Monday, February 24, 2014

10 Signs You Might Be a Professional Writer

This post started out with a five in the title but once I started outlining it the list grew with a mind of its own. Then I tried to rank them in order of importance and found the task impossible. Each one's importance varies depending on where you are in your writing and publishing career. So check your sign. Are you a professional writer?

1.  You continue your education in the field. There is so much to learn and so many sites available. Check out our links here on IWSG. And today, our very own Alex J. Cavanaugh is guesting on How to Write Shop, hosted by Lori Devoti. You know how helpful Alex always is.

2. Make a plan and then work your plan. Professional writers know what they intend when they sit down at their keyboards. Some of us call it setting goals and all businesses do it. Do you have a plan?

3. You're the boss. Even if you work under contract, you are the one who determines your hours and how hard you're working each day. There are no sick days or calling a temp agency for a substitute.

4. Know your field. Read within your field. If you write creative non-fiction then you should be reading it. If you write fantasy and read a fantasy book that you didn't care for or that you loved, figure out what worked or didn't work for you.

5. Network with others. All businesses network. Not only does it help with promotion, but it connects you with others you will learn from and perhaps some that can learn from you. And be reciprocal. If someone hosts you, do you offer the same back? Build a network of friends who will help you when you need it and help them back.

6. Always be professional and courteous. Unfortunately many of us have witnessed disagreements spiral upward into hurtful flames online. Stay out of it. Receive a bad review, let it go. Avoid politics unless that's the genre you're writing about.

7. Meet your deadlines and obligations. When your manuscript is due back to your editor in seven days, do you make the date? If you are writing a guest post for someone, do you get it to them in a timely matter?

8. Be alert for opportunities. Want to increase your blog's reach? Join a blog hop like the A to Z challenge or the IWSG monthly posting. Is your library hosting author appearances? Get in on that. Does one of your fellow bloggers do weekly book reviews? Maybe they'll do one for you. Some of these things take effort and work but put them in your plan.

9. Keep records of your work. Have you submitted to a publisher before? Is there a certain reviewer you want to use again and again? Did a certain promotion work or was it a bomb? Have you received timely payments for articles you wrote? Lists. I'm a big fan of lists.

10. Manage your money. Most writers don't earn a living from the craft though some do. Are you tempted to spend your money on a paid blog hop or cover reveal? Do your research first to make sure you're spending your precious dollars to their best advantage. Do you really need to purchase aprons with your book's cover on them?

And in between all that, you write, write and then write some more.

Don't forget to visit Alex at How to Write Shop today. You're sure to find something useful to you on Lori's site.

What would you add to my list of 10 signs? Any you would delete? Any of these you learned the hard way? Please share.

Susan Gourley/Kelley writes fantasy romance, epic fantasy and is author of the bestselling science fiction romances, The Recon Marines Series.
You can find her at:
Susan Says

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Not to Spam: An Etiquette Guide for Authors

By the awesome Anne R. Allen!

Most marketers don't tell you the biggest secret about social media:

It should be used for making friends, not direct sales.

Direct selling on social media is spammy. Spam is not friendly. And vigilante groups can be cruel in enforcing anti-spam rules.

So what's the line between "savvy marketing" and spamming? Unfortunately, rules are different for each site:


1) Don't link to your blog/site more than a few times a week or they'll put you in Facebook jail (freeze you out of your page). I learned this the hard way. (But they have no problem with links to your buy pages on Amazon—go figure.)

3) Don't friend too many people in a day. Yeah, they hound you to "friend" people, but if you friend too many, you'll land in FB jail.

4) Don't post a promotion in a group without checking rules. Many will kick you out.

5) NEVER post promos on somebody else's page. It's invading personal space.

6) Never market through a DM.
 If you're not friends, it will go in the "other" folder nobody sees. Plus it's guaranteed to annoy.

7) Never add somebody to a group without permission.

1) Don't send those automated DMs that say,
 "Now that you've followed, subscribe to my blog, like my Facebook page, buy my book and pick up my dry cleaning, minion! Mwahahah." Creepy.

2) Don't send direct messages unless you have a prior relationship.
Thank for a follow in a @Tweet. Or better, not at all.

3) Only tweet your book a few times a day (or less) and never in a @ message.

4) Don't tweet everybody else's book 
just because they ask. Spamming for somebody else is still spam.


1) Don't link to your book in a review. You can put a title in your signature: "Susie Scrivener, author of Scribblings," but without a link.

2) Don't mention your book in the Amazon Forums. Better yet, don't go: it's troll habitat.

3) Link to your blog ONLY in a designated thread in Kindleboard forums.


1) Never subscribe to a newsletter or blog and hit "reply" to send the blogger an ad for your book.

2) Don't link to your buy page from a comment.
 I don't mind links to a blog—in fact I find them useful—but some bloggers don't.

3) Don't pitch your book or blog in a comment unless it's relevant.
  • "I respect your opinion on adverbs, but I've got testimonials from 101 adverbophiles on my blog." is fine. 
  • "This discussion of Marcel Proust reminds me of my book, Fangs for the Memories, a vampi-zombipocolyptic romance, $3.99 on Smashwords." Not so much.

