Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Much less Amazon for me

Back in the day, I wrote a lot of reviews for Amazon, and at certain points, I had a good rank to show for it. That was when it was fun: I read or watched something, then shared my thoughts on it. Some of my reviews were pretty long, but people appreciated my thoroughness. For some reason, I was invited to review for the Vine program, which meant that Amazon would send me things to review. While it was ridiculous to consider that a form of compensation, it certainly made it easier to try new things. I still think thoughtful, non-professional reviews are what gave Amazon an edge: while there were always abuses, for the most part, it was just people giving their opinions.

But then it started not being fun, and then it started getting ridiculous. Some vendors started paying for reviews, Amazon started making it progressively more difficult to leave a review, then started getting rid of some altogether. And that would be okay if Amazon hadn't been so indiscriminate, as they were with things like, for example, where an author put their table of contents. I won't bore you if you're not an author selling on Amazon, but there's a whole universe of ways in which some unscrupulous authors gamed Amazon's system and then equally egregious ways Amazon addressed it. Everyone who's worried about AI taking over the world needs to examine Amazon's dysfunctional algorithms, and then after that read David Gaughran's blog to discover how working with Amazon can feel like a bizarre nightmare.

I knew this and I stewed about it, thinking that my days on the system were numbered. When, finally, I realized that one of my reviews on someone else's book had been removed without any explanation, I'd had enough. Over one weekend this winter I spent hours removing every review on Amazon that I could. You'll still find four reviews from over a decade ago, but that's about 700 less than what was there before. Had I been simply deleting the content, it wouldn't have taken that long, but I wanted to preserve the reviews for many of the books. The majority of them went onto my Boston Public Library account, but a handful went onto Goodreads. Absolutely worth the trouble.

Can someone tell me what that arrow is pointing to?

I knew it was only a matter of time before Amazon started deleting reviews that had been left on my products, so I was only a little disappointed to find that I had lost reviews from two different people this weekend. I'm waiting for more, and frankly, I'm waiting to be delisted from them altogether. No, I haven't done anything to merit that, but neither have a lot of people who have suffered the same fate.

Please allow me to insert the perfunctory "of course I'm grateful to Amazon for opening up the market so indies could self-publish" and "I know Amazon is a private business and they can change their terms and conditions any time they want" yada yada yada. Sure, all of that. But it's also gotten ridiculous. The value they brought was that they eliminated the need for many of the "gatekeepers". And that's great, but at least you knew which rules those parties operated under. It seems they've replaced the old guard with reactive caprice. Sorry, I can't bring myself to say thank you anymore.

I have no idea what the alternative is, but for now, I hope everyone expands their universe beyond Amazon. Aside from your local bookstores (yeah, I know, a lot of them have closed), there's Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, and even Etsy. I know, many of those sites are not perfect, but the point isn't to replace Amazon with something else but to take advantage of all the options in the marketplace. Who knows if that will force Amazon to be better, but I know that nothing will if everything stays the same.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Thoughts on plastic, waste, and what really needs to be done.

Welcome to Plastic Free July. After a little bit of thought, I decided to jump into it this year. In doing so I realized that I've been at this for a while.

Whenever I see some nifty new vegetarian or vegan product, I have three reactions. The first: "Ooh, I've got to try this." The second: "Ugh, there's so much packaging." (FYI, the second one isn't usually articulated with words as much as it is a visual of me trying to dispose of said packaging, and let's be honest, we know that most of it isn't recyclable but will simply end up as garbage.) The third: "Maybe I can buy the ingredients to make this myself? That will probably be cheaper anyway." As much as I love grocery shopping--I'm an anomaly, I know--that bit of dialogue gets exhausting after several years (or decades).

When I initially heard about this challenge, I curled my lip. I compost, I make an effort to be realistic about the waste I'm producing, and for the last two years one of the most disheartening things I face is how much recycling my family produces. I'm already conscious, I'm already trying, go bother someone else.

However, after seeing so many people talk about this on the internet, I decided to give it a shot, and I've been pleasantly surprised by how much better I feel. Proactively eschewing plastic means that I don't enter into my local food co-op with a vague sense of uneasiness. It also means that I now no longer have that feeling when I'm in my kitchen that my packaging is going to leap out and touch me. Finally, it doesn't hurt that most of the items without packaging tend to cost less (the revelations of bulk shopping deserves its own post).

