How Grammar-Savvy Are You? Take This Quiz to Find Out

You know you’ve got a knack for words, but being a strong writer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a strong editor.

But who really cares if your writing has some mistakes here and there? Isn’t that what editors are for?


Poor grammar will stand in the way of your writing career whether you realize it or not. If you want to make a good first impression in your pitches and become a publication’s go-to writer, your writing needs to be nearly flawless.

It may have been a while since your last English class, so we created a short grammar quiz to put your editing skills to the test. Find out if you’re a grammar pro or if you could use some time brushing up on your editing skills.

The Write Life’s grammar quiz for writers

Each of these sentences features one common grammar or punctuation mistake.

Give it your best shot, then scroll down to see how you did!

  1. Local media is calling for the mayor’s immediate resignation following recent reports of his embezzlement scheme.
  1. It may be counterintuitive, but if your child is struggling with separation anxiety, quickly saying goodbye to them is the best short-term solution.
  1. Without having her address, it was hard to find her house.
  1. No one objects to the library’s closing more than me!
  1. “Have you seen my book? I left it lying on the table last night, but now it’s gone.”
  1. Your sister is still obsessed with Twilight—she showed up to the Halloween party wearing a blood red dress and pointy vampire teeth.
  1. My favorite Chinese restaurant doesn’t deliver, however, the one across town does.
  1. The editor-in-chief is retiring next May, meaning one of the senior editors are going to be up for the job.
  1. My doctor recommended I get the flu shot only in October.
  1. We’d like to publish your article, and pay you $1 per word.

Answer key

Feeling confident? Let’s see how you did!

Each correction appears in bold, followed by a brief explanation.

1. Local media are calling for the mayor’s immediate resignation following recent reports of his embezzlement scheme.

“Media” may sound singular, but it’s actually plural! (The singular form is “medium.”) This sentence represents a common error in subject-verb agreement.

2. It may be counterintuitive, but if your child is struggling with separation anxiety, quickly saying goodbye to her is the best short-term solution.

This sentence has a problem with pronoun-antecedent agreement. Because “child” is singular, it should take a singular pronoun like “he” or “she.”

AP has recently accepted the use of “their” as a singular pronoun in limited cases, such as when non-binary people prefer to be referred to with a gender-neutral pronoun, but in most instances, you’ll want to choose a singular pronoun or rephrase your sentence.

3. Without having her address, I had a hard time finding her house.

This sentence is a prime example of a dangling modifier. In the original sentence, the phrase “without having her address” is modifying the subject “it.” Except “it” isn’t referring to anything!

The corrected sentence clarifies who exactly was missing the address and struggling to find the house.

4. No one objects to the library’s closing more than I.

I’ll admit this is an ugly sentence that should be rephrased before being published anywhere. Ugly or not, “I” is the correct pronoun here because it’s the subject of the sentence, so it requires the subjective case (rather than the objective “me”).

Issues with case are some of the most common problems editors come across. The rules are confusing even for professional writers! If you’re having trouble, try flipping the sentence around: “I object to the library’s closing more than anyone.”

5. “Have you seen my book? I left it laying on the table last night, but now it’s gone.”

Is there any case of mistaken word identity more prevalent than lay/lie?

In short, “lie” means to recline, while “lay” means to put or place an object somewhere. To make matters even more confusing, “lie” becomes “lay” in past tense!

6. Your sister is still obsessed with Twilight—she showed up to the Halloween party wearing a blood-red dress and pointy vampire teeth.

Hyphens can be tricky little buggers. The general rule is to hyphenate compound modifiers before a noun but not after (“Her dress was blood red”). There are plenty of exceptions, though, so be sure to consult a dictionary and your preferred style guide if you’re in doubt!

7. My favorite Chinese restaurant doesn’t deliver. However, the one across town does.

This run-on sentence is trying to slide under your radar by using the word “however” to connect two independent clauses (clauses that could stand on their own as complete sentences). The only words with that power are called coordinating conjunctions: “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.”

8. The editor-in-chief is retiring next May, meaning one of the senior editors is going to be up for the job.

Subject-verb agreement strikes again! Don’t let the plural “editors” fool you. “One” is the singular subject here.

9. My doctor recommended I get the flu shot in October only.

“Only” is the culprit behind many misplaced modifier errors. There are even more options for this sentence depending on what the writer meant:

  • Only my doctor recommended I get the flu shot in October. (No one else advised this, just your doctor.)
  • My only doctor recommended I get the flu shot in October. (You have one doctor, not many.)
  • My doctor recommended I get only the flu shot in October. (Your doctor recommended you get the flu shot but no other vaccinations during October.)

Context is everything! When using modifiers like “only” or “just,” you can avoid confusion by placing them as close as possible to the word they’re modifying.

10. We’d like to publish your article and pay you $1 per word.

Many writers get in the habit of using commas where they’re not needed with conjunctions like “and” and “but.”

No comma is necessary if a dependent clause follows the conjunction (in other words, it couldn’t stand on its own as a full sentence).

Now that you know which tricky grammar errors to watch out for, make your writing even better with these 25 editing tips to tighten your copy!

How did you do? Let us know your results (and any other common editing errors we didn’t cover) in the comments.

The post How Grammar-Savvy Are You? Take This Quiz to Find Out appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-11-28T22:44:22+00:00 November 28th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

3 Shameless Book Promotion Tips For Your Next Release

What was the last book you were really excited to get your hands on?

Think about it for a moment:

  • Where did you learn about it?
  • How did it catch your attention?
  • What made you need to read it?

For me, it almost always starts with an author I already love. Then, I read an update on the author’s blog, or catch word from a friend, or get an alert on Goodreads. It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is, it’s welcome news.

Done right, it feels organic and natural. But take it from someone with 10 years of public relations  experience — it almost never is. Building excitement takes planning and effort.

Now, before you blame your beloved authors for knowing how to promote their work — this is good news.

It means you can get your readers that excited for your books, too.

I’ve been paying attention to authors who do this well, and now, as my second full novel is about to hit the shelves, I’m getting my first chance to put my lessons to work.

Here are a few tips from what I’ve observed works best, and how to put it to work for yourself.

1. It starts with genuine enthusiasm

Just because you’ve got an end goal of promoting doesn’t mean it can’t also be authentic.

You know that feeling you get when you’re writing and you’re loving what you’re creating? Maybe it’s because of the myth of the tortured artist, but most of us don’t embrace this awesome feeling enough (guilty as charged).

The authors who build reader suspense really well, ride this feeling for all its worth, and they let their readers in on it.


