Monthly Archives: October 2017

Talkback: Authors and booksellers on stocking self-published books


With a number of traditionally published authors moving into self-publishing, there’s never been a greater demand for bricks-and-mortar bookstores to stock self-published titles. Andrea Hanke asked hybrid author Ellie Marney and booksellers Kym Bagley from Dymocks Melbourne and Angela Crocombe from Readings Kids how self-published titles are making their way into bookstores. 

When YA author Ellie Marney released her first self-published book No Limits in August, she set about trying to get printed copies stocked in bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Marney says her preferred method was to supply the books through Ingram’s POD printing service IngramSpark, a process she describes as ‘fairly straightforward for booksellers’. ‘Every self-published author I know who offers POD copies through Ingram offers booksellers a wholesale discount and the ability to return stock, like a regular publisher. All a bookseller needs to know is the book’s ISBN, and then they’re ready to roll.’

‘It’s a pretty smooth process, once a bookseller has an Ingram account,’ says Marney, who consulted with other authors from the self-publishing community in her response to Books+Publishing’s questions. ‘Retailers who haven’t ordered with Ingram before usually have a direct debit process for the first order or two, until their line of credit is established, and then they can choose invoiced accounting. Freight costs are also ‘highly competitive’, says Marney.

Despite this, Marney says the response from bookstores when it comes to POD orders has been ‘variable’. ‘Some booksellers are concerned about quality, or find the POD process too different from their typical order process to invest in titles.’

The other option is to offer self-published books on consignment, but Marney has reservations about this model. ‘Some self-published authors I know do large-scale offset print runs and all their sales are on consignment. But that means you’re also working as a distributor, as well as an author and publisher, so you are following up on unpaid invoices, and driving books to stores, or arranging delivery and so on—it’s pretty hard work, for a single individual.’

Marney also notes that consignment sales often produce ‘pretty minimal returns’. ‘Selling No Limits on consignment, for instance, would earn me less than one dollar per book, when I could earn many times more than that selling online, and I would be doing significantly more work to move consignment books into stores. So for me, consignment sales aren’t really worth it.’

Marney acknowledges that a bookseller’s decision to stock a self-published title is a gamble, but argues that the gamble ‘probably isn’t that far removed from investing in titles from a regular publisher, if the author is professional and reputable and is providing high-quality books that readers want’. ‘A savvy retailer would look at the author’s listed titles on online sites, and gauge how they’re moving, being reviewed etc, and make their own decision,’ she says.

There are also things that self-publishers can do to increase their chances of being stocked: providing high-quality books in the first instance, and supplying booksellers with the necessary information to order in the titles. Marney says that when No Limits was first released she created an info sheet with details about the book and how to order copies through Ingram, which she handed out to booksellers. ‘It wasn’t a glossy brochure, but it did make interacting with booksellers easier,’ says Marney.

The bookseller’s perspective

For Kym Bagley, general fiction buyer and inventory manager at Dymocks Melbourne, the biggest barrier to stocking self-published books is lack of time. ‘Bookselling is such a time-intensive occupation that sometimes even finding five minutes to reply to an email is impossible,’ says Bagley.

Bagley says she prefers to receive books directly from the author, usually on consignment, as the store hasn’t had much experience with POD. She also recommends self-published authors provide a ‘concise info sheet’ with a short blurb, cover image, author information, cost and retail price, ISBN, delivery information and any other relevant marketing information that might help with sales. ‘Having all that at our fingertips would make it a lot easier to decide if we should stock a book,’ says Bagley.

The look of a self-published book is also a big factor. ‘We have had success with a great little novel called Redemption by a Port Fairy author Tracie Griffith this year because the cover is great and the book looks professionally printed,’ says Bagley. ‘Because we have so many books on the shelves, sometimes self-published books with that high gloss perfect bound cover get overlooked.’

Authors who work hard to publicise their books also have an advantage, says Bagley. ‘Ellie Marney has such a strong social media following that it makes it easy to sell the books. We also have success with authors who have strong academic credentials, or who are getting out there doing interviews in the local media and public radio. It’s not all about Twitter! But Twitter really does help.’

It’s a similar story at Readings Kids, where manager Angela Crocombe receives between two and five requests from self-published authors per week. ‘It can be very time-consuming when we have so much else to do,’ she says.

Consignment rather than POD is also the store’s preferred method of stocking self-published titles. ‘We ask authors to send us a copy of their book for perusal to make sure that it is of a sufficient quality that we think we can sell it in store,’ says Crocombe. ‘Then we have a consignment form that we ask authors to fill out and send us the quantity of books we request. We only pay the authors if the books sell but we are very happy to have them in store and to put them on our website.’

Crocombe says Readings Kids only orders POD books if they anticipate a high demand, or if a customer has requested a copy. She observes: ‘These books often don’t have the same quality as a traditionally printed book (I feel) and they are also not returnable, which makes it difficult for a bookstore.’ While many POD printing services do allow self-published authors the opportunity to offer booksellers returns, the choice to select this capability lies with each author.

Crocombe believes that many self-published authors could do more to improve the quality of their books. ‘Often I see picture books with far too much text for their audience, books that do not have the title and author on the spine (which is impossible for shelving spine out) and even books without an ISBN. These are all basic things that need to be done to ensure a book is presented well for booksellers and consumers,’ she says.

She also recommends self-published authors ‘do a bit of promotion and let people know where their book is available in order to help with sales’. ‘A little local media can be a wonderful thing. If an author can use social media to promote their book and where it is available, this is very helpful,’ says Crocombe.’

