt comfortable, I’d so appreciate hearing about any areas you struggled with either personally (i.e. pushing past doubt) or with writing structure, and how you’ve worked past it.  Also your best advice for dealing with rejection. 

-Jenny

Doubt and rejection are part of writing! Even as an indie, I’ve dealt with the rejection of bad reviews or harsh critiques.

I’m a big fan of counseling, so I’ve worked on my self-doubt with a counselor. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to find people I can truly trust and tell them how I actually feel when I’m dealing with doubt and rejection. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but it really does help take away the power of those negative feelings. By dealing with them head-on and sharing them with others, I’m able to move on and keep writing.

What are you’re thoughts or experiences with short stories in general?  Any advice in that area is much appreciated as well!

-Jenny

Short stories are great for developing ideas and for writing practice. They’re also useful if you’re trying to publish traditionally with a major publisher. If you get short stories published in journals or anthologies, it can make you look more attractive to agents.

That being said, I don’t write a lot of short stories! However, I think anything that keeps you writing consistently is a good thing!

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Wrapping it Up

Thank you so much to those of you who submitted questions! I have an entire section of my blog focused only on Author Resources. Check it out for more, in-depth tips and tutorials: Author Resources.

Want to be notified every time I post an Author Resource?


Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

So, You’re New to the #WritingCommunity on Twitter…

The other day, I looked at my Twitter notifications. Here we go again, I thought.

First, a little background: I’m very involved in Twitter’s Writing Community (or #WritingCommunity). Every day, I post microfiction: stories that are 280 characters or less, short enough to fit in one Tweet.

I’d Tweeted out my daily story, and someone commented on it, telling me I had a typo. It wasn’t actually a typo, but that’s beside the point.

I was annoyed, because generally when a member of the #WritingCommunity posts a super-short story, we aren’t looking for critiques. I looked at the profile of the person who’d posted and saw that they were new to Twitter. They didn’t know they were breaking an unwritten rule by critiquing my piece.

I decided to write a blog post for those who are new to the community, or for those who’ve been around for some time but still aren’t sure how it all works. I Tweeted this:

And wow—the writers on Twitter came through!

This post will be full of embedded Tweets from other members of the #WritingCommunity, fantastic tidbits of advice to help you get the most out of your Twitter experience.

I couldn’t include all the awesome advice, so click on the original Tweet above if you want to read even more!

Don’t need all these tips? Below are links to every section.

Menu of #WritingCommunity Tips


Tip 1


Time to Get Dressed

Your Twitter profile, cover photo, and pinned Tweets

When you get dressed in the morning, you base your clothing on your plans, and others can usually tell something about you by what you’re wearing.

On your way to do yoga? You’re not gonna wear a wetsuit. Headed to work at an office? Time for a business suit or, if you’re lucky, jeans and a non-stained shirt.

Your Twitter profile is how you “get dressed” so others on Twitter know what you’re doing there. Here’s some great advice from Stephen:

When I’m looking through my recent followers and deciding who to follow back, I usually just glance quickly at profiles. If a follower is a writer or if I have something else in common with them, I follow back. Be sure your profile tells people you’re a writer!

Then, as Stephen said, go a step beyond and include something in your cover photo that reflects who you are as an author. If you have at least one book cover, you can include it in your image. Brand-new fantasy author? Go to a free stock photo site and download a cool fantasy image. You get the idea.

What should you use as your profile picture? It’s up to you. I don’t mind people seeing my face, so I use the same profile photo for all my social media. Other people prefer to stay anonymous, so they use an image that represents their interests. I’d suggest not changing your profile picture very often; it can confuse your followers.

Cathleen has another great tip for setting up your account:

A pinned Tweet is a Tweet that stays at the top of your Twitter page. I agree with Cathleen that, in most cases, your pinned Tweet should reflect your writing. This is a totally acceptable time to promote yourself! Here are some ideas:

  • If you’ve published books, link to them.
  • Link to your blog.
  • Link to an online journal where your writing is published.
  • If none of those fit you, you can pin an introductory Tweet or one of your favorite microfiction Tweets. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the topic of microfiction soon!)

