Writers' Forum - September 2023

“Harry Potter” UK Audiobook Narrator Voice Stolen by AI

Amazon Category Picking – Avoiding Ghost Categories

The Absolute Worst Schools in Fiction


“Harry Potter” UK Audiobooks Narrator Stephen Fry Warns that the AI Ripoff of His Voice is Only the Beginning

Stephen Fry was surprised to find that his voice is being used in a documentary – and surprise – surprise – without his participation or permission. They scraped his voice talent from his narration of the seven Harry Potter books to create a well-modulated AI generated voice. Read more about it the Deadline article here.

Amazon Category Picking – Ghost Categories are a thing!

Most of us are aware of Amazon changing the way authors choose categories as they upload to the KDP dashboard . . . gone is the ability to choose up to 10 categories for each format of your book. Instead, you choose three categories from Amazon’s list (not BISACs) when you upload your book. Watch Dave Chesson’s video below (9 min) to get the scoop and/or read this article illustrating the same important category information

Important note: Chesson also talks about ghost categories. (You may be asking what strange beast is this new thing—ghost categories??) These are the 27% of all Amazon categories for which you are unable to earn a bestseller status – and that aren’t even findable through normal browsing by Amazon shoppers. And the only way (currently) to know which of the categories is to use the Kindlepreneur Publisher Rocket software. Further, Amazon continues to reserve the right to put you in whichever categories it deems most appropriate for your book. One way to ensure that you stay in the categories that you’ve chosen is to look at the special keywords you can use that match a particular category. And where do you find this information?—again, the Publisher Rocket software has these lists available.  I highly recommend this software—I use it so frequently. Check it out here.

The Absolute Worst Schools in Fiction

And, for a little bit of fun, let’s look at Lit Reactor’s list of the worst schools characters attend in fiction . . . I think Crunchem Hall from Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” is my favorite worst school, but the others are great contenders, too.

The Latest on AI in the Writing and Publishing World (this rollercoaster is NOT stopping!)

How AI Generated Books Could Hurt Self-Publishing Authors from Jane Friedman

Interesting article about how easy it is to publish an AI generated book and have it available within days on multiple platforms.

Why This Award-Winning Piece of AI Art Can’t Be Copyrighted from Wired Magazine

“Matthew Allen’s AI art won first prize at the Colorado State Fair. But the US government has ruled it can’t be copyrighted because it’s too much ‘machine’ and not enough ‘human.’” Read why here. 

Internet Archive Appeals Lost in Library eBook Lawsuit from the Verge

Well, they aren’t going down without a fight. If you thought that the recent court loss for Internet Archive in the ebook copyright infringement was the end of the story, you would be wrong. (big sigh) Here's more about their appeal.

How to Use AI in Your Book Marketing

Another look at AI’s ability to help you market your book – and the ethics of doing that from Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Show. Are there ways to use AI to improve your marketing? Read the transcript here or watch below.

“AI Will Never Be Good Enough to Replace Real Authors” is the wrong conversation by Jamie Canaves for Book Riot

Canaves makes the point that the argument that AI won’t be good enough to fully replace authors gives us a false sense of security in an AI world that’s rapidly improving it’s capabilities. Read it here. 

I’ve read so many great writing craft articles in the past 30 days . . . here are my eight favorites.

How Can You Tell if You’re starting Your Story in the Right Place by Susan DeFreitas for Jane Friedman’s blog. 

The article focuses on the basic context of the story, the story’s problem and assessing what the character wants or needs – all in relation to how those are presented in your opening pages.

Writing Believable Characters from Michal Leah for The Good Story Company

The focus here is on what the characters are feeling and wanting and the specificity  with which these emotions are described.

Anti-Villains & Why We Love GOOD Baddies from Kristen Lamb

We do love a great villain, don’t we? Both as a reader and a writer because they’re so much fun to read about and to create. Kristen Lamb’s craft articles are always worth a read and this one is no different.

Chosen One Stories: Is Your Hero Worthy of the Journey by Kristen Overman for the Good Story Company

This post boils things down into the specific: Why is your main character chosen? What are they chosen for—what’s their mission? – and how do they handle being chosen—do they rise to the occasion? What makes them unique? Wonderful examples are given to illustrate each point.

Does Your Multiple Storyline Novel Work? Questions to Ask Yourself from Tiffany Yates Martin for Jane Friedman’s blog

The pitfalls of this type of story structure are discussed and the writer is encouraged to ask some tough questions about whether the multiple storylines are necessary . . . perhaps it’s not the right story structure if one of the storylines peters out or one is consistently more fun to write. Must read if you’re contemplating this kind of story.

