Things I discovered over the weekend (writer resource roundup)

anita rodgers mystery writer

  1. There is a way to autograph you eBooks for readers. Go to Authorgraph, set up a free account and spread the news. It is super easy to set up, although the confirmation email took a few days to go through, and lots of fun. For you and your readers.  If you look to the left sidebar, you can see their little widget that you can add to your site to let your readers know you can autograph their eBooks.
  2. Apparently, a very prestigious literary agency has had an embezzling bookkeeper on board for quite a while. He managed to filch 3.4 million (yes, you read that right) from author royalties meant for the agency’s clients. Among them, one of my heroes, Chuck Palahnuick. This Kristine Kathryn Rusch post gives the details.
  3. Voracious Readers offers a small but possibly effective way to increase your email list and maybe get a few reviews while you’re at it.
  4. I discovered a great online proofreading app called Typely (H.T. Jane Friedman) that is free, super easy to use and hits those funny little things that the others seems to miss. The drawback is that it is an online only app and you can only cut and paste 50K characters (about 4,000 words) at a time, but it goes super fast. It won’t replace Grammarly or Hemingway but it’s a great little booster in producing a really clean manuscript.
  5. Apparently Shopify has a little site called Burst that offers free images. They are nice, high quality, somewhat artistic shots and better than many of the other free sites offer. You do have to pay for the high res version but for the low res version (totally usable for social media and promos) you can download totally free.

I’m sure there is something I’m forgetting, but five very cool, groovy things is pretty good for a weekend, right?

How about you? Any cool writer or reader tools, gadgets, apps or comics you discovered lately? Share in the comments please.

Have a great week.

Annie 

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Yes, the Writing Matters

I read a blog post from an influencer in the indie industry today. He said the writing doesn’t matter. Well…not so much anyway. Really what’s important is to give the readers what they know. It’s content over form. (That pesky craft stuff is not really necessary, although watch the typos because that really irritates people.)

He then went on to explain that as long as you put in the expected tropes and clichés (with your own special twists of course) then that’s when people will want to read what you write.

(Which perhaps explains why there is so much bad fiction out there, I suppose.)

But here’s the question:

If the writing doesn’t matter then why call ourselves writers? Why don’t we call ourselves trope-ists or cliché’ists or trend-ists?

If we don’t need to care about word choice, or flow or character development or any of that bothersome ‘craft’ stuff. If the form doesn’t really matter.

If a book dashed off in a month is as good as a book written with care, then edited and revised and polished, then why are we putting in all that effort? Why are we torturing ourselves? Clearly it’s more important that we start selling our stuff. Clearly what’s important is us. And selling our crap.

Because if the writing doesn’t really matter then the reader doesn’t really matter either, right? Unless they buy our crap.

If anybody can be an author and anybody is good enough to be an author (as long as they stay on the trope train) then being a writer doesn’t mean much does it? If writing a book is no big deal, because everybody is doing it and can do it, then why should anyone care?

And if words and the craft of words (a.k.a. communication) don’t matter to writers then who will they matter to? If language and communication isn’t important to us as creators, where are we headed? Where is society headed?

It matters…yes, it does…

YES, the writing does matter.

Because the reader matters.

Because your writing isn’t all about you. It shouldn’t be anyway.

It’s all about the reader. It should be anyway.

Shouldn’t it?

I think so.

What do you think?

Indie Spotlight on Mystery Writer C. Hope Clark

Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.

When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.

Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.

One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands . . . unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed. Available at Amazon and other book outlets.

Finding the Balance as a Writer

I once sat on a panel with two ridiculously well-known authors – one indie and the other traditional – and the subject of commitment came around from the audience.

“What does it take?” someone asked, in other words, meaning, “How can we be like y’all?”

The literary author never really answered it other than saying read a lot, write a lot, it happens if you work hard. He taught creative writing at a university.

The six-figure indie author said she breathed her work 24/7, and from what I know of her, she does. She was incessantly hungry for achievement.

