Author Etiquette - Beginnings and Endings

by Jennifer 28. December 2018 08:42

As this is the last Author Etiquette on the Apocalypse Ink Productions blog, I thought we’d end this series with a discussion of beginnings and endings. For many authors, this is perhaps the easiest and hardest part of writing. Where you begin a story sets the tone, gives a setting, and introduces the characters, and sets up something that a reader will continue to read, but don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too much information. The ending needs to tie into the beginning hook, tie up the main plot thread, and if necessary, offers an opening for other stories. Although what happens in the middle is necessary, if you don’t have a good beginning and ending to a story, things simply fall apart.


If your eyes are already crossed, that’s okay. Finding the right way to begin and end a story is never the same twice. Some stories start with action, or dialog, or even a setting. Stories end with a sudden twist, or a gentle release. Each book in a series can start in a different way and end in another for endless possibilities. The most difficult part is deciding what one is right for the particular story you are writing.



Where To Begin

When you draft a story, what you start out with may not be the beginning that you end up with after editing. For a lot of newer authors, this comes as a surprise. The carefully crafted setup full of setting, character, and situational descriptions is often axed by an editor. While it may be important, it probably isn’t important NOW in the story.


For those who are giving this article the side-eye, what that means is you need to kill some of the fluff and get right into the story. This is especially important in a short story. Instead, “Start at the point of no return.” (Thank you @jennybhatt for that distinction!) For those unsure about what that means, imagine your story is a big rock on a hill. Weather and time has eroded the small rock and soil around it (this is a lot of that back story stuff) so that with one action--rain, wind, whatever--it starts to move forward. There’s no stopping it once it’s started. THAT is where you need to start many novels and short stories. You can always go back and touch upon the past, but jump right into the story and get your reader hooked.


The Info Dump

Information has its place, but it’s not usually at the beginning of a story. It is tempting to use a technique called an infodump at the start of a story. What this usually amounts to is backstory, descriptions, and reasons for the story itself. This often slows the story down, and can bore the reader into disinterest.


An author needs to decide on what information that reader needs so that the plot, setting, and character is clear. Everything else can be added in later.

The Hook

Have you ever read the first paragraph of a story and found you HAD to find out more? Whether it was a situation, the character, or even question those first words provoke, you were hooked. That’s the goal of every beginning every author writes.


The hook is that little tidbit that drives the reader to keep going. Hooks can be found throughout a story--especially at the end of chapters--but the most important one is at the beginning of the story. Beginning hooks can be found at the very first sentence or in the next few paragraphs, but they are always early in the story.



Generally speaking, most stories do not need a prologue. A prologue fills in information that completes the story but is told from a different character’s viewpoint, a piece of history, or even gives you a glimpse into the future. However, it may not be necessary. Prologues can confuse the reader, give out more information than necessary, and even muddy the plot. If you feel that a prologue is necessary, use them cautiously.



Where to End

Just like the question of where to begin a story, the ending is a difficult one. The ending of the story must satisfy the reader, but also wrap up the plot in a way that ties into the beginning. As an author, you should realize that you won’t satisfy every reader, but you should make good on the promise on the hook you drew the reader in with.


Endings can come in many different forms. Sometimes you need to have a twist (but be aware you need to hint at this somewhere in the story). Other times you’ll crest with the final battle, and then roll into the aftermath. Endings should show movement in the character and in the plot. That usually means that things are different in the ending than they are in the beginning.


Tied Up in a Bow or Open Ended

Endings don’t always mean a nice, neat conclusion. Most series end up with some sort of open ended issue which opens up a new story later. The main plot might be wrapped up, but there’s some lingering things to take care of. Short stories can also do this, but it is less common.


A self-contained story often has the plot issues all neatly wrapped up at the end. There’s no dangling shoelaces to trip up the character and lead into a new adventure (that you can see.) The tied up with a bow approach is especially useful in short stories.


Which technique you use if often determined by the story you are writing and the genre.


To Be Continued...

When you start writing your series, it is often useful to leave unfinished business behind so that your characters can have a starting place for the next book. Perhaps it’s an item, or maybe the villain got away, but leave something dangling at the end.


It might not always be fair to your characters, or at times your readers, but if continuation of the story is the goal, don’t tie up all of the plot threads.



Just like prologues, epilogues are a subject of debate. For many stories they are not necessary.


If you do decide to use them, epilogues can be handled in several ways. Sometimes it’s an aftermath of the story conclusion. Other times it’s some sort of information that the reader needs to see. It can be a jumping point for the next book or a new series. Always be cautious about using them.


We hoped you enjoyed the Author Etiquette series and hope they have assisted you in your writing journey. ~Sarah Craft and Jennifer Brozek


Author Etiquette - The Future of Your Work

by Jennifer 28. November 2018 12:51

Every author when they start a story--whether it’s a flash piece or 180 page novel--should know the future of the characters within that story. The start, the now, is something different than the ending, whether it takes five minutes or five centuries to end. The author knows the future, but the characters do not.

Unfortunately, in the real world, no one knows exactly what will happen to you, family, or friends, except everyone dies sometimes. That’s why it’s important to not only think, but to plan for that eventuality. Even if you are a beginning author, with only a single publishing credit to your name, making a will, establishing a trust and who is responsible, and planning for your literary estate, should be just as important as writing those stories.

Planning for that is complicated and many times you will need to involve a lawyer or someone who is knowledgeable about literary estates or both. This post is is the very bare bones basics to make you aware of what you might need. This is not legal advice. For everything else please contact a professional.

Reprints and Collections

Planning for “THE END” isn’t all gloom and doom and loads of paperwork. The start of your literary estate begins after your contracts expire on your stories. Many newer authors are surprised to learn that you can sell a story several times, and in fact earn more than the original sale with reprints.

Reprints are story sales that happen after you’ve sold first rights and your contract on that story expires. Usually the first time a publisher purchases and publishes a story, they obtain first rights. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a contract that states how long this is (which can last from 3 months to a few years). Once it expires, you are free to resell that story to another publisher.

Many times authors sell these to anthologies or keep a select few for personal collections. Anthologies are stories from various authors, but a collection is stories from only one author. Anthologies and collections are published and then the cycle begins again. Over the course of years, a single story can net an amazing amount of money.