To make a pinned Tweet, post a regular Tweet, click at the little arrow in the top right corner, and click Pin to your profile.

Now that your profile is set up, it’s time to say hello to the #WritingCommunity!

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Tip 2


“Hello, My Name Is…”

Introducing yourself to the #WritingCommunity

Now it’s time to introduce yourself and start connecting with other writers! Check out some great advice from Cate:

It’s annoying when someone constantly begs for Twitter followers! However, I think you can get away with it in certain, very occasional, instances, if you’re nice about it. One of those times is when you’re new to the #WritingCommunity.

As Cate said, you can post once, telling the #WritingCommunity that you need followers. (Be sure to use the #WritingCommunity hashtag!) As you’re drafting your Tweet, follow Bob’s tip:

Your intro Tweet might look something like this:

“Hi, I’m Beth, and I’m new to the #WritingCommunity! I write YA fantasy, and when I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my family, making sourdough bread, and trying to stay cool in the Austin, TX area. I’d love to connect with other writers, so I hope you’ll follow and say hi!”

Now that you’ve introduced yourself, and you’re starting to get some followers, how do you continue to connect with people?

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Tip 3


It’s a Numbers Game…or Is It?

How important is your follower count?

Let me begin this section by saying this:

You’re not defined by your follower count.

If you’re competitive and goal-oriented like me, you may need to remind yourself of this truth. Frequently.

Some people would rather not have a lot of Twitter connections. They want to build meaningful relationships with a few people instead of trying to connect with thousands. That’s a totally valid way to use Twitter.

The thing is, Twitter’s algorithms favor popular Tweets. In other words, if your Tweet gets a good number of interactions (likes, RTs, and comments), Twitter will show it to more people. To get those initial interactions, you usually need a decent follower count.

In fact, it wasn’t until I had a few thousand followers that I could count on most of my writing-related discussion topics getting a good number of responses.

If you don’t have a lot of followers, you’ll need to work harder to engage with the people you’re connected with, since Twitter’s algorithms generally won’t favor your Tweets being seen. That’s the case whether you’re actively building your follower count or purposefully keeping your numbers low.

If you want more engagement, you probably need more followers. If you’re using social media as a marketing tool (more on that later), you also need more followers.

That being said, we gotta keep it in perspective. JJ said it well:

His advice is a great intro to our next section. If you want more followers, how do you get them?

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Tip 4


The Pied Piper of Twitter

How to get—and how not to get—more followers

First of all, let’s talk about hashtags. Rich has some great advice:

When you’re posting about writing, use the hashtags Rich suggested. It may help people find you, and some of those people may interact with you and/or follow you.

It’s not enough just to put together a great Tweet with appropriate hashtags, however. Check out Vicky’s tip:

Dawn, R.R., Tom, and Simon all have fantastic advice about how to create genuine connections with other writers:

If you’re newer to the #WritingCommunity, it’s easy to look at people with a lot of followers and wonder if they really want to hear from “a newbie.” But someone with a lot of followers often got those followers by being generous and awesome! There aren’t many snobs in the community. Sean puts it so well:

Hopefully, you’re not just looking for followers; you’re looking for people to follow. There are some “shortcuts” to finding other writers to follow. Here are a couple of examples:

  • #FF or #FollowFriday: People post lists of writers they recommend following.
  • Writer lifts: People start threads encouraging those who want followers to post, so they can all follow each other.

However, Esmari offers a warning that’s worth heeding:

In fact, Twitter has other rules about following. It’s worth reading them at this link. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • You can’t follow more than 400 people a day.
  • Don’t follow a bunch of people, then unfollow them, to improve your follower-to-following ratio. It’s against the rules, and it’s super rude.
  • Don’t follow a lot more accounts than the number of people who are following you. Once you’ve followed 5,000 people, if you don’t have enough followers, Twitter won’t let you follow anyone else.

Regarding that last bullet point: How do you keep that ratio under control? Don’t blindly follow mass numbers of people! Follow people because you want to see what they post. Let people follow you for the same reason.

