Monday, July 15, 2024

What Do Writers Need to Know About AI?

One big question that came up recently when we asked our members what more the IWSG could do for them was the issue of AI content. There is a lot of information out there and unfortunately no clear-cut answers. However, below are some resources that will guide you.


On the question of ethics –


From the Alliance of Independent Authors: AI for Authors: Practical and Ethical Guidelines

From Originality.AI: The Ethics Of AI-Generated Content

Ways that writers can benefit from AI -

From Forbes: 13 Ways Writers Should Embrace Generative AI

From Tailwind: 6 Benefits of Using AI Writing Tools for Content Creation

From Reddress Compliance: The Benefits of Using AI Tools for Writers

There are many AI writing tools and plugins, ranging from help with creativity to marketing –


HyperWrite
ChatGPT
Show Me
Wolfram Alpha
AskYourPDF
Anyword
Sudowrite
Jasper
Grammarly
Writesonic
CopyAI
Rytr
ProWritingAid
Assistant by Scite
Type
Buffer’s AI Assistant
Writer
Frase IO
Quillbot AI
SEOwind
Some publications and companies won’t accept AI created content. And there are programs that check for AI usage –


Originality.ai
Copyleaks
Sapling

AI created material also brings up other issues regarding copyright. It can generate content that infringes on copyrighted material. There is also the question of whether AI created content can be copyrighted –


Court Finds AI-Generated Work Not Copyrightable for Failure to Meet "Human Authorship" Requirement—But Questions Remain

Artificial Intelligence Systems Present Copyright Infringement Concerns and Challenges

Can AI be creative? Global copyright laws need an answer.

While there are still questions surrounding AI, we here at the IWSG hope that the above information helps you to make a smart choice when it comes to working with AI.

Monday, July 8, 2024

​​If You’re a Fiction Writer, You Absolutely Should Be Blogging


 A guide to marketing yourself and your work 

By Shaunta Grimes 


Every fiction writer should be a blogger.


There. I said it.


Here’s the difference blogging made for me: When I sold my first book to a major publisher, I wasn’t blogging, I didn’t have an email list. I believed the narrative that fiction writers don’t need a platform.


And, to be honest, I was relieved by that idea. I didn’t want to market. I wanted to write. I bet you’ve heard that before. In your own thoughts.


So, I trusted that there wasn’t anything I needed to do to sell my books, except for write them. Only problem was — that book didn’t sell very well.


I sold another book a few years later, and this time I knew that creating my audience was my responsibility. No one else was going to do it for me. So, ahead of that book’s release,  I started blogging and building an email list.


That book went out into the world with about 1000 pre-sales. That’s a big deal. It made a major difference.

If you’re a writer, you should be blogging.

Blogging gives you the chance to publish regularly . Monthly. Weekly. Maybe even daily. It also puts you in control of the content, something that might be a pleasant change if you’re used to relying on the subjective tastes of various gatekeepers.


Until they’re relatively well known, even the most prolific fiction writer doesn’t publish often enough to really build and engage an audience. Even if you’re one of those hyper-productive indie-published authors who’s slamming out a novel four or more times a year, that’s a fraction of the amount of connection you could have with your audience via blogging.


Blogging gives your audience the chance to get to know you personally, which is how you build a base of fans for your body of work. And blogging  is one of the best means for building an email list full of those fans.


Truly, blogging is really a no-brainer for fiction writers. We’re already storytellers. We already enjoy the base activity–writing. There’s a learning curve for the technical aspect, but once that’s overcome, the activity itself is easy and fun.


Blogging is  a lower-stakes version of our main occupation that allows us to publish super regularly and connect directly with readers.


Plus, with a little extra work, it can bring in some income. Maybe even long before fiction writing does.

I hope I’ve convinced you: fiction writers should be regular bloggers. But we have a problem.

Because lots of people are telling non-fiction writers how to blog and how to build an email list and how to reach their audience. But what about novelists or short story writers or poets or artists of any kind? There’s so much bad information out there, when there’s any information at all. Most of the time we’re left trying to scramble to figure out how to make information fit our needs, when it wasn’t really meant for us.