For those not in the know, a will is a legal document that outlines how some of your property is distributed. This includes your written works, published and unpublished, emails, hand written notes and other writing related items. If you do not have a will, when you die the state you live in has rules on what happens to your possessions. Sometimes, those you love have no say in what happens or any subsequent money that is earned later.

Wills can define who is in charge of your estate, where your possessions go, whom receives property or money, and what happens to your work after you die. It’s not a thing many people like to think of. But it’s better to have it planned out for now, rather than have your family members be responsible for it after your death.

There are a few different kinds of wills that you need to be aware of.

  • A self-proving will, one that is written out and signed by witnesses (not mentioned in the will itself) is the most familiar and is recognized by law.

  • A holographic will is one written out and signed by the entity. Courts rarely uphold this type of will.

  • Oral wills are those spoken aloud. Legally they are the least recognized form of will.

  • Living wills are a set of medical care instructions in case you are unable to express those yourself.

Everyone should have some sort of self-proving will and a living will.  In that will there should be lists of property of sentimental and monetary value, along with details on the distribution. This should all be overseen by an executor of your choice.

Literary Estate

The next piece of the to do list is planning your literary estate. If you are an author, your work can still help support your loved ones, IF you plan accordingly. While we might think literary estates are for famous authors, but if you are indie, have several books and stories in print, or are about to, you need to make plans.

Your literary estate consists of several parts that can depend on what kind of publications you are doing. You need an administrator, someone to handle the copyright, physical notes, income streams and other things. They need to understand copyright laws, how the publishing world works, and have the ability to make contracts on your behalf. Your agent or an author who is well versed in this field can assist you in finding someone to fill this role.

Copyrights and Public Domain

What you are protecting with your will and literary estate is the ability of your chosen individuals to collect income from your work. The copyrights only last a number of years before other people can legally borrow your characters and your world. Currently, a work slides into public domain 50 to 70 years (depending on the first copyright) after your death. While that might seem like a long time, it can greatly affect the income of those you care about especially if you die young.

Updates and Changes

Once you write out your will, you can make changes, in fact, you SHOULD make changes. Your situation with family members, relationships, friends, and children will impact your life and should be reflected in the documents that state where your resources go. Some changes are simple, amendments or notes that are added to the original document (witnessed and signed of course). Other changes might require a new document. Don’t be afraid to make major changes when you need to as SOON as you realize a situation has changed. Don’t wait until later, because there might not be a later.

Preparing for death is a pretty somber thought, however it will help your family and friends out later. To find out more visit with a lawyer, consult other writing professionals, and check out these sites and publications.


Author Etiquette - Working for Exposure: Not Worth the Effort

by Jennifer 1. November 2018 09:54

Life is hard enough as it is especially if you are any type of creative. Most authors have regular jobs and have to squeeze in time for writing, editing, and promotion in between work, family, and other activities. The few hours they get to dedicate to words pass much too quickly, and the pay they receive from their work doesn’t pay the bills. Yet, they write, rewrite, submit, and start again hoping that someone out there will enjoy their work.


Unfortunately, there are other people out there who try to take advantage of this dogged determination. Some are predatory publishers and agents. Others are people who copy a manuscript and try to publish is as their own. And then there are those who offer to pay the creative in exposure.


Exposure isn’t always a bad thing. Vaccines expose the body to an inert virus or bacteria in order to produce an immune response. Exposure to different cultures and ideas helps develop empathy and broader sense of community. People expose themselves to a variety of things such as environments, ideas, and foods to increase tolerance, expand their knowledge, and learn about different cultures. All of these are good things.


But when it comes to creative work, exposure probably isn’t in the best interest of the author.


Offers of Work

Most people simply do not understand the time and effort authors put into their work. Writing stories is difficult and takes a tremendous amount of skill. It can take years of practice before an author actually sells a story. Many authors take workshops,college classes, and join critique groups in order to improve their stories. Then they take on reading inside and outside their genre to learn to break down story structures, character arcs, and plots along with reading just for fun.


For some outside the writing sphere, this seems like more like a hobby than a second job. This could be why authors are approached for exposure work. (Among other reasons.)


Now some of these “opportunities” could be honest people looking for volunteers to assist on a community project, getting a newsletter for (insert public service) off the ground, or simply someone who does not understand the difference between doing things for free and doing something for some sort of payment. (Insert cringing shrug here.)


But those types are very few. Mostly when an author is approached for “exposure opportunities” the person is very well aware that they are asking someone to do something for free. And many times the person doing the ask will be the only one who benefits.


Negative Exposure

Case #1

An author sells a few short stories. They are then approached by a friend who is trying to launch a website and was wondering if the author would write some stuff for them. The author wants to help out the friend and starts writing. After several time-consuming revisions, the author’s work is published on the site, where the byline is listed as the friend. The website makes some cash but nothing flows to the author. The friend wants more writing, but in a different style and subject. The author spends quite a bit of time writing for this website, without pay, and sets their own work aside…


Case #2

Author is approached by an editor or publisher who has seen their work. They want the author’s stories, however, they can’t pay except for royalties (after artwork, editing, etc. has been paid out.) Author agrees to write a story which is then accepted. Author never sees a penny.


Case #3

Creative (of any type) is approached to work on a project. It could be anything from writing flyers, producing artwork, or any number of jobs. The project sounds exciting. The creative asks about pay. The answer is “nothing but you’ll get lots of exposure.”


In all of these cases the author loses out on time and potential money. The promise of exposure is a hollow promise. While people might see the author’s work, more often than not, none of these opportunities are going to pan out more than a few curious offers at the same sort of work usually without pay.


Positive Exposure

Can exposure be a good thing? Of course it can. If the author is approached for a charity anthology, work for a portfolio, internship, or is willing to donate their time for a project they feel worthwhile. Even For-The-Love publications (publications that offer no pay for publication) can be a great opportunity to an author, especially one just starting out. Internships allow authors to see a different view of whatever industry they are working for, a chance to get to work with key people, and a line on a resume.


Exposure can lead to bigger things, BUT you must be aware of the pitfalls and may need to set boundaries on a project first.