Source :booksandpublishing

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10 Descriptive Writing Practices


Descriptive writing is the art of painting a picture with words.

In fiction, we describe settings and characters. In poetry, we describe scenes, experiences, and emotions. In creative nonfiction, we describe reality.

Classic literature was dense with description whereas modern literature usually keeps description to a minimum.

Compare the elaborate descriptions in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy with the descriptions in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Both series relied on description to help readers visualize an imagined, fantastical world, but Rowling did not use her precious writing space to describe standard settings whereas Tolkien frequently paused all action and spent pages describing a single landscape.

This isn’t unique to Tolkien and Rowling; if you compare most literature from the beginning of of the 20th century and earlier to today’s work, you’ll see that we just don’t dedicate much time and space to description anymore.

I think this radical change in how we approach description is directly tied to the wide availability of film, television, and photography. Let’s say you were living in the 19th century, writing a story about a tropical island for an audience of northern, urban readers. You would be fairly certain that most of your readers had never seen such an island and had no idea what it looked like. To give your audience a full sense of your story’s setting, you’d need pages of detail describing the lush jungle, sandy beaches, and warm waters.

Nowadays, we all know what a tropical island looks like, thanks to the wide availability of media. Even if you’ve never been to such an island, surely you’ve seen one on TV.

Descriptive Writing in the 21st Century

This might explain why few books on the craft of writing address descriptive writing. The focus is usually on other elements, like character, plot, theme, and structure. While modern readers don’t require lengthy descriptions, descriptive writing is an essential skill, even in the modern world.

For contemporary writers, the trick is to make the description as precise and detailed as possible while keeping it to a minimum. Most readers want characters and action with just enough description so that they can imagine the story as it’s unfolding.

Descriptive writing is especially important for speculative fiction writers and poets. If you’ve created a fantasy world, then you’ll need to deftly describe it to readers. Lewis Carroll not only described Wonderland; he also described the fantastical creatures that inhabited it. In poetry, the challenge is to describe things in a visceral way.

Simple descriptions are surprisingly easy to execute. All you have to do is look at something (or imagine it) and write what you see. But well crafted descriptions require writers to pay diligence to word choice, to describe only those elements that are most important, and to use engaging language to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

10 Descriptive Writing Practices

Here are some descriptive writing ideas that will inspire you while providing opportunities to practice writing description. If you don’t have much experience with descriptive writing, you may find that your first few attempts are flat and boring. If you can’t keep readers engaged, they’ll wander off. Work at crafting descriptions that are compelling and mesmerizing.

  1. Go to one of your favorite spots and write a description of the setting: it could be your bedroom, favorite coffee shop, or a local park. Leave people, dialogue, and action out of it. Just focus on explaining what the space looks like.
  2. Who is your favorite character from the movies? Describe the character from head to toe. Show the reader not only what the character looks like, but also how the character acts. Do this without including action or dialogue. Remember: description only!
  3. Thirty years ago we didn’t have cell phones or the Internet. Now we have cell phones that can access the Internet. Think of a device or gadget that we’ll have thirty years from now and describe it.
  4. Since modern fiction is light on description, many young and new writers often fail to include details, even when the reader needs them. Go through one of your writing projects and make sure elements that readers may not be familiar with are adequately described.
  5. Sometimes in a narrative, a little description provides respite from all the action and dialogue. Make a list of things from a story you’re working on (gadgets, characters, settings, etc.), and for each one, write a short description of no more than a hundred words.
  6. As mentioned, Tolkien often spent pages describing a single landscape. Choose one of your favorite pieces of classic literature, find a long passage of description, and rewrite it. Try to cut the descriptive word count in half.
  7. When you read a book, use a highlighter to mark sentences and paragraphs that contain description. Don’t highlight every adjective and adverb. Look for longer passages that are dedicated to description.
  8. Write a description for a child. Choose something reasonably difficult, like the solar system. How do you describe it in such a way that a child understands how he or she fits into it?
  9. Most writers dream of someday writing a book. Describe your book cover.
  10. Write a one-page description of yourself.

If you have any descriptive writing practices to add to this list, feel free to share them in the comments.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward

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Cliffhanger: Dan Brown at Frankfurt Book Fair on the ‘Origin’ of His Work’s Drama

It’s dangerous when religion thinks it has the market cornered on morality,’ Dan Brown told his readers at the Frankfurt Book Fair. His thriller ‘Origin’ originates with a conviction: faith is to be questioned.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Bestselling ‘Open-Mindedness’

When Dan Brown speaks in Germany, you not only get to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but you also can hear that pin drop. A near-capacity audience at the Frankfurt Book Fair listened with rapt attention on Saturday evening (October 14) as Brown discussed his newly released Origin onstage.

Bastei Lübbe is Brown’s German publisher, and the company’s chief operating officer Klaus Kluge, publisher Birgit Lübbe, and publishing director Marco Schneides were on hand for the evening, as was Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle.

Affable and witty, Brown had a sofa to himself and bantered comfortably with the evening’s host, Alf Mentzer of hr2 Kultur. Mentzer drove the evening, a loquacious emcee, regaling the audience in German with an intricate point or two about the book’s themes and Brown’s comments—and then, without missing a beat, turning to the guest author, time and time again, with a concise question in English.

The actor Wolfram Koch—of Houston and the new The Captain from Robert Schwentke—had a small reading desk onstage from which he delivered lengthy passages from the new book’s text in German. At one point, Brown complimented Koch on the resonant tension he was able to create for the audience. 

