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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, August 25, 2013

METADATA 101: A Non-Techie Does Her Best to Explain Metadata (and Why it Matters) In Plain English

by Ruth Harris


First of all, what the &%^# is metadata? AccordIng to Wikipedia, it’s “data about data.” But we’re writers and we’re talking about books, so, huh?

Let me try again: when it comes to a book, metadata can be defined both by what it is and what it isn’t. Metadata’s everything in a file that’s not included between the first word and the last word of your book. Which leaves us, well, exactly what?

Essentially, for a writer, metadata is everything except the book we include when we upload a book: cover, title, author’s name, series name (if the book is part of a series), categories, keywords, blurb, ISBN, reviews, author bio.

Metadata also includes front matter and back matter and tells a reader what s/he wants to know before deciding to buy (or not to buy) your book. Metadata matters (a lot) and here are some reasons why, starting with the front matter (everything the reader sees that comes before the actual beginning of the book):

The cover is the writer’s first sell opportunity and the reader’s first clue to genre. A naked male torso avec bulging six-pack promises the reader hot s-e-x and maybe romance. A fanged death’s head drooling pus and blood means horror. Be creative but don’t mislead your reader! Book designer, Joel Friedlander, often blogs about covers here.

The title (and the series title, if there is one) is another crucial signal, so choose wisely. You wouldn’t call a sweet romance set in a sleepy Southern village Night Of the Psychotic Avenger, would you? You wouldn’t call a dystopian urban zombie thriller Aunt Matilda’s Ye Olde Knitting And Crochet Shoppe, would you? And Adventures of a Girl is hopeless: too generic, tells the reader nothing. Bottom line: choose your title carefully. Leading a reader astray or leaving him/her to wonder what the book is about isn’t good for you, your sales—or for your reader.

The author’s name is your brand so respect it. If the author name is a pseudonym, though, match the name with your genre. “Studly McBoozehound” might be an OK choice if you’re writing brass-knuckled noirpulp. It would be a lousy choice if you’re writing swoony 18th Century historical romance set in the Scottish Highlands. Capeesh?

The blurb or, as Amazon refers to it, the Product Description, is your opportunity to tell the readers why s/he absolutely must buy your book. Your blurb needs to pop and sizzle and compel the reader to hit the buy button. After the purchase, when your book is already present on someone’s ereader, placing the blurb in the front matter will remind the reader why s/he bought the book in the first place.

Writing a powerful blurb is both an art and a craft. Superstar indie author, Mark Edwards, gives advice on how to write a compelling blurb here.

The Invisibles (to the reader but not to search engines.)

The ISBN (or ASIN) is the alpha-numeric string (ZZ12345) that identifies your book to readers and book-sellers. ISBNs can be purchased from Bowker; the ASIN is the FREE number assigned by Amazon. Kobo and Apple also offer their own FREE identifiers when you upload your book.

There is disagreement about whether it’s worth buying your own ISBN or not. Some think buying your own ISBN is worthwhile. Others think it doesn’t much matter. Joel Friedlander discusses the pros and cons of the different flavors of ISBNs/ASINs here.

Keyword and keyword strategy. Although the reader doesn’t see keywords, they are crucial to discoverability and visibility.

Joanna Penn writes about the importance of keywords and explains the techniques for finding ones that will work best for you. She uses specific examples using one of her own books here.

Lisa Grace, mystery author, goes into the mysteries (sorry, couldn’t help it) of SEO and keywords here and Christopher Shevlin tells how he used keywords to bring his book back from the dead and turn it into a best seller here.

Category tells where a book would be shelved in a bookstore. No one will find your sci-fi epic if it’s shelved with gardening manuals so choose your categories (Amazon allows two; Nook permits five; Kobo and Apple also permit multiple choices.) carefully.

M. Louisa Locke blogs about the importance of choosing categories (and keywords) here and FreelanceSwitch offers a detailed tutorial about category-choosing here.

Amazon provides overall metadata guidelines here, and lists required keywords for certain categories (romance, sci/fi, YA, thriller, mystery, suspense) here.

Back matter (the last pages the reader sees & another chance to sell—but be careful.)

Possibilities for back matter:
  • Mail list sign up. 
  • Request for a review. 
  • Links to your other books. 
  • Link to your blog/website. 
  • Excerpt from another book. 
  • Copyright. 
  • Acknowledgments.
Some advise that back matter should be no more than 5% of the entire length. Readers can feel cheated if they get to 55% of a file (the end of your story) only to find that another 45% is devoted to sales pitches! Obviously, a full-length novel will allow you more back matter space. A short story, less.

The savvy authors on the KB Writers’ Cafe share their thoughts about back matter (they don’t always agree about everything) here. Writers share examples of different approaches to back matter here. Another discussion of front matter and back matter and what information should go where is here.

From the first word of your title to the last period at the end of the last sentence in your back matter, metadata matters because metadata is one of the most important ways readers can find (and buy) your book. Ignore it at your peril!


Book Deals of the Week. 
We have two hilarious comedies this week.

The Chanel Caper by Ruth Harris is $3.99 on Amazon USAmazon UK
And Nook | Kobo | iBooks


Award-winning historical romance and USA Today Bestselling contemporary romance winner, Vanessa Kelly's take on The Chanel Caper in Love Rocks:

"Set primarily in the world of fashion and advertising in New York City, THE CHANEL CAPER features a fifty-six year old heroine who is smart, sardonic, and whose marriage to her sexy, ex-cop husband has hit a rough patch. Blake Weston makes for a fabulous heroine, watching in some bemusement as her husband Ralph, now head of security for a large international corporation, goes into mid-life crisis. For Ralph, this involves extreme workouts in an effort to recapture his youthful vigor, a new wardrobe, and a flirtation with a bombshell war correspondent doing everything she can to get Ralph between the sheets. Blake, naturally, has no intention of allowing her beloved husband of twenty-five years to slip away from her.

