Monday, November 18, 2019

Boost Your Launch By Getting Reader Reviews

Boost Your Launch By Getting Reader Reviews
Services that help authors get seen.

What do I know?

I feel like a fake.   Like I know nothing about writing, despite that, I joined in partnership with another writer, Vanessa Wells, to create themed anthologies.  We formed Stormdance Publications.  It has been a bit scary.  It has been challenging, overwhelming, and rewarding. 

What have I learned?  Here is what comes to mind because it is my current focus.  Getting our books in front of readers and getting reviews, which is important for authors who want their books to keep selling.

One thing I did was to learn how to create arcs in Mobi, ePub, and PDF, from Vanessa’s Word Doc she uses to upload our books to Amazon, using Scrivener.
That done we now need a way to distribute our ARC’s and get them out to a larger audience if possible, but how?  We have two websites Writer’s Gambit and Stormdance, but that is not enough.  There are Facebook and Twitter, still not enough.  Not ready for Instagram.

No, we have not tried book review sites or podcasts, but that idea is on the table for the future.   We have not even scheduled a blog tour yet.  It's coming.   Our focus right now is "just do".  Do something, try something, experiment, and figure out the process that works best for us as a team.

We are hoping to get 20 reviews on each Grumpy Old Gods volume.  As the reviews build, we plan to experiment a little with paid ads and giveaways, as we can afford it.  We are learning about Amazon’s keywords, categories, and algorithms. 

We are sitting on 15 reviews for Grumpy 1.  We have had more reviews, but Amazon keeps removing them for no good reason, or we would have already hit twenty with the first volume.  Like volume one, Grumpy 2 has had more reviews then what shows.  

Grumpy 3 has two reviews, so far.  We are still working on that one as it just released October 30th.  I admit I have dropped the ball a little with Grumpy 3.  We are currently working to release Grumpy 4 by the end of November 2019. 

In our pursuit to get reviews, we have tried:  

For Grumpy 1 we tried Booksprout.  The first 20 downloads are free.  There is no integration of email such as MailerLite, MailChimp, so although it does tell you how many times it has been downloaded up to 20, you cannot connect to your email provider to know who is downloading it or recontact.

I also received two or three emails from people who had problems downloading from Booksprout.  Booksprout was good to let me know about those who contacted about problems and forward their email so I could email them directly. 

I also offered the ARC for review on the Booksprout site because you can do that.  We had one or two takers that way.  I had about 15 downloads on the account I set up and Vanessa had 10 on hers.

I almost forgot.  The first tier plan $20 you get automatic reminders, ebook distribution, unlimited pen names, unlimited arc reviewers, access to reviewer community, private arcs, strong arc freeloader protection, blocks all known pirates, identify & block pirates.  This one is in the running still.  

I looked at Book Funnel, but other sites beat their offer in their free plan and their first-tier plans.  I do like Book Funnel.  It is not as economical for what you get for the money as others if money is a huge issue for you.   It’s a nice site.

PROLIFIC WORKS (The old InstaFreebie)

For Grumpy 2 we tried Prolific Works.  I love the revamp and name change.   The free version, Basic, you get unlimited giveaways and distribution (downloads) but no email provider integration.  The next tier of the plan is $20 a month plan.  You get everything in Basic. 

PLUS: You can add subscribers to a mailing list, optional MailerLite or MailChimp integration, Prolific Works acceleration to the right readers, fully customizable giveaways, track giveaway success.   All plans include: Ability to set limits and expiration dates for giveaways, optional DRM, eligible for additional promotions to readers on Prolific Works

As a reader, I like Prolific Works over Book Funnel because they keep track of all the books you have downloaded.  You can see the past books you have downloaded in a bookshelf through their services your account as reader or author.    

I had fewer downloads on this site, about 8, but I was late getting the link out too.  

With Grumpy 3 I found StoryOrigins.  StoryOrigins is in open beta since it is a new platform, so all features are free to everyone for now, including email integration.   I am working on getting our links now, so do not have any numbers to share. 

Yes, I canceled my Prolific Works subscription and went back to their Basic plan for now. 

StoryOrigins offers group promos, newsletter swaps, collect reader email addresses, integrate email service providers, get reviewer history & completion rate, automate review tracking & follow-up, distribute & track audiobook promo codes, unlimited file delivery, tech support for readers, schedule newsletter content, Facebook tracking pixel, and Amazon affiliate tags.  That is quite a bit all free for now.

