Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Happy Anniversary IWSG


Greetings everyone.

Since we have a twelve year anniversary coming up, I'd like to chat a little bit about our group and the man who founded it.

About Alex:

Alex Cavanaugh is a writer and promoter. He works in web design and graphics, and he plays guitar in a Christian band. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. 

About the IWSG:

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. 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. The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group day. Writer's post their thoughts on their own blog, talk about their doubts and the fears they have conquered, discuss their struggles and triumphs, offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling, visit others in the group and connect with fellow writers--aim for a dozen new people each time.

Sound like  a group you'd be interested in joining?

Here's our webiste: Insecure Writer's Support Group (insecurewriterssupportgroup.com)

Our twitter handle: @THEIWSG

Our hash tag: #IWSG

And last but not least,  "Thanks, Alex. We appreciate ya.  Wishing you an early Happy Anniversary."


You can learn more about Alex and ISWG at:





Monday, August 21, 2023

5 Stunning Author Websites (& What They’ve Done Right)

By Alex J. Coyne

An author website is one of the most important things for a successful career writer. An author’s website is where readers and clients go to read, discover more, and connect with the person behind the site.

If you’ve enjoyed an author or story, their website is usually the next place to go. But have you thought about what visitors will see when they go to your online page?

Good websites tell you more about the author (or story), but also engage the reader to stay on the site longer, comment, or contact the writer. Average websites are a static portfolio, that inspires visitors to click away from it.

Here are some stunning author websites (& what they’ve done right).

1. WilWheaton.net

The Winning Factor: The Blog

Wil Wheaton is best known as an actor, gamer, and voice-over artist, but he’s also a pretty good writer. His memoirs (Still) Just A Geek has become a bestseller, and he runs a regular blog about his thoughts and life experiences.

The blog posts are worth coming back for. Posts engage readers, making them want to comment or share.

If you have unique stories to share or mastery of a specific niche topic (like gardening or martial arts), there are always readers who may enjoy well-written content.

2. KathyReichs.com

The Winning Factor: The Interviews

Kathy Reichs is an acclaimed forensic scientist, academic, and fiction author.

The Bones-series, also adapted to screen, introduced Dr. Temperence Brennan; a forensic anthropologist partially based on Reichs herself. Virals, a Y/A series co-written with her son, brings supernatural elements and science together for an entirely different ride.

Her website contains all the important details about books and characters, but also stands out for the collection of past interviews on the site.

An archive of interviews or previous coverage is a great way to keep readers clicking through what’s there.

3. ELJamesAuthor.com

The Winning Factor: The Merchandise

E.L. James is the author of the 50 Shades-series, which originally began as a fan-fiction based on Twilight. The books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the series sales figures are enough to make heads turn.

James makes her website work with a section for merchandise.

Merchandise can help to turn a writer’s name or stories into a brand, which can be worth its own separate income.

4. StephenKing.com

The Winning Factor: The Story Catalog

Stephen King published his first novel, Carrie, and then just never stopped. King’s horror, mystery, and drama stories have sold enough to build an entire brand - or rather, empire - just around the Works of King.

He’s written enough stories that the website needs an entire catalog to keep track of his published works.

Does your website have a list of samples, markets, or places you’ve published?

Always try your best to keep track of what you’ve published, and where.

Rights are easier to administrate, certain rights can be sold again, and you’ll always know where the right samples are when you need them.

When you don’t keep track, it’s easy to get lost in a labyrinth of your own publications for days to find something specific.

5. Shunn.net

The Winning Factor: The Story Format

If you’ve ever Googled the phrase “manuscript format’, you’ll have likely found the formatting guidelines by William Shunn. Author and editor, Shunn uploaded one of the most useful and standard resources for writers -- and it’s considered an industry standard for the publishing industry.

I wrote my first magazine story with these guidelines, and they’re still relevant today.

If you have something that you think could be useful to other writers, post it on your website. Helpful content always tends to go further!


About the Author: Alex J. Coyne is a journalist, author, and proofreader. His radar is calibrated for all things gothic, gonzo, and weird.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Finding Keywords for Your Book

What is a keyword? A keyword is a word or phrase that describes your book. It’s what someone would enter when searching for your book, much like how people search for websites and information online.

