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Archive for April, 2010

If you work at something long enough, eventually you’ll find a work around what “can’t be done.” Today I challenged myself to finding a solution to the Gravatar image problem I’ve had. The problem: keep the Gravatar image of my book cover while adding a photo of me to my blog.

Why, you may ask, would I want to bother doing that? For two simple reasons: 1) I like using the book cover as a Gravatar because it’s great marketing on Facebook when I link my blog post to my “thought” and 2) it’s super important to put a face with a blog (and everything else) for a writer (see update #2).

After a lot of hunting (and a major headache :P) I finally had a solution. Get a Flickr account, upload my author photo to it, link it to my sidebar Flickr widget and — voila! — instant author photo for my blog. In the future I may have to rethink this approach, but by then I hope to have a better web presence.

All that work is just another way to show just how creative Independent Authors can be on The Road to Writing.

Update: You have to make sure to choose the image you want displayed before you post your “thought” on Facebook.

Update: After doing a lot more learning about the best ways to use social media as a marketing tool, I’ve decided it’s better to brand my name and image rather than my book cover (which would mean re-branding myself with each new book. Ugh!). Instead I’ve included pictures of my book covers on flickr and changed my Gravatar image back to my author photo. The technique is still the same, I’ve just chosen a better use for it.

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I just discovered a nifty new tool. It’s called a calendar.

Okay, so it’s not really a new tool. I’ve been using my PDA calendar religiously since I bought my first Palm m505 back in 2002. What I’ve discovered is a new use for it as a marketing tool.

Online calendars abound and they can be public or private. You can share them within a small group of friends and co-workers or with the entire world. So what does that mean to an Independent Author? You can share upcoming releases, signings, blog postings, all kinds of great marketing stuff with current and potential readers. AWESOME!!

Since I use Google for the business side of my writing, I chose to use their calendar as well. Now current and future fans can see what I’m up to and what to look forward to.

If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to think about letting the world know what you’re doing on The Road to Writing.

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Writers, in general, are a very creative species. We must be to craft such wondrous worlds to draw readers in and keep them there. To that end, this writer has come up with a work around to Amazon’s lack of “Look Inside” to my book, Fear Not!

I’ve put together a sample similar to what a potential reader would find in an Amazon “Look Inside,” including the front cover, table of contents, introduction, first session and back cover, which is available on Scribd.com. Really, the only thing lacking is the option to jump to a certain page, as far as I can see.

Why the work around? People like to “try before you buy.” I know I rarely purchase a book without first taking a peek between the covers. (My Dad actually sits in the coffee shop of the bookstore and reads almost the entire book before he decides to buy it. :o) There have been enough times where I didn’t preview a book and wished I’d saved my money only a few pages in. That’s why the option to “Look Inside” is so important, especially to Indie Authors.

Will putting a preview out there guarantee more sales? No. However, it might boost sales and that’s good enough for me. When the people you thought would help you on your journey don’t always come through like you hoped, then it’s essential to get your own creative juices flowing to find a way to do it yourself. That’s part of being an Indie Author on The Road to Writing.

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I’ve been diligently working on my book, Apprentice Cat, as anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows. Some chapters seem to write themselves, others have to be dragged into existence. Unfortunately, the longer the story is, the more likely the middle will develop premature aging. In other words, it sags, gets bogged down, or generally becomes a bore.

And so it has happened. My little world has suddenly become afflicted with a nasty case of the “beer belly blues.” The middle has become cumbersome and unruly and, to be quite honest, I can’t see the ending like could before I began. What to do?

I’ve been doing some research (imagine that! :)) and have come up with a possible solution. I’m going to try using (gasp!) novel-writing software. Now, before, I’ve always sneered at the concept of using software that supposedly “assists you in structuring your book.” But, let’s face it, when your book has suddenly become that unwanted relative sleeping on your couch, leaving potato chip crumbs between the cushions while channel surfing, you begin to rethink how you do things.

There are plenty of possible novel-writing software programs available. Prices vary from as low as $29 to over $200. Of course, if you’re like me, even spending $29 seems steep for software you’re not convinced will do what you want it to (get the relative off your couch and gainfully employed). So, I did some more digging and found a freeware program called StoryBook that does the same thing and has a 4 out 5 star rating with Softpedia.

Planning how a novel will progress is nothing new. Using software specifically designed to aid in that planning is new (at least to me). With each new resource I uncover, from the most recent addition to my library to the discovery of a new writing tool, I learn that there are any number of ways to pursue my dream on The Road to Writing.

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Update: Rough Drafts Aren’t The Only Things That Need Editing

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For those of you out there who love to write, but suffer from migraines that get in the way, I have a possible solution (provided the headache was stress related to begin with). I’ve just come off a two and 1/2 day headache and discovered that my love of writing (and drinking several Cokes) can ease the pain tremendously!

I’ve been stressing over meeting the deadline I set to finish my book, Apprentice Cat. Needless to say, after spending a busy weekend with family and getting only my regular blog posting done, I’ve felt the pressure. Well, today I managed to spend a lot of time working and — voila! — the headache is almost completely gone!

As April Hamilton in her Publetariat post Writing Can Save Your Life; Let It wrote, “If you’re a writer, count yourself lucky. You have a crisis survival utility belt that rivals anything the caped crusader’s got.” Amen!

Pouring ourselves into our work is just one more way to be a healthier person on The Road to Writing.

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It’s probably every writer’s dream, secretly or otherwise, to make a living as a freelancer. Unfortunately, the reality seldom meets the dream and most of us either suffer until we die or, more likely, until we get a “real job.” Enter the idea of self-publishing.

Many Independent Authors plunge into self-publishing as a way to make more money sooner, or so they believe until reality hits them like a freight train. “The average number of sales for a POD book is 500…total, and I often wonder if that is an exaggeration,” writes Jeremy Robinson in POD People. That is a very disheartening fact, one we each have to come to terms with in our own way. A great number of would-be authors give up at this point. Most begin to at least doubt the possibility of reaching their heart’s desire. But does that mean the dream has to die?

Absolutely not. If it’s truly your dream, then it is imperative to keep working toward it. That means marketing by using both old ways (basic word-of-mouth and PR) and new ways (using social media such as facebook and twitter). There are a lot of great resources out there to aid the Independent Author in his or her marketing strategies. (I’ve mentioned a few in earlier posts, just take a look at the posts in the marketing category.)

Marketing, however, is not the only thing the freelancer needs to be concerned about. You are your own boss, which means you are the one in charge of the finances. That does not mean debt and financial struggle is inevitable anymore than having a 9-to-5 job means financial security. It does mean doing extra planning. As Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan say in The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs “Having your financial house in order brings peace of mind. It also puts you in a better position to survive and thrive, no matter what the economic climate.”

I am no financial wiz, but as an up and coming Independent Author I’ve come to realize that money matters — a lot. Like others of you struggling to “make it” as a writer, I want to succeed, to see my dream become a reality. I refuse to buy into the myth, as Joseph and Denise call it, of the “struggling artist.” I don’t just believe in the possibility. I know it exists and I will be following the financial roadsigns of success on The Road to Writing.

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