But having said all of that, I'm calling b.s. on the entire thing.

Unfortunately it's not that simple

The American economy is dependent on consumption, and as such it behooves us as consumers to be conscious about what we're buying, where it comes from, and where it goes when we're done with it. It's nothing to be proud of that we're also a throw away culture, especially because most of what we're throwing away ends up landfills. Let's be conscious, let's be thoughtful, and in general let's buy less.

But let's also be objective. We are a throw away culture because our products have planned obsolescence built into them. Our smartphones--these powerful miniature computers that are so advanced most sci-fi couldn't have conceived of it--aren't meant to last more than three or four years. (Please; we all know it's really two.) Same with laptops, and if you are the person who happens to stretch out your consumer tech, people look at you not with admiration but pity; why are you holding onto something that went out of date six months after you bought it? And if you decide to buck convention and repair something rather than toss it, you're told that it's "not worth it" because the repairs will cost more than buying a new version. I speak from experience: the slightly cracked screen the broken camera lens on my phone aren't worth the expense of fixing, the Acer Chromebook I bought about two years ago is unusable because no one--including Acer--makes a replacement for the power cord which stopped working nine months ago; and I've been the owner of a convection toaster oven since September when I decided that it was ridiculous that I was looking at my third fix for my oven igniter in four years. (I'm not joking--this is what happens when you bake as opposed to buy for your family.) And before you ask, yes, I did have to use the warranty to exchange the toaster oven already.

I am not going to solve any of these problems by not using plastic straws or bringing my own utensils when I get take out. And while the real solution for a lot of those issues is now in reach for my family--make an investment purchase in something that will last a decade and not a year--that's a recent development and I would never suggest that that's the answer for many people because it's just not possible. When we're debating whether people should get a living wage or a minimum wage, it's ridiculous to insist that they spend hundreds of dollars on something they can barely afford to spend tens on.

Finally, know this: even if every consumer in this country stops buying things packaged in and/or made of plastic, we're still going to have a plastic pollution problem because we're more than just a bunch of consumers. Think about the plastics used by medical, construction, hospitality, computer and electronic manufacturing, apparel, fishing, printing, and almost any other industry you can think of. Now ask yourself how they dispose of them, even if it comes down to tiny widgets. That adds up as well.

None of this is to say that we as individuals shouldn't do our part, but we need to recognize that our part doesn't end with not using a plastic bag. It's the least sexy solution in the world, but talk to your family, friends, and representatives about limiting or eliminating plastic not only for consumer products but also for industry. And keep talking about it, because plastic isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The new me

After intermittently complaining about chest pains for most of my adult life, I finally looked sick enough the first Saturday in April to convince someone that I needed to be seen. The Emergency Department wasn't impressed--and doctors literally said that to me--until a blood test came back "not negative" and showed some damage had been done when I reported being nauseous, dizzy, and light-headed. Long story short (if only because I don't want to have to relive that weekend), it's probably something called a microvascular dysfunction. More angina (chest pains) than heart attack, but it can definitely take the wind out of you. 

Since then, I've been binging on the eye- and mind-candy I've been trying to get away from since the end of last year: lots of Instagram, lots of Netflix. It also took me, no joke, about five weeks to be able to crack open a Donna Leon mystery (or anything else), but so far I don't have the same kind of voracious appetite to read that I used to.

The episode forced me to come to terms with the things I really want to do. I want to blog about food, both recipes that my family can eat and my thoughts on food justice. I want to talk about fitness. I want to document my gardening. I want to talk about tidying. I want to be more fun--but I also want to be more serious when the need arises (like now). In other words, prepare for this space to reflect me as a fully fleshed individual, and not just someone who writes about writing.

But speaking of writing, yes, I still am! I'm over 110,000 words into this epic and people, I'm not even halfway through. I'm overwhelmed with what I put in front of myself, I'm terrified about all of the work I'll need to do to make sure everything is pulled together, and I'm still really excited. So, you know, same as every other project!

That's all for now. Until later, please enjoy the roses from my community garden. (Gosh, what a difference a little bit of deadheading last year made...)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Been There, Done That: An Indie Author Panel on Writing and Publishing (Part 2)

And we're back! Yesterday my fellow authors and I talked about what goes into our work: the writing, the revising, and the editing. But that's only part of the business, and sometimes less than half. Today we're going to talk about the business side: publishing and marketing.

The Business: Publishing and Marketing

Why indie publishing?

