Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Editing Metaphor and ROW 80 Check-In

I want to start with a metaphor for editing. It is a piece of writing that has been used as a metaphor for many things, and I have to admit that the author probably did not mean it to refer to the writing process. Though he was an English professor himself, so might appreciate the use. 

It comes from C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, chapter 7. The most irritating character in the entire book is a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrub, and as the narrator notes 'he almost deserved it.' Part way through the book, for those of you who don't know it, Eustace becomes a dragon. 

I think that often when we are trying to write a book, our first draft is as rough and ungainly as a dragon, though we wish it to be slim and delicate like a child.  So how do we go from one state to the other?

Have a read of the conversation between Eustace and his cousin Edmund, when Eustace is found to be a boy again.

'Well, as I say, I was lying awake and wondering what on earth would become of me. And then - but, mind you, it may have been all a dream. I don't know."
"Go on," said Edmund, with considerable patience.

"Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it."

"You mean it spoke?"

"I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

"I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.

"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

"But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So 1 scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

"Then the lion said" - but I don't know if it spoke - "You will have to let me undress you." I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."

"I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund.

"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.
Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again."

Editing, I believe, should always start with our own efforts. But not just scratching off a few words here and a few words there, but deep raking cuts that rip out entire sections. We should do that again and again until we can do no more. Then we must give it over to someone else, because we will rarely edit down til it hurts, and it is only then that you get through to the delicate message underneath. 
Editing is a hard lesson to learn, but so worth it when you have the chiseled, perfect product in front of you. 

I hope that imagery worked as well for you as it did for me.

ROW 80 Check-in:

I'm currently working away being a busy little bee, probably in a few too many areas of my life.

1. Starting last Friday, and continuing until this Sunday I'm volunteering at the Melbourne Writers Festival. This has been fun, and allowed me to go to other talks for free. However I have to admit that the 4-5 hour shifts, especially when they involve something thrilling like standing in foyer pointing people towards the appropriate rooms and not being able to sit down, do have their drawbacks. I've actually only had two shifts so far, and another on tomorrow and Friday, but they leave me exhausted. Having said that, it is great knowing what is happening in the Australian writing scene, who's who, and what works are coming out. 

2. At the beginning of this week I started my next two week draft: The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, the sequel to Retreat. It's going well, and I'm enjoying writing it because some of the ideas that come out are novel to me too! I hope to get the first draft completed by the end of the next week, and then the goal is to have it published by the end of September, depending on if one of my editors has time to go through it. I'm off to a writing conference on the 11th of October. I plan to get a table so I can sell copies of Retreat and Bootcamp, as well as other books I've helped produce, if I can.

3. The project for last fortnight was The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles. As I actually only spent a week on it, it was not completely done. I had scheduled this week and next to edit it in the evenings (after writing, working on my business, and doing all those annoying life things). I think I should be able to get it finished and edited in that time. This is not an important project, but just something I think will help a lot of men out there. It will only be in e-book format, and hopefully should be live by the end of September as well. 

4. I've been working on a few business projects. I'm still editing my aunt's novella: A Mother's Story, and haven't gotten that up yet. However, I hope to do so as soon as possible. I've also finally sent off for my US tax exemption identity number so Amazon and Smashwords only take 5% instead of 30%. It was one of those things that once I got myself organised, didn't take that long, but was just difficult to work out what to do and where to look etc. It's now going to take about 10 weeks before I actually hear back. So, lets hope I filled in the paperwork correctly!

5. The other big news in my life at the moment is that I signed a break lease contract last week, and I'm moving out of my (beautiful) apartment to be nomadic until the end of the year. Mostly this was to keep costs down so I can give myself a decent shot at making it before having to get some other work. So I've had open for inspections Monday, Tuesday and today. Trying to keep my place perfectly clean for 3 days in a row has been a bit of a strain. However, it looks like they have found a great tenant, who will be able to move in just 10 days later than I wanted (considering the other possibility was that we found no one and I had to pay rent for months and months while not living there, this is great). Because I know ahead of time, I'm not going to move out for an extra week, so I get to enjoy my place for a little bit longer. 