We are using StoryOrigins for our coming releases.  We have a call for submission out for Grumpy 5, deadline December 1st with publication in January 2020.  We will post submission calls for Grumpy 6-Love gods and Grumpy 7-Trickster gods at the end of this month November 2019 with the release of Grumpy 4. 

I may also use Booksprout again as well, as we did get several downloads there. Another site I learned about but I have not tried is similar to Booksprout. 

Getting reviews and getting seen are problems we all face.  Using sites like these make some things easier and gives you exposure to avenues such as newsletter swaps and cross promos with other authors on the site. 

I am not ready for the swaps and cross promos, yet, but I am working my way there. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

How to Evaluate Your WIP and Figure Out Your Next Steps

Welcome, Mary Kole

As a literary agent and now a freelance editor, I’m heavily involved in a writer’s “What’s next?” question. This is a question I get over and over from writers. Whether they’ve just typed “The End” on a manuscript for the first time, or they worry that they’ve reached the end of querying a project. Whether they’re deciding how to submit, or wondering if it’s time to put it in the desk drawer.

The two most important crossroads that writers face are, “Is my project ready to submit?” And, “This project hasn’t succeeded as hoped. Is it time to give up?” Let’s attempt to unpack both of them here.

To me, there are three considerations that determine your next steps in either scenario. The first is your own opinion of the project. Try to step back and consider it with clear eyes. Is it solid work? Are you proud of it? Do you have any deep-down-secret worries about it? Are you scared, basically, or are you stoked? Your own opinion of the project can never be objective, of course, but your gut as a writer is still something to consider. Very often, writers discount their own assessments because they feel insecure. (Shout out to all of you Insecure Writers!) 

But too often, I work with clients who have been steered away from their own instincts by well-meaning critique partners or professionals. Outside feedback is very important—see the next point—but your own understanding of your project is crucial, too. Ask yourself point blank: Do you like it? Do you see any potential flaws?

If you have not submitted yet and are wary because you see opportunity for growth, the project is not yet ready to submit. You want to put your best foot forward. Address any glaring or niggling issues before you move forward. The same thing if you’ve already submitted, but without success. If you know what the issue is, then deal with it sooner rather than later. Make sure you satisfy yourself first. Many mistakes can be prevented with this simple advice.

The second consideration is outside feedback. Before you decide to submit, or decide to give up on a project, make sure you get at least one outside perspective on your manuscript, whether it’s a critique partner or freelance editor. Many writers shy away from this because they don’t know where to find a good critique partner, or they don’t want to pay for an editor. The former concern is exactly why I’m launching Crit Collective this month, it’s a free forum dedicated to critique partner matchmaking. Check it out! 

Because writers can never be truly objective about their own work, having outside perspective is crucial. Make sure you check this box before you decide to submit, or decide to give up. Even if your project has already been through several rewrites, new eyes on it will potentially inspire one last revision—one that might make all the difference. Make sure that you get someone you can trust, and who has experience either editing or reading widely in your category. They will provide you with data that you can’t possibly give yourself, so don’t skimp on this step.

The third consideration when you’re deciding what to do with your WIP is completely external: the market. I often tell writers not to fixate on trends or the market when they’re writing. Trends come and go. But when it’s time to either submit or quit (at least on a particular manuscript, for the moment), the market becomes important. What’s going on in the industry? Are people sick of your particular category? Are there larger forces at work that make your project either more or less marketable right now?

This is the time to pay attention. If you’re considering submitting for the first time, some market research will help you position your pitch intelligently. (You can take a ten-hour self-guided course from me on the topic of the research and submission process, the Manuscript Submission Blueprint.) If you’re deciding whether or not to give up on a project, check the market again. Something may have shifted. For example, a few years ago, the female scientists market was a bit of a bit of a backwater. Now it’s a red hot segment! 

Maybe some new opportunities have opened up since you last researched your place in the current publishing world. If you’ve been on submission with a project a few times, you have probably spent at least months waiting. Maybe the market is now worse for your idea. But it could also be better.

Putting it all together, I recommend three gut checks. First, how do you feel about the project? Whether you’ve just finished it and have some qualms, or whether you’ve been submitting for five years but you still feel some hope. Next, how do qualified others feel about it? Have you gone back for one more round of feedback? If there are still things you want to do with the project in terms of revision, I’d say you should make the final attempt. You never know. Finally, how’s the market temperature for your ideas? Things change over time, so it doesn’t hurt to check in with the industry.

