Writers' Forum - October 2023

FTC Sues Amazon for Illegally Maintaining Monopoly Power

Why / How One Author Isn’t Selling Her Book on Amazon

Writing Books Remains a Tough Way to Make a Living (ya think??)

How Books Are Sold: Things You’d Rather Not Know About Publishing


FTC Sues Amazon for Illegally Maintaining Monopoly Power

This is an ongoing legal battle that is quickly summarized on the FTC’s own website asserting: "Amazon’s ongoing pattern of illegal conduct blocks competition, allowing it to wield monopoly power to inflate prices, degrade quality, and stifle innovation for consumers and businesses.”


Why / How One Author Isn’t Selling Her Book on Amazon
I read with interest this article in The Nation, “Why You Can’t Buy Lydia Davis’s New Book on Amazon,” thinking it was either very foolish or very brave for an author to ignore a platform that sells the majority of books in the USA. Worth a read!

Writing Books Remains a Tough Way to Make a Living (ya think??)

The new Authors Guild survey is out – and the takeaway is that the “median book and writing-related income for authors in 2022 was below the poverty line.” However, there’s other more (and perhaps less depressing) information included here:


How Books Are Sold: Things You’d Rather Not Know About Publishing

I’m including this article because it irritated the heck out of me. This comes from the official newsletter of The Sutherland House, Inc. – a publisher of nonfiction books. What I found ironic about this article is that the writer laments that, “…a lovingly finished project will be marketed on the basis of short superficial conversations among people who’ve never read it.” (Cue my snorting laugh . . .  . ) Is he somehow suggesting that there’s MORE care taken with projects at other stages of the publishing process? He’s probably never been on the ‘sending’ side of a query to multiple agents then. See what you think:  https://shush.substack.com/p/how-books-are-sold


Currently, I’m querying new agents and documenting this with a series of short videos on YouTube. Each week I’m doing a 60-second update on the status of my queries. Watch Here.  https://www.youtube.com/@ValerieBielAuthor/shorts

The Latest on AI in the Writing and Publishing World

AI Narrates 5000 free books for Project Gutenberg

Kristin Houser’s article for Freethink.com details how a program developed by MIT and Microsoft can now automate audiobook production, “reducing days of volunteer labor to just 30 seconds per book.” In the past, this type of computer narration was stiff and robotic, but the new programming is sophisticated enough that it determines when different characters are speaking and used emotional emphasis and different intonation. Yup, it's here . . . and no-doubt trained off of human voice talent without their permission.


Three Ways Writers Can Use AI (Without Having It Write for Them)

Shavonne Clark (Written Word Media) explains the three main areas where AI can be helpful to authors: research, outlining, and combatting writers’ block. Worth a read for the more innocent ways AI could improve our lives.


The majority of the articles worth bookmarking this month are in the area of writing craft or writing life topics.

Character Development

How Connected Settings Give Your Fiction Emotional Depth

C.S. Lakin, writing for Jane Friedman’s blog, gives excellent advice for placing your characters in settings that evoke specific (strong) emotions. Great instructions for what you should ask yourself as you’re writing scenes where setting play an important role on the emotions / mood of the character.


Why Is Strong Character Development Important?

Kristen Overman for the Good Story Company makes the case for planning out your character’s developmental arc. What’s unique about your character? What do they want/need? How will they be changed by the end of the story?


How to Create Character Mannerisms from Backstory Wounds

This is really awesome!! Thanks to Janet Fox who writes for Jane Friedman’s blog! This requires you to think through your character’s experiences prior to the beginning of their presence on the page. What has happened to them? What traumas have they experienced? I think this article pairs really well with The Emotional Wound Thesaurus from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

There’s Always a Choice: Revision Techniques to Make Your Writing Stronger

Kristen Overman’s quick look at novel revision is brilliant. Her simple advice will help us present our character’s choices more skillfully and bring a stronger emphasis to scenes where we may be presenting questions versus statements. Very smart focus!


Turn Your Inner Darkness into Words – with Joanna Penn

In a related topic, Joanna Penn discusses this in an episode of the Self-Publishing Show below. “Writing can often be emotionally charged or even therapeutic for those who write. But what does that emotionally charged writing say about you? And how can you navigate the emotions you find while writing?” Read the transcript here or watch below.

