Writers' Forum - May 2018
This Month's Featured Articles:
Can You Trademark a Word? #CockyGate
Morality Clauses in Publishing Contracts
The Book Industry Study Group's Interest in POD (and more)
GDPR - How the EU is Changing How Authors Do Things in the USA
Now in its second year, 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!
There are more than 25 author events coming up at these fine bookstores in the month of June!
#CockyGate – Yes, you do need to know what this is about. (Sorry!)
I’ve read at least ten articles about the ill-conceived effort by one author (apparently aided by the United States Trademark Office) to claim a trademark on the word cocky and block others’ use of the word in their book titles. This author has even gone so far as to send cease and desist letters to authors. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Amazon has gotten into the fray and currently appears to be siding with the ‘ahem’ cocky author against other authors with cocky titles.
Are you shaking your head yet? Yeah, me too!
Kristen Lamb does a great job of distilling where this author has gone wrong and how very little a Trademark of a certain word means.
Don’t miss the funny part where this author as part of the trademark deal, claimed ownership of the word cocky spelled out in a specific font, but ignored the fact that the font wasn’t available for commercial use. Oops. Now the font designer is challenging her Trademark as well.
Okay, so now you can be the cool person at the table who knows what #cockygate means if it comes up. LOL
Morality Clauses Making a Comeback?
The Publishers’ Weekly article “In the #MeToo Moment, Publishers Turn to Morality Clauses” came to my attention via author Jamie Ford’s Facebook post on the matter. The article explains, “until recently, the term “moral turpitude” is not one that crossed the lips of too many people in book publishing. But Bill O’Reilly, Milo Yiannopoulos, Sherman Alexie, Jay Asher, and James Dashner changed all that.
"A legal term that refers to behavior generally considered unacceptable in a given community, moral turpitude is something publishers rarely worried themselves about. No longer.
Major publishers are increasingly inserting language into their contracts—referred to as morality clauses—that allows them to terminate agreements in response to a broad range of behavior by authors. And agents, most of whom spoke with PW on the condition of anonymity, say the change is worrying in an industry built on a commitment to defending free speech.” Read the whole article here.
The Book Industry Study Group’s Annual Meeting Focused on Returns, POD, Indie Retail and Millennials
Another informative article from Publishers’ Weekly gives us the summary of the main topics at this important industry meeting. One panel discussion took on traditional publishing’s supply chain issues and what some industry professionals are calling the archaic practice of returning unsold books to the publisher. While this model works well for best sellers, it doesn’t work so well for midlist and back list authors/books. One suggestion urged book retailers to look to POD (Print on Demand) technology as the solution to this problem, where in-store printers could print and bind a book for a customer on demand. The growing/continued success of indie bookstores was lauded as was the concerted effort to lure millennials (successfully) into bookstores. Read the entire report here.
May 25 marked the day that the GDPR went into effect in the European Union. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation affects how you store personal data such as emails or contact information from those who subscribe to your blog or newsletter or purchase books from you. If you don’t do any business in the EU or you don’t plan to, you likely do not have to worry about this. Check out the details in this article from the Self-Publishing Review to make sure you’re doing the proper things to protect any information you collect.
What’s Your Definition of Author Success?
I was at a conference in April and during the Q&A portion of an Indie Publishing panel discussion, one of my fellow panelists asked another writer a great question “What is your goal with your writing?” I often make the mistake in assuming that your goal must be the same as everyone else’s goal. And that’s just not the case. We make our own way on this writing journey and how we make that fulfilling varies just as much as our stories. Glenn Miller appreciates this and writes a thoughtful and interesting article about defining author success on the Career Authors website. The Smart Authors Lab echoes this discussion with an article “Have You Found the Powerful Motivation of Your Why?”
