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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Joy of Writing: How to Keep it During NaNoWriMo

8 Bestselling Authors Share Tips and Tricks for Finding and Keeping Joy in Your Writing


by Ruth Harris


The Joy of Writing? During National Novel Writing Month? You're kidding, right?

A 55K word novel in a month?

You're fretting, nervous, sweaty.

Performance anxiety in excelsis?

Brain block? What brain?

Writing should be fun and NaNo is your opportunity to have a ball. To help get you in the mood, I've asked some experienced writers to talk about the many pleasures of writing.

Grace Burrowes


Grace Burrowes started out as a tech writer, switched to law, but millions of readers know her for her USA Today and NYT bestselling romance novels.

There are so many joys to writing, at least for me. I love—

  • The research, which connects me to people I'll never know in person, but can appreciate even from a temporal distance.
  • The author community, which is full of the most knowledgeable, generous, creative, insightful, interesting people ever to take time from their busy lives to believe in something so much more compelling and rewarding than simple profit for its own sake.
  • The readers, about whom, I cannot say enough good things
  • The keeper authors whose stories have inspired me through so many tight knotholes and six-hankie billing cycles 
  • But mostly, I love the process of creative self-expression. Our culture doesn't make much space for honoring each person's story, but as an author, I get to focus on that story in its fictional incarnations. I can sit with it, shape it, recast it again and again, and then set it free to entertain and be enjoyed by others. I have the best job. I find myself over and over in the context of love stories, and each time, the sense of joy and homecoming is new all over
    again.

Joe Konrath



Noted blogger and ebook guru, Joe Konrath has sold over 3 million books worldwide and writes in the thriller, horror, erotica and comedy genres.

  • What I love about writing is the same thing I love about reading a good book; disappearing into the story as it plays out in my head. There is no other media that uses so much imagination, and creating worlds and characters is a reward unto itself. Honestly, if the federal government knew how much fun writing was, they'd tax it or make it illegal.
  • NaNo can be challenging, difficult, and even daunting. But if you aren't having fun, maybe you should spend your time doing something you'd enjoy.

Consuelo Saah Baehr


Multi-faceted bestseller, Consuelo Saah Baehr has been published in hardcover by Delacourt and Simon & Schuster, and as an indie in ebook format. Consuelo is now a Montlake author. (Montlake is an Amazon imprint...Anne)

  • Having a deadline will make you write like a sonofagun.
  • I've become a more facile writer from being a regular blogger. The discipline of making the ordinary sound interesting has given my writing muscles a workout and I'm accustomed to finding the best way to present an idea.
  • Grace Paley once said "If you want to write better, write truer." It works. If you find the truest sentence about a scene or idea, the rest will flow very nicely.   
  • In my current book I had allocated some space for two minor characters. They have insinuated themselves into all the major plot points. They will probably run away with the book without my permission. Sounds crazy. Really happens.The above pushy duo have created intrigue and plot twists I never intended but make for a more interesting book. I, the writer, would never have thought of the things they do.
  • When I need a good idea for a new scene or passage, I ask my mind (out loud) to think about what I need and then present the answer to me. Always works. (Saying it aloud might help).
  • When I'm out of the house and get an idea, I write in longhand on the back of a flyer and get some wonderful and sound writing done. Longhand has a little magic attached to it and also a different locale that is quiet seems to work, too.
  • I've been published by several of the big six and only once did I have a bad editor. I was thrilled to be edited by the smart experienced editors assigned to me. Michael Korda was a great editor. Jackie Farber who edited Daughters was a great editor. A great editor helps you shape the manuscript and focus on the story instead of the writing.
  • It takes a day or two to adjust to good editorial suggestions. Just do the work. They are almost always right. I had a bad editor once and I could not see his point of view. Later I realized I was not alone in this.
  • Getting in the zone takes devotion and time. If you become immersed in your characters and their story for several days, the writing will flow. DON'T let anyone or anything lure you out of "the zone." Any diversion of more than a couple of hours makes you lose concentration and you have to build it up again.

Vanessa Kelly


USA Today bestseller Vanessa Kelly is a hybrid author who publishes traditionally for Kensington and Grand Central, and as an indie. Vanessa, known for her Regencies, is one of the "stars of historical romance" and, as V.K. Sykes, she writes contemporary romance.


The character who comes alive:

  • This happens at least 50% of the time for me, and that particular kind of character is often inspired by a TV show or movie. 

  • For instance, the heroine of my current WIP is based on a character from the hit TV show Strike Back. She's a total badass spy who is skilled in hand-to-hand combat, and she basically runs rings around her male colleagues. It would be easy to translate that sort of heroine into a romantic suspense or even contemporary romance, but this is for a historical romance. Not too many female spies who knew martial arts in Regency England. 
    So, her insistence on starring in one of my Regencies isn't very convenient. Still, this kind of character can really shake things up, which is certainly the case with my current book. She inspired me to look at the story—and also the hero—in a different way. I ended up writing a 130K first draft in just three months, partly because I enjoyed writing her character so much.


When the idea strikes:

  • Often in the shower or in the middle of the night, which is massively inconvenient. Since I have the worst short term memory in the history of the world, I have to leap out of the shower or get out of bed to scribble the idea down before I lose it completely. 

Getting into the zone:

  • I often do a short meditation before I start writing to clear my head and tap into my creative well. But nothing works better than just sitting down and starting to write. I usually set a goal of hitting at least 1500 words, and I keep at it until I reach it. Even if the words are crap, I just do it. Once you have a first draft, everything gets a whole lot easier.

Khaled Talib


Khaled Talib is a Singapore-based journalist and member of the British Crime Writers Association. Khaled is the author of The Little Book of Muses, a collection of personal muses for writers and aspiring authors and author of the thriller, Smokescreen.

  • Let me start by telling you that I'll never run through the streets naked crying "Eureka! Eureka!" the moment I discover a red herring while writing a manuscript. So what would my reaction be if not like that famous Greek mathematician? 
  • Just between you and me — and this doesn't leave the room — I'll do a happy tribal dance when that compelling moment a plot twist I didn't even see coming pulls the rug out from under me. 
  • The moment when everything falls into place is like getting a sugar rush over and over again. Think a plate of baklavas, chocolates and an assortment of savories at one go. 
  • The excitement just doesn't fade — it gets better. I find myself being taken on a roller coaster ride. The buckling in, the nervous anticipation, the wild wind in my face as I type the words out, making sure every sentence is cleverly executed to catch the reader off guard. 
  • You want everything to be perfect, like a never been done before magic extravaganza. I find my emotions switching from excitement, nervousness to anxiety and back. And then, when I'm done, I smile to myself, amazed by my own accomplishment. Ah… that feeling.

Lindsay Buroker


Lindsay Buroker was a lifeguard, a fast-food-flinger, a network administrator, and a soldier in the U.S. Army before she turned to writing full time and became a bestselling author of indie fantasy and sci-fi romance.

My favorite thing about writing is coming up with fun characters and writing dialogue for them. I love banter. (If my shy, introverted self could have handled Hollywood, I might have gotten into screenwriting.) Everybody from soldiers to sentient swords to dragons get humorous lines in my stories. My readers may joke that I'm known for including lots of action, explosives, and crashes in my stories, but those crazy events just gives my characters more to talk about.

