How To Be The BEST Author Ever

So I’ve been an author for six months now and I think I can say without a doubt that I know everything there is to know about being an author. Since there is literally nothing left for me to learn, I’ve decided to be generous and share my vast knowledge with my lowly followers.

1. Stop reading!

Seriously, a lot of people will tell you to do the exact opposite, but don’t listen to them! Reading will only cloud your judgment and make your own novel worse. Do you want that to happen? NO. Not only that, but you might accidentally lift elements of that story and end up PLAGERIZING. You SERIOUSLY don’t want to do that, do you? And you waste so much time reading when you SHOULD be using that time for WRITING.

2. Make sure EVERYONE knows about your book!

Marketing is very important! If it’s not obvious that you have a book out when people visit your blog, you’re not going to sell any books! Make sure that there are AT LEAST three links to your book on every blog post, otherwise it’s like you don’t even have a book out. You should always ALWAYS always tell new followers/ commenters of your book and where you can find it. I like to use a copy/paste message with a link to my book on Amazon that I send to everyone who comments on, likes, or follows my blog! This is also a good idea on Twitter, to immediately tell new followers where to buy your book!

3.  Never accept a bad review!

Like I said, marketing is very important! If your book has bad reviews, no one is going to want to read them! You have to be aggressive and go after the bad reviewers, explaining how they’re wrong and telling them to either remove their bad review or change it to AT LEAST a four star review. NEVER accept a one or two star review. That’s career suicide!

4. Make up some Frequently Asked Questions to post an FAQ on your blog!

I understand that many of you starting out may not have enough fans to put together an FAQ, so you can just make some up! By acting like the questions you’re answering are asked a lot it will make it look like you’re more popular than you actually are and get people interested in you and your work!

5.  Always write for the market.

Being an author is a JOB. You’re in it for the money! If you write a book no one wants to read, you’ll end up under a bridge! ALWAYS write about whatever is currently trending. Right now, I’d suggest a vampire BDSM book!

6.  Make sure readers know what your main character looks like!

What is a story without a main character? NOTHING! Your readers NEED to know what your main character looks like, from the color of their eyes to that birthmark on their left buttock. The best way to do this is to open your book with your character looking in the mirror and describing everything they see! It’s both comprehensive and immediate, so your readers will start off knowing just what they look like down to the smallest details!

7. Don’t worry about consistency!

All you need is a good story. If your character loves lemons in chapter one but hates them in chapter ten, no one is going to notice! As long as the story goes on, it doesn’t matter if things are consistent as long as there is lots of action!

8. Make sure your story has an agenda!

You aren’t writing JUST to make money; your book has to SAY something! Whether it be about gay rights or abortion or feminist issues, make sure your book has a hidden agenda! Your book is useless if it just tells a story; it also needs an important lesson that will stick with your readers!

9. Don’t worry about your book cover!

You know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? It’s completely true! Readers don’t care what your covers look like, they’re only reading your description! Just look at these covers, and these books are published! [1] [2] [3] [4]

Alright, but in all seriousness, don’t listen to any of this advice. (Also, to be fair, books with terrible covers can sell [1] [2] but only if you already have a huge fan base and a bunch of books already out.)

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How to Draw a Map

1

Brari Hollow generously shared her tips on Facebook and now I’m sharing it with you all. All instructions and pictures are hers, and you can find her here.

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Dealing With a Bad Review

Some people will really hate your book.

Some people will really hate your book,

So today, I got a three star review. That might not seem so bad, but the review had almost nothing positive to say. I’m in no way trying to call that reviewer out or focus on the review itself, only to call attention to the fact that it’s hard to deal with a bad review, especially when you may disagree what the person said.

For instance, if they say, “Bob’s sister was Mary, not Jane! That’s a serious consistency error!” you’re not allowed to show them to page 58 where you introduce Jane and Mary as Bob’s sisters, plural, and throttle them until they take back your two-star rating. It doesn’t work like that.

People will find creative reasons why they didn't like your book.

and they’ll find creative reasons for why they hate it.

In a perfect world, people would only read books they liked, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen. People will read your book and not like it. It’s inevitable. They’ll read your book because they liked your cover then complain that they don’t like the genre. They’ll read it and hate it and speed through it just to finish and then complain that your story felt rushed. The only way past is to just get over it.

There will always be critics.