Your book already has one to three genres associated with it which helps with discoverability, but keywords take it even further. They let you get specific regarding your book’s content. They help readers find your book.

And of course, good keywords are rarely single words. Several words together in a phrase do much better. If you were searching online for a table, you wouldn’t type in “table.” That would pull up everything from end tables to picnic tables. You would be specific: “Oak dining table that seats eight.” And that’s how you need to think when creating keywords.

Keywords can be used several places. The back cover content, your short synopsis, and listed with the website/company publishing your book. Even your title is important.

So, how do you go about finding the right keywords?

First, brainstorm as many keywords and phrases as possible that describe your book. Everything from content to setting. Don’t hold back, either. You can also check similar books to see what categories they are popular in and then use those categories as phrases if they fit your book.

Go to Amazon and start typing those phrases. See what they pull up. It will also give you new ideas and even more keywords to use. You are usually allowed between seven and ten keywords, so giving yourself a large selection from which to choose is the best chance at coming up with the very best ones.

Another handy tool is Publisher Rocket. You insert the keywords and it will tell you how well they rank based on searches, sales, and competition. (It’s my favorite tool.) It’s based on Amazon, but it’s safe to say those algorithms fit elsewhere.

You do want to be careful with keywords. Don’t use a competitor’s title or author’s name. Don’t use phrases such as “best-selling.” Don’t repeat keywords over & over or try to game the system. And of course, don’t use keywords that don’t fit your book. No false advertising.

You can always change keywords, too. Perhaps the book’s description lacks the best keywords. Maybe it’s even the title. Adjusting keywords in a title that’s not selling well might make all the difference in the world.

For more help with choosing categories:
KDP Amazon
How to Choose the Best Kindle eBook Category
Nonfiction Keywords
Fiction Keywords

Do you have a list of keywords for each of your titles? How did you come up with those keywords?

Monday, August 7, 2023

Bittersweet Symphony

Hi. It’s Nilanjana from Team WEP here sharing the team’s favorite treat which has led to our August challenge! 

What’s dark and bitter yet associated almost universally with pleasure, temptation, luxury and even decadence? Ha. Bet you got it right away! And fellow writers, what item can a writer use to whip up a romance one moment and satirize as a symbol of corruption in the next? Yup, exactly…and its history mirrors its bittersweet yet fascinating taste. 

Food of the gods 

Where did this bittersweet treat originate? It didn’t just miraculously appear! It goes way back at least 3500 years. In the Olmec, Maya and Aztec cultures of Mesoamerica, cacao was considered a divine gift and made into a beverage drunk at sacred rituals and before battles. 

Cacao beans first reached the Iberian coast in the 1520s with the Spanish conquerors. A contemporary source wrote that it was ‘more like a drink for pigs’ than humans. Nevertheless, by the 17th century, trade in cacao was thriving. 

In Spain, chocolate was made more palatable with sugar/honey, vanilla and cinnamon. It became a court favorite. Chocolate traveled to France when Spanish princesses/nobility married there. It also went to Italy with the Jesuits. It caught on big time in Europe and many European nations established cacao plantations in equatorial Africa. The European market for sugar exploded too, in turn creating the demand for slave labor. 

While Africa still produces over 70% of the global cacao output, only 3% of the finished chocolate is consumed by them. Out of the Big 10 chocolate corporations, not one is located in Africa. Cacao farming is associated with poverty and child labor, which some companies are fighting to rectify. Something to be aware of when we bite into our next bar. 

Initially, cacao processing was manual and time-consuming. That changed majorly in 1828 when C. J. van Houten of Netherlands invented the chocolate press. It squeezed the butter from roasted beans, leaving powdered cocoa as residue. That could be mixed with liquids, molded and hardened upon cooling – the first modern chocolate bars. 

The Industrial Revolution resulted in patents for emulsification processes, machinery and molds. Thus chocolate morphed into a stand-alone industry. It transitioned from a locally consumed beverage to a global confectionery food product. 

Chocolate corners the romance market 

The notion of romantic love in Western culture dates back to Greek literature. Their most famous epics are predicated on the abduction of Helen by Paris. During the Middle Ages, courtly love – mostly unattainable and tragic, was an established literary theme. Knights sang of their love and offered roses as proof. The tradition of Valentine’s Day to celebrate lovers is mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls in 1382. 

