Ready for More Social Media Clean-Up? Here’s How To Go About It (Part 2)

Did you do Part 1 of the social media clean-up yet? If not (and come ON already, why not? It’s not like you have writing or work to do. I mean), get on with it already. If so, yay you! I covered key updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Here’s your next assignment, should you choose to accept it (sorry, had to):

  • updating Instagram,
  • LinkedIn,
  • your blog/website and
  • Amazon author bio (if you have a book out).

Let’s do this thingy.

Social Media: Instagram

Many writers and bloggers either aren’t Instagram at all, are on it and post photos of their cats (*raises hand*), aren’t sure what to post so don’t post anything, or are caught up in nothing but selfie culture (ugh).

We can do better, writer friends! Instagram is no different than any other social media channel — be strategic. Use your keywords as a basis for your personal branding. Share what makes you, you.

Key ways to update your Instagram now:

  • Is your bio complete and updated? You have 150 characters only, so make the most of them. More than anywhere else, this is especially key here as it’s the only place on Instagram where you can have an active hyperlink (links do not work in individual posts unless you are paying to advertise). What do you want to link to? I suggest your most recent release, however, some writers prefer to link to their website. Your call.
  • TIP: You can update this hyperlink frequently (if you want to), based on your sales objective. Here’s mine as an example (follows appreciated):

Ready for More Social Media Clean-Up? Here’s How To Go About It (Part 2) by @BadRedheadMedia

  • Have a giveaway or an event? Change the link on your bio.
  • Have you transitioned to a Business Profile yet? It’s free and allows you far more options! This post walks you through every step. Why bother? Paid advertising. It also links to your Facebook Author Page — if you pay for advertising on your Facebook Page, the ad also shows up on your Instagram (and vice versa).
  • Find readers using hashtags in Search. This is NEW.
  • Use pertinent hashtags in your posts to attract readers.

Social Media: LinkedIn

  • Is your bio complete and updated? This is trickier on LinkedIn — there’s a lot to fill out. Here are some key tips from Grammarly on exactly how to do that.
  • Do you need to be there at all? I get this question a lot. Well, think about this: who’s your demographic? Do they work? Probably. Are they digital readers? Probably. Boom. That’s why you should be there. It’s also a great way to connect with others in the writing and publishing community.
  • Here’s a great read on how to make the most of your bio and connections (so you don’t have to just take my word for it). Plus, if you have a side business, you can create a ‘company profile’ attached for your personal profile (e.g., my LI profile is under Rachel Thompson, and I have a BadRedhead Media Company Profile).
  • Utilize LinkedIn Pulse (their blogging section). Why? Visibility! Either take posts you’ve already written or write original content. Either way, you are helping your SEO.

Not Social Media, But Still Super Important: Your Website About Section (aka, Bio)

Little bit different format here, so stay with me. What is the point of your Author Bio? It’s not really to list all of your accomplishments like on a resume (or Tinder for you young’uns); it’s to help the reader decide whether you’re interesting enough (sad, but true) for them to pay attention to and possibly buy books from. Here are a few expert tips on writing the best bio possible from Hubspot:

  1. Always write in third person (I know it sounds weird, but think about this: people will share your bio when you do things like blog tours, guest articles, and events — so having your bio in first person will be even weirder in those situations.) TIP: Create a media kit people can download for these occasions OR give permission for people to copy/paste your information.
  2. Remember: It’s not really about you. It’s about your reader. What will they gain from reading your blog posts, articles, and books?
  3. Establish credibility — truthfully. Everything is searchable, so be absolutely truthful with everything you share in regard to your credentials (not that you shouldn’t have been before, but you know). If you share that you’ve written for Forbes, link to the article. If you cannot provide that link, do not list it in your bio.
  4. Explain what you do. Most writers will say: I’m an author. Most bloggers will say: I’m a blogger. Yea, we got that. Do this instead: What will reading your books DO for people? What will they feel? What will they learn? What problem will it solve? Food for thought.
  5. Add a CTA (Call to Action). Your bio can be an appropriate place to add a simple Q&A pitch, e.g., “Want to learn more about rocking your book marketing? Buy BadRedhead Media’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge here (add link).”

Finally, and most importantly, be sure your book covers, banners, visuals, and links are all updated, and do this on a regular basis. TIP: go back through your old blog posts and update your book links, book covers, etc. I’m doing that now myself since I’ve republished all my books and the old links are dead.

Amazon Author Bio

Many authors upload their books to Amazon and think, okay, cool, done. Not so fast. You need to go to Amazon Author Central and create your Author Bio. Here’s a link to Author Central and info how to do the basic set-up.

Whenever you publish (or re-publish) a book, you must claim it through author central for it to show up under your author name on Amazon (this also counts toward books you’ve contributed to, e.g., anthologies). This helps expand your backlist, makes your bio page more robust, and it’s totally legit. You did the work, so take the credit.