And for all the excitement in the room—along with the theological concepts that crackle in Origin—the evening never went hoaky or maudlin. Even a promotional video about the Spanish settings of the new thriller was tastefully made, expensively shot and edited. In its narration, as in his chatter onstage, Brown kept everything grounded and engaging with winking self-deprecation.

“I’m not a big fan of heights,” he admitted as the video showed him inside a cable car swinging queasily over boulders below, “and sometimes the research takes me to where I don’t want to be.” Outside the gondola, the magnificent Catalan cliffs of the monastery at Monserrat were rising, dizzyingly, behind him. “It looks like that’s the case today.”

This was a wry line that Brown had just pulled off, for anyone who knows his fondness for chapter-ending cliffhangers.

‘The Human Mind Despises Chaos’

Brown’s new book, as The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin writes, “pits creationism against science, and is liable to stir up as much controversy as The Da Vinci Code did.” The story turns on an assertion of a theory that basically shoves religion out of the way. The monastery at Montserrat is where a futurist named Kirsch goes to shock three formidable figures in world religion with his insights, leaders of The Parliament of the World’s Religions. Like the settings, a note from the author tells readers, each religious organization in the book is real.

“One of the big problems of the world right now is that we’re not entering a dialogue with the people who disagree with us.”Dan Brown

Needless to say, Robert Langdon is needed quickly and, aha!, handily is one of Kirsch’s former professors at Harvard. It’s a small world when the end is nigh.

The Bilbao Guggenheim and modern art feature heavily in the book, too, as did the Louvre in The Da Vinci Code.

As Mentzer got around to this point, asking if museums compete for chances to be featured in his books. Brown looked out at the audience, a weary smile on his face: “You know, I do get an awful lot of gift books from museums,” he deadpanned.

Readers are comfortable with Brown’s art, too, it seems, Origin in the States capping the Top 10 overall list collated by Nielsen BookScan, Publishers Weekly’s Carolyn Juris reports (Doubleday, 144,759 units)–and “Brown bags it,” as The Bookseller’s Kiera O’Brien tells us, for a second week in the the UK, leading the Official Top 50, at 60,602 copies.

But as the evening wore on, the writer proved to be doing some deft verbal softshoe around issues as real and as serious as those religious organizations and settings he enjoys.

“We are a young nation,” he told the audience at one point, in reference to Trumpian America. “We’ve made a few mistakes lately.”

His concern appears to be authentic. “I’m worried that the terrible capability of our technologies is moving faster than our philosophies,” he said.

What if the world’s science really has outstripped faith-based prudence? It was hard not to think of one religion’s adherents driving another’s from Myanmar, or of the northern part of a peninsula being pressed into a nuclear corner by a bullying geopolitical tit-for-tat.

‘Dialogue With People Who Disagree With Us’

No author or entertainer could ask for a more attentive audience than Frankfurt’s Messe-goers. Not even a cough broke the hush as they listened to this author. His best anecdotes drew huge rounds of applause.

“It seems like above all, right now, everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening. So I listen very carefully when people disagree with me.”Dan Brown

Whenever the conversation onstage got close to religion and art, Brown was most eagerly in his element, stirring currents of contemporary qualm and concern.

Book bannings came up, for example: “When I wrote The Da Vinci Code,” Brown said, “I may have been naive, but I didn’t know it would be so controversial. When I grew up, my mom was very, very religious. My dad was a math teacher.” Faith and science, married–like all Brownian themes, crystal clear. “It was a very strange household,” he said with a laugh.

“But I was allowed to ask questions of my faith. And that book asked the hypothetical question, ‘What would it mean, literally, if Jesus Christ were not the son of God?’ I thought that was a perfectly good question to ask. There were a lot of people, it turned out, who did not think that was a good question to ask,” some of those people being at the Vatican, of course.

While “it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to book sales,” Brown said, “I was caught off-guard. And if the book had sold only 10 copies, it wouldn’t have had such a reaction.”

And that reaction seems to have helped focus Brown on what he wants to do in his work. He seems to find his real interest in the role of the provocateur. That’s the energy behind the topics that propel his sales and career.

Mentzer asked him why he didn’t take on the naysayers around the Da Vinci Code backlash, “Why didn’t you argue with them?” he wanted to know.

“I have a lot of friends who are deeply devout,” Brown answered. “I have a lot of friends who are atheists. I have a lot of friends who, like me, are in the middle and openly confused. I consider myself a work in progress. I’m always trying to learn.” And it’s in the discussion that the education takes place, he asserts.

“I think one of the big problems of the world right now is that we’re not entering a dialogue with the people who disagree with us. It seems like above all, right now, everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening. So I listen very carefully when people disagree with me. And in some cases, you just have to agree to disagree.”

‘Immunity from Rational Scrutiny’

At the end of a Frankfurt week that had touched on the “tolerance of intolerance” dilemma—and had aggressively asserted the connective embrace of multicultural literature—it was hard not to wish that we might find a bit more of this Dan Brown on the pages of his so-popular books.

“When terrible things happen in the world, we hate to think that it’s random…A lot of people find comfort in the words, ‘It’s part of God’s plan,’ this feeling that there’s a master plan.”Dan Brown

He needed no melodrama, beautiful heroines, or car chases. The crowd was with him. The origin of Brown’s worldview, it turns out, is less about planet-threatening conspiracies and action-adventure than it is about a critical need for open exchange and respectful debate.

