Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

Imposter Syndrome

by: Margena Holmes

As an author, you will almost always have doubts at one time or another about your writing. Is it good enough? Am I good enough? How does an author feel validated? You may have a case of Imposter Syndrome.

What exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. You may feel inadequate or incompetent as a writer despite evidence to the contrary.

Don't let Imposter Syndrome stop you from writing.

What Equates Success?

My problem with Imposter Syndrome is that I sometimes don’t feel validated as an author because I’m not “successful” in my eyes. But what equates to success? Having a certain number of books out? If that means success, then yes, I’m a successful author, having five books published and three more coming out this year (well, that’s my goal, anyway). I’m not prolific, but I’m trying to keep a steady pace of publishing books, with a goal of one a year now. I know authors who do more, but in many cases, writing IS their job. I work outside the home, so I have to plan my writing time around my work days as well as watching my grandson on some days and evenings.

Does successful mean having lots of sales? In that case, no, I’m not successful. I know of some indie authors who have weekly book sales, and they are bummed when they don’t sell a book in one particular week. I’d LOVE to have a book sold each week. My marketing skills suck, but I’m trying to learn more about marketing through reading books, like Craig Martelle’s Become A Successful Indie Author, Unmarketing by Scott Stratten, and Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke. But I digress.

How about reviews on Goodreads and Amazon? I have a few of those, and they make me feel good about being an author (the good ones, anyway. The so-so ones leave me feeling like a fraud again). I’d love for a random reader to say they just found my book on Amazon and read it and loved it. I do have a couple of reviews from random readers, and they make me think, well, maybe I do have a handle on this writing thing.

How to Get Past it

How does one get over this sense of feeling like a fraud? Well, writing can be an isolating career, so talk with other writers. I’m sure they’ve felt the same way at some point in their career. Also, remind yourself of how hard you’ve worked to get where you’re at now. How many hours have you spent writing and editing? Those add up to being successful.

Reflect on positive feedback. I know authors aren’t supposed to read their book reviews, but that may help you to realize you are not a fraud. If you don’t have a book published yet, what positive feedback have you received from critique groups and beta readers? Focus on that.

A lot of people know that I’m an author and when they mention me and how many books I’ve published, I feel kind of embarrassed, because I don’t feel successful in my eyes. I don’t claim to know everything about writing and that’s why I go to writer’s conferences and workshops as often as I can to keep learning about the craft, and like I said above, I read a lot. I enjoy learning because it helps me to become a better author and maybe with that and the steps above I will overcome Imposter Syndrome and I’ll finally feel validated as a writer.

Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.

Advice for Aspiring Authors – Insights for Interested Readers

by: Catherine Dilts

Today I offer a peek behind the curtain to the struggles and triumphs of writing. Here is my advice to aspiring authors, while readers may find it interesting to learn what goes into the creation of their favorite fiction.

Pantser or Plotter?

Remember the joy of writing, and why you started on this crazy journey.

Writers will ask whether you are a pantser or plotter. A pantser writes by the seat of his or her pants. Page one, blank screen – GO! A plotter creates an outline of the story before beginning. Many writers fall somewhere in between, doing some outlining, but not hesitating to depart from the outline if the story veers in a new direction. Which are you? It may take years of writing to decide. You may also discover that being a pantser works better for one story, while careful plotting is required for another. Experiment. 

Don’t Hurry

There may be anecdotes about people writing a best seller or classic in a weekend, or a matter of mere weeks. Good luck with that. My best work has taken time. Due to deadlines, that time is often compressed, but the work will not be cheated of the hours.

On that same note, don’t rush to get your work before agents, or push it prematurely into self-publication. After you have written “the end,” set your story aside. Days, a week or two, even a month will allow you a fresh perspective. 

Don’t Quit the Day Job

When I first became published, I joked that I’d be able to earn my living from writing on the day I retired. Sadly, this is probably going to be the truth. The economic reality of writing is harsh. Short story author R. T. Lawton has quite a bit to say on this topic in his article, While We’re At It

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the majority of folks I know who are writing full time are retired, or are supported by a spouse. Be cautious before you leave that paying gig. A steady paycheck, health insurance, pension, and paid vacation are non-existent for the self-employed writer.

