October Writers' Forum


The Writing-Marketing Balance

Amazon’s Review Rules

The 2018 September Writers' Forum --The Publishing News You Need to Know

The Writers' Forum is a compilation of the month’s important publishing news and helpful writing information for authors, particularly those independently publishing their books. For readers, there are links to southern Wisconsin bookstores to preview their upcoming events. I’ve been an independently published author since 2014 and provide this information to assist others in the way that generous writers assisted me when I was at the beginning of my indie pub journey. On a professional level, I also use my publicity and editorial skills to aid other authors through my company Lost Lake Press. I'd love to use my skills to guide you through the steps of independent publishing!


The last book festival of the fall happens this weekend in Waukesha. Check out the speakers you can hear on November 2 & 3 at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books.


The Writing-Marketing Balance

This article is a necessary read for any published author . . . indie or traditional:  The Writing-Marketing Balance. As writers we often struggle with the reality that when we’re working on marketing a published book, we’re not writing the next one. I love the way the article breaks down the phases surrounding a book launch and how you’ll be shifting your time to marketing tasks and how you gradually return to a more writing-centric schedule. Good stuff! 

The Writing - Marketing Balance - How Authors Should Divide Their Time









Reviews Matter – What’s Amazon up to NOW?

If you’ve missed recent discussions about Amazon’s review policy changes or clarifications, you need this post from The Book Designer: “Understanding the Current Dos and Don’ts of Amazon Book Reviews” There are huge implications here for authors who have a big fan base on social media, because, YES, Amazon does consider your social media connections--enough so that reviews by your social media followers and friends can be removed. Keep an eye on this.


Common Errors Even Bestselling Authors Make

There was no way I was bypassing an article with a headline like that! This is a quick list of 12 common errors that are easy to make—and are usually fixed right away or in the editing process by a seasoned author. By the way, did you know BookBub has a blog for authors? That’s where I found this article. 

Choosing Setting with the Highest Emotional Quotient

No matter if your setting is huge element of your story or simply playing a supporting role, you’ll want to read author C.S. Lakin’s advice for weaving in the best setting components to achieve each scene’s goal: Choosing Setting with the Hightest Emotional Quotient 

Story Structure - Is Your Idea Strong Enough to Make an Interesting Novel?










Story Structure

Kristen Lamb continues her series of story structure advice posts with the fourth part, focused on testing your idea. She introduces us to the LOCK system from James Scott Bell – Lead Objective Conflict Knockout. See if your story can withstand these tests in "Is Your Idea Strong Enough to Make an Interesting Novel?"

Part 1 - 3 of Kristin's story structure advice are linked in this article if you want to start at the beginning of the series.

Dialogue Punctuation – Using Dialogue Tags – Using Names Too Much?

Louise Harnby writes two excellent articles about punctuating dialogue correctly and properly using dialogue tags. Her advice leads right into Lisa Poisso’s article about using character names too much. We often do this in dialogue—particularly when there are more than two people in a conversation.

Nonfiction Writing Tips from Jane Friedman

One of my favorite publishing industry professionals gives us 5 Steps to Writing a Better How-To. Even if you aren’t currently writing nonfiction, it might be in your future. It’s one of the biggest selling genres and will likely remain that way.

Mystery - Crime Writing - Best Research Sites to Get the Details Right










Mystery – Suspense – Thriller Writing Tips

Mystery writer Zara Altair talks through the tricky task of how to “enrich your mystery with an opponent who gives your detective problems.” This is not the antagonist, but rather a different character who creates obstacles for the protagonist.

And while we’re on the subject of writing mystery/crime stories, Louise Harnby provides us with a fun list of research tools to help authors find “authentic technical or procedural information.”

Don’t Rush to Print

The advice in this article from the Self-Publishing Review cannot be repeated often enough. Rushing to print only hurts the you-the author. Make sure your story is as good as it can possibly be. The best (and possibly harshest) advice on this list is that “Nobody is waiting on your book release but you!” Now, this is possibly NOT true when you’re putting out a sequel or a part of a series, but we often create these arbitrary deadlines based on when we think we should have the book out. While there are some very real timing concerns, like trying to get in on holiday sales and such, none of that matters if rushing to print means you’re putting out an inferior product. Don’t do that!

Reedsy’s comparison of the top print-on-demand services

I never pass up an article that compares printing / distribution services for indie publishing—particularly one like this that gets into the nitty gritty on pricing. If you’ll be publishing soon, take a moment to read the pros and cons of each service

Free Download of 110 Text Ornaments for Book Formatting








The Pretty Parts of Book Formatting

I love the pretty bits inside books.  You know the nice little flourish or flower or graphic element that introduces new sections or chapters or keeps the page number company. Here’s a free download of 110 text ornaments for your next project from The Book Designer.

Promotional Materials

The Book Design Made Simple website provides a checklist of what to include on different print materials to support your publishing journey – bookmarks, postcards, business cards etc…. You would think most of this information is already understood, but I was at a writing conference and picked up a bookmark from another author that had nothing on it but the author’s name and the title of the book. It made me cringe to think of all that wasted space… no social media info, no website address, no review blurb. Gah! Don’t do that!! Read this helpful tutorial instead.

