I have a bunch of kids. The oldest three are living on their own, and the youngest turned thirteen on Christmas day. We have rousing debates at my house about pretty much everything, but last Sunday we discussed punctuation.
Not every family would get into that conversation—I get it—but my kids learned to read and write before they attended school. They understood parts of speech and basic literary devices. Grammar is my jam; I love everything about words. And that’s a love I share—sometimes to a chorus of groans—with my offspring.
The question I posed on Sunday evening was: if you had to give up one punctuation mark, which could you live without?
I assumed periods and commas wouldn’t be in the running, and I did allude to the fact that going with a decidedly obscure one might be considered cheating. I mean, come on, when’s the last time you used a percontation point?
One child went with interrobang, you know the combination of a question mark and exclamation point. I called cheater, but she swore she used it on occasion, so I folded. Two others were quick to call semi-colon, which surprised me. I love semi-colons. They’re handy, little dudes who combine a couple like thoughts, sort of halfway between a comma and a period in terms of the weight of the stop they provide.
My answer was the exclamation point. Here’s the thing: it’s useful, sure, but is it necessary? If the exclamatory statement is well crafted, wouldn’t it hold up—even when finished with a period? I dare say yes. I’ve read more than one book where I feel the writing was diminished by the (excessive) use of exclamation points. If a statement doesn’t stand on its own, then perhaps it should be rewritten. Failing all else, beats can help a reader to understand the experience for the speaker. Maybe he slams down his fist or shoves his papers off the table and then says--
I posed the same question to the Twitter writing community, and the answers that followed got me thinking. Most of the books I have on punctuation, and grammar and syntax and the like, aren’t specific to fiction. And, let’s be honest, most are rather dry, not light reading on a lazy afternoon.
Here’s my quick and dirty version of what to do with punctuation:
Period. I think everyone gets this one. It’s a full stop, the end of most sentences
Example: It was a bright and sunny day.
Question mark. Like a period ends a statement, a question mark ends a question.
Example: Where is the nearest bank?
Exclamation point. The end of an exclamatory statement, if you so choose heh heh.
Example: The cat is eating the canary!
Although you might think the use of a period isn’t skillful, allow me to delve into technique a bit. If you’re an observer of fiction, you might have noticed how sentence length—just length—can alter the reader’s experience. A series of short sentences may seem juvenile or jarring to the reader. At the same time, overly long sentences can relax a reader into boredom. Knowing a sentence should contain one idea might help, but either technique—long or short—when used consistently, can be problematic in fiction.
However, in the hands of a master, sentence length can serve a higher purpose. Imagine a series of longish sentences in a suspenseful scene, followed by a short one. It’s like a punch at the end. Personally, I’m a fan of one decisive hit at the end of a scene.
Commas. Commas do a few important jobs in writing. They connect ideas that could otherwise be separate sentences, they provide clarity (or alter meaning), offset an idea, and provide a little pause. The confusion comes from a comma having so many potential tasks in a sentence.
We went to the store, the deli, and the park.
A dog like that, with matted fur, was likely a stray.
She turned to look at me, and then walked away.
Semi-colon. It gets a bad rap, but I’m a fan. It’s best in fiction when you have two short, related sentences and don’t want two choppy sentences back to back. Semi-colons can also separate items in a list (instead of commas) when there are commas within the description of each item. Since that’s unlikely in fiction, I’ll leave it at that.
Example: He shielded his head with his hands; he forgot his umbrella.
You have options, here. You could go with: He shielded his head with his hands, because he forgot his umbrella. Or switch it around. He forgot his umbrella, so he shielded his head with his hands. Or perhaps you want two short sentences. But the semi-colon lets the reader know the two ideas are closely related.
Colon. I think its use is a mite confusing to some, hence its lack of use in fiction. What a colon does best is provide a suspenseful pause, a bit like a comma. What follows the colon is offset. If used well, it’s a great tool.
Example: He wouldn’t climb up to get her: he was afraid of heights.
Hyphen. Is this guy self-explanatory? Hmm, like in self-explanatory, a hyphen joins two words that, together, have a combined meaning. And when two adjectives team up to modify a noun, they must be hyphenated, even though they may not be buddies the rest of the time.
Example: She outlined a seven-point plan for the company.
Em dash. I’m a big fan of the em dash. Unlike a hyphen, it’s made on a PC by making two hyphens, immediately typing the next word, and then hitting the space bar. The two hyphens turn into the long dash. It could be used like a colon, to offset an important bit of a sentence. It also works well to highlight text within a sentence, much like two commas can.
When the meeting ended, I ran outside—I had to get away.
We gathered in the great room—a vast space with the personality of the DMV—and met the priest.
Parentheses typically offset a piece of information, like in the em dash example above, but with greater force. The em dash gently interrupts the flow of the sentence to add extra detail, whereas the parentheses stop the action to do so. My preference, at least in fiction, is the em dash. I feel differently in an article like this one. As you might have noticed, I used some parentheses.
I feel like that covers the basics. The most wonderful thing about English—or perhaps any language—is that once you understand the basics, you come to realize you know very little. Great writing must contain punctuation that does its job without distracting from the words and phrases that draw us in. The structure of sentences, and sentences within paragraphs, should control pacing. Description shouldn’t take us out of a scene but drop us into the center of it.
