Writers Forum - June 2023

Amazon’s Huge Book Category Change

Barnes and Noble Refusing to Shelve Print-on-Demand Books

How to Develop a Complex Protagonist


Amazon’s Huge Book Category Change

Background: Previously authors or publishers using the KDP dashboard would choose two broad categories when uploading books into the system. Then after publication, requests could be put in to add the book to more categories—up to 10 categories for each format of a title. But again . . . because people abused this feature and put their books into categories where they didn’t really belong, Amazon/KDP has made a shift . . . Now you get to choose three categories that are more specific at the beginning of your upload process for each format of your book. (Three is the max allowed.)

Learn more about it in this short video from Dave Chesson:

Or read about how this changes your category strategy in this article from Dave Chesson or in these instructions directly from KDP or watch the podcast below, which is fabulous.

Barnes & Noble Shifts Tactics for Print-on-Demand Books

While this article is from a horror author and initially deals with that genre of book . . . the information from the Barnes & Noble employees about what they’re being directed to do covers ALL print-on-demand books. Initially, it looked like Barnes & Noble was going a different direction and allowing individual stores to curate their shelves individually. However, with smaller profit margins for print-on-demand titles (even those coming out of Barnes & Noble Press), staff is being told to no longer shelve these titles even if they sell well.

Read the details here: https://theghoulishtimes.substack.com/p/the-golden-age-of-barnes-and-noble

How to Develop a Complex Protagonist

The best writing craft article of the month came from Ken Brosky, writing for Jane Friedman’s blog. He boils down components of character into four areas that are easy to understand/follow – proving that creating a complex character doesn’t have to be – well – complex!

Read it here: https://www.janefriedman.com/how-to-develop-a-complex-protagonist/

The Latest on AI in the Writing and Publishing World (and on we go!)

AI Is About to Turn the Book Publishing Industry Upside-Down

Thad McIlroy writes for Publishers’ Weekly about how AI could impact all areas of publishing from content creation to editing and on to acquisitions and beyond (production/distribution/advertising & marketing.) This is a very sobering article, but I think we need to stay educated on this important issue.


How the Andy Warhol Decision Could Forever Change AI

Let’s start with a summary – and stick with me because this is important A photographer took a photo of Prince (the musician) and licensed the image to Vanity Fair in the early 1980s. Vanity Fair then commissioned Andy Warhol to create a painting from that photo for a cover.  After Prince’s death, Vanity Fair learned that Warhol had created an entire series of paintings from that image and then licensed the painting titled “Orange Prince” for use on their commemorative cover. The photographer claimed that the additional paintings were not licensed and infringed on her copyright of the photograph. The Andy Warhol Foundation subsequently sued (proactively) to get a declaratory judgement of non-infringement. HOWEVER, they didn’t win . . . .  The case hinged on the work being transformative from the original photograph, which has been a valid defense for fair use. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a work’s transformation isn’t the only question—and perhaps it’s not even the most important question. HOW/WHY does this pertain to AI? . . . “given how much weight transformative uses” were relied upon in fair use defenses in the past, this decision opens up AI’s transformative use of existing work to a host of copyright claims. (Definitely read the whole article by Jonathan Bailey for Plagiarism Today– it’s fascinating.)

AI-Generated Books of Nonsense Are All Over Amazon’s Bestseller Lists

Well – that didn’t take long . . . read how garbage books generated by AI are making it through KDP’s filters and popping into bestseller lists. (Article from Vice.com)


Setting a Story on Fire from Beginning to End – from Kristen Lamb

You all know by now how much I adore Kristen Lamb’s advice (and how she delivers the advice.) Trust me that this article will help you write your next book. Great advice as always and excellent examples to drive the point home.


Picture Book Word Count – from The Good Story Company

We don’t have a lot of articles in this forum specific to children’s books, so I’m pleased to share this excellent article by Amy Wilson on picture book word counts.


Is Deep Third an Actual Point of View?

Tiffany Yates Martin always gives thoughtful and pertinent advice, and this article for Jane Friedman’s blog is no different. She discusses how Deep Third POV IS a thing . . . she calls it a “strange little hybrid of limited third and first person.” See what you think here:


How to Tighten Your Writing

Are you looking for editing tips this month? Daniel Parsons (for the Self Publishing Formula blog) writes a nice checklist of ways we can cut that word count.



Throughout 2023 writing instructor and pre-published author Tracey Kathryn (T.K.) Sheffield and I will be offering a blog series on plotting from the beginning developmental stage through the messy middle and all the way to the end, including editing advice on how to fix plot problems in a completed manuscript.

