Monday, May 29, 2017

Coffee, Anybody?

Coffee is consumed in various ways: black, with a dollop of cream or milk, and some people like to add a spoon of honey. Then there is the artisanal coffee movement that regards coffee as an art with its endless possibilities, combinations and complexities.

Are you a coffee drinker? How do you take your coffee? Everybody has their own little quirks when it comes to coffee or any other frequently consumed food or beverage. The famous Ludwig van Beethoven was said to obsessively count out 60 beans of coffee, the perfect amount in his opinion, for every cup he drank.

Even some of our favorite fictional characters are particular about their drink orders. James Bond and his signature vodka martini - shaken, not stirred; Homer Simpson has been drinking Duff beer for over 20 years; JD, from Scrubs and his Appletini; and Jay Gatsby's Gin Rickey, to name a few.

So how does your character take his or her coffee? Find out by inviting your protagonist and/or other central characters to a fictional cafĂ© or fictional bar. Visualize what they do. Pay attention to their little habits. What is your character’s favourite drink? How does he/she make coffee? Is there a preferred method? Some people first add milk or cream. Others prefer to pour their dairy into the cup before the coffee. 

We want our characters to be as close as possible to ‘real, human beings’. Part of being human is possessing these character quirks. The trick is to implement these quirks consistently. What are your character’s habits? What does he/she do throughout the story? Identify settings and activities in which you can show the character’s habits.

How can we use a ‘coffee moment’ to make the story interesting? Increase tension by having someone add more sugar than normal, into their coffee/tea. Or forget to put the sugar in. This could also create a moment of humorous shock as the character, already stressed, takes a sip of that coffee/tea only to find it was not the expected taste. Maybe the character gulps, loses composure and/or knocks over the cup of scalding coffee; or spits the coffee in somebody’s face. Perhaps the restaurant is really busy and the waiter delivers the wrong beverage. This could lead to all sorts of interesting complications, involving the shady-looking character at the next table, who accidentally receives the wrong order.

Do you want to learn more about your characters? Spend some time with them in day-to-day, habitual situations. Notice their responses and how they shine in ordinary situations. Then they will dazzle in those magical moments that make it into your final draft. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reedsy To The Rescue

It’s been said that Vladimir Nabokov preferred to write in a parked car as it felt like a bubble of quiet and stillness; and that Agatha Christie would dream up plots for her mystery novels while sitting alone in a bathtub, munching on apples.

Images of writers in solitude with thought bubbles above their heads, playing out scenes in made-up worlds might be a romantic notion. But if you’re an independent author looking to publish a novel, then you know that image dissipates when the first draft of your manuscript is finished. In order to turn the manuscript into a finished, ready-to-publish product, what follows is teamwork — and that’s where Reedsy comes in.

Reedsy is a marketplace of publishing professionals. Here, authors in the process of publishing a book can browse through a roster of carefully curated freelancers with an extensive range of niche specialties. But Reedsy is more than just a marketplace, it’s a community for writers. Three of the most significant parts of this community are: the professionals, the courses, and the authors.

The Professionals 

Can you edit your own book? Sure. Can you design a book cover for your novel? You bet. Should you do either of those things? To put it gently: no.

“But I’m an artist — Picasso didn’t hire someone to look over his paintings before showing them to the world.” Well, you are not Picasso, and if you were, I would tell you that while your paintings are mesmerizing, if they were somehow translated into books a lot of people would probably leave Amazon reviews saying they didn’t quite “get it.”

Publishing houses do not employ teams of editors, designers, marketers, etc. just “for good measure.” They do so because the skills of those professionals are required to publish a novel people want to buy. And a self-published book is no different. Heed the advice of freelance book marketer and indie author Michael Doane: “You need to approach self-publishing with an entrepreneur’s perspective, because you need to invest money if you want to create a beautiful product that will earn you money in return.”

The Reedsy marketplace is currently home to over 600 publishing professionals including: developmental editors, query letter reviewers, cover designers, illustrators, typographers, blog tour and press coverage experts, ghostwriters, email marketing specialists, and more. The best part is that all of this talent is just a click away for anyone who wants to publish a book. Easily locate freelancers for specific services using the search function and then spend hours perusing detailed profiles of people who want to help turn your novel into a masterpiece.