It’s the subtle nuances of using language that make writing brilliant. I hope you’re inspired to experiment with punctuation, to use it to change the flow of the words you write. Try using em dashes in place of a pair of commas or combine some sentences with semi-colons. Most of all, enjoy the process of writing. How 26 letters and a handful of odd marks becomes a novel is nothing short of magic.
by Laura Sherman
Having been a ghostwriter for twenty years, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with many writers. Most have a strong desire to earn a living through their craft. Some choose to write their own books and sell them, while others prefer to become freelance writers who sell their wordsmithing services to others while still receiving credit for their work. If you enjoy helping others share their ideas with the world through the written word, perhaps you might wish to become a ghostwriter.
A ghostwriter is someone who writes for another and receives no author credit. If you’re a professional writer who wishes to become a ghostwriter, you should know that although there are some similarities between authoring and ghosting, a ghostwriter flexes different muscles.
Over the last two decades, hundreds of experienced writers have emailed me, asking what it takes to venture into this world. I’m ever eager to encourage others to explore this unique writing opportunity. At the same time, I always caution that this move isn’t right for everyone.
A few disadvantages
There’s nothing more rewarding than helping an author write a book. However, there are some aspects of the trade you might not like. It’s good to be aware of these before entering the field.
You will work for someone else
As an author, you’re the boss. You decide what to write, how to communicate your ideas, and ultimately how the book will turn out. When you’re ghostwriting, you give up all control. For example, if you’re building a world in a sci-fi story and want to develop the main character into a strong independent woman, but your client wants her to be a man, that’s how it will be.
I always tell my clients, “I’ll tell you what I honestly think, but in the end you’re the boss and I’ll follow your wishes. After all, it’s your book.” And I mean it. My job is to educate my client on the process and guide him to the best-possible book. It’s not my job to push a particular agenda. You need to be okay with the idea of following the course set by another if you want to become a ghostwriter.
You can’t share what you’ve written
Everything you write as a ghostwriter is protected by a confidentiality agreement. Although some clients are extremely generous and allow me to share portions of their books as writing samples, it was not always so. In the beginning, people had to hire me on faith or simply based on my blog or short stories. I can tell you from experience, it’s not always easy to encourage someone to take this kind of leap of faith. Lack of writing samples makes getting a new client difficult for new writers in the industry. Even now, after having written over two dozen books, I still can’t share the titles with others.
In addition, if your friends ask you about the projects you’re working on, you won’t be able to discuss the details of the book. So, when I’m delving into the history of a new cryptocurrency or uncovering the secret remedy for a devastating disease, I can’t share much with my friends and family. Honestly, they know not to ask. Unfortunately, this can make for awkward silences when people are talking about their day around the dinner table.
Bottom line, you must be willing to keep mum about your work and find ways to promote your writing skill without samples if you want to become a ghostwriter.
Your name won’t be on the cover of the book you wrote
I think this is the toughest pill to swallow for most writers. Being a ghostwriter is a bit like being a surrogate parent. Once you finish the manuscript, your baby is out of your hands. The completed book rightly belongs to the author who hired you. This can be emotionally rough. For many this is a deal breaker.
After spending a year creating a masterpiece, you must be willing to hand over the project and disavow having played any part in its creation. You must be willing to silently step back and allow someone else to claim full credit. I honestly don’t mind this, but many do.
Having laid out all the drawbacks, I must say there are many perks for ghostwriters. Aside from the financial rewards, it’s an emotionally rich and satisfying career. We get to walk in the footsteps of many different people, learn their crafts, feel their emotions, and then share their experiences with the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Skills required to become a ghostwriter
If you’re a writer who wishes to become a ghostwriter, you might need to develop a few extra skills. These will set you apart from a solo writer.
You must learn to listen
A ghostwriter is a great listener.
She not only listens to the words her clients speak or write, but she also listens to their messages, themes, and writing goals. A ghostwriter breathes with her client, gets in sync with him and does her best to fulfill all of his intentions and purposes for the book.
For instance, when I interview a client and discover she wishes to write a memoir chronicling how she became a successful entrepreneur, I’m jazzed, because that’s a great message. Not only can I help her share her life story, but I can help her help others follow in her footsteps. Now, if her goal for the book is also to gain new clients, that’s important to know, as I’ll need to write her book with that in mind. Since her readership will include her future client base, these people will be interested in how specific aspects of her business might benefit them.
If you wish to become a ghostwriter, but are concerned that listening is a weak point for you, don’t worry. It’s a skill anyone can learn. It just takes some practice.
A little exercise
Listening is a skill that can be learned. Start with your friends.
Listen to them.
Then, after they leave, write down their words.
Can you recount what they said in the way they said it? Keep in mind, you’re not only listening to the content of what they’re communicating, but you’re observing the nuances of their language. Everyone has a different way of speaking. You need to hear how they put words together.
Now, if you find yourself drifting off as your friends speak, I’ll be honest, that’s not good. You need to quit that bad habit. It’s like biting your nails. How would you handle that? Yes, you can just quit doing it.
Rein yourself in and really listen to what your friends are saying. Work on improving the accuracy of your perception of the conversation until you capture the full content and tone of it.
You also need to become adept at hearing what people don’t say. If you’re writing a memoir, you are hired by your client to get at the truth. When he says something that begs a question, bring out your inner journalist and ask for details. Or if you sense that he is hiding a pertinent fact, pry a little. Of course, he has a right to his secrets, but his memoir will fail if he doesn’t open up to his public. They will be able to tell if he’s not being genuine.
