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Aspiring Author? Boost Your Chances Of Success With This

When you’re someone that wants to write, it can consume you. You may find that you just have to write. That the process of putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) is therapeutic to you. Maybe you have these characters in your mind that are bursting to come out? When that’s the case, you absolutely have to make sure that you write. Yet, you have to realize that you really do not need to ask for permission for this. You do not have to wait to ‘become’ a writer, or ‘feel’ like a writer. You can just write – and there you are, you’re a writer. But sometimes, that’s not enough.

Because when you love to write, you may find that it’s just not enough for you to be able to play writer or write in your spare time. Instead, you want to be a published writer and you want to get paid for your writing. Yet, that takes an agent and a publisher – and most importantly of all, courage. And so, this can seem like a huge and scary step for you to complete. But, if you really want to do it, and you really want to find success, then you’ve come to the right place – because we’re about to walk through what you can do to make that happen.

Work On Your Craft

To start with, you’re going to want to try and get better. Because if you’re not getting signed or any interest in your book proposals, it’s time to make some improvements. Lock yourself in your office and practice. Do writing exercises. Take courses. Read. Write in new ways. Just try different things so that you’re always improving.

Have An Audience

But then also, you may find that at this point, you might want to consider building up a bit of an audience for yourself. This won’t always be the case, but if you have a following on social media or readers of a blog or subscribers to an email, then you are showcasing to a potential publisher that you already have an audience, and this can be a selling feature for them.

Write!

From here, something else that you absolutely need to do – above all else, is just write! You cannot worry so much being a writer or getting a deal, you have to just write. So do it. Write as often as you can and make it a habit! It’s so important that you can just actually create, rather than just get the work done!

Publish What You Can

When you want to be a writer, it can often seem as if you should only be writing books. And that all of your time should be allocated to that certain style of writing. But that’s not true. You may want to think about blogging and publishing whatever you can online. You really don’t have to wait. Because publishing and writing as much as you can will help you showcase your stuff and improve your craft.

Market Yourself

The next thing that you might want to think about doing here, is to make sure that you’re marketing yourself enough. Because if you’re not trying to show off what you can do, or get readers, then it’s so much harder for them to find you. For this, you’ll want to advertise and promote what you do. And you may need to utilize anything from Adwords automation script tools to Display advertising to do this. Even social media can be powerful – so make sure that you are putting yourself out there.

Sell Yourself

Next up, you have to make sure that you can sell yourself too. And it’s often tough to do this, but it can work too. Because if you want that agent or to get a book deal, you need to put yourself out there. Yes, your work needs to be good – really good – but it needs to be relevant and it needs to sell too. And for this to happen, you need to put yourself out there, have a selling feature, and to just ask for the chance.

Keep Going

Finally, above all else, you absolutely need to keep going. It’s essential for you to build a thick skin and not stop or worry about being set back. Because we will all get different ‘no’s’ in our lives. But just because one person said no, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop or that you’ll never get published. Just keep writing, keep asking, keep trying. Because you never know when that yes, or which book it will be for, will come!

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What It’s Like to Write “The End” Again

Honestly, it has been a few long years, and it feels like even longer since I have written “The End” on a book, mine or otherwise. In some ways, I was beginning to wonder if I could still do it. By that, I meant carry a story through until the end. 

Don’t get me wrong. I knew I still had it in me, and from my freelance writing career, I knew I could still write. However, writing is novel is much different than an article, a blog post, or a short story. Even those bait e-books they talk about are different when you write the end. 

But after the last year, things changed for me a lot. First, my freelance writing and even a ghostwriting book took off in ways I could not have imagined. I grew as a writer and a person and got back into the writing groove. I took on gigs I would not normally have and transformed my life to once again put writing at the center. 

I wrote “The End” a few times in recent months, and it feels good. If you are a writer and struggling to do the one thing we all struggle with from time to time, finishing, here are some thoughts for you. 

Personal Satisfaction

While we all know that writing is a business and “The End” is just the beginning of a larger process, it is the end of one of the toughest parts. There is something immensely satisfying in the completion of a large project, and whether that is a novella, novel, or a non-fiction book of some sort, you have proven you can see something through to a conclusion. 

Why are NaNoWriMo and other such programs so popular with writers? Because they give you a chance to finish something, even if you do not see it through to publication. Writing “The End” whether the first time or the fiftieth, matters. 

Inspiration to Do it Again

One of the truths of the writing craft is that no matter how good you get, no matter how long you work at it, you will never be truly a master, because there is always something new to learn. The only way to learn those things is to write something and finish it over and over again. 

Writing the words “The End” inspires you to do it again, and again, and again. Maybe you are like most writers and have a lot of projects in the works. When you write “The End” it is time to move on to whatever is next. You should have a plan for that too, by the way. Goals set are goals achieved. 

The Psychological Victory

Let’s put things in a bit of perspective. A big part of writing fiction or anything else is psychological. If you have chosen writing as a career, you can type pretty fast (probably) and you probably have enough ideas to fill a book themselves. Then life happens or people give you other ideas, and you feel like you can write forever. 

Until you sit down to write and then somehow our brain blocks us from doing what we love if we let it. The ability to get through those blocks and to the end with something that is at all good and worth working through the rest of the process is a huge breakthrough, and not just once, but every time. 

I endured a lot of personal criticism about many aspects of my life, including my decision to be a writer and do that for a living for a few years before a relationship ended and I started over in many ways. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever you need to do to finish or get started again, the ability to complete something and write “The End” will boost your confidence and morale. 

What a Relief

To be a successful writer, you need to need to be a writer, to the point where nothing else will really do. Whether this is a hobby for you or a way to make a living, you still need to have the same need. 