Other items you can (and should) add:

  • Your blog RSS feed
  • Events (e.g., speaking engagements or signings)
  • Up to eight photos — feature new books, upcoming promos or giveaways, even awards you’ve won. Remember, though: whichever photo you place in the first spot will be the one featured on your page (so if it’s an award and not your face, that’s what readers will see). **Update these photos frequently if you are using them for promos/giveaways which will be short-lived.
  • Videos – book trailers, typically, though you can share a YouTube video or FB Live video as well (or a speaking event if it fits your theme).

An important final note: all this work is for your Amazon country of origin only, meaning you need to repeat this process for international pages. You can’t do every country, but you can create additional pages in the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Here are the links to all those Author Central sites:

I don’t personally speak French, German, and Japanese (I don’t know about you), so I hire someone who can help me. You can also use Google Translate and hope for the best.

And that’s it for now. Do the work, keep writing, and you’ll be set for 2018!

Source: badredheadmedia.com

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New Year, Old Problem: Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard form letter about rank manipulation from Amazon KDP’s Compliance team, regarding her book Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.  We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

You may email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com with any questions.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Regards,

[Name Withheld]
Kindle Direct Publishing

Kristi did as anyone would in this situation and asked for more information, as she was confused and didn’t understand what she had done wrong. But Amazon refused to engage meaningfully on this, or to provide any evidence for its claims.

This was the response:

Hello,

As we previously stated, we still detect purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. You are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.

We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations.

Please be aware we will not be providing additional details.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

After a few weeks of “investigating,” Amazon returned the rank to Kristi’s book. She did not receive an apology from KDP, or any kind of compensation for this visibility-killing sanction. In fact, Amazon threatened to take similar action in the future.

And Amazon made good on that threat.

In early December, Kristi made another book free – Gia in the City of Dead – as part of a KDP Select promotion from December 1 to December 5. When she woke on December 1, she saw that her book had been stripped of its rank – before any promotion had even kicked in. She immediately emailed Amazon to ask them why this had happened. This was the nonsensical reply she received the following day:

Hello,

In the Kindle Store, the Bestsellers Rank is divided into Free and Paid lists. During the period when your book is being offered for free, it will have a ranking in the Free list. Once the free promotion is over, your title will show up again in the Paid list.

The Bestsellers Rank calculation is based on Amazon sales and is updated hourly to reflect newer and historical sales of every item sold on our website, with recent sales being weighted more heavily. With this in mind, titles that are part of a free promotion may see a drop in the sales rank under the Paid list after the promotion is over. However, since your sales rank takes into account recent and historical sales data, your previous Paid rank will influence your new Paid rank.

Category rankings will appear in the Product Details section of a book’s detail page to display the appropriate rank information.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or pages read. Neither is it an accurate way to compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales or Kindle Unlimited (KU) / Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) activity.

Your paperback which is linked to your eBook shows the following:
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1296 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Crime > Organized Crime

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

[Name Withheld]

It appears that a customer service rep has rushed a reply after misreading Kristi’s query and pasted in a bunch of irrelevant canned responses. I merely copy it here to show that this kind of botched reply is becoming typical with KDP customer service – a situation which is frustrating normally, but critically so when you have a major issue like Kristi did at the time.

Two of the four guiding principles of Amazon are “customer obsession” and “commitment to operational excellence” – I’d love to know if KDP thinks it is meeting those benchmarks with this type of response.

Anyway, Kristi persisted until she got someone to actually read her email. This is where things got really weird. On December 4, she received this unsigned email from KDP’s Compliance team:

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. We take activities that could jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously and may temporarily remove sales rank while we investigate. The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available.

If you have any questions, please email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Note that while the email stated that “The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available” – this was not the case. The rank had not been returned to Gia in the City of Dead, as I can vouch for myself. Kristi was in contact with me throughout this episode and I was able to watch events unfolding and verify her claims.

Kristi’s rank didn’t return the following day either, but when her free promotion ended on midnight of December 5, as scheduled, her rank returned. On December 6, Kristi received this email:

Hello Kristi,

I understand your frustration and I really appreciate your patience while we investigated this further. There was a technical issue that prevented your sales rank from displaying while our system was updating the rank. Our Technical Team has corrected the issue and your sales rank is now displaying accurately. Again, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. You can confirm the sales rank is now appearing by accessing the link below.

[link to book]

Regards,

[Name Withheld]
Executive Customer Relations
Kindle Direct Publishing

Bizarrely, KDP was now claiming that a “technical issue” prevented her sales rank from displaying. This was obviously stretching credulity given the rank manipulation form letter that Kristi had again received from Amazon’s Compliance team, and she said that in response to this message. Then she received this message:

Hello Kristi,

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. The email you received from crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com on December 4 was sent in error and the sales rank did not disappear due to free promotions or manipulation. Our Content Review team confirmed there was no manipulation and our Technical Team discovered that the disappearance of your sales rank was due to a internal issue.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

So, an “internal issue” caused the rank disappearance, and the rank manipulation email was sent in error. Hmmmmm. Quite the coincidence, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, at this point Kristi was relieved that her rank had been restored, even if Amazon had – once again – completely ruined a promotion which she had spent money on, killing her visibility and crippling her downloads.