I got so excited several years ago because one of the big online writing advice guys was advertising a webinar promising that he had the answer. He was going to teach fiction writers how to blog. So I signed up and I logged in. And his big idea?


Fiction writers should be writing book reviews, he said. Write a book review every month. That was it. The entirety of his advice.


I wanted to reach through my computer screen and strangle him. Or at least send some kind of message to all the other writers listening with bated breath.


Because that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.


This is a bad idea on so many levels. The biggest one being that he was encouraging writers to venture into turf that isn’t theirs.


Repeat after me: Book reviews are for readers. 


Once you become a writer, they aren’t your business. If you’re reviewing books similar to yours, you won’t be able to really be critical because you’re talking about your colleagues (even if you don’t know them.) So they’ll be weird, stilted reviews at the very least.


And, like I said, you’ll be inserting yourself into an arena where you don’t belong. Because–one more time–book reviews are for readers. Not writers.


I promise you, building a blog around book reviews if you’re a fiction writer is a bad idea.


This guy has helped fiction writers do some pretty amazing things, it’s true. But not this. What he’s done in the past is help expand on the success of  fiction writers who already have a platform. Which is a whole other animal from being a brand new, aspiring creative writer with no platform at all.


Writing book reviews will not build an audience for a specific writer. And, the real problem is that you’re setting yourself up for critiquing your colleagues, which wouldn’t be good advice in any other industry. It’s not good advice in ours either. 


What I’d like to do today is take a look at a better way.

It starts with figuring out what you want to say.

There are two things that I feel very strongly should not be the foundation for a fiction writer’s blogging venture:


  • Critiques of fellow writers. (AKA book reviews.)

  • Our own writing.


No one cares about our cover reveals or our writing processes if they don’t know who we are. Truthfully, they wouldn’t care about our writing process if we were their favorite writers.


I can prove it to you. Ask yourself how many writers you follow because you’re riveted by their processes?


Uh huh. Exactly. You follow them because they entertain you or they teach you something. You aren’t doing them a favor. It’s all about you.


I’m going to say that one more time, because it’s really important.


Your readers aren’t doing you a favor. They’re reading your blog for themselves. Because readers are human beings and human beings are all about themselves. Maybe your mom or your best friend is reading to do you a solid, but random readers aren’t. Again, ask yourself how often you spend your time reading because you want to help the writer out.


I do have some good news, though. 


If you do two things, you’ll be able to build an audience that will love you and follow you and buy your books: Introduce your readers to you and then make it all about them.


The reason why that’s excellent news is that it means that It doesn’t matter what you blog about. 

Whatever interests you, whatever is interesting about you, whatever you’re good at, whatever you want to be good at. You’ll find people who care about those things, too.


And when you write for those readers, they’ll care about you. Which means they’ll care when you publish a book. It becomes a whole circle of life thing. It’s beautiful.


For the record, just because you’re a writer, doesn’t mean that you have to write about writing, either. You can write about anything. You’ll find readers who are interested in the topics you want to write about.


And as those readers become fans, they’ll get excited with you when you do talk about your fiction. Which you will, sometimes. Just not exclusively, or even most of the time.


Let’s talk a little about blogging.

There are really two things you can do as a blogger: teach something you’re an expert at or learn something you’re not an expert at.


When I write about writing fiction, I put on my expert cap: I’ve been a fiction writer for more than 20 years, I’m traditionally published, I have an advanced degree in creative writing.


When I write about writing fiction, I’m teaching readers what I’ve already mastered. I’m a sherpa who already knows the way.


When I write about my ongoing effort to be more organized, I’m most definitely learning out loud. I hope no one comes to me looking for expert advice about how to be an organized person, because I am not your girl. I might be able to inspire you to try, though. We’ll figure it out together.


When I write about organization, I’m taking readers along with me as I do this thing I’ve never done before. I’m a stumbler, just like you.


See the difference?

So, start here: Take an inventory. 


Get out a notebook and make a couple of lists. One quick rule, though. Don’t limit your list to the the things you think you should be blogging about. Go wide here.


Start with things you’re good at.


Now list things you aren’t good at, but you want to be.

Next think about your most interesting life experiences.


Finally, what are you interested in?


What you’ll end up with is a list of things you can mine for ideas. I find that this list is a good place to look for intersections. 