Part of my "why" is my ability to connectivity I feel with other authors. I connect with them both as fans of their writing and as a writer sharing the ups and downs of this crazy career. Often, I connect with people I’ve never met in person via social media, which is why I appreciated the Indie Authors Corner discussion about networking with other writers. I’ve made some good friends this way and even collaborated on projects and been recommended for speaking gigs through this engagement. Writing is an often solo endeavor. I guess this is my version of the office watercooler.
ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and Release-Day Reviews. Amazon is at it again people!
Recently, I participated in a giveaway contest on author Beth Flynn’s Facebook Group (Beth’s Niners). I love Beth’s books and was ecstatic that I was given an ARC about a week before the regular release date of her latest book Tethered Souls. I promised not to reveal anything or share it with anyone else as well as review it. On Goodreads you can review in advance of a title’s release day, but on Amazon that does not work. I put it on my calendar that I needed to post the review of Tethered Souls on its release date last week and got this notice:
A whole bunch of us got this notice. And it wasn’t just Beth’s book, many authors with release dates last week noticed their reviewers being rejected. I knew it had to do with Amazon’s algorithm on suspicious review activity. This Digital Reader article “Amazon Has Banned ARC Reviews and Forgot to Tell Anyone” explains what happened.
What’s sad is that if you are an organized author with a great launch plan and plenty of ARC reviewers in place, Amazon doesn’t let all of them post on launch day. The good news is that my review went up just fine the next day.
I wouldn’t let this snag deter you in getting all the reviews possible lined up in advance of your release. In addition to reaching out to your own followers/fans/subscribers, there are services that present your book for review (often for a fee) to their readership. Melissa Bowersock reviews her experience with Voracious Readers Only on the Indies Unlimited website. Voracious Readers offers this first offer for free to the author, hoping that they’ll opt in to one of the paid plans after seeing the results. So what does the author get? “The readers who opt in on a particular book of their choosing are expected to review the book on Amazon, Goodreads, or their own blog, plus they give their consent to be added to the author’s email list.” See Melissa’s results in the article here.
There’s More to Your Book than the Story (Formatting Your Front & Back Matter)
You don’t have a book if you don’t have a story, but if ALL you have is the story, you don’t have a book. You’ll need all the proper front and back matter, including an awesome back cover blurb and design in addition to a cool cover. Sounds like a lot and it is rather – but here are some excellent resources to make this easier.
We’ve talked about cover design in previous Writers’ Forums, and I’m sure we will again, but for now let’s focus on the back cover design. Cathi Stevenson of Book Cover Express gives “Ten Tips for Laying Out Back Cover Text Like a Pro”. Book Cover Express continues this helpful series with what goes into the interior of your book design, other than your story, explaining all the parts of the front matter (pages that appear at the front of the book before the story) and the back matter (the pages that appear at the back of the book after the story.)
Uploading Your Book to CreateSpace – Video Tutorial
Beta Readers vs. Editors vs. ARCs – Know the Difference
Joel Friedlander of the Book Designer defines these three roles better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He explains the timing of each of these types of readers in your book development/editing process, giving specific notes on what to expect from each of them.
Going Exclusive with Amazon or Going Wide
David Kudler writes a comprehensive comparison of the choice between being exclusive on Kindle or selling your e-book on the other platforms as well. What’s interesting is that I know authors who swear by each approach for different reasons. See which one might be the best fit for your book marketing here.
Writing Craft – Master Scene Sequencing with Zara Altair
Author Zara Altair provides a thorough look at building tension through proper scene structuring. Even if you think you don’t need this article, read it, (pretty please). I swear you’re going to find something to help you make your scenes pop with tension and move the story along.
Facebook Groups and/or Email Subscribers
Continuing the conversation from last month about how Facebook changes keep a large percentage of your Author Page followers from seeing your posts, I’ll continue to share information on how Facebook Groups might be an answer, as will curating your own email contact list. The Happy Self Publisher walks you through the steps of setting up a Facebook Group.
Social Media Just for Writers provides an excellent resource in explaining why and how you should be setting up your own email subscriber system. They give instructions specifically for Mailchimp—the program I find easy to use.