Did you know: our list of freelancers includes Stephen King’s designer, Neil Gaiman’s editor, and Dan Brown’s publicist? To browse our marketplace of professionals, and to get $25 off your first Reedsy collaboration as a IWSG member, sign up here!

The Courses

Fans of Jack Kerouac will likely know the story of how the author wrote his novel, On The Road, on a 120-foot scroll of paper during a three-week typing frenzy. However, that’s just what it was, a typing frenzy. The actual conception and publication of the book required rewrites and multiple drafts just like any other book.

And that’s the thing about publishing a book: it can’t happen in one go. There is a learning curve involved in writing a book, and there is absolutely a learning curve in understanding how to self-publish a successful one.

That is why we launched Reedsy Learning, a series of free, online ten-part courses that cover a range of topics, from “Book Reviews and How to Get Them”, to “How to Build a Solid Writing Routine”. All of our courses are built to turn writers into publishing entrepreneurs. They'll support you throughout the whole journey — from the first writing stages to the distribution process.

Did you know: it takes up to 3 days for Amazon to register a “sale” and attribute it to your AMS ad? This is why you should never turn off an Amazon ads campaign in the first 72 hours just because you don’t see sales come in. Find out more about Amazon ads for authors in our newest course!

The Community

Author Neil Gaiman once said, “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” While we can relate to Gaiman’s sentiments, we also feel that calling in like-minded cavalry can help your fight.

This is why a priority of ours at Reedsy is creating a community of publishing professionals, and primarily, authors. There are a few ways in which we have sought to make Reedsy a place where writers can connect with one another:

The Reedsy blog
The Reedsy blog, where we post craft and technical pieces alike. But more importantly in terms of community, we host the From Our Authors series where indie authors who have used Reedsy to collaborate with professionals talk about their writing journeys. They share the learnings they have acquired throughout the publishing process, and offer tips for fellow writers going through the same process.


The #IWriteBecause campaign, which launched at the beginning of May, has been bringing authors from all walks of life together by giving them a chance to share what drives them to write. The core of this campaign is to empower a new generation of readers and writers, and to this end, Reedsy is donating $10 for every #IWriteBecause video submitted to Room to Read — a nonprofit that focuses on child literacy in Asia and Africa.

Update from the Reedsy community: Six months after hiring a Reedsy editor and publishing her debut novel, Until I Met Her, Natalie Barelli was signed by Amazon Publishing’s imprint Thomas and Mercer! On May 30th, her novel will be formally re-released.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Platform? What's That?

Platform? What's That?

Platform Is A Must

I asked myself that a lot when I started writing for publication, and I did a lot of research to find the answer. Finally, I boiled it down to this.

#1 Decide what you want to be and become an expert.

I wanted to be Young Adult and Middle Grade book author. That was simple. To become an expert wasn’t. But I signed up for SCBWI, I attended conferences, I joined a critique group. Several. I wrote, I read. Over the years I learned a lot about writing and marketing. I also learned that becoming an expert takes a while, and because nothing remains the same, you can’t just stop and be smug about what you know.

#2 Establish a presence online.

Tell people who you are and what you do. I set up a webpage and a blog. I signed up for Twitter and created Facebook pages. I joined Goodreads and LinkedIn. 

#3 Connect with other professionals in your field. Network.

I began locally. My critique group was the beginning, then I started meeting other writers and agents and publishers at conferences and by doing presentations or sitting on panels.

I offered to do workshops for writers, and now do that yearly. 

#4 Be clear, be consistent and be constant. (The 3 Cs)

This was excellent advice, simple to remember, but challenging to maintain. I’m still working on this.

#5 Ask for help.

Get feedback from those who know what they’re doing and are doing it well. I appreciate all the people I’ve connected with online and in person. I love their feedback on my work and really appreciate it. 

After doing this for a while, I figured out I just had to be me and tell people who that me is, using the principle of those three Cs. Your platform won't happen overnight, but it will grow and mature if you stick with it. 

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
~Judy Garland