“Did I just throw a hydra into a major fight scene? You bet I did. Not sure how our heroes are going to get out of this one…”

So pay attention to those moments of “yes!” and share them. Even better, remember them to share more later when the book is releasing.

book promotion2. Flaunt your signature flair

How does your favorite TV show get you excited for a new upcoming season?

Your favorite authors are using similar tactics to build your excitement.

Let’s take Stranger Things as an example. In season one, one of the most gripping details was the show’s monster — the demagorgon. In the final episode of the season, the show teased a new monster’s name, a thessalhydra. Now, the teasers for the new season are teasing a strange, shadowy creature through the mist.

So the question is, what do readers love about your books? Milk it.


If you loved Adem’s narration in book #1, I can’t wait for you to see him through Rona’s eyes in book #2.

3. Create insider treasures

Nothing makes a reader feel like an A-class insider like being treated to A-class gifts.

Many authors create incredible extras inspired by their writing, drawn from their characters or worlds. This can be anything from a map of an alternate world to lovely character cards, or a peek behind the curtain at your creative process.

If you create it and present it with love, your readers will feel special for having it.

For mine, I hired an artist with a unique visual style I felt matched the tone of my novels to create a poster for them. I am absolutely in love with the result, and readers have loved it, too.

Excitement is contagious!

Your book releases don’t have to just be about email blasts and promotion discounts. Just like your own favorite authors, you can take steps to build genuine excitement among your readership for your new books.

By sharing your own excitement, paying attention to what your readers love about your work, and crafting unique promotion offerings that make the experience special, you can build buzz that leaves your readers eager to grab your next release as soon as it’s on the shelves.

What gets you excited about a new book?

The post 3 Shameless Book Promotion Tips For Your Next Release appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-11-28T22:44:27+00:00 November 24th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

5 Huge Mistakes Ruining the Romantic Relationships in Your Book

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a serious problem with romantic relationships in literature nowadays.

And worse, this issue seems to be overlooked by the large majority of writers — until it’s too late, that is.

The problem: The unrealistic and unhealthy portrayal of romantic relationships.

There. I said it and now people can take notice because yes, there is a serious lack of realism when it comes to the romantic relationships in books..

Authors are writing relationships that are meant to be exciting and intense, but their execution of those couples can be flawed in sometimes very harmful, although unintentional ways.

There’s nothing wrong with writing romance. In fact, adding a romantic relationship to your book can do it some good. The dynamic of love can:

  • Up the stakes
  • Make readers more emotionally invested in the characters
  • Create contrast in emotions, adding to the coveted “roller coaster” of emotions
  • Give your readers another reason to root for your main character

All of these powerful elements can make your book a lot better, but only if you can create a relationship that isn’t problematic for the readers.

Which means you’ll want to avoid these mistakes many writers might not even realize they’re making when it comes to the romantic relationships in their stories.

1. Glamorizing abuse

This might be the biggest, most overlooked issue in books. There are way too many authors writing abusive relationships and passing them off as romantic, particularly in the young adult genre, though this can be seen in all types of books.

If you’re not sure what this looks like, it’s when writers portray abuse as love.

They write about a person being overly jealous and verbally abusive to their partner and have the main character justify it by narrating that the other person “just can’t live with the thought of losing” them. So the main character is written as seeing this abuse as true love.

This romanticization of abuse is simply harmful to anyone reading it. Young people might turn to books when it comes to learning about romance. If they don’t have a healthy relationship to learn from in real life, they might think the relationships in books is how it’s supposed to be.

Therefore, they accept abuse and pass it off as the person just “caring about them too much” because that’s what they’ve seen in their favorite books.

In order to avoid these types of mistakes, make sure your relationships are written consensually. Think about how you’d feel and act given the situation you’re putting your characters in.

A general rule is, if you’d be appalled by someone being treated that way in real life, it’s not right.

2. Instant romances

Think about the romantic relationships you’ve been in or have seen around you. How often do you hear two people locking eyes across a restaurant and falling madly and immediately in love with one another?

Not often. Because it’s not realistic, and that’s not the way love works.

For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it’s just as it sounds. An instant romance is when two people meet and are in “love” and in a committed relationship instantly. Or within a very, very short amount of time, which is not remotely accurate.

However, there are many novelists who write romances this way with the intention of creating an intense moment, but it sends a very harmful message to young readers and  takes away from the realism in your book.

You can write intensity without making your characters be “in love” right off the bat.

Relationships take time. You have to get to know one another first, build the chemistry and allow that spark to ignite before you can begin that romantic journey.

Why should your book characters be any different?

If you want the relationship to be realistic and keep your readers fully immersed in it, you have to give it the appropriate amount of time to grow and evolve.

3. Making a single person passive in the relationship

Relationships aren’t about one person seizing control of the other and making all the choices.

Both people should be equally as active in the ongoings of the partnership. Because it’s just that — a partnership.

This makes it a little concerning when writers make a single person who just goes with the flow and doesn’t really care about much. This person doesn’t initiate anything, make any choices for the sake of the relationship and when going gets tough, they sit back and let the other person do everything.

This is both unrealistic and just plain boring. It doesn’t add anything interesting to the dynamic of the relationship and readers won’t root for them.

Make sure you’re writing a romantic relationship between two people, not between a person and a passive robot.

4. Writing relationships without commonalities

If two people are in a relationship, they should have things in common. They don’t need to both like the same food, movies, books and activities, but they should have similarities at their core.

If you have two characters who are moral opposites and don’t share the same values, your readers are going to question why they’re together in the first place.

And if you can’t really answer why they’re together other than the fact that they need to be for plot reasons, you’ll have to do some adjusting. Characters can’t just be involved for the sake of the story’s conflict.

If those two people need to be in a relationship for your plot to work, then you need to put just as much effort into their dynamic as a couple as you do for the entire plot.

Otherwise, the plot won’t matter because readers won’t care about the relationship.

5. Never allowing for vulnerability

In order for your characters to bond on a deep enough level for love to be in the air, some vulnerability needs to happen. They need to open up to each other and express more emotions than lust and longing.

How else will they be able to grow closer? Allowing for moments of vulnerability shows their weaknesses. Not only will this be important for crafting a stronger emotional connection between characters, it’ll also help your readers connect with them more.

Here are a few ways you can create some vulnerability:

  • Have one character get injured
  • Create conflict involving something one is particularly sensitive about
  • Make a character break down from the stress of your plot
  • Have them share secrets

Even strong, tough characters need moments of vulnerability and weakness. Not only does this make the relationship stronger, your readers will also like the character a lot more because they’ll be able to relate. Two birds, one stone.

Adding romantic relationships to your novel can up the stakes, add a layer of interest and give your audience all the lovey-dovey feels, but in order to have those effects take hold, you’ll need to write them correctly.