My tips for writing banter your readers will enjoy:

  • Give your heroes some interesting quirks. Not only does it make them feel unique, but it gives other characters something to tease them about! (I have a dragon that eats cheese and a heroic military pilot who won't go into battle without rubbing a lucky charm.)
  • Give your heroes very different backgrounds as that gives them room for interesting misunderstandings and conflicts that go beyond the overarching story conflict (I have an assassin who was raised to be an emotionless killer — those who dare tease him get some great lines out when they're riffing on that.)
  • Create unusual situations for your heroes to endure (imagine two manly men who are always butting heads sneaking into a bad guy's house, only to end up hiding under a bed together)
  • Take stereotypical situations and stereotypical sayings and break patterns for an unexpected twist (Remember that moment in Shrek when Donkey was about to get eaten by a fire-breathing dragon, and it turned out to be a girl dragon who developed a crush on him?)
  • Have fun with your characters and your writing (If you're having fun with the writing, your readers should have fun with the reading!)

Anne R. Allen


My most excellent blog partner, Anne R. Allen

  • There is nothing like being in that "zone" and feeling the story flow through your fingertips. There's no high better than that. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it makes all the other aggravation worth it.
  • But I also love when that first idea hits. Somebody tells a funny story, or I'm kvetching about something stupid that happened that day, and I'll realize…that's a great opener for a novel! Or an idea will just drift in while I'm reading a magazine. Flipping through magazines while I'm only half-paying attention is one of my greatest sources of inspiration. I suddenly get a little "zing" and know I'm onto something. That is so fun.
  • Or sometimes a scene will just spring into my head. Last night, as I was trying to get back to sleep while all the monsters in my anxiety closet were fighting to keep me awake, I had a sudden picture of my character Ronzo, who's a tough guy from New Jersey totally out of place in a laid-back California beach town. He was reading tarot cards for an ditzy lady in Camilla's bookstore. He turned over the Death card and said, "fuhgeddaboudit." I have no idea what it means, or how that scene going to fit into the next Camilla book, but it will be there. And yes, I finally got back to sleep.
  • I've had characters jump into a story and take it over. That happened with my first novel Food of Love. I needed a hairdresser in one scene. I wanted her to be a little unusual. So I made her bald. I figured a bald hairdresser was good for a few laughs. Then I remembered a bald woman I met once who said she'd lost her hair due to some chemical she was exposed to when fighting in Iraq. So the bald hairdresser went from comic relief to a warrior. I named her Athena and she took over and changed the whole direction of the book. What a thrill it was to meet her and realize what a great character she was.

Ruth Harris


As for me, when I was a kid, I was a modestly talented but seriously dedicated figure skater who got just good enough to compete in regional competitions. Learning to do an axel and stick the landing was—and probably still is—one of a young skater's milestones.

I spent lots of time practicing in cold rinks, lots of time learning the axel, much of it flat on my butt. The reward of a well-executed axel, though, was the paradox of feeling in complete control at the same time that I was—literally—flying. Writing catapults me into that same joyful zone.

The same word applies to axels and writing: Magic.

....Ruth Harris

What about you, scriveners? What aspects of writing give you the most joy? Is it the first moment of inspiration? When things start to fall into place? Do characters jump into your story and take over? Are you planning to join in the NaNoWriMo marathon, or do you prefer to work at a steady pace all year round? 


BOOK OF THE WEEK


Three Fed-up Wives—and only Husband Training School stands between them, murder, and a lifetime in prison.


  • Will Trailer is a super-achiever on the baseball diamond but at home? Not so much, according to his gorgeous movie star wife. 
  • Efficiency expert Howard Hopkins has just retired. His wife married him for better and for worse—but not for 24-hours-a-day.
  • Gordo Canholme would procrastinate breathing if he could, but will he ever get the new baby's room ready? Not without HTS, according to his very pregnant wife.

Ex-Marine Drill Instructor, Robin Aguirre, and her sister, Melodie, run HTS and have been hardened by years of experience. When the three fed-up wives enroll Will, Howard and Gordo as new students, Robin and Melodie are ready for anything the most hapless and hopeless husbands of the 21st Century can dish out.

They think.

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS



The Poisoned Pencil: The well-known mystery publisher The Poisoned Pen now has a YA imprint. They accept unagented manuscripts and offer an advance of $1000. Submit through their website submissions manager. Response time is 4-6 weeks.

Win $$$ and BEER!! SCHLAFLY BEER MICRO-BREW MICRO-FICTION CONTEST  $10-$20 ENTRY FEE. Fee includes a subscription to River Styx literary magazine or one issue depending on amount of entry fee paid. Submit up to three stories of 500 words or less each. All stories will be considered for publication. $1,500 first prize plus one case of micro-brewed Schlafly Beer. Deadline January 1, 2016. 

Open call for the Independent Women Anthology: short stories (flash fiction included), poetry, essays, artwork, or any other woman and/or feminist-centered creative work. 10,000 word max. All genres but explicit erotica. $100 per short story, $50 for flash, poetry, and photography/artwork. All profits will be donated to the Pixel Project Charity to end Violence Against Women. Deadline January 31, 2016 with a goal of publication on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.

TETHERED BY LETTERS' FALL 2015 LITERARY CONTEST ENTRY FEES: $7-$15 Short Story; $7 Flash Fiction/$15 three Flash Fictions; $7 poem /$15 for three poems. Currently accepting submissions for the short story contest (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction contest (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry contest (maximum of three pages per poem). All winners will be published in F(r)iction. All finalists will receive free professional edits on their submission and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 (USD) for the short story winner, $150 (USD) for the flash fiction winner, and $150 (USD) for the poetry winner. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Deadline December 1.

The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.

The IWSG Short Story Anthology Contest 2015. NO FEE! The top ten stories will be published in an anthology. (Authors will receive royalties on sales.) Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member (no fee to join the IWSG). The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free. Word count: 5000-6000. Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. Deadline: November 1st

MASTERS REVIEW FALL FICTION CONTEST $20 ENTRY FEE. 7000 word limit.The winning story will receive $2,000 and publication on the site. Second and third place stories will receive $200 and $100, publication, and all story winners will receive a critique. Fifteen finalists will be recognized online and have their stories read by the VanderMeers. Deadline October 31.

Fuse Literary Agency's Christmas Romance Charity Anthology: NO FEE! Short Romance Fiction 5000-8000 words. They're donating 100% of the profits to the UNHCR, the UN agency leading and coordinating international action to protect Syrian refugees. Non-exclusive rights to your story, so you're 100% free to publish it elsewhere if you'd like. If your story is accepted, you will receive a single, up-front payment of $10, They want steamy, winter-holiday-themed romance. Deadline October 31.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Do You Need to Copyright your Manuscript? Will it Prevent Book Piracy?

by Anne R. Allen


Should I pay to copyright my manuscript? 
Will a publisher or agent steal my plot from a query? 
How can I protect my ideas?

We get asked these questions a lot. Until recently, our standard answer was: "Stop worrying about it. Your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as you type it onto your hard drive."

People who are paranoid about the theft of an unpublished manuscript or who obsess about somebody "stealing their ideas" red-flag themselves as amateurs. 

American copyright laws passed in the early 1970s state that anything you write is automatically copyrighted as soon as you type it onto a page (or a hard drive.)

  • You don't have to mail it to yourself. 
  • You don't have to put the little © on the title page. 
  • You don't have to pay a copyright service. It only costs $35 to copyright a manuscript with the US government. 
  • Never use a copyright "service". If you want the extra protection of an official copyright, go right to the US Copyright Office—make sure it's got a .gov address. 

But even if you don't register your work with the government, it is fully copyrighted as soon as you write it down.

But once you register the copyright, unfortunately, you're setting yourself up as prey for scammy vanity presses. Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware warns that you should NOT register copyright for unpublished work. It's not only unnecessary, but:

"You may be solicited by questionable companies. Vanity publishers and dodgy literary agents have long used copyright registration lists (and magazine subscription lists) to troll for customers."

But How Do I Keep People from Stealing my Ideas?