Learn the Business

As budding authors, we crave learning the art and craft of writing, but the business end? Not so much. How can you learn, besides reading books or blogs? Join a writing group attended by successful authors. By joining the Mystery Writers of America, I was fortunate to meet published authors who freely shared their experiences at local chapter meetings. Libraries may offer writing workshops, or can direct you to local writers’ groups. If you attend a conference, include sessions on the business aspects of writing.

I’m not talking strictly about the financial side of business, although learning the best method to track your income and expenses is important at tax time. You will need to know how to write a synopsis. (Hint – you can’t do much better than Pam McCutcheon’s how-to book, Writing the Fiction Synopsis.) Where to find agents representing your style of fiction? What is the proper etiquette when pitching to an editor at a conference? If you want a career writing, treat it like any other business, and educate yourself.

Renew the Joy

Writers can burn out, just as in any profession. I have heard complaints from the entire spectrum of writers, whether unpublished or multi-published. At some point, it becomes a job. Maybe even drudgery. You begin to hate your story, dread sitting in front of the computer, and doubt your sanity for thinking you had the talent to write fiction. Before you throw in the towel, ask yourself some questions.

  • Who is stopping you? A negative person in your life? Someone who needs your attention, whether a child, a boss, or an elderly parent? Yourself? Can you turn the negativity into motivation? “I’ll show them – I am a writer!” Find a way to balance the needs of people in your life with your own goals. If you’re not happy and healthy, how can you be a good parent, spouse, employee, caretaker?
  • Why did you begin writing in the first place? A book inspired you? Did you escape pain through reading, and want to give someone else that gift? Do you have fond memories of being read to, or reading in a favorite comfy place? Revisit your earliest motivation to be a writer. 
  • What did you have to say that was so important, you were willing to sacrifice other aspects of your life in order to hammer out words for hours on end? Is that message still valid? Your message, or theme, doesn’t have to be lofty. Distracting readers from their worries and problems with an entertaining story can be more valuable than any deep literary tome. 
  • That moment will return when suddenly the words flow. The scenes click together. The characters jump off the page. You become lost in your own story. You remember the joy of writing, and why you started on this crazy journey. 

You Can Do This

Even if you have to write in snatches of stolen time. Even if you have to battle doubts, whether from people around you, or yourself. A good deal of success in writing is mere persistence. That is a trait we can all nurture.

Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library. Working in the world of hazardous substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in her murder mystery Survive Or Die, where Deliverance meets The Office. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/ Contact her at catdiltsauthor@gmail.com.

Audiobooks – Now’s the time!

by: Jennifer Lovett

Do you have a book out? Have you turned it into an audiobook yet? Audiobooks are exploding on the market and now is the time for you to jump in. Do it! Just do it!

Why? Because everybody else is doing it!

  • In March 2018, Pew Research reported a seven-point increase in Americans who listen to audiobooks.
  • Another study found drivers admit to listening to podcasts and audiobooks while sitting in traffic.
  • And yet another study found that Harry Potter was the most listened to book on Alexa in 2017.

Use the commute!

People are admitting to listening to ebooks while working out, cleaning the house and taking a walk. Besides the fact that everyone is doing it, providing an audiobook is also an excellent way to exploit the daily commute. Studies show that in the United States today, the typical commute is 24 minutes long. If you live in Denver, that commute tops 45 minutes–Fill that void baby!

Meet Big Daddy ACX

Before you decide whether you want to read it yourself or pay someone, you need to know about Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). It’s the dragon in the Amazon, Audible and iTunes’ moats. There are other peeps trying to get in on the distro business but for now, you’re stuck with ACX. Go ahead and just accept it and create your account, then upload your book cover, input your product description, list price and distribution options. Then upload your file. Hit publish and market as usual.

Yes, you could go with Overdrive (the library distributor) or Audiobooks.com or even Downpour but then you’ll lose high royalty rates on ACX. This goes into the big debate about being wide or exclusive to Amazon.

Just how techie are you?

ACX has a pretty stringent set of requirements. If you hire someone, they’ll make sure your file has all the correct technical requirements. If you do it yourself, you’re on your own. Because I don’t want to scare you right off the bat, I put them in the DYI section.

BUT BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, you have to decide how you want to go about producing these things.

To create an audiobook file, you have several options:

  • Record it yourself
  • Partner with a narrator and pay up front
  • Partner with a narrator and pay in royalties
  • Partner with a narrator and pay by the hour

DYI – If you do it yourself, you need to consider a few things. First, it’s easier for nonfiction authors because they don’t have to be in character. Second, are you comfortable reading your work? Do you have any voice or acting training to help with emotion and character differentiation in your reading? Are you comfortable editing audio? Third, just how techie are you?