And writing them correctly means avoiding these mistakes that can take your fictional relationship from realistically impactful to harmfully impactful.

Are there any mistakes you’ve noticed other authors making when it comes to romantic relationships in books and what tips do you have for writers trying to avoid these pitfalls?

The post 5 Huge Mistakes Ruining the Romantic Relationships in Your Book appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-10-06T05:45:59+00:00 October 6th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

8 Styles of Music to Help You Focus While You Write

Regardless of what makes you tick, we all seem to be universally moved by one thing: music.

We use our favorite songs to get pumped up for competition, stay motivated through a workout and drown our sorrows after a breakup.

It’s no surprise we turn to music for inspiration when we’re ready to get creative, too.

“I wrote my first book while listening to the music of Leonard Cohen and Evanescence,” says writer Paula J. Braley. “When I read it over, I can hear the music in my head.”

What kind of music is best for writing is a constant source of debate and angst among writers. You need something energizing — but not overpowering. Inspiring — but in the right tone. Motivating — but not distracting.

The topic has come up several times in The Write Life Community group on Facebook, so I pulled together everyone’s recommendations — and a few of my own — to inspire your next writing playlist (and your next masterpiece!).

1. Music to get you in the mood to write

For those days when you don’t believe in yourself or anything you’re working on, turn on a get-positive playlist to drag yourself to work.

Mine is called “Girl Power.” I know that’s cheesy.

It’s what I need some days to remind me I’m awesome and worthy of achieving the goals I’ve set.

My “Girl Power” playlist includes danceable numbers like “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I’m also all about feel-good throwbacks like “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry.

Writer and filmmaker Andrew Butts recommends “In One Ear” by Cage the Elephant. “Not only is it a high energy ‘let’s get moving’ song,” he says, “but for creatives, its general message is ‘f*** the critics.’”

That’s a good way to get yourself out of bed and straight to work.

Freelance writer and YA author Lauren Tharp says, “For positive music, I usually turn to ‘Go for Gold’ by Kyle Patrick. Also: ‘Good Day’ by The Click Five.”

Freelance writing guru Carol Tice says her get-positive list “is more old school,” including:

  • “Good Day Sunshine” by the Beatles
  • “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff
  • “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)”

“Seriously” Tice says of that last song, “if you don’t need to get up and dance to that, you’re in trouble!”

She also says, “‘San Francisco’ by The Mowglis cannot be beat for positivity.”

2. A soundtrack for your novel

The most popular response to a “best music to write to” question is usually “It depends.”

A lot of writers choose music based on the mood of what they’re writing.

“For fantasy,” says Lidy Wilks, “I listen to Peter Gundry [and] Vindsvept on [YouTube]. Romance, [it’s] R&B and slow jams.”

“If I’m pondering a scene or wanting to listen to something for motivation, then I’ll pop something on appropriate,” says Sean-Michael Alton Kerr. “Some Sia if I want a strong character moment, Amon Amarth for an epic battle scene or some classical music to just calm down my mind before starting in.”

David H. Fears gets into his characters’ heads through song. He says, “In one of my mysteries, my main man kept hearing ‘Body and Soul’ by Billie Holiday, so I often played it while editing those sections.”

Chandi Gilbert, on the other hand, uses music to tap into her own head: “I was writing a personal essay about me being 13, so I played the top songs from 1994. It really set the mood and took me back to where I needed to be! It’s amazing how a few notes of a song can instantly transport you back to puberty.”

“When I was writing my romance,” says Anna Górnaś, “Alter Bridge and their guitarist, [Mark] Tremonti, made me write a LOT.”

Di Read says, “For my Roman-Britain novel, I like ‘Celtic Twilight’ I and II. For my tarty novella, I like Clannad’s ‘Robin [the Hooded Man]’ and Enya.”

Here are more mood-setters recommended by the community:

  • Zaki Ibrahim (especially the album “Eclectica”)
  • “Sunshine” by Floetry
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • Beck
  • “A Serbian Film” soundtrack
  • “Watch Me” by Labi Siffre

3. Folk, Americana and folky pop music

Folk used to be my go-to genre for writing, because it’s mellow. Some writers agree.

“I usually listen to indie or folk when I write for my blog, because I’m usually calmer and the words flow a little better for me,” says Heidi Carreon.

“I listen to folk/Americana music,” says John Skewes. “The writing and stories help me as a sort of fuel. But I turn it all off when write. I need the quiet to hear the voices.”

More folk recommendations from the community:

  • Iron & Wine
  • The Franklin Electric
  • Ray LaMontagne (especially the album “Til the Sun Turns Black”)
  • “Just Breathe,” covered by Willie Nelson
  • Neil Young (especially the album “Harvest Moon”)
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Andrew McMahon
  • The Head and the Heart

But folk has one major flaw for writers: It’s heavy on the lyrics. Most writers said they absolutely can’t write to music with lyrics playing… lest the words creep into their prose.

4. Instrumentals, like jazz or classical

When you really get into whatever you’re working on, the world can fade away.

The scene you’re writing starts to play out in your mind as if it’s projected on a screen in front of you. The soundtrack swells like the orchestra that drives Willem Dafoe through a crime scene in “The Boondock Saints.”

When that doesn’t come naturally, try setting the scene.

“If I listen to any music at all while writing,” says Debra Walkenshaw, “it must be classical or meditative with no words.”

Linton Robinson says, “The idea of listening to words while writing seems nuts. I just love internet jazz stations.”

But it doesn’t have to all be music that’s older than your grandparents. Modern experimental music like Blue Man Group or instrumental covers of contemporary songs can do the trick, too.

Some instrumental recommendations from the community:

  • Chris Botti (especially the album “Italia”)
  • Blue Man Group
  • 2cellos
  • Gregorian chant

5. Electronic music

I don’t enjoy classical or orchestral music much. It doesn’t put me in the right mood for most of what I write (i.e. not epic stories). So I was thrilled when my colleague Susan Shain made this recommendation: “When I’m writing, I like electronic.”

She turned me onto the genre for writing, and now it’s one of my favorites.

Electronic spans musical styles, so you can probably find something you like. And while some of it has lyrics, many of the songs distort or edit the vocals so much you can’t get attached to the words.

And it’s just the right energy to drown out a noisy office, coffee shop or house full of kids while you write.

Shain recommends:

  • STS9
  • Pretty Lights
  • Big Gigantic
  • Thievery Corporation

6. Music in a foreign language

This is the most exciting recent addition to my writing playlist: music in any language but English.

This works for me, because it lets me listen to the style of music I want — whether it’s pop or folk or whatever — without fixating on the words. Pick a language you don’t speak, and search for your style of music.

