I think the working title that garnered the most interest was
The Box Under The Bed
and I’m not sure who came up with it. Might’ve been me but I think I riffed off somebody else or somebody else came up with it entirely. If we figure it out, we’ll let you know. It’s in the comments somewhere, if anyone has a lot of free time on their hands…
Each week we’re taking five, maybe ten, of YOUR writerly questions and setting about answering them for you.
Ask Dan ANYTHING
Skill level doesn’t matter. Newbie writer, veteran writer, you have questions. I’ll opine; maybe some others will chime in with their thoughts, and hopefully YOU will get several good solutions to choose from.
Or something like that.
Wanna know what dialogue tags are, and why you don’t want them in your story?
Wanna know how to create a “page turner” story?
Wanna know why you need to build an author platform?
And it doesn’t have to be directly writing related. Sometimes you need to get in the writing mood by NOT doing writer stuff. Maybe you wanna know about doing author events, but maybe you wanna know about public speaking, or… I don’t know; the London train system. (I had some trouble there, if you’ll recall.)
Or why so much of Europe requires you to pay to pee…
I don’t want to suggest ideas TO you, I wanna know what’s on YOUR mind.
What are YOU struggling with?
Ask me anything.
We have lots of smart people here; if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does. Or I’ll make something up.
Go ahead, you know you want to.
ASK ME ANYTHING!
Post your questions in the comment section below. I’ll answer the first five, maybe the first ten – so don’t goof off. Post your question NOW!
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious romantic comedy “Poggibonsi: an Italian misadventure.”
Click HERE to get your copy of Poggi FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
Occasionally on the blog we’ll feature a fellow author type who has discovered something you all need to know about (and if you already know this one, you still might check to ensure it works). Hey, if you already know, why didn’t YOU write a guest post for the rest of us and pull us out of the dark ages??? What’s up with that, Smarty Pants? You to good to help out?
Where was I?
Juliet Nubel is a friend of the blog and has commented here a lot and on other blogs. She’s a winner in our recent Word Weaver Writing Contest – and she found out something you might wanna check out.
But I’ll let her explain.
Can You See Me Now?
Maybe some of you have already seen my name. I’ve done a couple of guest blog posts here already for Dan and on some other sites. Plus, I won fifth place in the July Word Weaver Writing Contest (brag, brag, brag, brag). And I also like to comment here and there on other writers’ pieces when I feel that what someone has written is worthy of being noticed and praised. So
perhaps you’ve also spotted the silly little gravatar photo of me blowing out the candle on my fiftieth birthday cake.
You have? Great.
But have you ever actually met me?
Clicked on one of those comments to get through to my blog and discover who I really am?
No, of course you haven’t.
Because you couldn’t.
Because my blog was unfortunately wearing an invisibility cloak.
And to make matters even worse, it has taken me almost a year to realise it!
Luckily I’ve just managed to remove the damned thing and I am now as visible as a solar eclipse in broad daylight, as long as you are wearing the necessary glasses of course. Thank heavens for that.
What the **** am I talking about?
Let me explain.
When I first started my blog omgimfiftyblog.wordpress.com last October I was absolutely incapable of undertaking even the easiest bits of setting it up on my own. All I wanted to do was write, and not worry about the technicalities and pain in the bum side of things. So my daughter put it all in place, created the name, the domain, and the rain which falls mainly on the plain in Spain (ignore that, I get carried away very easily).
I knew nothing about anything bloggish so I just nodded and smiled and said “Yes, darling, that’s great”, impatiently waiting for the moment when I could finally start posting (she showed me how to do that too).
Yahoo! I was off on a trip to Blogsville. Writing, posting, reading, commenting, writing, posting, reading, commenting. Over and over and over.
I did wonder why I never seemed to get any extra views after commenting on other people’s sites.
But hey, I’m a newbie. Maybe that’s just the way things work in this vast town.
I’m often curious to know who’s behind an interesting comment but perhaps other people aren’t.
That’s rubbish! They are.
But little did I know that when anyone tried to click on my name to visit my blog all they got was a message saying that it didn’t exist.
I can’t believe that I never actually checked this out earlier. But why would I click on my own name? I’m way too modest to do that.
Until yesterday. But I wasn’t checking to see if it was working. It was out of pure laziness. I was putting a comment on Carrie Ann Alexis’ fabulous story “Sparkles in Time” right here on Dan’s site, when I suddenly remembered something I needed to edit on one of my own posts.I’ll take a shortcut to my blog through my comment, I thought to myself. Quick click. Nothing. I must have done something wrong. Another click. “This blog doesn’t exist”, I was told again. Last try –
“Stop clicking, woman! We already told you: this blog doesn’t exist.”
