We Loved The Journey But Compulsion Reads Is Closing

Leslie and I first conceived of what would eventually become Compulsion Reads over two years ago. We were two self-published authors looking for some sort of quality standard to help distinguish our novels from the massive flood of books hitting the market. Our search led us to a startling conclusion. No one was endorsing self-published  books based on a standard set of criteria.

We started talking and hatching. The result would become Compulsion Reads, a quality endorsement for indie and self-published books that met a basic quality standard. When Leslie and I first rolled out our idea, we had no idea of the reception that we would receive, but were thrilled that it was mostly positive. Books started flowing in, and we got to meet many amazing, talented, hard-working and creative self-published and indie authors. The need is clear. Business is good, but…

It’s Time For Us To Say Goodbye

Our plan for Compulsion Reads was good, perhaps a little too good. After two years of reading furiously, writing reviews, blogging, attending events, posting on Facebook and constantly thinking about how to continue to support our authors, Leslie and I are feeling the strain. Somewhere in our efforts to grow Compulsion Reads, our own writing began to suffer.

As much as we both love Compulsion Reads, our first love and first obligation has always been to our own writing. With this in mind, we have decided to close the doors of Compulsion Reads effective February 1, 2014.

We Pledge To Take Care of Our Endorsed Authors

We are very sensitive to the fact that each one of our endorsed authors paid us for an evaluation and the opportunity to earn our endorsement. As such, we want to maintain the value of the Compulsion Reads Endorsement and continue to support our endorsed authors for as long as possible. With that in mind, here is what we plan to do for our endorsed authors:

  • Ads For Endorsed Books: To make sure our most recently endorsed authors still receive the benefits we promised, we will continue our online reader advertising campaign throughout February and March. The sole purpose of this campaign is to draw likely readers to our Endorsed Books Library so they can discover the wonderful books we have endorsed.
  • Reviews Will Stay Up:  Our accounts on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and IDreamBooks will remain active, so your reviews will stay up on those sites.
  • The Website Will Live On! We will keep a smaller version of our website with our full Endorsed  Books Library up for three months until April 30, 2014, so you can continue to receive that important visibility. After April 30th we will switch to a simple landing page that explains what the Compulsion Reads Endorsement is and includes a list of all our endorsed books. This landing page will also include a link to your book’s Amazon page to help promote sales.
  • The Compulsion Reads Seal, Badge and Review: Authors are free to keep the Compulsion Reads Endorsement Seal on their endorsed book covers as a testament to the quality of their writing. You are also free to quote any or all of your Compulsion Reads review on your book, website, social media pages, etc… You may also keep our endorsement web badge on your website or social media page.

Parting Words

Leslie and I care deeply about our authors, and the decision to close our doors was not an easy one. We hope that you will understand how much work and effort went into this company. It was never about making money and always about trying to promote great new books and the authors behind them. After over 200 submissions and 100 endorsed books, we believe we have made an impact in the publishing world and given readers an easy way to discover quality self-published books. We are also excited to find that a few other companies are now offering quality endorsements. Others are seeing the need and trying to fill the gap.

In parting, we wish all of you the very best in your writing and publishing careers. You are all rock stars! The fact that you would submit your books for endorsement proves that are willing to invest in making your book a success. I know we’ll be seeing many of you on the bestseller lists in the future, if you aren’t already there!

If you have any questions about this transition, please let us know. We will be checking email for the next month until February 28, 2014.

 

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Safe Data Practices for Writers

Note from Compulsion Reads: On this blog we often like to dig into the mechanics of writing, like how to develop strong characters, avoid info dumps and keep grammar errors and typos at bay. Sometimes, however, focusing on the mechanics has nothing to do with what goes on inside the story and everything to do with how you protect your writing from computer failure, viruses and other outside threats. In this helpful blog post, author John W. Nichols shows you how to keep your precious works in progress safe. This is a must-read for any author who doesn’t want to experience the excruciating catastrophe of a lost file. 

What would you do if you lost your WIP and couldn't get it back?

What would you do if you lost your WIP and couldn’t get it back?

