How to Build Your Writing Skills

stick_figure_happy_laptop_400_clr_3330Every day, new writers decide to have a shot at being published. They come up with an idea, rough out a plot, and enthusiastically start pounding the keyboard.

Then, when they read through their scenes, disappointment strikes. Their prose just doesn’t sound the way they imagined. The dialogue doesn’t flow; the characters seem flat. There are (gulp) bits that just seem plain boring. They don’t know what to do. When they read about technique online, there are twenty million articles and…well, it all seems just too hard.

It’s not just new writers that end up in a fit of the doldrums because of the difference between what is in their heads and what appears on the page. Established writers, too, can get stuck on one element of craft – or even go through a rough period where everything they write seems like total rubbish. It’s not a nice feeling. (Ask any writer. Most of us go through it.)

Whether you’re new or you’ve been in the writing game for years, you need to get some perspective on the problem. Once you can see it objectively, you need a plan of attack. Continue reading

Designing Your Book Cover

annie_paletteThanks to digital publishing, you now have a lot more control over your writing career. With that control, however, comes a lot more responsibility. As well as writing the book, you have to promote it and provide it with a decent cover.

The cover is hugely important. Think about your own browsing habits online. You visit Amazon (or another digital bookstore, but we’ll use Amazon as the example here) and browse.

Usually, you’ll click on a genre that you enjoy: thrillers, romances, mysteries, etc. Once you know you’re in the right playground, you start to sift further. You might be looking for books by a particular author, or recent releases. You might check out the bestseller lists, both free and paid; you might filter results by the number of five-star reviews.

But once you have arrived at a list, what do you do next?  Continue reading

The Organized Indie Writer

24 hours ago I clicked the ‘publish’ button on Amazon KDP for the first 3 titles – and the box set – for my new cozy mysteries: The Georgie B. Goode Gypsy Caravan Cozy Mysteries. (That’s the series name, by the way – and if you’re going to write a series for Amazon, you need to include that as your subtitle.)

You can see the books (Good to Go, Georgie be Good, Good Riddance and the Boxed Set of Books 1,2 and 3) in the left-hand sidebar. Clicking on a book cover will take you to its Amazon page.

For the past 4 days, while I’ve gone through the process of the final proof-read, edit, formatting for Kindle, blog posts and FB posts, everything has taken longer than I expected. Get that firmly fixed in your brain.

Everything to do with being an Indie author-entrepreneur will take longer than you expect.

Writing the books is only part of the job. Continue reading

A New Way to Look at Your Business

HungHoweyOwningFor many years, I did what everyone had to do if they wanted to be published. I plotted and started writing the book, and as I got towards writing THE END (metaphorically speaking – I never actually DID write that!) I starting thinking about how I was going to sell it.

It was a daunting prospect. Everybody knew that only a small fraction of books submitted ever got published. Worse, we’d all heard about authors who got positive feedback and “try us again” letters, but hadn’t made it past the finish line because of bad luck (another book too similar just accepted, or rejected by a close vote in an editorial meeting).

Write, query, query, query, query, query… some people had their a book rejected by upwards of thirty publishers before they gave up and consigned it to their own little ‘rejects’ pile. Sometimes they’d start all over again, sometimes they gave up.

Now, with Indie publishing, the publishing scene has changed so dramatically that authors have to make entirely different decisions, related to taking the reins of their own publishing business. (For it is a business: you are the writer and the publisher.)

Hugh Howey has written a thought-provoking post, Renting Vs. Owning, that pretty much lays out what many of us have been thinking for a long time. Read it, and see what you think.

And while you’re there… also take a look at the clever one-line tags for each of his books. What could you write for each of yours?


A Glance at Author Earnings

author_earnings_thumbQuite often people write to me and say things like:

“I tried publishing a book on Amazon and I’ve sold three copies in the last twelve months”, or “They say it’s possible to earn a living as an Indie writer, but I’m not so sure…”

Others ask questions like “How can I write, publish and promote a book myself to make a decent living?” and “Should I just keep trying to sell my book to a traditional publisher?”

I’m not going to try to answer these questions today (and there’s no one definitive answer anyway) but ALL of them can be answered for you (whatever your circumstances might be) if you know where to look.

The Author Earnings Report 

One of the ways to keep your finger on the pulse is to sign up for the Author Earnings quarterly report. I’ve just received mine, and this time the focus was on earnings by The Big Five publishers on Amazon compared to other segments like Indies, small press, Amazon imprints and uncategorized.

There’s a lot in this report, and I recommend that you view it here in its entirety and sign up to receive future reports yourself. (Go to the home page and scroll down to fill in your details in the box to receive updates.) However, the graphic below was flagged as ‘the chart that means most to us as authors’, showing the market trends with share of Ebook author earnings:

Extract from Author Earnings Report May 2015

Extract from Author Earnings Report May 2015

You have probably noticed that books published by the Big Five usually cost more than other titles – this is because they demanded the right to set their own prices. The results appear to show that this might not have been a good thing for authors.

The pendulum continues to swing towards Indie publishing, so if you were sitting on the fence, perhaps Indie or hybrid (a combination of books with traditional publishers and Indie) might be the way to go.

[Note: I continue to publish children’s educational titles with a traditional publisher. That was an easy choice for me, since I want to focus on an adult readership for my Indie titles. I’m just one of many ‘hybrid’ authors.]

Who are “The Big Five”?

The so-called “Big Five” refers to Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster.

How I Use Scrivener for Career Planning


I’m sure most people have heard of Scrivener by now, but if you haven’t… it’s probably the best writer’s tool out there. [Related post: Moving from Word to Scrivener.] You can organise all kinds of things in Scrivener “projects” – from a novel (or a whole series of novels) to research or career planning.

My Scrivener Indie Career Planning project contains tips, advice, checklists, examples and step-by-step guidelines on how to do a whole range of things connected with being an author-entrepreneur. Continue reading

Pseudonyms and Overseas Markets

questionstickmanThis week, I received an email from a writer who is thinking about releasing her children’s book as an ebook. She had quite a few questions based on “Americanising” a book (spelling, usage) and on the use of a pseudonym.

Since there are likely to be other Indies who have the same questions in mind, I thought it best to put my answers in a blog post.

Writing for an Overseas Audience

“Do I need to Americanise my children’s fiction book? And if ‘yes’, is it only in terms of spelling and word choice, or does  the content need to change too, as if the story took place in the US with the school year etc?” Continue reading

CLEARLY a Useful Tool

clearlyiconIndie writers are constantly copying and pasting useful info from websites and blogs. (I keep a Scrivener file just for Writing Tips – I’ll blog about that later on.)

Evernote has put out a really useful tool for those who use the Chrome browser. It cuts out all the distracting side panels and other info on a page, and just pops up the article by itself. (A bit like the ‘printer friendly’ pages available on some websites.)

You can copy information and clip it directly to an Evernote folder, or paste it somewhere else. Continue reading

Your Indie Career

IndielaptopFrom time to time I get an email – or a comment – from an Indie author who puts one book up for sale, has minimal sales, and then says: “Indie publishing doesn’t work. I think I’ll go back to trying to find a traditional publisher.”

Indie publishing is a long-term deal – as is/was traditional publishing. You can read about any number of trad pubbed authors who have put out a book a year for four, five, six or ten years, and who have gradually seen their readership grow and their backlist begin to sell. Continue reading