I understand that plot theft tends to be on the minds of a lot of new writers. Most writers believe our ideas are unique and glorious.

We need to believe this or we'd never be able to push ourselves through the long, tough slog of actually crafting the ideas into readable prose.

But a raw idea isn't worth as much as we think. A lot of people over-inflate the value of a plot. These are usually people who don't understand the hard work involved in turning that plot idea into a book.

You run into these people at parties. They tell you they have a dynamite idea for your next book and if you just "write down the words", they'll split the profits with you 50/50.

Every writer meets up with this phenomenon at some point. The New Yorker has a spoof of one of these encounters in "Shouts and Murmurs" in this week's issue, "An Unsolicited Great Idea for Your Next Book" by Jacob Sager Weinstein. It's hilarious. Here's a quote:

"He had become a writer for the same reason anybody did: he was incapable of coming up with ideas of his own, and he longed for a lifetime of being given them at cocktail parties."

And a few years ago, Victoria Strauss wrote at Writer Beware about some guy who was trying to sell his plot idea on eBay for ten million dollars. 

"It can be compared to stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Indiana Jones…and will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it." 

He's not the only starry-eyed doofus who has combined delusions of grandeur with total cluelessness about the effort required to actually write a novel or screenplay and then get it in front of the public.

In the thread of the same post at Writer Beware, children’s author Kathleen Duey talked about the unsolicited-plot-idea people who want to share the profits 50/50.

"Try that split on any other kind of business person," Duey wrote. "'I think that a colony on Mars would be awesome and I am willing to give a 50% share of all eventual proceeds to anyone who can make it happen.'"

She reminds us to run away before one of these idea-people get going, in case you ever write something similar by accident. Delusional folks can be scary. (I used that situation as a plot device in my comic mystery set at a small UK publishing house, Sherwood Ltd. On sale at Amazon this week. See below.)

Personally, when somebody approaches me with this "proposition," I say, "the going rate for ghostwriters is $50-$200 an hour. I don't provide that service, but I can get you a referral."

Thing is—most writers have plenty of story ideas of our own. Our biggest fear is not living long enough to write them all.

So why can't you copyright an idea?


Here's what the copyright law says (Section 102(b)) "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work."

Ideas, systems, and concepts come under the laws for patents and trademarks, which usually don't apply to books. 

Copyrights only cover "original works of authorship" that the author puts into a tangible form (paper, hard drive, etc,) That is, it protects your book after it's written. No one can steal, reprint or profit from your written work without your consent.

So you can't protect the ideas or plot of your story.

But don't let that bother you too much.

Plots get recycled all the time, and nobody loses. A guy named William Shakespeare lifted every one of his plots from other writers. His history plays are mostly taken from Holinshed's Chronicles, and he even took storylines from other playwrights. He ripped off Plautus's Menaechmi to write The Comedy of Errors. And a few centuries later Rogers and Hart stole the same plot to write The Boys from Syracuse. 

And you know what? They were all wildly successful. Everybody won.

Can't I copyright my logline? 


Yes. You can copyright a logline (a one-sentence summary of a plot, usually used for screenplays) but all somebody has to do is alter a few words and it's not under the copyright, so that's pretty pointless. 

So what should you do?

You should write the most brilliant, heartfelt, personal version of that plot and polish it till it shines, then repeat the old saying:

"There are no new stories, just new ways of telling them."

Seriously. You may think you're the first person who ever thought of that storyline, but you probably aren't. Experts don’t agree on the exact number of narrative plots, but there aren’t many:


So the number seems to be shrinking, but everybody agrees it is finite.

But…What About Piracy?


However, there is another issue that has emerged with the rise of ebooks, blogs, and self-publishing: piracy of published books and blogs.

I'm having to deal with this myself. Last week I discovered the content of this blog—lifted in its entirety, all the way back to my first 200-word post in 2009—on a weird Portuguese site that offered two things: this blog and The Bible.

Yup, Ruth and me and the Word of God. Pretty much the same thing, right? Ha!

These pirates are as shameless as they are creepy.

We also contacted Google with a DMCA notice. More on that below. Also, I've discovered a new program that removes illegal content from Google. It's called  Blasty.  It's free while it's still in beta. We hope it will get rid of the blog pirate.


Ebook Counterfeiters 


Pirates find indie books an easy target. Independent authors without a big publishing house's staff of lawyers look like easy prey.

A few months ago some guy took a bunch of ebooks, pasted his own name on the covers over the authors' names (often not even obscuring the real author) and put his stolen versions on Amazon under his own name. I saw them on a Facebook group page. They looked ridiculous. But the guy must have made enough money siphoning off sales that it was worth his while.

Amazon took the phony books down after a bunch of complaints, but there are thousands of other slightly less lazy pirates out there stealing ebooks right now.

In fact ebook theft seems to be getting worse by the day, as author John Doppler reported in a blogpost titled Kindle Counterfeiting in August.

Erotica authors seem to be the most common targets. Pirates will download books that are on a freebie run, change the title and author name, and upload them to Amazon as their own.

Amazon works hard to fight this kind of piracy, and they will work with the author if you report the theft. There will be a paper trail if Amazon paid royalties to the pirates. Sometimes you can even get the royalties back, according to Mr. Doppler.

Unfortunately registering the book with the copyright office will not do much to deter this kind of pirate. Copyright registration is only useful if you take these people to court, which isn't easy when the pirates are working out of some cafe in Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

Update


I've just heard of a whole new type of plagiarism I wasn't aware of. There are people who will steal an author's book, change the names of the characters (and sometimes their gender) and rewrite a few phrases per page, then publish the novel as their own work. It's especially happening to romance writers. 

Apparently one "author" has even been taking bestselling straight romances, changing them to m/m romances with a few tweaks and making quite a career of it. There's more about this on Jenny Trout's blog, Trout Nation.

As soon as the plagiarism was reported to retail sites, the stolen books were taken down. But that's just one person who was caught. I'm sure there are more out there. Since m/m and straight romances generally have different audiences, people have been getting away with this kind of book theft for a while. 

Torrent Pirate Sites


We also have the problem of "torrent" sites. (These are sites that use a protocol called "BitTorrent" for free file sharing.)

These sites seem to be offering your books for free, but they often only deliver the "look inside" 10% of the book that's already offered free on Amazon. This is because they don't actually want to make money off stolen books.

They use the "free" books to install malware on the users' electronic devices.

Of course, some illegal file-sharers steal your stuff just because they think everything should be free and artists don't deserve to be paid. These people have been ripping off musical artists ever since the Internet began, and the practice has spilled into ebooks.

Sometimes the pirates don't even have malevolent intentions. In many parts of the world, readers can't access legitimate ebook stores. Amazon blocks users in most of the African continent, the Middle East and much of Asia.

Torrent sites are the only way readers in those places can access your ebooks unless you get on local sites in their countries through aggregators like Smashwords, D2D and BookBaby.

As Neil Young said several years ago, "piracy is how music gets around these days." Now piracy is the way ebooks get around. Especially in Asia and Africa.

We probably don't need to freak out all that much about that kind of piracy. We know freebie runs and perma-free books help build a fan base. Think of these Asian and African pirate sites as a way to build your audience in countries where your book isn't sold yet... and when your book comes out in translation, or on a legit site, you'll have a fan base.

Fighting Piracy and Counterfeiters


But in general, content theft is a growing problem, and counterfeiting of the kind Mr. Doppler talked about—your own book sold by someone else on a major retail site—can really cut into an author's bottom line.

Newer laws have been passed to try to curb intellectual property theft, but they don't always do much good.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the 1990s to deal with copyright infringement on the Internet. If you find material online that infringes a copyright you hold—whether that copyright has been officially registered or not—you can send the hosting website a DMCA notice. When the hosting website gets it, it MUST remove the material and notify the person who posted it.