Guest Post By John W. Nichols

How did writers like Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway crank out so many books without a computer? Imagine the pain of writing, rewriting and editing using only pen and paper. No thanks! I love my desktop PC, my laptop, my writing tools, and instant access to worldwide data. Am I spoiled, lazy, or simply maximizing the available resources to write smarter?

We rely on computers, smart phones, and tablet devices for everything from paying our bills to expressing our opinions. As a writer, I have several works in progress, a collection of notes, and a number of idea files which may lead to future best-sellers. As an engineer, I question the security of my data. I’m not worried about someone stealing the plot from my latest novel or quoting me without proper credit. The more feedback I receive on my writing, the better. I’m concerned about losing my laptop or having my hard drive crash. Then what happens to all those files?

Writers, we need to stop the flow of ideas long enough to ask a practical question, “If something happens to this electronic device, can I recover my work?” Let me suggest 3 steps we can take to protect our all-important writing data.

1. Develop a data backup plan.

For years I copied files onto DVDs or memory sticks I stored in the desk drawer. I prided myself on having protected my crucial data. If I corrupted a file, suffered a hard drive crash, or purchased a new PC, I could easily locate and restore my work. This scheme has a glaring deficiency, though.

What happens if a fire, tornado, or hurricane destroys my home? If the computer is destroyed, will my backups, hiding 3 feet away, survive? I could deposit the backup media in a safety deposit box at the bank, but that is inconvenient.

Many newer computing devices have no local drives. Users must venture into the cloud and use Google Drive or some other service to manage data. Why not let Google worry about backups and focus on the writing? There are pluses to cloud computing, such as streamlined collaboration, but I use Scrivener, Gimp, Picasa, and a host of tools not yet built into the cloud. For me the solution is not yet practical.

Writers should consider a backup service such as Carbonite or ZipCloud. The vendor’s software is installed and configured, making backups automatic. I can focus on my writing, knowing my files are being encrypted and archived on the vendor’s server miles from my home.

2. Virus protection is a must.

My research often takes me to unfamiliar web sites, and some are baited traps waiting to snare unsuspecting surfers. Viewing the site without protection may allow installation of a virus or spyware on my system. Perhaps the hacker seeks my email address book so he can flood my contacts with spam. Maybe the virus is more destructive and zaps my entire hard drive. Either outcome is unacceptable. The expense of a virus protection package is the price of admission for healthy networking. Norton and McAfee are two well known products, but there are others. Please, writers, if you connect a device to the web, assume it can be hacked and protect your data as well as you can.

3. Be password smart.

As the number of our accounts and passwords multiply, we struggle to recall them. I used to keep a written log of passwords and reused the same password for many online accounts. Neither practice is secure.

Business Week[1] reports it takes a hacker 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is 6 characters long. Use an 8 character password that mixes lower case, upper case, numbers, and symbols, and the time to crack jumps to 463 years.

A password management system can ease the pain. Norton includes Identity Safe in some packages and shareware password managers, such as Password Safe[2], are available. With Password Safe, my easily-remembered 19 character string unlocks access to my encrypted password and account information.

Writers, our identity, personal data, and work in progress belong to us. We need to review our protection practices and consider the integrity of our password and backup strategies. Investing in good habits now may easy the pain of recovery should tragedy strike.

***

John W. Nichols is the author of Go For The Gold: Honch Wilson Adventure #1, an action-packed novel for tween readers that has earned the Compulsion Reads quality book endorsement.

John W. Nichols writes from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives and gardens with his wife. John is a professional engineer who has authored mounds of technical documentation during his 30 year career. He now writes full time for his readers. Learn more at: http://www.nicholsnotes.com



[1] Source: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_06/b4214036460585.htm

[2] Available at: http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/

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Six Things An Author Should Include At The End Of Their Novel To Sell More Books

Turn your readers into a Phalanx of support at the end of your book.

Turn your readers into a Phalanx of support at the end of your book.

Let’s say for all intents and purposes that you’ve written a book…not just any book, an AWESOME book. Readers will cry tears of pure sorrow, they will laugh until their belly aches, they will suddenly and profoundly see the world in a whole new way. As they flip to the last page, they are putty in your hands. If you just stamp THE END and leave it at that, you’ve just wasted an incredibly important opportunity.