Kristi was worried about this happening again in January, when she had a BookBub promotion scheduled. This time she decided to get ahead of the problem and emailed the same person she had been dealing with throughout at KDP Executive Customer Relations, explaining when her book would be free and detailing the (legit) promo sites she would be using. She expressed hope that there would be no “internal issue” like in early December.

I should note that Kristi has been remarkably restrained throughout this entire episode, showing much more composure than I would. For example, this is the email she sent in advance of her January promotion:

Dear [Name Withheld],

I’m hoping you can help prevent the rank stripping from happening to me a third time.

I’m going to have a Bookbub ad run Jan. 4 and I expect the ranking for my book, Gia in the City of the Dead, to change dramatically and I’m hoping this won’t trigger another bot to flag me for doing something wrong or trigger the internal issue situation like last time.

I’m writing to you in the hopes that you can alert someone that this is happening so I don’t get hurt by losing rank again in January.

Thank you for your time and help. It is greatly appreciated.

Best,

Kristi Belcamino

PS The book is this one: https://www.amazon.com/City-Dead-Santella-Crime-Thriller-ebook/dp/B0751LCQLQ

You might think that Kristi’s case would merit some careful attention from KDP at this point, given how they had mistreated her previously, but this is all she received in response. Note that this reply came from the Compliance team – the person at Executive Customer Relations didn’t even bother replying to her exceedingly polite email:

Hello,

We do not sponsor or endorse any 3rd party marketing services. You’re welcome to promote your book through third-party websites and other services, but we encourage you to monitor the tactics they use to promote your books.  You are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs.

We advise against using any sites that “guarantee” a return on your investment. We support our authors’ efforts to promote their books worldwide, but at the same time, we work to prevent any manipulation of the Kindle publishing service.

If you have any questions, please email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

Despite Kristi flagging her promotion in advance to Amazon, her book was rank-stripped yesterday. And it was rank-stripped as soon as it went free – before any promotion kicked in.

There’s something else bizarre going on here. I generally use affiliate links on this blog – when I remember to put them in, that is. I often forget. I can’t remember if I used affiliate links to point to rank-stripped books before, but I noticed something very strange when attempting to link to Kristi’s currently rank-stripped book Gia and the City of Dead.

In case you can’t read the above text, it says:

This product is one of the Amazon Associates Program Excluded Products. We do not support direct linking to this product. Please direct customers to another product or the category for this product instead.

In other words, Amazon is currently not supporting affiliate links to this book; it appears that rank-stripping sanctions have yet another dimension.

Kristi is due to have her BookBub promotion on January 4, something she would have spent a considerable amount on, and her book will be denied crucial visibility if this sanction isn’t lifted.

When a book is rank-stripped, it disappears from the charts completely, and is largely invisible to Amazon’s recommendation engine. In short, it kills downloads for a title while the rank is removed. It’s very damaging.

And to be absolutely clear: Kristi has done nothing wrong.

Authors are rightly angry about this, but I want to make an important distinction: this isn’t a BookBub problem. Most of the authors rank-stripped never used BookBub. It’s also not some kind of move by Amazon to squash third-party sites and force everyone to use AMS – that’s equally nonsensical, and demonstrably false: some of those rank-stripped didn’t use any third-party sites.

And as Kristi’s experience should prove: the rank-stripping is kicking in now before promotions even begin. In other words, this isn’t a BookBub problem; it’s an Amazon problem.

KDP is applying serious sanctions to authors who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, refusing to show any evidence for its determinations or give authors any chance to appeal its decisions. And it’s doing all this while ignoring widespread scamming and cheating in the Kindle Store.

We must demand change.

UPDATE:

Some have asked in the comments here and on Facebook, how we can demand change and what form that should take.

First, I think we need to make as much noise as possible. Share your feelings on this with Amazon. Spread the word as much as possible. If you are a member of a writers’ org, then see if they will take an interest in this (RWA already has). If you have a press connection, see if they wish to write about it.

As for what Amazon should do, I don’t think KDP cares what I have to say, but here’s my suggested template for handling cases of suspected rank manipulation.

1. Investigations can and should happen quickly – there is no possible need for it to take weeks and weeks.

2. No sanction should be applied until guilt has been determined.

3. If guilt is determined, Amazon should furnish the purported evidence, and authors should have a right of appeal.

4. If innocence is established, Amazon should apologize to the author, and compensate them for any losses suffered under applied sanctions, if applicable.

Aside from how KDP handles such cases, I strongly suggest that it looks at its fraud detection systems which appear to be throwing up a large amount of false positives. If that’s NOT the case, and some third-party is targeting innocent authors to kick up dust or test the thresholds of the system, thus manipulating rank unbeknownst to the author, then Amazon needs to sanction that third-party, as clearly something malicious is in play.

UPDATE 2 (Jan 4): 

Kristi’s rank is back, in time for her BookBub promotion, which is great news. Amazon called to apologize and say that she hadn’t done anything wrong, but haven’t given any explanation beyond a “technical issue.”