Deb Nam-Krane: As I said yesterday, my characters didn’t neatly fit into the popular categories. To make myself attractive to publishers and before that agents I would have had to have scrapped a lot of my story. On top of that, I had already written a series, and almost every agent’s blog I read said that they wanted standalones.

That, plus the fact that two successful indie authors I knew gave me the lowdown on what the business really looked like both in the indie and traditional worlds. If I could go back, I would have done this much sooner!

Jami Deise: I was unable to publish traditionally. There are two pieces of advice that new writers commonly get: write what you know, and write the book you want to read. In two cases, I wrote what I knew, and I was the only one who wanted to read it!

Caroline Fardig:  Originally, because no one wanted my first series.  Now, because I like the freedom.

Erin Cawood: Because I broke too many rules for traditional romance. But now I love being in control.

Where do you publish and why?

DNK: I don’t think there’s an indie author out there who doesn’t publish on Amazon via the Kindle Direct Publishing program. Having said that, the benefits I got from being exclusive to Amazon didn’t make up for losing out on other potential markets, like iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. On top of that, I’m uncomfortable with how predatory Amazon is with indie authors. They don’t seem to have the capacity to stop blatant scams (like those “Summary of” books that rip off popular nonfiction books), but if a random indie author puts their table of contents in the wrong place or gets carried by a popular newsletter, they can have their book yanked. I don’t want to be completely vulnerable to that kind of company.

JD: I am on Amazon exclusively because frankly I’m too lazy to deal with all the other outlets. My second book went out with a small indie publisher, and I found out that without control over my pricing options, my sales were minimal, which is why I went back to self-publishing for my third book.

CF:  Amazon, of course.  I use Smashwords to get my books out to the other outlets.  They’re very easy to work with, especially lately, so I’m happy having a central place to run books through.

EC: I mainly publish on Amazon.

What do you spend money on when you publish?

DNK: Editing and a well-designed cover. Even if you’re just getting a proof-reading, it’s money well spent. Everyone expects an indie to be an amateur and they will find errors (as they will in traditionally published books these days). Make sure that they’ll find as few as possible.

No matter how much you’ve spent on editing and how brilliant your prose is, if it’s got a lousy cover, no one’s going to want to buy it (and a lot of people are going to cringe). Covers don’t have to cost a lot—there are a lot of companies that sell premade covers, for example—so there’s no excuse not to have something professional when you go to sell.  

JD: For this last book, I spent a lot of money with a book launching company, and that turned out to be a mistake. I did get a professional cover and website design out of it, though.

CF:  Editing, cover art (I can do it myself, but it look SO much better when someone else does it), publicity.

EC: Editing, cover art, marketing.

If you could only spend money on one thing, what would it be?

DNK: A cover. Worse comes to worse, you can usually bargain with someone who can do at least a proofread for you. That is sometimes possible with a cover artist, but not as likely.

JD: I agree. The cover is extremely important.

CF:  Publicity in the form of sales channels like Bookbub, Ereader News Today, Bargain Booksy, etc.  Sometimes that is the only way to get your name out there.

How do you tell people about your book? In other words, how do you market your work?

DNK: My blog and my newsletter. Facebook got to be too expensive for what they were offering, which wasn’t much, and I haven’t heard good things about Amazon Ads.

You don’t have to blog every week, but even if you blog three times a year, you should have a page for each of your books, with the cover, blurb, and links to where the book can be bought. Ideally, you’d also include an excerpt and some reviews, too.

I think this is going to be the year during which we focus on the newsletter subscribers we have and stop trying to get new ones at the same pace.

JD: I spend a lot of time pestering my friends on Facebook. They haven’t blocked me yet.

CF:  I’ve hired a publicity company for my last 2 self-pubs, and it’s worked out very well.  Other than that, I have a newsletter and post on Facebook and Twitter.  I have a blog, but I think people only read my posts when I link from Facebook, so again, Facebook.

EC: Having a schedule of regular releases is important, hence the reason I'm taking a year out of marketing to to concentrate on writing. But I have a newsletter, Facebook and Twitter accounts, a website, and I also advertise.

What’s been your most effective marketing tool?

DNK: Giving my first book away for free! It’s a good way to stay visible and generate interest in the rest of my series (most of the titles don’t stand alone).

JD: I haven’t been able to get a Bookbub ad, but an ENT ad breaks even.