Sometimes, an idea is past or ahead of its time. This can potentially be fixed by waiting for the market to change. Sometimes, the current execution of your idea isn’t working. This can be fixed by listening to yourself and others. Sometimes, it really is time to let go of a project, at least for now. This can only be fixed one way: Starting the exciting creative process on your next idea!


Former literary agent Mary Kole provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir. 

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books.

Editorial Services Website:
Children’s Writing Blog:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

#IWSG - Novermber's Insecure Writer's Support Group Posting Day!!!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! 
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Twitter hashtag is #IWSG.

Goodreads Book Club:

IWSG Newsletter:

IWSG Twitter:


November 6 optional question - What's the strangest thing you've ever Googled in researching a story?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 6 posting of the IWSG are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! 


I'm convinced that I'm on an FBI watchlist. Okay, maybe I just really hope that if the FBI has been following my crazy Google searches they're fully aware that I'm a writer and not a serial killer.


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So, what are you Googling?

I thought we could use a few funnies!

Make sure you visit a bunch of blogs to make someone's day!
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Image result for writer meme search history

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#IWSG SWAG makes a great gift for the writers in your life!


Check out all the awesome merchandise we have for sale HERE and get some stocking stuffers for yourself and your friends today!!!



The first Wednesday of January 2020 falls on New Year’s Day, so we will post for the #IWSG on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.


The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 15, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents. 

Click HERE for all the details!

Monday, October 21, 2019

How To Create A Vivid Experience With Setting Descriptions

by Rayne Hall

(British English Spelling)
Are your place descriptions exciting parts of your story, or do they feel like clunky disruptions to the plot? Here's a powerful writing technique for making them flow and pulling the reader in.

Many writers make the mistake of describing places the way they see them, or the way most people do. The trick is to show the location in the way the story's point-of-view character sees it.

First, identify the point-of-view character of the scene. Through whose eyes, ears and thoughts do you want the reader to experience this part of the story? Show the setting from this character's perspective.

If ten people walk down the same road, all ten will notice something different. When you visualise the place, pick not the details you would see, but the ones the character would. This way, setting descriptions become part of the characterisation.

Let's look at some practical examples. Imagine several characters strolling down the same road in a British town.

Consider these factors:

1. The Character's Job

A person who spends day after day, year after year looking at everything in a certain way will automatically assess everything in this manner, even in his leisure time.

Strolling down a road, the architect sees a row of Victorian terraced houses with bay windows, some with modern double glazing, some with rotting window frames. The health and safety inspector walking down the same road notices the overflowing rubbish bins and the dog turds steaming on the pavement. The burglar observes that half the houses have intruder alarms and motion-sensor floodlights.

2. The character's hobbies

Most people immediately notice anything related to their hobbies. Spend a moment contemplating what interest's the PoV character.

If she's an animal lover, she sees people walking their bull terriers, and a grey squirrel sitting on a fence. The hobby gardener sees neglected front gardens, overgrown with borage and brambles, and front steps here potted geraniums have died from neglect. The car enthusiast sees battered Citroens parked on the roadside.

3. The Character's Relationships

A mother sees the unsupervised children playing on the pavement, and broken toys. A young man who's fallen in love with a blonde girl, who drives a red Vauxhall, will see red Vauxhall cars and blondes everywhere.

4. The Character's Obsessions

What does your PoV character obsess about? You can convey his state of mind through setting descriptions.

A local politician desperate to get re-elected observes how many voters probably live in this road, and that potholes and defective street lighting are likely concerns. A recovering drug addict struggling against his cravings notices a smell of marijuana. A woman who is desperate to get pregnant sees mothers pushing prams.

5. The character's Dominant Sense

Is one sense especially acute in this character, either by nature or by training?

Walking down a rainy road, a vision-oriented painter will see the spreading circles on the surfaces of puddles, while a drummer will hear the rhythm of the drops hammering on the car roofs.

Deepening the PoV

Leave out filter words which create a barrier between the PoV and the reader: I/he/she/ saw/heard/smelled/noticed/could see/could hear/could smell etc. Although these words are not wrong, they're not needed once you've established who the PoV character of the scene is. It's best to use them sparingly.

Here are some examples.

Shallow PoV: She heard a motor whine in the distance.
Deep PoV: A motor whined in the distance.

Shallow PoV: He realised that the hum came from a combine harvester.
Deep PoV: The hum came from a combine harvester.

