Earning Money From Writing

Writing is work. It takes a lot of time and effort to brainstorm, outline, research, and then finally put into words a topic or story. Then afterwards there’s a lot of editing, revising, and proofing. Electric Literature published an essay about how writing is a job, even if it doesn’t really pay:

The fact that writing is hard and there are many hobbyists doesn’t mean it isn’t a job either. It is very hard to be a professional athlete or a head chef, and many people practice sports or cooking as hobbies. But we would not pretend an NBA player or a head chef doesn’t have a job.

The argument is that if we think of writing as a hobby, it will be treated as a hobby, and then only people who can afford to write as a hobby will be writing. This reminds me of when I was in college and went to see Jeffrey Eugenides give a talk. I remember he told a story of how people don’t really think of writers as having a real job. He meets someone new and they find out he’s a writer, and the reaction is, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a novel, I just haven’t had the time.” And Jeffrey said he thought that was strange, because you’d never go up to a heart surgeon and say, “You know, I’ve always wanted to operate on someone, I just haven’t had the time.”

Obviously, the two are not the same, but both take a certain set of skills that take time to develop. So in the spirit of treating writing as a job, here are some tips and ways you can earn money from writing:

An Interview with Howard Jay Smith, Author of Beethoven in Love; Opus 139

Howard Jay Smith is the author of Beethoven in Love; Opus 139:

A daring, compelling, and impeccably researched historical novel that offers dramatic new insight into the life of the greatest composer the world has ever known. Its fresh perspective and deeply felt understanding of Beethoven’s motivations, passions, and challenges speak eloquently to us today, connecting us to our own successes, failures, and dreams, and ultimately to the true consequence of our lives.

At the moment of his death on a snowy afternoon in March, 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life. As he struggles to confront its ugliness, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

Read on for an interview with Howard, as well as an excerpt from his book. Continue reading

Legal Considerations for Authors

By Sachinwarankar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sachinwarankar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For writers and publishers, there are a lot of interesting things to consider when it comes to the law.

For writers looking to go the traditionally published route, there’s a lot to keep in mind contract-wise, including, according to Kristine Kathryn Rusch, control, fairness, and clout. She explains that you want as much control over your project as possible, though some contracts may not allow for negotiation, so you’ll have to ask yourself if that contract is something you really want. Also, things will not always be fair, but you don’t need clout to negotiate, you just need to get past the idea that you need a certain level of success before you can negotiate and just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is the person you’re negotiating with can say “no.” Continue reading

Indie Authors: Tips for Writing Characters That Resonate

By Stagg Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Stagg Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Characters are an important element of every story. So how do you make sure your story has characters that stand out? That readers find interesting and believable?

Writers in the Storm posted an article about becoming your character, so that you don’t make mistakes like head hop or have multiple viewpoints for one character. The best way to do that is to become your character. That way, Marcy Kennedy explained, we can better remember that we only know our own thoughts and feelings, not someone else’s, we can only experience things within our eye sight or within our ear shot as they happen, and our past and personality determines how we react and interpret things.

According to Marcy, who wrote the book Point of View in Fiction:

Point of view isn’t merely another writing craft technique. Point of view is the foundation upon which all other elements of the writing craft stand—or fall. It’s the opinions and judgments that color everything the reader believes about the world and the story. It’s the voice of the character that becomes as familiar to the reader as their own. It’s what makes the story real, believable, and honest.

A character’s self-sacrifice can also help pull readers in. K.M. Weiland, from Helping Writers Become Authors, said that “Self-sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love—and so, of course, it’s an endlessly powerful story catalyst.”

To make the self-sacrifice even more powerful, K.M. said that you should have a scene earlier in the story that sets up the self-sacrifice, by showing how much your character wants something. Doing that shows the reader that the character is doing something really hard when he or she self-sacrifices.

Another aspect to consider to round out characters is internal dialogue. Writers in the Storm shares in a post that internal dialogue helps show emotion, in addition to helping to pace the story. According to Marcy Kennedy, the most effective internal dialogue is not repeated in actual dialogue or action, it should be used to share important thoughts, and it should be told in the character’s voice, not the author’s. Additionally, internal dialogue should sound like dialogue, so that it sounds natural.