Your readers will be primed to take action for your benefit after finishing your awesome book. Don’t let them get away. Below is a list of six things you should put at the end of your book to help stay connected with readers, encourage them to purchase your other works, and recruit them to help you take over the literary universe.

1. Request A Review

Getting reader reviews can feel like pulling teeth. Even big fans somehow “forget” to write a review or don’t understand how important reviews are to authors, especially indie authors who can’t afford lots of expensive promotion.

At the end of your book, while your reader is still catching their breath from your spectacular ending, humbly request a review. If a reader is ever going to write a review, this is the time. Your request should be polite and short. Here’s one example:

Reviews from readers like you play a very important role in encouraging other readers to take a chance on a new author. If you enjoyed this book, please consider writing a short review on the site where you purchased it and sharing the review with your friends on your social networking sites. It would really mean a lot!

Who could say no to a request like that?

2. Ask Them To Join Your Mailing List

Don’t play “catch and release” with your readers. Once you’ve got them on the hook, try and keep them by encouraging them to join your mailing list. Your mailing list can become one of your most potent weapons as an author. The people on your list are willing to give you their contact information, which means they are invested in you. They represent your core phalanx of fans and can be counted on to purchase any new book you write.

Think about how great it would be to build a list of 300 Spartan-like fans who would follow you into any author endeavor. Tapping a deep mailing list can also help launch you onto Amazon’s best-selling and popularity lists if your genre isn’t spectacularly competitive.  In certain genres, 300 sales over a few days could put you on a best-selling list, which can propel even more sales.

The best place to ask for a mailing list sign up is at the end of your book. Again, readers who really enjoyed your writing are primed to want more and will want to sign up for your list. Your message can be as simple as:

To find out about Jane Doe’s newest releases, sign up for her mailing list at: www.JaneDoeWritesAwesomeBooks.com/Mailing-list/

Or: Contact Jane Doe at JDoe@JaneDoe.com to be added to her mailing list.

Just make sure you use your list responsibility. If you send out a bunch of markety crap every week, your fans will flee.

3. List of Other Works

The only thing better than reading an awesome book…is reading even MORE awesome books. Your book is so good, that your readers will probably be suffering separation anxiety when they hit the last page. Don’t leave them hanging. While they’re still under your writerly spell, let them know all of the other books you have available for them to buy. List other works in the series first, and then anything and everything else that you’ve written. It’s worth the effort to revise your ebook and POD files every so often to update these lists.

Make the purchase even more of a no-brainer by embedding links in your ebook files that will take readers right to the book’s sales page. If your reader is using a Kindle or a Kindle app on a tablet or phone, they can click the link and purchase another one of your books  without pausing for a breath.

4. Author Bio

Help cement the loyalty of your Spartans by introducing yourself with a short bio. Bios allow readers to get to know you as a person, rather than as just a name on the cover of a book. When they see you as a person, they can also start seeing you as a friend they want to support.

Bios are especially important for non-fiction writers who need to show their credentials to help satisfy any reader skepticism. Fiction authors may also want to show some credentials. If, like John Grisham, you happen to be a lawyer writing legal thrillers, it’s worth it note your expertise in your bio.

Overall, use your bio to express who you are and to give readers a little insight into your background. Two or three paragraphs should be sufficient unless you are a subject-matter expert and need to list all your accolades to prove your reputation.

5. Contact Points

While your mailing list is a very important point of contact, it shouldn’t be the only way readers interact with you. Your website and/or social networking pages are places where you want to attract readers. Don’t forget to ask readers to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter, and/or visit your website. An easy way to include this information is to list the links at the end of your author bio using a lead in like this:

…To learn more about Jane Doe and keep in the loop on her current projects, like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/Jane-Doe or visit her website at www.JaneDoe.com.

Make it worth your reader’s time and effort to visit your social networking pages and website by keeping them fresh and active. Consider adding free samples or sneak peeks of future works or covers to your website, posting regular updates and memes on your Facebook page, and even holding a contest or two to keep your readers engaged.