CF:  For the money, Bookbub.  For getting people information about me, I’d say my personal Facebook page works better than my author page.  But you can’t bombard people--I think a single post when a new book releases is enough.

What threats do indies currently face?

CF:  I think oversaturation of the market is a big problem.  I guess it faces traditionally published authors as well, but with a company behind you, you get more opportunities to get your name out there.  It’s difficult to get noticed in a sea of other authors.

DNK: What Caroline said, plus the fact that Amazon’s terms get tighter now every year. Latest rumor I heard was that authors who aren’t exclusive to Amazon are only going to get 50% in royalties, down from the 70% we’re getting now.

What opportunities do indies have?

CF:  Well, actually getting a book published is the biggest one.  Only ten years ago, being an indie meant having to sink a bunch of money in hundreds of vanity press book copies and trying to sell them out of your garage.  But now that it’s so easy to put your books out online, we have virtually no outlay of cash up front--if you don’t count editing and cover design like we talked about earlier.  For my first series, I used friends as editors and made my own covers, so I had no expense.  Now that I’m generating some income, I’m using part of that to pay for editing and cover design, and I think it helps make a better product overall.  But it can be done frugally if necessary--which is a huge boost to an author just starting out!

DNK: Good point! Being independent means we can be flexible and ride out changing market and industry trends and still be the ultimate decision makers, both for our stories and our marketing.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on publishing, writing, and reading in our modern world. Hit the comments down below, and thanks for reading!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Been There, Done That: An Indie Author Panel on Writing and Publish (Part 1)

As you may know from reading this blog, I tend to stay away from traditional "writerly" topics because I know most readers don't care. However, a few months ago I attended a post-NaNoWriMo panel discussion and I realized that I did have some things I wanted to say publicly. I also knew that, with a little bit of begging, I could get some of the other indie authors I know to share their thoughts as well.

Today we're going to be discussing what I call the craft side, and tomorrow we'll touch more on the business side. I hope this is of some use to people even if you're not an author; a lot of this is applicable to any small business.

The Panel

Erin Cawood
Erin Cawood is a commercial women's fiction author, with a taste for dramatic storylines and a passion for strong lead characters she really gets behind, cheering on right to the very end of their story. Her specialty is taking romance into the darker, edgier side of contemporary fiction.

Jami Deise
A lifelong resident of Maryland, Jami moved to St. Pete Beach, Florida, in 2012 with her husband Tom, son Alex, and dog Lady. A baseball mom for 15 years, she self-published “Keeping Score,” about a divorced mom whose 9-year-old son starts playing select baseball, in 2013. In 2015, Evernight Publishing released her urban fantasy “The Ties that Bleed,” about a vampire assassin working for the FBI. “House Divided” was released in November 2017, about a Democrat married to a Republican. Jami is an associate reviewer at www.chicklitcentral.com and a freelance developmental and copy editor. She is represented by Rachel Beck at Holloway Literary.

Caroline Fardig
CAROLINE FARDIG is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of over a dozen mystery novels. Fardig’s BAD MEDICINE was named one of the "Best Books of 2015" by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

Part 1: Writing, Revising, and Editing

Here's an ice breaker: who is your favorite author?

Deb Nam-Krane: I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, but I just got hooked on Donna Leon’s 
Commissario Brunetti series. It’s set in Venice and has been going strong for about twenty-five years. It’s a mystery series, but it’s as much about modern Venice as it is finding out whodunit.

Erin Cawood: I'd have to say Amy Andrews. Every one of her books is pure escapism.

Jami Deise: Right now I’d have to say Liane Moriarty. I’ve read everything she’s written and eagerly 
await her next book. Second place goes to Laura Lippman, who writes a PI series and stand-alone 
thrillers, and is also an amazing teacher.

Caroline Fardig:  I love Tami Hoag.  Her mysteries are dark and twisty and at the same time give you all the feels.

And what's a random fun fact about yourself?

DNK: I’m a really good cook!

JD: I’m obsessed with karaoke.

CF:  I love to paint.

EC: I love to get creative with cakes.

Onto business...What typically is your writing process? Does your genre affect it?

DNK: It’s hard to say which comes first—character, universe, or story—but once I have a rough idea of those I “spend time” with my characters as much as I can so I can get to know them and figure out how they ended up where the story begins. That invariably means that I end up with a bunch of other characters and then I figure out how their stories fits into the larger story, and how that larger story has been changed by the smaller stories.