Some simple guidelines for exposure work:

1- Be aware that there is no pay.

2- Be aware of the time needed for the project. Set a firm limit. When it hits that limit, it’s time to either renegotiate, demand some sort of payment, or walk away.

3- Be sure you have a byline or other acknowledgement of your work.

4- Have some sort of finished project for your portfolio.

5- Have a contract stating the terms and conditions of the work, the time you are willing to donate, and other important details.


Offering Work for Exposure

If you happen to be in a position that you are approaching authors or other creatives about unpaid work, please tread carefully. First, many authors are going to flat out refuse as they know that unpaid work undercuts their budget. Second, they may not agree with your project. Third, they don’t have the time.


Offering up at least a token payment (flat fee, printed version of the publication, other sort of compensation) is often the best choice for attracting quality authors. A second option would be to ask about a reprint especially if you are working on a charity anthology. Authors often have an older story out of print that could use new readers.


Generally, working for exposure isn’t good for an author. Too much time and effort often goes into projects that do not benefit them. Those who approach them often aren’t the type to appreciate the hard work and the time needed to create a quality project. Although there are exceptions (as to most rules) exposure work should usually be avoided.


Author Etiquette - Trends: To Follow or Strike Out On Your Own

by Jennifer 1. October 2018 09:53

People might get tired of hearing this, but being an author is incredibly difficult. There are so many decisions to make. Not just with the story itself, but with basically everything. There are different genres and subgenres to choose from, what kind of cover you want to have, what marketing strategies you use, and whether to go traditional or self-publish. None of these decisions is easy, but many base part of their decisions on trends.


Trends are a variety of different paths or patterns that appear when you look at the overall picture of a market. Depending on what you are looking at, you might see that a particular subgenre has increased (or decreased) in popularity over the past few years, or you might see authors having success in using a particular type of marketing strategy. Book covers particularly tend to follow trends especially when you look at cover models, font choices, and overall appearance. Some trends can be drastic changes while others can take years to develop. Whatever it is that you are looking at, if you look closely enough or long enough, trends will appear.


Are trends important? It depends on where you are at in your career, what type of trends you are looking at, and if you are willing to step away from what’s popular. What is important to remember is trends are just another tool in the author toolbox, but shouldn’t be the main reason for any particular decision.


Marketing Trends

Although writing takes up the majority of an author’s time, marketing should be something every author is doing. Promoting one’s work is important so that new readers can see your work. But marketing can be very confusing to many. Like everything, there’s a lot of advice (some good, some bad) out there.


Marketing trends have changed a lot over the years. Many years ago, authors took out ads in newspapers, magazines, and radio, but now much of the marketing relies on social media and face to face interactions. And as the internet evolves, marketing will also.


Currently, many authors have Facebook Groups, newsletters, and Twitter followings, but the rules change all the time. Restrictions, political landscapes, and terms of use constantly redefines how people market books, stores, and other publications online. If you are unsure, watch how major names promote themselves, read articles on how to market yourself, or contact a publicist for advice.


Genres and Subgenres

One of the biggest questions authors face is what to write next. Should they write something in a popular subgenre or choose something that not quite as popular.


Genres and subgenres are an easy way to categorize books according to themes, subject, characters, and intended audience. They can be combined in many different ways so that the right audience can be found. Many authors find this very comforting as when they write, they at least have an idea who their audience will be, how to reach them, and where. Popular genres and subgenres rise and fall and rise again after a time. A great example is vampires, although they are still in circulation, in the past, they were very popular. That popularity has declined, however, vampires haven’t disappeared, and at some point they will become popular again.


Genre trends can be difficult to predict. Which is why trends in genres can be very fascinating. An exciting new series can turn the market around and have other authors scrambling to write something similar or get the jump on the next big thing.



One of the first thing a reader sees when they browse for books is your cover. A great cover should be professional looking, represent the genre, and be eye catching all in the same image. If it doesn’t, then readers will take an automatic pass and move on to the next book.


Covers also follow trends. If you’ve ever looked at older books in any genre, you can see that a lot has changed. Simple (sometimes painful to look at) layouts have evolved into breathtaking images. Illustrations and photo manipulation has become much more complex. There are thousands of font choices to choose from. All of this has become possible because of technology and what attracts readers. These trends will continue to change as genres shift and readers purchase what first attracts them.


Traditional Publishing vs Self Publishing

If you haven’t noticed, publishing itself has changed a great deal in the past decade or two. Big publishers are no longer the only way for authors to publish their works. Now, any author can write, produce, and publish any work, at any time (so long as they have rights to the work.) Or look to a smaller publisher to submit their work to.


Although there are still some naysayers, self publishing has become a lot more acceptable, especially since many established authors are now self publishing back titles which are out of print, short stories they have the rights to, and new works that were too experimental for publishing houses to try. Many authors start out in the self publishing ring and do very well financially. This upward trend in self publishing makes the decision to go traditional or indie very difficult for some authors.


Is self publishing right for you?  It depends on what you want. Traditional publishing offers quite a few perks that you will not get with self publishing. Editing, access to artists for covers, layout and page design, publicity pushes, an advance, and a larger established audience are all things an author shouldn’t have to worry about with a larger publisher. Even smaller publishers can offer many of these perks although a bit smaller. An author who self publishes must take care of all of the art, formatting, editing and financial decisions on their own.  


No decision is easy in publishing. It’s easy to glance at what is happening and jump in, but not all trends are not right for all authors. Do your homework, take a look at what is happening and make an informed decision. Trends can be fun, informative, and can help you make decisions, but always remember that they are tools to use, not hard rules of what is going on in the writing world.



Author Etiquette - Writer Advice, Taken with a Grain of Salt

by Jennifer 31. August 2018 09:25

No matter what you are doing, be it fixing a car, picking out what to eat for dinner, or how to handle a particular situation, you are going to run into advice. Some of it is great, like unhooking the battery cable if you are working on something electrical in your car. Other advice isn’t, or would run counter to your normal instinct. Writing advice isn’t any different.