6. Teaser

Television shows use teasers all the time to great effect. At the end of your favorite drama or thriller, you’ll usually get a heart-pounding glimpse of the next episode so you’ll be sure to tune in. You can use this same concept to keep readers hooked by offering a teaser for some of your other work at the end of your book. The teaser can promote an upcoming novel or a book in a different genre that your reader may not have considered trying out on their own. A teaser can be the first chapter of your next book, a few chapters, or a section from anywhere in your book that ratchets up the tension without giving away a lot of spoilers.

Teasers are especially powerful if you are writing a series. By the end of your first book, your Spartans are ready to jump off a cliff for your protagonist or fight your antagonist to the death. Keep them reeled in with a tantalizing teaser that puts your characters in even more dire straits. Readers won’t be able to resist.

If you don’t have enough content finalized to put a teaser at the back of your book, don’t worry. The wonderful thing about self-publishing is that you can always update your book files with teasers once you have enough material. If the teaser is for a published book, make sure you end at a good hook and add a link to the book’s purchase page in your ebook files.

Special Notes

Bonus tip! In some cases, you may want to consider adding a special note for your readers at the back of the book that goes into more detail about the themes within the book. For instance, one of the major themes in the novella One Day in Budapest by J.F. Penn is nationalistic fervor and anti-Semitism in Hungary. At the end of the novella, Penn provides additional information about right-wing nationalism in Hungary, the Jewish community in Budapest, and Budapest landmarks. She even includes links to learn more information.

If you want to take a little time at the end of your book to explore a theme within your book in more detail, discuss a time period, setting or even parts of the book that were based on fact, all of these tidbits can help the curious reader gain a deeper appreciation of your novel. Go for it!

I’d also humbly suggest adding a paragraph about the concept behind the Compulsion Reads Indie Book Endorsement if your nifty novel has earned it. Brag a little. If your book earned our endorsement you deserve it!

“The End” is not truly the end with an indie novel. Gently guide your Spartans to help buffer your reputation with good reviews, seal their loyalty with a strong bio, and invite them to new adventures over the horizon by keeping in touch and letting them know about your other works. Well-planned back material can help you build an army of loyal readers and propel you to lots of book sale glory.

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The Second Best Book Marketing Tip I Ever Learned

Pretty young Asian woman sitting at typewriter swinging head and hair around.When I published my first novel, Falling – Girl With Broken Wings, I made a big mistake: I marketed the hell out of it. I toiled to write blog posts, spent hours on message boards making connections, sent email after email asking book review bloggers to consider my book, etc…

It’s not a bad thing to try and come out with a bang when you publish your first novel, but here was my problem – I only had one product to offer. I did sell some books, and it was a thrill to get my first Amazon payment, but after a few months, I was exhausted from the constant pressure to market. Throughout this time, I was also devouring advice from successful indie authors like J.A. Konrath, David Gaughran and Dean Wesley Smith. One piece of stellar advice echoed from all of their blogs.

Write More

Your writing is your product. When you only have a single product, it’s like opening a store with only one item on the shelf ; you are severely limiting the sales you can make and the success you can achieve. The reasoning is all in the math.

Fun with Math

Let’s say that you were like me and you spent so much time marketing, your fingers were practically smoking from all the blog writing, message board posting and emailing to book bloggers. At the end of a big campaign you make 500 sale of your thriller, Things Explode A Lot starring your hero Flint McHotness.

That’s no too shabby for a first-time author. Now, let’s say that your book is so good that 300 of those people are now fans for life and would buy anything you wrote, no questions asked. If you only have one book on the market, your fans for life are left twiddling their thumbs. All you get from your marketing effort is 500 sales. Think about how different this situation would be if you had five books available. Your new 300 fans for life now have four more books to gleefully shove into their online shopping carts. Suddenly your original 500 sales have produced 1,200 additional sales. Whoa, things just got serious.

Super Powered  Marketing

The very fact that you have a whole shelf full of products in your author store can super charge your marketing. Now, every piece of marketing you do for one novel automatically helps support all of your other writing.

Let’s look at another quick example. Let’s say you put $100 into a Goodreads ad campaign for Things Explode A Lot. You make 14 sales from this campaign. Things Explode A Lot is selling for $6.99 on Amazon and you get a 70% cut, which means you make $68.52 on your 14 sales. If Things Explode A Lot is the only book on your shelf, then you might consider your ad campaign a bust.