Sharing Digital ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) with Reviewers

If you are published traditionally, this is something that a publisher will take care of for you. As an indie author, you’ll need this info to reach out to your reviewers in the most efficient manner possible. The article from Carla King on the BookWorks’ blog examines the different services that can deliver your ARCs.  

How to Interview a Book Publicist

Most authors don’t have a background in publicity or public relations and with that in mind, they’ve sought out the assistance of Book Publicists with varying degrees of success. This can be an expensive decision to make and you want to hire the right person. The Book Designer guides authors with the questions to ask before you sign a contract for services.


BIG LISTS – Marketing Advice Roundup and 128 Marketing/Publishing Resources The Best Lists of Book Marketing Advice

First, Jane Friedman rounds up the best book marketing advice so far in 2018. This list covers everything that can help you gain visibility and sell more books.  

You’ll like Digital Pubbing’s ambitious blog post “128 Resources on the Who’s, What’s, Where’s, When’s, Why’s and How’s of Book Marketing and Other Publishing Tidbits.” The good news is that with 128 resources on this list, they thankfully provided an indexed table of contents, so you can easily maneuver to the section you need.

Book Awards

We’re getting close to the end of the year and that means deadlines for many book awards are fast approaching. TLC Book Design provides this list of awards for small press and indie author books. If you’ve published in the last year, take a look – and even if your book is from 2017, some of these awards extend that far back. If you’re curious about the wisdom of entering awards, I have a narrated PowerPoint on the subject over on YouTube.

Book Comparisons – How to find word counts for children books

I had forgotten about this lovely book search page from Renaissance Learning that allows you to input the title of a book and get statistics about it, like word count. Woot!  You know when you’re wondering if your middle grade title is too short compared to others? This is where you can find out!

Finding Your Readers

BookWorks’ Belinda Griffin helps you connect the dots to find your target reader in her article “Identifying and Making the Connection.”

The Happy Self Publisher website tackles this issue but in a much different way with the article, “19 Awesome Places to Meet Readers for your Book (even if you’re an introvert)” – some I’m sure you’ve tried but there are definitely new ideas on this list.

CreateSpace to KDP – the tutorials keep coming

If you haven’t migrated your titles over to KDP from CreateSpace yet—no worries. Many of us haven’t. The Alliance of Independent Authors has a step-by-step article for you to follow

Author Imprints addresses the ISBN options that pop up during this move to KDP Print—take the time to read David Wogahn’s post carefully. This decision matters!! 

How to Market Your Books for the Holidays










Marketing Your Books for the Holidays

Reviews drive sales . . . BookWorks addresses directly how much reviews matter as people make decisions on holiday purchases and gives tips on getting more reviews from book bloggers. Penny Sansevieri acknowledges the lead time this might take—so you might be looking forward to 2019’s holiday season. If you have a book coming out in 2019, these tips on how to pitch book bloggers can put you in a good position by the end of next year. 

Also looking to the holidays is Sandra Beckwith at Build Book Buzz with 3 Ways to Pitch Your Book to the Press as the Perfect Holiday Gift. My favorite idea here is to bundle you book with others in the same genre. (I like a good collaboration!)


Facebook Stats – Can you trust what Facebook is telling you?

David Gaughran’s recent email newsletter picked up on some subtle ways Facebook stats might not be all that they claim to be. This doesn’t matter a whole lot until you’re advertising on Facebook and need to analyze your statistics in a more thoughtful way to determine what’s working and what’s not.

Social Media for Authors -- What to Post for Maximum Engagement








But What if You Don’t Know What to Post?

If you are feeling like you don’t know what you should be posting to increase follower engagement, Social Media Just for Writers has a list of 25 ideas on what content might work best for your followers. One of the suggestions is to use infographics in creative ways. The Digital Reader explains 5 Ways Infographics Can Help Authors Connect with Readers.

Indeed, images are important for all content on social media platforms and on your blog or in your newsletter. Auden Johnson brings us “How Indie Authors Can Learn to Design Compelling Images on a Tight Budget".

The Christian Editing Services blog gives us good tips on “Using Images in Blog Posts”—there’s a lot of great info here on copyright concerns. 

Why Your Content Doesn’t Engage Your Followers

Barb Drozdowich at Bakerview Consulting has a fun infographic about  "All the Reasons Your Awesome Content Isn’t Going Viral” . . . see what tips you can gain to do a better job with your posts.

Barb also has a great infographic designed to help you create the best blog posts. Take the time to read "Recipe for Mouth-Watering Blog Posts."

Twitter – What You’re Doing Wrong

One of my go-to book promotional info sources, Anne R. Allen, has a new article about Twitter dos and don’ts. So if you like it over on Twitter and want to make sure you’re doing all you can to engage effectively, take a look at her Twitter Updates.

Get to your local bookstore.

A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham Street, Madison

Books & Company, 1039 Summit Avenue, Oconomowoc

Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer, Milwaukee

InkLink Books, 2890 East Main Street, East Troy

The Little Read Book, 1406 W. State Street, Wauwatosa 

Mystery to Me Bookstore, 1863 Monroe Street, Madison

Tribeca Gallery & Café, 1318 S. 1st Street, Milwaukee and 401 E. Main Street, Watertown


Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



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