If you search for “Writing Advice” on your favorite browser, be prepared to be hit with several pages of opinions from professional and not-so-professional writers. During almost every interview with an author, the question on best or worst advice comes up. Although it’s a very important question, it’s also a very unfair question. Writing, like so many other creative outlets, is a very individual journey. What one person finds comfortable, another finds limiting or impossible.


While most of this advice is well meant, it can put a lot of pressure on other authors who feel as though they are doing things “wrong.” New writers want to emulate their author heroes, and to try then fail at what works for their particular flavor of favorite author can set a negative experience.


Some advice can also lead unwitting authors into making deals that are not in their best long-term interest. Shady publishers and people who don’t trust in editors can mislead people into publishing works that can drain their finances and set the stage for poor returns.


However, there are some really great authors, editors, and publishers out there who post different types of advice that help give authors ideas on how to work, what markets to stay away from, and general author advice. The biggest issue is that some of it can be conflicting between different authors. It’s hard to know what advice to follow!

Types Of Advice

Author advice comes in many different forms but most of it can be separated into beginner, market, and crafting advice. Other categories do exist, but we’d be here all day discussing them.


Beginner Advice


Beginner advice is tips and tricks that authors, editors, and publishers share in the hopes that new authors will listen and incorporate into their craft. Things like reading guidelines, how to properly format a manuscript, punctuation, the differences between its and it’s, and many other formatting, grammar, and spelling tidbits are shared all over the internet. Much of this type of advice is repeated over and over on various channels throughout different genres. Beginner advice is non-optional. If you want to be considered for publication, know the rules, format the manuscript properly, and read the guidelines.


Market Advice


The next category of advice is on markets. There are thousands of different markets for all sorts of genres of prose and poetry. Some markets are great and only want to pay you for use of your work for a short period of time while other markets either have no idea what they are doing or will take advantage of the unwary. Researching a market before you submit, is always advisable. Look for unhappy clients, slow payments, and unresponsive email complaints.


Market advice can also lead an author to where to submit particular stories. “Starting at the top,” is often heard in submission advice columns. What this means is start submitting at the top markets first, and don’t self-reject. If an author receives some good critique and submission suggestions from respectable authors, by all means, submit that story--so long as guidelines are followed.


Crafting Advice


Unlike beginning and market advice crafting advice is much more opinion based. An individual who has success with doing x, advises other authors to do this also. Unfortunately, this might not work out as well for the other authors for various reasons. However, it is always possible to take a piece of that suggestion and make it work in another way. Crafting advice can be on submitting to agents, when to post an essay, what time of the day is best to write, and a multitude of different ways to write a story.

How to Determine if it Works for You

While some types of advice is non-optional, there is some leeway especially with some types of advice. Authors need to determine the difference between rules and advice. Much of the beginner advice is simple grammar rules, editing tricks, and guidelines that show a first reader or editor that the author has the chops to write and follow directions. Crafting advice, however, is often much more flexible.


An author states you should write when you first get up, but with getting the kids ready for school and you to work, and feeding pets, and dayjob, it just isn’t possible. However, recording story ideas on your drive to work is. While you’ve not exactly followed the author’s advice, you have figured out a way to carve in a few hundred words in.


Another argument that pops us is whether to outline or to pants a story. Every author will have a different opinion on this. While at some point, if you follow a traditional route, you might have to outline in detail a story, for the most part, outlining is optional. Outlining for a story isn’t like what most of us learned in high school, where everything is painstakingly laid out. Outlining a story can simply be a few paragraphs of details of the plot points of a novel or separate character arcs. Some authors like very detailed outlines while others pants a story. Some kind of work in between these polarities depending on what kind of story they are working on.


There are pages of blogs, books, and columns on writing advice. Except for the rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, some of the advice an author will encounter during their career is either flexible or optional. What matters most is figuring out what works best for you and making writing a habit. It doesn't’ matter what program you use to write with, or if you use an outline. What matters most is the production of a good story.


Author Etiquette - Too Many Decisions

by Jennifer 30. July 2018 09:05

Tips on Simplifying Your Writer Life


Ever FINALLY sit down at your computer for a writing session after a long day, and feel utterly exhausted, even if you’ve done very little physical activity? You might be able to look at your outline and start writing, but when you come to a decision on what your character is supposed to do or say, you just can’t move the story forward. So long as you are coasting along, you are fine, but when it comes to choosing A or B, you just stare at the screen. Or, you simply just can’t find a place to start, even if you know what happens?


This may not be writer’s block, issues with the plot or character, or even an issue with your story at all. It could be decision fatigue.


Decision fatigue, yes, it is a thing. (I was surprised to find this out myself.)

What is Decision Fatigue?

Just like your muscles, your brain can get exhausted after continued use, such as decisions. Normally, you are able to decide on a variety of things over the course of a day, but if you are making many decisions, especially in rapid succession, you will tend to make rash ones that may not be beneficial in the long run. This action leads to several things such as poor choices, setting aside important tasks until later and even avoidance of a task altogether.


People who multitask, have children, more than one job, or have a job where they continuously making rapid decisions, will feel the effects of this most often, but anyone can have decision fatigue. But luckily, it is something you can manage.

Identifying the Choices You Make Daily

The first way to eliminate some of the fatigue you might encounter daily is to reduce the number of decisions you make especially early in the day. Usually, people make a lot of decisions in the morning. In your usual early day routine you probably: shower, pick out clothes (yourself and children or other loved ones), fix hair, make yourself look presentable, eat breakfast, pack a lunch, decide on transportation, take care of transportation needs if you need to, check emails, social media, text friends and family, etc.


Right there is a lot of decisions when you first wake up. At some point, your brain has probably decided to give up and you’ve made some sort of rash decision (mine was usually about breakfast—yummy muffins at the local bakery. Good to eat but not on my diet plan.)


Throughout the day you make decisions at work, then come home to decide what to eat for dinner, what to watch on TV, if you are going out with friends, balancing the checkbook, paying bills, laundry, dishes, housework, taking care of pets and family, and so on and so forth. Just those decisions alone can sometimes be overwhelming.


Then comes the creative decisions we need to make to be able to write, draw, and create whatever type of thing we do. Creativity relies on being able to make decisions, and when that ability is exhausted, it’s a wonder sometimes that creatives even manage to do it at all!.

