10 Ways to Write an Unforgettable Memoir | Shayla Raquel

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Check out this most excellent post from Shayla on writing a memoir. Number One is a most important point. I always wanted to write a memoir but I stopped writing the drafts and deleted the sneak peeks I’d shared with my email list (so embarrassing lol) and decided to start over. I’ve learned so much since then with one of the major things being the difference between a memoir and autobiography.

1. Learn the differences between a memoir and an autobiography.
A common mistake is to pour your heart and soul into a book and market it as the wrong genre. An autobiography is a chronological telling of your life, but a memoir hones in on a specific timeline or event. It doesn’t mean you can’t have flashbacks or backstory; you can. But you must understand the big and subtle differences between the two before you write, publish, and market your story.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my story reflect on my entire life (autobiography), or a key aspect, theme, or event (memoir)?
  • Does my story start at the beginning of my life and progress to the end (autobiography), or does it start anywhere and move around in time and place (memoir)?
  • Does my story require hours of fact-checking (autobiography), or is it more personal, requiring less fact-checking (memoir)?

“A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”

—Gore Vidal, Palimpsest

Read more of Shayla’s Guest Post by clicking through to the original post here.

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Owning Your Writing Craft

Like I always say, take some time to enjoy the journey. Post quote: “Look at where you started and where you are now. Be proud of the distance you’ve traveled and how much you’ve accomplished, so far.”

A Writer's Path

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by Tonya R. Moore

There’s all this hubbub floating around out there lately, conflicting theories of all the DOs and DON’Ts of what it takes to be or become a successful author.

Some time ago, I saw some Perpetual Writing Advice Giver actually tweet that if you’re a writer promoting your work and you don’t have this many (double digit) thousand followers on Twitter, you’re simply not trying hard enough. To add insult to offense, said party didn’t even have a half of that “strongly suggested” following.

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This week in Indie Publishing News

This week in Indie Publishing from Don.

Author Don Massenzio

art1Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word or a Boon to the Industry?

In an article by author Laurie Gough titled Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word, she argues that self-publishing is devaluing to the art of writing, disrespectful, and less desirable than sharing “a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump.”

A divisive statement, in more ways than one. To rub salt in the wound, the word “published” is put in quotation marks whenever used to refer to a self-published author.

Read the rest of this story HERE.

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Authors offer publishing secrets

Will this be the year to finally publish your manuscript that’s been collecting dust in a desk drawer? If becoming a published author is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, check out local resources to help you reach your goals.

Read the rest of this story HERE.

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The 2017 State…

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How To Choose Ebook Promotion Sites Worth Your Money.

Excellent bullet points. I especially like the point about how many books go out in each email. Lots of promo sites promise promoting to a large email list. Sounds good to have your book pushed to 55,000, but depending on the number of authors whose books are promoted in that same list, your book may not even be seen! I am still seeking to grow mine, but I also enjoy my small list. I know that the books I review and promote (I highly promote the books that I review) are actually being seen and not drowned out. Sometimes, less is more.

My 7 Step Writing Process

My 7 Step Writing Process

It really does not take me long to write a book once I’ve settled on an idea I think will work. Below is my 7 step process. If I follow this, it takes me about 6 months to finish writing a first draft.

Caution: What you’re about to read is weird and does not necessarily take place in this order. Sorry.

Step 1: Research, First Draft, Announcement

When a story idea hits me I tend to stare out in space a lot and just do a lot of talking to myself. In the event my husband feels like hearing me ramble, I talk to him about it. He is SO helpful because some of my ideas (OK OK, a lot of my ideas) don’t make sense and he gives it to me straight, no chaser. “EC, what?” OK, maybe not like that but basically, he tells me how it is. Once I’ve discovered a story idea that is worthy, I’m like a drug addict in need of a hit. First, my blood starts to rush, my hands get sweaty, and I start to live off of coffee and books for most of my days (I’ve been known to skip a meal or two to write just one more sentence….paragraph…page…chapter) and I just can’t stop thinking about the story. I need to get my hands on anything that will give me further insight into this idea.

I must clarify that I research and write simultaneously. In a week of writing you can be sure that I have read books, took notes, and added more to the story at the same time. I don’t believe in spending months researching alone. By then I may forget the story. Another weird thing I do is that I often stop in the middle of writing to make sure that awesome idea I wrote made sense, that is, that it is appropriate for the era in which I am writing (since most of my work is Historical Fiction). Of course, I’ll go back over everything later on in  the process but I try not to rely on my memory. If I have to stop while I’m thinking about it, that’s what I’ll do. This means that I can stop writing to read an entire novel or do hours of research. Then, a few weeks later, I’ll return to the manuscript and write some more. Keep in mind that this is just the first draft. I believe that with the first draft its important to just get things down. Just write. Don’t try to worry too much about anything else at this point. It’s just the beginning. Just the first step.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase. So go ahead, step!