But in two weeks time I'm going to have to start the big clear out and pack. I'm hoping to do a major sort and declutter, giving away all the extra things I'm not going to use for quite a while. But this will take a lot of time going through everything, deciding what to keep and what to throw out, making sure it is clean to be packed into storage or given away, etc. However, once it's all done, it will feel great, like having a dragon skin removed! 

Luckily I have nothing else planned for September, though in October things start to get busy again. I'm organising advertising for my weekend intensive. Here's a flyer I've made up today. What do you think?  It's going to be A5, is it easy enough to read? Does it make you want to come to the country and write? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

KOP: How Often Should You Blog?

Courtesy of Jaylopez at stock.xchng

So by now you have set up most of the basics to create your platform. All you need now is to put something out there and get people to read it! 

So today's blog post is on a rather controversial topic: how often should you post on your blog? 
(no, I didn't realise this was controversial either until quite recently.)

Method 1: The More The Better

When I first started blogging, I read that you need to post regularly, at least 4 times a week. The logic for this was pretty sound:
1. You want to build up a strong archive of good posts so that when people come to visit, they have something to actually read.
2. The more posts = the more ways people can find you through search engines.
3. If you don't keep updating your content, there is no reason for someone to keep visiting.
4. If someone subscribes, then the more often you post, the more often you will pop up in their inbox, and the more they will remember you.

For example, Susan Gunelius on suggests the following frequencies:
  • For maximum growth: post multiple times per day to drive the most traffic (3-5 times or more is considered best for power bloggers).
  • For steady growth: post at least once per day.
  • For slower growth: publish at least every 3 days or 2-3 times per week.
  • For very slow growth: posting less frequently than 2-3 days per week is most appropriate for bloggers who maintain blogs as a hobby with no strategic plans for growth 

All of this sounded like very good advice. So for the first few months I tried to post 5 days a week, though generally managed 4. During this period my traffic slowly (painfully slowly) started to increase. Small miracles happened which would give me a sudden burst, and then it would settle down again. 

When I had to go back to full time work, my number of posts dropped off. I wanted to do 3 times a week, but sometimes struggled to even make 1. During these times, there was a direct correlation between the number of times I posted and the traffic for that week. Every day that I did write something, there was a spike in my stats. After that, it would slowly decrease over the next few days until I posted again. This reinforced to me my need to post as frequently as I could.

However, on my fitness blog, which is newer than 100FD, I found that even though I posted less often and had less content (though it was solid) I still had stronger stats that didn't dwindle based on posting frequency. The reason for this is because the majority of traffic is from Google to a small number of articles which rank really well. I had spent time promoting a few of my articles so they ranked well, which ended up paying a lot more dividends than writing more posts. (I mainly used article marketing to get backlinks and authority.) This is much more in the style of the second suggested method.

Method 2:  Less Writing, More Promotion

One advocate of this message is John Locke who wrote the book 'How I Sold A Million EBooks In 5 Months' (has some good tips here and there though a lot of his success I think is based on his personal circumstances and wouldn't work for everyone the same way. But since I paid $2.75 for the kindle version, I thought it was worth the investment.) He has a blog he posts on about once a month! I was completely shocked when I heard this. At the time of writing his book, he only had about 7 posts on the entire blog! So why does he do it this way? (And yes, it is a conscious decision, not just because he's lazy.)

The arguments in favour of this method include:
1. You only have top quality content on your site.
2. When you write a great piece, it doesn't immediately get buried but is available for people to read for a longer period.
3. If you haven't got much traffic, you should spend more time generate traffic than putting up content that no one is reading. 
4. Most of the reasons why you should post frequently don't apply as a new blogger: you aren't going to rank well on the search engines no matter what, and without readers or subscribers, no one is sharing your content or looking out for you. 
5. Instead, you want exposure: you want to spend your time appearing on every major blog in your areas so people actually know you.

However, the keys to this method, which a lot of people ignore, is a) making sure your content is even stronger and better researched than if you posted more frequently and b) still spending the same amount of time on the computer, but just using it differently. 