Writing “The End” this time for me was a relief. I need to be a writer. An extensive collection of nametags, hairnets, and various unsuccessful careers tells me this is true. The question I had after the last few years was whether or not I could do it anymore. Freelance was one thing: my books and novels were another. 

But I found I could. First, I wrote “The End” on Tilting With Windmills, a Monster Marshall’s story coming sometime this year, wrote “The End” on a ghost writing project I am involved in, wrote it in Harvestedformerly of another title after a major re-write, and am about to do it again on a non-fiction project about writing as a business, also coming out this year. 

This isn’t to brag. It is to simply say this very act proved I can do this, I can be a writer, and I can make it my living. I can keep writing “The End” over and over again until it is written the final time for me by someone else. What’s it like to write “The End” again? It is all of these things. What is standing in your way? No matter what it is, you can get past it. After all, what better satisfaction is there in this crazy business of ours? 

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Writing as a Business: When to Quit Your Day Job Redux

Over the last couple of years, I have had some serious personal life changes and challenges, and that meant a transition from freelance writing full time to a full-time job, a part time job, and then leaving that day job altogether. Part of that had to do with my personal motivation and income, the rest had to do with listening to others and giving in to a certain amount of fear about not making it.

The thing is, the market changed as did my motivation to write and how much I wrote, and that made all the difference. I did not adapt (at first) to new opportunities in the freelance world, and I did not write nearly as much on a daily basis. When I first got back to writing copious amounts of non-fiction content, it was for someone else.

In the meantime, I started my own business (again) this time Unbound Media, LLC. I started with a small plan that has moved forward to something else that now is a much longer-term plan, although I am sure our company focus will change over time just as my personal one does.

For now, there are about six writers that create content for me from time to time, and others that come in and out at will. Some make good money, others have their own businesses and work for me as a side gig for an extra stream of revenue. It has not been easy, but over the last few months it came time to leave the day job (part time at that point) behind, but I put it off at first, and worked way too hard instead. This was partly out of fear.

So as I get back to the writing as a business posts on this blog and reignite some things I have let languish for far too long, I thought I would start with one of the most common questions I get asked (since I have left and returned to having day jobs a number of times over the last 9 years or so). When is it time to leave your day job?

As a freelancer who writes both fiction and non-fiction and also edits along with now running my own company, I think I have some answers, but boiled down to the simplest one, it simply depends.

You’ve Already Started a Business

We covered this topic early in this series, but let me just say this one lesson again: if you have written a book and it has been published, whether traditionally or you have self-published, you have already started a small business. You need to market that book. If you self-publish, you also need to distribute it, and to a certain extent this applies if you are traditionally published as well (that is another topic for another blog post on another day).

You will, if you continue to write, go through the processes of business that include production, distribution, and marketing. However, there is more to writing for a living than that, at least in my case.

I also do freelance non-fiction writing including a lot of web stuff and content for company and individual blogs and even some link building writing, although with a few exceptions I don’t do the rest of the link building process. (Outreach, placement, etc). I also have to go through the process of production (writing), distribution (getting the material to the client) and marketing (of my services that are unrelated to fiction).

As a third prong of income I employ other people who also write for me and my clients (production), distribute that writing for them (getting it to clients) and market (sharing that I have access to more than just my time for writing). All of this sound familiar and repeated?

From the start in this series, I have talked about production and touched on the first part of distribution for authors of books. But the same principles apply across the rest of business. Every stage takes time, and it may be time to quit your day job when it starts to interfere with the time you have for any one of these processes.

But wait. You can’t quit your day job without money, right?

Your Business is Making a Profit

Step one is to save money. The advantage I have as both an author and a freelance writer is that I am creating two different things: I have a service industry, a company that writes content for websites and blog content for clients for various uses and I also create a product, books, that continue to sell and make me money long after I have finished the work of producing and distributing them (or at least making sure they are available to a wide audience).

However, you don’t need to have both (although it is a good idea). If you have one or the other, you can leverage them to make money. Once your business is making you almost as much as you are at your day job, and you feel like if you were spending more time on your business it could easily pass those numbers, it is time to quit your day job.

A word of warning here: know what your earning needs are and what your earning potential really is. Don’t guess. If you earn $2,0000 a month from your day job, consider dropping to half time when your business is making $1,000 a month. When you are approaching $1,800 a month, you might consider quitting your day job as long as your business is growing in a way that will enable to you to make up that difference.

Also, don’t forget to add intangible benefits like health insurance and other factors in there. Don’t forget the increased taxes you will pay. Really to replace your $2,000 a month day job, you will need to make more like $2,800 from your business after your expenses.

You’re Both Fed Up and Passionate

A point will come with your business where you start to resent the time you are spending at your day job no matter how much you like it. For the most part, I loved my most recent day job, although there were some definite drawbacks. But it got to the point where I would be working, and that day job would interrupt my work, and with less profitable work.

At the same time, I was growing increasingly passionate about what I was doing and could do, and less passionate about my day job. I knew I was at a place of great potential, and my day job was interfering with the expansion I needed to really grow the business.

You’re Ready to Face Your Fear

Notice I did not say you were free from fear. Good luck with that. If you get over that one completely, let me know. I said when you are ready to face your fears. Starting off on your own with no safety net of a day job is scary to say the least. There is no formula for you or those around you not to be afraid.

Get over it. Face your fear and jump. You are ready to quit your day job when you are really ready to do this. In fact, do it before you are ready. When the numbers add up, when you are growing, just do it. Jump. You will be fine.