"In an ongoing effort to upmarket her own outdated style and rekindle some romance in her marriage, Blake buys a faux Chanel handbag from a street vendor. This sets off a chain of wild events that includes murder, explosions, counterfeit drug rings, and the pursuit of suspects and warlords from Shanghai to Afghanistan. The Chanel Caper is a romantic comedy, a thriller, and a send-up of the big city lifestyle in the wake of the global financial crisis. All the disparate elements of this very funny story are tethered by the engaging Blake, a smart, sensible, and dryly witty heroine intent on saving her marriage. It’s definitely a romance for the grownups, set against the backdrop of the bright lights of the city that never sleeps."...Vanessa Kelley, award winning Romance author

Plus Anne's fourth Camilla Mystery, No Place Like Home 
is 99c for two weeks only on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA etc.


It's #4 in the series, but reads as a stand-alone.

"Under the guise of a great beach read - and no doubt it is that too, full of suspense and pleasingly written, the words keep flowing naturally, effortlessly and you keep turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next - this is a book that in fact delivers far more. 

It explores what is behind our love for our home, our need for security and what happens to us when we lose it all. It raises some serious existential questions as age inexorably erodes the looks of one successful woman (Doria)and the recent economic recession that has affected us all destroys the livelihood of a woman who thought she had finally pulled it all together and resolved her problems (Camilla). The contrast between the two is intriguing and also raises more questions...

But don't get me wrong. This is a book that is high comedy, not deep philosophy...Happy reading and expect some unusual twists and turns!"...Claude Nougat, author of a A Hook in the Sky


Opportunity Alerts

1) Quirk Books "Looking for Love" contest. They offer a $10,000 prize for the best quirky love story of 50,000 words or more. Visit the Quirk Books website to download the entry form or for further information. Quirk Books was founded in 2002 and publishes around 25 books each year. Their bestselling titles include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Entries close October 1. 

2) Get your book international visibility for a reasonable price. EBUK is now advertising bargain books to close to a dozen countries, including the US and Canada, and they're still at half price through the end of August. You can get more info here. Make sure your book is under $3.99 and provide links to all stores, not not only Amazon (unless you're in Select.) Ads are a little over 10 bucks until the end of August. And you can sign up for the newsletter for your country right here. I've signed up for the new US version. If you like bargain ebooks, this is a great free service.

3) Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards. Since most short fiction contests tend to favor literary work, this is a great one for genre authors. Choose your favorite genre and enter your best in 4,000 words or less. Six first prizes of $500 each and a Grand Prize of $2,500 and a trip to the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Deadline September 16th

4) The Harper's Bazaar UK Short Story Prize is open to all writers. NO ENTRY FEE. Are you the next Dorothy Parker or Anita Loos? Submit an original short story (up to 3,000 words) on the subject of 'spring' to:shortstory@harpersbazaar.co.uk. The winning entry will appear in the May 2014 issue. Its author will be able to choose a first-edition book from Asprey's Fine and Rare Books Department to the value of £3,000 and enjoy a week-long retreat at Eilean Shona House, on the 2,000-acre private island off the west coast of Scotland where JM Barrie wrote his screenplay for Peter Pan. Deadline December 13th.

5) BARTLEBY SNOPES WRITING CONTEST - Can you write a story that's dialog only? $10 ENTRY FEE A minimum of $300 will be awarded, with at least $250 going to  first place and at least $10 to four honorable mentions. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 11 of the magazine due out in January 2014. Last year they awarded $585 in prize money. For every entry over 25, an additional $5 will be awarded to the first place story. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. You may use as many characters as you want. Your entry must be under 2,000 words. Your entry does not have to follow standard rules for writing dialogue. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.) Deadline September 15th 

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Social Media Secrets, Part III: What Should an Author Blog About?


This is the third in my series on my "Social Media Secrets." If you haven't read the first two yet, you might want to check out #1: How to Avoid Twitter-Fritter and Facebook-Fail and #2 How to Blog Your Way Out of the Slush Pile and onto the Bestseller List.

When I teach blogging, the most common question I get is: "What should I blog about?" 

My answer isn't the same as you'll hear from most blogging gurus: I say it depends on where you are in your career.

1) If you're a new author/blogger, your primary goal is to build an audience. The best way to do this is to network with other bloggers.

Most people who read blogs and comment regularly are also bloggers themselves, so this is your potential core audience.

Blog hops can be very valuable at this stage of your career. Jump on any opportunity to participate.

Go to other blogs in your niche—that's readers, reviewers and other authors—to see what they're blogging about and get to know people. When you find yourself leaving a long comment: that's your next blog post!

If you hope for a traditional publishing career, you should also be regularly visiting agents' blogs like Janet Reid's and Kristen Nelson's and former agent Nathan Bransford's to find out how the traditional publishing process works. You can also interact with other writers who comment on the blog.

If you think you might go indie, do the same on indie blogs like Joe Konrath's and The Passive Voice.

No matter what path you're contemplating, hanging out at friendly, troll-free writing-community blogs like Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group, Nathan Bransford's forums, and Kristen Lamb's We are Not Alone, will make you feel less isolated and help you meet people who can help you in your career.

This is like hanging out with co-workers in the coffee room or cafeteria at a new job. You'll find a huge amount of information just by listening. Think of your blog as your cubicle where people stop by to say hello. But first you have to introduce yourself in a general meeting place.

This means yes, you CAN talk about writing and publishing when you're starting out. You can commiserate and congratulate each other as you ride the roller coaster of this crazy business. (As long as you don't complain too much. Believe me, we've all felt the temptation to vent about the unfairness of the industry, but it won't help your career.)

2) Once you've got a few followers and you're getting ready to publish, it's time to switch gears. 

You don't have to stop blogging about writing entirely, but mix it up so you can start attracting more non-writers—especially readers in your niche.

Remember people surf the Web looking for two things: information and entertainment.

Your blog can spin a good yarn, make people laugh, provide information, or all three, as long as you put it in your own honest, unique voice and you’re not too whiny or preachy. (Although experts generally advise against fictional yarns. More on that below.)

Joel Friedlander wrote a great blogpost this month on  3 major mistakes author-bloggers make . He points out you need to know who you're blogging for. If you're writing hard sci-fi, you're going to want to reach to a different readership than if you're writing cozy mysteries. Unfortunately, marketers often tell authors to market indiscriminately to the entire population.

Try picturing your ideal audience when you're deciding what to blog about. What movies and TV shows might appeal to people who would like your book? What's their age group? What other interests do those people have?

