Writers' Forum - April 2021




Kindle Rolls Out New Exclusive Fiction Serialization Option

Kindle Vella is a new exclusive way to serialize your fiction stories and deliver them to readers one episode/chapter at a time. This is only for US based authors via Amazom.com, and it is only for new stories. You can’t serialize a book you’ve already published. There’s plenty of talk out there about this new option. First, take a look at Dave Chesson’s article giving the program detailsThen dive into Publishwide’s article that gets into more details, including how readers pay via tokens and how authors will be compensated. Finally, Monica Leonelle from the Productive Novelist discusses the pros and cons in the Medium article: "Going Exclusive with Fiction Serialization: Is it Worth it?"

How the Pandemic is Affecting Book Publishing

Jane Friedman has an up-to-date, comprehensive look at the state of book publishing, including an analysis of the other reports about publishing that might be overlooking a few things. Key takeaways are that (of course) more sales have been online (but this has benefited a broader list of retailers and publishers aka it’s not all about Amazon), audiobook sales and digital subscriptions continue to grow, and increased book deals (new contracts) during the pandemic have been reported. There’s way more than that to catch up in the article, read it here: https://www.janefriedman.com/how-the-pandemic-is-affecting-book-publishing/


Kristen Lamb’s advice for writers is always witty (bordering on hilarious) and extremely relevant. She provides both writing craft and publishing advice in her blog posts. You can see her humor coming through in her biography (below). Check out her website and subscribe to her blog via email: https://authorkristenlamb.com/

Kristen Lamb is an author, blogger, international speaker and unrepentant troublemaker. She’s the creator of the perennial branding and social media guide book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. Additionally, she was the author of the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s now returned to her first love…MURDER. Um, FICTION. FICTIONAL MURDER…. Her highly acclaimed mystery thriller, The Devil’s Dance is positive proof she watches way more Discovery ID than is probably healthy. Kristen has helped tens of thousands of writers improve their craft skills. Her branding methods are responsible for selling millions of books. She’s helped all levels of writers from the pre-published newbie to the mega-author. Kristen’s primary goal is to help you sell books, not your SOUL.



Writing the Opening Line

Rhiannon Richardson gives us ways to approach that all-important opening line in an article for the Good Story Company. Personally, on the first draft I don’t worry much about that line. It’s more important for me to get something down on paper to get the story rolling. Later, however, I edit and re-edit this line many times. So much so, that sometimes I think I might have gone back to the original line without even realizing it. You’ll appreciate her tips here: https://www.goodstorycompany.com/blog/opening-line

Punctuation Guides

Do you often look up whether you’re using punctuation correctly. I consult websites like Grammar Girl when I’m having trouble remembering specific punctuation rules. I found this punctuation guide from The Book Designer helpful to bookmark. There’s an accompanying article that digs into comma use—something I wish I was better at. And an additional article that targets using periods properly.

9 Easy Steps to Write the BEST Children’s Book of 2021

Dave Chesson presents this overview for writing a children's book, but these tips are specifically for picture book writing. He does briefly touch on the many types of books within the children’s market which span board books to young adult novels along with the average word counts and the target age range for each. Overall, this is a fine summary for anyone looking to digest the basics of picture book creation from concept to finished product.  



Independent Publishing Resources

David Gaughran’s article “How to Self-Publish a Book in 10 Steps” breaks this complicated process into a great checklist. If you’re searching for a more in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of independent/self-publishing and how to successful independently publish your book you may like my Independent Publishing Blueprint course.

The Independent Publishing Blueprint is now available for $99. This course begins with a comprehensive discussion of the pros and cons of independent (self) publishing, hybrid publishing, and traditional publishing. The rest of the course goes through a step-by-step approach or blueprint that will allow you to successfully publish your book independently. You’ll learn the lingo of the publishing world, business basics you need to consider, book readiness and formatting, categories and keywords, options for print, e-book, and audiobook – and as a bonus we'll discuss the elements of your online author image and a book marketing/launch campaign. The course includes a 60-minute instructional video, a Publishing Guidebook, and more.

