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Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Purple Snowflake Marketing

Purple Snowflake MarketingI was recently sent a review copy of the revised, second edition of Purple Snowflake Marketing by Canada-based authors and entrepreneurs Dave and Lillian Brummet.

Purple Snowflake Marketing is a substantial (195-page) e-book in the standard PDF format.

It is aimed primarily at authors who have had books published and want to promote them to generate as many sales as possible, rather than rely on their publishers to do this. This is certainly advisable for any new author, unless perhaps they are already famous (or infamous!).

Many aspects of the guide would also be relevant and useful for self-published (as opposed to just self-promoting) authors, and e-book authors. The particular circumstances of such authors are not addressed separately, though.

The name Purple Snowflake Marketing comes from the authors' observation that writers today need to take any action they can to try to ensure that their book stands out amid the 'snowstorm' of other titles. Their stated aim is to help ensure that the reader's book gets noticed, even in today's overcrowded market, like a purple snowflake among a multitude of white ones!

My first impression of Purple Snowflake Marketing was that it is well written, in a friendly yet authoritative style. It is presented neatly and professionally, and I was pleased to discover that the Table of Contents has hyperlinks to the chapters and sections concerned - always helpful with e-books.

There are 19 main chapters, and an impressive 26 Appendices (one for every letter of the alphabet!). The authors begin by looking at book marketing in general, and set about answering some common new-author questions. They then discuss the specifics of book marketing in more detail, covering such areas as getting reviews, preparing marketing materials, arranging book events, distributing press releases, and so on.

One chapter I particularly enjoyed was Purple Snowflake Techniques. As you might gather, this lists a large number of unusual and in some cases off-the-wall promotional methods. Here's just one example:

Take a stroll and occasionally place a business card on outdoor dining tables at malls, outdoor cafes or mall benches. Use this strategy whenever you visit a pub, restaurant or lounge. Don't forget hotel rooms, conference rooms and other public gathering places.

Some of the ideas originate with Dave and Lillian themselves, while others come from other authors. I gather that many of the latter derive from interviews the authors have conducted on their online radio show, Conscious Discussions, on BlogTalkRadio. In any event, the chapter is certainly a rich reservoir of promotional ideas.

The Appendices take up over sixty pages of the book, and (according to the authors - I didn't count them myself!) list over 900 free and low-cost resources. These include search engine submission services, book review sites, press release and article distribution services, author-friendly radio shows, blogs, and more. The resources include many websites, but also the addresses (and other contact details) of relevant businesses and organizations. This list of resources is potentially worth much more than the modest price of the book alone.

In summary, Purple Snowflake Marketing would be a great guide for any author looking to boost their sales through taking on at least some of their own marketing and promotion. It's not a 'magic system' - you have to be prepared to put some effort in - but if you have the time and inclination to do so, Purple Snowflake Marketing will guide you every step of the way.

My only slight criticism is that - as indicated earlier - the manual doesn't specifically cover self-publishing authors and e-book authors (e.g. the growing band who are enjoying success publishing for the Amazon Kindle). Many of the techniques listed in Purple Snowflake Marketing could easily be adopted by such authors, but it would be nice to see more reference to them specifically. Maybe in the next edition!

Nonetheless, at its current offer price of just $16.74, I believe this new edition of Purple Snowflake Marketing would make an invaluable addition to any self-promoting author's library.

Disclosure Notice: I received a free review copy of Purple Snowflake Marketing from the author/publishers. The links above are also affiliate links, so if you follow the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. This has not influenced my review of the product in any way, however.


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Monday, January 24, 2011

100 Stories for Queensland Update


A short while ago I posted here about 100 Stories for Queensland, a fundraising project to help people affected by the widespread floods in Queensland, Australia.

As I mentioned in the post concerned, I am one of the team of volunteer readers and editors for this project. As there are just five days now to the closing date - Friday 28 January - I thought I'd post a few thoughts on the stories we've received so far, for the benefit in particular of anyone who may still be thinking of submitting a story for this very worthwhile project.

