How To

Finessing Your Manuscript: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Writing CatWriting is hard work. Never mind worrying about the correct use of commas, avoiding sentence fragments, or maintaining the correct tense. As a self-publishing author, what once was the sole concern of proofreaders and editors, now falls on you. Self-publishers must wear all the hats. They no longer just write the book, indie-authors are also proofing it, editing it, formatting it, and finalizing it for production.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s crucial.

A book with grammatical and structural errors looks unprofessional and can turn away readers. In a world with so many books only a click away, we cannot rely solely on the strength of the story to propel a book into the reader’s hands. If the book’s description is the first, and most important, element to pulling a reader in, then the second element is the quality and presentation of the writing.

Before a reader will give your characters and plot twists a chance, they will scrutinize your use of the language, your clever commas, agile adjectives, and absurd alliterations (see what I did there?). If you want a reader to fall in love with your masterpiece, your control of the language must be impeccable.

When you proofread your work, keep these common mistakes in mind and look for ways to fix them:

  • Passive Sentences “He ran wildly down the alley, because behind him there were monsters” is a passive sentence. Rather than highlight what is happening, and giving the action immediacy, the action has already happened. Consider something like this: “Monsters chased him down the alley”. The same affect is achieved, but without the passivity. The action is directly linked and the sentence flows easily.
  • Word Use There are a number of words in English that sound the same, but have very different meaning. It can be easy to make these mistakes while writing, but prior to publishing, it’s important to identify and correct these words. Some problematic ones include:
    • “affect” vs. “effect”
    • “who” vs. “whom”
    • “they’re” vs. “there” vs. “their”
  • Agreements Tenses must stay consistent (“She laughs until she cried” won’t cut it), and the same goes for pronouns. It is important to be aware of the tense you were working in, and keep it consistent (did you catch that?). Align subject-verb and pronoun-ascendant correctly, so everything agrees (“Each of the players loved their new gear” might look acceptable, but that pronoun needs to agree!)
  • Commas, Run-Ons, and Fragments All of these elements refer to the structural design of the sentence. Using commas in the right place, avoiding run-ons (with those wisely placed commas!), and crafting complete sentences all enhance the reader’s experience. A well placed fragment, especially in dialog, isn’t going to hurt. Just be sparse with your creative license.
  • Show, don’t tell This might seem too obvious to mention, but it’s worth reiterating. Writing isn’t about telling a reader how something happened, it’s about putting them in the moment and letting them experience it with you. Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.” It cannot be stated any better than this.

Today more so than ever before, writers have to be more than just story tellers. They must be self promoters, self editors, the harshest critic, and their own strongest advocate. It’s no easy task to stand out amid all the other writers with stories to tell, but the surest way to make your work shine, is to polish it to perfection.

 

7 Tips for Keeping Your 2016 Writing Resolutions

new-years-resolutionsBy now, most people have realized their 2016 resolutions were perhaps a little too ambitious. You are not alone. On average, only 8% of New Year’s resolutionaries are successful in reaching their proclaimed goals. But, with resolve and a little encouragement, you may count yourself among the determined 8% at year’s end.

Here are seven tips to help keep your writing resolutions on track for success.

#1 – Define your why

You say you want to lose weight, quit smoking, start / finish writing your novel, devote more time to marketing your book, or find more happiness. But do you know why you want to do those things? Your “why” is your motivation. If you don’t know why, you are more likely to lose your resolve upon encountering the first setback.

#2 – Consider the why-nots

This is the flip side of your whys. As Noah St. Joan explains in his book, The Secret Code of Success, everything you do is caused by your why-tos weighed against your why-not-tos. Your brain is like an infinite weighing machine: It’s always comparing the perceived benefits (why-tos) against the perceived cost (why-not-tos).

Whenever you’re considering an activity — like spending time editing your novel, answering emails, writing press releases, or reading this article — your brain is going, “Why should I do this? How will it benefit me? What’s it going to cost me? I’d rather be watching TV.” Since our brains are always negotiating with us, our “why” must be a greater motivator than the alternative.

#3 – Enlist the help of friends

The easiest way to fail is to try to do something alone. There are not many examples of people who did great things completely alone. Bill Gates had Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Michael Jordan had his dad. Paul McCartney had John Lennon.

The way to overcome this mistake is simple: tell your friends what you want and why you want it, and ask them to support you in making positive changes.

#4 – Use positive peer pressure

This is a continuation of #3. Ask your friends to tell you when they see you straying from your goal.

Many people will feel uncomfortable about this one, but what you don’t realize is that your friends already know when you are not making an effort; they are just too nice to say anything. That’s why you must give them permission to tell you when you mess up or fall short of what you said you wanted to do. Just resolve to not get mad or defensive when they tell you.

