Established authors’ secrets for creating creative book covers – ALWAYS

The Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) —
a tribe of established, Phoenix-area writers —
gathers once a month for lunch and a chat about writing. It’s rather like a Secret Writer’s Society, except our tips are not so secret, since we share them with you.


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TOPIC:
Established authors, when it comes to book covers…
• Do you know what elements will catch a reader’s eye?
• Do you know some low-cost avenues for artwork?
• Do you know what to avoid in the design?
Let’s gather over a delicious lunch and share ideas.
If you can’t attend, can you leave a book-cover tip in the comments below?

Next gathering:
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
(ALWAYS meets on the second Thursday of the month.)

Where:
Romeo’s Euro Café
(downtown GIlbert, AZ)
207 N. Gilbert Rd. #105
Gilbert, Arizona 85234
(480) 962-4224

Back-up location:
Joe’s BBQ
301 N. Gilbert Rd.
Gilbert, AZ 85234
(480) 503-3805

Cost:
A writing tip, and your own lunch.

RSVP:
PLEASE show the consideration of reserving your spot at the table by:
• RSVPing through the “Join” link on our Facebook Event page
or
• Contacting Ann Videan, avidean@videanunlimited.com

If you’ve RSVP’d, please SHOW UP. If you run into a conflict, please let me know BEFORE the event so I can make the necessary adjustments for the group meeting. Cheers!
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ABOUT ALWAYS

• Need contacts to help your writing work?
• Want advice about your writing?
• Like to hang with other cool writers?

If so, our tribe – the Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors & Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) – is the place for you. We’re an informal group of established writers looking for camaraderie, ideas, enlightenment and connection with writers, especially in the Phoenix metro area, to talk about our craft and businesses.

Any established writer can connect with us online through our ALWAYS Facebook page, get listed in our directory of writers on our ALWAYS LinkedIn page, or you can meet with us in person at a lunch meeting. We’d love to have any experienced writer join us at our next meeting … anyone who spends a significant part of his/her week writing, and wants to rub elbows with other writers.

AutoCrit editing software, to use or not to use?

The Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) —
a tribe of established, Phoenix-area writers — gather once a month for lunch and a chat about writing. It’s rather like a Secret Writer’s Society, except the tips we discuss are not so secret, because we share them with you.
Here’s another one…

One of our members highly recommended using an affordable editing software she purchased, which she swore helped her become a better writer.

So, I visited the AutoCrit.com site and took advantage of its sample analysis, using the first chapter of my Beat of the Pakiri manuscript, which will be the second novel in my Delfaerune Rhapsody fantasy series. As a professional editor, I must admit, I found myself a bit skeptical going in… but, the analysis truly impressed me.

It felt a bit like magic to immediately see what words I use too many times, how many instances of passive voice it found, and how I stacked up against published fiction in my genre. Here’s a sampling of my report.

Partial AutoCrit analysis of my Beat of the Pakiri manuscript.

Partial AutoCrit analysis of my Beat of the Pakiri manuscript.

Not bad. 🙂

On the surface, it seems such software might put an editor like me out of business, but I think it may actually help me become a better one. Besides, in the AutoCrit video, they recommend you still use a human editor, who can catch nuances undecipherable by the software. Hooray, AutoCrit!

I say… use it. You can try a free 14-day trial, or pay for a monthly membership ranging from $5 to $12, depending on how much you want to use the software.

I also found this 2012 AutoCrit review from another blogger who loved AutoCrit. Some of the info may be a bit dated, but his very thorough example will walk you through all the benefits.

What editing software have you used? What do you like about it?

…………………..

Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
Check out my Book Shepherding sessions.
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Fast, cheap, book postcard resource: Secret Writers’ Society (ALWAYS)

The Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) —
a tribe of established, Phoenix-area writers — gather once a month for lunch and a chat about writing. It’s rather like a Secret Writer’s Society, except the tips we share are not so secret, because we share them with you.
Here’s another one…

Ready to create a handout about your book… perhaps a business card, sticker, or postcard?  NextDayFlyers online can print them up for you quickly, and quite inexpensively.

Song of the Ocarina, Ann Videan

Front of postcard

Back

Back of postcard

Say I want the front cover of my Song of the Ocarina novel on one side of a postcard, and the back cover on the other. I can upload both easily at the site. It’s painless, too, because I already have the artwork, right? You also can create your own design to upload, or choose instead to use NextDayFlyers’ design services.