Here are a couple I like (I’d love your additional recommendations!):

  • Zaz (French)
  • Jane Bordeaux (Hebrew)
  • Buena Vista Social Club (Spanish)

7. Video game and movie soundtracks

I love this recommendation from fiction writers! What better way to get into the scene you’re working on than to play music meant to accompany a story?

Pick a movie or video game in the same genre — or that has the same mood — as your book, and find its soundtrack. Or if you just want something in the background while you work, tune into an online music station dedicated to soundtracks.

Soundtrack recommendations from the community:

8. Ambient noise

I once asked my coworkers what they were listening to at work, and I was surprised to learn it was just…noise. Literally, they pop on noise-cancelling headphones to drown out the sounds of the open office, then tune into the sound of, well, sort of nothing.

That is, they were listening to white noise. Some prefer gray noise, white noise’s less staticky cousin. (Sound comes in an array of colors — they did not teach me that in kindergarten.)

I’ve since learned this isn’t uncommon. White noise or calming ambient sounds can clear your head and help you focus on what you’re writing, even when you’re surrounded by the chaos of coworkers, kids or a coffee shop.

Author and self-publishing expert Joanna Penn even listens to the sounds of rain and thunderstorms to slip into her alter ego, J.F. Penn, and craft her bestselling thrillers.

For anyone who loves working in a coffee shop for the hustle and bustle around you, try turning on Coffitivity. It recreates the chatter of customers, clang of cash registers and whirring of espresso machines that power writers everywhere.

Noise makers recommended by community:

What can music do for your writing?

Unfortunately, no one seems to agree on the absolute best music to write to. What you pump into your speakers or headphones depends on the mood you’re trying to set and what kind of work you’re trying to achieve.

Are you drowning out a noisy office or livening up a dead-silent home? Are you writing a blog post, a romantic scene or an in-depth piece of journalism? Do you need motivation to get started or inspiration to shape your character?

I hope these community recommendations give you a few ideas to get started next time you’re staring down a blank playlist.

(Note: Unless otherwise cited, names and pronouns of community members are based on public Facebook profile information.)

What kinds of music do you listen to for inspiration while you write?

The post 8 Styles of Music to Help You Focus While You Write appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-10-05T05:44:15+00:00 October 5th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

Playing The Sims Could Help You Beat Writer’s Block — Here’s How

As a writer, I have two extreme moods.

One is that I’m feeling incredibly inspired, where it’s difficult to just write down every single idea I have, and even more difficult to actively pursue them all. The second mood is one all writers know too well: Writer’s block.

I’ve been writing for over a decade, so I’m not new to the uninspiring feeling of staring at a blank Word document for hours without having anything to say.

But, I do have a unique solution: Whenever I felt a particular lack of creative energy, I turn to video games: specifically, The Sims.

Video games can provide inspiration when you feel like all hope is lost. Here’s how they can help you conquer writer’s block.

1. They teach you about plot

Science fiction and fantasy writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew has most recently been inspired by Masquerada, NieR: Automata, and Transistor as well as older games Silent Hill 2 and 3.

“I was absolutely obsessed with [Automata] for at least a month after completing the game, and a lot of the story beats, themes and imagery have stayed with me,” she explained. “I like to say that writers can learn a lot from its opening, where protagonist 2B contemplates the ‘spiral of life and death’ and her speculation on whether she will have a chance to kill the god that created her one day. It sets the theme and, fitting with 2B’s musing that everything that lives is designed to end, we see her entire squad quickly slaughtered with 2B as the lone survivor.”

Different plots will expose you to different storylines, whether they’re complex or simple, entertaining or boring, and good or bad. Either way, there’s something to be learned from all of them.

2. They tell you how not to write

Comic illustrator and writer Victoria Chu turned to Japanese role playing games, such as the Final Fantasy Tale of- series, to learn how to “flesh out” narratives and tell a detailed storyline.

However, oftentimes, she noticed the plots were often extremely complicated and convoluted, which encouraged her to shy away from that type of narrative arc.

With Final Fantasy, the original art style helped me shape what kind of aesthetic I want in my stories/ worlds,” she explains. “The narrative I find is recycling the typical one true hero archetype so I tend to not use those games for examples in writing.

3. They help you sort through emotions

“The last time a game helped me was when I played Persona 5 and SMT4 Apocalypse,” Chu added. “Having to deal with dark feelings was refreshing because it was making me uncomfortable in a good way.”

While the content wasn’t emotionally triggering, the plots allowed her to understand the weight of a story conflict in a much deeper way. She learned that dark narrative themes don’t always have to equivocate distressing content.

Additionally, when I played the Sims, it was the first time I emotionally processed what it was like to have siblings. I grew up as an only child and never had to share any of my belongings or spaces in my household, so when my characters had big families, it helped me gain a little insight — but admittedly not that much — in how I’d write about siblings. For instance, when there was only one computer in the household and a child was playing on it, I saw the other child’s fun level go down.

4. They make you pay attention to details

While video games haven’t completely helped Sriduangkaew out of writer’s block, she mentions that playing video games help her pay attention to small details, such as lighting.

“I was stuck in a military science fiction story,” she explains. “Something in XCOM 2 nudged me with a little detail that let me finish writing an atmospheric description. I think it was something as random as the lighting in a mission.”

Oftentimes, a video game’s minor details and touches can help us spark the small touches to add to our own stories, whether it’s lightning bolts in the background–or the Simlish language, the fake language Sim characters speak.

5. They have stellar soundtracks

If you’re like me, you can easily find yourself consumed and distracted by music when you’re supposed to be working. (Since I work from home, I don’t have any colleagues to disrupt when I burst out into song.)

Fortunately, many video game soundtracks are instrumental.

“Many games have music that’s intrinsically linked to individual scenes or moments,” Sriduangkaew explains. “They’re much better than most at putting me in specific moods.

Plus, you don’t even have to play video games to listen to their soundtracks.

To help you get in the zone, pop up your preferred music streaming app of your choice, search for a popular video game soundtrack, and get your pen and paper ready.

The next time you’re feeling stuck, pick up a video game and allow yourself to get lost. You may soon find yourself inspired by the game’s storyline.

Do you have a go-to game you play to foster creative energy?

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

The post Playing The Sims Could Help You Beat Writer’s Block — Here’s How appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-10-04T05:44:34+00:00 October 4th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

Editors Dish: What They Want New Freelance Writers to Understand

“… So you mean I have to call him?”

Few people in the office understood my reticence to pick up the phone and ask someone some questions. It would only take a couple of minutes, after all, and it was critical to the story.

But I hadn’t gravitated toward the written word because of my loquaciousness and charm. On the contrary: The solitary nature of writing was a huge part of why it always seemed to suit this introverted nerd.