Author Zoo also recommends using juxtaposition, to help show a character’s motivation. Lana Pecherczyk gives two examples of using juxtaposition: as a flashback in a tense scene or in characterization, to make the reader think more about that character.

Last, if you want some advice for how to become an overall better writer, check out McSweeney’s “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do.” Colin Nissan lists tips and explains in a tongue-in-cheek way why those tips are useful. Advice includes writing every day, not procrastinating, reading a lot, and finding a muse (though he cautions, “Beware of muses who promise unrealistic timelines for your projects or who wear wizard clothes”).

Originally published August, 2016

A Look at Self-Publishing Success Stories

Happy New Year! Now is the time to rejuvenate and get motivated for the year. And to help, here are some success stories.

It’s hard to be an indie author. There’s often depressing news about how ebook sales are going down and people are getting tired of digital, or how people are buying coloring books but not ebooks. And sometimes, startups that help hybrid authors shut down, leaving authors stranded.

So it’s nice to hear about the success stories. People who work hard for long periods of time and eventually make it in some way. These are the kinds of stories that keep me going, and give me hope. Plus they always have great takeaways to learn from. Continue reading

Editing Tips and Resources for Authors

By Ernest-Mtl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ernest-Mtl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to editing your book, authors have a lot of options. The first step is to self-edit. This can help cut down on costs later when you start working with a professional editor (which I highly recommend doing).

Jane Friedman has a great post on how to write a book in three drafts. There’s the messy draft, which is a first draft and often unorganized. Then there’s the method draft, which outlines the messy draft and starts the rewriting process. And last is the polished draft, where you start asking people for constructive feedback from beta readers.

After getting feedback, you can go back and take a look at your paragraphs. Joseph Blake Parker offers six tips on how to write strong paragraphs. Basically, you want to know what kind of paragraph you’re using (descriptive, action, dialogue, etc.), determine paragraph lengths depending on whether you want to slow a scene down or have an action-packed scene, and use important words only one time per paragraph.

Next you can use tools, such as Grammarly or the Hemingway app, to help clean up your manuscript. There’s also After the Deadline, an open-source plugin/extension/add-on/etc. that uses AI and natural language processing to find errors and offer suggestions.

Last, you can hire a professional editor to make your book even better. Some places you can go to find an editor include NY Book Editors, Sandstone Editing, and BookBaby.

After all that, you can choose to either self publish your book or to try and go the traditional route. If you want to go the traditional route, Writer’s Digest has a guide to literary agents, where you can learn more about agents, and get tips on how to query and submit.

What Are the Ingredients of a Successful Marketing Plan?

By The Photographer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By The Photographer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This post was originally published January 2016 on Digital Book World.

Today’s readers and book buyers are savvy. Ads are not enough to get a potential customer’s attention, and being bombarded daily with emails, texts, posts, tweets, shares, images and videos makes it incredibly easy, and more likely, for people to ignore ads.

In fact, people are going out of their way to avoid ads, installing plugins known as ad blockers to outright remove them. And despite what season 19 of “South Park” depicts—a world in which ads become sentient and quietly take over our lives—ad campaigns do not work as well as they used to when it comes to marketing products.

Enter content marketing, and the idea of gaining a community’s trust in order to sell products. In addition to sharing content that customers find worthwhile, and would potentially want to share with others, this method allows companies to forge connections with people by regularly communicating with them in a more pleasant manner.

Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are important tools in establishing that trust, but they should be considered just that—tools—and not strategies themselves.

While there are many components to a successful marketing plan, here are six aspects to consider.

1. Figure out the audience. What is it about a book or a book series that makes it stand out? Can it help to solve a problem, and if so, how? Who would be interested in reading the book, and where can you find them? When are they active and when would they be open to listening to you? One tool that may be helpful in answering these questions is Find My Audience, a website, currently in beta, that finds potential readers on Twitter. Users provide information about a book, and then the tool gives information on the target audience for that book. The site is free to use for now, but eventually users will have the option to pay a monthly fee in exchange for information on Facebook and Goodreads.