 If you answered yes and you’re ready to go, this is what you need:

  • Editing software. I recommend Audacity. It’s free and easy to use.
  • A good dynamic microphone. I recommend ATR2100 rather than the Snowball I use for podcasting. It will pick up less extraneous noise.
  • A very quiet space. Recording at your kitchen table isn’t going to cut it. Pad the walls of a small room in your house with egg crates or set up a tent (seriously) and throw a blanket over the top of it. Now, listen for things like the humming of the air conditioning, traffic on the street, or the dripping water at the sink.
  • Decrease noise on the audio file. Before you start recording yourself reading your book, record the “silence” in the room for five to ten seconds. When you’re done recording, highlight that section, go to the Effects menu and click “Noise Removal,” then click “Get Noise Profile” from the drop-down menu. Then select the entire audio on the track and click Noise Removal. Adjust any settings or go with the default, click OK and you’re done. This should help eliminate any ambient noises you may not have noticed while recording. This step is key because Amazon won’t take an audio file that has extraneous noise.
  • Tech specs. Here’s how your files need to be composed:
    • Be comprised of all mono or all stereo files
    • Include opening and closing credits
    • Include a retail sample between one and five minutes long
    • Section titles must be recorded
    • Be a 192 kbps or higher MP3 file
    • Each file must have a running time of 120 minutes or less
    • Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values

If you’d prefer to use a narrator, ACX has an exchange of narrators and producers. These folks are professionals and will offer you an “audition” reading of your work. Using professionals who are trained to record audiobooks will ensure your book sounds professional and will increase your credibility. It also cuts down on your learning curve.

There are three ways to pay a narrator: pay by the job up front; pay through a percentage of royalties; or pay by the hour. I do not recommend paying by the hour because it can take upwards of 20 hours of reading to get a normal-sized book read for a file. As a totally broke writer, I like the small percentage of royalties but over time, that could screw you. So, the ideal way if you have investment funds is to pay for the job up front. And let’s be real: audiobooks are NOT cheap! They can range anywhere from $1500-$3000. Are you choking? I did when I found out. BUT, if you can figure out a way to get it done, it’s a pretty big bang for your book over time.

Final word on this from a famous-type guy: Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur says, “The audiobook market is growing at a rate of 30% per year, which nearly quadruples the growth rate for eBooks.

Don’t you want in????

Jennifer Lovett

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun. You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett

Diversity in Historic Fiction

by: Jason Henry Evans

A couple of Fridays ago my wife and I sat down and watched “Always Be My Maybe.” A good, old fashioned romantic comedy about a hyper successful woman whose best friend and personal assistant arranges for her to run into a mutual friend they hadn’t seen since high school.

The movie was funny in unexpected ways. It was lighthearted. Both the male and female leads were quirky and flawed – which made it easy for the audience to like them. And since we already liked them it was easy for us to root for them to fall in love. It was a little formulaic in the 3rd act, but considering rom-com’s are a dying breed, I’ll take a good one when I can.

So why am I writing about a romantic comedy produced by Netflix? What does this have to do with writing historical fiction?

Because this movie was DIVERSE. I mean SUPER diverse. The male lead was Korean-American and the female lead was Vietnamese-American. The mutual friend who set them up was African-American and gay and pregnant! The male lead’s dad was a diabetic. The male lead’s best friends all played in a hip-hop band in San Francisco.

All this diversity was done so effortlessly. It did not feel self-conscious or awkward. The characters’ diverse backgrounds enriched and informed the story. It brought context to the main characters upbringing and personal flaws. It just made sense.

And did I mentioned none of it felt awkward? It just was. This is how diversity in your fiction should feel. Breezy, yet important to the plot and character development.

So how do we get there?

Remember that diversity literally means diverse. Uncomfortable with having different ethnic groups in your fiction because you feel someone’s going to scream at you? Start with something you’re comfortable with. There have been many great characters with physical disabilities. What about having a character who is morbidly obese? Try having a character in a wheel chair or one who uses crutches. What about diversity of age? In many stories the mentor of the protagonist is always someone older. But once the mentor is gone, everyone slides into the same age range as the protagonist? Why? Why not have a minor character in their sixties or seventies? It would be quite unique.