Having just taken my first big-girl position as a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder, however, I quickly learned I’d need to find my voice — like, my spoken one — if I wanted to make it in the industry. Interviewing sources was non-negotiable if I wanted to keep writing for a paycheck.

I wasn’t about to give up that hard-won title; I’d never really believed I’d ever get it in the first place. So I looked up a few articles about how to conduct effective phone interviews, took a deep breath, and started dialing.

How writing is different on the professional level

Interviewing was only one of a set of journalistic skills I had to learn on the fly.

I’d double-majored in English and philosophy as an undergrad and spent a year studying poetry at the Master’s level, so I was no stranger to putting words on paper. But many aspects of this new type of writing eluded me.

For one thing, I was really long-winded. And AP style was a calculus I couldn’t fathom. (I still can’t understand how they possibly decided the correct spelling is “drive-thru.”)

But over time, I was able to learn to think like a journalist — or at least get better at it.

I figured out how to maintain objectivity and avoid inserting myself into my prose. I picked up on the inverted pyramid and learned how to properly identify sources by their titles.

Soon, I found myself conducting interviews nerves-free — or, OK, nearly. I could turn around an urgent, timely post in 15 minutes flat, like a real newsroom pro.

It took time, patience, and a lot of fantastic mentorship and coaching; I’m truly indebted to the incredible writers I worked with.

But, man — wouldn’t it have been nice to know about some of the most common errors ahead of time?

What editors wish untrained writers knew

You don’t have to go to journalism school to be a journalist. In fact, some of the most celebrated journalists didn’t.

But there are things you need to keep in mind if you’re an untrained writer looking to make it as a professional — whether you’re reporting for a newspaper or just doing some occasional freelance blogging.

So we asked some editors to dish on the most common errors they see coming from unschooled writers.

Here’s what they said.

1. Editors are busy; pitch concisely

Pitching is one of the most important skills a freelance writer can learn. I mean, let’s face it; if you don’t pitch well, you’re not going to have any work in the first place.

Once you do the footwork of coming up with a great idea, deciding on a venue (or three) and finding the right editor to pitch it to, then comes the real project: Selling your story in as little space as possible. Editors get a lot of email, after all, not to mention their other duties.

Concision and clarity is key to pitching successfully.

Freelance editor Heather van der Hoop’s been at it for six years now, and she says one of her biggest pet peeves is receiving “long, rambly, stream of consciousness thoughts” in place of proper pitches — ideas as vague and unanchored as “I want to write about how to make money as a freelancer.”

That’s not gonna cut it.

A great pitch should give a clear thesis and explain why the story’s a good fit for a specific publication. You also need to establish yourself as a trustworthy and credentialed writer — all, ideally, in just a few paragraphs.

It’s no easy feat. But as in all things, practice makes perfect…and insight from seasoned writers never hurts, either.

2. And know ahead of time that pitches get rejected. A lot

Rejection is a huge part of making a living as a writer, and railing against it isn’t going to help your case.

“[Some] freelancers assume their pitch is the right one at the right time,” explains Christopher Gaffney, editor in chief at the Journal of Latin American Geography. But sometimes, your pitch will be rejected simply because the editorial board isn’t in a position to take it on at the moment.

Gaffney says he’s been on the receiving end of angry, pleading emails from jilted writers, and has even been accused of holding prejudiced editorial perspectives. But as a freelancer, you aren’t privy to the internal debates taking place at the publication. And unless your editor gives you a specific reason, you just don’t know exactly why your idea ended up in the pass pile.

So if an editor passes on your story, just shrug it off and move on to the next publication — or rethink your angle if you’ve heard “no” more than a couple of times.

3. Learn how to find appropriate sources

Learning how to host an effective interview is one (important!) thing. But before you even get there, you have to find the right interviewees in the first place.

It’s another of van der Hoop’s peeves to receive stories wherein the writer didn’t properly vet her sources, or perhaps couldn’t find fitting ones at all. Is this person an actual expert in the field? What are his credentials?

Furthermore, reporters are obligated to present as unbiased a story as possible, which means avoiding a reliance on sources with vested interests in a particular angle. “Get [multiple] sources with different points of view,” van der Hoop advises.

As far as the hunt itself goes, again — practice makes perfect. But keep an open mind and think outside the box. In the social media age, you might be surprised who you can find in your existing connections. (And don’t forget about HARO, either!)

4. Deadlines are important

As in, really important. As in, if you want to work with a publisher again, you’d better meet them.

“In my experience, non-journalist freelancers are terrible at sticking to deadlines,” says Olive & Company Inbound Marketing Director Jeff Roberts. “I don’t think they understand the ramifications of not meeting a deadline — especially in print publications.”

Think about it: Your final, published article will need to be vetted by an editor or two, at the very least. Depending on the piece, it may also need to spend time in an art, marketing, public relations, SEO, or fact-checking department…all in time for strict press deadlines.

Time is of the essence, and that due date in your ledger has meaning for a whole lot of people besides you.

Do everything in your power to stick to it.

5. Verify everything, especially names

J.R. Duren, a personal finance reporter at HighYa, was a marketing writer at a private university before making the transition to journalism. And when he got to his new position, he discovered it came with a brand-new source of stress.

“Every time I wrote a long front or A1 story, I was insanely anxious because I didn’t want to get a call the next day from someone saying I misspelled their name,” Duren says.

Obviously, it’s not just names that require diligent attention to detail when you’re writing journalistically. Unlike in a creative work, real people — and their reputations — are on the line.

“Every fact needs to be verified. If it’s not truth, it’s fiction,” Duren goes on.

There’s certainly a little less pressure in the digital publishing space, where a few clicks can fix a discrepancy.

But as a writer who’s misspelled a name before — that of an author I admire greatly and to whom I unintentionally tweeted my error — I can tell you: after-the-fact edits don’t make it any less humiliating.

6. Remove yourself from the prose — and yes, that sometimes includes your style

As a creative writer, this one was a little hard for me to swallow. But as it turns out, everything isn’t always about me.

When you’re writing professionally, your personal touch is eclipsed by the needs of the publication’s editorial board and readership.

Almost always, that means your opinion or perspective isn’t called for — unless you’re writing a personal essay.

And even if you’ve got objectivity down pat, remember: For many publications, it’s less about beautiful prose and more about pragmatism.

“Readers typically come to our articles after typing a specific search query into Google,” says Priyanka Prakash, managing editor at Fit Small Business. “They want the answer to their question or issue right away.”

“Journalists are trained to prioritize clarity and brevity; creative writers are trained to paint a picture with their words,” adds Roberts. “These are divergent goals and can lead to several additional rounds of edits and hours of re-training.”

