Writers' Forum - March 2024

Substack for Authors – yes/no/maybe?
The Truth on Selling Books Direct
Authors Equity –Shifting Traditional Publishing Dynamics
US Publishers File Brief Opposing Internet Archive’s Appeal


Substack for Authors?

Substack is a growing platform and that growth is earning a lot of attention from those in the author/publishing community. Is Substack a great place for authors?

Jane Friedman’s article “Substack is Both Great and Terrible for Authors” points out the relevant pros and cons of this platform. She focuses, and rightly so, on the fact that free email newsletters can be the backbone of an author’s sales to fans who have signed up to get content from that author. You can, however, offer free and/or paid newsletters on Substack. For most authors, you’ll probably want to stick with free if you move over to this platform, unless you’re offering something of value perhaps in the form of free books/downloads. This is an important read if you’re thinking of making the shift.

Sandra Beckwith also pens a good ‘warning’ article, “4 Important Reasons Why I Don’t Recommend Substack for Authors.” Her warning that placing your content on someone else’s platform is always perilous is true. That’s why I’m double posting and making sure to have a copy of my blog over on my website AND on Substack. (It’s easy to do this.) And, she’s also completely right that Substack does not offer email automation /email marketing sequences. So, if you already have a complex email marketing system in place with multiple emails that automatically go out to your subscribers as they join your audience—you may not be happy with the lack of this feature on Substack. Please read her full article before you make the switch.

Now the reason I’ve made the switch, is that it was time for me to do some major maintenance on the way I deliver content to my subscribers and Substack offers what I was looking for. Additionally, the social nature of the Substack platform is offering me more 'findability' than I’d ever had with my website-based blogging and MailChimp newsletter system. As both an author and a publishing industry/writing craft content creator—this platform is offering exactly what I need at the right time. Find me at on Substack here

Selling Books Direct

This is a huge, on-trend topic for 2024. So many authors are now selling their books directly from their own websites. But if you think the Substack conversation is complicated, then come on over to THIS conversation! Ha-ha

First, check out “The Truth on Selling Books Direct: Insights from 876 Authors” from Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur. This is an excellent summary of how and why authors are making this work. Really great analysis/statistics. Then if you’re interested in learning more, move on to “How to Sell Books Directly to Readers: The Complete Guide.” And finally, here’s his excellent post about the “3 Best Options for a Book-Selling Website.” It’s a lot – but authors are retaining a lot more of their own royalties by selling direct, so if you’re even slightly interested in this take a look and see if it might work for you.

Authors Equity –Shifting Traditional Publishing Dynamics

Have you heard about this new publishing company that’s more fairly sharing royalties with authors? This is great news these founders have embraced a model that challenges traditional publishing’s typical approach. Learn more about the company here, and in the article about James Clear partnering with this company for his next book.

US Publishers File Brief Opposing Internet Archive’s Appeal

About a year ago, the Internet Archive lost its copyright infringement case in which (the judge offered “a firm rebuke to the controversial concept of ‘controlled digital lending.”) Internet Archive then appealed that decision. Now, those publishers filed their brief opposing Internet Archive’s appeal. To read the highlights from the brief click here.  

The Latest on AI in the Writing and Publishing World

Nvidia is sued by authors over AI use of copyrighted works

You might not immediately recognize the company name Nvidia. But they’re being sued by authors because they’re the manufacturer of microchips that power artificial intelligence. The suit alleges they used copyrighted books without permission to train their NeMo AI Platform.

Authors Push Back on the growing number of AI scam books on Amazon

Here’s a quick read or listen from NPR on the way authors are pushing back on the many scam books generated by AI that are flooding Amazon’s marketplace. A lot of these end up being ‘summary’ books of newly published material.

How to Create a Character Development Outline & Create Proper Character Reactions from the Good Story Company

Kristen Overman presents a helpful tutorial on writing a character development outline . . . important points to consider before you begin writing, to help you create the best characters possible. Michal Leah provides a quick reference list of character reactions that can help you think through your scenes . . . Asking how would my character react to this situation?

Emotional Intimacy Between Characters Isn’t Just for Romance Novels

Continuing with our character focus, Trisha Jenn Loehr’s article for Jane Friedman’s blog is a good one. She dives into the subject of emotional intimacy on a different level for characters that aren’t romantically involved, and how we might show that intimacy on the page. Good approach!


