How To

6 More Grammar Mistakes Writers Need to Avoid

There have been a lot of great showdowns throughout history: David vs Goliath, Yankees vs Red Sox, and…To vs Too?

We’re back with more simple grammar mistakes you should never make in your writing, featuring a whole host of matchups between similar-but-not-quite-the-same words. Take a look at the list – and our previous set of tips – and then give your book an edit to make sure you haven’t made any of these slip-ups!

Don't be like Fry. Know the difference between affect and effect.Affect vs Effect

Are you one of those people who writes “impact” because you aren’t quite sure whether you should be using “affect” or “effect”? Here’s a quick tip that will get you through most scenarios: affect is a verb – so one thing affects another – and effect is a noun. Just don’t get tripped up on “effecting change,” where you’ll use an “e” when you mean “to bring about” something.  Isn’t the English language fun (and sometimes aggravating)?

Insure vs Ensure

This one’s pretty simple. If you’re talking about insurance – as in limiting financial liability – use insure. Both start with an “i.” Ensure, when you’re guaranteeing something, is always with an “e.”

Then vs ThanCan proper grammar make you not sound like a crazy person?

Use then when something follows another thing: “I’ll learn these great grammar tips, and then I’ll proofread my books.” Than is used in comparisons: “Since I fixed all of my grammar mistakes, my book is selling better than it was before!”

I.e. vs E.g.

You might think these are interchangeable when you’re using an example, but there’s a very subtle difference between the two. I.e. mean “that is” or “in other words,” from the Latin “id est,” and you use it when you’re clarifying something. E.g., from the Latin “exempli gratia,” means “for example” and is used for just that – providing an example!

Everything you know is a lie - the fast checkout line at your store uses incorrect grammar.Fewer vs Less

As a rule of thumb, you use fewer when you can count the subject in question individually and less when you can’t. So I can have fewer cups of water than you, but your cups might have less water in them than mine do. And yes, that means your grocery store sign is probably incorrect.

To vs Too (vs Two)

Last but not least, one that you probably know but can slip your mind when you’re writing. Most of the time you’ll use to when you’re talking about a verb or going toward a place, e.g. “I’m going to write” or “I went to the mall,” but when you mean to say “as well” or “also,” or something in excess, use too – “Sally went going to the mall, too, and she ate too much.” And just in case, two is always the number 2. Seems obvious, but you can never be too careful!

That’s it – for now! The English language is a wonderful, complex thing and even the best writers get tripped up from time to time. If you’ve got a favorite tip or a “this word or that one?” that seems to always get the best of you, share them in the comments!

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.

 

4 Tricks to Becoming a Prolific Writer

Lulu Author David BrownI have described myself as prolific, and after looking at my early track record no one could disagree. I waited many years before taking up the pen to write. But once I started I took off by most standards, writing four novels in two years.

Without hesitation it is impossible to be a prolific writer if you are always getting stumped by writer’s block. In fact it is tough being a writer at all if you keep getting stumped by anything, especially if you are just beginning.

No one but a writer is permitted the luxury of throwing up their hands and saying they can’t work for days, if not months! No doctor, lawyer, accountant or anyone else considers any type of block legitimate but writers. Imagine going to a doctor for a mysterious ailment and being told, “Come back in a couple of months. I have diagnosis block.” For myself, not having been trained as a writer, I had to choose whether or not to accept the odd notion of writer’s block. So when I started writing, I made a personal decision to reject the notion of writer’s block. Deciding to not accept writer’s block was easier than one might imagine.

Here are some of my tricks.

You Need Plots

It helped that I collected story plots for years before I began to write, but not having saved plots is no excuse. Once I committed to write I set my mind to develop original thoughts. Good and bad ideas all went down on a list. Being intentional with these ideas starts the wheels turning.

Research Fuels the Idea Engine

The best time for research is before you write. My research goes into an auxiliary Word file that I create for each project. The things that I learn not only fuel the evolution of the story but helps establish the breath of the story itself. Research has to be part of the joy of writing. It is an opportunity to expand one’s tent, so to speak.