#5 – Recruit an accountability partner

An accountability partner is someone you communicate with at regular intervals (monthly, once a week, even daily) to check on your progress. The beautiful thing is, you can also be that person’s accountability partner and help THEM make positive changes, too.

#6 – Ask experts for advice

No matter what you are trying to accomplish – write a poem, sell your book, schedule an interview, be nicer — without a solid plan of action, your good intentions will probably fall short. That’s why it’s good to find other people who have succeeded at the thing you’re trying to do and ask how they did it.

There is always someone who likes to talk about him/herself who will share their experience with you if asked politely. Even if you don’t know anyone personally, there are numerous blogs on all subjects that are just a few clicks away. If you can make use of others’ advice, you can avoid the most common pitfalls thereby increasing your chances of success.

#7 – Don’t set yourself up to fail

This is the worst mistake of all. The truth is, everyone knows how to write a book, quit smoking, or be nicer. Most people simply don’t believe they can do it — either because they’ve tried in the past and failed or they just don’t believe they’re capable of doing it.

Most importantly, don’t’ give up. It’s still early in the year and there is plenty of time to get your writing and marketing resolutions on track for success – just don’t wait too long to get started.

If you have any suggestions to share, please add them in the comments section below.

Happy 2016!

Using Lulu Coupon Codes in Your Marketing Emails

Jan 28 JANEND20 Full(This Post will be updated each day when new consumer coupon codes are released, so check back often.)

Let’s try out a few seasonal metaphors for your email marketing efforts…

Stuff your readers’ stockings with email! Deck the halls with deals on eBooks! Pass the turkey and mashed potatoes… and… strategically develop an email marketing plan that takes advantage of Lulu.com’s sales and special offers…

Okay, so that last one doesn’t really flow. But – it’s good advice all the same. Email marketing that coincides with Lulu’s impressive special offers is the next best thing to having your books carried right down your readers’ chimneys.

What’s so great about it? For starters, email marketing works. Social media may seem the savvier approach, but email is roughly six times more effective at bringing in new buyers than Facebook and Twitter. Email gives you a great platform for sharing special offers and introducing new books, without your carefully crafted content getting lost in the endless scroll of tweets and status updates.

Here’s a sample email template you can use:

Email Subject Line:
Get <Book Title> for 20% Off on Print Books and Calendars

Email Body:
Have you ordered your copies of <book title> yet? <Placeholder for one line book description>  If not, order today and save big.

Order today on Lulu.com and save 20% with coupon code JANEND20 thru January 28th.

To place your order, simply click this link: <Placeholder for link to book>, click Add to Cart and apply the code at checkout.

Plus, you can order extra copies at this discounted price to share with friends and family.

Order today and save! <Link to book>

<Author name>

**Don’t forget, coupon codes are case-sensitive.

 

See? Simple. You can highlight the current savings, briefly describe the book, and gives easy instructions. It’s low-pressure, good-natured, informative and brief. You can even provide a link right to your Author Spotlight and save your readers from searching. If you have multiple titles, you may wish to include a link to your Author Spotlight page to encourage shoppers to browse your catalog.

And, though we are currently entering the season of sharing and shopping, this strategy works year-round. At Lulu.com, we’re always looking for ways to promote you and sell your books. Whenever we have a sale — seasonal or otherwise — send out an email blast letting everyone know. After all, ‘tis always the season for reading!

All current discounts, coupon codes, and expiration dates are listed on the Lulu home page: www.lulu.com/home

 

Publish Your eBook to Amazon Kindle with Lulu

Get Your eBook On the Kindle Store STAT!

kindle_publishing_image

Time for a victory dance. You’ve mastered the Interwebs by publishing your eBook on Lulu.com. You’re a Level 10 Author! But to rank up to Bestselling Mobile Device Master, you must submit your eBook for distribution. This sends your eBook to online retailers across the globe, including Amazon’s Kindle store.

Kindle is the world’s best selling eReader, made so by the massive reach of Amazon. Even readers who don’t have a Kindle can buy and read your eBook on their smart phone, tablet or computer via the Kindle Cloud Reader.

How to get your masterful eBook from Lulu to the Kindle Store (and everywhere else)

First things first, you’ve:

Now how do you get your eBook into the Kindle store and all other online eBook retailers? Simple; go to the My Projects page, click the Manage distribution icon to the right of the eBook, and choose your eBook distribution options.

Lulu eBook Kindle distribution screenshot

You can opt into the Kindle channel while also having your eBook submitted to the iBookstore, Nook store, Kobo Store and Everything else. Click to Save your choices and your eBook’s journey begins.

