writing

Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2016!

Once again, it’s that time of year to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

For anyone who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and it comes around every November.

From humble beginnings in 1999, when there were just 21 participants, NaNoWriMo has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. In 2015 431,626 people took part, and the numbers this year are expected to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it is a challenge to help you write that novel you had always meant to write but keep putting off.

By registering with NaNoWriMo, you are joining a world-wide community of writers who are all seeking to achieve the same end, and are thus able to encourage and support one another.

This year a number of members of the myWritersCircle forum (which I co-founded) have registered for NaNoWriMo already, and more will no doubt follow. If you are looking for some ‘buddies’ to share notes and compare progress with, check out this forum topic.

Although there are no prizes for completing a novel for NaNoWriMo, if you do (and you have to prove it by uploading your work to the NaNoWriMo site), you will be able to download an official ‘Winner’ web badge and a PDF Winner’s Certificate, which you can print out.

And, of course, you will have the first draft of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication (or publish yourself).

There are lots of useful resources on the NaNoWriMo website, including wordcount widgets, web badges, flyers for downloading, motivational articles, and much more. There is also a busy forum where you can compare notes with other participants.

NaNoWriMo is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in my publisher WCCL’s Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

I’d like to wish you the very best of luck if you do decide to register for NaNoWriMo. Please do post a note below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Why Now is the Time to Start Promoting Your Amazon Affiliate Links Extra Hard

If you are reading this blog, it’s quite likely you have a book or e-book on Amazon. If that’s the case, you should be promoting it extra vigorously right now. And, specifically, you should be promoting it as an Amazon Associate (as Amazon calls its affiliates).

There are various reasons why promoting your book as an Amazon Associate is a good idea. The obvious one is that any sales generated through your link will attract commission from Amazon. Assuming you’re earning royalties on sales as well, in effect that means you’ll be getting paid twice over for every sale.

But there’s another particular reason to promote extra hard via Amazon just now, and that’s because you will receive commission from Amazon for ALL purchases made by a customer who visits the store via your link.

And in the coming weeks, in the run-up to Christmas, Diwali and Hanukkah, many people will be buying multiple items as gifts. If they do some or all of their gift shopping via your link, you will earn multiple commissions.

Admittedly, Amazon doesn’t pay a fortune to Associates. Commission starts at just 5 percent, rising to the dizzy heights of 15 percent for some products. By way of comparison, affiliate commissions paid on downloadable products are often over 50 percent, and in some cases up to 100.

Even so, if someone spends a lot of money on a visit (and it happens at this time of year) the returns to you as the referrer can be substantial. Darren Rowse (aka Problogger) regularly lists surprising products people have bought from Amazon on visits via his links. Here’s one eye-opening list he posted a while ago.

If you’re not an Amazon Associate already, you can easily join by scrolling down to the foot of the Amazon homepage, clicking on Associates Program, and following the instructions to sign up. Note that you will need to join each national store’s Associates Program separately to promote there.

Once you’re in, Amazon have a huge range of banners and widgets you can use on your blog or website. They include, of course, simple image ads such as the one below for my latest Kindle e-book on Amazon.com…

You can also have all manner of other widgets, including slideshows, word clouds, best deals boxes, and so on. Here’s an example of a seasonal banner that is automatically updated by Amazon.

Of course, it’s possible that all you want is a simple text link. Oddly enough, this isn’t as straightforward as you might think with Amazon. For text links Amazon give you about five lines of code which are designed to display your link in a pre-formatted, Amazon-approved style.

If you don’t want their complicated and largely superfluous formatting, here’s a simpler alternative. Use the following framework to construct your link:

—-http://www.amazon.com/dp/ASIN/?tag=yourAssociatesID—-

Or for Amazon UK use:

—http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/ASIN/?tag=yourAssociatesID—-

The ASIN is the unique identification number every product on Amazon has – you will find this in the product details. My own affiliate ID on Amazon UK is nickdawswriti-21, so a basic text link for my e-book above for the UK store would look like this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DP8HKLQ/?tag=nickdawswriti-21

One slight drawback of this method is that if your visitor is located somewhere with a different national Amazon store, they won’t automatically be redirected. If you are targeting a multinational audience (very likely online) you might therefore like to use the free Geniuslink or Booklinker service.

Both of these are run by the GeoRiot organization. They create a single link that detects where visitors live and automatically forwards them to their own national store, with your affiliate link included if you have entered it for the store concerned.