Switching Things Around

It’s good to make a list of all of the things you make decisions about, and what time you make those choices. If you make a lot of selections in the morning (what to wear, eat, etc.) simplify that to making those decision in the evening. Make your breakfast the night before and your lunch while you are at it. Set out your clothes, decide on how to wear your hair, take care of transportation needs before you get home. By switching the times you make those decisions, you stay on track a bit better. Some of these tasks, such as meal prep for lunches can be done once a week if you learn how.


If you’ve scheduled your writing time in the evening, but find you really don’t have the brain power at that time many nights, try getting up early and writing in the morning before you do anything else (besides a cup of coffee that is.) It might be difficult at first, but having a fresh mind that isn’t exhausted at the end of the day, can help you make progress.

Schedules and Planners

Real life is difficult to keep up with, but when you add in creativity, promotion, and networking, it can really get complicated. Simplifying life takes planning which is why schedulers and planners are a great idea for basically anyone.


First, by using some sort of scheduling, you can easily see what days you will have a lot of decisions to make. If, for example, on Tuesdays, you have to give presentations for work, or have a talk with your agent or editor, you might not want to schedule that big fight scene for your writing session that day. It might be better to skip ahead to something that requires less brain power.


Second, by planning out the week or even the month, you can get a lot of decisions out of your way. Plan out a weekly menu—this can simplify dinner decisions and grocery shopping (two annoyingly stressful decision sessions for a lot of people). Know what days you have to do certain house related chores such as laundry or dishes. Schedule exercise and self care time (often overlooked). What days you will schedule promotion, social media time, or family time.


Third, you can use schedulers and planners to break up tasks. Have a report due at work, school or for a colleague in a week? Research it one day, make an outline the next, write it another then lastly edit and refine before sending it off. Lots of other tasks and decisions can be broken down or gathered into one planning session.


Even if you aren’t able to do everything on your planned list every day, at least some of those decisions on what to do and when to do it will already be made.

Further Simplification - Promotion

If you are any sort of creative, you probably have something to sell. Whether it be crafted items, art, or books and stories, getting those pieces sold means reaching out and connecting with people. Besides face to face contact, the simplest way is social media. But you don’t have to be online all the time. Social media managers and a few tricks can simplify your life greatly.


Social Media Managers


Social media managers are programs that centrify your social media accounts, allow you to create scheduled posts, and help you monitor your reach. These three things can help you limit decision fatigue greatly.


First, centrifying your social media accounts means that you are going to only one place to check your accounts. You can easily switch from one to another without having to open up a new tab and logging in.


Second, the ability to schedule posts helps you limit your social media time. Social media can lead to not only decision, but emotional, fatigue as well. If you have your promotional posts scheduled for the week, you don’t need to check in daily, unless you want to. And for some, that means more time for writing.




Like schedules and planners, spreadsheets are an essential tool for promotion. This is a new trick I just learned, and believe me, it helps tremendously.


For every book or story you write, you should do promotion, and not just for a day or even a week. Promotion should be a long-term action of importance. It doesn’t have to be complicated though. Weekly reminders on FB and daily ones on Twitter, can improve the visibility of your work. Improved visibility can lead to more fans, a bigger support system, and even offers of work. So to get the most views, it’s the author’s job to get the work out there.


To do that you need promotional copy. This is usually a short blurb or sentence that describes the work, where to find it, and other information. To promote effectively, you are going to need more than one of these. Four to five different blurbs per story or book is enough.


For FB, use one of those blurbs per week. For Twitter, use one a day. If you have multiple pieces out there, spread out the FB posts so that you have something up once a day, and post one Twitter per sold story per day. You can post once an hour if necessary.


If you have several works out, even by using a list, this will get complicated quickly.


If you use a spreadsheet, you can either upload a schedule onto a social media manager or use the spreadsheet to manually upload a week’s worth of posts into various accounts. If you have your promotional copy already written and the time of which those posts need to go up, you’ve just eliminated a great deal of decisions. It’s just simple copy/paste.


Our modern world requires us to make a variety of decisions daily, but some of those can be eliminated with a little bit of planning, simplifying our lives, and using programs to make our lives easier. It does require a little more work to start, but the results can be life changing.


Author Etiquette - Crowdfunding

by Jennifer 28. June 2018 12:33

Imagine if you will, you have an enjoyable hobby. One that allows you to express yourself creatively. You are good at it. People like the things that you produce. However, the money that you earn from this hobby does not support you, no matter how hard you work at it.


Welcome to the life of a creative.


Very few authors are able to make a living primarily from their writing. Most have day jobs, or other side jobs such as editing, transcription, or content work, that help keep bills paid, groceries in the pantry, and cash for fun things. This is a fact that most authors have come to accept, even if it makes life pretty complicated. To be able to put words on the page and support themselves or their families financially with a job, authors have to give up time with friends and family, activities such as watching movies or TV, and other things.


But over the last few years, things have changed a little. With the rise of social media, more fans have wanted to show their support of their favorite creatives. Up came platforms that allow people to support things that they love.  These online finance support systems have given some authors the freedom to be creative and still support themselves, get assistance in paying for an emergency, and have a bit more time to do more than just work all of the time. These programs are called crowdfunding.



Crowdfunding is a way for normal people to show support of a person, place, or thing by pledging money. Pledges can be monthly, yearly or even a one time show of support. The funding projects can take a variety of different forms such as support of a new series, monthly support in exchange for a newsletter or stories, or even an emergency fund. In essence, crowdfunding is a patronage from a group that anyone can set up or support.


For a lot of authors, this has been a life saver, not only because they get a little wiggle room in the finance department, but also because when an emergency arises people pledge their support. This can alleviate a lot of stress from an author’s shoulders. At no point in time should any author or creative feel guilty about opening a crowdfunding campaign if they have researched the platform, have a plan to promote it, and are willing to follow through on promises. If you have a social media presence, feel that you need a bit of help, and are willing to do the work involved, crowdfunding can be a very rewarding venture.


Types of Crowdfunding

There are several types of crowdfunding. Some are open for a limited time and allow others to show support of a project or help raise funds for emergencies. Other types are open all year round. A few are for a one time donation, while others allow supporters a subscription service. Crowdfunding is also available for groups, not-for-profits, loans, and other applications but today we are dealing with the ones creatives have contact with most often.