I have to say, this method has a lot going for it. With so many blogs out there, it is almost impossible to be found without a miracle if you aren't active in the community. Unless you already have a very strong readership who will come to you just because you are you, I think focusing on being known in the community is a much better use of your time.

In my own personal experience, I have to admit that the big jumps in traffic for me came from a) being linked to in Nathan Branford's post about Heifer International (which only happened because I was reading his blog and commented), b) being in ROW 80 and having my blog appear in a blog hop every week, then c) going to those other ROW 80 blogs and commenting and just being active in that community. 

I heard another point in favour of infrequent posting on The Self-Publishing Podcast (this is a great podcast, though does have a lot of swearing and could easily be cut in half they spend so much time laughing at their own jokes. However, they do give some great tips in amongst that). Their advice was particularly focused on writers trying to become visible as an author (rather than just trying to get people to your blog to sell them things there). They suggested that if you have the material for a great post, instead of putting it on your blog, you should think about turning it into a free ebook to download through Amazon KDP Select. One of the hosts did this in reverse, taking a popular blog post and turning it into an ebook which is now free, and it gets downloaded roughly 90 times per day. That's a lot of people seeing you on Amazon where your other books will be.

Further, they argued that if you don't have a great idea for a post that day, spend the time on actually writing your novels! Don't blog at the expense of actually getting your writing out there because you can't count on becoming well-known based on even a handful of books. You need to be prolific (with quality) if you want to be discovered as an author. 

This is good to remember, that your promotion should not be at the expensive of your writing. However, I also strongly believe that as a writer you need to practice as much as you can. What better way to practice and train as a writer than to spend 30 minutes a day or a few times a week writing and then getting feedback on that writing? The discipline itself is a great reason to blog more often. Further, for me, a lot of my blog posts help create my 'Five Day Writer' series, so the more I post, the more of my books I get written. 

So, in summary, it's not as simple as blog more/ blog less.

Key Points To Remember:

- For either method, you are still spending the same time online (not writing novels/living/etc), just one is focused on producing more content, and the other is focused on getting more exposure for less content. 
- I believe you still need an archive of posts before you start promoting yourself.
- If you want to build up your platform super-fast, then you need to spend more time overall both producing more content and getting more exposure. 
- Every new blogger needs to introduce themselves to the community somehow. Just writing content and hoping that someone will read it is a very, very slow way to go. 
- You are a writer! Writing blog posts is all part of your training. So don't be afraid of it. 
- Make sure you are in a niche that excites you enough that you can write lots of content.

Final point which I think is sound: whichever you decide to do, let your reader know. If they know how often and when you are going to post (every Monday, or every first Monday of the month) they will be more likely to remember to come back on check on you. 
Otherwise, they might keep coming back for a week and since nothing new is there give up. On the other hand, they might subscribe, but once they realise you post everyday, they might just start deleting you from their inbox. 

Talking about subscribing... have you subscribed to 100 first drafts yet? Sign up to receive posts via email, or become a follower. 
(I'm trying to post 1-3 times per week at the moment, just in case you were wondering :D).

Monday, 19 August 2013

KDP Select, Self-Promotion and ROW 80 Check In.

So this week I spent a lot of time working on the finishing and promotion of my brother's book: Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists. 

The experience of editing a family member's work:
To be completely honest, I had not read the book the entire way through until I started editing it. It was a strange experience, as the book was very my brother, which is weird for any sibling to think that the rest of the world might be interested in that (like the weirdness that someone would actually want to date and marry your sibling... don't they know that said sibling pulled your hair when you were five, and let the dog bury your barbies?). However, it also gave me an interesting insight into my brother and made me appreciate his hobbies and interests a lot more. Particularly, his book made the fascination and peace he gets about deer hunting real to me. 

Having said that, I did go through in a lot of places and just go 'nope, you can't say that. Or that.' And with permission I re-wrote quite a few bits. I will openly admit that Dave was great about it, and didn't put any restrictions on me for example by saying that I had to keep any of his particular darlings etc. He was a very easy author to work with. 

