Writers' Forum - April 2018

April 2018 Writers' Forum - The Indie Publishing News you need to know!

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED ARTICLES: What to Do About Facebook Author Page Changes & my Wisconsin Author Project Contest Warning (NOTE: I am NOT picking a fight with public libraries!) Plus, Celebrate Indpendent Bookstore Day, Compare publishing platforms, take a look at the new social media app Litsy and (much more . . . 

The second year of the Writers' Forum continues! Each month there is no shortage of important publishing news and helpful writing information to share with other authors, particularly those independently publishing their books. This is a compilation of the news you need to know along with a preview of the upcoming book events in southern Wisconsin. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward. 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.

Independent Bookstores Rock! Help celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 28 and visit one of these fabulous Wisconsin bookstores. There are more than 25 Indie Bookstore Day is April 28!author events at these stores in May! Take a look at their event calendars. 

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


Focus on Fiction Workshops – Saturdays, May 5 and June 2 from 1 to 3:30 pm at Neighborhood House, 29 S. Mills Street Madison

(Programs are part of the UW-Madison Continuing Studies Department.)

May 5 – Quick Tips for Revision

June 2 – The Writers’ Toolbox

May 11 & 12LakeFly Writers’ Conference – Oshkosh Convention Center

May 16 - June 6 Fiction Writing Workshop – Wednesdays – Neighborhood House, 29 S. Mills Street Madison

June 11 - 165 - Write by the Lake on the UW-Madison Campus

Author Kelly Risser, Valerie Biel, Angie Stanton -- talking about writing series with moderator Kat Abbott at UntitledTown April was busy for me with both the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute as well as the UntitledTown Book and Author Festival. UntitledTown is in its second year, but this was the first time I participated. It was a beyond amazing festival. There’s something for everyone from reader, to writer, to published author in the sessions offered. You can still see the schedule here, if you want to check it out. Wisconsin Author Amanda Zieba also gives a fun wrap-up on her blog this week. I was on a panel discussion on series writing with Wisconsin authors Angie Stanton and Kelly Risser. Kelly and I also shared the stage with the amazing Jessica Marie Baumgartner and Jacqueline West, talking about fantasy fiction writing. And my final panel was on creating your author brand through social media. That leads me to my first featured article on what authors need to confront about the algorithm changes that Facebook recently made. 

(Photo: L to R Kelly Risser, Valerie Biel, Angie Stanton, and Kat Abbott) 

FEATURED TOPIC Navigating Facebook's Algorithm Changes - Should You Start a Facebook Group?


Many independent publishing professionals and authors (both traditional and indie) are lamenting the changes in how their page posts are no longer being delivered to those who like their page. If you’re like me, you’ve noticed a huge decrease in engagement since Facebook made the algorithm change. In the most recent article from Frances Caballo, she explains that prior to this change approximately 36% of your fans would see your post. Now, it is less than 1%.

Mark Zuckerberg says that change was to make sure Facebook users were seeing the posts from friends and family. I agree with Caballo's guess that the reasoning behind this was pure profitability. Now, if I want people who have liked my author page to actually see my post, I will have to PAY to BOOST the post.

I miss seeing posts from pages I’ve liked. I actually appreciate hearing from other authors, which is why I originally liked their page!  

So, what are the options for people who have cultivated a fan base on their Facebook page and now have lost the ability to communicate with those fans?

  1. Pay to boost posts (I’m not recommending this.)
  2. Try to move your fans into your email newsletter stream. (Not everyone will do this, but it’s worth a try.)
  3. Take Frances Caballo’s advice on starting a Facebook GROUP! Posts within groups are seen by every member of that group.  Read more about doing this on Caballo’s post here.

And, never forget, you are a guest on every single one of the social media platforms that you engage on—you do not have access to your followers in any way other than that controlled by each platform—and those terms can change at any time. That’s why many savvy marketers have been telling us for years, “Build your own email list.”



At the University of Wisconsin Writers' Institute, I presented a session called "The Winner's Circle: Are Writing Contests Worth the Fees?" I discussed the ways to check if a contest is reputable, which ones are good to enter, and what to do if you win. Later, I narrated my PowerPoint and uploaded it to YouTube. You can watch it here

So . . . I was already thinking a bit about contests and the warnings I made to my fellow writers about paying careful attention to the pesky fine print. Sometimes the contest rules have the writer signing over the rights to work JUST BY ENTERING!! Yes, it’s true. You would think it would be relatively unknown, shady groups that do this sort of thing. Right?? So, imagine my surprise when I became aware that the Wisconsin Author Project being touted by public libraries across the state as a way for indie authors to gain attention had some of this tricky fine print. The beginning sounds so great . . . chance to win attention from ALA, WLA, Library Journal etc… -- all incredibly reputable organizations. Then you get to the fine print in the agreement. I was stunned . . . so stunned in fact that I wrote an entire blog post about it. Read why I am SO DISAPPOINTED here.






Handy Comparison Between IngramSpark and CreateSpace

If you’re at the point of picking which print-on-demand service you’ll use for publishing your book, here is an excellent comparison of the two most widely used services—IngramSpark and CreateSpace--along with the advice that you probably need both!

5 Things I Wished I’d Known When I Published My First Book

Joel Friedlander gives many more than five tips here. These are all excellent point on things to consider as you head down the path to publishing your first book. Many times, the items on this list aren’t considered in advance and an author ends up backtracking to get it right. No reason to make those mistakes—it’s all spelled out for you here.  