3 Elements that Make Historical Romance Successful

I love a good historical romance novel. (Any other Bridgerton fans here?) Now, I don’t write historical romance, but many of you may. If so, you’ll like Susanne Dunlap’s article. Please read the whole article here but to sum up – she focuses on truth—stay true to reader expectations of this genre and be historically accurate. But she also warns that historical romance novels are character driven, so special care needs to be given to character arc.

How to Write a Rhyming Picture Book

I love, love, love rhyming picture books - -but I know from my many SCBWI conferences that often the advice given is NOT to attempt to write in rhyme. WHY? Because it is difficult to do right! Michal Leah (for the Good Story Company) walks through counting syllables, syntax, and more to help you make your rhyming work. This article almost makes me want to write a rhyming picture book.

Writing the Other: 4 Not So Easy (but Doable) Steps!

I was surprised by this advice from Samantha Cameron. Not because it’s wrong – but because it is so often not addressed. Most often writers are told to NOT write underrepresented characters if we do not share a similar background. But what happens then? You end up creating a story with a  very flat character palette that does not represent the real world. So this advice is needed—basically proceed with caution and make sure to get it right when you offer up a diverse cast of character by doing deep research, engaging sensitivity readers, cultivate your own awareness of biases and tropes and more. Super article!


How and Where to Build Your Literary Community

Who are your people? Where do they hang out? How do I engage with them? These are the questions answered by Star Wuerdemann in this article for Jane Friedman’s blog. If you’re at the beginning of your writing journey, you may not have many writer friends – yet – but with this advice you will.


How to Find a Literary Agent

Scott McCormick’s article for the BookBaby blog gives a straightforward approach for your agent search. These are really good, actionable steps.

What he doesn’t talk about is the emotional rollercoaster of querying agents. In an effort to be transparent about this process, I have shared my recent (& so far unsuccessful) agent query adventures in a series of YouTube short (1-minute) videos. Find them here.

The Case for Pursuing a Traditional Publishing Deal Without an Agent

And perhaps you don’t need an agent at all? Check out Amy L. Bernstein’s article about how to go about searching for a publishing home without an agent’s assistance.

And perhaps you will go the Indie Publishing route? In that case, one of your tasks will be finding a book cover designer and interior formatter . . . unless you have the skills to do that yourself. Two articles this month are important reads:

How to Find and Work with a Book Cover Designer” from Grant Shepherd for Written Word Media

Font Copyright Laws for Books: Your Print Book Could be in Violation” from Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur

12 Clever Ideas for Promoting Sequels or Later-Series Books

Diana Urban presents a delightful list of ideas for series promotion in this article for the BookBub Partners blog. These are all fab ideas!

How to Use Crowdfunding to Raise Money for Book Publishing

Yes, this is a thing. I’m surprised that many authors don’t know about this option. I love to offer support to crowd funded books, because usually you get some nifty extras for being one of the early supporters. And I love goodies! Check out Sandra Beckwith’s interview with author Pamela Cummins about her recent Kickstarter.

Pros and Cons of Book Giveaways: 27 Authors Weigh In

This is always a topic that encourages good discussion about whether you should or shouldn’t give away your book for free. AJ Yee does a great job showing the answer really depends on a lot of factors about the book, whether it’s part of a series, and more.


How to Sell More Books at Live Events

Ben Wolf tackles this subject for the BookBub Partners blog . . . I love this topic. Now, I’ve attended so many different types of events where I’ve sold my books from literary festivals to farmers markets and niche audience events, so this was a fun read. Ben gives great tips on what types of events to pick to attend as well as how to set up your sales area and how to competitively price books. As an aside, my very best event ever has been Irish Fest . . . my books have an Irish/Celtic theme and this is a well-attended event over three days. But I think the most important reason why I do well at this event is that I engage with nearly every person who passes by my area—and at times I’ve dressed in costume that matches characters in my books! That makes for a great conversation starter!!


Why Authors Should Put Their Fictional Characters on Social Media and How to Do It

I am on the fence on this one, mainly because I’m thinking I can’t handle more social media time. However, Sandra Beckwith makes very good points on how this can work, along with a guide on how to do this. Certainly, I’d have more fun posting as one of my main characters than as myself!! If I take her advice and begin doing this, I’ll show you all what that looks like. Definitely food for thought!

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