This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
----------------------------------------------------- Blogger Template Style Sheet Name: Scribe Designer: Todd Dominey URL: domineydesign.com / whatdoiknow.org Date: 27 Feb 2004 ------------------------------------------------------ */ /* Defaults ----------------------------------------------- */ body { margin:0; padding:0; font-family: Georgia, Times, Times New Roman, sans-serif; font-size: small; text-align:center; color:#29303B; line-height:1.3; background:#483521 url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg.gif") repeat; } blockquote { font-style:italic; padding:0 32px; line-height:1.6; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } p {margin:0;padding:0}; abbr, acronym { cursor:help; font-style:normal; } code {font:12px monospace;white-space:normal;color:#666;} hr {display:none;} img {border:0;} /* Link styles */ a:link {color:#473624;text-decoration:underline;} a:visited {color:#716E6C;text-decoration:underline;} a:hover {color:#956839;text-decoration:underline;} a:active {color:#956839;} /* Layout ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #wrap { background-color:#473624; border-left:1px solid #332A24; border-right:1px solid #332A24; width:700px; margin:0 auto; padding:8px; text-align:center; } #main-top { width:700px; height:49px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_top.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0;padding:0; display:block; } #main-bot { width:700px; height:81px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_bot.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0; padding:0; display:block; } #main-content { width:700px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_mid.jpg") repeat-y; margin:0; text-align:left; display:block; } } @media handheld { #wrap { width:90%; } #main-top { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-bot { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-content { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } } #inner-wrap { padding:0 50px; } #blog-header { margin-bottom:12px; } #blog-header h1 { margin:0; padding:0 0 6px 0; font-size:225%; font-weight:normal; color:#612E00; } #blog-header h1 a:link { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:visited { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:hover { border:0; text-decoration:none; } #blog-header p { margin:0; padding:0; font-style:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } div.clearer { clear:left; line-height:0; height:10px; margin-bottom:12px; _margin-top:-4px; /* IE Windows target */ background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat bottom left; } @media all { #main { width:430px; float:right; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } #sidebar { width:150px; float:left; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } } @media handheld { #main { width:100%; float:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } #footer { clear:both; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; padding-top:10px; _padding-top:6px; /* IE Windows target */ } #footer p { line-height:1.5em; font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:75%; } /* Typography :: Main entry ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.date-header { font-weight:normal; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; margin:0; padding:0; } .post { margin:8px 0 24px 0; line-height:1.5em; } h3.post-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:140%; color:#1B0431; margin:0; padding:0; } .post-body p { margin:0 0 .6em 0; } .post-footer { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#211104; font-size:74%; border-top:1px solid #BFB186; padding-top:6px; } .post ul { margin:0; padding:0; } .post li { line-height:1.5em; list-style:none; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 0px .3em; vertical-align:top; padding: 0 0 .6em 17px; margin:0; } /* Typography :: Sidebar ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.sidebar-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; margin:0; padding:0; color:#211104; } h2.sidebar-title img { margin-bottom:-4px; } #sidebar ul { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:6px 0 12px 0; padding:0; } #sidebar ul li { list-style: none; padding-bottom:6px; margin:0; } #sidebar p { font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments {} #comments h4 { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; color:#29303B; margin:0; padding:0; } #comments-block { line-height:1.5em; } .comment-poster { background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 2px .35em; margin:.5em 0 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { font-size:100%; margin:0 0 .2em 0; } .comment-timestamp { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#29303B; font-size:74%; margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#473624; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:visited { color:#716E6C; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:hover { color:#956839; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:active { color:#956839; text-decoration:none; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ #profile-container { margin-top:12px; padding-top:12px; height:auto; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; } .profile-datablock { margin:0 0 4px 0; } .profile-data { display:inline; margin:0; padding:0 8px 0 0; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; color:#211104; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 8px 0 0; border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:2px; } .profile-textblock { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif;font-size:86%;margin:0;padding:0; } .profile-link { margin-top:5px; font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; } /* Post photos ----------------------------------------------- */ img.post-photo { border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:4px; } /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 0 12px 20px; }

Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

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, October 27, 2013

The Big "O" for Writers—Organization: The Writer's Toolbox #3

This is Ruth Harris's third installment in her Writer's Toolbox series. You can read Writer's Toolbox #2 here and Writers Toolbox #1 here

Today she's talking about tools for organizing your research and ideas: very timely for me this week. 

I've been working on and off for months on researching my next Camilla mystery, which takes Camilla back to the English Midlands (where she may or may not find out whether Peter Sherwood survived that yacht disaster).

I had the bright idea of creating a subplot involving Richard III, since his remains were recently discovered under a parking lot a few miles from the Midlands town I call Swynsby-on-Trent. (And who better to meet up with the ghost of the last Plantagenet king than Camilla's best friend, Plantagenet Smith?) 

And ever since, I've been lost down a rabbit hole of research. 

Do you have any idea how many books have been written on the subject of Richard III? Then there are the archives of the Richard III Society, the Society of Friends of King Richard III, the Richard III Foundation, Inc.and myriad social media pages and websites. I could spend a lifetime reading Ricardian lore and never write my book at all. 

There is, indeed such a thing as Too Much Information. So I'm going to get to work with some of these tools (just downloaded Evernote!) Now I'll see if it will help me tame the wild ideas in my head into a well-behaved plot. ...Anne

Writer’s Toolbox #3: Organize Up. Clutter Down. A cyber-Container Store for writers with lots of FREE stuff.
by Ruth Harris

Ideas come helter-skelter. Plot points arrive unbidden and in no coherent order. Characters can be stubborn and do what they what—not what the author wants. Dialog arrives in disjointed bits and pieces. The “perfect” sassy/ominous/devastating come-back might take a week (or more!) to marinate and then create.

Research all by itself can be chaotic mess. Take my novel ZURI for example:

  • Rhino ophthalmology? Check.
  • Safety protocols at zoos? Yep.
  • Endangered species? Basic.
  • Poachers and poaching? Can’t write the book without.
  • Illicit wildlife trading stats? Need-to-know.
  • How elephants communicate? But of course.
  • Career paths for veterinarians? Certainly.
  • Good goats and bad goats? Definitely.
  • What, exactly, does an expert in animal communication do? Gotta find out for sure.

In order to write Zuri there was all this plus plenty more but no way was I the only writer slogging through an Everest of info. Writers of historicals, techno thrillers, fantasy and multi-book series must also keep track of voluminous amounts of data and information.

In all books timelines need to be pinned down and adhered to. Can’t have a snowy Christmas scene in which a character in shorts and a t-shirt admires the blooming geraniums on the terrace.