However, I only got to do one run through, when in fact it needed a structural edit, then a copy edit, and then a proof read. So I feel cautious about saying 'I've edited this!' because while I did a huge amount, I probably took out 90% of the spelling mistakes/typos, but since there were some every few paragraphs, the number remaining will still look like I did a bad job. Oh well, you get what you pay for. 

A Lesson in Book Promotion
So when I took over helping to promote Dave's book it was already enrolled in KDP Select, though he hadn't done anything about it and it wasn't being particularly profitable. From my research, the biggest advantage to KDP Select for new authors is the ability to list your book on Amazon for free for a total of 5 days within the 90. (Don't believe their 'amazing global fund', you'll be lucky if you get even a dollar, from my experience.) 

As Dave hadn't done anything with this, I still had the full 5 days to play with. So, a few weeks ago I redid his cover to better reflect the genre of the book (best tip on book cover creation I have ever received: the first purpose of the book cover is to immediately reflect the genre of the book so as to attract your target market. Always do some 'market research' by looking up similar books in Amazon and noting stylistic features in that category). After I redid it we put it up for 3 days free. No promotion other than saying on his Facebook page that it was going free. 339 downloads. 

Now that is not spectacular for a free promotion (you hear of people who get 45,000 for one promotion, but they usually have something help like being picked up by a ebook reviewer etc. More on that later). However, we thought it was pretty awesome. 339 new people introduced to Dave as an author! Even more probably saw it, but these guys were interested enough to click and download.

The first two days were definitely the most successful, and it had slowed down a lot by the third. I assume it moves off the 'newly listed free' page or something like that. I would recommend starting with a maximum of 2 days, and if it is going well (which will be moving you up some lists) then add an extra day or two. 

However, we haven't appeared to receive any extra reviews from that, which was our big hope. 

This Time Around:
Well, as we did so well last time, and Dave's KDP select enrolment period was ending this weekend, I decided I would upload the revised version on Thursday and then have Friday and Saturday as free promotion. Further, I was a good, hard-working girl and found all the places that you could promote your ebook for free. Okay, so there are hundreds of places. Therefore, I then narrowed it down to the ones that seemed most recommended, and I gave them a week's notice, and ended up submitting Dave's book to literally about 50 sites (give or take a few). Though, quite a few of the sites you can submit for free, but if you want a guaranteed listing you need to pay, which I didn't do. 

I then tweeted and Facebooked, and sent an email to The Five Day Writer's free ebook list (sign up on the sidebar if you are interested in getting free review copies of the books I help bring out!).  And then collapsed into bed and waited for the numbers to surge. 

You want to know the end result? 210. 
Yup, absolutely no difference to when we didn't do anything at all! In fact, in the first two days of the last promotion we had more free downloads. I could have cried.

In the future, I would still go through with it all just for the off chance that it might be picked up. I did wonder whether the product description could have used more work (I've now updated it to something more snappy), and also the book is REALLY hard to place genre-wise, because who does social commentary wrapped up in romance, architecture and deer hunting? The romance isn't actually fulfilled until the next book, so it won't appeal to the pure romantics, not sure many people read fiction books about architecture (maybe kids, they love Bob the Builder), and while the deer hunting scenes are fantastic, there are only two and they are towards the end of the book, so people interested in guns have to wade through 2/3 about the girl and building houses. What would you market that as?
The other problem is that I think a few of the sites downloaded a version of it to have a look at before I had uploaded the new revised edition, so might have not promoted it because of that. 

- product description really, really important. Do not just whack something up and hope it works.
- free promotion still good if you have no readership, because there are now almost 500 people who have Dave's book who had never heard of him before. 
- plan your promotion in advance, and decide whether you are going to put some money into it. (It was usually $10 per site for guaranteed inclusion).
- please, please, please: write to a market! If you want to sell your book on everything, you are welcome to, but it is really hard to promote. 
- enjoy the free downloads, but don't count on it going viral. Even after putting in a lot of work, there is still a lot of chance involved. 
- KDP select: make sure you use the free promotion if you are going to enroll. I didn't use it for The Five Day Writer, because I also wanted to sell it on my site, but I think for my next book I might try it, now that I have other things on Amazon they can buy as well if they like my book.