In other words, yes, your writing may be beautiful… but it can also cost a lot of members of the editorial board extra time. (Which might make them hesitant to re-hire you.)

7. Be prepared for substantial edits

While we’re on the topic…

You’ve probably heard the old writing advice, “kill your darlings.” But when you take your writing to the professional level, you need to be ready to watch others do the honors.

No matter how long you’ve been writing or how tough you think you are, it can be difficult to see your hard work cut to pieces. But do your best not to take it to heart, because it’s all part of the biz.

Many publications have very strict length or word-count limits, or specific tone and style guidelines. Drafts might pass under one, two, or 10 editors’ review, so it’s no surprise you’ll get back something different from what you started with.

“The craft of writing is never done by just one person,” say Gaffney. “Editors are a major part of the writing process.”

Just because your elegant turn of phrase sounds perfect to you doesn’t mean it’ll work for the publication’s audience — which a good editor (hopefully) has more insight about than you do.

8. Your lack of a degree really doesn’t matter…if you’re good

At the end of the day, if you want to be a professional writer, you have to be good at it — and that doesn’t necessarily require a degree.

What it does take is lots of practice and dedication.

Tim O’Hagan’s been in the business for a quarter of a century, having authored almost a dozen books and presently serving as senior editor for Reader’s Digest. He’s worked with a lot of freelancers, and contends that the keys to great writing are effort and exposure rather than mere education.

“I firmly believe that any journalist, with or without a degree, who starts from the ground floor… and gains exposure to working in the media in all its forms will outperform… peers who have a theoretical backing of a degree, but relatively little exposure,” he says. A degree can be helpful, certainly — but the real skill is built in experiencing “the daily realities of getting the story, writing it with discipline and pathos, putting a strong headline on it, and making it so good everyone will read it.”

In other words, and yet again, it’s going to take practice and perseverance.

But that’s what writing is in the first place, right? Putting one word in front of the other, again and again, knowing you may even have to scrap it all and start over — but knowing, too, that when the it finally turns out right, all your effort will be worth it.

The post Editors Dish: What They Want New Freelance Writers to Understand appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-10-03T05:45:30+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

The 15 Worst (And Best) Parts About Becoming a Freelance Writer

Money isn’t everything. So goes the old adage, and a recent survey suggests many freelancers agree.

AND CO, creator of a productivity app for independent workers, recently surveyed hundreds of freelancers for their study “The Slash Workers.” Only seven percent of respondents said their main reason for going off on their own was financial. Much more prevalent were the desire for personal growth (40 percent of respondents) and greater flexibility (27 percent).

Financial stability is hardly a guarantee when you’re a freelancer writer. The vast majority of study respondents said things had not gotten much better for them money-wise since going solo: 34 percent had seen no significant change, while 43 percent were actually worse off.

That said, freelancers, for the most part, seem happy with their situations: 68 percent reported an increase in “quality of life” since going independent. Clearly there are factors beyond the financial that fulfill freelancers.

If you’re wondering whether freelancing is right for you, here are some of the biggest trade-offs you can expect to make.

Say goodbye to:

1. Stability

Long-time clients can cut and run without warning. Promising opportunities can peter into nothing. You may have more work than you can handle one month, and next to nothing the following month.

Getting comfortable with a feast-or-famine cycle is essential, at least until you build up a more reliable client base.

2. A steady paycheck

One positive of working for someone else is the ability to collect a regular paycheck every week (or every other week). You know exactly what your monthly income will be, so you can budget, plan ahead and have the security of knowing your hard work will pay off in a predictable fashion.

When you’re a freelancer, timely payment isn’t a given. Some clients drag their feet after you’ve turned in a project; others need to be chased down.

It’s critical to build up a savings buffer before going full-time so you can cover the lean months.

3. Benefits

Working as an independent contractor means you’re responsible for your own health insurance, 401K plan and other benefits.

If you don’t factor these extra costs in when determining how much money you’ll need to bring in, you could find yourself facing other unpleasant trade-offs — like whether to save for retirement or buy groceries.

4. Working on someone else’s schedule

No set hours means you can work whenever, and wherever, you like.  

If you’re a night owl, you can plug away until the wee hours of the morning and then sleep in till noon. If you’re sick, you can take a day off or schedule a last-minute doctor’s appointment without anyone tallying up your away time. You can also enjoy activities normally unavailable to 9-to-5 employees, like going to your kid’s afternoon recital or taking a mid-morning yoga class on a whim.

5. Having a boss

Your clients are, in a way, your “bosses,” but they don’t get involved in the minutiae of your daily routine. (At least, not if they’re good clients.) You’ll have specific deliverables to meet by a certain deadline, but no one will be peering over your shoulder telling you how to make it happen.

6. That awful commute

Never again will you be forced to endure gridlock as half your town’s population heads to and from work at the same arbitrary time. You can also say goodbye to added fuel costs, parking expenses and transit passes.

7. Being around people on a daily basis

Freelancing can be a lonely career. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said they miss “the feeling of community that a traditional workplace offers.” You may not be a huge fan of water cooler chitchat or forced birthday lunches, but spending day after day alone in your PJs isn’t always fun, either.

8. Clocking out

The downside of having no set schedule is that the lines between work and home can easily become blurred. When you could be doing work at any time, it can be hard to take time for yourself without feeling guilty about wasting a billable opportunity.

Say hello to:

1. Freedom

Want to take a week’s vacation? As long as you make sure your deadlines are met, that’s your prerogative. Not feeling the new project you’ve been sent? You have every right to only choose the ones you love.

As your own boss, you make the rules — which can be simultaneously thrilling and paralyzing.

2. Higher earning potential

Unlike a regular job, which is capped at a certain salary per year, freelancing offers the possibility to earn as much as your talent and marketing skills allow. That’s not to say freelancers are rolling in the dough; according to AND CO’s study, 43 percent of freelancers interviewed make $24,999 a year or under.

3. Location independence

You can travel without worrying about falling behind in your work. You can pick up and move to a whole new city if the spirit grabs you. You can also work from different locations, like a cafe or a park, to keep the inspiration fresh.

4. Being the boss

From marketing to tax prep to crisis management, everything is on your shoulders when you’re a business of one. You’ll need to learn to be an entrepreneur — or explore other ways to put your talents to use.

5. Creative outlet

From pitching new ideas to covering a wide range of topics, freelancing gives you plenty of scope for the imagination. If creating is essential to your happiness, freelancing is a great way to turn that drive into income.

6. Work/life balance

If you’re smart, organized and disciplined enough, freelancing can be a great way to pay the bills and still enjoy the life you have outside of work. With no set schedule to adhere to, you can work with your natural rhythms and make time for the things that are a priority to you.

