Review, writing

Mastering Amazon Descriptions

Blurbs.

Some might consider them the worst part of indie publishing.

Others consider them the funnest and bestest part.

Only one of these groups needs professional help.

For everyone else, there’s a great new book out by Brian Meeks, all about learning the art of writing cover copy.

I’m only just getting started with it, but have already tried to adopt his initial advice in changing the way I write blog and Facebook posts: smaller text blocks and more white space.

And I do notice a difference!

People are busy and they don’t want to break down huge chunks of texts.

I sure as heck don’t if I’m reading a bunch of blog posts. Give it to me short and sweet, and if that’s the way I like to read, then why did it take me so long to change my style?

I’ve slapped my wrist for that one.

I’m only getting started on the book, so I’ll give a full review once I’m finished, but I do recommend you check it out! Anything that can take some of the pain out of crafting one of the most essential marketing points, am I right?

You can find Mastering Amazon Descriptions here (and be sure to join the FB group to get feedback and input from others suffering the same cover copy pains!)

update, writing

Who You Know

No matter where your passions lie, networking is necessary evil.

Don’t stress or panic!

It doesn’t have to be as scary as all that.

Sure, it might mean chatting with strangers and remembering to brush your hair, but it can be fun and memorable and present opportunities you never would have gotten if you’d stayed at home, headphones on, nose in book/video game/canvas/guitar case/garden, etc.

I’ll even share a secret with you.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to put on pants.

Okay, if you’re leaving the house to do this networking thing, please, put on some form of clothing. Not only will you avoid the chill, you’ll also avoid the criminal charges, and that’s just better for everyone.

BUT you don’t have to leave the house.

Social media is a wonderful thing.

It can be.

Just avoid the people who make you miserable.

But that’s an aside.

Point is, social media is full of people who share your interests and are looking to connect with like-minded people for support, advice, discussion, inside jokes that only fellow writers/musicians/gardeners/gamers will understand.

And really, that’s what networking is.

To go out and expect to meet people just for the sake of getting opportunities is not going to get you very far. Most people have an easy time sniffing out when they’re being used.

Proper networking is right there in the name. Network. Connection. Information going back and forth to create a complete data set. The wider the network, the more information, the clearer the picture.

Twitter, when done carefully and when well-curated, can be a fantastic source of networking. It can be easy to fall into the world of trolls or instigators, but if you’re paying attention to the people you follow, you should be able to only see what you want to see.

In my case, the recent hashtag #WritingCommunity has introduced me to a whole new circle of writers in various stages of their careers.

It has allowed me to find support and encouragement and to offer it in others.

My time on Twitter led me to one of my first circles of writer friends, many of whom I’m still in contact with today, 10 years later.

One of those people is the person who get me into indie publishing.

I’ve met people who have brought me into anthologies and boxsets, who have led me to writing forums that have helped me hone my craft and get inspired, who have become close friends, confidantes, and kindred spirits.

This weekend, I’m heading off to meet a few of these people in person, and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of getting the words written and talking shop with a whole cabin of people.

So try not to think of networking as a four-letter word.

Find your own way of reaching out and meeting people in your field.

You never know how your life will change for the better.

Thoughts, writing

Editing: The Personal Touch

PLUS you get a very small sneak peek at on of my WIPs

I had an interesting experience this week that really brought home how important it is to have a strong personal editor-writer rapport.

Along with working to build my own client list, I’ve been applying to positions to do some proofreading/copyediting for external companies. I see it as a great way to bring in a steady income while also developing the skills I want to put back into my own business.

This particular job would have been great. Working from home, choice of projects, ability to choose my own hours… but no client interaction. Everything would come from the company-as-mediator.

This sort of raised some questions for me, but I figured I would apply for it anyway as it couldn’t hurt to see what the process was like.

Part of the application was a series of mock assignments based on the various types of projects that would be coming in. Technical papers, English assignments, blog posts, etc.

But as I started it, I realized how much of a double-edged sword having the company-as-mediator would wind up being.

Now, to be fair, I come at projects very much with a creative-editor/writer mindset, where keeping the voice and authenticity of the piece clear is just as crucial as ensuring it’s typographically/grammatically clean. This company, I suspect, is looking for more of a technical editor. Someone who just dives in and makes changes at will.

But as I was working through these assignments, there were moment where I was left with questions. The meaning of the sentence wasn’t entirely clear. Was there more to the point they were trying to make? A sentence that started, but never really ended, arguments that never seemed to reach their point.

