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Monetizing Serialized Fiction

| Posted in Guest Posts |

24

E-publishing is making ways of sharing stories feasible that weren’t when physical books were the only option for self-publishers. We’ve seen a return of novellas and short stories, as well as a surge in serialized fiction, both by independent authors and by publishers (Amazon has been putting out Kindle Serials for several months now).

Though I mull over the idea of writing a serial now and then, I haven’t put anything together yet (unless you want to count certain cliffhangers at the ends of certain novels… ahem), but I’ve got a great guest post for you today from someone who’s done a lot of research in regard to the effectiveness of publishing serialized ebooks as a way to earn an income as an author.

Monetizing Serialized Fiction by Zachary Bonelli

Thank you for having me on your blog, Lindsay.

My name is Zachary Bonelli. I’ve been writing in my free time for over a decade. Last year I decided to take the story I’d been working on forever, Voyage, and realize it as science fiction serial.

Voyage’s format eluded me for a long time. Like most writers, I’d just assumed I was writing a novel. If it’s that long as a whole, what else would it be, right?

One of the most liberating moments in my career as a writer was the moment I realized Voyage was not a traditional novel, but in fact a serial. I was finally able to give myself permission to tell the story in the way I wanted to tell it, unrestricted by the conventions of novels, which were holding my story back.

The most important way that a novel differs from a serial is that a novel’s chapters cannot stand independently of the novel as a whole, whereas each episode of a serial can.

Voyage consists of largely independent, novella-length episodes that weave together to form a bigger narrative. Serialization was definitely the right choice for this project in terms of style and execution.

But was it the right choice in terms of marketing?

Choosing to go serialized is a mixed bag. There are some big advantages, but also some important disadvantages to consider. At nine episodes into my massive seventy episode arc, and with a second serial on the way soon, here’s what I’ve learned about working with this format.

Pros

Higher Return on Investment

A few months back, I did an interview on Google+ with developmental editor David Arney on the topic of return on investment for serialized fiction as opposed to the standard novel. David pulled items from Amazon’s Top 100 list, approximated their word count based on page length, then worked out the return on investment for each book.

While the novels averaged a mere $8.15 per hour, the serialized fiction averaged $20.89. Releasing smaller works more often, it turns out, causes revenue per word to shoot through the roof. [Click to tweet]

Customers are less likely to feel reticent about many small purchases spread out over time, even if they are many in succession, and even if they add up to more than what they would have spent on a single large purchase.

Here’s a concrete example. Let’s say you’ve got a 100,000 word epic novel. If it’s possible to break that epic into 10 episodes of 10,000 words each, then you can charge $.99 for each one as opposed to $3.99-$6.99 for the whole thing. And, you can still market the collected epic after the individual episodes have run their course.

More Frequent Releases

We’re all aware of the awesome impact of social media. Facebook, Google+, and Twitter permeate our modern collective conscious. I’ve even heard mumblings that they now are our collective consciousness.

Whether you find that prospective frightening or exciting, the fact remains that the mechanics of social media play well with the mechanics of publishing serialized fiction.

We all know that we’re only supposed to blog and tweet and post when we have something relevant to say about our work. Just spewing out your book’s Amazon link ad nauseum is likely going to get you ignored. When you have a single novel, you get to push its release, then maybe when it gets a review, or maybe when something relevant in the real world relates to your book.

When you have a serial, a legitimate reason to post is every time you release an episode. Not to mention any time any of the above legitimate reasons applies to any single episode you’ve ever released.

More Engaged Readership

More frequent releases mean a more engaged readership. Each episode that you release on schedule adds to the perception that you are a dependable source for new content.

Post your release schedule on your website. Make it public once you’re sure you can meet the deadlines. And whatever you do, make sure you have enough content built up in advance that your schedule isn’t blown away if something unforeseen happens in your personal life (or your other career, if you’ve got one).

For example, you can see my timeline for releasing Voyage: Embarkation and Insomnium are public and therefore do not change. The second Voyage arc, Windbound, has a tentative release schedule, but I haven’t made the page public, because it might yet change.