If I order 100, 5×7″, four-color, glossy postcards, I can have them delivered in two to four business days for about $55. Cool right?

What other resources can you suggest for fast, easy, inexpensive book materials?

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Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
Check out my Book Shepherding sessions.
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Key book-organization tools: Secret Writers’ Society (ALWAYS)

We look a lot more vibrant than this in person! Wendy, Patricia, Ann, Mallary, Marsha, Karen, and Alana.

We look a lot more vibrant than this in person!
Wendy, Patricia, Ann, Mallary, Marsha, Karen, and Alana

The Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) —  a tribe of established, Phoenix-area writers — gather once a month for lunch and a chat about writing. It’s rather like a Secret Writer’s Society, except the tips we share are not so secret, since we share them with you. 🙂


Key Book-Organization Tools

Many authors I’ve encountered in the past several weeks brought up the topic of how to organize a book. ALWAYS members shared a handful of fun and worthwhile suggestions:

1. Use a large sketch pad for writing notes; and to draw, map, or paste visual ideas that pertain to the story. You can also use it to develop a portable storyboard for your plot.

2. Write character notes or actions, important plot point, or scene ideas on colored 3×5 cards. Use a different color for characters, plot points, etc.

3. Post a visual timeline or cards or Post-It notes on a cork board in the room where you write.

4. Use software to help organize all your thoughts and ideas:

What other ideas can you share?

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Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
Check out my Book Shepherding sessions.
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Book shepherding moves you forward immediately

Book shepherding can lead you to a restful place and green pastures for your book. I snapped this photo of super comfy sheep on the Alexander Farm, aka the Hobbiton movie set, in New Zealand in 2008.

Book shepherding can lead you to a restful place and green pastures for your book.
I snapped this photo of super comfy sheep on the Alexander Farm, aka the Hobbiton movie set, in New Zealand in 2008.

This post falls under the realm of shameless promotion, but what I offer, I guarantee will help you as an aspiring author. Basically, I’m making accessible to you very affordably all the knowledge I gained while creating my own novels and others’—talking with hundreds of authors, publishers, designers, book consultants, and other literary experts over the period of at least 15 years. What I know can essentially eliminate your author learning curve and allow you to move forward immediately.

So, with that said, the following debuts my Book Shepherding sessions… providing the personal guidance, information, and inspiration you need to take the next step in your writing process. Whether you need a book or plot idea, advice on writing or creating your book, assistance with publishing, or generating word-of-mouth marketing, I can help you.

You can move forward confidently with customized advice from an author who’s “been there, done that” when it comes to developing books for herself and many other fiction and non-fiction authors in various genres. Your participation in the following consulting sessions will drive you immediately toward your book’s success.

Sample Edit/Critique

Review/edit feedback on three pages of your writing.                                         Free

One-On-One

As-needed consultation.
(Half an hour by phone or Skype)                                                                              $30

Access to me whenever you need advice on any aspect of your writing:

  • The writing process
  • Editing
  • Production/design
  • Self-publishing/publishing
  • Word-of-mouth marketing strategies
  • Something of your choosing

Kick-Start

One-time/initial consultation.
(1.5 hours, in-person, phone, or Skype)                                                                 $120
(Workshop attendees’ discount)                                                                                $50

We might:

  • Set initial goals to create or market your book
  • Bounce story ideas
  • Hone your plot, or discuss story structure
  • Receive feedback on your writing
  • Walk through how to use CreateSpace
  • Brainstorm book cover or
    marketing ideas
  • Set writing goals
  • Discuss your specific request

Move Forward

As-needed directional meeting.
(1.5 hours in-person, by phone or Skype)                                                            $120

We might do:

  • Any of the activities provided under the Kick-Start section above
  • A writing critique session on 3,000 words of your writing
  • A revisit of goals set in our kick-start consultation, for accountability.
  • Something you request

Build Momentum

Once-a-month directional meeting with a three-month minimum.
(1.5 hours/month in-person, by phone or Skype,
a 17% volume discount off the Kick-Start option.)                                            $100/mo.