Unfortunately, pirates know how to game the law to steal an author's work and there's often not much we can do about it.

However, if you are wealthy enough to hire an attorney, you can file a lawsuit. And to file a lawsuit—as opposed to a DMCA notice—you do need to have registered the copyright.

Intellectual property attorney Helen Sedwick has a step-by-step how-to on her blog telling us how to deal with content theft..

She thinks you SHOULD copyright your book in order to fight the pirates. 

Sedwick says, "You cannot file a lawsuit unless the work is registered with the US Copyright Office. If you threaten to sue, and the infringer searches copyright records and doesn't find your registration, they may call your bluff." For more on how to register your copyright, see Joel Friedlander's post How to Copyright Your Book.

But another intellectual property attorney, Kathryn Goldman, doesn't think an individual author has much of a chance with a lawsuit. She addressed the problem on Molly Greene's blog in a 2-part piece called "Has Your Ebook Been Pirated?"

She says your best way to deal with pirates is contact Google with your DMCA notice to downrank their site so people won't find it when searching for your book.

"…if you find your book on a torrent site, you can file a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) removal request with Google and other search engines. Here is Google’s DMCA form. If Google receives a sufficient number of takedown requests for a particular site, their new algorithm may downrank the torrent site in search engine results pages."

She says, "Suppressing search result rankings may be the best option for an individual author with respect to the problem of work appearing on illegal torrent sites."

Does Registering your Copyright Protect you from Pirates?


Unfortunately US copyright laws don't help much against pirates unless 1) you have the money for a pricey court battle, 2) the pirates are under the jurisdiction of US laws.

Here's the thing: US copyright registration doesn’t do much to fight elusive third-world pirate sites. And it doesn't always hold weight with Amazon, who will take your book down if anybody claims to have written it—even if you have the registered copyright. At least that's what happened to author Becca Mills when a pirate sent a DMCA on her own copyrighted book, which was discussed on The Passive Voice blog in March of 2015.

Amazon took it down and refused to put it back. They considered this a "dispute between private parties" even though Becca Mills didn't even know the identity of the person who sent the DMCA and she had registered the copyright.

Other Ways to Fight the Theft of Ebooks.


If the pirates are reselling your books on Amazon, follow these steps outlined by Jon Doppler

  • Assemble a list of the ASINs for each version of your books. 
  • Search retailers regularly to ensure that only legitimate copies with your ASINs are present. 
  • File a copyright infringement report immediately when counterfeits are discovered. 

He says you shouldn't bother contacting customer service for copyright issues; go directly to the legal department. Amazon provides an online form for filing a copyright infringement notice, or you can email your own DMCA notice to Amazon’s legal department, via copyright @ amazon.com.

What Should You Do to Protect Yourself?


For Self-Publishers:

  • Register your copyright if you want extra protection in case of a lawsuit 
  • Keep track of your AISNs
  • File a DMCA notice with Google and Amazon if you see piracy.
  • You might want to download Blasty. (It's free right now because it's still in beta.)

For unpublished authors planning to go the traditional route:

  • Do NOT register your copyright. You'll only set yourself up as prey for scammers. Writers have a lot to be wary of these days: scammy vanity publishers, bogus literary agencies, disappearing fly-by-night small presses, fake social media marketers, draconian contracts, trollish critiquers—but plot-purloiners should not be high on the list.
  • Never mention copyright in a query, or you'll look like a paranoid doofus.

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever been approached by somebody who wanted to sell you their idea? Have you ever worried about plot theft? Have you had a book pirated? What did you do? Did it work? 

BOOK OF THE WEEK


 Sherwood Ltd. is only 99c this week on all the Amazons!
also available at its regular price at
iTunesInkteraNook, and Smashwords
And in paper for $11.99 from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Follow Camilla's hilarious misadventures with merry band of outlaw indie publishers in the English Midlands. Always a magnet for murder, mischief and Mr. Wrong, Camilla falls for a self-styled Robin Hood who may or may not be trying to kill her. It follows Ghostwriters in the Sky, but can be read as a stand-alone. 




"It's an hilarious lampoon of crime fiction, publishing and the British in general....Whether you enjoy crime suspense, comedy or satire - or all of them together - you'll have enormous fun with this cleverly structured romp. Highly recommended!"...Dr. John Yeoman

"Ms. Allen...has crafted a wily tale of murder, deceit, and intrigue that can stand with the best of them. Her characters are all too real and her dialogue took me from laughter to chills to suspicion of everybody in the book...This was obviously written by an intelligent woman who is also a fine story-teller."...David H. Keith

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS



The Poisoned Pencil: The well-known mystery publisher The Poisoned Pen now has a YA imprint. They accept unagented manuscripts and offer an advance of $1000. Submit through their website submissions manager. Response time is 4-6 weeks.

Open call for the Independent Women Anthology: short stories (flash fiction included), poetry, essays, artwork, or any other woman and/or feminist-centered creative work. 10,000 word max. All genres but explicit erotica. $100 per short story, $50 for flash, poetry, and photography/artwork. All profits will be donated to the Pixel Project Charity to end Violence Against Women. Deadline January 31, 2016 with a goal of publication on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.

TETHERED BY LETTERS' FALL 2015 LITERARY CONTEST ENTRY FEES: $7-$15 Short Story; $7 Flash Fiction/$15 three Flash Fictions; $7 poem /$15 for three poems. Currently accepting submissions for the short story contest (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction contest (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry contest (maximum of three pages per poem). All winners will be published in F(r)iction. All finalists will receive free professional edits on their submission and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 (USD) for the short story winner, $150 (USD) for the flash fiction winner, and $150 (USD) for the poetry winner. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Deadline December 1.

The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.

The IWSG Short Story Anthology Contest 2015
. NO FEE! The top ten stories will be published in an anthology. (Authors will receive royalties on sales.) Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member (no fee to join the IWSG). The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free. Word count: 5000-6000. Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. Deadline: November 1st

MASTERS REVIEW FALL FICTION CONTEST $20 ENTRY FEE. 7000 word limit.The winning story will receive $2,000 and publication on the site. Second and third place stories will receive $200 and $100, publication, and all story winners will receive a critique. Fifteen finalists will be recognized online and have their stories read by the VanderMeers. Deadline October 31.

Fuse Literary Agency's Christmas Romance Charity Anthology: NO FEE! Short Romance Fiction 5000-8000 words. They're donating 100% of the profits to the UNHCR, the UN agency leading and coordinating international action to protect Syrian refugees. Non-exclusive rights to your story, so you’re 100% free to publish it elsewhere if you’d like. If your story is accepted, you will receive a single, up-front payment of $10, They want steamy, winter-holiday-themed romance. Deadline October 31.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Marketing Your Book on Social Media? How to Avoid Scams


Self-publishing and social media have empowered writers in ways we never dreamed of a decade ago.

They've also forced us to learn a lot of stuff we never used to have to bother our artistic little heads about.

These days, whether you're trad-pubbed or indie, the rise of social media has put a lot of the responsibility for book "visibility" into the hands of the author. Some of that is good—it's nice to be in controlbut a lot of it is a major pain in the patoot. And the wallet.  

Unfortunately, the people making the most money from the indie movement these days seem to be the people providing marketing and other services to authors, not the writers themselves.   

In the early days of the "Kindle Revolution" we were all wowed by the fabulous Cinderella stories about superstars like Amanda Hocking and John Locke, who put a bunch of ebooks on Amazon, promoted them on free social media sites, and made millions. We were told all we had to do was to make some Facebook friends, put up a snazzy page on MySpace, follow some peeps on Twitter, and bingo! Instant Kindle riches!  

