All because I wanted to help….

I created a list of the most frequently asked questions and added them to the handout materials for the class.

I love being an author, I really do but more than being an author I love being a publisher. Asking me to write about my life story is a little surreal because I didn’t plan to be a writer or a publisher. I did however have a desire to help people. It just so happens that I found my niche in helping people to meet their aspirations and become published authors.

It all started when I taught grant writing classes for nonprofit organizations. The students’ questions were pivotal to understanding the class. So, I created a list of the most frequently asked questions and added them to the handout materials for the class. As time passed the little booklet of handouts that I distributed changed from a few handouts and a few questions to a full size manual with information and resources. The game changer came when someone asked if they could purchase copies of the manual to give to their employees so that they could learn to write grants as well.

Within six months Grant Me The Money! The Practical Guide To Successful Grant Writing Practice was released as a self-published book. It was a very popular book and as I traveled around the country teaching grant writing; the book became a significant part of the course as the workbook and resource guide. Several copies were sold for distribution as gifts and resources for colleagues, peers and friends.

That was just the start. As the momentum for the book increased so did my desire to learn the publishing industry. This was due to the fact that my book was a self-published book and it was very difficult getting it in as a holding in the book stores. I was told that it was an excellent product but because it did not have a publisher and imprint the best that it could and would do was to be sold via the internet or direct sale.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was not the only one that faced this challenge and I knew that if I wanted to break the barriers and stigma of a self-published author something had to change. Needless to say, I learned the book industry thoroughly, created a publishing company (Crystal Spirit Publishing, Inc.) and the two interest that I now had and enjoyed, publishing and helping people were joined together as one.

When I started as a publisher it was to give my works legitimacy. However; I started to receive request from aspiring writers from all over the world asking for assistance and for me to share my knowledge and experience of the book industry so that they too could fulfill their aspirations and dreams. It was then that I decided to expand the focus from my works and invite the works of others for publishing consideration.

Now ten years, seven books and five authors later my focus and objective to help aspiring authors is still the same but with more intensity. The only difference now is the level of experience has increased of course, the geographical boundaries have expanded, that little booklet that started it all is now in its 3rd Edition and I have authored two additional books as well.

I love being an author as I stated from the beginning but I love being a publisher even more.

Grant Me The Money! The Practical Guide To Successful Grant Writing Practice 3rd Ed. can be purchased at http://www.crystalspiritinc.com/bookstore.html

Bestseller secrets unveiled: James Altucher and Mike Fishbein

James Altucher and Mike Fishbein disclose their marketing tips for growing your readership.

James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, and podcaster. He has founded or cofounded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr and Mike Fishbein is an inbound marketer and bestselling author. He writes about content marketing and personal development.

So you Call Yourself a Writer? Good!

Where to look, who to follow, which risks to take, and how to stay strong: a few tips for the freshly sprouted author.

I recently gave myself the title of Author. Well, Children’s Book Author and Daydreamer to be exact. I do a lot of daydreaming in between writing sessions. But when can you take the risk and call yourself a writer? The answer is now! You just have to take the first few steps. Hell, make them leaps because there’s no time for hanging around. So where to start?

Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. Youtube. Website. Start here. Get this platform up and running. I have subscribed to articles from Katie Davis. She is giving indispensable advice and helping writers to build their platform. Don’t underestimate it. You need it. If you book them, they will not come. They need to be enticed. Katie has an awesome book available called How to Write a Children’s Book. Get it! I also use Wix as my base. A super simple website building tool that will boost you like nitrous oxide.

I am still learning. Every day I am reading something new and trying to find my voice. But I am not stressed over it. It’s exciting. I am excited and you should be too. Write in various genres. Throw the ones that don’t feel good. You will quickly discover which you are hot for and which ones you want to give the cold shoulder.

Look out for courses such as those offered by Wappo. These are invaluable. I am currently taking one called Learn to Write Amazing Children’s Books. I’m taking it slow because inspiration is coming to me from all over the internet, but this course has kicked me into play from the off.

If you have some work that you are proud of: a short story, a novel, a poem – whatever it is, now is the time to start throwing it around. I used Kindle Direct Publishing to get my first piece of writing out there, and the responses have been positive. My family has been crazy supportive, so have friends. Maybe I am lucky, but I think you will be too. If you love the work you are doing chances are that someone else will.

Search for publishers that are working with genres you enjoy writing in and send your work to them. Don’t fear rejection. Embrace it. Use it as a tool to improve. Stay positive and don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Write every day. A good start is 1000 words. It isn’t too much and I know that you can smash through that goal. I told myself yesterday I will write 1000 words each day and I wrote 1500. There’s something about being challenged that forces you to do better than is expected.

It can feel scary when you are fresh on the scene: the new kid on the block. The competition is fierce, but I have found that the writing community is an embracing one. Follow people on Twitter that are writing in genres similar to you. They will share your posts, they will support your self-published work. Tweet, retweet, repeat!

A great way to practise your writing and to find your voice is to use writing prompts and enter competitions. Here are seven you can enter before the New Year, but keep a look out. Do some research. There’s a lot happening in 2017. And even if you don’t enter these competitions, you can use their guidelines and prompts to practise. I have enjoyed the Crimson Comp. The prompt is inspiring. Here are ten creative ways to practise your writing and if you are wondering how your finished book should look, here is a cool list of the parts of a book 

These are just a few ways that I have propelled myself into the world of writing. The articles and inspiring people have made a huge improvement in my confidence and ability to get the job done. I hope the same rings true for you. Last but no least – and in the words of Journey – don’t stop believin’. Write!