Shallow PoV: He could see waves crashing against the shore.
Deep PoV: Waves crashed against the shore.

The deeper the PoV, the more powerful the reader's experience.

Writing the Actual Descriptions

Less is more. Keep your setting descriptions short, because readers tend to skip lengthy descriptive paragraphs.

Don't dump all the setting descriptions at the beginning of the scene, but sprinkle them, two sentences here, three there.

Don't rely exclusively on visual impressions. A sentence describing smells evokes the place more strongly than a whole paragraph about visuals. Sounds add excitement and don't slow the pace like visual do.

A Practical Assignment

Who is the PoV of the scene you're writing or revising? What are his or her job, hobbies, obsessions and dominant sense? Therefore, in the scene you're working on, what will he or she notice about the setting?

If you like, post your answer in the comments section, and I'll try to reply.

As the author of the bestselling Writer's Craft guides, she answers writing-related questions on Twitter,  posts articles online, coaches authors, edits books, speaks at conferences and teaches online classes.

She has been working in the publishing industry for three decades, as a trainee publishing manager, editorial assistant, magazine editor, investigative journalist, production editor, literary agent, and publishing consultant. In between, and often at the same time, she has been a museum guide, adult education teacher, development aid worker, apple picker, trade fair hostess, translator, belly dancer, and tarot reader.  

Now she is a professional writer, with more than sixty books published under several pen names (mostly Rayne Hall), in several genres (mostly fantasy, horror, historical and non-fiction), by several publishers (and indie-published), in several languages.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia, Nepal, and Britain, she is now based in Bulgaria where she enjoys visiting ancient Roman ruins and hot springs, going for walks in the countryside, permaculture gardening and training her cats.  If you find this article helpful and want to study the subject in greater depth, Rayne's books Writing Deep Point of View (  and Writing Vivid Settings  ( will teach you professional-level techniques.  

Sulu the lucky black cat (adopted from a cat rescue shelter) recommends them.
Rayne on Goodreads  Twitter  Rayne's Website   Rayne Hall Independent Author Network 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Tips for Using Instagram as an Author


Do you use Instagram?

We do.
Check out our profile page here: The IWSG on Instagram

A while back, I created a post on using Instagram. I thought I knew so much. I thought I was helpful. Well, I've learned a bit more since then.

Here are my new and revised tips for using Instagram from "how-to" specifics to "what to post" and "how to engage."

How to Create an Instagram Post

Instagram is a Smart-phone based app. On your PC, Instagram can be found online, but it’s impossible to use it fully via computer. 

The specifics:
1. Take a picture with your phone and share it via Instagram. (There are three ways to share. I’ll get into those next.) Note that Instagram likes things in the “square” format so you may have to edit your photo.

2. Create an image with an app on your phone – Canva and Textgram are two that I’ve used. 

3. Create an image (jpg) with a program on your PC. After creating the image, e-mail it to your phone (hoping you have this capability). Then, share it via Instagram.

4. (Use With GREAT Caution). Take a screenshot of an image you would like to re-share – like the IWSG logo! Then, share it to your Instagram feed. Remember to get permission if you are going to share artwork or photography that is personal to an artist or photographer. Be sure to give a shout-out to the original in your post.

Three Ways to Share on Instagram: 

1. Feed – this goes directly to your “wall” of your Instagram feed and shows up on the feed of anyone who follows you. Always share the posts you really want people to see here.

2. Stories – this goes to the Story section at the top of the page. Followers have to poke that button to see your current story. You can share fun posts about your daily life, or follow the New York Public Library's recent example and post actual stories you've written. I've experimented recently with both, although I'm just learning on how to post actual fiction and poetry in the right format.

3. Direct – this goes to only the people you choose like a personal email.

What to Post on Instagram

1. Post what you say you're going to post in your profile. Your profile is your preview.

2. Post about your writing - the day to day, the finish moments, the tough moments, the great moments, the actual books you've written.

3. Post about activities or hobbies you have other than your writing: reading, hiking, guitar playing, your cats and dogs.

4. Post what matters to you. Be authentic. If your faith matters to you, go ahead and post it.

5. Post quotes that motivate you.

6. Post about your fandom or about what inspires your writing. 

7. Post something. (Empty feeds are sometimes a telltale of Instagram stalkers.)

Using Instagram to Engage Followers

1. Go comment and like other people's posts (especially if they have liked yours).

2. Use hashtags. #writingcommunity #amwriting #theiwsg #writingfantasy or #YA are just some of a few hashtags that get used regularly. 