There will always be critics,

Harry Potter has tons of bad reviews. 50 Shades of Grey has tons of good reviews. One review either way will not make or break your story. Some people just aren’t going to like your story. It will be too sexy for them or too fantasy or your character’s name will remind them of their ex. Whatever it is, it’s not a big deal. They aren’t your target audience.

You will always have fans, though.

but you will always have fans, too.

First, you need to remind yourself: You wrote a book. That’s a big accomplishment, so good on you. At least you wrote it and got it out there.

Next, ignore the bad reviews. Look at all the nice ones you’ve gotten. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Every time a review is even slightly critical, I think about the one fan I have who requested to buy my book before it was published and has nothing but good things to say about it.

Your fans will always have something nice to say.

They’re the ones you’re writing for,

Lastly, remember that you can always take it back. If your book gets only bad reviews, maybe it isn’t ready for the world. You can take it down, do some serious rewriting, and then release it as a second edition. All the reviews, good or bad, will be wiped clean. You can have a fresh start.

So just move right past the bad stuff.

so just move right past the bad stuff.

How do you handle a bad review?

Author Dos

To accompany my previous post, Author Don’ts, I’ve compiled a list of things you, as a new author, should do.

  1. Be nice to everyone you come in contact with. I’m not talking about every John Doe you bump into on the street, but anyone you contact through your blog/Twitter/review requests, whatever. Always make an effort to sound polite and well-meaning, even if someone is being a twit.
  2. Unplug for a while. Always set aside time to just sit down and do what it is you need to do, whether it’s editing, rewriting, writing, outlining… whatever. Procrastination is your enemy, and Facebook and Twitter are leading the attack.
  3. Write something new. I’m not talking a new manuscript, but a new idea. Relying on cliches and old tropes might get you sales, but you can’t be afraid to be an innovative author!
  4. Keep organized! This applies to everything, from editing notes to review requests. Everything saved on your computer should have smart titles and everything in a physical copy should be together in one place. Keep track of who leaves good reviews and which blogs you come across who offer to do reviews for your genre. Also keep track of your sales and expenses down to the cent, so you can finally celebrate when you’re out of the red and know what your next novel will take.
  5. Edit, edit like the wind! … or something. You don’t want to publish a first draft, or a second draft, or a third draft. Maybe a fourth or fifth draft, depending on how things are going. You want to make your novel perfect to stand out from other novels. Literally anyone can self-publish these days, so you need to establish yourself as a serious author.
  6. Keep your feet on the ground. Most likely, your first novel isn’t going to sell enough copies to allow you to quit your day job. Don’t expect your first book to be a runaway success. Or your second. Or your third. Just keep writing until you build an audience, and watch as that audience grows. It may take some time, but if you try hard, good writing will stand out.
  7. Write a good author bio. Wherever your book is, there will be an author page. You want it to stand out, not read like a formula, 3 kids + cats + Michigan = author. Mine mentions pugs because they are my one true love. If people think of me and say, “Oh, she’s the pug author who wrote that romance book” I’ve succeeded. Don’t forget to link your blog to your page, which I know for a fact can be done both on Amazon and Goodreads.
  8. Keep learning. Not all of us writers majored in English. Even for those of you who did, you don’t know everything. If you’re uncertain about a certain aspect of grammar, look it up. Read essays on character development and the precision of language. It’s important to continue growing as a writer.
  9. Read like your life depends on it, because it does. Your life as a writer, that is. Reading is the best tool we have for increasing literacy, and that’s just what you need to do to be a competent writer.
  10. Help other authors! Without the help of fellow bloggers, I wouldn’t know how to number pages properly on Microsoft Word. For someone formatting their own book, that was an issue. You can build a vast network of reviewers, cover artists, and editors just by connecting with your fellow authors, and having friends who also know your craft is invaluable.

On the topic of number ten, Marigold over on Verses Blurb is giving away free copies of her book. Just click the picture to go to Smashwords, and you can download a free copy in honor of her awesome new cover!

the-black-swan-inheritance-final-cover

Also as a bonus, 21 Tips from Famous Authors.

Author Don’ts

As with anything, being a new author means making a few mistakes. With the help of the people in the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook, I’ve compiled a list of things new authors shouldn’t do.