I’ve talked about this topic before. Several times. And I have lived through it myself. When is it time to quit your day job? It depends, but it might just be now.

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5 Alternative Ways of Getting to Writing Conferences

Writing conference season has already started, and the big conferences are coming up this spring and into the summer months. If you look around, you will probably find one near you if not in your home town. However, often some of the best conferences are just within driving distance, and place where it really is not practical to fly into.

If you are not going to fly, and you don’t want to drive by yourself, what are some alternate ways to get to a writer’s conference? Here are some real-life subbestions for you.

Take the Bus

The bus? No this is not a flashback to 1995 and that nightmare trip you took across the country. No, this is about the experience of the conference, and often taking a bus will give you more material for your stories.

While traveling by bus is not expensive, doing so may take some additional planning on your part. It takes longer to get somewhere on a bus, and you will need to account for that time on both ends of the trip. If you still work a day job, you will need to take the appropriate time off.

If you have ever watched movies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you will understand the value of bus travel as story fodder. You may meet interesting people, and learn some new things.

Also, don’t just stick to your traditional Greyhound bus. There are also tour destination buses, and these can be even more fun, and affordable. Headed to a conference in Vegas? Take one of the gamblers’ tours and hand out with some cool people on the way there and the way home.

Take the Train

Yes, Amtrak still exists, and depending on where you live, you can take the train to a writer’s conference. Much more relaxing than taking the bus, the train will also allow you time to meet interesting people and gather story ideas. However, seats are usually much roomier than those on buses, and you can use dining cars and other common areas as places to get some writing done during your travel.

Like buses, trains usually take more time than driving, but especially if you are going to a conference a long way away, you can save a great deal of money and add some relaxation time to your trip to a conference.

The way home can be a great time to reflect on the things you have learned at the conference and make notes about what you want to do with that information.

Make it a Group Activity

If you have a local writers’ group or critique group, why not take the whole gang? You can split not only transportation, but the cost of hotels, perhaps even meals, and if you are attending the right conference you might even get a discount on your attendance fees.

There are a number of ways you can all ride together, including renting a passenger van. These vans often have seating room for up to 12 passengers along with room for all of your gear. This makes the rental affordable, the gas cheap, and you get the bonus of riding and attending the conference with your friends and fellow writers.

This method does require some planning though. You will need to reserve the van ahead of time and be sure you collect the money or at least a deposit from all of the participants so you are sure that no one backs out of the deal or cancels on you, making it more expensive for everyone else.

Also, you will need to plan lodging accordingly. You will all need to stay the same place or at least close by, so you don’t have to also use the van to go collect everyone. You can, however, use the van as a shuttle to and from the conference and your hotel. This can be very handy as long as you all go and return at the same time each day.

Motorhome It

Does someone you know own a motorhome, or can you rent one of those? This can be a great way to get to the conference and to save on lodging. While gas will be more expensive in a motorhome if you have the right sleeping arrangements you can literally save hundreds over the conference hotel costs.

Many times. even if there is no campground nearby, you can camp in parking lots or near the hotel somewhere anyway. Many megastores like Walmart are quite open to this idea, and there are often a number of motorhomes in the parking area.

Of course, if you are going to stay with those you are traveling with in a small space for a few days, it is a good idea to screen them and make sure they are people you will get along with for that amount of time. Set some group rules and be considerate.

Carpool

Another simple alternative is to carpool—simply split gas and travel costs with another person or two depending on the capacity of your vehicle, and ride together to the conference. This does have the advantage that you do not have to coordinate a larger group, and there is less chance that someone will cancel and you will get stuck with the whole cost of the trip solo.

Depending on the car you drive, this can be a money saver for sure. Also having another driver or just someone to talk to along the way can be a great help, keep you awake, and increase the speed with which you can get to where you are going.

No matter how you choose to get to a writers’ conference, go to at least one this year, more if you can. No matter what your level of experience, you will learn and grow for the experience. To save money and effort or even just to enhance your experience, choose an alternative way to travel and have some fun with it along the way.

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Business 101 for Writers: The Book Cover

So far in this series, we have covered a whole lot of ground. You have written the best book you can, revised it, and now you have hired an editor. Currently, they are working on one of the four rounds of editing your book will go through before a proofreader goes over it one last time.

If you are not writing your next book, you are sitting at home wondering what you should do next. The answer depends on your path to publication. If you are going the self-publishing route, it is time to source a cover by hiring a cover designer.

By the way, I don’t care if you are a graphic designer and if you design covers for other people as a part of your business (one of your multiple streams of revenue I am sure you have set up). You should never create your own book cover. Or at least most of the time you should not. I have known a few exceptions: authors that could both write a book and create a cover for it, and sometimes it turns out okay.

Most of the time it doesn’t. Your cover will come out very narcissistic and probably too busy. You will want to include too many elements of the story in one place rather than focusing on one central theme.

You should, however, know enough about cover design to know a good one when you see one. You should be knowledgeable about several design elements, and you should get second opinions about your cover before you give the artist the final yes.

The Bad

We will start with the bad, and sometimes funny covers people have either created for their own books or had their four-year-old sister create for them using a box of crayons. A cover can be awful for a number of reasons: font, the photo, poor Photoshop skills, lack or relevance, wrong genre, or even horrible typos.

The problem with the above examples? They are real, taken from Amazon and other sources. It’s not just that they are bad, but that someone thought they were good and good enough to publish.

Rather than just laughing though, focus on the different elements of each cover. Ask yourself what is wrong with them. Which elements are off? Is the font wrong? What about the photos used? Are they high quality? Cheap? Do they violate copyright laws? (more on that in a few moments)

The Good

There are also some great book covers out there. The design is simple, the font is ideal, they stand out on a web page, the images fit the genre and are appropriate, and the words are spelled correctly and there are no mistakes.