Writing a military historical taking place before the 19th century? Remember civilians followed the army to provide services. Everything from the washing of laundry to commissioning new armor. Many of those who followed the army were women. (Heck, English Crusaders took their washer-women with them to Palestine and by all accounts they were treated like the mothers of the army.)

Diversity doesn’t have to overwhelm your story. It doesn’t have to be self-important or stuffy. It should be natural and obvious to everyone. Start with something you’re comfortable with. See how that story turns out. Good luck!

Jason Henry Evans

Jason Evans wanted to be a writer his entire life. He just didn’t know it. He has been an educator in public & private schools for twelve years. He has earned Double bachelors from UC Santa Barbara, teaching credentials from Cal-State Los Angeles, and an MA from UC Denver. He has two short stories published and is the editor-in-chief for Man-gazine. He lives in Denver with the Fetching Mrs. Evans and his three dogs and one haughty cat. 

Follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer. Like his Author Facebook Page, or sign up for his newsletter at www.jasonhenryevans.com

His debut novel, The Gallowglass, releases July 10th. Details are here.

Screw this Writing Thing: My Most Epic Writing Failures

by: Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

*WARNING: Foul Words Ahead*

Ok, so I’m one of those who started writing the minute she could scribble with crayons. My father kept the first story I ever wrote. In the seventh grade, I wrote a travel story with a friend of mine in Spanish class. By college, I knew I wanted to be a writer, so I took two courses: Creative Writing Fiction and Creative Writing Poetry. Both were epic disasters.

My poetry teacher told me I’d spent too much time reading the British Romantics. He was probably right. My fiction teacher told me my story didn’t make any sense. Rejection is part of the business, right? Well, it still sucks. But there is something to be learned from every disaster.

  • Crappy teachers can motivate you. When my poetry professor called my poems angsty crap pieces and told me I’d never have a future in writing, I hung my head in shame. Yes, he said this in a class full of edgy poets on their way to Pulitzer Prizes and probably some meth addictions. Eventually, I raised my eyebrows, got pissed and decided to pay attention to what he did like. I will forever hate the tatted up, pierced girl with long black hair and willowy skirts whose poetry oozed from the page in mid-90s Alanis Morrisette stanzas that he loved oh so much. (probably because I’m jealous)
  • Learn what you can. Discard the rest.  My prof hated my poetry. Did I say that already? It was full of trite clichés better suited for John Keats’ garden and British tea time. Under his glaring eye of disapproval, I learned how to write about love and pain in a modern way. That modern way included creative ways to describe action with as few words as possible. I did eventually write something that made its way into the annual university poetry anthology. It was called, “Fuck This.” Guess I showed him.
  • Advice should be taken with a grain of salt. For whatever reason, my fiction teacher never taught us how to plot. It was a semester-long course on writing fiction and the man, a New York Times bestseller, never taught the elements of the novel. This guy told me my novel wasn’t complete. Well, genius, you only asked for one chapter. This was an early lesson for me because writers are bombarded with advice, counsel and wisdom on a subject that is, at its core, creative. Take what you can use and move on.
  • Be badass. I’m on a Cobra Kai kick lately (What?! You haven’t seen the series on YouTube?! 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!!!), and being badass is the central theme of the new Cobra Kai. I could have easily melted into a puddle of nasty poo after my poetry and fiction teachers so blasély dismissed me. But no. I stood up. I schwacked their hoity toity idea of what a writer was supposed to be. and I kept going. Being badass means you stand up for what you want.

You KNOW you want to be a writer. So be one. Don’t let anyone get you down. Ever. Take what you can from the disasters because the best lessons are learned from failure. Then drop it. Move on. Be badass. No Mercy Bitches!

Jennifer Lovette Herbranson

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun. You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett

Happy Birthday Harriet Beecher Stowe

Photo courtesy of USA NARA, public domain

Harriet Beecher Stowe, born on June 14, 1911 in Connecticut and lived much of her life in Cincinnati.  Her best-seller, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, helped galvanized the abolitionist movement, leading to the Civil War. 

Harriet saw the value in being surrounded by books. Does the presence of books impact your writing?

 Gabrielle V Brown, Contributing Editor

Gabrielle V. Brown writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.

Project Management to Publication

by: Jason Henry Evans

You have decided to self-publish your novel. Congratulations! There is a world of opportunity out there for you. All you have to do now is…well…everything!