However, I never heard from either of them what made them tick outside of writing.

I have family, raise chickens and garden, adore my dachshunds, and thoroughly love a husband whom I cherish spending time with. And I told that to the room. Yeah, there was applause.

I added that any writer has to find that balance and choose how they’d love to see themselves a few years from now, on their own terms. Reality is we juggle lots of balls.

Add to that these days we’re deluged by success stories, making us feel negligent that we aren’t achieving more. What is supposed to be motivational instead plants negativity until we sense we aren’t meant to be as successful as others.

The key is to clearly define what matters most and hold up a stop-sign palm to the rest.

Live life on your terms rather than on what celebrities and experts tell us worked for them. Yet we still feel compelled to ask others how they do it. I’m often asked how I do what I do as editor of FundsforWriters, freelancer, daily social media player, blogger, speaker, and novelist. My newest release is Newberry Sin, my eighth mystery, and yes, I’m busy, but I still know how to say no….and when to say yes. The key is to focus on priorities.

Respect deadlines.

I have weekly deadlines with FundsforWriters, a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers each and every Friday. It’s a hard commitment. In 19 years, I’ve missed two Fridays. That’s over 900 newsletter deadlines. Since FFW is a major cog in my writing machine, that deadline is key, and I make sure family and friends appreciate that. My husband knows to ask if the newsletters are out on Fridays before he makes other plans for us. Of course, if he were in an accident, he’d take priority. Otherwise, the newsletters must go out.

I usually have one or two books under contract with my publisher. Those stepping-stone dates are clearly defined on my calendar. If those deadlines are looming, I refuse all else that isn’t an emergency.

Marry your priorities.

Warren Buffett states that you must marry your priorities, and he limits those to five. He actually suggests you list your top 20 goals, then narrow them down to five . . . and avoid the other fifteen at all costs. Those five top items comprise your devoted focus. It isn’t easy and it isn’t an either/or all the time.

For instance, my five items are: my husband, my health, my family, my writing, and my nature/outdoors. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t fulfill my obligations to all five. Anything else is in my way, or I tend to them once my other obligations are met.

For instance, my house is scrubbed only when someone comes over. I go on vacation if all else is in order. And my friends and family know that my love of writing and the other four items are what make me who I am.

How to keep up with those priorities.

For me, planning takes a weekly desk calendar, a plain notebook, and, a smart phone calendar (to keep the family informed). I’ve turned down speaking engagements, conferences, parties, and weddings if they conflicted with deadlines. After all, you are married to these goals.

At the beginning of each year, and revisited often, I note benchmarks for what I hope to accomplish or items that are non-negotiable. With family, it’s birthdays. With the nature, it’s planting and harvesting time. With hubby, it’s daily dinner, our anniversary, and the hour at the gym. With my writing, it’s the deadlines. I live for deadlines, and create one if someone doesn’t create it for me, because without a date attached to a goal, it’s a vague thought that may never come to fruition.

The writing notebook is a catch-all for thoughts, brainstorming, and daily goals in greater detail than on a calendar. My calendar is a week-at-a-glance, and at the end of the year, it becomes a part of my income taxes to include travel, purchases, and yes, the deadlines.

If you miss a deadline, note it on the calendar. It’s a motivator to not miss it.

You don’t have to become a hermit.

Know what direction you are going instead of waking each day without defined purpose. Of course you have days off. Of course you build in a day of rest. But having missions and goals give more substance to your dreams. And the more organized you are, the more you accomplish, and the more efficient you become at reaching more dreams. The planning makes you seem oh so shrewd and wise.

C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Newberry Sin, the fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Hope is author of eight mysteries and founder of Funds for Writers, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 17 years. To learn more about Hope you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Book Review – the WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield

 I bought the WAR of ART out of curiosity – not because I have stumbled onto Pressfield and his website and Writing Wednesdays blog posts. In fact, I ignored it for a while. Then I started to notice that many writers I admire mentioned it or its concepts, or quoted it. Despite the fact that I am usually disappointed by books on writing and often find them to be ‘nothing burgers’ I found a used copy of War of Art and bought it.