Look at the above examples. What elements stand out? What fonts are used, and what emotions do they evoke from you? Do those emotions fit with the genre of the book?

In today’s market, book covers must have some things in common, but they must be unique enough to stand out. You can buy a stock cover cheaply, but you might see another book with the same cover, just with the author and title changed. In fact, you might see several.

  • Your title should be short and accurately describe your story.
  • The picture should be clear and simple, relating to one main element in your story.
  • Your name should be legible and large enough to read.

Keep in mind that you are not the cover artist: you are the author. The cover artist is also a creative, so let them be. Come into the design process with maybe one or two things you would really like to see incorporated into the cover, and let them do the rest of the work. After all, that is their job, not yours.

How do you find a good cover designer?

These answers are really like the ones regarding finding an editor. You simply need to take a few simple steps:

  • Find covers you like in your genre from self-published authors, and ask them who they used. Word of mouth is still the best advertising, and the best way to find the help you need.
  • Search professional job boards or places like LinkedIn. Avoid Fiverr and cheap sites like that. You get what you pay for when it comes to book covers, and too cheap to be true means you will lose on quality.
  • Find covers on books you like, and look in the acknowledgments. Authors often thank cover designers there.

The search may take you some time. Look at sample work. Have the cover designer create a mock up for you, so you can determine if you like it or not. Just because a cover designer worked for one person does not mean they will work for you.

Remember, the cover is the first impression people will get of your book. Make sure it is a good one.

How much should I pay for a cover?

Okay, so here is the deal. If you are not paying at least $150 to $200, you are probably getting an inferior cover. It takes at least a few hours for the most talented of book designers to work up a mock-up or two, and then a few more to finalize the cover when they are done. They deserve to be paid for their time the same way you are when you go to work.

If you are paying more than $1500, you are probably paying too much unless you are paying for a hand-painted, specially created cover for a fantasy novel or something along those lines. If you do want that kind of cover, just understand a few things first:

  • Most books are purchased digitally now. It is unlikely your reader will be able to see or will notice tiny details.
  • You must make money too. If your biggest expense is the cover, you may have a hard time doing so.
  • Most great covers are simple: like many other things in writing, keeping it simple is a much better idea, especially early in your writing career.

Essentially, you should pay between $150 and $1,000 roughly for a good book cover. Anything outside of that range is probably due to special circumstances, and only you can decide if the tradeoffs of either side of the scale are worth it.

The Publisher’s Choice

If you are traditionally published or published through a small press, they probably have their own cover designers. You will have to go with their choice, whether you like it or not.

However, some will give you the opportunity to have input on what your cover will look like. Take advantage of this, but understand that the publisher will have the final say.

Hire a Professional

I have used a few different cover designers through the years, and some have not been as good as others. Currently, I use Elle Rossi for many of my designs. Here are some ways to tell the professionals from the amateurs.

  • Amateurs are on Fiverr and other cheap sites, desperately looking for work.
  • Pros are busy most of the time.
  • Amateurs do not have a portfolio, a website, or references.
  • Pros have all the above, usually a portfolio hosted on a website, social media presence, and references they can give you. (Elle’s is EJR Digital Art)

A professional will offer you a quote, a mock-up or two for you to choose from and elaborate on, and will work with you until your idea is portrayed the way you want it.

Choosing a cover designer, like many other parts of the process, can be arduous and time-consuming, but is a step that is essential for you to get right. The first impression your readers have of your book will be one created by someone else. It is your responsibility to make sure they get the right one.

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Business 101 for Writers: Stop Treating and Pricing Writing Like a Commodity

Before I check out on the OfficeMax website, I check to make sure I have applied all of the coupon codes they have sent me. I have discounts on paper, toner, and even a new office chair. What’s not in my online cart is a well-written blog post about freelancers and taxes.

For that, I have to go somewhere else, and when I shop for content, I have choices. I can get content from Fiverr or some bargain spot like Upwork or Elance. As long as I don’t mind sub-par or at best mediocre work, that is fine. Kind of like when you are out running errands and you get hungry. You can stop at a convenience store or a fast food spot for a snack, but it won’t be good.

Because food is not just food, and writing is not just writing. A bargain almost never means good or even great food or writing. Because creating something is a skill, and a skilled chef does not work at McDonald’s for long.

To Freelance Clients Looking for Writers

The most talented writers also do not work content mills and job boards for too long. Someone, probably them, discovers they are much too talented to work for peanuts, and they start charging real rates for real clients.

If you aren’t willing to pay higher rates you are no longer the client they are looking for, and they move on.

Notice that high-end steak houses always seem to be busy: you have to make reservations to dine there, and they seldom if ever offer coupon or Groupon offers. Why? Those offers are designed to increase business by bringing new customers in. A restaurant that is always full and requires reservations to get in doesn’t need to advertise to get new customers. Customers come to them.

The same is true of a good freelance writer. Customers seek them and pay them full market value and more for their work. They try to retain them the same way they would any other employee.

To employ a good writer, you have to make reservations. Generally they are busy, and while there are times when they can, or are willing to, slip you into their schedule, generally, that just isn’t possible.

If you’re going to hire a freelancer to write for you, know what market rates are, and be willing o pay them.

To Freelance Writers

Even if you are new, and trying to get your foot in the door of the writing business, please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t put an ad on Fiverr or Upwork and offer your services for $4 an hour or $15 a blog post.

The damage you are doing to the market is significant. There are a ton of reasons you should not undercharge for your work, and just one of them is what you are doing to client expectations. Clients should know what market rates for good writing are, and undercutting the competition just gives them leverage against other freelancers.