I wrote about Geniuslink in this recent post, and Booklinker in this one. Geniuslink has a few more bells and whistles than Booklinker, but once your links are generating over 1,000 clicks a month you start paying for the service. Booklinker is a more stripped-down service, but it is free however many clicks your links attract.

Here is a sample link created with Booklinker for my Kindle e-book on plotting: http://mybook.to/ThreeGreat. Click on this and it should take you straight to the appropriate page of your own national Amazon store. Do try it and see 🙂

Good luck on Amazon, and I hope you sell lots of book, e-books and more expensive items as the festive season approaches!

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Win an iPad Pro in this Free Contest from Aweber

As part of their current Today Is Your Day promotion, my colleagues at the autoresponder service Aweber are running a free giveaway with an iPad Pro as the top prize.

It’s effectively a prize draw. You can get one entry just by signing up to their This Is Your Day mailing list, and a further four entries by sharing your own Today Is Your Day story on social media. Some examples of existing entries are shown in the screen capture from the website below.

This Is Your Day examples

As you may gather, the idea behind Today Is Your Day is to inspire people to try something new, whether to grow their business or start a money-making sideline (or side hustle in the modern parlance).

Aweber are also offering free mini-guides to a range of projects that could fit this description, from starting a podcast to creating your own online course. My earlier post Today Is Your Day: A Free Resources Set for Entrepreneurs from Aweber discusses this in more detail, of course.

As well as the chance of winning an iPad, every entrant can also download a range of free smartphone, desktop and tablet wallpapers to help keep them focused and inspired.

Enter your email address on the contest page and as well as one entry in the giveaway you will also receive an email with a link to the free wallpapers. The contest ends on September 30, 2016, with the winners to be announced on October 3, 2016.

The contest and wallpapers are provided free and without obligation, although obviously Aweber hope that you will sign up to their service if you haven’t already. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I do recommend Aweber if you are looking for a service to help run an email list or newsletter on your behalf.

Good luck in the Today Is Your Day contest and, as ever, if you have any queries or comments, please do post them below.

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Words'worth cover

Review: Words’Worth – A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Serious Editing

Words’Worth – A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Serious Editing is a book by Jane Riddell, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle e-book form. Jane was kind enough to send me a review copy, so here are my thoughts…

Words’Worth (as I’ll call it for short) is a concise (54-page) guide for fiction writers who wish to edit their own work (or have no other option). The main content is set out in three chapters: Overview Editing, Line-by-line Editing, and Pace.

The idea is that you use the advice in the book as a kind of checklist once your first draft has been completed. The chapter on Overview Editing covers such matters as locating the reader in time, avoiding melodrama, and providing breaks from tension. Each item is described in a paragraph or two, and in most cases examples are given as well.

The chapter on line-by-line editing covers the sorts of thing typically covered in traditional copy editing, including avoiding cliches, using strong verb forms, active rather than passive voice, and so on. Finally, the chapter about Pace covers such matters as varying sentence length and deleting unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.

I thought that the advice was sound and the plentiful examples were helpful. If I was being picky I would say that there could have been a bit more about the key areas of viewpoint and showing not telling (writing in scenes, in other words). While the need to avoid telling after showing is covered, the fundamental principle of showing rather than telling isn’t discussed in any depth. That is a relatively minor criticism, though.

New fiction writers should find Words’Worth an invaluable guide to making their writing as tight and compelling as possible. Old hands will find much of the advice familiar, but the book can still serve as a useful checklist and aide memoire.

Words’Worth is not, of course, any substitute for a developmental editor: someone who can assess your book’s basic structure and suggest ways it can be revised and improved. For many new authors accessing such an individual may be difficult or impossible, however.

Likewise, this is not a proofreading guide, and some common mistakes in new writers’ work (the omission of the vocative comma, for example) aren’t covered here. If you’ll excuse a quick plug for my own work, you might find my own guide Essential English for Authors useful in this respect.

Nonetheless, Words’Worth is a book that new fiction writers in particular will find extremely helpful, and at its modest asking price it will definitely be a valuable addition to their resources library.

 

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Today is Your Day

Today Is Your Day: a free resources set for entrepreneurs from Aweber

My colleagues at the leading autoresponder and mailing list service Aweber have recently released a new (and free) set of resources aimed at entrepreneurial businesses and individuals.

These resources are collectively called “Today Is Your Day”. Each one provides a checklist for completing one particular task to help boost your bottom line, from creating a YouTube video to growing your email audience, creating captivating images to growing your podcast. Banners linking to each resource are published below…

 

 

 
Take the first step towards growing your podcast

 

 

These resources are provided free and without obligation, although obviously Aweber hope that you will sign up to their service if you haven’t already. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I do recommend Aweber if you are looking for a service to help run an email list or newsletter on your behalf.