Narrative Structure Opportunities

Since a novel is a single, giant block of narrative, you really have no control over where the reader will put the book down and pick it up again. A serial gives you more control.

By strategically placing the breaks between stories or by skillfully weaving just the right detail into an episode’s closure, you can make the reader squirm. You can make them need to know what happens next. And since you control the release schedule, it will, by definition be a week or two or three before the reader can continue the story.

I’ve written before about how I feel that the cliffhanger can be used manipulatively. But in terms of raw, profit-driving potential, it’s hard to ignore just how effective this trick is. Simply have the conclusion of an episode leave the main characters in some dangerous situation, unresolved.

I need to reiterate here the two things that drive me nuts about cliffhangers. First, your cliffhanger should not come out of left field, a kind of inverse deus ex machina. Your cliffhanger will feel “thrown in.” I recommend it be the natural consequence of your narrative’s progression. Second, do not resolve cliffhangers in a way that relies on luck or circumstance. These are the two easiest ways to make a cliffhanger feel hollow and forced.

There are other narrative techniques you can use. The serial gives you the unique opportunity to explore characters across a wide variety of stories and situations. How do they respond to this change? How do they grow over time? A novel usually follows characters over one stage of growth and development. A serial gives you the opportunity to explore many stages and for many characters.

Cons

Perhaps Not the Greatest Entry Point

One of the most disheartening moments of my career as an independent author so far came when Goodreads posted the results of their 2012 user surveys. See the section titled “Please, Sir, I Want Some More.”

As the graph clearly shows, readers are fairly interested in reading serialized fiction from well known, established authors. However, for an unknown author, interest plummets to an abysmal 54% of Goodreads users saying that they are not at all interested in reading serialized fiction from someone new.

Well, bummer.

I am committed to the serialized format. Voyage is a serialized story by its nature, and I will pursue it to completion as such.

However, if you have the option of starting a new project as either a novel or a serial, the data speaks for itself.

Remember the upsides! If serials are your passion, perhaps you could write a few short stories and novellas first, put those out, then start your serialized fiction.

Lindsay has written before about not putting all your eggs in one basket. By maintaining a diverse portfolio of writing, you can spread risk around.

More Inventory to Manage

Above I talked about how great it is to have so many books out there on the market. Well, there’s a dark side to that benefit. You’ve got to manage that inventory. To boot, you will lose more time to releases because they will happen more frequently and for smaller works. And oh, if only you knew how much time I lose to updating the backmatter in extant Voyage episodes. Oi.

This is definitely something to consider when starting a serial. If your serial is twenty episodes long, are you going to update the backmatter on each ebook as a new one becomes available? How are you going to communicate to readers at the end of an episode when the next one will become available and how to get it? Will you have to update the messaging after every release?

This kind of work compounds upon itself. At episode two’s release, you have to update episode one. At three’s release, you update one and two. At four’s release, one, two and three. This is called a linear growth curve. And it is not fun. Trust me.

Build in coping mechanisms. For example, in Voyage, I plan to make the backmatter for all episodes in the Embarkation arc static once the Windbound arc begins. In other words, I won’t have to update those at every release anymore.

Readership Communication Issues

Novels have a long literary history. The narrative form goes back at least a couple of centuries. The standards and expected styles of novels are very clearly established, and they have been more or less stable since the inception of the form.

Serials, though they’ve been around almost as long, do not enjoy consistency over their history or any establishment of standards. They started with writers like Charles Dickens and Herman Melville in the nineteenth century, but petered out quickly into the twentieth. They experienced some stops and starts in the professional publishing world, little side roads along the way, never leaving the realm of genre, before finally getting appropriated fully by television in the 1960’s.

Readers and feedback givers who don’t understand the rules of serialized fiction, or that you’re even writing a serial, may judge your serial on the terms of a novel. This is not good.

My famous example of this is my botched attempt to market multiple episodes of Embarkation together in chunks I called “parts.” It was only after an angry blog comment from a potential customer, who thought I was attempting to sell groups of unfinished novel chapters, that I realized I had a communication problem.