OK, OK, maybe I’m being a little glib. But when you decide to become an author-publisher, you’ve decided that you’re not only an artist, you’re a business. You can’t be driven by ego, or negative emotions. You can’t use fear as a crutch. Procrastination will kill your manuscript, as will perfectionism. (Those two are actually sisters, if you didn’t know.)

If you want to publish your manuscript in a reasonable amount of time, then you have to embrace Project Management.

Project Management will put your book on a schedule and insure its publication if you follow these steps. Are you with me? OK. Let’s go.

Step One: Write an essay

Ask yourself why you want to publish a book at all. Why do you want to self-publish? Be honest. Explore the reasons. Art can be very emotional and it’s super important that you understand your own motivations for doing it. Because when the hard deadlines hit, when you’ve got to scrape up money for covers and formatting and Facebook ads, you will question everything. This document will give you the answers to those questions.

I have a friend who self-published a book about two years ago. At the time she talked a lot about quitting her job and making money with her book. When I reminded her that her dream was not likely to happen with the first book in the series she agreed and said she had a plan. Two years later book two still isn’t out. She’s done draft after draft. Why? Because she got into writing to be famous. When the fame didn’t come, she lost her way. She says she’s working on book 2 – and I believe her. But if she had been honest about her motivations from the start, maybe we’d be on book three or four right now? Maybe she would have done more marketing?

Step Two: Get a Calendar

Either a physical or digital will do. Is your draft complete? Good! Now, give yourself at least nine months to publish that book. You’ll need a lot of time because you have to factor in sick time when you can’t write, dealing with cover artists and editors, finding and booking a venue for your book release party, and learning marketing. Not to mention kids, spouses, and crunch time at your real job. All of this will take time.

At least six months before you launch, learn how you market your book. (I found author Jeff Goins & David Gaughran very helpful.) Make sure your book cover is done at least six weeks before your launch. Make sure your final edits are done at least six weeks before your launch.

Step Three: Make a list

A book requires a team. You’ll need a cover artist – please shop around for one. You’ll need someone to either format your book or teach you how to format a book. And you’ll need an editor.

When I wrote The Gallowglass, a historical fiction novel (to be released June 15th of this year), I spent a lot of time researching. I spent a lot of time getting better at writing. But I thank the heavens that I hired an editor who pointed out some weak spots in my plot and characters. It was a hard conversation to have about my story. After a lot of reflection, I realized my editor was right on every point. So, I had to make time to include about 15,000 words of re-writes. I am glad I did. (Which is another reason you want to give yourself at least nine months of time to release a book.)

Step Four: Find an accountability Partner

I have a friend who has self-published half a dozen books. After probing him I realized that all he did was write the books, and his wife actually self-published them. She kept him working under a deadline, managed the entire process with editors, cover artists, and the like. For my friend and his wife, it worked out well.

If you don’t have a spouse with those kinds of skills, that’s alright. Find someone who will support you by using a mix of carrots and sticks to get you to your deadline. They don’t have to know all the ends and outs; they just have to know your deadlines and be close enough to you to kick your butt when you’re slacking and can call you on your malarkey when you start making excuses.

Step Five: Take the money side seriously

Federal & State Tax Law can be a wonderful support for your book project. Congress wants to support you in running your business. But you have to act like a business if you want to reap the tax benefits. That means setting up a separate bank account (checking is easiest). It also means keeping receipts and making a spreadsheet to keep everything together. I know it sounds daunting, but it really isn’t – and you’ll thank yourself for doing it from the beginning.

My wife is an accountant. She deals with sloppy business owners all the time. She just finished an IRS Audit where her client couldn’t prove where the money came from to pay a certain business expense. Had the owner kept better records, the auditor would have given her the expense deduction.

Don’t be like my wife’s client! Keep all your records for your book project. If you’re not good with physical receipts, the IRS accepts photos of receipts. Keep them in a folder on your desktop, or on the cloud. If you do this, you can claim deductions on your taxes because of the money you spent on your project. How cool is that? If you mimic the habits of businesses the IRS will start treating you like one.

Project Management can feel overwhelming, but so was riding a bike or driving a car. Most of us learned to both. With a little research, practice, and a few bumps in the road, you’ll be published before you can say Project Management.