You’ll sometimes come across “shortcuts” for finding followers, such as accounts or apps dedicated solely to building follower count. Just say no to these. They’re spammy and icky.

I’ve grown my follower numbers organically. In fact, I rarely look at a Follow Friday list and follow everyone on it. Normally, I follow writers who are already following me. Don’t try to get 5,000 or 10,000 followers overnight. Give it time!

Once you reach 1,000 followers, if you’re really active in the #WritingCommunity, you’ll probably find that your follower count starts growing a lot faster. And it’s okay if it takes a long time to reach 1,000!

When it comes to connecting with people (finding people to follow and finding followers), I’ve saved the best advice for last. In fact, it’s so important, it deserves its own section.

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Tip 5


Let’s Play!

How writing games can help you connect with others

Terri (Smarty Marty) has an amazing tip. In fact, this has been the key to me finding “my tribe” within the #WritingCommunity. You ready for this?

Writer games? What are those?

They’re hashtag-based games on Twitter, and they usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Microfiction and poetry games: The game host provides a prompt word or theme, and writers are encouraged to write a one-Tweet story or poem inspired by that prompt. Examples: #vss365, #satsplat
  • Snippet games: The game host provides a prompt word or theme, and writers use that prompt to share a one-Tweet snippet from something they’ve written or are currently writing (such as a book, short story, etc.) Examples: #Thurds, #Btr2sDay
  • Writing-discussion chats/games: The chat/game host provides one or more questions encouraging you to talk about yourself as a writer or about what you’ve been writing. Examples: #AuthorConfession, #7amWritersClub

These games are an absolutely fantastic way to connect with other writers. As Terri (Smarty Marty) said above, don’t just participate in the games by Tweeting. Read what others are writing. Comment on, retweet, and like their posts.

Microfiction games (especially #vss365) have been the biggest factor in me connecting with other people on Twitter. As I said at the start of this post, I post microfiction every day. I do that using the #vss365 prompt word. I’ve connected with thousands of writers this way.

You might find your tribe in the snippet games (which I also participate in) or the chats (which I don’t participate in—but they look super fun). Jump in. You don’t need to be a “member” of any group. Just search for the hashtag. Start commenting on others’ posts, and then join the game with your own post!

To participate in #vss365, a daily microfiction game, search Twitter for #vss365 #prompt. A different person posts the prompt words each month. (If you can’t find today’s prompt, click “Latest” at the top of the search results.) Write your own tiny story or poem using the prompt word and the hashtag #vss365.

How do you hunt down all the other prompts, themes, and topics of discussion? @TheWritePrompt generously provides a daily list hashtag games.

Once you get involved in these games, I bet you’ll find yourself connecting with other writers, just as I did. It’s good to keep in mind this advice from Simon:

He couldn’t be more right!

As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are some unwritten rules in the #WritingCommunity. Our next section addresses one of the biggies.

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Tip 6


It’s Open Mic, Not a Critique Circle

Why you shouldn’t give constructive criticism in hashtag games

There are groups online where writers critique each other’s work. It’s understandable that people enter the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, expecting it to be such a place.

Here’s what happens. Someone, let’s call him Bob, finds the Twitter #WritingCommunity. Bob sees bit of microfiction or a snippet of a longer work (often posted as part of one of the hashtag games we just talked about.) It’s a decent piece, but Bob thinks it could be better. He responds to it with a Tweet like this:

“Hey, cool story! When you described the dragon’s fear, I think you could’ve down more showing and less telling. But great stuff, look forward to reading more!”

Or perhaps he points out a grammar error. Either way, Bob walks away, happy that he’s been helpful to another writer.

And then the #WritingCommunity attacks like a mother bear, protecting one of our own. “This isn’t the place for critiques!” we cry.

Bob’s advice to other writers has always been accepted in other groups; after all, he sandwiches a critique in between two really nice compliments! He’s befuddled, not quite understanding where he went wrong. Perhaps Laura can help him:

Exactly. This goes for all microfiction on Twitter. It even goes for snippets of someone’s work in progress (which may be a first draft, still full of grammar errors and telling-not-showing!)