If you're writing a Hunger Games type YA dystopian, blogging news about the next Hunger Games film might attract your ideal demographic. Tweet Jennifer Lawrence news and you'll get the HG fans coming to your blog.

If you're writing Regency romance, run a series on your favorite films set in the era, or talk costumes and history. Or join a Janeite community and weigh in on controversial topics like the mental health of Jane Austen's mother and whether Colin Firth is the one and only Darcy.

What Works in a Writer’s Blog

This is a partial list. I'd love more suggestions in the comments.

  • Interviews and Profiles: These don't have to be interviews with authors, although that's a fantastic way to network AND reach readers. Write crime novels? Interview a cop, forensic expert or private detective. Write bookstore cozies? Profile a series of bookstore clerks and visit their blogs.  
  • Informative pieces: This is where you can use all that research you did for your books that sounds too much like "info-dumping" in your novel. 
  • Reviews and spotlights of books in your genre: But be wary of starting an all-review site if you're an aspiring author. Honest reviewers sometimes have to be negative, which can open you up to bullying by an authors' posse. Spotlights make more friends. 
  • Film Reviews and info about other media in your genre. Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog is a great example of how to do this right. (Alex will be visiting next month to talk about how to create a blog community.) 
  • Comic or inspirational vignettes about your life. This can be almost anything, as long as it's entertaining, has a point, and doesn't turn into a pity party. An author who does a fabulous job with the comic personal story is rom-com author Tawna Fenske.
  • Stuff about your pets. Seriously. Never underestimate the power of a cute puppy or grumpy cat to draw hits. Catherine Ryan Hyde posted photos and videos showing the progress of her new cat and old dog learning to get along: a lesson in diplomacy. It got so popular, the dog and cat—now best of friends—have their own Facebook page.
  • Opinions (as long as you avoid polarizing subjects: see below) Any opinion piece about publishing news will probably get a lot of readers in the bookish community. Weigh in on Bezos buying the Washington Post, or how you feel about "authorized" fan fiction.
  • History and nostalgia pieces: Write historicals, or novels set in an earlier era? Anything about that era will be of interest to your readers. This is where people writing books of military history can share their own experiences. If you lived through history, the world wants to know about it. A blog is the perfect place to share. 
  • Travel pieces about the settings of your books. Even if you've only made the journey via Google maps and Wikipedia, your readers will be interested. If it's your hometown, even better. Interview local business owners and people who live and work in similar places to your fictional ones. This is where your own photographs can be a big plus. (Make sure all other photographs you use are not copyrighted. Only use photos licensed through Creative Commons.) 
  • How-to's and recipes. Write crafting mysteries? Offer interesting quilt patterns or knitting directions. Have a character who likes to fly kites? Tell readers how to build one.  And no matter what genre you write, if food is involved, people will enjoy a recipe for it. Or maybe you can offer a recipe for the busy writer to throw in the crockpot, or a tasty snack to serve to your book group.
  • Almost anything of general interest—especially to the kind of people you think might like your books. Anything that might make a good magazine article will make a good blogpost—especially a magazine your ideal reader is likely to buy.
  • A series of articles or vignettes you hope to make into a book. For nonfiction, blogging your book is OK, although if you get a traditional contract, you may be asked to take down those posts because of "non-compete" rules.

Not so Much

  • Daily word count. Sorry. Nobody cares. (Unless you're a member of a writers' group encouraging each other on—as sometimes happens during NaNoWriMo.) Although the original "weblogs" were often personal diaries, today's blogs are "other" oriented rather than "self" oriented and you need to write stuff that's interesting to people who don't already know you. 
  • Rejection sorrows and personal woes. These belong in your private journal. The one with the lock on it.
  • Your writer's block. Ditto. 
  • Teachy-Preachy stuff. Especially if you're not an expert. Don’t lecture people on how to get published if you’re not.
  • Pretentious word-farts. I landed on a writer's blog recently that gave no indication of the writer's name, genre, or work. Random phrases were scattered around, like: "This is all there is," and "Unless you are in pain, you're not doing it right," and "99% of published work is BS." Um, speaking of BS...  OK, this person is obviously young and going through a stage, but this isn't something you want to do in public.
  • Apologies for not blogging. We know it's hard to get around to the old blog. You don't need to tell us the specifics. Just call it "slow blogging" and get on with something interesting. 
  • Writing about writing exclusively, unless you have a "how to" book for writers
  • Religion or politics: unless your work is exclusively for people of the same faith or political persuasion. Or you live in a  part of the world with interesting politics and you have a unique viewpoint. (Extra credit if you're in a war zone.)
  • Your Fiction WIP. Especially if you hope to attract an agent. Not only do agents not have time to hunt for novels in the blogosphere, but they generally won't take a novel that's been blogged because it's already "published." (Selling novels is a different process from selling nonfiction—which is generally based 99% on platform—so the rules are different.)

    Some writers ARE able to attract a blog following by posting some short fiction or poetry, but I don't recommend you do it exclusively, because people skim blogs and usually won't read denser stuff. Plus you are giving away first rights and can't enter it in contests or submit to journals after putting it on a blog. It's better to post work in progress on a place like Wattpad which is password-protected and therefore not "publishing."

    But especially don't blog your unedited, unfinished novel hoping for praise or critique. You'll thank me later when you're at your editing stage. Honest. (If you want critique, I suggest you join one of the many online groups for the purpose, like CritiqueCircle.com.)
A blog is an expression of who you are: the face you offer the world. So be real and have fun.

Sometimes blogging can take off and you find you'd rather blog than work on your WIP. There's nothing wrong with that. You may have a future as a professional blogger and content provider—a much more lucrative field than writing novels. Nina Badzin discovered she enjoyed blogging more than fiction writing and used her blog to launch a career as a freelance writer.

Or if you're a book review blogger, you may be invited to intern for an agent and even become an agent yourself. That's what happened to book blogger Danielle Smith, now an agent at Foreword Literary.

But if you have your heart set on being a novelist, remember your fiction must take priority. That's why I support "slow blogging"—blogging once a week or less, preferably to a schedule.

For fiction writers, here's a quote from Jason Kong's post "7 Reasons Why Social Media isn't Growing Your Fiction Readership" from Joel Friedlander's blog.