First of all, I should say that the overall standard of submissions has been high. In particular, I've been pleased to see less gloom and doom than with some other fundraising anthologies I've helped to edit. The message is clearly getting across that with anthologies produced in response to appalling natural disasters, a reasonably upbeat tone is preferred.

It's also been pleasing that entrants have been better at sticking to the rules regarding length - very few stories have had to be excluded for being over the 1000-word maximum. We have had a few stories under the 500-word minimum mentioned in the guidelines, but this is less of a problem, as a few very short stories (if good, of course!) will provide variety and help the publishers keep the book to a manageable size.

And overall, the great majority of stories have been at least competently written. There may be the odd typo or spelling/grammatical error - but there have been very few we rejected straight off because of issues with the writing itself.

On the minus side, quite a few of the submissions were not short stories at all. We have had poetry, reminiscences, opinion pieces, and even travel articles submitted. Although the editorial team has read and considered them all, the general view is that a short story anthology should - as the name indicates - comprise works of short fiction.

The category that has probably caused most debate among the judges is stories that are clearly fictional and competently written, but don't seem to have any particular 'point' to them. As I noted in my blog post last year about the reasons short stories get rejected, quite a few writers don't appear to grasp what a short story actually is. Some submissions read like extracts from novels, while others resembled a book summarized in a few hundred words. Neither of these really makes for a successful short story.

It's not easy to define what exactly makes a good short story, but in my view it should have some sort of dramatic unity, with a clear beginning, middle and an end. There should be conflict, suspense or tension to engage readers and make them want to read on. And, as indicated above, stories should have some point or purpose to them. Too many of those submitted left me thinking 'So?' or 'What?' or even 'So what?'

So what (oops!) are the stories we have been accepting? Humorous twist-enders, you may not be surprised to hear, generally go down well. But a twist-ending is by no means a necessity. Some of the best stories we have received (in my opinion) have had quite poignant endings, which left the reader with something to ponder.

Of course, the editors haven't agreed about everything, and it's been fascinating to see the comments made about individual stories. In particular, these have proved to me that humour is a very personal thing - some stories I found hilarious have left others cold, and vice versa. In the end, whether such stories move to the final round of selection is determined by a majority vote. I suspect that some very funny stories (in my view) may end up being turned down, but that's the way it goes. If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, a poignant, thought-provoking ending is most likely to appeal to a broad spectrum of judges. Though a little humour never goes amiss as well!

Finally, as mentioned above, the closing date for submissions is Friday 28 January, so there is still plenty of time to get your story in. For all the latest information, please visit the project's Facebook Page or the new homepage at http://100storiesforqueensland.org

And to submit a story, please visit http://100storiesforqueensland.submishmash.com/Submit and follow the on-screen instructions.

Good luck, and thank you for supporting this project!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Novella Now Available on Kindle!

Just wanted to let you know that my humorous science-fiction novella The Festival on Lyris Five is now available for the Amazon Kindle e-book reader.

This is a brand new version I have prepared for the Kindle, and it includes six specially commissioned illustrations by my wonderful cover artist, Louise Tolentino.

To quote from the blurb on the Amazon sales page (which I wrote, admittedly)...

Former Ten Stars pilot Rick Barrett is having a bad day. Not only is he jobless and broke, in a seedy spaceport bar he has been forced into a winner-takes-all poker game with a homicidal cauliflower. Salvation is at hand in the shapely form of Irish redhead Julie Halloran. Julie has a proposition for Rick that could end his financial worries forever - but does she also have a secret agenda of her own?

The Festival on Lyris Five is a fast-moving, hilarious, science-fiction novella, where nothing is quite what it seems. The story by UK author Nick Daws is beautifully complemented by Louise Tolentino's wry illustrations.

The Festival on Lyris Five is currently available at a bargain basement price of 99c from Amazon.com or 74p from Amazon.co.uk. Please click on the image links below to visit the respective sales pages...