ROW 80 Check-In:

In recap, my goals for last week were:

1. Write up everything I want to change/add to improve A Little Bit of Leaven.
2. Create a Print On Demand version of 'The Five Day Writer's Retreat'.

3. Finish editing 'Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists'.

4. Organise my first writing intensive workshop! 

How did I go with that?
We will just overlook number 1. It is scheduled in for another month now.

2. Done! It took a while longer than it should have because I perfectly formatted it... to the wrong trim size! (in that I hadn't done it to any trim size.) However, the proof copy will arrive for me on the 4th of September. I'll get to hold my very own book. Yes, am ridiculously excited about this, regardless of it being self-published. So mid-September it should be available worldwide for print on demand. Would make a great Christmas present for friends who are writers... just saying :D

3. Well, I think I've said enough about that.

4. I sat down and worked out the schedule for the intensive, emailed the first person who was interested, updated my websites, particularly to have all the information, and started to contact accommodation in the area to see if they would offer a discount to my guests. The schedule is up on The Five Day Writer, and I have to admit, it looks pretty fun, if I do say so myself. I'm now trying to work out where to advertise in order to get more guests, which is pretty exciting.

If any of you are interested in coming, I could be tempted to offer a 100FD special to my first intensive, as a Thank You for all your support. Or if you know someone who would be free and interested, I could do mates-rates. 

Details: Friday 25th Oct 8pm - Sunday 27th 2pm, in Woodend, which is 50 minutes north-west of Melbourne. Topic: The Fundamentals of Self-Publishing. Current cost is $250 for the weekend, including meals but not including accommodation. It is going to be a really relaxed, intimate weekend where you get to talk about your writing and authorship dreams.

Give me a buzz at if you're interested!

So, anyone got any KDP select free promotion success stories? Any advice? 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Importance of Editing and ROW 80 Check-In

One of the best things about now being dedicated to writing is that I can attend as many writing conferences and workshops as I like/can afford. And I have taken this opportunity and gone overboard!

I attended one conference a few weekends ago, another this weekend, have been accepted as a volunteer for the Melbourne Writer's Festival (so get to go to all main events for free, which I plan to take advantage of) and then another Christian writer's conference in Brisbane in October.

Further, I think God might be trying to give me a subtly hint, as the two workshops I have attended recently have emphasised different aspects of editing. 

Winter Writer's Workshop: 

A few weekends' ago I was at the Winter Writer's Workshop, which featured Damon Young (who does more academic and literary writing, but has a fantastic voice that you could just listen to for ages), Jo Case who wrote a memoir about when she found out her son had autism (and was involved in the Australian writing scene a lot before that), and my favourite, Kate Forsyth (fantasy writer who I saw last year. I even did one of my very first posts on her method of creating flow. Vintage 100FD!)

If you are in Australia, and ever see a course run by Kate (she does quite a few, particularly in Sydney, where she lives. I'm currently contemplating whether to fly up for one), I highly recommend them. She has such a gift for breaking down the writing process and actually teaching you tools that will help you to critically approach your writing and improve it. Her advice on structure and pacing is fantastic.

One thought she raised that I want to share with you is about editing. A lot of writers (me included at times) think that they do the creative process of getting the rough draft, and then someone else can do the boring part of editing. Kate is completely against this. As a writer, the editing process is still your responsibility, and makes you a stronger writer. I have now come to completely agree with her. The process of analysing your own writing and determining whether you have used the most effective tools to get your meaning across is how you learn and develop. It also allows you to put a stronger personal voice on it, rather than having more of someone else's style in your writing. So, learn to edit! (but also always get someone else to have a look, after you have done your very best.)

Melbourne Word Writer's Intensive:

This weekend I was offered a very special opportunity. The Word Writers, a Christian writing group focused on promoting Australian Christian Writers (yes, they exist, and all of the ones I've met so far as awesome), had an intensive editing workshop on Friday and then a conference on Saturday.