3. Follow hashtags. It can help you find like-minded authors.

4. Have at least one post a week that links to your own content - a blog post, a book review.

5. Share through to Twitter and Facebook. Instagram has buttons for this every time you post. 

Finally, don't be afraid to make mistakes! It's okay. Everyone out there who claims to be an expert started out as a beginner and most of the "experts" are still learning. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Pros and Cons of Writing Unlikable Characters

With my debut You Beneath Your Skin out into the world, I'm a newly-minted author, but in some ways I'll remain more of a reader than a writer. As a reader, the one thing I really remember about the books I've loved are the characters--be it the stubborn protagonist of The Old man and the Sea or the spirited Jo from Little Women, or the insecure, weak-minded Pip from Great Expectations.

All of them are very differently placed on the likability spectrum, and this brings us to the question of what likability is--it varies with readers. What is likable to me might just be unlikable to another reader. In general, a likable character is one that the reader can relate to, or empathise with.

There are no cons to writing likable characters, you would say and you might be right to an extent.

Here are the pros of likable characters:

1. The reader can live vicariously through their journey because they can easily identify with these characters.

2. The reader roots for the characters--maybe because they are an underdog, or have done good deeds, or are kind, or loyal, or courageous, or have a sad backstory.

The cons of likable characters ( or, the pros of unlikable characters):

1. A likable character is great while reading the book, but often not very memorable.

2. A character that begins as unlikable and ends up as likable (with a redemption arc) often stays with the reader.

3. Likable characters with small flaws may be easy to read, but a tortured, Heathcliff-like character is rewarding in the terms of long-term reader engagement. You want him to be better, you wonder at how he could be the way he is.

4. A likable character does not expand our universe--they are familiar, easy to love. A character that is harder to like, but who we do end up understanding an lovng over the course of a book makes us empathise with those who might have unlikable traits. The purpose of art is to show us humanity in all its aspects--unlikable characters show our deeply flawed, utterly human sides.

In my novel, You BeneathYour Skin, Jatin Bhatt begins as a corrupt, patriarchal police commissioner, but ends as a man who truly understands women and respects them. Anjali Morgan, an Indian American single mother and psychiatrist begins as an insecure perfectionist and grows over the course of the novel to overcome her flaws. It is tricky to write an unlikable character, or at least a character who is not immediately relatable.You have to hook the reader with the story and the setting, and make the character interesting enough that the reader is invested in them, and grows to love them over the course of the novel.

The rewards of writing an unlikable character are plenty. Readers have reported falling in love with Anjali and Jatin as their lives and relationships unravel, and caring what happens to them beyond the end of the novel.

What about you? Do you think there are any cons to not writing likable characters? How do you ensure that the readers are hooked on to the story? Have you ever read or written a character who is not likable?

You can get your own copy of You Beneath Your Skin outside of India HERE.
In India, it is available from Simon & Schuster HERE
Add it to your Goodreads list HERE

About the Author

Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and works with India's underprivileged children as part of Project WHY, a charity that promotes educational and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine.

You can connect with Damyanti on her blog and Twitter.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Insecure Writer's Support Group News and Connections

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 and 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 Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Today’s question:
It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

This month’s WEP challenge:

#IWSGPit happens once a year – next date, January 15, 2020.

Do people really find a publisher or agent from a Twitter pitch event? Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. has signed FOUR authors now from Twitter pitches.

If you have signed with a publisher or agent after #IWSGPit, please let us know.

The first IWSG posting of 2020 will be on Jan. 8th – NOT on Jan. 1st since it is New Year’s Day. So, mark your calendars now.

Did you know the IWSG is elsewhere?

Find us on Facebook where we offer several prompts a week, opportunities to share news, discuss writing with others, and find the support and help you need. Almost 4,400 member strong now.

Find us on Twitter where we share writing, publishing, and marketing tips and news, plus we host #IWSGPit. Over 10K followers and growing.

Find us on Instagram where we share visual writing prompts and inspiration. Almost 800 followers.

Find us on Goodreads where we host a book club that reads books that will improve your craft and show you how certain elements are done well. With close to 400 members, it’s still an intimate group.

Finally, did you know we have a newsletter? Get monthly writing tips, guest articles, news, links, and more!

Please connect with us!

What are your thoughts on writers who don’t read?