Make Use of Pericopes

The word pericope comes to us from Greek through Late Latin and means “piece cut out.” Stated more succinctly, pericope is defined as extracts from a text that form a complete account or story. Pericopes come in different lengths and level of detail.

I apply the concept of pericopes to build out sections of a story, so at any time I am building story blocks that fit nicely within one unified plot. Once included, these sections require the same finishing touches that the overall novel needs. Pericope blocks work nicely to include visualization of settings.

Pericopes also work well to add layers to characters that explain actions and motivations. To me a flashback is just another pericope. By writing pericopes, simple stories can become delightfully complicated without becoming unorganized.

Guiding Question to Keep a Story Moving

Let me leave you with a small sampling of the guiding questions that I use to begin my writing day.

  1. Where is the story going and where do I want it to go?
  2. Where would most people expect this story to go?
  3. What is a good place for a pivot in the plot and should the transition be gradual or dramatic?
  4. Are the likeable characters sympathetic and are the unlikeable characters truly detestable?
  5. Is it time for a character to undergo redemption?
  6. Does the story make sense?

And always remember, half of the enjoyment of a good story is to take the reader someplace that they did not expect.

Author Bio

David Brown

David Brown is the quintessential Renaissance man. He holds degrees in Quantitative Economics, Business and even Theology. To go with that David has held CPA licenses in multiple states. He was also ordained by a major church organization and pastored for several years. This makes him a writer with great insight into human reasoning, passions and motivation. See his books at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/dkbrown22526

How Do You Judge a Book? By Its Cover, of Course

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.55.38 AMToday’s article was contributed by Ron Miller – author, cover designer, and Lulu community contributor.

Making sure your book has a good cover is like making sure you are neatly dressed and well groomed when going on a job interview.

Although everyone says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, this really doesn’t apply to books themselves. In fact, the cover is one of the most important parts of a book. It’s the first thing anyone will ever see and for that reason it needs to make a good impression. If a cover is unreadable, looks amateurish or misrepresents a book, the potential reader may give it a pass and move on to the next book in a catalog or bookshelf.

There are no hard and fast rules in book cover design. Just take a look at some of the superb covers displayed here . They are all creative, effective and no two look alike. Yet, they all follow the same basic guidelines. Even if you are not an artist or designer, you can still make a cover that – while perhaps not as artistic or inventive as some of these covers – can still be attractive and effective. Here are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • The most important thing on a book cover is the book’s title.
  • Keep things simple typographically. You may own a thousand fonts, but there is no need to feel compelled to use them all. Especially avoid really fancy, decorative fonts or using a lot of Photoshop effects on the title. If no one can read the title of your book, you may as well not have it on the cover at all.
  • Likewise, keep your artwork simple. Try to limit yourself to just one image that best represents the book’s genre or what it is about. Avoid the temptation to create a “kitchen sink” cover, where you try to cram in everything you think is important.
  • Another reason for simplicity is that a cover needs to work at all sizes—and even in B&W. Most people will first see your cover as a thumbnail image on a webpage. Therefore, it needs to be as readable at postage stamp size as it is on the actual printed book.

Having read these suggestions, go back to the Indie Cover page and see how many of those covers reflect these ideas.

About the Author:

In addition to the books he has published with Lulu, Ron Miller is the author/illustrator of more than fifty commercially published books. These have received numerous commendations and awards, including a Hugo, the IAF Manuscript Award, the Booklist Editor’s Award and the American Institute of Physics Award of Excellence. Several of his books have been Book-of-the-Month Club feature selections. In addition to the artwork he does for his own books, Miller provides illustrations for magazines such as Scientific American, Astronomy and Discover. Specializing in science fiction and fantasy, he has also created several hundred book covers for publishers such as Tor, Baen, Berkley/Ace, Warner, Easton Press, Subterranean Press and many others.