“Religion has done so much good in the world,” Brown said. “But simultaneously, it has been held up as a kind of banner of immunity from rational scrutiny. I don’t think any religion does itself any favors by saying, ‘This is our truth and you’re not allowed to question it.’

“I also think it’s dangerous when religion thinks that it has the market cornered on morality. There are a lot of people who are atheist or agnostic, who are also deeply compassionate and don’t need to know the Ten Commandments to know, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ “It’s intrinsic in our being.”

More applause greeted that and most of Brown’s points, this audience knew its man. In an era of sometimes cruel and vulgar political hijinks, let alone religious dogma and rigidity, is it not time, Brown seemed to be asking, to take the world’s great faiths to task and to ask if they’re up to the dire perils of ignorance and selfishness in high places?

“I don’t consider myself anti-religious,” Brown said in answer to Mentzer’s question. “The question of religion is really one of open-mindedness. Religion serves as an important moral framework for a lot of people. It serves as a comfort to many people.

“I started out wanting to answer a question that I wouldn’t say has haunted me but has been on my mind for a long time: whether God can survive science.”Dan Brown

“In the book, I talk about how the human mind despises chaos. When terrible things happen in the world, we hate to think that it’s random…A lot of people find comfort in the words, ‘It’s part of God’s plan,’ this feeling that there is a master plan. For many people that’s a comfort and I’m happy to admit that there’s a role for religion in the world.

“The problem is when we start reading our myths and our fables as absolute fact. In my country, I’m astonished that in 2017, we have congressmen, major politicians, declaring openly that the world is 6,000 years old and that the fossil record was put there to test our faith and that Adam and Eve are literal truth and that they populated the entire world and had no problems with ethnicities and genetic inbreeding.

“It’s an astonishing thing to me that in this day such irrational thinking can happen. But it does. My fear is that if religion doesn’t evolve, it will become extinct.”

“But [what about] the risk you’re taking?” Mentzer said to Brown, in writing Origin with its suggestions that artificial intelligence can rewrite our understanding of divinity.

“Well, I write backward,” Brown told him. “I had the ending in mind. I rewound as far as I could” to create the story. “This novel affected me deeply, personally. I started out wanting to answer a question that I wouldn’t say has haunted me but has been on my mind for a long time: whether God can survive science. The ancients had a whole pantheon of gods to describe everything they didn’t understand about the natural world.

“Science came along…all of the gods of our past have fallen away. So I like looking at history,” Dan Brown said. “I want to know what effect the coming science will have today.”

By Porter Anderson
Source: publishingperspectives

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The Mystery of Women’s Fiction

Ask five people for their definition of “Women’s Fiction,” and you’ll get varying definitions from each one. As one of the founding members of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, I’ve been through countless attempts at nailing down a definition that’s broad enough to encompass all of the subtleties of the genre without being so broad that it loses its impact. Each exercise leads us a step closer until someone raises a “but what about …” question and then we’re right back where we started.

To me, that very head-scratching aspect of the genre is what makes it so special. Women’s fiction can be literary or commercial; it can be historical or contemporary; it can be mainstream or inspirational; it can have elements of magical realism, mystery, romance, thriller; they can be light reads or heart-wrenching dramas; but at its core, all women’s fiction is about relationships – whether between a couple, family, friends, or co-workers – and the emotional journey of the main character.

Women’s fiction is issue driven. The books address topics people deal with in their everyday lives – family dysfunction, divorce, infidelity, parenting, mid-life crisis, identity crisis, career changes, illness, mental illness, suicide, death, abandonment, to name just a few. The stories touch readers, make them feel and think, hope and dream. They’ll see parts of themselves in the characters and, hopefully, walk away feeling transformed in some way.

Women’s Fiction as a Label

There’s been an ongoing debate within the writing and publishing community about using the term “women’s fiction.” Why label “women’s” fiction when there isn’t such a thing as “men’s” fiction? If you go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you won’t find a section for women’s fiction. Those books are shelved within the general fiction stacks. If you shop online, you will find a women’s fiction category, although I’m always slightly amused by the books categorized under that label as well as those that don’t show up.

So why do we even need the label? As writers, we need it to know who we’re writing for and how to market our books.

I know, I know … you want to write what the muse tells you to write. Absolutely. Except that you probably also want to sell what you write. Luckily these days, there are more options for publishing and finding readers. That means books that mix-and-match-and-morph multiple genres have a platform. But for those writers who are still looking to go down the traditional path, agents and publishers will generally look for a book that fits within set genre boundaries.

When you query an agent, they’re looking at where you see your story fitting in the crowded marketplace. Those genre labels then help the agents identify the right editor to submit your work to. And those editors who buy your manuscript will be able to more effectively market your book.

Even if you’re self-publishing, you need to know how to market your book. The genre will largely dictate your cover options, the language you choose for your back-cover copy, and the places you target to reach your desired audience.

That’s not to say that genre-straddling books don’t sell. I know many authors who’ve written brilliant novels that don’t cleanly fit under one label. But there’s almost always one label that they fit under a bit more than the others.

As a writer, I don’t hesitate to tell other writers or agents or anyone in the industry that I write women’s fiction. My books address the real-life challenges all of us deal with. They mostly appeal to women, and I’m good with that. It helps me focus my stories and narrows down my target market.

The kicker is when I talk to readers. Most give me a funny look and ask what I mean – “like romance?” is their usual follow up question. For that audience, I usually add that my books are “family and friendship dramas, books about issues we deal with in everyday life.”