We might do:

  • Any of the activities provided under the Move Forward section above
  • Something you request

OR

Once-a-week directional meeting with a five-week minimum.
(Half an hour/week in-person, by phone or Skype,
a 17% volume discount off the Kick-Start option.)                                               $25/wk.

We might do:

  • Any of the activities provided under the Move Forward section above
  • Something you request

Contact me to set up your intake meeting and move
that book dream closer to reality!


Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan, Author and Book Shepherd
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth

P.S. Learn more about my novels on Google+.

How to become a best-selling Amazon author, and other secrets — ALWAYS

Twenty, established, Phoenix-area writers met for lunch at the Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) gathering on March 12, 2015, in Phoenix. Here’s what happened.


At our tribe meeting, Deborah Brown, co-owner of Peters & Brown Multimedia Marketing & Publishing, shared five “amazing” book marketing tactics to reach Amazon best-seller status and build a book platform. Here they are:

ALWAYS members absorb Deborah's valuable marketing tips.

ALWAYS members absorb Deborah’s valuable marketing tips. (Photo by Eduardo Cervino.)

1. Start with the end in mind, to sell at least 1,000 ebooks in your category at a discount.

Her ideas included tips like:

  • Make sure your ebook tile and subtitle include your keywords.
  • Sell the book for $.99.
  • Use all four category designations available: two for print, two for Kindle.

2. Build your platform first

  • Start blogging about your book before it’s written.
  • Create lead pages to separate raving fans from others.
  • Follow Debbie Macomber and John Locke as great role models.
  • Use Pinterest for authors, linking to your blog.
  • Offer a multi-author box set.

3. Nurture your FLASH mob, perhaps starting with a campaign for crowd funding. Your mob includes:

  • Friends and family
  • Loyal clients and customers
  • Able and willing well-wishers
  • Selected partners
  • Hand-picked ambassadors

4. Capture leads on launch day.

  • Amazon does not identify who buys your book, so pre-market the launch date on a separate book-deal Web page, where you can capture contact info.

5. Keep marketing after your launch.

  • Do talk shows like Deborah’s “Boomer and the Babe” podcast.
  • Do something every day.

You can’t possibly get the scope of all of Deborah’s good ideas just from these highlights, so I encourage you to find the full version of her handout under the Files link on the ALWAYS Facebook page, or to contact her.

Watch our ALWAYS Facebook page for details on our next gathering on April 9, 2015 (we meet on the second Thursday of the month).

Do you have an idea for a topic or speaker? Maybe some information you need to help you move forward? Perhaps you or someone you know has some great author-related info to relate? Recommend away!

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Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Author secrets—from world-building to a writers’ residence exchange—ALWAYS

Our November 2014 tips from established writers attending the
Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) gathering.
Read ’em and reap.

I was asked by one of the ALWAYS authors to share some world-building tips with our tribe, on the heels of publishing my new fantasy adventure Song of the Ocarina.

For a copy of my handout, visit the Files link on the ALWAYS Facebook page. Here are the high-level points from my wee presentation*:

1. Pick a unique idea or set of ideas to frame the world.
Mine centered around:

  • Noel Stone, newly Noble Fae, musician, and sometime sheep shearer. Image by John Taylor. ©2013 VUPublishing

    Noel Stone, newly Noble Fae, musician, and sometime sheep shearer. Image by John Taylor. ©2013 VUPublishing

    Noel, a 6-1/2′ tall character who came to me in a dream

  • A New Zealand-type realm influenced by the Maori culture
  • Fae names:
    • Noble Fae all natural (Lark, Glenn, B’rook)
    • Dark Fae based on burned-out rock stars (Mikk, Kert, Axyl)

2. Rules – establish logical rules for your world (especially putting limitations around magic, or developing cultural activities)

3. Rituals – structure a set of set activities in the world’s culture (greetings, birthdays, weddings/funerals, art/music, sports)

4. Power – develop a series of hierarchies (government, education, communities)

5. Place – more than setting, describe the place from a character’s perspective

* Malinda Lo’s blog provided world-building inspiration for my comments.