I suppose the point of the test was to prove that I could edit these sentences in a way that made them sound complete, however possible. But that would just be rewriting someone else’s work, which, I guess, just isn’t in me to do. I want to be able to foster relationships with my clients, just as I foster relationships with my editors. I want to be able to leave comments in track changes requesting/suggesting clarifications, just as I love when my editors do this for me. It allows the weaknesses to be caught without losing the authenticity of the piece.

It takes a great deal of trust to send someone your work. Ego is involved, money is involved, and your faith in the final product before it goes out into the world. More than anything else, you want to make sure that you’re working with someone who cares about your WIP as much as you do, who wants to make sure that the best version of it goes out into the world.

To date, I’ve been incredibly lucky in the editors I’ve worked with. They had turned the pages of my WIP black and blue, but I have walked away with the absolutely confidence my book was stronger for it.

If I can be that and offer that for someone else, then that just makes every comma question worthwhile.

What do you look for in an editor?

Thoughts, writing

Lie vs. Lay

It’s not a pet peeve this week, just a tricky one that often gets me thinking twice, too. And lately I’ve been seeing it in all kinds of trad pubbed books as well as indie.

The dreaded Lie vs. Lay

lying-lion
This lion is lyin’ down. Ha… ha…

WHICH ONE DO YOU USE AND WHEN? It’s the frequent cry I hear in my dreams as some writer somewhere in the world stumbles upon this dilemma and proceeds to tear out their hair. WHY ARE THESE WORDS SO CLOSE BUT NOT THE SAME?

I know, my friend, I know.

So I’m going to attempt to help clear things up by sharing the tip that finally made it click in my own head. If you hear the same click in yours, huzzah! If not, it’s all right. Your time will come.

Lie is more of an active verb; lay is passive.

You lie down on the bed, but you lay the socks down on the dresser.

I lie in the grass, but I lay the blanket on the sand.

BUT WHAT ABOUT IN THE PAST TENSE???? you might scream in frustration.

A good question, because this is where grammar really hates us.

You lay down on the bed, but you laid the socks down on the dresser.

I lay in the grass, but I laid the blanket on the sand.

WHAT ABOUT THE PAST PARTICIPLE???

All right, all right, this one is a will be easier if you’ve gotten the past tense down:

You have lain down on the bed, but you have laid the socks down on the dresser

I have lain in the grass, but I have laid the blanket on the sand

Lie          Lay         Lain

Lay         Laid        Laid

If you want or need more tricks to try to make it stick, the Grammar Girl has got you covered!

Did you hear the click? Was this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!

update

EMS Upgrade (cont’d)

I’m afraid to say I’m not quite as far in the newsletter changeover as I’d hoped to be by this point. In part because of some animal health issues that kept us away from home at high stress levels for the better part of last week, but also because of some miscommunications.

newsletter

Not that I don’t have anything to report, however.

I mentioned last week that I am making the move from trusted MailChimp to the fancier dancier ActiveCampaign. So far I have nothing bad to say about the service, but that’s mostly because I haven’t really played with it yet.

For the customer service… I’m on the fence.

Mostly, I’m blown away by how on top of things they are. I signed up for the free trial so that I could get my account set up and everything ready before migrating everyone over from MailChimp. Within two days, I was receiving calls from ActiveCampaign looking to introduce me to their service, see if I had any questions, and to set me up with a longer phone call to go over the different features that would best suit my business.

Wow!

I’d never encountered anything like that before and was super impressed! I looked forward to the longer chat, which involves some screenshare time so I could get a crash course in how to best use the service.

So I book the time, and that night, 6:15, I postpone dinner so I can be at my computer in time for the call.

Now, for the intro call, the phone rang within 30 seconds of the clock rolling over to our arranged time.

This time… 6:20 rolls around…. 6:30…. 6:45.

After forty-five minutes of waiting, I send off an email to follow up and make sure we’re all on the same page about the time of the call. A few minutes later, I receive a reply telling me they had tried the number on file, but it had just kept ringing without anyone answering.

Now, I had my phone right beside me. I’d made sure the volume was up, and there was no one on the line. Also, I was confused about why no one followed up with an email when the call didn’t go through, even if it was a “sorry we missed you!” message.

We tried to arrange another time for the call, but nothing has worked with our schedules, so I’m just going to start with a few links they sent me to try to work it out on my own.

So overall… kind of a wash as far as customer service goes (likely, like with anywhere, it’s just a matter of who you get), but I’m still really excited to try out all the different features and see how this can up my game! That is a big part of my goal for this weekend, so I should have at least a few more updates for you by then.

update

REBLOG: KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers — David Gaughran

I read this article earlier today and felt it was important for both readers and authors to know. Amazon has been instrumental in bringing indie authors onto the publishing playing field, but it does have its drawbacks, like some slow momentum in addressing issues as they arise.