  1. Publish a book too soon. Just because you want to get something out there doesn’t mean you should rush. If self-publishing, take the time to make sure that your story is ready. If putting out a sequel, make sure that it’s really at it’s best, and that you’re not just pushing it out there to appease fans.
  2. Never talk religion or politics on social media unless it directly relates to what you write. There is a fine line between supporting gay rights and posting incendiary comments and arguing with people. You don’t want to turn people off from your story just from some stupid comment on Twitter that they disagreed with.
  3. Another one on that front, never respond to a one-star review. Or a two-star review. Or any reviews, unless it’s to say thank you for the review. Never get into an argument with a reader over your book, even in private. You don’t want to be accused of attacking a reader, because that will inevitably turn readers off from your work. If someone gives you a bad review you don’t deserve, rant to your loved ones in private and keep it at that.
  4. Don’t criticize other authors. I have broken this one by ranting against Stephanie Meyer and E. L. James, but Stephanie Meyer will never see my posts again The Host and E. L. James is a bitch to her fans. If you must speak out, make sure it’s something you can stand behind. You don’t like their book? Do not slam them over it. They plagiarize and bash fans who give one-star reviews? I personally would not engage, but if you must say something, be sure to stress the fact that you don’t condone their actions.
  5. Never describe eyes as “orbs” unless they’ve been removed from the person’s head.
  6. Never beg people to buy your book. If people know you have a book out, don’t shove it down their throat. People will be annoyed if you see them as a dollar sign.
  7. Don’t follow every blog you come across. Sure, some of them might follow you back, but does that matter? Sure, follow writing blogs, author blogs, publishing blogs… but fashion blogs? Gardening blogs? These kinds of blogs follow me all the time, and that’s the end of their interaction with my blog. I don’t care about followers, I care about the people who actually read what I post and talk with me. I care about the people who also post relevant posts that I can continue the conversation with.
  8. Do not start or end the book with a dream sequence. That’s lazy.
  9. Don’t let yourself get distracted by talking writing. You can blog and hype your book all you want, but unless you actually write it, nothing is gonna get done.
  10. Don’t give up. Never put yourself down. No one can tell a story like you can, so be motivated! The world needs your story!

How to Keep Track of Reviews

Alright, so you’ve just published a book. You’re looking for reviews. You just go out and ask everyone you can to review it, right?

Wrong. Well, sort of.

I made the mistake of failing to be organized enough in my quest for reviews. I should have kept note of EVERYONE I contacted for a review, but I ended up losing track and someone was contacted twice… oops.

What you need to do is use some spreadsheet program to keep track of everyone you contact. It should look something like this:

excellThe important things to keep track of are name, where you found them, where/if they reviewed, how to contact them, and if they liked it.

When you’re ready to publish your second book, you can look at the list, copy it to another sheet, and just remove all the entries for people who never got around to reviewing your first book. With Genie out of the picture, you can now contact Aladin, Jasmine, and Dat Tiger for reviews. Only… Jasmine rated your book 2 stars, so she probably won’t be a fan of your second book, so you can take her off the list too.

Each time you see a new review and add it to the list, it’s important to note if the person liked it and mentioned wanting to read more (in which case they’ll probably be happy to get another free book) or if it wasn’t really their thing.

This might seem silly and an anal way of going about things, but I contacted a LOT of people about my book. I wish I would’ve made a list of them all so I don’t end up bugging someone who I already bothered about the first book.

When you publish your second book (or third or fourth) you’re still going to have to do some footwork to, but this will make it a lot easier. It will also give you an idea of how much work to expect. In reality, the example above would be three no responses to every one review.

Just remember, NEVER get into an argument with someone over their review of your book. If they post a racist rant calling you a cunt on Amazon, contact Amazon to have it taken down. If they say “I didn’t understand why the butler killed the maid. There was no motivation there!” don’t reply with the page numbers that spelled that out. Just let it go. No good can come from arguing with critics. Learning to accept bad reviews is part of being an author.

Just Because You Can Write Doesn’t Mean You Should

I’ve known I would be a writer since I was in first grade. My teacher asked us to write three double-spaced pages about a class trip to the moon, and I wrote 10 single-spaced pages (which may be why she always hated me, I hadn’t quite mastered pronoun use at that stage of my life). I wrote “novels” until I was in high school, and then the more reading I did the better my writing got. My high school English teacher praised my writing and encouraged me to keep going, and I continue to improve now.

Writing isn’t easy, and it isn’t supposed to be. If it was, everyone could do it. Writing is a skill like anything else. You don’t expect to be good at basketball the first try or for everyone to be able to swim like an Olympian, so why does everyone seem to think that if you want to write, you can?