A good ghostwriter will find a way to get her answer. Interviewing clients is another necessary skill to become a ghostwriter.
Become a good writer
It goes without saying that in order to be a ghostwriter, you must first be a writer: a competent, compelling, and confident writer. Writing comes from experience; you don’t need a college degree, nor must you be a published author. While both could help, neither is absolutely necessary.
Having said that, I believe it would be difficult to ghostwrite a book if you’ve never completed one yourself. There are lessons one learns simply by seeing a project through to completion. For instance, how do you overcome writer’s block? Are you able to edit out a cherished character that just doesn’t quite fit in? Every time you conquer an obstacle, you learn a lot. This helps you write a better book for your client.
I believe it will be helpful to you if you develop your own writing style and voice before you embark on the grand adventure of helping your client develop his.
Learn to capture another’s voice and style
One of the signature skills of a ghostwriter is to discover and bring out the voice and style of your clients. In order to do that, you’ll need to take a lot of notes and study all their current written work. Some clients will give you pages of a diary or blog articles they’ve written. You need to pick out the phrases they use, hone in on their style of communicating, and create a voice that will accurately portray them.
While you wouldn’t want to pass on the grammatical errors of your clients, you want their unique speech patterns and mannerisms to shine through. For instance, one client might use endearments for everyone around her, while another pauses dramatically between meaningful thoughts. You want to be sure to weave these into your book.
On the other hand, if your client has a lisp or stutter, you wouldn’t pass a speech impediment on to his character. Find the qualities that highlight who he is without amplifying the negative characteristics.
A little exercise
Capturing someone else’s style and voice is another skill you can practice. Jump on the internet and find a prolific writer who blogs. See if you can pick out her voice. What makes her uniquely her? Find those nuances.
Zero in on any cultural references. For instance, if the author is from the UK, he might use some colorful phrases unique to his region. “Blimey” or “dodgy” might be sprinkled into his dialogue.
As a ghostwriter, when you capture the author’s dialogue, you can even drop a few foreign words here and there, as long as their meaning is clear.
For instance: “Guten Tag, Herr Schmidt!” helps us know the character is of German origin.
Now, when the foreign word’s meaning isn’t completely clear, it's a good idea to define it within the text. For example: “She handed out the Stollen to her family. The buttery fruitcake was enjoyed by all.”
Ultimately, there are many ways a person communicates his thoughts and ideas. If you want to become a ghostwriter, know that it’s your job to spot these and create your client’s voice using their distinct style.
Capture your client’s viewpoints
People have a unique take on things; they see things from their particular point of view. Some will tell you outright how they feel and what they believe, while others won’t. For those who don’t, you’ll need to glean their viewpoints using interview questions. You must be able to identify these so you can help the reader see things from the author’s standpoint.
Recognizing the viewpoints of others is another skill that can be learned. You can start by observing others around you. Slip into their shoes and really see things from their perspective. Their point of view might not be yours. That’s OK. Simply understand how they feel and think about things.
In order to be a great writer, you must be able to adopt the various viewpoints of your characters. That’s one way they come to be three-dimensional (and beloved).
Another tip to differentiate characters in a book is to observe how different people react to the same situation. For instance, one friend might shriek when surprised, while another will do his best to suppress his reaction. Then there is the person who will laugh hysterically. These little details go a long way to creating believable characters.
The Business Side of Ghostwriting
One of the chief differences between being an author and being a ghostwriter is that when you’re a ghostwriter you’re running a business. That means that you’re in charge of everything—all aspects of the enterprise. You must:
It’s important to be highly organized, to keep track of all your deadlines and to answer emails and texts from clients as quickly as possible. I have a policy of answering all incoming emails within 24 hours, but usually do so within hours of receiving them.
As with any business venture, you must be professional in all aspects of the business. Of course, you should never deliver any piece late; in fact, I recommend being early. Exceed expectations.
And above all, respect the confidentiality agreement as if you were a secret agent. Your word is your bond.
Always work with a contract
Don’t try to go into business without a good professional ghostwriting contract. Trust me, if you work on a handshake basis, it can become a disaster. Part of running a successful business is making sure to provide the services you promised your clients. In order to do that, you need to be clear about what your services are.
I outline all the pertinent details for a good ghostwriting contract in another blog article, but here is a summary of what a good contract should contain:
While you can find decent contract templates on the internet, I highly recommend that you hire a lawyer who can draft one to fit your particular needs. An ambiguously worded agreement will cause you and your client trouble down the line in the event of a disagreement.
I find being a ghostwriter a very rewarding experience. Over the last twenty years I’ve worked on ten novels, eight nonfiction how-to books, and seventeen memoirs (along with a few children’s books and screenplays). I enjoy the diversity: getting to know all different kinds of people and stretching my writing muscles in a variety of genres. I have learned so much from each project and have found fulfillment in helping others meet their goal of creating a book. If you’re a writer who wants to become a ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions. I’m here to help!
Participating in a writer’s group is a great way to sharpen your storytelling skills. Regardless of your current experience level, from those new to writing all the way to advanced wordsmiths, working with your peers can be valuable for a writer’s overall development.
