November Writers' Forum 2020






Audible Returns Fiasco #Audiblegate

Here’s the latest on the Audible Returns Fiasco . . . if you haven’t read anything about this yet here's what’s happening: Audible has always had an extremely liberal returns policy, but recently they started encouraging their customers to return audiobooks up to a year after purchase—EVEN IF THEY HAD ALREADY LISTENED TO THE STORY! When these returns go through, it isn’t at Audible’s expense. Audible debits the accounts of the authors/narrators who previously counted that book as a ‘sale.’ Plus, this return policy is completely opaque to the authors and narrators, who just see previous sales numbers reduced.  You can read all about it HERE on the Book Designer blog.

After pressure from authors, The Authors Guild, and resulting petitions signed by many authors, I received an email today from ACX regarding this policy which states: “…in recognition of these concerns, moving forward and effective as of January 1, 2021, Audible will pay royalties for any title returned more than 7 days following purchase.”

How to Sell Books in 2020

David Gaughran gives us an extremely brilliant overview on the best ways to market your books. This includes video tutorials on Amazon and BookBub ads along with many other helpful resources and links, including a link to David’s FREE “Starting from Zero” course and a list of the Best Book Promo sites. I’m such a fan of his helpful books, blogs, and tutorials that I’m listing him as our November Featured Publishing Industry. (See more below.)

World Reading Habits & Global Publishing

Isabel Cabrera gives us a fun and informative graphic about the habits of readers worldwide. Cabrera’s info graphic details a rise in millennial reading worldwide and a literacy rate worldwide of 86% (90% for boys and 83% for girls.) It also shows how many hours are spent reading per week in different countries – a high of 10:42 for China and a low of 5.42 for the USA & Germany (tied). These are fabulous stats to know:

In a related article about Why Global Publishing is the Future, the analyzes the changes to markets worldwide with key takeaways being expanded internet access, distribution systems, and rising literacy rates.

What's New & Newish

Last month in the October Writers' Forum, I introduced a new segment called: FEATURED PUBLISHING INDUSTRY PRO where I will highlight one particular industry professional who goes above and beyond with their information and helpfulness to others on this crazy publishing adventure. This month, I'm introducing a new section (predominately created to battle pandemic loneliness) that will be a regular feature here on the forum: WRITING COMMUNITY & CONTINUING EDUCATION. In this section, I will feature upcoming or ongoing courses as well as articles and opportunities to collaborate and gather with other authors. 


Reasons to love Dave Gaughran:

1) He’s smart, thorough, and generous—providing much of his content at no charge or at low cost.

2) He’s not afraid to share the mistakes he’s made and what he’s learned from them.

3) In addition to providing the most up-to-date publishing and book marketing guidance, his Irish accent makes his videos and tutorials even more fun to listen to.

Dave’s Biography: Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

Follow him here:


Commas Before Coordinating Conjunctions and Independent Clauses? And is it okay to start a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But’? (LOL – see what I did there?)

Louise Harnby is an excellent grammarian. I know my writing is better as a result of her advice. So if you have the same issues I have with commas you’ll appreciate her tips regarding coordinating conjunctions and independent clauses. Additionally, she gives six good reasons why you might want to start a sentence with And or But.

Writing Character Thoughts

Character thoughts are essential to the telling of any good story and Mary Kole walks us through Eight Core Types of Characterizing Thoughts and how they work to develop both character and plot. Smart article!

Editing Topics

Kathryn Craft provides 5 Random Ways to Trim Your Manuscript on the Writer UnBoxed blog. Some of these tips are basic (like use spellcheck), but the other reminders are good ones, like check the beginning of each of paragraph for overused phrases/words.  

The IndieReader blog reviews five respected editing services – Reedsy, Scribendi, Jericho Writers, NY Book Editors, and BiblioCrunch. If you don’t have time to read this now, bookmark it for later reference.

Why Waiting Too Long to Register Your Copyright is a Big Mistake

Liani Kotcher writes this article on Jane Friedman’s blog with words of warning on how to take on those who infringe on your copyright. There is a ton of great info here, but the most important thing she notes is that “In order to recover two special types of damages in a lawsuit—statutory damages and attorney fees—you must register before the infringement occurs.” Read all her advice HERE.