JD: I’m an outliner. I have to know where I’m going before I can get started. I even make changes to the outline when I’m making revisions to the book. I like to be able to see the entire story in several pages rather than hundreds.

CF:  The more twisty a plot, the more outlining I do.  I find that I write faster when I’ve outlined everything and have a sense of where each scene is going.  I used to edit what I wrote the previous day, but writing goes a lot faster if I wait and edit (at least most of the work--I haven’t been able to totally break away from that habit) at the end.

EC: I write down as much of my idea as I can before I can forget it. Then I try to plan it by scene. But most of the time I end up getting in deep so I have a very rough first draft. Then I go in deeper and add the interesting stuff, set the scene, build the emotional journey and the conflict, getting a really good feel for my characters and their current world before I destroy and rebuild it.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

DNK: I don’t like to start creating the story until I know as much as I can about my characters and their world, but I still find that as I write the characters will reveal more details to me. Channeling those details is pretty cool!

JD: That eureka moment when I’ve come up with a great idea for a new book, or for the revision.

CF:  Same as Jami—the moment when I get an idea and can’t wait to get it down on paper.  A close second is my own first edit, when I get to look at what I’ve written for the first time in its entirety.

EC: That moment when the characters come alive. You'll be bobbing along and suddenly your character will say something or do something that makes you go ‘Oh you so did not just do/say that!” from that moment on the story becomes theirs and you're just the vessel they use to tell it.

How do deadlines (e.g., writing for a publisher, participating in NaNoWriMo) affect your writing?

DNK: It’s all about preparation: if I know the characters, the universe, and the basic plot outline, then it’s work, but it’s not torture. But when I only have a vague idea of the plot, that will kill me sooner rather than later.

CF:  It depends on whether or not I really like what I’m writing as to whether it’s adrenaline fuel or sheer torture.  Knowing I have a deadline keeps me from putting things off, but it can also cripple my creativity and cause me to have to work extra hours.  Last year I had a lot of tight deadlines.  I’m hoping this year it isn’t the case.

EC: I hate deadlines. They seriously mess with my mojo. So I don’t have any. As an indie author I have that flexibility to set (or not) my schedule.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

DNK: The first manuscript I wrote took about four and a half months, and the next three books took less time. By the time I was on the fourth installment, I could finish in two weeks. The sixth full-length took me about three weeks, but the fifth and seventh books took more like three months. Again, it’s about knowing what you want to say before you get there.

JD: That’s a hard question to answer, because I usually end up revising it before I’ve finished a complete actual first draft. I’ll get halfway done and then realize I need to make a major change. Since I’m an outliner, these things shouldn’t happen, but they do.

CF:  Actual writing, I can do around 2000-3000 words a day, five days a week (barring distractions).  So depending on the length, I’d say around two months to just write the thing.

EC: Barring distractions, I can write a first draft in a few weeks.

How long do you let a first draft sit before you touch it again?

DNK: Since I write for the most part in series, ideally I don’t touch the first draft of the first installment until after I’m done with the last installment. That’s a big help as far as continuity, and it also gives me the distance I need. Having said that, I need time to walk away from that universe altogether. Ideally, at least two weeks.

JD: Depending on what else I’ve got going on, anywhere from a week to a few months.

CF: I used to let them sit for a couple of weeks, but I don’t have that kind of time these days.  Lately, it’s been only overnight.

EC: My editor recommends a minimum of 6 weeks. If I’m working to schedule, then I write draft one, write the draft of a second book, then go back to the first.

What’s the first thing you do when you go back to your draft?

DNK: I end up reading the first chapter or few pages and see if it sounds right. I don’t just mean whether the POV has a strong voice, but also if the words have the right rhythm for the kind of story I’m trying to tell.

JD: I read it as quickly as possible, the entire book, just as if I were reading a published work. I use the comments function to make notes about what I need to change, but I don’t start making actual changes until I’m done with the read.

CF:  Re-read the last couple of pages, or more if needed.  Like Deb said, I need to get back into the rhythm of the narrator’s voice.

EC: I print it out and edit by hand. I get tempted to start rewriting if I'm working on screen.

Typically, how many drafts does it take for you to be finished?

DNK: I don’t even want to count how many I went through for my first book! At least ten, and by the time it was done, I was done too. I had too many competing opinions that I was trying to accommodate, which was a valuable lesson right there.