Emergency funds

When there’s an emergency, and you don’t have the cash, many authors turn to their friends, family and fans for assistance. Crowdfunding sources such as GoFundMe and Fundly and allow users to set up a campaign for a certain amount of time.


Project Support

If a creative has a project (whether it’s a book, game, or perhaps something bigger) they often turn to project support crowdfunding platforms.  The most well known is Kickstarter, but other platforms such as IndieGoGo and WeMakeIt are also used. These platforms allow users to introduce a project, raise funds, and stay connected with contributors throughout the process.



Some social media and crowdfunding platforms allow people to leave tips for creatives. Ko-fi allows supporters the opportunity to buy their favorite authors a cup of coffee. Other tipping

programs exist such as Tipee and Curious Fictions.


Subscription Based

The last group of crowdfunding platforms used by creatives involves a subscription service. Subscribers pledge a monthly (or sometimes a yearly) fee in exchange for newsletters, short stories, sneak peeks, and more. Patreon is one of the best known, but other services such as Drip from Kickstarter could be available soon to users.


What Crowdfunder Works for You?

Before you start fundraising you need to take a look at what kind of money you would like to raise, length you are willing to promote, what kind of backers are you looking for, and if you will offer some sort of reward system. Not all crowdfunding platforms are right for every application.


Slow trickle or fill the tank

Depending on what crowdfunding platform you choose, your options will be to run a fundraiser for a certain length of time and hope that you meet your goal or take the longer approach and have a steady stream of income over a longer period of time. Crowdfunders for emergency funds usually rely on the fill the tank method, while tip and subscription based funding is a slow trickle.



As a creative, you will be using your social media presence as a funding base. If your base is large, then chances are you will have a successful campaign. If you have a small base, then your success if limited.  Not only do you need a large social media presence, you also need an active one. If you are active and have a large participation record, your campaign will do just fine.



Like with story and book releases, a crowdfunding campaign will need you to promote it. People will not magically find these things unless they have asked for a recommendation or get lucky. For short campaigns, you will need to spend time and effort in getting the platform in front of your base and giving convincing arguments on why they should back it. Long campaigns such as Patrons and Ko-fi require reminders that these options exist.


Risks and Returns

Every crowdfunding venture comes with rewards and risks. The rewards for you are obvious but sometimes the risks are hidden.



Many crowdfunding platforms take a cut of your funding. So if you were looking to make x you might want to pad that number some. Check the fine print to see what the platform charges and then be sure to fluff up your estimate just to be sure. In some crowdfunding venues you don’t get the money unless you reach the funding goal. If you’ve never run a campaign or are unsure of how to be successful, talk to those who have run campaigns or hire someone to run it for you.  



If you are running a Kickstarter or a subscription based service, be sure you are delivering on your promises. People will understand if there are slight delays or small complications, but being overly tardy or not receiving a product at all will sour even the most die-hard fan.



This is a very important step in many crowdfunders. When people back a project or artist, they want to know that their money is going into the project. Updates through the fundraising platform or through emails is a great way to keep in touch of what’s going on. Even if things aren’t going as planned you can still update your fans. Plus you can also use the backers list to announce new projects or signal boost other projects similar to yours.


Crowdfunding can help authors and creatives achieve goals that they’d normally be unable to reach on their own. It’s a win-win situation for creatives and fans. You get the funding you need, and because the funding is spread out between fans, it’s a great option for those people who only have a few bucks to spend.


Author Etiquette - Active Versus Passive Marketing

by Jennifer 26. May 2018 11:39

Many authors are going to take one look at the title of this post and think ick, I don’t want to deal with marketing. It’s an understandable reaction. Authors have stories to write, lives to live, and various jobs to do. Marketing of any sort isn’t on most author’s list of favorite things to do. But it should be.


As we’ve discussed before, it is the author’s responsibility to keep their works in the eyes of the public. Publishers are only going to do so much for so long. Even if a book series is doing well, without reminders, many readers may not see your books. Considering there are thousands of books released yearly on many different platforms, it’s sometimes a wonder that readers find you at all.


That’s where marketing comes in. A smart marketing plan allows you to be visible before, during, and after a book release. Some parts are very time intensive—such as creating and posting ads and social media posts. But others, once set up, are stable touchstones that people can find at anytime. These actions are called active and passive marketing.


What’s the difference?

Active and Passive Marketing differs in the amount of energy you have to put in to pursuing your objective. (I’m using objective here as marketing isn’t always about sales.) Active marketing is all about engagement. Engagement takes energy, usually a constant amount, and sometimes more than you think you have to give. Passive, on the other hand, could take a fair amount of energy to set up, but once it’s going, there’s little energy expended. It’s often more focused on information.


Active Marketing

Active marketing can take many shapes and forms, but it isn’t always “buy my book.” That word we used above—engagement?—that’s the key to active marketing. It means you interact with people. Engagement can be in many different forms. Conversations are one of the best ones, but even shares, likes, and signal boosting counts as engagement. It can be online, in person, or via chat. And it’s not one sided either. If you are having conversations, responses, and people are responding favorably, you are participating in active marketing—even if it isn’t about your book.


One of the best examples of author active marketing is conventions. Whether you run a booth, participate in panels, or are just hanging out, you should be engaging with people there. Sure, there’s a lot of “buy my book” going on, but there are many other conversations going on. Introduce yourself, tell people what you do, hand out business cards, sit in the lounge and talk. These are all active marketing techniques. You may feel exhausted, but in the end, you will gain more friends and fans. Other active marketing activities also include posting regularly on social media, in person readings, attending writing groups, mentoring, etc.


Passive Marketing

Passive marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t expect you to expend a lot of energy for a long period. It’s main focus is information. The initial setup for various things might take time and a lot of energy or money but once it’s finished, you don’t have to maintain that level of energy. Passive marketing techniques often look for long term results, rather than short term like many active marketing actions.