The intensive editing workshop was amazing. I sent in the first chapter of my manuscript. (Sally Hunt, as the appraisal from the competition said it needed a lot of editing, though I've still been short listed, yah!) About a week ago I received in depth commentary back on that from Mary Hawkins, an Australian romance writer (both Christian and mainstream - her first  published books were by Mills and Boon, which is funny for a minister's wife :D ). However, she then requested the rest of the manuscript, just to see what the appraiser meant by certain comments, so I sent that through.

I turned up on Friday and she had gone through my entire manuscript and made comments! It was not as in depth as the first chapter, but it made so much sense. I have to admit, there had been comments by the appraiser which I was like 'where have I done that? What does she mean by that?' But when I saw the parts that Mary had highlighted, and her suggestions, there was an 'Oh, that bit... right....' moment or two.

My biggest problem was point of view. I know when editing other people's work to look out for point of view, but in my own work some of my 'darlings' were witty things I had said as the narrator which were outside of the point of view I should have been in. So, time to be humble and fix those up. I spent the day editing away, and then a large part of the night as well, and I'm still about halfway through. I have also re-written my climax scene (it was theologically controversial how I had presented it). I am so much happier with my manuscript and feel I've lifted it to another level. I'll also remember in future when writing to keep tight control on my internal camera.

So all I can say is that new writer or old, you need someone else who will critically look at your manuscript. It can take it to a new level, and teach you things about your own writing style that will help you in the future.

ROW80 Check-In:

I haven't checked in for a while, and my goals were particularly for that week. However, I have managed to get some things done, but probably not as much as I like.

Overall, I now have 4 of Dave's short stories out (two hunting ones and two military adventure), all on Smashwords and 3 of which are on Amazon. (Two are on Smashwords for free, and I feel bad about putting them on Amazon for 99c when you can get them for free. So have listed one on Amazon and advised them it can be purchased cheaper elsewhere, will see if they match it.) If you get a copy, a short review would be really appreciated.

I have also finished the initial edit of 'A Little Bit of Leaven', the story my great-grandfather wrote. It's strange because it's not thrilling, suspenseful, romantic etc., but after every session I just felt really peaceful and comforted. Then in the last part I was almost in tears, in a good way. I am excited about what to do, but also a bit fearful that I won't do it justice. But better than it being hidden away!

So, my goals for this week:

1. Write up everything I want to change/add to improve A Little Bit of Leaven.

2. Create a Print On Demand version of 'The Five Day Writer's Retreat'. Have done most of the cover, just struggling with a gripping blurb. Then I just need to reformat the document to print properly. Going to be testing out CreateSpace.

3. Finish editing 'Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists'. Meant to do this last week, but instead got the two military short stories out for Dave.

4. Organise my first writing intensive workshop! This is pretty exciting. At the Christian writer's conference people were asking about self-publishing, so I mentioned that I had started a company helping authors self-publish by offering whatever services they need to complement their skills. One lady was really interested and asked if I could help her. I mentioned to her that I was running a workshop through my local community centre on 'An Intro to Self-Publishing'. She was very excited, but lives about 3 hours away from me. She asked if I could run a weekend intensive on the topic? Thinking about it overnight, I came back the next day and said Yes!

So, end of October, The Five Day Writer is going to run its first weekend intensive on 'What's Involved In Self-Publishing'. It will cover all the steps and what you need to know to complete each one. It won't be as practical as my 7 week course through the Woodend Community Centre, as there is just not enough time to walk everyone through setting up their author pages, etc. But it will show you where to go, what to do, and how to find the help you need.

I'm very excited about that, but also a little bit scared. I at least have two people already prepared to come (my aunt said she would come as well), and my little sister has agreed to help me with the catering. My parents will be travelling and said I can use their gorgeous American Colonial house in the country to host it. It will be an intimate group in comfortable chairs around a fire, eating, chatting, passionate about writing.

So, if you know of anyone interested in self-publishing who lives in or around Melbourne, point them my way!

What questions would you want answered about self-publishing?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Finding The Best Author Pages on Facebook, And Stealing Their Ideas.