Unfortunately, Kristi is not out of the woods yet. There is still something strange going on with this book. First, it’s invisible in the API – just gone. I’ve never seen that before. Second, when I tried to build an affiliate link to this book, I was informed that it is an “Excluded Product” as per the above screenshot.

Questions and issues remain, and obviously Kristi needs a full explanation, all issues resolved, and an assurance this won’t happen again. In the meantime, if you feel like helping Kristi recover some of her lost visibility, Gia and the City of Dead is free for the next couple of days.

Something else came up yesterday, which was quite timely. One of my main bugbears with Amazon right now is that they are being extremely heavy-handed when dealing with innocent authors, and are letting extreme gaming of the Kindle Unlimited system go unpunished – even rewarding those authors with All-Star bonuses every month.

It’s extremely difficult to get traction on the issue as it is quite technical. Author Heather C. Leigh has put together a helpful video explainer. As you watch this, and your blood boils, remember that Amazon is aware of ALL of this, and refuses to do anything – while cracking down on authors like Kristi who have done nothing wrong.

Source: davidgaughran.wordpress

 

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Personalizing Your Character’s Emotional Wound

Emotional wounds are tricky to write about.

Abuse, betrayal, victimization, and the death of a loved one may exist in our characters’ pasts and so must be explored.

But these are also real life events that cause damage to real people.

So as I talk today about personalizing wounds for our characters, please know that I’m aware of the pain they cause in our world, and I applaud the courageous individuals who fight to come to grips with them every day.

Why Wounding Events Matter in Fiction

Wounding events greatly affect a character’s development, so they’re important to identify.

These painful experiences are deeply impactful, giving birth to life-altering fears, new habits and behaviors, even flaws meant to protect her from facing that pain again.

Wounding events are aptly named because they change who the character is; until they’re faced and addressed, she will never be whole.

But pinpointing what that event might be for a character is just the first step.

Traumas affect people differently; something that would destroy one character may have no lasting impact on another.

The wounding experience should be one that stops the protagonist in her tracks, making it impossible for her to achieve that story goal that will result in personal fulfillment.

However, you can maximize the impact of a traumatic event on a character by making it more personal.

You can accomplish this by knowing the following factors that can impact a wound and incorporating them into your story:

Personality

Some people are simply better equipped to deal with difficulty than others. An anxious or embittered person may find it harder to deal with a traumatic event than someone with an optimistic outlook or an adaptable nature.

So build the necessary traits into her personality before tragedy strikes.

Support

A strong support system is hugely helpful in facilitating healing for a victim. Loyal loved ones, a steady faith, or a supportive community can make it easier for someone to spring back, whereas a victim suffering alone may have a harder time.

Physical Proximity

The closer the danger, the more traumatic it can be.

A violent bank robbery may impact the employees, the customers, a security guard, etc. But the teller with the gun stuck in her face may take longer to recover than anyone else.

Emotional Proximity

It’s harrowing to be conned by a stranger, but someone you know causes even more damage, breeding self-doubt and making it difficult to trust others in the future.

Responsibility

It’s commonplace to replay a horrific event, picking it apart to figure out how it could have been avoided. This often results in the victim blaming herself, even when she was in no way at fault.

So if you need to intensify an already difficult circumstance, add an element of self-blame.

Justice

Seeing the perpetrator pay for what he’s done often provides closure that can set the victim on the path to healing.

On the other hand, knowing the criminal is still out there and free to strike again can cause a wound to fester.

Compounding Events

A trauma is horrible enough, but it often sets other events in motion that the wounded character is ill equipped to deal with.

Someone who has lost a child may also face divorce, be unjustly blamed, or lose a job due to depression.

Compounding events are the equivalent of someone kicking the victim when she’s down.

Just as you can use these factors to make a rough circumstance more difficult for your protagonist, you can also tweak them to soften their impact on other characters.

So as you dig into the backstory to unearth your characters’ pain, consider how deeply you want them affected.

Despite having experienced wounding events of our own, applying them to our characters can be daunting.

I’ll be lurking around the comments section to answer any questions.

Thank you, Jerry, for hosting me today!

By: Becca Puglisi
Source: jerryjenkins.com

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5 Reasons Goodreads is a Book Marketing Staple

Goodreads has mixed reviews at best when I chat book marketing strategies with authors at conferences, but I really want 2018 to be about maximizing on YOU, on using what makes you unique to sell more books, and Goodreads is a great platform for achieving that goal.

And while Goodreads has gotten a bad rap for being where books go to get slaughtered by reviews, that’s honestly not fair.

Good books and engaged authors get great reviews on Goodreads. See how that works?

So it’s time to buck up and start using Goodreads to your advantage!

Be an engaged author on Goodreads. I promise you, a good book paired with genuine engagement on…

 

And here are 5 tips to get you motivated:

It’s Not Typical Social Media

Social media is generally one of the biggest book marketing hurdles for authors that I talk to.