Your website is the perfect example of passive marketing (and a very important point of contact for every author). Yes, a lot of energy is spent in creating, maintaining, and updating, but a vast majority of authors do not have active engagement on their website. (Yes there are exceptions we know.) Mostly, once the site is set up it’s a place for people to find out more about you, your work, and what’s coming up next. Other forms or passive marketing includes newsletters, guest posts, interviews, new releases, and other forms of communication.


Why not use just one?

By using only one form of marketing an author is basically hopping around on one foot. You can’t get very far or fast without using both legs. Marketing, and an author’s career in general, should always be thought of as a strange, very long race. At times the course will be hilly, active and energy intensive, but often only for short times. Other times it will be long and flat with occasional highs and lows. You have to run it all. You can’t just go for the parts you like best.


Many authors succumb to the idea that having a website is all they need. A few posts on updating their works, a nice author photo, bibliography, all should be good right? When the fans don’t show and their works do not get noticed they wonder what they did wrong.


On the other hand, there are some authors who go full-out engagement. They spend hours on their social media streams connecting with fans. Their sales are hot and fast, but not sustainable. Often these authors tend to burn out quickly.


The most successful authors might lean one way or another, but they have a strong presence in both worlds.



Each author must find their balance in how to market their work. An author might be more comfortable with one or the other, but in order to create and sustain a long term career, an author MUST use both. Build a nice website (it doesn’t have to be expensive), learn to use social media, attend conventions, readings and signings, and be sure to respond to guest post invites. All of these things help you as an author build your audience and fan base.


But most of all, be yourself. That’s the most important thing. Stretch your limits but don’t lose sight on what you are.


Author Etiquette - Author Success: There’s no Silver Bullet

by Jennifer 30. April 2018 10:38

Success. It’s a subject that comes up often in the writing world. There are daily announcements from authors on where their next short story will be seen, and when the next book will be available to the public. Some author’s careers take off, while others seem to stagnate. The envious look on at what could be and wonder why they can’t be like Successful Author X.


The simple fact is, success is different for every author. Getting there is a maze of hard work, trying out what works for you, and persistence. Nothing in the world of publishing is easy. The earlier you learn this, the better. There is no easy way to the top. No one single thing that will make your book popular except the repeated application of a few simple things and figuring out what works for you.


Being successful isn’t quick or easy. Figuring what works takes time and persistence. If you are unwilling to try a particular type of promotion for less than six weeks or feel that you should concentrate wholly on writing instead of expanding your fan base, learning the craft and figuring out the field, perhaps being an author isn’t for you.


Even if you are lost on what to do, there is hope and no need to give up immediately. Every author has to start somewhere or has low points in their career. The rules on what to do change all the time. The thing to remember is to figure out where you are going wrong and find a way to change it. Below are some steps that every author needs to reflect on.



Every author should read, read often, and read widely. You will have your favorite genres. However, by reading outside of those walls, you will come into contact with different writing styles, different ways to tell a story, and hopefully learn many things about the world around you.


If you aren’t reading, you aren’t keeping up with trends, new takes on tropes, and various other things that authors need to be aware of. Marketing trends, what’s popular, and what is in decline should be a huge incentive for all authors to read whatever they can.


Reading widely doesn’t just mean reading outside your preferred genre. It also means reading outside your preferred manuscript length. Novelists should also be reading short stories, and vice versa. The techniques that a short story author uses in a story are often shortcuts to some novel techniques, especially in short works such a flash fiction. Short story authors should pay attention to how novels flow and characterization. While not everything is transferable, an author can work some of these tricks into their own works.


Learn the Craft

Surprisingly, this step can be difficult for some authors. You would think that a person who wants to create stories would want start with knowing the basics such as grammar, punctuation, and story structure. Well, if you’ve spent time in the slush piles of any publication or pick up a random story from the self-published shelves, your eyes could be opened quickly. (Please note that not all self-published works are problematic. There’s some really great stuff out there.) While even professional authors make errors, some authors do not believe that they have to follow the rules of writing.


If your stories are continuously rejected, your beta readers point out several errors, or an editor runs screaming away from your manuscript, you might need to brush up on your basic writing skills. Learn sentence structure first along with how to use punctuation. From there, things should be easier.


Taking some grammar classes at your local college, night classes, or hiring a private tutor can set you on the right track. If nothing else, look for the free online classes that some higher institutions have released to the public. Find out if your high school English teacher will assist.


Don’t worry about learning ALL the rules. Remember that even editors have to look things up on occasion. Learn the basics, learn them well, then apply it to your work.


Write, Edit, Submit, Repeat

The best way to start yourself on the path to success is to have several works out. Very few authors make it to the top on just one manuscript. For the most part, an author will need at least three works in the same world to being to see an upswing in their popularity. Which means, if you have just completed that first novel, depending on how quickly you write, you have a long road ahead of you. To get there you will need to write a lot of words, learn how to edit, and work on the next piece while waiting on submissions.


Make writing a habit. You might not be able to do it daily, but it should be something you do often. Find a critique partner or group and some honest beta readers. Learn to critique other people's works based on story structure, grammar, and overall readability. Grow a thick skin because critiques sometimes hurt. (It will prepare you for rejections.) Edit your work based on the critiques and comments from your beta group. Maybe send it to another beta group or a different critique partner. Make your work better. Then send it off. Open up a new page and start all over again.


Promote Your Work

Some authors will tell you that promotion is not a skill set that an author needs to learn. Concentrate on writing, is the moto for most; however, that leaves a very important aspect of being an author in the hands of someone else at best or no one at worst.


Larger publications know the value of promotion and put time, money and effort into this. But they don’t have time to promote every book for long periods of time. A short four to six week promotion push is really all that a large publisher can do for any book. Smaller publications might have a shorter push or none at all. Therefore it falls on the hands of an author to do the promotion or expand on what is already there.


First, if you don’t already have one, set up a website. Set up a free one if you have to, but have some place that is under your control to post news, contact information, and other important information regarding your books. Remember you can always set up something else later.


Next, share what you love. Social media channels are a great way to promote  your work. However, you don’t want to spam. Instead, share your writing journey, photos you take, your other hobbies, and spend a little time signal boosting other works you love. No more than 20% of your posts (1 in 5) should be a promotional post.


Set up some sort of newsletter. It can be brief, quarterly, filled with cat photos, whatever you like. If someone likes your work, have them sign up. And USE it don’t let it stagnate.