Additional tips from our authors:

  • Support indie authors by buying their books rather than sharing or free downloads. Your support means they can continue creating the stories you love.
  • Looking for a place to write? Check out Poets & Writerswriter’s residency exchange. I am SO excited about learning more about this!
  • The 3-Day Novel Contest. This writing challenge  has happened every Labor Day weekend since 1977. “Entrants pre-register, grit their teeth, lock their doors and try to produce a literary masterwork in 72 short hours. A panel of experienced judges reads the results and the winning novel is published.
  • To see what readers like about a genre, look at Amazon reviews about similar books.
  • Write a series rather than a one-off. Consider making the first book in the series Perma-free (permanently free ) on Amazon to allow readers to sample your writing and get hooked on the series.
  • Read Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, by Francine Prose
  • Write more than you read about writing. Ah, the temptation!

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Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Authors share more writing secrets—ALWAYS

"sugar covers" for book publicity

We share lots of fun marketing ideas—like the book review process— at ALWAYS. One of my favorite ideas involves using the author’s skills… like this amazing “sugar cover” work by pastry chef and author L.H. Nicole.

Judith Starkson, author of Hand of Fire, shared some solid tips on working with book reviewers at our Oct. 9 gathering of the Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS). Our other members also shared valuable ideas for the benefit of writers everywhere. 🙂

A couple of top tips from Judith:

  • Build your community months, even years, before your book is published
    –  Start following select bloggers and authors in your genre
    – Participate in those communities with valuable information
    – Bloggers and reviewers’ sites typically list other blogs they like and support, so you can send your info elsewhere.
  • To earn reviews for a specific book,  start four to six months before publication. With your query, send:
    – A “killer” book blurb
    – Advance praise (testimonials) are key– Strong cover art
    – Professional materials: author photo, press release, an email service like Constant Contact or MailChimp
  • Never respond to negative reviews or leave snarky comments online, and promote others.

Other ideas you can use, from our group:

  • Choosy Bookworm advertises a book to potential reviewers. For $50 you can reach 10,000 reviewers.
  • Fiverr is a good resource for artwork of any kind at $5 per piece. These hungry artists are willing to do art for this price because they want to meet people and develop relationships. Pay five of these folk to do your book cover, a total of $25, and you get five choices.
  • To get media coverage more easily, make sure to use two meaningful quotes from experts other than yourself, in addition to covering the who, what, why, when, where and how. Find out the name and spelling of the editor of your paper’s local edition.

What additional writing tip can you share with us?

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Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
avidean@videanunlimited.com

More key writing secrets from established authors – ALWAYS

Even if you missed our September 2014 Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) gathering, you can still benefit from several established writers’ top writing and publishing secrets.

A former ALWAYS gathering with Karen Mueller Bryson, Megan Scott, Laurie Fagen, Mallary Tytel, and Ann Videan. Our handful of established authors meets once a month to discuss topics affecting our writing.

A former ALWAYS gathering with Karen Mueller Bryson, Megan Scott, Laurie Fagen, Mallary Tytel, and Ann Videan. Our handful of established authors meets once a month to discuss topics affecting our writing.

An especially large thank you to Karen Mueller Bryson, who shared all her expertise and knowledge about publishing your own books and others’. Invaluable!

Additional gratitude, for sharing other great tips, goes to Karen, Laurie Fagen, Paul McNeese, Shelley Gillespie, Wendy Fallon, and our new friend Patricia. Read their tips and reap:

1. Keep your book cover art blurb to only a few sentences. Readers want concise summaries. Plus, remember to write your back cover for the book buyer (publisher), not the reader, when pitching.

2. Just write! The most important thing you can do to become a better, more prolific, and well-known author is to set aside time every day to write. Religiously!

3. Check out The Passive Voice blog, “A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing.”

4. Look into the Editor’s Toolkit software, providing tools for editing in Microsoft Word.

5. For an example of a indie self-publisher success story using serial fiction, look up Hugh Howey. Per Amazon, “He is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series. The WOOL OMNIBUS won Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Indie Book of the Year Award.”

5. Inform readers about your sales. Buy ads on bookseller sites—Bookbub, Book Gorilla, BookSends, etc.—to help position your book for bestseller status. It’s relatively easy, especially if you can categorize in a small niche market, and not horribly expensive.

6. See ProofOfExistence.com. This independent online service offers a copyright proof level between your own statement of copyright and that obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office.

7. From BureauOfCommunication, send fun “Mad-Libs”-type forms to friends and co-workers. Fill out a “Airing a Greivance,” “Statement of Gratitude,” “Unsolicited Feedback,” or other crazy-cool online forms.