"Your key to more followers isn’t posting more frequently or having more conversations. Nor is it constantly checking your feeds to see who said what. A readership develops because they have something to value and talk about....Writing good stories, as always, should remain your top priority."

For a more in-depth piece on how the stages of your writing career affect your blog you might want to read my piece, How to Blog Part 3: What Should You Blog About?

And here's a great piece about how to make your content "addictive" from Jeff Bullas. 

What about you, scriveners? What do you blog about? What do you want to read on other blogs? Any suggestions for the new blogger?

Next week: Ruth Harris is going to tell us about METADATA: one of those things we're all supposed to know about, but if you're like me, you're not quite sure what it is.

THIS WEEK'S BOOK DEAL: 
The Camilla Randall Mysteries Boxed Set is now on sale INTERNATIONALLY! 

My publisher has now spread the sale to all outlets. Thanks everybody, for keeping it on the Amazon US comic fiction bestseller list all summer. (And this week on the women's fiction bestseller list in Canada and comic fiction in Germany.)

99c on Amazon US, NOOK, and now £0.77 on Amazon UK  and 99c CDN on Amazon CA and 49 rupees on Amazon IN, and the equivalent on all Amazon stores.



"The Best Revenge, Ghost Writers in the Sky and Sherwood Limited are hysterical. Anne Allen will keep you laughing throughout, but in the meantime she dabbles her fingers in some topics worth some serious thought: sexism, weightism, lechery, murder, duplicity, homelessness & poverty to name a few. If you love to laugh, you'll like these three books. If you love to think, ponder AND laugh, be ready to fall in love"... C.S. Perryess

Note to anybody who has read a Camilla book and enjoyed it 

I could use your help. If you have time to leave a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I'll be eternally grateful. When you have a bestselling book, the negative nellies come out and your star rating takes a hit. Comedy can be so subjective and a lot of people don't "get" the same things. (And sock puppets abound: a lot of the nasty comments come from people who've never reviewed anything elseor give nothing but one-stars to every other book on the same bestseller list. Plus on B & N, people can give stars with with no text.) If you do like my humor, and you've enjoyed the books, I could really use your help. Just a star rating on B & N could make all the difference.   


OPPORTUNITY ALERTS

1) Find a Writing Group through Galley Cat! One of the most reliable and popular news outlets in publishing is creating a directory for writers to network to get critiques of their work You can sign up here.

2) Get your book international visibility for a reasonable price. EBUK is now advertising bargain books to close to a dozen countries, including the US and Canada, and they're still at half price through the end of August. You can get more info here. Make sure your book is under $3.99 and provide links to all stores, not not only Amazon (unless you're in Select.) Ads are a little over 10 bucks until the end of August.

And you can sign up for the newsletter for your country right here. I've signed up for the new US version. If you like bargain ebooks, this is a great free service.

3) Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards. Since most short fiction contests tend to favor literary work, this is a great one for genre authors. Choose your favorite genre and enter your best in 4,000 words or less. Six first prizes of $500 each and a Grand Prize of $2,500 and a trip to the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Deadline September 16th

4) FAMILY CIRCLE FICTION CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE Submit an original fictional story of no more than 2,500 words. Three (3) Entries per person and per household throughout the Contest Period. Grand Prize: A prize package including $1,000; a gift certificate to one Mediabistro online course of winner's choice, one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Second Place Prize: $500; one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Third Place Prize: $250; and a one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership. Deadline September 16th.

5) The Harper's Bazaar UK Short Story Prize is open to all writers. NO ENTRY FEE. Are you the next Dorothy Parker or Anita Loos? Submit an original short story (up to 3,000 words) on the subject of 'spring' to:shortstory@harpersbazaar.co.uk. The winning entry will appear in the May 2014 issue. Its author will be able to choose a first-edition book from Asprey's Fine and Rare Books Department to the value of £3,000 and enjoy a week-long retreat at Eilean Shona House, on the 2,000-acre private island off the west coast of Scotland where JM Barrie wrote his screenplay for Peter Pan. Deadline December 13th.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Go to A Writers Conference? 10 Reflections and 10 Tips to Get the Most out of Your Conference Experience


I kind of have a love-hate relationship with writers' conferences. I've been to some that left me dazed and confused (and considerably poorer) but I've attended others that energized and inspired me.

So are conferences necessary to launch your writing career?

No, but it can be a great way to  learn the basics of the business, network with other writers and industry professionals—and help you make the leap from amateur writer to professional author.

Plus a conference can offer an intensive course in the craft of writing that can be as valuable as a lengthy college class.

But I won't lie to you: it can be an exhausting, draining experience.

That's why I suggest newbies start with a smaller, local conference. They tend to be less expensive and less intimidating than the big national cons, but you can still make vital connections, meet agents, and network with other authors.

For tips on choosing the right conference for you, see our post on Writers Conferences: Are They Relevant in the E-Age? You can research conferences in the Shaw Guides to Writers Conferences.

Our local Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo, CA is the type that can be ideal for a new writer. I always enjoy it, and I've made a lot of great connections there. I got to meet my blog idol Nathan Bransford at the CCWC, and Smashwords' brilliant Mark Coker.

I've asked CCWC director Judy Salamacha to give us some insights into the concrete ways the writers' conference experience can help an aspiring writer succeed. Judy is a long-time journalist and an industry professional who's savvy enough to fill her conferences with cutting-edge publishing stars like Nathan and Mark Coker—and this year, Joel Friedlander—so she knows the business.

But until recently, she'd never published a book-length work herself.

In April 2013 she and her co-author, Sandra Mittelsteadt, published a book of local California history, Colonel Baker's Field – about the history of Bakersfield, CA—with Bear State Books. Judy got to find out what it's like to be one of those authors she's been shepherding at the CCWC for all those conferences.

She had a lot of "a-ha" moments when the shoe was on the other foot, so I asked if she could share them here. Writers' conferences are a great place to educate yourself about our complex and rapidly-changing industry. I'm not teaching this year, but I know the CCWC will be great!

10 Things I've learned from Writers' Conferences
by Judy Salamacha 

#1 – Writing is hard work, but the journey is worth it. 

Why make the journey?

I think the answer could be as simple as "writers write." We’re here to tell the story…chronicle an era…please our readers...please ourselves.

