Writers' Forum - March 2018

March 2018 Writers' Forum - the indie publishing news you need to knowThe 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.

Southern Wisconsin Independent Bookstores Rock!

Earlier this month, Tracey Kathryn wrote a fabulous post featuring two of our indie bookstore gems in southern Wisconsin, Books and Company in Oconomowoc and InkLink Books in East Troy.  We are blessed to have these two and others in our neighborhoods like Mystery to Me and A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Boswell Books in Milwaukee, The Little Read Book in Wauwatosa, and Tribeca Books & Gallery in both Milwaukee and Watertown. And don’t forget that Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday, April 28! 

Independent Bookstore Day is April 28 - Celebrate with your favorite store!





There are more than 25 author events coming up at these fine bookstores in the month of April!

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, 7603 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 and June 2 – The Writers’ Toolbox

UW-Madison Writers’ Institute – April 12 – 15 at the Concourse Hotel, Madison, WI

UntitledTown Book and Author Festival – April 19 – 22 at various locations in Green Bay, WI

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

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

Write by the Lake – June 11 – 15 on the UW-Madison Campus


Should You Self-Publish?

Here’s a no-nonsense discussion from Writer Mom Life that dispels many of the false ideas that a writer might have about self-publishing (BEFORE) they actually do it. No, independently publishing your book isn’t easier than traditional publishing. If you’re going to do it right, there’s a learning curve that includes both an investment of time and money. You’ll be wearing a number of hats on any given day beyond writer—like that of marketer, entrepreneur, and editor. You’ll have to be willing to learn new things.

Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn presents an exceptional pros/cons list comparing traditional and independent publishing. She also talks about those authors who do both, known as hybrid authors. These authors publish both traditionally and independently, depending on the type of book they’re publishing.

It’s important to educate yourself on what to expect no matter which route you take.


Choose Your Printing Company for Indie Publishing - CreateSpace vs IngramSpark










Choosing Your Printing Company

If you’ve chosen to independently publish your book, you need to know which route/company will work best for your needs. This cost comparison between print-on-demand companies CreateSpace and IngramSpark by Amy Collins gets into the nitty gritty of book profits. And to add another possible printing option to your decision making, Joel Friedlander discusses the pros and cons of using an offset printer to produce your book. I know a few authors who have gone this route, creating beautiful hardcover novels that are not the norm in the soft-cover print-on-demand world.

Pricing – Book Covers – Book Blurb Decisions

When you decide to independently publish a book, you have a lot of freedom to make decisions. You also have the responsibility to make good decisions. You know you need a great book cover. Sandra Beckwith at “Build Book Buzz” discusses seven ways to confirm you’re creating the best cover possible. I’d add one more to her list and suggest you place your potential book cover on a page of thumbnail book images of the same genre and see how yours compares to the others. Does it stand out in a good way? Or is it easy to pass over for the others on the page?   Once you have our cover design ready, you need to add your book description to the jacket flap or back cover. I know many authors agonize over this short summary. It’s hard to condense the important facts about your story in an alluring way that makes someone want to make the purchase. Michelle Weidenbenner gives the top ingredients to include in your book description as does Deborah Jay. Deborah has good tips and also addresses specific things to consider when you pop this blurb onto the Amazon description page. 

And the decisions keep coming! If you’re concerned with the right way to price your eBook, David Kudler lists six secrets on doing this correctly. He includes some great information on Kindle pricing that you’ll want to consider. For a more comprehensive discussion on pricing your books, go to the October 2017 Writers' Forum

When you get to the point of launching your book, I’ve rarely seen a blog article that has as succinct a list as Stephanie Chandler. Often book launch advice is provided in a multi-part blog post or lengthy podcast or webinar. Here you get a quick and dirty launch list that can help frame the all-important task of your launch.  (I definitely still recommend using the more in-depth podcasts and webinars when you want more details on a subject.)