Finding a writer’s group can be a challenge unless you know where to look. Coffee shop bulletin boards, at your local writer’s group, or through an on-line source like Meet Up are a few places to start. What kind of writer’s group you engage is up to you, too. Generally speaking, however, writers groups focus on critique, allowing writers to share their work and discuss opportunities for improvement.
In this blog, I offer some advice on how to get the most out of your group.
KNOW YOUR SKILL AND EXPERIENCE LEVEL:
It is very important to understand where you are in your writing career before joining a group. Are you new to the craft? Are you the kind of reader that dutifully writes on the weekend and in the mornings? Or, are you a professional writer, committed to the creative process on a daily basis.
Knowing your skill and experience level allows you to make a match. When a group of new writers decides to get together, early draft or amateur mistakes are shared in common. Introducing a professionally published author to a mix of neophytes can set an intimidating standard, proving ultimately unsatisfying to everyone involved. It works the same way in reverse. An amateur writer stuck in a group of grizzled pros likely won’t provide the kind of in-depth and helpful feedback necessary.
I have been in unbalanced writer groups before. The situations make serving everyone’s needs difficult. We thrive on a range of experiences, but it’s better to work within your peer group.
It’s important to know that wherever you are is OK. Everyone was a beginning writer at one time, so it’s perfectly fine to set out looking for your tribe.
FOCUS ON IMPROVING YOUR WRITING:
This may seem obvious, but to at least a few new writers, it can be a hard lesson to learn. When you show up to your writers group, you’re showing up for your writing.
Here is what I mean.
I was in a writer’s group a few years ago. It was fairly well balanced. We had a professional or two, someone with an agent in mind and two women who had written numerous short stories.
We seemed like a good match.
After a while, however, one of our members got frustrated. The changes she was making to her manuscript were not making her happy. Every week, she would take our feedback, implement it and as a result, she was starting to hate her work in progress.
She said that she implemented those changes because she wanted to make us happy. While she liked our feedback, not everything we said was something that she agreed with. After so long implementing changes that negatively altered the direction of her book, she was ready to throw in the towel.
Opinions are just that. They aren’t gospel. The best writer’s groups offer a variety of opinions. It’s up to you, the writer, to decide which direction is best for your book.
BE PREPARED FOR HONESTY -- ON BOTH SIDES:
I think that this is the most important aspect of a critique circle. Participating in a writer’s group means giving honest feedback, as well as being prepared to receive the same.
I remember the first time someone at the table said they didn’t get my story. Those words lanced my heart like a sharp wooden stake and for a while, I felt like that was their shortcoming. I bucked against their advice until a hard reality dawned on me: that was precisely what I needed to hear.
Readers are tough and they have every right to be. If your goal is to advance your writing to the level of professionally published, your objective is pleasing readers. A lot of them. After all, happy readers buy books. They buy a lot of them and they write good reviews.
The goal of a writer’s group is to make every participant a better writer. If your story does not make sense, or a character is misaligned, you need to know that.
It isn’t personal. It never is.
The covenant of a writer’s group is that honesty is a two-way street. If something doesn’t make sense, your critique partner needs to hear that from you. Don’t feel foolish, either. If you don’t understand something, that likely means a reader down the line won’t either.
One of the best things a writer can do to advance their craft and career is to learn how to work with other authors. While the act of writing is solitary, being a writer means participating in a world.
Erick Mertz is a writer/content editor/publishing consultant from Portland, Oregon. You can find more of his thoughts on writing at https://www.erickmertzwriting.com. He writes The Strange Air series of Paranormal Mysteries, found at Amazon. When he is not writing, he is an avid gamer and cinephile, rabid follower of the Portland Trailblazers and a beer drinker that adores his family.
I am author Sean C. Wright-Neeley, and I write for multiple genres. My 8th book, Skoll’s Diary, is a sci-fi novel, unlike any other.
Africans and African Americans left Earth in 1900, and went to another planet in The Milky Way to escape mistreatment…
It’s now the year 3005 on that terraformed planet. We get a peek into the life of a bright and sensitive teenaged boy, Skoll, through his journal. He loves his world, but is curious about life on Earth. Then suddenly, an epic event casts him in the middle of a difficult decision. The fate of the planet’s community is in his hands...
You may follow me on Facebook & Twitter @Seanarchy.
Follow me on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sean-C-Wright/e/B07SWXCVK2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
IMDB profile: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4192925/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Writing is essential for effective communication, being also a key strategy for brands to promote their products and engage with their clients. In a world dominated by technology and devices, the way people write has changed a lot. Writers are more focused on the quantity, instead of quality. What is more, it is scary to see how many poorly-written pieces are promoted online, some of them gaining incredible popularity. So, what is to be done? How can content writers improve their quality and stand out from the crowd? You will find the answer to this question and many more tips on how to reduce the issue of poor writing by reading this article.
What causes poor writing?
1.Read as much as you can
The biggest weapon a content writer can have is staying updated with relevant information. When you decide to become a writer, you have two options: either you choose two or three niches on which you want to specialize, or you become a universal writer. Either option you choose, it is very important to read as much as you can about the topic you are going to write, as well as staying constantly updated with everything new in the industry. Moreover, even though you write a topic you have never heard about, you should do detailed research and find out what are the specifics that fascinate people and what makes them read an article. Furthermore, an efficient strategy that you can apply is creating news alerts on the subjects you want to specialize in. For example, Google Alerts is a very effective tool which you can use to receive daily updates on the topics you want to write about.