Women’s Fiction as a Writing Home

When I first started writing, I struggled finding the right resources to help expand my craft. I joined several writer’s groups and associations and while each one had something helpful, none addressed how to get to the core of the conflict that my characters were dealing with.

It wasn’t until I met a group of women’s fiction writers that I finally realized what had been missing for me – a tribe of writers who understand what I’m writing and who are facing the same challenges.

In 2013, a handful of women’s fiction writers came together with the belief that every writer needs a tribe and every genre needs a champion. That’s the foundation that we built the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) on. It’s what keeps us questioning whether we have the clearest definition for the genre and how we can best support the writers and the books that fall under that umbrella.

I learned a lot about the structure of a story, about story arcs, author platforms, pitching and querying, in the other groups I belonged to. But it wasn’t until I started interacting with women’s fiction authors and taking workshops with presenters who understand the nuances of this genre, that I was able to fully grasp how to mine the emotional depth of the characters and tug at the emotional heartstrings of the reader.

Four years after it was launched, WFWA is 1,000 members strong and offers resources that are uniquely tailored to this genre. It’s a fabulous community of writers who understand and appreciate the crazy ups and downs that accompany writing, rewriting, rewriting again; the querying and submission phases; and the glory and heartbreak of reviews. It’s a safe place to discuss those writerly mood swings that baffle our families and friends.

I credit the WFWA community for getting me from fledgling writer to published author. Through the process of launching the association, I learned that I can push myself out of my comfort zone and survive. Not just survive, but thrive. And through daily interaction with members, I learned that with perseverance anything is possible.

Are we any closer to a solid definition for women’s fiction? Probably not. A few months ago, I was at a conference and participated on a panel about women’s fiction. The introduction defined it as books for women. The following discussion showed how much more complex the genre actually is.

But I think the one thing all of us on that panel and within WFWA and any other women’s fiction author can agree on, is that our books are written for people like us.

I enjoy books in many different genres, but I admit to mostly reading women’s fiction. As an ambassador for the genre, I appreciate being able to de-mystify what the label means and introduce readers to new (or new to them) women’s fiction authors. And I love hearing from readers that a novel helped them get through a difficult stage in their lives. That’s why we write women’s fiction.

with guest Orly Konig.

Source: seekerville

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Scam Alert: Fraudsters Targeting Freelancers With Fake Job Offers

scam alert

Fraudsters are reportedly conducting a phishing scheme aimed at freelance writers.

Individuals using the names of editors and senior management for The Atlantic magazine have sent out numerous fake job and interview offers, using multiple email addresses and made-up domain names. The goal is to obtain personal information, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and other sensitive data. More than 50 writers have reported being targeted by the scheme.

From a memo sent to The Atlantic staff by General Counsel for Atlantic Media:

The perpetrators have gone so far as to conduct job interviews by phone and gchat; to require signature on employment agreements, direct deposit, and tax forms; and to mail fake checks to individuals (in the hope that these “advances” would be cashed, thereby providing the perpetrators with bank account information and/or credit card information). To date, we’ve been contacted by more than 50 would-be victims, and the names of at least six of our top editorial leaders have been used.

Unfortunately, scams like this one are very common in today’s landscape. We are actively working with law enforcement and are directing any intended victims to do the same. We are also making information available about the scam on our websites and in the magazine.

If you discover that you or any of our colleagues are being impersonated, please provide details to, which will route the information to the IT department. Likewise, if you receive any inquiries from potential victims asking you to confirm the veracity of an email purporting to have come from The Atlantic, forward those inquiries to IT will connect with any would-be victims to advise them of the scam and to refer them to law enforcement.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware
Source: accrispin.blogspot

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5 Writing Tips from Colson Whitehead

5 writing tip

The author has been writing novels for eighteen years, but he’s been getting a lot of attention because his new book, The Underground Railroad, was inducted into Oprah’s coveted Book Club. The book is about the escape from slavery to freedom in the antebellum south, but it also has fantastical elements—a literal underground railroad that exposes the protagonist to different worlds at each station.

5 Writing Tips from Colson Whitehead

Recently I shared my notes from a talk with Jonathan Frazen. People seemed to like that, so I’m doing it again!

Here are five writing tips I wrote down from the author talk with Colson Whitehead:

1. You have a unique spin to bring to any topic.

A better writer than you has written about basically every topic. Your job is to put your own individual spin on it.

That’s what Colson figured out when he picked up a novel by Toni Morrison and immediately concluded (rightly or wrongly) that he could never do that. Rather than get overwhelmed, he accepted that others had written about slavery and written about it well.

All he could do was bring his unique perspective to the topic.

2. You don’t have to write every day to produce a novel!

Inevitably, Colson was asked about his process during the author talk.

He said he knows the beginning and he knows the end, and he outlines the rest. His writing goal (post-children) is typically to finish eight pages a week (pretty doable!).

3. Characterization starts with real life.

Colson turns to real life to help him with characterization. He thinks about people he knows and views them with empathy.

Then, as he starts developing the fictional character, he is guided by “what makes them tick.”

4. Voice in historical fiction requires research.

Voice is always difficult, but even more so when you’re writing historical fiction. In order to accurately capture the way slaves and others spoke in the early 1800s, Colson read through interviews with former slaves.

He seemed struck by the simplicity of their language, which was used to describe such horrific acts. That simplicity dictated the voice of the characters in Underground in a way that was different from his other novels.

I later read an interview he gave with Vulture in which he noted that “when you try to make a simile or a metaphor out of the nouns of 1850s, simplicity and clarity make more sense.”