Conflicts must escalate in pulse-pounding ways which means scenes must fall in just the right sequence. Can’t have a violent shootout in a gleaming office tower come before what seems a laid-off employee’s boozed-up threat against the boss s/he hates.

Characters need to be believable and consistent. Can’t have a blond, blue-eyed Alpha hero turn into the shy, poetic type. At least not without a damn good reason.

The overwhelmed writer must find a way to pummel, massage and mold the whole mess into a book that will delight readers.

It’s a huge, often frustrating task but here are some handy or even indispensable helpers, some I’ve mentioned before, others new (at least to me), lots of them FREE or available at modest cost.

Evernote, a FREE download, is well known and widely used. Evernote’s slogan is "Remember Everything", and this powerful app does exactly that. Evernote can save images, web pages, videos, audio files (great for phone interviews) and comes with a handy reminder function. Evernote will take dictation, you can email research to and from, the web clipper does its job perfectly and it’s hard to imagine a writer whose life won’t be made easier—and more organized!—thanks to Evernote.

Here are some research how-tos and tips from author and blogger Alexandra Samuel to help you get even more from Evernote. Thanks to Alexandra, I found out that notebooks can be set offline so you can access your information even when you’re away from an internet connection.

Scrivener, a powerful writing tool which comes in both Mac and PC versions, is an effortless organizer. My Mom used to say “a place for everything and everything in its place” and Keith Blount, Scrivener’s creator, must have been listening.

Scrivener provides places for your manuscript, your research including web links, images, audio files and videos. There are easily accessible cork board and outline functions and, because of Scrivener’s “binder” concept, moving scenes around is quick and easy. There is a generous trial and, if you decide Scrivener is for you, the purchase price is $45.

At The Organized Writer, Annie Neugebauer makes the excellent point that organization is just a framework for creativity. Hover your cursor over the Organized Writer on this page and you will find a useful drop down list of templates for everything from a writer’s bio to plot sheets, agent queries and character charts. All FREE.

A post there by Stacey Crew has a number of suggestions for coping with the messy business of writing. One I particularly like is using your smart phone to dictate ideas that occur to you when you’re away from your desk doing errands or walking in the park. Your phone will convert your words to text so you can email yourself your brilliant ideas and save having to retype them.

At Adventures in YA Publishing, Martina Boone and co. offer detailed instructions plus pix about how to create a plot board. The plot board (called a storyboard when used in pre-production on movies and tv) uses ordinary office supplies and allows a writer to visualize his or her book scene by scene or in overview.

Alexandra Sokoloff, screenwriter and teacher, uses an index card method for keep track of plot and story structure. She goes into detail about the three-act structure, the how-tos of her system and explains how her screenwriting techniques also apply to novels. Alexandra even includes a part-and-page breakdown for fiction writers.

Bestselling novelist Diane Chamberlain also uses the index card method and shows via pix the difference between the neat and organized final book and the chaotic and messy WIP stage.

Cindy R. Wilson at the Writers Alley talks about needing a direction (as opposed to a plot) when she starts to write. Cindy uses a combination of folders, notebooks and lists to keep herself organized and lays out the details here.

Author of medieval romance, Blythe Gifford, uses a spreadsheet to rein in the chaos. With her trusty Excel spreadsheet, Blythe has developed a way to keep track of everything from timelines to backstory, from a character’s first kiss to big picture stuff like war, peace, pestilence, famine and crashing meteors.

At Harlequin, Shelly Jump tells how she developed a simple way to keep track of myriad details that comprise a writer's life. She uses inexpensive stationery store items like colored folders, archive boxes, notebooks and highlighters to help tame the onslaught.

The staff writers at Open Education Database have pulled together 150 FREE online resources covering everything from help with research and statistics to basics like grammar, spelling and definitions. This invaluable list also includes assistance with business and legal matters, organizational tools, genre guides ranging from technical writing to fantasy, word counters and professional organizations.

We may never achieve the perfect big O (not that one; get your mind out of the gutter!), but these hints and tips will definitely help you contain the clutter.

How about you, scriveners? Do you find it tough to assemble all the data in your head into a coherent story? Do you use index cards or storyboards? How about Evernote or Scrivener? Or do you just jot stuff down in separate .docs and throw it in a big old Word folder the way Anne does? 

Opportunity Alerts

The Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award from the Mid-American Review. $10 entry fee for a story up to 6000 words. First Prize: $1,000 and publication. Four Finalists: Notation, possible publication. You may submit online or snail mail. Details at website. Deadline is November 1, 2013.

J.F. POWER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION NO ENTRY FEE. The winner will receive $500. The winning story will be announced in February, 2014 and published in Dappled Things, along with nine honorable mentions. The word limit is 8,000 words. Deadline is November 29, 2013.

MYSTERY AUTHORS! The Poisoned Pen Press, one of the most prestigious small presses, is open for submissions for one month. They open for submissions twice yearly, once during the month of October, and once during the spring. During October, they will accept submissions for regular publication. During the spring submissions period they open for the Discover Mystery first book contest. Please note their entire submissions process is electronic via the online submissions manager, Submittable. Mailed or e-mailed submissions will not be read. They will be accepting regular submissions during the period between October 1 and October 31.

The Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction: Stories may be previously published or unpublished. Length up to 10,000 words. Entry fee is $5, and authors may enter more than once.The editors will select a winner and nineteen additional finalists. The winner will receive $500 and publication in The Lascaux Review. Both winner and finalists will earn the privilege of displaying a virtual medallion on blogs and websites. Deadline December 31, 2013.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Writers Need to be on Google Plus…Plus a FREE Tutorial on How to Use it Effectively!

A lot of writers seem to find Google Plus as mysterious as I do, so when I met Google guru and SEO expert Johnny Base in a Google Plus group a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to get him on the blog. 

Not only does he have a great blogpost for us, but we've imbedded a mini-webinar that walks you though signing up for Google Plus and gives you a bunch of tips on how to use it. 

Personally, this what I know about Google Plus.

1) Once you join, you want to turn off most of your "notifications" or your inbox will be glutted with them.

You can still get notified if you turn it off. All you have to do is look up in the right corner of your gmail program or your Blogger blog and you'll see a little icon of a bell with a number in it and a + sign. That's your notifications. Check them or not as you want.

2) If you put a + in front of somebody's name on Google+, it works like an @ symbol on Twitter. Use it and the person will be notified that you're talking to him. (I just learned this from Johnny.) 

3) If you go to your profile page and click on the big "G+" it brings a dropdown menu with all sorts of great options, like "communities." Joining communities is how you meet people. I'd joined some in the past but could never find them again. Now I know. 