Episodes can be marketed individually because they can stand on their own, and the term “episode” communicates that intent. Call your episodes just that—episodes. Don’t use a different term like “part” or “chapter.” This will just create confusion.

I am still working on what you call the book collections of episodes that form a story arc. So far, “arc” and “sequence” are all I’ve got. Sean Platt and David Wright group their works into “seasons,” but that term is a remnant of a time in cable television history when episodes of television shows aired over the course of a particular yearly season in a cycle of filming, production and release. I’m not a fan of that term, but if it became standard for serialized fiction, I’d adopt it to clarify my market positioning.

Eventually, one term or the other will win out, and all of us doing serials will adopt that. Until then, feel free to contribute to the diaspora of lexical choices.

Challenges Managing a Sprawling Multiverse

I highly recommend joining a writing critique group. It’s one of the best things you can do for your development as a writer.

I get a lot of feedback from my peers, most of it useful, some of it not to my liking, and on some rare occasions, I find myself reeling at the things I hear. This is all part of growing as a writer.

However, there is one type of feedback on Voyage that has never, ever been silly or frivolous or inane: consistency of world details.

It is very hard to manage all your details in a novel. But a novel is one story. Maybe two or three intertwining stories. The number of stories in a serial is the number of episodes you have. And all of those have to be both internally consistent, and consistent in the larger context of your serial’s mega-narrative. As a result, it is woefully easy for an episode’s details to come into conflict with previously established story.

Get lots of eyes on your work before release, and build up a group of smart beta readers who pay close attention to details.

~

Serialized fiction has its share of positives and negatives, just like any other format. After writing in the serialized fiction format for many years, it’s my belief that doing a serial, even a short one, can be very beneficial, especially as part of a larger portfolio of writing.

~

Zachary Bonelli is the author of the ongoing Voyage Along the Catastrophe of Notions series. It is currently in the middle of its first sequence, Embarkation. He is active on the Google+ Science Fiction Writers community, and muses about serialized fiction, and randomly as well, on his blog.

Insomnium, Zachary’s second serial, is due out this October. He is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the series’ cover art on Kickstarter.

Tips for Collaborating with Other Authors

| Posted in Guest Posts |

11

If you’ve ever thought about writing with another author, you might enjoy today’s guest post with Catherine Nault and Mana Findley. They met online and have written Shadow War: Innocence, their first book (something they managed in a few short months) and are working on their second, all without ever meeting face-to-face. They have some resources and advice to share with others who may be thinking of going this route.

I’ll let them take over from here!

Collaborating and Co-Authoring Books

Thank you, Lindsay, for hosting us today.

shadow-war-innocenceWithout further ado, on to the introductions. We are the writing duo Catherine Nault and Mana Findley. Just over eight months ago, we decided to write together, and recently published our first novel, Shadow War: Innocence, with a second book in the Shadow War series due out by the end of summer. Over the past few months, we’ve learned a lot about writing, editing and publishing a book, and how to work with each other. To some, this may not sound like a big achievement, but to us, it is. You see, we’ve never met face to face!

Co-authoring a book with someone you only know through online communications brought unique challenges we needed to address and are still now learning to manage. Here are a few of the lessons we learned along the way. But first, a little background on both of us.

Our meeting and getting to know each other

CN: It all started on Lindsay’s forum, where we connected and started working together on some short stories (ok, fanfiction… what can I say, we’re fans!). Then came the idea of making our association somewhat more serious and working on a longer, original novel. There were many hurdles to overcome, not the least of which being that we barely knew each other.

MF: Catherine and I realized early on in our association that each of us “see” different parts of the same scene. Yet, our writing styles function well together. We compensate for each other’s weaknesses and we combine our strengths to produce better writing than we’d do individually.

Right as we were finishing one short story, Catherine approached me with an idea about one of the main characters in what would become Shadow War. After lots of back and forth in which the original idea morphed into a complete story arc (at least three books!), we decided to try to to write our own novel.