Amazon Launches New Author Portal

This is the long-awaited, super-important replacement for Amazon Author Central. For those of you who already have an Amazon Author Central account, take a look at the Digital Readers article discussing these changes. The best part is this new portal offers a single location for authors to manage their author info on the foreign Amazon sites instead of having to log into those individually. Finally!

Self-Publishing 101: Author Royalties

Amanda Zieba writes a wonderfully transparent post about author royalties and which type of book/platforms give her the most profit. Great information:

Branding 101

I know that when I’m giving marketing talks to authors and begin the discussion about creating a ‘brand’ – I see a few skeptical faces. That’s because there are a lot of misconceptions about what branding means. Ev Bishop’s article on Anne R. Allen’s blog talks about how she thinks of brand “as a promise and a commitment rather than a hard sell.” It’s what you’re telling readers they’ll get from your writing and what they learn to expect from you. Take a moment to read this smart roadmap which can really help you view your writing as the business it truly is:

Book Launch Prep Essentials

Sandra Beckwith (one of my publishing industry advice favorites) gives us a quick list of five things to address as we ready our book for launch. Sometimes the big lists are just too overwhelming, so that’s why this streamlined list is so appealing . . . my favorite of the five is to determine which social media network your ideal readers use the most and expand your presence there. (The other four are tips are equally good – read them HERE.)


How to Find Your Target Audience & How to Use Comp Author to Market Your Book

Kate Tilton writes part one of this Book Designer series on identifying your target audience with a focus on finding your comp(arable) authors first. Once you’ve done that, move on to the David Wogahn’s article on how to use your comp author list to market your book. He gives a specific action list on using this comp author list to find audiences of readers on social media, GoodReads, blogs, and more.

Promote Your Book with a Shoestring Budget

Hayley Zelda’s tips on the Book Designer blog are similar to those in David Wogahn’s article with a greater emphasis on gaining free media attention with traditional local news outlets as well as sharing snippets of your book on select ‘snippet’ sites. Did you even know ‘snippet’ sites existed? That was new to me, too. Check it out HERE.

Maximizing Book Sales with Facebook and BookBub Ads: Q&A with Melissa Storm

Journalist and romance writer Cathie Shouse interviews New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melissa Storm about utilizing both Facebook and BookBub ads. This is a fun and insightful interview. What I find most revealing is that a bestselling author is saying, “that learning how to run ads is the second most important thing I’ve done for my author career; the first was learning to write good books.” She gives good guidance along with the three mistakes she often sees other authors making with their ads.

How to Get Free Book Reviews with No Blog, No List, and No Begging

Dave Chesson’s article is so good! You might already have a request for reviews in your book, but did you know you can create special links to send someone straight to the review page for your book on Amazon? There’s also a list of free book review websites, advice on how to run LEGAL book giveaway contests, and more. Great article:

A Few Things I’ve Learned about Email Marketing

Julia Evans dispels five myths about email marketing. When I advise authors that they need to build their own email list, many of them are resistant to this idea—mainly because it seems overly ‘pushy’ or ‘salesy’ to them to ask for people’s emails. Julia Evans does a great job explaining why email marketing need not be scammy or intrusive and is an essential part of a good book marketing campaign.

The Best Writing Contests and How to Apply

John Carey writes this guest post for the Kindlepreneur blog. I include it here in the marketing section because I think of contest entrance fees as a marketing expenses just as much as a contest win can be part of a marketing strategy. Additionally, I was intrigued because I had not heard of some of these contests. Put these on your calendar for 2021.

If you missed my blogs about contests, check out: Are Writing Contests Worth the Fees.


Social Media: To Be or Not to Be

Florence Osmund gives authors five reasons why they shouldn’t be on social media. This made me gasp. What?? Why an author shouldn’t be on social media? This is contrary to advice I give, but here’s where I can agree:

  • “You shouldn’t be on social media if you’re relying on it for sales.” (organic sales – not via ads.)
  • “You get so obsessed with social media that it is starting to consume your author life.”
  • “You hate using social media in your personal life.”