However, let’s say that Things Explode A Lot is only the first in a ten part series. Out of the 14 sales you made, maybe half fell hard for Flint McHotness and purchased the rest of the books in the series. Your original 14 sales have now multiplied into 77 sales. Your total royalties would be around $376.76, which makes your marketing campaign a relative success.

When you market your writing, you are spending precious capital, whether it’s money, time or both. The more products you have, the more you can potentially earn back from your efforts.

Greater Visibility

This one is a no brainer. The more books you have on your author shelf, the more visible you’ll be. There are many ways you can use concept to your advantage. If you write across genres, you can market to different groups of readers and then nudge them to cross over to read your other works. Maybe you can hit the Mommy blogs with your contemporary fiction about a single mom raising triplets called Three’s More Company Than I Ever Wanted and then get those same mommas salivating over Flint McHotness.

Authoring multiple books also allows you to become more visible on retailor websites, like Amazon, which, if we’re being honest is the Big Kahuna of visibility. Your books could pepper multiple genre lists and best seller lists on Amazon, or start showing up in the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought sections of your other book pages.

Think of each of your books or writings as a hook dangling in the ocean. The more hooks, the more bites!

Leverage

After you’ve written multiple books, you can begin to effectively leverage some of your writing to sell even more. Want to raise awareness of your Flint McHotness series? Then set Things Explode A Lot at a discount, or even set it for free through the KDP select program. With nine other books available at full price, you can afford to give readers a scintillating taste of bad boy Flint McHotness for free. If you did your job as an author, a good amount of these readers will be willing to pay for the next volumes to see if Flint escaped that last huge explosion at the dynamite factory.

Short stories and novellas also work as great freebies that you can use to entice readers to visit your website, sign up for your mailing list, or like your Facebook page (which will help you stay in contact with them).

Again, if you only have a single book on hand, giving it away may earn you a nice review, but it can’t help propel sales, profit, and long term fans.

Moral of the Blog

The moral of this blog post is not to put a stop to all marketing endeavors until you’ve furiously written twenty books. As an author, marketing should be a part of your weekly or monthly routine whether you’ve self-published one book or dozens. Hopefully this blog has provided you with some insight so you can prioritize your time and efforts. If you are spending three hours a week marketing a single book for every hour you work on the follow-up manuscript, you may want to dial back the marketing and work on putting more products on your author shelf. You may, like I did, feel that you must market  your book all the time in order to be successful, but perhaps the best marketing you can do is to write a new novel instead of a new blog post or press release.

The Kicker

You may have noticed that the title of this blog post is “The Second Most Important Book Marketing Tip I Ever Learned”. This begs the obvious question  – What is the number one best marketing tip for indie authors that I learned?

 This shouldn’t be a surprise – Write a great book.

All of the advice in this post is predicated on the assumption that your books are good, and that readers will be begging for more each time they finish your novel. If your writing has all the appeal of watching paint dry, it doesn’t matter how many books you write – you will never be able to build an audience of diehard fans (unless you have a very extended and close-knit family).

Always, always, always write the best manuscript you are capable of. Quality is the foundation of an indie author’s success. It’s a big reason why we created our quality book endorsement for indie and self-published books.

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Go Paranormal This Halloween With Our Endorsed Paranormal Books Collection

Paranormal

All Hallows Eve is nearly upon us, which means our doorsteps are about to get haunted by…GASP mini Miley Cyrus impersonators! Oh, and maybe some ghosts, witches, and vampires too. But seriously, I’m much more terrified of Miley.

Sure, the inflatable yard pumpkins, fake spider webs, and plastic hands reaching out from the rosebushes are a nice touch, but if you really want to get into the Halloween spirit, why not dip into our endorsed paranormal books collection and see what witchery and magic you can find?

Our collection of endorsed indie paranormal books continues to grow, and we’ve got a lot of great selections to choose from. If you can’t decide between witches and vampires, then enjoy both in The Golden Apple of Discord by Lauren Hodges. Grave Doubts by Lynn Bohart adds a paranormal element to a murder mystery investigation. For those readers who want to get a little dark and dirty, Throne of the Idol by Ciaran Dwynvil is a gay, erotic novella involving a very naughty demon and monk.