2.Understand who is your target audience
One of the most common mistakes that many writers do is not asking their clients all the details when they receive an assignment. Usually, they receive the maximum number of words, the tone, and topic. However, this is not enough information as you will need to know who is going to read your article. Therefore, your client should give you details on what are the audience’s favorite products and which are their customers’ major problems for which they need an immediate solution. Based on this information, you will be able to write an article which provides relevant information, as well as meet the customers’ expectations. You can also check some of the best writing services reviews and learn from their guides on how to improve your writing skills by understanding who is your target audience.
3.Practice to make it perfect
It is perfectly normal that writers don’t master excellent writing skills from the beginning. Just like any other skill, writing gets better with constant and ambitious practice. Moreover, you should be aware that you won’t improve their writing overnight. You will need to work hard and stay motivated to deliver impeccable writing. You can organize daily writing sessions and collaborate with professional writers to receive feedback from their side for your work. For example, you can write a short article every day on a given subject. Even though it may seem tiring in the beginning, this is an exercise which will help you get better in your writing and be able to freely express your emotions and transmit clear messages.
4.Use technology to your advantage
It is absolutely clear that technology is part of our lives nowadays. We are constantly exposed to social media and the internet, browsing every day for new information on various topics. On the other hand, when you are a writer, social media and the internet can be a distracting factor. However, instead of leaving the internet and technology aside, you can use them to your advantage. For example, you can improve your writing skills by using various online tools for synonyms or grammar check. What is more, you can also use your mobile devices to read relevant articles and books relevant to the niche you want to get specialized in. Thus, you can improve your writing skills and find your ideas easier when you receive a new assignment.
Writing is definitely not rocket science as it is not available only for those with innate talent. Anyone can be able to improve this skill with constant practice and permanent motivation. Moreover, you should put all the efforts to become better and trust your potential. What is more, you should write a short article on a new topic every day. Even though you won’t publish all your articles, this is an effective exercise which you can use to become a better writer. Doing extensive research and understanding your target audience are some of the techniques which will help you stand out of the crowd and reduce poor writing.
Her twitter is twitter.com/danielamcvick
You can reach Daniela at http://educatetips.com
If you’ve written a book, chances are someone will ask if it’s on Amazon. And in all likelihood, your answer will be "yes" — particularly if you're an independent author, as Amazon's self-publishing branch Kindle Direct Publishing is a no-brainer these days for indie sales and exposure.
But just because KDP is a natural choice for self-publishing your ebooks, that doesn't mean it’s the only choice. There's definitely something to be said for "going wide" and including retailers other than Amazon in your distribution strategy.
In this post, I’ll give a quick primer on why KDP can be a great option for indie authors, as well as a few reasons why you might consider expanding your sales horizons.
The Benefits of Kindle Direct Publishing
1. The publishing platform is easy to use
With KDP, uploading a book cover, inserting a book description, and formatting your product page is simple. And some sleight of hand with categorization and keywords helps users find your book title in the search bar – which means that you have Amazon’s powerful algorithm at your disposal. Though you'll certainly benefit from outside research, KDP guides you through the entire process and makes it easy to optimize your book for Amazon.
2. You get your book on the biggest retailer in the English-speaking world
Even as early as 2014, Amazon dominated 65% of print and digital sales – which means that there’s no real “competition” against Amazon, despite what other consumer platforms may claim. Some independent authors are especially aghast at this kind of monopolization and will opt for a less saturated market. That’s understandable – but you have to balance your values over sales goals, especially in a competitive field like book publishing.
3. With KDP print, you can take care of your print books in the same place
Formerly known as CreateSpace, KDP Print is a print-on-demand service with book cover and interior design tools. It’s a cost-saving measure because you don’t spend thousands of dollars printing books that don’t get sold. And KDP Print is especially helpful for ebook authors who want to link their sales pages together with one click — indeed, there’s even an option for print book customers to download the ebook version of a book for free, which may be an enticing bonus for your readers.
4. You can enroll in KDP Select for extra benefits
If you publish with KDP, you can also choose to enroll in KDP Select: a program that offers additional promotional support in exchange for the exclusive digital selling rights of your book for 90 days. In return, you’ll have access to the Kindle Unlimited program (Amazon’s “Netflix for books”), be involved in site-wide deals, and join the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, where users share books with others. Kindle Unlimited and the Lending Program run on a per-page-read royalty system, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a true page-turner before opting into them.
Going with KDP Select makes the book publishing process a true one-stop-shop. “Going wide” involves a lot more work. While aggregators like Draft2Digital simplify the process by publishing and collecting royalties for you from a variety of sellers, there’s still a lot of personal effort involved.
But, if you’re trying to make a business out of self-publishing, going wide is not a bad idea to contemplate…
Why You Might Want to Also Consider “Going Wide”
1. Amazon isn't as huge in other territories
While Amazon owns around 80% of the market shares in the U.S. and U.K., it’s not the only option out there. Kobo, for example, runs 25% of the ebook market in Canada and Apple Books represents 30% in Australia. These brands use creativity and partnerships to get noticed, too, which is an advantage for you. Kobo’s Walmart partnership, for instance, is a way to reach a wide constituency. You’ll miss out on these users by only distributing through KDP.