But what I really believe is writers keep writing to feel the narcotic joy of the writing process—going to those out-of-body moments when the muse darts words from brain to fingertips to page or screen.

Publication is a bonus: a confirmation that someone wants to read what we have written.

#2 – Publishing has changed and now is the best time for writers to become authors. 

Publishing has produced its own story arc during the four years of my involvement with the CCWC.

The first year, we heard we had to get a traditional publisher.

The next, we were advised to go for it and self-publish because self-publishing was the new pathway to get noticed by a traditional publisher.

Meanwhile, agents realized change is here to stay, so they are offering new services that today’s writers need. (For more on agent-assisted publishing , see Porter Anderson's series  at Publishing Perspectives...Anne)

Now we see there are many different paths open to writers—more than ever before.

#3 – If the goal is to publish, then pitch until you find your niche.

Attending a conference allows writers to meet editors, agents and publishers face-to-face. If nothing else, writers are kept informed about the new rules of the game.

I’m convinced the safest forum to get genuine feedback for the least investment is at a conference.
  • Write something you think has potential and have it reviewed at an anonymous first page session. 
  • Or send ten pages in pre-conference for an editors’ manuscript critique. 
  • Be willing to test out your concept at an agents’ pitch session. 
  • Talk about your ideas with other writers who are as eager to glean and schmooze as you are. 
The more we put ourselves and concepts out there, the better the chances are that we’ll stumble upon that unique new story or a way to freshen an old one.

Conferences provide the inspiration and confidence so you can combine an idea with your personal voice and style and make your project ready to seek publication.

#4 – Write the first draft before editing and don't get lost in the research.

Once you have your outline, follow it and plow through until the end.

It was so easy to get lost in the vast amount of material about California in the 1800s, and it was also easy to go back and re-read and re-write each time I sat down to focus on the story.

Not only did we research and edit too soon, we let life and tangents take over. We'd have saved a lot of effort if we'd had a solid draft the first time.

#5 – Maybe your first idea won’t be one that gets published. 

We changed the direction of the book a couple of times, learning from feedback we got at conferences.

The first change was for a great reason. We had the chance to collaborate with the great-great grandson of a character in our story. Here was an entirely new direction: a biography.

We wrote a new draft and submitted it for a manuscript critique and signed up to have our first page reviewed by the editors at the conference.

With kindness and finesse, our new concept was rejected.

So…we bought a book by one of the editors, Jordan Rosenfeld's Make a Scene. It helped us organize our format so we were back to writing a product that fit our style.

#6 – Don't self-publish a book before its time. 

We self-published, thinking we’ll put it out there and discover the issues from our readers…what was I thinking!!...

We didn’t discover a thing from our readers. We were the only buyers.

But two things happened with our aborted effort.

1) An editor let us know the beginning chapter was not where the book needed to start.

2) We found a publisher who took charge to get us in print—the right way this time.

A conference can help you find an editor, agent or publisher who will help you avoid these pitfalls.

Best to listen! Query, pitch, manuscript critique opportunities are all available to help get you there. And agents are now creating opportunities within their agencies to help those who want to self-publish. Second time around, I’d go there.

#7 – Your friends are not editors. 

Find a critique group in person or online, at a conference, or a privately conducted workshop like the one I attended with Catherine Ryan Hyde. (Catherine and I will be offering a series of webinars soon, so even if you don't live in CA, you can benefit from her expertise...Anne.) 

Look for someone who appreciates your concept, genre, and talent and will enhance your creativity rather than change your vision for your story or style as a writer.

#8 – Shout-out your triumph. 

Once the book is written you still need to find the readers. We got lucky. Our book has a regional niche and is the only biography about Bakersfield’s namesake currently in print.

So when our publisher asked for a review from the local newspaper, it started the ball rolling for other media opportunities and group presentations.

We partnered with libraries and independent book stores who were interested in regional books. By giving a couple of copies to the library, we also received an offer to do presentations for their local author’s programs. Once we had one presentation that motivated readers to buy, we fine-tuned our presentation and made ourselves available for future presentations and book signings.

#9 – Building platform makes sense. 

Finding your readers before your book is finished through social media? What a concept!

What are the benefits for writers to use Facebook, Twitter, Blogging? Now I get it!

  • Posting on Facebook and blogging regularly forces us to write. 
  • Twitter encourages conciseness. 
  • All of it puts our name out there to more potential readers than we could ever find in a lifetime of presentations. 
  • Social Media allows us to search for our own writing voice. 
  • It gives us a platform to share insights that should build trust and inspire potential readers. 

#10 – Enjoy the journey and thank those who have helped along the way. 

Thank you, Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris, for trusting I might have a “take-away” insight for your mega-reader blog base.

Even if you aren’t ready to publish, test out your manuscript and hang out with writers who want to be authors and authors who want to learn to be better writers. Who knows, you might even meet your editor, agent and publisher at the conference.

And I hope some of your readers can visit beautiful San Luis Obispo on September 20-21 and attend the 29th Central Coast Writers Conference.

~
And if you do go, here are some tips from Anne...

Anne's 10 Do's and Don'ts to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

1) DON’T dress up. Wear neat but comfy clothes. The days will be long and intense. It helps to wear something distinctive: a scarf, hat, or jacket every day that will help people remember you.

2) DO Google the presenters and learn as much about them as you can so you'll have good subjects for conversation if you have a chance to chat.  (Don't pitch your project unless you’re in a specified pitch session!)  But it's smart to offer to get a presenter a cup of coffee or ask how she’s enjoying the conference.  It will give you great material for your query letter.

3) DON’T expect to get representation at a conference. It does happen in rare cases, but it won't 99.9% of the time as agent Sarah LaPolla said in a great post last week. 

4) DO get business cards printed if you don't have any yet. They are essential for networking. Something that can be helpful—if requested—is what’s called a “one sheet”. It’s mostly a convention in the Christian book world, but it’s useful for any kind of book gathering. It’s a printed page with your photo, bio, contact info and a short pitch for your book including word count, genre, target audience and short synopsis.  Here's the skinny on one-sheets from the agents at Books & Such.

5) DON’T cart around all 800 pages of your magnum opus and try to thrust it upon faculty members. If you're attending a hands-on critique session workshop—bring a first chapter, story, or a few poems.  (Full disclosure: I schlepped my own first novel around a writers' conference for a whole weekend before I realized nobody else had one.)