The checklists are quite concise but provide a practical step-by-step guide to what you should be doing to achieve each of the objectives listed. Links are provided to other useful resources as well.

As ever, if you have any queries or comments, please do post them below.

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Editing

Do All Writers Need to Hire an Editor? Here’s Why I Say No!

A trend I’ve noticed recently among writing blogs and websites is a growing consensus that to succeed as a writer, you MUST engage an editor for your work.

This is an assertion that I feel needs to be challenged. Yes, a good editor is a wonderful thing to have, but there are two major stumbling blocks.

First, finding a good freelance editor isn’t as easy as you might think. Bear in mind that anyone can call themselves an editor. As well as the genuinely good ones, there are plenty of deluded amateurs and some out-and-out fraudsters. Sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly is by no means a simple task.

And even if you are lucky and find a good editor, their services aren’t cheap. For a full-length book you can expect to pay several thousand pounds/dollars. If you are self publishing – on Kindle, for example – you need to think carefully whether any boost in sales that may result will cover this.

Self-publishing authors sometimes believe that a freelance editor will be able to help them with the deeper, structural aspects of their book as well. This is akin to the role performed by developmental editors in traditional publishing houses. Whether a freelance editor can realistically offer this service is in my view very doubtful, however.

Developmental editing tends to be a slow, iterative process. The editor typically reads and reflects carefully on the manuscript, then raises queries and offers suggestions to the author. The author duly reflects on this and gives his/her reactions, and so on. This can work very well with a salaried editor who is employed by a publishing house, but it is not really compatible with freelance editing, where you are charged by the page or the hour. If you hire a freelance editor, what you are basically getting is a copy editor. They may (or may not) make the odd structural suggestion as they go, but it is a long way from the in-depth feedback you will get from a developmental editor in a publishing house.

My advice is therefore to ignore anyone who tells you that you MUST hire an editor. Instead, I recommend a two-pronged approach. First, be sure you are fully up to speed with the basics of grammar and punctuation (my course Essential English for Authors might be helpful here – just saying!). Aim to be your own best editor (and proofreader) rather than relying on someone else.

And second, make full use of free and low-cost resources such as beta readers (other authors are often happy to reciprocate in this role) and online forums such as myWritersCircle. Off-line resources such as writers’ groups can be a big help as well. By this means you can get a lot of valuable feedback about your work without spending a fortune.

If you hear of a good editor and can afford their services, by all means use them too. But be realistic about how much benefit you are likely to get from their input, and weigh this carefully against the costs involved.

Remember, also, that with e-book (or POD) publishing, if someone tells you about a mistake, it is a very simple matter to correct and republish. Getting everything 100 percent correct before publishing, while still desirable, is therefore no longer so essential.

Of course, if you’re aiming to get published by a traditional publishing house, some of the above comments may not apply. But still, bear in mind that in-house editors provide their services free of charge if the publisher sees potential in your work. Your objective as an author should therefore be to ensure that your manuscript demonstrates such potential. No freelance editor will be able to ‘fix’ your manuscript if it is basically unpublishable. But that won’t stop them taking your money, of course.

So that’s my view, but what do you think? Should all aspiring writers be told to hire an editor for their work, or is this (as I think) unrealistic in many cases? Please post any comments you may have below.

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Puzzle Publishing Profits

Review: Puzzle Publishing Profits by Amy Harrop

Puzzle Publishing Profits is the latest writing product to be launched by my prolific colleague Amy Harrop.

Amy is a successful self-published author, and publisher of many guides and software products for authors. She was kind enough to allow me a review copy, so here’s what I found…

Puzzle Publishing Profits is a guide to making money by publishing puzzle books of all types, probably using Amazon’s CreateSpace print publishing platform. It is being sold via the popular and well-established WarriorPlus platform. The main guide is a 60-page PDF.

As you would expect with any of Amy’s publications, this is well written and attractively presented. It is illustrated with graphics and screen captures where relevant.

In the manual, Amy explains how you can capitalize on the huge market for puzzle books. She starts by discussing the wide range of such books and reveals the various target audiences for them, from children to the elderly. She also discusses current trends in the puzzle books field. The manual covers crossword puzzles, Sudoku, logic puzzles, maze puzzles, word-search, graphic puzzles, math (or maths) puzzles, brainteasers, and many more.