7. Variety

As the name of the study indicates, many freelancers are “slash workers” — taking on a variety of projects in different areas to get the most buck for their bang. With 95 percent of respondents working as slashers, you can look forward to work that continually challenges and interests you.

As with any career, freelancing has its pros and cons. What’s important is being aware of those pros and cons and determining whether they’ll be the right fit for your personality and personal goals.

Freelancers: What other tradeoffs have you found you’ve had to make for your career, and do you think they’ve been “worth it”?

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor; follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.

The post The 15 Worst (And Best) Parts About Becoming a Freelance Writer appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-10-02T05:45:15+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

When Does a Writer Rest? It’s Time to Talk About Self-Care

Let’s start with some cold reality: My 2017 Q2 sales report is in.

I sold a grand total of 25 books, between two titles.

While my publisher assures me this is normal for a small press author between releases, I was somewhat distraught over this report.

There are a lot of reasons behind this dip in sales. As my publisher pointed out, I was in a lull between releases (my last true launch was March 2016, over a year before). Additionally, my personal life was in upheaval.

I had just settled back into my home in D.C. and returned to a full-time office job after two years of freelancing and flexibility. Additionally, a loved one was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments, and for whatever reason, the hubs and I had chosen to do an unusual amount of travel during this period.

In short, it was a busy and overwhelming time in just about every way. I was exhausted. This limited my ability to write consistently, let alone focus on marketing.

Sometimes, something just has to give.

There are a few caveats to this that soften the blow. I got 622 downloads of my freebie novella from new email subscribers during this period. Likewise, my social media following grew. And, I did the important work of finding a new, sustainable flow for my writing and marketing, within the parameters of my new life.

Amazingly, my life has only become more chaotic in the months since the time frame of this report.

So staring at these cold hard numbers prompted a question.

When does an author rest? And what is the cost?

At some point, I speculate that a writer’s platform begins to take on some of its own impetus, and that while one might see a modest dip in sales from a neglectful marketing period, it would be less significant.

But as a small press author early in my career, if I’m not hustling, the copies don’t get into readers’ hands.

That pressure is exhausting sometimes.

I’m not a machine. I can’t hustle-hustle-hustle without a break — and I’ve been trying very hard to summon the Energizer Bunny. But heck, even machines need to recharge.

Eventually, I must rest too. When I don’t, I start missing things. I make mistakes. My overall quality of work declines, and hard.

If I’m truly in this for the long tail, there is a much greater cost to not resting than there is to taking an occasional sales hit. Low numbers might hurt my pride, but if exhaustion leads to poor writing quality, there is no recovery.

No quarter is the end-all or be-all

This is about the long tail — growing a true career as an author. And if I’m going to do

that, I need to remain sane and release one knockout story after another.

Faster would be better, sure, but quality is my queen.

And if I go on trying to function on four hours of sleep, coffee and cortisol, quality is

just not going to happen.

So when I power down for bedtime or allow myself the occasional much-needed morning to sleep in, instead of write, this is what I tell myself when the guilt and ambitions start rising up.

writing restHarder vs. smarter: Playing the long game

Work harder all the time is not an option. Thus, I must learn to work smarter.

My key way of doing this has been to constantly reassess what I’ve done and look for ways to do it better. I also constantly study what other authors are doing that leads to success.

For example, when I created my freebie novella, I intended to only offer it through my website. But my publisher edited and formatted it, and thus they placed it for purchase on the usual sites. It first showed up on my website, then quietly later released digitally, then in print, for purchase elsewhere.

If I’d really been thinking ahead, and taking the time to communicate better with my small press, we could have turned this into a proper launch instead of a gradual trickle out. Missed opporunity to gain some serious momentum.

Lesson learned: An author who is working smarter thinks ahead and sees this type of opportunity. Don’t ever let a new release hit shelves without a bang of celebration around it.

To take care of your author career, you have to take care of yourself

So as 2017 continues to escalate the chaos on every single front of my life, I’ve been forced to try a new approach: Resting. Looking out for myself. Slowing down. Saying no, sometimes.

It’s not easy. But it’s necessary. So I’m trying to retrain my thinking, calibrating for the longer target.

Call it self-care if you want. I’m calling it a strategy.

How do you find balance between your author work and rest?

The post When Does a Writer Rest? It’s Time to Talk About Self-Care appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-09-29T05:44:30+00:00 September 29th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

5 Useful Pitching Tips for Targeting a New Publication

Even if you have plenty of great clients, you probably have your eye on at least another publication or two where you’d like to see your byline.

Whether it’s a new publication, a dream publication, or just one you think might be a good fit, you’ll want to do your research and tailor your pitch for the best chance of success breaking into a new market.

When I recently found a new-to-me publication I wanted to write for, I took specific steps to pitch, and eventually placed an article. Here’s what I recommend.

1. Learn about the publication

Whether you see the publication on your local newsstand or hear about it online, it’s useful to find out as much as you can before pitching.

When I heard about an intriguing publication through a connection, I decided to do a little research to see if it was a good fit. I took a peek at the publication and I also asked around to see what types of experiences other freelance writers had with that publication.

When I heard positive feedback from people who had worked with the publication, I decided to forge ahead.

Sometimes other writers may warn you about a negative experience they’ve had with a publication or editor and, while it’s always up to you, it’s often useful to at least consider what you’ve heard from other writers. It’s amazing what you can learn by simply talking to colleagues.

Quick note from The Write Life: Are you looking to improve your pitches? Get a free copy of The Freelance Writer’s Pitch Checklist to improve your success rate with editors.

2. Do your homework

Before I pitched the publication, I spent some time looking through its website. I wanted to see what kind of articles they usually ran and how they approached different topics.

You will also want to study the publication enough to demonstrate that you are familiar with what they cover. If there’s a particular department or section that you think your idea would be a good fit for, be sure to mention that in your pitch. Editors like to know you’ve done your homework.

It also pays off to see if the publication has covered your idea recently.

If they have, unless you have a unique and timely perspective on the same topic, you might be better off pitching that idea elsewhere.

pitching tips 3. Hone your angle

My first pitch included three potential angles on an event happening in my region.

When pitching a publication for the first time, it’s often helpful to use your specialized knowledge, whether that’s a certain niche or the area where you live, to demonstrate that you are the best writer to cover that particular story.

While any writer could cover a more generalized story, you want to show the editor that you are the best person to cover this particular story because of your unique qualifications.

4. Find your editor

Now that you know what publication you’d like to pitch and what you’d like to write about, it’s time to figure out who to present your idea to.