The #WritingCommunity on Twitter is more like an open mic night than a critique circle. It’s a safe place to get together and share.

Some of you are reading this, saying, “Sheesh, what a bunch of pansies. If you can’t take constructive criticism, you shouldn’t be writing.”

I agree that constructive criticism is vital for writers. That’s why I have a group of alpha readers. They read my novels as I write them, providing feedback to make my writing better. It’s why I have a large group of beta readers. They give me feedback (sometimes harsh!) about my revised manuscripts. It’s why I’ve hired an editor in the past.

Many people in the #WritingCommunity are battered by critique all the time, and rightfully so. We all need to know where we can improve if we want to sell stories and books.

However, when you’re dealing with tough feedback from betas and editors and/or rejections from agents and publishers, sometimes you just want to hang with other writers, practicing your craft without worrying about critiques.

Are there exceptions? Of course. For instance, if I have a huge typo in my pinned post (“I hope you’ll by my book!”), you might want to point it out to me. If so, you can do it in a DM (Direct Message) to avoid embarrassing me. But if you just think I used a crappy metaphor in my 280-character microfiction, or if I missed a comma in the book snippet I posted, please let it be.

One more bit of wisdom on this topic, from Lindsey:

Just as some people come to Twitter expecting it to be a critique circle, others come expecting it to be a place to sell books. Let’s talk about what’s wrong with that mindset.

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Tip 7


“Please, PLEASE Buy My Book!”

How not to be a self-promoting nuisance

When I first decided to connect with other writers on Twitter, I was mostly interested in sharing snippets of the books I was writing. And you know what? I didn’t get much interaction.

That’s because I was coming in with marketing as my goal. Oops. Thankfully, I ended up engaging with other cool writers, especially through #vss365.

My focus shifted to connection instead of marketing.

It’s been a whole lot more fun this way. And I’ve sold a surprising number of books to people on Twitter, because that isn’t my main focus.

If most of your Tweets are focused on selling books, you’ll turn people off. It’s fine to try to sell books, but those Tweets should be the tiny minority of what you post.

But don’t take it from me; listen to Ryan, Barlow, Brian, and DK:

As bad as it is to constantly post about selling your books, there’s something even worse. Much worse. It’s another unwritten rule of the #WritingCommunity. Please, please, listen to Leilani:

There are services that will automatically DM (Direct Message) every new follower for you. These services are a fantastic idea if you want to lose a bunch of followers. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Heed this advice from Aspen and The Awkward Bard:

Remember, it’s the #WritingCommunity, not the #WritingFleaMarket. Connection first, selling second.

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Tip 8


This & That

Tips on muting, untagging, acronyms, and more

We’ve covered most of the big things that a newcomer to the #WritingCommunity needs to know, but you still may feel like you’re lost in an unfamiliar country. I hope these final tips help you feel more at home.

As you connect with more people, your notifications might become unmanageable, or, as people often put it, “My notifications blew up!” This is especially the case if you get tagged in some sort of game.

These games are different than hashtag games. A tagging game might go something like this:

“If your book is made into a movie, who should play the main character? Answer and tag five people!”

By the time you get tagged, there may be 48 other people tagged, and suddenly, you’re getting notifications every few seconds as other people comment. This is also the case with #FF or #FollowFriday posts as well as other writer recommendation Tweets.

Here’s some great advice from Alain:

Alain hits on a couple of important tips:

  • Mute conversations if you want to slow down your notifications. Muting a conversation means you no longer get notifications for it. Just click the little arrow at the top right of the Tweet you were tagged in, and click “Mute this conversation.” Don’t feel guilty about doing this! We all have lives outside of Twitter, and it’s okay to want fewer notifications. It’s even okay not to participate in tagging games!
  • Untag people if you don’t want everyone in the conversation to get notified of your response. Sometimes, you just want to thank someone without dozens of other people getting that notification! They’ll appreciate it if you untag them in your reply. When you click the Reply icon, it’ll say “Replying to” with a list of names. Click on those names, and you can choose who to untag. (I need to do this a whole lot more often than I do!)