The Dialogue Doctor Will See You Now with Jeff Elkins on the Self-Publishing Show

Ooh, it’s been a while since we had a deep dive into dialogue writing. In this podcast author Jeff Elkins troubleshoots dialogue problems, giving us tips & tricks – along with a pdf worksheet to help us out. Read the transcript here or watch below. 

The Difference Between Editing and Revising by Amy Wilson for the Good Story Co.

This article defines the difference between editing and revising and then goes on to ask detailed questions to help you do both – I’d bookmark this for when you’re at this stage with a manuscript. Really smart questions to help you determine whether your story is hitting the mark.

Three Ways to Use Theme to Deepen Your Story by Sharon Skinner

This excellent article starts out by examining what theme is – so you can identify it in your story. Skinner then teaches us how to use theme to add conflict, develop subplots, and foreshadow events in our work.

Creating Compelling Fiction Descriptions that Sell

Sandra Beckwith introduces us to a book that she describes as a game-changer for writing a great book description: “Fiction Blurbs The Best Page Forward Way: The Step-by-Step Guide to Win over Readers, Sell More Books, and Market Like a Pro.” Definitely click through to read her assessment of the book in her blog post here. I’ll be buying this book for sure! 



There were four of articles discussing email marketing strategy, newsletters and more this month …

The Ultimate Email Marketing Glossary for Authors: 16 Key Terms

Sandra Beckwith gives this excellent set of terms all authors should be familiar with. Read it here: https://buildbookbuzz.com/email-marketing-glossary-for-authors/ If you’re new to email marketing this is a great place to start.

8 Tips for Becoming an Author Email Expert

Written Word Media’s Clayton Noblit explains why email marketing is so important and helps us understand open rates, how to keep our list clean, how to re-engage lapsed readers and more. 


Substack Review: An Updated Features Summary for 2023

Nick Wolny’s article addresses generally why email newsletters work and what’s good and not so good about Substack. I know many authors are considering shifting away from their current newsletter/email systems to Substack, so hopefully this info will help make that decision.

Subscriber Surge Giveaways from Written Word Media

This is a cool offer from Written Word Media where authors can get new email followers through a giveaway system that they have created for many book genres. Check it out here.


Book Publicity: What Works and What Doesn’t

Kathleen Schmidt’s article lists a lot of great ways to get visibility for your book . . . publicity is typically free and that’s what she’s focusing on here. Although, some of the items listed will have fees – for instance, you might use a review service or a blog tour coordinator. I don’t agree with all of her assertions, but the list is worth a look. https://kathleenschmidt.substack.com/p/book-publicity-what-works-and-what

140 Book Marketing Ideas to Help Authors Increase Sales

AJ Yee compiles a fab list of ways you can market your book for the Bookbub Partners Blog. This is a pretty decent map of all the elements a good book marketing campaign should contain. Get it here

Written Word Media’s New Listicle Offer

Wow – WWM is doing a great job creating new offerings that can help authors get the word out on their books. Each of the promo sites they manage – Bargain Booksy, Free Booksy, and Red Feather Romance all have their own requirements and themes for each month's list. See if any of your books might fit here.

The fiction guest blogging audience most novelists don’t know about

Sandra Beckwith encourages authors to identify nonfiction ‘nuggets’ from their novels that can make for great guest blogs. She presents an excellent list that walks you through how to find those nonfiction topics inside your fiction work. 


How I Sell 20 Books a Day with BookBub Ads

The title says it all . . . C. L. Murray details how this ad success was achieved on the BookBub platform.


Biggest BookBub Ad Mistakes Authors & Marketers Are Making

So, if you’re not selling 20 books a day with your Bookbub ads like the previous article, perhaps you should see if you’re making one of these 10 mistakes.


This Novelist Had 10,000 Book Pre-orders Because of Social Media

Dan Blank walks through Breanne Randall’s exceptional success on utilizing social media to gain this number of pre-orders. It’s really interesting to see how she gains attention. And, what’s nice is that it looks easy to create similar content on TikTok.


The Great Instagram Glow Up

Lara Ferrari (for Sandra Beckwith’s blog) gives excellent tips for optimizing and doing (perhaps) much-needed maintenance on your Instagram account. This is great advice. I need to do this! See if you do, too, here: https://buildbookbuzz.com/the-great-instagram-glow-up/

Breathe Life into Old Books with TikTok

Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Show welcomes Lloyd Richards whose daughter Marguerite used TikTok to gain new attention for her dad’s books. Read the transcript here or watch below.  



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