Other tasty paranormal books to try include One Woman by Eva Marie Paulliere, Life: As Fragile as Dust by Paul Worthington and Dust to Blood by Tonya Cannariato.

Why drive across town to go to a haunted house, when you can curl up at night with a good paranormal book endorsed by Compulsion Reads?

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Writing Conference: To Go or Not To Go

Let’s face it, a writer’s time and money are precious commodities. Many of us have to balance work, family, social lives and our writing time to complete our manuscripts. In addition to demands on our time, if we plan on self-publishing, we need to budget money for editors, formatters, cover artists and marketing. While managing to get all of these restraints in line we still have the option to invest more time and money into attending writing conferences. This begs the questions, should we attend these events? The answer, like most things in the publishing arena, comes down to – “It depends”.

Before starting Compulsion Reads, Jessica and I both attended a few writing conferences. Recently, we were honored to present workshops at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference (CCCW).  Now that we’ve seen how both sides of the conference world work we have some thoughts about whether or not writers should invest in them.

Networking Opportunities

After nerves settled from presenting at CCCW in front of complete strangers we attended some fun networking sessions, including a “power lunch” where attendees would join the presenters at individual tables to pick our brains. I had the privilege of meeting some great ladies who were very interested in digital marketing and had some good questions about succeeding in the online arena. They asked tons of questions, and I was able to help guide them on topics that could have taken them hours to figure out on their own.

While the event cost them money and time, they walked away with valuable information that they may not have had access to. After all, you need to know what to Google before you can Google it. Writering conferences are a great source of information that can save you, as a writer, tons of time. In addition to having access to presenters at conferences, you can also connect with agents and editors who are either looking for new talent or pimping their services. Before a conference invites faculty they usually do their homework and vet the candidates. I would encourage writers to venture out to one of these events, dare to be brave, and approach presenters to help you find the answers to questions that Google can’t provide.

On the other hand, while the potential for networking at conferences is high, if you have the time and energy you can forge similar relationships in other less expensive ways. Most agents, editors, and speakers have an online presence, be it a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile or a website. Seek out the industry leaders that you respect through social media or their website, and then comment on their blogs, tweets and status updates. After a while they will start to recognize you and then you may be able to ask specific questions or seek out their help depending on their responsiveness. While this technique takes longer than one weekend, it can help you build stronger relationships since the person you’re targeting may have fewer demands on their attention than they would at a conference.

Workshops and Classes

Besides the great networking you’ll have access to at a writer’s conference, there are the classes and workshops that conferences make available. These opportunities are a great way to hone a specific skill, like character development or creating a high concept plot. In a short period of time you are going to get a lot of information, in some cases, so much your brain hurts. But if you can pull a few pearls of wisdom from each session that can help you develop a stronger manuscript then it’s worth the time and money.

Some conferences even offer late night critique groups where you can work with editors or industry leaders to get suggestions on your manuscript. When I attended one of these late night sessions, I got great feedback and was even able to dabble in areas that I hadn’t felt comfortable writing before (it was a “how to write erotica without giggling” class). Be sure to look for these critique group opportunities. People in the groups may not know you, so you could get a unique perspective on your work.

Now, while attending a conference can get you access to lots of workshops and classes in a short time period, you can probably find the same valuable information online. Many speakers and organizations host online webinars and classes; some are even free or very affordable. These classes could be just what you need to strengthen a few skills without breaking the bank for that one class you really want to attend at a conference.

Buyer Beware: Not All Conferences Are Created Equal

Of course because nothing is always rainbows and kittens, not all events are created equally. So before you write that check for a few hundred dollars or more (conferences costs can range anywhere from $150 – $1,000 or more) and book your hotel, do your research. Look at the faculty of the event you are thinking about attending. Are they reputable industry leaders? Have you heard of them? You don’t want to fork over hard earned money to find out that you know more about the topics than your instructors. Next, look at the schedule, if it’s posted, if not look at past year’s schedules to get an idea of what they may cover. Is there more than one writing track (like nonfiction, fiction, marketing etc.) that meets your needs as an author? Can you jump from one track to another? For example, if you are thinking about trying out screenwriting, does the conference only allow you to go to the fiction sessions you signed up for? Finally, are the directors or staff easy to reach? If you have questions before you register, can you contact them? Are they friendly and helpful? If they are too busy to help you before the event, can you imagine how short they may be during the conference? My final pearl of wisdom for you is that just because a writing conference is put on by a popular or big organization doesn’t mean it’s the best. While these big companies have the funds to host events at fancy hotels, it doesn’t mean they took the time and energy to really meet the needs of their attendees.