5. Don’t be afraid to change genres!

I’m a contemporary fiction kind of girl and know Colson Whitehead from his novel Sag Harbor—a semi-autobiographical story about black boys with beach houses in the Hamptons. Others know him from Zone One, a story about a zombie apocalypse. Others, like Oprah, learned about Colson for the first time with Underground.

Colson doesn’t care that many people who love one of his books may not be interested in his others. He basically said that writers should write what they want to write. They should be free to constantly challenge themselves (and to forget about potential branding issues).

That’s a message I don’t hear often, and it was kind of liberating.

Do What Works for You

I like to attend author talks to glean wisdom from other established writers. I take notes on their best writing tips and consider how I can integrate their experience into my own writing process.

That said, you don’t have to use all these tips, of course. Find the system that works for you. Figure out what helps you write, and do that!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Let me know in the comments.

By Monica M. Clark

Source: thewritepractice

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20 Favorite Pick-Me-Up Books

The right book can chase away even the gloomiest moods. In the company of cheerful characters and playful prose, worries slip away and anxiety fades. Everyone should have at least one pick-me-up book. We asked on Facebook and on Twitter: What’s yours?

Today we’ve got some of your top answers, from laugh-out-loud capers to heartwarming stories of friendship and romance. If your favorite didn’t make the list, share it with us in the comments!

 By Hayley
Source: goodreads

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Figurative Language in Poetry Writing


Figurative language says one thing but means another. However, figurative language does not intend to deceive. There is an expectation that figurative language will be understood and correctly interpreted by the listener or reader. We get the term “figure of speech” from figurative language.

In poetry, we frequently use figurative language, because it can be more meaningful, vivid, and expressive.

Let’s take a closer look at figurative language and how we can best use it in poetry writing.

Figurative Language

Most clichés are figures of speech: He’s as old as the hills. She’s a diamond in the rough. I was scared to death. You have nerves of steel. All of these statements are clichés, and they’re composed with figurative language. He’s not really as old as the hills. She’s not really a diamond. I’m still here, so I couldn’t have been scared to death. And your nerves might be strong, but they’re not actually made of steel. None of these statements are meant to be taken literally.

We all know that it’s best to avoid stale clichés in writing, but fresh figurative language enhances our work. And whether it’s fresh or not, almost everyone uses figurative language, but why?

Here are just a few reasons figurative language is so effective:

  • Figurative language adds dimension to our prose and poetry, allowing us to say things with more flair and color. Figurative language tends to be vivid, so it pops and comes alive in people’s imaginations.
  • Figurative language allows us to say more in fewer words. We can often express an idea in a single sentence using figurative language, but it would take a full paragraph to communicate that same idea in literal terms.
  • We often use figurative language in imagery (sensory details), making our language more sensuous and visceral.
  • Figurative language engages our emotions. “He’s very old” simply doesn’t inspire the same emotional response as “He’s as old as the hills.”
  • Figurative language allows us stronger or more intense expressions; this is commonly seen in the use of vulgarity, which is often used figuratively and to add intensity to an expression.

Literary Devices That Embody Figurative Language

Many literary devices, which are common in poetry, employ figurative language. Here are a few examples:

Metaphor: presenting one thing as something else, usually for demonstrative purposes: She’s a rock.

Personification: ascribing human qualities to nonhuman objects and animals. My computer is lazy. 

Satire: criticism through humor, often using irony and overstatement. Jonathan Swift’s famous essay “A Modest Proposal” criticized the British treatment of the Irish by suggesting they cook and eat Irish infants, essentially saying, “We treat them so poorly now, we might as well eat their babies.”

Simile: one thing is described as being like another thing. He’s like a bull. 

Symbolism: something that represents something else and is used to enhance a theme, evoke emotion, or establish mood in a narrative.

Synecdoche: A type of metaphor in which a term that refers to one element of something is used to refer to the whole thing or vice versa. Synecdoche is often used for personification. An example of synecdoche is referring to businesspeople as suits or to a car as wheels.

Using Figurative Language in Poetry

One of the best ways to master figurative language in poetry is to study it. When you read poetry, look for figurative language. Use a highlighter, underlining, or make notes to identify figurative language that you find in the poems you read. Analyze and asses figurative expressions that you find. Are they clear? Effective? Compelling?

Among the many tidbits of advice that young and new writers often receive is to avoid clichés. This is especially true with figures of speech, which tend to be widely used and can sneak into our writing. A phrase that feels like an ordinary expression may actually be a worn-out cliché. Look for fresh ways of using figurative language to express your thoughts in poetry.

Practice using figurative language by reviewing your own poetry and looking for phrases and expressions that might work better in figurative terms. As an exercise, set a timer for ten minutes and come up with as many figurative expressions as you can to invigorate a line or phrase from your poem, and then use whichever one works best.

Questions and Discussion

Why is figurative language an effective tool for communication? How often do you use figurative language in your poetry? Do you ever catch yourself using clichés? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep using figurative language in poetry!

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward

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This Twitter Guide Will Make You See What You’re Doing SO Wrong And How To Make It Right

Twitter is a terrible selling channel…

IF your goal is to spam your book links up there and hope for the best. Most writers write their book and then realize, oh hey, there are millions of potential readers just waiting to buy my book. I’m gonna tell them all about my book by repeatedly sharing my link with them! They’re all gonna buy my book and I’ll be rich!

Yea, no. Doesn’t work that way, writer friends. And if you’ve spent any time on Twitter spamming book links to random people who don’t know you, you’ve likely figured this out already.