Incidentally, if you'd like to read a sample of the novella before committing yourself to this huge investment, you can do so via the book's Smashwords page. From here, you can view the first 40% of the book in a range of formats, including the popular EPUB and HTML.

You can also buy the e-book for 99c from Smashwords, but note that the Smashwords version is text only - it does not include the illustrations you get with the new Kindle version.

If Santa brought you a Kindle this Christmas, The Festival on Lyris Five could be just what you need for some truly out-of-this-world entertainment, without requiring a commitment of weeks on end to complete

And if you do buy and enjoy it - or, indeed, you've already read an earlier version - I'd be very grateful if you could add your review to either of the Amazon sales pages, as they are looking a little bare at the moment...

Finally, I should mention that the Kindle version of my novella is DRM-free. That means you can easily convert it to other e-book formats if you wish, e.g. by using the free Calibre software. This YouTube video explains exactly how to do this.

Thank you very much, and happy e-book reading!

P.S. Watch out for a brand new guide from me to writing/publishing for the Amazon Kindle - coming very soon from my publishers (and blog sponsors), The WCCL Network!

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Monday, January 17, 2011

UK Personal Finance Writers Wanted


A colleague of mine, Nick Lewis, of Brighton-based web design and PR agency BozBoz, is looking to identify personal finance writers for possible website writing work.

This project is at an early stage, so I don't have any other details at the moment. If you think you might be interested, however, Nick would be grateful if you could email him as soon as possible at nick-AT-bozboz.co.uk (change the -AT- to the usual @ symbol). Please include (a) your usual rates, and (b) links to samples of your finance writing.

The examples should preferably be work published on personal finance websites, but otherwise anywhere on the web will do. You can also attach samples of your work as Word or text documents, if none of your published finance writing is available online.

Good luck!

Photo credit: Kevin Collins on Flickr

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

100 Stories for Queensland - Contributions Invited!


100 Stories for Queensland
is a new short story anthology in aid of victims of the recent terrible flooding in Queensland, Australia.

Like 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan - both of which I was also involved with - the aim is to produce the anthology in the shortest possible time with the aid of a team of volunteers.

Nobody is being paid anything for this project - not the organizers, not the editors, and not the contributors. All profits will go to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Appeal.

The organizers of 100 Stories for Queensland are Brisbane-based Jodi Cleghorn - co-owner of eMergent Publishing, which is publishing the anthology - and UK-based freelance writer Trevor Belshaw.

Writers world-wide are invited to submit stories of 500 to 1000 words by the deadline of Friday, 28 January. The anthology will be produced in digital and print form and as an audio book, and is expected to be ready for release by late February/early March.

The Submission Guidelines - taken from the project's Facebook Page - are as follows:

By submitting a story authors are granting eMergent Publishing the non-exclusive rights to publish their story in print, digital and audio. Copyright of all stories remains with the originating author. If you have any questions please email 100storiesforqld@emergent-publishing.com.

1. Stories must be original and of an uplifting or upbeat nature. Stories with gratutious violence, demeaning content or narratives dealing with death and destruction will be automatically removed from consideration.

2. Stories are welcome in ANY genre and for any age group.

3. All stories must be beta read, line edited and proof read prior to submission.

4. ONE submission per writer. The first of any series of multiple stories will be accepted and the rest removed from consideration.

NOTE: Stories previously published to personal blogs are acceptable for submission on the understanding the original blog post is taken down if the story is accepted.

Please include a short bio of less than 50 words in your covering letter. Biographical information will only be used on the website to assist with promotion and will not be included in the final anthology.

Please ensure your story meets ALL criteria before submitting.
For all the latest information, please visit the project's Facebook Page, from which the above Submission Guidelines are copied.

And to submit a story, please visit http://100storiesforqueensland.submishmash.com/Submit and follow the on-screen instructions.