Our writing ways

CN: Shadow War: Innocence was our first attempt at a “formal” writing system between us, and we learned a lot by trial and error. Our first challenge was finding a way to both work on our draft together. With me in Canada and Mana in the States, the distance separating us is not easily traveled. The best way we found of doing so was by using Google Drive. In Drive, two or more people can write in the same document at the same time, and the changes will appear immediately for everyone to see. It’s not a perfect solution, but it serves our purposes as it allows us to both see and edit each other’s writing in real time.

Apart from Google Drive, we use instant messenger to keep in contact and discuss plot points, disagreement, editing, and anything else that’s needed to keep working (and uh… lots of things not in any way linked to writing).

MF: Innocence was written in chapter format. I kept a spreadsheet of the chapters and the general scene contents. I used that document every day to keep track of where I was, and referred back to it for continuity checks. Writing in chapter format was nice for story flow, but hard as could be when you needed to move a scene around.

In Shadow War: Betrayal, we approached the draft differently. We are writing it scene by scene, not caring about defining chapters while doing the first draft. A little like with Scrivener, it allows us to play with scene placement within the chapters as we didn’t have a detailed outline from the start. This has been good and bad. Reading the story for flow seems to be negatively affected, but moving around scenes is a heck of a lot easier.

As you can probably guess, our workflow is still a work in progress. Recently, we have also taken to leaving a note in each scene’s title for whose turn it is to edit it. It helps in being organized and assessing the amount of work left to do in the novel. We also use a website called Lino. Its biggest feature is the possibility to write digital post-it notes and “stick” them on boards. This is how I typically outline, and it has given me the ability to share my notes with Catherine.

Strengths and weaknesses of writing as a duo

CN: Writing with someone is not that different than being in a relationship. I sometimes joke that we need to learn to communicate and compromise like any couple would. At first, I was mostly afraid to suggest changes in the book without seeming pushy or overly critical.

Original Cover

Original Cover

Money was another issue, or more specifically, the spending of it. Since we’re just starting with the business side of writing, our royalties are still low. Still, there are some purchases we needed to consider: editing, cover art, website, and a few more that I’m probably forgetting. Some of those were easily solved: Mana is a programmer so she built our website herself; our awesome editor is also a friend from the Emperor’s Edge forum and she agreed to help us out in exchange for help building her own website. But there are some expenses we couldn’t avoid. We released Innocence with a cover we did ourselves, but it was clear it would be only a temporary solution. This probably was one of our hardest discussions since starting to work together, but after a lot of back and forth and some time to think about it, we decided to bite the bullet and pay for a professionally-made cover.

But without Mana to write with me, I don’t think I would ever have managed to release anything. She’s my everyday cheerleader, my critique partner, my best friend, and I couldn’t have done it without her.

MF: I think our strengths and weaknesses are similar to those of a single author. Everyone suffers through continuity changes and keeping the story straight. The distance adds a level to our organization. Since we can’t keep physical notes, everything from character sheets to world building and timelines has to be online where the other person can read it and add to it if needed.

During the nitty gritty of editing, we take turns reading what was written before and making it our own through highlights and strikethroughs of words. We alert the other to changes and they go in and approve/deny those changes and add their own touches. After several passes we end up with our agreed upon final draft.

As for Catherine’s last statement, I would have to say the same.

Challenges going forward

CN: We have so many projects in mind that we can continue writing together for years to come. Right now, our biggest challenge is probably to keep communicating about problems as they come up, and hope not to get into the fight of the century. Oh, and also actually sell books…

MF: I believe we will work through any communication issues, or other writing hang ups. My biggest challenge is time. I have several irons in the fire, as they say, and creating the time to write is difficult.

In conclusion

We appreciate you hosting us today. We enjoyed discussing how we collaborate. Somehow, it seems a lot more complicated when we try explaining it than simply doing it.

You can visit Catherine and Mana at their website,  follow them on Twitter or say, “Hi” on Facebook. Their first Shadow Wars book is available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other stores.

Amazon KDP Select for eBook Promotion, Yea or Nay?

| Posted in Guest Posts |

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I’ve avoided Amazon’s KDP Select Program since the beginning because it requires exclusivity (you can only sell your books at Amazon as long as you’re enrolled). It came out a year after I started publishing, and I already had readers following my work through Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, etc, so I wasn’t willing to take my books out of those stores. The program does offer some promotional opportunities, though, and other indie authors often ask me if it’s worth it for those starting out. I cringe a little at the idea of giving any one store exclusivity, but some authors like to try KDP Select for the required ninety days, then move their books out of the program and into other stores once they build up some momentum.