Following on from my KOP post on how to create a Facebook author page, the next logical step is to find out who is doing it well, and then steal their ideas.

I openly admit that my author page is a work in progress. So, let's travel across the interwebs and find out who out there has some great ideas that can be pilfered.

Now, a lot of webpages out there confuse 'favourite authors' with 'good author page', so we need to try and get past the fact that we love these guys to find one with actual substance other than an already strong following. Not much use for those of us starting from scratch.

I've also found it really difficult to locate people's favourite pages, as if you do a good search there are thousands of articles telling you how to make an author page, but not much looking at some of the best examples out there. But I have done my best. 

The Hunger Games:

As much as I hate to admit it, the first great page I came across was for The Hunger Games, because of it's fantastic use of audience participation. But let's break it down a bit further.

Apps: across the top it has photos (not so interesting to me), then 'Read the Book', which if they are offering a free version would be quite interesting. So I click on it and as the page loads, a pop-up (or skin) appears with a giant picture of the book's cover and "Exclusive access to giveways, videos, quizzes, gifts, and more!" plus the social proof that 4million other people (ie. teenage girls) have already liked it. And I can click on the like button just there and be part of all the fun!
Clever, huh? First of all, it didn't come up too early, before I had shown any interest in the page. Then, it waited until I wanted something (free copy of the book), and showed me I could get even more just by clicking 'like'. Finally, it won't actually let me get to the free book unless I do click like (something quite small and effortless, but I'm not actually going to do it because I don't support the view of writing presented in the third book).

Status Updates: Rather than just using their status updates to try and sell the book, they focus very heavily on audience participation with daily questions and quizzes. One particularly clever one (in that it allows the audience to talk about themselves, always a good move) is the update:

“Yesterday we asked you what ‪#‎Finnick‬ Odair’s weapon of choice was now we want to know, what would be YOUR weapon of choice be in the arena?”

Unsurprisingly, even though it was posted only a few days ago, it has 1,455 comments. 

Mary DeMuth

This is actually an author I've never heard about (she appears to be an American Christian author). However, I've given her second place for really focusing on her brand on her Facebook page. The page doesn't appear to deviate into 'what my kid had for breakfast this morning', but offers continued support and tips on her main areas of spiritual healing. Further, she is open and vulnerable to her audience, asking for prayer as well as offering it. She also takes the time to reply to the comments on her page, so there is a real sense of conversation. This is a really good use of Facebook for developing dedicated fans.

Steven King:

This page is interesting not just because he's Steven King and has a trillion books out there and millions of fans. What's interesting is that this facebook page is not actually managed by King at all, but by the publishers. Therefore, it is a great example of how to get interaction when you personally aren't interacting. 
It is made up of a lot of quotes from the books with photos to get people thinking. It also includes news articles and other tidbits about King or related to his books to give it a feel that you are learning more about the man.

And Just To Finish Off:
There are a lot of pages about how to write a great author facebook page. So, going through them I've just pulled out some of the status updates which I think are great and can be used by any of us:

From Novel Publicity:

Hello, likers of this Facebook page. What are you doing today? Are you reading anything you think I might enjoy?

Did you know that the protagonist in my first novel eats PlayDoh when he thinks no one is looking? Uh-oh, his love interest just found out! (Or some other fun and intriguing factoid from your novel or WIP)
I don’t want to talk about books today. Let’s talk about… Dogs! I have a super rambunctious and totally adorable Golden Retriever puppy named Polo. Any other dog people out there? Tell me about your pooch. We can compare notes! 

From Author Media:

Use a 'fill in the blank' status update.

Facebook engagment

Great advice from an interview with Miles Daniels:

Think of it as an 80/20 rule. 80 percent of your wall postings should add value and build loyalty with your fans. Share tidbits, interesting ideas, free writing tips, and other no-strings-attached content. Use the other 20 percent to promote yourself and your book. Include your book signings under events. Post reviews and articles as links. Add pictures of you and your fans. 

I know that there must be other great Facebook Pages out there, but it is really hard to find them. Anyone got any suggestions?