Since being an author isn’t exactly a dot-to-dot, follow the road and you’ll be successful career, every author is going to have to take some time to really look at what they are doing and seeing if it works. We dive into the heads of our characters without fear, but it’s a lot more difficult to do it to yourself.


Although you might love writing in a certain sub-genre, it might not be popular or profitable. If you define success by money in your pocket, you might want to rethink or combine what you love with writing to market. You might have to continuously refine and retune your promotions. You might need to find out how to apply for grants or take classes in the newest promotional craze. You might even have to consider writing a secondary character as a primary in their own books because readers love them.


Examine your career periodically. This doesn’t mean on a weekly basis. Sometimes it means once or twice a year. Figure out what is working and what isn’t. Try new directions. Don’t be so stubborn that you won’t take chances and try something different.



Lastly, but certainly one of the most important things you can do is be persistent.


Don’t drop a promotional push after a week of not seeing results. Don’t give up on a series after the first book. Just because that short story didn’t get picked up on the first, fifth or twentieth submission doesn’t mean it won’t find a home somewhere. Don’t give into imposter syndrome and compare your short story sale to another author’s series sale.


The authors who keep trying are the ones who build a career. They may have rocky starts, but they keep at it. It’s something to be admired and at least imitated if not outright copied. That’s right, most authors are open on how they do things and encourage other authors to do things like they do. Whether it works for you or not is up in the air, but it’s good incentive to keep trying.


Author Etiquette - Writing to Market vs Writing What You Want To Write

by Jennifer 1. April 2018 18:45

Authors are faced with many decisions. Some are easy, such as whether to wear your PJs all day when you don’t have to go outside or what kind of music to listen to while writing a fight scene. Other decisions are a bit more difficult such as whether to reveal a piece of information early or later in a story. Certain facts should always be trueformatting, proper grammar, punctuationwhile other things such as what font you use while drafting a story is up to the author. But one thing authors have to face some time or another is whether to write what they want or to write to market.


This can be a very difficult decision for many. By writing to market, an author has to make changes. Sometimes it means putting away stories they love to keep the lights on or turning away from a particular style that they are known for. On the other hand, some authors expand their toolbox by writing in different venues for different types of markets.


But writing what you love has pros and cons, too. Writing what you love gives you the security of knowing every aspect of the world you write in. When your audience finds you they know what to expect and readers will often seek out all of your work if they like it. However, it is easy to become lost in the shuffle if you are known for only one type of writing.


What is “Writing to Market?”

Before we look at what kind of decision needs to be made, first we need to define “writing to market” for those who do not know what this means.


Writing for market means that an author is writing for a particular market, has been contracted to write a particular story in a world, or they are following a trend that is selling well. This could be authors who are writing for a themed anthology, writing tie-in stories, or are wanting to bank in on a particular sub-genre or trend.


To work a writing to market story, an author must be aware of the history of the world or sub-genre, often must deal with rules on how things work in that world, and must also realize that fans can be very critical of the work once it is released. A writing to market piece must fit in the world you are writing for without making huge waves (unless that is what you’ve been contracted to do),  but it also must be unique enough to move the goalposts forward.


While there are no guarantees that these stories will sell, many times the author will see increased chances of sales by accepting writing to market proposals.


How is this different from “Writing what you Want?”

In writing what you want, the author is often the builder of their own worlds, creator and master of the universe they are writing. They can take inspiration from anywhere and mold it to fit into their stories. An author can combine genres or slice away what they think distracts from their story. Often there are no rules or history to worry about until the author decides to put them in place.


Writing what you want allows an author the freedom to explore what they can do, how they can do it, and how long or short they can confine a story in. There is no expectations except a finished story. It can stand out boldly, or it can fit neatly into the genre you want it to.


In writing what you want, an author takes a chance that their work may not be hugely popular (although it does happen). Writing what you want does not come with a built in fanbase. Sure, if you write an unique epic fantasy you might be able to draw in LORD OF THE RINGS readers, but then again, you may not. At times, authors who write what they want, struggle to find fans, markets, or see sales.


How to Decide

Every author is unique and each one will decide whether writing what they want or writing to market is right for them. Many authors will suggest going where the better chance of sales will be; however, writing what you love can also be very fulfilling.


For many authors, especially those who are writing full time, the question is: Will it pay and how much? This question allows authors to keep bills paid, groceries in the pantry, money for emergencies, and money for fun things. It’s more difficult to take a chance with writing what you want when bills are involved.


Writing to market often has a built in fanbase which means stories will sell somewhere even if it’s been rejected for a primary market. So that vampire story you wrote for an anthology could have a market in a horror magazine if you get an R. However, by writing what you want, you might just discover an untapped niche market and you’d have the fans all to yourself for a little while.


If you want to work with a group of professionals, writing for market is a good choice. When you write to market, you will be working with publishers, editors, other authors, and various people who work within that type of publishing. It can be quite complicated sometimes, so be forewarned. Writing what you want can allow you space  to develop your own world without the constrictions of rules.


Writing what you want can allow you to be more experimental. Want to write non-linear, experimental prose? Writing what you want is the way to go. But if you want more structured stories, writing to market could be a good fit.


Can you do both?



In many cases, authors write to market in worlds that they are familiar with and love. This gives them that special touch when it comes to writing in particular worlds. Game tie-in authors often play the games they write about, giving them that extra dimension of knowledge. Love writing about spaceships, magical elves, or big stompy ‘Mechs? Tie-in writing could be a great venue for you.


Authors can write work to market pieces to pay the bills while writing what they want. This takes a lot of balance as the work to market stories often takes priority. Authors also have to be able to set aside different story lines especially if they are working on several projects at once.


Some authors even find that there’s a reversal. One of their writing what they want turns into a writing to market proposal. That first novel you send to an agent could turn into a multi-book series. Or perhaps that novel attracts the attention of someone in the write for market world and you are offered an opportunity to write for (insert world.)


Either way, authors have to decide what is best for them. Sometimes it requires one to make hard, painful decisions about one’s work. Other times it opens up great opportunities. Check out all of the opportunities being an author has to offer.


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