“I can get so-and-so to do this for $15. Why can’t you do that?” they say in a negotiation, and then the writer bidding the job has to justify the value of their work, which is significant. At the same time they have to throw you under the bus:

“The only writer who charges that low of rates is new or does not provide quality work. You want someone with my experience and credibility to handle your project.” Suddenly your work is downplayed, and all you have proven to anyone is that you will work for much less than you should.

Offering cheaper rates because you are new is fine when you are starting out, but for a client to value your work, first you must value it. Pricing it way below market is no way to do that. A slight discount may make sense, but when you figure out what you actually make if you charge super low rates will make you think twice about them.

How do you know what market rates are? Google them, look them up, ask other freelancers what they charge for certain types of projects. For good freelancers, there is more than enough work for one person to do or even a group. They will often share knowledge with you, and if they learn they can trust you and the quality of what you do, they may even refer overflow clients to you.

No matter what, don’t undervalue your writing and that of others by pricing your writing too low.

Writing is not a Commodity

A fine meal cooked by a talented chef costs much more than a burrito wrapped at Taco Bell by your neighbor’s teenage son. There is a reason for that, and a taste of each would be all the explanation you need.

Neither is all writing created equal. A good blog post is worth much more than a poorly written one, and a crafted conversion page can mean the difference between feast and famine in online sales.

You can’t pick up writing at the gas station or the office supply store. Not everyone enjoys writing. In fact, some people can’t stand it. Those who have the skill of constantly plagiarizing the alphabet over and over every day deserve to get paid for it.

Writers should also charge respectable rates for their work. Undercharging hurts the market overall and creates mistrust with clients that is totally unnecessary and undesirable.

So let’s stop treating writing like a commodity. Pay (and charge) reasonable rates. It’s the only solution for a healthy market.

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GUEST POST: 10 Tips for Writers: Identifying Your Target Audience

GUEST POST: The following is a guest post by Nicole Lewis, who is a professional blogger and freelance writer for Edubirdie. She prefers academic research and writing useful articles. 

There are a variety of audiences for various types of writing. In order to sell your content, you need to identify the audience that will engage with and share your work. The ten writing tips below will help you to determine your target audience.

Define your target auditory and market niche

Your book could be about an archaeologist who uses an artifact to stop time. Then your content will interest fans of science fiction and those who are history buffs. If the main character is a former Marine, your book will also interest military personnel. Determine who might follow and like your work.

Look for books that inspire millions

Look at books in your genre that are selling, nd check the profiles of those books’ main readers or buyers. The desired audience is not always the people you had in mind when you wrote the book. They are also other demographics who might be interested. The Twilight Saga is full of jokes about Bella’s great love for a perfect vampire. A vampire is brighter than Lisa Frank’s stickers. The movie appeals to teenage girls. Its premise involves an everyday, normal girl. A girl who failed into a romantic relationship with a young and handsome man. The appeal also expanded to middle age females who love romance.

Point out what is unique about your story

All writers think highly of their books, but in the end, what matters are the magic words that describe your book when you tell someone what it is about. You need to pinpoint your hook. For instance, you might tell someone you are writing a book about a wizard. One who uses his power to communicate with animals. He uses this power to rescue the dog from dog-napper. One, someone might be wowed by your unusual imagination. Or two, one might think that you took in 101 Dalmatians too much as a kid. Or three, most people will think that your story is more soft-hearted than frightening. So, readers and viewers would be enticed by the mystery of your cozy-type tale. Target those readers who love paranormal stories involving ghosts, witches, and their ilk. Hence it will insert more followers.

Determine some demographics

For instance, your content might comprise a wizard who hunts a hound-heisting criminal. Then the main character is a girl who is eleven years old. She has to keep her little sister studying for her math test. At the same time, she has to stop Cruella DeVille’s doppelganger. This content is for a Middle-Grade novel. Hence, do not target an audience that loves paranormal amateur sleuth tales. Kids of age between 8 and 12 years. Since the main character is girl aged 11 years old, the story will appeal to children who like mysteries. It will also draw kids who love magical characters and those who like animals. The parents of these children can also be your audience.

Problem

Your main character has a problem that real people face. He could suffer from AIDS, cancer, schizophrenia, homelessness, or autism. Therefore some of your readers are those who suffer from that disease. They could also be the people who sympathize with such an ailment. An example is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping such people. They could offer you a platform to reach your customer base. Such organizations could sell your book to their members. This is especially if your book has offered guidance and help in dealing with the ailment.

Environment

Some contents have settings that explore specific worlds. People will read that book with interest in exploring that world besides the plot. Your book could involve the world in the 20-th century exploring Navajo reservation. Or the world in the 12th century exploring the Benedictine monastery. For instance, you could write content in the world of horse racing. Your intended audience is, of course, people who love horse racing. You can sell your book to people attending a horse racing event. In the case that your book is about the world of art, your audience is present in art events. A writer should increase regular writing and prepare useful tips and tricks.

Theme

Every novel has its life lesson. If you can identify the teaching, then you can know your customers. For instance, your lesson could explain that the simple things in life are the most essential. Then your exact target audience is those people who visit simple living blogs. Your book could guide on the importance of family. Then your clients are those people who visit mommies’ blogs. Visitors will always read helpful freelance content.

Character

Getting your audience to identify with your protagonist is important. It helps in telling a great tale. Your protagonist represents your target market. Hence, your main character could be a college graduate striving to leave a dead end job. Then millions of people with the same description and life story are your clients. Your protagonist could be a teenager in a high school setting. The character is going through adolescence and heartbreaking relationships. They are involved in drugs and are taken to a rehab before they go to college. Your target audiences are millions of American teenagers.