2. You may have a better chance of being promoted by real people
Companies like Barnes & Noble often promote staff recommendations, so if you’re a top pick, you’ll reap the benefits of their email campaigns. Amazon’s algorithm will give you access to an audience greater than the size of these email lists, yes, but conversions can be lower amongst so much competition. And bestseller lists won’t be in your arsenal either, since listmakers like The New York Times require you to sell with at least two retailers before making the cut. For these reasons, if you’ve written the kind of book that you think will really shine under a more personally cultivated spotlight, you might want to avoid publishing through KDP alone.
3. There are certain royalty benefits
While KDP allows 70% of royalties for books up to $9.99, some other platforms actually have better deals. Apple, for example, offers 70% of royalties on most print and ebooks regardless of price. Authors selling print books on Kobo can also benefit from 70% of the royalties at no price lock, which is great for box sets sold at a $19.99 price point or above.
Granted, there are no rules when it comes to self-publishing and the platforms you choose. That’s what makes the process interesting – the manner in which you execute it can be as unique as your text. But it's important to manage your expectations before going in. By identifying the benefits and drawbacks from the get-go, you’ll set your book up for success from day one.
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She's very passionate about independent publishing and hopes to help as many aspiring authors as possible reach their dreams! If you have any comments or questions for her, please leave them below, or you can reach her via email.
The decision to start a blog is big. The decision to post to a blog regularly for the unforeseen future is even bigger. It requires time, sacrifice and takes you away from other tasks—especially when you're a writer.
While you can argue blogging is writing and any practice makes you better—writing blogs instead of your WIP doesn't get your book completed any faster!
Blogging does have its perks, though. Nowadays, it's part of the "Author Platform" expected for modern writers and puts you in touch with other authors, readers and helps sell your books. But like anything in life, and even if you love it, you can find yourself in a blogging rut.
I've had my share of ruts since my blog launched in 2017. There have been posts I've loved that no one has responded to. There have been posts that took ten minutes to write that became my most popular. I've spent a whole week on posts and I've written posts the night before I needed to publish them. I've sometimes wondered if I should keep blogging and I've had readers telling me not to stop blogging (thank you!).
If you've found yourself in a similar blogging rut, these are the ways I've found to dig your way out.
Getting Out Of A Blogging Rut
Take A Break
I know I just said to dig out of the rut and now I'm saying to take a break, the thing I'm not saying is to quit.
If you still have the passion to blog but it's just taking a little longer to get into the groove, all you need to get your mojo back is to take a break.
The only time I've not posted weekly blogs was after having surgery in 2018. I was physically and emotionally drained and just couldn't do it. I was also creatively blocked, so that didn't help. What helped was leaning into that and taking time off. Sometimes you've got to take a break, forced or not, and just give yourself time to be creative again.
Build Up Posts When You're At A Creative Peak
Earlier this year I hit another creative low. Then I went to my first writers conference and got enough material for several posts. Having those posts written gave me a few weeks break from having to pen new blogs, and that allowed me to avoid the rut I was careening toward and work more on my current WIP—refilling my creative cup.
If you ever get into an inspiration peak, go with it and write as many blog posts as you can. They don't even need to be more than a rough first draft. Just having a backup of content takes the pressure off and can really keep your blogging going.
Change Things Up
While routine can be your best friend when you're a blogger and is one key to regular posts, it gets boring.
Knowing you've got to piece together yet another blog post when it feels like you just finished one can spiral you right into a rut. When you feel like you can't take another day of writing intros, thinking of snappy titles, and finding one more image of a generic desk with a laptop on it, it's best to change things up.
Write a different kind of post. Use different pictures. Change your blog theme. I recently launched a newsletter (which you can sign up for here).
It's not often I write about blogging, so this post in itself is creatively different, but you could also try adding gifs, images, or color to your posts. Anything that will make it feel like you're not repeatedly churning out the same thing.
Designate A Blogging Day
Running a blog while writing my YA series Blackbirch was getting overwhelming and the writer-guilt of feeling like I wasn't doing either properly seeped in. When you're feeling negative about the task at hand, that rut looks mighty cozy and a great place to stay.
So, I implemented a non-overwhelming writing routine. Now I have a designated blog day where the only writing I have to do on a Tuesday is a blog post. If one is all I can do, then that's all I do—guilt-free! If I get into a creative flow and write as many posts as I can, I'm then ahead. I aim for those goals every Tuesday, so I'm building up my post stockpile and pulling double-duty to keep myself out of the rut.
Start An Ideas System
One reason you might get into a blogging rut is that you don't have any idea what to write from one week to the next. Planning can help with this, but if you aren't a planner, at least try to become an idea-er (or something that's a real word).
Brainstorming helps. Just sitting down and trying to think of what you'd like to blog about is usually enough to kick start ideas.
If you come up with multiple ideas, start an ideas system. It's as simple as typing them out in a notepad file or Word doc or writing it down in a notebook (but not one of the pretty ones you bought but will never write in).
I use Scrivener and have all my blog ideas in separate note files with the title as the file name. That way I can just scan each file at a glance and decide what I want to work on or drag them to a dedicated "month" folder so I can plan my content and make sure I'm not blogging about similar topics in the same month.