Jaime hits on something else that might make you feel like a #WritingCommunity outsider:

Thankfully, Darryl has an awesome list of abbreviations! Click on the Tweet; he has even more examples in the rest of the thread.

I’m pretty good with these acronyms, only because I spend too much time on Twitter. Faye has some advice that I should probably print out and post above my writing desk:

However much time you spend on Twitter, there’s one tip that’s perhaps the most important of all. Here it is, in Alain’s words:


Wrapping it up

Whew! I know that was a ton of information. I hope it was helpful! If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

And if you haven’t found me on Twitter, please do! I love to connect with fellow writers! I’m @CBethAnderson.

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Formatting a Novel in Microsoft Word

Authors, don’t you hate when you add or delete a chapter from your novel, and you have to re-number every chapter after that point?

Do you ever need to get a manuscript into a certain format, and you’re not sure how to do it? Or you get it just right, but then you have to start all over for the next book?

This video will show you…

  • How to implement automatic chapter numbering, so the chapters renumber themselves when you slice and dice (or beef up) your manuscript!
  • How to set up styles within Microsoft Word so your current manuscript and future ones look just like you want them to.

Hope it helps!

10-10-20: NOTES TO HELP YOU FURTHER

THOSE ANNOYING TABS:

MS Word will automatically put a Tab after your chapter heading, which can mess up the centering. This link tells you how to fix that on Microsoft Word 365 for Mac, the version I’m using: It’s different in Windows. Google it for your version of Word.

SCENE BREAKS/ORNAMENTAL BREAKS:

If you have ornamental breaks in your book (like *** at scene breaks), you’ll want to select “First Paragraph” style for those so there’s no indentation. Then just click the “Center” button to center your ornamental break. (Alternatively, you can create another Style that’s centered without any indentation, and call it “Scene Break.”)

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Downloading and Organizing all Your Past Tweets on Twitter

Psst . . . I’m planning another book. Well, multiple books, but this one’s different than my normal novels. It’ll be a collection of the microfiction (really, really short stories) I write on Twitter.

I wanted to download all my old Tweets and search for ones with specific hashtags so I can easily choose which pieces of microfiction I want to use in my book. It ended up being a much harder task than I expected.

I decided to make a video for anyone else trying to navigate the craziness of archived Tweets on Twitter . . . and for me, next time I try to do this. I don’t want to have to figure it out all over again!

This 21-minute video will show you how to do the following:

  • Download your Twitter archive. In the past, Twitter seems to have let you download a CSV file (which you can open in Microsoft Excel) containing all your Tweets. However, all that was available to me was a JavaScript file called tweet.js, a massive list of gobbledygook. That brings us to the next point on the list.
  • Convert the tweet.js Javascript file to a CSV or Excel spreadsheet. There are ways to do this for free if you know something about using scripts. That’s beyond my expertise, so I used a website, json-csv.com, to convert. Depending on the size of your Twitter archive, this may be free, or it may cost you $10.
  • Organize the Tweets on the CSV/Excel file.
  • Filter the Tweets to view only those containing a hashtag of your choice.
  • Reformat the Tweets within Excel so they show up with the line breaks you originally used in Twitter.

In the end, you’ll end up with a spreadsheet of Tweets you can read through easily.

Screenshot of Twitter archive spreadsheet, sorted by one specific hashtag and formatted with line breaks

These instructions work on Excel 365 for Mac, at least as of today (June 18, 2019).

Here’s the video:

This is the Excel formula you’ll need for inserting line breaks. (See the video for instructions.)

=SUBSTITUTE(G2,”\n”,CHAR(10))

If this blog post helps you, let me know!

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30-Minute Crash Course in Story Structure

When I first started writing a novel, I had no idea how to structure it. I could have saved a lot of time if I’d known about story structure!

Download this fill-in-the-blank handout (or just check out the image below), and watch the 30-minute video.

Hope this helps you as you plan and write your next novel!

P.S. In the video, I used my novella, Birth of Magic, as an example. That book is free on Amazon.

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Working with Early Readers, Part 3: ARC Reviewers

This is Part 3 of a series for indie authors.
To read the series intro, click here.
To read Part 1: ALPHA READERS, click here.
To read Part 2: BETA READERS, click here.