There are a number of ways to find the right editor, but it often involves a bit of trial and error.

If you can reach out to your network to see if anyone knows a specific editor to refer you to, that’s great. If you can find out who edits that beat or section, pitch that person.

I didn’t know which editor to pitch, so I scanned the masthead. Publications have a variety of different titles for their editors including managing editor, senior editor, editor in chief, associate editor and assistant editor.

I couldn’t find specific guidelines on who to pitch, so I picked a mid-level editor and prepared my pitch.

If you’re not sure you have the right editor, some writers find it helpful to include a line along the lines of “I’d love if you could help me direct this pitch to the appropriate editor.” While busy editors may not always have time to respond with this information, you’ll gain very valuable information if they do.

5. Present it right

Once I found the editor I wanted to contact, I composed an email with a quick note of introduction including a few relevant clips and a link to my website. Then, I pitched my ideas in a few short paragraphs.

Be sure to check the publication’s writers guidelines for instructions before sending your pitch. There might be an email address just for submissions, or it might mention important pitching guidelines to keep in mind.

I heard back quickly. The editor liked my idea and was able to assign me a short article in an upcoming issue.

But the catch was the deadline was coming up fast and my copy was due the following day. I shuffled around a few things in my schedule and was able to turn the story around quickly and land my first article in the publication.

With any publication, it pays to do your homework, but with a new publication, it’s especially important. You want to make the right first impression, so make sure your pitch reflects your top-notch writing skills.

Sometimes it just comes down to a bit of luck and good timing. If I had pitched my idea a couple days later, there’s a good chance it would have been too late for the publication since it was a timely topic.

If your first idea isn’t accepted, don’t give up—keep pitching.

Have you ever pitched a new market? Tell us about your approach in the comments.

The post 5 Useful Pitching Tips for Targeting a New Publication appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-09-28T13:45:11+00:00 September 28th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |

The Indie Author’s Guide to Hitting the USA Today Bestseller List

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a bestselling author?

It’s certainly possible, but not everyone who sells well makes it onto the list. As it turns out, you need to meet certain criteria to even be considered for a list like the USA Today bestseller list.

Earlier this year, I hit the USA Today bestseller list with a multi-author box set.

I then joined a second list-aiming set, and in June, I ran a large promotion on my own series bundle. I didn’t make it that time, but I did learn a lot about what it takes to become a bestselling author.

The USA Today bestseller list ranks the top 150 best-selling books using data collected from the previous week from online and brick-and-mortar retailers. They publish the first 50 in the print version of USA Today and publish the top 150 online every Thursday.

Making the list can mean exposure for you, and the privilege of adding the title of “USA Today Bestselling Author” to your credentials.

Think you might want to aim for the list? Here’s what indie authors need to know before running a promotion.

1. Run your promotion Monday through Sunday

Keep in mind that the bestseller lists only give a snapshot of what’s selling really well during any given week.

That means a book that sells well consistently but never sells thousands in one week may never hit the list.

Likewise, a book that sells really well one week but stops selling well later on — or even goes out of print — can still make it. Even books that are several years old can rise to hit the charts with a good promotional strategy behind them.

The USA Today list adds up sales from the previous Monday through Sunday to determine the bestsellers for that week. So if you’re going to make a go at it, plan your run for those days.

(See point #5 if you plan to make a list run on a new release.)

2. Sell on more than one platform

To be considered for the USA Today bestseller list, your reported sales have to come from more than one platform.

That means that if you’re digitally exclusive to Amazon in KDP Select, you don’t have a chance no matter how many copies you sell. (Unless you’re selling enough print copies, which is rare for indie authors.)

It’s also worth noting that the USA Today list doesn’t collect data from every sales platform. If you’re trying to hit the list by selling enough print copies through print-on-demand (POD) companies like Createspace, those sales won’t count. Furthermore, Google Play isn’t included on their list of contributors, so those sales won’t count, either.

(You can view a list of contributors here.)

That said, if you sell enough copies on platforms like Amazon, Nook, and iBooks, all those sales will combine to determine your book’s ranking. Indie authors typically focus on digital sales.

3. Aim for at least 500 sales on Nook or iBooks

Amazon is arguably the easiest platform to sell on for indie authors, especially when running a major promotion.

However, since you need sales on more than one platform, your best shot at getting enough sales as an indie is to focus on iBooks or Nook as your secondary platform.

However, these two retailers won’t report numbers to the list unless you’ve received 500 U.S. sales for the week. Be sure this goal is part of your promo strategy.

usa today bestseller list 4. Shoot for 6K U.S. sales minimum

There is no real number needed to hit the list.

It all depends on what else is selling that week, and some seasons are more competitive than others. I’ve been told  summertime is a good time to aim for the list because there’s less competition.

However, 6,000 sales is generally a “safe zone” for making the bottom of the list (though it’s best to aim higher because that number is never a guarantee).

Also note that these sales have to be in the U.S. to count.

5. Consider a pre-order period to gather more sales

Any book can make the bestseller list no matter when it was released. However, many authors aim for the list with a new release. One of the benefits to this strategy is that you can set up digital pre-orders on platforms like Amazon, Nook and iBooks.

Note that your Amazon sales ranking is determined based on when a pre-order is placed, but the USA Today list counts your pre-order numbers when the book is released. A pre-order period gives you more time to gather those sales.

A word of warning: Due to time zone differences, pre-order numbers can sometimes hit the night before your scheduled release.

That’s why if you’re going to go this route, you’ll want to release on a Tuesday. That way if pre-orders do hit the night before, you still get those numbers on Monday, which is when the clock starts for your list run.

6. Give it all you’ve got

Make no mistake: Hitting the list isn’t easy, even when multiple authors are working together.

Expect to invest a lot of money into marketing. How much really depends on your genre since some books are easier to sell than others. I’m in the young adult genre, and several authors I know — including myself — didn’t make it with a $2,000-$3,000 marketing budget.

That’s just a marketing figure for the week. It doesn’t count the cost of publishing a book, such as the cover design, editing, formatting, etc. You’ll need all those aspects down first before you run a huge marketing campaign.

It also takes an incredible time commitment. I spent a month of daily work preparing for my solo promotion, but it’s pretty typical for authors to run three-month pre-order periods prior to a list run.

I won’t claim to be an expert on the USA Today list, and I’m sure much of this information is subject to change over the next few years.

However, after aiming for the list three times in the past year, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes, and I hope that other indie authors can learn something from it, too.

Do you plan on trying to hit the USA Today bestseller list within the next year? Tell us about your plans in the comment section.

The post The Indie Author’s Guide to Hitting the USA Today Bestseller List appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-09-28T13:45:36+00:00 September 27th, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: |