Black Cat Studios

Let’s Go Viral: Five Tactics for Boosting Your Clicks, Likes, and Shares

Author PlatformA few years ago, every indie-writer’s conference I attended focused on developing an author platform. This was a fancy, buzz wordy way of saying that independent authors who want to sell books also must create and maintain an internet presence consisting of a website, a blog, and social media pages. Today the buzzwords have changed and conference sessions are still being conducted about why an internet presence is necessary, but many of them fail to provide specific tactics for marketing your book once your platform is in place.

For the sake of this article, we will assume your platform is up and running. Now let’s make more effective use of these tools to get your marketing efforts noticed and your book sold.

#1: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Likes1000 Likes

Images are the most effective way to capture a person’s attention as they scroll through their social media feed. A fun way to get people talking about your work is to take and share screen shots or photos of your writing and publishing milestones to share on Facebook. For example, you can post a screenshot of your book’s product page when it is available for purchase on a new retail site, a screenshot of your book’s sales rank as it moves up the charts, or photos of you receiving and editing your proof copies. Sharing these milestones allows your fans to share in your excitement.

Don’t forget to include a link back to your website, blog, or book page to capitalize on the interest you generate. And, don’t assume your fans are all following you on Facebook. Be sure to post this content on other image-centric social sites such as Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

#2 Scatter Tastier Breadcrumbs

Tasty BreadThe entire reason for developing an internet presence is to capture a potential reader’s attention while maintaining the interest of your existing fans. All the little pieces of information shared in social media are like virtual breadcrumbs you scatter into the world to lure readers towards your content. So, its really important you  choose “bread” your readers will love.

For example, you could spend hours writing a blog post contemplating the causes of writer’s block and how it has affected your output. Or, you can take a few minutes to post a picture of your character’s favorite car, perfume, whiskey, etc. with a link back to a blog post about that character’s back story and why their predilection for this object is important to the story.

Using this strategy, you can also share images and insights relating to settings, locales, and general research: “While researching <fill in the blank>, I learned this interesting fact about…..” Remember the 80/20 rule of social media marketing: 80% of your posts should include useful information while 20% should be dedicated to marketing your product.

#3 Make It Easy to Spread the Word

Share buttonsAdding social share buttons to your website and blog pages may seem like an obvious step, but it is often over looked. These buttons are powerful marketing tools that essentially turn your fans into marketers every time they share your work with their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn network of friends.

And even better, it’s quite easy to add these buttons to your web pages. Here are links for adding the Facebook Like button, the Tweet button, and the LinkedIn Share button.

#4 Add Facebook Comments to Your Webpage

CommentsFacebook allows you to add a commenting system to any web page. This can be particularly effective in maintaining fans because it allows you to communicate directly with your readers from within your own website. It also allows you to nurture and develop your super-fans – those readers who will buy everything you write, share all your social content, and tell all their friends about your books. These people are your most effective marketers and they will be thrilled to receive answers directly from you instead of your Facebook Marketing Page profile.

To learn more about adding Facebook Comments to your webpages, see: Facebook Comments Plugin

#5 Your Fans Love Free Stuff – And So Do Their Friends.

You probably have fans who follow everything you do – if not, see above. Why not reward them by allowing them to download a PDF version of the first chapter of your upcoming book? They will be delighted to get it first and will be eager to share the experience with their friends.Retweet Button

You can make it easy for them to share their happiness by including a Retweet button in the free PDF content. You can pre-populate the text of the Tweet and include a link for others to download the free chapter. “I’m reading @AuthorName’s new book: <Book Title>. Get the 1st chapter free here: tiny.url.link.”

For more information, see: Adding Retweet buttons to PDFs.

These are just a few social media tactics you an easily implement with minimal effort. If you have others you would like to share, leave a comment below. And don’t forget to Like and Share this content with your friends. (See what I did there?)

Advice from the Literary Stars: Overcoming Writer’s Block

writers block WomanWe’ve all been there. Sitting at our desk struggling to move our story forward. Sometimes it’s a word that’s just out of reach, a scene you can’t adequately describe, or a transition that is a bit awkward. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t move forward. You are blocked. Fortunately, writer’s block is almost always temporary and all writers experience it at one time or another. So don’t despair. You are in good company.

