General Writing

What’s The Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned: Words of Wisdom From Our Readers

About two weeks ago, Ruth and I asked you to send in your best advice on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction. I am very pleased to say that nearly every day since my inbox has had wonderful messages from our many readers who were glad to send along their knowledge. Below you can see their comments, as well as wonderful pictures of them and their books. On behalf of the folks here at Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, we would like to thank you for your awesome contributions.

Here’s what our readers had to say:

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Write the story you want to write.  Be passionate, follow your heart, and ignore what others are writing.  Just be you.

Debbie Conrad

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Spell check. Spell check, spell check, spell check. After every draft, spell check. After every writing session, spell check. There are going to be things you missed, even if you think you haven’t; it’s just the way the mind works. Have you gone through five drafts with two meticulous editors, four former English teachers, eight hawk-eyed beta readers, and an incredibly observant slow loris? Spell check. You may only find six errors in eighty thousand words, but that’s six errors your readers didn’t find.

Spell check. Then, you won’t have to apologize.

B. Lynch

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Always read the proof! First time I self-published, the book manufacturer sent me a proof copy. I was so excited to see my work in print form, I didn’t take any time to read through it. Consequently, in the first 50 books I ever sold, there were all manners and sorts of typos and small things I hadn’t caught during my initial editing. Sometimes, once the work is in print, you see it with fresher eyes and can spot things missed during the initial editing rounds.

Dana Myles

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The most important lesson I’ve learned from self-publishing is; spellcheck is no substitute for a good editor. And a good editor is one that is first and foremost, a fan of your work.

Gwen Rhea

 

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Although it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing about writing, publishing or marketing, I think I can safely say, the overarching key to feeling competant in this field is (drumroll please)……. NETWORKING! The more people you meet, the greater your pool of resources, knowledge, and promotion. Make friends. Know everyone in the business you can and genuinely care about them, honestly seek out their knowledge, and give them credit for anything you learn from them. Help promote them and they’ll help promote you. Network. It goes a long, long way in every avenue in writing.
G.M. Barlean
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Before you spend one dime, one minute, one ounce of energy on anything, whether it’s choosing a publisher, releasing your book, publicizing, advertising, marketing, do your research. At your fingertips is a vast information pool of success stories and failures. Tap into that to learn the best ways to publish and promote. Learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t repeat them. This will give you a leg up and pave the way for a better chance at success.
Eva Lesko Natellio
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No matter how tired you are of re-writing the ending or the tweaking the edits your editor gives you—do them with care and thoughtfulness. If you dash through them, or you’re simply freakin’ tired of working on the manuscript it WILL show up in the writing. You cannot fool readers. Put the work aside and do something else until you’re renewed enough to start again. It’s worth the wait.
BK Froman
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I made so many mistakes on my first book. It wasn’t edited well, it had no promotion, I hadn’t research cover design enough, my website wasn’t up. The lack of editing was the worst; I had to put out a 2nd revision of The Distant Trees with corrections. Of course the reviews citing typos remained. I was in too great a hurry with excitement over publishing. With the subsequent books of the Elise t’Hoot series, I have been meticulous about multiple drafts, waiting a month, proofing, waiting, going through it again. I have a knowledgeable beta reader now, too, an English teacher. Then I revise as needed and do one more line edit start to finish. I still cannot afford professional ($1000 – $2000) editing  for each book in the series, but the amateur editing is far better now. Bottom line: Poorly edited books will haunt you.
Mary Ellen Wall
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Lots of people on the Internet offer their unqualified and/or overpriced services to self-publishing authors. Their best trick of all is getting you to pay for their advice on what you should do. Any failure to achieve what you want will be your fault. I haven’t subscribed to any of these services, but I see them everywhere, every day. Sad.
Ron Fritsch
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Before I published my book, I had this rather naïve idea that it would sell itself, that when people realize how good it was, they would buy it.   Once my book entered Amazon’s inventory, however, it became the proverbial needle in a haystack. I looked at and read other self-published books.   A few were not necessarily great stories, but the titles seemed to be everywhere. That’s when I learned that some of the books that rise to the top of popularity were there not necessarily because they were outstanding, but because they were backed by good marketing campaigns.  
Now that I understand that every book needs advertising, I’m budgeting time and money to market my book to improve its visibility.  I have found affordable advertising packages and blog tours, and I’m enjoying the new responsibility of being my book’s PR agent.
Amaia S. Li
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Using CreateSpace, which I adore, I was smart enough NOT to a) let them be the imprint instead of forming my own publishing company for 300 bucks (easy online), and b) not letting them supply ISBN number (which would be in their name), but supplying my own, Doing this retains 100% control and gives me piece of mind.
Rodney Richards
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When attending a local Sci-Fi & Fantasy convention , it’s always tempting to hide out in the video game, movie or board game rooms. (Especially when most of us who write are quiet folk who feel uncomfortable around large groups of people.) But when you do that, you waste a great opputunity to chat with fellow published writers! You never know what friendships you’ll make or pieces of advice you’ll get. I’ve made some lasting relationships from going to conventions and it helped a ton when I launched my first novel Blade Of The Broken… Don’t be afraid to mingle!
Jake Scholl
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The best advice I’ve learned from self-publishing is to just do it.  I took a “write-a-story-in-one-day” challenge, and from that I completed a short story.  With that, I loaded up to Amazon and *poof* I am a published author.  There’s so much talk about building your brand, having a platform, developing and maintaining a website, being active on social media and all that, but if you don’t have a book published, then why all the effort?  If people like you but have nothing to read, that’s a waste of potential.