I invited Joe Turkot here to talk about this, because he has the experience with the program that I lack. He’s been using KDP Select to help market his Black Hull books and recently had his best sales month after taking advantage of the free days. But I’ll let him tell you more about it…

Using Amazon KDP Select for Book Promotion

The main reason that all but one of my ebooks are in the KDP select program is the free book promotion tool. Sure, there are two other benefits to going exclusive with Amazon: %70 royalties in Brazil, Japan, and India (not important to me because I sell no books there), and entrance into the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), which helps authors find readers in the growing number of Amazon Prime members. The KOLL is neat, and the affirmative power of seeing people lend your books to other readers is awesome. I don’t average a lot of lends per month (maybe 10-15), but each time someone borrows one of my books, I actually earn more than if they’d bought it. I charge .99 cents for all but one of my books, which amounts to a whopping .35 cents royalty per sale. Each borrow, on the other hand, racks up about $1.50 in royalties (the exact amount fluctuates depending on Amazon’s current allocation of KOLL funds). It’s pretty nice to see Amazon deposit two checks into your bank account—one for sales, and the other for total borrows.

Black-Hull-COverThe real exciting part of KDP, however, is the free book promotion tool. It can be vitally important to the burgeoning author who has absolutely no quick way to reach a wide audience of readers (I humbly place myself in the burgeoning author category). There is another reason this promotion is great: it is non-restrictive—you’re only stuck in it for 90 days at a time. If you feel you are getting a big enough fan base to spread your wings, or simply want to see the results you’d have going the multiple vender route (B&N, Kobo, and the many other venders where Smashwords distributes your ebook), you can simply remove your book from the Kindle Direct Program.

The free book tool lets you schedule 5 free days for each 90 day block of Amazon exclusivity. You pick the days—they can be back to back, two at once, or one day at a time spaced out over the three months. The bottom line is that the free book tool gets your book into readers’ Kindles, but one sad truth must be stated: the free book tool is not what it once was. It used to be, so the legends of indies before me tell, that a book’s free days transferred into huge sales once the free days expired. This had to do with the Amazon ranking system, where a book’s rise up the free charts translated into a rise on the paid charts afterwards. This so-called KDP “gold rush” is over. To make matters worse, the way Amazon promotes the KDP free days does not amount to many downloads anymore. Depending on the popularity of your genre, you may only see thirty or forty downloads in a free day. In the past month, I tested a free day for various episodes in my Black Hull series. Without additional promotion on my part, the books received about forty downloads. Bummer. But there are still ways to maximize this tool, bringing you new readers, fans, borrows, and hopefully, some good word of mouth.

The first tool that I used to promote my KDP free days was Kindle Nation Daily’s Facebook promotion. This is a good way to get one to two hundred downloads in a low-interest category such as fantasy or science-fiction. As a rule with any giveaway, if you have a polished product, your numbers will be better. Whatever your success with KND sponsorship, your free book promotion tool is no longer free—KND sponsorship, at its cheapest, is about $35.00. Here’s what I stumbled upon to maximize my free days: Author Marketing Club’s Free Kindle Book Submission Tool. The concept is simple: they’ve gathered logo links to all the sites you want to submit your free book to in one place. Here’s what I did for promoting my most recent Black Hull: Episode 1 KDP giveaway days:

I started at the top-left link, Pixel of Ink, and submitted my book. Then, I kept the main window open and methodically went through each link on the Free Kindle Book Submission Tool. Occasionally, the site I submitted to would tempt me to purchase a featured spot for about $10.00 or $15.00. I rationalized that it would be cheaper than using KND, so I bought a couple of the featured spots when they prompted me. Keep in mind, you don’t have to spend anything using this tool if you don’t want to or can’t: each site listed takes your submission for free. But given the small amount of money I paid, relatively equal to what I’d spend on a KND Facebook sponsorship, I received a massive amount of downloads. For the two days I had Black Hull: Episode 1 available free, I garnered over one thousand downloads. For a military sci-fi episodic novel that received forty downloads with Amazon’s promotion alone, there is no comparison: Using the Free Kindle Book Marketing Tool is a must. Black Hull skyrocketed to number one on the Military Sci-fi free book charts, and number two on its other category, High Tech Sci-fi.