Am I doing this right?

Beta readers are the unsung heroes of my publishing journey.

There is a hidden enemy for the independent author, a stumbling block, based on a misconception. There seems to be a feeling of, “I have to do everything right if I want to be a famous writer!”

Oy.

Self-publishing is the new wild west. The only hard and fast rule I have come across is, “There are no hard and fast rules.”

Why? Because the fabulous access to the information superhighway has given everyone keys to the publishing kingdom. Those keys used to be guarded by a handful of publishing companies. Now that direct publishing companies are ubiquitous, anyone can publish anything. Trotting a product out is now, relatively, easy.

I have shifted my focus from giving publishers something they want to see to putting out a damn good book. When the dust settles, the person who used the correct em dash, en dash, or hyphen will not be nearly as important as who wrote a really great book.

To be fair, I do know people who are over-officious and will put down a book if someone italicized something that should have been underlined.  I was asked by someone recently if I used em dashes or en dashes. My reply? “Cool people don’t think about things like that.”

I’m not saying we should throw grammar to the four winds. Punctuation and spelling are there for clarity. Really well structured reading (including grammar and punctuation) serves one main purpose- it makes life easier for the reader. You want the reader to “get it”. Sloppy editing can make things jarring for an unsuspecting reader.

I use an editing service (because my mechanical skills are a little pathetic) to make sure my books are coherent. The difference between, “Let’s eat, Grandma.” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” Is important…especially to Grandma. I also use beta readers.

Beta readers are the unsung heroes of my publishing journey. I use Facebook to get my readers. I send out a blanket inquiry to my friends. “Hey, does anyone want to read my new book and give me some feedback?” People reply that are interested. Then I privately message them and ask them if they will pay particular attention to one aspect of the book that coincides with their natural inclinations. My friend Kim is my go to for continuity. She always catches that one time I mean Sally but I write Sarah. My friend Lars is great for pointing out archaic or awkward language. The cool thing about beta readers is, they point stuff out but you are under no obligation to take their advice. There is no risk and vast reward.

My books have done quite well. I published my first novella 2 years ago. I have published 3 novellas and 3 novels in those two years. If not for my beta readers, it would have been disastrous. I have not written these books “right”. I have crafted entertaining books that people are reading. Most importantly, I am proud of my books and I didn’t have to stress out to get them in the hands of readers.

Indie publishing is going to continue to change. I think people that are not malleable enough in their approach are going to be swept away in the oncoming cyber-tsunami. If you roll with the changes, you’ll have a better chance of surviving…you might also be in a position to enjoy the process.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Andrew (Drew) Sutherland

Delving Deep: Diversification while building a new life

I kept writing. Novels, poetry, short stories, essays galore, all above and beyond anything required of me at school. Also all gone, but some still remembered, including one recently re-written and now being considered by a publisher.

I didn’t start writing because I wanted to be an author. I started writing because I really liked words and enjoyed storytelling.

Words were extraordinary tools, and with them I could not just shape some of the world around me, I could build whole worlds inside me.

I was also an artist. I was drawing before I could walk. My art was more obvious, so it got more attention, but behind the scenes, I wrote. My first novel of roughly 20,000 words was put together by the age of ten, all patiently hand-written in school exercise books. All gone, thrown away by parents needing more storage space on the bookshelf for school books and proper things. Oh well.

I kept writing. Novels, poetry, short stories, essays galore, all above and beyond anything required of me at school. Also all gone, but some still remembered, including one recently re-written and now being considered by a publisher.

My life has revolved around my art more than my writing, but a serious breakdown a couple of years ago, subsequent financial ruin and now seriously bad health has condemned me to the house and a reorganisation of my priorities and goals for generating an income. I still make my art, but I’ve looked to writing as a possible means of earning a living. My problem is it all takes so long to sort out, so now I’m delving deeper into the literary world.

Being an artist and one-time graphic designer and desktop publisher, I thought about offering authors inexpensive cover art design, page layout and even editing services. My first novel I self-published, so I went through the process of formatting for Createspace and Smashwords, covering both printed and e-book, meaning it’s now released on Amazon as well as Kindle and all the rest. I made mistakes, learned, fixed things up and sent material off that ended up looking fine and passing all the technical checks. My cover art isn’t some cheap-looking thing even though it cost me only $40, and all up I considered it professional and attractive.

So now, still as poor as a church mouse but with a few tools at my fingertips, I figure I might give writing “post-production” a go for those looking to self-publish, and even provide outsourcing services for publishing houses. I can beta-read, edit, format for print and e-book, create cover art, do some illustrations if necessary (though not kids books stuff, more – say – maps for fantasy novels), manage uploading and sorting out any technical hitches along the way.

I have to do something, because welfare is not where I want to be, and the prospect of working again is a positive I need in my otherwise despondent life.

I’ve carefully explored what I can do online without having to spend money I don’t have. I have a WordPress blog for my writing, a Niume blog for my art, a Facebook page for both, a presence on the Australian Writers’ Forum and a Twitter account, which is tied to a shop on Etsy used to sell my art. So far so good, but folks are reticent to spend money on art when there are elections and wars and all the fear, uncertainty and doubt being bandied around at the moment, so literary services seems a logical next step.

We shall see…

This post is contributed as Guest post by Rob Munro