The latter part of the manual then discusses how readers can write, publish and market these books themselves. Amy recommends publishing in print rather than Kindle e-book form, as in general people like to complete puzzles using a pen and paper, not on a tablet or e-reader. As mentioned above, she recommends using Amazon’s CreateSpace POD (print on demand) self-publishing platform.

Clearly covering how to do all this in detail would require a much longer book, so what Amy has done is link to useful resources throughout the manual. Some of these resources she has produced herself, while others are from external websites. An example of the former is a six-page spreadsheet listing sources of online puzzle-making software (free and paid for), puzzle-making resources, forums, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Groups, and Pinterest pages. The forum, groups and Pinterest pages strike me as being more relevant for puzzle aficionados than for puzzle-book makers,. but the software and resources websites are certainly worth knowing about.

There is some good advice on publishing your puzzle book using CreateSpace, again with links to other resources for finding out more. The manual closes with an 8-page discussion of how to promote your puzzle book. This focuses especially on writing a good description of your book for the Amazon store, and using social media to build your following and help spread the word. I thought there were some very good tips here.

When preparing puzzle books, Amy advises strongly against referring to actual product and brand names. While I understand her caution, personally I think it’s a bit excessive. While I would agree that producing a Frozen puzzle book is a bad idea and would likely attract the attention of the Disney company lawyers, simply mentioning the name of a movie or TV show in a broader-based book is unlikely to cause problems. If that were not the case, most trivia quiz books (such as the one pictured below that I wrote a while ago for my clients at Lagoon Games) would never see the light of day. The key thing is to be sensible and only refer to high-profile, trademarked productions in a broader context. In a themed puzzle book about movies, for example, you could (in my view) have a wordsearch puzzle featuring the names of well-known characters from children’s films.

TV trivia quiz book by Nick Daws

As well as the main manual, buyers of Puzzle Publishing Profits get two bonus items. I didn’t actually receive these with my pre-launch review copy, but here are the descriptions from the sales page:

Amy Puzzle Book Bonusese

It sounds as though these will add value to the main manual, especially the CreateSpace publishing guide.

In summary, Puzzle Publishing Profits is an eye-opening guide to a field that appears crammed with potential right now, and it has definitely inspired me to think about trying it myself. It is currently on a launch special offer for $17 (about £14), after which – as is Amy’s usual practice – the price will be rising to $27. If you want to broaden your publishing portfolio with something that is fun and not too time-consuming, it is definitely worth a look.

If you have any comments or questions about Puzzle Publishing Profits, as always, please do post them below.

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Steemit: A New Social Blogging Website It Pays to Join!

I wanted to give you a heads-up today about a new social blogging website named Steemit. It only launched quite recently, and they are currently paying new users a fee (valued at around $7) just for signing up.

I am still getting my head around Steemit and how best to make use of it, but essentially it is based around the Steem cryptocurrency. You can earn Steem on the site by blogging and (just as important) commenting on other people’s blogs and voting up the best new posts. The currency you earn can be converted to Bitcoin or hard currencies such as pounds and dollars. Some people have already earned thousands of dollars via the site.

I have only just joined Steemit and am still finding my way around. One resource I have found very helpful, however, is a guide called Steem Cash, by online entrepreneur Michael X. This is currently available at an introductory price of $9. Without it, bearing in mind the complex rules about how you earn on the site, I would undoubtedly have been floundering.

Michael claims to have made $5324.74 his first week of posting content, just by “dabbling” to see if he wanted to get involved. I have no way of knowing if that is true or not, but from the screen captures (such as the one below) it certainly seems feasible.

 

Screenshot_60

 

As for me, I have literally only joined today, so I can confirm that I found $7 worth of “Steem Power” in my account just for signing up. I still don’t really know what the long-term potential of Steemit is, but it certainly appears to be something any entrepreneurial writer needs to check out. There is nothing to pay (unless you want to, in order to boost your influence on the site), so you aren’t really risking anything except your time.

I will post again about Steemit once I have a bit more experience with the platform. Until then, as mentioned above, I do recommend the inexpensive Steem Cash guide for getting up to speed with it quickly.

As always, if you have any comments or questions about Steemit or Steem Cash, please feel free to post them below.

iconOrder Steem Cash Here!

UPDATE: I just uploaded my introductory post at https://steemit.com/introduceyourself/@nikkd/hello-steemit-looking-forward-to-an-exciting-journey. If you have joined Steemit yourself, any upvotes will be much appreciated. Because of the way the site works, you could make yourself some money as well by doing so!