They either don’t have time to juggle all the platforms they signed up for, or they’re completely confused about where to start and how to keep it going.

So I suggest they focus on Goodreads.

I never recommend being on social media just to check it off your list.

If you’re not good at it, or you don’t put in the time but send people there via your website or email marketing, you’re risking doing more harm than good.

Goodreads is for readers and authors, so if you’re suffering from an aversion to social media, let Goodreads be where you focus your attention.

High Quality, High Volume Users

Another great benefit is the volume of high quality, targeted users.

Goodreads has 65 million members and counting, and guess what? They all love books!

Honestly, as authors, we couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.

Maybe your ad dollars and content on other social sites may be getting lost in the shuffle. Reach avid readers on Goodreads, guaranteed.

Groups That Get Real Engagement

Targeted reader groups are gold when it comes to book marketing and engagement,.

Talk about a captivated audience!

But here’s a dose of reality. I’ve dabbled in groups on other social sites, both personally and for my authors, and they are tough going.

Starting from scratch is never easy, and sometimes it’s really not necessary.

The reader groups on Goodreads are established, active, and users trust them. Use this to your advantage.

You Can Find the Right Readers

An extension of your group activity should be a focus on your genre as well.

And your goal shouldn’t be to sell your book but to prove you’re also a fan of your own genres (you are right?), this kind of book marketing is more about networking, and it will take you far, I assure you.

If you become “one of the diehards” in your genre groups on Goodreads you can almost guarantee your fellow groupies will support you by checking out your next release.

Participate in a genuine way. You will be genuinely rewarded.

It Can Be a Great Alternative to a Website

If you don’t have a website, or you don’t have one that you can update easily or frequently, Goodreads can be a great alternative.

You have a great section for a bio, you can create and announce events, run giveaways, host author Q&As.

You can even host your blog on Goodreads. And to make “blog” seem less scary, just think if it as regular fan and follower updates on your work, your writing schedule, giveaway promotions and release announcements. See? Fun stuff!

The Takeaway

Goodreads can be daunting, but it’s gotten a bad rap with authors and that really needs to stop.  If you need help with this magnificent tool or any other book marketing tool, contact me!

Besides, if you wanted everything to be easy you wouldn’t have decided to become a published author in the first place – because this book marketing stuff isn’t for the faint of heart – but the more you jump in feet first with these strategies, the easier they become to execute.

If you’re an author already on the Goodreads train, I’d love to hear how you’ve incorporated it into your book marketing in ways you’ve really benefit from!

Source: amarketingexpert.com

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3 Artistic Truths Writers Can Find in a Miami Museum

Last week, I was able to escape the bomb cyclone and travel to Miami. Before you get too jealous, Florida was also experiencing an unusually cold week, and any time spent on the beach involved a sweatshirt and a blanket!

The Writer's Studio: 3 Artistic Truths Writers Can Find in a Miami Museum

Lucky for me, Miami has much more than its famously beautiful beaches. Its city energy is on par with New York and people travel from all over the world to eat authentic Latin food and experience the art scene. There were tons of museums and exhibitions I could visit (and take shelter from the cold!).

3 Artistic Truths Writers Can Find in The Everywhere Studio

One of the (free) exhibitions I visited in Miami was called “The Everywhere Studio,” which is on display at the brand new Institute of Contemporary Art. During my visit, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own writer’s journey, The Write Practice, and all of you. Here’s why.

1. The Everywhere Studio recognized that art can be work

One of my favorite pieces of The Everywhere Studio was a video of a man bouncing in a corner like a bowling pin glued to the ground. It was redundant. It was banal. It was, according to its description, a “performance of endurance [that] invokes the idea of art as a form of labor, and not merely creative expression.”

Photo of The Everywhere Studio at ICA Miami, courtesy of Monica Clark.

Many times writing is a blast, but other times, we’re literally just trying to meet a deadline or reach our daily word minimum and it’s just work. Or worse, it’s actively boring.

But at The Write Practice we embrace this part of writing as practice because it’s how beginners become good writers, and how good writers become great writers. We know that those moments are an inevitable stop on the road to greatness (or at least completion).

2. The Everywhere Studio had a wall of journal entries

I think most writers would have gravitated toward a grand display of one artist’s thoughts and ideas and doubts and mantras.

Is the journal not the quintessential writer’s studio?

Photo of The Everywhere Studio at ICA Miami, courtesy of Monica Clark.

The intro to the The Everywhere Studio noted that the term “studio” has evolved such that many artists can’t point to a physical location where all the art happens. We’re increasingly mobile. And rent is expensive! To me, the journal is a great interpretation of the writer’s “studio.” It’s personal, it’s a mess, it’s incomplete.

Also, I think we all can relate to this gem (a close up of the above piece):

Photo of The Everywhere Studio at ICA Miami, courtesy of Monica Clark.

3. The Everywhere Studio created a sense of community

For many artists, especially writers, the process of creating can be a solitary one because often you’re literally alone.

Photo of The Everywhere Studio at ICA Miami, courtesy of Monica Clark.