The Flashback: A Greatly Misunderstood Storytelling Device

Another of my favorite writing educators, Tiffany Yates Martin, tackles the flashback with her latest advice. Flashbacks are tricky and need to be handled with care. Martin wants you to ask important questions like – is this flashback really necessary? And, if it is, have I put it in the right location? She also covers how a flashback must move the story forward and how the transition in and out of the flashback must be graceful.

13 Reasons Why Authors Are Mistaken for Serial Killers by Kristen Lamb

Kristen never disappoints and this latest post is a wonderful romp through a list of author similarities to serial killers – perfect read for this spooky season.

Essential Tips for New Authors – The Self-Publishing Show

In this episode of his podcast, Mark Dawson gives his best advice to new authors. Read the transcript here or watch below.

Reading with Intent: Becoming a Better Writer (also by Kristen Lamb)

This is a more serious post by the lovely Ms. Lamb. It seems like a no-brainer that authors/writers must be voracious readers, but I sometimes find that is not the case—which is why I chose to include this article.  Great tips on how the way you read (what you notice) can and will make you a better writer.

How Can I Set Aside a Cacophony of Writing Advice and Just Write

Jane Friedman answers a question about how to stop delaying your writing project because you’re searching for the best advice. Sometimes you just gotta stop researching and get writing.


7 Kindle Keyword Phrases: Use All 50 Characters or Not?

In this recently updated article, Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com helps us understand the best methodology to pick the keyword phrases that we are allowed to enter when uploading books into the system at Kindle Direct Publishing.  Always worth a read as things have been changing in this area:


The Other Pitches Pitch Packages Authors Should Prepare

We often focus on our main pitch—query letters to agents/editors, but there are many other documents we should prepare to help market our books. Amy L. Bernstein covers four super important pitches we should have prepared – podcast guest pitch – book blurb solicitation – general teaser copy – and an elevator pitch. You’ll be glad you took the time to get these ready. You’ll need them.

4 Book Publicity Facts that Will Help You Succeed

READ THIS important article from Sandra Beckwith. I think that WHAT publicity IS often gets misunderstood and this article addresses that head on. Beckwith writes how many authors “overlook book publicity in their marketing plans because they…

  • Don’t know what it is.
  • Don’t realize it’s a realistic option.
  • Want it but don’t know how to get it.

Don’t be like that—read this article instead! https://buildbookbuzz.com/4-book-publicity-facts/

Amazon’s Orange Banner: The Anticlimax of Achievement

Jen Craven discusses how after she achieved that elusive orange bestseller banner on Amazon that the promotion of that achievement made her feel ‘icky.’  Personally, I think this is a symptom of what I see often with authors – that we can find it very hard to promote our own work. That somehow we feel we should be humble about our achievements and not celebrate these successes widely or publicly. The achievement of any bestseller status is noteworthy and should be celebrated. But you need to be honest …. The majority of bestseller status banners on Amazon are for category status – not overall bestseller status. In Sandra Beckwith’s article, “Honesty in Book Marketing: Where do you fit?” she addresses those authors who overstate this bestseller status and don’t add the category qualifying language to their announcement. Yeah, don’t do this either.

15 Ways Book Marketers Use Social Media to Promote Preorder

Many of these you’ve probably already thought of, but it’s worth a quick skim through this list to see if there’s anything new you could try.


How to Hype a New Release as a Traditionally Published Author

Aj Yee gives this advice on the BookBub Partners blog. Fun ideas – but for ALL AUTHORS not just traditionally published.


Positioning Yourself for Licensing Deals

This isn’t a topic often covered, so I was pleased to see this article by Daniel Parsons for Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula. What can you do to make your project attractive for subsidiary rights acquisition – movies, merchandise, gaming, and more.


17 Fantastic Ways to Sell More Books for the Holidays

BookBub Partners Blog offers up fun ideas to gain extra attention during the holiday book buying season. Not all of these will work for everyone, but there are some good ideas here that you still have time to implement.

How To Use BookBub Ads on a Budget

This article talks about all the free types of things you can do with the BookBub platform for the most part – claim your profile – encourage new followers etc… The last two bits of advice talk about setting your budgets for the actual ads you might run on this platform. Still—good advice.


Handling Criticism on Social Media

This Readers View article drew me in because I was hoping that it was only one line long, saying “Just back away from that keyboard!!” LOL All kidding aside, there’s some good advice for how to carefully respond when a response is necessary. Most of the time though – back away from that keyboard!!


Reading Analytics Dashboards to Sell Books

This help pertains to both regular social media posts and paid ads. Not a bad way to learn what some of these terms mean and understand the importance of the numbers.




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