You’ve got a manuscript that’s been through alpha reading, beta reading, and all sorts of revision rounds…and you’re ready to publish!

But wouldn’t it be great to get some early Goodreads and Amazon reviews? All those beautiful gold stars prove that someone likes my writing!

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Note: I’m exclusive to Amazon with most of my e-books, so this article will be primarily from that perspective.

Here’s what I’ve learned about getting early reviews:

Pre-Orders or Soft Launch?

I suggest either setting up your book for pre-order or doing a “soft launch” followed by a public launch.

  • If you put your book up for pre-order, you can generate some buzz and early sales. Then you can ask your reviewers to review the minute the book comes out. (Some people even launch the paperback a few days early, get it linked to the e-book by contacting KDP, and then ask people to review the paperback version before the e-book is out.)
  • Another option is to put your book live on Amazon, but don’t tell anyone except your early reviewers. This is called a “soft launch.” Give them a few days to review, and then do a big “public launch,” telling the world your book is for sale.

Where I’ve found ARC reviewers:

  • I have a Street Team on Facebook. (See below.) I invite my whole newsletter to join it, and I also invite Facebook friends and people who’ve Liked my page.
  • I reach out to my friends on Twitter and invite them to review. I then send them the link to the ARC by DM and keep in touch with them via email and DM.
  • I’m also a member of a group called YA Book Stop – YABS that connects YA authors and readers. I’ve gotten some great reviewers through there and through other Facebook groups, and some have even turned into alpha and/or beta readers! (There are similar groups for other genres.)
  • I ask my newsletter subscribers to join my ARC team too.

How my street team works:

  • My street team is a private group on Facebook.
    • I give them free digital copies of all my books before the public release.
    • I also offer them special deals on signed paperbacks.
    • I ask them to read and review and promote my work on social media.
  • When I have a book that’s ready, I distribute it through StoryOrigin.
    • I capture someone’s email address when they download, and I add them to a special group through my mailing list provider (MailerLite.)
    • Please note that YA Book Stop, the Facebook group I mentioned, doesn’t allow you to capture the reader’s email address to send them the book. I set up a separate ARC link for them that doesn’t require an email to download.
  • Throughout the ARC period, I post reminders to my ARC team on Facebook, asking them to promote the book and support me in various ways, such as:
    • Review wherever available (Goodreads and/or Amazon, etc),
    • Follow me on Goodreads and Amazon
    • Post about the book on social media.
  • I also send emails to my ARC list reminding them to review. My ARC list is made up of those people who actually downloaded the book, so I want to send them special emails. They might miss what I post in the Facebook group!
  • When the book launches, I do a big push in the Street Team group and via email, asking them to review and promote.
  • I’ve learned that I need to keep in touch with my street team, even when I’m not releasing a book! So I start fun, book-related conversations to keep them engaged, and I share successes with them (such as good ranks on Amazon.)

Update/Edit, September 2020: For my last two books, I’ve used Booksprout to run my ARC phase. I send reviewers there instead of to Bookfunnel. Booksprout communicates with reviewers. I continue to communicate with them through email too; that way, they’re getting review reminders from Booksprout and from me. I get better follow-through that way.

As with beta reading, having a successful street team/ARC team all comes down to communication! You’ve given someone a book for free. Don’t be afraid to remind them over and over to review it and promote it!

Want more step-by-step instructions and resources that will help you create a successful ARC reader team? My new book, Early Readers Catch the Worms, includes…

  • Access to a Resource Pack full of editable resources and templates to help you build early reader teams (including ARC invitations and ARC reader follow-up emails).
  • Suggestions for how to improve ARC reader follow-through.
  • A simple way to encourage your ARC readers to send you last-second typos.

Buy your copy of Early Readers Catch the Worms: How Alpha, Beta, & ARC Readers Can Help You Publish a Better Novel by clicking here!

Early Readers Catch the Worms cover

That’s the end of this series on working with alpha readers, beta readers, and ARC reviewers. I hope it helps you create great books with plenty of fantastic reviews!

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