But there are actually a lot of people out there who can identify with the ups and downs of the creative process, which I remembered while visiting The Everywhere Studio. Strolling through the museum, I found myself able to relate to many of the artists’ studio interpretations, which was comforting.

Photo of The Everywhere Studio at ICA Miami, courtesy of Monica Clark.

Writers conferences and writing groups are great for finding this sense of community. So is The Write Practice. 🙂

The Art of Museums

Visiting The Everywhere Studio was a fun opportunity to look at my art and my writing in a different way. If you haven’t recently, I’d encourage you to visit a museum or exhibition near you. Don’t limit yourself to learning about just other writers: challenge yourself to find connections between writing and all the other kinds of art and creation you see.

Who knows what new inspiration you’ll discover?

Photos of The Everywhere Studio at ICA Miami are courtesy of Monica Clark.

What museums have inspired you? Or, what’s your writer’s studio? Let us know in the comments.

All the images are taken from https://thewritepractice.com/writers-studio/?hvid=1XdbkC

By Monica M. Clark
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

 

How to Revise Your Story Like a Pro

It’s suddenly 2018. Have you set an awesome writing goal for yourself this year?

I have, and I’m incredibly excited about it!

For some of us, that goal involves writing something brand new.

But for most of us, our 2018 writing goals probably involve rewriting a work in progress. It’s a draft, roughly complete or unfinished, that never seems to be “done,” no matter how much we tinker with it.

There’s a reason we get stuck in these perpetual works in progress. And if we don’t figure out how to overcome it, we might find ourselves in the same sticky mess 365 days from now.

The Myth of Revision

In secondary school, we are taught the writing process: Plan, Draft, Revise, Proofread, Publish.

As a secondary teacher, I face the most resistance from my students in that third step: Revision.

The first reason why is that we simply don’t want to do it. Revision isn’t nearly as enjoyable as creation, or as easy as correcting surface errors. Plus, it can be overwhelming, leaving us wondering if we even know how to revise a story.

But the second reason why we resist is the word itself, “Revision.” It’s a misleading term. It doesn’t really exist.

What we really have to do when we revise is rewrite.

And no one wants to rewrite, because rewriting is painful.

Demo Day

To properly revise, we have to identify that our existing creation is deeply flawed.

And while it may have been beautiful once before, it is negatively affecting the story around it.

Much like the Demo Day scenes in our favorite HGTV shows, we can’t simply work around the flaws. They’re affect everything else too directly, and have to be taken out with a sledgehammer.

Yet we don’t want to do it. We feel like we’re hurting the ones we love, or “our babies.”

Revision can literally feel like betrayal and death, because we have to accept that our creation, something that we have lovingly cultivated, must be destroyed.

Is it possible to keep parts of our old creation and rebuild around it?

Yes, but it’s surprising (and depressing) how seldom this works. Odds are, if a chapter, paragraph, or sentence isn’t working, it has to go.

Ouch.

Saving Our “Children”

Here’s the good news: Our creations don’t literally have to die.

Instead, they should get added to a “storage” document. When I was writing my novel, The Bean of Life, I was swinging my editorial sledgehammer like Chip and Joanna after drinking a case of Red Bull (my wife watches a lot of Fixer Upper).

Yet every one of my beautiful creations, my little narrative children, was carefully cut and pasted into my “TBoL Storage” document. For each stored bit, I labeled it with a bookmarked heading so I could easily find it if needed.

And you know what? I used it. There were many times I went back into that document and rescued a sentence or phrase that still had a role to play in the story.

But to be honest, I don’t remember 95% of those bits in that storage document (which is 50,000 words long). I’ve forgotten them, mostly because they were ultimately forgettable.

So here’s a tip for how to revise your story: do yourself the loving favor of protecting your creations. Never hit the “Delete” button (unless it’s just a typo). Always cut-and-paste your creations into storage, where they will be safe.

Enlightened Rewriting

To truly revise our work in progress and bring it to a state of “done,” we must rewrite it — often from a blank page one.

This doesn’t sound fun, and it will certainly be a lot of work.

But this new creation won’t feel anything like the first time. A first draft is like hacking our way through dense, dangerous jungle. This draft will be like climbing the stairs of an ancient temple where an enlightened monk awaits us at the top.

Here’s why you need to rewrite on a blank page: A crowded page is a prison; a blank page is freedom.

Trying to work within the confines of our old ideas and rigid prose does not provide the creation freedom that we need.

We need space. We need opportunity.

Maybe a blank page is something you find intimidating. No problem. Keep an important piece of description, or a line of dialogue, to spark your creativity. Give yourself a launch pad.

But remove the shackles of yesterday’s ideas.

It’s a new year, a time for new ideas. And it’s time for a major breakthrough on that perpetual work in progress.

Rewrite With Confidence!

Every old draft is a massive lesson that teaches us about our stories. The fact that we didn’t “get it right” doesn’t make us failures — it makes us artists. Art is failure of a very persistent nature. Some of the best pieces of art in the world were regarded as failures by their creators and contemporaries, and now are revered and copied.