Given that Black Hull is my first attempt at publishing a serial novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The free promotion worked much as I’d hoped though, for once readers read Episode 1, some of them went on to purchase the rest in the series right away. The free promotion pushed me to my first month with over 300 sales.

The idea of publishing your novel serially isn’t new, but the idea that you can promote a single episode on this scale, leading to readers purchasing each successive episode, is very similar to the concept of keeping the first book in a series free. The only difference is the pricing really—you can charge $2.99 or up in most cases for a full-length sequel in a series, whereas the serial novel, in my opinion, should be 0.99 cents per episode to be competitive.

The most annoying thing about the KDP free book promotion is that, ironically, you actually have to do the promoting yourself. Gone are the days where the system was good enough to do wonders on its own. If you couple the Author Marketing Tool with sites like Konrath’s recommended ebookbooster.com and your social media presence, you can probably achieve results far better than mine.

I’m a learner in the indie publishing scene—I’ve been absorbing from those who have been doing this before me (a la Lindsay Buroker) for about six months now—but I have learned that Amazon’s KDP, and specifically free book promotions, is a wonderful place to start your indie writing career. Beyond the number one spot on the free chart, I went from one review on Black Hull: Episode 1 to seven. Before you run your free book promotion, be sure you have a nice afterward that politely asks readers who enjoyed your book to review it. Now, I wish I had learned sooner about wasting those precious five days—never give the book away for five days in a row. I learned that law of conversion too late from the blogs of more experienced authors. Schedule one or two days in a row, and give yourself ample time to promote the heck out of those days. And yes, you can promote without spending any money, and keep that KDP free book promotion free. Start with the Author Marketing Club’s Free Kindle Book Submission Tool, and then go promote somewhere else if you’re willing to put in extra effort. The process can seem very repetitive and time consuming, but it works. The more time you put in, the better your results will be.

If you want to hear more from Joe, or you’re interested in his books, check him out at his blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Common Mistakes Writers Make by Editor Claudette Cruz

| Posted in Editing, Guest Posts |

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As always, I’m busy writing (two or three more chapters to go to finish the draft of EE6!), and I’ve been neglecting the blog a little bit. Next week, look for a new book giveaway contest with a chance to put some words into our heroes’ mouths. In the meantime, please enjoy this guest post from editor Claudette Cruz. She has some helpful advice for writers, new and old (I suspect my now infamous “the breast’s maw” typo is covered in there somewhere…).

Common Mistakes Writers Make

Hello, dear readers! My name’s Claudette Cruz, and I’m an independent editor and an avid reader. Today I’d like to mention a few of the more common mistakes I often come across in my line of work. I know there are many indie authors out there who are forced to go through the self-publishing route as traditional publishing houses become more and more selective. I hope my article helps you catch those small, common mistakes that translate to bad reviews and cranky, unsatisfied readers. This, in turn, will hopefully lead to better sales and reviews.

The first thing I have to mention is that you should get your book looked at by as many friends, family members, or beta readers as you possibly can. Try to have some of them focus more on the fluidity of the reading experience than on the content itself. Sure, all of them may concur that the story’s great, but are they overlooking the fact that your manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors? When asking them for their opinion, specifically ask these people to point out any errors they might come across.

If you can afford to do so, hire an editor next. They’re more experienced in catching tiny mistakes other people might miss, such as omitted letters or punctuation, misspellings, or words used out of context. Speaking of errors, I’ll now go into more detail regarding mistakes I’ve seen in every single manuscript I’ve worked on.