I am working as a volunteer reader and editor for this very worthwhile project - so I'm really looking forward to reading your submissions!

Photo Credit: Assisting the Woman off her Car Roof by Timothy Swinson on Flickr.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Does Your Character Have Character?


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from freelance writer Joy Paley. Joy has some good advice for fiction writers on how to ensure that their characters really do spring to life off the page.
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Even experienced writers can have trouble locating the pitfalls in the character they've developed. After you've spent so much time with this person you've created, it can be hard to be critical of them, or (cough, cough) your own development of that character. But, making sure your character is rounded and fleshed out is crucial to creating a piece of writing that is truthful and above all, interesting and challenging. If you're having trouble making a character really three-dimensional, run through these six questions to help pinpoint where that development is falling short.

1. Does Your Character Have a Voice?

The best characters are the ones that jump out of the page and assert themselves, almost like a character in a film. Voice is a huge factor that makes this "realness." What I mean by voice is a consistent way of expressing him or herself through actions, dialogue, internal thoughts, etc. Voice could also be summed up as attitude. Without one, your character is going to read like a newspaper article, and that's not what you want.

2. Is Your Character's Dialogue Revealing?

A character's dialogue can have voice or attitude, but still be bringing down your story. Be aware of dialogue that is simply filler and isn't advancing your reader's understanding of that character. This doesn't mean that every line has to be overwrought personal reflection, but it shouldn't just be witty banter or colloquialisms written for the sake of giving your character something to say.

3. Is Your Character Falling into Tropes/Gender Stereotypes?

Stereotypes and tropes are so engrained in our cultural psyche that they can sneak into your storyline when you least expect it. For example, I was writing a story about a couple, and didn't even notice that the man in the couple was doing many stereotypical "guy" things--he was always the one driving the car, paying for the meal, and generally being domineering. I switched my character's genders, and this made the story come into a much more interesting light. Watch out for these subtle stereotypes in your own characters.

4. Is Your Character Telling Too Much?

A character's internal thoughts can be one of the most powerful ways to develop their personality and to advance a story. Thus, comes the temptation, however, to have them spell out a little too much or be a little too on the mark in their own thinking. Even if you don't suspect this in your own story, cut back a little on the internal monologue and see if it helps the pacing of your story and the realness of your character.

5. Does Your Character Have Distinct Traits that Make Them Unique?

Adding a little specificity to your character is nearly always a good thing. Make sure that your revealing details are actually revealing, and not too vague or general. For example, instead of saying that your character hates shopping, instead say, "Ever since Patty worked at KMart during high school, the sheen of fluorescent lights off white vinyl floors made her feel ill." Never miss a chance to develop your character further, and to add in a little specificity.

6. Does Your Character Have a Goal?

It's that old writing idiom, but it's still true: what does your character want? It doesn't have to be some huge, obvious, quest-type goal, but your main character should have something that they want, and you as the author should know what it is (or you should at least, by the end of the story). If you can't spell out this goal, you need to do another draft to come closer to figuring it out. Or you can experiment with some writing exercises to help you get there: write a page from another character's point of view; write a page from that character's perspective 10 years down the road. Pinpointing that goal or desire is crucial to unifying your story and making your character more lifelike.

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Thank you to Joy Paley for an interesting and thought-provoking guest post. If you have any comments or questions for Joy, please feel free to post them below.

Photo Credit: Avalanche - Earth-Shattering Force by Dashu Pagla on Flickr.

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Five New Writing Websites You Really Should Check Out


Over the last couple of weeks I've heard about some interesting new websites for writers.

Although I've shared links on Twitter and Facebook, many people won't have seen these, so I thought I'd list them all together here.

1. Indie Reads

Indie Reads is a new, UK-based review site for self-published books and e-books. It's run by my old friend Ali Cooper, whom I interviewed last year in this blog post. Ali is happy to consider both fiction and non-fiction titles from self-publishers and very small publishing companies. She is also looking for an additional Amazon Kindle-owning reviewer (who is not a writer him- or herself).