Like: how does creativity (one of the things I’m interested in) fair when you’re part of the sandwich generation (one of the things that’s interesting about me)? Or why should fiction writers (one of the things I’m good at) watch a lot of television (another thing I’m good at)? Or can you be a writer (one of the things I’m good at) and a poor single mother (one of the things that’s interesting about me) at the same time?

Put it all together.


Take a look at your lists and decide which ones resonate the strongest with you.


For me, that’s: writing, starting a business, marketing, creativity, productivity, body positivity, weight loss, personal finance, poverty, autism, dementia.


Then start paying attention.


What questions do people ask about the things that matter to you?  Write the answers in blog posts.


What have you observed about your topics? Write about those observations in blog posts.


What ideas do you have that relate to your topics? You guessed it–write about them in blog posts.


I also like to keep books related to my favorite topics near my desk. When I’m stuck for an idea, I just flip one open and I’m nearly always inspired by what I find.

Finding time for it all.


It helps to see blogging as part of your job. Not a side project you work on when you have the time, but an important part of your writing career.


Finishing your novel is a big deal. You need to do it. So you don’t want blogging to take over and push fiction writing out. But when that novel is finished, when you’re ready to publish it, you’ll be glad you took the time to build a little platform for yourself.

Seth Godin said, “Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.”


Nearly daily blogging is a big part of my life and I agree with Seth. There are countless reasons it’s a good idea. As long as it’s not shifting you away from fiction writing, I can’t think of a single negative.


But if you can’t swing a daily blog, commit to three times a week. Or even once a week. Just show up for yourself and your readers when you say you will.


Here’s my favorite tool for keeping myself accountable to both fiction writing and blogging.


Now, get out there and write. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

An IWSG Day Software Update


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. 

And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

The awesome co-hosts for the July 3rd posting of the IWSG are JS Pailly, Rebecca Douglass, Pat Garcia, Louise-Fundy Blue, and Natalie Aguirre!

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!

July 3 Question - What is your favorite writing processing software, apps (e.g. Word, Scrivener, yWriter, Dabble, Google Docs, Fictionary, Atticus), and tools? Why does it fit your process? Why do you recommend them? Which is favorite if you have more than one?

Is it sad that I've only ever heard of half of those examples? I still stick with good old Word and use Excel to keep notes and stuff. Heck. Sometimes I may just jot stuff down in notepad until I get it to where it needs to go. Nothing fancy here.

Got any better software than I do? Does it make life easier? Have you heard of all the examples above?

Monday, June 24, 2024

Six Things I’ve Learned About Promoting My Debut YA Novel by Carol Baldwin

 

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU SIGNED A CONTRACT!

 

The best advice I received in my seventeen years of researching, writing, revising, and editing, Half-Truths, came from my publisher, Jennifer Lowry, of Monarch Educational Services. I had two years before my book, set in 1950 in my hometown, Charlotte, NC, would be out.  Excitedly, I told Jen I was starting my next teen historical novel with the hopes she would also be interested in publishing it.

“Don’t work on it yet,” she said.

“What?” I couldn’t wait to research a two-timeline two-POV book that would be a prequel to Half-Truths.  (To be honest, I’d already started.)

“Why not?” I asked her.

“You’ve got work to do on Half-Truths.”

I knew that there would be rounds of editing, but that was in the future. What could I possibly do now?

“You need to start building connections in Charlotte.”

Disappointed, I put aside book #2. I’d learned to trust Jen’s publishing wisdom, so I started thinking about who I hoped would read my book and how I would connect with them.

I’m glad I did!

Here is what I’ve been doing for several months.

NOW WHAT? AFTER YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT

 

Tip #1: Create a Professional Website and Print Business Cards

If you don’t already have a landing place on the internet, now is the time to create it. For years I was content with a blog on which I posted book reviews and Half-Truths’ journey. When I looked around at other author’s sites I realized that mine was dated and cluttered. I wasn’t up to creating my own, so I hired a website designer. Now librarians, event coordinators, educators, and readers can find out about me, Half-Truths’ backstory, events, and my writing workshops.