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Beat Writer’s Block with Binaural Beats

If you ever suffer from the dreaded writer’s block, this product from my publishers WCCL (also known as the Self Development Network) might be of interest to you.

The Writer’s Block CD doesn’t offer advice or ideas on rediscovering creativity, nor is it (simply) a relaxation inducer. Rather, it uses a technology called binaural beats to help ‘entrain’ the mind into a creative state. To explain this, I need to start with a bit of theory.

If you’ve studied psychology (which I have, a long time ago) you’ll know scientists can measure the electrical activity in our brains using a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG).

It has been known for a long time that different mental states are associated with different patterns of electrical activity. For example, someone who is fully awake and alert will probably exhibit relatively high frequency electrical activity patterns (13-40Hz), known as beta waves. Someone in deep sleep will display low frequency activity (below 3.5Hz), known as delta waves.

The frequency most associated with creative thought is alpha (7-13Hz). Alpha waves are typically produced by people in a relaxed, but receptive, frame of mind. It seems to follow that, if you can encourage your brain to go into a high-alpha state, it should give your creativity a boost.

Unfortunately, though, you can’t achieve this simply by playing sounds at 7-13Hz. The trouble is that this is simply below most people’s hearing threshold. However, the Writer’s Block CD attempts to get around this by using ‘binaural beat’ technology. Stick with me, because I’m almost through with the theory now.

It has been discovered that if you play tones of slightly different frequencies to each ear, they combine within the brain to create a low frequency resonance. For example, if you play a tone of 320Hz in one ear and 330Hz in the other, it will create a resonance at a frequency of 10Hz – the difference between them. By using this method, the brain can be entrained into a high alpha-wave state.

So how does it work in practice? Well, the CD comes in a jewel case, and you simply load it into your music center or PC and play it.

It’s best if you listen through a pair of headphones rather than loudspeakers. As I mentioned above, the CD works by producing slightly different frequencies in each ear, and if you listen through speakers inevitably the sounds from the left and the right side will get mixed up.

I’d also advise turning up the bass quite high: some of the sounds on the CD are quite low-pitched, and it seems to me you get better results if you boost them.

And finally, close your eyes while you are listening to the CD. From the occasion when, as a psychology major, I was wired up to an EEG machine, I know that the simple act of closing your eyes can greatly boost your alpha-wave output!

There are two tracks on the CD: a brief intro (which you can skip if you like) and the binaural beat track, which is 35 minutes long. It starts with a low-pitched throb – a bit like having a ten-tonne truck standing on the road outside – and gradually other, higher-pitched tones are introduced over the top of this. I wouldn’t recommend playing this CD at a dinner party, but it is not unpleasant to listen to.

The advice provided with the CD is to try to relax as you listen – don’t fight against it, in other words! Personally, I use it at the start of my writing day, though impatience sometimes gets the better of me before the CD has finished and I start work while the tones are still playing.

Does it work for me? Yes, I think so. To be honest I don’t often suffer from writer’s block, but sometimes it takes a while for me to ‘get into the groove’ at the start of a writing session. I find that listening to the CD relaxes me and helps me to focus on the job in hand.

Would it work for everyone? I’m not sure, though there is plenty of evidence that binaural beats do have a real effect, and the phenomenon is increasingly used in treating (among other things) sleep disorders and chronic pain. For more information about the science involved see, for example, http://web-us.com/thescience.htm.

If you’d like to give the Writer’s Block CD a try yourself, following any of the links in this article will take you straight to the relevant web page. As with all WCCL courses and products, 24-hour customer support is available, and there is a 100% money-back guarantee.

Order the Writers Block CD here!

Photo: CC BY-SA by FindYourSearch

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Commentluv

Entrepreneur Writer – Now With Added Commentluv!

Just wanted to give you a heads up that Entrepreneur Writer is now using the Commentluv plug-in for reader comments.

This means that if you are a blogger yourself and you place a comment on my blog, you will be able to get a link back to a post on your own blog below it.

If you haven’t used Commentluv before, here’s how it works. When posting a comment on my blog, all you need to do is include the URL of your own blog in the Your Website box and ensure that the tick-box next to Commentluv is checked.

By default the most recent post from your blog should then be selected. Alternatively, by clicking on the down arrow, a list of your 10 most recent posts should be displayed, and you can click to select any of these instead. The screen capture below should help make this clearer

commentluvOne important point to note is that you will need to include the http:// prefix in your blog URL for the plugin to work.

I hope you will enjoy this new feature of Entrepreneur Writer and make good use of it. Any queries or comments, of course, please do post them below!

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