4) As I said last week, there's much talk of Google+ going the way of Facebook in invading our privacy. They're even talking about using our images to endorse products. But you can opt out here.


So heeeeere's Johnny (AKA John Allen: no, no relation)...

What Is Google Plus And Why Should Writers Use It?

by Johnny Base

Let's start with what Google Plus is not.

It is not a social media platform filled with teenagers and people with too much time on their hands. It's not a vortex which only wastes time. It is not Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Google Plus is a business tool.

Because of new changes occurring within Google and online search. Google Plus is where all writers will need to be if they want to be relevant in the Internet Age. These changes will affect anyone who publishes online content, e-books, or is interested in earning money writing online.

Here are some of the aspects of Google Plus that make it an entirely different experience from other social media:


Google Plus is a collection of professionals from many disciplines—who discuss, engage, disagree and collaborate quickly. They're building knowledge in their field of interest on a global scale. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

The people you are engaging with, in my experience, are not amateurs. I've had the pleasure to video-chat, comment on posts, and share articles I've written with people who are leaders in their industries from all over the world.

I'm deep in the changes in Google and how they affect writers, and anyone else who publishes online content, e-books, or is interested in earning money writing online. I've never had this kind of professional engagement on any other social media platform.

Networking with Influencers

I have an online business creating websites. I'm self-taught and have achieved a small success in the world of search engine optimization. I'm able to get websites in competitive niches on page one when people search on Google for specific terms.

But the people I engage with daily on Google Plus are much further up the food chain than myself. The other day I spoke with a group of amazing people in my field for more than an hour—experts from around the globe who are acknowledged leaders in the field and published in the leading trades. It was like a seminar at a top-level university.

There are writers on Google Plus—as well as attorneys, entrepreneurs, business owners, physicists, professors, and photographers. They're accomplished people who are open, helpful and eager to engage with you no matter what level you are at in your profession. I've never had this kind of professional engagement on any other social media platform.

Here's an example of how it's worked for me: I wrote an article about the SEO marketing community on my website, which I posted on Google Plus. Because I'd built a trusted relationship with other “influencers” (people who have authority in a given subject) a big influencer in SEO reposted my article and shared it. He had a ton of SEO people in his circles, so they shared it. And other people shared it.

My blog usually had five to ten visitors a day. That day, 106 people visited. Then I received 187 backlinks to that article. Backlinks are when other websites post a link to your website. They help with ranking and getting your site found on search results.

Google Plus is also how I met Anne R. Allen. Our conversation led to a quick invitation to guest-blog, which I realize she and Ruth don't extend that often. 

But meeting other professionals is only one aspect of the power of Google Plus.

Google Plus Hangouts

Not only can you post articles, short stories, (photos/videos) you've written or found. (On Google Plus it's always good etiquette to source any material you post: give credit to the originator of the content and or the people who originally posted the content.)

But you have the added benefit of being able to speak directly to these people you engage with via Google Plus Hangout.

What's a Google Plus Hangout? Imagine Skype on steroids. Real-time conferencing online. They work great for book launches.

Here's an example of how they work: bestselling author Wally Lamb held a Google Plus Hangout "preview" of his new novel We are Water through Booktalk Nation on Wednesday Oct. 16th. It was advertised in Publishers Weekly and people could order signed, personalized books. Anybody could join in the live Google Hangout video chat with the author, more than a week before the book is going to hit stores....Anne

Google Authorship Program

When you create and share content online, you want people to know you're the author— no matter how far that content may travel. With the Google Authorship program, not only do you get the credit, you can also grow your audience over time.

Several Google Plus platform features help authors do both — on Google, and across the Web.

Explaining Google authorship would take another post, but on my blog I have a number of videos that explain its use and function. If you want more, check out my website's page on Google Authorship

Semantic Search

This is the biggie. It's about to change everything.

Since Google's beginnings, all search results were keyword based. Specific rules ruled how Google searched websites. They looked for words placed in specific locations, on each page of a website.

Google's algorithm, after scanning all the words and code on each website, determined where the site should rank, whenever someone typed a query. The results were mostly the same for everyone. Anyone searching for "red apple" would receive basically the same results in the same order no matter their location. 

But Google is in the process of changing their algorithm so each individual on the planet will have different results, based on many factors. It's called "Semantic Search" And it's a huge tectonic shift in the way information is found online. Now, Google's algorithm will assign a reputation score based on topics, relationships, sharing, comments and connections. 

For an overview of the semantic search revolution check out "How to Rank on the First Page of Google Search Forever: Get Social. Feed the Brain." by George Williams.  Semantic Search is replacing Keyword search as I type. It should be fully implemented within the next six to twelve months. Leaving keyword-based search results in the dust. 

Here's what you need to know: Google Plus is the key to Semantic Search.

Verified Google Plus Authors who create quality content which other Google Plus influencers (people who are trusted authorities in given niches) share will be looked at by Google as trusted authorities.

This is all new. It was only confirmed this August 2013.

Writers who position themselves now will bear fruit for years to come. And currently the only way to become a verified Google Plus Author is to first create a Google Plus account.

Other benefits of Google Plus. When you post to your Google Plus profile:

1. Posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately by Google

2. Google Plus posts pass link equity and Google Plus 1's
(only if you add a link into the post) Let's say you write an article and you create a post on Google Plus. As with Facebook you can write a comment about the article. If anybody clicks a plus 1 on your post, that plus 1 will show up on the article you have posted, increasing its value. Shares do the same thing and are recognized instantly. This is huge for ranking your blog or website. If someone shares your article on social media like Facebook, Google does not have that information. But on Google Plus they recognize it right away and consider it a social signal and it becomes a ranking factor.

3. Google Plus is optimized for semantic relevance. (See info on Semantic search above.)

4. Verified Google Plus Authors will be accepted by Google as trusted authorities who create quality content.

Below is a link to the video I created which guides you step by step to create a Google Plus account. 

Johnny Base Created his first website in 1996. He's a Search Engine Optimization Specialist and Website Designer. He studied Art History under Irving Sandler at SUNY Purchase. A professional artist, blogger, loves writing and writers. Currently he's been involved in the Google Plus Community and working on an article on "Genetic Algorithms and Semantic Search" with his father who has a PhD in Physics and has worked at NASA. Johnny invites you to join the Google Plus For Writers Community .

John Allen 
SEO Consultant
Google + | SEO Richmond | FaceBook

Okay, scriveners: Do you feel smarter now? Are you going to join Google Plus? Do you have questions for Johnny? He'll be here Sunday afternoon to answer questions. 