Timing the Release of Your Book Series -- Pros and Cons of WaitingHow to Time the Release of your Series

If you’re independently publishing, the timing of the release of books in your series is all up to you. Author K.T. Lee decided to wait until she had the first three books written in her series before she started publishing. I was so glad to read this article because I feel that in this age of binge-reading, you will better serve your writing career if you do not make people wait forever for the next book. K.T. discusses some really interesting pros and cons about waiting to publish. I think the best point she makes is the flexibility you have in your plotline if you wait to publish. When you realize that a scene you’re writing in book three requires a change in book one, you’re not locked in with a book that’s already been published. 

Sensitivity Readers

Scott McCormick’s article “Publishers are Hiring Sensitivity Readers . . . Should You?” addresses the important topic of “getting it right” when writing books that differ from your own personal experience. While many publishing houses will have sensitivity readers review books and flag potentially offensive content, if you’re self-publishing this is up to you to get right. In attempting to add diversity to your books, you might misstep in your portrayal of minority groups that you are not part of. Learn more here.


Writing is a Business – You Need to Treat it that Way!

Kristen Lamb completely understands that sentiment and encourages writers to think like businesspeople in her article “Author Business 101: Books, Brands, Buds,” walking us through the components involved in making your book adventure a business venture.  

Orna Ross further describes seven different author business models some of which include other types of income you can derive from your writing career, such as public speaking or teaching. Which one looks right for you? Erika Liodice’s article “How to Find Unique Speaking Opportunities to Promote Your Novel” helps you walk through the steps to take to create the speaking engagements you want to have.  And to make your author business a success, author Terry Whalin talks about how you can’t be afraid to ASK . . . ask for interviews, ask for the endorsement from other writers, or ask for the chance to write an article for a publication. We can’t be scared to put ourselves out there if we want to be successful. 

Writing is a Business - Treat it that way!








Protecting Your Works in Progress

At some point as a writer you will share your work in progress with someone. All writers share a similar concern of protecting our projects. Even though we trust those with whom we share our manuscripts, it is smart to take some of the precautions that RJ Clayton outlines in his article

Unfortunately, we can never be too vigilant. I was saddened to read about Victoria Strauss’ struggle with the Open Library Project.  This project is meant to make older works in the public domain available; however, a number of authors are finding that their more recent copyrighted works have been included. Inside the article, there’s a link you can click to see if any of your works have been included. (I hope not!!)

Analyzing Your Book Competition

Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur writes an incredibly detailed article on how to analyze your book’s competition. This is smart stuff that you might not know!  In a related topic, if you’ve ever been confused about what “Also Boughts” mean on Amazon and whether you can do anything to optimize this feature, Written word Media’s article is for you

Why is my Book Not Selling?

If you’ve been disappointed with your sales and are trying to figure out what to fix, Joel Friedlander walks you through 15 things that might be standing in your way. . . from a product rushed to publication without proper editing to a book that has too small of a niche market. These might force you to acknowledge a mistake you’ve made, but you can always take the next steps to fix your mistake once you know what it is.  

Social Media Wrap Up

The recent Pew Research stats on social media use places YouTube in first place, which might surprise you but as an author we’d better take that statistic to heart. Frances Caballo Social Media Stats that Matter to Authors 2018 - Statistics Writers Need to Knowdiscusses the huge potential for video marketing for authors in her recent article “Are you Ready for Video Because It’s Huge!” 

Caballo analyzed all of the Pew statistics about social media use and breaks down the info for authors to assist in choosing which platforms we engage on. For instance, if you write for a younger audience, you ought to be on Instagram. If you’re new to that platform. 

Caballo also helps you with tips on growing your Instagram account organically.  Personally, I love Instagram, but I know I need to make a better effort of posting regularly.

Finally, if you need a quick tutorial or cheat sheet for each social media platform, head over to Bakerview Consulting’s post. Here Barb Drozdowich walks through the optimal image requirements for each platform. You’re going to want to save this one to refer back to!

I hope that these articles helped you on your writing and publishing journey!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



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