What do you mean? I screamed at the screen.
Dan will confirm that I immediately sent him an email to see if he knew what was going on. Yes, I admit it, a nasty little voice was whispering in my ear “maybe this is his mistake”. Of course now I know that you had absolutely nothing to do with it, Dan, but it’s always easier to think someone else is to blame. Sorry for that.
Later in the evening I started going through comments I had put on other favourite sites. The same message was on every single one. The link to my blog was absent, missing, presumed dead.
Oopsie! This is a problem from within, I realised. My fault after all.
Techie daughter was not home. Artsy daughter was busy (writing on her own blog: emmanubel.com – it’s in French, about contemporary artists, but have a look, you might enjoy it) so was in no mood to help her old thicko mother.
So guess what, folks. I fixed it myself!
Well, with the help of a WordPress expert named Ajay who answered my question in exactly eleven minutes.
Maybe at this point you should quickly go onto one of your own comments somewhere and see if you can click through to your site, because apparently I am not the only one to have encountered this problem. I’ll wait here.
Okay. Here’s what you have to do. I’ll write slowly so that you can do it as we go along.
ARE YOU READY?
Go onto My Site (that means yoursite, not mine). See the tiny round picture (your gravatar photo) at the top right-hand side of the page? The one beside the notifications bell. Click on it and it will open the My Profile page.
On this page you will see your First and Last Name and your Public Display Name. For me this public display name had been set to omgimfiftyblog which is not a pretty name to wear. But since I thought this was set in stone I had just kept it and signed all my comments as Juliet.
But this can be changed. Hallelujah. I am now showing directly as Juliet Nubel which, although accurate, does make me sound a bit too strict and serious. Never mind. So here you can put whatever name you’d like to be shown as, and then save it.
But my main problem was not just my name. It was the fact that I didn’t have the correct address of my blog available on my Account Settings, which is just under My Profile on the left hand column of the same page.
When you click on this it will bring up your Username at the top. Do NOT try to change this. Alarm bells started wailing and I’m sure I heard a police car arriving at my gate when I tried, so I avoided doing that before they rang the doorbell.
What I needed to change in fact was simply the Web Address, which for some strange reason (no, I’m not blaming my darling daughter) was different from my blog’s actual address. If this is the case for you too, type in the correct address, make sure the two match, then save again. Nothing else on this page really has to be altered.
Next, write a quick comment on this post at the bottom of the page and then click on your name to see if you can now get through to your own website. You can? Brilliant!
If you can’t then maybe you can contact Ajay. He’s good. Much better than me and he will not treat you as if you just started kindergarten – my apologies for that.
So now that you can actually see me and I can see you, why don’t we click through to each other’s blogs and find out a bit more about who’s behind the name?
I swear I’m not half as serious as my new Public Display Name, or my fifth-place text in the contest (double brag) make me out to be.
I’m chatty, I’m cheeky, I’m jolly and I’m bright, so maybe you should put on those special eclipse glasses again before you take a peek.
Thanks, Juliet, for shedding light on a problem I bet a lot of people had and didn’t know!
Okay, gang: post a comment, click your name link, and tell us what happens!
One of our Honorable Mention winners, Scott Skipper, wrote a delightful and amusing story for our contest, and the tension present in the comedy was terrific.
Scott is a California fiction writer with a broad range of interests, including history, genealogy, travel, science and current events. His wry outlook on life infects his novels with biting sarcasm. Prisoners are never taken. Political correctness is taboo. His work includes historical fiction, alternative history, novelized biography, science fiction and political satire. He is a voracious reader and habitual and highly opinionated reviewer.
Today we sit down with Scott and discuss his writerly world. Pull up a chair.
You can read Scott’s winning story, The Stainless Steel Coffin, HERE.
DAN: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?
SCOTT SKIPPER: I wrote The Stainless Steel Coffin as a standalone short story many years ago when I was in the metal fabrication business. It’s based on something that actually happened to a business associate.
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
When I a story idea creeps into my brain, I develop an outline and/or timeline. Keeping the timing straight is often my toughest challenge. Before I start to write, I create character profiles. I like to give characters traits that I borrow from people I’ve known.
Where do you do your writing?
I write with a laptop in front of a picture window with a rose garden in the foreground and the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. When I get stuck, I enjoy the view.
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
In fact, yes. I’d like to earn some money, at least enough to support my gin habit.
What helps you the most when it comes to writing?
What does writing success look like?
The only thing better than accolades and glowing reviews is runaway sales.
