10 Tips for Beginning Writers

In every group of friends there is that one person who is always trying something new.  There was the new diet that failed, the new hobby that only lasted two weeks, and the new relationship that crashed and burned.  The reason all of these failed was because they were unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to make them work.  It’s no different for people who want to be writers.

It’s not uncommon to hear aspiring writers say, “I long to become a writer and land a traditional publishing contract, but I have never written a word and have no idea what to write about.  I just keep waiting for inspiration.  And, given all that’s going on right now, I just don’t have time to sit down and write.  Besides, I couldn’t bear to show my work to anyone.”

If this is you, then I cannot help you become a writer.  Like the dieter and hobbyist above, you already have excuses just waiting to be employed.  To quote Dan Poynter, “If you are waiting for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”

So, how does one actually become a writer?  The first step is to engage in less whining and more writing.  Abandon your high-faulting literary romanticism and vocal criticisms of the “lack of literary quality” in today’s published works.  No matter what you think of J.K. Rolling’s or Stephen King’s writing, the simple truth is they are making millions and you are not.  And understand that you will not be an overnight success.  As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, it takes 10,000 hours, or approximately 10 years, of deliberate practice to become an expert in your field, so be prepared to put in a lot time at the keyboard.

Now that we’ve got the excuses out of the way, here’s how to start writing: Continue reading


National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  Founded in 1999 with just 21 participants, the movement has grown to including nearly a million writers annually.

Each November, participants are encouraged to write an entire novel in just 30 days.  The goal is to complete a very rough first draft, which will be edited throughout the following year.  Participants start by registering on the NaNoWriMo website where they will be connected to a local Municipal Liaison (ML) who will inform them the dates and times of write-ins.  The write-in is simply times when groups of local writers agree to meet for the purpose of diligently writing their novels. Continue reading


Tips for Successful Book Signings

Reality Check: Unless you are on the New York Times Best Seller list, don’t expect book signings to bring in a ton of money.  So, if not for the money, why should the average Joe participate in a book signing?  Exposure.

Books don’t sell themselves.  If you are self-published, that also means self-promoted.  Small-time and self-published authors will likely sell less than 10 books at a book signing.  Many of the people who attend the event won’t even buy a book, they are curiosity-seekers, tire-kickers, and sometimes, just looking for a bathroom.  However, all the marketing and promotion that occurs prior to the event will help you reach new readers who may buy the book, even if they don’t come to the signing.

After hosting several book signings, I’ve created a list of tips and tricks for eager authors to help make their next book signing a success. Continue reading


Book Cover 101

We’ve all heard the admonishment, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Whoever said that clearly wasn’t trying to sell books in the 21st century.  Regardless of whether it’s consumers, bookstore buyers, or the folks making nominations for the Worst of Amazon, everyone is judging books by their covers. Why? The simple truth is, a great book with a horrible cover won’t sell, but a horrible book with a great cover will.

Authors and self-publishers need to put as much thought into their book’s cover as they do the content between the covers.  The smartest thing to do is hire a professional cover designer.  This is because every book requires multiple cover files, how many depends on how the book is distributed.  The best recommendations for cover artist come word-of-mouth.  If you attend an author event and see someone with a cover that catches your attention, ask for the name of their artist.  Most authors are happy to share that information. Continue reading


Building an Author Website

This is the second part of a workshop I hosted for the Palouse Writers Guild on Saturday, July 28, 2018.  To see the first part of the workshop, click here: Building An Author Platform.

ESTABLISHING YOUR AUTHOR PERSONA

Even introverts publishing under a pen name need an author website and that’s why it’s absolutely vital to contemplate your author personal at the onset.  Some people are wholly themselves online, while others may use a pseudonym and have an online persona different from who they are in real life.  It is essential that authors figure out their persona BEFORE beginning to build their website; the website becomes the author’s identity.

 When editors, agents, and publishers receive queries from prospective authors one of the things they do is Google the author because they want to see the size and scope of platform, prior works, etc.  Readers also look for author websites.  The whole point of a website is making yourself and your work easy to find. Without a website the author simply does not exist. Continue reading


Building an Author Platform

I presented the following information at a workshop hosted by the Palouse Writers Guild on Saturday, July 28, 2018.  The second part of the presentation will appear in a separate blog post.

WHAT IS AN AUTHOR PLATFORM?

Author Platform Definition: The ability to sell written content (books, short stories, magazine articles, etc) because of who you are or who you can reach.  Simply put, a platform is your visibility as an author in the communities in which you participate. Continue reading



ISBNs, Copyrights, and Barcodes, Oh my!

At the Palouse Writers Guild Build-a-Book Workshop I presented the following information on ISBNs, copyright, and barcodes.  The workshop was a success and we plan to host another one in the future.

Presentation PowerPoint: ISBN Presentation

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN is the International Standard Book Number.  It uniquely identities the book, publisher, and edition. The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title (or edition) from one specific publisher, allowing for more efficient marketing by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

Parts of the ISBN

Each 13 digit ISBN consists of 5 elements separated by spaces or hyphens.
The five parts of an ISBN (13) are as follows:

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Guilt-free Writing

I recently had a conversation with Moscow Poet Laureate, Tiffany Midge, about cultural appropriation in writing.  While she, a Native American, decried the act when white authors wrote Native American point-of-view characters, she claimed it was acceptable for her to plagiarize the work of Luna Leigh, a white woman living in England.  Then she went on to berate Terese Mailhot, a Tecumseh Postdoc Fellow at Purdue University, who brought the plagiarism to light.  It seems that theft of language, culture, and ideas is only a bad thing when it happens to you, and not when you do it to others.

What Ms. Midge refused to understand is cultural appropriation goes both ways and has been occurring since man first learned to walk upright.  Evidence of it is everywhere.  It’s human nature, and it’s not going to change.

I stumbled across a blatant example of cultural appropriation at Saint Gertrude’s Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho.  The nuns host a workshop on understanding Sacred Celtic Landscapes.  I could point out that the sacred Celtic landscapes they reference predate the coming of Christianity by hundreds, if not thousands of years, that Celtic religious life originates from the Indo-European religious traditions, not the Judeo-Christian tradition, and that by appropriating those landscapes they have deprived a people of their heritage.  Instead, I decided that the post-Christian Celtic narrative is just as important as the pre-Christian narrative.

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Why Write Book Reviews

Recently, a number of people have told me that book reviews are a waste of time.  One person said, “If you’re not writing, you’re procrastinating.”  Another said, “Why waste time promoting someone else’s work when you should be promoting your own?”

The answer is really very simple.  Book reviews are highly valuable, not just for the one receiving the review, but for the one writing it as well.

Every book a writer reads gives them insight into what’s trending in the market, which aids in determining the commercial potential of their books.  Market research is vital for finding a publisher.  Many writers finish their books and turn to places like Writers Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Query Tracker, then spam all the editors, agents, and publishers they can find.  A more successful approach might be turning to your bookshelf instead. Continue reading