2. XinXii

Despite the name, this is a European, not a Chinese, website! XinXii describes itself as an online marketplace for books and documents. They aim to make it easy for writers to publish and sell their work, and pay up to 70 percent royalties on sales. XinXii is also a social networking site: you can create an author profile on the site including a link to your profiles on Facebook, linkedin, Twitter, etc. This will then appear next to all of your documents published on XinXii.

3. Littlerature

Littlerature is an unusual site. They want to publish short stories of exactly 1064 words. Authors receive 50 percent of all revenues generated by their story. Littlerature is rather a minimalist site, but this is (I gather) a deliberate strategy so it displays well on smartphones and other devices people might use to read stories. There isn't an awful lot of information on the site itself, but you can find out more in this topic on my forum (including the reason for the 1064 words stipulation!).

4. iSocialEyes

iSocialEyes is a new social networking site seeking writers for a range of forthcoming projects, including theatre, film, TV and radio writing. They say payment will be based on profit sharing. Unfortunately, you can't read about the writing aspects without registering on the site, but there is more information in this forum topic if you want to find out more before doing so.

5. Tripbase Guide to Travel Writing

Finally, if you're interested in breaking into travel writing, here's a resource you should definitely look at. The Tripbase Guide to Travel Writing (a section of the Tripbase travellers website) includes a series of articles about travel writing, tips on seeking travel-writing work, advice on how to sell your work (and rates of pay), and more. It also has a useful links section to other resources of interest to aspiring travel writers.

All of these are websites I've only recently discovered, so please don't take the fact that I have listed them here as an unqualified endorsement. Depending on your interests, however, they all appear to have something of value to offer to freelance writers. If you've visited any of these sites, please feel free to leave any comments about them below.

Photo Credit: Big Beach at Makena by Laszlo Ilyes on Flickr.


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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My Top Twelve Blog Posts of 2010


As is becoming traditional in the blogosphere, I thought I'd start 2011 by looking back at the most popular posts on my blog last year.

If you missed any of these first time round - perhaps you're one of my many new readers - I hope you'll enjoy reading them now.

And if you've been following me for a while, I hope there are some posts here you'll enjoy revisiting. They are listed in no particular order...

Three Great - and Free - Email Newsletters for Writers - In this post I described three excellent email newsletters for writers, all of which were available free of charge. I'm pleased to say that all three newsletters are still going strong, and I still highly recommend subscribing to them!

Guest Post: Through the First Draft Desert - In this beautifully written article, successful novelist Jeff Phelps talked about how he writes the first drafts of his novels, and set out his top ten tips for getting a novel completed. A number of people wrote to say how helpful they found Jeff's advice.

Flash Fiction Writing Markets & Resources - This post was based on a handout I prepared for a flash-fiction writing workshop I ran for Lichfield & District Writers. It lists a range of paying and non-paying markets for flash fiction (loosely defined as complete short stories of under 1000 words). Don't forget to read the comments under the post, which include some additional flash fiction outlets.

Ten Top Tips for Making the Most of Online Writing Forums - As you may know, I manage the forum myWritersCircle.com. I'm also a regular visitor to several other forums, including those at Absolute Write and WriteLink. I believe forums can be a great resource for writers, but many people don't use them to their full potential, while others are put off by the (mistaken) belief that they are too complicated or even elitist. So in this post I set out my top ten tips for writers who have yet to sample the delights of forums, to help get the most from them.

Creative Doing vs Creative Thinking - This post, which was inspired by a post on Mark McGuiness's Lateral Action creativity blog, argued the case that 'doing' can be just as creative as 'thinking' for writers and other creative people. Although fairly short, the post generated a lot of interest and discussion.