8. You are not the best editor of your work. Let go. Fresh eyes can make your book better.

Some great ideas. What writing tip can you share with us here?

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Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth
avidean@videanunlimited.com

Eight top writing and vocabulary secrets from established authors – ALWAYS

At our Alliance of Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) gathering this week, five established writers shared their top writing secrets and vocabulary words for this month. Now you can benefit from them, too!

  1. Find font symbols
  2. Write every day
  3. Find speaking opportunities
  4. Create an em-dash
  5. Association for mystery writer
  6. Product placement in books
  7. Vocabulary suggestions
  8. A.Word.A.Day link

Visualize Your Vocabulary, Shayne Gardner

Visualize Your Vocabulary, Shayne Gardner

1. Shayne Gardner — who just published Visualize Your Vocabulary: Turn Any SAT Word into a Picture and Remember It Forever (Volume 1) with illustrations by Kris Hagen — provided a tip about finding special font symbols on a computer.

According to Microsoft Word’s help function, “You can use the Symbol dialog box to insert symbols, such as ¼ and ©, or special characters, such as an em dash (—) or ellipsis (…) that are not on your keyboard, as well as Unicode characters.” Here’s how.

Emma Dilemma series, Patricia Hermes

Emma Dilemma series, Patricia Hermes

2. Patricia Hemes, a multi-published author of the Emma Dilemma series among others, suggested simply that if you want to be a writer, you need to set time to write every day.

3. She also asked about speaking opportunities in the Phoenix area, and we suggested she contact the National Speakers Association headquartered in Tempe, Ariz.

4. Laurie Fagen, co-author in SoWest: Crime Time, a  Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter Anthology (Volume 5), led us to a discussion about dashes. We differentiated these, and shared how to create them in Microsoft Word:

  • Hyphen (-), used to connect words
  •  En-dash (–), for connection ranges or dates
  • Em-dash (—), what most people call simply a “dash,” signifying a break in a thought or longer pause or interruption in dialogue

SoWest: Crime Time anthology, Laurie Fagen

SoWest: Crime Time anthology, Laurie Fagen

5. By the way, Laurie is the current president of the Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths. This association for mystery writers meets the third Wednesday of the month at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in downtown Scottsdale, Ariz.

6. Ann Videan (that’s me), author of Rhythms & Music women’s novel and soundtrack, and The Delfaerune Rhapsody series, suggested authors look into product placement in your books to develop additional revenue streams. She explained that this simply involves mentioning brand names in your story and approaching the company about supporting the book for its publicity value to them. She recommended this HowStuffWorks article to learn more.

Song of the Ocarina, Ann Videan

Song of the Ocarina, Ann Videan (book 1 of the Delfaerune Rhapsody series)

7. Our topic, vocabulary, helped unveiled several new fun words or phrases we can can all incorporate into our writing.

  • brilliant: popular in the United Kingdom, meaning cool, great, or an outstanding performance, concept, or product
  • mind the gap: a  phrase to warn passengers to be careful while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform.
  • go to the loo: an informal, more polite way of saying you’re headed to the bathroom, or going to the toilet

(From these first three, can you tell Laurie just returned from a trip to Europe?)

  • kerfuffle: disturbance or fuss
  • ostentatious: fancy, showing off wealth of knowledge to gain attention
  • ambitious: desiring to be successful, famous, or powerful; not easily done or achieved
  • grawlixes: typographical symbols standing for profanities, appearing in dialogue balloons in place of actual dialogue
  • ar·sy–var·sy: backside forward, head over heels, topsy-turvy
  • interrobang: a printed punctuation mark (‽), available only in some typefaces, designed to combine the question mark (?) and the exclamation point (!), indicating a mixture of query and interjection
  • histrionic: over-the-top melodramatic or theatrical
  • opprobrious: expressing scorn or criticism
  • disconcert: unsettle, disturb the composure of

(These last three are Shayne’s favorites from his new vocab book. Weren’t we lucky to have him attend today and share such cool words?)

8. For an introduction to a new word every day, complete with pronunciations, Laurie suggested subscribing to Wordsmith.org’s A.Word.A.Day.

Care to add your own tips or favorite words?

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