So I read, write, and repeat in this stage. This is also the time where I announce that yes, I am going to publish another book. I do this because I believe it is important to announce my next book as early in the process as possible and I tend to know right away if I’m going through with it or not. If I’ve begun massive writing, I’m pretty much in. If I decide not to publish it later then nothing is lost. However, if I decide to go on with it I have the advantage of everyone already being familiar with it. In short, I announce my next project by talking about it as soon as is possible, aka, word of mouth.

Step 2: Feedback

After I’ve actually finished the first draft I need to go back over it, obviously, but tend to not know where to start! This is where I need feedback from others. Of course, I know the script needs to be edited (though I’ve always loved to write, English not so much), but I think its important to get feedback first, rewrite it, then get it edited. So, I belong to a few writing groups. The first group is my husband. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. Here’s why:

I’m a woman but I do write about male characters occasionally (my last book was the first book where a male was the main character. No, I am not a feminist or anything like  that its just, well, I’m a woman! It’s easier for me to have central women characters because, being a woman, I naturally know women). When I do write in men characters, as deep as my imagination is, I am not a man. I can be as talented as is possible but I am not a man. I recruit the assistance of my man to make my men characters more authentic. I need to know, “Does this sound like something a man would say?” Sure, I have brothers and Uncles and male cousins. I’ve been around men my whole life and I know them to an extent. Research is also good but there’s nothing like getting it from the horses mouth sorta speak. Not that my husband’s a horse, you get the point.

However, I also belong to a couple other writers groups. In one of them, there’s a day where we uploaded a chapter and the members gave us feedback on what we should change! Another option is to seek the help of Freelance Beta Readers, or people who will read your book and offer their input. This is just a few ways I seek feedback: Family, Writing Groups (I must also mention that I am not deeply involved with critique groups. I can’t focus on finishing the first draft if everyone is telling me what I need to change every step of the way. Yes, it’s annoying. Let me finish the first draft first, then we can talk changes. So, when I say writers groups, I really mean after the first draft. Otherwise, you’ll probably get a good chapter out of me and that’s it), and Chapter Excerpts.

Step 3: Chapter Excerpts

This serves a dual purpose: I like to share chapter excerpts to give me the opportunity to receive even more feedback BEFORE I hire an editor. When I’m at this stage its usually after the first draft finish (which is where I’m at now, also known as The Beta Reader Stage). As I am uploading sample chapters, I am also simultaneously submitting the script to those Beta Readers. In this way, I can compare the feedback (Feedback does not necessarily mean I’m going to change what others say that I should if I’m not feeling it. Yes, I’m a very picky writer. It’s a MUST that the central vision of the story does NOT change). The other purpose this serves is: Promotion! By uploading chapters of my upcoming book, I am giving readers an opportunity to sample it. If they love it, I have already secured potential readers. Its not grandiose, but it is a form of promotion within itself. I did this with book two in The Stella Trilogy and it was a success. People who read the excerpts could not wait to purchase the complete story when it was done and some did follow through on their word and bought the book. Don’t get me wrong, this is not why I do this. I post excerpts because I think its fun. Its just that, as a perk, I am also promoting the story.

What to Sample?

There’s a general understanding that the first five chapters of a book should hook the reader so I pretty much go with this. If the first five chapters of a book can’t hook readers, there are major changes that need to take place! So, I start by uploading excerpts by chapter. If the chapter is too long however, I only use a greater portion of the chapter because I don’t want the post or excerpt to be too long (our attention spans are really not that long people. In fact, I hope you’ve read this far into this post!). When I start to submit excerpts for Nora’s story on this blog, I’ll pretty much start with Chapter 1.

Step 4: Revisions

Like I said, these steps are not necessarily in order. This can take place both before and after the feedback. Lots of frowns are likely to occur here, more stares out in space, and repeated questions that probably will never be answered like, “But why?”

In my re-writing stage, I focus on a few primary points:

  • Hypocrisies and Plot Holes
  • Showed or Told? (“Could I show this more instead of telling? Did I tell or did I show?”)
  • Spelling / Grammatical Errors

I don’t really believe I am capable of truly editing my own work being so close to it, but I do what I can during the revision process before seeking an editor and I am extremely paranoid about this. My manuscript is likely to go through many revisions before it hits the editor’s desk. Are you ready for the weird part? I have to read it out loud! Not the entire script straight through, just the part I’m revising at the moment. I start revising by getting ready for the grand rehearsal. All characters in place? In 5,4,3,2,1…Chapter 1.