What are you working on now?
A disaster romance. It’s about a couple who meet on the beach below the San Onofre nuclear power plant during a major earthquake. Watch for it. It will be called Half Life.
There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
The fact that you plan to consider using entries in an anthology.
Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
Only one other, but the results have not been released as of this writing. Most contests are too restrictive, either with regard to genre, word count, or onerous entry fee.
Will we see you again in the October Word Weaver Writing Contest?
Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
Special? Hell, I think everything I write is special. Some of it is especially bad, but I won’t publish it if I’m not proud of it. I will say; however, that I think A Little Rebellion Now and Then is the best thing I’ve written to date.
What’s next for you?
After I publish my eleventh novel, Half Life, I’ll begin working on number twelve.
What is your opinion of self-publishing?
I think it’s the greatest thing since sex. Not only because it frees writers from that tiresome refrain: “Thank you for your submission, but it’s not what we are looking for at this time,” but it gives readers access to great work that does not fit the mold. Traditional publishers loathe to take risks. I read almost exclusively self-published authors these days. I enjoy its freedom and quirkiness.
Yecheilyah Ysrayl, friend of the blog, Word Weaver Writing Contest sponsor, and author of Renaissance: The Nora White Story, joins us today to shed insights on how to do stuff I didn’t even know about. No kidding!
And you need to know it, too.
Why I Built an ARC Team (and what it is)
I didn’t think anything of it.
In fact, I thought it was what everyone was doing.
I thought it was standard and that I was just behind the curve ball.
I certainly didn’t think Dan would offer to give me the keys to the house to explain it.
“Brilliant”, he had said, “People need to know this stuff.” So, here I am. Kicking off my shoes, eating up all Dan’s snacks and checking the fridge for water. I would say coffee but Dan doesn’t have any. Weird.
When I started my Book Review Registry two years ago, I got bit by the Indie Author Support bug. Helping others is a lot of fun and I decided I wanted to do whatever I could to help authors, starting with reviewing their books. I also wanted to do this because I hadn’t, until then, read too many Indie books, which I feel is part of any Indie Author’s responsibility.
But something was wrong.
While I’ve reviewed lots of books, the reviews for my own books were lacking and it was about to get worse. I was about to get burned.
Last year, during the release of The Road to Freedom – Joseph’s Story, I gave away several copies of the book to people who said that they would review it. This was not a situation in which someone stated they may review your book or someone bought the book and made that decision after finishing. No.
“People told me that they were definitely going to review. One person even emailed me to say that they were among those serious people I’d asked for.
Excited, I sent them copies.
Months passed, and then a year. I never heard from the people again. No email. No review. No feedback. I was devastated. All I could do was assume they disliked the book but not even an email to let me know? No insight? No feedback? Did they fall off the face of the Earth?
Yes, I was naive. While I’ve been publishing books for years, I did not always have insight into the business of writing and for a long time my books weren’t even on Amazon. I garnered one or two reviews and I didn’t think much of it as I didn’t understand how important they were. Long story short, when I gave away those copies, I thought that people were supposed to be honest. I thought that people would do what they said they would. I thought that a man’s word was everything.
“What support system do you have in place for your books?”
Me: “Err, what?”
Someone asked me this question during an interview once. It was a good question. It was time I start to look out for me the same as I look out for others.
That is when I decided this year would be different. I would be picky with who I handed my hard work over to read and I would have a system in place to garner more reviews.
I decided that I would have something in place to help me to receive honest feedback from readers who wouldn’t leave me hanging.
Most importantly, I decided this was OK.
As an extremely reserved and introverted person, I don’t like to be out in the front. I’d rather stand in the background. I love helping people. It makes me feel good to make others feel good. But, I had to remind myself that helping Yecheilyah is OK too. In fact, it is critical. It is foundational. If not, then I am a naked person offering you a shirt. If I didn’t take care of me, then I couldn’t possibly take care of others. How can I give if I am empty? I decided this year would be very different. I would place myself at the top of the list. This year, I would keep myself full.
In context, I would create a system to help boost my reviews.
ARC is short for Advanced Review Copy. It is when authors give away free copies of their work before it releases, in exchange for honest reviews. The process involves readers who read the author’s book and post an honest review concerning what they thought of the book. But it’s about more than posting a review. This process also involves readers who give the author honest feedback on the work as well. Some readers even go as far as to help their authors to edit. In brief, giving out ARC’s to readers is the best way to get early reviews during a pre-launch. It is how Renaissance launched with six reviews on the day of release.
Wait…let me back up…
I said giving ARC copies to readers is the best way to garner reviews for your books. This isn’t always the case as not everyone who receives a copy of your book will review it. In some cases, half of the people who sign up to review, won’t. Worse, you may not hear a word from them as to why and there’s nothing you can do about it. After all, no one is ever obligated to review a book and you can’t force them to. This can be a waste of money for authors who cannot afford to give away their work and can also be disheartening. If my book sucked, I at least wanna hear about it (but, like, do sandwich the criticism between two soft pieces of bread, js.)
That’s when I decided to get creative, as Independent artists must often do. Not only would I build a team, but I would create an ARC list that readers can join who are interested in my work. Instead of giving away Advanced Review Copies, I would create an Advanced Review Copy Team.
ARC Teams are also referred to as Street Teams, Beta Readers, or Book Ambassadors and are readers who are often pulled from the author’s email list subscribers. These are the readers who are most serious about that author’s work. They read every book that author releases and truly enjoy the writing and want to help that author out. They are real fans.
What makes an ARC Team unique is that instead of authors giving their books away to anyone who says they’ll read it,
a team creates a partnership between author and reader
and because partnerships benefit all parties, no one is left hanging. Readers have access to free books in exchange for their honest reviews and feedback and Authors increase their number of reviews and get behind the scenes feedback on their work. For my team, readers also qualify for freebies every now and again based on their level of support because, well, reading takes time and no one is obligated to review your book. For those who do take this time, why not give back? Let me make it clear that this is not the same thing as giving away awards in exchange for reviews. That’s not recommended and I do believe it’s against Amazon’s terms and conditions. The incentive part of my ARC Program is to show gratitude to the readers who take the time to support the work to the fullest.In other words, they are passionate about helping. They go all the way in.
If you are looking for a creative way to increase your number of reviews (and feedback), consider creating an ARC Team.
I don’t mean giving away ARC copies of your book to random people. I mean creating an email list dedicated to readers who are willing to offer their time to reviewing your books and providing feedback. In this case, you are not just throwing manuscripts out into the ether to see who will bite. Instead,
you are organizing a group of dedicated, active readers who you can be sure will review your books (or at least offer feedback)
without transgressing Amazon’s terms and conditions. These are not people you paid, forced, or coerced. These are people who are there for you because they choose to be. (If done right, you should always ensure that members can unsubscribe anytime).
Members who are not actively participating, not reading, reviewing, or giving feedback, are removed from my list. This is not to be mean. This is because there is no freedom without responsibility. It’s important that we are all held accountable for what we signed up for. As an author, I have given you a free copy of something I worked very hard on. This means that I am losing money giving it to you. All I ask in return is feedback. It does nothing for my growth to have readers who sit around opening emails and clicking on links while providing nothing in return.
How to Start Your ARC Team
Create an email list using your platform of choice, MailChimp, Mailer lite, etc. Inform your regular email list about your ARC Team opportunity. They should be the first to know. These are already people interested in your work so it only makes since to start here. Spend some time recruiting from your regular email list. I would say to give it about a month. People are busy so give them time to sign up. (So, start months before your next book releases) Let them know the benefits of such a program and what your rules are.
Create rules. Like I said, there’s no freedom without responsibility. Be clear on what you expect from the program and what you will and will not tolerate. (A time limit for reading the book is part of my structure because it’s important I get the feedback I need to make changes in a reasonable amount of time. This also ensures this process doesn’t last forever but feel free to run your team however you like.) Just be sure there are some guidelines in place. Have clear goals for your team and always leave the door open for members to unsubscribe at any time.
Disclaimers. Since we’re talking about rules, run your program however you like. But, I’d like to strongly recommend that for readers reviewing any book on Amazon, to include a disclaimer at the front end of any review of a book they did not buy. This ensures the review is published on Amazon. Something like “I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author” or “I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review” is good. I recommend the first statement (so that it doesn’t sound so obvious) but I’ve never run into problems using the second either so both are good. (Readers, if you advanced read the book but you also bought it, you’re good. The disclaimer is only recommended for those who did not purchase the book but are leaving reviews on Amazon. It helps so that Amazon’s bots don’t suspect any funny business from too many reviews being posted by people who didn’t purchase the book.)
Expand. After you think you’ve gathered enough readers from your list, put the word out on your blog. I just did this myself but my email list has known for some time now. After a couple months with no new subscriptions from your email list, it may be time to put the word out on the blog.
Be patient. My team is a small one right now but it is growing little by little. Don’t expect a whole bunch of people to sign up all at once. All good things take time.