If that is not enough encouragement to help you through your crisis, perhaps the following words of advice from these literary stars will help.

“Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on.” — Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

“I encouragwriters block vintagee my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing — just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that.”— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’” — Maya Angelou

“Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” — John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden

Writers Block Hemingway“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” — Ernest Hemingway

“If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.” — Norman Mailer in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing

 

writers-block woman 2“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” — Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

“Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” — Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, American Gods

“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

 

Easy Ways to Sell Books at Events

Easy ways for you to sell your self-published book at events.Most independent authors are used to selling their books online. Sites like Lulu.com, Amazon, and other retailers are typically the place where you’ll get most of your sales. If you put in a little hustle, you can also get your books on the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores.

But what if you want to sell your books yourself? It takes some work, but that’s something you’re used to if you’re publishing on your own, right? Especially if you’re writing and publishing as a business rather than a hobby, selling your own books can open up a lot of networking and sales avenues; just listing on Amazon and leaving it be simply don’t offer the same opportunities.

If you find yourself at a lot of conferences, seminars, book signings, or other events, you might be leaving a lot of books on the table – literally – by not being proactive with your selling strategy. Here are a few ways you can be hands-on with your sales.

Sell Online
“But I already sell online! Isn’t that what Lulu and Amazon are for?”

You’re right, but the ease of selling through an online retailer comes with the inherent drawbacks of being locked into their platforms and rules. Maybe you want to sell your book somewhere you can have complete control – running your own discounts, bundling books, adding non-book products, and more.

Luckily, selling online has never been easier to do. Squarespace, Shopify, Big Cartel, and Gumroad are just a few of the platforms that let you set up your very own ecommerce site in minutes. Add images, product descriptions, and prices, and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged storefront that anyone in the world can find at their fingertips.

The best part is, it still works great for people at events. Maybe they don’t want to carry around a book for the rest of a conference or have to find a way to pack it into their bag for their flight home. Or maybe they want to take advantage of those special deals that you’re able to do when you’re selling on your own, like a bundle that includes one of your previous book.

Plus, there’s a lot to be said about having a professional-looking site with its own store. People know to take you and your business seriously because they can see that you’re taking yourself seriously.

Sell In-person
Conferences and other events are great places to sell your books. After all, you’ve already engaged your audience with a talk that showcased your expertise, and there’s nothing better than a book to let them go more in-depth and keep you at the top of their minds.

But even if you have a stack of books and a line of willing buyers, how do you move those books? Do you cross your fingers that everyone will have cash on them? Do you direct them to the Internet and hope they don’t forget before they have a chance to check out your site?

The answer is easy, because today’s tech allows anyone with a credit card to become your customer. Products like Square, Shopify, and PayPal Here let you plug a credit card reader right into your phone or tablet and accept plastic like a pro. You can also use Stripe or PayPal for electronic payments.

Selling in-person has a ton of benefits. You’re meeting your audience face-to-face, which goes a long way in building relationships and networks. You’re also giving them instant access to your book; instead of waiting around for it to be shipped, they can start flipping through it right away and strike up conversations with other readers.

And hey, maybe you’ll even get asked to sign a few copies. There’s no easier way to get started down the path of a celebrity!

What To Watch Out For
Selling books through a third party is easy. Take Lulu, for instance: you set up your book and we take care of the listing, the checkout process, the payment transaction, and making sure your book gets to your customer. If you’re selling on your own, these are all things you’ll need to take into account yourself.

Which platform are you going to use? Are there fees involved with accepting payments? How are you going to ship your packages out? How many copies of your book are you going to keep in stock? Will you accept returns?

That’s the tradeoff between selling on your own and letting someone else do it for you. When you have control of everything, you have to control everything. That isn’t to say one is better than the other; you just need to know what you’re getting yourself into and how much time you’re willing and able to put into your business. Just remember to keep your options open, and strike when the opportunity presents itself!

Have you had success striking out on your own and selling your books? Let us know your best tips and tools in the comments!