Check out the full info here: https://valeriebiel.podia.com/independent-publishing-blueprint

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know: Hybrid Publishing

Barbara Linn Probst writes a thorough description of what Hybrid Publishing is (and what it isn’t.) This is an often confusing type of publishing that operates between traditional and independent publishing. It’s an interesting business model that may provide a very good option for many authors.



How to Create an ePub File

If you’re moving toward publication of your book, you will likely need to have your book formatted into an ePub file. Many authors will hire someone to do this formatting, but Jane Friedman shows you how to create your own ePub for free or for a minimal cost.

Author Branding

I place this article firmly in the pre-launch section because every author needs to think through their branding concept before they publish their first book. Sandra Beckwith’s article gives you the components involved in your branding like the online image you present via your website or social media. She also gives examples of what a good author brand looks like and lists the questions you need to ask to help you define your own author brand. Read it here: https://buildbookbuzz.com/author-branding/

Amazon Author Central Page

One of the components of your online author image (which is part of your brand) is your Amazon Author Central page. This is a free page you can populate with information about yourself and your books on the Amazon platform. Dave Chesson provides a free guide here. If you’re looking for a tutorial, you might like my video course that will help you with Amazon Author Central and other online retailers. 



Podcasts Sell Books

Dan Blank presents the evidence on how Podcasts sell books and, even better, he shows you how to pitch a podcast for a guest spot and how to be a good guest once you’re booked. Podcasts aren’t just for nonfiction writers. If you’ve written a fiction book, you’ve definitely learned things along the way that you could share with a podcast audience. It takes a bit of research to find the right podcasts to approach, but it is time well spent to reach a broader audience of potential book buyers.

Book Advertising: 5 Design Elements that Can Impact Clicks

This BookBub Insights article by L.A. Sartor is fascinating! If you’ve ever been curious about whether the background of your ad, the placement of the book cover, or colors of the fonts used impacts your ad’s “clickability,” you’re going to enjoy this article as much as I did. Some of the tests weren’t statistically significant, but give you an idea of the elements you might test within your own ads to find the combination that gives your ad the most clicks.  Read the full article: https://insights.bookbub.com/book-advertising-design-elements-clicks/

Promo Stacking: Effective Strategies for Every Author

Ricci Wolman at Written Word Media teaches us how to stack promotions for the most effective campaign for our book or book series. If you’re not sure what Promo Stacking is, this “refers to the marketing practice of running multiple coordinated marketing campaigns within a set time frame with the goal of increasing the sales and rank of a specific title or series. The timeframe for a promo stack is typically short, with the burst of promotional activity spanning 4 -7 days.” Authors can definitely learn to do this on their own with guides like this article, but if you’re looking for help to figure it all out, this is one of the services I provide through my agency, Lost Lake Press.

Email Newsletters

I hope by now that most of you have an email subscription form in place on your website and you’re building an email contact list. If you have such a list, then you need to be communicating to these folks. Most often that takes the form of an author newsletter. Catherine Baab-Muguira’s article on Jane Friedman’s blog, “What Every Writer Needs to Know about Email Newsletters: They’re not Going Away,” examines the importance of this direct communication and gives you solid steps to get started.


Video Marketing Insights

Have you made the jump into using video to help market your books on social media? (Or are you still holding out?) Sorry to tell you that I think video is here to stay. (And believe me that little pep-talky sentence is for me as much as it might be for you.) This infographic from social media today explains how video fosters connections, humanizes your ‘brand,’ and builds community.

17 Instagram Book Promotion Ideas from Publishers

If you’re struggling at all to come up with ideas to promote your book on Instagram, you may appreciate these 17 suggestions for effective book promotion from Shailee Shah for the BookBub blog. I love Instagram so much and need to spend more time there as my books are geared toward younger readers! My favorite suggestions from this list are giving readers a look behind the scenes and providing teaser quotes.

Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie  


I always learn so much from your posts. I was so excited to see that you are doing in-person events. Whoop! Whoop!

Crazy to think how long it's been since I've done an in-person event. It definitely feels like we're turning a corner.

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