2. Have specific goals. Are you trying to build an email list? Do you want to increase sales? Would you rather current fans or followers be more engaged with the content you post? Focus on what you are trying to accomplish, and then work from there to achieve it.

3. Create a system similar to Chris Syme’s SMART method so you can actually build a fanbase and sell books. One tip to keep in mind is to deliver different messages, in different ways, to different audience segments. What to post and the number of times to post per day varies among Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Also, younger readers tend to use Instagram and Tumblr more, and older readers tend to stick with Facebook. Keep your goals and audience in mind when coming up with a system.

4. Build trust. If you don’t have a customer’s trust, then how can you expect them to buy from you? Seth Godin goes into detail on his blog about permission marketing, which involves earning the privilege to send “anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” You earn this privilege by delivering on promises, creating and sharing valuable content, and eventually having enough credibility that people believe in you and your products.

5. Engage with your community. Engagement can help build trust, and there are many ways to connect with your audience and make them feel special. A few ideas include:

• polling cover images or character names
• hosting weekly Twitter chats with a hashtag that promotes an author, book or fan group,
• shouting out to readers who email or share messages on social media
• giving away copies of books with personalized thank you notes
• posting videos that give behind-the-scenes information about a book
• sharing chapter reveals
• mailing swag, like stickers or illustrations
• sending email updates about upcoming novels
• setting up forums or groups on Facebook or Google+ to encourage discussion

6. Work agilely. Now that I work in tech, I get to see the agile method firsthand. Breaking down your marketing strategy and focusing on making it incrementally better, two weeks at a time, can make a big difference. You can take a loose interpretation of the agile methodology and apply it to marketing. The idea is to work on a two-week schedule, called “sprints,” and meet a goal or set of goals by the end of the sprint. To determine what to work on in each sprint, take some time to assess feedback and figure out what’s engaging people and what content they want to see. Then adjust your plan accordingly.

What components do you take into consideration for your marketing plan? What works best for you? Please let me know in the comments.

An Interview with Charles Salter, Author of The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings

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Charles Salter is the author of The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings, book 4 in the Kare Kids Adventures series:

Twelve year old twins Josh and Hannah travel from the USA to visit their Uncle Olaf in Norway. Olaf runs the Museum of Norse Antiquities in Oslo, and the museum’s greatest treasure-the Viking chieftain Leif Erikson’s fabled Sunstone-is stolen. Hot on the trail of the suspected thief, the twins ride on a dizzyingly high train through the Scandes Mountains to Norway’s largest fjord, a deep waterway which connects directly to the North Sea. While spying on the suspect’s suspicious behavior, the twins are suddenly kidnapped on the train! They elude their captors by breaking free, sneaking across the top of the train as it chugs through a tunnel, and tricking the kidnappers. Then they learn the thief’s true motivation: to use the Sunstone to interpret the coded Undredal Runes so as to re-create the Viking super-warriors known as Berserkers. Can the twins defeat the plot, return the stolen treasure, and save the world from the secret of Viking Berserkers which has been concealed for a thousand years?

Read on for an interview with Charles (you can also read his interview about The Secret of Bald Rock Island (Kare Kids Adventures #1) and How Three Brothers Saved the Navy (Kare Kids Adventures #3)). Continue reading

Writers Boon, a One-Stop Shop for Authors

The process for publishing has many moving parts. In addition to writing, editing, packaging, and distributing, there’s marketing and different strategies to consider. Writers Boon, a new platform, aims to help authors with everything they need to know when it comes to publishing their books. Read on for an interview with Carol Vorvain, Co-Founder and CEO of Writers Boon.

Continue reading

Chickadee Prince, a Small Press and Pop-up Bookstore

chickadeeprincelogo3Pop-up stores are fun. Sometimes they’re themed, sometimes they sell unique things, and they often have an urgent, fun atmosphere, since they only plan to stick around for a set amount of time.

Chickadee Prince, a small press based in Brooklyn, is planning on opening up a pop-up bookstore, in addition to publishing new titles. Read on for a great Q&A with founder Steven S. Drachman, who created Chickadee Prince from a bookseller’s perspective. Continue reading