Okay, the first one above is a given. Social media (with the exception of specific ad campaigns) is about being social and creating your brand and engaging with readers—not about selling books. The other two above I consider mental health/quality of life issues.

However, I disagree with Osmund’s other two reasons; that if creating engaging posts is hard for you or if you have limited time that you shouldn’t attempt social media at all. I feel that’s giving up too easily. You can learn how to create engaging posts (seriously—I’ll help you) and you can limit your time on social media by learning how to use social media management tools. There are systems designed for that.

The rest of the article details what types of content/posts work best on which sites. This is great information.

Should You Hire a Social Media Assistant

One way to deal with the time and skills component required to handle social media is to hire a social media assistant. Barbara Linn Probst takes us along on her hunt for the perfect social media assistant and the questions she asked along with what made her eventually choice stand out.

Tips for Better Author Blogs

Are you writing blogs and not getting much interaction? Sandra Beckwith helps you with formatting, readability, and shareability issues that could be impacting your blog’s effectiveness here:

Writing a Great Social Media Biography

Social Media Today has 8 tips for creating the best social media biography. These are important tips because you often have very few characters to create this introduction to yourself on these platforms.


Top Blogs for Authors

Social Media Just for Authors curated a list of eight blogs—all of which have been featured here on the Writers’ Forum at one point or another. Add these to your list of favorites!

Why It’s Worth Signing Up for Online Creative Writing Workshops

Well, we haven’t had much of a choice in 2020 as writing and publishing workshops and conferences were either canceled or moved to online only, but The Fussy Librarian blog gives the reasons that online workshops are beneficial. Mainly, I have found that online events fit into a busy schedule way better than in-person workshops (even though I miss that human component.) And, they’ve also been a lot cheaper than in-person conferences with no hotel or travel costs and often a lower registration fee for online programming. There’s a list of places where you can find great courses in this article, too.

Don’t forget that I offer Author Pro Courses and Services to help authors with their publishing adventure! Check out my full catalog at this link:

Author Networking: How to Partner with Other Authors

This is a wonderful article about forging friendships with other authors and working together to reach larger audiences and support each other in this crazy business. I love the collaborations exemplified here.

The Back Room: Cocktails and Conversation

Tracey Kathryn, our frequent guest blogger you read here, told me about this wonderful group that holds events where you can virtually meet up with some amazing authors. Their websites says, “Pour a glass of your favorite beverage and settle into your most comfortable chair for an evening of relaxed conversation with bestselling authors.” What fun! Learn more here:

Books & Beer Columbus

I have to laugh at the juxtaposition of the classy Cocktails and Conversation noted in the previous article with our casual and comfortable Books & Beer. We have one more gathering in 2020 (which will be virtual via Zoom) on December 3, featuring author Amanda Zieba and a discussion about her book Close Quarters. Learn more about Books & Beer and our events on our Facebook page HERE. And don't forget to like the page, so you get updates on our 2021 schedule. 

Happy Writing (editing, marketing, networking and more!) - Valerie  


Thanks for keeping us up to date about all the great local events and learning opportunities. Books & Beer - great idea!

Hi Nan,
Thanks so much! I hope you can join us for the discussion with Amanda Zieba on the evening of December 3. You can register via the event on the Books & Beer Facebook page. We have a lot of fun!! Amanda writes for both the children's and adult markets! - Val

Great list, as usual. I don't know where to start!

Hi Christine -- I know it is a huge list each month. Maybe I should try to keep it down to 20 articles? 15? aaaaah so much information and so little time. Well, at least it is one place now if you want to come back to it!! Happy Thanksgiving! - Val

Wow, great list as usual! Don't know where to start.
It would be nice if audiblegate is over. What a crock of ....

Wasn't it though??? I was wondering why I was seeing numbers go down at times. Audible messed up a few months back too when they wanted to start providing a transcription to go along with the audiobooks -- ahem -- that would be an ebook! Publishers and the Authors' Guild pushed back hard on that one too and got them to drop it. Seems like they probably should have an author or two as consultants before they make any more bad decisions. :)

Thank you so much for including my article, Valerie! :)

Thank you, Kate, for always providing such smart and helpful advice for authors! Much appreciated! - Valerie

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