Step 5: Edit

After rewriting the script to my satisfaction (and getting feedback) it is time for the big edit. This is where I hire an editor. I have an excellent editor friend I tend to start with and then go on from there (as there are different levels of the edit). This time around, as to make the advanced editing easier, I’ll likely have my editor go over it first so it’s not that many grammatical errors when the in depth editing takes place. Proofreading is also part of this process although the proofread is usually after the edit as a final polish.

Step 6: Book Cover Design

No, I don’t wait.  As the editor is doing his or her thing, I am getting the Book Cover Design done (or at least thinking about it). My vision is to always release the Book Cover Design for the book before it is set to release. Again, this is more promotion as people are highly visual. When my favorite Traditional Published authors announce a book release, its usually backed up by a hot book cover of the coming book. I’ve never heard Terry McMillan say, “Hey look, my editor is editing a book I plan to come out with next year!” No, the hard work is done on the back end and there is usually a grand announcement made by the author, followed by a Book Cover of the pending book for readers.

No? Oh. Well, at least that’s how it happens in my head.

So, for this reason, I consider the official (if I’ve made it this far I’m pretty much coming out with the book. Period.) announcement of the book with the grand book cover release. This gets people (including me!) even more excited and interested. I see the book cover design as the official official stamp of approval. By now I am definitely publishing this book!

Step 7: Marketing / Promo.

This is not the last step.  I am actually marketing and promoting my next book around the same time that I am making the official announcement. Nope, I don’t wait. Like I said, if I decide not to publish the book, nothing is lost. I’m just not doing it at the moment and everyone understands. However, if I do decide to publish it, I like to give myself a head-start.

My first form of marketing and promotion is just sharing the story! This is why I like to talk about it in the beginning instead of waiting until the book is almost finished. If I share the story early on, everyone is involved. I can speak about my writing process, my struggles, my doubts, my successes. It’s like a pregnant woman.  She let’s you feel on her belly and tells you about all the updates. She boasts of the ultrasound and reveals if it’s a girl or boy. In short, you are on this journey with her. By the time the baby comes you are just as excited about it as she is. It’s the same with books I suppose. I like to start the pre-promotion process by helping potential readers to feel as involved as I am comfortable with. In this way, you feel just as connected to the work when it releases. Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. But involve me, and I learn.

I am still learning about the whole promotional thing myself so take this with a grain of salt (lbs), but I think getting into promo mode takes a good year in advance (my novel doesn’t come out until 2017. Will I wait until 2017 to say something about it? No!). I say a year to include before the book releases. You want to push the book before it’s published, and also at least 3-6months afterward. How a book performs in its first 6 months usually helps to determine where it’s at with readers (at least for me). Not that you will ever stop pushing the book.

With Self-Publishing you can always keep pushing your older works and try different promotional techniques (that’s the perk). This is often my biggest challenge: Not to forget about all of my books! As I start a new project I just get so excited that it is easy to forget that I can continue promoting my other works. I also seek Advanced Readers or Advanced Reviews after the book is edited, though I am not sure I’ll do the Advanced Read thing this round (didn’t work out well for me the first time). I will like to garner earlier reviews this time around though. Instead of waiting until the book releases, I hope to secure some reviews at least 3 months prior to launch day and I’ll recommend the same for you. That’s another reason you want to promote the book in advance.

It is also wise, I think, to start to work on new work as you’re promoting your current ones if you have the time. More books tend to drive more sales as readers have variety. It also tends to take more than one book to start to see some action as a Self-Publisher. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. Sure, many of you are awesome and can churn out those first time hits, but I know that for me it took several books before I started to become noticed outside of my circle in the Indie community. So, as I am coming up on 6 months since the publishing of The Road to Freedom, I am also starting to get more and more into the production of my next book.

***

Enjoyed reading about my process? Be sure to follow this blog for a chance to read Chapter Excerpts from my YA, Historical Fiction 2017 Novel Project: 

Renaissance: The Nora White Story.

Dear Ms. Morrison,

A Good Review on Basics: Avoiding Writing Scams

Must Read Information For Self-Publishers On Promo. / Marketing Scams / Request For Manuscript Submissions From Scammers

Just Can't Help Writing

This piece from Just Publishing AdviceBlue computer distills some important basic considerations to attend to for those of us trying to learn the book-publishing and marketing process. I get “requests” to submit manuscripts quite often and have usually wondered who it is that’s so desperate to see my work when traditional agents turn down hundreds of submissions each week. This article helps to put the situation in perspective.

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Giveaways: The Experience

With so many giveaways happening in the Self-Publishing community, I would like to share with you my experience with Giveaways.

sweepstakesWhy I Invested in a Giveaway

I believe it is important for any artist to give back in some way. So the motivation  behind this contest was just that. I love being able to share a part of myself with others. When I do good for others there is a feeling of excitement that no monetary value can match. I love helping people, teaching people, and learning from people. I started this contest because I believe it is important not just to write books, but to give back as well. For me, not being able to give back robs me of the  joy that comes with being a part of this community.

Doubt

I wasn’t sure if this was something I wanted to do at first. To start, there are tons of Self-Published books out there that people are offering for free. This was a huge red flag for me. I did not want to throw my book in with the sea of freebies. It made me feel desperate. That my books were no good and this is why I’m giving them away. That’s because I don’t like to over do things and I do believe there is such a thing as overdoing things if not done strategically. There can either be too little or too much. Why? Because no one wants to be reminded of a product every time they see you. Imagine someone telling you about their new this and new that every time they saw you. This frightened me away from the Giveaway and thus I reasoned that maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Part of my mind completely tuned out my true desire for the giveaway and tried to cloud me with doubt. However, eventually I ignored it and set up my giveaway.

The Risks

Risky-Business-Leadership-Kai-Roer

Also with the doubt, before I decided to go for it, was the risks involved in Giveaways. Keep in mind that running a giveaway is a short term project. By short term I mean you run the risk of short term success in relation to gaining new supporters. People will support you just so they can get the free prize and be on their way. They may also unfollow your social networks after the contest has ended and you’ll notice your numbers go down which will completely suck but it is part of the downside to a giveaway. This is also the risk of Book Reviews just to slightly change the subject. No one really talks about it, but there’s a positive and negative side to everything. The downside to Book Reviews is that giving books away for free in exchange for an honest review does not mean people will be honest and give you your review. Some people may feel bad that they didn’t like the book and you’ll never hear from them again. Hopefully no one has to go through that but we have to keep in mind that not everyone is as honest as they say they are.

Anywho, back to Giveaways. Even with the risks involved, if done strategically, you can possibly have some people drawn to you who actually want to stick around (please stick around people!)

The Process

Walking direction on asphalt

Immediately, I wanted my giveaway to be different. I did not want to use Raffle-copter, Goodreads, and I did not want to use Amazon. To me these platforms are already being used to the max. Another Amazon Giveaway?  It didn’t sound so exciting. Why? Well, everyone’s doing it! So I popped open my laptop and began to search. As a person I like to stand out if I can help it. I like to be different. If the world view is one way, then you better believe I’m on a whole other planet and I like it that way. If the world is normal then call me crazy! If I’m part of something ordinary then I want to make it extraordinary  and so I wanted to promote this in the most unique way possible. Whatever I do, even if its not that big of a deal to most, I want there to be some kind of excitement behind it. Why? Because its worth it. YOUR worth it. And so I wanted to find something that would add a unique touch to my contest. And yes, I wanted it to be a contest. I did not want everyone to win. Perhaps it was still the voice of doubt creeping or maybe it was just common sense. A giveaway where everyone wins? It sounded boring. I wanted there to be a competition instead and not the one where everyone gets the prize.  I also wanted their to be ranks! Levels. Progression. 1st Prize winner. 2nd Prize winner…. yes, now we’re getting somewhere.

That is when I found Promo Simple. Though I was not in the position to buy any of their more advanced features (which would have been way cooler) the free option was the best option for me. It is simple to set up and still maintains that professional look and feel.

Requirements

062112_kissNo, I’m not calling you stupid. Yall know better than that!

But, you do need to keep your giveaway very very simple.

This is a big one that so many people miss. When setting up a giveaway, it is best to keep it as simple as possible. If you require people to like your Facebook page to enter or follow you on Twitter it will lessen the chance of them entering. If you ask for their date of birth, phone number, marriage status, age, address…you get the point…too much. However, there is a way to be strategic. Instead of asking for too much information, I simply asked for an email address. That’s it. All I need is your email address. If you win, I can email you for those personal details, such as your home address so I can ship your prize. To increase social media interaction and newsletter sign-ups, I offered my social media as an option in return for more votes (you always need an incentive). In this way people can choose to support my social media in exchange for extra entries for their try for the grand prize. In this way no one is forced to do anything and people actually want to support you. Why? Because they are simply not forced to. This also increases your chances of getting follows that will stick around because they didn’t HAVE to follow you to enter, they did it because they wanted to. Like I said, while I promote a lot and I think its important, I also think there is a strategic (obviously this is the word of the day people) way that it is to be done. Typically, when you push too hard people pull away but if you tread lightly (and consistently), people are curious and more inclined to inquire. Consistency and Strategy is the name of the promo game. At least in my experience. (I never said I was an expert so stop looking at me like that).

Prizes

free_books_01

I was doubtful on whether or not to give away my books.

Not because I’ll be doing it for free and feel like I’m losing out on some money but because of the people who may not have heard of me. Realistically, no one is going to want books from an author they’ve never heard of before (unless of course its a debut book that has been well promoted that people are just dying to get their hands on). Not even if they are free. I noticed right away that the thing about freebies is that there must still be strategy. There’s a saying that people like free stuff, this is true. I like free stuff! But its just not about free stuff, it is also about the value. If you offered me a free box of clothing that’s ripped with holes in it I’m not going to take it. So you see, I thought, well free does not necessarily mean that its any good. Most people in fact are more inclined toward the price tag because they know they get good value. For this reason, its not always a good idea to give away books for free just because its free which is why I seldom do so. In fact, this is my first time giving away my books for free. I think the free game is when you have become so well established as an author that your fan base has grown and the demand for the book is huge. For this reason, I knew I did not want to just give my books away for free alone. Though there is some demand, its not like I’m JK Rowling or something (if I hear that name again…) so I knew there had to be an added bonus at stake. Something everyone would want. Something I would want. Something that would make me enter a contest like my own.

That is when I threw in the Amazon Gift card. Though this was not an Amazon Giveaway (where I am giving my book away through Amazon), adding the Amazon Gift-card added a great value to the books I was also offering freely. I could have easily given away an eCard but I was thinking again, about value. Plus I’m a hands on type of person so I thought about what I would want. Would I want to win an eGift card. Yes. Would I want to win a hard-copy Gift-card in the mail that looks like a debit card and comes with a cute special box? Yes! So there you have it, I went with the hard-copy. If it would make me feel special, then it will make my readers feel special too.

With the books, I decided to do the same thing. Instead of give away eBooks, I decided to up the stakes by giving away paperbacks, signed by me with my special author seal.

Time Limit

Businessmen and Clock

Timing is everything! So this was a big one for me. For anyone planning a contest I would highly suggest you take the time to strategically decide just how long you want your contest to be. If the contest is too short (one day) it won’t give everyone a chance to see it and participate. But if the contest is too long (one month), the initial excitement will wear off and people won’t be as interested. One month could possibly work if organized well for someone with a large enough fan base and demand. Otherwise, people will get bored. The human attention span is only 20 minutes or so, after which we start to look for something else better to do so you have to keep that in mind.

A good time frame for a giveaway is 2 weeks in my opinion and it is what I went for. And it was perfect.

On launch day of my contest the excitement was huge. Lots of people participated and my social media’s blew up (well, not up but increased a little. Maybe like blew middle lol). My Facebook post got about 12 shares and Twitter was buzzing. Over the next couple of days the excitement dwindled a little, but people were still excited and the entries were still coming in. I would look and see 18 entries and then return to see 32. That was an amazing boost to my Giveaway confidence.

By the second and final week however, though the entries continued to come in it was nothing like the first week and as the contest came to a close, the numbers remained stagnant a few days. That is until the final finish.

Final Finish

635928250011007496-248600615_timeflies

I thought it would be a good idea not to promote the contest too much. What I mean is, promote it on Launch day and a few days after that and then leave it alone a week. I’m working on my patience so this was huge for me and also important to the contest itself. By leaving it alone and talking about other things and focusing on other things you give people a chance to see it. So by doing this the numbers increased beyond what I thought. Then I came back the second week just to remind everyone that we were in the final week. Then I left it alone. Leaving it alone was key. At least for me. By giving people a chance to see it, they did. This may not work for everyone but it did for me. I waited until the final moment, the last day, to announce it again. This gives those stragglers time to come on in. There will always be those last minute decisions. The Final Finish is for them, the late birds. And as the final hours dwindle, this is when your contest will really take off. Those launch entries and last minute entries are the most exciting as everyone is rushing to be the first to enter and rushing to the finish line. I announce my three winners next week. I’m so excited to see who will win and who takes first place.