I've got such files going back years, including the year I thought about blogging before actually launching my blog. I may never write all of those ideas, but having them is like having a shovel to dig yourself out of a blogging rut—and is something I highly recommend.
How about you? What do you do to keep your blogging fire burning? Share your tips in the comments below!
— K.M. Allan
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need. Visit her blog at kmallan.com to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.
We’ve all heard that good characters are the lifeblood of fiction, and when I began work on Gnosis, I didn’t want to scrimp on this vital effort. In keeping with my usual manic personality, I did a bunch of research into character creation. I took my time and consumed a mountain of information on the subject. There are lots of excellent books out there, but to a certain degree, they all required a bit of 'art' to getting the details right. Nothing catered to an organized, systematized approach, and that's what my brain feeds off of.
Eventually, I found my way to Myers-Briggs personality types, and quickly drank the Kool-Aid. Although MBTI types have their detractors, mainly because they’re not terribly predictive of real-world human behavior, they turn out to be perfect for creating fictional character models.
The idea behind them is that they endeavor to categorize human personalities into 16 basic types, represented by four letter combinations, like INFJ or ESFP. There are two choices of letters for each of the four positions, providing for a total of sixteen possibilities: ENFJ, ENFP, ENTJ, ENTP, ESFJ, ESFP, ESTJ, ESTP, INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP, ISFJ, ISFP, ISTJ, and ISTP.
These mysterious looking codes, somewhat reminiscent of genetic markers, are quite simple when broken down into their individual components. Taken from first position to fourth, the letters mean:
I or E – Introvert or Extrovert
N or S – Intuitive or Sensing
T or F – Thinking or Feeling
P or J – Perceiving or Judging
Although the terms above are somewhat misleading, if you do enough reading on the subject, they eventually make sense. If you’re utterly fascinated by this, feel free to read the definitive work by Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing.
My tool basically allows a writer to quickly put together a character sketch based on a handful of dominant trait choices. You can provide as much or as little information as you want, but with each bit of data you give, the software filters the possibilities for subsequent choices. It forces you to remain consistent within existing Myers-Briggs types.
The result is that with a very minor time-investment, you can assemble a character that makes sense. It won’t be a random collection of traits that don’t belong together. It will be behaviorally consistent.
So what does ‘behaviorally consistent’ mean? Well, let’s consider a simple example. Let’s say your character is an Introvert. Generally speaking, most Introverts are uncomfortable in large group settings. They tend to be shy at parties, dress in less ostentatious ways, and are often poor at reading social cues. They even have common ways of speaking, food preferences, and hobbies. (These tendencies don’t describe ALL introverts, however. Only some of them. But that’s another discussion entirely.) This being the case, your Introverted character would most definitely not act like Tony Stark (Iron Man) from the Marvel Comics movies. Robert Downey's version of Tony Stark is about as far along the extroverted scale as a character can get.
Unfortunately, there are LOTS of different flavors of introverts. They range from the dreamy, offbeat Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter), to ruthless 'fixers' like Doug Stamper (House of Cards). There are opinionated know-it-alls like Cliff Claven (Cheers), and steadfast confidantes, like Dr. James Wilson (House MD). It’s simply insufficient to label a character as an Introvert or an Extrovert, and think you have something interesting. Personalities are far more complex and nuanced than that.
My Character Creation Gadget helps you navigate the sea of possibilities, and define the core of your character. The result will be consistent with each of the components that make up a particular Myers-Briggs designation, and the best part is, you don’t have to understand how any of the psychology works. The tool will make sure you color within the lines.
Click on the image to the left to go to my Character Creation Gadget. It will open a new browser window and load up the tool. (You may have to turn off your popup blocker to see it.) Give it a few seconds to load up all of the data files. The word “calculating…’ will be displayed in the workspace while it does this. When it says “Ready”, you’re good to go. You might want to check out the “Help” button in the upper left corner first, as this will give you a quick 8 minute YouTube tutorial that shows you how everything works.
(And yes, I couldn’t resist putting a link to my novel, Gnosis, in the upper right corner of the tool. The tool itself is totally free to use, despite the amount of work I put into it. I like giving back to the writing community that gave so much to me. But if you’re of a mind to show some appreciation, please do consider following the link to my Amazon page and picking up a copy of Gnosis. It’s only 99 cents and after the first two months, it has netted all 4-and-5-star reviews.)
Mark tells me that he had a small issue when my tool turned off his Spartan Clips software, but he was able to turn it right back on again without issue. My Character Creation Gadget is still in beta, so I'll continue to try to resolve little issues like that. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a note if you find a bug, or have suggestions for new adjectives, archetypes, characters, etc. Enjoy!
Of course, you’re a writer if you write. The act of putting words down on paper to create a story is the very definition of being a wordsmith, but what takes you from wannabe writer to writer, and then upgrades you to a serious writer?
Spoiler alert, actually writing is only a small part of it.
10 Signs You’ve Upgraded To Being A Serious Writer
1. You’re not afraid to show others what you’ve written.
2. Receiving rejections from agents and publishers no longer stings (as much).
3. Sending a query or submission doesn’t fill you with (complete) fear.
4. You’re happy to pass on the advice that you’ve learned to other writers.
5. You’re writing daily or regularly enough that actual pages are being added to your MS.
6. Ideas for stories come thick and fast. Your creative brain is always on.
8. Walks and commutes to work are soundtracked to writing podcasts instead of music.
9. Your TBR pile now includes non-fiction books about editing or the craft of writing.
10. You have money put away for writing courses and/or professional edits.
A writer might start off their journey as a wannabe, daydreaming about ideas or noting down a few lines of purple prose every now and then. One day, they might decide to give writing a "real go" and get as far as a terrible first draft that languishes in a drawer. It might be years later still before they learn more, practice more, and apply those skills to the next manuscript, the next draft, the complete rewrite, and the endless edits before finally typing, “The End”.