So (re)write this year with confidence!

If your goal is to build the habits and mindset of a successful storyteller, this is a crucial step to take. We have to be able to put old ideas aside, learn from them, and take risky steps forward. Otherwise we will be stuck in a prison of the past, forever fearing the touch of the creative sledgehammer and its wonderful power.

What do you think? Can you revise, even on a crowded page, filled with old ideas that might not be working? Or do you prefer the freedom of an empty page of unlimited possibility?

What steps do you take to revise your stories? Let the community know in the comments!

By David Safford
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Creative Writing Prompts for the Young at Heart

Today’s post includes a selection of prompts from my book 1200 Creative Writing Prompts. Enjoy!

Stories and poems for children are among the most magical and delightful written works in the literary canon.

Children’s literature has a universal appeal; the phenomenal international popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies is a testament to the power of children’s stories.

But there are plenty of other works that affirm the longevity of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and classics such as Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and everything Dr. Seuss ever wrote.

Most of us writers first fell in love with the written word when we were children. Stories carried us on fantastical adventures. Words danced and soared through our imaginations. Many of us never grew out of the poems and stories we first cherished. We continue to enjoy them, and we pass them on to our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Today’s writing prompts celebrate children’s literature and pay tribute to the young and the young at heart.

Writing Prompts

These writing prompts are filled with childlike wonder. Use them to write a poem, a story, or anything else that comes to mind.

  1. Children’s stories sometimes try to help kids solve difficult problems. Write a story about children overcoming nightmares, getting potty trained, wetting the bed, losing a pet or grandparent, or attending the first day of school.
  2. At the height of human technological development, a special child is born who can communicate telepathically with computers and other mechanical and electronic devices.
  3. Write a poem using the following image: a child sitting alone on a bench in a schoolyard.
  4. After learning his or her parents are struggling to make ends meet, a child prodigy decides to fix the family’s finances.
  5. Write a story about a child and his or her imaginary friend.
  6. A child living on a farm or ranch can hear the thoughts of animals—both the livestock and the local wildlife.
  7. Write a poem using the following image: a child giving another child a piggyback ride.
  8. While digging in the garden, a child finds a magic ring that makes any wish come true.
  9. It’s important for children to learn the alphabet. Write an ABC book. You can write a separate vignette for each letter, write a story linking them all together, or write a nonsense rhyme for each one.

Some Tips for Using These Writing Prompts:

  • Children’s writing uses simple language and made-up words.
  • Nothing speaks to children like bright, vivid images and lively characters.
  • Use rhyme and other musical devices and choose words that are fun to say.

Do you still read children’s poems and stories? Do you remember the ones you loved best as a child? Have you ever tried writing for kids? Do these creative writing prompts inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments, and keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Critiques Make Your Writing Better, So Grin and Bear Them

Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing.

This excerpt is from “Chapter Seven: Feedback,” which offers tips for giving and receiving critiques as well as coping with public criticism. The excerpt I’ve chosen to share today explains how to use critiques to make your writing better, and it also touches on dealing with difficult critiques.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

There are two schools of thought about whether critiques of your work are beneficial.

One school of thought says that art is subjective; a critique is nothing more than someone’s opinion, and critiques might harm the artistic integrity of your work by interjecting someone else’s ideas and visions into it.

The other school of thought says that art may be subjective, but other people’s opinions matter and can actually be helpful. Writers may be too close to their own work to view it objectively, so a second opinion reveals strengths and weaknesses that the author simply can’t detect.

In my experience, when approached thoughtfully, critiques do far more good for your writing than harm. In fact, a critique can harm your work only if you let it, and let’s face it: ultimately, you’re the one who’s responsible for what you write.

It’s true that a critique is mostly someone else’s opinion about your work. But critiques also include ideas to improve your writing—ideas that may not have occurred to you. Additionally, a good critic will point out mechanical errors—grammar and spelling mistakes that slipped past you.

Critiques are designed to help writers, not to offend them or make them feel incapable. But the human ego is a fragile and funny thing. Some folks simply can’t handle the notion that despite all their hard work, the piece they’ve written is less than perfect.

As a writer, you have to decide whether you truly want to excel at your craft. If you do, then you need to put your ego aside and learn how to accept critiques graciously. If you can’t do that, there’s a good chance your writing will never improve and your work will always be mediocre.

Critiques are not tools of torture. They are meant to help you. If the critique is put together in a thoughtful and meaningful way, it should lift your spirits by pointing out strengths in the piece, but it should also raise some red flags by marking areas that need improvement.

Usually, critiques sting a little. That’s okay. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and your suspicions about what is weak in your writing will only be confirmed. Other times, you’ll be surprised that the critic found weaknesses in parts of the work that you thought were the strongest.

Whether a critique will be beneficial or harmful depends entirely on you. Obviously, nobody can make you change what you’ve written; it’s up to you to pick and choose what you revise.