Genre

This is the clearest way of identifying your target market. If your book is a great love story filled with heartfelt emotions, then your target audiences are females. Women adore fantasy and drama books. Some detective, Nancy Drew-like stories are also targeted to females. Your book could be filled with great science fiction stories. Then definitely your target audiences are males. Men also enjoy inspiring action stories. Anything that is adrenaline packed is definitely for the boys. This is inclusive of murder mysteries and horror stories.

Combine the nine tips above to get more insight

And to narrow down your target group. Having multiple target audiences is possible. Create a Venn diagram. With a Venn diagram, you can get to see where the different age groups of audiences overlap. This refines your target groups. This mix of people is your primary target audience.

The above 10 Writing Tips will help you planning and evaluating best options. You can know whether to sell your content to middle-class dads going through a mid-life crisis. You can know whether to sell to young girls who are on the verge of adolescence. You can target your content to people who like ancient times or those who like the ancient England. Such content is likened to books like Lion Heart and Robin Hood. So refine your content to target a large customer base that can generate a lot of traffic or sales for you.

 

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Business 101 for Writers: Production Part 3: Self-Editing

So many writers never reach even this point in production, or worse, they skip it. They get stuck on writing and never finish. But if you are among the lucky few who finish a story, you must move on to editing.

This post is titled self-editing, but before we even get to that, let me say it as loudly as I possibly can, to wake up those of you who might be sitting in the back of the classroom dozing.

You cannot skip the editing process, and publish something unedited. You cannot edit your own work. You need to hire an editor.

Let me say it again, just in case:

You cannot skip the editing process, and publish something unedited. You cannot edit your own work. You need to hire an editor.

Now stop. I can hear some of your arguments already, so I am just going to make a list for you here of the ones that are invalid:

  • I was an English Major.
  • My mom is an English teacher, she does it for me.
  • I have an MFA.
  • My spouse has an MFA.
  • I can edit my own stuff. I use method “x” with “x” software.
  • I took a course on self-editing at “x” writer’s conference.
  • My favorite indie author, “x” just uses beta readers, not an editor, and his/her stuff is pretty good.

Here’s the thing. Probably 99% of the population cannot edit or even proofread their own work effectively. The rest of us hate the 1% who can. Even if you are one of the rare authors who can proof or edit your own work, you should not. Just like you should probably not create your own covers even if you are a trained graphic designer, although we will cover that (pun intended) in another blog post.  

Here are some of the reasons why you should never be the sole creator and editor, or in other words, the sole producer of your work.

You become word blind.

What this means is that unless it has been a really long time since you have seen what you have written (and sometimes no length of time is enough to cure this) you see what you meant to write. You see those words whether those are really what is there or not.

Recently I read one of my own blog posts I had written two years ago and found a typo. A typo I did not see at the time, that grammar check did not catch, but that was glaring all that time later. No one noticed it either, or at least no one who did pointed it out to me. The thing is, in context, it almost looked right even after that much time had passed.

If you are writing quickly, as you should be, and editing shortly afterward, there is no way you will catch these things yourself. I promise you will miss at least one or two in a medium length work. In a novel, you might miss several.

You are in love with your own words.

Go ahead, tell me you aren’t. Then show me that clever phrase, that joke you think is hilarious, or that gorgeous description on page 53 of your self-published (or hopefully yet to be published) novel. Those are probably things you should cut out.

As Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings.” If you don’t believe me, take a journalism course and then write for a paper or magazine of any size. You will find that your editor and your readers do not love your precious words and phrases nearly as much as you do.

Here is the thing: as an author, you have built a fire with your story. The likelihood is that there is some damp wood in there, some moss, or some torn up cardboard. It makes for a lot of smoke. The job of an editor is to clear away the smoke so that everyone can see and enjoy the fire.

You cannot do this yourself effectively. Please, on this one point trust me. I can read a few chapters or maybe even pages in your book, and I can tell if you edited it yourself. There will be a whole lot of “you” in the way of the story.

Your project will feel narcissistic.

All of that you in the way will show through. Your book will feel like one of those body builders in the gym who spends as much time looking at himself in the mirror as he does pumping iron. It will probably feel like it is all about you. Because it is.

You need another set of eyes, another voice, one that is not close to you or at least can be objective about the way your work is presented. More on why you should not use relatives or those close to you in a moment.

A professional editor can see things you cannot: they see phrases you use too often, things you repeat often, and redundant descriptions you may miss. They can hear when your dialogue is stilted, and can offer advice about better word choices, sentence structure, and even point out when your plot has holes you may not notice, but that a reader will.

It is a good thing that you love your work. It is a good thing that you value your words. It is also good for you to be able to take critique and instruction from an editor at this phase in your journey. Hearing from an editor and changing things now is better than getting bad reviews on Amazon and damaging your reputation, which is your brand. (More on that later in our section on branding).

Note on Relatives: It is rare for a writer to have a relative that can honestly critique their work and make it better without also being word blind and leaving those phrases you love. It is also harder to argue with that person, as it can result in marital or family conflict.

If you are one of the rare people who has a relative who can edit your work objectively, thank your lucky stars and use them. However, I would encourage you to try something. Have your relative edit one of your short stories or novellas, something not too big. Then hire a professional editor to edit it, and compare the two.

If your relative does just as good or a better job than the editor, keep using them. If they do not, keep your eyes open.