(the book was) Definitely not what I expected.

For those who are looking for a definitive ‘you fit slot a into slot b’ type of advice, this book is not for you. You will not find methods of writing faster, or exercises to break writer’s block, or prompts to inspire your imagination.

To me, the book was about the soul of writing. What it does to your soul and what it will do to your soul if you ignore your calling. It is not practical advice, it is metaphysical advice. It is not food for the mind but food for the soul.

the WAR of ART was what I needed to read at that moment. It was serendipity. It was the shift in perspective that I needed to make.

(as a side benefit) It also answered questions that had driven me up the wall.

I am glad I bought it and read it. I am changed because I did.

If you are looking for answers to the deeper questions not just about writing but about art, about your place as an artist, about submerging into your art, this book may be for you. If you are looking for a nuts and bolts, just the facts, and tell me what to do” kind of writing book, then you probably won’t appreciate this book.

My rating is five stars but it’s subjective – I don’t know if it will help you – I do know it helped me.

Good hunting, Annie

Ten of the Best Writing Quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Fitzgerald was probably best known as the chronicler of the jazz age. Though he wasn’t considered a great success during his lifetime, now he is touted as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. A member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s, Fitzgerald published four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby (his most successful and well known), and Tender Is the Night. His fifth, unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, was published posthumously and recently made into a mini-series by Amazon. He also wrote four collections of short stories and published an additional one hundred sixty-four short stories in magazines. (He was also the inspiration for the name of my heroine in the Scotti Fitzgerald Mysteries.)

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.”

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

 

“Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves – that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives – experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time anyone else has been so caught up and so pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before. Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories – each time in a new disguise – maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.”

“What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”

 

“You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.”

“Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel. Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

“Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meagre.”

“Character is plot, plot is character.”

 

“The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it.”

“Every author ought to write every book as if he were going to be beheaded the day he finished it.”

What’s your favorite quote or story from F. Scott Fitzgerald? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Review: Be the Gateway by Dan Blank

This book changed me

When I first heard about Be the Gateway I was immediately interested. I have always believed that promoting your books or artistic work should be more organic than I had seen others doing. And many of the ‘best practices’ in book promotion turned me off. It seemed too cold and distant to me. And counter intuitive to what we’re all trying to do, which is share our art with the world.

And yet this book is so hard to describe. It’s part philosophy, part advice, part brain-stormer. The basic concept is that when you make connections with individuals, one on one, and one by one (rather than some nebulous generality known as audience) that you will bring people through the gateway of your artistic work. And that generosity, empathy, and real connections trump all.

Frankly, I agree.

Dan has many steps that he suggests you take in achieving this and frankly there were times in reading them, I was completely overwhelmed just wondering how I would do these things. But I kept reading feeling that if I got one or two things that I could do to get my work into the hands of those it was meant for, that it would be worth it.  I’m glad I did.

Something wonderfully strange happened as I kept reading the book. New opportunities just magically appeared. New peers, colleagues, friendships – so many things. Very subtle in some ways and very big in others. It was almost like magic. Then it dawned on me that those opportunities were actually always there – but until I read Dan’s book I didn’t see them. And I realized that I had slowly shifted my view from what it was before to Dan’s gateway view, without even realizing it.

I honestly don’t know if I could possibly do everything that he suggests in the book but I do know that I understand more about myself, my artistic work, and those I want to share it with so much more than I did before the book.

I know there are bagillions of books telling us the best way to promote (and I think I’ve read about a million of them) our work – but I think you would be changed in a good way if you read this book. I highly recommend it, if only to find a deeper connection with yourself and your work.