Writing Conferences Yeah or Nay

Overall, I would encourage writers to go to at least one conference. They offer so many opportunities it’s hard not to give them a try. Plus you never know, you may be struck by the writing muse and come up with an award winning concept during the keynote speaker’s speech. I know that not everyone can afford the luxury of attending a conference, and if you are one of them, that’s okay. They are by no means a requirement to be a successful writer. Attending a conference is an experience that I hope each of you get to take part in, but don’t break the bank or skip dinners to go to one.

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Amazon Matchbook: Book Bundling Has Arrived

Amazon matchbookAbout a year ago I wrote a blog post about how I was desperate for the book publishing industry to start bundling books like they do blu-ray movies. I wanted to be able to purchase a paperback/hardback copy of a book and get the e-version for free. This model makes a lot of sense to me. I like to have books on my shelf that make me look worldly and well read (I keep my romances safely hidden on my Kindle and out of the sight of my parents and grandparents). Well, someone besides textbook manufactories, finally got it. Get ready readers, because Amazon Matchbook is going to offer this service to its customers.

Starting sometime this month readers will be able to buy the print edition of some their favorite books and then have the opportunity to get the e-version at a deeply discounted rate, in some cases free. Publishers and indie authors will decide which books they will offer as part of the Amazon Matchbook program. This, of course, means that your favorite books may not be included in the program if the publisher has decided not to add it. So far the list of books that are going to be included in the program are pretty tempting, including books by authors like Neil Gaiman, Jodi Picoult, Michael Crichton and many others.

From a reader’s perspective, I am really excited about Amazon Matchbook. When Amazon launched a similar program with CD purchases (buy the CD get the download free and immediately) I found no excuse to not take part in the deal. Now that I’ll be faced with a similar choice for books, I think that my shelves and Kindle will be all filled up before long. I think my favorite part about this program is how helpful it will be when it comes to traveling by plane. Currently (although I hear this may be changing) you have to power down all your electronics before the plane leaves the tarmac. This means for about twenty minutes I get to stare out the window or flip through the inflight magazine until I can get back into the action of the book I’m reading. Now, I can pack one print copy and never miss a beat as we approach cruising altitude.

In addition to being happier readers, as writers this program provides us an opportunity to earn a bigger royalty rate. Since print copies of books tend to cost more, readers tend to choose the e-version instead. Now that they can get both by spending a little more, authors will get to cash in on that higher royalty rate.

So far I’m pretty excited about the Amazon Matchbook program and am looking forward to it unrolling and lots of authors and publishers participating. What do you think about it? Are you going to buy a book or two? Are you thinking about enrolling your books in the program?

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Five Things To Look For In A Good Writing Critique Partner

A great writing critique partner will give your manuscript a lot of tough love.

A great writing critique partner will give your manuscript a lot of tough love.

Writing can get awfully lonely, especially in the beginning when it’s just you and that intimidating blinking cursor on the screen. Though much of writing is an “art of one”, you don’t have to nor should you go it alone. At some point along the way, usually when you have a few solid chapters in hand, you’ll want to get another set of eyes (or several sets) on your words to make sure that you are going in the right direction.

A good writing critique partner is truly a “partner” in your writing process. Their job is to flag plot holes, question a character’s motivation, deliver the harsh news that your favorite paragraph should go, and generally give you honest and constructive feedback on your work. Your critique partner is also a friend who can help you stay motivated to write, help generate ideas when you get stuck, and support you from drafts one to infinity.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have forged some very strong critique partnerships. It takes a lot of trust to hand your new, vulnerable manuscript over to someone and accept their feedback with openness and respect. Leslie and I were critique partners before we ever conceived the idea of Compulsion Reads. The trust that we shared and the friendship we built when critiquing each other’s work eventually led us to jump into this business together. Yeah, critique partnerships can be that strong.