6) DO perfect your pitch beforehand, so you can tell an agent or editor in three sentences what your book is about. (See my post on “Hooks Loglines and Pitches.”) Then ask if you can query (if your book is complete.) If she says yes, you can put “REQUESTED” in the email header. A big plus.

7) DON’T neglect your health. Carry some protein bars and water and maybe an energy drink. Your breaks may be too short to grab real food. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don’t feel you have to attend every session.

8) DO take a notebook and several pens as well as your laptop or tablet—wifi can be iffy and batteries die.

9) DON’T forget to have fun. You’re there to make friends as well as learn. Skip a class and hang out with some other writers. Go to the bar. As Chuck Wendig says, that's where the writers are. These connections will probably be the most important thing you take away from the conference.

10) DO remember agents and editors are people too. As the late, great Miss Snark said “It’s like visiting the reptile house. They're as afraid of you as you are of them. Honest.”

For more great tips on Writers conferences, check out Meghan Ward's tips at Writerland.           

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever been to a conference? Was is a good experience? What conferences would you recommend to a new writer? Is there one you're longing to get to someday?

Colonel Baker's Field by Judy Salamacha and Sandra Mittelsteadt is available 
from Bear State Books


You can find more about the Central Coast Writers Conference at the Cuesta College Website.

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS

1) Self-Publish your book for FREE! BookBaby is offering their basic book publishing package free if you get their coupon here this week. This is an amazing deal. You get basic formatting and distribution on all formats, for Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo and many, many more. Just make sure your ms. is perfect. Making corrections will cost you. Deadline August 15th.

2) Cash prizes for memoir. Poetry or prose. NO entry fee. Memoir Journal A prize of $500 and publication in Memoir Journal is given twice yearly for a memoir in the form of a poem or an essay. The editors will judge. Using the online submission system, submit up to five poems or up to 10,000 words of prose. Visit the website for complete guidelines. Deadline August 16th.

3) Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards. Since most short fiction contests tend to favor literary work, this is a great one for genre authors. Choose your favorite genre and enter your best in 4,000 words or less. Six first prizes of $500 each and a Grand Prize of $2,500 and a trip to the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Deadline, Sept 16th

4) FAMILY CIRCLE FICTION CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE  Submit an original fictional story of no more than 2,500 words. Three (3) Entries per person and per household throughout the Contest Period. Grand Prize: A prize package including $1,000; a gift certificate to one Mediabistro online course of winner's choice, one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Second Place Prize: $500; one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Third Place Prize: $250; and a one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership. Deadline September 16th.

5) The Harper's Bazaar UK Short Story Prize is open to all writers. NO ENTRY FEE. Are you the next Dorothy Parker or Anita Loos? Submit an original short story (up to 3,000 words) on the subject of 'spring' to: shortstory@harpersbazaar.co.uk. The winning entry will appear in the May 2014 issue. Its author will be able to choose a first-edition book from Asprey's Fine and Rare Books Department to the value of £3,000 and enjoy a week-long retreat at Eilean Shona House, on the 2,000-acre private island off the west coast of Scotland where JM Barrie wrote his screenplay for Peter Pan. Deadline December 13th.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Social Media Secrets Part II: How to Blog your Way out of the Slush Pile and onto the Bestseller List


"Blogging doesn't sell books."

"Don't waste your time blogging."

"Spend more time on Facebook/Pinterest/Tumblr/Twitter/YouTube/ Goodreads/Soliciting reviews/Spamming your friends with newsletters."

You're hearing this stuff every day.

But in a survey published this week, 63% of readers said they discover books most often on author websites (a blog is a website.) Facebook nearly tied with that, but other forms of social media were also-rans, with newsletters at 36%, Goodreads at 27% and Twitter at 18%.

I think every author can benefit from a well-maintained blog. Even if you only blog once a month. (I'm a big advocate of slow blogging, but I think it's best to post on a timetable: write at your leisure, but post to a schedule.)

Why do I think authors should blog?

Because it worked for me. Let me tell you my story—

Four years ago my career was over. My publisher had gone under. My third agent had dropped me. All my freelance writing gigs had dried up or stopped paying.

I was bloodying my knuckles on the doors of agents and publishers. If I got a response at all, it was to let me know that nobody wanted a washed-up author of funny mysteries. (Humor never sells; just ask any agent.) I was advised to change my name and start writing steampunk or YA zombie romance.

If you Googled my name you'd have to go through 10 pages before you found one entry about me or my books.

On a sad Friday the 13th in the late 'oughties, I decided to start this blog as a place to post archives of my old columns from Freelance Writing Organization International.

I promptly lost the blog. Yeah. Don't do this. Remember to bookmark that baby blog!

But three months later, I went hunting and found it again. And I started blogging once a week or so. For the first year, nobody read it. Seriously. I have posts that still haven't had more than 10 hits.

But posting once a week gave me back some of the confidence I'd lost when my career fell apart. I felt like a professional again. I could communicate with other writers all over the world. (As well as close to home: a book blogger I met on an Irish site—so I thought she was Irish—turned out to be my neighbor in San Luis Obispo, CA!)

Then, in 2010, after I won a guest post spot on Nathan Bransford's blog, more people started to drift over here.

Fast forward to 2013.
  • My mystery boxed set has been in the top 50 bestsellers in comic fiction for two months. I'm playing bestseller-list leapfrog with my idols: Dave Barry, Douglas Adams, and Lisa Lutz.
  • I've got seven books in print, another in final edits, and my work is in over a dozen new anthologies, magazines and literary journals.
  • Both my publishers came to me—I didn't have to query.
  • I share my blog with Ruth Harris: a NYT bestselling author.When I first started reading Ruth's books in the early 1990s, I never dreamed I'd even meet such a famous author.  
  • I've written a book with Amazon's current #1 bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde (and we're now preparing a set of webinars for new writers.)  
  • I'm invited to speak at writers' conferences and seminars—and magazines now solicit my work.
  • When you Google my name, you get 47 pages of ME before you get to Anne R. Allen the San Jose stockbroker, (who must hate me. I apologize, Anne.)
All of this happened directly because of my blog.