Omitted letters or words:

This is THE most common issue I deal with when editing or proofreading. You need a fresh pair of eyes to look at your manuscript. Many authors tell me it’s amazing how many missing words or letters I caught, considering they had gone through the manuscript a bazillion times. I believe that’s exactly the reason they can’t see the mistakes themselves—they’ve gone through the same text so many times, their brains just fill in the missing letters and words automatically. If you can’t afford to hire an editor, or have no friends or family who’ll go through your manuscript for you, set the document aside for a week or more, and then read it again after having given your brain a vacation from looking at the same chunk of text every day.

I want oyu to read an study this sentence carefuly. Then look it again. Now focus on the two sentences before this one. Maybe you were looking for mistakes in the first one and didn’t notice the second sentence was missing a word. Sure, I was trying to trick you, but keep in mind that a manuscript is way longer and probably far messier than this. You may have caught all the mistakes this time, but try doing it in a manuscript that’s over 60,000 words long. Most likely you’ll miss at least one thing, and while a single error isn’t bad at all, it’s far more likely that you’ll miss way more than one error. Readers run the gamut from picky to indifferent. Many won’t care if there’s a few editing blunders, but others will complain about too many mistakes and leave you bad reviews, scaring away potential new readers. If you want to increase your fan base, start by having a manuscript that’s as clean, neat, and error-free as possible.

Missing or incorrect punctuation:

I see this a lot, especially in manuscripts that are more dialogue-heavy. Sometimes you forget to add a quotation mark here or there, effectively confusing the heck out of your reader when a character replies to something the other just said. Other times, a missing comma can affect the fluidity of the whole sentence. Your reader has to stop and backtrack to try to make sense of what you just wrote. You don’t want that. You want your manuscript to read fluidly. A missing period can equally affect the reading experience. Also, remember that a single apostrophe can completely change the meaning of a word. “It’s” and “its” are used in different situations, and replacing one with the other is not advisable if you want your sentence to make any sense at all.

Words used out of context:

Similarly, editors will fix any instances in which you used a word out of context. Homophones, or words that sound the same but are spelled differently, are some writers’ bane. The writers will confuse “their” with “they’re,” “rain” with “reign” or “rein,” “whose” with “who’s,” and the list goes on. They’ll also fix up errors in which you happened to use an adjective instead of a noun, like in “I was paralyzed with frightful.” That doesn’t exactly make sense, does it? You meant to use “fright.” “The sheriff padded her down.” Huh? Didn’t you mean, “The sheriff patted her down”? “The article was trying.” That can have two completely different meanings. It might mean that the article tested your patience, in which case “trying” is used as an adjective, or that it was making an attempt or effort to do something, in which case “trying” is a verb. To be fair, that last example is a stretch, as “the article was trying” seems like it’s missing words to effectively place it in the context I meant, but hopefully you get my drift.

Repetition:

Okay, so your characters are particularly inquisitive and ask a lot of questions. That doesn’t mean that you have to use the word “asked” every single time you write that your character inquires about something. This is when a thesaurus comes in handy. If I notice a manuscript is overusing a particular word, I highlight the offending word throughout the document and provide my client with a list of acceptable replacements they should consider using now and then. They then have the option of replacing a few of the highlighted words with some of the ones I provided for them, thus dealing with the repetitiveness issue. You can easily do this yourself, though. Look up any word you find yourself using way too often. An online dictionary will usually provide synonyms as well as the definition of the word. Coincidentally, this also helps you tackle the issue of words used out of context. Look up “rein” and “reign” in a dictionary, and you’ll easily find out which word you meant to use.

There are a lot of other things editors can help you out with. They’ll make sure your manuscript is consistent, for one. They’ll make sure you spell the name “Lindsay” consistently, and not “Lindsey” by mistake. They’ll also help out if you want your manuscript to use British English instead of American English, and vice versa. If they have the specific skill, they can make sure that your Spanish-speaking character is saying things correctly in Spanish and not just uttering what a website offering free translations managed to cough out for you. They will deal with cumbersome run-on sentences and with sentences that seem disjointed.

I hope my article has been of use to you. Several of my clients have raved about seeing an increase in sales and good reviews after I worked on their manuscripts. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence. In my opinion, a neat, clean, error-free book is more likely to get better reviews and be recommended to other readers. Go ahead and put my advice to use. I wish you all many sales and worldwide fame. Thank you, Lindsay Buroker, for allowing me to contribute this guest post, and thanks to all of you guys for reading my article!