Websites give you online exposure, but business cards are a tangible reminder to strangers of who you are and how they can connect with you. Trust me. You’ll feel like a star when you give them out.

 

Tip #2: Be ready to talk about your book to anyone.

I wear a t-shirt that reads, “Just a Girl Who Loves Writing.” A man recently stopped me on a walk and wanted to know what I was writing. He was standing outside of his church giving away bottled water to passersbys. I gave him my pitch, and my business card and told him I’d love to come to talk to his church about my book. But here’s what I failed to do—I didn’t get his contact information to follow up with him later.  I won’t repeat that mistake!

By the way, if you have a shirt or hat with your book cover on it, you will also wear it to book events and to the grocery store. You can use it as a giveaway or sell it if you have an online store. It’s multipurpose!

Susan Pless and her grandson help promote her debut picture book Scaryotyped.


Shannon Anderson has a different t-shirt for each of her picture books.


Stephanie Cotta advertises her Iron Kingdom series when she is out and about.

While we’re talking about swag, check out this water bottle sticker. It’s a conversation starter for Angelique Burrell and her YA book, Mark in the Road. 

Read more about Angelique Burrell’s books here.

 

Tip #3: Be Nice.

Smile when you’re wearing your t-shirt or swinging your bag with the image of your book cover on it. Make eye contact. People LOVE meeting real-life authors. You might be the only one they (or their child) will ever met. Be prepared to say hello to your future reader.

Diane Brooks gives away plastic snakes when she sells her debut picture book, Simon the Snake.

Respond to emails and comments on social media. (You are on one or two platforms, right?). Follow up with genuine appreciation when someone reaches out to you. Remember how your mother taught you to be nice? She was right.

 

Tip #4: Promote other authors.

This has been said a kazillion times but it can’t be underestimated. Other authors are your friends--not your competition. Think about how you can do signings or book events together. It’s fun and you can share the expense of renting space at a community event, farmer’s market, or holiday fair.

 

Tip #5: Start a spreadsheet.

Your goal is to have so many ideas of people you want to contact that you’ll need a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

            At Monarch, the undeniable king of book marketing and spreadsheets is 14-year-old Adrian So. His chapter book, The Groundworld Heroes, debuts in August, 2024. He has spent months working on his marketing spreadsheet. His pages include:

          ARC’s – date requested and reviewed

          Physical copies promised

          Bloggers and book influencers (including Bookstagrammers, BookTokers)

          Library contacts

          Book subscription boxes

          Endorsements

          Corporate booksellers, retailers, zoos

          Indie bookstores

          Trade reviews, competitions, awards

          Media outlets

          ARC sharing groups on X

          Cover reveal participants

Each of these pages includes websites, contact information, and Adrian’s notes to himself.

       Since my book is a historical YA which hopefully both adults and teens will enjoy, my spreadsheet also includes pages for:

          Schools—private and public

          Area universities that might be interested in a history or kidlit program

          Fairs and events

          Homeschooling groups, local and regional events

          Museums

          Community organizations and venues

          STEM organizations

          Book clubs (adult, kid, mother/daughter)

          Senior centers and retirement facilities

          Churches

          Businesses

          Podcasts

 

Tip 6: Follow up on each name, organization, or media outlet on your spreadsheet.

Yes. This is time-consuming. And yes, it will pay off. Adrian received amazing endorsements from authors in his genre which will make excellent cover blurbs. As a result of my connections, I’m planning events at a local Charlotte history museum, two historical societies, several libraries, and a women’s club. And I’ve only just begun.

 

DOING THE WORK

 

Writing your book was a huge endeavor. You want to do as much as possible to get it into the hands of readers. The days of having a publicist who will spend time and money on getting your book noticed are rapidly diminishing. If you sign a contract with a house that has a publicist she will still expect you to make local and regional contacts. If you signed with a small trade publisher or are self-publishing, even more work falls in your lap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some leads to follow up on.

And you have some work to do.

 


Carol Baldwin is a full-time writer, part-time publicist for Monarch, part-time gardener, and part-time golfer. She enjoys teaching writing to teens and adults; reading, and promoting clean reads. In her spare time, she dreams of her next book, Out of the Flame. She’d be happy to hear about your marketing efforts. Please connect with her here.