Not any random Joe or Jane makes a good critique partner.  You must choose your partners with care. They will have a big impact on the final product of your book! A bad critique partner is worse than useless. Not only could they fail their primary duty to help you improve your manuscript, they could actually make your book worse.

[Note: If you want to know how to find a good book critique partner, I covered that in my last blog post.]

If you are on the lookout for a book critique partner or two (I recommend using at least two critique partners and no more than five), here are the top five criteria they should meet:

1.       Similar Writing Goals and Writing Level

A critique partnership works best if both partners share similar writing goals and are at a similar place with their writing. For instance, if you are serious about completing and self-publishing your novel, it will be much more helpful for you to work with a critique partner who is also focused on eventual publication. If your critique partner is working on her first short story and struggling with basics like writing believable dialogue or keeping a consistent voice, you probably won’t get the high-level feedback from her that you are looking for.

2.       Familiar With Your Genre

You and your critique partner don’t need to write the same genre (though this would definitely be a bonus), but you both should be familiar with the genre of the other. Every genre contains its own common themes and strictures that readers expect to see. For instance, romance contains many common formulas that fans know, love and expect. If you write romance and your critique partner only reads non-fiction histories of the Middle Ages, she likely won’t be able to give you strong feedback on your plotting, pacing, character development, sex scenes, and conflict.  When you find a critique partner who is a fan of your genre, you will get feedback from the perspective of a potential reader.

 3.       Provides Constructive Feedback

The primary purpose of a critique partner is to give you useful, honest and constructive feedback so that you can improve your manuscript. There is an art to providing feedback. A good critique partner will have the strength and honesty to give you the hard truths without breaking your spirit.

A bad partnership is one where your critique partner becomes your cheerleader, always giving you gushing praise but unwilling to dig deep into your manuscript and help your unknot difficult tangles. On the flip side of a coin, some critique partners miss the “constructive” part of the “constructive criticism” equation and seem to delight in picking apart your manuscript without providing recommended fixes. Additionally, you need to watch out for critique partners who try to rewrite your work for you. A good critique partner respects your voice and your approach to your novel.

 4.       Consistent and Reliable

It may seem mundane to add this one to the list, but you’ll realize how important consistency and reliability are if you ever stumble upon a critique partner who does not does grasp these concepts. You must be able to count on your critique partner to show up to meetings (if you meet) and to return your chapters to you in the timeframe that you agreed upon. This harkens back to the first criteria in my list.

You and your critique partner don’t need to produce the same amount of content in the same amount of time or be in the same stages of your manuscript. You both just have to agree on how your partnership will work. Maybe you both agree to meet every other week and to read up to three chapters of each other’s work a week. It doesn’t matter what rules you come up with as long as you both communicate and agree on the expectations. If your critique partner flakes on a regular basis without a good reason, then it’s time to go looking for a more reliable critique partner.

 5.       Trustworthy

You and your critique partner don’t need to be the best of friends, but you do need to trust each other and be willing to listen to your partner’s feedback. This will be difficult if you don’t trust and respect your critique partner’s judgment. In my experience, it doesn’t take me long to become invested in my critique partner’s work and to ask questions about how and why she chose her topic. Stories are shared, triumphs are celebrated, setbacks are commiserated, and the trust grows deeper and deeper.

In order to find a good critique partner, YOU have to be a good book critique partner as well. A critique partnership is a two-way street, and you can’t expect to take, take, take without giving just as much in return. Take a minute and skim the criteria of a good critique partner again and make sure each of these points describes you as well!

If you haven’t read my last post on how to find a good book critique partner, it’s some good reading.

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Writer’s Prompt

I finally had everything I’d ever wanted. I was exactly where I wanted to be. So Why couldn’t I just enjoy it?

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I could only think of one way to escape, the road

Country Road On Cloudy Day

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Daily Writer Inspiration

I finally had everything I’d ever wanted. I was exactly where I wanted to be. So Why couldn’t I just enjoy it?

Writer's Prompt