Funny how those names are never mentioned any more isn't it? Amanda went over to the Big Five and became an ordinary mid-lister and John Locke lost a lot of cred when it turned out much of his success came from phony paid reviews.

And now, five years later, with tens of thousands of new ebooks being published every week, the market is saturated, e-readers and tablets are packed with more content than we can read in a lifetime, and authors have to learn marketing skills or remain invisible in the ever-swelling marketplace.

These days, most indies are fixated on the power of the freebie book and the bargain-ebook email newsletter. That's because they work for a lot of authors.

For writers who aren't in the publishing game yet, the newsletter campaign works like this: you discount your bookor make it freeand buy advertising from a daily newsletter that sends news of your book sale to targeted readers. 

Those newsletters are lucrative, and their numbers grow daily: Ereader News Today, Bookbub, Pixel of Ink, FreeBooksy, the Fussy Librarian, Kindle Nation Daily, EBook Bargains UK, Free Kindle Books and Tips, The Books Machine, Books Butterfly, BookGoodies, and ReadCheaply are a few that come to mind, but there are dozens more. The bigger the circulation of the newsletter, the higher the cost of a one-day ad and the tougher it is to be selected as a client.  

Bookbub, the Rolls Royce of bargain-ebook newsletters is so selective very few authors can get in, and the prices are prohibitive for new writers (now $2300 for a one-day ad for a $2.99 mystery novel.) The others are effective in some genres and not others. It's always a gamble.

There are some newsletters and promotional sites that charge a lot less than the biggies. Some are free. Some work, some don't, again depending on genre. For some great info on them, check out Nicholas C. Rossis' blogpost on his results from using free book promo sites.

But here's the thing: the benefits of the price reduction promowhether or not you advertise in a newsletterare minimal for a new, single-title author. Price reductions and freebies are most effective if you have a substantial backlist and use the freebie or sale book to introduce readers to an established series.

So what other kinds of marketing can new authors use? What about paying for social media marketing? Is it worthwhile to pay for Twitter ads?

What about Facebook? Forbes reported that Mark Dawson made over $450,000 from his books in 2014 using Facebook advertising as a core part of his book sales process. Can the rest of us do that? What really works in terms of bringing in sales and increasing the bottom line?

What about all these scammy people who sell Twitter followers and Facebook "likes"? How can you tell a real fan from a ghost from a "click farm"?

BTW, the one thing I can tell you does NOT work is asking established authors to promote your book for you. We all have our own books to write and market. Asking frantically busy authors to donate time to promote the books of newbies for free will just get you unfollowed and unfriended.

But paid social media advertising is something else. It seems to be working very well for some people. But how do you make sure the plan you're looking at will work? I haven't tried paid social media ads yet, so I asked award-winning marketing expert Chris Syme to guest post for us today and give us the skinny on how to tell a legit advertiser from a spammer...Anne 


How Writers Can Recognize A Social Media Advertising Scam

by Chris Syme @CKSyme


When it comes to online advertising, authors are often frustrated. There are so many options, it is hard to recognize the good from the bad. And to top it off, there are differing accounts on what works and what does not. So what's an author to do?

First Things First: What's Really a Scam?


Before we dive into the scams, let's talk about the reality.

Online advertising (including social media) is a fairly new endeavor so it is not surprising that results are not consistent yet. 

Facebook advertising has only been available to small businesses for a few years and it is constantly evolving. As a result, consistent best practices are tough to pin down without lots of testing. If you take into account budget, sector (books, sports, beauty products, whatever) goal (website clicks, conversion ads, etc.) and audience, it makes advertising on Facebook a challenge to maneuver. But not impossible.

Yes, some have reached their goals with Facebook ads, and some have not.

That doesn't mean that Facebook advertising is a scam. It can be done correctly and successfully. Facebook's ad platform is built on marketing best practices and if used correctly can be a good channel for supplementing book sales or building an email list.

There are many reasons why some ads fail, but I've found the most common one is when audience, budget, and goal do not match. 

  • The targeted audience is too big or too small. 
  • The budget is too small 
  • The length of the campaign is too long or short. 
  • Maybe you're trying website clicks when you should be using download as a goal. 

Going deep into all this is a post for another day. I just want to make the point that ad campaigns do fail…everywhere. Print, radio, TV, online, magazine, and emailall fail if done poorly, but that doesn't mean anybody has been scammed. 

Paid advertising takes some skill, so be prepared to spend time learning out how to optimize your chances of success.

(NOTE From Anne: As I've mentioned before, all writers would do well to add copywriting to their skill set these days. We need to learn to sell ourselves in our blurbs and ads. For more on how to write a good blurb, see Ruth Harris's post, 8 Tips for Writing that Killer Blurb. No matter how much you spend on advertising, if the copy doesn't sell the book, we're wasting our money.)

The Good, The Bad, And The Really Ugly


So we've established that sometimes legitimate ad platforms can produce poor results when not used well. But there is a huge difference between ads that fail on legitimate platforms and platforms that are just hype. 

In order to recognize the scam platforms we are looking for a couple indicators:

1. Best practices in marketing are clearly violated. 


This is where your due diligence comes in. For instance, with a little research from legitimate marketing companies like HubSpot and Buffer, we can find out how to use hashtags (#tags) correctly. 

HubSpot, a free source of top marketing research, reported early in 2014 that hashtags can raise the engagement of a post, sometimes by as much as 55%. People wanting to game the system then started a practice called hashtag stuffing where posts consist just of hashtags thinking they were getting peoples' attention. 

Buffer, another reliable data source, followed up Hubspot's research seeking to find out how many hashtags were the right number. 

They found that TWO were optimum and anything over two caused engagement rates to drop severely. Most people can tell innately that a tweet full of hashtags is annoying but it is nice to have research to validate that gut feeling.

(I ditto that! Tweets full of hashtags make me crazy. I'm so glad to hear they don't even work. So people can stop that now, okay?...Anne)

If you come across a service that uses hashtag stuffing, run the other direction. One that likes to target authors is called Tweet Generator. Another is content.mo whose services I have tested. 

A better option is to develop a team of ambassadors on Twitter that will help you magnify your messages. Use your loyal readers to help.

(But make sure they are actually loyal readers. Following random strangers and expecting them to do your advertising won't sell books. But it WILL get you unfollowed...Anne)

 Do the work yourself and save your money.

Also, an analysis of this company's top 20 influencers did not produce one account that would be in the market for my books.

My $19 produced zero sales and zero new Twitter followers. Maybe I should have spent more money.

But alas, here's a review from author Stefan Edmunds, who purchased a five-day tweet package. Also no sales.

Scam artists know what they are doing. They are playing on people's pain points and ignorance. 

They can build fake followings completely on accounts that follow back automatically. Keep in mind that all you need to start a Twitter account is an email address. It's an ugly, dark business. There is no verification to make sure that real people are setting up accounts. These companies abound on the internet. 

Hint: if their website looks like it was put up in ten minutes and has no names of real people behind the company or an about page with contact information, beware.

2. The company uses deceptive marketing messages to fool prospective buyers. 


Scamming websites often make outrageous promises about their audiences and their results. If they say they have hundreds of thousands of fans, that doesn't mean that any of them are qualified book buyers.

Or even real people.

Buying followers is also very common (and cheap) on Twitter and many of these followers are fake accounts set up by "farms" of online workers setting up and maintaining fake accounts to service scamming websites. If they say they have 500,000 followers, look at their accounts. See who their followers are.

I ran a test with a couple different promotions just to see what kind of results I could get. The company I used boasts three different Twitter accounts with 375,000 followers. 