Since then, I’ve been able to get most of the books done within two or three drafts.

JD: There is no typical. But we’re talking double digits.

CF:  I don’t count drafts.  Mine is a continual work in progress.  But I will say I edit/read through it at least twice before I hand it over to an editor, then do the suggested edits and read/edit at least two more times myself.

EC: No comment. Seriously? Too many.

What is your favorite tool when editing?

DNK: I usually draft in Google Docs and then edit in Microsoft Word. (And right now I’m drafting in a notebook!) One thing that made a big difference for me was using the Outline and Comments features, both for myself and my beta readers. It makes it much easier to find the parts I want to change.

JD: I just use Word.

CF:  Word.

EC: I outline in Scrivener, write and edit in Word. Finely edit with Pro-Writing Aid. Then I use an Android app called Voice Aloud which is a text to speech app, you pick up quite a few things by listening. And proofread by converting to ebook and read on my Kindle or phone.

Beta readers, critique groups, and editors: how do you use these people and when?

DNK: I have never used a critique group, but I’m not opposed if it were the right group of people. I do use beta readers, though, and I lean heavily on Erin and Caroline. They’re good at being honest yet constructive, and they can zoom in really quickly to what isn’t making sense.

I do not give anything to my editor until it’s at least passed muster with those two, and maybe my husband. I like her to take two passes at my manuscripts and she’s great about catching continuity errors and what I call “a logic check”. One of the most fulfilling moments of my life was when she gave me my manuscript back with no comments, even after two checks. Thanks, Caroline and Erin!

JD: I’ve tried critique groups but they tend to fall apart. There are a couple of friends who are able to give me the big-picture notes that I look for. I do hire professional editors and other writers when something isn’t working and I can’t figure out why. And my agent gives notes too.

CF:  I don’t have a critique group, but I’m lucky to have some awesome beta readers!  Deb and Jami have been awesome, and I have a few other friends (authors and non-authors) who have been amazing as well.  Couldn’t do what I do without them.  I always use an editor, whether it’s through my publisher, someone I pay, or my cousin, who’s got a doctorate in English.

EC: I have a couple of beta readers, Deb is one of them. These are the first to read. I then have a developmental editor, copy editor and a proofreader.

How do you find beta readers and editors?

DNK: Before I left social media, I met Erin in an open authors group. Later, Erin introduced me to a Chick Lit writing group. It turned out that many of us weren’t writing straight chick lit but the moderator let us in anyway. That’s where I met Caroline (and Jami!).

I found my current editor through another indie author I know (Diantha Jones). Her stuff is always well-edited, and I finally asked her who her editor was. I’ve been really happy with her (Mia Darien) ever since. (And FYI, I met Diantha on Goodreads.)

JD: Workshops and conferences.

CF:  They’re friends who I’ve met either in real life or along my journey in publishing.  It’s important to find someone you can trust and who knows what they’re doing!

EC: I have met all of my team through social media and recommendations from authors I know.

What is your favorite revision trick?

DNK: Print! Get yourself a CreateSpace account and upload your manuscript into one of the templates. (Don’t worry about the cover for now.) Order a revision copy for yourself, then read it like a novel. You will find so many errors that you wouldn’t have seen on a screen.

And for the love of god, use your word processor’s spelling and grammar checks before you give anything to anyone. Enough said.

CF:  A different twist on Deb’s idea, I email myself a copy of the Word document and let iBooks turn it into a PDF so I can read it on my iPad like an ebook.

EC: As I said above, I print to paper and read aloud, then I listen via a TTS device and then I read on a e-reading device.

What is one piece of writing or editing advice you wish you were given early in your writing career?

DNK: Believe in your story over market trends. I fought with a number of people about changing the age of my main character from 19 to under 18. That was when Young Adult was hot and people didn’t know what to do with characters between the ages of 19 and 26. I did end up sticking to my vision, but I wasted a lot of time trying to make everyone happy.

JD: Don’t get cute with dialogue tags.

CF:  I wish I’d researched as thoroughly for my first book as I do now.  There were a couple of things I’m now stuck with in the series that I wish I’d thought through a little more.

EC: Write for your readers. My first novel, I wrote for the market and what I expected agents and publishers would want. But it affected my creativity. Someone said to me to write for my readers and it revolutionized my writing.

And that's all for today! Please have a think on all of the knowledge my friends threw down and come on back for tomorrow's conclusion.