If they're consistent and work hard, they may even get to write “The End” on multiple manuscripts, but being a serious writer isn’t about completing as many WIPs as you can, it’s about what you do with those pages of gold afterward.
No true wordsmith wants to spend all that time writing a book that no one else will ever read. Give your MS to family, friends and beta readers. Submit to publishers. Enter writing competitions. Launch a blog. Start your own writing podcast. You might not see all the signs in yourself yet, but even if you can only cross off one or two on the list above, you're well on your way.
Be a wannabe until you're a writer, but then don’t forget to upgrade to being a serious writer and do something with what you’ve written.
— K.M. Allan
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need. Visit her blog at kmallan.com to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.
So you’ve finally done it. Written a book after hours at the keyboard, filling in plot holes, shedding tears, drinking cups of tea, and fending off self-doubt. You’ve even made it through beta readers who questioned your genius and still found typos.
Your book is perfect, and more than ready to be snapped up by a publisher. Sure, there will be some rejections, but you’ll welcome those because you’ll need a rejection slip to hang on your wall and keep you humble when you’re rolling in royalties and five-star reviews.
But that publishing deal hasn’t come. It must be them, you tell yourself. There’s no way it could be your book—it’s perfect!
You decide to take a look at the MS, just to confirm that it’s still as wonderful as you remember. Then you see it, the reason those form rejections have been coming in thick and fast. Your MS isn’t perfect. You’ve looked at it with fresh eyes, the realistic eyes that can see the mistakes. Those amateur mistakes, such as…
Otherwise known as not giving the reader any credit and explaining everything. You want them to know why Jessie hates Carl as soon as they’re introduced. No using curt remarks to build tension, or dropping hints to create some mystery, you’ll just explain it all then and there!
Same deal when it comes to connecting the intricate threads of your mind-blowing plot. You can’t be subtle with those threads or rely on the reader to make those connections. What if they miss something? Can you trust the reader to work things out for themselves? Yes, yes you can.
As the author, you may want to authorsplain the finer points to get the story onto the page, but that’s what the first draft is for. Tell it to yourself, then cut it back and find the right balance. Test with beta readers how much little info you need to give in order for a reader to understand what you mean, and then allow them to fill in the blanks. It makes for a much more satisfying read.
This is one of the basics of writing, but it can be tricky to master. Info-dumping, especially in the first few chapters, is a mistake all amateur writers make, some without realizing they’re doing it.
It’s another one of those elements you’ll need during the first draft so you can work out your plot, but after that, you’ve got to use your other drafts to break the info up. Don’t use a page long narration from your MC to explain the situation she’s in, foreshadow it, drop cryptic hints, have a short but sweet conversation between two characters that gives you one half of the story, and the rest of it later.
As the writer, you know that the info is important to the plot, but it doesn’t need to be dumped on the very first page! Save some for the middle, bring it all to a head at the end. Let your characters and the reader live in the moment and find out what they need to know at key points only—not all at once.
Hands up if you over describe how a character gets from Point A to Point B? I’ve done it, in fact, I can’t help including almost every single detail when it comes to my characters' movements.
It may be part of my early draft writing process, but I really don’t need to keep in my later drafts that my MC heard the doorbell ring, put down his cheese sandwich, slid the chair back from the table, walked through the living room, wrapped his fingers around the silver knob, and pulled open the door.
Save the stage directions and the lengthy descriptions for when you need to invoke some real imagery, or to make a payoff work. The most important thing the reader needs to know is who is at the door, not a step-by-step of how the MC answered it.
Extreme Scene Setting
Some writers can set the scene of a book so well it’s almost as if it’s another character. For us amateurs, you’re better off mastering how to give the reader only what they need to visualize the setting.
The trick to this is adding just enough detail to create a sense of space or what the place looks like while allowing the reader’s imagination to do the rest.
For example, they might need to know a living room has a couch because a character is sitting on it, but they don’t need to know about the rug, the coffee table, the lamp, the TV, or the fake plant sitting in the corner. Unless the lamp you painstakingly describe for five sentences is going to be the murder weapon (in which case, you and Professor Plum better hightail it out of there), stop wasting words spelling it out. Most readers would have seen a living room and will get an understanding of what one looks like with a few choice words.
While it may take an experienced eye to spot these amateur mistakes—and even more practice to stop making them in new drafts—mastering them will make you a better writer. One who will, hopefully, one day, also have an acceptance letter to hang on their wall.
— K.M. Allan
About K.M. Allan
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need.
Visit her blog to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.
These are posts made by friends of Wordrefiner. I am grateful to share these with my guests.
"I'm very pleased with all your efforts. Twitter promotion and proofreading were beyond what I expected with a book review. Your suggestions throughout the process of refining both books helped me immensely. I look forward to working with you again." A.E.H Veenman “Dial QR for Murder” and “Prepped for the Kill”