I want to add that it is fairly easy to amass Twitter followers if you know what you are doing. For instance, this particular company is supposedly followed by LeBron James, according to the report I ran on their followers on the Social Analytics site, Simply Measured

But the real LeBron James only follows 184 people. 

So, on a whim I looked through them all. This company was not there. And, their fake LeBron James has only three million followers while the real King James has 23 million. This LeBron James page is a fake account built to fool people into following. It has been followed by millions of people who think it 's the real thing. At three million, it adds impressive numbers to their fake reach numbers.

If you are really interested in trying a paid Twitter promotion, try one just for authors run by someone with publishing experience. Also try searching for reviews of the company on Google.

Once you learn how to recognize the snake oil, you will save yourself a lot of grief and money.

Not all digital advertising opportunities are created equal. But the first step is being able to distinguish the legitimate offerings from the scams.

If you have a question about advertising platforms, send me an email at chris@cksyme.com. I 'll do my best to find you a good answer.

Chris Syme has over 20 years experience in communications and marketing and is the principal of CKSyme Media Group. She is a former university media relations professional, a frequent speaker on the national stage, and the author of two books on social media: Listen, Engage, Respond and Practice Safe Social 2.0. Her agency won the 2014 SoMe Award for Social Media Agency Of The Year. Her new book, SMART Social Media For Authors is now available on Amazon for pre-order here. You can follow her on Twitter @cksyme and get more information on her agency’s blog for authors here.

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have any questions for Chris? Have you ever bought an advertising campaign that fizzled? Do you think it was a scam? What advice do you have for new writers who want to advertise their book on a budget? 


BOOK OF THE WEEK






Social media is confusing. You're worn out trying to replicate the success of other authors without much luck. Before you give up, get some common-sense advice from a 20-year marketing veteran.


Author Chris Syme believes that trying to mimic the success of other authors is a dangerous and expensive strategy. If you understand the "why" behind marketing tactics, you'll learn how to make strong marketing decisions that will produce results.


In SMART Social Media For Authors you'll discover:

  • The five rules of SMART marketing and how to use them to develop your first successful plan 
  • How to identify must-have social media channels that fit your goals 
  • The fundamental planning steps most authors skip at their peril 
  • How to run short- and long-term digital advertising campaigns 
  • And much, much more! 
If you've struggled to make social media work for you, then you'll love Syme's user-friendly, easy-to-implement, and to-the-point social media strategies.

Buy the book to get your marketing on track today!


OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


The Poisoned Pencil: New YA publisher open to submissions! The well-known mystery publisher The Poisoned Pen now has a YA imprint. They accept unagented manuscripts and offer an advance of $1000. Submit through their website submissions manager. Response time is 4-6 weeks.

Open call for the Independent Women Anthology: short stories (flash fiction included), poetry, essays, artwork, or any other woman and/or feminist-centered creative work. 10,000 word max. All genres but explicit erotica. $100 per short story, $50 for flash, poetry, and photography/artwork. All profits will be donated to the Pixel Project Charity to end Violence Against Women. Deadline January 31, 2016 with a goal of publication on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.

TETHERED BY LETTERS' FALL 2015 LITERARY CONTEST ENTRY FEES: $7-$15 Currently accepting submissions for short stories (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry (maximum of three pages per poem). All winners will be published in F(r)iction. All finalists will receive free professional edits and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 short story $150 flash fiction, and $150 for poetry. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Deadline December 1.

The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.

The IWSG Short Story Anthology Contest 2015.  NO FEE! The top ten stories will be published in an anthology. (Authors will receive royalties on sales.) Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member (no fee to join the IWSG). The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free. Word count: 5000-6000. Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. Deadline: November 1st

MASTERS REVIEW FALL FICTION CONTEST 
$20 ENTRY FEE. 7000 word limit.The winning story will receive $2,000 and publication on the site. Second and third place stories will receive $200 and $100, publication, and all story winners will receive a critique. Fifteen finalists will be recognized online and have their stories read by the VanderMeers. Deadline October 31.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

How to Start a Blog in 20 Easy Steps: A Guide for New Author-Bloggers

by Anne R. Allen


This blog almost wasn't here today. On Tuesday, it disappeared. When I loaded the home page, I got a message saying "this page does not exist on this blog."

Panic attack time.

Luckily, my Google Plus friend SEO expert Johnny Base was able to help me get it back up and running and thwart whoever was trying to hack it. Thanks, Johnny!

But I had to go through some painful hours there wondering if I could survive without a blog.

I realize plenty of authors do. I spent a few minutes trying to tell myself, "well...it would give me more time to work on my books...."

But blogging can boost your career in so many ways, as I wrote in my September 13th post, "Does an Author Really Need a Blog?" This blog sure has helped mine.

Plus if you write non-narrative nonfiction like, ahem, How to be a Writer in the E-Age, a blog is pretty essential to your platform.

If  you haven't tried it yet, you'll find that creating a blog isn't as hard as you may think.

A lot of blogging advice is aimed at professional bloggers who are looking to make money from the blog itself. They want things slick, flashy, and monetized.

But that's probably not what you want as an author. You want a personal, inviting place where people can visit and get to know you—a home rather than a storefront.

I had to learn blogging by trial and error—lots of error. Tech people always assume everybody knows the basics, which is why the basics are the hardest part to figure out if you're brand new to all this.

Here's the stuff I wish somebody had told me when I was starting out...


20 Steps To Becoming a Blogger


1) Read Blogs


If you don't do it yet, spend a couple of weeks reading a bunch of writing and publishing blogs before you jump in and create your own. See what you like and don't like.

Blogs written by agents, authors and other industry professionals are great places to educate yourself. They're like a visit to a writers' conference available free any day of the week. And like writers' conferences, they're also good places to network with other writers at all stages of their careers—people who can help your own career in dozens of ways.

For suggestions of blogs to visit, see my post "What Should A Novelist Blog About?" I also highly recommend Molly Greene, Jami Gold and Janice Hardy's Fiction University. Their blogs are all full of great information that will be helpful to you whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional route.

Also, many writer-bloggers have a "blogroll" in their sidebar with a list of other great writing blogs. Start clicking around. If you like what somebody says, click on their name in the comments and you'll probably get their profile and you can go visit their blog.

While you're reading, think of things you might like to say in your own blog. Start jotting down ideas for posts.

You'll want to have several pieces ready to go by the time you launch your own blog.

For non-bloggers who are getting blogposts in their email but may not know how to read an actual blog or see the comments, you can click through the email to the blog by clicking on the header (for our subscribers, it's the title in blue at the top of the email.) That will take you to this blog in its native habitat at blogspot.com.

The advantage of clicking through is that you can read the comments (just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the post. It will usually say "28 Comments" or whatever the number is.)

For most of you reading right now, that may sound too beginnerish to mention, but we were all beginners once. I remember when I finally figured out how to comment on a blog. It felt like such a triumph. And I'd been reading them for at least six months. Online sites never come with a manual.

Blog comments have a wealth of information. Some of our commenters know much more than we do! And if you leave a comment yourself, that will help you raise your profile and increase name recognition.

2) Get a blogging ID


You may find it tough to comment on some blogs without the proper ID. Ruth and I have recently decided to allow "anonymous" commenting, so if you don't have an ID, you can comment here as "anonymous" and then sign your name at the bottom. But many bloggers don't allow anons because it involves weeding out a lot more spam.

There are a number of ways to get an ID.