Editing your Manuscript

I don’t think editing gets nearly enough attention at times. Authors are often so focused on the next step—whether it’s finding an agent or getting that book out independently. FIRST, you must start with a good story and that means a well-edited one.

“Self-publishing? Why the last thing you need is a proofreader” is a witty title for an excellent article about the editing process from the Proofreaders Parlour. Please read this to get a handle on the steps of editing. I appreciated the refresher.

Hiring editors can be expensive! Again Joel Friedlander comes to the rescue with ways to not break the bank and still have a well-edited story in his article “Editing for Frugal Self-Publishers.” I was particularly intrigued by self-editing programs like Grammerly, Hemingway, and ProWritingAid. I’m going to look into these for my own writing.

Writing Craft Advice on Character Types

Kristina Adams on the Writers’ Cookbook addresses “9 Character Types to Include in Your Story”. I like her succinct and smart descriptions of these nine types. This may help you clarify the role of some of your characters if you’re having trouble with this.

100 Best Websites for Authors

Here’s this year’s list from Dana Sitar on the Write Life website of the 100 Best Websites for Writers. These are split into Craft, Marketing, Publishing, Writing Communities and more.  

Learn more about Litsy -- Where Books Make FriendsLITSY – what’s that?

In the past few months I have heard some other writers and reader begin to talk about Litsy – a new book lover social media app.

Here’s what it says on the Litsy homepage:  

Litsy is a place to share and discover your favorite books with your favorite people.

The Litsy community is a groundswell of passionate readers, authors, celebrities, and more. Share bookish moments with QuotesReviews, and Blurbs. Measure Litfluence to discover your “bookprint” in the world. Explore recommendations from readers, not algorithms.

Oh yeah, want to organize your reading list? Our app has stacks for that, too.

(Ha—take that Facebook—I love the algorithm reference.)

Brenna Clarke Gray writes a fun article on BookRiot describing Litsy as “kind of like if Instagram and Goodreads had a beautiful, perfect baby.” If that does't make you want to take a look then perhaps nothing will, but I will add one more article for your reading pleasure. LibraryThing (the owner of Litsy) has a handy description of what Litsy is and what it does here. 


Indie Author Advocacy

David Gaughran’s article “Giving a Voice to Indies” introduced me to the recently-formed Indie Author Support Network.  Gaughran explains, “The idea was proposed by indie author Marie Force, and it’s still at the very earliest stages, but what I’ve heard so far is very promising indeed – particularly that it will be exclusively focused on high-level advocacy and interfacing with retailers on issues which concern indies.” I will keep an eye on this group as it grows and let you know what I see happening, but you might want to get involved now if you’re passionate about these issues.

Book Marketing Strategies - Don't leave it to chance! Proactive tips to help you succeed.











Marketing Strategies

Again, whether you’re traditional or indie published, marketing is something you have to do. The first article caught my eye due to the simplicity of the headline—“Your One-Sentence Book Marketing Plan” by Glenn Miller on the Career Authors website. The no-nonsense advice begins with a list.

“Your book marketing plan has 3 steps, 1. Create an author platform where people can find you. 2. Write three compelling, related books. 3. Find fans who love the work you do and delight them."  Read the whole article here

Jyotsna Ramachamdran offers ways to make your books more discoverable and competitive on Amazon in this article on the Alliance of Independent Authors website. I consider this a must-read article. You need to think through your key words and your subtitle—there’s an art to this that matters!

On a related Amazon topic, Written Word Media discusses “What Are “Also Boughts”? And How Can They Help You Sell More Books.” I love the reassuring introduction to this article, “You may have heard authors and other publishing professionals talk about the Amazon algorithm and how it impacts their books. In this article, we break down what an algorithm is, how the Amazon algorithm works and how it impacts you as an author. Before we begin: Don’t be intimidated by the terms you see. Everyone can understand how this works. And, as an author who is aiming to sell more books on Amazon, it is important that you understand what’s going on behind the scenes.” 

Reedsy has come out with an (almost) overwhelming article that lists “50 Book Marketing Ideas Every Author Needs to Know.” Again, lots of info here, but don’t dismiss it as too complicated, cumbersome, or scary. If you want to sell that book you spent so long writing, you need to learn how to do it! 

If you’re writing books for teens, you should listen to the Smart Marketing for Authors podcast entitled “Book Marketing to Teens – Engaging the Elusive Generation Z.” 

Spring Cleaning for your Social Media PlatformsSocial Media Wrap Up

Frances Caballo offers a spring-cleaning list to keep your social media platforms in shape. Don't forget to do regular maintenance. “Spring Cleaning: 7 Strategies to Clean Up Your Social Media” is an easy-to-follow list. (I was surprised at how much tidying up I needed to do!)

Christian Editing Services offers a succinct list of tips on blogging for authors “11 Tips for Writing a Great Post.”  I was happy to see that I do most of these already! One of the tips is creating engaging images, which leads me to the next topic which David Gaughran addressees in an excellent step-by-step post “How to Make Killer Promo Graphics in Canva”. If you haven’t used Canva before, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to use. Give at try! 

Finally, if you’ve been frustrated with a lack of engagement on your posts, Bakerview Consulting has created a marvelous infographic “11 Social Media Engagement Boosting Tactics That Actually Work.” I hope they work for you, although on Facebook if your posts aren't being delivered that can be rather hard to overcome! (Don't worry there are tips on this list for other social media platforms, too.) 

I hope that these articles helped you on your writing and publishing journey! If you’ve read some good advice lately and want to share it, please let us know in the comments below. We’re all in this together!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



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