1) Lurk. Don't speak until you've hung out and learned the rules. Most ban book-pimping.

2) Beware "share" buttons. I made the mistake of sending blog links via the "share" button Blogger provides. This sent them to Reddit forums where I got flagged as a spammer.


1) Don't join a group to promote your book. Take off your author hat and discuss books you've read, not ones you've written.

2) Don't send mass friend requests. 

3) Don't thank a reviewer or someone who has "shelfed" your book. The new Goodreads author guidelines prohibit it.

4) NEVER engage with somebody who's given you a bad review or put you on a hate "shelf."
 Goodreads reviews are notoriously snarky. We live with it.


1) Don't post a link on multiple community pages
without separate introductions.

2) Try to post links with at least 100 words of introduction. They want more content written exclusively for Google+.

What about you, IWSG? Have you ever been criticized or punished for spamming when you didn't realize you'd broken the rules? What kind of spam bothers you the most? What can you add to the list? Can you offer rules for sites I don't know about like Pinterest or Tumblr? 

Anne R. Allen is the author of the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries and comic novels Food of Love, the Gatsby Game, and The Lady of the Lakewood Diner. She collaborated with Catherine Ryan Hyde on a guide for writers, How to be a Writer in the E-Age: a Self-Help Guide (new edition due out this month).

Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris was named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers' Digest and one of the seven "best resources for writers" by Indies Unlimited. Find Anne on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, or her Amazon Author Page.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Create Realistic Characters by Studying Human Behavior

Characters and their interactions are important in any book. In order to make them appear real to the reader, the actions and motives of the characters must be believable. This is why the most valuable research a writer can conduct is the study of human behavior.

The options available are almost as plentiful as humans themselves! Consider the following resources you’ll discover a whole world of opportunities.

Books on human behavior
·         Personality Plus by Florence Littauer – excellent guide to human behaviors based on personality types
·         The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
·         Bringing out the Best in People/The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis
·         Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus by John Gray
·         The Disconnected Generation by Josh McDowell – great for understanding teen behavior
·         And any other relationship, personality, or inspirational book that provides human behavior insights

Observation – how do real people react under similar circumstances?
·         Examine the past and present behavior of family and friends
·         Observe humanity through the news – this will provide a worldly view
·         Watch people in public places such as sporting events, restaurants, grocery stores, churches, etc.
·         Follow the actions of a person similar to your character – remember, no stalking
·         Wherever you find people, you’ll find opportunities to study human behavior if you just take the time

·         Interview real people in positions or circumstances similar to your character’s situation
·         Search for events in your story on the Internet
·         Non-fiction books with accounts of people enduring the same challenges found in your story
·         Websites devoted to the discussion of human behavior or issues
·         Online forums and live discussions – find discussions on your story’s topics or post the questions yourself

Don’t forget that human behavior is best studied through live interaction. Not only will you develop believable characters – you’ll grow as a person, too. And you might just discover you enjoy the fascinating world of human behavior!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Exploring Writing Boundaries in Five Steps

Choices. We don’t always think about them consciously, but we make them many times within a day. The decision to read this post is a choice you made since you hit this page and right now you’re making another choice if you decide to stay with me.

We’ve come to writing through different avenues and have made various decisions on the way—whether it be choice of genre, publication route or marketing approach. If you’re struggling with venturing out and moving forward, here are some tips to get you on the road to change.

Know Your Strengths. It’s easy to get caught up in fads. When vampires and werewolves were the hot, new item on the block, many writers got in early and capitalized on the popularity of those stories. I suppose that worked for people with an understanding of fantasy and a handle on world building. Me? Didn’t bat an eyelid because I know what I write well. This is not meant to discourage you from exploring new boundaries, but if getting in on the bottom floor of a craze is going to take you away from something you do skilfully, I’d encourage you to build on what you know. You can get to the craze when you have time to spare and not act on it as a means of making immediate sales.

Weigh the Pros and Cons. What are the advantages and disadvantages to the steps you’re planning? It’s all well and good to follow your heart, but a list in black and white will help guide you toward making a choice that’s right for you. I’ve known people who shied away from making a pro and con list, but were grateful in the end to have made a decision based on head and not heart.

Share Your Vision. Is there a writer or two that you can bounce ideas off, or whose opinions you respect? A problem challenge shared in a challenge halved. It’s amazing how a discussion or an email can help clarify your thoughts and enhance your vision.

Study the Landscape. The major life changes I’ve made came after I did plenty of research. When I started writing again in 2004, I began by studying the craft and my first sale was an article to a writing e-zine. My first love is romance and although I’ve read hundreds of books from that genre—you guessed it—I took time to learn about the structure of a romance novel before I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher. Self-publishing has given us a faster route to publication, but if our novels don’t follow some conventions, then they aren’t likely to enjoy success. I’m a firm believer in finding out the rules and knowing them before I attempt to break them.