Even for people who are really great using Twitter, the organic (non-paid) conversion rate is…0.5%. Yep, that’s right. Less than 1%. So…why bother? Twitter is a wonderful way to connect with readers, book bloggers, and book reviewers if you are connecting with them strategically. Many writers are completely flummoxed how to do that.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you add value to your readers?
  • How can you be visible without constantly spamming your book link?
  • How can you connect with readers and influencers who will embrace your work? 

I love Twitter because it’s the best way I know to connect with readers quickly and without having to write novels (hello, Facebook) to connect. My goal here is to help you change your paradigm from selling to connecting.

Today I’m going to run down the top Do’s and Don’t of Twitter for writers. You certainly do not need to follow my advice — do whatever you feel is best for you. I can only share that, as a long-time Twitter user, instructor, consultant, author and book marketer, these are standard, accepted, industry practices that work (in no particular order):

Twitter Do’s

This Twitter Guide Will Make You See What You're Doing SO Wrong And How To Make It Right by @BadRedheadMedia, Twitter Tips, Social Media

  • DO add your website and book link in your bio. You have 160 characters. Add the link to your book there. See my bio example >>>>>>
  • DO pin a tweet to your book or website to make it easy for people to connect with you. Prime real estate.
  • DO have a hi-resolution header (aka, banner) at the top of your profile. Same with your avatar. Faces work best. People like to see eyes.
    • If you’re writing under a pen name, buy a photo that represents you. Use a face.
  • DO add your book cover in the header, not as your avatar. (See mine by visiting @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia).
  • DO provide consistent tweets around the topics you discuss. This is your personal branding. Articles, quotes, RTs. I don’t mean only your own stuff.
  • Do share occasionally info on your own books; 80/20, 30/40/30, whichever formula works for you.
  • DO participate in memes (e.g., #MondayBlogs, #WednesdayWisdom), hashtags, trending topics, Twitter chats, etc. Just don’t make it all about you. Listen, learn, participate.
  • DO share generously and without expectation. Retweet (RT) often.
  • DO interact often with people, comment on tweets and articles. Be smart, funny (if that fits your personality), positive, well-read (you are a writer).
  • DO read people’s bios and timelines before commenting. Be informed.
  • DO ask questions. Twitter is a great LISTENING channel. People love giving their opinion.Click To Tweet

  • DO create visuals (Canva, Pablo by Buffer) and share quotes (yours and others). Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images. (Source: Buffer, via Hubspot)

This Twitter Guide Will Make You See What You're Doing SO Wrong And How To Make It Right by @BadRedheadMedia, Twitter Tips, Social Media

  • DO use Twitter Lists to manage followers. Public and private options.
  • DO activate and USE Twitter Analytics.
  • DO use the assigned hashtag when participating in Twitter chats so all participants see your tweets and replies (I recommend using free or Some people prefer Tweetdeck. Whatever works for you.)
  • DO schedule and space out your tweets — I use Hootsuite, Buffer, and PromoRepublic. All have free options.
  • DO create Moments featuring interesting conversations between you and others.
  • DO follow people strategically, using an affordable tool like ManageFlitter, where you can put a keyword term in Search (or use Twitter’s Advanced Search tool instead, which takes longer yet is still effective).
    • Focus on readers, book bloggers, book reviewers, and other influencers (e.g., publishers, agents, etc.). Connect with writers but not ONLY writers.
  • DO use Twitter’s Help Section if you’re not sure about how something works. It’s quite robust.
  • DO research Twitter ads (aka, sponsored tweets)
  • DO brand yourself, not your book. Talk about something besides your book, your book, your book. Aren’t you a person? Then act like one.

Twitter Don’ts:

  • DON’T reply to tweets with your blog URL (it’s already in your bio, pinned tweet, and header). It’s self-serving and a total newbie move.
  • DON’T thank people for following by spamming them with an AutoDM asking them to buy your book. STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.Click To Tweet

  • DON’T DM (direct message) people with your book link. Everyone is not your customer (thank you, Seth Godin) and besides, it’s rude. In addition, it violates Twitter’s TOS (Terms of Service): We all agree not to “Spam or bother users, or otherwise send them unsolicited messages.” I personally don’t want to risk having my account suspended or worse, banned.
  • DON’T thank people for the follow by telling them where else on social media they can find you. We’re on Twitter, not Facebook, Instagram, or Snap. Put those handles in your header if it’s that important to you.
  • DON’T come to Twitter chats and talk about yourself and your books and how awesome you are. That’s your ego talking and everyone sees that.
  • DON’T come into a chat and ask ‘what’s the topic?’ Read the host’s timeline first. Every host posts it throughout the day. Besides, hosts are busy.
  • DON’T ask a writer what they write. It’s ALMOST ALWAYS on their bio or header. Take three seconds and look at their bio. Read bios!
  • DON’T tag people with your latest blog post unless you’ve quoted them in the post. This is spammy and they will mute or block you.
  • DON’T tag people with your book promotion (unless they are explicitly part of it) because ugh. Just stop.
  • DON’T ask random people to read your book and review it. Why do you do that? Are they even your demographic? Be smarter.
  • DON’T put a link in every tweet. This is against Twitter’s TOS (terms of service) “if your updates consist mainly of links and not personal updates” you are violating the ‘Twitter Rules’ regarding spam. More here.
  • DON’T be rude and then LOL at the end. It’s passive/aggressive and people will block you.
  • DON’T quote someone without giving attribution. Again, against the TOS and also, just a really sh*tty thing to do. The original author (or author’s estate) can also sue you.
  • DON’T ask someone why they followed you. Be grateful (unless ya know, it’s someone weird and then mute or block them).
  • DON’T ever bully a book blogger or reviewer or ask your writer friends to ‘jump in’ to bully them (especially for a bad review). Once your book is out there, you’re no longer invited to the party. Grow up.
  • DON’T feel obligated to interact with anyone, ever. If you’re uncomfortable, mute, unfollow, or block. Report if necessary. That is your right.
  • DON’T automate every tweet. Interact live with people. Some automation is convenient (e.g., schedule in tweets for #MondayBlogs). Then go in and RT people, respond to their posts, ask questions.
  • DON’T complain that Twitter is all spam. That’s on you — if you only follow other writers who are spamming their books link and haven’t read this post because you haven’t shared it with them yet :), stop following only other writers.