A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which is ghosting most KDP ebooks (and many Amazon imprint titles) for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — which has also exposed a glaring security problem. 153 more words

via KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers — David Gaughran

update

KDP Printing

Another industry-related post before I return next week to my English pet peeves: the KDP print experience.

For reasons that I’m sure are easy to understand, I was anxious to receive my first KDP paperback proof. When there’s a change in the system, there’s always a chance that the quality is going to be…iffy.

And I can’t really say otherwise when my Veilfire proof arrived. The colours are a bit dark, the glue is showing under the cover, and the pages are filled with tiny black lines (no, not the words, don’t be silly). I’m hoping that the author copies are a smidge better, but at the very least, the proof still looks professional and sellable, so huzzah!

One thing you should be aware of if you haven’t started seeing this around the interwebs: unlike Createspace’s subtle but convenient PROOF written on the last page in the book, KDP has opted for a more “in your face” method of letting you know it’s an arc.

proof

Kind of hard to miss that giant NOT FOR RESALE that wraps around the entire cover.

Downside: It makes using your proof copy for promo a little bit of a challenge. It also means that you’re not able to get the full cover experience prior to setting your book to live and ordering your author copies.

On the other hand is that upside: You never need to worry about selling your proof copy by accident…

So take that as KDP’s starting point. Some people are already contacting them to voice their displeasure, so it might change as the growing pains are worked out.

What are your thoughts on the new KDP paperbacks? Yay? Nay? Voice your thoughts in the comments!

update, writing

Createspace to KDP

Oh Amazon, how you do love to change things on us writers. Just as I was getting the hang of Createspace, learning the process, mastering the behind-the-scenes, they scrapped it and moved us all over to KDP.

Thaaaaanks.

Fortunately, if you haven’t gone through it yet, it’s quite a simple process. You click “okay,” and KDP kind of does the rest for you. I can’t complain.

I did, however, run into some issues with the formatting of the new paperback I made, so figured I would share my experience with you in case you run into something similar.

I used inDesign for the first time to format my paperback interior (that was a whole lot of joy that I’ll share in a separate posts once I make sure it all worked out). My book is a lengthy 610 pages, so I made sure that my gutter was .75 inches. I triple checked. Yet I kept getting an error message that KDP wouldn’t accept a gutter of less than 0.75 inches.

You can imagine my frustration.

And I confess it took me longer than it should have to realise why I was getting that error message even after I checked my dimensions: it was only flagging three pages. On three pages that had italics at the front of the line, the descender on some “f”s and “y”s had sneaked out past that 0.75 gutter.

Are you freaking kidding me?

And unlike Createspace, KDP does not allow you to push these little things through.

I managed to fix it fairly easily—more of a pain in the butt than anything else—but it did teach me how particular KDP will be with things like this.

Have you learned any helpful tips and tricks with the new KDP paperback platform? Share in the comments below!

update

Open for Business

Step right in, gals and pals, and see what we have on the menu.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a way to earn a living between publications and to keep the bank account green during the lean months (thanks, instability of a career in the arts!), and a few months ago I had an epiphany: I love proofreading.

Like, I really like it. I see posts all the time from people in the proofreading stage treating their bleeding eyeballs after a day debating comma placement, but I get a kick out of it. It’s relaxing, it’s satisfying, and I’m good at it.

“Finally,” I thought, “I’d be able to put my four years of university and the fancy piece of paper I got at the end to good use!”

So that’s what I’m doing.

As of now, I’m officially opening my doors to Raven’s Quill Press Author Services, offering proofreading to all genres and variety of writings. To learn more, or to contact me for details, just click here.

What does this change mean for the blog?

It means you won’t see any more posts directly related to my work as Krista Walsh, fantasy author. For those updates, you can check out my new fancy website, which I’ll be keeping up to date with all my publishing information.

Over here, you’ll find more industry-related posts: my experience as an independent author and how it might help others hoping to go in the same direction.

For example, right now I’m battling inDesign, trying to learn how to properly format my paperbacks. It’s a pain in the butt, and I have been able to find NO resources online. My solution is to learn it myself, and then post the step-by-step so it’s out there for anyone else who wants to give it a try.

There might still be a few personal posts as they relate to writing and publishing, but most of those will likely wind up on my author page.

So make yourselves comfortable, and let’s see what trouble we can get into.