Friend of the blog Al Macy steps forward again to enlighten us as to some of his successes using KBoards and other forums to glean information he’s used to tweak his book covers or polish a blurb. Forums have been elusive to me, so I asked Al to shed some light on them for us. He graciously accepted. (So glad he doesn’t have his own blog!)
Dan: What is a forum?
Al: A forum in an online discussion group or bulletin board. It’s kind of like a party for introverts. A party for people interested in a specific topic. It’s not live, like a chat room, so you can jump into a conversation at any time. You might wake up a three a.m. and think of an answer or comment you want to post.
I say “for introverts” because you can choose how much to participate. You may decide not to say anything at all.
What are the benefits of forums?
Second only to Googling for information, asking questions on forums is a great way to get information online. Not only that, but participating in forums often answers questions you didn’t even know you had.
For example, if I wanted to learn how to create a cover for a book, I might Google “How to design a book cover.” But if I wanted to get some feedback on a cover I created, I’d start a forum thread with a title such as “Please give me feedback on this book cover.”
Sometimes you need an answer for a specific question. For example, in a forum about writing, someone might post a question entitled, “Comma After Short Introductory Phrase?” In the body of the post, he or she might write:
I always thought that every introductory phrase should be followed by a comma, but I’ve heard that in a sentence like, “So, Bob decided to stop eating pencils,” I should omit the comma. What do you think?
Ask a question like that and you’re likely to get some good answers.
What are the disadvantages?
People are weird. Well, some people. In addition to helpful replies, you are likely to get some irrelevant, thoughtless, and downright mean responses. For example, for the above question about commas, you might get a response like:
Do you believe everything you hear? You need to learn to judge things for yourself instead of blindly following what other people tell you. Sheesh!
Stop trying to follow rules. There are no rules. Just write the way you feel! Sheesh!
Follow your heart. Only you can judge your own writing.
But sprinkled in, you’re likely to get a good answer to your question. Something like:
I’ve struggled with this same question. I decide based on whether I hear a pause after the word “so.” In the sentence, “So, how are you?” I hear a pause, and I put a comma. If someone just demonstrated a handstand and say “So that’s how I do it!” I don’t hear a pause, and I leave out the comma. If in doubt, I put it in.
What are some forums that you belong to?
I’ve found forums for all of my interests. For example, bicycling, surfing, early-retirement, heating with firewood, cooking, and writing.
For self-publishing and book marketing advice, the best forum I’ve found is Kboards.com. That’s a general Kindle forum, but there’s a section called Writer’s Cafe that caters to writers.
For general writing advice, I sometimes hang out at a forum at Writer’s Digest (http://www.writersdigest.com/forum/). That’s a pretty small forum, but it usually produces some answers.
What About AbsoluteWrite.com?
AbsoluteWrite is the biggest writing forum in the world, but I didn’t have a good experience there. People seemed strangely aggressive. I found that others have had the same experience (see this article: https://michaeljmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/why-im-done-with-absolutewrite-or-the-post-that-lets-two-dozen-people-say-lol-told-you-so/ ).
Can you give me some examples of how forums have helped you?
For general ideas, I’ve gotten some amazing help at the Early-Retirement.org forum. I’m friends with a lot of people there, but mostly it’s populated with smart people.
Here’s an example how they, mostly non-writers, have helped. In my latest book, Yesterday’s Thief, a woman travels from 1980 to 2020 in a time machine. She arrives naked, so she can’t take anything with her.
So, I wanted a suggestion for where she could hide money, stock certificates, gold, or other things so that she could retrieve them forty years in the future. The forum members discussed different ideas: burying it, safe deposit box (wouldn’t work because she wouldn’t have an ID).
The brilliant idea that someone came up with, and which I used was this: Put it in a burial urn in a mortuary. Bingo. I never would have thought of that. You can see the thread here.
As another example I brainstormed title ideas with the help of forum members on Kboards.com. I had planned to call the book The Lady Unvanishes, but I soon realized that wasn’t a great title. One problem was that it’s a take-off on the title of a movie that was published in 1938!
I presented my ideas in a forum thread entitled “Please Help me Brainstorm a Title,” and got many wonderful suggestions. You can see the thread here. The one that seemed to get the most interest (among titles that hadn’t already been used for another book), was Yesterday’s Thief.
So, I picked twelve of my favorite titles, and had members vote on them. Yesterday’s Thief got the most votes (thread here).
Finally, here’s a question that’s more directly related to writing. A character in my book didn’t speak English well, but some scenes were written from her point of view. I needed guidance on whether I should write those scenes with perfect or broken English. I got excellent guidance in this thread:
How does one get started with a forum?
There’s not much to it. Usually you visit the forum and click on a “Register” button. You’ll choose a name and password, and you may have to confirm your email address by responding to an email.
I recommend that before you post questions or answers, you spend some time “lurking.” That is, read the threads of others and get a feeling for the general atmosphere.
When you’re ready to post, you might start by introducing yourself. Sometimes there are special sections just for those kinds of posts.
Gang, Al has been kind enough to share his experiences; feel free to share yours or ask any questions. Here are Al’s links, and be sure to preorder his latest book, Yesterday’s Thief on Amazon!
Contact Us: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00V73HKOI
The Antiterrorist: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZS51IJE
Yesterday’s Thief: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018UOTOEA
Sign up for Al’s Newsletter http://pages.suddenlink.net/almacystuff/signupantiterrorist.htm
Al’s Amazon Author page http://www.amazon.com/Al-Macy/e/B00HS3BO2U
Al’s Facebook page Facebook.com/AlMacyAuthor
Al’s Twitter ID @AlMacyAuthor
Al’s author web site AlMacyAuthor.com
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.