Book Deal 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 $8.09 (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.

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

"One uses the term 'romping good yarn' advisedly but in fact this tale is exactly that. Aspiring author and failed A-lister Camilla, desperate for funds and affection, joins forces with a publishing team that beggars description. The similarities between the legend of Robin Hood and this story are subtle, the links never overdone or cliched. The narrative leaps from one twist to the next turn with pace and energy. The characters are delightfully off-centre and the hero? Well, he is definitely of a kind to swing down from the trees armed with bow and nocked arrow."...Prue Batten

 Opportunity Alerts

New literary journal accepting submissions. CHINA GROVE debuted this August and will publish twice in 2014 and go quarterly in subsequent years. The editors are looking for unpublished short fiction, poetry and essays. The first issue features an exclusive interview with National Book Award winner Ellen Gilchrist, as well as a previously unseen letter from Mark Twain about an unpublished work called “The Great Republic’s Peanut Stand,” and a love letter from Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty to crime-fiction writer Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald).

CHINA GROVE will also award two new literary prizes: The Gilchrist Prize in Short Fiction given biannually starting Fall 2014 with a monetary gift of $2,000, and The China Grove Prize in Poetry starting in 2015.  - submit online: www.ChinaGrovePress.com Next deadline is February 2014

EBUK Bargains UK now has a blog! Get all the most up to-date info on the international book marketing scene from the guys who wrote one of our most popular guest blogposts ever.

The Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award
from the Mid-American Review. $10 entry fee for a story up to 6000 words. First Prize: $1,000 and publication. Four Finalists: Notation, possible publication. You may submit online or snail mail. Details at website. Deadline is November 1, 2013.

J.F. POWER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION NO ENTRY FEE. The winner will receive $500. The winning story will be announced in February, 2014 and published in Dappled Things, along with nine honorable mentions. The word limit is 8,000 words. Deadline is November 29, 2013.

MYSTERY AUTHORS! The Poisoned Pen Press, one of the most prestigious small presses, is open for submissions for one month. They open for submissions twice yearly, once during the month of October, and once during the spring. During October, they will accept submissions for regular publication. During the spring submissions period they open for the Discover Mystery first book contest. Please note their entire submissions process is electronic via the online submissions manager, Submittable. Mailed or e-mailed submissions will not be read. They will be accepting regular submissions during the period between October 1 and October 31.

The Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction: Stories may be previously published or unpublished. Length up to 10,000 words. Entry fee is $5, and authors may enter more than once.The editors will select a winner and nineteen additional finalists. The winner will receive $500 and publication in The Lascaux Review. Both winner and finalists will earn the privilege of displaying a virtual medallion on blogs and websites. Deadline December 31, 2013.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Social Media Secrets for Authors, Part IV: How Not to Spam

If you've ever wondered why unsolicited Internet advertising is named after a perfectly innocent meat product, blame Monty Python. In a famous 1970 sketch, the customers in a café are constantly drowned out by a chorus of Vikings singing "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam... Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!" Conversation is impossible because of the "spammers."

But whatever it's called, we don't want to generate it.

This is because:
As I've said before, social media is social. It should not be used for direct marketing. For more in my "Social Media Secrets" here are links to Part 1: How to Avoid Twitter-Fritter and Facebook Fail, Part 2: How to Blog Your Way Out of the Slush Pile,  and Part 3: What Should an Author Blog About?

Here's the "secret" about social media that marketers don't tell you: it should be used for making friends, not direct sales.

As I keep saying, you wouldn't wear an advertising sandwich board to a Chamber of Commerce mixer, but a lot of authors are doing the digital equivalent.

  • An ideal use of social media is when a digital friend picks up your new book because she loves your genre and she's watched you agonize over getting a publisher or struggle through all the hoops of self-publishing. Then she tells all her friends how the book made her laugh/cry/escape when she was going through her recent crisis. You connect emotionally with people, which is why your book takes on meaning for them.
  • A bad use of social media is when people go to follow you on Twitter and find nothing but a stream of identical tweets saying "buy this book"...and nothing to suggest you're anything but a self-involved artificial life form. 
  • Or they visit your blog and it has nothing but posts bragging about how everybody loves you and your books and you're just so doggone...full of yourself! Yes, it's possible to spam your own blog. Don't do it. 
But it's not always so easy to tell if you're spamming. What is the line between "savvy marketing" and spam?

Truth is: the rules can be different for each site. But finding them can require tech savvy and knowledge of legalese (and good eyesight: they're usually written in a flyspeck font.)

Here are the rules I've managed to discover, mostly by breaking them. As Ruth and I say, we make the mistakes so you don't have to.

How not to Spam on Facebook

1) Don't link to your blog or website from anything but your own page or a designated thread. Links to your blog or website are considered spam on Facebook, no matter how useful. They'll put you in Facebook jail (freeze you out of your own page) if you post links to your blog more than a few times a week, even in a private group.

This happened to me. Somebody in a group asks at least once a week about using song lyrics in fiction. So I used to post a link to our guest blog piece from Michael Murphy that tells you how to get rights to song lyrics .

But I was wrong on that. Unwritten Facebook rules say you can't do that, and a self-appointed vigilante will click the "report for spam" button and you're off Facebook for a week or more and your blog is flagged forever as "spam." Much hoop-jumping is required to get reinstated. Don't take the chance.

2) But Facebook has NO problem with links to your buy page on Amazon or other retail sites. So it's fine to put "buy my book" posts on as many Facebook pages as you like. Just make sure they're promotion sites like Canadian Free and Promoted Books, Authors 99c E-Book Promotion , or Free Books 4 U and follow site guidelines.

3) Don't friend more than a few people a day. Even though Facebook is constantly hounding you to "friend" people, it's a trap. If you actually do what they say, you'll end up in Facebook jail.

4) Don't post a promotion of your book in a group without reading the rules first. Many groups will kick you out for it.

5) Posting promos on somebody else's Facebook page is serious spam. It's a violation of personal space. Nothing will make people unfriend you faster. It's like posting a billboard on somebody's lawn without permission.

6) Never market through a FB direct message. If you're not friends with the person, it will go in the "other" folder with all the proposals of marriage from men with poor English skills and a photo they stole from some CEO's bio page. which means they're not likely to see it anyway. And besides, it's rude. Never use personal messaging for advertising. A direct message is like a phone call. Do you like getting unsolicited "cold calls" from marketers? Yeah. Nobody else does, either.

7) Never add somebody to a group without permission. There's been a trend to add random people to book launch "parties" and other "love my book" groups. Your targets will start to get dozens of notifications about you and your book which will be unwanted 99% of the time. Facebook won't punish you for it, but you're likely to get unfriended. And lose possible sales. Thanks, Tymber Dalton for the addition.

How not to Spam on Twitter

1) Never send those automated direct messages that say, "Now that you've followed me, go like my Facebook and author pages, follow my blog, buy my book and pick up my dry cleaning, minion! Mwahahah."

They're against the Terms of Service as well as causing an auto-unfollow from practically everybody. For more on why not to use automatic direct messaging, here's a great post from social media consultant Rachel Thompson: Death to the Auto-DM on Twitter.

2) Do NOT send direct messages to people you don't have a relationship with. Not even to say "thanks for the follow." A follow is not a relationship. If you must thank for a follow, sent it in a @Tweet. (Not an automated one.)

3) Don't tweet your book more than a few times a week unless you have news like a great review or a sale or freebie run. Otherwise, it's just noise that gets ignored.

4) Don't tweet somebody else's book link just because they ask. Make sure it's in a genre your Tweeps will enjoy. (DO hit the button that says "I just bought [title] by [author] on Amazon when you buy a book. That's a great way to recommend it.)

How not to Spam on Amazon

1) A link to your own book in a review is spam. It can get you banned from Amazon. You can have a title in your signature and post as "Susie Scrivener, author of Scribblings," but without a link.

2) Do not mention your book in the Amazon Forums. Better yet, don't go there. It's troll habitat and very anti-author.

3) Link to your blog ONLY in a designated thread in Kindleboard forums, even if your blog is full of useful information to writers. I learned that the hard way.

How not to Spam on Blogs

1) Never, ever subscribe to a blogger's newsletter just so you can hit "reply" and send an ad for your book. It's happened to me a couple of times. It's insulting and pointless. The ad doesn’t go to the mailing list. It goes to the blogger—who will put you on their list of authors to avoid, especially if the genre has nothing to do with the blogger's interests. Remember this is about making friends, not enemies.

2) Don't link to your buy page from a blog comment. I don't mind links to a blog or webpage—in fact I find them useful—but some people don't like links of any kind from a blog comment, and they'll delete the comment as spam, so be wary.

3) Don't talk up your book or blog in a comment unless it's relevant to the conversation.
  • "I respect your opinion on prologues, but I've got testimonials from readers who love prologues—the longer the better—over at my blog today" is fine. 
  • "This discussion of Marcel Proust reminds me of my book, Fangs for the Memories, a zombipocolyptic vampire erotic romance, $3.99 on Smashwords." Not so much.
How not to Spam on Forums

1) Lurk. Every forum is different. So never say anything in a forum until you've unearthed every rule and hung out for a good long time.

2) Beware "share" buttons. I made the mistake earlier this year of sending out my blog link to a number of sites via the "share" button Blogger provides. This apparently sent it to forums where it should not have gone on Reddit, StumbleUpon and Digg. A nice moderator from Reddit informed me all my posts had been deleted as spam.

3) Better yet, stay out of book-related forums altogether, except small, well moderated, author-friendly ones like Nathan Bransford's, Red Room, She Writes, Critique Circle, or Kristen Lamb's WANAtribe. The bigger and older the site, the more likely it will have resident trolls, bad-tempered vigilantes and anti-author groups.

How not to Spam on Goodreads

1) Don't join a group just to promote your book. Spend a long time talking about other books before you bring up your own. In fact, on Goodreads, it's best not to mention you're an author at all. Take off your author hat and discuss books you've read, not ones you've written.

2) Don't send mass friend requests. This is true on almost all sites. You will be flagged as a spammer.

3) Don't thank a reviewer or someone who has put your book on their "shelf." The new Goodreads author guidelines prohibit it.

4) And especially: never, ever, ever engage with somebody who has given you a bad review or put you on a hate "shelf." Not for any reason. Goodreads reviews are notoriously unpleasant, unhelpful, and snarky. But authors need to learn to live with them.

How not to Spam on Google+

(Updated) Google Plus users seem to be mostly techies and business people who are too busy to engage in a whole lot of childish behavior, so you don't have to be as afraid of troll-vigilantes as on Facebook and Goodreads. But:

1) Posting a link on more than one community page can get you marked as a spammer by Google Plus algorithms.

2) Posting a link without at least 100 words of introduction can mark you as a spammer. Personally, I think that's a shame because I used to just hit the Google + share button along with the Tweet button when I read an article I thought might interest writers.

Google+ is soooooo slow that opening my page and writing 100 words about every link means I can't post as many links. But I guess they want more exclusive content written for Google Plus alone. 

There has been a kerfluffle in the tech world this week because Google+ has changed its TOS and is going over to the dark side, and wants to invade your privacy like Facebook, and may even use your comments and profile pictures to promote products. But there is a way to opt out through this link.

Next week we're going to have a guest post from Google+ guru Johnny Base, who's going to tell us everything an author needs to know about Google+

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever been criticized or punished for spamming when you didn't realize you'd broken the rules? What kind of spam bothers you the most? Do you think spam marketing sells books

Book Bargain of the Week

Sale extended! No Place Like Home is back to 99c this month since being chosen as "Book of the Month" by the BoomerLit group. Still only on Amazon USAmazon UK, and Amazon CA ,

"A warp-speed, lighthearted comedy-mystery"...Abigail Padgett
"A fun, charming novel about the rich and less so" ...Karen Doering
"A cross of dry British humor and American wackiness, and it all adds up to a fun read." ...Deborah Bayles

Opportunity Alerts

Writers Conference Alert! The James River Writers Conference returns to Richmond, VA on October 19 and 20 with an extensive lineup of big name agents, authors and literary professionals. They're featuring award-winning book designer and writer Chip Kidd, National Book Award-winner Kathryn Erskine and best-selling author Christopher McDougall. Literary Publicity Firm JKSCommunications, Book Doctors and Pitchapalooza founders Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry will be on hand for advice. You can pitch to agents including April Eberhardt, Deborah Grosvenor, Victoria Skurnick and Paige Wheeler. For details and registration, JamesRiverWriters.org

EBUK Bargains UK now has a blog! Get all the most up to-date info on the international book marketing scene from the guys who wrote one of our most popular guest blogposts ever.

The Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award from the Mid-American Review. $10 entry fee for a story up to 6000 words. First Prize: $1,000 and publication. Four Finalists: Notation, possible publication. You may submit online or snail mail. Details at website. Deadline is November 1, 2013.

  NO ENTRY FEE. The winner will receive $500. The winning story will be announced in February, 2014 and published in Dappled Things, along with nine honorable mentions. The word limit is 8,000 words. Deadline is November 29, 2013. 

MYSTERY AUTHORS! The Poisoned Pen Press, one of the most prestigious small presses, is open for submissions for one month. They open for submissions twice yearly, once during the month of October, and once during the spring. During October, they will accept submissions for regular publication. During the spring submissions period they open for the Discover Mystery first book contest. Please note their entire submissions process is electronic via the online submissions manager, Submittable. Mailed or e-mailed submissions will not be read. They will be accepting regular submissions during the period between October 1 and October 31. 

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Laws of the (Amazon) Jungle—Eight Rules Authors Need to Know to Stay Safe

by Anne R. Allen

Everybody tells authors we must use social media to have successful careers in the E-age, but nobody talks much about the dangers that lurk here.

Here's the thing: the Internet is still the wild frontier. And it's so huge nobody's quite sure how to police it.  Big, loosely regulated social media sites seem to encourage the worst in human behavior. Facebook allows people to make hate pages for celebrities with happy abandon, and the comments on news sites and You Tube can make you want to wash your eyeballs.

You Tube is making some sweeping changes to try to curb some of the more horrifying comments. You'll soon need a Google+ account to log in. (Google+ is set to become the most important player for business in social media. We'll have a post on that in a few weeks.)

Online nastiness is so pervasive that even some literary sites have become more like a jungle full of feces-throwing monkeys than a place for civilized discourse.

Recently, the review site Goodreads (now owned by Amazon) has tried to cut down on the poop-tossing by deleting some ad hominem attack "reviews" and obscene or threatening "shelf" names. Some people decry this as censorship and are protesting by sabotaging Goodreads with thousands of one-star "reviews" on random authors' books.

You can read an overview of the new developments by Pavarti K. Tyler at Indie Reader and Laura Hazard Owen at Gigaom and more at the Passive Voice.

But I fear it will take more than deleting a few reviews to change the online culture of entitlement and emotional brutality.

After I wrote my post on "Gangs of New Media" a few months ago, people contacted me with heartbreaking tales of online bullying in the publishing industry. Authors, readers, and reviewers alike had horror stories.

Respected reviewers had stopped posting to Amazon because of reviewer-on-reviewer attacks and harassment by angry authors. A seasoned Hollywood screenwriter was hounded so mercilessly she had to unpublish her books and change her name. Even a retired army sergeant has been terrified into silence.

But Amazon is trying to crack down, and you can help by reporting abuse when you see it.

Meanwhile, writers need to learn how to avoid gang-infested neighborhoods and stay off the radar of the poop-tossers, bullies, and vigilantes.

Unfortunately marketers sometimes tell us to go into those neighborhoods and do the very things that will set off attacks. I've seen "marketing handbooks" that are the equivalent of sending children into gangland wearing a rival gang's colors.

Part of the problem is that the rules of the online book world bear little resemblance to the conventions of the staid, gentlemanly publishing industry of the past.

That's because the laws of online activity come from the people who were here first: hackers and gamers.

When you enter the online culture, it can feel like stepping into a game of "Grand Theft Auto." It's an aggressive, testosterone-fueled, competitive universe. On some sites, sociopathic behavior is the norm and innocence is a crime.

Everybody is trying to eliminate the enemy, and the enemy is probably you.

"Gaming the system" is a matter of pride for some, and because people tend to judge others' characters by their own, the system-gamers think every innocent newbie is gaming the system too. (If someone accuses everybody he meets of sneaky, underhanded dealings, he's revealing a lot about himself.)

Probably the most infamous Internet menace was the sociopath called Violentacrez, who slimed up the forums of Reddit with threats and hate speech masked as "categories" with names like "chokeabitch" that were technically within site guidelines, but invited misogynist rants, child pornography and hate.

We can't blame the Internet entirely for the phenomenon. These are the same people who 40 years ago would name their dogs a racial slur and claim to be "just calling the dog." If anybody objected, they'd rally a mob to beat up the "puppy hater."

Violentacrez was finally outed by Gawker last year, but thousands of his trollish kin remain—and plenty of them lurk under literary bridges.

So don't give them an excuse to terrorize you. Follow the rules. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but you're safer if the bullies don't notice you.

Remember: social media should not be used for direct marketing. It should be used for making friends. You wouldn't wear an advertising sandwich board to a Chamber of Commerce mixer, but a lot of authors are doing the digital equivalent. It makes them bully-bait.

If the bullies catch you breaking their rules—even unwritten ones—they will destroy your career and reputation with all the self-righteous sadism of the Taliban slaughtering a schoolgirl.

Unfortunately, ferreting out those rules can be daunting. Even when they're posted, they're usually obfuscated by legal jargon written in a fly-speck font. I've only learned the following by trial and error. Lots of error. When I wrote this post urging older people to learn to write Amazon reviews, I was pretty naive. I still urge readers of my generation to write reviews—this is a culture desperately in need of grown-ups—but if I'd known about the hostility of the review culture, I would have worded it more carefully.

Since then, I've been saying, "I wish somebody would post the rules!"

But hey, nobody has, so here they are—as well as I can figure out. Pass them on to your marketing department.

Rule #1 Never Spam 

Easy to say; harder to follow.

What is spam? It's unwanted promotion: the digital equivalent of those sales pitch phone calls you get just as you're sitting down to a family dinner.

But one person's spam is another person's "savvy marketing." One of our biggest problems is that spam is defined differently depending on where you are.

Here's a detailed post on how NOT to spam on specific sites like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, forums, etc.

A few authors have spammed and gamed the system so badly that we're all paying the price.

Some readers have reacted so negatively they've invented a bizarre dichotomy of readers vs. writers. They consider anybody who writes to be the mortal enemy of "readers." Don't ask me where they think reading material comes from. A Magical Book Stork in the Sky may be involved.

Of course, in real life, authors are voracious readers, but remember this is a videogame world, so they need an enemy.

Mention you've written a book—even an unpublished one—and that enemy is you.

Rule #2: Never Trade Reviews

It's against Amazon's terms of service. A violation can get you kicked off Amazon. It will certainly get your reviews pulled if you're caught.

One of the tricks of the early Amazon-gaming authors was to give a book a 5-star review, then contact the reviewed author and demand a 5-star in return. If the targeted author refused, the 5-star would be reduced to a one-star.

Not all trading of reviews is the result of blackmail. Lots of authors drop hints they expect a quid pro quo when they've written a good review. Do not fall into this trap. Even if you love the reviewer's book, you could be violating Amazon's TOS.

One of Amazon's rules is that you can't review a product if you will benefit from the proceeds. That's why your Mom can't give you a review. Or your editor. You also can't review if you have a "rival" product. This has been interpreted recently to mean "any author who writes in the same genre"—even if that review is positive.  I think that's silly, but it's best to be safe.

In the great Amazon review purge following the purchased-review scandal of 2012, thousands of reviews were removed, some of which were solid, honest reviews, so you need to avoid any hint of impropriety. If you love the book of an author in your genre who has given you a nice review, and you want to avoid any worries, give her a spotlight or interview on your blog or offer a blurb to be included in the "editorial reviews" instead of appearing to trade.

Update: South African author Niki Savage reports that an Amazon spokesperson told her the Zon has revoked the rule that authors can't review other authors in their genre! I don't know if this applies to the Zon worldwide, but if you've been dying to review a book in your favorite genre, go for it!

Rule #3: Don't Pay for Customer Reviews 

As I mentioned above, buying reviews is a major no-no. Not only will they be removed, but your career can take a big hit. When John Locke got caught doing it a year ago, he got hit with hundreds of one-stars and his sales slowed considerably. 

It's OK to pay for a professional review from Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, or other respected publication like the Midwest Book Review. But those reviews can't be posted on Amazon as "customer reviews." You can paste a quote into the "editorial reviews" section. But a customer review is not supposed to be for sale. 

Even a free book is considered "payment" by some, so book review bloggers are now required to post disclaimers when they review a book they have received from the author or publisher, although free review copies have always been a standard practice in the industry.

(Recently a blogpost was circulating that accused pretty much every major indie author of purchasing 500+ book reviews from Fivrr. This was a nasty hoax. Some of the authors accused don't even have 500 reviews on all their books combined.)

Rule #4 Never Respond to Your Reviews

If a review violates the rules, you can ask for it to be removed, but responding—even to a good review—makes some reviewers nervous. They want to feel we're off in another realm somewhere, not right here looking over their shoulders.

On places like Goodreads, people will call you a "badly behaving author" simply for thanking a thoughtful reviewer for a good review.

What you can do when you get a fantastic review is follow the reviewer on other social media and hope they'll initiate contact. Several of my reviewers have become good friends because I friended them on Facebook. But resist the urge to say "thank you" in the comments of the review itself. I did this myself before I knew the rules, with no bad consequences, but you never know when a vigilante might be lurking. (I'm only talking about review sites here: not blogs. Most bloggers welcome a thank-you for a nice review.)

But especially don't comment on nasty reviews. You're inviting more abuse.

Here are a few facts about reviews that may help to keep your fingers off the keyboard when the nasties hit:

1) Online review sites do not require reviewers to read a book and often allow people to rate a product even before it's available to anyone. This is a convention of the gaming world. It's something videogame companies did in the early days to gauge interest in a new game. Now, unfortunately, it's become a convention in online bookselling.

There's nothing we can do but spread the word that those star ratings don't mean a thing. I wish they'd drop them.

Why do people write nasty, hateful reviews of books they haven't read? Because being nasty and hateful is what they do. A new study says haters really gotta hate. Be glad they're on your book page and not in your living room.

2) One of the most common nasties is the "I hate this genre" review. I've seen plenty of review pages by people who apparently do nothing but troll Amazon for books in genres they hate so they can write one star reviews. Unfortunately, they have that right. 

3) Bestsellers pretty much always get snarky reviews. So accept it as a mark of success. Sometimes they're from sour-grape wannabes and sometimes from sock puppets. (Those are other authors with fake id's trying to get you "out of the way.") But sock puppetry is hard to prove. If the person has no other reviews and mentions a "rival" book, report abuse and hope the Zon elves will give you a hearing.

4) Free books are magnets for cruel reviews. It's one of the reasons free books aren't working as well as they used to.

Give-aways of free paper review copies on Goodreads and other book sites are being gamed. Every day I see authors complain that their expensive review copies are immediately sold on Amazon as "new" and they get no review, or worse, a one-sentence one-star.

So I advise that authors only send paper review copies to established bloggers and reviewers they have a prior relationship with.

NOTE: Always query a book review blogger before sending a review copy and for goodness' sake, READ THE BLOG—why is that so hard? Publicists: I'm talking to you.

5) Luckily, your readers can usually spot a troll review and nice people may even buy the book because of it.

And guess what? There really are a lot more nice people than nasty ones. One way to fight all this is to be one of the good guys. Writing honest reviews of books you like is the best way to fight this behavior. 

Rule # 5: Always Report Abuse (and take a screenshot)

These crimes are new—and span continents—but when a few sociopaths interfere with the bottom line of multinational corporations, you can be sure somebody's going to figure out how to control them.

That may result in restricted freedom for us all, so cutting down on it now is in everybody's interest. That's why you need to report abuse whenever you see it.

Okay, what's a screenshot? If you're a Boomer like Ruth and me, you may not know much about them.

But it turns out there's a way to take a photo of what's on your screen.  I could really have used it when I witnessed some abuse recently. But since then, I've found this great thing called Awesome Screenshot that puts a button right on your toolbar. You just click on that button and, voila! You can capture the whole page, the visible part or a partial. You can even make red circles around the pertinent spots.

Note: a negative, snarky review is not abuse. A review that's obscene, threatening, or attacks the author personally is. So is an ad for another author's book or services.

So you have to live with a review that says: 

"This wud be the wurst buk i ever red, if i wudda red it." 

But you can report one that says:

"This author is a cyberslut-boy who gay-sexted with Anthony Weiner."
"Somebody should #%&*@#!@$&*%!!! you sidewayswith a %*&@#!!!"
"This book is soooo boring. My erotic romance FIFTY SHADES OF DRYING PAINT is much more exciting. Here's the link."

A barrage of One-star personal attacks, called "swarming" can usually be removed. Character assassination by "review" is one of the more heinous misuses of Amazon and Goodreads.

To report abuse:

1) On FaceBook there's a little downward-arrow to the right of the post that will bring up a menu. One of the possible selections is "report abuse." Unfortunately the trolls have found it too, and they love to report people for abuse when they haven't done anything. But if that happens, you can write to appeals@facebook.com.

2) On Twitter Click on "***more" in the lower right corner of the tweet. This brings up a menu for "share", "embed" or "report". "Report" brings up a new menu where you can simply block, mark as spam, "compromised" (for when your Tweep has been hacked) or "abusive". "Abusive" brings up a form to fill out. It's more hoop jumping than they used to require, but that's to prevent trolls from reporting random innocents for abuse, as has been happening on FB.