Jason Henry Evans

Jason Evans wanted to be a writer his entire life. He just didn’t know it. He has been an educator in public & private schools for twelve years. He has earned Double bachelors from UC Santa Barbara, teaching credentials from Cal-State Los Angeles, and an MA from UC Denver. He has two short stories published and is the editor-in-chief for Man-gazine. He lives in Denver with the Fetching Mrs. Evans and his three dogs and one haughty cat.

Follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer. Like his Facebook Author Page, or sign up for his newsletter at www.jasonhenryevans.com

Author Readings

by: Jamie Ferguson

How do author readings work?

There’s a lot of variation in how author readings work, but they basically go like this:

You’re invited to participate in an event and read something you’ve written. You may be asked to read for a certain amount or time, or read an entire story regardless of how long it takes. What you read from could be a specific story, from any published work you’ve written, or from anything you’ve written – which might include a project you’re currently working on.

Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience.

Depending on the venue and situation, you may or may not have the opportunity to bring/sell books. Some places (ex. bookstores) will sell your books, either print or ebook, through their own system.

Readings usually involve multiple authors reading at an event, but there are situations where you’re the only author reading. If you’re participating in a multi-author event you may have a fixed slot, or can request to go first, last, etc.

After the reading is over, you’ll have the opportunity to sign copies of your book(s) and talk with members of the audience.

Why participate in a reading?

Readings are a great form of marketing the title you’re reading from, and they’re a great way to promote you as an author. Not only does the audience get to hear your story, they have the opportunity to connect with you as a person.

Having people show up to listen to your story is an awesome experience, and it can be incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to meet with members of the audience afterward.

Should you participate in a reading?

Do you enjoy speaking to a crowd, or are you super introverted and hate being the center of attention? Or perhaps you don’t mind talking to an audience, but the idea of reading something of your own gives you the heebie jeebies?

If you’re really uncomfortable with this type of activity, it might not be the right thing for you – and that’s okay! You can be a super successful author without ever reading any of your stories aloud.

If you’re comfortable (or comfortable enough) with reading to a group, consider the setting. Will you be reading in a quiet area where the audience can hear you well, or in a noisy bar? Is the location convenient, or will it involve a three-hour drive each way?

In addition to considering the setting, consider the situation. If it’s a multi-author reading event, how do you feel about the other participants? Will you be reading from a romance novel, but the other authors are horror writers?

Don’t feel obligated to participate in a reading just because you were invited. Make sure the situation is right for you.

How to prepare

If the venue allows you to sell books, make sure to bring some to sell. Or if the venue will sell your books for you, make sure they have all the information ahead of time so they can stock print copies and/or get your ebook in their ordering system. If you’re reading at a place that sells your books through their system, they will probably request that you not bring your own copies.

Bring a pen! You may be asked to sign copies of your book! If you haven’t autographed a lot of books yet, you may want to think about what to write ahead of time so that you don’t have to come up with this on the fly.

Bring business cards, bookmarks, or whatever materials you have – or prepare some, if you don’t have anything like this put together yet. Sometimes you’ll have an area to set up a display where you can showcase more than one of your books. You could make a banner, print out a giant version of one of your book covers, or do something quirky that fits your book and/or your brand. For example, horror writer Mark Leslie has a life-sized skeleton (it’s fake, don’t worry!) named Barnaby who he takes to readings and signings.

One of the most important things you can do is practice reading ahead of time. If you’re given a fixed amount of time to read, this will allow you to ensure your selection will fit in this time period. If you haven’t read to an audience before, or if you’re not sure which approach to use for this particular story, practicing will allow you to decide how you want to read. For example, do you want to use different voices for your characters? Or read them in more of a narration style?

Readings are fun!

Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of event, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.

And have fun!

Jaime Ferguson

Jamie Ferguson has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series. She is a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.

Write Brain

by: Robin Laborde

Writing Real LGBTQ Plus Characters: A Panel Discussion

I belong to a faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism, that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person. It’s a well-intentioned principle that in practice often keeps us on a comfortable periphery, preaching “tolerance” while staying far away from the bleeding edge of societal debates. I’m coming to believe that fixing the divisions in our society takes more than tolerance, it takes curiosity to learn about those we have been taught to consider as “other.” We must be brave enough not only to ask questions but to stay and listen to the answers, to accept that each person has a truth that may not be the same as our own, and to seek to understand.