An Interview With Novelist Ali Cooper - This in-depth interview is another post that attracted a lot of interest. Ali talked about how she wrote her novel The Girl on the Swing, how she set up her own publishing house after a series of frustrating 'near-misses' with traditional publishers, and how she was enjoying early success publishing for the Amazon Kindle. She also answered some questions about the book itself, e.g. what inspired it and why she chose to write it in the present tense. In fact, Ali's answers were so detailed that I had to split the article in two - so after you've read the post above, don't forget to click through the link to read part two!

Incidentally, I see that in the original interview, Ali had sold just a few dozen copies of her book on the Kindle. She has now sold over 1500 - so it really is well worth reading her advice on cracking this market!

WCCL Writing Courses - The Complete List - WCCL are my publishers and also my blog sponsors. In this post I set out a complete list of all the writing courses and resources they offer, along with links to my reviews (of the ones I didn't write myself!). WCCL courses are all professionally written, edited and produced to a very high standard, with 24/7 customer support available via their Myhelphub website if required. If you're looking for great value writing resources that will help you to fulfill your writing ambitions in 2011, I highly recommend checking this post out.

Are Writing Contests Worth Entering? - In this post I gave my answer to a question that is frequently posed by writers. I also offered some hints and tips on improving your chances of success in contests, based on my own experiences as an organizer, judge and (sometimes) successful competitor.

Quoting Song Lyrics in Your Fiction - This post still gets a lot of search engine traffic today. It is based on an article by Blake Morrison in the Guardian newspaper, to which I added my own thoughts. If you want to know whether it is permissible to quote song lyrics in your fiction, and how much you may have to pay for the privilege, you'll find the answers here.

Three Ways Writers Can Boost Their Income With Fiverr - Fiverr is a site where people offer to do all kinds of jobs for just $5. Although five bucks is clearly only a small sum, this post suggests three ways writers can use the site to help boost their income more substantially. Fiverr is, incidentally, also a good place for finding people to perform small but important tasks such as designing an e-book cover for you.

Seven Top Resources for Finding Short Story Anthologies Wanting Submissions - If you're a short-story writer, having your work accepted for an anthology may be your best chance of seeing it in print and (hopefully) making some money from it. In this popular post, I set out seven websites that list anthologies currently open for submissions. If you're a short story writer, you'll want to bookmark this one!

Seven Tips for Submitting Stories to Anthologies and Competitions - In this post, which was largely based on my experience as a volunteer editor for the fundraising anthology 50 Stories for Pakistan, I set out my advice for anyone who is hoping to get a story accepted for an anthology or to achieve success in a writing contest.

Guest Post: 10 Practical Tips for Better Writing - I'm slightly embarrassed to reveal that my most popular post of 2010 - at least in terms of the number of times it was 'retweeted' on Twitter - was a guest post. But all credit to author Mark Davies, who set out ten useful, practical tips for any writer wanting to hone and polish their skills.

Do check out these posts, and feel free to add your own additional comments if you like. And watch out for more posts from me on all aspects of writing in 2011!

Photo Credit: Lesvos sunset, by the author.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!


Just wanted to wish every reader of my blog a happy, creative and prosperous 2011!

I hope this is the year when you fulfill, or at least start to fulfill, all of your writing ambitions.

I'm looking forward to sharing my writing tips, advice, resources, market information and more with you on my blog in the year ahead. So if you haven't already done so, be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to ensure you never miss a post!

Don't forget, also, to sign up to follow me on the micro-blogging service Twitter. I regularly use this to share details of useful websites and resources that I don't always have time to post about here. And if you really want to stay connected, you can also sign up to follow me on my official Facebook Page.

If you plan to make 2011 the year you write your first book, you may also like to know that I'm running a New Year Special Offer on my top-selling course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. Order via my homepage, and not only will you get $10 off the normal advertised price, you will also get two extra bonuses from me personally. Please visit my New Year Special Offer page for more information. Don't wait too long, though - this offer will close by the end of January 2011 at the very latest!

Good luck to all of you, and I look forward to hearing about your writing successes in the months ahead.

Photo credit: Rajwinder Singh on Flickr

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