I'm not saying all blogs will do this. But with patience, a blog can help you meet the people who can take your career to the next level.

I know many authors who, like me, have met their publishers, agents, and writing partners through blogging. (And that neighbor I met on the Irish writing site? She's now a literary agent.)

Do all authors need a blog? Maybe not, but you need to be on social media somewhere. You can't just have a launch party in your local bookstore and get a press release into your hometown newspaper and expect to make significant sales. (And don't count on your publisher for much help with marketing.)

Today, a writer's market is global. Do you know the country where people read the most? India.  Or where the 2nd biggest population of English speakers lives? India. Followed by Pakistan and Nigeria.

A blog is your home in that global marketplace. It's a place where people can drop in and get to know you and find out about your books.

NOTE: Blogging isn't for direct sales of books. No social media is about hard-selling. (See my post on Social Media Secrets from July 21.) Social media is about making friends. (With people and with search engines. You want Google to be your BFF.)

For an example of how making friends on social media can help your writing career, here's a heartwarming story of how Aussie novelist Prue Batten was able to get first-hand knowledge about a Knights Templar building in 12th century France for the next in her bestselling Guy of Gisborne series—through a social media connection.

When should you start blogging? Not when you've just started that book you’ve always wanted to write. Don't scatter your energies. If it’s either blogging or writing the book, the book should always win.

But I'd say if you don't have a blog yet, you should start one when you’re getting ready to send out queries or preparing to self-publish. (Which should probably be when you're polishing up your second book.)

Why blog?

1) You need a website anyway. Sending out a query when you don’t have a website is a waste of time. Most agents and reviewers will reject on that item alone. (And yes, if you're getting lots of form rejections on a polished query, this may be the reason. Stop revising the query and start blogging.)

2) It gets your name into the search engines faster. A static website gets less traffic, so the Google spiders don't notice it as often.

3) You’re a writer. Blogs are writing. This is your medium.

4) Other social media are subject to faddism. MySpace, anyone?

5) Other social media can kick you out any time. I get put in Facebook jail all the time, because some troll loves to mark links to this blog as spam.

6) Control. Unfortunately, the Internet is infested with trolls, rage addicts, and spammers. I know a woman whose Facebook account got hacked by some diet-drug spammer who hit all her FB peeps with insulting ads. Several promptly "defriended" her before she even knew what happened. Another friend got hit by a porn site who "tagged" a bunch of amateur porn with his name so it went all over his page. Stuff like this happens every day.

But on your own blog, there's that little trash can icon. A troll, spammer or furious fool shows up and you click it. All gone.

OK, now I'm going to tell you my #1 big, huge secret that nobody will tell you about how to have a successful blog:

1) Visit and comment on other blogs!!!

Even if you don't have your own blog, you can start building your online presence by commenting on popular blogs. Check the list of great blogs to follow on our new "HOW TO GET A BOOK PUBLISHED" page.

A comment right here can put your name in front of 10,000 people in a week. It could take years to reach that many people with a new blog.

  • Commenting on high profile blogs is the quickest way to get into search engines. Most of my 47 Google pages come from my comments on other people's blogs.
  • My blog took off because of what I posted on Nathan Bransford's blog, not my own. That's how people learned my name and style.
  • Discussions on high-profile blogs can lead to discussions on your own. Find yourself making a long comment? That's your next blogpost. Invite people to discuss it further on your own blog. 
  • Support somebody's argument on a high-profile blog and you have a blogfriend. That's how I got my first followers.

But for a newbie, commenting can be a daunting task. They ask you for some kind of ID and you've got no idea what that *&%# is about, right? You may be allowed to comment as "anonymous"—but that doesn't get your name out there, and you can't comment on blogs like this one where anon comments are disabled (because of spam and trolls, alas.)

So here's my #2 secret: if you're not commenting on blogs because you don't have a blog ID—

2) Join Google+ 

It's an easy, no-strings social site where you can participate or not (just unclick "email me" functions if you want to keep participation to a minimum.) It gives you a "user ID" that allows you to comment on most blogs without jumping through all those hoops.

Once  you join, Google knows who you are, and that profile not only allows easier blog commenting, but it comes up when you're Googled, with your photo and contact info. If you have gmail, it's super easy to sign up, and it's not hard for anybody, even a confirmed Luddite.

And you'll be in a position to get more involved when you're ready. Google + is considered the up-and-coming social media site by most top social media experts. Guy Kawasaki says it's what Twitter was in 2008.

Google+ doesn't charge you for reaching more than a handful of readers the way Facebook does, and it doesn't invade your privacy or target you with ads. Right now, it's not as active as Facebook, but with 400 million users, it's a growing force.

You can also join Wordpress without having a Wordpress blog. You can sign up for a username only account.

Here are some more "secrets" I learned by trial and error

3)  Put links in each post.

I happened to have done this right by mistake. (It's my academic training. Write those footnotes! Cite your source!) I always link to my source material, so people don't think I'm making stuff up.

Turns out those hyperlinks are how Google finds you. That's the bait that lures their robo-spiders to your site. That's what they mean by "SEO—search engine optimization"—three words that usually make my eyes glaze over.

Another way to "optimize" those search engines: don't get thesaurus-happy. That means avoid using what grammarian H.W. Fowler called "elegant variation."

Normal sentence: "It was a good bull, a strong bull, a bull bred to fight to the death."

Elegant variation: "It was a good bull, a strong animal, a male creature of the bovine persuasion bred to do battle..."

But search engines who are looking for something about bulls will be drawn to that repetition you're trying to avoid. So go ahead and repeat yourself. (But not so much that you look like you're gaming the spiders.)

4) Write Tweetable titles.

I often find a blogpost I want to Tweet about, but the title says nothing, so I have to make one up, and often I don't have time.

So make it easier for people to tweet you:  No one-word titles. Nothing generic or enigmatic. This is one place to be a salesperson rather than a poet. You want stuff like "How to's", lists, and questions. Think magazine cover teasers: stuff like "What Your Teacher Won't Tell You About the Oxford Comma!" or "Does Chocolate Make You a Better Writer?"

Look at what you click on when you're skimming the web. Are you going to click through to read something titled "Alone" or "Scribblings" or "Sad Thoughts"?

5) Don't try to maintain more than one blog. 