The panel of PPW’s last Write Brain provided a variety of perspectives on the LGBTQ experience, including a spirited debate about the acronym itself. And while the myriad and constantly evolving labels can be confusing for those outside this culture, the conversation helped illuminate a central concern: the wish to be SEEN. To be acknowledged and understood.

Kudos to PPW for facilitating this valuable conversation. One of the intentions of the event was to help writers create diverse characters with sensitivity and understanding. The evening certainly helped me illuminate my own approach to writing a gender fluid character.

Write Brain’s Panelists were:

LGBTQ Panelists

David R Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver and writes the books he always wanted to read. His debut YA fantasy, GHOST DRAGON, will be published in January 2020 by Harmony Ink Press. He is represented by Lesley Sabga of the Seymour Agency.

Emily Kay Singer/Nonir Amicitia has never really fit into molds or boxes. They claim labels such as queer, nerd, Heathen, and Social Justice Cleric, but none of those completely describe them. They’ve published short stories in anthologies, entirely too much fanfic, and has several novels-in-progress, all featuring queer characters and diverse casts. They also co-write the Aces High, Jokers Wild series under the penname O.E. Tearmann.

Suzanne Anderson is a schoolteacher, writer, and long-standing member of the geek community in Colorado Springs. She brings an intimate voice and open trans perspective to the discussion of authentic characters.

When not fighting our robot overlords or tinkering with Tarot spreads, Vivian Caethe writes weird fiction, science fiction, fantasy, quirky nonfiction and everything in between. She lives in Colorado with a super villain cat. She can be found as a writer at VivianCaethe.com and as an editor at WordsMadeBeautiful.net.

Robin Laborde

This recap from Write Brain is presented by Contributing Editor Robin Laborde. Robin is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. While she is currently writing a speculative fiction novel set in the near future, she dreams of flying to the moon in a spaceship made from butterfly wings.

Marketing on a Budget

by: Margena Holmes

Start marketing when you start writing.

Marketing—one of the least favorite things a writer needs to do. We have to come out of our writing cave and actually talk to people about our books. They say (and just who are “they”?) you should start marketing when you start writing your book. But how does one do so effectively? I haven’t a clue! Okay, I have a little bit of a clue. All kidding aside, there are several ways to market your book and yourself.

Facebook Groups

The easiest and least expensive way to market your book is through Facebook groups. There are sooo many groups on Facebook dedicated to readers, authors, and promotions, and a lot of these groups will host events for authors to sell their books. Join them and then start posting your information on your books. Make sure you follow their rules for posting (once a week? Once a month?) and then change it up a bit each time you post within that group.

Make up an ad in Paint, Photoshop, or Canva one week, then post a description of your book next time. Include a link to where readers can purchase the book, and always include a picture no matter how you advertise. Photos draw potential readers in, as social media is very visual. This is one of the things you can do before your book is even released to build excitement and generate interest for your book.

Amazon Marketing Services

Another good way to advertise is Amazon Marketing Services. Starting from your KDP page, select which book you want to promote and follow the prompts. It will ask you the amount you want to spend per click, how long you want to run the campaign, and if you want to customize your ad. I was finished with my ad in under fifteen minutes.

Book Signings

I like to think outside the box, too. Does your book have a theme? Tie in a book signing to the theme of your book! It’s a great way to advertise. For my book Dear Moviegoer, I asked a movie theater if I could set up a table to display my books on an afternoon during a major movie release. You could do the same for a science fiction book, fantasy, horror, etc.

Comic Cons

Comic Cons are also a good way to get yourself and your book out to readers, but they could be hit-or-miss depending on the Con. I’ve had some success with big and small ones, but it depends on the type of Con. They’re not cheap, though, and you probably won’t make your money back, but it’s a fun way to sell your book and talk to readers, especially if you like going to Cons anyway.

Printed Material

If the thought of having to talk to so many people makes you a little queasy, see about placing business cards, postcards, or flyers on tables of cafes, bookstores, and restaurants. Ask first, however. You don’t want your items tossed into the trash by the manager.

Vista Print

There are several places to get advertising materials made inexpensively. I like Vista Print. They always have a deal running for something. You can get 500 business cards for $10. Look around and see if there are other deals by other companies. You can always mix and match—get your business cards from one place and bookmarks from another (though if you want them to match, it may be better to pick one company).

Marketing is a necessary evil that we writers must do to advertise our books and ourselves, whether we like it or not. Get creative and have fun with it!

photo of margin holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.