Lulu Kindle screenshot

Lulu’s techno-sorcery will even convert the EPUB file you created on Lulu to a MOBI file automatically as part of the process of submitting your eBook to Amazon’s Kindle store. If you are curious how your eBook will look on a Kindle eReader, you can get an idea of what the MOBI version will look like using a free EPUB to MOBI converter. Searching the term “EPUB to MOBI” should list a few.

Greater visibility leads to greater success.

Take for example Andy Weir, a computer programmer who self published the best selling science fiction novel “The Martian.” He initially offered free chapter downloads on his website and listened to his readers’ feedback before compiling the chapters into a completed novel. He saw his eBook downloads skyrocket (ha ha.) after making it available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle store for $0.99. Interestingly, more people downloaded the $0.99 version from the Kindle store than had ever downloaded the free chapters. Go figure.

What did all this visibility get his novel? MORE visibility. (Plus a swanky status with nerdy ladies everywhere, no doubt.) I love nerdsIn fact, you can now watch the movie version of “The Martian” staring Matt Damon.

Happy eBook publishing, you tech-savvy author!

Make sure to share a link of your eBook’s Amazon Kindle listing in the Comments section on the left.

Okay, I Can Write…How Do I Get Published?

Introductory note: We don’t love to boast, but when one of our authors is wonderful enough to do it for us, well, we have to share it. Today’s guest post is from Jeffrey Strickland – follow him on LinkedIn for the fantastic articles and advice he shares!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

Who Are the Potential Authors?

In the past year, I have encountered many talented writers on LinkedIn, including Michael Spencer, Shashi Dhungel, Ivette Caballero, Brigette Hyacinth, Terry A Maiers, Steve Ater, Steve Cartwright and many others. All of these are potential authors and some have projects already in the works. So, what about you?

 
Who is Lulu?

I have published a book or two, and I do this as a self-published author. I am proud to be a Lulu author. Lulu.com is known for its remarkable books that Lulu authors create. Their support and author loyalty is unmatched. In recognition of their quality published products, Lulu was named the 2015 Best Online Book Publishing Company by TopTenLists.

 
“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” ― Barbara Kingsolver

 
What is a Lulu Author?

As a Lulu author, I have complete control over the content, layout, cover design, book size and binding. More importantly, I control the price, at least that portion beyond the cost to produce a bound and printed book. Many of my books would cost in excess of $100 and some as much as $200 from a traditional publishing company. Distraught by the outrageous profiteering by the big publishing houses and their disregard for the size of the wallet of a college student parent, I made a vow to keep my book prices under $50. Of course, there are trade-offs to achieve this.

 
Lulu for Any Budget

I do not have an editor, I do not have a marketing vehicle, I do not have a graphic designer. I only have my computer. I produce my own typeset, graphics and cover design. I do the layout, indexing and final document. I do it with an ounce of budget and a passion to write, coupled with a desire to transmit information at an affordable price. All this was doable, when I found Lulu.com. I have sold hundreds of books and the only complaints I have had are related to my inability to use the English language properly and failure to dot my t’s and cross my i’s. When Lulu ships you a book, the print is on quality paper, covered with quality and bound the same.

 
Lulu Makes It Easy

Lulu makes it easy to publish with various templates and cover design tools, as well as PDF settings for a final product. If you happen to be someone who has received one of my PDF versions, you are getting the product that is printed. Moreover, you can find all my books on my Lulu Author Spotlight page and pay less than you would for the same book on Amazon (I set the discounts). But if you are a loyal Amazon consumer, you can find most of my books on my author page there.

 
I Ain’t Mark Twain

My wife tells me not to say “ain’t,” but that’s another story. I have said before that I had wanted to author a book for at least 10 years before I had the courage to do so. What if my grammar is not great (and it isn’t)? What if my content knowledge is not the very best (and it isn’t)? What if people do not like my writing (and I have found a couple that don’t)? But, I imagine that Mark Twain had doubts about Tom Sawyer, and J.R.R. Tolkien probably had second thoughts about a story of elves, dwarves, wizards, dragons and a hobbit.

 
“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” ― Somerset Maugham

 
You Just Need an Idea

Many of you have ideas in you – gray matter that is waiting to be unleashed on a wider audience than your bathroom mirror. You can write for yourself, your family and friends, or for the world. And Lulu can help you do it. If you are like me, once you start you will not want to stop. You can produce your work in hardcover, paperback or e-book with a variety of binding and cover options. You can also produce in color (I do not, because it costs more).

 
Lulu Fits Your Wallet

If your budget is bigger than mine, Lulu also offers editing and review services, as well as marketing packages, all at reasonable prices. I still have two kids that I have to put through college, so I save a dollar or two by not using these services. Maybe I will write all of their college textbooks, except for the one on grammar…

 
I Cannot Write!

Well, neither could I until I did…and I am not really that good now. So, you can write, even if it is just for you.