Annie

 

 

What I’m Reading This Weekend

So, I’m reading this book by Dan Blank called “Be the Gateway.” Sounds a little scifi/fantasy, right? Actually it’s about reaching out to real readers and sharing your work. I don’t really want to say marketing because that word has such a stigma attached to it.

I have to say it is not the usual stuff you see on this topic. It’s pretty unique. And a helluva lot of work from the looks of it. I think I’m up for the challenge though.

I never thought that gaming rankings, offering endless freebies or other standard tricks of the trade were the way to go. I don’t really want to trick readers. I just want to give them a story that will do something for them, right?

Anyway – do check it out. Be The Gateway is available on Amazon in print and Kindle.

Have a great holiday and don’t eat too many hotdogs, those things will kill you.  😉

Annie

The mother of resources post

So a while ago, I read an article about a writer who devoted a page to resources that she wanted to have to hand. It turned out to be quite a list and had several categories. Long story short, I’ve decided to do the same. Following is the current list. And I am adding a page called Resources (clever right?) that will have these links and I’m guessing others as time goes on. Feel free to avail yourselves of the resources, there are some really good ones in there.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I am fooling around with design and trying to learn some basics – hence the many picture posts and this somewhat eerie image for this post. 😉

AUTHOR STRATEGIES/PROMOTION/MARKETING:

http://annerallen.com/your-author-strategy-3-mini-strategies/

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/03/your-biggest-book-marketing-or-platform-building-roadblocks/

http://writerunboxed.com/2015/11/08/standing-out-on-the-crowded-shelf-how-to-help-your-fiction-find-an-audience/

http://www.livewritethrive.com/2015/09/28/a-12-month-strategic-plan-for-marketing-your-book-before-release/

http://writerunboxed.com/2015/10/01/the-6-most-common-marketing-mistakes-made-by-authors/

http://writerunboxed.com/2015/08/10/simple-promo-tip-nailing-your-email-subject-line/

http://bookmarketingtools.com/blog/3-list-building-tactics-to-attract-subscribers-quickly-before-a-book-launch/

http://www.publishingspark.com/10-things-readers-want-hear/

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/book-marketing-how-to-create-an-author-brand-case-study-with-jessica-bell/

https://insights.bookbub.com/promoting-series-keep-readers-hooked/

THE WRITING PROCESS:

http://writerunboxed.com/2016/07/14/why-its-crucial-to-write-ugly/

http://writerunboxed.com/2016/06/04/in-defence-of-cliches/

http://www.livewritethrive.com/2016/03/24/using-close-ups-in-your-scenes-to-get-personal/

https://janefriedman.com/write-love-scene/

http://writerunboxed.com/2015/12/02/the-current/

http://writerunboxed.com/2015/10/14/magnanimous-2/

BOOK COVER DESIGN/DESIGN:

https://janefriedman.com/book-cover-redesign/

https://jwmanus.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/can-you-create-the-perfect-ebook-cover/

https://medium.com/marketing-and-entrepreneurship/i-spent-30-000-testing-different-blog-designs-heres-what-i-found-8952bf057b8f

AUTHOR TOOLS/RESOURCES:

https://janefriedman.com/listenup-acx-alternative/

https://kindlepreneur.com/wisestamp-email-signatures-authors/

https://janefriedman.com/using-wordpress-author-websites/

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/04/isbn-logbook/

http://puns.samueltaylor.org/

https://reedsy.com/write-a-book

http://www.publishxpress.com/

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/best-tools-of-the-self-publishing-trade-running-an-author-business-jay-artale/

https://eco.copyright.gov/eService_enu/start.swe?SWECmd=Start&SWEHo=eco.copyright.gov

https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-book-description-generator/

CRIME RESEARCH:

http://www.the-line-up.com/best-true-crime-podcasts/

SOUNDTRACKS FOR WRITING:

https://coffitivity.com/

THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY/INDUSTRY TRENDS:

https://janefriedman.com/myth-print/