A Novelist Who Works at Amazon

I was always glad, at any rate, to stand beside the gigantic book boxes and enter the books in the system, I looked at the books and knew what kind of thing the Germans buy, so, for example, I knew the Germans like to buy the humorous health writer Eckart von Hirschhausen, because I had a hundred copies of Eckart von Hirschhausen’s face on my desk and put them in a yellow crate. And I found out there really are an incredible number of vampire novels, something I could have guessed beforehand but wouldn’t have thought possible.


Add Sparkle to Your Writing

Add touches of local color with a bit of research.

Research is one of my favorite methods for finding the bits of realism for injecting realism into a fictional narrative. It’s all about being specific.

Instead of simply telling our readers where our characters are — a dank basement in 1950s New York, for example — we break it down. Add some interesting details.

For our particular basement, we can look at a few photos, or recall a memory of a basement scene in a scary movie. We can use our memories of other basements to build a mental picture of our basement, and add a few touches of reality from the correct era.

What would we expect to find in the basement of this particular old house in the 1950s? Broken and discarded toys? Empty canning jars? Old crates and newspapers? Some specific items, recognizable as being from the 1950s, to add that flavor to our narrative — a model train set, toy soldiers, a rusted and broken Radio Flyer wagon.

Find other tips here at the Writing Cooperative.

Self-Published Bestsellers

No one likes to be told “no.” Whether it’s a child asking for a cookie or a guy handing out fliers on the street, getting turned down hurts. But if you’re a writer, it’s also just part of the job. Getting published is hard, and even successful writers were often rejected dozens or even hundreds of times before something clicked. Too bad you can’t skip the whole query letter part of publishing and do it all yourself.

Except that technically, you can. Self-publishing has existed just as long as traditional publishing, and the current digital age has made the distribution of independent literature more accessible than ever. 

Read the rest here at Electric Literature.

3 Ways to Finish Your Next Book

Jon Acuff, author of Finish, shares three key writing strategies for finishing your next book.


I have many bookshelves in my home. Though it’s difficult to pick my favorite book, it’s very easy to point out the best shelf in my entire house.

I call it, “The Finish Shelf.”

It houses dozens of books written by people who read my book, Finish, and learned how to complete and publish their own books.

How did they do it? Well, they followed a set of principles that Mike Peasley, PhD and I uncovered through 6 months of research and focused on these three core ideas:

1. Plan for the day after perfect.

Few things prevent you from completing a book like perfectionism. At the beginning of the project, perfectionism will tell you, “Someone smarter, with a bigger platform and better teeth has already written this exact book.” During the middle-stage of the project, it will tell you that it won’t be perfect when you finish so you should stop now. Worst of all, if you set writing goals, when you miss one, perfectionism will tell you to quit the whole thing. On “the day after perfect,” you’ll feel like your writing streak is over and you might as well quit. Diets fail this way all the time. You go to the gym five days in a row, miss day six and then don’t return for three months. Finishers plan for the day after perfect. They forgive themselves when they miss day four and write anyway on day five.

2. Make it fun if you want it done.

The most surprising thing about our research was how critical fun is when it comes to goal completion. We tend to think that a goal has to be difficult or miserable to “count.” Ask an author, “What are the first five words you think of when you hear the word “goal” and he/she will say, “Hustle, grind, discipline, grit, persistence.” Those words are fine, but it’s no wonder we have a hard time actually getting over the finish line with that mindset. The words we use to describe goals are same words we use for things that we hate doing, like consistently flossing because you’re tired of lying to the dentist. If you don’t enjoy the writing process, you’ll write less. It’s simple. You have to find ways to add more fun back into writing or you’ll avoid it.

3. Quit telling people you are writing a book.

I first heard author Derek Sivers share this idea in a brilliant TED talk. When you tell someone you are writing a book, they pre-congratulate you. At dinner parties they say, “That’s amazing. I could never do that! You’re so brave for using your voice.” As these unearned compliments land on your shoulders, your body releases a hit of dopamine and it’s just enough to satisfy you. That’s why 81% of Americans want to write a book and less than 1% do every year. Quit telling people you’re writing a book and instead actually spend time writing it. The long-term payoff of doing it will far exceed the momentary bliss of pretending you are writing at dinner parties. I promise.

The Elevator Pitch

Distilling the essence of your story down to three short sentences is more important than you can possibly imagine — both for enticing potential readers and for a writer’s sense of his/her own competence. You should also prepare a longer (2-3 minute) pitch. If you can’t get your story across in three sentences or three minutes, you don’t know what your story is about. Read more from the Writing Cooperative here.

Three Magic Questions : Nonfiction

According to August Birch, if you answer three magic questions your nonfiction will sell like hotcakes.

  1. What’s a secret only I know about this subject? This is your Golden Goose. Your secret subject is the hook for your non-fiction. This is the insider’s bit of information and 98% of the reason your reader will buy your book. Most of you book is Google-able. But this — only you can provide the Golden Goose. Figure out this bit of information and release it carefully, deep into the book.