Goodreads – Some Tips & Tricks to Make This Platform Work for You
Most authors I know have a presence on Goodreads. They’ve created their author profiles and linked their books to that page and gather reviews there. I love Goodreads as a reader. I keep track of the books I’ve read there and give a lot of book ratings. (I should write more reviews than I do.) I couldn’t pass up the Sandra Beckwith’s tantalizing headline “3 Mistakes You’re Making on Goodreads”. Of course, you think ‘dang, am I doing something wrong?’ and immediately click to read. It’s a quick list!
Sandra Beckwith also gives some good tips about marketing your book through Goodreads. Just like so many other author platforms (Amazon, Facebook, BookBub etc..) you can advertise on Goodreads. Didn’t know that? Here’s the how-to on creating your first Goodreads ad. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had experience with a Goodreads ad – good or bad.
The article also discusses Goodreads Giveaways. Now, I’ve never tried one of these, but some of my author friends have and say that they were disappointed in the results. Again, tell me what you know in the comments section. I am curious!
If you’re looking for some broad guidance on running online giveaways, I think this checklist covers nearly everything. I always make contests part of my launch plan to build excitement and, well, just have some fun with my social media followers and fans.
Finding Speaking Engagements
I finally caught up on my financial data entry this week and ran a QuickBooks report to see my business stats. So far this year, I’ve made more money speaking about writing and bookish topics than I have from book royalties. You simply must not neglect this area of potential income. While this might be easiest for those who write nonfiction, fiction writers have plenty of opportunities. Here’s a guide on how to approach your search for speaking engagements from Stephanie Chandler at the Nonfiction Authors Association.
There were six articles this month specifically on book marketing tactics and strategy (although nearly all topics tie back to this.)
Four articles come from the BookWorks Self-Publishers Association website. Chris Well writes a two-part series on gaining media attention. The first article “Author PR: Do’s and Don’ts in Pursuit of Media" gives us the basics on timing and approach. The second installment, "Book PR: Do’s and Don’ts When Wooing the Media", gets into the trickier aspects of strategizing your topic and creating a hook that media will love.
Penny Sansevieri discusses the value of exposure you can gain through media appearances in her article "Book Publicity and Marketing: It Isn’t Just About the Sales". She focuses on the cumulative effort of exposure and how it is a building process to make this pay off in terms of books sales.
Author Cindy Samul talks about the fun of creating book extras and bonus materials and how offering these can drive readers to your website, grow your email list, say thank you to your fans, and more.
When many authors start out in the indie publishing world, they might not set aside much money for book marketing. Personally, I always set a budget for this and consider at as important as making sure I have a great cover and a well-edited story. Belinda Griffin on the Alliance for Independent Authors website walks through the components of a marketing plan and where you might be best off investing your marketing dollars.
Finally, the company EditionGuard offers a super list of book marketing tools and techniques, including a most helpful guide to analyzing your audience and how to find them in the article “How to Market a Self-Published Book Effectively: Digital Marketing for Authors". Note: this website offers up services for a fee and I have no idea if they’re any good, but they did write a very nice article you can glean tips from for free.
Social Media Wrap Up
Iola Goulton has more great advice this month. This time she’s discussing the ways to “Polish your Presence on Pinterest”. And, as I always appreciate a nice alliterative headline, I had to read it. Her tips are so good, I actually logged in to my Pinterest account and made some changes. She explains this new-ish idea of segmenting your boards in topics. I got right to work on that and segmented my main board into three subject areas Book News & Reviews, Writing & Publishing Advice, and Roaming (Travel).
Do You Need a Writing Prompt for Social Media?
Frances Caballo has the perfect response to the author who says, “I’ve got nothing to say on social media” in her article on Social Media Just for Writers. Have some fun checking out these prompts that will make coming up with content so much easier!
I hope that these articles help 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