  • Join Google+. It's an easy, no-strings social site where you can participate or not (just unclick "email me" functions if you want to keep participation to a minimum.) This gives you a "user ID" that allows you to comment on most blogs without jumping through all those hoops. Plus when you comment, your Google profile picture will come up and if people click on it, they will go to your Google profile. If that profile has links to your blog, website and books, you may have just made a sale or got a potential blog follower. If you have gmail, it's super easy to sign up, and it's not hard for anybody, even a cybermoron like me. In a guest post written for us by Johnny Base, there's a video showing you exactly how to sign up.
  • Get a Gravatar ID. Gravatar is a universally recognized image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Clicking on it will lead people to your Gravatar ID, where you can put links to your sites, just like on Google Plus. So when people read a comment, they can click on your image and find you on the Web. ( Although something seems to be weird there right now. When I click on "my profile" it closes the tab. Very mysterious. I assume they'll fix that.) 
  • You can also join Wordpress without having a Wordpress blog. You can sign up for a username only account. Unfortunately, Blogger, which is owned by Google, sometimes doesn't accept a Wordpress ID, so a Google ID is better for a Blogger blog. Tech companies always seem to be at war with each other and they don't seem to mind the collateral damage.


3) Comment and interact with other commenters on high profile blogs


You only have to say a few words of agreement (or disagreement, if phrased politely), or offer your own experience about the topic.

Commenting on high traffic blogs is the quickest way to get into search engines. Most of my early mentions on Google came from my comments on other people's blogs. 

A comment right here can put your name in front of 5,000 people in a week. It could take many months to reach that many people with a new blog.

Discussions on big blogs can also lead to discussions on your own. Find yourself making a long comment? That's a future blogpost. When you post the comment, you can invite people to discuss the topic further on your own blog. 

Support somebody's argument on a high-profile blog and you have a blogfriend. That's how I got my first followers.

4) Choose a blogging platform


The biggest free blogging platforms are WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger. But there are lots of others to choose from, like SquareSpace, TypePad, LiveJournal, and Weebly. Medium is a newer site that comes highly recommended. WordPress is the most popular.

You can also have a blog on your personal website, or on a writer's forum like Goodreads or SheWrites, but these aren't as likely to be picked up by search engines, so if your goal is to be more visible, I suggest using a blogging platform that's not buried in another site.

I use Blogger (owned by Google, with an address that reads "blogspot.com") because it's the easiest to set up and use—and has templates that are easy to customize. But Blogger does have drawbacks. There's no tech support, so you have to go around to forums asking for help. And you don't have as many choices. 

And scary things can happen, like what happened to me this week. Johnny Base tells me when a blog gets to be the size of this one, with up to 100,000 hits a month, it's time to move to a paid web host site. So we'll be doing that in the next few months.

But Blogger has been working fine for us for five years and it works for most authors.

If you prefer to start with a free WordPress blog, you can get step by step instructions here from Jane Friedman. WordPress has the advantage of tech support, and a free blog can be easily converted to a self-hosted (paid) blog if you start getting a lot of traffic. A WordPress blog can also be more easily translated into an ebook.

4) Decide on a focus and tone for your blog. 


Blog gurus will tell you to address a niche, but that's not always the best way to start. I think the most important thing is to develop a strong personal voice and be flexible. And don't plan to blog about writing all the time. There are an awful lot of us out here doing just that and you want to provide something fresh.

For more on this check out my post, What Should An Author Blog About?

Beginning author-bloggers form a wonderful community. That community can help you in hundreds of ways, so don't worry too much about seeming like a "professional" blogger right away. Be real, flexible, open and friendly and you can ease into your niche later.

Remember the most successful blogs reveal the writer's personality and provide something useful at the same time. Even if you choose to be a niche blogger like me, keep flexible.

Don't focus on one book or lock yourself into one genre, especially if you're a newbie.

Zombies could invade the second draft of what started out as a cozy mystery. Or a Victorian romance could veer into steampunk. Romance writer Rosa Lee Hawkins might decide to become dark, gritty R. L. Hawk. She won't want to be stuck with that pink, lacy blog—or betray her romance-loving followers. You can always add stuff, but it's harder to take it away.

But note: if you make a big genre change, you can alter everything about a blog—header, name, template, tone—but still keep the original url (blog address.) I suggest you do that so you don't lose the search engine attention you've gained so far.


5) Think of a name and tagline. 


Don't get too creative here. Make sure you put your own name in the title. Your name is your brand. Yes, I know a lot of blogs have names like "Musing, Meandering and Muttering," but this self-defeating for an author.

Nothing is more annoying than reading a great blogpost and not being able to find out who wrote it. I'm amazed at how many writers are still doing this.

Here's the thing: anywhere you go online, you want to promote your brand, or you're wasting time (time you could be writing that masterpiece that's the reason for all this, remember?) It's OK to be unimaginative like me and call it YOUR NAME's blog—maybe reducing the ho-hum factor with something like "Susie Smith, Scrivener."

You're doing this to get your name out there, so for goodness sake, put your name on the blog.  

6). Choose a couple of photos to decorate the blog. 


Use a friendly, professional photo of yourself for your profile, and another for the header to set the tone. And of course post your book covers if you have them for sale.

Try to keep with the same color scheme and general feel when choosing photos.

And make sure they aren't copyrighted! Use your own or use free ones from places like WikiCommons, or you could be hit with a big bill from the copyright holder.

Do think about tone when you choose. If you write MG humor, you don't want your blog looking all dark and Goth, and cheery colors will give the wrong message for that serial killer thriller series. Romance sites don't have to be pink, but they should be warm, inviting and a little sexy or girly.

Also, aim to echo the tone and color of your other social media pages in order to establish a personal "brand" look.

7) Prepare a bio for your "About Me" page. 


This is the most important part of your blog. Again, I'm amazed at how many writers don't have one. It's why you're here, remember?

Make it intriguing and funny without giving TMI. You can add some more pics—maybe of your dog or your funky car. Keep family out unless it's a family or parenting blog. Pseudonyms for kids are a smart idea for protecting their privacy. You can learn more in my post on How to Write an Author Bio.

8) Go to a friend's blog. 


If they use Blogger or Wordpress, there will be a link at the top that says "create blog."


9) Click on "create blog." 


Follow directions in the window. They're easy. In Blogger anyway.


10) Choose a template. 


Don't mess with the design too much, except in terms of color—a busy blog isn't a place people want to linger. And don't add animation, really big files or anything that takes too long to load. Keep with your color scheme and tone.

11) Pick your "gadgets." 


There are lots. But again, keep it simple. I suggest just choosing the basics like "about me", "followers", "subscribe", "share" and "search this blog". "Share" is the thing so people can Tweet or FB or G+ your post. You want this to happen.

You can go back and add anything you want later. Later you'll want your archives and most popular posts. Just go to your "design" tab to find more.

Make sure you add links to your other social media accounts. It's easy if you just add a gadget that will make a link live that gives your Twitter handle (as we do) or says "Like me on Facebook." You can get a Facebook badge from FB, but mine disappeared some time ago. If you Tweet, you can Google "Twitter buttons" to get a cute one. Don't get the animated kind, though—they slow your load time. And be sure to put your actual Twitter handle on the blog somewhere so people who Tweet your posts can attribute them to you.

In a little while, you'll want to install the gadget that posts links to your most popular posts. That makes people want to move around the site and not leave after they've read one thing.

I don't recommend putting your stats on the front page: "42 hits" or whatever. It will only advertise that you're a newbie. Do keep track of your stats on your own dashboard, but remember it takes about a year to get blog traffic going. So don't get discouraged. Yes, you will have weeks when you have two hits. My blog had five hits in its entire first three months.

Checking stats privately is a good idea, so you can see where your traffic is coming from and what posts are popular. If you get a ton of hits from one address (and it's not spam) someone probably posted a link to your blog, so check it out and get a discussion going.

But don't obsess about your traffic. Establishing an audience takes time. Longer than you think. So relax and have fun.

12) Set up privacy settings. 