That and find an editor.

DW Hirsch

Thanks once again to all our contributors for their wonderful advice. I hope we can do this again sometime and that you all find the advice above very helpful in your own writing. Have a lovely day, everyone.

[Editor’s Note: If you contributed have trouble viewing one of your photos or any other concerns, please let me know as soon as possible so I can rectify it. Thank you.]

 

Categories: From The Readers, General Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Beta Readers

In the video below, Janet Syas Nitsick and I talk about beta readers.  I’m also writing down the main points below for your convenience.

A beta reader is a person who reads your book before it’s published.  A beta reader is a person who can look at the overall story and give you their impression of it.  But they are not an editor.  The editor is the one who goes in and polishes it up so it’s ready to be published.

So what makes a beta reader good?

1.  He makes deadlines.

You should have a schedule set out on when you’re doing your first draft, when a beta reader goes over your book, when you add their input, when you give it to an editor, and when you publish it.  When you treat your writing like a business, you will have deadlines that you need to make.  In order to better make those deadlines, you need to give the beta reader a deadline.  A good beta reader will have the book in by the deadline or let you know, in advance, if he can’t make it.

2.  He knows the subject matter.

For example, someone who is familiar with horses would make a good beta reader for your book where you use horses a lot.

3. He enjoys the genre you’re writing.

Ideally, the beta reader will be a fan of the subject you’re writing.  They need to read your book as your target audience would in order to best help you.

4.  He needs to be honest (but nice).

You need to be able to trust this person.  While it’s important the person tells you what’s good, they should also be comfortable with letting you know what you can do to improve the story.  But do pay attention to how they tell you the stuff they didn’t like.  Saying, “What happened?  Did your kid write this part for you?” is different from saying, “I would like to see more angst in your hero during this scene.”

How do you find this good beta reader?

1. When starting out, you pretty much have to go to people you know and trust.

These can be friends, family, or other writers.  The key is that you trust them to be honest about your work (as explained in #4 above).

2. Social Media

You want to broaden out your search and find readers in your genre who are avid readers.  They make for the best people to beta read books because they love to read and know what your target audience wants.

You can find these people on various social media outlets.  I prefer Facebook for social interaction, but there’s also Twitter, Google +, discussion boards, blogs, and other places I’m probably missing.  The key is to establish relationships.  Don’t go in with the attitude you’re going to get something from someone.  Be a participant.  Engage.  Be friendly.  Give something of value to the group.  Share and exchange ideas and information.  Talk about your favorite books and authors.  Be yourself.  Sooner or later, you’ll come across a couple people who will become your friend.

3.  Another way is to let readers come to you and offer to beta read.  

People who love your books are often more than happy to have a part in helping you get your book into the world.  These are the perfect beta readers because they share your vision for your work.  They already love it.  They are in tune with you and have the same goal you do.

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So those are the tips Janet and I came up with to finding good beta readers.  Anyone else have any tips they’d like to add?

Categories: General Writing, Writing as a Business | Tags: | 28 Comments

Are You an Open Book?

 

Well, as a writer, you should be an open book at least to some extent. People want to get a sense of what type of person you are, your background, where you live and more.

With my first book, Seasons of the Soul, which includes a spattering of personal accounts of my two different autistic sons, people would approach me at book signings and express empathy for my situation. Some would purchase the book for others or had handicapped children themselves. A number of individuals would say: “God gives special children to special people.” I would smile and thank them. It warmed my heart. There also were those who believed they could get my nonverbal autistic son to talk. I again would smile and say a thank you, even though I knew this was impossible.

The point is readers want to know you and form a bond with you. Why do you purchase books? I often buy books because I know the author and got to know that individual through friends, acquaintances or are members of one of my writing groups.

Bonding is important and you can establish this in many ways. I sell my books personally so I meet up with those who previously purchased my books and they often buy my new ones. But what do you do if you never or seldom do these kinds of events?

You establish relationships through forums and social media. I am not good at forums as Ruth Ann Nordin, but I do use social media. Of course, you have to in this era, however, you do need to get to know your followers as much as possible.

Patrons love meeting the authors they love, and we should return our love through special gifts for our loyal customers. I had someone I worked with years ago buy my latest books (Lockets and Lanterns, Bride by Arrangement and Courtships and Carriages). I mailed them to her and included a special token, a Seasons of the Soul journal. It was my last one, but I wanted to show her my appreciation. Doing this was more important than keeping this keepsake. In addition, I inserted a personal note. No matter what they say about the Internet there is nothing more valuable than a “handwritten note.”

Readers also like to know your background, such as where you live. Several years ago, I was selling my first book in a town about 50 minutes from where I live. One person saw me there and realized I lived in the same town where they used to live and bought my book. However, do not tell everything about yourself.

When I started out I gave out too much data about myself. Most people are wonderful, but some will take advantage of you, such as “potential” writers who seek your help. You can assist them in connecting with writing groups, etc. However, you cannot over extend yourself either.

Also, be careful in providing too much information on the Internet. This is touchy because you need to interact and get to know your followers. How I handle this is to post about what I am doing without revealing my family’s names. We need to be cautious rather than regret it later.

Make comments on other authors/readers’ blogs, Facebook pages, etc. In this way, you get to know them and they in turn learn about you. Of course, do not go overboard or you will never get your own work done.

So be an open book but remember you are out in the public and need to watch revealing everything about yourself. Well, I hope I left you with some useful information and as always I end with a God bless.

Categories: Book Promotion, General Writing | Tags: , , , ,

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