Bio:

Claudette Cruz is a pet lover, a crafting supplies hoarder, and a fan of all her clients. Fluent in English and Spanish, she’s been an independent editor since September of last year, when author Joseph Lallo helped launch her career by giving her a chance to prove herself. After posting on publishing forums based on author Jeff Gunzel’s advice, she got her first paying client, author M.K. Baxley, a total sweetheart who provided encouragement and her first referrals.

When she’s not working, Claudette is either making cards or enjoying long walks with her dogs. Every now and then she plays Zumba on her Wii U because she happens to have a chocolate addiction. Email her at claudettecruz@ymail.com for rates and to request a sample edit.

How to Connect with Readers Using Wattpad

| Posted in Guest Posts |

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As some of you know, I started posting The Emperor’s Edge on Wattpad, figuring it was one more place I could have that first book out there for free (I may post Book 2 as well). I’ve heard from other indie authors who have leveraged Wattpad’s massive reader base to gain fans, often before they’ve launched their first novels.

I’m not rocking it over there with EE yet (and admittedly haven’t done any networking or anything to reach out to people — I’ve just been posting my chapters and announcing them on Twitter), so when the more Wattpad-experienced Nicolette Andrews offered to write up a guest post on the subject, I said, yes, please. I’ll turn you over to her now:

How to Better Connect With Readers Using Wattpad

Diviner's Prophecy ebook coverFirst of all, thank you, Lindsay for letting me take over to talk about my experience with Wattpad and gathering my army of cohorts/followers.

I want to say, I love Wattpad. I have been on the site for a year now and I have met some of the most amazing people you’d ever hope for. I was fortunate enough to find a niche of people who love High Fantasy and love to read and write. Wattpad, to me, is like the ultimate reader/writer social media outlet. And like any other media outlet it’s the ideal place to get to know your readers. I’m going to talk about a couple things that is unique to Wattpad and that I’ve utilized in keeping in touch with my readers.

Dedications

On Wattpad you upload each chapter at a time and it formats it to almost an e-reader format that can be read online or on a mobile app. As the author for each chapter you are given a variety of choices on how to customize said chapter, among other things you can add pictures, videos and a cast (if you so choose). What I love to use is the dedication. When you dedicate a chapter to another Wattpad member, they are notified and it shows up on their page. It’s a nice way of saying ‘thanks’ to some of your more devoted readers.

Broadcasts

The broadcast is similar to a status update or a tweet only instead of it just been part of the thread on a home page, it is directly emailed to any of your followers. (Almost like a built in mailing list.) This is a great way to email teasers, do reader polls, or for me I found volunteers to help me edit my novel ‘Diviner’s Prophecy’. But use the broadcast sparingly, multiple emails in a day about what you had for breakfast or posting for the tenth time that day that your book is now on the Kindle can become overwhelming and no matter how much they like your stories, they will stop following.

Comments and Replies

Another great feature of Wattpad is the comments. Readers have the option to give feedback chapter by chapter, and if you’re posting once a week like I do with my works in progress, sometimes there’s kindly worded threats to write faster. What’s wonderful about this feature is that you can respond to these comments and often times they open up a dialogue about your book. The more you interact with readers, in my experience, the more likely they are to stick around to read more of your work, even if you take forever to post the next installment.

Reading Other Readers’ Stories

This is something I personally like to do but not many authors think it’s worth the time. Now to be clear I only read stories that interest me and at times I have been requested to read other peoples stories and I will read for a while and give feedback as much as I can but you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. When reading other authors stories I like to make sure I comment and vote. (I would want them to do it for me!)

Stay Active

Like any other social media site, persistence is key. Unlike other social media sites, Wattpad is tailored to readers and writers meaning it’s the ideal place to promote your work, connect with fans, and build a supportive village that will be ready and willing to purchase your books.

You can connect with Nicolette on Wattpad, Twitter, or her website, or pick up over first novel at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

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