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

 
Who Wrote This?
Jeffrey Strickland, Ph.D. is the author of “Predictive Analytics Using R” and a senior analytics scientist with Clarity Solution Group. He has performed predictive modeling, simulation and analysis for the Department of Defense, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency and the Financial and Insurance industries for over 20 years. Jeff is a Certified Modeling and Simulation Professional (CMSP) and an Associate Systems Engineering Professional. He has published over 200 blogs on LinkedIn, is a frequently invited guest speaker and the author of 20 books including:

  • Operations Research using Open-Source Tools
  • Discrete Event simulation using ExtendSim
  • Crime Analysis and Mapping
  • Missile Flight Simulation
  • Mathematical Modeling of Warfare and Combat Phenomenon
  • Predictive Modeling and Analytics
  • Using Math to Defeat the Enemy
  • Verification and Validation for Modeling and Simulation
  • Simulation Conceptual Modeling
  • System Engineering Process and Practices
  • Weird Scientist: the Creators of Quantum Physics
  • Albert Einstein: No one expected me to lay a golden eggs
  • The Men of Manhattan: the Creators of the Nuclear Era
  • Fundamentals of Combat Modeling
  • Quantum Phaith
  • Dear Mister President
  • LinkedIn Memoirs
  • Knights of the Cross: the True Story of the Knights Templar

How Authors Can Build Their Marketing Presence Online

Want to be a successful author in the 21st century? You have to be online. It goes beyond a suggestion into the territory of necessity.

But how do you strengthen your online presence so you can be sure the greatest number of people see you and know to buy your work? Being visible, engaging with your readers, and having the right attitude online all go a long way in making sure you’re getting the most out of your digital efforts.

Be visible

In order to have a strong online presence, you need to make yourself available online. Seems obvious, right? Basically, you don’t want to make it hard for people to find you. We’ve talked before about the importance of having your own website, and that’s a great place to start. Free or cheap hosting services, premade templates, and easy-to-use software have made making your own website a snap. If you have a central hub, readers will know where to go for the latest news, writing, and where to buy your work.

It’s also important to look outside your own website. Take advantage of social media; it’s a great place to build a community because of the built-in audiences of these sites. No need to start from scratch when you can find readers already sharing their comments on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, don’t be afraid of interacting with other authors, publishers, and thought-leaders on their own sites. After all, your goal is to be visible. See if there are any blogs looking for guest contributors. Sharing your own tips, insights, and experiences is a great way to engage potential customers, and if you’re writing for another site you can tap into the audience they’ve already built.

The key is being in as many places as possible. Different platforms have different audiences, so just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on Twitter, and just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re reaching the same audience you would if you were also on Facebook. Experiment and find out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Speak with readers

What’s the best way to grow an audience? Build relationships with your readers (and potential readers). Readers don’t want to feel like they’re just customers – someone you’re only trying to get a buck from. Make them feel like they’re partners in your writing and they’ll be a lot more likely to support you. Speak with them, not just to them.

Social media makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with readers. Have conversations with them, but don’t always keep it just about your next book. Share your thoughts and interesting articles with them; respond to their posts, even if they aren’t directed at you, to show that you’re just as invested in them as they are in you.

In short, make yourself look human. One of the benefits of independent publishing is that you aren’t beholden to a giant publishing conglomerate that’s just looking for the next best seller. You have the chance to try new things and work on a smaller scale. Being a friendly face, and not just another cog in a marketing machine, is endearing to readers and likely to help you stand out from the crowd.

Choose Your Words Carefully!

You’ve heard the old saying: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s never been more important than in the digital age. Why? Because as a newer old saying goes, the Internet never forgets. Comments on social media can be shared in an instant, screenshots and backups can be taken be complete strangers, and before you know it that one little snarky comment you said before you had your morning coffee is living in infamy.

So how do you say nice things, even when other people aren’t willing to? Sometimes it just means taking the high road. Ignoring negative comments is a good start; if you don’t engage the haters, they can’t gain any traction.

Of course, it’s not always a case of people being mean. A bad review of your book can sting. You might be tempted to shoot off a tweet about how the reviewer is a hack and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But what if you decided to look at it constructively instead? Take what the review says to heart, look at it as objectively as possible, and see what merit the comments have.

If you have to engage the reviewer, thank them for taking the time to read your book and give their thoughts. It probably won’t change the review, but the reviewer – and every potential reader out there – will see that you’re willing to take criticism gracefully and are trying to improve your craft. They might be more willing to check out your next book to see how you’ve grown.

Independent publishing means putting in a lot of legwork to get some great rewards, and marketing is no different. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a great way to market yourself and your work for relatively little money. Growing your audience organically by putting a real human behind that author name

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!