If you write in very different genres under several names, you may need more blogs, but do NOT have a blog for every book or every character. You can't keep them all up, and readers who are looking for you do not appreciate having to click all over the cyberverse looking for your current blog.

Note: the Internet is littered with abandoned blogs. Unfortunately, the old ones will show up higher in the search engines than a new one. So if you want to start a new direction with your blogging, use the old url, or at least leave a forwarding address on the old one. If an agent or reader Googles you and finds a blog that hasn't been updated since your rant about the cancelling of Boston Legal, they're not going to be impressed.

And unless you write erotica and keep your identity a secret, be wary of having a "personal" blog (or FB page) and a "professional" one. Nothing is secret in social media and everything you do online needs to be professional. (I strongly advise a "closed group" family Facebook page for family photos and news.)

6)  Put share buttons on your blog

Those are those little "f" "t", "g +1" and other buttons that allow people to share your brilliant words to their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. They are the way you will build a following. Even if you don't use Twitter, Facebook, etc, you want people to spread the word.

7) Write a friendly, informative "About Me" page.

Have any awards, publications, etc? Have a claim to fame outside of writing—like winning the state chili cook-off or raising exotic gerbils? Have any online publications you can link to? This is where you crow about it. Here's more on how to write an author bio.

8) Invite comments.

Ask a question at the end of the post—a call to action.

And turn off the "prove you're not a robot" CAPTCHA. A new blog doesn't get much spam, so it doesn’t need protection from spambots. But it does need comments, so don't make people jump through hoops. Also, I think it's best not to moderate comments on your most recent post. I only moderate posts a week old or more. (Older posts attract the most spam.)

9) Don't forget social media is SOCIAL.

Reply to comments!

Full disclosure: I didn't do that for an entire year. I was totally clueless.

Oh, yeah, and visit your followers' blogs—especially when you're starting out. We don't have time to visit all 1475 of our followers, but I drop in on several each week. I always learn something.

10) Learn to write 21st century prose.

People skim on the Interwebz. Don't post big hunks of text. White space is your friend. So are numbered lists, bullet points, bolding, etc. Anything over 2000 words is off-putting. (I know. Sorry. I sometimes go over the limit myself.)

11) Make your blog easy on the eyes. 

No light text on black background, please. Besides looking like an interface from 1987, it's hard on the eyeballs. Ditto tiny fonts and images behind the text. Anything too busy will drive people away.

12) Put your name on the blog.

Resist the urge to use a cutsie title.  People will Google your name, not "Scribbles on Sunday" If you haven't got your name on your blog, just change the header to "Susie Scrivener's Scribbles on Sunday," (but keep your old URL, or you'll have to start from scratch with the search engines.)

***

And here's my personal #1 reason for blogging: It's the only form of social media (except maybe Google +) where you don't have to act all "OMG I'm totally still in high school!"

In TWO WEEKS, I'll devote a post to the biggest question I get from new bloggers: WHAT SHOULD I BLOG ABOUT?

What about you, scriveners? Do you blog? Have you found it helpful in your career? A total waste of time? Tell us your stories!

Next week: we'll have a fascinating post from the director of a writers conference on what she herself has learned from the conferences she's directed. Plus we'll have 10 must-read tips for anybody planning to go to a conference.

BOOK BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

This month, Sherwood, Ltd is 99c for Kindle US, UK, Nook, and FREE on Smashwords and  on Kobo. And for book-sniffers (I have to admit to some closet book-sniffing myself) it is available in paper for the marked-down price of $8.54. (regularly $8.99 on Amazon and $12.99 in stores.)  It's also on sale in paper in the in the UK for £6.81.



"It's not yer typical whodunnit, nor is the protagonist anything like a cop. Ms. Allen has crafted a wily tale of murder, deceit, and intrigue that can stand with the best of them. Her characters are all too real and her dialogue took me from laughter to chills to suspicion of everybody in the book. Good on her!

Editorially, the book is also refreshingly well-done and all but devoid of grammatical or other such gaffes. This was obviously written by an intelligent woman who is also a fine story-teller. My congratulations to her.

My suggestion? Read this book. It will be well worth the time.
"...David Keith

Special note to Camilla fans: If you've enjoyed any of the Camilla books, I hope you'll consider writing a review here. Once a book makes the bestseller lists, the trolls come out. And of course, comedy is always subjective. Genuine reviews from Camilla fans would be a huge help right now.

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS

1) SMOKE AND MIRRORS podcasts. Get your short story recorded FREE for an online podcast! Fantastic publicity if your story is accepted by SMOKE AND MIRRORS. They broadcast about three stories a week. Spooky, dark tales preferred. No previous publication necessary. They judge on the story alone.

2) Cash prizes for memoir. Poetry or prose. NO entry fee. Memoir Journal A prize of $500 and publication in Memoir Journal is given twice yearly for a memoir in the form of a poem or an essay. The editors will judge. Using the online submission system, submit up to five poems or up to 10,000 words of prose. Visit the website for complete guidelines. Deadline August 16th.

3) Authors: advertise to international readers with EbookBargainsUK. Yes, I keep pushing these guys, but they are growing like mad. I heard they've recently been contacted by Apple, so their newsletters should be great for reaching iPad readers. And their prices are amazingly reasonable.

Listings will be half-price through July and August and anyone listing then will get a credit for a free listing for September onwards (excluding the Holiday period December 20 – January 10). ALSO: They are launching Ebook Bargains Australia, Ebook Bargains New Zealand, Ebook Bargains Canada and Ebook Bargains India, offering authors a chance to target their ebooks at readers through local stores in those countries. Inclusion in these international email newsletters will not cost you anything extra! The one small listing fee will get your ebooks in all five newsletters, reaching five of the biggest English-speaking markets outside the USA.

Readers outside the US who want great deals—sign up here

4) FAMILY CIRCLE FICTION CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE  Submit an original fictional story of no more than 2,500 words. Three (3) Entries per person and per household throughout the Contest Period. Grand Prize: A prize package including $1,000; a gift certificate to one Mediabistro online course of winner's choice, one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Second Place Prize: $500; one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership; and a one year Mediabistro Freelance Marketplace membership. Third Place Prize: $250; and a one year Mediabistro AvantGuild membership. Deadline September 16, 2013.

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