Tips for Accepting Writing Critiques and then Writing Better

With practice and by following the tips below, you’ll learn how to overcome your own ego; how to obtain a beneficial critique, evaluate it objectively, and apply it to your writing thoughtfully; and for all that, you’ll be a better writer.

  • Find someone who is well read, tactful, honest, and knowledgeable about writing. If you can find a critic who possesses all these traits, then you have overcome the first hurdle, because such persons are not easy to find.
  • Polish your work as much as you can before handing it over. Do not send a rough draft to someone who will be critiquing your work, otherwise much of the feedback you receive may address problems you could have found and dealt with yourself. The point of a critique is to step beyond your own perspective and abilities. Note: Some writers get developmental edits or use alpha readers who read the rough draft and then give general feedback on the story or idea. This is not a critique in the traditional sense. It’s more for bouncing ideas around.
  • Don’t harass the person who is critiquing your work by calling them every day, especially if they’re doing you a favor. If you are working under any kind of deadline, plan accordingly.
  • If possible, do not review the critique in the presence of the person who prepared it. The best way to first review a critique is to set aside some time alone. In some cases, you’ll do critiques in workshops or writing groups where you have to be prepared to hear live feedback. In these situations, there is usually an instructor guiding the critiques to make sure they are presented and accepted graciously.
  • You may have an emotional reaction. Some of the feedback may make you angry or despondent. Know that this is normal and it will pass.
  • After you review the critique, let it sit for a day or two. In time, your emotions will subside and your intellect will take over. The reasonable part of your brain will step in and you’ll be able to absorb the feedback objectively.
  • Revisit the critique with an open mind. Try to treat your own writing as if it were someone else’s. As you review it, ask yourself how the suggestions provided can be applied, and envision how they will make your work better.
  • Figure out what is objective and what is personal in the critique. Critics are human. Some of their findings may be technical—mistakes that you should definitely fix. Other findings will be highly subjective (this character is unlikable, this dialogue is unclear, etc.). You may have to make judgment calls to determine where the critic is inserting his or her personal tastes.
  • Decide what you’ll use and what you’ll discard. Remember, the critic is not in your head and may not see the big picture of your project.
  • Thank your critics. After all, they took the time to help you, and even if you didn’t like what they had to say or how they said it—even if the critique itself was weak—just be gracious, say thanks, and move on. Don’t argue about the feedback.
  • Now you can take the feedback you’ve received and apply it to your work. Edit and tweak the project based on the suggestions that you think will best benefit the piece.
  • You can apply the feedback to future projects too. Take what you learned from this critique and use it when you’re working on your next project. In this way, your writing (not just a single project) will consistently improve.

In some cases, you may not have control over who critiques your work. If it’s published, anyone can assess it, and they can assess it publicly. If you’re taking a class or workshop, peer-to-peer critiques may be required. In cases like these, it’s essential that you keep a cool head. Even if someone is unnecessarily harsh or rude in their (uninvited) delivery, respond tactfully and diplomatically.

If you can obtain useful critiques and apply the feedback to your work, your writing will improve dramatically. Critiques are one of the most effective and fastest ways of making your writing better.

Good luck with your critiques, and keep writing. Pick up a copy of 10 Core Practices for Better Writing for more tips and ideas to continuously improve your writing.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

20 Creative Writing Careers

If creative writing is your passion, then you’d probably enjoy a career in which you could spend all day (or at least most of the day) pursuing that passion.

But creative writing is an artistic pursuit, and we all know that a career in the arts isn’t easy to come by.

It takes hard work, drive, dedication, a whole lot of spirit, and often, a willingness to take big financial risks — as in not having much money while you’re waiting for your big break.

When we think of people who make a living through writing, novelists and journalists come to mind immediately. But what other jobs are out there for folks who want to make creative writing the work that puts food on the table?

The Creative Writing Career List

Here’s a list of twenty creative writing careers that you can consider for your future. I’m not making any promises. You have to go out and find these jobs yourself, but they do exist. You just have to look for them and then land them.

  1. Greeting Card Author
  2. Comic Book Writer
  3. Novelist
  4. Creativity Coach
  5. Writing Coach
  6. Advertising (Creative)
  7. Screenwriter
  8. Songwriter (Lyricist)
  9. Freelance Short Fiction Writer
  10. Creative Writing Instructor
  11. Legacy Writer (write people’s bios and family histories)
  12. Ghostwriter
  13. Travel Writer (if you travel)
  14. Article Writer (write, submit, repeat)
  15. Columnist
  16. Video Game Writer (includes storytelling/fiction!)
  17. Personal Poet (write personalized poems for weddings, funerals, childbirths, etc.)
  18. Playwright
  19. Blogger (don’t tell me you don’t have a blog yet!)
  20. Creative Writing Consultant

I’m not saying you’re going to make a lot of money with some of these creative writing careers. You might have to earn your creating writing income part-time or on the side. But if you do what you love, the money (i.e. the success) just might follow. You’ll never know unless you try, right?

Do you have any creative writing careers to add to this list? Share your suggestions by leaving a comment.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing