What I Learned at Write Canada 2015 – Part 2: Indie Writer Continuing Class

The continuing class, Five Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author/Publisher with Linda Hall especially fascinated me since I began the process of publishing my own books this year. (My next book – Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps is launching July 15, 2015.)

Linda started out by describing different ways to get books published (Traditional, Independent, and Small Indie Presses) and shared a brief history of Indie publishing (e.g. Benjamin Franklin, 1732-1758, wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanac). She also reviewed the reasons people decide to go the Indie publishing route:

  • Because I can’t get an agent or a traditional publishing deal
  • Because I want to be in control of my own business

  • Because I enjoy the challenge of being in business for myself

  • Because I want to write what I want to write

  • Traditional houses don’t publish my genre

  • My publisher closed its fiction line

  • I need flexible deadlines

  • As a speaker, I need books to sell at events (business card book)

“If you have 1,000 faithful fans, you can make a living as an Indie writer.” @WriterHall #Indies #quote #writer

Key #1 Pre-book Planning

Is pre-planning different for the Indie Author?

You have to do MORE pre-planning:

  • If fiction: Will it be a series? Length?
  • If nonfiction – Do you have a platform to share your work from? A blog or website?

TIPS:

  • Get involved with communities where your readers spend time
  • Make sure you have a website and blog

Key #2 Writing the book

Your book should be the absolute best book you can write

How many books should I publish in a year? As many as you can write well

Should I format as I write?

  • Only one space after a period
  • Don’t use tabs; use paragraph formatting
  • Use Times New Roman (Serif) (For overheads, use non-serif)
  • Paragraphs should be fairly short

Resources:

1. Why is everyone talking about Scrivener?

  • Trash doesn’t erase.
  • Character name generator
  • Snap Shot – copies your screen so that you can go back if you want.

2. Simple Note – an easy way to keep notes

3. How to format your novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace…in One Afternoon (for Mac) by Ed Ditto

4. The ebook design and development guide by Paul Salvette

5. Gwen Hernandez – Scrivener course (NOTE: Registration is now open for classes in the fall of 2015.)

Key #3 – Editing

  • Read your piece out loud (Google Play Books reads out loud)
  • Find Beta readers – friends, family members, and readers who will give you honest feedback about your writing.
  • Get an outside editor!

The four types of editing:

1. Concept or Developmental

2. Substantive

3. Copy-editing

4. Proofreading

Key #4 – Covers and Finishing

Go to Amazon and search the genre to get ideas about the style of cover you want and what’s popular.

eBook covers are different than print book covers

3 step judging for covers:

  1. Can you read it from 10 feet
  2. Can your grandmother read it from 10 feet
  3. Title should be in top 1/3 of cover

Formats:

  • Amazon – mobi
  • Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and others – epub
  • CreateSpace – PDF

Styles (eBooks)

  • Full (left/right) justified
  • Indent or space between paragraphs
  • Fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Geneva) eReaders often use their own fonts
  • Copyright, TOC, end stuff, front stuff, graphics

TIP: Draft2digital – Use instead of Smashwords

Styles (Print Books)

  • Full (left/right) justified
  • Indent all but first paragraph of new chapters
  • First letter or each first paragraph of each new chapter – larger and bolder
  • Fonts your choice (serif)
  • Copyright, TOC, end stuff, front stuff
  • Any graphics must be at least 300 dpi
  • No header or footer on first page of each new chapter or in end stuff or front stuff
  • Start on right side (odd numbered page)
  • Headers – odd numbered page is the title, even number is the author

Publishing

ISBNs are free in Canada – go to CISS

Turn your book into audio – acx.com (Only available in the U.S.)

Key #5 – Marketing 

The Indie Reviewers List (theindieview.com); DO NOT pay for reviews!

Do a Google search for the many sites which list bloggers and book reviewers.

More Information:

Linda gave me permission to share the link to a special page she set up for this class. Check it out at rikhall.com/Linda.

My two previous posts about Write Canada were: 5 Things I appreciated about Write Canada  and the Magazine Editor Panel.


What I learned at Write Canada: Part 1 – Magazine Editor Panel

Several magazine editors attended Write Canada and shared helpful information for freelance writers. Here’s my overview:

Panel Members: Lisa Hall-Wilson (Moderator), Angela Bick – Christian Courier (bi-weekly Reformed; book reviews, analysis), Andrew Faiz – Presbyterian Record, Fazal Karim Jr. – Christian Herald, Susan King – Upper Room, Stephen Kennedy (Testimony – Pentecostal; 6 features/issue) Karen Stiller/Bill Fledderus – Faith Today

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General Overview:

Faith Today (Non-denominational): Very conscious of representing a variety of denominations

Testimony (Denominational): A portion has to address denominational needs; We publish 6 feature articles which can be written by anyone; Conscious living fuels writing; writing fuels conscious living. #quote

Upper Room (Non-denominational): Don’t write about a minority opinion

Christian Herald: (650 churches in Toronto area) Ability to speak to the broader church; focus on things that unite.

Presbyterian Record: Denominational loyalty is not as strong as it used to be. This is forcing magazines to look beyond the walls of the church.

Christian Courier: Freedom to write about anything; honest on any issues; Wider spectrum of positions; practicing how to disagree respectfully; no funding from denomination.

What are your lead times and what does that mean for writers?

Christian Courier: 3 weeks or 4-6 weeks for lead features

Presbyterian Record: 6 months (Issue is locked 4 months ahead of time) Feature issues are required 4 months ahead of time

Christian Herald: Newspaper freely distributed. Printed on Wednesday and arrives on Sunday. Pitches 2-3 months in advance (40 days prior). Material deadline = 15 of the month (1 month ahead).

Upper Room: Over 100 countries in 33 languages. Entire issue is done a year ahead. (Need meditations on Advent or Lent)

Faith Today: 3 months ahead

TIP: If you’re pitching for the first time, leave a lot of time to work with.

What queries are you tired of seeing? What do you wish you would see more of?

Faith Today: We don’t publish opinion pieces (rants) by unknown people; Like to work with people who can meet deadlines, write well, and are easy to work with. Topics are negotiable. Our feature articles are not news stories. Instead, these articles need to approach a story from a variety of perspectives and voices so that the story emerges. Do your research and then turn the story on its head. E.g. Instead of writing about how terrible the new sex education curriculum in Ontario is, write about how to engage effectively with school boards and teachers. Aim for 1,200 words.

Testimony: We’d like to find more Arts and Culture feature stories; Also looking for articles about constructive ways of addressing current issues. We are always looking for interesting personal stories that readers can identify with – passionate, honest, real, not preachy.

Upper Room: Please don’t send cover letters or queries; just send devotionals (2 or 3 every 2 months) Devotionals should be 250 words (maybe 300). The purpose of our devotionals is to teach by moving, inspiring, providing humour. Devotionals don’t have to include personal experience, but they must connect the reader to God.

Christian Herald: Be specific in your query – share about your background, including which denomination you belong to. Please check our writer’s guidelines! We’re looking for fresh pieces that go into different categories like business, travel, education.

TIP: Christian Herald is looking for people willing to write about assigned beats like business, travel, and education.

Presbyterian Record: I’m not interested in “attack” articles. A good opinion piece takes a stand. Cynicism is trendy, but it takes skill to take a stand. Great opinion pieces include logical thought with a narrative that builds an idea from line to line. There should be some element of surprise. Find a way to make sense of things that challenge us.

I’ll give you three seconds to catch my interest: Get to the point! I’m looking for stories with a human element – people interacting with their faith and culture. Each of us is on a journey of faith and sometimes we stumble. Be willing to write with vulnerability. Don’t philosophize. Share about your faith journey in the challenging times we are living in.

Christian Courier: Show me you know about our paper. Use my name! One sample is great. I’m looking for people who are articulate on something of interest to Christians. Suggested topics: Truth and Reconciliation Committee and what it means to Christians; Eastern Religion and Christianity; Photo journalism; Sports & Food Obsessions; Homelessness; Sex Trade.

TIP: DO your homework before you send a pitch!

How do you get assignments?

1. Be excellent

2. Be dependable

3. Be consistent

4. Be on time

InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship is gearing up for fall conference from September 24-26, 2015 in Edmonton. I’d love to see you there! Registration details are at http://inscribe.org/events/fall-conference.