I’m not saying that writing should be exclusive. If you want to write, go crazy. Enjoy yourself. However, know that you might not be good enough to get published. I love soccer, but I knew I wasn’t good enough to play for college (and I was only good enough for high school because we had a no cut policy and we were constantly in need of players) so now I can only play for fun. It doesn’t bother me, because I don’t need validation as a soccer player. I know I’ll never be one of the best, but that doesn’t stop myself from enjoying the game when I play.

One of the problem with self-publishing is that it’s so easy that everyone thinks they can become an author. They devalue writing with that kind of attitude. If you like writing, that’s great. Write all you like and take criticism gracefully to allow yourself to improve, but until you honestly believe that you’re a good writer and other people agree, don’t self-publish. You would profit much more from posting your writing on a free site for people to offer helpful critiques, rather than making unsuspecting readers buy a piece of work that should have never been published and making them angry over wasting that money.

I worked in the writing center of my school and let me tell you, I saw some terrible papers. One, of them was, written. Like this. And when, I asked the, girl. Why she, was using. Unnecessary. Punctuation. She said. “I didn’t know sentences could be that long.” Another person’s phrasing was absolutely terrible, and some guy’s paper was so boring and tedious it made my eyes bleed to revise it. These people knew they were bad writers, but there are some people out there who write just as bad but want to be a writer, so they convince themselves that they’re good and that other people are wrong.

Someone asked for feedback on their book, saying that it had been rejected a bunch of times and wanted to know if it was them or the publishers. I read it, couldn’t bare to finish it, and gave her my notes on what was wrong (which was a lot of things, from characterization to plot to grammar to being unrealistic). She ignored me, bashed me for being rude, and then went on to self-publish. Do you think that that book will help the author? She’s not going to make any money on a bad book, and she’s not going to improve in her writing when the reviews will say “don’t buy this book” rather than “maybe if the characters showed some sympathy in chapter five” or “the plot needs to be wrapped up better at the end.”

General Tips to Improve Your Writing:

  1. Take criticism. If someone says “your plot is weak,” they are not being rude. If they say “THIS SUCKS” and nothing else, then they’re being rude. Ignore them and seek more specific reactions.
  2. Write more. The more you write the more you’ll improve.
  3. Read more, especially in your genre. It will help you understand how plots and sentence structure works.

Now, the title of this is a little misleading. If you like writing, I’m not telling you to stop. However, I want every self-published novel I read to be just as good as the traditionally published novels. I want the stigma of self-publishing to go away. The stigma is there because of the people who think writing is for everyone. I want everyone who self-publishes an amazing novel to be able to get the pubic to read that novel, but they can’t do that if those readers first find a terrible self-published book and now won’t touch them.

This post isn’t just criticizing bad writers, it’s just some tough love. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you that you were a terrible singer before you went on American Idol? (Although, some of those people don’t graciously accept Simon’s decision when they’re told that they’re terrible, just like some people don’t accept that they’re bad writers when they’re told.) A general rule of thumb should be that if you can’t find at least two unbiased non-friends and non-family members who themselves are writers that say you’re a good writer, you probably need to keep practicing.

Writing is a gift, just like musical talent or athletic skills. We need to keep treating it as something special, not as something everyone can do.

Free Amazon Promotion Results

Books given away: 534

Free eBook ranking in my genre: 24 (may have gotten higher, but I forgot to check till the second day)

Books bought since the giveaway: 1

I think that’s pretty good for what small marketing I was able to do. I’m super excited that someone bought my book right after the promotion. I’m assuming that it was still ranked high somewhere, even though it was still ranked in the thousands of it’s genre (the non-free one).

I got a few people who said they started reading and liked it and would leave a review (plus I left a note at the end asking for reviews for anyone who finishes it) so I should get some reviews out of it. I think the promotion went pretty well, and I’ll be sure to update you guys if I get a million reviews or something.

I just got surgery on both my feet, so I might not be blogging for a few days. I was given some pretty serious pain meds, but I’m hoping not to have to use them. I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season!

What was your experience with free giveaways?

“You’re self-published… so, like, not good enough for real publishing?”

A quick reminder that Kiss of The Fey is free on Amazon until Sunday 12/14/14!

There are typically three reactions when I tell someone I’m self-published.