If there’s one risk to this it’s that not everyone will want to purchase your work if they can get it for free. BUT you take this risk anyway when you give away ARC copies to random people, which always poses a gamble. Additionally, it could also go in the opposite direction. You can also have readers become more interested in your work. I have members who still bought Renaissance when it released even though they read an earlier copy. When people are part of the process, they feel more of a connection to you and the story and will, therefore, purchase the book regardless. Once people show interest in your writing, if they really like it, they tend to support you.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and to showcase your workto people who can help you to improve your writing.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that you never know what people are thinking and it’s a bad idea to assume that you do.
For readers of Black History, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and Young Adult
Yecheilyah is an Independent Author, Blogger and Poet. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling and movie nights with her husband. Additionally, Yecheilyah enjoys motivating and inspiring others. Originally from Chicago, Yecheilyah now resides in Shreveport LA where she writes full time.
Whether you plan to send a story for the anthology or not, I need your help.
We are all consumers. What strikes you as the best strategy here?
Free or $0.99, or something else?
What has YOUR buying experience been in the past?
The idea for an anthology was hatched after or during my second Word Weaver Writing Contest when we received so many good stories, I thought – hey, somebody needs to publish these…
Then I thought, hey – maybe I should publish these!
I’ve never participated in an anthology before, let alone produced and edited one, so I’m learning as I go. (But I have 18 published titles, a string of bestsellers, and I’ve been translated into 12 different languages and am read all over the word – so I figured, how hard could it be?) So far, not very hard.
THE PLAN:A bunch of us will write scary stories in August, get them edited and compiled in September, and put the book out to market all through Halloween month, October.
20 or so authors all helping market each other. That ought to get a few new eyeballs onto each of our respective websites and blogs!
Most of the stories have been submitted. I’ve reviewed 99% of them and sent back my suggestions; the stories are either resubmitted by now or are in process. (The deadline for an initial submission Sept 1.)
The Box Under The Bed
Right now, our working title is The Box Under The Bed and the main image for the cover is a scary eyeball. If you check the links for those items on my blog, you’ll see I pretty much ask stuff openly and let the input flow, because I can “poison the well” by admitting I like something; then a lot of my blog readers tend to agree. Here, I suggested titles and images, and the readers chose the ones they liked from my suggestions, while adding their own. We got the most interest for The Box Under The Bed and the scary eyeball image for the cover.
To be honest, it may have been somebody else who initially suggested The Box Under The Bed.
(If it was you, come forward and be recognized. Great title!)
I anticipate there will be no cost for contributing authors, and probably the book will be priced at $0, but that has yet to be decided. The theory, “what I pay for, I read” may apply here, and we want readers. I see anthologies for $4.99 with 2 reviews after almost a year and think that’s the wrong decision, but I’m not locked in either way.
My thinking is:
Price it free and then market the heck out of it, so we all get tons of exposure, OR
List it at $0.99 and market the heck out of it so we all get tons of exposure.
I think exposure is the goal.
Getting 20 people to all pull the marketing cart is the huge.
20 Twitter storms.
20 blog announcements.
20 Facebook shouts of pride.
20 happy, enthusiastic authors all beaming about how their little anthology is climbing the charts.
It’ll be a marketing course you’ll ALL be participating in.
Yeah, ALL of you. Because whether you enter a story in the anthology or not, you’ll be seeing and hearing about how it goes – and helping, I hope.
Most new authors will need help in marketing anyway, and exposing our stories to 19 other audiences should result in a few new fans for each of us. Pricing higher than $0.99 for a bunch of basically unknown authors probably will result in very few sales and therefore very little exposure, and I think exposure is the goal.
The only reason I can see to even price it at $0.99 is so people are more committed and actually read it, as opposed to a zillion downloads to free book hoarders who grab free books and don’t read them. That said, a free book can be out there working all the time as a free sample, getting try something new from each of us at no risk to the reader, and a free book pushed hard by a lot of people will almost certainly land us on a few #1 lists – which never hurts for marketing purposes.
It’s a question to still be answered, obviously.
If we charge, I have no idea how to split up any revenues, but I anticipate minimal costs, which, free or $0.99, I’d probably pay for and tell everyone the costs and ask them to pay a share. (I doubt it’ll be over $100, so everybody ought to be able to kick in $5, you know? But right now I’m not asking anyone to do that;I might pay all the costs and then collect royalties to cover, THEN split up any profits equally.)
Help me out:
If you’ve ever participated in an anthology, what’s your experience been?
If you’ve bought books from an author who was other than your known favorite, from someone new and unknown to you, WHY did you – and does free get you to read, or does $0.99 – or something else?