Which Cover Would You Choose: Learn Twitter Intermediate

I’d like feedback on cover choices for my second Twitter book. I’m keeping the format the same as the first book, just changing the colour scheme. The first book had light blue and pink. I’ve redone my website and used navy and green. Here is the book synopsis:

Use Twitter to easily and effectively reach your readers!

Successful writers take responsibility for marketing their own work. Social media, including Twitter, can be amazing tools. But how do you get started and use Twitter productively without wasting valuable writing time?

In Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps, Ruth L. Snyder explains how to go beyond the basics and use Twitter effectively. Using this manual, you’ll learn how to write great tweets, use hashtags, link shorteners, and Twitter tools, schedule your tweets, use tweet templates, and continue building relationships with your worldwide audience. You’ll also discover many tips and tricks to engage your audience and build a solid marketing platform in minutes a day.

This is the second book in the Authors’ Social Media Mastery Series on Twitter. The first book, Learn Twitter: 10 Beginning Steps, helps you master the essentials. This book builds on the basics and helps you learn to make the best use of your Twitter account.

Become more proficient at using Twitter today!

Which cover option would you choose? Why?

Twitter Intermediate1

Twitter Intermediate Twitter Intermediate2 Twitter Intermediate3


Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. Thomas A. Edison

Week of June 21 to 28, 2015 – Technology blips, Last week of school, and Editing

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. Thomas A. Edison

This has been one of those weeks:
  • On Sunday night our internet suddenly died. A few phone calls and a couple days later the internet service came back to life. (The power pack for the radio system needed to be replaced.)

  • The last week of school is always hectic – exams, sorting, signing IPPs, report cards . . . I also participated on a hiring interview panel in my role as Glendon School Council Chair.

  • I’m in the middle of editing the next book in my Twitter series. Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps launches on July 15th. Keep your eyes open for some cover options I’m considering.
  • In my last posts I’ve mentioned aiming to be more consistent with my blog posts. Busyness held me back this week. However, so did technology. This is my 4th attempt to write this post. The first three times NOTHING saved. I’m not sure I would be as persistent as Thomas Edison, who tried 1,000 times before he figured out how to make a light bulb work. When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail that many times, Edison replied:

“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” (Click to Tweet) 

  • I thought these two graphics summed up my week well – encouragement to try one more time, and waiting for the Lord.

How did your week go?

Psalm 33

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Summer Writing Fun: Compose Your Summer

Summer arts camp in St. Paul, Alberta

Are you looking for interesting, inspiring programs for your children to participate in this summer? Check out the Compose Your Summer opportunity from the St. Paul (Alberta) and District Arts Foundation.

I’m looking forward to being one of the facilitators for this program. My part will be working with the three different age groups (5-8, 9-12, and 13-18 year-olds) and helping them learn about writing in a fun, active way. Each participant will have the opportunity to create a unique story setting using paint, crayons, pictures, or any other method he chooses. We will also explore characterization by dressing up in different clothing, trying different dialogue, learning about descriptive words, and discussing good/bad traits. Plot will come alive as we video, play with words, and give helpful suggestions to each other. Participants will also receive general writing tips, editing tips, and a sneak peek into publishing and marketing.

Any suggestions or questions? I hope you’ll join in the fun!

Register today.


5 Things I Appreciated About Write Canada 2015

Write Canada 2015 Art
Picture taken at Write Canada 2015 by Stephanie Nickel

I just returned home on Sunday from Toronto, where I attended Write Canada 2015. Over the next few weeks I plan to share some of the teaching and tips I picked up while I was there, but today I’ll share an overview.

1. Focus

Although Write Canada is a writing conference and the focus is on writing, the overarching focus is on God, because attendees are Christian writers. During the event, we were all challenged to consider questions such as:

  • How has God gifted you, and what are you doing with that gift?
  • Are you in God’s Word?
  • Are you interpreting God’s Word accurately?
  • How are you using your writing to shine God’s light on issues?
  • Are you giving glory to God for successes?

 

2. Workshops

I always find it a challenge to pick workshops when I attend writing conferences, because there are so many helpful sessions available. (That’s why I ordered ALL the sessions that were recorded!) This year I decided to focus on self-publishing and writing shorter pieces. The sessions I attended were:

  • Book Launches that Sizzle Panel
  • Magazine Editor Panel
  • Five Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author/Publisher with Linda Hall
  • Marketing Best Practices with Mark Lefebvre
  • Going Global – Write Locally & Sell Globally with Mark Lefebvre
  • Turning Personal Experience into a Devotional Message with Susan King
  • The Game of Publishing with Warren Benson

 

3. Networking

Talking with Susan King and Brenda Wood. Photo by Belinda Cater Burston
Talking with Susan King and Brenda Wood. Photo by Belinda Cater Burston

Writing conferences provide a unique opportunity for authors to meet and interact with other authors, agents, editors, and publishers. I enjoyed the opportunity to have conversations with:

Faculty members at Write Canada graciously make themselves available to have conversations, answer questions, listen to queries, and share their knowledge and expertise.

Deborah Ironstand and James Peters. Photo by Belinda Cater Burston
Deborah Ironstand and James Peters. Photo by Belinda Cater Burston

A special opportunity to network took place Saturday during lunch in a discussion regarding Aboriginal Christian writing in Canada. Dorene Meyer invited James Peters and Deborah Ironstand to join her on a panel. Dorene started the discussion by apologizing for the way Canadians have treated First Nations people. James and Deborah acknowledged the apology and offered forgiveness. Then Deborah read “The Sweet Presence,” a story published in Northern Writers Volume 5. She wept as she read. This is the first opportunity she’s ever had to read her story publicly. James shared his testimony of how God saved him. He said he wants to share his story in schools and churches so that young people don’t have to live through what he did. Doreen invited anyone who would be interested in publishing and promoting Aboriginal Christian writers to contact her. I’m excited to see where this will lead.

4. Friendships

Everything is better when you have friends! I enjoyed hugging and chatting with many of my Christian writing friends over the weekend. Write Canada provided many opportunities to hear about challenges and victories we’ve experienced and to celebrate excellence in writing. (The Word Awards Gala took place Saturday evening, immediately following the Write Canada conference.) Meeting face-to-face with friends I’ve met only through social media made it even better. I also enjoyed meeting people I’d never met before and adding them to my circle of friends.

5. Photography

Organizers of Write Canada arranged to have Stephen G. Woo, a professional photographer, available to take pictures on an appointment basis. He made the shoot fun, and when he found out I’ve written a book about Twitter, he customized the photos around that. I expected to have one or maybe two pictures to choose from, but he sent me twenty-one! Here are some of my favourites.

Pictures he took at The Word Awards Gala are available to view on Facebook.

As you can tell, Write Canada is a great event. I’m thankful God made a way for me to attend. Tell us about your favourite conference to attend!

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Lessons in Trust and Technology

Lessons in trust and technology

 

Sometimes I just have to laugh. (I’d rather laugh than cry, wouldn’t you?!) After I posted last time, I ran into major technology issues. It all started quite innocently, with the addition of a new e-mail address. After the creation of the e-mail address, I wanted to add it to my e-mail program so that I don’t have to check e-mail on the web. Although I thought I had the address configured properly into my Apple Mail program, I soon discovered I made some errors, which not only resulted in me not being able to access my new e-mail address, but also resulted in me not being able to access my website, or the website of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, or the admin panel for either of these websites. Why? Because my IP address was singled out as the source of a possible virus . . .  and blocked. This happened on May 21st and today is the first day I’ve had access to all my services again!

At first I felt stressed, frantic. I’m in the middle of taking an excellent course from Shelley Hitz, called Author Audience Academy. I started the section of the course on building an e-mail list, only to find myself locked out of my website. I couldn’t change anything, I couldn’t apply what I was learning, I couldn’t even look at my website.

Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I decided to focus on what I could do. I’m also in the middle of writing my second how-to book for Twitter (Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps). My original goal was to have the rough draft finished at the end of last week. That didn’t happen. I still have three chapters to write and edit. I’ve already told people I’m going to publish it the end of June and next week I’m going to Write Canada, which means no time for writing. More cause for panic . . .  Or not. As I thought about it, I remembered that I could upload a draft copy and put the book up for pre-sale. As long as that happens in June, people will be happy because they know the book is on its way. That gives me some breathing space and allows me to finish the book well. It also gives me time to get the book to beta readers for feedback. (If you’d like to be one of my beta readers, e-mail me!)

Although I wasn’t able to post on my own blog, I was still able to write two posts which were shared on other blogs:

 


Shadow (German Shepherd/Collie/Mongrel) joined our family when our oldest daughter was eighteen months old. He died peacefully in his sleep when she was fifteen, under the trampoline where he spent many hours “supervising” as our children played and jumped above him. He lived a full, long life, but it was hard to say “Goodbye” or think of replacing him. Nine months ago a beautiful white bundle of energy (Husky/Malamut) joined our family. Our children named him Olaf, after the snowman from the movie, Frozen. Olaf has reminded me of several important truths regarding parenting (Click here to read the rest of this post on A Beautiful Life.)

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” -William Wordsworth

It started at the breakfast table. After we read about what qualities God looks for in a person and how we should look beyond people’s actions and appearances.

“You’re dumb. I don’t like you.”

“I don’t like you either.”

“Mom, Levi’s bugging me.”

I sighed. My husband was already at work. “Are you guys being kind to one another?”

They gave me crooked grins and shook their heads. It was quiet for a few milliseconds before they were at each other,  again.

(Click here to read the rest of this post on InScribe Writers Online)

I believe God’s timing is perfect. I know that He is trustworthy. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose sight of HIM.

What have you been learning about technology and/or trust lately?


Favourite Quotes from The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Art of Work

In January I received an invitation to join the launch team for The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. Although the official launch date of the book is tomorrow, March 24, 2015, everyone on the launch team received a copy of the book a couple of months ago. In this book, Jeff shares from his personal experience as well as from the experiences of others about how to discover what you are meant to do with your life.

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I found myself nodding my head and sighing with relief while I read the book. Jeff tells it like it is: finding our calling is often a confusing and messy path. Many times we have to work for a living while we pursue our passion on the side. If we’re not careful, we can become so obsessed with our passion that we shut out our family and friends – the very people we need to keep us grounded:

Every story of success is, in fact, a story of community.”

“As you strive to achieve your life’s work, be careful of at what costs you chase it. It will be easy to resent those closest to you, to make your biggest supporters into your worst enemies. To hoard your work away from the rest of life. You may be tempted to see every relationship not as a lifeline, but as a competing force, something to be mistrusted. And in doing this, you may destroy the very things that could save you.”

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Jeff addresses many issues, like commitment, apprenticeship, and learning to embrace failure as a friend:

The risk of not committing is greater than the cost of making the wrong choice. Because when you fail, you learn.”

“Failure is a friend dressed up like an enemy.”

“Will you wallow in regret, wondering why such a thing has befallen you, or will you choose to act, making the most of your obstacle, and allow it to evolve into an opportunity?”

“Successful people and organizations don’t succeed in spite of failure; they succeed because of it.”

 

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I especially appreciate Jeff’s reminders to those of us who are passionate about the arts:

 This is an important distinction when considering your life’s work. Most people won’t continue doing something they aren’t passionate about, especially when it gets hard. Putting an activity through painful practice is a great way to determine your direction in life. If you can do something when it’s not fun, even when you’re exhausted and bored and want to give up, then it just might be your calling.”

“Humility is a prerequisite for epiphany. Without it, your dream will be short-lived and self-centered.”

“Answering a call will sometimes feel that way. It won’t make sense and may even open you up to rejection and criticism, but in your heart you will know it’s right.”

“We are caretakers of our vocations, stewards entrusted with a vision that is bigger than us. Our responsibility is not to hoard our gifts but to use them in challenging ways so that others can benefit.”

The Art of Work is a book everyone could benefit from, because we all want to know that our lives will count for something:

Success isn’t so much what you do with your life; it’s what you leave behind. Which may be what a calling is all about: leaving a legacy that matters.”

Get your Free Audio Book + Bonuses by purchasing the book from any retailer!