I suggest making no restrictions on comments on new posts. Don't make every comment wait for your approval before it goes live. You won't get a discussion going that way. Monitor your blog yourself instead. I've personally found that 99% of commenters are friendly. And the spambot will take care of a lot of the robo-spam.

I used to suggest turning off the CAPTCHA word verification thingy, but they've improved it so it's not such an infuriating puzzle, so I've put ours back on. Now there's just a box to check to "prove you're not a robot,"

But DO have every comment over a week old sent to you for approval. Old posts attract spam and trolls.

13) Sign up for email notification of new comments 


That way you can respond to them in a timely way. If commenters give an email address in their profile (always smart) you can respond to them via email, but I prefer to respond in the comment thread to stimulate discussion.

14) Upload those photos. 


But not too many. One per post is good.  Unless you're a photojournalist, you're trying to sell yourself as a writer, not a photographer (or a chooser of stock photos.) And NEVER use copyrighted photos. You may get a bill and it won't be cheap.

If you're more of a photographer than a writer, you'll probably prefer Tumblr, which is more about images than text.

And NO MUSIC. People read blogs at work. And on their phones. Even though you're sure everybody on the planet adores the classic oeuvre of the Archies, some of us don't. Trust me on this.

It's that easy. But don't forget to:

15) BOOKMARK your blog


Or you may never find it again.  Remember you can't find it with a Google search it until the search spiders have found it. I lost this blog for three months after I started it.

You'd be amazed how many people set up a blog only to have it disappear into cyberspace. If you've done that, it's worth it to go looking for them use the oldest one as the basis for your new blog: it will have some Google cred by now. Then delete the others. You don't want people who Google you to find a dead blog from 2007. They'll think you're deceased.

These days you ARE your Google search page. Don't run the risk of looking like a dead person.

16) Sign in.


When you go back to your blog, click "sign in" in the upper right hand corner. And then hit "design" or "new post" to get inside the blog. That's what they call the "back" of the blog where you do your actual work.

Why is the link  that opens the blog labeled "design"? I don't have a clue. That's the kind of thing that sends a non-techie into a panic, but must be obvious to most techies. It may be called something else in Wordpress. Maybe one of the commenters will let us know.

17) Keep to a schedule. 


Decide how often you want to blog—I suggest once a week to start—then do it. Preferably on the same day each week. Most blog gurus will tell you to blog more often, but this is a pretty highly rated blog and I have never blogged more than twice in one week.

I like to do what some people call "slow blogging". It's like the slow food movement. Quality over quantity.

Joining the Slow Blog movement is simple. Start a blog and announce you're planning to post on alternate Tuesdays, or every full moon, or whenever. Or if you already have a blog, next time you miss a few days, tell yourself you didn't FAIL to blog; you SUCCEEDED in joining the Slow Bloggers. All you have to do is skip those boring apologies, and you're in.

18) Write some blogposts.


As I said above, it's a good idea to write several pieces before you start the blog, so you have time to get into a rhythm and you don't fall into the trap of so many one-post would-be bloggers who have those deceased blogs floating around in cyberspace.

If you have four or five posts lined up, you'll give yourself a running start.

I personally write in Word, save it in my documents, and then copy and paste into Blogger.This is because the auto-save is slower than Word's. I learned that the hard way.

But if you compose in Word and paste into Blogger, turn off the "smart quotes" (the curly ones) in Word. It's not that a post won't go live with smart quotes, but they seem to interfere with the rss feed, so your followers won't be able to read the blog in their feed. I'm too much of a cyberemoron to tell you why, but for some reason the rss elves prefer stupid quotes.   

So how do you write for a blog?
  • A post should be from 500-2000 words presented in short, punchy paragraphs. (If you post more often, you can make the posts shorter.)
  • Bulleting, numbering and bolding are your friends. Make a point and present it in a way that's easy to grasp.
  • Use subheaders! That means going up to the toolbar and choosing a format from the drop down menu. In Blogger, you can choose "Normal", "Header" "Subheader", or "Minor Header." Formatting is important because search engine spiders notice properly formatted subheaders and get your post into Google faster.
  • Make sure you link to your sources. And choose good anchor text for those hyperlinks. Don't just say "for more information click here." Say "you can find more information in the article How to choose Anchor Text" and highlight the whole title. (Those aren't actually live links) That's so the search engine spiders will find you. They are looking for live links that tell the search engine something. "Here" doesn't say much. 
  • Don't navel-gaze. Offer information and interesting observations. Direct your focus outward, not inward. (And don't expect to get as much traffic for fiction and poetry. People are usually looking for nonfiction and information in blogs.)
  • Don't feel you have to say everything in one post. If you have more to say than fits in one post—great! You have material for next time.
  • Keep to one topic per post, because that stimulates conversation more effectively. If you have dozens of short things to say—Tweet them.
  • Ask a question of your readers at the end. It makes people feel involved and stimulates discussion.


19) Go tell those blogfriends you've made that you've got a blog. 


Hopefully, a few will follow. Don't despair if you don't get a lot of followers right away. I had maybe ten for my first six months—consisting of my critique group and my mom.

Twitter is one of the best places to promote your blogposts, so if you're not on Twitter, consider joining. Then RT other posts on the same subject you're blogging about. That way you'll get a core of Twitter followers who will want to read your posts.

Facebook is also a great place to promote your blog. If you sign up for Networked blogs, they will post a link to your FB page automatically (as long as you use stupid quotes: their elves don't like smart quotes either.) Google Plus will post a Blogger blog automatically if you link it to your Google Plus account. (But don't link your comments to Google Plus. Then only Google Plus members can comment.)

Any social medium is good for blog promotion. We get a lot of hits from Pinterest, and we're not even on it. We're grateful to followers who post links for us. Thanks!

20) Congratulations. You are now a blogger.


Really. It's that easy.
***

What about you, scriveners? Do any of you regular bloggers have suggestions for newbies? Newbies, do you have any questions? If you're a blogger, what do you find the hardest part of blogging? The easiest?


BOOK OF THE WEEK




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The Lady of the Lakewood Diner, Food of Love and The Gatsby Game, available in one boxed set. 99c at Nook, iTunes and all the Amazons. Also available at Kobo and Scribd

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OPPORTUNITY ALERTS



Open call for the Independent Women Anthology: short stories (flash fiction included), poetry, essays, artwork, or any other woman and/or feminist-centered creative work. 10,000 word max. All genres but explicit erotica. $100 per short story, $50 for flash, poetry, and photography/artwork. All profits will be donated to the Pixel Project Charity to end Violence Against Women. Deadline January 31, 2016 with a goal of publication on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.


TETHERED BY LETTERS' FALL 2015 LITERARY CONTEST ENTRY FEES: $15 Short Story; $7 Flash Fiction/$15 three Flash Fictions; $7 poem /$15 for three poems. Currently accepting submissions for the short story contest (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction contest (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry contest (maximum of three pages per poem). All winners will be published in F(r)iction. All finalists will receive free professional edits on their submission and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 (USD) for the short story winner, $150 (USD) for the flash fiction winner, and $150 (USD) for the poetry winner. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Deadline December 1.

The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.

The IWSG Short Story Anthology Contest 2015.  NO FEE! The top ten stories will be published in an anthology. (Authors will receive royalties on sales.) Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member (no fee to join the IWSG). The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free. Word count: 5000-6000. Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. Deadline: November 1st

MASTERS REVIEW FALL FICTION CONTEST 
$20 ENTRY FEE. 7000 word limit.
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RROFIHE TROPHY NO-FEE SHORT STORY CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE. For an unpublished short story. Minimum word count 3,500; maximum to 5,000 words. Winner receives $500, trophy, announcement and publication on anderbo.comDeadline October 15.

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