  1. Oh, I’m self-published too! I understand. Let’s discuss relevant book stuff!
  2. Self-publishing? Is that different from publishing? I don’t read much.
  3. Self-publishing? So, a shitty novel that got rejected from everywhere you submitted it to?

Clearly, it’s the third reaction that’s the problem. I will admit upfront that there are lots of self-publishers whose books aren’t good enough to be published. I wrote an entire post about self-publishing fails. I’m not picking on those authors because I understand that some of them don’t really understand what it takes to be successful. They just want to be a writer, and I can sympathize with that. I’ve wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade.

In my internet searches, one article said that self-publishers flood their reviewing service and that they just can’t consider looking at them. Aside from assuming that self-published books are worse, they explain how traditionally published books “…are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line.” (source) Basically, traditionally published books have more work that go into them.

Ahem. For those of you who haven’t self-published, let me take a quick minute to explain how easy it was to self-publish. First, I wrote a novel. Next, I edited it. Then I edited again. And again. I then went out and found beta readers (sent out my novel to about 50 readers, heard back from 3). I started a blog to start getting people interested in my book. After reviewing the notes of my beta readers, I edited again. I spent hours looking for fonts and pictures for my cover, then I had to actually make my own cover.

I ordered a proof of my book to look at and realized that my cover wouldn’t work. I redid the cover completely. I ordered another proof and made sure there were no errors. I formatted my book for Kindle then released the eBook and the paperback. I looked though book blogs and asked another 50 people to review my book, of which 4 or 5 came through.

I admit that I didn’t get a degree in English or creative writing, but do I need one? I read and I’m a critical reader. I worked at my school’s writing center editing other people’s essays, so why can’t I edit my own novel? What I don’t know on the grammar end, I can Google. My covers aren’t going to be a fantastic piece of work, but they look good if I keep it simple.

To be traditionally published, the author has to write their novel. Then they probably edit it lightly before submitting to an agent. Then they submit to a publishing house. They are accepted and talk with the editor, make the changes that they need to. Someone makes a cover for them. Someone formats everything for them. Someone spends money to market their book and get reviews. These authors spend more time sitting around waiting, but they don’t personally put more work into it.

To say that self-published authors don’t put the same amount of effort into their work is an insult. Yes, there are self-publishers who can’t be assed to edit or make an effort on their cover, and I really think that it hurts the rest of us.

Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t self-publish because I was rejected by a publishing house. I didn’t want a publishing house. There was nothing an indie publisher could give me that I couldn’t give myself, and I didn’t feel like waiting around for 6-8 months wondering if someone sitting at a desk, reading thousands of submissions, would have the patience for my novel after they read the first three paragraphs and threw it aside.

I didn’t want them to say “Congratulations! We’re putting you in print!” and then give me a list of things I had to change to make my book more appealing to the lowest common denominator of readers. I didn’t want itty bitty royalties, or the threat of “write this or else!” to keep a contract. I wanted control of my work, and as someone willing to be patient in waiting for a paycheck, self-publishing was the choice for me.

Another blogger writes, “Despite the wealth of information found online and the relative success of the self-publishing industry, the general public is still impressed by actual publication. They want to read books distributed by well-known houses and imprints… and many will turn up their noses at the idea of a self-published book… Perhaps you are convinced that you’ve written the next Great American Novel… Unfortunately, most people won’t ever recognize your brilliance because of the stigma placed on self-publishing.” (Source)

It’s clear that the problem isn’t self-publishing, but the stigma of self-publishing. As authors, we can’t decide to publish if our manuscript really isn’t ready. Can’t afford an editor? Try to find someone will to trade editing for another skill you may have, like cover editing. Talk to old English teachers and ask, or make writer friends and offer to swap. Stop buying coffee and save up to pay an editor; do whatever it takes to make your novel the best.

Before you publish, get second opinions. Do four out of five out of your beta readers say your novel is crap? Maybe it is. Lots of people want to be writers, but some aren’t cut out for it. Even if you do self-publish, chances are you won’t make a profit. Go on a free site like Wattpad or Fictionpress where you can share you stories for free and get feedback, maybe improve enough to eventually publish.

Self-publishing is real publishing. Publishing is like a popularity contest now. If you have 5000 followers they’ll consider you. If you jump onto the right trend, they’ll milk your story for all they can get. If Stephanie Meyer can get published, and people consider that real publishing, then why not my book? I admit that it’s not perfect, but it’s not the pile of crap that people make it out to be, and that’s the case for lots of self-published authors.