Romance and love stories wound their way through the 16th century with plays like Romeo and Juliet to the first romance novels – Pride and Prejudice in 1813 followed by Jane Eyre in 1847. By mid-century, the romance novel, gifts and Valentine’s were well established and continue to this day. 

That was the perfect backdrop for the elaborate heart-shaped chocolate box Valentine’s gifts, which Richard Cadbury first designed in 1868. These gorgeous boxes were not simply packaging for chocolates but doubled up as keepsakes once the chocolates were eaten. Talk about nifty marketing! The Victorians simply lapped them up as we do. Chocolates as romantic gifts have remained popular. As Cadbury didn’t patent the heart-shaped packaging, whoops, it has been copied by other manufacturers – now a staple in Valentine’s Day celebrations. 

Chocolate and storytelling 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a mistake to assume chocolate is restricted to romance alone. Many authors have used chocolate - as a metaphor, for characterization or just a prop. Different ways, different genres. Here are some excerpts. 

1. A Tale of Two Cities (1859, Historical) by Charles Dickens Monseigneur was about to take his chocolate…. One lacquey carried the chocolate-pot into the sacred presence; a second, milled and frothed the chocolate with the little instrument he bore for that function; a third, presented the favoured napkin; a fourth (he of the two gold watches), poured the chocolate out. It was impossible for Monseigneur to dispense with one of these attendants on the chocolate and hold his high place under the admiring Heavens.  

2. Proof of the Pudding (1910, Short fiction) by O. Henry "Smoke, Shack?" said Editor Westbrook, sinking cautiously upon the virulent green bench. He always yielded gracefully when he did yield. Dawe snapped at the cigar as a kingfisher darts at a sunperch, or a girl pecks at a chocolate cream. 

3. Peril at End House (1932, Crime) by Agatha Christie ‘It was a box of chocolates.’ ‘Ah! sacré. And I told her to eat nothing—nothing—that came from outside.’ ‘I don’t know about that. It’s hard work keeping a girl from a box of chocolates. She only ate one, thank goodness.’ 

4. The Da Vinci Code (2003, Thriller) by Dan Browne "Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as 'chocolate for the ears.’” The hall erupted in laughter. 

5. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (2016, Memoir) by Trevor Noah As a kid I understood that people were different colors, but in my head white and black and brown were like types of chocolate. Dad was the white chocolate, mom was the dark chocolate, and I was the milk chocolate. But we were all just chocolate. 

At Write…Edit…Publish…(WEP) we celebrate flash fiction by writing to a prompt every alternate month. The current prompt is based on Chocolat by Joanne Harris (1999, Magical Realism with an overdose of chocolate). The linky is open 16th - 18th August. Come join the fun! All you need is love. For writing, that is. And a bit of chocolate! 

WEP is also presently open for submissions to its first-ever flash fiction Anthology. Be in it! 


Nilanjana Bose blogs at Madly-in-Verse. She is a poet, essayist and short fiction writer. Also a quiet follower of the IWSG and a not-so-quiet part of WEP for more than a decade.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

#IWSG Day: August 2023 - When you feel conflicted about your words...

 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! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

 Now let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 02nd posting of the IWSG are:  Kate Larkindale, Diane Burton, Janet Alcorn, and Shannon Lawrence!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

August 02nd question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

Can you recall a book you’ve read over and over again? You’ve probably highlighted phrases and sentences that you love, and/or scribbled notes in the margins of this book. This signifies a single truth:

These words made you feel something.

And it was likely some form of discomfort.

Yes, we want the warm and fuzzies; words that uplift us and stir our soul.
But some of the most effective writing also makes us feel a bit unsettled and shift in our seats. It makes us confront truths that we don’t want to hear or perhaps didn’t know we needed to hear. There is an inherent connection with writing that has an undercurrent of unease.

So when you feel conflicted about something that you’ve written, ask yourself, why am I so conflicted about this writing?

Remember that you don’t have to show these words to anybody; but they are important, as they form part of your writerly growth as you begin to dig deeper and deeper to reveal your more authentic self.

Whether you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it – it doesn’t matter. What IS important, is that you dared to venture into territory that made you feel uncomfortable.

Dig deeper and embrace the words that make you feel conflicted. You will probably surprise yourself and in the process you will become a stronger writer.