Twitter is Just One Spoke of the Wheel

Remember, Twitter is one tiny spoke of the big author platform bicycle. It’s a great one, but it’s not the only one. If you are spending all your time and effort there, you are missing out on readers who are not there. Go where your readers are, not where you are most comfortable.

Here’s a terrific article from Entrepreneur: 5 Things This Self-Published Author Did to Sell Over 20,000 Books with Almost No Money. Nowhere in there does this author mention spamming links on Twitter as an effective selling tool.

Click on the links I’ve provided here to read more about what I’ve suggested above. Most of what I mentioned is free, except for the time it will take you to scan the articles and figure out a few new slick moves. Attend my weekly #BookMarketingChat (Wednesdays, 6pm pst/9pm est on @BadRedheadMedia or see previous chats on our public Facebook page in Notes) to learn more about how to market your book. I have many amazing guests and I also share what I’ve learned along the way.

 None of this matters one iota if your books suck. Write great books. Learn how to market them. Do the work.
By Rachel Thompson
Source: badredheadmedia

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How to Play and Pretend Your Way to Breakthrough Writing Ideas


My little niece used to love to sit with a grown-up book spread across her lap, reading a story out loud — except she couldn’t read yet. She was making it all up — pretending.

During play, she invented new words. One time we were playing with some toys, and I asked one of their names. Without missing a beat, she made up the name Hoken. Hoken sounds to me like a great name for a character in a science fiction or fantasy story.

Play and pretend can lead to some innovative writing ideas, whether you’re looking for a simple concept for starting a new writing project or trying to break through a block in a project that you’re already working on.

The Quest for Concepts

Through play and pretend, children learn about themselves and their environment. You’d think that with all that practice, adults would have even better imaginations than children, but that’s not the case. Kids will engage their imaginations with hardly any effort. They don’t stop to think or reason; they just react intuitively.

The first time I asked my niece who put the moon in the sky, she said, “You did.” And when I asked my nephew the same question, his response was “Peter Pan.” Sometimes, it’s Mommy or Daddy who put the moon the sky. Sometimes, it’s Batman. Kids aren’t confined by rules, science, or belief systems. They are delightfully open-minded.

When I’m playing with my niece and nephew, I get tons of writing ideas: a story about someone who put the moon in the sky, maybe a superhero named Hoken who can fly.

If we grown-ups could shake off the realities we’ve all come to accept about the world, and if we could learn to play freely, without rules or limitations, then we could unearth an endless fountain of ideas and inspiration.

Breakthrough Writing Ideas

I recently got stuck in a story that I was working on. The characters were in the middle of a conflict, and I had to find a way to get them out of it. There were plenty of options, but I wasn’t sure which one they would choose. I tried to think through it, but I just thought myself in circles. I tried writing a list of possibilities, but that didn’t help me make a choice.

Then I decided to do a little pretending. It wouldn’t be interesting to show the characters working out a plan for overcoming their conflict in the narrative, but I could certainly write a dialogue scene between them, and then file it away and write the action scene. I sat there and played out a conversation between two characters. It was almost as if I was performing an impromptu scene. It was a little awkward at first, but the conversation moved along. The characters worked out a plan, and I saw the path they would take.

I was basically playing and pretending — play-acting in a little one-person scene and pretending that I was my characters. And after struggling for several days to work out a problem, I got to a solution in just a few minutes.

I think that’s pretty amazing.

Play and Pretend: Exercise Your Imagination and Act it Out

Those of us who are on a perpetual quest for writing ideas could benefit from a little playing and pretending. You might feel silly at first, but if you relax and trust your imagination, you might end up with some incredible ideas for a writing project.

  • Become one of your characters: Get dressed up like your character, and then go to a place where nobody knows you, in the next town or different part of the city. Act like your character, do what what your character would do. You can even do this around the house.
  • Get a recording device and act out the dialogue between your characters: You can do this with a piece of dialogue you’ve already written to see how it sounds. If you use a video recorder and make an effort to get into character, you can also find out how your characters move — which gestures and body language they use.
  • Use action figures to work out a scene in your story: Don’t have any? Head to a junk store. Any toys will do. Set up the scene with items from around your house and play out their dialogue and actions. Capture it by taking photos or take notes as you work out your scene.

Playing and pretending is not for everyone. Kids do it naturally, but for grown-ups, it can be awkward and uncomfortable. On the other hand, maybe one of your writer friends or a child in your family would be willing to play along with you. You’ll never know unless you try.

Have you ever acted out a scene or used play and pretend to develop writing ideas? Do you think these techniques would work for you? What do you do when you’re stuck or need fresh ideas for new projects? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward

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