In Part 1, Tracey lists wonderful resources that are great for those that are new to writing or looking for a new approach to plotting in: "Plotting a Novel: Resources for Those Just Starting Out."

In Part 2, Tracey discusses how to use plotlines, tropes, and conflict to test your story ideas: "Testing Novel Ideas

In Part 3, Tracey and I discuss the virtues of outlining your novel vs. pantsing (aka: writing by the seat of your pants.) Watch the video here.

In Part 4, I write about the difference between the hook and the inciting incident

In Part 5, Tracey gives tips on how to avoid the dreaded messy middle of the novel. 

This month brings us to Part 6 as Tracey and I discuss the different types of novel endings and the tips and tricks for writing each well in the video below . . . 

The Right Way to Ask for Publishing Advice

Authors want to be generous to fellow authors, but new writers need to make an effort to educate themselves, too. Please do not ask “Can I pick your brain?” and then proceed to ask an author to basically summarize all the knowledge they have gained (for free.) Instead, spend some time learning about the business by googling and reading articles and blog posts. THEN, ask educated, specific questions. This article by Elisa Bernick gives that advice and more! 

BUT . . . Free Information Will Only Take You So Far

Sandra Beckwith continues the conversation about finding free information and why sometimes you have to pay for a book or a course or a consultation from an expert. Yes, you can google a lot of publishing advice for free, but there will be a point where you need to seek out expert help.


To Set Beta Reader Expectations, Have an Honest Conversation

I always like to see good advice for how authors should work with their beta readers, and this article from Lisa Cooper Ellison is a wonderful guide so that you get the most from these special early readers.

What Makes a Novel Stand Out on Submission?

Susan DeFreitas talks about the four things that can make a novel stand out on submission; they touch on moral issues, they reflect the truth of our reality, they feature complex characters, and they have something to say. Her examples are really, really good.

3 Amazon Reader Review Myths

Sandra Beckwith helps dispel three ongoing myths about Amazon reviews. I can guarantee these are still circulating around social media!

Blogger Book Reviews: How to mine this precious author gold

Sandra Beckwith gives great tips for how to find and approach blogger book reviewers to ask them to read your advance copy.


Boost Your Book Launch by Perfecting Distribution and Metadata

We don’t talk enough about the pesky behind-the-scenes details independent authors need to deal with in advance of their book release. This is article from David Wogahn dives into setting up your book’s distribution, figuring out your pricing, curating your metadata properly and more.


Promoting a New Book to Current Fans and New Readers (a case study from BookBub)

This article from Carlyn Robertson for the BookBub Partners blog details nine ways New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden promoted her new book release. Four of these include utilizing BookBub for preorder alert emails (authors with more than 1000 followers can send two of these out) and BookBub new releases for less deals along with ads and a featured deal on the platform. The other five include a combination of newsletter and social media efforts. Good stuff!


12 Fantastic BookBub Ad Designs Promoting New Releases

Shailee Shah showcases some of the best ad designs used on BookBub lately to promote new releases. Good takeaways here if you’re at the jumping off point for your new release and are planning to run BookBub ads.

5 Ways to Build an Audience for a Debut Book

This is always a conundrum – how does a new author build a following for their debut book? Daniel Parson for the Self Publishing Formula has some great tips on how to share your work and engage people in a community, so they become your followers.


How to Optimize Your Author Website

This Self Publishing Show podcast talks about all things for author website designs. Read the transcript here or watch below. 

8 Tips for Authors to Boost their Homepage

And this article from Jane Friedman’s blog by Camilla Monk talks about ways to make the best use out of the homepage of your website. I really like the color palette suggestions.


Self Publishing Formula – TikTok Series

So a long time ago, I bookmarked and meant to watch a multi-part introduction to TikTok from Mark Dawson of the Self Publishing Formula.  I finally got to it and thought you all might like to watch these, too.

Video 1 – introduction 5 minutes

Video 2 – 6 minutes

Video 3 – 5.5 minutes

Video 4 – 5 minutes

Video 5 – 6.5 minutes

Video 6 – 6 minutes

9 Best Practices for Creating Handles and User Names

If you’re at the beginning of your author journey and setting up your handles/user names on social media platforms, this is an excellent infographic to reference. Additionally, here’s a great website you can use to see if a name is taken in multiple places at once: https://www.namecheckr.com/


Thanks so much for the shout out, Valerie! I appreciate it!

Sandra Beckwith

You're very welcome, Sandra! You always have such excellent, helpful information for authors!

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