  2. What are the basics my reader MUST know? This is the Google stuff. You’ve got to provide everything the lowest layperson must know to understand your book. Whether you’re teaching a skill, or discussing history, start at the beginning. You don’t have to cover it in-depth if you write an advanced book, but the basics need to be baked inside.

  3. How can I arrange this book so it reads like fiction? You won’t bend the truth, but you can use narrative techniques (finish chapters with open-ended questions, later to be revealed) to keep the work moving. Don’t vomit all your best information up-front. Sprinkle it. Tell us you’ll reveal something important later, but not too soon. Arrange the book in a way that reads like a story. Non-fiction written by journalists are fantastic examples of this.

Read the rest here.

Facebook Marketing

1. Use Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences

I am still amazed by how only a few marketers leverage the power of custom audiences and lookalike audiences.

3. Give an ad set at least 48–72 hours before optimising

Every ad needs some time to get into the algorithm & show it’s true potential. Give it some time before writing it off! I personally run my ads for 72h before analysing and optimising them. What is a good ad set? It depends on your campaign objective.

Read the rest at Medium.

How to Write the Perfect Sentence

By Joe Moran

Every writer, of school age and older, is in the sentences game. The sentence is our writing commons, the shared ground where all writers walk. A poet writes in sentences, and so does the unsung author who came up with “Items trapped in doors cause delays”. The sentence is the Ur-unit, the core material, the granular element that must be got right or nothing will be right. For James Baldwin, the only goal was “to write a sentence as clean as a bone”.

What can celebrated writers teach the rest of us about the art of writing a great sentence? A common piece of writing advice is to make your sentences plain, unadorned and invisible. George Orwell gave this piece of advice its epigram: “Good prose is like a windowpane.” A reader should notice the words no more than someone looking through glass notices the glass.

Read the rest at the Guardian.

Using Music Lyrics in Your Book

From BookBaby Blog:

How do I legally quote song lyrics in my book?

Don’t do it.

No, really.

Trust me. If you want to legally print the lyrics of a popular song in your book to set a mood, have a character sing along with the radio, or use as a lead-in to your chapters, you need permission from the copyright owner. Getting this permission will very likely be:

  1. Maddening

  2. Expensive

  3. Impossible

I recommend you don’t do it.

Authors can’t quote song lyrics in books without permission?

Not without violating US Copyright Code.

But it’s really important to me. There MUST be a way. I’ve seen other writers do it.

There is a way to do it, and it may only cost you hundreds of dollars. It may cost thousands of dollars. The process can take anywhere from weeks to never. Your request may be denied for no reason. There’ll very probably be no back-and-forth.

And consider this: Just because a song has a specific meaning for you, you don’t know your readers are going to react the same way. They’ll be bringing their own lyrical baggage with them.

But… you can quote song titles without permission. In fact, you can quote song titles, album titles, movie titles, book titles, and article titles, all day, every day. You can write, “She turned on the radio and flipped through the stations until she heard Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird on a Wire.’ She sang along, drumming on the steering wheel, desperately trying to forget about her husband…”

Read the rest at BookBaby Blog.

Do Not Use IngramSpark for Pre-orders

Amazon (Createspace, now KDP) has never allowed pre-orders without a lot of Amazon Assoc. hoops, so we were thrilled to use IngramSparks pre-order capability.

What a disaster.

As soon as the ms. was loaded — in one case, 5 months ahead of the publication and on-sale date — IngramSpark began to print and ship to Amazon’s distribution warehouses. In the case above, those books were ARCs with the NOT FOR SALE and publisher information clearly boxed on the back. These books were then sold to customers — five months later — when the book launched.

The above example is not the only one we’ve experienced this year. IngramSpark does not answer the phone and only responds to email with boilerplate blamelessness.

The only way I can see to stop IngramSpark from printing and distributing proof copies ahead of the pub / on-sale date is to not put a price on the book.

More Book Marketing Ideas


BookBoast offers a newsletter swap for cross-promotion with other authors. I read about this in Derek Murphy’s book Guerrilla Publishing and thought I’d give it a try. The idea behind a newsletter swap is that authors can promote each other’s books to their email lists or blogs.


BookBub is your book’s golden ticket to reaching millions of targeted readers if you can get it. The price for promoting your book is reasonable given the return on investment, but they are very selective about the books they promote. So, be sure to read through their guidelines to maximize your chances of landing a spot.


InstaFreebie is a platform that allows you to set up a book giveaway as a means of getting the word out about your book, growing your book’s email list before launch, as well as getting reviews for your book.


As cliche as this saying is, “the money is in the list” (or in the following) is key to a successful book launch. MailChimp is free for your first 2,000 subscribers, which makes it the perfect tool for list building and marketing your book on a budget.

Medium (again)

As previously mentioned, Medium can be an excellent resource for writing your book, but it can also be awesome for helping your book get exposure. If you haven’t already, break chapters of your book into smaller articles and publish them on Medium, along with a link to sign up to your book’s email list or Amazon page.

Here’s the link to other ideas from The Writing Cooperative