Note on Revisions: A part of the writing (production) process we will talk about soon will be revisions. Revisions and rewrites are not a part of the editing process and are also not self-editing. You should revise and rewrite your work before an editor or anyone other than a writing critique partner or someone who reads your work as you go does.

Since we are on the subject, rewrites and revisions should be done quickly too, for the same reasons drafts are written quickly. You do not want your mind or heart to change during the process, or you will do a lot more rewriting than you need to.

Once you have started the editing process, do not do any more rewrites except those recommended by your editor to fix plot holes or other obvious issues. That is the point at which you have to let the story go: it is time to let someone else work on it at that point.

This is of course because we are talking about writing as a business. If your goal is not to sell lots of books, but rather to create a single literary masterpiece in your lifetime, you can revise and rewrite as much as you wish and take as long as you wish to produce drafts before letting anyone else see and edit them.

Exceptions to the Rules:

In the world of publishing and writing, there are exceptions to every rule. There are writers who can edit their own work. There are relatives who do a great job of editing their author brother/husband/son’s work.

There are also authors who can kill their darlings, and create work on their own that does not feel narcissistic. However, if you feel that you are one of these writers and have not tried professional editors, or had someone in the upper reaches of the field validate this truth for you, it probably is not true. If you send your work to a pro editor who hardly touches it, or says to you “You don’t need me, you just need a proofreader” or something along that line, go forth and do wonderful things.

Most of the time, this type of thinking is just self-delusion. If no one close to you is honest enough to tell you the truth about your writing, just try getting one professional, honest opinion. If I am wrong about you, in your case, please email me and let me know. I would love to meet someone who is so extraordinary.

In the next section, we will talk about money for a little bit. After all, this is the stage when you will invest more than just time. You will invest dollars, and a part of a business is working to get the best return on your investment. That does not mean always hiring whoever is the cheapest.

Have questions and can’t wait for the next section of this series? Want to hire me, or just need some coaching advice? Click here or email me at [email protected].

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Business 101 for Writers: A Note About Writer’s Block

So far in this series, you have been introduced to the principles behind writing as a business and we have talked a bit about the first part of the production process: writing some words and how to write more. What about those times when the creativity just doesn’t flow?

If you have heard me talk about writing at all, you have heard me say these words that seem to infuriate nearly every writer who hears them:

I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I’ll keep this post in the series short for two reasons. First, all of the other ones are long. Second, it’s really a simple principle I have shared dozens if not hundreds of times. The simple fact is this: by starting this series and reading along, you have at least entertained the idea of writing for a living.

You don’t get to be blocked in the thing you do for a living. A waiter does not get to have waiter’s block, nor does a teacher get to have teacher’s block. No one would go to a doctor who had doctor’s block.

In any other profession, if you are not able to work that day, you go home sick, your boss finds someone else who can do your job for you, or all of your work is waiting for you when you get back to the office, and you have to make it up.

The kicker is, you don’t get paid, or you use sick time. But as a writer, you don’t really have sick time unless you have set up a savings account just for that reason (which you should, but that comes later in the series on the business end of things). If you don’t work you don’t get paid.

No fairy comes behind you and does your work for you. It really is that simple. Does that mean there are not days when things are harder than others? Nope. Just like other jobs, some days you feel it more than others, and some days are more productive.

You can never have an extended bout of writer’s block, though. Any more than a couple of days, and you are really putting yourself in a poor position. So what do you do when you are just not feeling it? You either fight to get the feeling back, or you work anyway.

Trick Your Brain

You need to write every day. We covered that already, but what you are writing might vary. You may be writing a blog post, a technical article, or the next great American novel. You might even be editing your latest piece, or working with an editor on a project.

So trick your brain so it is ready for the work you are doing that day. Here is how it works for me:

  • I use Scrivener for creative writing, short stories, novellas, and novels.
  • I use Google docs for blog posts and some articles, depending on who I am writing them for.
  • I edit using Microsoft Word and do some technical writing in it.

I never use Scrivener for technical writing, and never use Word for the initial creation of a creative work, only for rewrites and editing. Why?

When I open up each interface, my brain knows what kind of writing we are going to do. I don’t have to stare at the blank page for long before my brain automatically goes into the proper writing mode.

You don’t have to use these programs the same way I do, or even the same programs, although I will make a big case for you using Scrivener for fiction writing (that will come later under what software you really need).

However, you can trick your brain by using certain software, writing in a certain location, or even using a different keyboard, location, or account login on your computer to write. For instance, I could have a Troy Lambert login and a Troy Lambert Author login with different backgrounds, programs, and that even limits access to the internet if that is a problem for you.

Whatever your method, your mind can be your greatest asset.

Write Something Else

I have also written dozens of times and on several writer sites about the need for more than one stream of income. So since you have already listened to that, and you are writing several things, you do have other projects you are working on, right?

So if you are stuck on one project, switch and write something else. Can’t get into the groove for the next scene in your novel? Write a blog post, article, or another short story. The point is when your butt is in the chair, and it is your scheduled time to write, write.

Writing does not include emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, or a letter to your long lost brother. It does include journals, plays, movie scripts, stories, articles, technical papers, ad copy, and dozens of other things, all of which can make you money.

Nearly every kind of writing you do is creating a story of one kind or another, from a blog post about digestive health to a brochure about your local furniture store. You just have to look harder to find the story arc (more on that in another post as well).

Writing one story usually sparks you to write another. And another. And another. One type of writing will give your brain time to process where you are stuck, and usually, when you go back there, things are flowing again.

Write Anyway

So you are stalled, and you only have one project at the moment, or one goal: to get this damn book/novel/story finished. Your brain will not let you get past this particular plot point.