3) On Amazon there's a prominent button for reporting abuse. Use it especially if you see abuse on another author's page. Amazon will pay more attention if it's from somebody other than the victim.

4) On Goodreads the button for "flagging" abuse is harder to find, but this post by friend of the blog Lexa Cain will tell you how. Also report abuse to the administrators via support@goodreads.com. Goodreads has tolerated rampant abuse of their review and "shelving" system for a long time. But now they're trying to clean up their act, so they will pay attention to your reports.

Even if you don't see an immediate result, things are probably happening behind the scenes. Site admin. usually pays attention to abuse reports only after they get a lot. So report.

Rule #6: Never Argue with a Drunk or a Fool

Internet bullies are both. They are literally drunk on their own rage. Rage can trigger endorphins that create a high similar to cocaine or meth.

How far do you think you'd get using reason and logic with a crazed tweaker on the street? Right. Then don't try it on the Internet. Even if they are wrong. Because guess what? They almost always are.

This famous 2008 cartoon from xkcd says it all.

The most important thing to remember when you encounter unpleasantness is: take a breath, verify facts, and don't over-react. As Bob Mayer said on his blog last week: "The internet is a very dangerous place. I’ve seen internet lynch mobs go crazy over the slightest thing (done it myself a time or two) but a day or two of waiting and watching isn’t going to change anything."

When cybermonkeys start tossing verbal feces around a forum or blog, treat it like any other pile of poop.
  • Carefully walk around it.
  • Realize you don't have to tell anybody what it is. Its stink will give it away.
  • Call maintenance.
  • Go someplace cleaner.
You might want to send private messages of support to victims, but don't stand up for victims in cyberpublic no matter how much your inner Atticus Finch is hurting to speak.

I didn’t follow that advice recently and I'm still scraping stuff off my shoe.

Rule #7 Stay Out of Rough Neighborhoods

Absolute Write is no longer recommended. I used to suggest looking there for info on bogus agents and scam publishers. These days, it's so dominated by bitter, bad-tempered snark, you'd probably be safer with the scammers.

Amazon Forums: The Deadwood of the publishing frontier. Brutally anti-author and out of control with vigilantism.

LinkedIn Writers Groups. Some may be safe, but I've unsubscribed from all the ones I belonged to. Way too many rageaholics. LinkedIn is the most invasive of all social media and if you're not on it because of work, I'd recommend you stay away. They'll try to trick you into giving them access to all your email accounts so they can spam every one of your contacts mercilessly in your name, including every agent you've ever queried.

Goodreads: Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies. This site has been desperately in need of adult supervision for a long time. Recently, they have made big steps in cleaning up the site, but I'd still suggest you stay in safe, author-oriented groups. (I'm fond of my BoomerLit group.) And don't read your reviews!

Or, to be really safe, follow the advice one agent tells her clients: "Go to Goodreads to put up an author profile. Link to your blog. Log out. Never go back."

Rule #8: Change your definition of "review" and don't take online reviews so seriously

1) An online product review is nothing like a traditional book review. When most of us think of a book review, we think of something in the New York Times, or a thoughtful assessment of a work written by a sincere blogger who has read the book and done some careful thinking and writing about it.

But online product reviews—as established in the early days of the Internet—are essentially comments, like the comments you see at the end of online news stories or a You Tube entry.

That means some online "reviewers" bear the same resemblance to traditional book reviewers that homicidal baseball fans do to sports commentators: not much.

2) Cruel, angry reviews say more about the reviewer than they do about your book. And they put you in excellent company.  I know yours hurt like a physical wound, but it helps to read some of the idiotic one-stars of the classics.

3)  It's an urban myth that Amazon requires a certain number of reviews or stars or "likes" on your author page to "move you up the ranks." Only one thing does that: sales.

Some advertising newsletters like Kindle Nation Daily, E-Reader News Today and BookBub do require tons of 5-star reviews, but I think that encourages gaming the system so I use advertisers that don't, like E-Book Bargains UK.

For actual readers, it's much more important to have a few good reviews and some good editorial reviews from well known authors. So don't obsess.

4) A lot of people view retail site reviews as a place for comic relief. Some can be hilarious. Actor George Takei recently made "top reviewer" status on Amazon for his reviews of odd products. I dare you not to laugh.

Others can be morbid and weird, like the Yelp reviews of the hotel where a body was found in the water cistern, or reviews of a wife-killer's "self-help" books.

5) Bad reviews don't always mean bad sales. One young writer engaged in an ill-advised snark battle with an ex that ended up in getting her book over 100 one-star nasty, racist reviews. But her book seems to be selling briskly.

6) Amazon also has an ultra-competitive "top 500/100/50 reviewer" program and you can get caught in their games. According to many reports, Grand Theft Auto mentality is rampant there. Reviewer-on-reviewer bullying and competition can be toxic. I've seen them use review comments and "useful" voting buttons to harass each other. Or they give one-stars to books their rivals love. With the author or vendor getting caught in the middle.

This is obvious breach of Amazon rules, so clicking the "report abuse" button usually solves the problem, but it can be traumatizing for the baffled author.

There is a rigid Amazon review culture and fall afoul of it at your peril. I've just heard of a new book about it called How to Get Good Reviews on Amazon by Theo Rogers, which may explain some more of the arcane rules.

7) Most people who write product reviews and comments are sincere, helpful customers, and some Amazon book reviewers are old school literary experts who could be published in any upscale magazine.

The best way to clean up the review system is add your honest reviews to the mix. Join the ranks of the sincere and helpful! 

I know sometimes it seems as if nastiness on the Interwebz is getting worse, but according to some, it's actually turning around. In the May 2013 issue of Esquire, Stephen Marche said: "The Internet has reached peak hate. It had to. At every other moment in history when there has been an explosion of text — whether through social change, like the birth of a religious movement, or technological change, like the advent of print — a period of nasty struggle ensued before the forces of civility reined it in."

Let's hope for those forces of civility to step in soon.

Please don't discuss any specific recent incidents of bullying in the comments, or we'll attract monkey-poo (and if you see it, don't respond. Let it stink for itself.)

But don't keep bullying stories to yourself. Lawyers, law enforcement, and journalists are collecting information and will be grateful for your input. You can leave an incident report for NBC news here. There's more info at the International Bullying Prevention Website.

What about you, scriveners? Do you think Internet can be civilized? What other rules should writers follow to stay safe? Can you recommend other safe places for writers? Know of any other bad neighborhoods we should avoid? Do you think retailers should drop the "star" system on online reviews?

This month Anne has an article about the pressures social media puts on authors at Talking Writing, the magazine for creative writers and readers.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,