Believe in Yourself.  Every time we do something new, we face unique challenges, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. Recently, I’ve started taking keyboard lessons. It’s fun and challenging, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I have a chance of playing competently someday. There will always be the voice of doubt whispering that maybe (insert-name-of-new-pet-project here) isn’t your thing, but with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, you can do anything.

Have you switched genres lately, just taken the plunge in self-publishing or are you looking at a new marketing angle? Do share your tips for dealing with change.

An aside here, Captain Alex’s book Cassafire is still on sale on Amazon until tonight. Hop on over if you haven’t picked up your copy yet.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day - We Are Here to Help!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Sheena-kay Graham, Julie Musil, Jamie Ayres, and Mike Swift. Please be sure to thank them for their time and effort to make all IWSG members feel welcome.

Don’t forget we have an awesome Facebook Group.

Every writer is at a different stage of the journey and no two paths are identical. We do have a few things in common though – we all fight insecurity and we all need support. We’re looking for guidance, encouragement, and answers to our questions. We can find all of that here online, through the IWSG postings, the Facebook group, and the resources on this website.

If you need assistance, just ask! Need a critique partner? Ask for one during the monthly posting, here anytime, or in the Facebook group. Need some promotional tips? Check out the marketing page here or ask any of the awesome writers in the group. No question is too dumb. (Trust me!) If there is anything we can do to help, let us know!

What do you need help with today?

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's Your Book About?


a brief summary or general survey of something: a synopsis of the accident - an outline of the plot of a book, play, movie, or episode of a television show.

ORIGIN early 17th century: via late Latin from Greek, from sun-'together' + opsis 'seeing.'

~ ~ ~

Most of us will agree that writing a synopsis is one of the hardest things a writer will ever have to do. Try to described your child in three sentences or less. A daunting task. 

We write the synopsis because we understand we have to sell the manuscript to a publisher who in turn needs to entice readers to buy the book.

But is that the only reason?

Several years ago, on the eve of Dead Witness's release date, I set about writing the synopsis for my 4th manuscript and subsequent 2nd novel Broken But Not Dead. Having spent years agonizing over the synopsis for Dead Witness, I was determined to nail the next one partially to prove I could, but mostly because I needed to understand why I write the books I write. If I could summarize any plot in its best light, I hoped I could learn something about myself and subsequently become a better writer.

At the birth of each new book, I meet a protagonist who is not me, but still a reflection of my changing ideals, dreams, and fears. As I learn their story, I recognize the evolution of who I've become. Not someone necessarily smarter, but more polished. Like a rock on the beach. Enough wind, and the waves are able to smooth away more of my jagged edges.

The final synopsis for Dead Witness:

Canadian wife and mother, witness to a double murder in the States, has her life torn asunder when the FBI kidnap her so that her family and the men hired to kill her, believe she’s dead.

I had to step outside myself and discovered why I'd written Dead Witness. I already knew it started with the question: What if? What if I disappeared and my brother didn't believe I was dead? But that led to: Can children survive without a mother? Can a mother survive without her children?

My first manuscript, Always Father's Child was a bid to keep my dad alive. I understand why I wrote that book, and I understand why it will never be published. I know, never say never. I learned through the process of writing a full length novel that I was destined to be a storyteller. I have this overwhelming need to write about characters I'm drawn to. The story becomes their story. Their questions. In the end, they teach me about fighting demons, about the valuable of life, about myself.

English professor, Metis Brendell Kisêpîsim Meshango is being stalked by the two deranged sons of a powerful politician.

I have nothing in common with this woman.

Or do I?

When I was fifty I too wasn't willing to sit back and let my life continue without direction. I felt compelled to reevaluate what it was I really wanted. Just as Brendell does in the opening scene of Broken But Not Dead. She goes off to her cabin at Cluculz Lake to reassess her life and to make changes in her career.

I wrote Broken But Not Dead because I wanted the world to know that 50-year-old women aren't dried up and useless. No! In fact, they're everything Andy Rooney said -- and more. 

Then why did I write the sequel: Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries? (not yet published) What connects me to 60 year old Sally Warner, widow, mother of two dead sons, a woman who believes she's losing her mind?

No wonder they say writing is a solitary, private, personal journey. I'm not sure I can voice those answers at this time. But even so, understanding the answers has made me a better writer.

Marketing aside, the most important reason why a writer needs to write the synopsis for their book is because they owe it to themselves to truly understand the story. The essence of it. Its origin and conception. Because through understanding comes wisdom, knowledge, and a better writer.

When someone asks, "What's your book about?" it's your obligation to you and to your reader to know.

What's your book about?

Joylene, Métis, has been writing her entire life. She began her first novel in 1983 to honour the passing of her father. Today she and her husband live in the home they built with their own hands on Cluculz Lake. Her first novel Dead Witness was a finalist in the 2012 Global eBook Awards. Her suspense thriller Broken But Not Dead won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal for Canada West. Joylene is currently applying final touches to two suspense thrillers. Contact her at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca