How to Succeed as an Author
Brett Arends reports:
"Would you like to publish your own book?...Whatever your reasons, it’s a dream or a fantasy of a lot of people. And here’s some good news. These days it’s incredibly easy. Thanks to companies such as Lulu and Amazon’s Createspace, and ebook readers like the Kindle and the Kobo and the Nook, it is simple and straightforward to publish your own book, professionally and credibly...And a surprising number of people are making a living at it. Dan Dillon, director of product marketing at online publishing company Lulu.com, says a growing number of independent authors are selling well...Happily, self-publishing is not just for those who want to write about women who want to be tied up and whipped by billionaires...In a nutshell: It is incredibly easy. I am no techie (I write with a fountain pen), but even I found it very simple to format and upload my manuscript, design the cover, publish both an electronic and a paper-based book, and put it up for sale on platforms such as Amazon. During the course of it I learned a lot about what to do, and what not to do...The good news is, anyone can do this...No, you don’t need to go through a traditional publisher...Traditional publishers say they will 'market' your book, but that hasn’t been my experience. Instead I’ve had to do the marketing myself. Traditional publishers generally devote most of their marketing muscle to the big-name authors who need it the least...Traditional publishers will pay you an advance, but it’s generally a small amount. And the economics aren’t great...Once upon a time, traditional publishers were essential because they basically controlled access to the bookshops. But in case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t that many bookshops left. People shop online...I don’t mean to dismiss mainstream publishers completely. I’m sure there are good ones out there. There are good editors, who work with new authors and help them build careers. There are publishers who merit their existence...Back in the day, a new author had to bang on a lot of doors just to find an agent willing to look at them – and then the agent had to bang on a lot of doors in the hope of finding a publisher willing to look at the manuscript. Most of the manuscripts from unknown authors were relegated to what the publishers called 'the slush pile,' where they sat, unread...Thanks to companies such as Lulu and Amazon’s Createspace, and ebook readers like the Kindle and the Kobo and the Nook, it is simple and straightforward to publish your own book, professionally and credibly."
My New Book on Amazon Kindle
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen reports:
"There isn’t one secret to knowing how to write a chapter of a book – there are many! Here’s what authors need to know about writing chapters – because writing a book is more than putting words to the page. Writing a book is about organizing your words into a compelling and interesting series of chapters. Each chapter in a book has to further the plot and keep the reader hooked...If you want readers to buy your books, you must make sure your chapters do what they’re supposed to do...You find yourself wondering, 'How am I supposed to organize all of this content?' If you stick with these simple methods for writing chapters, you’ll increase the chances [your] book will be read — and enjoyed...To write chapters that readers can’t put down, start with a compelling hook or opening sentence. First sentences vary in their attempts to interest readers in the paragraph, page, chapter and book. Some first lines use description to build tension from line one. The phrase, 'It was a dark and stormy night' from Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton is only part of a first line so memorable it helped define the Gothic genre. Now, it’s a jokey way of indicating someone is using too much purple prose. Even so, the full sentence sets a scene hinting at turmoil and violence...[T]he sentence catches...your attention. In other books, first lines get right to the point, drawing the reader in with a (hopefully) intriguing thought. The first line of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man is simply 'I am an invisible man.' When you’re writing a book, never underestimate the importance of hooking your readers when you’re writing even the shortest chapters...Most books these days have chapter breaks every twelve to eighteen pages. That’s long enough to encompass one or two scenes, but not so long that the reader feels like the next chapter is going to take forever to read. Knowing how to organize a novel and write a chapter isn’t just about providing timely breaks from the material, but to also keep readers reading. If they feel like the next chapter is too long, they’ll put the book down. That’s the last thing writers want! Short chapters also help keep the pace of a story from slowing down. This is because you treat each chapter like its own mini-story in editing, and because the reader is reading fast to get to the end of the chapter and find out what happens next...When dividing the scenes of your novel into chapters, think about it [in] terms of small stories...Chapters are structured in a manner similar to a story. Each is given a beginning, a middle and an ending with an opening for the sequel (otherwise known as the next chapter in the book). Practicing writing book chapters this way makes editing easier and helps with the overall plot of the book. When writing chapters or mini-stories, don’t forget to consider the arc of the plot. Build the tension in each chapter until you reach the climax and then ease the reader into the next chapter. The great thing about creating your own mini-story is that the ending need only be a few sentences long, and can serve as the lead into the next story for your reader...Write each chapter so that a nice little [cliffhanger] keeps the reader hooked and turning pages to the end of the book...Keeping the reader hooked is usually as simple as writing the right line or two. Many authors, like [Stephen] King, foreshadow the events of the next chapter in their last sentences. Others end the chapter in the middle of a tense scene, or cliffhanger[,] so the reader reads on to find out what happened. Some end chapters on a question or mystery, which may or may not be answered in the next chapter. It’s a good idea for authors to mix it up when arranging book chapters to add variety to the overall structure."
Jean Reynolds reports:
"Establishing probable cause can present challenges to an officer who’s writing a police or corrections report. The good news is that three simple guidelines can help you establish probable cause and produce a professional report. What is probable cause, and when do you need to document it? Probable cause can be defined as 'reasonable grounds for making a search, or pressing a charge'; another definition is 'a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime.'...Not every report requires you to document probable cause. If you were dispatched to a scene or incident, or a citizen asks you for help, you can easily establish your reason for being there. Probable cause becomes more complicated when you initiate the action yourself: You saw or heard something suspicious and decided to intervene. Three steps are necessary...Why were you there? Some agencies frown on statements like 'I was on routine patrol.' Better wording might be something like 'While I was driving south on Pine Street….' or 'As I was returning to the station house.'...What caught your attention? Wording like 'acting suspiciously' or 'something wasn’t right' is likely to be challenged in court. You have to note what was unusual about the suspect’s appearance or behavior, or what struck you as out of place about the scene...Can you describe what you saw or heard? Providing facts and details can go a long way to establishing probable cause and prevailing if your actions are challenged in court. A famous example of effective probable cause is the 2007 traffic stop that led to the apprehension of polygamous leader Warren Jeffs for violating Utah’s rape statute. Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Eddie Dutchover pulled over the car in which Jeffs was riding because no registration was visible. While Trooper Dutchover was talking to the driver and passengers, he thought something was amiss. Dutchover called for a backup and conducted a search. He soon discovered that the back-seat passenger was a federal fugitive, and a search of the car yielded computer equipment, disguises, and documents that were later used to convict Jeffs. Jeffs’ attorney challenged the search in court–but Trooper Dutchover prevailed because he clearly described the behavior that had caught his attention: An artery was pulsating in Jeffs’ neck, and Jeffs wouldn’t make eye contact or give his name. Dutchover also recorded in his report the conflicting answers that the driver and other passenger gave to Dutchover’s questions. Training yourself to document probable cause is one of the keys to a successful report and, often, a prosecution."
Cynthia Measom reports:
"One way to thank your boss for a bonus is with a smile and a handshake. But if you want to make more of an impression, write a short note that expresses your gratitude...Select a high-quality note card on which to write the thank-you. A piece of notepaper and a plain envelope won't make the same impression...Express your appreciation in one or two sentences. For example, 'Thank you for the year-end bonus. It was a nice surprise and ended my year on a high note.'...Mention your gratitude toward the company: 'I appreciate being a part of a company that recognizes employee performance by sharing the financial rewards of its success.'...Make a statement about the future, if appropriate: 'I look forward to the coming year and the contributions I can make toward the success of my team, [my] department and the company.'...If you and your boss regularly communicate by email, a thank-you email is acceptable. However, a handwritten note provides a more personal touch...If you receive regular bonuses, writing a thank-you note each time could be overkill. Instead, take the time [to] give your boss a sincere thank-you in person."
Chuck Sambuchino reports:
"Selling articles ups your credentials and credibility; it gives you something awesome to talk about in the Bio section of your query letters; it generates nice paychecks; it puts you in touch with media members who can help you later; it builds your writer platform and visibility, and more. If you want to make more money writing and expand your writing horizons, think about penning short nonfiction pieces for outlets seeking good work. It’s a simple way to do some good for your writing career...All publications have guidelines, which, simply put, are an explanation of how writers should contact the publication in consideration of writing for them. Writers’ guidelines usually address three key things: 1) what kind of pieces the publication is looking for (including length, tone, and subject matter), 2) how to submit your work for consideration (details on formatting and whether they accept e-mail or snail mail submissions), and 3) when and how they will respond to your request...Selling a nonfiction article is exactly like selling a nonfiction book—you sell the item based on the concept and a 'business plan' for it. Here’s how it works: You compose a one-page query letter (typically submitted via e-mail) that details what the article/column will be about, as well as your credentials as an article writer. From that point, the publication, if interested, will contract you to write the article—and only at that point will you write it...Remember that in your case, the goal is platform. The goal is getting your name and work and bio in front of people who will buy your book and become followers. [I]f an editor asks you to write a long piece for little money, that’s not good. But are there benefits? Will you get more assignments in the future—and therefore more platform? Are you doing the editor a favor he will remember? Will writing the article put you in touch with key people you’d like to know?...New publications are actively seeking content to fill pages and are willing to work with newer and untested writers. I would suggest signing up to the Writer Gazette and Writer’s Market newsletters (both free) to get notices of any new publications or paying websites that pop up...Write for local publications. Besides the fact that you’re befriending local media pros who can help you later, you should know that local publications have a natural affinity for local writers...[Y]ou know your hometown and community better than anyone else...Feel free to aim high, but expect to start small. You’ll have an easier time getting things published if you pitch shorter pieces and aim for small to midsized outlets. The goal is to break in, and then use your success and accomplishments to get bigger, better assignments...You can recycle ideas and get multiple paying jobs. One of the best parts about being a freelancer is your ability to recycle and reuse ideas...Get familiar with several target markets and read back content, either online, with a subscription, or through issues at your local library. Note the tone of articles, the sections of the magazines, and the general feel of the magazine and its advertisers. From there, you will be better off pitching the best article ideas—and you will also find out if the idea you want to share has been used recently. You never know [where] a writing opportunity or assignment will lead you, so challenge yourself and stick your toe in different waters."
Jenna (Britton) Arak reports:
"[W]hile perfect prose may not be of the utmost importance in every office or industry, there’s likely someone—a colleague, a client, or your boss—who is noticing your writing and, even worse, making a judgment of your professionalism based on it. So, before you draft another email, take note of the most common workplace writing mistakes, and follow this guide to avoid them...[I]t’s best to be more formal than frivolous in your professional writing. While that obviously means bypassing abbreviations and slang, it also means writing in complete sentences, using correct spelling, and avoiding nicknames. There may come a time when you’re comfortable enough to speak more casually with the recipient of your message, but in business, it’s always better to play it safe (and professional) than sorry...Passive voice—that is, when the receiver of an action is the subject of the sentence (in this case, the document)—is not grammatically incorrect. But sentences that are phrased passively often seem awkward or unnecessarily vague. Active voice—when the one taking action is the subject of the sentence—is typically more direct and clear. It also sounds more authoritative, and can be a better way to show ownership or responsibility for what you’ve done...It can be easy to misconstrue the tone or emotion behind an email if not for very obvious displays of temperament, and people often pepper their writing with exclamation points in an effort to show that they’re being friendly. But the truth is, it’s simply not professional—and worse, it can come across as juvenile...Remember that exclamation points are meant to show emphasis, and they tend to lose their meaning when overused. Use them sparingly, and, when in doubt, not at all...The subject of your email should be a quick summary of what’s in the body. This is a very simple concept that, surprisingly, has still not been grasped by a large majority of the working world. But, when most of us receive upwards of 200 emails a day and often need to scan through a jam-packed inbox for the topics we’re looking for, it can be an especially infuriating business writing mistake to leave your subject lines vague. With all professional communication, your goal is to provide clarity as quickly as possible—and in email, that starts with your subject line...While you might think that using industry or company buzzwords makes you sound professional and in-the-know, it defeats your purpose if no one can understand what you’re saying. Remember, even if you think your direct recipient will know what you’re talking about, your message could be passed along to others, both within and outside of your organization. The best email or notice is one that makes your point (or your request or your reply) readily apparent, and jargon unnecessarily obscures that purpose...[I]n general, your best bet is to play it safe, stay professional, and review your work to keep these common blunders out of your written communications."
Shanan Haislip reports:
"[T]here will always be people telling you how to do what you do, but this way. Their way. Should you always listen? Good question...What if what you know is kind of boring? Does that mean you’re a pretentious try-hard for wanting to do more than that? Should you feel underqualified? No. Writing what you don’t know means you’ll have to do some research, so be sure to put yourself in a teachable frame of mind. Get ready to learn. But, please, for the benefit of modern literature, feel free to write about that which you don’t know...[Y]ou need not have been to college to understand how a semicolon works and second[ly], sometimes, nothing else will do when you want to tie two corresponding-yet-complete thoughts together...The most common (non-listing) way to use a semicolon is to bind two independent clauses (word-blobs with complete subject-and-predicate structures) together. Turn a deaf ear to any and all writing advice that tries to take tools out of your writing toolbox and tries to tell you that it’s for your own good...At one point, I was a holier-than-thou writing tutor, and I had one commandment. Never, ever, under any circumstances, end a sentence with a word like to, for, from, in[,] or with. I would always make my students bury these words further down in earlier parts of the sentence, confident that I was properly apprenticing them in the art of wordsmithing. Too bad I didn’t realize that the prepositions rule included other, longer words like between, beyond, upon, and about. I’m sure we can all think of beautiful, perfectly literary ways to use these words to end sentences...Before you crucify me, let me say that 99% of the time, 'Show, don’t tell,' is a perfectly necessary piece of advice that all writers, particularly those new to the craft, need to heed religiously. Too much telling is almost invariably boring. New writers think that telling feels to the reader like the training montage from Rocky; actually, it usually feels like having to sit through a story that usually ends with, 'Guess you had to be there.'...It’s fine to use telling as the connective tissue that binds your scenes together and provides crucial information. You can waste half a page of context clues for the reader to guess Mama’s age, or you could tell us she’s 37. It’s up to you, and sometimes, it’s better not to waste the space. Conclusion? Tell—sometimes."
Brian A. Klems reports:
"Find a paragraph that sounds exactly the way you want to sound for this work, and tape it to your computer so that it’s always in front of you...Each time you’re about to return to the piece, spend 20 minutes reading the work of an author who writes in the tone you’re after...You might try taking this a step further by more closely examining the sentence rhythms and word choices and looking for ways to make them your own...[T]ry moving some of your best sentences, the ones with energy and just the right tone, up to the top of your document: 'I’m so looking forward to Christmas this year. It will be the only day in December not entirely consumed by children’s theater performances.' Could the piece begin this way? Experiment with moving equally strong sentences to the conclusion of your piece, for a cohesive ending."
Dr. Kay Peterson reports:
"If you find it difficult to write, try talking into a tape recorder. After you’re done, you can transcribe the recording and edit the result. This can be the genesis of a good essay. Most people speak at a rate of 200 words per minute, but write or type at a rate of only 30 words per minute. So the act of writing can get in the way of your creativity, interrupting the flow of thought. You will also be more expressive when you talk...Make your essay a hit with these tips from scholarship providers:...Brainstorm to generate some good ideas and then create an outline to help you get going...The judges may be asked to review hundreds of essays. It’s your job to make your essay stand out from the rest. So be creative in your answers...The judges may be asked to review hundreds of essays. It’s your job to make your essay stand out from the rest. So be creative in your answers...Use stories, examples and anecdotes to individualize your essay and demonstrate the point you want to make. By using specifics, you’ll avoid vagueness and generalities and make a stronger impression...Don’t simply list all your achievements. Decide on a theme you want to convey that sums up the impression you want to make. Write about experiences that develop that theme...Personal essays are not 'one size fits all.' Write a new essay for each application—one that fits the interests and requirements of that scholarship organization. You’re asking to be selected as the representative for that group...Make sure your essay is neatly typed, and that there is a lot of white space on the page. Double-space the essay, and provide adequate margins...on all sides...Proofread carefully, check spelling and grammar[,] and share your essay with friends or teachers. Another pair of eyes can catch errors you might miss."
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