Start writing anyway. Write gibberish at first if you have to. Your brain will kick in. Write another story about that character and how they got to this point in the story. The point is to write something anyway.

Remember, if your butt is in the chair and you are scheduled to be writing, write. No matter what, write. Even if it all has to be thrown away later. There are no wasted words except for those that remain unwritten. You cannot edit an empty page or the thoughts that are still in your head.

You may have heard that to become a proficient writer, you must put in 10,000 hours writing, or roughly one million words. Use your writing time to get some of the shitty words out to make room for better ones. Do not ever, under any circumstances, waste your writing time.

If you have to, start typing the phrase “I will always write during my writing time” and keep typing it until other words come. They will. But you must write to activate the writer inside you.

If you are going to write for a living, you are not allowed to have writer’s block. You need to work through it somehow. There are no sick days, and no one will come in the middle of the night and do your writing for you.

However you trick your brain, whether you write something else or just write anyway, you need to work when you are scheduled to work, and for those of us who are writers that means writing. Writer’s block is a sick day, and you can only take so many of those before you go broke.

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How to Overcome Depression

Many writers struggle with depression, and today’s guest, Harrish Sairaman talks about ways to overcome it.

Depression can be a potentially serious medical illness that negatively affects the way you feel, think, or act. Anybody can be affected by depression irrespective of age and surprisingly in today’s world, even youngsters are a victim of this. When one is depressed, he or she feels low and sad and will have no interest in any activity. Depression leads to emotional and physical problems. In extreme cases, it leads to suicides and hence needs to be understood, prevented and healed well.

Some symptoms of depression

  •  Feeling sad or having a gloomy mood.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities and getting distracted.
  • Loss of appetite and sudden weight loss without dieting.
  • Sleeping disorder and excessive negative thoughts.
  • Feeling exhausted and fatigue on a consistent basis
  • Feeling guilty, insignificant and worthless and sometimes even without specific reasons
  • Increase in distracted activities like speaking to the mirror, listening sad songs.
  • Increase in thoughts of committing suicide for peace.

These are some of the major indications that you are suffering from depression and you need to get back the control over yourself and overcome depression.

How To Over Depression –
Accept Your Depression – The first challenge is to identify the depression. Don’t get labeled that it is all in your head and there is no way to control it like dreams. Most people do not understand or accept that they are suffering from it and with time, it reaches the extreme point leading to permanent physical and mental damages.

Therefore, one should always watch out for the symptoms and if you feel there is something wrong, do not hesitate to check with the doctor to be on the safe side. At the same time, don’t just read about it and self-label that ‘you are depressed or are a victim of depression! It is always good to check with a professional so you don’t ignorantly miss it out or exaggerate just simple basic stress.
Identify The Cause – There are several reasons that lead to depression. Finding the cause/causes is a daunting task after the depression is identified. It can be due to genetics, hormonal changes, stress, sadness, guilt and several other factors. It is very important to identify the root cause of a disease to cure it. Identify the source and the core problem to cure it instantly. Once the cause is identified it can be worked on as all behaviours have ‘reasons’ and when the reasons change, behaviour changes.

Positive Begets Positive – In depression, the mind can be full of negative thoughts. If these thoughts are entertained it can become worse. Instead, talk to positive people, read some inspiring stories and motivational quotes and better yet, watch mood-cheering movies. The control over the thoughts might be difficult, but one can definitely provide the factors that generate positive thoughts automatically.

Spend Quality Time – During a depression, the mind can make an individual feel lonely and force to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. One should definitely avoid that and instead, plan a vacation trip and go with your family and have a blast. Even going out for a lunch or dinner or shopping would be great alternatives. If there are kids at home, one must make time to play with them and experience extreme positivity. Kids are great examples of great energy and can become one of the best teachers to boost the mood and energy.

Avoid Certain Things – In today’s world, social media and internet bullying are also one of the major causes of depression. Avoiding them for a few days, cut off from negative people, avoiding listening to sad songs and stop recalling old memories can definitely help.

If there is a problem with someone, talk it out or accept the outcome and move on just like others. Learn to forgive people and accept life the way it comes.

Exercise and Meditation – Nothing works as good as exercise and meditation during a depression. Joining a gym, indoor and outdoor exercises, jogging in the morning and practicing yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises)can not only be a cure but can build inner strength with can avoid depression even n the future. Learning the different forms of meditation and practicing them can help find blissfulness bursting inside!!! Depression can become an opportunity to rejuvenate and rebuild life.
Find An Interesting and Passionate Hobby –During depression. one cannot let their mind get occupied by negative thoughts in free time. So, investing free time in hobbies can be a great way of working on the state of mind. Photography, dancing, cooking, creating YouTube videos are just to name a few.  Once can also become an example for other and show how to come out of it – helping the masses!
Doing Something Different– During a depression, one has to boost their mood and take it to the positive zone. There are a lot of crazy things one can do to get over it. One can go for a body massage and ease the mind and nerves, do some crazy dance by playing some rock music to shake off the fatigue state, have the best food one always wanted to eat, and even some prank on others, and likewise.
Gratitude for what we already have and the realization that not everyone is so fortunate and we have an opportunity here to heal and transform is always a great way to start!

About the Author

Harrish Sairaman is a well-known motivational teacher in India, helping many to achieve which once seemed unachievable like increase motivation, leadership, Corporate Performance, decrease stress etc. through Motivational Training Program, Leadership training programs, Corporate training programs, Entrepreneur Coaching and Individual Coaching to name a few. His ability to deliver life changing, scientifically sound, relevant and metaphysical messages in a powerful, humorous and insightful manner integrated with high energy has earned him a reputation of bringing about a difference with a difference!

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